Monday, November 6, 2017

Enough!!! But What to do?

   I am practically speechless after another mass murder, this time in a Church.  What are we to do?  The answer to that question cannot be a simplistic one size fits all thing and if anyone else says, "Our thoughts and prayers go out to them, " I will scream.

   Of course I do pray every time that these horrors happen and prayer is important, but if it does not lead to action it is in vain.

   What actions?  For one thing some level of gun  control and please stop quoting the second amendment.  That misses the point.   Without repealing that amendment limits can be placed on the sale of various weapons.  Shame on the NRA for not realizing that. And please, enough of "guns don't kill, people do"   That is true as far as it goes but it's more difficult to kill scores of people with a knife of some other weapon.

   But let's not be simplistic. Gun control laws alone are only part of the fix.  There is a mental health issue as well.  All too many of these murderers have had serious mental health issues. There is no perfect screening system but we can do better. 

  Deep down, however,  the issue is a spiritual problem that won't be fixed be just saying prayers.  As a country we need to face the level of anger that is about, anger that is expressed not only in shootings but in hate speech, racism and all sorts of phobias around different types of people.  We need to look inside ourselves and ask God to help us heal the deep-seated anger that is in many of us.  We most certainly can and will have disagreements about politics and religion.  This is part of the greatness of America, but we need to learn anew how to disagree without being hateful. Most Americans will never commit an act of gun violence or any other type of violence but I have seen frequent examples of people shouting each other down over all kinds of things.

  We in the clergy of all faiths need to address this in our preaching.  We also need to speak out against a distorted expression of Christianity that puts guns, the Bible and the flag all together.

  I write these words not as a liberal or as a conservative, but as a Catholic Christian. I also have no illusion that these words will solve anything, but hopefully they point us in a direction


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

In times of Crisis--Various Thoughts

   It's been a month since I last posted.  I don't have one topic to write about, but rather some thoughts about several things.

   1. Over the past few weeks any number of natural disasters have struck our country and several other nations around the world.  The question arises as to what we as believers are to make of all this.  Let me say right off the bat that the loving God that I believe in does not send tribulation to millions of innocent people because of being upset with the actions of some people. That is preposterous.  What I do believe is that these events tell us that we are not in charge.  We are not the masters of the universe in spite of the many advances made by science and technology.  They also lead us to reflect on what is really important.  How many people have I seen recently and in past tragedies say something like "We lost our home and all of our belongings, but we have each other."  Folks who did lose loved ones make statements of faith that God will strengthen them and help them to get through everything."  I could go on but you get the idea. 
   I would add this as well. We need to take a serious look at the issue of climate change and avoid either politically motivated denial of the subject or the simplistic offering of it for everything that has gone one.  Can we ask, "What is the scientific data telling us?"  "Is there human contribution or is it merely cyclic?"  And most importantly, "What, if anything, can we do?"  Try to make the answer scientific and moral, but not political.  I personally think that both sides of the political spectrum skew the issue.

   2.  Speaking of disasters the issue of North Korea is alarming.  That nation is led by a mad man whose people are starving.  There is no doubt that he must be dealt with, and strongly.  That having been said I refer you to the following words from Gaudiom et Spes, Vatican II's Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.  Section 20 of that wonderful document states:

      "Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas
       along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and
       unhesitating condemnation."

I will add no comment to those words, but especially for those of you who are Catholic that is the official teaching of our Church.

   3.  On DACA.  I can only hope that Congress can pass a bi-partisan bill protecting those who came here as children.  Whatever you may think of immigration reform on a wider scale to me it is unconscionable to think of sending these people, many of whom are successful young adults making contributions to our country, back to countries they never really knew. The only country they have ever known is our country. Furthermore I state this as a moral issue for us Christians and not just as a political one.

    Well, there you have it, may thoughts on recent goings-on.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mary's Assumption--What Does It Have to Do with Us? With Everyday Life?

The other day I told a man who invited me to dinner last night that I could not accept because I had a Mass.  "Why?" he asked. I reminded him that it was the Feast of the Assumption.  He then went into a minor rant basically saying that such beliefs are interesting, but irrelevant, in light of all that is going on in the world.

  His objection may be somewhat understandable given the fact that he, like many, don't understand the implications of believing that upon her death Mary was immediately taken body and soul into the glory of eternal life.

   The Church presents Mary, in her sinlessness (Immaculate Conception) and in her death (Assumption)as a model for God's promise to all of humanity, a promise not just of a spiritual eternity with God, but one which holds out the promise of a bodily resurrection, in the fullness of time, for all of us.

   So, why is this significant?  In a world which is seeing so much violence, killing and suffering God's promise is that this will be overcome, that bodies are not just cast off so that we can live some sort of ethereal life in eternity.  The implications of this belief, however, extend not only to our time after death, but to this life as well.  One of the great errors present in Christian history is the dismissal of the body.   We forget that the Word became flesh.  As a result of this we have tended to have a skewed understanding of sexuality, continually bouncing from hedonism to puritanism. We talk of saving our souls forgetting that not only the body but the entire created order is the subject of the redemption that Jesus brings.

    This is why we care for the sick, why we respect the whole human person, body and soul.  It is why we stand against racism which says that the color of some bodies makes them superior to others.
It is interesting to note as well that in the Gospel for the Feast Luke has Mary proclaiming the beautiful prayer, the Magnificat ( See the image above). After she thanks God for what has been done to her.  She proclaims that the hungry will be fed and the lowly will be raised up.

  An interesting historical fact.  When Pius XII declared this belief as a dogma in 1950 he did so with the horrible suffering of two world wars and the holocaust in mind, top hold out hope for humanity.

   If that message is not relevant for today, what is?

PS. It was on this day in 1964 that I took my first vows as a Franciscan

Friday, July 28, 2017

Jesus Withdraws and Prays--Me Too

“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went and departed to a solitary place, and there He prayed.” (Mk. 1:35) 
   A close reading of the Gospels shows us that there were several occasions during Jesus" ministry where he withdrew and prayed.  Often it was the demands of ministry, after preaching and working several miracles.  Other times it was because he was not ready to fully take on opponents like the Pharisees. (Of course, He often did take them on.) Other times it was to pray for direction and strength.

   If Jesus had to withdraw and pray why not you and me?

   I have just completed a very busy and rewarding time of preaching sandwiched around a wonderful but busy vacation with friars and with my family.  I am also at a loss for what to say about the goings on in our nation.  As I headed back from a preaching engagement for Unbound in Chicago last weekend I realized that I needed to withdraw and pray and reflect.

   Most of you know that I am active on social media, especially Facebook.  One good friend of many years, noting my active schedule,  has several times complemented me for my boundless energy.  Indeed the Lord has blessed me, at the ripe old age of 72, with a great deal of energy and strength.  For this I am grateful, but the supply of energy is not infinite, thus the need to slow down.  Also, as mentioned above, I am concerned about the direction of our nation, not only as regards what can only be called a circus in Washington, but also the many inanities that I observe happening in the general population.  I often feel compelled to make statements on this blog or in the aforementioned media, but find myself at a loss for words.  I get tempted to join in the angry rants but realize that this is foolishness.

   Fortunately, by the grace of God, I was scheduled for some minor surgery yesterday, the removal of a large cyst from my upper back.  The procedure went very smoothly, but the followup requires some slowing down.  I see this as a call to prayer and reflection.  I have a light ministry schedule this month, several weekend engagements but much time at home here at the friary.  I hope to follow the Lord's example and withdraw from the frey a bit to pray and reflect.  This does not by any means suggest that I don't care about what's going on, rather that I need to reflect more on how to move forward. 

   In our overactive and over-stimulated culture withdrawing to pray is often the best thing that we can do--for ourselves, and for those we love and serve.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Unbound--Working together to Set Others Free--Thoughts on Independence Day

    Regular readers of this blog know that since last October I have been occasionally preaching for a wonderful organization called Unbound.  Unbound was established in 1981 by a group of lay Catholics in Kansas City.  The preaching is to seek out people who are willing to sponsor children, students and needy elders in various poor countries.  I came across this great organization last summer and hope to continue preaching for them in addition to my ministry of preaching missions and retreats.

   As we celebrated July 4th yesterday, a day to celebrate our freedom as Americans, I realized that there is a dimension to freedom that is part of Unbound that is often missing in our American discussions about freedom.

  When I write on this blog I usually go to Google to seek out appropriate images for my theme.  99% of the time I am immediately successful.  This time when I sought images for freedom I got images such as the one at the top left of this page. They depict individuals being and feeling free.  Something is missing there.  While there is nothing wrong with individuals gaining freedom and feeling free I realized that there is something more to the pursuit of freedom, the dimension of community, of working together for freedom and of helping others to truly be set free.

    Unbound takes its name from Luke 11:44.  After calling Lazarus forth from the tomb Jesus says to the gathered crowd, "Unbind him and set him free."  In the part leading up to that Jesus has ordered them to "role away the stone".  The point here is that the liberation from death and the tomb comes from Jesus, but others in the community obey Him to help bring about Lazarus' ultimate freedom. 

  The work of Unbound has already helped or is helping over 330,000  people to be set free from poverty. When I preach for them I seek sponsors.  The funds raised go to local communities in the various countries.  They, in turn, work with the sponsored people and their families.  it is a community effort.

   Our American culture has become very individualistic.  Freedom is about "my rights.While there is nothing wrong with insisting on "my rights" the danger is that my rights and those of others often conflict.  We all quote the Constitution to prove our point, and the beat goes on.

   If we can only  realize that the rights of all are best realized when we seek the "common good" and not just "my rights", that sometimes instead of looking only to "my freedom" we can work together to "unbind and set free" someone else would there be the real freedom that we seek.  I believe that when our country has been at its best we have done this.

  Maybe the image for freedom, instead of being the individual leaping for joy, could be something like the picture below.

Also, please consider being an Unbound sponsor.  See





Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Gospel Vision--Nearing the End of Our Chapter.

  I am sitting here at Siena College on the final full day of our Provincial Chapter.  It has been a wonderful week for several reasons.  For one thing just to renew acquaintance with friars that I have not seen for a while is a blessing, as well as getting to better know other friars, especially the younger ones.

  Chapters are also for electing leadership and we will complete the process this morning of electing our provincial council.  I think that our nation could learn something by observing how religious orders do elections.  Yes, we are human and there is a level of "politicking" at times, but when the moment comes to pass out ballots and vote there is a sense of solemnity, silence and prayer-fullness about the matter.  Did you ever stop and pray as you cast your ballot in local and national elections?  Something to think about.

  As I mentioned in my last blog post a chapter is primarily about renewing our commitment to our religious life, in my case the Franciscan life.  That is the real blessing of the past week. I came to that realization over the past few days as we discussed our stance towards refugees and immigrants and towards health care as it applies to our elder friars.  As we discussed these issues I realized that terms like liberal and conservative do not apply.  I suppose that our stance on immigration and sanctuary for refugees could be called "liberal" and our belief in the dignity of every person as they age and move towards natural death could be called "conservative".  The truth, however, is that for us the only label that applies is "Gospel."  There are certain things that living the Gospel calls us to that just do not fit into convenient political categories.

   I have been dismayed at times, and especially recently, when posting something on Facebook and well meaning people immediately frame it in political terms.  Please know that whatever positions I take on this blog or on social media are based on my conviction (right or wrong) that these things are part of living the Gospel.
   At times living the Gospel sounds like "pie in the sky".  It would be if we did not have the Christian virtue of hope which calls us beyond our present reality because the Lord is risen and ascended and gone to prepare a place for us.  To live the Gospel is to call us now, on this earth, into the realization of the Kingdom that is yet to come.  God's reign, in its fullness, will come in the future, but God's Kingdom is among us, even now, where there is justice, peace and forgiveness.

   Think about that--PLEASE!!!



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Heading for Our Provincial Chapter--Prayers Please.

Friars gather for Eucharist during the 2014 Chapter of Holy Name Province
 Tomorrow, Pentecost Sunday, I will be heading north to Siena College in Loudonville, NY to participate in our provincial chapter.  Many readers of this blog might wonder, "What is a chapter if not a section of a book?"

   In religious life a chapter is a gathering of the members of the community, a gathering which has several purposes.  The primary one is to deepen our commitment  to our way of life.  In my case that is the Franciscan life.  The chapter is also a time for electing new leadership.  This year our provincial and vicar provincial are in the middle of a sex year term.  There are six councilors who work with them and they will be elected this week, some of them re-elected, others new to the job.  The chapter also makes important decisions regarding our life, some of them in the form of specific laws and statutes, others as more broad policy statements.  In addition in recent years our chapters have also taken stands on various issues affecting our society, particularly when they involve values that are dear to us as Franciscans.

   The chapter I will be attending is for my province, Holy Name Province.   There are also general chapters for the whole order as well as local friary chapters.  The chapter is the highest governing body of the order and the province.  This means that superiors must abide by chapter decisions.  In our province, at the present time, every solemnly professed (final vows) member must attend.  Those over 70 may be excused.  I am 72, but still gladly attending.  At one time only superiors and specifically elected delegates attended.  Smaller numbers enable all of us to do so.

   I am looking forward to participating in this years chapter.  A big topic of discussion will be what we call reconfiguration and revitalization as we move towards not only having fewer provinces in the US, but also striving to living our Franciscan life more deeply and authentically.

   I hop that this glimpse into our Franciscan life is informative for you.  More importantly I ask your prayers for us that as we gather at Pentecost the Holy Spirit will indeed inspire all of us as we gather in chapter.

Veni Sancte Spiritus--Come Holy Spirit