Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My First Christmas Homily

Isaiah: 62: 11-12
Titus 3: 4-7
Luke 2: 15-20

“See, the Lord proclaims to the ends of the earth: say to daughter Zion, you savior comes!”

Christmas morning!  In America it has become a time when presents are unwrapped; family and friends gather for a dinner; and Christmas shows and movies are watched.  For many of us, Christmas is a time of colors, lights, joy and good times.  Yet, we know that there are people and places where the coming of Christmas morning is bittersweet.  I am thinking of the victims of Hurricane Sandy, still struggling to put their lives together again.  I am thinking of the families, trying to get through the tragic loss of loved ones in Oregon, Colorado, other cities and countries, and especially our brothers and sisters in Newtown Ct.  I am thinking of those in our community, struggling with the challenges, the curve balls that life sometimes tosses at us.

What I do want to speak about is of a Christmas that was experienced by a group of shepherds outside the town of Bethlehem, the town of King David’s birth.  Now shepherds in the time of Jesus were on the lowest rung of the agricultural workers ladder.  They owned no land; all they had were their sheep; they depended on the sheep’s wool to sell to weavers; on the sheep’s meat to feed themselves and their families.  Their flocks were always threatened by starvation if the pastures suffered drought; by disease, by wolves; and the thievery of other shepherds.  So they were not wealthy, mostly they were poor, very poor. 

And here they were, near Bethlehem, keeping night watch over their flocks, when suddenly, an angel appears to them, telling them that the Messiah had been born.  This proclamation is not made to rulers of nation, but it is to the poor that this great news is given.  And then they have a vision of thousands of angels, filling the sky, proclaiming “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  Pope Benedict, in his recent book on the birth of Christ, expresses the belief that the angels sang this Gloria.  Can you imagine what that must have sounded like? Picture the Mormon Tabernacle choir times a hundred, times a thousand!

So what would you do if you had such a vision, heard such news.  You go check it out!  And that is what the shepherds did, and what they found was this couple in an animal stall, with their infant in a manger, something cattle or sheep would eat out off.  Now other people, more sophisticated people, might say this cannot be the Messiah, and go looking elsewhere.  But when these shepherds saw the child, something in their hearts, told them, “Yes, this is the one who is Christ, Lord, and Savior.”  Their lives were transformed, no longer filled with despair and sadness, but filled now with hope, with peace. 

“See, the Lord proclaims to the ends of the earth: say to daughter Zion, your savior comes!”

We have all come here today, like the shepherds, to see a miracle.  When Monsignor raises the Host and the Chalice, we will hear the words “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  And like the shepherds at that first Christmas, we will recognize our Savior.  As the Son of God came into the world as a small infant, he comes to us today in the form of bread and wine.  He comes to save us from darkness and despair; he comes to brings us hope.  He comes save us from fear and sadness; he comes to bring us joy. 

Let us all open our hearts to Him, receive Him, and experience His presence within us.  Let us then leave here glorifying and praising God.  By our lives, let us proclaim to the entire world the good news, “our Savior comes!!”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2012

Micah 5: 1-4a
Hebrews 10: 5-10
Luke 1: 39-45

Now I do not claim to be psychic, but I am willing to bet that every child here is thinking “One more day till Christmas!!”  And there must be many adults here thinking; “Oh my goodness, only one day till Christmas!”  We are thinking of the presents we still have to buy and wrap, the food supplies we have to buy for Christmas dinner, and how much time we need to prepare it.  Then all those personal crises seem to get magnified, during the Christmas season, so much pressure and tension.

Let us just for moment, stop, try to still our minds and our hearts, and listen for the voice of the Lord; feel his Presence, realize that we are about to celebrate something wonderful that has happened in the past, is happening now, and will continue to happen into the future.  St. Elizabeth knew something awesome was about to happen, she had already experienced God’s power in her life, when, in her late age, she was able to become pregnant.  One could say that she was already sensitive to the power of the Holy Spirit, so that when she heard Mary’s voice and felt her child leaped in her womb, not move or kick, but leaped, she knew something more powerful than her miracle was occurring.  She realized instinctively that Mary was carrying the Son of God.

God was intervening again in the lives of His people, the children of Israel, as He did during the time of Moses.  The promised Messiah was coming, not with great sound and fury, but as a little child, born of a simple Jewish, peasant woman.  Yet, He will become a Shepherd of His People, not only the people of Israel, but of all nations, caring for them, healing them, and guiding them. 

It is this that we celebrate in a couple of days, this great miracle, and this great act of love by the Father.  It is an act of love that continues today.  We continue to celebrate Emmanuel, “God is with us.”  Jesus Christ is present as the Word of God, He is present in the Eucharist, and He is present within each of us when we open our hearts to Him.  And He cares for us as a shepherd, comforting us, and guiding us, bringing us back to the Father.

In the time that is left, I encourage all of us to make some quiet space in our day, so that we can hear the voice of our Shepherd, and in hearing that voice we will leap for joy.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Third Sunday Of Advent Homily - Newtown CT Tragedy

The parish I am assigned to began by building an elementary and middle school in the same facility.  Instead of building a church, the parish converted the school auditorium into a full time worship space.

When I was in formation to become a deacon, we had a class on how to prepare and deliver homilies.  Our instructor advised us to spend at least a week in advance to prepare a good homily.  However, there are times when current events forces one to toss out the long prepared text, and speak to what is happening right now.

A great tragedy has happened to our neighbors south of here; to our fellow New Englander’s of Newtown, CT.  There are many households in that town where children’s beds lay empty and the grief is so great that you must feel it when you come into the community.  A sadness magnified because of the season we are in right now, a season that is suppose to be full of lights and joy, especially for children.  And there must be strong feelings being stirred amongst all of us here today, because of what is next door here, on the other side of that wall.  Some of us who have children in the school may be wondering, “Is my child safe?”

Questions are already swirling about, “Why did this happen?”  “What was wrong with that young man?”  “Where was God, how could He let this happen?”  I wish I had an answer: I wish somebody had an answer as to the why, because then maybe we could prevent this tragedy from happening again.  The only thing I can say is that a great evil must have taken possession of that young man’s soul, and he gave into it. 

As to being angry with God, well, humanity has been angry with God off and on for many years, during many crises and tragedies.  Just take a look at the Psalms, especially Psalm 88, if you want to see some real venting of anger.  Again, I have no good answer as to why bad things happen to good people, which by the way is the title of a book I would recommend.  But I will share with you my personal reflection on where was, where is God in all this.  In downtown Boston, at St. Anthony Shrine, the Franciscan friars have a statue of Jesus in their chapel.  He is portrayed having his hand over his face, and there is the suggestion of a tear falling down his face.  The title of the piece is “And Jesus Wept.”  It is taken from the Gospel story of Jesus finding the tomb of his friend Lazarus, and experiencing grief over the loss of his friend.  God knows grief, he knows loss, and because of that he is with everyone there in Newtown, the streets of Boston, in Oregon, Colorado, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where anyone is grieving; sharing in that grief, and offering healing, offering hope.  

We are still in the Advent season, a time of expectation, and especially a longing for some hope out of all this tragedy.  I would call your attention to the Advent wreath, to the rose colored candle that is lit.  It reminds me of a very early morning sky, when the rays of first light is just breaking, and there is a pinkish color to the sky, promising a new day.  Hope is coming.  Hope is already here, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, “God is with us...”  He is present among us, grieving with us, comforting us, and healing us.

Again, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians:

“The Lord is near.  Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

We will soon be gathered around the Eucharistic table to offer those prayers of petition, praise and thanksgiving.  And through receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, we will experience a peace the world cannot give.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Deacon Prevented From Addressing Other Deacons

The National Catholic Reporter has reported that Deacon William Ditewig was denied permission to give an address to a meeting of deacons, their wives, and deacon candidates for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  The Archdiocese requires speakers to be approved by a commission of archdiocesan priests and a lay theologian.  Because Deacon Ditewig; who had in the past been on the staff of the National  Conference of Catholic Bishops; is himself a theologian, and an author of numerous books on the diaconate.  He co-authored a book examining the possibility of women being ordained as deacons. 

Although he did not intend to speak about this in his address, the commission felt that still his presence would cause confusion among the faithful.

Deacon Ditewig has spoken to numerous deacon assemblies.  I have read several of his books and essays, and found them informative, inspiring, and a joy to read.  And I believe him to be a loyal son of the Church. 

Our bishops have the responsibility to protect the faithful; but over zealousness can also prevent the Spirit from working within us, stifling legitimate theological exploration, that can lead to discernment of the Father’s will for His Church.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

First Sunday of Advent - 2012

“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man” Luke 21: 36 (From the readings of First Sunday of Advent, Cycle C)
“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.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving To All!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my family and friends!  I thank the good Lord for the gift of all of you, especially my wife Peg, my mother, Peg's parents, and all my siblings, on both sides of the family.

It has been two months today since my ordination as a Permanent Deacon!  So I am thankful to our God, for the calling to this ministry, and the graces I need to fulfill it.

"All-powerful, all holy, most high and supreme God, sovereign good, all good, every good, you who alone are good, it is to you we must give all praise, all glory, all thanks, all honor, all blessing; ; to you we must refer all good always. Amen"          (The Praises Before the Office by St. Francis of Assisi)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My First Homily - Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Daniel 12: 1-3
Hebrews 10: 11-14, 18
Mark 13: 24-32

One of the favorite themes of science fiction writers and sci fi movies is the end of the world.  It is always shown as a series of disasters that will either wipe out all life on this planet, or totally destroy Earth itself.  On some of the science cable channels, I have seen computer generated images of the sun going supernova and destroying the planets of our solar system.  This is scary stuff, as frightening as the words we have just heard,   “…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”  Can you imagine how these words may have affected early Christians, or the people of the Middle Ages, in those times before our modern understanding of how the universe works.  Because now we have scientists telling us that it will be billions of years before our sun will be close to going to supernova; and unknown billions of years before the universe ceases to exist.  So barring some cosmic accident, or some catastrophic natural event, we can all take it easy.  Right?  Well there is that last statement that Jesus makes in today’s Gospel, “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Now why make this statement?  I would suggest that Jesus does not want His followers to be too complacent about how we are or are not living the Gospel life.  And this is a constant theme throughout the Scriptures, we must all live in expectation that the Risen Lord will come again into our world; and His coming will forever change our lives.  His coming will be awesome!  We see this theme of constant expectation in the Old Testament, with the early Israelites, on the night of Passover, they were dressed to move, and they are eating the Passover meal in expectation that something awesome was going to happen in the morning.  And it does, the Lord comes and frees His people.  In today’s first reading, we see the prophet Daniel, speaking words of encouragement to the Jewish people, whose lands are occupied, the people scattered and under religious persecution.  And Daniel is telling the nation, to be ready, for as bad as the times are, the Lord, through his angel Michael, is coming.  Something is about to happen, something wonderful, something glorious, something awesome!
So Jesus, in Mark’s Gospel, is telling us, be ready, for the risen Christ is going to return to us, and His coming is not to be feared, but to be look forward to, because His coming is going to be awesome! 
And how are we to make ourselves ready for His coming?  I would suggest that we try to live our lives in constant expectation of encountering Christ in our daily lives.  When we wake up in the morning, we awaken with the expectation that throughout the day, we will encounter Christ.  We walk out into the world and see God’s hand in His creation.  In every person we meet during the day, whether rich or poor, we may encounter Christ in that person.  When we engage in daily prayer and reading Scripture, we open our minds and hearts to Christ.  And now, in this place, we are gathered here around this altar, where in a short while, simple bread and wine will be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, We will come forward in expectation of receiving Him, and becoming one with Him, and that will be awesome!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another Saint For Veterans

Reflecting of Veteran's Day, I realized that there is another saint that veterans could adopt as a patron saint.  And that would be Saint Ignatius of Loyola, born in 1491, died July 31, 1556.  A Basque knight, he had fought in many battles, the last being the defense of a castle against an invading French force.  He was seriously wounded, when a cannonball shattered one of his legs.  His French opponents, impressed by his valor, escorted him back to his family's castle.  He recovered, but his leg never healed properly, and for the rest of his life, he would be walking with a limp. 

While recuperating, Ignatius began to read books on the life of Jesus Christ, and of Catholic saints.  Inspired by what he read, he set out to change his life, and to follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As he began to have deeper spiritual experiences, he wrote out how he came to these experiences, and these writings formed the basis for his Spiritual Exercises.  He guided his university companions through these Exercises, and together they would form the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Singing Friar

Today I was listening to the BBC Radio arts and culture program, The Strand, when I heard this story about a Franciscan friar who is gaining fame as a tenor singer.  His name is Friar Alessandro Brustenghi.  The British newspaper, the Telegraph.also wrote a story about this talented friar in May.  He has signed a record deal with Decca Records, with his cut of the sales proceeds to go to the Franciscan Order.  Keep your eyes and ears open for this CD.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi - October 4th

Today was the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.  Following is a 2007 column I wrote about St. Francis for my Secular Franciscan fraternity.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi

“All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death,
            From whose embrace no mortal can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
            Happy those She finds doing your will!
            The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks,
            And serve him with great humility.”
                                                (The Canticle of Brother Sun – St. Francis of Assisi)

“and may whoever observes all this be filled in heaven with the blessing of the most high Father, and on earth with that of his beloved Son, together with the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, and all the powers of heaven and all the saints.  And I, Brother Francis, your poor worthless servant, add my share internally and externally to that most holy blessing.  Amen.”    (Conclusion of the Testament of St. Francis of Assisi)

O-Day Plus Ten

It has been ten days since my ordination.  Things are different, yet the same.  The Sunday following Ordination Saturday, I assisted at the celebration of Mass at the parish I am assigned to in Beverly, MA.  The Monsignor and I had to quickly go over the parts of the Liturgy that the Deacon has a role in.  Needless to say, I forgot some parts and needed a little nudge.  The biggest challenge I find is being present to the moment in the Liturgy; and not letting my mind race ahead to what I have to do next, or what to say.

Come Monday, (O-Day + 2), I got up, barely made it to my bus, and went to work.  Everything was the same, the same monotony, the same worries, and the same strains that one experiences in daily life.  The beauty, the inspiration, the power one experiences at an ordination, now seems like a dream, a very brief moment in time. 

Now I am still working with the Monsignor to discern what my role in the parish will be, he has the first draft of the “contract” to look over.  I still have to get in touch with the Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Religious Education, to discern what my role will be there. 

Last Sunday, after assisting at Mass, I went with one of my brothers to visit my mother at her nursing home.  Now at the Ordination, I forgot about offering a blessing to people who came to me to offer their congratulations.  So at the nursing home, I gave my mother my first blessing as a deacon.  It was a small thing, but also a powerful moment!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

O-Day! Update!

So Saturday was ordination day!  When dawn came, the day did not seem to hold too much promise; the sky was gray, and it was drizzling.  Still, my wife and I loaded my alb into the car and began the drive to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.  Of course we had to stop and fortify ourselves with Dunkin Donuts coffee (iced for Peg, hot for me)!

We made good time on the road, and arrived at the Cathedral with a half hour to spare.  Peg went up to the main floor, while I went into the lower chapel to get robed.  Some of my brother Candidates where there already, along with the clergy persons who would be helping them vest in their stoles and dalmatics.  A deacon, who is a member of my Secular Franciscan fraternity, was to be helping me vest when the time came.

We were all called to go up into the Cathedral's Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, to spend some quiet time in prayer, in preparation for the ceremony.  I found myself saying the Jesus Prayer, to try to keep my mind focused; and myself open to God's grace.

The ceremony began with a procession from the back of the Cathedral to it's sanctuary, I saw some familiar faces.  The liturgical music was beautiful, the liturgy itself was moving, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley's sermon was inspiring.  Then came the moment when each of us knelt before Cardinal Sean, and he laid his hands on each of our heads.  He is famous for taking his time with this part of the ordination rite, and he was true to form.  Yet, for me, despite the time he took, I had a feeling of timelessness.  The Cardinal and I were in a special moment, when the Holy Spirit was now active and powerful.

Then it was over, but the remaining liturgy still had it's own power, it's own meaning.  Peg brought up my vestments, Deacon Joe helped me put them on.  And there I was, no longer just Jonathan Jones, but now Deacon Jonathan Jones, standing with my fellow Deacons.  Other Deacons of the Archdiocese of Boston came up, gave us the sign of peace, and welcomed us into the Fraternity of Deacons.

Later, at Communion time, I was the minister of the Cup, that held the Blood of Christ, giving it to all who came up to receive.  I held in my hands the Presence of Christ, another very powerful moment.

After the liturgy, there was time for pictures, for greeting friends and relatives.  Then came the time for celebration, for blessings, for toasts, and maybe eating a little too much.  And finally coming home, both Peg and I tired but happy with the day's events.

So now I am Deacon Jonathan, Deacon Jones (God, that sounds like the name of a football player, or rap star)!  I am forever changed, yet unchanged.  I will have to wake up on Monday, and go to work.  I will still have my health and other issues that will keep me up at night.  Yet, I am also someone called by Jesus and His Church, to proclaim the Good News by word and deed.  To serve the People of God, with whatever talents or skills I have; enhanced by the grace that comes through the Holy Spirit.  It is the beginning of new chapter in my and Peg's life.  St. Francis and St. Clare pray for us!

UPDATE:  The Archdiocese of Boston's media center, CatholicTV,  has released a video of the ordination ceremony.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Countdown: 4 Days to O-Day

Today, I came across this reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans:

“Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love  one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.  Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.  If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.” (Romans 12: 9-18)

These are words that should guide all of us who call ourselves “Christians,” but even more so for those of us who will soon be called “Deacons.”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Countdown Continues - 6 Days to O-Day!

 The day of Ordination is coming up fast.

Last week my classmates and I gathered in the chapel of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center to practice celebrating a Benediction; and to go over the Baptism rite for children.

When it was my turn to put on the cope and humeral veil, I chanted the prayers, and then went up to the altar, took the monstrance and performed the blessing.  As I lifted the empty monstrance up in the blessing movement, I realized that soon, I may be doing this for real.  It was both exhilarating and humbling at the same time.

Saturday, I went to the 4:00 PM Mass at the parish I might be assigned to.  It was a nice celebration, well attended, with good music.  As I looked over the congregation, I saw people, whom I would be called to serve.  Waiting to speak to the pastor, I found myself easily engaging in a conversation with a parishioner.  A good sign I hope.

Sunday, this morning, I sang with my home parish choir for the last time.  As I am gaining a new parish community, I am separating from another.  And there is sadness with that experience.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Countdown - 20 Days To Diaconate Ordination

Sunday, September 2, 2012, I was at the 8:30 AM Mass at my home parish.  I was the lector for that Mass; it will be my last time as a lector in the parish.  When my next rotation comes up, I will (God willing) already be an ordained deacon, serving in my assigned parish.

One of the Sunday readings is from the Letter of St. James.  In that reading, this passage struck me: "Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves."  Scripture is more than a collection of stories, psalms, and preacher's letters.  It is God's Word, given to inspire us to lives of holiness, lives of hope.  Scripture is a dead letter, only if we fail to be "doers of the the word," and let the Scripture we hear remain echoing in a empty church, and not living it in our homes, our offices, on the streets, and in the marketplaces.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Countdown Continues: 21 Days to O-Day!

There is now 21 days left before my classmates and I are ordained as Permanent Deacons for the Archdiocese of Boston.  On August 29th, we gathered, with our wives, at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center for Evening Prayer.  After which, we Candidates made a Profession of Faith; then with our wives each holding a Book of the Gospels, we took our Oath of Fidelity, with our hands on the Gospels.  This was followed by us signing documents, testifying to the professions and oaths we had just made.

Something stirred within me as I proclaimed my faith, and then made my oath, with my wife beside me.  After so many years of studying, praying, and discerning, the final lap of the journey is here.  With everything else going on in life, I need to stay focused on what lies ahead.  I need to keep my heart open to God's grace, His guidance, His strength.

Monday, August 13, 2012

St. Francis of Assisi's 8th Admonition

Beware the sin of envy

"St. Paul tells us, No one can say Jesus is Lord, except in the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 12: 3) and, There is none who does good, no, not even one (Rom. 3: 12).  and so when a man envies his brother the good God says or does through him, it is like committing a sin of blasphemy, because he really envying God, who is the only source of every good."

                                                                                            St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Again, Another Sad Story Involving a Priest and Children

On the air waves, and local news websites; came the news of the arrest of a priest in South Boston, MA.  He is being charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.  And the saddest part of this story, for me anyway, is that the priest is a Franciscan.

The Boston Globe is reporting the details of this investigation and arrest.  The priest is a Franciscan Conventual from a Polish province, sent to Boston to serve the Polish community there.

Having been in different periods of vocational discernment in the Church, I know how psychological screening in the seminaries has changed over the years.  In the '70's, it was a multiple choice test.  When I was considering a vocation to the Franciscan friars in the U.S., it was a day long series of tests and interviews; same when I entered the Permanent Diaconate formation program for the Archdiocese of Boston.

I know that it is becoming popular for dioceses to import clergy from overseas to fill the needs of their parishes.  But do we really know how carefully the dioceses of other countries screen their own candidates for priesthood? 

Feast of Our Lady of the Angels of Portiuncula

Today, Franciscans celebrate the chapel of the Portiuncola.  One of the chapels near Assisi that Francis repaired, it would become the "mother church" of the Franciscan Friars, indeed, of the Franciscan movement.  In keeping with Franciscan poverty, the chapel does not technically belong to the Friars, but to a nearby Benedictine monastery.  Every year, the Franciscan friars give the monks a basket of fish as rent.

Francis persuaded the Pope to give an indulgence to anyone who came into the Portiuncola chapel and pray for the forgiveness of sins. The Portiuncola privilege has been extended to all Franciscan churches and chapels; as long as one also goes to confession, attends Mass and receives communion.

Pray for us, Mary, Our Lady of the Angels, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fifty-Four Days Till Ordination and Counting

Yesterday, my classmates and I received an e-mail from the director of the diaconate formation program.  He informed us that, after a review of all the evaluation interviews, we were all being recommended to the Cardinal Archbishop for ordination.

There is just enough time to say "whew," and now comes the logistics of planning the ordination.  Many of my classmates have taken on the initial burden, now comes each of us deciding who to invite, where to seat people, who comes to the reception.  There will be more practicums; statements of faith, and fidelity to sign.  And of course, the regular events of life, all claiming our attention.

As difficult as it may be, I really have to make time to be alone with the Lord; to reflect on what is coming.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Godmother Of Punk Inspired By St. Francis of Assisi

Additional proof of the universal appeal of St. Francis of Assisi, there was a story posted on the Reuters News Service website about the influence the saint had on the latest album produced by Patti Smith.  Called "the Godmother of Punk," Ms. Smith was reported to have been inspired by St. Francis in her recent songwriting.  Reuters reports that she spent some time in front of the tomb of the Saint, while visiting the basilica in Assisi.  Here is the full story.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Church Official Going to Prison Over Child Abuse Cover Up!

I heard over the radio that Monsignor Lynn is to go to jail; for his part in covering up the sexual abuse of children by some priests of Philadelphia, PA. There must be some bishops, and other clerics who are looking over their shoulders right now!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Two Months and Counting Till Ordination Day

I am writing this on July 22, the year of Our Lord, 2012.  In two months, God willing, I and nine other gentlemen will be in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, being ordained as Permanent Deacons for the Roman Catholic Church in Boston, Massachusetts. 

This will be the culmination of many years of formation, academic classes, days of recollection, and retreats.  And the end of the process suddenly seems so close.  We recently gathered, as a class, in a local parish church to practice the deacon’s role in the celebration of the Eucharist.  Last week, my wife and I met with the administrator of a parish I may be assigned to.  And yesterday, I picked up the alb that I will wear on my ordination day.  We are all waiting to schedule our final fittings for our dalmatics.

There is still a lot of preparation work to do.  There are invitation cards to prepare and mail; seating plans to approve, and receptions to plan.  But at the same time, there is the waiting for the results of our final evaluation interviews, and the marks from our last academic semester still have to be reported.  So nothing is written in stone.

I feel these next couple of months should be for me a time of preparation, with more intensive prayer, and more study and reflection on the call of the diaconate. I hope it will be a fruitful time.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tragedy in the Centennial State

In the first floor chapel of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, Massachusetts, there is a statue known as the "Weeping Jesus."  It was inspired by the gospel story of Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead.  Before that miracle occured, the evangelist writes the Jesus wept when He came to the tomb of his friend.

He must be weeping now, after the tragedy that happened in that Colorado movie theater; weeping for the dead and the wounded; weeping for families forever shattered. 

We pray that Our Lord will draw all those souls into His arms, give them peace.  We pray that He will touch and heal the wounded.  And we pray He will be with the families, comfort them in their grief, and give them hope.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Feast of Saint Benedict

“Listen, carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.  This is the advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.  (Prologue, Rule of Saint Benedict, verse 1)

So begins one of the most famous monastic rule of life in Western Christianity.  It is also the only document we have written by Saint Benedict.  What we know about this saint comes from memories of his followers and legend.  While the figure of Benedict is somewhat hidden in the mists of time; there is no denying the effect his spiritual sons and daughters has had on the world.  It was the monasteries who preserved the wisdom of Europe during the chaos of the Dark Ages.  It was Benedictine monks who were the first missionaries to pagan lands.

In our present day, although their numbers have shrunk in Europe and America, they still inspire countless lay men and women by the example of their lives.  They guide individuals through the ways of prayer, helping them encounter the loving presence of God.  Many lay persons have become oblates of St. Benedict, living the Benedictine qualities of prayer, hospitality, and community in their daily lives.

Benedict and his Rule was, and is, a great gift of God to His people.  We should all give thanks for this gift.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Finding A Hidden Franciscan Gem

"The local fraternity is to be established canonically.  It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love.  This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for  enlivening  the apostolic life of its members."  (Art. 22, SFO Rule)

Every five years, Secular Franciscans in the United States gather for a National Congress.  It is an opportunity to come together, to reflect on the life of the Order, to seek inspiration, and to reaffirm fraternal bonds.  This year's Quinquennial was held in Chicago.  While web surfing, I discovered that the National Fraternity has set up a weblog about the Congress.  Besides news postings on the progress of the Congress, there are also photos of the activities that took place.  I found the site very enjoyable to go through.

When I entered the Permanent Diaconate program, one of the requirements was to go to formation days that were held on the second Saturday of each month.  As luck would have it, it is also the day that my fraternity has it's monthly meeting.  So I have been away fro the fraternity for quite some time.  And a Secular Franciscan needs his/her fraternity, like a fish needs water.  In fraternity, we reinforce our identity as Franciscans, in fraternity; we share each others struggles in living the Gospel.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Prayer for the 4th of July - Independence Day

God, source of all freedom,
this day is bright with the memory
of those who declared that life and liberty
are your gift to every being.

Help us to continue a good work begun long ago.  Make our vision clear and our will strong;
that only in human solidarity will we find liberty, and justice only in the honor that belongs to every life on earth.

Turn our hearts toward the family of nations;
to understand the ways of others,
to offer friendship,
and to find safety only in the common good to all.

-Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers

Monday, July 2, 2012

Reunification On Hold; for Now!

The signals that came from a recent homily by the leader of the Society of Saint Pius X, indicate that the process of reunification of the Society with the Roman Catholic Church, is on hold, again.  While specifics of what was in the documents the SSPX were being asked to sign remain secret, one can assume that the stumbling block remains the teachings that came out of the Second Vatican Council.  The Vatican Insider has reported on the story.

The Vatican Insider has also reported that Pope Benedict XVI has not given up on returning the SSPX to the flock.  He has appointed Archbishop Joseph DiNoia, to continue pursuing the work of bringing about reunification.

For A Better Catholic Blog, Follow These 10 Commandments

Deacon Greg Kandra has come up with 10 Commandments all Catholic bloggers should follow for a more compassionate and civil blogosphere..

Here is the link.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: An Infinity of Little Hours

I have always had an interest in the contemplative side of the Catholic faith.  One of my favorite authors is Thomas Merton, both his spiritual writings, and his history of the Trappist Order.  Show me a book on monastic communities, and you will see me seated in the corner, thumbing through it.

Some years ago, my wife and I were staying in Boston, so she could attend a talk by Wayne Dyer.  With time on my hands, I read the papers and discovered that the documentary film on the Carthusians of Grande Chartreuse, by Philip Groening, "Into Great Silence," was playing in Cambridge.  I was able to see the movie, and was blown away.  So much so that when my parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I asked for the DVD of the movie.

Now I just recently discovered this book by Nancy Klein Maguire, entitled "An Infinity of Little Hours," published in 2006 by Public Affairs.  It is essentially the story of five men from America, Ireland, England, and Europe, who enter the Carthusian Charterhouse of Parkminster, England, during the early 1960's.  The author describes their lives as they go through the formation program, each seeking to discern if God is calling them to become hermit monks.  We see what their lives where like, the challenges, the struggles, and moments of peace and joy.  We get to know what it means to be a Carthusian, the history of the Order, and the demands and sacrifices it requires from their members.  In the end, only one of the five men remained in the Order.

The work of discerning one's vocation in this world can be just a challenging for us laity.  How much of what we decide to do with our lives comes from our parents, or society's expectations.  Some of us find our calling right away, others not after many years.  We may be surprised by the Spirit, and find that we are being pushed down another path.  One thing I think all of us, clergy, religious, and lay, are definitely called to, are to lives of holiness.  And this holiness is achieved by following the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

U. S. Bishops vs the Girl Scouts?

It was not that long ago that the Republicans found themselves in a public relations quagmire.  Because of the speeches and legislative hearings being held by some of their more conservative members; their opponents were given the opportunity to announce to the public that the Republicans were carrying out a war on women.

One could say that the U. S. bishops may be finding themselves in the same situation.  On the heels of the announcement that the Vatican had appointed  an American bishop to oversee the "reformation" of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, comes the revelation of an episcopal investigation of the Girl Scouts.  The Washington Post had published a story, and National Public Radio had broadcast a report on the investigation. In truth, this has been going on for some years, in response to conservative Catholic complaints about the Girls Scouts promoting sexuality education that is not in keeping with Church teaching.  There has also been a move among conservative Catholic bishops to separate the Church from any public organizations that does not agree with Catholic doctrines.

Whether the concerns are valid or not, the bishops are giving the impression that they are ganging up on women; trying to put them back in their pre-Vatican II place.  It would be wise to remember that it has been mostly women, both lay and religious, who have been the backbone of the Church.  From the earliest days of the Church, it has been women who helped to support the local churches.  It was women who cleaned the worship places, taught religious education, helped organize and run charities.  The bishops are risking alienating them at time when they are most needed for the life of the Church.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Reunification in Doubt?

The online news website Vatican Insider, has a story about disagreements within the Society of St. Pius X about ending the schism that has existed between it and Rome.  Three of the Lefebvrian bishops are reported to be asking the head of the Society, Bernard Fellay, not to continue with the reunification process.  They see no fundamental changes in the Holy See's adherence to the teachings of Vatican II.  The disagreements between the Society and the Vatican are still too deep, in their view, for union to take place.  Here is the link..

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Feast of Saint Damien of Molokai

Like Father James Martin, SJ, who wrote a book about the saints that influenced his life; I also have a list of saints that have inspired me on how to live the Gospel life.  One them is Father Damien of Molokai, who was canonized in 2009, and whose feast day is today.

Father Damien really exemplifies the concepts of diakonia and kenosis, of service and emptying oneself for the sake of others.  A Belgium missionary in Hawaii, in 1873, he volunteered to go and minister to the lepers who had been sent to a quarantine colony on the island of Molokai.  His ministry soon went beyond just celebrating the Mass and sacraments, to building decent shelters for the lepers, and providing what medical treatments he could.  He helped bring order out of chaos in the colony.  But his work came with a price, in 1884, he himself contracted leprosy.  He would die of the disease in 1889.

Since I have been in the Diaconate formation program, persons like St. Damien have provided me with new inspiration.  Father Damien, even though he was a priest, is a example to me of the idea of diaconal life, a life of ministry to the altar, and the service of charity. 

St. Damien of Molokai, pray for me.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Light at End of the Tunnel

Last Thursday, May 3, 2012, was my last class in the Permanent Diaconate Program for the Archdiocese of Boston.  There is still a final exam to do, as well as some papers, but the academic part of formation will be done.  I still have to attend some practicum workshops; and I have to go to some evaluation interviews.  My classmates and I will then be waiting for final approval from Cardinal Sean.  I cannot believe that it is all coming to the finish.   It has been six long years, but finally, one way or another, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The LCWR and the Vatican

The Catholic blogosphere has been humming over the actions taken by the Vatican concerning the Leadership Conference of Religious Women.  The National Catholic Reporter’s website has been reporting continually on this story, and offering commentary on it.  Here is a link to their reports.

The LCWR has been famous for pushing the envelope on hot button issues within the Church; and within society at large.  They challenged the Church leadership on certain policies, and certain teachings of the Church.  The LCWR leadership decided to play a prophetic role within the Church, and we all know what happens to prophets.

 Now the Vatican is in smack down mode, appointing an American bishop to oversee “reforms” of the LCWR structure.  The liberal side blames the American bishops, claiming that this is their revenge for the LCWR supposedly supporting the Obama healthcare program; and for their disrespect of the bishops’ authority.  The conservative side is clamoring for the LCWR to be dissolved, and their member congregations be brought to heel..

Most of the nuns I have known have been dedicated women of God, striving to live the Gospel of Jesus.  They are out there in the world, performing works of charity, doing their best to build up the Church.  Their congregations have progressive and conservative members; they wear a habit or just street clothes.  Some of their communities are slowly dying out; others are receiving new members in great numbers. 

Ideally, there should have been a dialogue by all sides, an understanding arrived at.  Unfortunately, I think one side sees dialogue as a weakening of their authority; the other side may be wedded to their ideology.  Wherever the truth lies, it is a sad day for the Church.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Reunification At Last?

The Catholic blogosphere has been abuzz with the news that there may be finally a reunification of the the Society of Saint Pius X, with the Roman Catholic Church.  John Allen posted a story on the National Catholic Reporter website, and the Catholic News Service also posted a report.

The Vatican, after much discussion with the Lefebvrites, gave them a "doctrinal preamble."  If the SSPX agreed to the document, then reunion was possible.  No details about what is in the document has been revealed, so we do not know how much of the store the Vatican is willing give away in order to heal the only major schism since Vatican II.  Of course in many ways the SSPX is like North Korea, just when you think you have a deal, they change the rules.  In this case, the leaders of the Lefebvrites are submitting changes to the preamble.  Many find it hard to believe that they would agree to rejoin the Church unless Rome totally repudiates the teachings of Vatican II.

The Lefebvrites are living in the past, struggling to hold onto a vision of the Church that no longer speaks to the hearts of a majority of Catholics in the world today.  Unfortunately, there seems to be those leaders in the Church who also wish to turn back the clock.  There does need to be continuity with tradition and the teachings  that have to come to us from the time of the Apostles; but there also needs to be a flexibility that will allow the Church to meet the needs of a world in changing times.  The Church leadership needs to be careful that in its desire to bring them back into the fold, that the SSPX does not become a weight its neck, holding it back.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

"Christ is Risen!"  "He is Risen indeed!"

To all members of my family, to all my friends, and to all my readers; may this Easter Sunday bring you hope and joy; for the good days, and especially for the difficult ones!

Pax et Bonum!


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Interview with a Deacon

While scanning the National Catholic Reporter website, I came across an interview by Mercy Sister Camille D'Arienzo of Don Zirkel, who, in his eighties, was once arrested for protesting against the Iraq War in a New York mall.  He was walking around the mall, wearing a protest t-shirt.

He and his late wife have been peace activists for many years.  He had worked for a Catholic diocesan newspaper, and was an ordained permanent deacon.  The interview reveals a man of service to his Church and his community.  And it is nice to know that there are deacons who are, shall we say, "left of center."  The interview can be found here.