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Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Grandeur of God, A View From The Hubble Ultra Deep Field 3D

Hubble Ultra Deep Field 3D

I just came across a wonderful video taken from the Hubble telescope. Just click on the line above to see it. The relationship between religion and science has always been important to me. Many people of faith fear science and many scientists eschew religion. Francis of Assisi was known at one time to have gone before God in prayer and repeated these two questions, Who are you O God, And who am I?" For him, who lived at a time when people believed the earth to be the center of the universe, he was bowled over by the grandeur of God and his own littleness, yet belovedness, in the face of God.

For those of us today who do believe in God and see in videos such as this and other pictures sent to us by the Hubble telescope, we can only be awed and stop in wonderment at a Creator who created still creating such as vast universe. We can realize our own smallness as well. Our earth, solar system and even our Milky Way Galaxy are just specks of dust compared with all that is. Yet science tells us that we are one with all that is, that the same atoms and molecules formed at the beginning of the universe are the ones that we are made of. I hope that viewing this video helps us realize that the God who created all of this is a God that none of us can totally figure out. Yet we believe that He loves all that He made, including us, and that really is totally awesome.

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.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Loving Embrace

Perhaps you're thinking that this is a strange title for the blog entry of a Franciscan friar. Many of you know that I am a sports fan. I just witnessed the end of the Masters Golf Tournament and the impressive victory of Phil Mickelson.

Even the non golf fans are aware of the coverage that has been given to Tiger Woods over the past few months as a result of his multiple marital infidelities. I have constantly challenged so many who have self-righteously pontificated about his failures and those of other public figures because I believe that in his case anyway he has taken all the right initial steps to correct his wrongdoing. Only time will tell where it all goes. I was glad that he performed well, though inconsistently, in the tournament, and I wish him the best in the future, in his own personal life, as well as in golf.

The above having been said I must say that I was on the brink of tears when Phil won. The emotion came not from his birdie putt on the 18th green, but in the loving embrace from his wife Amy who has been struggling from breast cancer. You see Phil took time off last year to be at her side as she began treatment.The following quote, taken from the ESPN website, says it all. "We've been through a lot this year. It means a lot to share some joy together," Mickelson said, his voice cracking has he struggled to keep control. "It's been such an incredible week, an emotional week. And to cap it off with a victory is something I can't put into words.

"It's something we'll share for the rest of our lives." Today was a victory for him, for her and for his family. I congratulate Phil and his family and pray that his wife's recovery be complete, and that he too has much success on the golf course.

A Change of Seasons--a bit of personal news,

Every once in a while I like to use this blog just to let folks know a bit more of what my life is like. This is one of those timesAs you can tell from my schedule posted above I'm heading into a more relaxed time of the year. I head north to Canada via the Auto Train to Washington DC. I used this wonderful mode of transportation last year and it nourished my general love for trains.After that I get to stop and visit friends in New Jersey and then family in Boston. On the way back home I stop at our friary in Raleigh, NC for a springtime gathering of friars. The month of May will see me taking a week of vacation and then spending some good quality time with my community in St. Petersburg as well as a chance to indulge one of my favorite pastimes--following the Boston Red Sox, especially when they come here to play the Tampa Bay Rays.

I hope during this time to work on some more video and have just completed a reflection on the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter. You can check it out by clicking on Fr.John's YouTube Videos

Also, I have added a link under My Blog List to a blog done by Steve DeWitt, OFM, one of our friars in formation. You can look at that by clicking here--A Franciscan Abroad

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Good Friday Prayer for Mothers (and Fathers)

Roma Viva - Detail_of_Pietà_by_Michelangelo

There are so many wonderful reflections on Good Friday and the Cross of Christ that I was wondering what I might contribute through this blog. I am spending these days of Triduum assisting at St. James parish in Conway, SC and Resurrection in Loris, SC. I just finished witnessing a dramatization of the Stations of the Cross done by the youth of Resurrection parish here at St. James in Conway. It was indeed a moving presentation. I am always moved when the story of the Lord's Passion and Death is presented well. Often it is one particular part of Jesus' journey that strikes me and this year it was the Thirteenth Station--Jesus is taken down from the Cross and placed in the arms of His mother.

This moment is perhaps best captured by Michaelangelo in his famous sculpture, the Pieta' which is displayed at St. Peter's basilica in Rome. (click on the link above for a view of this great masterpiece.) While I have always been moved when I have visited this great work of art, and touched by this particular station of the Cross, I believe that this year I experienced it in a unique and personal way--in light of the many stories of mothers and fathers who have suffered and struggled over the deaths and other sad and tragic events in the lives of their children. I beleive that it is the mother though who suffers especially for it is she who bore the child. When one looks at Michaelangelo's masterpiece (and looking at the photo hardly does it justice) one amazed at his ability to capture in marble the anguish and sadness of Mary holding her dead Son in her arms.

During my years of priestly ministry I have sat with and wept with mothers who lost children to war, to tragic auto accidents, to childhood illness and even outright murder. I have felt the sadness and anguish of mothers who feel powerless as they watch children going through painful divorces or who see them living self-destructive lives, wasting away with drugs and alcohol or just the effects of foolish and bad decisions. I have prayed with mothers who see little children suffering from illness and who hope that God, the doctors or someone somewhere can bring about healing.

Then there are the little, but nonetheless real sufferings of every mother, such as the worry that they'll be OK at school, especially as they go off on their own for the first time, or venture on a field trip, or begin to choose friends who may not be a good influence on them. In so many ways this celebate priest has come to realize that to be a mother or a father, is to suffer. I pray that this moment in the life of Jesus and Mary brings comfort and hope to mothers everywhere.