Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Luke 4:31-37

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee. He taught them on the sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon,  and he cried out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm. They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.”


The Scripture passage above has one main teaching purpose - to show that Jesus had authority. 

What is authority?

It is the ability to command things - and be obeyed! Many people, even with titles, bark orders and no one obeys. Not much authority there.

Authority also means the ability to get things done. The man needed to be freed from demons, and, in the end, he was indeed freed from demons. Jesus gets things done. Demons obey Him.


It strikes me how less concerned the Lord is with titles.

For many Jews, Jesus enjoyed no titles. He was not a Jewish priest or levite; not a scribe, not a member of the Sanhedrin. He was the son of a carpenter from Nazareth. Not even worth mentioning.

Even when someone in the Gospel story above wants to throw out a title, "the Holy One of God," Jesus tells them, the demons, to shut up.

Someone once called Jesus "good teacher," (Luke 18:19) and Jesus questions the man, "Why do you call me 'good?'" Jesus isn't all that moved by the mere mention of titles. He wants to make sure we understand what we're saying when we call Him by a title.

"You call me teacher and lord, and rightly so," Jesus tells the Apostles (John 13:13), but do you understand what you're saying when you call me those things? If the teacher bends down and washes feet, then so must you, the student.

The Lord even warned us that getting His title(s) right doesn't mean we get saved in the end. "Not everyone who calls me 'lord, lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 7:21)" What will save us? "Doing the will of my Father." 

Titles are not the Lord's focus. What title can we even given the Lord? Is it we who name Him? Or rather is it God who names us? Does man name God? Or does God name us, giving us His own name Christ-ian, just as He changed Abram's name, Jacob's name and Simon's name. What do we call Him but titles that He Himself has given us. "I am who am." "I am the Good Shepherd." "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."

Jesus is fine with titles. He even informs us which titles we are to use. But His focus is on getting things done (saving us) and in gaining our obedience to His authority, because it is an authority that saves us.

And isn't it true that we know a few people who have few or no titles at all, but who have great authority? People respect them, listen carefully to their advice, follow their example? That is authority.

Monday, August 22, 2016


Bishop Ishigami at his priestly ordination (2nd from left) in 1952

Tadamaro Ishigami was born in 1920 in the Northern Ryukyu islands of Japan.

At the age of 7, he was baptized a Roman Catholic and given the Christian name Augustine.

At age 13, he was already off to a minor seminary in mainland Japan.

Then World War II broke out and Tadamaro was drafted into the Japanese Army. When the war ended with Japan's defeat, Tadamaro went back home to his little village on a little island in the Ryukyus.

The tiny Catholic community was without missionaries, due to the war. The faithful still gathered for prayers. Tadamaro was one of the lay leaders of the community, having had some seminary training.

In 1947, Rome entrusted the Catholic mission of Okinawa (Ryukyus) to the American Capuchins. Of the two Capuchins sent to Okinawa that year, one had been a missionary on Guam before the war, Father Felix Ley, and was thus sent by the Japanese to prisoner of war camp. For the three and a half years he was a prisoner in Japan, Father Felix picked up a little Japanese. He was very willing to go back to Japan as a missionary.

Tadamaro was at the dock when the two American Capuchins arrived.

Although Father Felix spoke a tiny bit of Japanese, it was not enough for him to communicate well with Tadamaro. Tadamaro could not speak English at all. What to do?

They spoke in Latin. That was the language that united two American Catholics and one Japanese Catholic.

Tadamaro greeted the missionaries and said, "Est maximum gaudium mihi servire vobis." "It is my greatest joy to serve you."

Ishigami as a layman meeting Guam's Bishop Baumgartner. Okinawa was under Guam's Catholic jurisdiction for a short time right after WW2.  Baumgartner ordained Ishigami a priest in 1952.

Ishigami later joined the Capuchins and was given the religious name Peter Baptist. Twenty-some years later he became Bishop of Okinawa.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Clare of Offreduccio, a noble maiden of Assisi, was attracted to the poor life of Francis of Assisi, a member of the town's merchant class who divested himself of all material goods to live in imitation of Christ.

Like Saint Francis, Saint Clare attracted followers. In those days, there were no "sisters" as we know them today; women who forsake marriage in order to live in community, pray and do all kinds of ministry : to teach, attend to the sick, shelter orphans and so on. That kind of sisterhood came later. In Clare's day, only one kind of female religious life was possible : the monastery. Behind the monastic walls, nuns were to pray; for their own spiritual life, for the needs of the Church and the world.

So Saint Clare and her religious sisters did so. From Assisi, numerous monasteries following Clare and Francis opened all over Europe. Her own blood sister Agnes was sent to lead the monastery in Prague, in the present-day Czech Republic.

There had been monastic nuns in the Church for hundreds of years. Why would Saint Clare's nuns run into trouble?

They ran into trouble with Rome because Saint Clare's nuns were different.

Every other monastery of nuns that came before Saint Clare lived on endowments. Many of the women becoming nuns came from wealthy families. Ordinarily, if one of their daughters married, her family gave the groom a dowry, a sum of wealth for the upkeep of the bride after marriage.

With the daughters entering convents, that dowry went to the monastery. Thus, the nuns could focus on their religious life and not worry about paying the bills. When the more recent development of working sisters came along, their livelihood was supported by the income of their work running schools, hospitals and so on.

Following the ideals of Saint Francis, Saint Clare refused to accept dowries from her nuns. They were to live on charity alone. Of course, this was a risk! What if donations were meager! How could the nuns farm or do other work to earn income? Doing this would jeopardize their focus on prayer and the hidden life, separate from the world. Bishops were afraid that they would end up having to look for food and other necessities for hungry nuns. These were the days of widespread epidemics and periodic droughts and pestilence. Wars, also, interfered with agriculture as armies marched through the countryside. A ready supply of food was not always reliable in those days. When the farmers themselves were poor, who would feed the nuns?

Thus Rome insisted that the Poor Clares, as they came to be called, accept dowries. This would provide financial security to the nuns, and neither Rome nor the local bishop, nor the area farmers would have to worry about providing for the nuns.

Saint Clare struggled for many years against this. It was completely contrary to the ideals of Saint Francis, whose Rule of Life had been approved by Rome. Approved for the friars, who went among the people and who were able to live on charity as well as their own work, but not for the nuns, who lived in the cloister and who could not work or go among the people. Rome said it had never been done before, that nuns should live off charity. Saint Clare thus termed it the "Privilege of Poverty;" the privilege of being the only nuns in the Church who would decline dowries and live off people's generosity, even at the risk of lean times when people could be less generous.

Clare and her sister Agnes even resorted to worldly politics to help them get what they needed from Rome. The Pope at the time was also a political ruler, owning a large part of central Italy directly under his secular rule called the Papal States. Thus, the Pope needed political alliances with different kingdoms against other rulers who had plans on conquering the Papal States. Rome needed an alliance with Prague, and Saint Agnes in Prague did her best to open doors for that to come true.

Finally, only two days before her death, Rome gave Saint Clare what she always wanted. Rome approved a Rule just for the Poor Clares, and this Rule had poverty at its very core. From then on, the Poor Clares were granted the Privilege of Poverty.

The story shows that Rome doesn't always understand right away nor moves at the speed we would like. Clare obeyed Rome; but continuing to ask for what one has been denied is not disobedience. We need to persist and never give up in asking, just as Saint Clare did. In the end, God's will is done. Even if it happens just two days before we die.