Pray for Peace in Sudan

Pray for Peace in Sudan

Pray for Peace in Sudan

The accelerated violence and armed conflict in Sudan since mid-April 2023 is causing immeasurable horrors for our sisters and brothers who are displaced, fleeing their homes or trapped. Please pray for an end to suffering and loss of life. The Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) teams are working with their colleagues at aid organizations in neighboring countries where refugees are fleeing to find ways to best meet immediate and long term needs. 

It’s heartbreaking. 

Praying is no small thing.  If you are searching for words beyond those in your heart, this prayer from JRS is a beautiful way to start. 

Thank you,

Social Justice and Peace Commission Members



Acute and Chronic Stress: Tools to get Relief

Acute and Chronic Stress: Tools to get Relief

Acute and Chronic Stress: Tools to get Relief

Imagine Yourself in this Situation

You are driving to Mass and the traffic light for Ocean Ave has turned green. As you turn onto Ocean Ave, from the corner of your eye you see a young girl riding her bike into the crosswalk. You slam on the brakes and barely avoid hitting her! Your heart is racing, and your hands are sweaty and shaking. Once you park in the St. Pius lot you think about what just happened and get angry at the young girl. However, as you start to recover a bit you now see this as a grace from God that allowed you to prevent a tragic accident. You have just been through a bout of acute stress.

Situational Stress and De-Stressing from it

Most species experience stress and also have systems for “de-stress” . Stress can be physical or emotional, but either type releases a chemical from your brain called acetylcholine, which in turn causes release of adrenaline from your adrenal glands (brain/body connection). This activates the fight/flight response of increased heart rate and increased blood flow. Acute stress in certain situations can be good, since it activates your immune system for fighting infections. However, in the above situation of avoiding hitting the young girl on her bike, we need a way to stop the stress response. The fastest way has been demonstrated to occur when you do a double inhale through your nose followed by a vigorous exhale through pursed lips. Repeating this 4-5 times should bring your stress under control by causing the release of serotonin which induces a feeling of calmness.

Chronic Stress is Different

Chronic stress is a more serious problem. It can last for months or even years. This type of stress has been linked to depression, heart disease, hypertension, stroke and the development of certain types of cancer.

A lack of social connections, not virtual, but in person, stimulates chronic stress and reinforces its longevity. The major instigator is the release of cortisol, a steroid hormone. Bringing chronic stress under control is a more difficult proposition. One route is to try some natural compounds. My sources for this column are listed at the end so you can get more information if you wish. (It’s always a good idea to check with your health care provider to avoid anything that could be counterproductive to any other treatment.)

Another approach for chronic stress is trying meditation and self-awareness. If you are unaware of the thoughts from your mind, they will own you! You cannot stop these negative thoughts so just notice them and move on. This is called self-awareness and the more you practice this type of meditation the better you get. You can ask God and Jesus to help you in this practice. At the end of your day think about the most vivid negative emotion you had that day. Say what you thought out loud and analyze your feelings. Then say: “I am alive and well. I will not waste my time on this thought. Tomorrow I will show love to other people in the name of Jesus”.

Thanks to Dick Niles, one of our leaders for RCIA and Emeritus Professor and former Associate Dean of Biomedical Sciences at the Joan C Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University. The intent of these columns is to provide information about how to improve your life by addressing physical and spiritual situations that might be impeding your peace, happiness and sense of fulfillment. Also, there will be useful tips on achieving academic success for undergrads and grad students at our local Universities.


1. Huberman Lab podcast, March 8, 2021 “Master Stress: Tools for Managing Stress and Anxiety”

2. On Purpose-Jay Shetty podcast, Oct 23, 2020 “Techniques to Cope with Anxiety and Feel More Centered throughout Your Day

3. How to Build a Happy Life Oct 5, 2021 Arthur Brooks “How to be Self-Aware” podcast the neuroscience of emotional management.

Novena of Grace

Novena of Grace

Novena of Grace

Our Lady of Hope Parish is again joining Jesuit-connected parishes and schools around the world in the Novena of Grace from March 4-12. A novena is a period of nine days of prayer for a specific intention and is a form of prayer dating back to the beginnings of the Church. The Acts of the Apostles tells us the friends of Jesus gathered in prayer for nine days before the first Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit, considered the “birth” of the Church.

The Novena of Grace is prayed in honor of St. Francis Xavier, S.J., friend of St. Ignatius, one of the Founders of the Society of Jesus, and the great missionary to Asia. It ends on March 12 which is the date of the canonization (1622) of Xavier, Ignatius, St. Isadore, St. Philip Neri, and St. Teresa of Avila. This Novena gained the name “Novena of Grace” because so many people reported that prayers offered during it had been answered.

The Novena prayer will be offered at all Masses at Our Lady of Hope from March 4-12.

There’s more! On Monday (March 6), Wednesday (March 8), and Thursday (March 9th) at 7 PM for about a half hour or so,  we’ll be hosting some online time. In addition to the Novena prayer, we’ll have a chance to have a conversation with ideas important in the Ignatian vision: friendship, discernment and spiritual freedom.

We hope you’ll join us in making this Novena – and for some time together online. You’ll find the link here. The Meeting ID is 850 0254 8959. Passcode: K1GB86 We’ll see you in the waiting room and let you in!!

Novena of Grace Prayer:
St. Francis Xavier – Novena of Grace
” I join with you Saint Francis in bowing before the God of all Creation. When I look at the great things you did during life, I see what marvels can be achieved by a person blessed by God. I join with you in praising God and giving thanks for all the good things I have been given.
Dear Saint Francis, please pray to God for me and ask that I may live and die in God’s favor. Please ask God for me for (_____________________), provided of course, that this would be good for me. In the end, my only wish is for whatever give glory to God and is good for my health in body, mind, and spirit. Amen.”

In the spirit of the Novena, if you believe your Novena prayers have been answered, we invite you to let us know so that we may give thanks.

Our Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Our Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Our Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6.

What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness? The hunger and thirst for righteousness suggests that we are aware that the world around us is not always fair, right or always just. When we are moved by our encounter with the unmet needs of others, we become aware of our hunger and thirst for righteousness. The ability to empathize with other human beings is a part of being human. Our Lady of Hope parishioners consistently demonstrate their empathy and compassion through:

• buying Christmas presents for those listed on our giving trees,
• donating food to the food pantry,
• donating clothes to the St. Vincent de Paul Society,
• buying toiletries for refugees who have arrived in Maine,
• giving money to Catholic relief efforts for areas devastated by hurricanes, and
• expressing solidarity with those experiencing war or violence

And, in many, many other ways.

Responding to Those in Need
Throughout its history, the Catholic Church has sought to respond to those in need. In his book, “Living Justice: Catholic Social Teaching in Action,” Fr. Tom Massaro SJ points to a new perspective. He writes, “The difference is that today, according to the newer model of church activity that emphasizes justice in addition to charity, more church efforts consist of indirect attempts to change social structures (including civil laws and government budget priorities) so that all people may have a better and fairer chance of living a good life.”

In our compassionate and empathic response to those in need around us, we can find common ground, even when otherwise divided by differences of ideology or philosophy. We can move beyond these disagreements to put a common love of neighbor into action. Catholic social teachings over the last century have invited us to look at both addressing the immediate needs we see before us and to begin to address the underlying structures that create and sustain the unfairness in our world, nation, and region.

An Invitation to Notice
Last week, I invited us to use the archeologist’s tools to begin to notice patterns in our lives and society. This week, I’m inviting us to notice specific patterns, the pattern of unfairness and injustice in our society, whether experienced by us personally or experienced by others. To notice our movement to empathy and compassion resulting in a move to action. Finally, beginning to notice whether we feel a call to respond to the immediate need (charity) or the underlying root causes (justice) of the unfairness or injustice.

Fr. Brian Conley, SJ

The Light of Christ in Ordinary Time

The Light of Christ in Ordinary Time

The Light of Christ in Ordinary Time

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shown. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing. Isaiah 9:1-3”

We will hear these words as part of the first reading this Sunday – the Third Sunday in Ordinary time. We also heard them at our Christmas Masses this year. This repetition of the passage reminds me that God’s light is not confined to a political crisis eight centuries before the birth of Jesus; or to a manger in Bethlehem; or to Jesus’ lifetime. This light is present with us at all times and in all places.

In this week’s readings, Jesus is now an adult beginning his public ministry and is calling his first disciples. He has been baptized by John the Baptist, been tempted in the desert, left his hometown of Nazareth and moved to Capernaum.

Perhaps Christ’s light is calling us on similar paths – a call to repent from John the Baptist; familiar temptations to care for oneself and not others, or a temptation to the use of power over and against others. Perhaps the light of Christ is calling us to follow Jesus more closely as he calls Peter, Andrew, James and John today.

On this Third Sunday of Ordinary time, we are about halfway between our celebration of the Christmas season and the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

As the light of Christ illuminates our ordinary lives – what does it show?  Has the joy of Christmas carried forward (if we experienced joy this Christmas) or have we returned to a land of doom? Or perhaps somewhere between a land of joy and a land of gloom?  Have we left the yoke that burdened us or the rod of our taskmasters broken and smashed in the Christmas season? Or, have we taken that yoke – that rod – back on as we have returned to ordinary time.

This brief reflection is not a call to action… Nor is intended to be a criticism of anyone’s life… It is simply an invitation to begin to notice: A reminder that we have carried the light of Christ with us out of the Christmas season and an invitation to take a gentle, compassionate look at our lives in the light of Christ.

One of my great spiritual teachers reminded me that we don’t use dynamite, pick axes, or shovels as we examine our lives – we use the archaeologist’s tools. A small brush to brush away a layer of dirt or dust, a small scaler to scrape away a layer. We notice patterns in our lives and the choices we make.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a few other blogs in this space to introduce some programs or events that we will hold during Lent – hopefully some of these programs and events will fit with a space we have discovered in gently looking at our lives in Ordinary Time.

Fr. Brian Conley, SJ

Advent Hope and Healing

Advent Hope and Healing

Advent Hope and Healing

During this season of Advent, our readings at Mass are particularly beautiful expressions of hope and expectation. The imagery is that of light overcoming darkness.  This is not meant to be a remembering of ancient history, but our prayer and reading is intended to awaken hope in our own lives and an awareness of the interplay of darkness and light in our world today and in our personal experiences.

One often-overlooked source of help and blessing is the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

This sacrament is not about judgement or punishment. It is God’s desire to bring healing and renewal to our lives, to lift burdens from our hearts. Give some thought to making Reconciliation a part of your Advent season this year. Praying with one of our parish priests, who also understands the struggles we can all face (priests do, too!) can be a source of comfort and wisdom.

As always, the Sacrament is available on Saturday afternoons from 3:00-3:30 at St. Pius X, or by appointment with one of our priests. During Advent, we also will be celebrating this sacrament at the following special times during the week of December 12th:

Monday, December 12th, 6:30-7:30 PM, a priest will be available at St. Pius X Church to celebrate the sacrament.
Wednesday, December 14th, Advent Service of Healing and Reconciliation, 7 PM at St. Pius X Church, with multiple priests available to celebrate the sacrament.
Thursday, December 15th, the sacrament will be celebrated following the 9 AM Mass (9:30 – 10:00 or as long as needed.)

Please join us.

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