Thursday, January 25, 2007

SPIRITUAL CHILD ABUSE - Why many Catholic parents are at fault and not even know it

By Paul Dion, STL

Brethren, especially you mothers and fathers, read the next few lines of Sacred Scripture carefully. These are the commandments that are driven into our parental hearts by the God Almighty who creates us all.

"Listen Israel: Yahweh our God is the One Yahweh. You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. Let these words I urge on you today be written on your heart. You shall repeat them to your children and say them over to them whether at rest in your house or walking abroad, at your lying down or at your rising: you shall fasten them on your hand as a sign and on your forehead as a circlet; your shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verses 6 to 9)

"...Parents, never drive your children to resentment but in bringing them up correct them and guide them as the Lord does." (Ephesians, Chapter 6, verse 4)

"...Do not forget the things that your eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart all the days of your life; rather tell them to your children and to your children's children...Call the people around me that I may let them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on earth, and teach this to their children." Deuteronomy, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10)

"Yahweh said to Samuel, ... you are to tell Eli that I am about to condemn his house forever for he has known that his sons have been cursing God, yet, he has not corrected them." (1 Samuel, chapter 3, verses 13 and 14)

"...I am reminded of the sincere faith which you have. It came first to life in your Grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I have no doubt that it is the same faith in you as well. ... You must keep what you have been taught and know to be true: remember who your teachers were, and how, ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures..." (2 Timothy, Chapter 1, verse 5 and chapter 3, verse 15)

Now that you have read what the Bible has to say about our duties as parents, I will share my experiences with you. I will not have to make anything up. It is all true, except the names.
Mamma QueueD’écureuil comes to the Parish Office with a handsome 6’ 2” adult male in tow. She signs the guest book and sweetly addresses the Parish Office Receptionist.

Mamma Q: I want to confirm my son.

P.O. Reception: O.K. I will just give you this form and you can have a seat and fill it out. It’s rather short.

Mamma Q: I have a question, if you don’t mind.

P.O. Reception: Not at all.

Mamma Q: Is it true that to receive the sacrament of marriage a person has to be confirmed?P.O. Reception: Yes, Ma’am. That is true.

Mamma Q: How long does that take?

P.O. Reception: Well, Ma’am that depends on several things.

Mamma Q: I knew you would say that. More red tape, I suppose?

P.O. Reception: We’ll see. Are you related to the person who wants to be married?

6’ 2” Son: Yeah. I’m her son.

P.O. Reception: I see. How old are you?

6’ 2” Son: 22.

P.O. Reception: Are you baptized?

Mamma Q: Yes he is.

P.O. Reception: Do you have his baptismal certificate?

Mamma Q: We lost it.

P.O. Reception: That should not pose a large problem. Where was he baptized?

Mamma Q: I can’t remember.

P.O. Reception: Where was he born?

Mamma Q: France. We were in the service, my husband and me.

P.O. Reception: So was your son baptized in France by the chaplain of your service group?

Mamma Q: No, I don’t think so because we left France about a year or so after he was born.

P.O. Reception: So you can’t remember where he was baptized?

Mamma Q: Yeah, that’s right.

P.O. Reception: Do you remember who the God parents were?

Mamma Q: They were some friends of my husband but I don’t know where they are now.

P.O. Reception: Can your husband help you with this?

Mamma Q: I don’t know where he is.

P.O. Reception: Well, all may not be lost. Where did you make your first communion, Son?

6’ 2” Son: I didn’t make no First Communion.

P.O. Reception: I see. Under these circumstances it would take more than a year to get everything straightened out for your son.

Mamma Q: Well, that’s not going to work. He and his fiancée are fixing to get married in June of this year.

P.O. Reception: Is the girl a baptized Catholic?

6’ 2” Son: I don’t know, I never asked her that.

Mamma Q: I can see that we aren’t getting anywhere here. We’ll just go somewhere else.

If you are sitting there and thinking that this is an extreme case. Think again.

Every year at our parish there are about 35 to 40 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who come into our parish office that I put in this special classification.

They have been baptized and can prove it. About one half have not received their first communion. None have been confirmed. None of them know the simple prayers that most Catholics know and not one of them is a regular churchgoer. Furthermore, every year there are more than a dozen of these young adults who come to us to declare that they have not yet been baptized.

So, you’re thinking, “that’s good, they are now waking up and they are presenting themselves to the church.”

As much as I dislike disabusing you of this notion, I have to tell you that 80 percent or more of them come because their grandmother or their mother told them that they should be either baptized or confirmed or both and so they should take the necessary steps to get it done.

Why does this need arise all of a sudden? Because the church in our region has a rule that says that if you have not received your first communion and are not confirmed you may not be accepted into the church for your wedding.

Are you asking yourself yet where God is in all of this?

My point here is this. The parents who did not teach their children to pray, to love God, to live in a community of sacramental action have sinned against God and against their children.

Baptized parents who deny their children the spiritual blessings and grace of God by not teaching them the meaning of the baptism that they, the parents have, are abusing their children by denying them the training of how to relate to God through the spiritual life of the Church. Baptized parents who do not introduce their children into a shared life with God are disobeying God.

Baptized parents who have their children baptized and then do not raise them in the presence of God and teach them to believe in Him, lied to God when the priest asked them at the time of the child’s baptism, “What do you ask of God for your child? And the parents answered, “The Faith.”

After the church ceremony the family went home, drank, danced and made merry and for years allowed the child to grow without ever knowing who God is and never hearing it from the very people who promised to introduce the child to the faith in God.

Worse yet are those parents who never taught their children to set foot in church, but force their children to have their children baptized because after all, babies have to be baptized. So Grandmother get all huffy, makes her child miserable, drags the new parent down to the church and raises hell and puts a prop under it when the priest “gives them a hard time” and wants to postpone the baptism until the grandmother and the parents can prove that they are really Catholic.

I don’t get it.

Parents bring their children to the baptismal font so that they can be washed clean of original sin. These same parents never once think that because they have no intention of helping their children live and grow in the grace of God, that their sin is greater than the one being washed away from the child.

Not only are these parents sinning against their own baptism, they are projecting their sin on the child that they are presenting for baptism.

Now, that is spiritual child abuse.

I may be preaching to the choir here, and that’s good. I expect the choir members to go out and tell the people close to them who fit the above description to read these reflections. Tell these people that you know that Catholicism is not a culture that you’re born into. It is a studied and practiced discipleship with the Creator and His Son.

Those who deny their children the opportunity to live that discipleship should know that God and His Son Jesus Christ are waiting for them with blazing swords in their hands. I expect the choir to forward this message to those who need to hear it.

Denying children the grace of the faith is behavior that is dealt with directly by the Man Upstairs.

Parents, I am closing by quoting this passage from the Book of Proverbs, written by the wise king, son of David, named Solomon. Teach your children the way it is described here in God’s own words.

“My child, let kindliness and loyalty never leave you; tie them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.That way you shall enjoy favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.Trust wholeheartedly in God, put no faith on your own perceptions; in every course you take, have Him in mind; He will see that your paths are smooth.Do not think of yourself as wise, fear God and turn your back on evil.Honor God with what goods you have and with the first fruits of your returns.My child, do not scorn correction from God, do not resent His rebuke; for God rebukes the person He loves, as a father checks a well-loved child.” (Proverbs, chapter 3, verses 1 to 12.)

Finally, I exhort you to think of the wonderful job that Joseph and Mary did with Jesus in teaching Him about God. When He was found in the Temple with the doctors of the Law, they were surprised at His knowledge of His religion.

God gives us parents the same responsibilities that He gave to Joseph and Mary. Just like them, we have to assure God that the children that He gives us will also “grow in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2; 52)

If live this way, no one will have to cry at our funeral. If we do not follow the law of God to make ourselves and our children his holy and saintly disciples, I assure you that “at the end of our time, the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be wailing and the gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew, chapter 13, verses 49 and 50)

And at those funerals, there will be plenty of reasons to cry.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

You are a Priest Forever According to Melkisedek

"You are a priest forever accoring to the order of Melkisedek."

What does that mean? Just exactly what does “forever” mean? How does that find a meaning in our human life? Who is Melkisedek? What is a priest?

I do not claim to know the objectively true answers to these questions. I do know the subjective answers to them. I have been meditating them for nearly sixty years. That is a longer time than the smiling young man on the left has been a priest. Or is it? We will explore that as we go forward in our reflection about the priesthood and what it means to a priest, to those from whom he rises and to those who are asked to receive him into their midst as their pastor.

Father Romeo Seleccion, M.S., the priest in the picture on the left has been a priest for twenty-five years now. He has a lot of “war stories” to tell. I know one or two of them, so to speak. But these are not the core and the substance of his priesthood. These make up the “Barbara Walters Interview” part of his life. There is a lot more going on inside him and inside those who touch his life than the “war story” dimension.

You are a priest forever. This is a key concept in the definition of a priest. It is going to come in handy when we consider the “Melkisedek” part of the definition. Most of us are familiar with the saying, “guaranteed for life.” Most of us have lost our trust in that expression for a lot of reasons, most of which are a result of seeing things stop functioning long before the end of OUR lives. But the manufacturer responds with, “well, we built it to have a life of three years, and yours lasted for five years. Therefore, we have more than fulfilled our promise to you.” Oh, really now? So then, what could “forever” possibly mean?So we look forward and we think, “Well, I see flowers, pets and people dying around me every day. That surely isn’t living forever.” Then we catch ourselves and remember what we learned in our first year of catechism that when we die, we live in heaven with Jesus Himself. Ah, so that must be “forever”. We struggle with that one even though every time someone dies we hear people buzzing all round us, “(S)he is in a better place”. Then we notice that they are the professional grief ministers from the church and we remain only partially reassured. I am here to tell you that means and . Eternity is a circle, not a line. Eternity has no beginning and no end. Forever is eternity and therefore “forever” is not a line, but a circle. Forever is God’s existence outside of time.
A priest is a priest from all eternity and for all eternity. A priest is a priest in the presence of God for all eternity, no matter what happens to him during his earthly sojourn. The Catholic Church knows this. You have learned in your catechism that there are three sacraments that can be received only once in a human lifetime, Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders (Priestly Ordination). We also know that the sacraments of the Church were instituted by Jesus Himself. Since Jesus is God, we believe that He knew what He was doing. The man who is a priest also knows this. Talk to any priest. Once you get friendly with him a little bit, ask him when he knew that he wanted to be a priest. After reading this you won’t be surprised that he’ll say that he thought of it since he was just a tiny little boy. I personally know this to be true. I also know that God has a way to weed out those who only think that they are chosen from those whom He has really chosen. Those who have been eliminated from the service to the Church because of their sins and their crimes are still priests forever and I am a faithful believer that if they do not sin against the Holy Spirit, we will see them in heaven.

You are a priest forever. Let’s put the accent on the word “priest”. We all think that we know what a priest is. We see people dressed in black and we think that we are seeing a priest. We see a man with a “roman collar” and we think that we are seeing a priest. We are sure that we are seeing a priest when we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We know that the presider of the liturgy is a priest. We know that because he priest is essentially the presider of the sacrifice. We know that from the very first pages of the Bible. Abraham is the priest “par excellence” building altars and offering sacrifices every where he went. Noah was a priest as well as others that are too numerous to mention here. Notice that Noah and Abraham are two of the strongest believers and most loyal individuals with regards their relationship with Yahweh. As it turns out, the priestly standing was rewarded to the family that did not join the rebellion against Yahweh in the desert. The sons of Levi did not bend their knee to the golden calf and in fact carried out Yahweh’s order to slay the rebels who had turned against Him. They were awarded the privilege of the priesthood to the chosen people of Yahweh. It is therefore undeniably clear that the priest is a person who has already sacrificed his life to God in staunch faith and steadfast loyalty. The priest never looks back. He only looks to God. The Levites took it on the chin for a couple of centuries when there were some rather bad people in charge of God’s people here on earth. Finally, once Saul was no longer in the picture and David became King, he renewed the Levitic priesthood because the sons of Levi never wavered from their commitment to Yahweh. David himself was a priest, in fact the priest who rescued the priesthood and was able to give it back to the Levites. The priest of today is a priest in the unbroken line of fidelity to Yahweh, through Melkisedek, David and to His Son, Jesus Christ.
From Jesus Christ we go back to Melkisedek, (Genesis, 14: 17 – 20) the priest who was also king of Salem. Melkisedek appears out of nowhere to offer a sacrifice of bread and wine for the benefit of Abraham who was coming off a victory over Chedorlaomer. The king of Sodom, to no one’s surprise did not render any spiritual offerings. Melkisedek, however, being “a priest of God most high” offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pronounced a blessing upon Abraham. Abraham gave him a generous offering of 10% of all his belongings and to the king of Sodom he gave nothing and he took nothing so that he would not be beholden to the king of Sodom. This is a picture of the priest in the line of Christ. He offers sacrifices, he presides over the altar and is beholden to no one. The priest is “a priest of God the most high” at the service of the people of God. He is beholden only to God. He cannot be bought and what he offers cannot be sold. He is a priest according to the New Covenant. The priest of the New Covenant is a high priest according to the oath which appoints him a son of God who has been made perfect forever. (Hebrews; 7, 28)

The priest of the New Covenant has been named by God as the envoy of His Son, Jesus who came to fulfill all the promises made to Israel. The New Israel deals with God through the Priest for it is he who is the mediator of the New Covenant.

The priest of the New Covenant is a healthy mixture of monasticism and corporate management. He is a person of deep theological and spiritual convictions. He is a person who can look people in the eye and say the truth, no matter what their civil standing. He is a person who can also look down the barrel of a .45 and still say the truth without breaking a bead of sweat (hot or cold). He is a person who offers the holocaust of himself to the Christian community. It matters not whether he expects the assignment to last 2 months, two years or twenty years. His dedication to the chosen People of God is never anything short of perfection. The priest of the New Covenant knows how to mentor the people of the community in the art of fidelity in the service of God. The priest of the New Covenant knows his sheep. Jesus knew Peter well enough to promote him early. Jesus surely knew the bravery of Thomas, (John, 11;16); He knew the loving loyalty of John and we know that He was keeping on eye on Nathanael (John 1; 43-51). The priest of the New Covenant knows that God’s success on earth depends on the well-oiled teamwork of the most professionally astute of the members of the community. The priest of the New Covenant knows how to “un-invite” the negative influences from his table and how to “invite” the replacements. (A tax collector? Are you kidding? Saul of Damascus? You’re out of your mind!)
The pastor of our parish, St. Christopher in Moreno Valley, CA has been a priest for 25 years. Frankly, this is not such a long time in terms of mathematics. In terms of fullness of life measured by the intensity of human experience that fills the life of the priest every day, it is a long time. Every day there are events that seem to stop the clock as they unfold. If the smiling young man whose picture appears here were to recount his experiences reaching back 25 years, he could make OUR hair turn grey. The priest offers not only his life to God on the altar of life, but ours too. We deliver our souls to him. On any given day, the priest becomes an alcoholic, a gambler, a murderer, a wife abuser, a doubter, a quasi Atheist, a rapist, an embezzler, a kidnapper and is host to a variety of other doubts and disturbances that cross his threshold. And that is only what comes to him from the outside. The priest has an intense community life inside the rectory and in the organization that reports to the rectory. This is the “corporate”, business aspect of the priest’s life. This is where the pastor lives the life of a CEO. It is here that he is required to assure the success of the “operation”, both financial and spiritual. It is in this segment of his life that he builds the “spirit” of the parish. In every parish there are employees who are called upon to produce results that assure the welfare (Economic and Spiritual) of the parochial community. There is usually a cadre of volunteers who assist both these employees and the priests to produce high quality spiritual and “business” results. Here the pastor gets to manage employees and volunteers. At St. Christopher Parish there are perhaps close to 40 or 50 people who require day to day management. Needless to say, they are not all of equal ability and zeal. Remember the Pareto principle? 20% of the people give you 80% of your success. 20% of the people cause you 80% of your problems. The 80% in the other side of both these numbers need to be managed too. Put all of this together and you have a long 25 years.

Let me call upon you to notice the diametrically opposed set of skills that are called into play each and every day of the priest’s life. Every day the priest is part “MONK” and part “CEO”. Every day he has to create peace in the heart and the souls of those seeking spiritual consolation and direction. Then he has to motivate, discipline and manage a group of people according to the best practices of corporate management. These two responsibilities engage the priest in two different worlds. His management of the situations that arise in one and the other spawn allies and adversaries at every turn. Worse, the allies and the adversaries cross over from one world to the other and before you know it, you hear things like, “It’s not all about work, you know” or “The law is the law. If they don’t stop stealing, their kid won’t be allowed to first communion, period.” Now let me tell you, that can make for a very long 25 years.

All of this being said, I will take my leave from this encomium of the priesthood by saying that St. Christopher has been blessed over the last 6 years with a pastor who is honest, deeply spiritual, very patient and exceedingly kind. I ask all of you to join me in prayer to ask the Lord to care for and support our Father Romy, no matter where the road of life takes him. He is a person who has indeed placed himself on the altar of the holocaust. We are all better because God sprinkles us with Fr. Romy’s blood, sweat and tears. In thanksgiving for him, let us ask God to make the next 25 years of Father Romy’s life happy, holy, loving, peaceful and health-filled.

When God takes him by the hand and walks with him, (Genesis, Chapter 5, verse 23 and 24) not a single one of us will have to cry because we will all be sure that God has shown him the way into heaven.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Mom's a Priest --- Holy Families

Hard to believe, isn't it? Yet, I am fearless in this area. The Bible is a great place to visit when you want to watch the respect of women grow in the eyes of God and the hearts of His people. You're thinking that I'm finally going to give you an opportunity to cry at my funeral because this is going to be so stupid that I will surely have to pay for it for all eternity. Everyone knows that women aren't priests and never have been priests in the Judeo-Christian Tradition. So why open that can of worms? The answer is simple, "Because I want to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in a special way with you all." You may all be aware that this feast is always celebrated between Christmas and New Year's Day. This year, as it happens, the solemnity is scheduled for December 31, 2006 and I'm late. As it turns out, this year you are going to meet other "Holy Families" with an emphasis on the Mother. Then, you will meet my mother. So fasten your seatbelt. This is going to be an E-Ticket ride.
Holy Family # 1. Isaac, Sarah and Abraham
Holy Family # 2. Samson, Anonymous Mom and Manoah
Holy Family # 3. Samuel, Hannah and Elkanah
Holy Family #4. John, Elizabeth and Zehkariah

Meet Sarai and Abram. (Genesis, Chapters 15 - 17) Two people married for a long time, childless. They were obedient and giving to Yahweh. They had left their homeland upon the beckoning of Yahweh who was in the process of organizing His people. Yahweh had even promised a rich progeny to Abram. At first we don't hear Abram challenging God. Abram and Sarai go from place to place under the inspiration of God and in response to the economic necessities of the times. They even go to Egypt to escape the ravages of a great famine. Everywhere they go, Abram builds an altar and offers sacrifice to Yahweh. After his return from Egypt and after conquering many of Yahweh's enemies, Abram meets Melkisedek who offers a sacrifice of bread and wine to Yahweh to thank Him for turning His enemies over to Abram. After settling down a little bit, Sarai, still childless offers her maidservant Hagar to Abram so that he would have descendants. Hagar indeed bore Abram a son, Ishmael. Now when Abram was 99 years old, God appeared to him and made a convenant with His servant. Yahweh started out by giving Abram and new name, "You shall no longer be called Abram: your name shall be Abraham." (Gen. 17;7) Further on Yahweh tells Abraham that from now on he would call his wife Sarah, not Sarai. He tells Abrahan that she will bear him a son. Abraham now says, "Let Ishmael live in your presence" But Yahweh said "no", Sarah will bear you a son whom you will call Isaac . The rest, as they say is history. Isaac is born, has two sons Esau and Jacob and from them Yahweh proceeds to keep his promise to give Abraham so many descendants that they outnumber the stars in the sky. Along the way, Sarah and Abraham are asked to sacrifice their son Isaac. We don't hear anything about Sarah's reaction, but we do know that Abraham obeyed without question. We never find out what Sarah said, or thought. We do know that she had been through a lot with Abraham and this demanding God. So we have to know that she was a part of the consent to offer the only son that she ever bore to Yahweh, the God of the great promise of love. She was the one who presented her son to the shedding of the blood of circumcision. She was no doubt the one who joined her husband in obedience to Yahweh who was demanding the most difficult sacrifice of all. She had to be the model for Mary who not only accompanied her Son to circumcision but to the altar of the cross. True it is that the priest presides at the sacrifice, but it's the mother who willingly provides the offering.
Meet Samson, his anonymous Mom and his father Manoah. (Judges, chapter 13) The Israelites were now a well formed people. They were also well versed in the ways of evil. They were doing what is very displeasing to Yahweh. So as He did with Noah, Yahweh sent His messenger to the wife of Manoah to tell her, "You are barrren and have had no child. But from now on take great care. Take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For you will conceive and bear a son. No razor is to touch his head for the boy shall be God's nazirite (See definition at the end) from his mother's womb. It is he who will begin to rescue the Israelites from the power of the Philistines." (Judges, 13; 4 - 6) Samson's mom then relates her experience with this angel to her husband. Manoah believes her. (Just like we all would, right?) He kneels by his bed that night and asks Yahweh a favor. Please, says Manoah, send that same man again to both me and my wife so that he can instruct us what to do with the boy once he is born. Now before you go running to your Bible to find out if God really sends the angel again, let me tell you. He does. Back to the woman. She runs for her husband and tells him to come right now because the stranger is here. The message is the same, no wine, no strong drink, no hair cuts. Now this Manoah and his wife must have a very deep, loving and trusting relationship because Manoah invites the stranger to tarry a while so that they can prepare a kid for him. But the angel thanks them with great respect (Hey, after all, he works for God) and instructs them instead to offer the kid up in sacrifice. As the smoke from the holocaust arose, the angel arose as well and disappeared into the heavens. Now, Manoah is downright scared. He says, "Now we are certain to die for we have seen God." (Judges, 13, 22) The dedicated, believing woman replies, "We shall not die. If Yahweh meant to kill us He would not have accepted a holocaust and oblation from our hands; He would not have told us all these things." (Judges, 13, 23 - 24) This woman bears a son, names him Samson and Samson indeed goes through many adventures, slays a whole host of Philistines, falls prey to the wiles of Delilah but in the end delivers the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines.This woman is like Mary because she appears now and then in the story to support her son. She is a brave woman who believes in God so much that she willingly offers her only son to Him for the good of His people. The first holocaust in the presence of the angel is just the beginning of her priesthood. She does all the "heavy lifting" in this parable. True her husband believes her, but he wants to be sure that she got it right. He is a very proper person, hospitable and trusting. He trusts that his wife is not too close to the stranger in the story. Then when he sees the presence of God in his life, he's sure that he's going to die. But look at her. Tough. Believing. Not afraid of God nor of her husband. Not afraid to offer her only begotten son up to God. This woman is so tough that she has even offered her own name up in the holocaust of anonymity so that her son and Yahweh alone remain the true protagonists of the story. Has there ever been a priest so thourough as that? Maybe "yes", maybe "no". But we know of one for sure, Samson's Mom.
Meet Samuel, Hannah and Elkanah. (1 Samuel, Chapter 1) You have my permission to shed tears at this story. Big, huge tears of respect, love and joy. Elkanah is an important person. We know that because he has a pedigree. He also has two wives. He also fears Yahweh and makes a yearly pilgrimage and offers sacrifice with his family. He also loves Hannah deeply and knows that she loves him. One day during one of the pilgrimages Elkanah notices Hannah sad and despondent. He approaches her and asks why and she tells him, "I have no child". She then goes to the temple and starts to pray intensely to God and makes a vow to Him in these wonderfully poetic words: "Yahweh Sabaoth! If you will take notice of the distress of your servant, and bear me in mind and not forget your servant and give her a man-child, I will give him to Yahweh for the whole of his life and no razor shall ever touch his head." (1 Samuel, 1; 11) While she was praying, Eli, the priest saw her praying and after her prayer approached her and supported her in her relationship with God. After hearing her story, he bade her, "May the God of Israel grant what you have asked of Him." and she replied, "May your maidservant find favor in your sight." (1 Samuel, 1; 17 - 18) Yahweh granted the wish of Hannah. She called her son Samuel (His name is God). She told Elkanah her plan and he agreed with her saying oniy, "wait until you wean him." She did this. Then took him to the temple, Handed him over to Eli. "There she left him, for Yahweh" (1 Samuel, 1; 28)You are asking yourself why this family is on my list of five best. My answer is, because Hannah could have finally found herself with child, allowed her love for her husband to dim and lose herself in the love of her dearly prayed-for son. Elkanah could have demanded that she preserve Samuel from the vow that she had made so that a new line of descendants be formed. But no. These two people, close to Yahweh, fulfilled their covenant and Samuel became one of the holiest leaders of God's people. Has a greater sacrifice every been made by a mother? Yes, and Mary knew where to look for an example when she needed inspiration. Once again, the mother brings the holocaust to the altar and offers it to God Almighty in the supreme act of adoration. The perfect priestly act. The perfect act of unconditional love.
Meet John, Elizabeth and Zechariah. (Luke, Chapter 1) This is the second to last story of chosen women who are going to get their wish, only to have to offer it back to the Giver. It is clear that the messenger nevers hides the mission of the issue. In Hannah's case, she offered the fruit of her womb without knowing what would happen. In the case of all the others, the mission was clear, this person will be great in the eyes of God and it is going to take a lot of work. All these women, except Mary, was deep into life without having borne a child. The annunciation that leads to John's birth is different in that it serves two purposes, it is a mission to greatness and a sign of another mission to greatness. John has a mission even before he is born. He is the precursor even while in the womb. His father is a Temple official, the only one of all the special miraculous births retold on the Bible. The interesting element in the birth of John and of Jesus is that their mothers offered them to God through the Temple. Both John and Jesus are the people's sacrifices. Their mothers saw them swallowed up by the community and condemned to violent death for the sake of those to whom they were sent. Elizabeth is the last of the miraculous ladies in advanced age who gave birth through the intervention of Yaweh. She is certainly not the least of the group.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph need no introduction, right? The last of the annunciations goers the same way as the first ones, not all of which appear here.
1. Ave, Maria, full of grace and favored by God. I am Gabriel.
2, Please do not be frightened. You will conceive and give birth to a son.
3. You will name Him Jesus.
4. He will be very great and He will be called the son of the Most High.
5. That cannot be since I do not know a man.
6. Don't worry, the Holy Spirit will come over you and take care of everything. By the way, to show you that this is true, your cousin Elizabeth has conceived in her old age.

What we have here is another mother offering her son back to the one who gave him to her. The altar is of a different shape, but it is an altar nonetheless and the sacrifice is a holocaust. None of the mothers named had a very easy life watching their sons be used, abused and put away by the very people to whom they were sent. None of the Prophets, no matter the difficulties that they suffered, had to go through what these "Miraculous" sons suffered. It got worse and worse as time went by. The sins of the people got to be more and more grievous and the deaths of the victim more and more vicious. Finally, all this sacrifice culminated in God Himself getting involved so that we could all share a piece of the pie in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The story of mothers putting their sons on the altar of sacrifice doesn't stop with Elizabeth and Mary. We all have mothers and if we really think about it, they are all priestly people. They cry at our weddings, they cry when we have our first children and they even take care of us when they have the misfortune of nursing us through the end of life to our premature death.

My mother, Mélina Justine spent a lot of time in front of the altar of sacrifice. I was first. Everyone knows I was her favorite. The third one was the girl that my father always wanted. She was diagnosed with diabetes at age four. That was a challenge for plenty of years. Two more children after that. Then when the "baby" was twelve, my father died. When that happened I was in seminary. I offered to come home and help my mother to support the family. She said, "no, you continue." Two months later I called and said that I had the opportunity to go finish my studies in Rome, Italy. She said, "yes, go". Four years later I finished but she could not overcome her agoraphobia, so she waited for me to come home before celebrating.

My sisters took a stab at the convent, they both decided that it was not for them. The diabetic was particularly devasted. Six months after she left the convent she was assaulted on a "date". In the meantime I was separated from my mother again because I went to the La Salette Mission in the Philippines. She worked hard at raising funds for the mission. Two years later she and her team got defrauded by the mission procurator. Some good things happened, but then the bomb went off and I left the mission. Two years later I married and a year later saw a boy come into the world. My mother was three thousand miles away but this time she wasn't going to wait. She was going to offer it all up and come to California even if it killed her. It didn't kill her. She actually said that it gave her life. She went back home and she finally had to see her daughter go through the throes of a slow death at the hands of the diabetes devil.

I went to the funeral in Massachusetts. During the season of obsequies, my late father's birthday marked the union that had just taken place between him and his favorite child. My mother didn't shed a single tear at the funeral. She shed a few tears of joy on my father's birthday. "I'm so happy that they are finally together again." At the time she also said, more than once, that she felt like Job's wife, but that she was happy that God gave her the strength to offer it all back to Him. I know that I have never been more a priest than that.

Ladies, you don't have to aspire to the sacrament of ordination. We all know that God has a special priesthood reserved for you. We all see it. When you live it, you give us spiritual life on top of the physical life that you share with us. So be proud of the action of God in you.
When you stand by my coffin, remember that it is the altar on which my mother placed me for the greater glory of God. If you shed a tear at that moment, you will disappoint her for not recognizing all that she did to offer all five of her lambs back to the one who chose her to be his special instrument.
Nazarite (naz'rit') [Heb. nazir=consecrated], in the Bible, a man dedicated to God. The Nazarite, after taking a special vow, abstained from intoxicating beverages, never cut his hair, and avoided corpses. An inadvertent breach of these rules called for purificatory rites. His vow was for a fixed term (though it could also be for life), at the end of which he was released. Samuel, the prophet, and Samson were Nazarites. This also explains why the angel told Zechariah never to give John wine. The name is also spelled Nazirite.