Let's be honest, no one likes construction. Construction is inconvenient, messy, and loud. Here at Holy Rosary, we have had the purgative experience of construction right outside our door. Whether it was the mud on our shoes or clothes, construction on Milam, Westheimer, and across the Houston area has gotten us down in the mud. But what if I were to tell you that you don't need to be frustrated anymore? What if there was a way to experience construction with a spirit of gratitude instead of contempt?
Developing a spirit of gratitude is one of hardest spiritual exercises to master. Yet, the first step for having a spirit of gratitude is simple (at least in theory). All one needs to do is express gratitude in the face of adversity or trial. At first, it may seem exhausting or even fake to force yourself to express gratitude in a difficult situation, especially amidst construction. However, by performing little acts of gratitude, you and I will notice a change in our affect and spiritual life. Second, you and I need to recall how grateful we truly are in the circumstances that we find ourselves in. How many countries or cities within a year of major disaster can afford to put in disaster-preventative measures like the ones we have on Milam.
I grew up in New Orleans, and my sister was one of the first to move into a house which was only two blocks from the infamous 17th Street Canal rupture. To this day, driving in that neighborhood (which is also served by a Dominican parish) still feels like driving on some of the worst roads in the Western Hemisphere. Even in those circumstances, how many brothers and sisters would dream of having roads like Milam to travel on! Yes, you and I are certainly inconvenienced by construction projects, but no level of inconvenience or frustration can take away our gratitude and joy as Christians. No matter how dirty our shoes, our souls should always shine with a certain sheen of Christian gratitude.
-br. James Martin Nobles, O.P.
Days of Penance
The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.
The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.
The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.
-Code of Canon Law, (Canons 1249 - 1253)
The Season of Lent-Part II
During Lent penance should not be only internal and individual, but also external and social. The practice of penance should be fostered in ways that are possible in our own times and in different regions, and according to the circumstances of the faithful...
Nevertheless, let the paschal fast be kept sacred. Let it be celebrated everywhere on Good Friday and, where possible, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, so that the joys of the Sunday of the resurrection may be attained with uplifted and clear mind.
-Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium # 111
One word makes our blood crawl in Houston, traffic! Traffic upsets our plans and crushes our hopes of every getting somewhere on time. As Americans inundated with Western cultural expectations, we expect ourselves and others to be on time. We expect to get to mass before the opening hymn, or, we hope to pick up our kids before the teachers have to call, but traffic forces us to stop. Traffic forces us add 10, 20, 30+ minutes to our extensive commutes. We might turn on the radio or call someone to pass the time, but what if we allowed the Holy Spirit to come into these moments and transform our anxieties or expectations. What if we took these moments when we are forced to slow down or stop as opportunities to slow down our anxious minds and do an examination of conscience.
Jesuit spirituality encourages its followers to do a "Daily Examen" which may be repeated throughout the day. As members of a Dominican church family, we can use the help of our younger, Jesuit cousins who have developed five easy steps to making a good examination of conscience Listed here:
- Become aware of God's presence in that moment.
- Perform a review of your day within a spirit gratitude.
- Pay attention to your emotions during steps one and two.
- Choose one element from your examine and pray with it.
- Pick a simple, but valiant resolution for you to reach tomorrow.
Now, you may not be out of traffic by the time you finish. As a matter of fact, some of you may have only moved your car 12 feet during the entire meditation. However, I promise you that your souls will be moved farther than any expectations that you may have.
-br. James MarHn Nobles, 0.P.
The Season of Lent
The season of Lent has a twofold character: primarily by recalling or preparing for baptism and by penance, it disposes the faithful, who more diligently hear the word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the paschal mystery. This twofold character is to be brought into greater prominence both in the liturgy and by liturgical catechesis.
-Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium # 109
During my first month in Houston, my spiritual director said to me, "If you want to know how your spiritual life is doing, drive around in Houston." The amount of time that we all spend on the road is remarkable. As a commuter parish, many of us spend at least one hour per day on the road commuting to work, school, and/ or Holy Rosary. Therefore, I would like to take a break from talking about our shared Dominican charism as a Dominican church family and talk about something that is a major part of our life, driving in Houston. During Lent, I will offer some suggestions on how we can turn a normally stressful time into a grace-filled experience.
First, let's talk about that person whom we love to hate, the bad driver. We see them turning right at an intersection when they are in a no-turning lane. We honk our horns at them when they nearly clip our front bumper off on the highways or interstates. We may even give them a "Houston wave" when they cut in front of us right before an interstate spilt. I, myself, have been guilty of labeling these drivers as "those people", people who make it their life's mission to make me mad. However, when was the last time that you and I saw "those people" as human beings or - even better - our brothers and sisters in the Lord. When was the last time that we gave them the benefit of the doubt or offered a prayer for them in the heat of our frustration? As Christians participating in the Lenten season, you and I are called to forgiveness and reconciliation, especially on the road. Yes, it will be hard, but I ask you to think how much different your life would be if you turned these moments of anger and frustration into opportunities for prayer and penance. Oh, how different our Lent would be indeed!
-br. James Martin Nobles, O.P.
The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist (Part II)
That more perfect form of participation in the Mass whereby the faithful, after the priest's communion, receive the Lord's body from the same sacrifice, is strongly commended.
The dogmatic principles which were laid down by the Council of Trent remaining
intact [Session XXI, July 16, 1562. Doctrine on Communion under Both Species, chap. 1-3: Condlium Tridentinum. Diariorum, Actorum, Epistolarum, Tractatuum nova collectio ed. Soc. Goerresiana, tome VIII (Freiburg in Br., 1919), 698-699.], communion wider both kinds may be granted when the bishops think fit, not only to clerics and religious, but also to the laity, in cases to be determined by the Apostolic See, as, for instance, to the newly ordained in the Mass of their sacred ordination, to the newly professed in the Mass of their religious profession, and to the newly baptized in the Mass which follows their baptism.
The two parts which, in a certain sense, go to make up the Mass, namely, the liturgy of the word and the Eucharistic liturgy, are so closely connected with each other that they form but one single act of worship. Accordingly, this sacred Synod strongly urges pastors of souls that, when instructing the faithful, they insistently teach them to take their part in the entire Mass, especially on Sundays and feasts of obligation
- Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium # 55- 56
Humility comes in many forms throughout our life, but no humility is as damaging to our pride nor as restorative to our souls as intellectual humility. As human beings, we have a right to think and have opinions. As faithful Catholics, the Church both respects our rights to think as free,
intellectual being and asks for obsequium religiosum (religious assent). Religious assent here is defined as an assent of the will and an assent of the mind. During an assent of the will, the Church asks us, especially those studying and teaching theology, to restrain our wills by not Saint Catherine of Siena publicly speaking out against the Church (Donum Veritatis, 27). Meaning, we may disagree with something being said or taught, but we must never be the source of scandal. An assent of the mind is much more difficult for it asks us to change our interior motives and thoughts towards the truth held by the Church. This assent is meant to guide us in our assent to the truth, the goal of all theological enquiry.
At the same time, intellectual humility is not only practiced with theologians in a religious assent, but also exercised on the parish level. As members of our Dominican church family, we must first practice intellectual humility when we show charitable thoughts for one another. This can only occur when we give one another a certain benefit of the doubt. When you and I move away from an "us vs. them" mentality towards an environment of reconciliation, understanding, and collaboration. St. Catherine of Siena reminds us, "For there is no obedience without humility, nor humility without charity." Therefore, may intellectual humility reign in our hearts as we strive towards our primary goal, veritas!
-br. James Martin Nobles, O.P