Feb 062005

Your Daily Tripod

"Your Daily Tripod" reflects the personal Fourth Day journeys of its authors and editors. We are happy to have companions like you share in this project. Our prayer is that these reflections will invite and inspire your Fourth Day journey of Piety, Study and Action as much as writing or editing them inspires our journey and brings us all close moments with Jesus and our neighbors.

(Note:  Although the Feast of the Ascension was actually on Thursday, the Church now celebrates this event on the following Sunday.  The readings for Ascension were covered in Thursday’s tripod.  Today, we pick up the story with the disciples returning to the upper room in Jerusalem right after Jesus ascended into heaven)

Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:13-14)

Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. (1 Peter 4:13)

"I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.  They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. (John 17:6-9)

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life's refuge; of whom should I be afraid?

One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek:
to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,

Imagine what it must have been like for the disciples. They have spent the 40 days since Jesus appeared to them on Easter Sunday afternoon waiting to see what comes next. Jesus appeared to them on a number of occasions, even sharing meals with them, but then told them to go back to Jerusalem and wait some more. 

Even though Jesus has risen from the dead and appeared to them numerous times, he is now gone. What now? Perhaps there is no greater fear than the fear of the unknown. They have not yet reached the point where they can “Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ.” Right now they just fear they might suffer as Christ did.

How often in these current days do we live in fear of the unknown? What’s coming next? What will be the next great crisis in our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, in the world? We just experienced another horrible act of terrorism in England. Are we next?

Unlike those first disciples, we have two millennia of experience under our belts. We have seen God work wonders in our world time and time again. We can trust our God to continue to teach us, be with us, and turn even the worst of times into the best of times. Consider these words from Richard Rohr’s book, Everything Belongs: 
God is to be found in all things, even and most especially in the painful, tragic and sinful things, exactly where we do not want to look for God. The crucifixion of the God-Man is at the same moment the worst thing in human history and the best thing in human history.

As we await the Holy Spirit’s arrival on Pentecost, let us continue to pray and wait patiently. 

As we pray and wait, let us reach out to those who are living in fear and reassure them that in the words of Julian of Norwich, “All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well.”  Remember the words of Jesus: I pray for them.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. (Proverbs 3:5) 

For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."  John 16:27-28

A Prayer for Camden
Almighty God, we praise you for all you have done.
Help us with all that you want us to do!
Come, Holy Creator, and rebuild the City of Camden
So that we do not labor in vain without you.
Come, Holy Savior, and heal all that is broken
In our lives and in our streets.
Come, Holy Spirit, and inspire us with energy and willingness
To rebuild Camden to your honor and glory. Amen.

The further out in time we go from the days when Christ walked the earth, the more life today is like the early church.  In the Acts of the Apostles,

Apollos was one of the principal preachers of The Way in along with Peter and Paul. As we contemplate the world without the physical presence of Christ, the Holy Spirit and other representatives will (eventually) be there.  Preachers like Apollos stepped in to teach. However, Apollos (like us) did not have first-hand knowledge of Jesus. That did not stop him. Two women in the community who had a broader knowledge of the life of Christ – the model for the way the early church was modeled – took him aside and filled in more of the story.

When Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos, I imagine that they gave him a short course in Christianity.  Christ came into the world because the Father loves us.  Jesus lived among us and taught us how to live and love.  Even though many loved him, the Romans and some of the Jews executed him on the cross.  After Christ died, he came back to life and instructed us further.  Christ then returned to the Father and sent an Advocate to live amongst us along with clergy, saints, and others to teach and support us along the way. Kind of like a Cursillo weekend when the team takes us aside from daily life at Missionhurst or San Damiano and through talks and prayer, teach us the Cursillo method (the Way).

Apollos went out into an unfriendly world to spread a message of love.  Fr. Michael Doyle and the teachers and parishioners of Sacred Heart School do the same in Camden, NJ.

Located in the neighborhood of Waterfront South, Sacred Heart School serves the K-8 children of Camden City. Sacred Heart is a safe environment within a challenged city that empowers students to develop respect and a sense of justice rooted in Gospel values. To call Camden a “challenged city” is an understatement. 

It is not easy to grow up in Camden, one of the poorest cities in our nation. Since the closing of the New York Shipyard in 1967 and the flight of thousands of city residents to the suburbs, Camden has been battered, abused and largely forgotten, even by its very close neighboring communities.

Yet, while thousands left, many stayed, determined to make their lives in this city that was their home and, in many cases, home to their parents and grandparents as well. But for many, it was terribly difficult. Businesses closed, jobs became scarce and families were fractured under the weight of the hardship. Parents struggled to provide for and protect their children.

The parents of Camden’s children have the same dreams as parents everywhere –that their children will be healthy, happy and safe; that they will have the opportunity to get an education in a nurturing environment, and that a bright future awaits them. And the children dream, too – of friends and fun, school, college, a career, a family. Just like children everywhere around the country. That is where Sacred Heart School comes in. 

The school day is focused on piety, study, and action throughout.  Part of the daily rhythm at Sacred Heart School is prayer.  The work there is an inspiration to me within the confines of a city torn by violence and gangs and drugs.  

Praying together as a school community is a very important part of the day at Sacred Heart School.  They begin the day by praying the Our Father (led by an eighth-grade student over the intercom).  All conversation and activity in the school stop as the students stand for Morning Prayer. A prayerful spirit does not end there.  It continues with grace before lunch.  It continues in their studies as teachers place the life of Jesus before the students throughout the day.  In action, the school expects the students to treat one another with peace-filled kindness and respect. Through all three legs of the Cursillo tripod, they hope to break the cycle of violence that grips this city.

Finally, they pray together again at the end of the school day. At the end of every school day, they pray The Prayer for Camden. This prayer was created and first prayed at Sacred Heart Church on April 5, 1997, when there were 1,000 days until the year 2000.  Sacred Heart Parish continues to pray these words of spirit and life every day for the re-birth of Camden.

You can take part in the re-birth of Camden by sponsoring a child to attend Catholic school at Sacred Heart.  Your sponsorship of a Sacred Heart student is the only way to keep the dream alive for the children of Camden. The Catholic school budget for the school year is more than $1.2 million dollars. With the help of Sponsors and Donors like us, Sacred Heart Parish can raise the funds needed beyond what families pay in tuition, to keep the vital school open.

One night while Paul was in Corinth, the Lord said to him in a vision, “Do not be afraid.  Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.  No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city.”  He settled there for a year and a half and taught the word of God among them.  (Acts 18:9-11)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.  When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.  So you also are now in anguish.  But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.  (John 16:20-22)


Be not afraid,

I go before you always,

Come follow Me,

And I shall give you rest.

(Be Not Afraid, Bob Dufford, S.J., Saint Louis Jesuits, 1975)


Our Scripture readings today share a theme – To Paul:  Do not be afraid.  I am with you. To the disciples:  Your grief will become joy.  I am with you.

When you’re scared to death or your heart is breaking, it’s difficult to believe Jesus’ words.  If I was the parent of one of the young deceased concert goers in Manchester, England, I would feel like my world had been totally shattered.  I’m not sure I could be convinced right now that I would ever feel joy again.

Had I been with the disciples gathered around Jesus in the Upper Room that first Holy Thursday evening, all I would have heard was that Jesus was leaving.  What would become of us, our little group, without him?   How would life ever go on without him?  Would we even care if it went on without Jesus beside us?  I would have been filled with apprehension and sadness.

But not that many weeks ago, I was on retreat for the Triduum.  I saw for myself the truth in Jesus’ words.  On Holy Thursday, Jesus stunned the disciples by kneeling down and washing their filthy, cracked, tired feet.  The Master became the servant and then turned around and asked us to do as he had done, to serve one another.  The bread was broken and the cup was shared.  Jesus was about to leave the world, but he promised always to be there for us in the Eucharist.

On Good Friday, Jesus, beaten and bruised, was handed over to be crucified after the crowd refused to take pity on him, the innocent victim, and instead insisted on the freeing of Barabbas, a murderer.  Good Friday is a difficult day.  It isn’t easy to compassionately stand by while Jesus suffers and dies.  It is a day of anguish and sorrow, both because of Jesus’ suffering and death as well as the knowledge that it is our sins he has taken to the Cross. 

Saturday is full of emptiness and a profound sense of loss.  What does a person do with herself on such a day?  Had I been one of the first disciples, that day might have seen me wanting to throw in the towel and go back home to Emmaus or wherever home was. 

Then, we are summoned to the Easter Vigil Mass and suddenly Jesus’ words ring true.  We who have been grieving are filled with gladness.  Death does not have the last word!  Jesus is risen and our hearts are filled with joy!


Jesus says “you will weep and mourn… but your grief will become joy.”  This is the pattern of life.  Long before we come to the end of our time on earth, we will have experienced a myriad of lesser dyings and risings.  That’s Jesus’ story and it’s our story as well.  We never do this alone; Jesus is always present in our crucifixions and our risings.  If we’re open to Jesus’ compassionate love, the worst times in our lives can be transformed into the best.

Where have you seen this happen in your life?   

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call … (Ephesians 1:17-18B)

When they saw (Jesus), they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:17-20)


Almighty ever-living God, who allow those on earth to celebrate divine mysteries, grant, we pray, that Christian hope may draw us onward to where our nature is united with you.  Through Christ our Lord.

(Prayer after Communion, Mass for the Day)


During the first chaotic, frightening weeks after the 9/11 attacks, a photo disseminated on the internet claimed to show a malevolent face formed in the black smoke pouring from one of the twin towers.  It jolted me when I first saw it but I immediately thought “No, this just can’t be real.”  Of course, it proved to be photoshopped although not before it was widely shared.

We doubt.  We need reasons that make sense.  It is almost comforting to have a full answer even if the answer is implausible. It is so hard to comprehend much less believe that people could themselves be the source of such evil, that people make choices, decisions and act so wickedly vile.

How the disciples must have struggled with doubt after journeying with Jesus so hopefully only to witness the malice that, apparently, ended him.  Today, just as in the first century, we have difficulty accepting subtleties.  We look for proof, for miracles, something to show us that goodness exists and that something better is acting in our lives.

Jesus’ answer is clear despite our doubts, misunderstandings, deviations:  I am with you always, until the end of the age.  The Holy Spirit graces us with the present, blowing, active presence of God.  Jesus asks us to continue journeying with Him unendingly – to our earthly ending. Loving God and loving our neighbor whether they be (the modern equivalent) of Roman soldiers, Samaritans, prodigals, Syrophoenicians, leaders, followers, doubters or loyal friends.  It is the Holy Spirit who helps us distinguish where Jesus is leading us and how to turn our back on and defeat ultimately fruitless evil in the world.


It is the power, might, and gift of the Holy Spirit which allows us to move beyond our own limited fears, self-focus, habits, biases to live in his love and love the Other. 

How will I allow the grace of the Holy Spirit to propel me closer to Jesus by lovingly acting toward another as He would do today?
Rembrandt [Public domain], via 
Wikimedia Commons

About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted out in a loud voice, "Do no harm to yourself; we are all here." He asked for a light and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved." So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house. He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once. He brought them up into his house and provided a meal and with his household rejoiced at having come to faith in God. (Acts 16:25-34)

Your right hand saves me, O Lord. (Psalm 138:7c)

Jesus said to his disciples: "Now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned." (John 16:5-11)

Build a cell inside your mind, from which you can never flee. — St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church

I’ve been in three noticeable earthquakes in my life. The first occurred on September 9, 1985, while I was on a Chicago el platform; the second, exactly 16 years later while I was in a Los Angeles hotel room (I figured it’d be the biggest memory of that business trip, but obviously, not); the third, in my day job office here in DC on August 23, 2011. I can testify that if you’re not familiar with what to do—stay inside and get under a desk or table—all you want to do is run. Run outside, run downstairs, run anywhere that seems more likely to provide stability. Escape from the shaking and the rolling. Stay putting seems counterintuitive.

What Paul and Silas did when the earthquake hit their jail seems counterintuitive too. Here was what seemed to be a huge God-given evangelization opportunity in escaping: “Look at what He did! He used an earthquake to set us free!”

But they stayed put long enough to take advantage of a smaller, more intimate opportunity: the conversion of the jailer. They talked him out of suicide. They bandaged his wounds. They went to his house… and baptized all the members of his family. The next day, both Paul and Silas were formally released.

Life as a Christian is much like going through a perpetual earthquake. Often, all we want to do is run—from those who persecute us, who ridicule us, who seek to destroy us. Staying put seems counterintuitive. But often, what we are called to do is remain where we are and heal and evangelize in our own families, neighborhoods, parishes, jobs, and other communities. Running is easy. Waiting long enough to discern the Lord’s desire is hard. Staying put may cost us our pride, our money, even our lives. But it is what we are called to do with faith, confident that He has power over all the shaking and rolling.

Identify a spot in your life from which you long to run away to what seems to be safety. Ask the Lord to make clear the way in which He desires you to do His work by staying put.

[A] woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, "If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home," and she prevailed on us. Acts 16:14-15

"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify because you have been with me from the beginning. John 15:26-27

O God, in the original Exodus, you led the children of Israel through the dry bed of the Red Sea; You led Joseph and Mary to a safe crib in Bethlehem and pointed out a star to the Magi that led them on the road to the Baby Jesu. Just as you led the Holy Family safely to Egypt, grant us a New Exodus journey with similar promise so that, under your guidance, we may safely reach that journey's end after fulfilling your will. Bless our journeys and journeyings with your ever-present Mercy and plentiful Good Samaritans along the way as insurance against all danger. Amen.

Travel narratives are the bedrock of literary development and the bane of students who must endure required classes in literature everywhere.

Without the Iliad and the Odyssey, we might not consider Greek literature. Without the Canterbury Tales, English literature would have gotten a different start. Without Herman Melville’s or Mark Twain’s travel narratives, American literature would not be the same – indeed, these works (and others too numerous to mention) helped to define the very thought of an American cultural experience like the others defined the development of Greek and English traditions.

Into this mix, we also can consider the works of Luke (Gospel and Acts), as works which define the emerging Christian Church as well as tell of the travels and travails of the disciples with Jesus and after Jesus. The journeys of Philip, Peter, and Paul form the framework of the book of Acts. In these travels and the works performed, we see the fulfillment of the Scriptural promises encountered in the writings of Luke and Mark, and to a lesser extent, Matthew and John. Successes of the early church cannot be isolated. Like the conversion of Lydia, these also can be attributed to the strength and other gifts brought down by the holy Spirit – sent from the Father at the request of the Son. In fact, without the Father and Son, the Spirit would not have context or being.

When Lydia “opened her heart,” she was doing it voluntarily of her free will. However, her will was not separated from the community of believers touched by the Apostles nor from the will of Jesus, the one who sent him or the one he sent.

The Spirit did not come upon the earth without proceeding from the Father and Son. If Exodus follows Genesis, then Acts of the Apostles is the New Exodus that follows from the Good News of the New Genesis in the gospels.

If the travel narrative helps to define the church as an institution, then what is the travel narrative of your faith story?

My Baptism took place at Our Lady of Pity Church on Staten Island, NY. My faith grew and was confirmed as a member of the community at St. Mary, Mother of God Church in New Monmouth, NJ; Belmont Abbey College, and St. Mary of Sorrows and the many communities of my adult years. That is why (IMHO) we make sure we put the travel narrative of our journey into context when we introduce ourselves at a Cursillo event with our name, our parish, and when our Cursillo experience began. 

The Spirit also has been with us from the beginning. Where are we headed next? 

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured. (Acts 8:5-7)

Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.  (Psalm 66:1)

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good if that be the will of God than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:15-17)

“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him." (John 14:21)
Credit is Ferdinand Bol 
[Public domain], via 
Wikimedia Commons

Lord, slowly but surely, You reveal Yourself to me as my trust and faith increase. My gratitude is beyond words.

In the literal sense, we all “have” the Lord’s commandments. They’re easy to access—type “ten commandments” in your favorite search engine, and you get millions of results. Or go retro and turn your Bible to Exodus 20.

It’s the observing them that is much harder, of course. Few of us will worship a golden calf, but many of us nudge out of first place in our lives with family, friends, work, possessions, and the link. We work hard at not using the Lord’s name in profanity, but we can fall prey to swearing that we will do something or we didn’t do something, all the while knowing the truth is just the opposite. We go to Mass for the Sabbath and call it good, then go home and engage in activities that make it look like any other day. The list goes on and on.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us real love for Him involves more than lip service. It’s about living the commandments. Certainly, we’ll be persecuted for that, just as the second reading warns. But Peter goes on to remind us that if we are to suffer, let it be for doing good rather than for doing evil. For in bearing that persecution—physical, emotional, mental, or otherwise—we see more of the Lord… and help others to begin to see Him more clearly as well.


Live Sabbath today, even if the most you can manage is a couple hours of relaxation in ways pleasing to the Lord. This evening, think about the ways He used your peace after that time.
 Posted by at 8:28 am

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