Father Michael Carter, S.S.E. reflected on Praying with Saint Mary Magdalene with a group of about 30 people after Mass at Saint Anne’s Shrine on July 17. This was part of a summertime series that takes place in the Boucher Building each Wednesday.
Artwork of Mary Magdalene throughout the ages served as an anchor for Father Michael as he walked us through the ups and downs of what this important figure might have meant to the early Church. She is mentioned in each Gospel and is often painted with a book, surrounded with items that indicate she was a woman of means.
“Afterward [Jesus] journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.” (Luke 8:1-3)
This is just one of many verses where Mary Magdalene is named specifically. Father Michael said it is important to note here that she is first on the list and that this gives her a place of great prominence among the others mentioned. “Mary Magdalene is on par with the disciple Peter in terms of the respect she held with the community,” Father Michael said. “She made her choice to give up all she had to follow Jesus and his teachings. Mary Magdalene, and all of the Saints, set a good example for us—to use our time to go out of our way to help other people.”
As for those seven demons cast out of her, we cannot know what they were, but she made the choice to follow Jesus and was cleansed. She turned her life around and was able to live without shame or guilt. Jesus made things new for her, just like he can for all of us.
One particularly moving moment in Father Michael’s talk was when he read John 20:11-18 while we gazed upon Noli me tangere, 1514, an oil painting by Titian of this scene in the Gospel. It is in the collection of the National Gallery in London. “At this point the whole Church on earth was Mary Magdalene,” Father Michael said. “This is a painting of the Christian Church after the Resurrection.”
“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
Wherever there is an Edmundite, the whole Edmundite community is present in that work, Father Tom Hoar, S.S.E. said in an interview at Enders Island in July. His labor of love lies mostly in addiction recovery efforts that take place there on the 11-acre island in Mystic, Connecticut; and in bringing The Word of the Lord to anyone who will listen. Daily, he is pulled between the Enders Island Catholic Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption and United States Sub Base nearby in Groton. Most significantly, he is on call 24-hours a day for anyone seeking his promised words of reassurance and encouragement. He always answers his phone.
Father Tom lives and ministers on Enders Island, where men and women from all walks of life come to experience renewal, healing and inspiration. In 1954, Alys Enders entrusted her arts and crafts mansion to the care of The Society of St. Edmund where hundreds of young men went on to enter the S.S.E. Novitiate on the island. In 2003, stewardship was transferred to St. Edmund’s Retreat under Father Tom’s care. He serves as President and CEO of the nonprofit operation that now focuses on spiritual renewal and addiction recovery. Father Tom attributes the success of St. Edmund’s Retreat to prayer. He calls on his group of “Prayer Warriors” when needed—“always has, and always will. They are a powerful group,” he said.
The mission of St. Edmund’s Retreat is to offer retreats in St. Michael’s Hall (The old Novitiate building), residential recovery opportunities and regular Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, spiritual development, and educational programs. Enders Island is also home to an art institute and Catholic psychotherapy offices.
Creative fundraising efforts are half the fun at Enders Island. Father Tom is currently involved with a weight loss fundraiser. Visit https://next.pledgeit.org/fathertom for more information. He’s almost reached his goal! What’s more, just a few weeks ago, with much help from Board of Trustees Vice Chair Kate Careb, they raised more than $250,000 with their annual Holy Smoke Cigar Dinner.
“I tell you, that man is guided by the Holy Spirit,” Kate said of Father Tom. She met him while trying to get her longtime friend some help with addiction. His graciousness and generosity during the process captured her attention. “He was really something else that day I met him. I thought I was taking my friend to see a nice, sweet priest but what he had to say was just jaw dropping.” Kate jumped on board to help with fundraising efforts soon after. Her friend is celebrating 4 1/2 years of sobriety and volunteers regularly at Enders Island.
“We were called here. I believe that,” Kate said. “There is a beautiful, miraculous intervention that brings people to this place.”
Another success story comes from 32-year-old Danny. He has lived in the recovery residence for three years and is headed to Columbia University in the fall. “It’s patient perseverance that he’s modeling for us,” Danny said. “We often say around here that we are all playing checkers and he’s playing chess.”
Danny said Father Tom showed him how to trust people. “It took a long time, but he got through to me. He has showed me unconditional love. He has been instrumental in my growth as a person.”
Director of Digital Communications at St. Endmund’s Retreat, John Brodeur, has worked with Father Tom since 2015. Having worked with him closely, John said he is witness to the variety of people who call on him daily—navy cadets, people in recovery, parishioners, and the list goes on, he said. “First of all, he is a very good man with a heart for others,” John said. “He is there for people in crisis. He is an incredibly busy man, even with little to no sleep, he shows up day after day.”
Father Tom runs marathons, holds multiple doctorates, and studies law. “He takes a lot of initiative,” John said. “That is why this ministry succeeds. Not only are lives changed here but whole generations of families have been affected because of his dedication to the recovery residence program ministry here.”
John said he is inspired by Father Tom’s work as an Edmundite. “It is to reach beyond the boundaries of church parameters,” he said. “He will never compromise that work as an Edmundite priest. All of us are God’s children in his eyes. What I find beautiful is his constancy in that he is unapologetically going to remain a priest even as he remains my boss. This has been a gift for me. He comes from a place of humanity, not a place of authority.”
David Martins has met with the Edmundites on retreat a number of times. Now he works with the recovery community at Enders Island and is going through the process of Reconciliation and would like to pursue the life of a Brother within the community. It’s the Edmundite charism of “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” (Ephesians 2:19) that captured David’s heart. “What Father Tom does here embodies that,” David said. “Particularly to the recovery community. It’s the Edmundite charism that urges us to come home.”
Edmundites answer the call where they are needed most, David said. “Being a part of this Edmundite community is so inviting because they are all in places where they need to be. I am excited by that. The charism and spirit of Saint Edmund is the DNA of this place. It is a real legacy.”
Father Tom said Enders Island is home to a ministry of healing and hope. “We see the fruit of that every single day,” he said. “Whether there is an Edmundite on these grounds or not it will always be an Edmundite charism. We help people scale obstacles and find a personal relationship with God. We are all called to a life of spirituality and holiness. What’s here at Enders Island can’t be replicated. The grandeur of God is all around us and in the staff and retreatants. There is perseverance and respect here. Worthiness happens here.”
To read the full list of Father Tom’s accolades please visit: https://www.endersisland.com/fathertom
For more information about The Society of Saint Edmund, our Edmundites, or choosing your vocation please visit www.SSE.org or call Father Lino Oropeza at (802) 654-2344 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Fr. David J. Théroux, S.S.E.
This homily received a standing ovation at Saint Michael's on July 14, 2019:
Let’s begin today by asking a question—the question that the scholar of the law asks Jesus: “Who is my neighbor?” I believe that it is a particularly relevant question for today as we grapple with issues of poverty and immigration in our nation and as so many nations like ours grapple with the unequal distribution of wealth in their nations and people fleeing their homelands in search of a better place to live and to thrive in wealthier nations. I believe that the question is also particularly relevant to those of us (perhaps most of us) who live well, enjoying the American dream, and who are the descendants of immigrants. You see, I believe that we perhaps act out of ignorance and fear when faced with the great number of those who seek better lives for themselves in our nation and who seek to share our life and our wealth by coming to America. So, considering those seeking to immigrate to the United States, we ask the question, as did the scholar of the law, “Who is my neighbor?”
Notice why the scholar of the law asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” He asked the question to justify himself. The conversation between the scholar of the law and Jesus began when the scholar of the law asked Jesus to answer an initial question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He asked the question to test Jesus—to find out what Jesus would say. The intent of the scholar of the law was to draw Jesus into a debate about what must be done to inherit eternal life, the type of debate that was an ongoing reality among scholars of the law, who sought to outwit each other by finding an answer that would confound those with whom they argued. Jesus leads the scholar of the law to answer his own question. The scholar of the law summarizes the Law of Moses with “love of God and love of neighbor as oneself,” to which Jesus responds that he answered well. Case closed! However, the scholar of the law feels that he has been tricked and wants to force Jesus to make some response with which he could argue. Thus, the scholar of the law sought to justify himself (regain control of the conversation) by posing the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
To which question Jesus makes a response by offering the scholar of the law a parable. It is the parable of the good Samaritan. But it is also a parable that challenges the scholar of the law to think beyond what he already assumed to be true. For the Jews at the time of Jesus, it had been traditionally understood that one’s neighbors were those with whom one lived and with whom one enjoyed similar beliefs and ethnic background—other Jews! Not surprising and perhaps predictable.
But what if there were someone in the Jewish community, sharing similar beliefs and ethnic background who needed help—say a man who had been robbed and left to die on the side of the road. Whose neighbor is he? It would seem that he is neighbor to the priest and the Levite but not to the Samaritan. The priest and the Levite share similar beliefs and ethnic background whereas the Samaritan does not. However, in the parable, the priest and the Levite pass by “on the opposite side” of the road. However, it is a Samaritan, considered by Jews to be an enemy and a person of no value, who stops and helps the man who was robbed and left to die on the side of the road.
This is a story of violence and meant to stir up in people outrage. The first violence is the harm done to the man who was robbed and left to die. We are called by Jesus to be outraged by such violence in society and to be led to compassion for those who have been harmed—the kind of compassion that the Samaritan demonstrated toward the man who lay injured by the side of the road. The second violence, however, is how two supposedly upstanding persons in Jewish society, a priest and a Levite, just walked by “on the opposite side” of the road, distancing themselves from the violence they encountered. Jesus here calls us to be outraged by those who excuse themselves from doing anything about the violence they encounter in society.
But there is a third violence in the story. Beyond our condemnation of the priest and the Levite who did nothing to help the man robbed and left to die and our praise for the Samaritan who stopped to take care of the man robbed and injured, there is the injured man himself, robbed, injured, and left to die. What of him? What is his point of view? In hearing the parable, we usually take to heart the message that we should not be like the priest and the Levite—we should do something to help those who are harmed by the violent of this world. We also are usually impressed by the fact that it was an outsider who stopped to take care of the man who was robbed and left to die—we feel called to be like him and help those harmed by the violent of our world. But I am led to wonder today about what it was like for the man who was harmed and left to die. What is his story and what is he left with at the end of the parable?
At our borders today we find a host of people—perhaps a seemingly overwhelming number of people—who seek entrance to our nation, asylum from the violence they are experiencing in their homelands. Out of fear, many in our nation are led to seek a solution that would return them to their homelands, to the daily violence they seek to escape, in order to preserve our way of life and to protect the citizens of our nation. (Perhaps we could phrase this, “We got ours and no one is taking it away from us.”) Out of ignorance, many are led to categorize those seeking a place in our nation as criminals and violent people who would harm the citizens of our nation. (I find this particularly ironic in that this was the same things said of most of our families when they immigrated to the United States.) We find ourselves as a nation in a debate regarding what to do about those who have come to our borders seeking asylum and a better way of life. Some say that they have no legal right to be here and should be turned away. Others argue that those at our borders should submit themselves to our judicial system, as fractured and overwhelmed as it is at this time in attempting to handle the volume of those seeking relief from the violence of their home countries. Others argue for laws that would fix immigration in our nation, all the while noting that party politics and a divided congress are cannot. Some would build walls to keep them out. Others want to round them up and ship them back home (happening right now as we speak). Very rarely do I hear anyone say, “Let them all in.”
But I am left wondering about those desiring entrance into our nation. While we are debating who the priests, the Levites, and the good Samaritans are in the unfolding story of immigrants at our borders, the reality is that those seeking entrance to our nation and escape from the violence of their home nations are like the man robbed and left to die on the side of the road, waiting for the good Samaritan to arrive. In the parable, the injured man got relief. Those at our borders have not yet received the relief they deserve.
The challenge of our gospel today is not a matter of law or debate. It is a matter of charity and justice. Beyond all the arguments about what it means to love our neighbor, loving one’s neighbor means actually doing something for the one injured by the violence of this world.
Superior General Father David Cray, S.S.E. reflected on what it means to be a disciple with a group of about 25 seekers after Mass at Saint Anne’s Shrine on July 10. This was part of a summertime series that takes place in the Boucher Building each Wednesday. Last week Father Lino Oropeza spoke about “Vocations: Beginning with Baptism and Our Call to Holiness.”
Father Cray ran through the joys, costs and ways of living the discipleship in about an hour. The whirlwind of information settled on that we can all find true comfort and joy by taking up the task of being humble pupils of the philosopher Jesus Christ—to be lifelong learners and teachers of The Word.
“He wept because though there were many hearers of The Word, there were few doers thereof, although they had the passion of Christ before their eyes.” -From The Servant Heart, Exploring the Life and Legacy of St. Edmund of Abington
In The Joy of Discipleship, a collection of homilies and speeches from Pope Francis, compiled and edited by James P. Campbell, Father Cray read excerpts to remind us that joy should be one of the defining characteristics of anyone who has truly encountered Jesus. Father Cray said, “I know people who are more fun than a barrel of monkeys at a barbecue but on Sunday they put on their church face—they look like chief mourners at a funeral.”
Jesus tells us, “Do not be glum.” We all need to realize the Church is God’s family and it should be a joy to attend and to serve there. It has been said that you will know disciples by their love. Even though love can be challenging at times, we all need to keep working on it, Father Cray said.
We can all meditate on The Word daily for the inspiration to move out of our own human limitations to joyfully proclaim God’s transforming love through our own words and deeds in His name. “Call on the Saints for help with this for they are loud witnesses rooting us on and cheering for us,” Father Cray said.
Father Cray read from The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s clear when Jesus calls a person in The New Testament he was asking his followers to leave everything behind and die to their old life. In our own lives as His disciples, we are asked to set our face toward Jesus and away from any desires that are not in line with love.
“If what you are doing doesn’t have Jesus at the center of it, it won’t truly succeed,” Father Cray said. “Go with Jesus because there is no higher place above or safer place below.”
It is important to reevaluate our relationships with everything and go with Jesus whether it is comfortable or not, Father Cray said. He reminded us that disciples are always on the move and often are in strange and unfamiliar situations. He spoke of the way our Edmundite ministry is on the move and how he grew most when he was working in situations that were foreign to him. “Do it even if it’s scary,” he said.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
Way of Living
Obey the commandments—love of God and neighbor. Obey the precepts of the Church which are to assist at Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, confess our sins at least once a year, receive Holy Communion during the Easter time, fast and abstain on the days appointed, support of the Church and observe the laws of the Church concerning marriage.
We are to practice Spiritual works of mercy which are to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead.
And to exercise the Corporal works of mercy which are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, ransom the captive and to bury the dead.
In The Servant Heart, Exploring the Life and Legacy of St. Edmund of Abington, Father Cray read about St. Edmund, “He wept because though there were many hearers of The Word, there were few doers thereof, although they had the passion of Christ before their eyes.”
In closing, Father Cray urged us all to be gentle and meek. He read Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
On Wednesday, July 17, Father Michael Carter, S.S.E., will discuss “Praying with Saint Mary Magdalene.” See you at Saint Anne’s Shrine Chapel at 11:15. For more information, call the Shrine at (802) 928-3362 or email at email@example.com.
The Edmundites' mid-week reflection series kicked off last week with Father Lino Oropeza’s discussion on “Vocations: Beginning with Baptism and Our Call to Holiness” at Saint Anne’s Shrine in Isle La Motte. These special hour-long talks will continue through August.
It began with 11:15 Mass in the outside Chapel at The Shrine. Father Lino’s homily focused on who we commonly refer to as “Doubting Thomas.” It was Saint Thomas the Apostle’s Feast Day on July 3. Rather than focusing on doubt, Father Lino carefully led us to the more important point in this part of the resurrection story, the confession of faith, when Saint Thomas said, "My Lord and my God," on seeing Jesus' crucifixion wounds.
“If you are willing to engage, God will not let you go.” ~Father Lino Oropeza, S.S.E.
In his talk about vocations that followed, Father Lino graciously spoke of his own doubts and urged us to embrace ours, because ultimately this leads us to understand the profound faith of St. Thomas. Religious and lay people alike are called to a vocation, Father Lino said. He ran through the Old Testament, aided by a Power Point slideshow, that pointed to just how God calls simple people to extraordinary tasks like those of Noah, Moses and Abraham. Father Lino said, “If you are willing to engage, God will not let you go.”
We are all called to be Followers
That is the first part of discerning our vocation, to realize we are all followers whether we have chosen to be married, single, or belong to a religious community like the Edmundites. We need to engage and follow as Jesus teaches us in The New Testament, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
We are all called to share the Good News
Father Lino’s second point was found in John 13: 14-15. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” It is here that Jesus gives us a model to focus on to help us decide how we want to share the Good News through our daily activities.
We are all called to be Holy
Father Lino said, “It’s like Jesus is telling us, you have to go low to do what I do. God is calling us all to be Saints, to be Holy. It’s a universal vocation. We are all called.”
“We are all supposed to be joyful players in His Grace. We need to shake off fear. God will never impose an all-consuming ultimatum on us.” ~Father Lino Oropeza, S.S.E.
The beauty of life is we are all called to do different things so we can work together like a beautiful symphony. We are not slaves in something called “God’s plan.” It’s more like we are all supposed to be joyful players in His Grace. We need to shake off fear. God will never impose an all-consuming ultimatum on us, Father Lino explained.
It is important to point out this process begins at our baptism. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)
Our vocation is an important part of the song in our hearts that starts with a few chords and becomes better and richer with time. It is a give and take. It is a dialog. It is also a process that comes and goes, Father Lino said. In times when we think God is being silent, we need to even follow that lead and pray and spend a little more time in solitude and silence to discern our true place. “We all have a place,” Father Lino said. “We can’t all be an eye. We need hands too.”
Next Wednesday, July 10, please come to Saint Anne’s Shrine for Father David Cray’s talk on “What Does it Mean to be a Disciple?” See you at the Chapel at 11:15. For more information, call the Shrine at (802) 928-3362 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Edmundites see Saint Anne's Shrine as a place of spiritual renewal for people of all faiths. Their annual Silent Retreat happened June 23-28 this year. I participated for a second time. Last year when Father David Cray initially suggested the idea to me, I immediately thought it was not the retreat for me. No talking for a whole five days? Then a small, insistent voice within me urged, “Come and see.”
Some of you might know me. I am Lynn Monty, the new communications manager for The Society of Saint Edmund. I have been back on campus for a few months now working with the Edmundites in Nicolle Hall, at their parishes and at Saint Anne’s Shrine. I am an ’07 alumna with a degree in journalism and mass communication. I went on to spend a few years at The Burlington Free Press after graduation. Or maybe you might know me from church! I am a member of Saint Jude The Apostle Parish in Hinesburg.
With all of the praying I do on a regular basis to get me through my busy days, this Silent Retreat is a much-needed time for me to slow down and to just listen. It's a time to shut off notifications and turn away from harried thinking. I quieted my mind by reading scripture, reflecting on the day’s liturgy, meditating and doing yoga in nature. Along with daily Mass we all had 45 minutes a day to talk alone with our spiritual directors. So, it was not completely silent. There were about twenty people on retreat this year who rested in cozy cabins, had their fill of wholesome comfort food, and walked the historic shores of Lake Champlain. Saint Anne’s Shrine has a rich ancient history. You should go check it out! Take a day trip! Learn more here: https://www.saintannesshrine.org/history
My silent retreats with the Edmundites have reminded me to slow down and pay attention. It's a game of extreme mindfulness and I love playing. -Lynn Monty
It was suggested that retreatants participate in The Ignatian Tradition of reflecting on scripture. This is where we actually imagine ourselves in a scene from the New Testament. Last year I was asked by my spiritual director to imagine Jesus washing my feet before The Last Supper as it was done for the disciples in John 13. I had no problem washing His feet, and everyone else's in the scene for that matter, but for some reason I could not do the mental gymnastics it took to let Jesus wash my feet. Leaving the retreat last year, I realized I had some work to do.
This year, nature helped us out with liturgy reflections. Father Brian Cummings told us a rainbow is the expression of God’s covenant with humanity through Noah in Genesis chapter 9. Coincidentally, the story of the renewal of this covenant with Abram in Genesis chapter 15 was the reading at Mass the day a double rainbow at the retreat appeared. Some of us had to break silence to spread the good news!
I opted to keep my smart phone in my cabin but my children did want to check in with me a couple of times. They like Snapchat, so I sent them one. It is important not to take the whole thing too seriously; otherwise we miss the joy Jesus came to give us. Right?
Taking time to explore the many facets of the gold-leafed Our Lady of Lourdes, the line of loving Saints all lit up, statues of Saint Anne and her beloved daughter Mary, the spectacular Way of the Cross, gardens and sacred outdoor chapel filled my week. I spent a considerable amount of my days watching the clouds and natural world around me. There I found hearts, crosses and so much synchronicity. This reminds me that what we are doing on earth is a playful reciprocation. My silent retreats with the Edmundites have reminded me to slow down and pay attention. It's a game of extreme mindfulness and I love playing.
On the last day, I said my rosary (my precious crystal one that has been in my family for four generations) at the water’s edge at sunset. The waves splashed at my feet repeatedly as I recited my prayers. It almost felt like a beautiful dance of some sort—rhythmic and methodic. As I held the metal cross of Jesus in the palm of my hand, it suddenly came to me that my feet were being washed. I closed my eyes and imagined my worthiness in His eyes. I felt deeply loved. It took a year, but I got there.
I am already excited for next year’s retreat! I wonder what walking with Jesus from this year to next will develop in me? Maybe I will see you there! If you would like to meet up sooner, catch me at The Summer Reflection Series at The Shrine on Wednesdays! We can talk about your own spiritual journey, Edmundite charism, silent retreats, or anything on your mind! Here is more information about this special Edmundite series of reflections: https://www.saintannesshrine.org/events
The heart of the Society of Saint Edmund’s mission is serving where the need is greatest, a credo that has led us to four core ministries: Social Justice, Education, Spiritual Renewal and Pastoral Ministry. It is through these core ministries that we live out a faith-based life of service and make a real difference in people’s lives by bringing them closer to God.