Domine Iesu, noverim me, noverim te

This is a letter I wrote for the February 6th parish bulletin
Dear Friends,

From time to time you might see me wear my 1967 graduation ring from Monsignor Bonner High School.  I like to wear it and would wear it more often, but it’s kind of big and clunky.  One reason I have been wearing it more in the past few months is because it bears on one side of the stone an image of Our Lady of Good Counsel. 

On the other side of the ring, among a whole bunch of other things, there is a short line from one of my favorite prayers by St. Augustine: “Noverim te,” Latin for “That I might know You.”  Here is the complete prayer:

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know Thee,
And desire nothing save only Thee.
Let me hate myself and love Thee.
Let me do everything for the sake of Thee.
Let me humble myself and exalt Thee.
Let me think of nothing except Thee.
Let me die to myself and live in Thee.
Let me accept whatever happens as from Thee.
Let me banish self and follow Thee,
And ever desire to follow Thee.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in Thee,
That I may deserve to be defended by Thee.
Let me fear for myself, let me fear Thee,
And let me be among those who are chosen by Thee.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in Thee.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of Thee.
Let me cling to nothing save only to Thee,
And let me be poor because of Thee.
Look upon me, that I may love Thee.
Call me that I may see Thee,
And forever enjoy Thee. Amen.

The path of Augustine’s life, both before and after his conversion, often involved striving to know himself.  Eventually he came to realize that knowing God and knowing himself well were intimately linked together.  By “knowing himself,” Augustine is not talking about navel-gazing.  He learned that he needed to have a realistic idea of who he was, his strengths and his weaknesses – and also his blind spots.  He came to know that trying to deceive himself, trying to fool himself about the kind of a person he was would stagnate his growth as a human being and get in the way of growing in the knowledge of God.  For you and me too, those two parts of the first sentence of Augustine’s prayer are permanently linked: “Lord, that I may know myself; that I may know Thee."

The use of the word “hate” in the third line might surprise us.  I don’t think he means to hate himself as one might hate an enemy (whom Christ himself, after all tells us to love), but instead prays that he might be able to constantly choose Christ over himself. 

This wonderful prayer of St. Augustine shows us the desire that he had to abandon his will and his life to Jesus.  It might take us a while to “grow into” this prayer, but it can be one of many valuable tools in our efforts to grow spiritually and to follow Jesus more closely.   

Keep warm and stay safe!

Father Liam


Will you let the Gospel transform you in 2011?

This is a letter I wrote for the January 9th parish bulletin
Dear Friends,

This year, so far at least, I have not sat down to write my New Year's resolutions. I still might do that. Although I don't have any resolutions for 2011, I think I kind of have a “theme.” This theme has been on my mind since about the middle of December. This theme is, “The Power of the Gospel to Transform Us.”

Transformation can be mysterious.  It can be wonderful.  It can be scary.  But it’s something that every of us needs.  The alternative is stagnation. 

Saint Augustine
When we read the Confessions of St. Augustine, we read the dramatic story about an intelligent young man - a hard-working young man with a heart that yearned for truth.  He experienced a dramatic transformation when he finally opened his heart to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his quest for truth, he explored a number of different exotic teachings before accepting the truth of the Gospel. But only the Gospel of Jesus touched him to his core.  Only the Gospel of Jesus made his heart blossom and his intellect bear fruit. 

When we read or listen to the Gospels, we encounter many stories about how people were changed. Some people were sick. When Jesus entered their lives they were healed. Other people were pursuing a career. Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishing. When Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me,” they dropped their nets and followed him. From that moment onward their lives were changed. Matthew, the tax collector, was sitting at his table, collecting taxes when Jesus said to him, “Come, follow me.” He immediately dropped what he was doing and followed Jesus.

In the cases of Augustine and of these disciples, the moment of conversion was only the beginning. The process of transformation only began with their positive response to the invitation. The process of transformation continued for years. Sometimes the change was dramatic. Sometimes because of human weakness there may have been reversals. But always there was change.

You and me, none of us are “done.” All of us are in need of transformation.

The Gospels are not just any other book. I am firmly convinced that the Gospels have power. The Gospels have power to change you and me as individuals. The Gospels have power to change us as a parish community.  There is a force, a dynamism in the Gospels that we need to let flow through us, over us and around us; we need to become immersed in its energy, its power, its direction, its forcefulness. We need to cast off fear. We need to throw off our doubts. We need to allow Jesus, Our Lord and Our God, be the Lord and God of our hearts. Because it is He who is the power in the Gospels who transforms you and me, who transforms us as a community.

Father Liam