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.