Sunday, May 31, 2009


“Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and he said to him, ‘Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’ Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven; his fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you will, you can become all flame’." (Paradise of the Desert Fathers)

“But whenever he spoke, prayed or thought he was alone, his squat body shot forth flames that reached the heavens: he became an archangel with red wings that he beat in the air. And if this happened at night when the flames were visible, you recoiled in terror to keep from being burned.

‘Put yourself out, Brother Francis,’ I used to cry. ‘Put yourself out before you burn up the world.’” (St. Francis, Nikos Kazantzakis)

Today we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost. In my parish, like many others, members of the congregation wore red. We heard again the story recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, on how the Holy Spirit came down the disciples of Jesus, like tongues of fire. We heard how, emboldened by the Spirit, enflamed by the Spirit, they went into Jerusalem, was able to proclaim the Good News to all the diverse peoples. And by the power of their words, many came to believe in Jesus Christ.

We listen to the story, but are we enflamed? Through Baptism and Confirmation, we received the same Holy Spirit as did the Apostles and other disciples, but are we enflamed? Or has the concerns, the worries, the daily grind, dampened the flame. Still, in each of us, the flame still smolders. We need to stir the coals, by stripping ourselves of all those things that get between us and God. We need to intensify our prayer, open ourselves more and more to the presence of God. We need to take the time to read the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, but more than that, try very hard to live them. When all the ash is cleared away, then the Holy Spirit can breathe into us, then will the flame burst forth in us, and then we will a true light to the world.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Reflections on the Father Cutie' Affair

“Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.

Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue.” (Article 23c, Secular Franciscan Order Rule)

If you read, or other Catholic and religion news websites, you have no doubt heard the story of Father Alberto Cutie’, a popular Miami Catholic priest, famous for his television appearances. He was removed from his parish and ministries after pictures were published of him being intimate on a beach with a woman. News hit the wires that he and his girlfriend have joined the Episcopal Church. Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe has an informative piece on his blog, Articles of Faith (

Mr. Paulson reports on how uncomfortable many commenters have felt about these events, and I want to add my voice to that number. I do not want to be, and I hope I am not sounding judgmental, because there may be things, we are not aware of going on internally or externally with Father Cutie’, but this incident does bring questions about his commitment to the Church, or his understanding of the quality of that commitment.

At ordination, a priest makes a commitment to the Church that is just as deep and intense as the commitment I made to my wife on my wedding day, as the commitment I made to my Secular Franciscan fraternity, when I made my profession. In all these instances, one should go in knowing full well what the relationship requires, and is welling to fulfilling those requirements, because of the love one has for one’s spouse, the community, the Church. Even when things do not go well, there should be dialogue and attempts to repair the breach, to reconcile. If a breakdown in the relationship is inevitable, if there was a deep connection in the beginning, then there is time of grieving over the loss.

I see no signs of grieving in Alberto Cuties’ face in that picture of him with the Episcopal bishop and clergy. He makes it appears that changing church communities is as easy as changing political parties. Maybe this is a sign of the times, where so many of our young people are so commitment phobic. It is up to the Church and we who are happily married to show the joys and strengths of being in a committed relationship.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wounds reopened

“And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matt. 18: 5-6, NAB)

On May 20, 2009, an investigative commission, created by the Irish government, issued a report on child abuse in Church sponsored institutions. It covered a period from 1930 to about 1990. ( It is reported to be a list of horrific acts perpetrated against children by both clergy and religious. In this country of Ireland, a nation with the most visible Catholic identity, a dark side is once again revealed about the Church; once again, Church leaders seek to protect the reputation of the institution rather than the safety of children.

As a Catholic in the Archdiocese of Boston, MA, this story opens old wounds. It brings back memories of reading the reports in the Boston Globe about the clergy abuse scandal, seeing the stories constantly on the local TV news. I have listened to survivors of clergy abuse relate their stories, one time at a permanent diaconate formation class. Each time I felt a great sadness for the victims, and great anger at those bishops who let these horrors continue. Yet, I never felt angry enough to leave this Church, as I said to someone who asked why I stay, I am Catholic to my core, to my bones.

What I want to see is the Catholic Church to address these issues of child and sexual abuse honestly and make reform. Some feel that this is beyond the ability or will of Catholic bishops; many want to see bishops prosecuted in the courts. Many want the current hierarchical structure torn down completely. I am not so radical, but what I want to see is the laity demand that the institutional culture be changed from one of monarchial leadership, to one of servant leadership. Bishops need to learn that they are shepherds of people, not institutions. They must be open to dialogue with their people, to hear their concerns and fears and act on them. They need to earn the trust of their communities, by serving them, not ruling them.

We laity can never let our bishops forget what has happened; always remind them that people come first. At the same time, we must respect our bishops and priests, for the offices they hold, and remember that in this country, a person is innocent until proven guilty. As difficult as it may be, we are all called to have compassion and charity to all, saint and sinner alike.

Memorial Day

Today we are called to remember those who have given their lives for this country, its people and its ideals. These men and women, many who volunteered, many who were drafted; went into harm's way for us. No matter where you stand on war and peace, we cannot deny the courage and sacrifice of those who fell on far flung battlefields. It is that sacrifice we honor today.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. Through the mercy of God, may they rest in peace. Amen!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Franciscan Friars (OFM) meet for General Chapter

ROME (CNS) -- To coincide with the 800th anniversary of their founding, representatives of the almost 15,000 Franciscans of the Order of Friars Minor will gather in Assisi to elect a superior and plan for their future. The 152 delegates to the Franciscan general chapter will meet May 24-June 20 in the city of St. Francis' birth. They will celebrate the 800th anniversary of the order June 9. Father Jose Rodriguez Carballo, elected minister general of the Franciscans in 2003, is eligible for a second six-year term when delegates hold elections June 4. "But ours is an unpredictable order," Father Francesco Patton, secretary of the chapter, told reporters during a May 22 press conference. Two of Father Carballo's predecessors were elected to two terms; two were not, he said. Father Carballo told reporters the delegates will look at how well the order has met the priorities set in 2003 for deepening spirituality, improving fraternal life and living as poor among the poor and in solidarity with all in need. Second, he said, they will try to find new ways to meet the challenge of being missionaries in the modern world.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May 20 - Feast of Saint Bernardine Siena

Today is the feast of Saint Bernardine of Siena, a Franciscan friar who was born in 1380, joined the Order in 1402 after having studied theology and canon law in the Italian city of Siena. He gained a reputation as a preacher; some accounts report that at least 30,000 people came to hear him. He was a reformer in the Franciscan Order, being part of a reform group known as the Observants.

He is also known for promoting the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. During his lifetime, the Italian cities and countryside were plagued with civil strife, with each community having its rival factions, ready to fight at the drop of a hat. It was like the fights between the street gangs of our present time, with each group having its own “colors,” or emblems. Bernardine began preaching on the Holy Name of Jesus:

“..that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 210-11)

Bernadine then had banners made with the emblem YHS (an abbreviation of the Greek word of Jesus) and had them distributed throughout the towns and cities, replacing the rival gangs emblems with the unifying emblem of Jesus.

Information from "Day to Day with Followers of Francis and Clare" by Pat McCloskey, OFM, St. Anthony Messenger Press

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jesus laments

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!” (Mt 23: 37)

Pope Benedict XVI has completed his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, pundits and analysts will be pouring over his statements, pulling the words apart. His every gesture and action will be examined, and each side will put their particular spin on it. Bottom line, he called for all sides to come together, lay down their arms and make peace. He asked for justice for the Palestinians, security for Israelis. Hardliners on both sides will ignore his words, statesmen and politicians will nod in agreement, but will think the Pope is naïve, or worst, irrelevant. The hatred remains, the distrust remains, the fear remains, and the blood will continue to fall on the soil all three monotheistic faiths call holy.

I pray that the Father will find some way to open harden hearts, so that people will open their fists and reach out to one another, and trust that God will watch over them all.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Sense of Awe

There is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Master, by the name of Thich Nhat Hanh, who has promoted the Zen practice of Mindfulness. As I understand it, it is being present to the moment, what you are doing at that moment, present to the sensations, the feelings, the actions you are doing; not let yourself being distracted by other thoughts.

Yesterday, I was in one of the chapels of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, MA. I was seated in front of the tabernacle, as I have done on many other mornings, saying my morning prayers, as I do on many mornings. I suddenly stopped as I became fully aware that at that moment, I was present before the Son of God, the Bread of Life. And for that brief instance, I experienced something that I find hard to describe.

There is a danger that our spiritual disciplines, our practices, can be so routine, that we can lose our focus on what is happening at that moment. It can be a struggle, but we need to be mindful of the present moment, when we enter into prayer; be aware that we are entering into God's Presence. We open ourselves then to truly experience His Love,

", as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, we too are to see and firmly believe them to be His most holy Body and Blood living and true. And in this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He Himself says: Behold I am with you even to the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:30)." (Admonition I, St. Francis of Assisi)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My May column for fraternity newsletter SHALOM

“The Secular Franciscan Order holds a special place in this Family circle. It is an organic union of all Catholic fraternities scattered throughout the world and open to every group of the faithful. In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for perfect charity in their own secular state. By their profession they pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of Saint Francis by means of this rule approved by the Church.” (Art. 2, SFO Rule of 1978)
In the last weekend of April, I attended the Chapter of Elections for St. Elizabeth of Hungary Regional Fraternity; the Region our fraternity belongs to. Gathered were representatives from fraternities located in northern New England. We came together to pray, to break bread together, to socialize, to make decisions, and to celebrate Eucharist together. During that weekend, I experienced the union that Article 2 speaks of, I saw that we were not a lone community, but really are a part of a larger Order.

Today, May 9th, 2009, we hope celebrate a Profession, a person, before the whole fraternity, will “pledge themselves to live the gospel of in the manner of Saint Francis.” We will have the opportunity to renew our own profession of the Rule. The question we need to ask ourselves, is this renewal just superficial, or is it a heartfelt declaration that we again intend to intensely live the Rule?

As part of my commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Franciscan Order, I have been reading Franciscan book containing a selection of New Testament readings, and a selection of writings of St. Francis and other early Franciscan authors. And reading these two sources together and reflecting on them, fills me with inspiration, but also with sadness. Sadness about how short of the mark I am in living the gospel in the spirit of St. Francis. I ask all of you in joining with me in rekindling the fire of the Franciscan spirit in our fraternity, in our Order, a fire that will burn brightly for the all the Church and the world to see.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Reflections on a survey about torture

“If your enemy be hungry, give him food to eat, if he be thirsty, give him to drink.” (Proverbs 25: 21)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt 5: 43 – 44)

“Then, stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’” (Matt 26: 50-52)

The most depressing story I have read recently was an entry on Michael Paulson’s blog, “Articles of Faith.” He reported on the results of a Pew Research Center survey, which showed that a majority of practicing Christians believed that on the whole, the use of torture is justified. 51% of white non-Hispanic Catholics holds that torture is at least sometime justified. (

This again shows the disconnect between what the Church teaches and what the people in the pews believe and practice. There have been many surveys that continually show that a majority of people (including Christians) support the death penalty in some form. Martin Marty, in a radio interview, pointed out that during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, while many Church leaders spoke out and marched for equal rights, most of their congregations were either ambivalent or hostile to the idea.

I can only hope that the Church continues to be the prophet, not only with the world at large, but also with its own members. It must continue to proclaim the words of Christ, hold them up as a challenge to us all, to be courageous and reach out to our enemies, to trust in the Lord and hold tight to our ideals of valuing the dignity of human life.

I close with words of the late John Paul II, quoted in an editorial by the National Catholic Reporter: “The thought of Jesus being stripped, beaten, and derided until his final agony on the cross should prompt the Christian to protest against similar treatment of their fellow human beings. Of their own accord, disciples of Christ will reject torture, which nothing can justify, which causes humiliation and suffering to the victim and degrades the tormentor.”
-- Pope John Paul II, before the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, June 1982

Friday, May 1, 2009

SFO in No. New England hold Chapter of Elections

The Secular Franciscan Order is made up of international, national, regional, and local fraternities. The SFO in the United States is composed of various regional fraternities, each containing a number of local fraternities. In the northern New England area, the local SFO fraternities are gathered into Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Regional Fraternity.

During April 26 through to April 28, 2009, representatives from the fraternities met at the Franciscan Center in Andover, MA, for the triennial Regional Chapter of Elections. As Minister for my fraternity (St. Anthony, Boston, MA), I attended the Chapter. For the first time, I decided to stay overnight, rather than commute to the meetings from my home, which is near by. The Franciscan Center is housed in buildings that used be the minor seminary for the Franciscan Friars (OFM) of Immaculate Conception Province. The Center was recently renovated, and is very nice, with beautiful grounds.

A Chapter meeting has both the mundane and the spiritual, there were business meetings; reports and budgets to review and approve. But there was also times when we gathered together in prayer, and for sharing.

The main piece of business was the elections, which went very smoothly. The new Regional Executive Council for St. Elizabeth of Hungary Regional Fraternity are: Jacquelyn Walsh, SFO – Minister; Miriam Kennedy, SFO – Vice Minister; Sue Ronan, SFO – Secretary; Pat Gagnon, SFO – Treasurer; District Councilors: Sarah Anderson, SFO; Joe Makely, SFO; Roselle Neely, SFO; David Amara, SFO; John Sheridan, SFO; Ray Raboin, SFO.

May the Holy Spirit be with them and inspire them.