religious' corner

Religious' Corner

Dear Parishioners,

I will never forget the love, hospitality, and encouragement that "all y'all" offered me! From preaching Advent and Lenten missions, revitalizing the Young Adult ministry, joining you for prayers and Masses. I leave Houston but take all of you with me in my prayers back to St. Louis. I return to studies with a new-found zeal to study for the people of God. There is a new strength and conviction in my voice for preaching the Gospel for the salvation of souls. Therefore, I thank you all, especially my Dominican brothers, for a great year. May God bless you, your families, and your intentions! For I am ... 

Your brother in Christ,

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Br. James Martin Nobles, OP

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Religious' Corner

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Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, writes: "One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, "sourpusses". Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Car 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism is brother to the temptation to separate, before its time, the wheat from the weeds; it is the fruit of an anxious and self-centered lack of trust" -Evangelii Gaudium, 85.

How joyful are we? Pope Francis writes this passage in his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, but I don't feel very joyful when the Holy Father convicts me of being a sourpuss. Yet, the Holy Father reminds me of the depth of joy which comes through the crosses of my life. In my office hangs a picture which I refer to as "Three Contemplative Smiles" (pictured below). While most people see two of the sisters smiling, they are not sold on the third sister in the middJe. However, is joy onJy expressed through a smile? Indeed, Christian joy is always rooted in a blessed assurance that God will be there for us. Therefore, the smile of the sister in the middle is the smile that we all should have as Christians. What else can make us more joyful than this, the joy of knowing that the victory is already won through the Resurrection of our Lord!

-br. James Martin Nobles, O.P.

Religious' Corner

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This past week I was surprised by the fact that I shared the last name with Johnathan Wayne Nobles, a man executed in the State of Texas on October 7, 1998. Nobles confessed to the murder of two people and the assault of a third victim who survived. While his crimes were atrocious, what makes Nobles known among Texas Catholics was not these crimes but his conversion. While in prison Johnathan not only converted to Catholicism but also became a member of the Dominican Order and Laity. He spent the last years of his life studying, praying, and repenting as a Dominican. Seeking any opportunity for contrition, he eventually met with some of his victims' family members to express his sorrow. A mother of one of the victims said in a later interview, "You don't have to forgive what he did. You have to forgive him ... I went against my whole family, but I knew that if I didn't tell Jonathan I had forgiven him, I would be a prisoner for the rest of my life."

The older I get the more intrigued I am by what surprises me. Why am I surprised by the story of Johnathan Nobles or the level of forgiveness shown him? This practice of introspection is necessary for growth in the spiritual life, and too often you and I miss the opportunity to ask ourselves, Why? Now, sometimes, this question is counterproductive when we demand an answer to our question. Yet, the question "Why?" can be an invitation of the Holy Spirit if we allow ourselves to encounter a new, unnoticed part of our life. The answer may not come right away or even at all, but the introspective questioning is what grows virtue! So, if the story of Johnathan Nobles struck you, I invite you to have the courage to ask the question, "Why?" Let us not demand an answer, but allow this question the noble courage it deserves.

-br. James Martin Nobles, O.P.

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.

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.

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.

 

Religious' Corner

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St. Mother Teresa said, "People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway." Well, God bless this saintly mother, but she has never driven in Houston! Anger seems to be justifiable when we drive in Houston. Rage builds up in our chest and fills us with a rage which is wholly an other and indestructible. But what really is the purpose of our anger? Do you and I really feel good when we honk our horns or act out in road rage? Turning our anger into opportunities for grace can be very difficult for us, but not impossible for the Holy Spirit! Now, 1 do hold that there is a difference between being upset and being angry. The Lord's prayer makes it abundantly clear that people will "trespass against us," and our Lord, Jesus Christ, says, "I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment" (Mt 5:22a).

Now, being upset or feeling hurt by the actions of others will happen. Suppressing these hurt feelings because it is "the Christian thing to do" is morally wrong a11d only leads us to more anger. Suppressing pains and hurts, whether from strangers on the road or from our loved ones at home, does not allow the Holy Spirit to transform our hurt. Rather, suppression only gives us the illusion that we are in control. Rather, you and I are called to "forgive them anyway" because the power of the Spirit has transformed us. Many of you have commented how much you admire my previous analogy of the "Houston wave." What if instead of tarnishing ourselves by giving others the "Houston wave", you and I make the sign of the cross and "forgive them anyway" every time we find ourselves in rage and anger? May the intercession of St. Mother Teresa and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit help you and me to open our eyes to the power of forgiveness.

-br. James Martin Nobles, 0.P

Religious' Corner

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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.

Religious' Corner

Fr. Bruno Cador é , O.P. -  Master of the Order of Preachers

Fr. Bruno Cadoré, O.P. - Master of the Order of Preachers

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:

  1. Become aware of God's presence in that moment.
  2. Perform a review of your day within a spirit gratitude.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions during steps one and two.
  4. Choose one element from your examine and pray with it.
  5. 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.