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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Some Thoughts at Season's End

Another season of preaching parish missions has come to an end. After attending a gathering of friars in Raleigh, NC I'll be heading home, taking a week of vacation and then settle down for a whole month with my community at St. Anthony Friary.

These past few months have been hectic. They have included travel to eleven states and one Canadian province, but they have also been quite enriching and filled with wonderful and unique encounters with a variety of peoples, something which I consider to be on of the real blessings of twenty two and a half years on the road.

Regular readers of this blog may remember that back in October I experienced an afternoon on the grounds of a monastery of nuns who lived a life of hermitage and who produced wonderful liturgical art. I have continued to preach in Spanish and am always enriched by the faith and the variety of cultures of the Hispanic people. Keep in mind that the word Hispanic is misleading because it lumps people together by a common language, but each country has its own culture. I am always experiencing that in new ways. This year I worked in Spanish in western Kentucky, North Carolina, Arkansas and South Carolina.

Many of the folks I work with in Spanish are undocumented and have many painful stories that reflect the injustice of our immigration laws. These must be changed and certainly not in the shameful way that Arizona has just gone. You can click on my links to the right to the Franciscan Action Network and the US Bishop's Immigration reform to see more on this topic. In spite of poverty and pain they have great faith, and not the passive resigned type of faith, but an active one that seeks to correct injustice.

Faith is not limited to Hispanics of course. Whether in Kentucky, Arkansas, Florida or the Carolinas I am always deeply moved by the strength of faith in people touched by sickness, injustice, the bad economy or the crisis of credibilty due to the continuing sexual abuse crisis and the cover-up engaged in by too many of our Church's leaders.

Another enriching experience came in February in Sanibel, Florida where the church there had been destroyed several years ago by hurricane Charlie. Many people told me how rebuilding not only the Church, but many of their own homes, brought them together and made them stronger.

Just last week I was in Miramichi, NB, Canada and for the first time in over 22 years of preaching missions joined with a community of native peoples,or as the Canadians say, First Nation people, as I celebrated Mass at the chapel of St. Joachim on the Eel Ground reserve. The Church had some very nice stained glass windows which integrated Christian saints and symbols with symbols from their culture. The brochure describing the windows was entitled, "One Supreme Being, Two Unique Cultures. Salmon fishing was a key part of this people's life and the local pastor and I were treated several days later to a nice grilled salmon, prepared by one of the Eel Ground natives. We enjoyed the meal and appreciated it more for the genuine gift that it was.

In closing this entry I'd mention that I'm often asked how I can live out of a suitcase. The answer to that is because of experiences such as the ones I've mentioned here, and that is only one year, of more than twenty two.

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