Our guests have been enjoying our quiet houses since they opened in August 2009. Some guests don't want to leave! Situated on the hill above Indian Creek, the back porches offer a peaceful distant view of the hill country. For a brochure about our quiet houses, please click on Quiet Houses under the banner above. For information or reservations for individual retreats which include spiritual direction, please call (830) 367-5959 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fr. Mike will be celebrating Mass at the following times and locations. Special events are also listed. This schedule is subject to change with very short notice. Please check it or call 367-5959 to verify the times.
Thursday, December 15 09:00 a.m. - SPUTW Chapel, Ingram, TX
Friday, December 16, 09:00 a.m. - SPUTW Chapel, Ingram, TX
Saturday, December 24 07:00 p.m. - Notre Dame Church, Kerrville, TX
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2016
SECOND FRIDAY OF ADVENT
Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, the Lord your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go.
Do you remember that famous song from the musical, BYE, BYE BIRDIE? “Kids, I don’t understand what’s wrong with these kids today. Kids, who can understand anything they say?....Kids, you can talk and talk till your face is blue. Kids, but they still do just what they want to do. Why can’t they be like we were perfect in every way—What’s the matter with kids today?” Only we weren’t so perfect in our own day.
Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in the marketplaces and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’
The other day I walked out of the HEB behind a very patient mother and her ‘I’m having a meltdown’ 3+ year old daughter. The little girl could not be appeased from her whining, crying, and occasional stamping of her tiny feet. The mother cajoled, “When we get home you can have peanut butter and jelly.” “No! I don’t like it,” said the little girl as she pulled away from her mother. The mother took her daughter’s hand, “What about ice cream,” she offered. “No!” After a few more steps the mother smiled and asked, “Well what about Brussels Sprouts”? Now the little girl really cried out loud, Noooo! She could not be pleased.
We are like that sometimes, too. We just can’t be pleased with all that God offers. You can almost hear the frustration in Jesus’ voice as he addresses the crowds. ‘What am I to do with some of you,’ he seems to say. First John the Baptist came and lived like a desert monk, proclaiming the word of God. But some said of him, ‘He must be crazy, or possessed by a demon.’ Then Jesus, the Son of Man comes and eats and drinks among them, healing them and offering eternal life, and some suggested that he was a sinner for his associations. Some just can’t be pleased. These ‘children’ Jesus referred to were malcontents. They neither danced at the wedding feast, nor wept at the funeral. They appeared more content to just sit in the marketplace (similar to our social media of today) and whine, cry, and stamp their little feet.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2016
SECOND SATURDAY OF ADVENT
SIRACH 48: 1-4, 9-11
Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship.
The words of Sirach tell of the great exploits of the prophet Elijah, and Elisha, his successor. There is even a reference to the arrival of the Messiah, suggesting that any who know him or see him, even though they die, will have fallen asleep in love, with the love of God surrounding him.
We probably have all heard stories of someone’s passing; peacefully, quietly, and sometimes, strangely. Who can say or explain the mysterious moments between life and death. It is said that Ronald Regan, who had been suffering from Alzheimer’s and could no longer speak, suddenly looked up at his family with the lucidity of complete recognition. An elderly friend of mine, moments before her passing, smiled and said, “Everyone is welcoming me.” And there is a Scandinavian practice of opening a window before someone’s death so that their spirit can be free. There are accounts of bright lights, seeing long dead family members, and even visions of Jesus himself. Time after time, people approaching the gulf between life and death, the here and the there, experience love, friendship, and hope. What do we have to fear if our best friend is there to welcome us and guide us home?
MATTHEW 17: 9A, 10-13
As they were coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
It was Thoreau who said, “most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” If that is true, what is it that we are so desperate for? Philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and artists have asked this question for millennia. If you recall the seminal moment from the classic film, CITIZEN KANE, the aging billionaire, Charles Foster Kane’s dying word is ‘Rosebud,’ and a snow globe falls from his withered hand and crashed to the floor. All of those who knew him, and supposedly knew him well, cannot make sense of the word. We find out through the course of the film that it refers to the only moment of happiness he experienced…as a child with a snow sled called ‘Rosebud.’ We like, Kane and those living lives of quiet desperation fool ourselves if we think that wealth, power, influence, or a return to an idyllic childhood will give us peace of mind or an answer to the meaning of life. Yet, like those who did not understand the words of so many Hebrew prophets, and especially John the Baptist, we sometimes don’t recognize what is right in front of us. We all have our own reasons and distractions; from time to time we fail to hear his word, see his presence, and acknowledge his blessing.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2016
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
ISAIAH 35:1-6a, 10
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom….Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God,…
The readings of Advent are filled with words and proclamations of hope. An informal 11th commandment could be from this reading from Isaiah, “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God.” It seems that God is continually coming to the rescue of mankind. But, like Peter attempting to walk on water, we sometimes lose heart, and so, our faith weakens. We need not apologize. God understands that, too. How can we not find strength and courage in Jesus’ last words to his disciples, “I am with you always, even until the end of time?”
In the musical, THE COLOR PURPLE, based on the book of the same title, the main character Celie finds redemption near the end of the show. She is finally reunited with lost family members and though she was formerly spiritually and mentally shackled, she steps in to her glory and sings;
“Dear God, Dear Stars, Dear Trees, Dear Sky,
Dear peoples, Dear Everything, Dear God,
God is inside me and everyone else
That was or ever will be. I came into this world with God
And when I finally looked inside, I found it,
Just as close as my breath is to me.
…Like the sun
Is the hope that sets us free…
When we share love…
All a part of me.
Like the color purple,
Where do it come from?
Now my eyes are open,
Look what God had done.”
SAINT JAMES 5: 7-10
Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the season, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
My grandmother who married a farmer and rancher used to say, ‘Don’t ever marry a farmer. He worries if it don’t rain and he worries if it do rain.’ I guess my grandfather was troubled with drought, and with flood. But he loved the land and all the fruits of his labors. He taught me that you can’t rush nature. The corn would grow as it would grow. The ‘white faced Herefords’ that he loved so much, would give birth in their own time, and usually on a cold, rainy night if they needed his help with delivery. Summer hay season might be plentiful or sparse, but it would come, no matter how much you worried about it or tried, in vain, to rush it. He understood seasons, and could often predict their change by looking at the leaves on certain trees, inspecting the hair on a cows head, or by the appearance of wooly worms. Thunder in February meant a later frost, and a ring around a full moon meant rain. Many in this generation have lost their ability to ‘read nature’ for signs of change in the weather and climate. St. James reminds us to ‘make our hearts firm,’ and be ready for the signs of the coming of the Lord.
MATTHEW 11: 2-11
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?”
My first thought was, ‘didn’t you recognize your own cousin? And didn’t you know from earliest childhood that he was blessed, and was the messiah?’ I often wonder about the exchanges that must have taken place between Mary and Joseph, for example, when she told him she was with child, and that an angel had visited her. Or the conversation between Mary and Elizabeth, after she traveled to the ‘hill country’ and told her cousin of the angel’s visit and proclamation. Or of the many conversations that must have taken place, late at night, while Mary and Joseph were in bed, and they talked about their son, his precociousness, his wisdom beyond years, and his charisma. And while Jesus was growing up, did his mother tell him about John, and his mother Elizabeth? Did she tell him how strange John was, even from earliest childhood, and how he left home and lived in the desert, ate wild honey, and professed, even threatened to others of the coming of the Lord? And so it seems strange that John had to ask the question, “Are you the one…? Can it be, he must have wondered? Has the time finally come, he voiced out loud, almost in disbelief? How could it be that this cousin, this ordinary man who lived in poverty, and was not well educated, was the very embodiment of what prophets had promised for hundreds, even thousands of years? If John needed reassurance, and a vocal YES, we are no less needy of an answer.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2016
THIRD MONDAY OF ADVENT
FEAST OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
Rejoice, O Daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, say the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and they shall be his people, and he will dwell among you and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you….Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the Lord! For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling.
It was in 1521 that the little peasant, Juan Diego first saw ‘the Lady from Heaven’ on a hill in the outskirts of what became Mexico City some two hundred years later. It is estimated that for centuries the Aztec priests sacrificed some 20,000 men, women, and children annually to their gods. The advent of Christianity and Diego’s vision of the Virgin Mary helped to end the slaughter as the culture moved from its Aztec heritage to Catholicism. It is said that Mary, or ‘the Lady’ first appeared to Juan on December 9 and her miraculous image appeared on his tilma, or cloak, on December 12. There is a tradition in some circles that this day is also called, ‘Mary walking by,’ and believers are instructed to watch for Mary to pass them by in the ordinariness of their daily tasks. I was wondering how Mary might walk by today, and would I recognize her if she so graced me on my way to work, as I shopped for groceries, or as I held class in the afternoon. I thought about the yellow roses that are still in bloom outside my office window. Is that her, or a sign that I just missed seeing her, I wondered? I decided to try to be mindful and open to her presence. I noticed a young woman helping an elderly lady across the street. I overheard one of my college students expressing sorrow to a classmate whose father had just fallen gravely ill. I thought about the man I hired to work on my fence who had found his way back from addiction and prison and just needed a second chance. I saw the brilliant colors in the setting sun, and the precious face of a sleeping infant as his mother rocked him in her arms while pushing her grocery cart. Surely she was here in so many ways, and for so many of us. She waits for us to tell her story; just as little Juan did some four hundred years ago.
LUKE 1: 26-38
And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God…Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Mary is often called the first disciple because not only did she follow the commands of her son, but of her God, as well. In Luke’s gospel there is not a moment’s hesitation in Mary’s reply to the strange and frightening proclamation from the angel. Her first word is “Behold,” not a word we use much today. Our modern translation is simply, ‘Look,’ but Mary’s first word has a deeper and much more significant meaning. In Greek, ‘behold’ means to know, to see, and even more powerfully it means, ‘be sure to see because it is observable.’ Mary’s visit from the angel is not an apparition, not a vision, it is something that she knows and observes. Her faith is so strong, even at the young age of probably 14 or 15 that she knows who is visiting her, even if she doesn’t fully comprehend why. In Hebrew, ‘behold’ is translated as ‘perceives with the eyes,’ or ‘perceives with an inner vision.’ Mary’s inner vision, what we might call insight today, assures her that the angel is truly from God, a God she knows, trusts implicitly, and completely. She offers herself to do ‘his will,’ and we are called to follow her disciple model. This encounter between Mary and the angel is quite profound and different from most mythological traditions from cultures around the world. Whenever ancient pagan gods interfered with human destiny it was often through violence, even an act of rape between the god and a human woman. But in this instance, the angel is gentle and quite dignified. Mary’s response is simple, direct, and complete. In his book, CATHOLICISM, Fr. Robert Barron explains, “She recapitulates all of the great figures of the holy people whom God had prepared, in the course of many centuries, to receive his Word and make it flesh. She is, accordingly, the daughter of Abraham, the first one to listen to God in faith; she is like Sarah, Hannah, and the mother of Samson, since she gave birth while trusting in God against all expectations; she is the true Ark of the Covenant and the true temple; for she bore the divine presence in the most intimate way possible; she is like the authors of the Psalms and the books of Wisdom and Proverbs, for she becomes the very seat of Wisdom.”
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2016
THIRD TUESDAY OF ADVENT
ZEPHANIAH 3: 1-2, 9-13
But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: this remnant of Israel.
The prophet Zephaniah makes it clear that God hates sin, especially the three sins that the Hebrew people are guilty of at this writing; namely, rebelliousness, defilement, and oppression. Those sins sound pretty familiar to today’s nations. Zephaniah isn’t speaking of a rebellion in the name of righteousness, rather he foretells of rebellion against God and God’s commandments. Likewise he holds a mirror to the face of the Hebrew people and shows them how they have sinned against and defiled the great gifts from God. Lastly, the prophet demonstrates how man’s inhumanity to man, especially to the most innocent and weak of society are oppressed and demeaned. What parallels do we see in our world today? Greed? Materialism? Assault on the environment? Abuse of the elderly, the weak, even the unborn? Yet, Zephaniah offers a glimmer of hope on behalf of a merciful God by reminding us to be humble in the presence of our God, to revere his power and grace, and thereby we will be spared like that ‘remnant’ or scrap of Israel.
MATTHEW 21: 28-32
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people; “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?”
Can’t we all relate to this parable? Haven’t we been one of the two sons, or maybe we see both of these children in the actions of our own sons and daughters. We are given or give a request, expecting that orders will be followed, chores will be done, respect will be paid to one’s elders, and then we get (or give) ‘backtalk,’ and a litany of reasons as to why we can’t or won’t do what was expected of us. “Aw, Maw! Not now.” Or “Ok, in a minute,” and the minute passes without any intention of taking out the trash, washing the dishes, cleaning up the room, or feeding the dog (or cat). But sometimes, like the first son in this parable, we think better of it, and do what was asked, even willingly. There is a scene in Thornton Wilder’s much loved play, OUR TOWN where Mr. Gibbs is speaking to his 15 year old son, George about not doing his chores;
“Well, George, while I was in my office today I heard a funny sound…and what do you think it was? It was your other chopping wood. There you see your mother getting up early; cooking meals all day long; washing and ironing; and still she has to go out in the backyard and chop wood. I suppose she just got tired of asking you. She just gave up and decided it was easier to do it herself. And you eat her meals, and put on the clothes she keeps nice for you, and you run off and play baseball, like she was some kind of hired girl we keep around the house but that we don’t like very much. (by this time George is hanging his head and crying) Well, I knew all I had to do was call your attention to it. Here’s a handkerchief, son.”
George learns the hard way just like the second son, and God, like Mr. Gibbs brings it to his attention in a subtle but clear way, making his disappointment obvious. Can you imagine disappointing God?