Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Connection Problems

I am having some problems with my desktop and internet connections, so future postings may be a little spotty.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Update - Stuff Happens

This is what can happen when you have too much zeal for the House of the Lord!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Living in Anticipation - My December Column for Fraternity Newsletter

"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.

Stuff Happens

I am currently in the Permanent Diaconate formation program for the Archdiocese of Boston. Our classes are being held at a North Shore Catholic college. Our sessions begin with our praying of Evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. Each of us, on a rotating schedule, is responsible for leading the prayer.

Now I am currently without a personal car, because it got totaled in an accident (not my fault). I use my wife’s car to get to the college from home, but I use public transit to get from my job in Boston to our apartment building. I usually do not get to the college in time for evening prayer. The night I was to lead evening prayer, I made sure I took an earlier train and bus, and I was on the road earlier than usually. But the traffic was heavy that night, and I got to the college with only minutes to spare. I rushed up the stairs to the chapel, while also muting my mobile phone. At the top of the stairs, I tripped on the last step; fell onto the slate floor, landing on my right shoulder.

I dislocated my shoulder, damaged it so much that it will continually dislocate until I have surgery. My right arm is in a sling, I am trying to type this with my left hand. The thought occurs to me, was my hastiness born of a desire to worship God, or of pride of being a leader of prayer that night? And is this a test of humility? Something to ponder.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Remembering Four Brave Women

Today, December 2nd was the 30th Anniversary of the murders of Sisters Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and lay woman Jean Donovan, in El Salvador. Both America magazine, and the National Catholic Reporter websites have columns remembering it.

When I heard of this tragedy, I was with the Franciscan Friars in New York City. Maybe it was because I was a regular contributor to the Maryknoll Society, two of the sisters were members, and this event really touched me.

These American women served the poor in a foreign land, striving to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this, they were considered a threat to the established order, and were kidnapped, assaulted, and killed.

They offered themselves totally in the service of others, with courage, patience and perseverance, despite the threats, and dangers. They should be an example to us all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Sad Sign Of The Times

Yesterday, I tried to give blood at a Red Cross Blood Drive being sponsored by St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, MA. The line of would be donors was too many, and soon my lunch hour was over and I had to leave without giving blood. (Note to self, next time, make an appointment to donate!)

As I was leaving the Shrine through its rear entrance, I noticed a very, very, long line of people. They were waiting to get into the Shrine's Franciscan Food Center. The Center, besides it usual food stuffs, was giving away turkeys, and other Thanksgiving day fixings.

Now, because of logistical requirements the people had to line up in the rear of the Shrine, out of sight of the office people walking down Arch St. But out of sight, should not not mean out of mind. Where ever there is a donation site, please give something for those who need so much help, especially now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Suffering of Middle Eastern Catholics - My November Fraternity Newsletter Column

“They (Secular Franciscans) have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.” (Art. 6a, SFO Rule)

Recently, an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops concerning the Middle East was held at the Vatican; attended mostly by Eastern Catholic patriarchs and bishops. Sadly, it was not long after the Synod concluded that an Eastern Catholic church in Baghdad was attacked by terrorists; killing a number of laity and clergy.

In the past, there was a significant number of Catholic Christians in the Middle East, mostly Eastern rite Catholics. Many Western Catholics may not have been aware of their existence. Their first view of them may have been at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, when a group of Eastern patriarchs, offered prayers for the deceased pontiff. Since the Israeli – Arab conflict began; the community of Christians in the Holy Land has significantly decreased. Palestinian Christians face suspicion from both the Israeli and Moslem communities. This pressure has caused many Christian families to leave the Middle East for what they hope will be safer lands. In other countries in the Middle East, native Christians face discrimination, at worst, violent attacks, especially in Iraq.

As we are approaching the season of Advent, and the celebration of Christmas, a significant day of celebration in the Holy Land, let us remember our Eastern rite brothers and sisters. Let us keep them in our prayers, for their safety and well-being.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Queen and The Pope

Compared to Pope Benedict’s visit to Great Britain; there seems to have been very little coverage of his trip to Spain. So it was not until I read the November 9th posting on the Pray Tell blog; that I learned that Queen Sofia of Spain received Communion in her hand from the Holy Father. Now it is well known that the Pope does not approve of reception in the hand, and people receiving Communion from him, must be kneeling and receive on the tongue. There is a picture of the Queen making a profound bow, with her cupped hands held out and the Pope placing the host in them. In the background is a group of clergy with various degrees of consternation on their faces.

Now, there has been no speculation on why she did it. Was she making a statement? Was it force of habit? I am sure nobody will ever know for sure. Part of me thinks one should follow papal protocol. The other part is shouting “You go girl!”

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Parish Divided in Wisconsin

“Canon 212: #2) The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones and their desires. #3) According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.”

Going through Deacon Greg Kendra’s blog, “The Deacon’s Bench,” I came across his post concerning a parish in Platteville, WI. The name of it is St. Mary’s Church, and is part of the Diocese of Madison WI. It’s Bishop, Robert Morlino, chose to staff the parish with priests who were members of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest. These priests have been characterized as being very orthodox, very conservative. There has been criticism of their homilies of been strong on orthodox teaching, but lacking in compassion. They also restricted the role of altar servers to boys only, no girls allowed. Whatever other actions they may have taken, it drove close to half of the registered parishioners to sign a petition requesting that Bishop Morlino remove the priests. He responded by voicing his complete support of the priests, and making some very disparaging remarks about the petition signers, claiming that they were members of the radical left, disobedient and disrespectful. After this response, the parishioners used the last effective leverage they had, they began withholding weekly contributions to the parish, and it appears to be biting. Now, not all the parishioners are of one mind on this, some do support the priests. It appears that the parish is becoming polarized.

Now, I will be the first one to admit that the Church is not a democracy. However, the tone of Vatican II concerning the lay faithful is that they are active participants in ministry of the Church. That our leaders should consult with the faithful on matters that can affect the life of the community. And that we have a right to let our Bishops and Pastors know our spiritual needs. If they fail respond to us, do not at least enter into a dialogue to find some resolution; then we have the right to take any legitimate action to get them to respond, including the power of the purse.

Whatever the motives of Bishop Morlino were in assigning these conservative priests, what he now has is a divided parish. And that is a very sorry state of affairs.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Memorial For St. Charles Borromeo - My Evening Prayer Reflection

"God’s flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd’s care”

Today we remember St. Charles Borromeo. He was born in 1538. As a young man, he was made a Cardinal and later on Archbishop of Milan. He achieved these positions of honor the old fashioned way, his uncle was the Pope, Pius IV. Still, he was very talented man; he had some influence in the closing days of the Council of Trent; he was a reformer in his Archdiocese. He visited his parishes; he established colleges and seminaries to train his clergy. When plague struck Milan, he visited the sick, set up hospitals and hospices saw to it that the poor were cared for. In every way he was a true shepherd for his people. Worn out by his work, he died in 1584.

“God’s flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd’s care”

Fast forward a few centuries, a young priest who was the secretary of the bishop of Bergamo, a diocese linked to Milan, came across the letters of Charles Borromeo. He undertook the task of organizing, studying, and publishing those letters. This was a project that he would be involved in for many, many years, even when he was called into the papal diplomatic service. Inspired by Charles Borromeo, this now bishop and diplomat, wherever he was posted, he was a pastor to the Catholic community there, large or small. He was a shepherd first and a diplomat second. He finally finished the last volume of Borromeo letters in 1957; in 1958 he was elected Pope, and chose the name John.

“God’s flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd’s care”

We, who hope to be future deacons, are called to assist the Archbishop in shepherding this Christian community, helping to care for it. Remember what St. Peter said, God’s flock is in our midst, the people we are to care for, to help pasture, are all around us, in our families, our workplaces, on the streets. At any moment, in any place, we may the opportunity to provide a shepherd’s care.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Feast of All Souls

God, our creator and redeemer, by your power Christ conquered death and returned to you in glory. May all your people, especially those we remember today,who have gone before us in faith share his victory and enjoy the vision of your glory for ever, where Christ lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever.– Amen.

From the Liturgy of the Hours

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Cardinals Named, The Southern Hemisphere Still Ignored

On October 20th, Pope Benedict XVI created 24 new Cardinals. John Allen of National Catholic Reporter has reported on the appointments and has provided some anaylsis. Some observations, he made was the apparent "re-Italianization" of the College of Cardinals, and continued lack of representation of the Church in the Southern Hemisphere. To me, it is another indication that the Pope's concern about the declining Church in Europe, is causing him to not be attentive to the countries of the "Global South," where the majority of Catholics now reside. The Vatican ignores these people at the Church's peril.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Change in Papal Coat of Arms, Change In Papal Attitude? UPDATE

Some blogs, including Jerry Filteau on the National Catholic Reporter website, have been commenting on the new papal coat of arms for Pope Benedict XVI that appeared on a banner underneath his window. It definitely has more flourishes, and the bishops’ miter has been replaced by a papal tiara.

When Pope Benedict XVI’s original coat of arms was revealed, I felt that maybe there was something new happening. I have not always been totally fond of Benedict XVI, but this little item gave me some hope. Now, I am not sure what to think. This could be nothing more but a simple change to something more traditional: or it could symbolize a change in attitude about leadership, from servant leadership to power leadership.

In a Patristic course I am attending, we are reading Henry Chadwick’s book: “The Early Church.” There is chapter in it where he describes what changes occurred in the lifestyles of bishop, during and after the time of Constantine. These early bishops began to receive imperial honors and positions. They adopted attire that matched their new social rank. Some bishops were known for their entertaining of members of the upper classes. The hierarchy became more attached to the imperial rulers, and when the Roman Empire fell, they attached themselves to the lords and kings that rose up. The pomp of the Roman Catholic Church matched the civil rulers’ pomp of the times.

Some, but not all, bishops seem to forget what Jesus preached, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark: “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” (Mark 10: 43-44)

Pope Paul VI seemed to realize that, when he seriously began to reduce that amount of pomp and circumstance that was the papal court. And he dispensed with the papal tiara, using only the bishop’s miter. I pray that Benedict XVI will remember that example.
Reports have it that there was enough noise in the Catholic blogosphere that the Vatican press liaison spoke to reporters about the changed coat of arms. The story is that the new banner was a gift to the Holy Father, and they decided to use it, not realizing the uproar it could cause. The Vatican has stated that there has been no change in the Pope's official coat of arms. There is some commentary on the National Catholic Reporter website.

Second Update

For those looking for information on the coat of arms of Pope Francis, please click here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Feast of Blessed John XXIII - October 11, 2010

I am one of those who sometimes loses track of the liturgical calendar. So I was surprised when I looked at my St. Anthony Guild's calendar hanging in my cubicle and saw that October 11th was the feast day of Blessed John XXIII.

I was a child during his pontificate, though I do not remember much of the events that surrounded his death. When I was in high school, I read a biography of him published by the Daughters of Saint Paul, I remember a book of his most humorous sayings and encounters. Blessed John XXIII did much to change the image of the Papacy. From the stiff images of his predecessors, and the strick formalities of the papal office; the world saw this roly poly little man, with a big smile. We saw a father, who did not always follow protocol if the situation required it.

When lists of the most influential persons of the 20th Century came out, Pope John Paul II's name always appears on the lists. Probably because his was among the longest pontificates in history. But for me, Pope John XXIII, who served for a relatively short time, belongs on those lists. His was the foresight, the skills, to bring about the Second Vatican Council, that put the Church on the road of renewal. Happy Feast Day!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi - My October Fraternity Newsletter Column

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.” (Art. 4a, SFO Rule)

This month we celebrated again the life and work of Saint Francis of Assisi, who has attracted thousands of people from all corners of the earth, from all faiths. What is it about him that makes so many people come after him? He was not a well-educated man; at the very least he had what we would call an elementary school education. He was not an imposing figure, Thomas of Celano, in his description, gives the impression that Francis was a slight, delicate looking man. What is it about him that has attracted so many people?

Part of the attraction has been Francis’s love for God’s creation and the way he related to all God’s creatures. The picture of Francis walking amongst the birds, taming the wolf of Gubbio, has struck a cord with many people. But beyond this image, there is the image of Francis as one who had an intimate relationship with God, who was committed totally to living the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This relationship, this commitment transformed him, he became a man of compassion, a man of love, a man of peace. To see this transformation come about in an ordinary man like us gives all of us hope that we too can experience God’s love as he did, and be transformed as he was.

We should all try to take the time to read the early biographies of Francis’s life, but more importantly, we should try to read and reflect on his own writings. Through his writings, he can inspire us; he can show us how to open our own hearts and minds to the Spirit of God. As he said to his brother friars, he also now says to us: “I have done what was mine to do; may Christ teach you what you are to do.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sister Joan Chittister OSB on St. Francis of Assisi

I do not always agree with everything that Sister Joan has written, but I like this little essay
she wrote for the the National Catholic Reporter website; on St. Francis

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 - Religious Tolerance: My September Fraternity Newsletter Column

“Secular Franciscans are called to make their own contribution, inspired by the person and message of Saint Francis of Assisi, towards a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, shared responsibility, and love may be living realities.

They should deepen the true foundations of universal kinship and create a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of fraternity everywhere. They should firmly commit themselves to oppose every form of exploitation, discrimination, and exclusion and against every attitude of indifference in relation to others.” (Article 18: 1-3; General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order)

We are gathering as a fraternity on September 11, 2010. 9/11, not since December 7th, 1941, has a date had such an impact on the psyche of our nation. It has been 9 years since that tragic day, and we are now beginning to see more signs of what the media has been calling “Islamophobia.” The desire of some American Muslims to build an Islamic cultural center near what has been called “Ground Zero,” has touched a raw nerve, which has set ablaze a wave of anti-Islamic anger and attacks. Not only in New York City, but in other communities, people have been protesting even the legitimate building of Islamic centers or mosques.

We Catholics should remember that is not that long ago that anti-Catholic sentiment swept the nation. Catholics were restricted on where to build churches. Any Catholic was thought to owe their allegiance to a foreign leader (the Pope); and therefore not a true American. Even during the colonial days of Massachusetts, a Catholic, Baptist, a Quaker could be whipped, even hung for their beliefs. It was to defend religious minorities from the intolerance of the religious majority, expressed through the State, for which the First Amendment was made to the Constitution.

In Francis’s day, for a Christian knight to kill a Muslim was considered an honor, and vice versa. When Francis approached the Sultan’s camp, unarmed, with love in his heart, his goal was to end the killing by converting the Muslim army. He failed, but he earned the respect of the Sultan by his courteous approach. It is this example that we need to emulate, whenever we encounter our Muslim brothers and sisters. It is time that we stop this hate that is gripping our country. It is time for us to be true instruments of peace.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"What Happened at Vatican II" - A Review and Reflection

I recently finished an excellent book by Fr. John W. O’Malley, “What Happened at Vatican II.” It is a very readable account of the Second Vatican Council, which ran from1962 to 1965.

He begins by the outlining the condition of the Catholic Church in the decades leading up to Vatican II, the view of the Church, the hierarchy, the place of the laity within the Church at that time, the involvement of the Church in the world of the 19th and early 20th century.

He then describes the opening of the Council, and covers the main events of the four sessions; the documents, the debates, the behind the scenes, and the results. He writes a narrative that anyone can understand and appreciate.

Reading this book has given me a new appreciation of the accomplishments of Vatican II, what the Council Fathers were striving for, what the spirit of the Council was, and how endangered that spirit is.

For me, the main themes of the Council of importance are first of all that we are all called to holiness. That all the baptized have a share in the prophetic, priestly, and kingly ministries of Jesus Christ.

This means that the laity are no longer observers of the liturgy, but are called to be active participants in it. The laity, as did the clergy, received the command from Christ to proclaim the Good News, by word and life. The means that the laity has a voice concerning the life of the Church, letting their pastors know their needs, sharing their opinions on issues of importance for the Church.

I still sense distrust among some of the bishops about the laity; that the laity must be kept separated from the sanctuary; that the sacred acts must be hidden from their eyes; that they are unworthy to receive the Body of Christ in their hands. There are bishops who have forgotten that they are called to be servant leaders, not lords. That they must listen to the laity, as they share their experiences, and struggles of living the Gospel.

Many wonderful things came out of Vatican II. Their implementation has been a long, slow process, with mistakes being made, and sometimes a desire to turn back the clock. I can only hope and pray that the power of the Holy Spirit will overcome our human weakness, enflame our hearts once again, and keep the spirit of Vatican II alive.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another Priest Scandal - Father Was A Terrorist

The past year had been designated by Pope Benedict XVI as the “Year of the Priest,” an opportunity to celebrate the service provided by the thousands of dedicated men to the global Church. Unfortunately, it has been the year that the clergy sexual abuse scandal was revealed to be happening in Ireland, and Europe. Now the British press, including the BBC, has been reporting that one of the suspected IRA planners of the 1972 Claudy bombing, one of the worst acts of terror during Northern Ireland’s Troubles; was a Catholic priest. Not only that, but a government investigation also revealed that the British officials of that time, with Catholic Church officials hushed the matter up, and transferred the priest, Father James Chesney, to the Republic of Ireland. He would die there in 1980.

Now there have been cases throughout history, where priests have been more warriors than shepherds of their churches, but that a priest could be involved in act of terror is mind boggling. And the story of Father Chesney is another scandal that the priesthood and the Church could have done without.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Boston Archdiocese Blocks A Blog

The local Boston media, including the Boston Globe, has been reporting about how the Archdiocese of Boston has been blocking computer access to a blog called The Boston Catholic Insider. No Archdiocesan employee can view the blog using an Archdiocesan computer. The blog has been attacking Archbishop Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM CAP for being a poor administrator; and other officials of cronyism, padding their salaries, and shady business deals. They seem to really pile the vitriol on Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, the Archdiocese Secretary of Social Services.

I will admit that I only did a cursory look at the site, but what I did see did not impress me; a lot of verbiage, a clanging cymbal, signifying nothing. The fact that no authors are willing to put their names to these accusations further lowers my respect for this blog.

Now whether it was a good idea for the Archdiocese to block this blog, I am not sure. However, as an employer, the Archdiocese does have the right to set conditions on how employees use Archdiocesan computers to access the Internet.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The New Missal is Coming Soon!

So the announcement is out, the new English translation of the Roman Missal will be implemented during the season of Advent in 2011. As I have written previously, I have had concerns about this translation and the process by which it came about. I will express one more, in that the work of translation was carried out with little or no consultation with the lay faithful. Since we are the majority of participants in the liturgy, some means of consultation should have been established. The translators, the officials who approved the translation, should have been open to feedback from the laity, open to hearing our reactions and concerns about these changes in the translation.

Now it is coming, and now it is important for the bishops, liturgists, and priests not to screw up this implementation; as happened when the vernacular was first introduced. It is not enough to school the laity on how to pray the new translation; we need to know why the changes were made, why the changes make liturgical and theological sense. And a means must be provided for some of us to be able vent our frustrations, our anger over the translation; and know we are being listened to, and our opinions respected.

Strap on your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen, this could be a bumpy ride!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Update on Theft of Relic of the True Cross

Earlier I had commented on the theft of a relic of the Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Yesterday, the New England news outlets, including the Boston Globe, were reporting on the relic’s recovery in Vermont. The Archdiocese of Boston issued the following public statement:

Archdiocese statement on return of the Relic of the True Cross

"Our prayers have been answered as the Relic of the True Cross has been recovered. We are grateful for the great work of the Boston Police Department in their search for the relic. Their professional and diligent work made this effort successful. We also extend our appreciation to the Vermont State Police who assisted in the recovery effort. God has blessed us with His love and capacity to forgive. We prayerfully carry on His call for forgiveness for those responsible."

At a time when many works of art, like the paintings from the Isabella Gardner museum, remain missing; it is wonderful that the relic was recovered in such a short amount of time. This story of its theft and recovery will probably go under the category of “Truth is Stranger than Fiction.”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My August 2010 Column for Secular Franciscan Fraternity Newsletter

“Trusting in the Father, Christ chose for himself and his mother a poor and humble life, even though he valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.” (Art. 11, SFO Rule)

On August 11, we celebrated the memory of Saint Clare of Assisi, co-founder with Saint Francis of the Second Order, then known as the Poor Ladies of San Damiano, and today known as the Poor Clares. We sometimes think of her and her sisters as the contemplative branch of the Franciscan family, but I would like to share a reflection on another aspect of Clare’s life and spirituality.

When the Poor Ladies were established at San Damiano, Clare requested a special privilege from the Pope and the Bishop of Assisi, the privilege of poverty. Her monastery would depend only on the income from the work of their hands, or from alms given to them. At a time when the established monasteries had huge incomes from the rents on lands gifted to them, and the dowries of the women who entered the monasteries, this was unheard of. The Popes of Clare’s time continually refused this request, believing that the Poor Ladies needed income and sustenance that only lands and endowments could provide. Now Clare was not an ascetic masochist, nor did she see poverty as an end. She saw evangelical poverty as a means to an end. As she and her sisters gazed on the San Damiano cross, they saw Christ, though He was the Son of God, willing to empty Himself for all humanity. And Clare realized that to follow Christ meant emptying oneself of all possessions, of the need to possess and control, and be dependent on the love of God. Thus, she held out against the Pope, until finally he relented and gave Clare and her sisters the privilege of poverty. She received the written permission shortly before her death.

We are also called to empty ourselves so that we can be open and receptive to the love of God. We, too, are called to empty ourselves and share the gifts of that love with everyone. Let us ask for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, let us be inspired by the lives of Francis and Clare. Let us have the courage to open our arms and share all that we have for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

They Are Still Not Getting It!

When American media and commentators reference persons, or organizations being “within the Beltway,” they are referring to politicians and government bureaucrats who have an inward, insular focus on events and situations in the country; that is totally out of touch with the rest of the country.

The same can definitely be said of the Vatican. Whether it is the fiasco of issuing a statement that seem to equate the clergy sexual abuse scandal with the ordination of women, or this decision on the Irish bishop’s resignations. Now John Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter has offered some insights on what the Pope’s and the Vatican Curia’s thinking may have been. But no matter what valid reasons there may have been, perception is everything. And the perception is that this Pope is willing to give bishops a pass, no matter how culpable they may have been in the cover-up.

It is ironic, that when Pope Benedict XVI was Cardinal Ratzinger, he was more than ready to either remove or reduce the authority of Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, formerly of Seattle, WA, for his liberal views.

The Vatican needs to recognize that there is a lot of anger and disaffection among Catholics in America and Europe. And they need to do a better job in addressing, and soon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

And So the Path Changes Again!

This past year I have wondering where the Holy Spirit has been leading me. There have been moments of hope, only to have reality come crashing in; and know I am not sure where I am heading. There is also a bit of anger at God, wishing He had not urge me down a certain path; only to have it change so suddenly, so disappointly.

More than ever, I need this prayer written originally by Thomas Merton:

O Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me, I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, And that fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire to please You. And I know that if I do this You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Stewards Of The Goods Received For The Benefit of God's Children"

“Trusting in the Father, Christ chose for himself and his mother a poor and humble life, even though he valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.” (Art. 11. a, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

Let me begin by making a confession, I am not the most friendliest person in the morning. I prefer a quiet car ride, just listening to National Public Radio; and a quiet subway ride into the city. So needless to say, when my car was recently totaled in an accident (not my fault) and I was forced to walk to a local bus stop to begin a longer commute, I was not a happy camper. One recent morning, I am waiting for the bus, when a young fellow came up on a bike, asking about what bus I was waiting for, and when it was arriving. He needed to get to Lynn, and there was something wrong with his bike. I answered his questions, in an annoyed voice, unfortunately. He joined me on the bench, waiting for the bus.

The bus came, and I got on, and the young fellow put his bike on the rack that most MBTA buses have. He came on the bus and discovered he only had a $20.00 bill, and T buses do not make change. So he was asking all us on the bus if we could break a $20 bill. I could not, but I had enough change and small bills to cover his fare. So I gave it him. Again, I must confess, I was not the most joyful giver.

Why did I do it? Maybe in the back of my mind, I hearing the above article of the SFO Rule: “…they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.” I think we all have a tendency to think of grand gestures and actions to fulfill the Rule of life we profess. But sometimes it is the smallest gesture that can sometimes be the greatest challenge.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Our Father and Francis of Assisi

This Sunday"s Gospel reading was about how Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, and gave us the "Our Father." Francis of Assisi paraphrased the "Our Father":

"OUR FATHER MOST HOLY, our creator and redeemer,our Savior and Consoler.
WHO ARE IN HEAVEN, in the angels and saints enlightening them that they may know you, for you, Lord, are love, dwelling in them and filling them with your divinity, that bliss may be theirs, for you, Lord, are the highest Good, the eternal Good, from whom all goodness flows,without whom nothing is good.
YOUR NAME BE HELD HOLY: may our knowledge of you shine ever more clearly within us,that we may perceive the breadth of your blessings, the extent of your promises, the height of your majesty, the depth of your judgements.
YOUR KINGDOM COME: rule us now, through grace,and bring us at last to your kingdom of light where we shall see you as you are,and our love for you will be made perfect,our union blissful, our joy unending, in you.
YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IN HEAVEN: may we love you with all our heart,ever thinking of you;with all our soul,ever longing for you;with all our mind,directing all our aims to you and seeking nothing but your glory;with all our strength,spending all our energies and all our senses of soul and body to serve only your love and nothing else.
May we love our neighbors as ourselves;drawing them all to your love in so far as we can,sharing their good fortune as if it were our own,helping them to bear their trials and doing them no wrong.
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD: your beloved Son our Lord Jesus Christ,that we may remember,understand and revere the love he showed for us,and all he said and did and suffered for our sake.
FORGIVE US OUR SINS: through your mercy beyond words,through the power of the passion of your beloved Son,through the merits and intercession of the Virgin Mary and of all your chosen ones.
AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST US: and that we ourselves cannot fully forgive,make us fully forgive;make us love our enemies,truly, for your sake;teach us how to pray sincerely to you on their behalf;and not to render harm for harm to anyone, but rather try to do good to all, in you!
AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION: whether veiled or visible,sudden or searing and prolonged.
BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL: past, present and to come. Amen "

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Feast of St. Bonaventure - July 15th, 2010

“In the beginning I call upon the First Beginning, from whom all illuminations descend as from the Father of Lights from whom comes every good and every perfect gift.

I call upon the Eternal Father through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, that through the intercession of the most holy Virgin Mary, the mother of the same God and Lord Jesus Christ, and through the intercession of blessed Francis, our leader and father, he may enlighten the eyes of our soul to guide our feet on the way of that peace which surpasses all understanding.

This is the peace proclaimed and given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ and preached again and again by our Father Francis.

At the beginning and end of every sermon he announced peace; in every greeting he wished for peace; in every contemplation he sighed for ecstatic peace like a citizen of that Jerusalem of which that Man of Peace says, who was peaceable with those who hated peace: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” (Prologue, The Soul’s Journey into God, St. Bonaventure)

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

The Boston press has reported on the theft of a very valuable relic from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross; a piece of wood believed to be from the cross on which Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died. It is a great tragedy for the Archdiocese, and the Holy Cross community.

The story had me thinking about the role of relics during the time of Saint Francis of Assisi. Relics were valuable to the people of the time because they were a means of coming in contact with the Divine. Some relics were famous for their ability to heal. Relic could have an economic value for a city or town as well, especially if was the burial site of a popular saint. The community could count on large numbers of pilgrims coming to their city, spending their money, enriching their coffers.

When Francis of Assisi laid dying, the nobles and common people established a guard around him so that the people of Perugia could not raid Assisi and steal his body. When his Basilica was built, the remains of Francis were secretly buried in the church, again to thwart possible thieves. They did such a good job in hiding the body of Francis, that they lost the location for hundreds of years. Now his tomb is visible for all to see in the Basilica named after him.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Who Is My Neighbor?"

“There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘What is written in the law? How do you read it?’ He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ He replied to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.’” (Luke 10: 25-28)

“Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel.” (Article 4c, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

Last Friday, on my drive home from work, my car was rear ended by an SUV. After getting over the shock, I got out of my car and faced the driver of the SUV, who turned out to be a teenager, from Maine yet! My car had a crumbled trunk; the SUV only lost its license plate holder. After we had exchanged information, and we were about to drive off, the SUV driver held out his hand to shake mine. In my mind, my first reaction was to step back and yell “Are you sh@#*&g me?” But something stopped me, maybe the Holy Spirit, and I gave him a half hearted handshake.

The scholar in Luke’s gospel asked Jesus “And who is my neighbor?” Our neighbor is not necessarily someone who happens to live next to us, nor is somebody we are friendly with. Our neighbor can that person who makes us feel uncomfortable when he or she sits next to us on the subway. And our neighbor can a scared kid, who just rear ended our car. In whatever the situation, we need to show respect, courtesy, and care.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"We Hold These Truths.." My July Secular Franicscan Fraternity Newsletter Column

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence – United States of America)

“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. Mindful that anyone who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself, let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.

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.” (Articles 14-15, Secular Franciscan Rule 1978)

Last weekend we celebrated the birth of this nation, that occurred on July 4, 1776. That was the date that the Declaration of Independence was approved. Since then, the above words have been a rallying cry for millions of oppressed people, who seek to secure for themselves those rights that have been given by our Creator God. Since that date, in this nation, there has also been a continually debate on what those “Rights” mean, and how they are to be secured, and for whom. The process has at times been messy. Unfortunately, it has at times been bloody.

It is a process, though, that we as Secular Franciscans are called to engage in. I know that many are disgusted with the way our political system has developed. Public discourse has devolved into name calling, slander, and real hatred. We need to show our local communities, our states, our nation, that it is possible to have a civil debate; it is possible to build a “fraternal” society. We are called not to separate from public life, but to enter into it, so that the poor, the outcast, the forgotten have a voice that will remind all people why this nation was established, to secure those “unalienable rights” that belong to us all.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"How Long Must I Carry Sorrow In My Soul?"

Psalm 13

How long, LORD? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look upon me, answer me, LORD, my God! Give light to my eyes lest I sleep in death,

Lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed," lest my foes rejoice at my downfall.

I trust in your faithfulness. Grant my heart joy in your help, That I may sing of the LORD, "How good our God has been to me!"

It has been said that the Psalms express all the emotions one can experience in his or her relationship with God. Two members of my family have experienced serious illness recently; they are battling cancer. One is recovering from treatment, the other is just beginning hers. To witness their suffering, I am both railing against God, while at the same time begging for His assistance. One moment I am in awe of His power and love; and then I am in despair about His seeming powerlessness. In the end, we need to trust in His faithfulness; and sometimes cry out “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9: 24)

Monday, July 5, 2010

The "New Liturgical Movement"

I came across an article today that is on the National Catholic Reporter website. It was written by John Allen Jr., and deals with Pope Benedict XVI call for a “new liturgical movement,” within the Church. Basically, the Pope appears to trace many problems within the Church to the changes in the liturgy that took place shortly after the Second Vatican Council. He, among others, believes that the Council’s teachings on the liturgy were misinterpreted and changes were taken that has robbed the liturgy of its sense of mystery, transcendence, and a loss of respect for the Eucharist.

It is known that he does not approve of receiving communion in the hand; it would be interesting to know his opinion of receiving communion under both species. And if one views his celebration of the Eucharist at St. Peter’s Basilica, one sees a large cross on the altar, with huge candlesticks, which obscures the congregation’s view of the consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. It almost seems as if the Vatican liturgists believe that only the Pope, bishops, and priests may view this wondrous miracle.

Yet, when the Pope celebrates the Eucharist away from the Vatican, one sees different liturgical set up on the altar, one which everyone I think will recognize from their own parishes. I saw this morning the Pope celebrate Mass in Sulmona, Italy, with the altar unobscured. And even though those receiving communion from the Pope, received on the tongue, there were others who received in the hand from other priests.

As with many things that are happening in the Church, the Pope and the bishops need to listen to us, the laity, on how we are experiencing the Eucharist, and what brings meaning to us.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Auxiliary Bishops for Archdiocese of Boston - And Thoughts of "What If?"

Yesterday, the Boston Archdiocese issued a press release, announcing the Pope's appointment of two new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese. They are Bishop-Elect Arthur L. Kennedy, and Bishop-Elect Peter J. Uglietto. Both men have been recently responsible for the formation of new priests, Kennedy is rector of the archdiocesan St. John's Seminary, Uglietto is rector of the national Blessed John XXIII Seminary.
I am acquainted with Bishop-Elect Uglietto, we were both at St. John's Seminary, he was in a class ahead of me. That makes two Boston auxiliary bishops I have known from my seminary days, the other being Bishop Robert Hennessey. It makes one think "what if?" What if I had decided to stay at the seminary, how would my life had turned out? But thinking "what if?" is like looking over a fence at a neighbor's lawn; the grass always looks greener on the other side. Best to remain focused on the here and now.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sometimes I Really Need This Prayer

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Preserve the Spirit of Prayer and Devotion

“The friars to whom God has given the grace of working should work in a spirit of faith and devotion and avoid idleness, which is the enemy of the soul, without however extinguishing the spirit of prayer and devotion, to which every temporal consideration must be subordinate.” (Chap. 5, 1223 Rule of the Order Friars Minor)

“To Brother Anthony, my bishop, Brother Francis sends greetings. It is agreeable to me that you should teach the friars sacred theology, so long as they do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotedness over this study, as is contained in the Rule. Farewell. (St. Francis of Assisi Letter to St. Anthony of Padua)

“As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.” (Art. 8a, 1978 Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

At the last meeting of my Secular Franciscan fraternity, I closed the opening prayer service with reading the letter of St. Francis to St. Anthony. It seemed appropriate since the following day was June 13th, the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua. Since then, the phrase: “do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotedness,” has continued to come up in my mind. Then, of course, I found the reference in the OFM Rule of 1223: “without extinguishing the spirit of prayer and devotion.” In the bright light of those words from Francis, I have to say that I have fallen short of the mark. In today’s American society, there are so many distractions; television, radio, podcasts, mp3 files, and the Web. Add to that the demands of work and family; we could say there is just not enough time for “prayer and contemplation.”

But I, and I am sure others, will find that we are fooling ourselves. We need to be honest with ourselves about what activities we could give up to make time for prayer. Because prayer is so important, it helps us open ourselves to the Presence of God, become aware of Him, of His love for us. Prayer gives us the opportunity to respond to that love, with thanksgiving and praise. Prayer can enrich us, inspire us, and strengthen us for the day. As Francis had learned and taught, a life dedicated to conversion to the Gospel life, but without the practice of prayer, will fail.

So here I begin again and may the Holy Spirit be with me. And may she give me a quick kick in the rear if I need it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Boston Archdiocesan Newspaper Enters Stormy Waters

The June 4th edition of the Archdiocese of Boston's newspaper, The Pilot, contained a column concerning children of same sex couples being admitted to Catholic parochial schools. The columnist was definitely against the admittance of such children, concerned for the safety of the other children from "pornographic" material coming from the same sex parents, among other things.

By June 10th, the local newspapers, like the Boston Globe, television and radio stations were carrying the story and the reactions and protests of the gay community. The editor of the Pilot apologized, claiming that they try to allow a wide spectrum of opinions concerning Catholic issues. As a long time reader of the Pilot, I have to say that I have never seen any kind of balance in their opinions pages. I rarely see any left of center opinions published. To see such language, to such a presentation, in the official newspaper of the Archdiocese pains me.

To be a Christian is to be compassionate, especially to those persons we do not agree with. Arguments should be reasoned, intelligent, and compassionate, qualities sadly lacking in that column.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

June 13, 2010 - Feast of Saint Anthony of Padua

St. Anthony's Brief
Behold the Cross of the Lord!
Be gone you enemy powers!
The lion of the tribe of Juda,
the root of David has conquered, Alleluia!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saint Celebrity - My June Column for Fraternity Newsletter

“Look at the Good Shepherd, my brothers. To save his sheep he endured the agony of the cross. They followed him in trials and persecutions, in ignominy, hunger, and theist, in humiliations and temptations, and so on. And for this God, rewarded them with eternal life. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves; the saints endured all that, but we who are servants of God try to win honor and glory by recounting and making known what they have done.” (Admonition VI, St. Francis of Assisi)

It could be said that our society is addicted to celebrities; we are fascinated with actors and actresses who are stars, with “beautiful” people who constantly get their pictures in magazines, or have their own reality TV programs. Still for all the gossip and press we read about them, we really do not know that much about them.

I sometimes think we Catholics are too enamored with “spiritual celebrity.” We are so fascinated with the miracles saints performed; the wondrous events of their lives, which we can sometimes fail to see what they can teach us about living the Gospel. This is true with St. Anthony of Padua. We can focus so much on Anthony as the miracle worker; we ignore other aspects of his life. He was a man who trusted the Father’s plan for him, even though it took him down unknown paths. He was a man of deep prayer, who contemplated God’s creation. He was a theologian and a preacher, who knew how to speak to the common man and woman about the love of God.

St. Anthony has a lot to teach us about loving God and others, if we but get beyond the spiritual hype, and listen to what he has to say.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Franciscan Spiritual Father Passes On.

The Friars of Holy Name Province announced the passing of Father Matthew Gaskin, OFM, on June 5th, 2010. He was 88 years old. Since 1982, he had been involved with the Secular Franciscan Order as a Spiritual Assisitant on the local, provincial, and national level. He was a great promoter of the SFO way of life.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Franciscan Response to the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

The Franciscan Action Network has a page on their website with suggestions on how to respond to the Gulf oil spill.

What Have We Done With The Father's Gift?

“Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which bear the imprint of the Most High, and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship” (Article 18, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

As a Franciscan, watching the scenes of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill leaves me full of sorrow. An ocean that is teaming with life surrounded by beautiful beaches and marshes, all of it a gift from a Father who loves us. It is now all spoiled by oil, all because we did not know or we belittled the risks of drilling so deep. We failed to consider the various disaster scenarios, nor prepared the technology to deal with all possibilities. We failed to be responsible with the gift we were given.

Now, all most of us can do is pray that somehow, the well will be stopped; that the beaches will be restored; that some of the creatures will be saved. We will need to open our hearts and our hands to those on the Gulf coast who could lose their livelihoods. And we need to recommit ourselves “to respect all creatures, animate and inanimate.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cardinal O'Malley Named Member of Irish Clergy Child Abuse Investigation Team

Local Boston news outlets, including the Boston Globe and Boston's TV station WCVB, have been reporting that Archbishop Sean Cardinal O'Malley, OFM CAP, has been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, to be one of the Apostolic Visitors to the Church in Ireland. The Apostolic Visitation is charged with investigating the clergy abuse of children scandal that is ripping apart the Irish Catholic Church, and to recommend solutions to the Pope.
Once again, Cardinal O'Malley appears to be one of the Vatican's point men in dealing with this growing scandal, at least in the English speaking Church communities. While he has his critics, in my opinion, Cardinal Sean has done a lot to deal with the scandal here in Boston, and has begun the healing process. That process is no where near completion, nor has the process been perfect; but what he has begun is a lot better than all of the cover ups we in Boston suffered under previous Archbishops.
The task he and the other Visitors are undertaking will be daunting. They will be attempting to break through a wall of silence that has been built up over decades. And they will uncovering crimes, and tragedies; the dark underbelly of Irish Catholicism, that I am sure will challenge any person's faith. Hopefully, as things come to the light of day, as the painful healing process begins for the Irish Church, there will be a rebirth of the faith; as I hope there will also be in here in Boston and the rest of America.
Image from the Boston Globe

Monday, May 24, 2010

Belated Pentecost Reflection

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2: 2-11)

On that day of Pentecost, a fire was lit; it burned in the hearts of all disciples of Jesus. They went out and began proclaiming the Good News, by word and actions, and they passed on that fire to others. During times of persecutions, the flame may have dwindled, but it continued to burn in the hearts of the survivors. It would eventually spread throughout the world.

Now it appears to some that the flame is dying out, in Europe, England, Canada, and the United States. A church historian would describe this area as “the ice belt.” Aspects of modern culture, rampant consumerism, breakdown of civility, loss of trust in Church leadership, have dampened the flame. Many are looking to the faith communities of the southern hemisphere to keep the flame alive. But I say that as long as there is a tiny flicker in our communities, in our hearts, the Spirit can blow, and the flame will burst forth again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Time To Move On. Time For New Beginnings.

The National Catholic Reporter has posted on their website the Catholic News Service story of the Vatican rejecting the appeals of various closed parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston, to reverse the closings. These parishes were closed in 2004, when the Archdiocese determined that they had neither the funds nor the personnel to keep these churches open. At least three of these closed parishes have been occupied by former parishioners, maintaining 24/7 vigils.

I remember well those days; the Archdiocese called it a reconfiguration plan, a process to close inactive parishes. I personally felt that, however necessary it was, the process was ill conceived, and poorly implemented. It was another blow to a Catholic community already battered by the clergy abuse scandal. My own parish was on the short list to be closed. It was a very anxious period, but we survived because we successfully made the case to stay open. That said I really feel that it is time for these former parishioners to accept the inevitable, mourn your losses, and move on. The Catholic community is more than any one parish; it is a body of believers, united with all other believers in the world through our bishops, united in and through the Body of Christ. It is time to rejoin your sisters and brothers in Christ, and seek new beginnings

Monday, May 17, 2010

Franciscan Family Offers Support to the Pope.

In response to the bad press that has been directed towards Pope Benedict XVI, and the calls from several groups, both within and without the Catholic community, for his resignation and/or arrest; many other Catholics have been voicing their support. On April 11, 2010, the Ministers General of the Franciscan Family (OFM, CONV, CAP, TOR, and SFO) sent a letter of support to the Holy Father.

The Catholic News Service reported that on Sunday, May 16, 2010, around 120,000 individuals gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a demonstration of support for the Pope.

The Holy Father has definitely needed these expressions of love and respect. Some of the secular press, columnists, and commentators, have been very savage in their criticisms of Pope Benedict’s actions, or lack thereof. Unfortunately, some of these writers had their own agendas, gotten their facts wrong or taken out of context. Other writers, notably John Allen of National Catholic Reporter, have pointed out the substantive actions Benedict XVI has taken to deal with the scandal, both before and after he became Pope. Now I also believe that this is true, but I also believe that in order for the Church to get beyond this scandal, a lot more needs to be done, a lot more needs to be revealed, a lot more needs to change. Sadly, I feel we are still dealing with only the tip of the iceberg.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

National Catholic Reporter Interview with Archbishop Sean Cardinal O'Malley OFM CAP

Concerning the clergy sexual abuse scandal, one of the American bishops who has done the most to deal with the situation is Cardinal Sean O'Malley OFM CAP, of the Archdiocese of Boston. He has been the Vatican's go to man when it came to dealing with the scandal, in a couple of dioceses before Boston. His approach has lead to some healing of the victims; resolutions of a majority of the lawsuits; and a new confidence in the Archdiocese. Now, I have not always agreed with all of his policies, but overall, Boston has been blessed by his presence.

He has been at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal with Pope Benedict XVI. While there, he was interviewed by John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, which can be accessed by this link.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Times They Are A Changing!!

I was recently going through a local magazine, “The Improper Bostonian,” when I came across an article about Ayla Brown, daughter of Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, former contestant on American Idol, and a student at Boston College. In the article was this picture of her working out with a group of other students. As I looked at the picture, I recognized the building they were in.

Many years (Okay, decades!) ago, I was a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Boston, attending St. John’s Seminary. It was a large campus, with the seminary’s college, and school of theology, archdiocesan offices, and the Archbishop’s residence. In the days, before my time, seminarians were pretty much restricted to the campus. They had built a small gym building, so that they would get needed exercise. When I was there, the building was a little rundown, but still saw a good number of basketball and volleyball games.

When the Archdiocese was deep in debt, on top of the settlement payments to victims of clergy abuse, it sold just about all of the campus to Boston College. It appears that BC is making use of the old gym as a exercise hall. Where once male seminarians played indoor sports, now male and female students are working out. Near the old gym building is the tomb of William Cardinal O’Connell, the first Archbishop of Boston to receive the red hat, and who was a bit of an ecclesial tyrant. He must be spinning in his grave!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mary Protectoress of the Franciscan Family, My May Column for Fraternity Newsletter

“Toward the Mother of Jesus he was filled with an inexpressible love, because it was she who made the Lord of Majesty our brother. He sang special Praises to her, poured out prayers to her, offered her his affections, so many and so great that the tongue of man cannot recount them. But what delights us most, he made her the advocate of the order and placed under her wings the sons he was about to leave that she might cherish them and protect them to the end.” (Second Life of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano)

“Mary, Mother of Jesus, is the model of listening to the Word and of Faithfulness to vocation; we, like Francis, see all the gospel virtues realized in her. The brothers and sisters should cultivate intense love for the most holy virgin, imitation, prayer, and filial abandonment. They should manifest their own devotion with expressions of genuine faith, in forms accepted by the Church.” (Art. 16.1, General Constitutions, Secular Franciscan Order)

At St. Bonaventure University in New York State, the University Chapel has a small side chapel. On the wall behind the altar was a mosaic depicting Mary with the Child Jesus, surrounded by friars. It illustrates how important Mary was to Francis and to the Franciscan Family. Francis asked her to be the Advocate for his order, his movement, before God. She is a model for us on how to live as a follower of Jesus. It begins with listening to His Gospel, then meditating on it, then living it.

One practice of meditation we have is the Franciscan Crown, a form of rosary where one meditates on seven joyful mysteries of Our Lady: 1) The Annunciation; 2) The Visitation; 3) The Birth of Our Lord; 4) The Presentation of Jesus; 5) the Finding of Jesus in the Temple; 6) the Resurrection of Our Lord; 7) The Assumption of Our Lady. The Franciscan Crown dates back to the early 15th Century, it officially became a devotion of the Franciscan Order in 1422. The Crown is a part of our spiritual legacy, during this month of May, Mary’s month, we should strive to learn more about it and practice it, in honor of Our Lady and Protectoress.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Impact on the Future Church

Conventional political wisdom is that every U.S. President wishes to make at least one appointment to the Supreme Court, or at best, several appointments; because he (or she) will then continue to have an impact on the country long after he has left office. The same could be said about the appointment of bishops in the Catholic Church.

Because of his long reign, Pope John Paul II could be said to have the most impact on the life of the Church, for good or ill, than most recent pontificates. And that influence is still being felt. Pope Benedict XVI has made some episcopal appointments, but he now has made a curial appointment that could definitely shape the future of the Church, and will be a part of his legacy. As reported by Rocco Palmo in his blog, “Whispers in the Loggia,” Cardinal Archbishop George Pell of Sydney, Australia, is rumored to soon be appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. This is a sort of good news, bad news story; depending, of course, on your ecclesial point of view. Good news, if the rumor is true, observations have been made that this is another instance where the Pope has looked outside the Curia for someone to head a very crucial Vatican post. He is looking for bishops who have been out in the field, with real life experience in leading the local Church. The bad news is that Cardinal Pell is about as conservative as you can get, and is not shy about getting in people’s faces when it comes to certain issues, like the Church’s teachings on sexual relationships, women’s ordination, and the liturgy. Cardinal Pell, with the Holy Father, is on the verge of having an impact on the life of the Church that could be felt long after they both have left the Church’s stage. Heaven help us!