St. Thomas More Church 1600x900

Campus Ministry Prayer of the Week

The Vincentian priests and all who work in University Ministry and Mission pray for you daily. Each week, we will be sharing a prayer with our campus community.

Week of May 18

Meg Rodriguez, Residence Minister for Catholic Formation and Leadership

On Thursday, May 21, we will celebrate Ascension Thursday. Forty days after Jesus resurrected from the dead, he ascended into heaven.

The Gospel for Ascension Thursday (Matthew 28:16-20) gives me peace and hope:   
The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,'
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” 

“And behold, I am with you always.” (Mt 28:20) Meditating on the Ascension is somewhat challenging and comforting all at the same time during this pandemic. As Jesus left the apostles for heaven, they were shocked and upset. How could he leave? But before he ascends into heaven, he reminds the Twelve, who are probably not really sure what is happening, that He is always with them.

This feeling the apostles felt is similar to what we may be feeling these days: a combination of faith but also doubt. As we experience a series of emotions during this pandemic, I find myself shocked and upset that many things are no longer how they used to be. While the world in many ways has stopped moving, it has been an invitation for something different during this Easter season: an opportunity for us to truly practice being present among our families, friends—and even with ourselves.

While we physically cannot be with those dear to us, it is still possible to be in contact with them on what sometimes seems like a deeper level as we gaze more intentionally, through our computers and phone screens, at their faces. This quarantine has pushed us to adapt and begin to create our “new normal” in order to still be present.

For me, something that has been challenging while trying to create a healthy work/life balance has been working on my relationship with Jesus. Now, more than ever, I feel a certain ache in my heart to really go deeper with Him. I am just realizing that I need to work on creating a “new normal” in my relationship with Christ; it probably needs more intentionality and a bit more presence.

Similar to many of you, my family and I attend Mass online weekly, and sometimes even daily; not gathering as a community and receiving the Eucharist has been difficult. I find myself needing more time for reflection, especially on the gospel and what it means during this “new-normal.” As I was reflecting on this gospel, I paused after reading, “And behold, I am with you always.” These are some of the questions on which I have given thought: Do I believe Christ is with me always? Am I finding ways to be present to Him? How well do I know Jesus? How much do I trust Jesus? 

Now, a tougher line to live these days is the Great Commission from Jesus: “Go therefore and Make disciples of all nations.” (Mt28:19) Do I have what it takes to share Jesus? Will I allow the Holy Spirit to work through me?

There has been a recent quote floating around on the internet: “The church is not empty; the church has been deployed.” While many of our churches are empty, we are being called to truly “go out” and also remember in our journey that Christ is always with us no matter where we go or what experience we face, until we meet Him again in the Eucharist.  

The Ascension of our Lord binds heaven and earth together. During this pandemic, maybe we can find other moments where they meet, where we choose to see Christ in our midst, and decide to trust in Him more fully and in the gift of presence to strengthen our love for one another.

I am a collector of prayer cards. Recently a prayer card miraculously appeared in my notebook; it was a prayer from St. John Paul II. I have found comfort in this prayer and find it an appropriate tool to pray for what we need to be present for others, and most importantly to Christ:

An Offering of The Self

O Lord, may my soul be flooded with your light and know you more and more profoundly! Lord, give me so much love, love forever, serene and generous, that I will be united with you always!

Lord, let me serve you and serve you well, on the pathways that you wish to open to my existence here below. Amen.

A virtual choir performance by members of St. John’s Music Ministry

As a way to stay engaged and connected during the COVID-19 crisis, members of the St. John’s Music Ministry program came together virtually in early April to produce a choir performance. 

They were provided a score of the piece, “It Is Well with My Soul,” arranged by Norm Gouin, Campus Minister for Music and Faith Formation. The musicians were asked to learn their specific voice parts and over several weeks met on Zoom for rehearsals and one-on-one coaching sessions. Fourteen students participated, singing their assigned part to a prerecorded musical track. The videos were compiled and edited to produce one complete video performance.  

It is our hope that this performance lifts people’s spirits and brings encouragement and comfort to all in the St. John’s University community as we continue to persevere during these stressful and uncertain times.

Weekly Prayers

May 9th is the Feast of St. Louise de Marillac, who founded the Daughters of Charity in 1633 with St. Vincent de Paul. They referred to the founding of the Daughters of Charity as “The Little Company.” 

People in Paris were suffering. St. Louise and St. Vincent responded by sending the first Daughters out in the streets to serve and attend to their needs. In 17th-century France, this was not the normal response, but it was much-needed—thus began the Daughters of Charity. 

As collaborators, and more importantly, as friends, St. Louise and St. Vincent changed the face of France and eventually the world. During their lifetime, St. Louise wrote more than 380 letters that we know of to her Daughters—the first Sisters—guiding, assuring, and comforting them with words of compassion and prayer.

Four centuries have passed; the work and spirit that began so long ago still burns within the Daughters of Charity and the entire Vincentian family around the world. There are more than 14,000 Daughters of Charity worldwide, serving and living in more than 90 countries. The Daughters make simple vows annually: service to the poor, poverty, chastity, and obedience, which allows them the freedom to go wherever there is a need.  

As we remember St. Louise and her commitment and compassion to her sisters, St. Vincent, and her Daughters, we ask for her guidance.

Loving God, we remember with joy your Daughter, Louise de Marillac. Instill in us the fire of her love, her commitment to service, and the tenderness of her care for the most abandoned. Draw us into your loving presence and spark in us the fire that burned in St. Louise. 

St. Louise knew Our Blessed Mother as her only mother. May we too reach out in prayer to Our Blessed Mother. Lead us to her loving embrace, especially during this time of pandemic as we pray for peace and safety in our world. May we also know Our Blessed Mother as our Mother and Guide during these times.

Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us.

Interfaith Students Offer Hope and Encouragement

In a March 20th interview with the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa, Pope Francis speaks of the sorrow and pain that people worldwide are experiencing due to COVID-19. The only way to get through this situation, the pope said, is to come together “with penance, compassion, and hope.” We also need humility, as often we forget that life presents challenges. 

“We think they can only happen to someone else,” Pope Francis said. “But these times are dark for everyone.” 

What does everyone have in common during this pandemic? It goes beyond masks, gloves, and social distancing; these are our exterior faces. What are our common desires, thoughts, and feelings? We all want to be hopeful and receive encouragement. When we are feeling low, it helps when someone reaches out to us through a phone call conversation, a text message, or simply by looking us in the eyes as they maintain a proper social distance. This person is an agent of hope and encouragement.  

Through transcending our love outward, we are instruments of hope and encouragement to others; even though we cannot be physically close, by our mere presence we show others they are recognized and welcomed. Pope Francis exhorts us not to forget those who suffer—including those who quietly suffer internally.

All religions offer catechesis on how to be instruments of hope and encouragement as we build a community with God at its center. Joel Edouard, President of St. John’s University’s EDEN, shares his fellow students’ Christian message of hope and encouragement through this prayer.

Heavenly Father,

With so much happening in the world right now, it is easy to forget the things we deem as small. Thank you for waking us up this morning; that is a blessing. Thank you for giving us a place to lay our head; that is a blessing. Thank you for your constant love and comfort; that is a blessing.

As evil threatens to cast darkness in this time, we choose to see your light and acknowledge your blessings. Remind us that you are near, Father. Draw us closer to you in prayer, in worship, and in our word. Allow us to come to you freely, releasing our burdens and accepting your peace and love in exchange. We rebuke fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. I ask you to help us find joy and peace that surpasses all understanding in this storm. We thank you in advance for all of these things and more. 

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Nusrat Nasir, Community Service Chair for the St. John’s Muslim Students Association, offers us some comfort from the Qur’an and a few sayings from the last messenger, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him): 

‎فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا 

Fa Inna ma'al 'usri yusra 

Verily, with hardship comes ease.

Surah Ash-Sharh (The Relief) [94:6]

The pandemic has made us deal with a whirlwind of change. It has also been a period of transitioning and adapting to situations that are unknown to us, such as being isolated in our homes and not being able to connect with one another physically.

In this time, we need to remember Allah SWT is the best of planners and He recognizes our struggles. In this hardship, we need to remember Him, call out to Him in prayer, and have utmost faith in His mercifulness. 

May Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala grant all of us sabr (patience) and forgive us of our shortcomings. May He accept our duas during these trying times.

What will we offer?  Hope and encouragement, to give as well as receive.  These are key virtues that keep all of us within our diverse university community connected, and bonded toward a future.  Through hope and encouragement, let us come together with all that we have learned and with our positive desires to build into our “new normal reality,” a beautifully unified diverse community long beyond this pandemic. 

Rev. John J. Holliday, C.M., University Chaplain, offers a special blessing before final exams. 

Connect with our community through Campus Ministry’s Prayer of the Week. This reflection will be highlighted starting on May 6, along with the text for Fr. Holliday’s blessing. 

Joel Edouard
President, St. John’s EDEN

Nusrat Nasir
Community Service Chair, St. John’s Muslim Students Association

Dennis Gallagher
Director of Liturgy and Faith Formation, Campus Ministry

Rev. John J. Holliday, C.M.
University Chaplain

“You are my refuge.”
 Psalm 142, 6b

Easter is a time for rejoicing. We rejoice because Jesus has risen from death, darkness has been destroyed by the light of the resurrection, people no longer walk in the darkness of sin—and we can continue with many more reasons why we need to rejoice.  

However, the disciples still lived in loneliness and helplessness during that time. They lived in loneliness because their teacher was not there with them anymore. They felt helpless because they witnessed the death of their own teacher. David, a great king of the Israelites who was called by God to lead and build the kingdom of God, also shared similar experiences. 

Loneliness and helplessness are also the emotions that many of us are experiencing during this time.

Loneliness: we have been social distancing for more than a month and follow the same routine every day as many of us work from home. We have lost track of the time and date. We feel lonely because we have lost the basic human need for physical connection.  

That is also what David experienced. Being chased by the opponent and hiding on the mountain, he experienced that loneliness; he lost his physical connection with his family, whom at one point had praised him. Because of that loneliness, David cried out to God. He did not lose hope in the God who gave him life and chose him to be the king of His people. Being hopeful, he cried out to God with all of his complaints and distress, and he also recounted the goodness of God in his life.

Helplessness: Every day we turn on the television and listen to the news. We learn of the many lives being lost: some we know by face, some by name, and some we do not know at all. Many people struggle with COVID-19 symptoms and complications. Yet, we cannot do anything to help—not even a small act of visiting to provide comfort.  

We feel helpless. We feel small and weak; that is also what David experienced in his life. He felt small and weak when he compared himself to the king who sent the army after him. He felt helpless when he thought about the future of God’s people. At that moment, David knew there was one person who could help him and the people God had chosen—and that was God. He cried out to God for help.

My brothers and sisters, during this time in history, we may feel hopeless and helpless, but let us once again learn from David and cry out to God:

2 With my own voice I cry to the LORD;
with my own voice I beseech the LORD.
3 Before him I pour out my complaint,
tell of my distress in front of him.
4 When my spirit is faint within me, 
you know my path.
As I go along this path,
they have hidden a trap for me. 
5 I look to my right hand to see
that there is no one willing to acknowledge me.
My escape has perished;
no one cares for me.
6 I cry out to you, LORD,
I say, You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living. 
7 Listen to my cry for help,
for I am brought very low.
Rescue me from my pursuers,
for they are too strong for me.
8 Lead my soul from prison,
that I may give thanks to your name.
Then the righteous shall gather around me
because you have been good to me.

--Psalm 142 - 1 A maskil of David, when he was in the cave.  A prayer.

The Healing Power of Music

By Normand Gouin, Campus Minister for Music and Faith Formation

As someone who has dedicated his life to making music, I have experienced firsthand, most often in the context of communal prayer, the healing power of music.

In December of 2015, while serving as an Assistant Chaplain and the Director of Music at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, I was called upon to lead a prayer service after receiving the news that a first-year student had taken his life earlier that evening. The young man was a participant in one of the support groups offered by a colleague of mine in campus ministry. 

With only a few hours’ notice, the chapel was filled with more than 900 students in shock and overcome by grief. In shock myself, I sat at the piano and struggled to pull myself together as I led the community in singing a setting of Psalm 23. No words or melody seemed adequate to convey the pain and profound loss we were all experiencing. 

As I walked out of the chapel that evening, one of my colleagues approached me and said, “We really needed those songs tonight. You have no idea how much that prayer and music meant, and what it did to provide the consolation all of us so desperately need.” 

Moments like this make me realize that music can provide a means to navigate difficult emotions while opening up a pathway for healing—it is a way to bring people together as no other medium can. So many musicians around the world, both amateur and professional, are offering the gift of music as a sort of healing balm during this crisis. They share their songs to cheer on health-care workers on the frontline, to bring calm and healing to the grief-stricken, and to lift people’s spirits during these difficult and uncertain times.

Recently, I came across an article about a community in western Washington where neighbors are using their voices to share the healing power of music during this pandemic. “Porches are becoming stages in these communities,” a local reporter wrote.

Rachel Moss steps outside every day at 5 p.m. to sing for her neighbors and posts her performances on Facebook. She shared, “A lot of people are experiencing so much uncertainty—both from a health perspective and financially. I find that music can be a way to help calm some of those feelings and let people gain a few minutes of relief and joy. Whether it is the sound of opera music, or solo violin, this is all part of the healing experience.”

On March 31, Jon Bon Jovi was featured on the NBC Nightly News. The rocker spoke about the healing power of music during these troubled times. “I would like to give a shout-out to all of the nurses and doctors, the truck drivers and grocery store clerks, the policemen, the scientists, the teachers, and the moms and dads who are all on the frontlines tonight,” he said. “You are doing what you can.” 

Bon Jovi then performed his new song, “Do What You Can,” written about the coronavirus outbreak. He has since invited people to post their own lyrics to the song’s second verse as a way to express their own feelings and experiences. Click here to view Bon Jovi’s performance and hear his invitation.

As a way to support and connect with the student musicians who lead our worship at St. Thomas More Church, I recently invited them to embark on a venture, “With One Voice,” a virtual choir project where they send in videos of themselves performing their specific voice part or instrumental part to a piece I arranged, “It Is Well with My Soul.” The videos will be synced and edited to produce a final video performance. We hope to have the video posted in a few weeks. 

As all of us try to find ways to cope during this difficult period, I hope and pray that music can truly become a source of healing and comfort. I encourage everyone—especially in those moments when the isolation becomes stifling, when uncertainty and anxiety about the future becomes overwhelming, when our grief becomes unbearable, or when the news of a friend or family member who has recovered leads us to burst out with shouts of thanksgiving—to turn to that one song or playlist that can lift our spirits and give us the strength and encouragement we need to persevere. 

COVID-19 Challenges Us to Do Better

by Dennis M. Gallagher, Director of Liturgy and Faith Formation

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged;
For the Lord your God will be with you
Wherever you may go.”  --Joshua 1:9

This pandemic has given many of us time for self-reflection; for myself, I have been focusing on how quickly my usual, well-planned life has changed over the past few weeks. COVID-19 crept in, and then boom—it has hit us all so hard. We will now work from home for the remainder of the spring semester as we attempt to keep our anxiety at bay. 

I was sick recently for a few days. Lying in bed for hours on end, I came to realize that our life will never be the same after this pandemic subsides. I have learned to take each day as it comes; God always provides us with the comfort, company, and peace of mind we need.

After a few days of dealing with fatigue, a fever, congestion, and cough—and being told I could not be tested for COVID-19 since my symptoms were too mild—I had to accept my 14-day quarantine in my 500-square-foot apartment by myself. Through this experience, God has invited me to live a more contemplative daily life. I now have a schedule that includes prayer, work, and virtual communication with loved ones and colleagues—which I then repeat every day. 

In January, I attended a retreat in a Benedictine monastery and appreciated their regular schedule of prayer and work; I see now it was God’s way of preparing me to deal with and get through our current situation.

In my heart and thoughts, St. Vincent de Paul speaks so clearly, “What must be done?” 

I think about what Jesus would do in this situation. He would say, “I am here to help keep the St. John’s community together. The prayers offered by you and other campus ministers will inspire them; I will show you the way.” When I accepted this revelation, I felt relief. In the spirit of Easter, my role is to reach out to the St. John’s community as much as possible and pray for the health of our students and colleagues. 

I am grateful for this new contemplative life, where my prayer is with me in each work project and Webex and Zoom conversation. During my morning and evening prayer, I make an effort to truly listen, as that is at the core of prayer—being still. I now pause at different times during the day and allow God to solely be in my thoughts and vision. The time is well spent; I look forward to that divine connection to prepare me for the next day.

Benedictine sister and author Joan D. Chittister, O.S.B., in her book, The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer, provides wisdom for me in this new experience of being home quarantined. Her advice helped me focus on our University’s Vincentian mission

“The truth is that we must pray for the strength to do what we are meant to do,” she writes. “We must pray for the courage to meet the challenges of life. We must pray for the endurance it will take to go on even when nothing changes. We must pray that the spirit of God is with us as we do what must be done, whether we succeed in the process or not.”

What must be done? Let us continue to support, encourage, and pray for our University community.  

A Guided Meditation You Can Pray for Those in the World by Joyce Rupp

Imagine you are standing in an open doorway. Take a deep breath and deliberately unite with the Holy One’s presence. Call to mind the inner qualities you bring with you into your labors. Extend your hands and arms outward beyond the door. As you do so, send forth your earnest love toward those who are a part of your life today. Imagine this love blessing them. Continue standing in the doorway. Now extend your love to the larger world. Face the east. Send your love to this part of the world. Do the same for the south, the west, and the north. Close by folding your hands over your heart and extending this same goodness to yourself.

Prayer:

Teacher and Healer,

You brought the gift of yourself to those who benefitted from your work.

You touched them with wellsprings of love.

Remind me each day to do the same.

Consecrate all I do today so my service to others brings a blessing.

I open the door of my heart to you.

I open the door.

(source: https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/bringing-service)

Tree of Life: Reflection for Good Friday 

painting of Jesus on the cross

By Caryll Houselander

This is the dead wood which at His touch is transformed to a living tree. At His touch, the hewn tree takes root again, and the roots thrust down into the earth, and the tree breaks into flower.

Already in Bethlehem, when the newborn child lay in the manger, a secret bud shone on the tree of life. Now it is going to break into flower forever, and that flower will sow the seeds of life that will never die, for Christ is the flower and the seed.

Because Christ has changed death to life, and suffering to redemption, the suffering of those who love Him will be a communion between them. All that hidden daily suffering that seems insignificant will be redeeming the world, it will be healing the wounds of the world. The acceptance of pain, of old age, of the fear of death, and of death will be our gift of Christ’s love to one another; our gift of Christ’s life to one another.

No man’s cross is laid upon him for himself alone, but for the healing of the whole world, for the mutual comforting and sweetening of sorrow, for the giving of joy and supernatural life to one another. For Christ receives our cross that we may receive His. Receiving this cross, the cross of the whole world made His, we receive Him. He gives us His hands to take hold of; His power to make it a redeeming thing, a blessed thing; His life to cause it to flower; His heart to enable us to rejoice in accepting our own and one another’s burdens.

Excerpted from

Caryll Houselander, The Way of the Cross

Caryll Houselander (1901–54) was an English Catholic laywoman, artist, and visionary best known for such works as A Rocking-Horse Catholic, The Reed of God, and The Way of the Cross.

Holy Thursday Reflection 

Christ washing the feet of the disciples

by Normand Gouin

Holy Thursday could easily be considered one of the most impactful days of the liturgical year.  As a spiritual writer and visionary, Sr. Joan Chittister, O.S.B., states, “Holy Thursday gives us a glimpse into both the best and worst of what it is to be a feeling, living person. It sends us careening between great joy and great confusion.”

As I reflected on her words and the scripture, I imagined that this is what it must be like for a nurse serving in a maternity ward today in one of our local hospitals. One moment she is at the bedside of a woman about to give that final push and welcome a new life into the world, feeling joy as she sees the relief and happiness on her patient’s face as she is about to hold a precious, fragile, new life in her arms.  

Then, at the same time, keenly aware that she will be needed to assist her colleagues on another floor, comforting patients as they gasp for every breath due to COVID-19, and witnessing many lose their battle with the virus. An experience of both joy at the arrival of a new life and profound sorrow and grief in the face of death.  

What is one supposed to do? Which feelings prevail? How do we rejoice with the family welcoming a new member and mourn with those who have suffered a loss? 

Holy Thursday is like that for us: a day of gifts given and gifts taken away, an exercise in short-lived triumph and stultifying sadness. In many ways, it calls us to a new way of being in the world. 

“Holy Thursday, the first great day of the Triduum, is the crossover point between life and death for Jesus, and between death and life for us all,” said Sr. Chittister. “Vincent de Paul states, ‘We live in Jesus Christ through the death of Jesus Christ, and we must die in Jesus Christ through the life of Jesus Christ. Our life must be hidden in Jesus Christ and filled with Jesus Christ, and in order to die as Jesus Christ, we must live as Jesus Christ.’”

On Holy Thursday, we are presented with four things that change our lives; they stem out of Jesus’s promise to change the world. This leaves us all with important decisions to make.

  1. Jesus is broken and pours out his love for the salvation of the world. In the breaking of the bread, Jesus gives himself away for time to come. Jesus offers us the model for a new way of living and being.
     
  2. Jesus exemplifies servant leadership. As Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, he gives us a new model for what it means to be in authority. It is an authority not for his own gain, but to serve and save the community, to free it to function.
     
  3. Jesus embraces suffering by following his Father’s will. By giving himself away, he models for us selfless love. 
     
  4. Jesus embodies mercy. Even after facing denial, betrayal, and taunts—he forgives. 

As we ponder what it means to be teetering on the precipice of joy and thanksgiving, of sorrow and grief, has there been a passage in us from old life to new—especially in the face of this current crisis? Will we become what we are meant to be? Will we become what Christ intends for us? What does following Jesus mean? Will we really follow Him, or simply go on watching from afar? How are we changed?

The COVID-19 pandemic arrived this year at the same time as Lent. Many of us planned to prepare for Holy Week and Easter in familiar ways: to pray more, to fast, to attend Mass more frequently, and to donate our time and talent to serve others. We planned to make small sacrifices. 

Lent has always been a season for doing without; this year, it is a much different spiritual experience than we expected. Severe restrictions on social gatherings separate us from one another and prevent worship in our churches. We have not been able to pray the rosary together, to worship the Blessed Sacrament, to participate in the Stations of the Cross, or to go to confession. Today would have been our Lenten Day of Reconciliation here at St. Thomas More Church, when the sacrament of Reconciliation is offered at various times throughout the day to our University community.

The small sacrifices that we planned to offer up during Lent seem trivial now in the face of the suffering and death that we witness in our city, nation, and world. We have been called to give up far more than planned. For many of us, a sense of fear and isolation replaces the anticipation for Easter that usually occurs during Holy Week.

We trust in God’s providential care, yet we struggle to comprehend our current situation. As Lent 2020 draws to a close, we are reminded that God’s plan is not our plan; His plan will bear much more fruit—even if we are unable to recognize it at the moment.

Pope Francis recently reflected that God is “calling us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of [God’s] judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with you, Lord, and others.”

As we begin Holy Week this year, we are still called to be people of prayer and service to one another. The psalm of today’s Mass reminds us to have courage: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?”

University Ministry is offering two online prayer resources that will be helpful to you as we enter Holy Week and then move into the Easter season. The first is a virtual prayer page that will offer weekly reflections by campus ministers and an Instagram feed and video posts from Campus Ministry staff. 

The second is a Virtual Book of Prayer, where you can send us your prayer requests. The Vincentian priests here at St. John’s, and all who work in the Offices of Campus Ministry and University Mission, pray for you daily and include your specific prayer requests in our prayers.  

In our Vincentian tradition, we are called to serve one another, especially those on the margins who are most in need. We are challenged to be creative and inventive in finding ways to perform acts of charity during this Lent. I call your attention to the Emergency Fund for St. John’s Students and the St. John’s Law Student Emergency Fund, which have been established to assist our students.

Let us welcome Holy Week this year with new hearts that have been shaped by God’s will—even if it did not come exactly as planned. We ask God to help us become the places in our world where His presence and healing love are found.

Rev. John J. Holliday, C.M.
University Chaplain

In our nearly 150 year history, the Vincentian mission has continued to be the hallmark and splendor of St. John’s University. We are called ever more in these days to approach our circumstances with the spirit of collaboration, resourcefulness, and concern for others so characteristic of St. Vincent de Paul. Each of us is moved to reflection and reliance on God’s providential care, and so together, from the words of the song “Old St. John’s,” our alma mater, “from fervent hearts we breathe our prayer”:

God of love and compassion,
throughout all generations you have been our hope. 
In times of trouble, you have sent men and women 
to be instruments of your mercy.
You gave us St. Vincent de Paul, who preached that,
“Love is inventive, even to infinity.”
Help us to sense your love and care for us now
as the coronavirus disease threatens the human family.  

Let those who suffer know the depths of your infinite love.
Heal the sick and allow them to feel your presence 
in their suffering and uncertainty.
Enfold those who die in your embrace,
and strengthen and console those who grieve.  

Protect and defend all medical professionals and researchers
as they put their own lives at risk for the good of others.
Guide them as they must find creative approaches 
to stop the spread of this disease. 

Source of mercy,
we entrust to you the poor and the vulnerable, 
who we know suffer even more during times of crisis.
Lead us to be more innovative in finding them the resources they need 
and provide care to those who suffer discrimination during this pandemic.  

We, the St. John’s University community,
place all of our concerns into your hands. 
Be with us as we navigate through the many ways
that our lives have been altered in these days.
Help us to feel near to you and connected with one another,
even when we are unable to gather in our communities.
Give us the patience and ingenuity to meet these challenges. 

God of all goodness, 
through the intercession of St. Vincent de Paul, 
patron of hospitals and saint of charity, 
we ask that you heal our sickness, calm our fears, 
and in place of anxiety, send us your peace. 

Amen. 

The Vincentian priests and all who work in University Ministry and Mission pray for you daily. If there are any particular intentions you would like us to remember, please let us know in our virtual book of prayer. Near and far, let us be united in prayer for one another and our world. May God bless you and your loved ones, and may God bless St. John’s University.

Printable version of Community Prayer in a Time of Pandemic.

Interfaith Messages, Prayers, and Reflections

God, Creator of all things and of human intellect,
bless these students with orderly thinking,
curiosity for the work of your creation,
and a creative spirit in their studies.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, help them remain focused.
Give them eyes to see the connections between their study
and its value for life and service to others.
Energize them and get their brains working.

Send your Holy Spirit upon them
to give them flexibility of thought and expression,
good memory and calm nerves,
the ability to organize their thinking
and comprehend theories and facts,
that they may express them with flair and clarity.
May your Spirit help them
to overcome moments of discouragement
and to rejoice in their accomplishments.

God our Wisdom, in whom we move, live, and have our being,
bless your sons and daughters.
Bless them during their final exams and every part of their lives.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Source: Diocese of San Jose, April 27, 2005; https://dsjliturgy.blogspot.com/2005/04/blessing-of-brains.html)

Healing God,
You are the giver of life;
be with us during these days as we face this global epidemic. 
Heal those who are sick. Restore them to full health.
Heal our fears. Place peace in our hearts.
Heal the lonely. Give them companions to comfort them.
Heal those who have lost loved ones. Mend their broken hearts. 
Strengthen health-care personnel.
Strengthen those who must make difficult decisions.
Strengthen our resolve to heal this planet.
Strengthen each of us on this uncharted path.
Provident God, we place our trust in you, now and always. Amen. 

Sr. Paula Damiano, S.P. 
March 2020

Ramadan, a holy Islamic festival honoring the first revelations to the Prophet Muhammad through 30 days of reflection and fasting, occurs from sun-up to sun-down. It is a month dedicated entirely to Allah and to his blessings. Muslims seek Allah’s (God’s) blessings by chanting these special prayers so that one’s sin may be washed by His divine blessings.

Tomorrow, April 23, marks the beginning of Ramadan; it ends on May 23, which is the holiest time for our Muslim brothers and sisters. At St. John’s University, let us all pray to support our Muslim students as they successfully finish the academic year during their holiest month of the year. Praise be to God!

The Prayer for Breaking the Fast

One of the first prayers that Muslims recite is when they break their fast. The meal that breaks the fast is called Iftar and it begins by eating three dates; tradition holds that the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast with three dates and water. At Iftar, this prayer is recited out loud, after which the fasting members of a family break their fast. Fasting does not end unless this prayer is recited: “Allahuma inni laka sumtu wa bika aamantu wa ‘alayka tawakkaltu wa ‘ala rizq-ika aftarthu.” (Oh Allah! I fasted for You and I believe in You [and I put my trust in You] and I break my fast with your sustenance.)

Prayer for Forgiveness

Ramadan is a time when Muslims are told through the Qur'an that God absolves them of their sins if they engage in sincere worship and repentance. The following prayer is a good one to recite during Ramadan to ask for Allah’s forgiveness: “Allahumma inni as'aluka birahmatika al-lati wasi'at kulli shay'in an taghfira li.” (Oh Allah, I ask You by Your mercy which envelopes all things, that You forgive me.)

Prayer for the First 10 Days of Ramadan

Muslim scholars agree that Ramadan is such a holy month that any sort of prayer, whether it is a personal one from your heart or one from the Qur'an or other Islamic sacred texts, is received by Allah and the rewards for those prayers are numerous. However, the Prophet Muhammad did recommend Muslims to recite certain du'as at particular times during Ramadan. For example, during the first 10 days of the months, reciting the following prayer provides extra benefits:

"Rabbigh fir war hum wa anta khair ur rahimeen."

Oh my Lord and Sustainer please forgive me and be merciful to me. You are the best amongst those who show mercy.

Prayer for the Second 10 Days of Ramadan

This prayer, which is from the Qur'an, was recommended by the Prophet Muhammad to be recited as much as possible during the second 10 days of Ramadan for maximum rewards and forgiveness of sins: “Allahumma innaka afuwun tuhibbul afuwa faafu anna.” (Oh Allah, indeed you are the greatest pardoner and you like the act of pardoning. Hence, please forgive us.)

Prayer for the Third 10 Days of Ramadan

This particular prayer was recommended by the Prophet Muhammad to be recited during the last 10 days of Ramadan as much as possible. It beseeches God to forgive us, because God is indeed the best at forgiving humans for their mistakes: “Astaghfirullaha rabbi min kulli zambin wa atabu ilaih.” (I seek forgiveness of all my sins from Allah, who is my lord and sustainer, and I return back in repentance to him alone.)

Prayers of Zikr

Zikr are prayers recited repeatedly in the remembrance of God and are an integral part of all Muslims’ lives, especially important during Ramadan. A great way to connect with God while doing all of the mundane chores of daily life (e.g., driving, waiting in line, preparing the evening meal), is to repeatedly recite these short phrases:

Subhan'allah,” an expression used to express strong feelings of joy or relief and recall how everything Muslims have is thanks to Allah.

“Alhamdulillah,” or “Praise be to God!” is a Qur'anic exclamation with a similar meaning as “hallelujah” in the Jewish and Christian faiths.

“Astaghfirullah,” which means, “I seek forgiveness from God.”

“Allahu Akbar,” or “God is the Greatest.”

(Source: https://www.theholidayspot.com/ramadan/ramadan-prayers.htm)

Hello, interfaith community of St. John’s!

For our Jewish students and colleagues at St. John’s, today marks the beginning of Passover, an eight-day celebration marking the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Seder ceremonies emphasize the concept of freedom. The first two days and the last two days are observed as holy days. 

This Sunday, our Catholic and Christian students and colleagues celebrate Easter, the central feast celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is the culmination of the Triduum, a three-day liturgical season, which recalls the Passion, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospels. 

What a special week for both religions to come together to wish our Jewish community, “Chag, Pesach Samech,” and to the Christian communities, Happy Easter!

Mutual respect and cooperation are key for all interfaith efforts to help others focus on our commonalities. Like this year, in April of 2017, Passover and the Christian Holy Week occurred within the same time period. Click here for a video story posted on NET-TV, the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Catholic television station, for a heartwarming story of how people from both faiths came together to celebrate.

Peace and All Good to you all,

Dennis Gallagher
Director of Liturgy and Faith Formation
University Ministry

Hello to everyone from St. John’s interfaith community!

Ramakrishna Jayanti, which was celebrated on April 2, commemorates the birth of Sri Ramakrishna, a Hindu mystic whose movement redefined modern Hinduism. 

People of all faiths are experiencing anguish and uncertainty, and are doing their best to protect themselves from COVID-19. Let us support each other and encourage good public health practices, including social distancing and staying home, to flatten the curve. Please “Reply All” to this email to express your thoughts and encouragement for our St. John’s community.

During difficult times like now, people pray and hope for peace—not only where we live, but within our hearts and the hearts of those we love. Let us pray together with our Hindu neighbors:

Hindu Prayers for Peace

Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the Real.

Oh God, lead us from darkness to light.

Oh God, lead us from death to immortality.

Shanti, Shanti, Shanti unto all.

Oh Lord God almighty, may there be peace in celestial regions.

May there be peace on earth.

May the waters be appeasing.

May herbs be wholesome, and may trees and plants bring peace to all.

May all beneficent beings bring peace to us.

May thy Vedic Law propagate peace all through the world.

May all things be a source of peace to us.

And may thy peace itself, bestow peace on all, and may that peace come to me also.

Regards,
Dennis Gallagher
Director of Liturgy and Faith Formation
University Ministry

 

Coptic Orthodox Celebrate Easter Celebrated on April 19 

painting for Coptic Orthodox Easter

As western Christianity celebrates the octave of Easter, beginning the 50-day Easter season, St. John’s University’s Coptic Society and Coptic Orthodox students celebrate their Holy Week and Easter.

Coptic Easter falls on the Sunday following the full moon that comes after the vernal equinox. It is one of the two most important holy days for Egyptian Christians; (the other is Coptic Christmas on January 7). 

Coptic Easter signals the culmination of the 55-day period of Lent, commonly known as the Great Fast. All animal products (including milk, cheese, and butter) are prohibited.

On Easter eve or Holy Saturday, Coptic Christians begin their Easter Vigil, also known as The Great Vigil, which lasts until the dawn of Easter. It is preferable for those who are physically able to fast on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and break the fast upon the end of Mass.

The Easter Eve ceremony includes a symbolic reenactment of Christ’s ascension, also called the “resurrection play.” The gates of heaven are closed following Adam’s sin and his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Lights are dimmed to symbolize the darkness that existed before the advent of Christ. The light that follows indicates that Christ has risen and has opened the gates of heaven, thus cleansing humanity from the original sin. Source:  https://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/features/2015/04/06/Coptic-Easter-How-Egypt-celebrates-the-rising-of-Christ

On Sunday, April 19, the St. John’s University community will greet our Coptic Orthodox brothers and sisters with their Easter greeting, “Ekhrestos Anesti, Alisos Anesti” (Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen.).

Let us pray…

Hymn of Pascha (Easter)  

A music video of the “Trisagion Hymn” and the “Hymn of the Unwaning Light.” Christ is risen!

“Trisagion Hymn” 

Holy God,

Holy Mighty,

Holy Immortal 

Have mercy on us! (3x) 

“Hymn of the Unwaning Light” 

Come, receive ye light 

From the unwaning light, 

And glorify Christ 

Who is arisen from the dead.