Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday of the Holy Family

“My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as his lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins---a house raised in justice to you.” (From the Book of Sirach, Chapter 3)

I was the lector for my parish’s 8:30 AM Mass. Today being the Sunday of the Holy Family, the lectionary offers a selection of various readings to choose from. My pastor selected the reading from the Book of Sirach, the above quote being the last paragraph of the reading.

I do not know if the Holy Spirit was trying to say something to me, but this reading has personal significance for me. My father came down with a case of pneumonia right after Thanksgiving and is still in the hospital. Fortunately, he has gotten through it, but he still has a long road to recovery. He is incredibly thin and weak, but in good spirits. It has been difficult to see my parents’ age over the past few years, but especially my father over these recent weeks. Both parents are going to need a lot of support from my siblings and me.

This puts us in the company of many “baby boomers,” who find themselves caring for parents who are living longer, but are developing more illnesses and weaknesses. The media reports on the strains this puts many families through. This is when faith communities need to step up and provide the social and spiritual support that family caregivers need. We need the opportunity to gather and share our struggles, frustrations and joys. Individually, we need to give ourselves time for prayer, to open up to God, pour out our anger, fears and despair; then open our hearts to God’s healing love.

“Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” (From the First Letter of Saint John)

Experiencing God’s love enables us in turn to love; to be compassionate and patient. Then we will truly be able to honor our parents.

“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (From the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

"Father, we are filled with the new light by the coming of your Word among us. May the light of faith shine in our words and actions. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen." ( Liturgy of the Hours, Christmas Morning Prayer)
Christmas day, 2009! A day of celebration, in which we join with our faith communities in worship and praise; or with our families and friends in feasting and merrymaking. We are celebrating love, the love we share with each other as parents, siblings, relatives and friends; but we should also be celebrating the love we experience from God, who gave us His Son, that we might all be saved from the power of sin and darkness. And it is this last part that I think some of us fail to reflect on; and so we fail to really appreciate the true meaning of this day.
Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, came as human to proclaim the Good News of the Father's love, the Good News of our salvation. He brought the light of hope for those in despair, and healing for those who were wounded. He continues to share His light with us, and we in turn are to share this gift that we have received with others. Not just within our families, or our close circle of friends, but with everyone on our streets, offices, markets; indeed, the whole world. If we live as people of hope; others' despair will be lifted. If we live as people of compassion; envy, greed and hatred are swept away.
So we are called to be Good News people, let us begin anew to answer that call.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rosary on the iPhone?

On their December 21st broadcast, National Public Radio aired their All Tech Considered segment, which dealt with how people of faith were incorporating the new technology into their spiritual lives. Many people have the parts, or the entire Bible programmed into their hand held devices. There are a good number of people who attended church services on line. A Catholic couple developed an application for their iPhone, which allows them to say the Rosary, while not disturbing their sick daughter.

Some people may be troubled; some are disturbed by this growing trend. They see this use of technology as isolating members of the faith community. Others feel that the use of modern technology demeans or waters down the spiritual practice. But faith communities have always used new technologies. In their earliest days, the Jewish people passed on their sacred stories and traditions orally, then writing was developed, and these stories were written down. From the time of the early Christian churches, through the Middle Ages, into the Age of the Renaissance, icons and paintings were used to both instruct and inspire the faithful. The printing press gave people greater access to the Bible and other spiritual works. Protestant evangelists took to the airways through radio, and then through television. Catholics also used this broadcast technologies, Bishop Fulton Sheen used the airways effectively. Many homebound Catholics watched on television the Mass being celebrated.

As transistor and computer technology improves, devices are becoming smaller and more powerful. I have an MP3 player that lets me hear liturgical music, both ancient and modern. And I am listening to Father Murray Bodo talking about St. Francis of Assisi. People are walking around with Kindles or the Nook; some, I am sure, reading spiritual works. No doubt, technology can hinder the spiritual life, but used well, it has the potential to enhance it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Christmas Creche

As we enter the final days of Advent, with Christmas day looming, I reread an entry Rocco Palmo made on December 14th in his blog, “Whispers in the Loggia.” He reported on Pope Benedict XVI’s blessing of the figures of Baby Jesus, who soon be placed in the crèches many in Rome had in their homes. The Pope preached on the importance of contemplating the reality the Christmas crèche represents; that God so loved the world that He sent His Son into the world, that we all might be saved. That God the Son, was willing to come to us as a little child.

It was this example of Jesus’ love, and humility that St. Francis of Assisi wanted to celebrate when he created the first Christmas crèche in a cave near the Italian town of Greccio hundreds of years ago. And it is important to remember that in the place where Francis made this Christmas tableau, the Eucharist was celebrated, reminding the people of Greccio, and us, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, still comes to us in the form of bread and wine.

In Boston, MA, I regularly go to St. Anthony Shrine for prayer and Mass. In one of their chapels, the Franciscan friars have built a Christmas crèche. As is traditional in many churches and homes, the place for the Baby Jesus is empty right now, until Christmas day. As I meditate on the scene, it reminds me that we all wait in anticipation of the coming of the Lord into our lives. Now it maybe a coincidence, or not: but the crèche is next to a little shrine dedicated to St. Francis.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I am the Minister (i.e. President) of a local Secular Franciscan Order fraternity in Boston, MA. Today, I got a call on my cell phone from my fraternity Secretary. When she heard my voice, she was very relieved. It turns out that our Regional Minister, who is on a trip to Florida, had been contacted by someone, and was told that I had died. She called our Regional Vice-Minister, who in turn contacted our Secretary to verify the story.

To assure everyone that I was still kicking, I borrowed a quote from Mark Twain, who in a similar situation, said, “The report of my death is an exaggeration."

You cannot make this stuff up!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Passing of a Grand Lady.

Saint Anthony Fraternity, SFO, of Boston, MA, mourns the passing on December 10th of Margaret E. Ross, SFO, at 101 years of age. She was a professed member of the Secular Franciscan Order for 35 years. For ten years, she served the poor as a volunteer at Saint Francis House, a day shelter for the homeless of Boston. Until age forced her stay at home, Margaret always attended our monthly gatherings. She promoted and lead a group in the recitation of the Franciscan Crown at each of our meetings.

Margaret definitely had the Franciscan spirit, which she shared with us all. She will be deeply missed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Advent. Prepare to Encounter Christ! My October Secular Franciscan Newsletter Column

“Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity. The faith of Saint Francis, who often said ‘I see nothing bodily of the Most High son of God in this world except his most holy body and blood,’ should be the inspiration and pattern of their eucharistic life.” (Art.5, SFO Rule)

Advent should be a time of anticipation, of preparation, of remembrance. We remember the event of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son God coming into our world as a human child. We prepare ourselves in expectation of His coming again at the end of time. But Advent is also a time to prepare for and to anticipate an encounter with Christ here and now.

Saint Francis believed that through the people he met in the streets of Assisi, through the poor and downtrodden, he encountered Christ. In listening and meditating on the Scriptures, he encountered Christ. And especially in receiving the Eucharist, he encountered Christ. We see in his writings and in stories of his life, Francis lived as one who always anticipated that in the next moment he would meet Jesus Christ. We can feel, through his words, the excited anticipation he felt.

With all that is happening with us during the mad rush to prepare for Christmas, and with all the everyday pressures and troubles we experience, it can be hard to be fully open to the same sense of anticipation that Francis had. Yet, we should all strive to keep our hearts open in joyful expectation, because we can never know when we will encounter Jesus.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Prepare the Way of the Lord!"

“…during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (Luke 3: 2-6)

I have been coming across this passage from the Gospel according to Luke. It was the Gospel reading at last Sunday’s Eucharistic celebration; and I came across it during my daily Scripture reading. “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Many people hearing this would assume that the prophet was calling for massive reform of the Jewish society. John was preparing the way for Jesus of Nazareth, whose coming would change everything.

But when I read these words, I felt them more personally. What I heard was a challenge, how am I preparing the way of the Lord; how I am preparing His way into my heart. With all the Christmas hoopla, the decorations, the Xmas specials on TV, and the commercials, we forget that we are in a period of preparation. We should be taking a good look at ourselves, and see what obstacles we place in front of hearts, that keep Jesus from coming in. What mountains of worry and anxiety are we surrounding ourselves with, that keep us from seeing the glory of God? What valleys of depression and despair have we put ourselves in, that us from seeing the light of the Father’s love?

If we accept the challenge to prepare the way of the Lord, to change, to deepen our relationship with God; we will see all those obstacles disappear. And we will see, we will experience “the salvation of God/”

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sister Death

"Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father." (Article 19c, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

To "serenely tend towards the ultimate encounter with the Father," is not an easy thing, especially in this country, where we combating death with all the weapons medical science gives to us. And there is still the fear factor, fear of the unknown, fear of not really knowing what will happen to us as we breathe our last. It is when we have developed a constant relationship with God, when we strive to daily encounter Him, open our hearts to experience His love; that we develope a trust in that love, develope the hope in the resurrection promised us by our Savior.

It is difficult when it just involves us, individually. It is really hard when it involves the possible loss of a love one. My Dad is currently in a local hospital, suffering from pneumonia, and he is in his eighties. To hear the medical staff tell it, it could go either way. I am praying for healing, but I am also praying that my hope and my trust in the Lord's promise is not misplaced.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Past Thoughts on the Laity from Father Andrew Greeley

Father Andrew Greeley is a famous sociologist, fiction writer, journalist, and above all, a priest. I have enjoyed reading some of his mystery novels and his reports on past papal elections. I recently read his autobiography, “Furthermore! Memories of a Parish Priest,” published in 1999. While reading this book, I came across the following:

“The Catholic Church has yet to make its peace with the inevitability of the freedom of its laity. It does not like one bit the laity’s assumption of the right to make its own decisions, and of its demand that it be persuaded instead of being ordered. Indeed, the Church usually works on the implicit assumption that it is still dealing with peasants of a century ago who did what they were told (usually) without question, without argument, without the demand to be heard, consulted, persuaded. May pastors still assume that they have the same influence and power that their role models from a generation or two ago had. Catholics, they believe, still do what they’re told.

It ought to be patent by now that this is not so. When Church leaders pretend to deny that the souls of the laity are now shaped by a constant exercise of freedom or lament the passing of the good old days when there was a lot less freedom, they have turned their faces against history. Moreover, they miss the point of their own tradition which has believed the virtue is formed by the frequent repetition of free human acts. In any event the days of the docile peasant and the not so docile immigrant parish are gone and they will never return. The Church must adjust to the fact that in the European and North Atlantic world at any rate, the day of the free laity whom makes their own decisions after reflecting in the issues, who want to be heard, consulted, persuaded, in the world in which we live and work. In the present milieu, the laity reserve to themselves the right to say on what terms they will be Catholic. Nothing will change the fact, neither orders from Rome or hysterical ranting from the tiny fundamentalist Catholic minority.”

Although Father Greeley comes across strong, I agree with his sentiments. I firmly believe that one of things that came out of the Second Vatican Council is the realization that the laity is a part of the People of God. That as members of the Body of Christ, the laity has a share; along with the clergy and religious; “in their particular way in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ, and have their own part to play in the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.” (Para. 897, Catechism of the Catholic Church).

As I think I may have written in an earlier post, I believe in the tradition of the bishops as shepherds of the Catholic community. However, I do believe that the laity has a right to give input on how decisions are made in this community. We have a right to share our experiences and knowledge; our hopes and fears. We have a right to be listened to by our bishops; and this means established consultative bodies, freely elected by the laity.

On a closing note on Father Greeley; in November 2008, he suffered severe head trauma from a serious fall and has been recuperating ever since. May the Lord Jesus be with him and heal him.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Strive to Bring Joy and Hope!"

“Why then do you judge your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then each of us shall give and account of himself to God. Then let us no longer judge one another, but rather resolve never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the holy Spirit; whoever serves Christ in this way is pleasing to and approved by others.” (Romans 14: 10-13, 16-17)

“Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.

Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others.” (Article 19a-b, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

Roman Catholic bishops have been in the news a lot this past month. Unfortunately, the general media has not portrayed them in the best of light. There have been stories of bishops trying to prevent politicians from receiving Holy Communion; of standing on a principal so firmly that services to the poor maybe adversely affected. There has been reports of the bishops trying to determine how “Catholic” are universities, news media, and service organizations. And then there is the Visitation of American sisters by the Roman Curia.

Now granted, the general media is not very sympathetic, or neutral, when is comes to the Catholic hierarchy. And the stories are usually about a few very public, very conservative bishops. But it gives some the impression that the American bishops are becoming what some are saying the Republican Party is becoming; the Party, or rather, the Church of “No!”

There are hidden stories out there of bishops, priests, deacons and laity doing great work of bringing healing and peace to people; but this makes for boring copy as far as the media is concerned.

I am not saying that the bishops should give up their prophetic role in society. But I wish someone would remind them that Jesus commissioned the Church to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are called to bring joy to the sorrowing; to heal physical and spiritual wounds, and to work for peace. We are not called to judge; condemn, calling down fire and brimstone. We are called to be a light to the world, which will draw people towards our community, not away. We are called to be a community of love.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Thorns of Anxiety and Worry

“The sower sows the word….Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, it bears no fruit.” (Mark 4: 14, 18-19)

I came across this passage while I was reading the Gospel of Mark on the Blue Line subway train. It has stuck with me. If anything, this year has been full of anxiety for myself and for many people in this country. Many individuals are struggling to hold their lives together after losing their jobs. Those of us, who are still employed, have to deal with frozen wages, and the insecurity of our employment. Dwelling on this day after day can wear a person down. The anxiety, the worry, can distract us from God. we can lose touch with the Source of all Love and Hope. Prayer can sometimes seem worthless; God can feel very far away.

I am remembering now a story I heard on the public radio program, “Speaking of Faith.” It was told by a female rabbi and it was set in a World War II concentration camp. The Jewish prisoners were being worked to death, on meager rations, and violently abused. One day, one of the prisoners noticed a camp guard eating a sandwich that was wrapped in paper with Hebrew words on it. The prisoners bribed the guard with their rations to give them the paper. It turned out to be a page from the Torah, the Hebrew scripture. So after a day of hard labor and suffering, the Jewish prisoners would gather together in their barracks, and take turns reciting the Torah from that one page. Just hearing the Word of God, just reflecting daily on just a few words of Sacred Scripture, lifted their hearts amongst all their suffering; and gave them the strength to survive.

We can never stop turning to God. We cannot let our hearts be closed to the Word, but keep them open to its power. We must trust that Jesus Christ will be with us in our trials; “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt 28: 20). If, despite all our anxieties, and worries; we listen to the words of the Gospel and live them; we will indeed produce much fruit.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Fostering an Open and Trusting Dialogue"

“Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.” (Article 6b, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

David Gibson, in Politics Daily, wrote a column on the U.S. bishops desire to restore unity in the American Catholic Church. Mr. Gibson makes the observation that this could be difficult, when even the bishops themselves are divided over some issues, or on how to address them. There are differences among some of them on how to best promote, some would say, enforce, Catholic teaching among a growing fractured, disaffected faithful. Some bishops seem to tilt towards a more authoritarian approach, reminding Catholics that it is the bishops that call the shots. They seem to have little respect for the laity, at least where the life of the Church is concerned. Gibson writes that these bishops appear to want a return to old days, when the laity “pray, pay and obey.” .

But those days are long gone, at least in this country. The changes began when the bishops of the Second Vatican Council declared that the laity has an active role to perform in the life of the Church. And that they have a duty to let their priests and bishops know about their spiritual needs. This means sometimes standing up to their local priest or bishop, letting their feelings be known. And with the way many of the U.S. bishops mishandled the clergy sexual abuse scandal, there are laypersons calling on their bishops to be more accountable for their actions. And if the bishops do not listen or respond, people get angry, whether they are on the left or right of the spectrum.

Mr. Gibson had an interview with Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, AZ. Bishop Kicanas is advocating a spirit of dialogue between the bishops and laity, that while the bishops do govern, it will help if they did so in a spirit of collaboration with the faithful. To me, this seems to be an approach that has the potential to reinvigorate the Church in America. Yes, the bishops have the final say in decisions, but I think a majority of Catholics accept that. What I think Catholics want is input in the decision making process. They want their voices heard and respected. Now this does not always make for an orderly process, but if the bishops make a real effort to dialogue, to really listen and respect the opinons of all American Catholics, maybe the laity in return will really listen to what the bishops have to say.

Copyrighting "Catholic?"

The recent meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops created it fair share of religion news. One item that was reported by both the National Catholic Reporter and David Gibson of Politics Daily, was a speech by the president of the NCCB, Cardinal Francis E. George, Archbishop of Chicago. In that speech, he called for more accountability to Catholic bishops, by Catholic universities, independent Catholic media, and other organizations that serve the community under Catholic auspices.

Especially where it applies to the media, I am very uncomfortable with this. I have always believed strongly in a free, independent press, whether in civil society or in the Church. An independent media provides a check by bringing to light abuses of power by either civil or religious authorities. It can be a prophetic voice in the Church, challenging the status quo, challenging us to discern if we, as a community, are living the Gospel. It gives us a different point of view on issues that we not get from diocesan newspapers.

Now, is it an orderly, civil process? Not always. The media, whether newspapers, magazines, TV and radio, or weblogs, can sometimes push the envelope too far. Some writers, commentators, and just plain pundits can very cruel in their comments. It is then that the bishops can call them to task, just as their readers and viewers call them to task. But I do not see any way that bishops can rein in independent newspapers. And trying to control the Web, even governments are not successful at that. The best the bishops could do is to issue guidelines for Catholic media.

The word “Catholic,” means universal. It means that we should strive to have a big tent that welcomes all, show compassion to all in the name of Christ.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Ministry of Service

"On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister (or president) who are elected by the professed according to the constitutions.

Their service, which lasts for a definite period of time, is marked by a ready willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community." (Article 21a-b, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

Yesterday, November 14th, fifty members of Saint Anthony Fraternity, Boston, MA, braved torrential downpours; and gathered for a Chapter of Elections. It has been the largest attendance we have had all year. Among the results, I was elected for a third consecutive term as Minister, something that has not happened ever since I joined the fraternity in 1988. I needed a 2/3rds majority of the vote to be elected (truth be told, I was the only one who accepted the nomination).

Now I and my fellow Council members have the responsibility of animating and guiding the fraternity. This is going to be done as much by example as by developing ongoing formation programs. And still after 21 years as a professed member, 6 years as Minister, I still feel unworthy of this office, because I know there have times I have not lived up to the Franciscan ideals. There is much I have to ask the Father for, in way of grace, in order to be of true service to my Franciscan brothers and sisters.

Father Francis, pray for me!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Farewell to the Beloved Creator of "Brother Juniper"

The Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province (OFM) have an e-newsletter that I receive on a regular basis. I opened the current one this morning and sadly learned of the death of one of my favorite cartoonist, Fred McCarthy, the creator of Brother Juniper.

He was a Massachusetts man, born in Boston. He attended Boston College, where he began to exhibit a talent for cartooning. He entered the Franciscan Order, and was ordained a priest in 1944. He was known then as Father Justin McCarthy. It is mentioned in his biography, that Brother Juniper came to birth in 1957, with the publication of the first collection of cartoons. I have in front of me a copy of that book, which I found in a used book store. It is a little worn and frayed, but I treasure it.

Brother Juniper came into being in the time pre Vatican II Church. I think it was a time when the clergy, especially bishops, might have taken themselves a little too seriously; and Church life was a little too formal. Then along comes this little friar, a little irreverent, a little silly, who liked to tweak the cowls of his fellow friars. Brother Juniper brought a smile to the lips of close to 15 million readers, in 100 newspapers, from 1968 to 1989.

Fred McCarthy would eventually leave the priesthood and the Order. He married and he continued his career as a cartoonist and artist. He returned the Secular Franciscan Order, which he had joined in his youth. He would periodically contribute a Brother Juniper cartoon to the national SFO newsletter.

His sense of holy humor is going to be missed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Final Resting Place

The homeless are all around us. They struggle with their inner demons; they struggle with the elements; they struggle with each other. They range in age from the very old to the very young. Many are abandoned by their families; many have abandoned their families. They live on the streets with only the clothes on their backs and what possessions they can carry. And they die alone and abandoned.

Realizing this, the Franciscan Friars (OFM) of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, MA, developed the Lazarus Program. Working some local funeral directors, and the medical examiner’s office; the Shrine provides a dignified funeral and burial for the deceased homeless.

Tuesday, November 10th, the Shrine celebrated a memorial Mass for all those who had been buried though the Lazarus Program, which I attended. It was a lovely liturgy, with inspiring music, homily and prayers. What touched me the most was when one of the friars read the names of the deceased. It was a long list, and unfortunately had way too many names of babies who had died abandoned. But in that moment, in that holy place, they, along with the other homeless deceased, where remembered and prayed for,

Eternal rest grant onto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 17: 10-16
Hebrews 9: 24-28
Mark 12: 38-44

In 1904, a Franciscan Capuchin by the name of Solanus Casey was ordained as a priest. His journey to that moment had been difficult. He found the studies at the seminary difficult; and because his superiors judged his knowledge of theology as being weak, he was not given permission to preach or to hear confessions. After several assignments, he was assigned to a monastery in Detroit, where he was sacristan and porter. As porter, he greeted everyone who came to visit the monastery, ready to listen to their worries and concerns. He was able to offer a comforting word and a blessing. He was able to touch the hearts of hundreds of people. When Father Solanus died in 1957, about 20,000 people passed his coffin during his wake.

Father Solanus Casey was a man judged to have few talents, but he gave those talents to God and God’s children. Through grace, the Father took those talents, multiplied them and enabled Father Solanus to reach out and comfort, heal and inspire thousands of people. Each one of us has skills that we are good at, some of us are blessed with many talents, and some of us are blessed with a few. Jesus is asking us to offer them all for the glory of God, our Creator; and for the service of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

This can require courage, because it can be difficult to open ourselves and share all that we are with others. But all things are possible with God, so let us turn to him for that courage; ask that he send his Spirit to inspire us; his Son to strengthen us; so that we can contribute all that we have for the mission of the Church.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Don't Make Me A Saint"

Dorothy Day has been quoted saying: "Don't make me a saint; I do not want want to be dismissed so easily." Many people do consider Dorothy Day as a saint, and there has been those in the Catholic Church who have been pushing her cause to be officially declared one by the Church. I have always been an admirer of Dorothy and the Catholic Worker movement. I really admired their service to the poor. I really wish I had their courage, their commitment.

Just a few days after All Saints Day, I came across this America magazine podcast about Day. It is an interview with Robert Ellsberg, who used to work at the Catholic Worker, and now at Orbis Publishing. He edited the diaries of Dorothy Day and published them; he is currently editing her letters for publication. I found it very inspiring.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Civility in the Catholic Blogosphere

American Catholic.Org is carrying a story from the Catholic News Service about a meeting held at the Vatican on Catholic communications, which included what was happening on the World Wide Web. The attending cardinals and media experts were all commenting on the number of so-called "Catholic" websites and blogs that contain a lot of hatred, name calling, fire and brimstone directed not only at the world, but also to fellow Catholics.

I have commented before about the lack of civility in today's society, especially among Christians, Catholics in particular. Is it any surprise that our young people are turned off about the Church, when they see the lack of love, and courtesy in some Catholic blogs, as they surf the Web. What they are looking for is authenticity; they want to see the Gospel being lived.

At this Vatican meeting, there was suggestions about establishing a code of ethics for Catholic bloggers. Some of the participants doubt the effectiveness of such a code. One thing is clear to me, that we need to encourage a more respectful tone, not only in the blogosphere, but also in discussions taking place the living Catholic community. We need live and love as the early Christians did, so that the whole world will recognize us as followers of Christ.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The H1N1 Flu is Coming! The H1N1 Flu is Coming!

Like many other Catholic dioceses in the United States, the Archdiocese of Boston, MA, is issuing guidelines to protect parishioners from being infected by the H1N1 flu. The guidelnes, which are to take effect October 31, 2009, are:
v The Holy Water fonts are to be drained, cleaned with a disinfecting soap, and re-filled with holy water on a regular basis. Please note that old holy water should be disposed of in the sacrarium.

v The distribution of the Precious Blood for the faithful is suspended, with the exception of those who must receive from the cup due to medical reasons. The faith of the Church teaches that Christ, whole and entire, is received even under only one species.

v The exchange of the Sign of Peace is to be offered without any physical contact. If the priest celebrant chooses to extend the invitation for the sign of peace, the faithful, instead of a handshake, may bow to the persons nearby.

v While the faithful retain the option of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand, all ministers of Holy Communion are advised to distribute the consecrated hosts with care, being cautious not to touch the tongue or the hand of the communicant.

v Parishioners should be reminded that if they are ill or suspect they are ill with a contagious illness, they are not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation. They should remain at home and return to church when they are well.
I wonder how soon, along with the water and wine cruets, there is going to be hand sanitizer on the altar.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Reflections on the Readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 31: 7-9
Hebrews 5: 1-6
Mark 10: 46-52

Can anyone of us who have our eyesight, imagine what it must be like to be blind? To be living in total darkness? Imagine what it would be like in the time of Jesus; with none of the aids or support systems we have today for the blind. Some would be abandoned by their families, ashamed because they think God is punishing them for some unknown sin. Some of the blind would be like Bartimaeus, sitting on the roadside, hearing the sounds of the world going by them, calling out for some alms. They hope to hear the clatter of coins; they hope that no one will rob them of what little treasure they have.

We do not know how long Bartimaeus was blind, how long he had been sitting at that roadside. Whether he was despairing over how his life was turning out. Then one day he hears this commotion, he learns that Jesus of Nazareth, the famous healer and preacher is coming. He suddenly feels a spark of hope, and he grabs for it. He cries out, somehow inspired to call Jesus, “son of David.” Bartimaeus is brought before Jesus; he is asked what he wants Jesus to do for him. Now he has only heard stories about this Jesus; and there have been so many so-called healers in Judea. But deep in his heart, he believes in this man from Nazareth, so he asks that he might see. It is that faith that saves him, he receives his sight and his world is forever changed. Now, his world is open to new opportunities, he can take any road now. He chooses to follow Jesus, who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

We all suffer from some type of blindness, the blindness of prejudice, greed, hate, depression, and self-doubt. It is a blindness that keeps us from seeing the beauty of God’s creation; keeps us from seeing others as our brothers and sisters in Christ; keeps us from seeing how much the Father loves us. We all need healing; even though that healing may change us, change how we perceive the world and ourselves. And change can be scary; it can draw us out of our comfort zone. What we need then is the gift of faith. It is faith that causes us to get up and draw near to Jesus. It is faith give us that little spark of hope. It is faith that makes us ask Jesus, to say, “Master, I want to see.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Anglicans are Coming! The Anglicans are Coming!

The Catholic blogosphere has been humming with the news about the Vatican issuing a document that will enable Catholic national conferences of bishops to set up special ordinates for disaffected Anglicans/Episcopalians. Those Anglicans that do come to the Catholic Church, will be able to maintain their own congregations, liturgy, and clergy (including married clergy). The National Catholic Reporter, America magazine, and the blog, Whispers in the Loggia, all have stories and commentary about this.

While I think it is good that the Church is willing to offer a spiritual home for these Anglicans who feel abandoned by their church; there are some issues to be concerned about. First is a case of "the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence." While Rome promises to be accommodating to the liturgies, spirituality, and traditions of any Anglicans who come into the Church; there is the possibility of culture clash. I think that any Anglicans, no matter how traditionalist or conservative they may be; come with a very different view of church governance. Some congregations have an empowered lay vestry, where the laity have had a strong voice in the decision making process. They will come up against a Catholic tradition of centralized, clerical, authority; with the laity having limited input.

This possible culture clash also has a risk for Catholic authorities also. Seeing laity taking an active role in decisions; could influence the Catholic laity. Also, a more visible married clergy, could cause Roman Catholics to raise questions anew about the practice of priestly celibacy.

Finally, there is the question of a Catholic Church that may have a sign at the door, "Conservatives welcomed! All others need not apply." As I have read in another blog, this is an additional act that, taken with the attempts to reconcile with the Society of St. Pius X, and the appointment of an archconservative cardinal to the congregation that nominates bishops; gives one the impression that even progressive, moderate Catholics are not welcomed in the Church.

It is going to be interesting to see how this is all going to work out, as the various conferences of bishops decide how to implement the Vatican's policy on Anglican converts. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Reflections on the Readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 53: 10-11
Hebrews 4: 14-16
Mark 10: 35-45

One could say that James and John are the most clueless of Jesus’ disciples. And they are definitely slow learners. We have seen in the earlier readings from the Gospel of Mark, what it means to be a disciple of Jesus; what are the challenges and the sacrifices that are required. But James and John do not seem to get it, they are still looking to be above the others; they want to be Jesus’ “number one” guys. Jesus is blunt with them; he lets them know what will be required of them, what it will cost them to be his followers. James and John are still clueless; they should have remembered what Isaiah had written about the Messiah, how he was going to suffer, so that others may be saved. Jesus reminds them and the other Apostles that they are not to be like the rest of society, where everyone is continuously seeking power and prestige. No, they are to be servants to all people; that if one wanted to be the greatest of all, they would have to be “the slave of all.”

In our society today, we are constantly being bombarded with images and stories of people who are seeking fame, power, and wealth; and those who have it, are flaunting it. Our televisions are constantly showing us the lives of the rich and famous, the checkout counters of our stores are almost buried with magazines, papers, “scandal sheets,’ revealing every aspect of these “bright, young things” lives. And truth be told, all of us have a desire to be “top dog” in our own little part of the world, to have at least fifteen minutes of fame.

And there is Jesus telling us: “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you.” We are all called to be servants, to one another, and to the rest of the world. This will require us to make sacrifices, let go our egos, give of our talents, time and treasure. We are inspired by the example of Jesus Christ; receive strength from his Body and Blood, so that we can give our lives for others.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

St. Teresa of Avila - October 15

October is turning out to be one of my favorite months for saints. In this month, we have the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi; and today is the feast day of Saint Teresa of Jesus, also known as Teresa of Avila. She was born the city of Avila, Spain, on March 28, 1515. In 1535 she joined the Carmelites, entering the convent of the Incarnation, in Avila. It was a large community of 180 nuns, and had grown lax in living their Rule. Teresa was a member of this community for 20 years, when she experienced a conversion, and desired to live a more prayerful life that adhered more closely to the Order’s primitive Rule. She was inspired to found a reform movement in the Carmelite Order, for both nuns and friars. She would eventually found 14 convents before her death in 1582.

I have one of those funny bits of coincidences; I attended an elementary school run by Polish Franciscan nuns. At school, I came across a vocation info card for the Carmelites and tested a vocation to join their Order. It was while I was in seminary that I came across a biography of Saint Teresa, written by Marcelle Auclair, and it became one of my favorite books. It leads me to read through her autobiography, which was a bit of a struggle, and also her book, “The Way of Perfection.” What impressed me about her life was that a relatively older age (for her times); Teresa was inspired by Christ to change her life, to explore new pathways of prayer. Teresa grew into a great mystic, who had a deep relationship with God. She had an understanding of the life of prayer that was both inspiring and practical. It was her writings that lead me to explore the prayer of quiet; of just being in God’s Presence; centering prayer.

Another thing that attracted me to her was her earthiness. When one reads the stories of her life, one sees a woman who could climb the heights of mystical prayer; and then do housework in her convent. Teresa was a practical woman, who could plan the logistics for opening a new convent, working with workmen and officials. In her role as foundress, she dealt with nobles and bishops. She sometimes had to covertly establish her convents over the objections of local civil and church officials.

Teresa’s writings would have great influence not only on her own Order, but also in the wider Church. She would eventually be designated as a Doctor of the Church, one of the few women to be so honored. I would eventually find my spiritual home with the Franciscans, but Teresa of Avila remains an old family friend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hawaiian Liturgy in an Ancient Church

In his October 13th entry, Rocco Palmo on his blog, “Whispers in the Loggia,” reported on a special Mass that was celebrated at the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome. It was a thanksgiving Mass being celebrated by the pilgrims from Hawaii, who had been in Rome for the canonization of Damien de Veuster of Molokai. In one of the most ancient churches in the Eternal City, the sound of Hawaiian singing filled the air; dancers, dressed in green, performed a solemn hula as part of the Eucharistic Liturgy.

I really believe that one of the gifts that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council gave us was the liturgical renewal. In a worldwide Church, the Eucharist unites us all in the Body of Christ. We come together to hear God’s Word; witness the consecration of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ; and we receive Christ in Holy Communion. In the whole world, we share the same ritual, we proclaim the same Creed. But the liturgy is flexible enough so that each people can incorporate their own traditions, songs, and in some instances, dances, so as to make the celebration more meaningful for them.

There is always going to be tensions between traditionalists who feel the liturgy must be in the same form in all countries, and those who feel the need to inculturate the liturgy. What we need to remember is that the goal of all liturgy is to give us the opportunity to encounter God, to praise, worship and be renewed.

My October Column for Secular Franciscan Fraternity Newsletter

“The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.” (Art. 4, SFO Rule)

A story in The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi has Brother Masseo asking St. Francis, “Say, why it is that all the world comes after you, and everybody desires to see you, and to hear you, and to obey you?” Almost 800 years later, the question still has relevance. Why is it that the world is still attracted to the figure of St. Francis? For many, they attracted to the image of St. Francis, the man who was connected to nature, to whom animals and birds came to readily. For others, it is the image of Francis, the servant of the poor, the forgotten. And there are those who see in Francis, a perfect person of prayer and contemplation.

Why are we attracted to this little poor man of Assisi? For me, Francis shows me how an ordinary person can live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by being a person of prayer, by giving up those things that distract me from loving God, and emptying myself in the service of others. Francis provides the inspiration for me, and for many others, to find the path that Jesus wishes each of us to take to the Kingdom.

We can all still learn from Francis what it means to live the Gospel life. It means that we need to learn more about him, read and reflect on his words. Each of us should try to read the early biographies of his life, written by authors who were still close to him or to those who knew him. Feel the excitement and the power of his presence that those early biographers felt, and open our hearts and our minds to feel it also. Then we will come to know the answer to Brother Masseo’s question, “Why after you?”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reflections on the Synod on Africa

Currently in Rome, the Synod of Africa is being held. John Allen, of the National Catholic Reporter, has been posting daily stories on the Synod, on NCR’s website. I have been reading those stories with great interest, and encourage others to do so, because they let us know that there is a wider Church beyond our shores.

I think sometimes that American Catholics, be they conservatives or liberals; think the internal life of the Church revolves around the American Church. This Synod reminds us that there are other Catholics out there, with different priorities. John Allen has reported on the Catholic Church in Africa, Asia, and South America. He has described them as part of the “Global South.” While in some countries, especially in Africa, the Catholic communities have a more traditional view on family, sexual ethics; they have much more progressive view on social justice. They are less concerned about internal Church politics, and more concerned about how the Church is helping the poor.

If people are looking to continue the renewal of the Church that began with the Second Vatican Council, they need to be aware that Church is made up with more than Americans. If conservatives wish to preserve traditional liturgy, they need to be aware that there people in Africa who are seeking to inculturate the liturgy, so that it will speak to their peoples’ hearts. We all to need to learn more about each other, and to dialogue with each other; share with each other our dreams, our hopes, and our disappointments. We are all part of the Catholic Church; no individual Church can go it alone. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, let us learn, share, listen and love one another.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Francis and the Wolf

Last week, the Franciscan friars of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, MA, co-sponsored an art exhibition of the works of Sister Frances Falk. One painting caught my attention; it was a depiction of St. Francis of Assisi’s encounter with the wolf of Gubbio.

Most people, I think, know the story. Gubbio is a town in the Umbrian region of Italy. The story is told in the Little Flowers of St. Francis, how the townspeople were being terrorized by a savage wolf. Francis decided to go out and try to make peace with this wolf. He encounters the wolf, talks to him, negotiates a peace, and the wolf becomes friend and protector of Gubbio. Most pictures of this story show Francis holding one of the front paws of the wolf, who is sitting down, looking like a domesticated German shepherd.

Sister Falk’s painting of that encounter is much different. Francis is shown embracing the wolf; only this wolf is no tame animal. It is a large wild beast, with an open mouth full of large sharp teeth, its red eye staring out at me. One gets the impression, that were it not for Francis, the wolf would be making a meal of me. I have to say though that this picture appeals to me on a Franciscan level. The foundation of Franciscan spirituality is to love as Christ has loved us. It does not matter whether the person is good, or sinful, that person is a brother or sister of us in Christ, and deserves our love and compassion. As Francis lovingly embraced the ravenous wolf, we are to embrace the sinner, the stranger, the outcast also with love.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Suggestion for a Patron Saint of Veterans

Yesterday, October 4th, was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. Now St. Francis has been designated as the patron saint of Italy, Catholic Action, animals, and the environment. A patron saint is considered a special intercessor before God for an either group of people with a specific profession, illness and who work for special causes. I would like to make the suggestion that St. Francis be considered the patron saint of veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Now I say this because Francis was not always the little holy friar, constantly in prayer, communing with the birds and the animals. In his younger days, he was an active, wealthy, young buck; the leader of the Assisi party scene, who longed to be a part of the nobility. Now for a commoner to move into those circles, he had to be knighted. To be knighted, he had to perform some great military service for a local lord. In medieval Italy, it was not hard to find some little war, somewhere. As it turned out, Francis’ home town of Assisi was going to war with their neighbors, the city of Perugia. So Francis had his father spring for armor and weapons, and he joined the other Assisian men of arms as they marched on Perugia. The two armies met at a bridge and a battle ensued. Now in those days, soldiers fought each other with spears, swords, axes and daggers. It was close, in your face, combat. One survived by chopping off an opponents' limbs or gutting him. Blood and gore would have been everywhere. Long story short, the Perugians whipped the men of Assisi butts. Those who survived were either scattered or captured. The captured commoners were sent to hard labor for Perugia, the nobles were cast into dungeons, to await their families ransoming them. Because Francis was so well decked out, he was considered to be a noble and was incarcerated with the others.

Now the dungeons were dark, damp, with little water or food. It is reported that Francis tried to keep his companions’ spirits up by singing songs made famous by French troubadours. But eventually, even he was worn down by the long captivity. Finally, his family was able to pay his ransom, and he was released. Francis was bedridden for a long time with illness when he got back to Assisi. When he recovered, he was able to go out once again amongst the hills and valleys of Umbrian countryside. But nature’s beauty no longer touched him. Parties no longer brought joy to his heart. Feeling empty, he began turning to God for help. He would spend more time in prayer, seeking out caves for solitude. As he opened himself more to the Father’s presence, he began to experience God’s love for him, and the peace that comes with it. It was the beginning of his conversion.

In his book, “My Life with the Saints,” Father James Martin, SJ, writes: “My novice director told me that he thought of the saints as older brothers and sisters to whom one could look for advice and counsel.” I would like to think that veterans can see in Francis, somebody they can identify with, and someone they can turn to for help and encouragement.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Memories of the National Parks and ACMNP

I watched the last episode of Ken Burns’ documentary on the National Parks. It brought back memories of my time in the Parks. This was back in the ‘70’s, when I was attending St. John’s Seminary in Boston, MA. I heard of this interdenominational Christian group called “A Christian Ministry in the National Parks.” It recruits seminarians, theology school and college students to go out into the National Parks to provide worship services for visitors and employees. I would spend a summer and a full year in the program.

My first summer, I was assigned to Yellowstone National Park. I took a train out to the Park, which was definitely an adventure. I arrived in the Park during early June, with a suitcase full of summer clothing, only to see snow on the ground and the temperature close to freezing. I definitely was entering another world. The beauty of the Park took my breath away. To earn my keep, I had a job as a dishwasher at the restaurant of Lake Yellowstone Hotel. During the week I would be working, sightseeing on my days off. On weekends, especially Sundays, I would either be assisting a priest who would come to celebrate Mass, or lead a Liturgy of the Word for Catholic park visitors. Sometimes, I would be assigned to lead a worship service for other Christians. It was a challenge to write sermons that would be meaningful to the people attending the service. I got mostly positive feedback.

The Lake Yellowstone Area, home of the largest alpine lake in the world, was beautiful. And if you were not careful, you could turn a corner and come face to face with a moose. I took tour buses around the park, saw Old Faithful, the Mammoth Hot Springs, the mud pots, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. All this beauty, and it really made me thankful for the love of the Creator, that He would give us such a great gift.

It was also an experience living and working with people, young and old, from all different parts of the country, with very different backgrounds. As someone who had lived a pretty sheltered life, I was to have some very “interesting” adventures. It helped me to appreciate the differences in people, to accept them as they are, as they did me.

After my third year of theology studies, I decided to take a year’s leave of absence. It may not have been the best decision I have ever made, but I decided to spend the year with the ACMNP. For the summer, I was sent back to Yellowstone, this time to the Old Faithful Area. I was again a dishwasher, but I did not mind. To be able to daily walk amongst the geyser fields, to look into the hot springs, and to lead a worship service with Old Faithful in the background; Oh boy!! Again, I was working with a great crew of people, both on the job and the ministry staff.

My fondest memory was of the time I did an overnight hike to a nearby field. The next morning, I woke up, got out my tent, and saw that my campsite was surrounded by bison!

My next assignment was to spend the fall, winter and spring seasons at Big Bend National Park, which is located on the Rio Grande in Texas. My job was as night watchman at a motel located in Chisos Mountain Basin. It was quite a difference, coming from the mountains and forest of Wyoming and Montana, to the desert of Texas. My co-workers had a blend of southern and Mexican accents; they were forever amused by my “Yankee” accent. And I was coming from a very large ministry staff, to a staff of two. I found myself doing four worship services each weekend, at various campsites throughout the park. I was beginning to feel like a modern version of a circuit rider. It was at Big Bend that I bought my first used car. God must have been looking over me, because that car was to last me a couple of years, and take me all around the country.

I did a lot of hiking and discovered the beauty of the desert; I could see why it attracts prophets and mystics. And from the park mountains, the view took your breath away. On my travels, I would run into deer, coyote, roadrunners, and javelina (wild pigs). I would take a dunk in the Rio Grande, and visit a small Mexican village.

The time I spent in the National Parks, serving God and His people, and being rewarded with such sights and memories, will always make the Parks very precious to me.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Street Party!!

One thing I have learned about Franciscans, be they Friars, Sisters, or Seculars; Franciscans love to party! So it was no surprise to see the Franciscans Friars of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, turn Arch Street into a street fair! It was a celebration to both mark the upcoming Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and the 800th Anniversary of the approval by the Pope of the Franciscan Rule of Life, giving birth to the Franciscan movement.

Now before his conversion, Francis was known as a party animal. He was famous was leading the wealthy youth through the streets of Assisi in raucous parties. I have no doubt that even after his conversion, he would still have parties with his companions, although much more simple affairs. And he would invite everyone to come, poor, rich, noble, or commoner. All would be welcomed.

And I saw that same Franciscan spirit reflected last Tuesday. Everyone was welcomed! Young and old; office workers and the homeless; business men in suits and construction workers. All together, eating hot dogs, cookies, listing to a band play modern Christian songs. It was a time of fun, joy, and a moment of grace.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Web Video About The Secular Franciscan Order

The Franciscan Family has been celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the approval of the Rule of the Order of Friars Minor. From that beginning came the Poor Clares, the Second Order; and the Secular Franciscan Order, the Third Order. Thousands of lay men and women have been members of the SFO, many continue to join, seeking to "observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi..." (Art. 4, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order). Recently, a web video has been posted, of an interview with J. Patrick Mendes, SFO, National Minister of the United States SFO Fraternity. In it, he gives some background on the Order, and the formation process. Please check it out!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Letter to World Leaders From St. Francis

With the leaders of the world meeting at the United Nations, and the G-20 summit being held in Pittsburgh, PA, it seemed appropriate to read this letter St. Francis of Assisi wrote to the world leaders of his time:

Letter to the Rulers of the Peoples

To all mayors and consuls, magistrates and rulers throughout the world, and to everyone who may receive these letters: Brother Francis, your little and despicable servant in the Lord God, sends his wishes of health and peace to all of you. Pause and reflect, for the day of death is approaching. 1 beg you, therefore, with all possible respect, not to forget the Lord or turn away from His commandments by reason of the cares and preoccupations of this world, for all those who are oblivious of Him and turn away from His commands are cursed and will be totally forgotten by Him. And when the day of death does come, everything which they think they have will be taken from them. And the wiser and more powerful they may have been in this world, so much greater will be the punishments they will endure in hell.

Therefore, I firmly advise you, my lords, to put aside all care and preoccupation and receive with joy the most holy Body and the most holy Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in holy remembrance of Him.

And you should manifest such honor to the Lord among the people entrusted to you that every evening an announcement be made by a town crier or some other signal that praise and thanks may be given by all people to the all-powerful Lord God. And if you do not do this, know that you must render an account before the Lord your God, Jesus Christ, on the day of judgment.

Let those who keep this writing with them and observe it know that they will be blessed by the Lord God.

You can find this letter and more information at the Franciscan Friars, TOR website

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hard Times

“So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or "What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” (Matt. 6: 31-34a, NAB)

Sometime life can get very difficult, especially when financial times are hard. The pressures of getting bills paid; making sure there is food on the table, can wear a person down. It can affect one’s relationship with one’s family and friends. Tempers get short; one gets impatient with even the littlest mix-ups of daily life. Anxiety can rob one of peace of mind, blood pressure rises, and ulcers start.

So when we read the above passage, it would be natural to say, “Right!” In hard times, faith can be challenged; our prayer will either be angry, or non-existent. But there is truth in what Jesus is saying. To get through the hard times, we need to keep turning to the Father, keep opening our hearts to his love, and trust he will give us the peace we need to get through the hard times.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Feed My Sheep."

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He then said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him a third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21: 15-17, NAB)

I have been reading a book lately by Sara Miles, entitled, “Take This Bread.” It is a spiritual memoir about a woman who was raised as an atheist, discovered faith when she received communion at an Episcopal church in San Francisco. I am still in the middle of the book, but one segment caught my attention, or perhaps the Holy Spirit grabbed me and had me focus on this story. Ms. Miles recounts her reflecting on the above passage from the Gospel of John. It results with her starting a food pantry in her church.

Most Catholics reading this passage would see it as Jesus turning the care of his Church over to Peter, and his successors. But what if we were to apply Christ’s command, “Feed my sheep,” to us? We see in one of the other gospels, that to enter the Kingdom of God, one has to give drink to the thirsty, to feed the hungry, for when we do this for the poor, we are doing it for Christ.

So this is the challenge to us, to me, to feed those who are hungry. And we only have to read the papers, or watch the news to see how desperate the need is in our country, in our communities, because of today’s economy. But it is because of this bad economy, that I am saying, “I am living paycheck to paycheck, I just have enough to keep food on my table!” Jesus comes right back at me with the story of the widow’s mite. He praised the widow for giving only two copper coins to support the Temple, for she gave out of her want, while others gave from their surplus. So I, and all of us, am being challenged to give from our want, to help those who are in even greater need.

So now I am committing myself to bringing at least a few cans of food to a food pantry being run by the Franciscans at St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, MA. And I am going to try to be open to every opportunity to serve the hungry, to answer Christ’s command, “Feed my sheep.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Final Resting Place for a Cardinal

The Boston Globe, in its Friday edition, reported that the Archdiocese of Boston and Boston College is petitioning a Massachusetts Probate Court for permission to relocate the remains of the late William Cardinal O’Connell, second Archbishop of Boston. He is currently buried in a chapel on a hill on the grounds of St. John’s Seminary, which the Archdiocese sold to Boston College in 2004. They wish to rebury him on the grounds of St. Sebastian School in Needham, MA, which Cardinal O’Connell helped found. Michael Paulson, the Globe’s religion reporter, wrote the story.

Reading this story brought back memories of my days at St. John’s Seminary. You could see Cardinal O’Connell’s tomb up there on the hill, the legend was that he wanted to be buried there so he could keep an eye on the Seminary. Behind the tomb was an open field, which at one time was the cemetery of the Sulpician priests who originally ran the Seminary. When O’Connell took it over, he had the Sulpicians pack up and leave and this included their dead.

Later in my life, when I was a Franciscan novice, the novitiate was located in a small mansion in Brookline, MA, that once was a residence for Cardinal O’Connell. My room was in the former carriage house. O’Connell was reputed to definitely live as a “Prince of the Church.” He represented the Church “Militant,” and wielded power both in the Church and outside the Church with a heavy hand.

Cardinal O’Connell died in 1944, and was succeeded by the third Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cushing, who had very different leadership style, who would pursue ecumenical and interfaith relations, who had an influence on the Second Vatican Council, and guided the Archdiocese during those turbulent times.

Wherever Cardinal O’Connell is finally interred, may he rest in peace.

Wikipedia has a very informative entry on William Cardinal O’Connell.
UPDATE: Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe has reported on his blog that Paul Kirk, who was appointed interim Senator for Massachusetts on Sept. 24th, is related to Cardinal O'Connell. You cannot make this stuff up!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Civility or the Lack Thereof

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,” will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” (Matthew 5: 21-23)

On the National Public Radio, BBC, some of the broadcast channels, there has been discussions about civility in society, or the lack thereof. We have seen examples of this lack of civility in the halls of Congress, on the tennis court in Flushing Meadows, NY, and on stage. And what we have seen on the streets and in town halls concerning the subject of health care reform is not a debate, but a yelling match between two sides with no respect for the other. I have not seen such discord, such anger, such name calling, since the days of the Vietnam protests.

This is why I am quoting again from the Gospel of Matthew. We all need to be reminded again what our Lord Jesus Christ preached. We need to be reminded that Jesus commanded us to love another. Not just those who are lovable, but even those we may think of as “jerks.” We are called to love all, to be respectful of all, to be courteous to all.

So we should turn to God, open ourselves to him, in prayer, and ask him to remove our stony hearts, so prone to outbursts and insults; and replace them with hearts full of love. Let us, by our words and actions, be a balm of peace on the world. Let us show the world how truly to love and not how to insult.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September Column for Fraternity Newsletter

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matt 25: 34-40)

“Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively.” (Art. 14a, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

“Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.” (Art. 15, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

The above verse from the Gospel of Matthew was part of the Gospel reading proclaimed at the funeral of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. And listening to it caused me to reflect on how times have changed. When I was growing up, it was generally assumed that when it came to feeding the poor, caring for the sick, clothing the naked, etc.; that was the responsibility of the clergy and the religious. Our role was to kick in a few bucks to help support the work. But since the Second Vatican Council, we, the laity, have discovered that the parable Jesus taught about the last judgment, was directed towards all of us. Each one of us has a responsibility to be active in our communities, to see to it that the poor are taken care of, to be a voice for those who have no voice in our society. Wherever and whenever the opportunity may arise, we are to proclaim the compassionate power of the Gospel by our daily lives.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Remembrance and Reflection

September 11th, 9/11, 911; this is a date that will live in our memories, like December 7th lives in the memories of my father’s generation. On that day, I was in my company’s office, listening to my radio when I heard the report of a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center Towers. I assumed that it was a small plane, as the morning wore on and the stories came in more frequently, we all realized that something worse was happening. I remember looking out of our office window down at a building that had flat screen televisions, showing the news. People were gathered in front, watching the story unfold, so many people that they spilled into the street. When I left my office later that day, the streets of Boston were almost empty. The following morning, waiting at the commuter train station, I looked up at the sky, and saw the thin contrails of fighter jets on patrol.

Other images I remember was the videos of the jets crashing into the Twin Towers. The images of people trapped in the flaming Towers, which soon collapsed. I remember the pictures of the skeletal remains of the Towers, still smoking, dust still in the air. The image of firefighters, police, and EMT’s carrying the lifeless body of Father Mychal Judge, OFM, from the wreckage. The image of a cross, made from the remains of the steel girders.

The United States changed that day, many of its citizens showing great courage. But also a dark side came out, Arab, Muslim citizens attacked verbally and physically. Arab emigrants detained. The country has entered unchartered waters, and the course some of our leaders has set, I fear will lead to further darkness. A country that decried the use of brutal interrogation methods and mistreatment of prisoners in the past has revealed using techniques that could only be called torture. And the majority of its citizens support this, as long as they are kept safe. The courage and valor of our soldiers and marines are inspiring, but we have been at war longer than at anytime in our history. The cost in blood, broken bodies and broken minds continues to grow.

On September 11th, 2009, I will go to St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, MA. There, in one of their chapels, the names of those who lost their lives on 9/11 will be read and remembered. In that chapel, I will pray for those who died on that terrible day; pray for those who lost a loved one that terrible day; pray for our country and the world, that peace will win out, and that light will beat back the darkness.

Mindful that they (Secular Franciscans) are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.” (Art. 19a, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Writer's Block

You hear about it. You read about it, but you never expect it to happen to you! Hopefully, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will make a breakthrough soon!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Cardinal and His Critics

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,” will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” (Matthew 5: 21-23)

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6: 37)

“Nothing should upset the servant of God except sin. And no matter how another person may sin, if the servant of God lets himself become angry and disturbed because of this, [and] not because of love, he stores up guilt for himself (cf. Rm2:5). That servant of God who does not become angry or upset at anything lives justly and without anything of his own. And he is blessed who does not keep anything for himself, rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (Mt 22:21).” Admonition XI, - St. Francis of Assisi.

The Catholic blogosphere has been alive with comments about the funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and the participation of Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston, at that funeral. The Cardinal has taken a lot of heat for being in attendance, and for leading the final prayers. Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe gives some of the details of this story. His Eminence has also commented on his own position concerning giving a Catholic funeral to the Senator, and what all this harsh rhetoric and comments is doing to the Church and the pro-life movement.

The Church is at its best when it shows compassion and mercy even to those who disagree with it, who may have taken positions against Church teaching. Yes, the Church has a prophetic role to play in the world and it must speak truth to power, but it must do so in such a way that does not violate Christ command to love one another. And when Jesus says love one another, he is not just talking about our friends, he is also talking about those who oppose us, who harm us. It is a spiritual work of mercy to admonish the sinner, but not with words of fire, brimstone, and damnation, but with words of concern, courtesy and respect for a fellow child of God.

Finally, it is a corporal work of mercy to bury the dead. And the Church in Boston was showing mercy to Ted Kennedy and his family, when it gave the Senator a Catholic funeral, trusting in the Father’s love and wisdom.

Photo from Boston Herald

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Setting a New Course

Everyone goes through life thinking they know what course they are setting, what road they are taking, and what the ultimate destination will be. Then life comes along, and you find yourself facing a fork in the road, a detour, a storm on the horizon. Now you are not so sure where you are going or how this journey is going to end.

I find myself in uncharted waters, the journey I had mapped out I have to scrape and toss away. It is moments like this when you find out how much you depend on the Lord, for his guidance, for his strength; to get through this unexpected moments. I found the following prayer on, and I would like to share it with everyone:

Steer the ship of my life, good Lord, to your quiet harbour, where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict. Show me the course I should take. Renew in me the gift of discernment, so that I can always see the right direction in which I should go. And give me the strength and the courage to choose the right course, even when the sea is rough and the waves are high, knowing that through enduring hardship and danger in your name we shall find comfort and peace.
- Basil of Caesarea (c. 329-379)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Thoughts on "Ad Orientem"

“As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist.” (Art. 8a-b, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

Before the death of Senator Edward Kennedy hit the news wires, I was preparing to comment on a story I read on the National Catholic Reporter website, posted on August 21, 2009. It was from Kristen May of the Religion News Service. She reported that Bishop Edward Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa, OK, was going to be celebrating the Eucharist “ad orientem.” This means that he will be facing away from the congregation.

There have been many comments on this, many in support, saying that this brings about a more sense of the sacred; that it focuses the attention of the people on God, rather than on the priest. There were comments on maintaining a sacred tradition, the history of that tradition, and so forth.

Well, I am going to add to the debate. As I think I may have mentioned in an earlier posting, one of the great concepts, great teaching, I think, to come out of the Second Vatican Council, was that of the common priesthood of the faithful. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 1141:

“The celebrating assembly is the community of the baptized who ‘by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all the works of Christian men they may offer spiritual sacrifices.’ This ‘common priesthood’ is that of Christ the sole priest, in which all his members participate:

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be lead to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ have a right and an obligation by reason of their Baptism.”

All the faithful are called to actively participate in the Eucharistic liturgy. No longer is the laity to be just passive observers of the liturgy, but are to join with the priest in prayer, through their responses, and through their praising of God in song. And as part of the common priesthood of the baptized, the laity is worthy to witness the divine action, when through the words of consecration, the bread and wine on the altar becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. For me, this is why it is so important for the priest to be facing the congregation. Granted, there have been priests who distract, by their words and movements from the central act taking place, but the solution is not turning back the clock, but better training.

The Eucharistic liturgy is no longer a secret act by the priest, with the laity given the privilege of seeing only the elevated Host and Chalice. No, the Eucharistic liturgy, especially the Consecration, should be witnessed by all the faithful, so that all the faithful can be drawn into this wondrous Mystery.
Image by RNS