Educational: St. Agnes of Montepulciano, O.P.

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St. Agnes of Montepulciano may be best known for an incident that occurred many years after her death. About seventy years after Agnes died, St. Catherine of Siena made a pilgrimage to the shrine of this revered Dominican foundress. St. Catherine bowed to kiss Agnes' foot, the saint raised it up toward her. Catherine may not have been totally surprised, as miraculous characteristics had surrounded Agnes' life.

This "little lamb" was born not far from Montepulciano in 1268. She expressed a desire to give her life to God and practiced pious exercises from an early age. Now and then, her parents gave in to her requests to visit the various convents in town. On one such occasion, Agnes and her mother were passing a house of ill repute, when a flock of crows suddenly descended upon her, pecking and scratching the little girl. Her mother remarked that the crows represented demonic forces threatened by her purity. Indeed, years later, Agnes would be asked to found a convent on that very spot.

ln her teens, Agnes joined the Franciscans in Montepulciano and rose to become its Prioress. Small white flakes in the form of crosses fell gently from the heavens in celebration. It is said that the sisters have preserved some of these until today. In 1306, God inspired Agnes to found a Dominican convent with three stones given her by the Blessed Mother in honor of the Trinity. The Blessed Mother had visited Agnes many times. On one of these occasions she allowed Agnes to hold the Christ Child, but Agnes showed great reluctance in giving him back.

Toward the end of her life, Agnes sought healing from some famous springs. Although she did not receive healing herself, her prayers effected the resurrection of a child who had drowned in the springs. In 1317, Agnes died in Montepulciano and received her long-awaited reward. Her feast day is April 20.

-taken from www.nashvilledominican.org

Religious' Corner

Many would quote our beloved Uncle St. Francis who says, "Preach with your actions. When necessary, use words." Well, with all due respect, for a member of our Dominican church family it is absolutely necessary for us to use our words! Our words only have a power to them when they are connected to the Word, Jesus Christ. Yet, this power is not just a literary device which makes us feel good. Rather, this truth, His Word, affects the way we relate to the world and to Jesus Christ! You and I cannot separate Gospel truth from worldly truth. There­fore, for these next few weeks, I want to focus on those effects of preaching the Word upon our world today. 

Outside room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, Rev. Jesse Jack5on gave one of the best speeches that I have heard in a very long time. On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Jackson used his words to both speak of the Gospel truths and advocate for an increase in racial equality. Since that speech, I have been asking myself, "How am I called to preach in a society filled with racial inequalities and tensions?"

Certain!)', I am not called to be a politician. Yet, preachers cannot ignore the fact that racial inequalities and tensions do exist. To do so would make the Gospel nothing more than a literary book with no efficacy or power over our lives! At the same time, the Church is both above the world and in the world and speaks to a Kingdom of God which has already been revealed to us but has not yet been fulfilled. So, again, how am I called to preach? Well, I need to preach on the Gospel's terms! Preachers must rely on His Word to inspire and lead us out of darkness and into His marvelous light. In this light from the Gospel, there is no room for racism, bigotry, nor ideology! There is only room for Jesus. To be in right relationship with him is to be an advocate for racial equality, peace, and justice for all. So, go out and preach to all nations using the power of His Word to change the world!

-br. James Martin Nobles, O.P.

Liturgical Tips

Divine Mercy Sunday

And so with provident pastoral sensitivity and in order to impress deeply on the souls of the faithful these precepts and teachings of the Christian faith, the Supreme Pontiff, John Paul 11, moved by the consideration of the Father of Mercy, has willed that the Second Sunday of Easter be dedicated to recalling with special devotion these gifts of grace and gave this Sunday the name, "Divine Mercy Sunday" (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Decree Misericors et miserator, 5 May 2000).

The Gospel of the Second Sunday of Easter narrates the wonderful things Christ the Lord accomplished on the day of the Resurrection during his first public appear­ance: "On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you''. When he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad to see the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you''. And then he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained'" (Jn 20,19-23).

www.vatican.va/roman_curia/tn1iunals/apost_penit/documents/rc_trib_appen_doc_20020629_decree-ii_en.html

Liturgical Tips

Easter Season

The Easter Vigil is the "Mother of All Vigils". Easter Sunday, then, is the greatest of all Sundays, and Easter Time is the most important of all liturgical times. Easter is the celebration of the Lord's resurrection from the dead, culminating in his Ascension to the Father and sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. There are 50 days of Easter from the first Sunday to Pentecost. It is characterized, above all, by the joy of glorified life and the victory over death, expressed most fully in the great resounding cry of the Christian: Alleluia! All faith flows from faith in the resurrection: "If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, is your faith." (1 Cor 15:14)

The octave of Easter comprises the eight days which stretch from the first to the second Sunday. It is a way of prolonging the joy of the initial day.

The word "Easter" comes from Old English, meaning simply the "East." The sun which rises in the East, bringing light, warmth and hope, is a symbol for the Christian of the rising Christ, who is the true Light of the world. The Paschal Candle is a central symbol of this divine light, which is Christ. It is kept near the ambo throughout Easter Time, and lit for all liturgical celebrations.

www. usccb. org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/easter/index.cfm

Religious' Corner

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Going to the Houston Rodeo for the first time was an experience that I will never forget. The excitement of the rodeo and the decadence of the food items made this Mississippi brother a very happy man. Above the wonderful music and great Houstonian spirit, I enjoyed most of all the Mutton Bustin' event. Seeing a child clinch onto a sheep was not only hilarious, but also very moving for me. Parents and rodeo organizers put these children on the back of the sheep while whispering words of encouragement into the children's ears. Then the bell rang, and the 50,000 plus revelers cheered on these kids holding onto the sheep for dear life. Then, as if this was not enough, the children were expected to do an interview in front of the entire crowd.

Seeing this entire process for the first time filled me with a spirit of joy and appreciation for the imagery. You see, the Christian life is nothing but one Mutton Bustin' aiter another! How often have you and I held onto the Lamb during our lives? As moments get scarier, we clenched even tighter to the Lamb of God. Yet, our experiences as Christians do not stop there. It is not enough for us to hold onto the Lamb. No. You and I are called to let the Lamb of God run on as we clinch onto him. Surrounded by the Christian faithful cheering us on, we are also called to testify joyfully with the same courage those 5 and 6-year-old children had at the rodeo. Indeed, we may not know where the Lamb will take us nor how difficult the whole process will be. Yet, as a resurrection people, we are called to trust that the stone will be rolled back, and the Lamb will run on. So, hold on for the ride of your lives and be prepared to preach with joy and courage, "Alleluia to the Risen Christ, the Lamb who takes us were we need to go!"

-br. James Martin Nobles, O.P.

Liturgical Tips

The Sacred Paschal Triduum

In the Sacred Triduum, the Church solemnly celebrates the greatest mysteries of our redemption, keeping by means of special celebration the memorial of her Lord, crucified, buried, and risen.

The Paschal Fast should also be kept sacred. It is to be celebrated everywhere on the Friday of the Lord's Passion and, where appropriate, prolonged also through Holy Saturday as a way of coming, with spirit uplifted, to the joys of the Lord's Resurrection.

-Roman Missal

Religious' Corner

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Do you remember your first car? I sure do! The 2006 Chevy Silverado, 4-door truck in Dark Blue Metallic was the perfect car for the young, sparring Adam (Br. James) Nobles. On top of its designed beauty, the truck also had two glass-pack mufflers which acted like a pair of trumpets to announce the way before my arrival. More than giving up my cell phone, I mourned the material loss of my truck, my first car, when I entered the Order. I mourned the loss of freedom from having "my own car". Driving brings us a sense of freedom which few material things can. Yet, during this Lent, I have emphasized what takes away our freedom when we drive in Houston. Therefore, for my last article on the Spirituality of Driving in Houston, I would like to focus on the freedom we experience when we have a joy in driving.

Too often, you and I have lost our joy in driving. Instead of experiencing the freedom of driving, we feel a crushing amount of despair from those red lines on Google Maps or from the traffic report that we hear on the radio. Yet, I would love if you and I realized that as Christians no amount of traffic, construction, or bad drivers can take away our joy! Pope Saint John Paul II teaches us, "We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song! We are not looking for a shallow joy but rather a joy that comes from faith, that grows through unselfish love, that respects the fundamental duty of love of neighbor, without which it would be unbecoming to speak of Joy. We realize that joy is demanding; it demands unselfishness; it demands a readiness to say with Mary: 'Be it done unto me according to thy word'." So, let us invite the Holy Spirit to travel with us this Holy Week and push ourselves to drive with that unselfish Joy that comes from the Risen Lord! You might just feel the freedom from the spirituality of driving in Houston.

-br. James Martin Nobles, O.P.

Religious' Corner

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Turning left on the corner of Peach Street and Delaware Avenue in my small hometown of McComb, MS, I did not expect to get into my first and only accident. I was driving back home from church only a few weeks after I just got my independent license. The light turned green and barn! Another car ran through a red light and hit my driver door knocking me almost into the passenger seat. (Yes, I was wearing a seatbelt.) I wish that I could say that I took it like a man, but I didn't. I called my parents and with a trembling voice said those words every teenager dreads to say, "Mom, Dad, I got into an accident."

Luckily, I was not hurt but the car was totaled. The other driver complained about his neck and back spasms and was screaming that it was my fault. Then, my Dad arrived on the scene, and, after checking on me, he put me in his truck. We then went on the longest 10-minute car ride back to the house. The whole ride home, my father exclaimed, "We are going to lose our house! That man is going to sue us, and we are going to lose the house!" Luckily, my mother and my oldest brother were at the kitchen table ready to console me. After telling the story, my brother looked up and said, "Dad told you that we were going to lose the house, didn't he? Don't worry, he said the same thing to all of us." Suddenly a wave of relief came over me and by the end of the night my father, brother, and I were laughing at the whole situation.

Now, my father is not an irrational or unkind man. He has been and remains a wonderful father, and he is one of the smartest men that I know. Thinking back on the whole event, I wondered what drew him to such an over-reaction. I also thought about how many times I too have over-reacted about a future situation assuming only the worst outcome.

Any time there is a rupture in our lives, car accident or not, we feel violated and vulnerable. In these chaotic moments of our lives, we go into this survival mode where we assume the worst and hope for the best. Our responses of anger or fear are often not proportional for a situation. On the one hand, this is part of our human instinct for survival. Yet, how helpful are our negative assumptions or irrational feelings in handling the accidents in our lives?

For years, I thought that if I assume the worst and hope for the best, then I would be prepared. I thought that my feelings of fear and anger were helpful in protecting me from future pain. Now I have come to see that humanity's negative assumptions and ungrounded feelings are often its greatest prophet. Meaning, if you and I go a.round preparing for the worst, then the worst will find us! Accidents will happen, but preparatory fear or anger are not helpful, only present joy and hope. You and I have a choice today to be either negative about our future or joyful about the present. Many of you may even have valid reasons for your anger over past incidents, but nothing is keeping you from experiencing joy at this present moment but yourself. Sure, accidents may happen, but you can choose a joy which will make you complete (John 15:11).

-br. James Martin Nobles, O.P.