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The Crucifix In The Church Of SS Gervais and Protas

Facade of the church Saint-Gervais_Saint-Prota...

Saint-Gervais_Saint-Protais in Paris.

Across the Seine River from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris stands the ancient  Church of SS Gervais and Protase, martyrs in the early days of Christianity.  Inside this Gothic-style church, I always find an atmosphere of semi-darkness where huge, round pillars hold up the high ceilings.  What attracts me especially to this church is the larger-than-life crucifix hanging from the side wall.

Each time I stand before this cross with Christ hanging on it, I always have one thought: “I will do my best to avoid sin!” Christ agonizes in a way that I have never seen in any other crucifix.  His head turned sideways and upwards tells of the hideous pain exploding in His brain.  From the strain of the agony gripping His legs and arms, the muscles have twisted themselves into grotesque rolls of flesh, all cramped and bulging.

As I stand there, I can almost hear the shrieking of the human part of Christ, filled with shock and violent trauma, crying out for relief.  Through the years, this crucifix on the side wall of the old church, in the half light of winter afternoons, has reminded me that Our Savior did not buy our salvation cheaply.  Sin, large or small is not something to toy with carelessly!

Many years ago – over 50 or so – a friend gave me a crucifix he had carved from rough, tough wood.  As I kiss the Face of Christ – which I do every morning at Mass – I am in danger of picking up slivers.  My friend did not make the Body of Christ smooth and antiseptic as most crucifixes are fashioned.  In the Face of the Suffering, the sculptor made deep lines to portray the excruciating suffering of the agonized Lord.  As I hold this precious gift to my lips and sense as never before the physical and psychological pain Jesus endured, I am forced to cry out, “Lord, do not let me betray You today!”

In this Holy Week ahead, let us hold on to our crucifixes deep within our hearts!

Fr. George Mc Kenna

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March 31, 2012 Posted by | Bulletins | 1 Comment

Love Unlimited

Brother Mathias Barrett (1900-1990)

Brother Mathias Barrett (1900-1990)

In 1987 I met Brother Mathias, age eighty-seven at the time, in the Chicago Midway Airport.  A friend had called, “Come and meet Brother Mathias.  He is flying into Chicago today from Albuquerque.”  I had heard much about this man from my friend, Tom.

Brother stood five feet, five inches tall, with heavy thick glasses, because of his poor sight.  He wore a black baseball cap, with his religious collar and black suit.  Most noticeable about his appearance was his warm, expansive smile.

In 1955, Brother Mathias founded the Brothers of the Good Shepherd in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to feed the hungry and care for the homeless.  Before 1955, he had served the mentally impaired as a member of the Order of St. John of God for thirty five years.  He continued his service to God’s needy, until his death in August, 1990 at the age of ninety.

In May of 1991, I stood at the foot of his grave in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Etched in the gravestone was the motto of his Order, “Charity Unlimited.”  An eternal flame burns at the foot of the grave, to signify the love that ever burned in his heart for others.

Along with clothes, food, a clean place to sleep, Brother Mathias without limits gave words of good cheer, encouragement and respect for the image of Christ in each one seeking help.  In some miraculous way, this man did not run out of love and words of support for all whom he met.

The story of Brother Mathias tells us of the possibilities for love in the hearts of each one of us.  “Love Without Limits” could be our watchword.  A loving heart is a masterpiece of creation.  The one who is trying mightily to possess those marks of love –  such as kindness, forgiveness, respect for others, and patience is already beginning to enjoy Heaven on earth.

No one received more hard knocks than Brother Mathias.  Yet, he did not succumb to self pity, bitterness or take out his frustrations on other people.  When people came looking for help, they received a gracious welcome.  Never did he bring up questions such as, “Why are you here?  Why didn’t you take better care of yourself?”

Brother and I sat in the lobby of Midway Airport on the first day we met and talked for some time.  He had an abiding interest in the Midway Airport Chapel – which was still a year away from opening!  He promised daily prayers for its success.

This human being walked the way of love.  Why cannot we do the same?  We need not to open soup kitchens, but we can imitate him in other ways of love.            Fr. George Mc Kenna

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March 25, 2012 Posted by | Bulletins | 3 Comments