Friday, December 30, 2011

Conflicts over The Place Christ was Born!

One of the scandals of Christianity has been the conflicts between  various Christian denominations over control of the holy sites in the Middle East.  Catholics squabble with Greek Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox will fight with the Armenian Orthodox; each trying to preserve their piece of a holy site. This state of affairs has existed over the centuries.  Now Huffington Post has a story about a fight between Greek and Armenian Orthodox in the ancient Church of the Nativity.  The church is supposed to enclose the site where tradition holds Jesus Christ was born. 

So in a place that celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace, Christian clergy are fighting with each other like street gangs over turf.  I can never understand why there is this lack of cooperation, lack of charity, and possessiveness.  Whatever happened to “They will know we are Christians by our love?” 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Greeting

Here’s Hoping That Everyone Had A Very Merry And Holy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Lovely SFO Lady Passes Away

While surfing the Web, I came across the announcement that Emanuela De Nunzio, SFO, had passed away on November 10, 2011.  She had been an Italian member of the Secular Franciscan Order since 1949.  After Vatican II, the SFO underwent a renewal, one of the results being that all the worldwide fraternities were united under one Minister General.  Ms. De Nunzio was elected as Minister General in 1990, and again in 1996.

Among her achievements was to get the Secular Franciscan Order recognized as an equal, and valuable part of the Franciscan Movement, and became the first Secular Franciscan to join the Conference of the Franciscan Family, with the other Ministers General.  She also promulgated the revised SFO Constitutions in 2001.

A true servant of God, and daughter of Saint Francis, she will be missed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Princes of the Church on Twitter

Slowly but the surely, the Web is making inroads among the Princes of the Church.  A posting from the Vatican Insider has a story about Cardinals using Twitter.  It listed some of the top users, those with the largest number of followers.  Among them is Boston’s own Archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap.  The reporter estimated that Cardinal Sean has about 1,993 Twitter followers, placing him in third place among those Cardinals who are active on Twitter.  Read more.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Changes Coming In The Archdiocese of Boston

Some of the local Boston MA media outlets have a report of the Archdiocese of Boston announcing a new reorganization plan for the Catholic parishes; among them WBZ, Channel 4.

According to the reports, the local parishes will be organized into collaborative groups, sharing resources and staff, under one pastor. Redundant staff members could be laid off, and theoretically the group could decide to close a church to conserve resources.

Members of the Council of Parishes, an organization dedicated to preventing the closing of parishes, has already denounced the plan. They claim that the implementation of this reorganization could lead to the closing of hundreds of parishes. Some are accusing Cardinal Sean O’Malley of defying the Vatican, which recently prevented a local diocese from closing church buildings.

First, the exact details of the plan have not been released. Priests of the Archdiocese are to be briefed next week, and then the laity. Second, we cannot continue the same path we have been, hoping to keep all parishes opened, all parishes independent. The Catholic Church in Boston does not have the finances or the clergy to do that. This challenging situation requires thinking outside the box, new solutions. The experience of Catholic community must never remain static, but evolves in response to changing times. As long as the local communities, whatever their makeup, their shape, are united with their bishop, the Catholic Church lives.

I hope I can keep myself open to these changes, that the Holy Spirit will help me see the Father’s will in what is about to happen. And that I always remember that, no matter where we are, what community I eventually belong to, we are all united in the Body of Christ.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day - A Franciscan Reflection

Among the stories about St. Francis of Assisi is the one where Francis and his companion, Brother Masseo, had gone through an Italian town, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Evening was coming, so they went around the town, begging alms for their evening meal.  Francis, thin and gaunt, was not too successful; while Masseo, a handsome lad, was able to gather a few whole loafs of bread.  They met outside of town, and found a flat stone next to a running brook of clear water. 

After they had placed their food on the stone, Francis looked at the scene, sighed and said to Masseo that they had so much to be thankful for; they were not worthy of such great gifts.  Masseo thought that Francis had been in the sun too long.  Here they were, sitting in an open field; no table or place settings; and only with just enough bread to keep hunger at bay.  Francis replied that they should be thankful, for everything they had, the bread, the stone that was their table, the brook that would provide their drink; this all came not from their efforts, but from God, their Father. 

The Father, in great ways and small, continues to show His love for us.  He helps us through the bad times, helps us see the beauty, the good at all times in our lives.  So let us be thankful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is the Current Meeting of US Bishops Missing the Point?

There have been many news stories about how disaffected most Americans have been with their government, be it local, state, or federal. Especially on the federal level, many citizens believe that the politicians are more interested in beating each other up, rather than assisting people, who are suffering from unemployment. They see American politicians as being indifferent to their plight.

The National Catholic Reporter’s website provides a link to a commentary on the Baltimore Sun’s website; Baltimore is the city which is hosting a meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. The commentator, Francis X. Doyle, who was formerly with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, makes the observation that while Americans are going through the stresses of massive unemployment, home foreclosures, and national uncertainty, the bishops are not addressing any of these issues at their national meeting.

Now, I would make the observation that while the issues being discussed by the bishops are important, the people need their pastors, their shepherds to speak words of comfort, of hope to them. The last thing they need is to have their immediate concerns ignored by the very men charged with caring for them.

Catholic laity’s opinion of the US bishops is slowly beginning to improve. The bishops risk losing that growing goodwill if they fail to address what is worrying most of American Catholic families, right now.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day. Another Patron Saint For Veterans

(For Veterans Day, here is a revised posting from 2009.)

There is a tradition in the Catholic Church to designate a saint as a patron for certain occupations, groups, or movements.  St. Francis of Assisi has been designated as the patron saint of Italy, Catholic Action, animals, and the environment. A patron saint is considered a special intercessor before God for an either group of people with a specific profession, illness and who work for special causes. I would like to make the suggestion that St. Francis be considered the patron saint of veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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

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

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

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cardinal Sean Has Some Juice!

We Catholics in America, and Boston in particular, have our own opinions about Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM CAP., Archbishop of Boston. Personally, I think he has done a fine job of beginning the healing process for the Archdiocese. It is interesting to see how others see him, especially the European press. Cardinal O’Malley is in Rome, along with other American bishops for their ad limina visits with Pope Benedict XVI. The website Vatican Insider, sponsored by the Italian newspaper LaStampa, described him as “the champion of the fight against sexual abuse.”
It is perhaps a sign of how much regard the Vatican has for Cardinal O’Malley that Vatican Insider reported that he was the first American bishop to be received by the Pope, and that the meeting was held three days ahead of schedule.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Feast of All Saints - 2011

“Observe, all my brothers, the good shepherd, who in order to save his sheep has undergone the passion of the cross. The sheep of the Lord have followed him in tribulation and in persecution, disgrace and hunger, in weakness and in temptation and in similar things. So the great disgrace for us servants of God is that by retelling the activities of the holy ones we ourselves want to receive the glory and honor.” (Admonition VI, Francis of Assisi)

This day, the Church recognizes and celebrates all those unknown Saints who may have walked amongst us. All of us are called to a life of holiness, all of us struggle to achieve that goal. There are many individuals in the history of the Church who have achieved that goal, unrecognized by our Christian community; but are known by God. By their intercession, may we receive the grace to also finish the race, to reach the goal.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Sad Fact 60% Of American Catholics Believe!

“An official asked him (Jesus) this question, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother.’ ‘And he replied, ‘All of these I have observed from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this he said to him, ‘There is still one thing left for you; sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ But when he heard this he became quite sad, for he was very rich.” (Luke 18: 18-23)

“What good is it; my brothers, if someone say he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2: 14-17)“Francis sympathized lovingly and compassionately with those stricken with any physical affliction and he immediately referred to Christ the poverty or deprivation he saw in anyone. He was kind and gentle by nature and the love of Christ merely intensified this. His soul melted at the sight of the poor or infirm and where he could not offer material assistance he lavished his affection.” (Bonaventure, Major Life of St. Francis of Assisi, Chap. 8, Para. 5)

Sometimes, something has to be reported on television before it really grabs you. This happened to me today. I have glanced at the stories being reported by the National Catholic Reporter, from the survey they helped sponsored concerning Catholics in America. What I missed was a fact reported by the television program Religion and Ethics Newsweekly; that 60% of American Catholics believe that you do not have to donate anything to help the poor, nor work for the poor, and still can consider yourself a “good” Catholic!

Now I really went ballistic over this. If one looked at the tradition of the Church; if one examines the lives of a majority of Catholic saints, I believe, one sees a constant theme of how important service to the poor is in the life of the Church. And I do not mean just the charitable institutions of the Church, I mean the entire community of believers. If one believes in Jesus Christ, one follows the teachings Jesus Christ, to love God with all our heart and soul; and to love our neighbors. And that does not just mean our middle class neighbors, it means all of them, poor, disabled, and foreigner.

We are called to share the love of Christ we experience through the Eucharist with everyone we come in contact, by any means at our disposal. By our words and actions, we are to show to the world the power of the Gospel we preach. If we cannot live the faith we believe in, each of us individually, then that faith is truly dead. And the world will cast us aside.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spiritual Food

“As bread is food for the body and holiness is food for the soul, so spiritual prayer is food for the interior mind.”  (Evagrios of Pontus)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Words From St. Francis of Assisi

“We should wish for nothing else and have no other desire; we should find no pleasure or delight in anything except in our Creator, Redeemer, and Saviour; he alone is true God, who is perfect good, all good, every good, the true supreme good, and he alone is good, loving and gentle, kind and understanding; he alone is holy, just, true and right; he alone is kind, innocent, pure, and from him, through him, and in him is all pardon, all grace, an all glory for the penitent, the just, and the blessed who rejoice in heaven.”
(St. Francis of Assisi, The Non-Approved Rule of 1221)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My October Column for My Secular Franciscan Fraternity Newsletter

Earlier this week, we celebrated the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.  What came to my mind was a story in the Little Flowers of St. Francis, in which Brother Masseo asks Francis, "Why does the world come after you?"  Francis responded that people came after him because they saw how the power of God's love could work such miracles through such a poor, ignorant, sinful man like himself.  It was the example of his life, this witness to God's grace working in a very human person that drew people to Francis. 


What draws people to St. Francis today?  For some, it might be the stories about Francis, others may have read the Francis comic book, and others may have seen a movie about him.  Most, however, have been drawn to Francis because of the example given by the lives of Friars, Poor Clares, Third Order Regular Brothers and Sisters, and, hopefully, those Secular Franciscans they have come in contact with.  This is the responsibility that all of us who call ourselves Franciscan share, to keep the spirit of Francis alive and fresh in our world today.  We do this by reading and reflecting on his words, on his life, then seeing how we can apply his example to our own struggle to live the Gospel life.


We have a spiritual legacy to be proud of and to celebrate.  If that legacy is to last through the 21st Century and beyond, we cannot be complacent.  We need to allow Francis to continue challenge us to go farther, strive higher, and go deeper in our life with God. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi - 2011

St. Francis of Assisi came as a light of hope to a world in darkness.  It was a world where kings and nobles were at constant warfare with each other, often sweeping up innocent peasants into the fires of wars.  It was a world where the Church was afflicted by scandal, where clerics were more interested in declaring complex doctrines then preaching to the needs of their flock.  It was a world where lay people suffered from a spiritual hunger, longing to hear the Good News proclaimed and to see it lived.

Into this world came Francis, the little poor man of Assisi, walking on bare feet, with a song on his lips, a caring look in his eyes and a holy fire in his heart.  He had encountered the living Christ through prayer, word and sacrament.  Responding to that encounter, Francis strove to change his life, to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Where there was greed and desire for power, he lived a life of evangelical poverty, simplicity and humility.  Where there was strife and division, Francis was a peacemaker.  Where there were poor and abandoned people, he brought love and acceptance.  Where there was loss of faith, Francis inspired people to believe again in the love, power and glory of God.

In a modern world that in some ways is no different from the world of Francis’s time, we are all called to be lights of Christ.  In small ways and great, inspired by Francis, each one of us is to bring love, joy and peace to a world that is in strife, wallowing in hate and burdened with fear.  Each of us is part of the legacy of the Poverello.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Question of Girl Altar Servers

America magazine’s editors have commented on the situation in the Diocese of Phoenix, AZ, concerning the change of policy by the diocesan cathedral. Girls will no longer be able to be altar servers. That role will be reserved solely for boys. One of the reasons given by the rector of the cathedral was that having only altar boys encouraged vocations for the priesthood. Now, the cynic in me believes that there is another underlining reason for this policy change. And that is the feeling that still exists among some of the clergy that women are unworthy to be in the sanctuary during the celebration of the Eucharist.

Now when I heard about this policy, I got ill. Yes, I know canonically, bishops and pastors have the power to designate who can be altar servers, but to deny girls that honor is unwise, and reinforces the world view that women are second class members of the Church. And keep in mind that a majority of those who are active in the social, educational and charitable life of the Church are women. And that the majority of persons attending Mass are women.

In Scripture, we are told by St. Paul that in Christ there is neither male nor female. The Council Fathers of Vatican II have told us that all the baptized share in the priesthood of Christ, and all are called to actively participate in the Eucharist. Yes, each has their own unique role in that worship, but I do not see any valid theological reason to restrict the role of altar server to only males. And despite what some bishops and pastors may say, this is a matter of justice within the Church.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael

O glorious prince St. Michael,
chief and commander of the heavenly hosts,
guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits,
servant in the house of the Divine King
and our admirable conductor, you who shine with excellence
and superhuman virtue deliver us from all evil,
who turn to you with confidence
and enable us by your gracious protection

to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

Monday, September 26, 2011

To Serve At The Altar of The Lord

On Saturday, September 24th, 2011, my fellow classmates and I were installed as Acolytes. It is a step in our formation for the Permanent Diaconate. The ceremony took place during the celebration of the Eucharist at the Bethany Chapel, in the Archdiocese of Boston’s Pastoral Center. The celebrant was Auxiliary Bishop Hennessy.  Our families and friends were present; I had the opportunity to present the Cup to my mother, so that she could receive the Blood of Christ. Overall, it was a very moving, and grace full day.

The following is a description of the office of Acolyte:

Unless they have already done so, candidates for ordination as deacons or priests are to receive the ministries of reader and acolyte and are to exercise them for a suitable time, in order to be better disposed for the future service of the word and altar.
The acolyte is appointed in order to aid the deacon and to minister to the priest. It is his duty therefore to attend to the service of the altar and to assist the deacon and priest in the liturgical celebrations, especially the celebration of Mass; he is to distribute communion as a special minister.

In the same extraordinary circumstances an acolyte may be entrusted with publicly exposing the Blessed Sacrament for adoration by the faithful and afterward replacing, but not with blessing the people. He may also, to the extent needed, take care of instructing other faithful who on a temporary basis are appointed to assist the priest of deacon in liturgical celebrations by carrying the missal, cross, candles, etc., or by performing other such duties. He will perform these functions more worthily if he participates in the Holy Eucharist with increasingly fervent devotion, receives nourishment from it, and deepens his knowledge of it.

As one set aside in a special way for the service of the altar, the acolyte should learn all matters concerning public divine worship and strive to grasp their inner spiritual meaning; in that way he will be able each day to offer himself entirely to God, be an example to all by his gravity and reverence in church, and have a sincere love for the mystical body of Christ, the people of God, especially for the weak and the sick.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Changes In The Reception of Holy Communion In The Dioces of Phoenix

A story that has been causing some ripples in the Catholic blogosphere, has been the report that the Diocese of Phoenix, AZ, has severely restricted the times reception of Holy Communion under both species, bread and wine, is allowed. It can only be offered during special occasions, and not as part of regular Sunday liturgies. I think Pray Tell broke the story first, which was then picked up by The Deacon’s Bench. Both sites have been inundated with comments, so much so that Deacon Kandra has to close the posting to new comments.

For me, this is a very sad turn of events. For me, receiving Holy Communion through just the Host, or both the Host and the Cup, have both been very meaningful, spiritual experiences for me. I have to be honest though, and say that I prefer to be able to receive both the Body and the Blood of my Lord Jesus. It just makes my experience of Eucharist that much more powerful.

One of the reasons given by the Diocese of Phoenix for the change was that wanted to protect the Eucharist from “profanation.” Now my parish has offered the opportunity to receive the Eucharist under both species for about twenty years; and never have I seen any disrespect for the Sacrament. Now have there been accidents, I am sure there have been, ministers of communion are human, recipients are human. That should not the reason to deny the faithful the regular opportunity to receive both the Body and Blood of Christ. Parishes need to insure that extraordinary ministers of communion are properly trained.

One can speculate how much support Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix has from the laity for this change; or whether he cares. It will be interesting to see if there is any blowback from the Catholics of Phoenix, or will they quietly submit.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Prayer For The Upcoming General Chapter Of The Secular Franciscan Order

Prayer for the Worldwide General Chapter of Secular Franciscan Order, October 22-29, 2011, in Brazil

Our Father,
who has called us to follow your Son in the footsteps of St. Francis, grant that, like Francis, we may be converted completely to You and be conformed to your Son and our Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel of your love.  Identified with and converted to Christ, pour into us your Holy Spirit to bear witness to the world how much you loved it to the point of giving of yourself totally in him.  Grant us to believe deep inside that, by your grace alone, we are your true children in Jesus, your Son, and, like him, call upon you and experience you as Abba, Father.  Assist our brothers and sisters to be guided by your Spirit to encourage the Secular Franciscan Order and Franciscan Youth to be fearless, as Francis did, in proclaiming your Gospel with the witness of life and word. Help us through the General Chapter to question ourselves with courage to come out of mediocrity, fatigue, and a often empty and repetitive ritual and become, instead, like Francis, effective instruments of your unconditional love.  May Mary, the Mother whom you gave us at the height of your love, be always near us to guide us toward Jesus, with You, Father, who, in union with the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Local Boy Makes Good

Rocco Palmo, who writes the Whispers In The Loggia blog, has reported that Archbishop Daniel Buechlein, OSB, has resigned as head of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, due to health reasons.  Auxiliary Bishop Christopher Coyne has been appointed as the Apostolic Administrator for the Archdiocese, while a successor archbishop is being selected.

Bishop Coyne is originally from the Boston Archdiocese, being ordained a priest almost twenty five years ago.  He served the Archdiocese in various capacities, which included teaching at the St. John’s Seminary, head of the Archdiocesan Office of Worship, and Communications Director.  He became the Archdiocesan spokesperson during the height of the clergy abuse scandal, and the contentious reorganization of the Archdiocese, which lead to the closing of many Greater Boston parishes.  I remember watching Bishop Coyne being interviewed by Emily Rooney, on the local public television program, “Greater Boston,” skillfully giving the Church’s opinion on the crisis.  Before leaving for Indianapolis, he was pastor of St. Margaret Mary parish in Westwood, MA.

Best of luck, Bishop Coyne!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate - Archdiocese of Boston, September 17, 2011

Today was a joyous occasion for the Archdiocese of Boston; thirteen men were ordained as Permanent Deacons.  I knew all thirteen men and their wives, and I rejoice that they, after many years of hard work, and prayer, have reached this day.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A 2011 Reflection On The Tenth Anniversary of 9/11.

“Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor’s injustice, then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” (Sirach 27: 30-28:2)

“Peter approached Jesus and asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times?’” (Matthew 18: 21-22)

Some may say it is ironic, others would say it is the Spirit of God speaking to us; that the above readings were part of the Liturgy of the Word for the Eucharist celebrated today; September 11th.

It has been 10 years since the terrorist attacks on this country, ten years since we saw the World Trade Center in New York, ablaze and then collapsing into a large heap of rubble. Ten years since we saw the Pentagon on fire, with wounded victims walking across its lawn. Ten years since we saw a smouldering hole in a Pennsylvania field, where an airplane whose passengers had struck back against the terrorists, had crashed. And ten years since we saw crowds in the Palestinian territories and other Arab countries dancing in the streets over the attacks.

There was much grief over the deaths of the victims, sadness for the victim’s families, and anger at the terrorists and those who support them. This desire for vengeance; the desire, the need, to strike back has involved us in two wars which are still being fought. It has created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion of anyone who is of different culture or different faith. We live in a country where Arabic-American citizens are looked upon with suspicion, where hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise.
Against this background, we have the above readings ringing in our ears, prodding us, challenging us to let go of our hatreds, to learn to forgive. And this is not easy, but to follow Jesus is never easy. God calls us to forgive, not for the good of those who harmed us, but for our own salvation. The longer we let hatred fester within us, the easier it will be for us to lose the power to love as Christ has commanded us to love.
So let us accept the challenge, let us begin to cultivate forgiveness in our hearts, so that love will ultimately blossom across the world.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Words From St. Francis of Assisi

“The Lord says: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and blame you (Mt. 5:44). That person truly loves his enemy who is not upset at any injury which is done to himself, but out of love of God is disturbed at the sin of the other’s soul. And let him show his love for the other by his deeds.” (Admonition IX)

Taken from Francis and Clare, The Complete Works, Paulist Press

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

A dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was suppose to have taken place this weekend.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature, in the form of Hurricane Irene, had other plans, the the dedication has been postponed.  the TV program, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, has a nice report about it.

I was only 15 years old when he died, assassinated in Memphis TN.  It was only during my seminary years that I began to appreciate what he accomplished for civil rights, not just for Black Americans, but for all minorities.  He showed what power non-violent protest and action could have.  He showed what could be accomplished when you treated opponents, even violent opponents, as fellow human beings.  In many ways he reminds me of another famous preacher, of St. Francis of Assisi, who would walk amidst the warring factions of an Italian city, preaching peace; and who call a Muslim sultan a brother.

We live now in times when protests about injustices in society either turn violent, or are met with state sponsored violence.  We are becoming a society where civil discourse about issues is no longer seen as "in," and name calling and yelling is becoming part of politics.  Never has there been such a need for the spirit of  Doctor King, the spirit of Francis. 

I have an image in my mind, of two individuals, one a black man dressed in a dark suit, the other a small white man in a tattered brown robe, walking on a road to Washington, DC, ready to preach to power, ready to preach peace.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Archdiocese of Boston Release Lists of Accused Priests

Yesterday, August 25th, the Archdiocese of Boston issued a list which contained the names of those among the Archdiocesan clergy who had either been found guilty of abusing children, or have had credible accusations of abusing children. The list has been posted on the Archdiocesan website, with a cover letter from Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM CAP, Archbishop of Boston. In that letter, Cardinal Sean describes the process used in creating the list, who was included on the list, who was not included on the list and the reasons why they were not.

The Boston news media, including, reported on the issuance of the list and the reactions of various parties who have been involved in the effort to bring the clergy abuse scandal to light, and to prevent any such abuse from happening again. The reactions of some Massachusetts politicians, local advocates for sex abuse victims, and church reformers were not positive.

The truth of the matter is that no matter what Cardinal Sean did, he would not have been able to satisfy everyone. One faction would say he did not go far enough, that there are additional names that should have been released. The other faction would say that Cardinal Sean went too far, that he sacrificed the reputations of priests to satisfy a vengeance hungry mob. I have read what I feel is two good analysis’s of Cardinal Sean’s actions, one by Michael Sean Winters, the other by John Allen, Jr., both columnists and bloggers for the National Catholic Reporter.

I belong to the Archdiocese of Boston, and like many local Catholics, I was upset and angry when the scandal first broke so many years ago. I angry over the fact that there were priests who abusing children, I became angrier when I learned that these acts were being covered up by the bishops. It has been because of the cover up that advocates of the abused want all the names of accused priests made public. I have been uncomfortable with this demand. I am one of those people who believe in the legal ideal that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. I understand the need many feel to bring to light all those who may have abused children, but is the price worth it if at least one innocent priest’s reputation is destroyed forever.

Beginning with the Dallas Charter, I do believe that there have been good faith efforts by many American bishops to prevent future child abuse by clergy, and to bring to light those who have abused in the past, Cardinal Sean being one of them.

This Post Is A Test

I am trying out some new technology for blogging for the first time.  This is only a test.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Franciscans Taking Cover in Tripoli

Franciscans have had a presence in the Arab world since the early days of the Order’s founding. It began with the first missionary journey to Morocco that lead to the first Franciscan martyrs; then St. Francis of Assisi’s own journey to Egypt and his meeting with the Sultan, and to the friars receiving responsibility for the holy sites in the Middle East. So it should not come as a surprise that there is a story of Franciscans taking cover in Tripoli, Libya, from the street fighting taking place there. This is the link to the Catholic News Service story.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Catholic Deacons Arrested

There are reports from the local news services of the arrests of two deacons of the Diocese of Providence; one for three counts of child abuse, the other for indecent exposure.

I am both sad, confused and angry about this. Sad that the clergy abuse problem continues, and sad that it now includes deacons. Confused on how men who are supposedly formed to serve the poor and powerless, could do such things to children. Angry that the church still cannot seem weed out the "bad apples," through proper evaluation.

St. Stephen and St. Lawrence, pray for us.

Friday, August 12, 2011

St. Clare of Assisi

“Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory! Place your heart in the figure of divine substance! And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation.”

St. Clare of Assisi

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Vatican, Closed Parishes, And Diocesan Reorganization

I have recently been exploring a Catholic news website called Vatican Insider. It is sponsored by the Italian publication, La Stampa. I came across a post reporting on a Vatican document being prepared, which will provide guidelines to American bishops on how to reorganize their dioceses. It specifically addresses the closing or merging of parishes, and the sale of Catholic hospitals.

The reason for the creation of this document is the number of dioceses that have been closing parishes, and the controversy it causes in the Catholic community, and the economic impact it has on the American dioceses. It is being reported that one possible recommendation is that while a parish may be closed, the church itself could be maintained by a responsible lay family or group, with a priest coming in to celebrate Sunday Mass.

This could be a partial solution for the situation that exists here in the Archdiocese of Boston. There have been churches of closed parishes that have been occupied for years by former parishioners, who refuse to let go of their church. But a parish is more than a church, it is a community of clergy and laity, active in charitable works, a place where persons, child or adult, is formed in the faith. And most importantly, it is a community that comes together and encounters Christ in the Eucharist. We are seeing now, and will see in the future, that some parishes will no longer have the resources, either in people or finances. All bishops and parish communities will have to face that fact, and address it.

Hopefully, the guidelines that will come out from Rome, will provide a common structure and procedure that could lessen the pain, the sense of loss, that people feel when a parish is closed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sale of Closed Parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston

There has been a lot of local television and radio air time dedicated to Archdiocese of Boston announcement that six closed parish churches are to be sold, after all sacred items have been removed. Some of these closed churches have been occupied by the former parishioners since their initial closing. And all the former members of the closed parishes are promising to fight the proposed sales, and are appealing to the Vatican. They are taking encouragement from the fact that the Vatican had, in at least one case, overturned a bishop’s decision to sell a closed church.

My heart goes out to these people; my own parish was threatened with closure. It was averted only because we made a strong case for keeping it open. But I also realize that times are changing, just recently a report was issued, showing that soon there will not be enough priests to service all the existing parishes. That there will be fewer, bigger parishes, or, as the Archdiocese is exploring, a cluster of churches under one pastor and staff.

There is no question that the past closure of parishes in the Archdiocese was poorly planned and executed. Any future “reconfiguration,” must be based on a clear set of criteria, the process must be open and transparent, with public input from the laity.

The sad truth is that some parishes will have to be merged or merged for the health of the Catholic community of greater Boston. And there is nothing in the short term that can be done to avert that reality.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Help From Thomas Merton

Life seems to have been tossing on one mishap after another; increasing the stress level day after day. Then I came across this quote from Thomas Merton:

We do not see the way that lies ahead for us. It seems dark, but God is the Master of all destinies and His will is love. Let us then put aside everything else and trust ourselves completely to Him, giving ourselves to His love, asking Him to enlighten and guide us in the way of positive action, if any such action is feasible. For the rest, we must have great patience and sustained fidelity to His will and to our ideals.

Letter to Evora Areca de Sardonia, Witness to Freedom (Taken from The Intimate Merton)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kip Tiernan, Friend of the Poor, May She Rest In Peace

Last Saturday, the poor of Massachusetts, especially poor women, lost a great advocate. Kip Tiernan passed away on July 2, 2011, at age 85.

Inspired by the life of Dorothy Day, she walked away from a promising advertising career, to become a voice for the poor in Boston. In 1974, she helped found Rosie’s Place, which began as a day shelter for homeless women, a place where they felt safe and wanted. It has since grown into a multi-service organization, still dedicated to serving poor women.

I heard Ms. Tiernan speak about Rosie’s Place several times. I also saw her at gatherings of Catholic women who were advocating for a greater voice in Church affairs. She always had on a battered hat; she always wore a rumbled jacket. And she always wore a cross. As Christ gave His all for us; Ms. Tiernan gave her all for the poor. She will be missed.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Holy Father's First Tweet

Many Catholic bloggers have made a big deal of Pope Benedict’s first tweet. Here is Rocco Palmo’s writing about it on his blog, “Whispers In The Loggia.” The occasion was the opening of a new Vatican news website.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Discovering An Anniversary

With everything that has been happening in my life this past year, it appears that I have missed a very important anniversary in the Franciscan World. April 16th, 2011 marked the beginning of a year long celebration of the 800th Anniversary of the founding of Order of Saint Clare, commonly known as the Poor Clares. On Palm Sunday, 1212, Clare of Assisi, daughter of a noble family, decided to leave all of her riches and privileges, and join Francis of Assisi in living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She would be soon joined by her sister Agnes and other women; Francis gave them the chapel San Damiano as their monastery.

Saint Clare and her community became the contemplative branch of the Franciscan family, and preserved the ideal of Franciscan poverty. The community continues to this day.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Is the Gospel Message on the Web "Sticky" Or "Bouncy?"

I daily check out America magazine’s website; I find it very interesting and informative. Today, I came across an article by Father James Martin, SJ, based on an address he gave at the Diocese of Brooklyn celebration of the 2010 World Communications Day. He examines the status of the Catholic Church’s use of digital communications, where is the Church in the world of the Internet.

There are hundreds of websites out there, established by various Church organizations, and individual Catholics. Some of them are very good; the Vatican, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Archdiocese of Boston, which includes Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s own blog. There are many well constructed blogs created by individuals, many of whom are listed on my blog roll.

The biggest fear that many Catholic leaders have is that the Church is not reaching young digital savvy persons. The Web, if used well, can be a means of reaching out to the young, but it must be done in such a way that it addresses the spiritual needs and concerns of these persons. Finally, what is written on the Web, it must to be lived in the real world.

So will what the Church preaches electronically be “sticky” or “bouncy.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time To Think Outside The Box?

While checking out America magazine’s blog site “In All Things,” I came across a posting on an Associated Press story, reporting on discussions concerning the consolidation of parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston. The Council of Parishes, a local group that opposes the closing of parishes, had obtained a copy of a memo that outlines a possible approach, and they forwarded it to the AP.

The reporting states that there have been suggestions that several parishes in a local area be clustered under one pastor, supported by a combined staff, one financial council and pastoral council. It in turn would look at needs, and ministries versus assets, and recommend to the Archdiocese on the closing or preserving of any the cluster’s facilities. The word has already been out on the ecclesial street, that this might be an approach the Archdiocese might take to address the reduction in active clergy, and the drop in active church membership and donations. It is already being tried in Dorchester, MA, where a former classmate of mine, Father Jack Ahern, is the pastor of three combined parishes.

The idea of creating church clusters is not written in stone, but is still being thought through. Nobody wants a repeat of the last reconfiguration, which was a confused, ill-thought process. Whatever savings it might have had for the Archdiocese, it was not worth the pain, the suspicions, and the strains on the relationships between the laity and the Archbishop. Whatever decisions is made, is must be carefully explained, with clear standards for preserving a parish, and the process must be transparent.

The thing is that the Archdiocese must do something concerning the Catholic communities it is responsible for. The problem is not just financial; it is the number of priests that are available to fully staff all of the parishes. Where there is no Eucharist, there is an ecclesial community in danger of dying. To answer this danger may require thinking outside of the box. A local Catholic community can take many forms, as long as it celebrates a common Eucharist, it remains united with its bishop, and through it’s bishop, is united with the world wide Church.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Looking For Thomas Merton, Find Francis of Assisi As Well

It sometimes happens that while you are looking for one thing, you may come across something else that is just as interesting. Today, while checking out America magazine’s website, I came across a video by Father James Martin, SJ, in which he was giving a short introduction into the life of Thomas Merton. After viewing the video, I saw the site gave a link to another video, also by Father Martin, about St. Francis of Assisi. It is a very nice introduction into the life of the world’s most popular saint.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Reflection on the John Jay Study of Clergy Abuse

There has been a lot of buzz about the report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It contains the results of their five year study on the causes of the Roman Catholic clergy abuse scandal. The Jesuit magazine, “America,” has a report on the study as well as an analysis written by Kathleen McChesney. She was the first executive director of the Office of the Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The findings of the study are not going to go down well with either conservatives or liberals in the Church. Leaders of clergy abuse survivor’s support groups are already denouncing the report as a whitewash, covering for the bishops.

I am not going to go over all the points that the study has covered, I encourage any readers to click on the links provided above. What I want to share is some of my seminary experiences that provide at some anecdotal support for the conclusions in the study.

I entered the seminary as a college student during the early 70’s. The minor seminary, for high school students, had been closed a few years earlier. As I recall, the only psychological testing we received was a fill in the dot’s test. It was nothing compared to the intense psychological testing I had to take a few years later, when I was admitted into the Franciscan Friars formation program; or when I entered the Permanent Diaconate formation program. Had the testing been more rigorous back then, it might have shown how socially immature I was at the time, and I might have received better assistance dealing with it. By luck or by the guidance of the Spirit caused me to realize I needed to seek a different path. But how many men were allowed to go on through to ordination, who were not ready to deal with the stresses of clerical life.

The seminary tried to provide some formation help on understanding how to live as a celibate priest; but it was not sustained, and did not occur frequently enough. Again, how many young priests entered a world undergoing the “sexual revolution,” ill prepared to deal with it.

Despite these obstacles, the study estimates that 4 to 6 percent of the clergy during the period examined, would become sexual abusers. Unfortunately, because of the way the bishops mishandled these cases of abuse, these abusers were allowed the opportunity to offend again and again. The bishops have a long way to go before they can win back the full trust of the laity, if that is ever going to be possible.

Monday, May 16, 2011

These Stories Make Me Nervous

There have been two stories in the Catholic news services that are making me very nervous. One is a Catholic News Service story that the National Catholic Reporter posted on their website. It was a report of the Vatican issuing instructions to local bishops, telling them to make access to celebrations of the Tridentine Mass easier. The other CNS story, posted on the blog “Pray Tell,” reports the comments made by a Vatican official. He stated that it is the Pope’s intention not to have two forms of the Mass existing side by side, but to merge elements of both into one liturgy

Now I grew up during the time when Vatican II was still in session. The Mass my family and I attended was the Tridentine Liturgy, and I mean attended, not participated in. We observed the liturgy being celebrated. When I became an altar boy, I memorized the liturgical Latin, but the words had no meaning for me. The Eucharistic liturgy that came out of the Vatican II renewal was meant for all the people of God. We, the laity, can actively participate in the celebration, worshiping in a language we can understand, being able to witness, to see the miracle that is the consecration; the Body and Blood of Our Jesus Christ, present on the altar.The current liturgy is not perfect, that is because of the human element. But this liturgy has become a very important part of my faith life. Now I understand why there are those who still find the Tridentine liturgy attractive, but for me, it does not represent my understanding of what it means to be Church, to be the People of God in today’s world.

So instead of trying to turn the clock back, we need to listen to the faithful, what are they looking for in the Eucharistic liturgy, and how can we improve it so that it will answer the spiritual needs of all the Church.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

St. Damien of Molokai

“This is how God inspired me, Brother Francis, to embark upon a life of penance. When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure; but then God himself led me into their company, and I had pity on them. When I had once become acquainted with them, what had previously nauseated me became a source of spiritual and physical consolation for me. After that I did not wait long before leaving the world.” (The Testament of Saint Francis of Assisi)

Today is the feast day of Saint Damien of Molokai (January 3, 1840 to April 15, 1889). A Belgium missionary priest, he volunteered to go out to the Hawaiian leper colony to serve the people who were under quarantine. Living conditions were poor, the lepers had lost hope, Father Damien did all he could to provide for both their physical and spiritual needs. Like St. Francis, he found them to be “a source of spiritual and physical consolation.” Eventually, he, himself, came down with the disease, and would eventually die from it.

St. Damien is an example of one who practiced “kenosis,” that self-emptying of one self for the sake of others, for the goal of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the fullest.

He has been one of my favorite holy persons. I have read one of the biographies of him, “Holy Man,” and have seen both a one man play on public television, and a movie based on his life. His life of service and sacrifice is both frightening and inspiring. Frightening is so much as what living the Gospel can demand of us; inspiring in so much as it shows what one person can do, with the help of God’s grace.

One final note, he would eventually receive help with his mission, among them would be a group of Franciscan sisters.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Reflection For Evening Prayer - Feast of Saints Philip and James

This feast, which celebrates the memory of the two Apostles, Philip and James; who answered the call of Christ, comes close on the heels of the celebration of the beatification of Pope John Paul II. Many of us watched the liturgy being held in Rome, with thousands of people celebrating this wonderful event,

But as I have been looking at the photos of events in Rome, at all the pomp and ceremony, the Franciscan in me recalls something St. Francis of Assisi wrote for his followers;

“Let all of us, brothers, look to the Good Shepherd Who suffered the passion of the cross to save His sheep. The sheep of the Lord followed Him in tribulation and persecution, in insult and hunger, in infirmity and temptation, and in everything else, and they have received everlasting life from the Lord because of these things. Therefore, it is a great shame for us, servants of God, that while the saints actually did such things, we wish to receive glary and honor by merely recounting their deeds.” (VI Admonition)

The Church holds up individuals like Philip, like James, and like John Paul II; as examples of what it means to help build up the Body of Christ, what it means to take on the roles of service that the Holy Spirit is calling each one of us to fulfill.

So yes, let us celebrate the lives of the saints, but may they also inspire us to greater efforts to build up the Church, the Body of Christ; to lead lives of love, of hope, of service, that will bring the light of our Risen Lord to the world.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Enough Already With The Royal Wedding - One Franciscan's Perspective

First, let me admit that I regularly watch the BBC America channel, and that I watch and listen to the BBS World News. I will also admit that I watched the BBC documentary series, “Monarchy,” about the daily life of Queen Elizabeth II. Okay, I will admit that I watched that series several times.

That being said, I am tired of all the hype, the hoopla that has surrounded today’s wedding of Prince Harry and Kate Middleton. Yes, it is a prime social news story that deserves coverage by the major news organizations. But when local news stations dig into their pockets to send local reporters to cover it; there is a question of where the priority lies. And they have filed so many stories leading up to today, that they are really stretching what is relevant to report on.

This reminds me of a story that the Franciscan friar and biographer of St. Francis of Assisi, Thomas of Celano, told:

“He (Francis) taught them not only to mortify vices and repress carnal movements, but also to restrain the exterior senses themselves, for through them death enters the soul. When at that time the Emperor Otto was passing through the place with much clamor and pomp to receive the crown of his earthly empire, the most holy father, who was living with his brothers in that hovel close to the road on which the emperor would pass, did not even go out to watch; and he did not let any one else to do so except one who continuously called out to the Emperor that his glory would last but a short time,..”

Yes, this is a time for the people of Great Britain to celebrate, to have a moment of joy after so much bad news. And yes, the rest of the world can watch, and enjoy the spectacle as it plays out on our televisions and computer monitors. But there are people out there that should not be forgotten, the tornado victims in the South, the earthquake victims of Japan; the Arab protestors, seeking freedom. They and others deserve our attention more!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Empty Pews And How To Fill Them Again

The April 15th issue of the National Catholic Reporter has an article by Father Thomas Reese, SJ, former editor of America magazine. In it he analyzes the data from a Pew Research study concerning why Catholics leave the Church, and why some of them join a Protestant congregation.

Despite what conventional wisdom might be, on either side of the spectrum, the data shows that most Catholics leave because they are not getting the spiritual nourishment they crave. And it is not because they feel the Church has strayed from traditional liturgy. A liturgy, whether traditional or modern, that is not done well, will fail to touch the hearts of the congregation. A homily, which does not explain the Scriptures, leaves the listeners feeling empty.

Among the recommendations Father Reese comes up with from the data, is that there needs to be more emphasis on the Bible. Biblical education programs need to be developed for Catholics. And Catholics need to learn that daily reading and reflecting on the Bible is just as important as memorizing the catechism; maybe even more so.

My feeling is that this is just the starting point; liturgies need to be better planned and celebrated. This requires not just the clergy, but also the laity, those with musical skills, to encourage hymn singing. It requires training lectors to not just read the Scriptures, but to proclaim them. People need to be inspired to, encouraged to, gather together for communal prayer; and to share their prayer experiences. Some of the old devotions should be looked at again, renewed for modern needs.

To encourage people to remain in the Church, will require imagination from all of us, bishops, priests, deacons, and laity. Above all, we will need the aid of the Holy Spirit to guide us and inspire us.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Good Friday Reflection; From the Writings of Saints Francis and Clare

“Let all of us, brothers, look to the Good Shepherd Who suffered the passion of the cross to save His sheep. The sheep of the Lord followed Him in tribulation and persecution, in insult and hunger, in infirmity and temptation, and in everything else, and they have received everlasting life from the Lord because of these things. Therefore, it is a great shame for us, servants of God, that while the saints [actually] did such things, we wish to receive glory and honor by [merely] recounting their deeds.” (St. Francis of Assisi, Sixth Admonition)

“Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in the world for Him. Your Spouse, though more beautiful than the children of men (Ps 44:3), became for your salvation the lowest of men, despised, struck, scourged untold times throughout His whole body, and then died amid the sufferings amid the sufferings of the Cross. O most noble Queen, gaze upon Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him.

If you suffer with Him, you shall reign with Him,
if you weep with Him, you shall rejoice with Him;
if you die with Him on the cross of tribulation,
you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints
and, in the Book of Life, your name shall be called glorious among men.”
(St. Clare of Assisi, Second Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague)

(Image from the e-newsletter of Holy Name Province, OFM)

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Loss In The Family

I am sorry that I have not been posting anything lately, but we suffered a loss in our family last week. My father, William (Bill) Jones, passed away on Tuesday, April 5th. He was 85 years old. A child of the Depression era; he entered the Navy right out of high school and served during the final years of WWII, in the Pacific. He served on the hospital ship, USS Benevolence, as an x-ray technician. While he may not have been in combat, he witnessed the costs of combat, as he cared for the wounded from those final, bloody, Pacific campaigns. He graduated from Boston College after the war. He worked at General Electric. He married my mother, Margaret, and with her, raised six children; three boys, three girls (they believed in equality). He was a very loving father. A convert to Catholicism while he was a teenager, he would teach religious education in our home parish for 30 years. He sang in the parish choir, was a senior altar server, and a regular lector at Sunday Mass. He was a Vatican II man, welcomed the reforms that came out of it. He always wished that the Church would push the envelope a little farther. His and my mother's example of living the faith were definitely an influence on me and my faith life. He died at home, after a long battle with cancer, with my mother and siblings with him. I think I am still processing the loss, because right now, despite all that is happening in the Church and the world at large, nothing is stirring these fingers to begin typing. Hopefully, this block will lift, and there will be more frequent posts. But for now, I ask your prayers for my father's soul, and for my family. Thank you.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Why Stay Catholic?"

On the website of America magazine, the Jesuit periodical, was an interview with Michael Leach, past president of the Crossroad/Continuum Publishing Group and currently with the Catholic Book Publishers Association. He was talking about his new book, “Why Stay Catholic.” In it he outlines the reasons he has remained in the Catholic Church. “Why stay Catholic?” has been a question that has been asked of me a couple of times; most recently during the height of the clergy abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston. My first reaction was that I am Catholic in my bones, my heart, and my soul. Culturally, and spiritually, I am Catholic. What helps me to stay is my understanding of the history of the Church, realizing that in the history of the institution known as the Roman Catholic Church, it has not always been lead by saints. There were times when sections of the Church have not always been faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That there have been Popes, bishops, and clergy who abused their offices because of greed or lust. At the same time, I believe that the Holy Spirit is still with the Church, and that the whole Church will fulfill its mission to live and proclaim the Gospel. I believe that Christ is present to His people in the Eucharist, and that through the celebration of the Eucharist; we as a Church are healed and strengthened for the challenges ahead.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Stations of the Cross

Friday evening I was surfing various websites, when I came across a blog posting by Kate Moos, who is the executive producer of the public radio program “Krista Tippett on Being.” She was sharing what she experienced when, on assignment in Jerusalem, she saw one of the stations of the Via Dolorosa, also known as the Way of Sorrows. The sight of the second station, Jesus Falls for the First Time, made her very sad as she dwelt on the suffering of Jesus Christ.

When the Franciscans received custody of various sacred sites in the Holy Land, they promoted the ancient practice of following of the Via Dolorosa, leading groups of pilgrims down the streets of Jerusalem, meditating of the journey of Jesus to Calvary. The friars wanted other Catholics to experience the Via Dolorosa, even if they could not make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. So they created the Stations of the Cross, either around or within a parish church.

I remember the Stations of the Cross as a child, back then it was practiced very solemnly, with priest and altar boys in cassock and surplice, carrying a cross and two candles. They move very slowly to each station, prayers would be said, and a Latin hymn would be sung.

Now days, the Stations are still being practiced during the season of Lent, only now it may be laypersons leading the congregation in prayer. But it still stirs the heart, still makes one sad, as one contemplates what Jesus suffered as walked through the streets of Jerusalem for the last time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Of Memorials And Skateboarders

“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)

One has ambivalent feelings about skateboarders. One admires they courage and skill as they do fantastic maneuvers with their skateboards. On the other hand, they do their tricks anywhere there are stone benches, brick stairs, etc., becoming a bit of a nuisance. Stone gets marked up, bricks crack and crumble, but the skaters do not seem to care.

Now in Tuesday, March, 1 issue of the Boston Metro newspaper, there was a story of skateboarders using the 9/11 Memorial for New England victims, located in the Boston Public Gardens, for their maneuvers and tricks, defacing the Memorial. The sad part is that these teenagers show no remorse, even when the meaning of the Memorial was explained to them. It was just place for them to skate, and it was their right to skate there.

Property needs to be respected; it must neither be exploited nor abused. And this is especially true when it comes to memorials, as they help survivors remember those whom they have lost. This is especially true of this Memorial.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Paradox Of The Sheen Family Clan

I have noticed two contradictory blog posts concerning the family of Martin Sheen. The blogosphere was humming with the news of Charlie Sheen's rant against the producer of his comedy show and CBS; which was followed by news of his firing by CBS and the suspension of production of said show. OF course, these reports included stories of his out of control behavior. Now, turn 180 degrees and you will find a blog posting in America magazine's website, which reports on a movie written and directed by Emilio Estevez, and staring his and Charlie's father, Martin Sheen. The movie is called The Way, and tells the story of a grieving father's journey on the Camino de Santiago. It is one of the most famous pilgrimage routes in Europe.

It is sad that Charlie Sheen's troubled life is receiving so much public attention, and this uplifting movie by his father and brother is not.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Different Images Of The Church

Images have always been a part of human culture, from the cave paintings of primitive humans, to ancient mosaics, Renaissance paintings, to Warhol’s Campbell Soup Can paintings. Images can hold various meanings for a society, or have one meaning that unites a society.

There are images that symbolize how different factions see the Catholic Church. I discovered two of them surfing the blogosphere. One is a picture I saw on the Deacon’s Bench, of Cardinal Raymond Burke, ordaining a deacon, attired in Pre-Vatican II vestments. For me it is an image of a regal, clerical Church far removed from the lives of ordinary people. The other image I saw was from Whispers in the Loggia, is of Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM CAP, Archbishop of Boston. He was participating in a Liturgy of Repentance in Ireland, with the Archbishop of Dublin. Part of the ceremony was both prelates washing the feet of some of the survivors of clergy abuse. For me, this shows the Church as both Penitent and Servant. It is this image I will remember and cherish; it is this Church I want to belong to.