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.