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Wisdom, The Missing Ingredient

This past Sunday Pope Francis canonized 7 new saints.  Two of them had a an effect on my life--St. Oscar Romero and Pope St. Paul VI.

   I entered the seminary in September, 1962, two months after Paul VI was elected Pope.  I had seen this man, Cardinal Montini of Milan,  a few years earlier as a member of my parish band, St., William's in Dorchester.  Cardinal Cushing of Boston had invited our band to greet him with our music.  More importantly he was the Pope during my entire time in the seminary and in my early years as a priest.
Pope St. John XXIII had convened the Second Vatican Council a few years earlier but it was Paul VI
who was entrusted with the task of implementing
 the council.  Keep in mind that he had the authority, upon the death of his predecessor, to end the council.  He did not do that.  He steered the Church through the completion of its documents and saw them get put into practice.  That was no easy task as there was controversy over how to carry on in additi…

Go and Rebuild My House

We Franciscans will soon be celebrating the Feast of our founder, Francis of Assisi. We will be celebrating this feast deeply aware of the crisis that is facing our Church today.  We are also aware that when our order was founded the Church was also in deep crisis. Several groups of people had left the Church out of disillusionment with the abuse of power even at the highest levels of the hierarchy. They sought to live the Gospel life simply and authentically. I won't detail that here or suggest that one crisis was worse than another.  What I would like to offer is this.  The call that Francis received from the Lord as he was praying before the cross in a run down chapel outside the walls of Assisi is as timely today as it was then.

  As his early biographers recall as Francis was kneeling in prayer he felt the Lord speaking to him from the cross in these words.  "Francis, Go and rebuild my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin."

   He and his companions (The…

The Assumption of Mary: Hope and Challenge

Today is a big day for me and for the Church, the celebration of the Assumption of Mary. 55 years ago today I put on the Franciscan habit for the first time. A year and a day later I took my first vows on August 16, 1964.

  Now that that has been stated some might be thinking that I am out to lunch and out of touch.  With all that is going on in the world and in the Church what meaning could this Feast have? My answer--a great deal of meaning.

   The belief that upon her death the Virgin Mary was taken body and soul into heaven, though declared a doctrine by Pope Pius XII in 1950, is a belief that has been shared since the earliest days of the Church.

  What this doctrine gives us is a sense of the beauty and dignity of the human body.  What Mary experiences immediately we believe and hope that in the fullness of time we too will experience not just the salvation of our soul, but bodily resurrection and redemption.

   There is so much violence in our world--war, terrorism, abortio…

An Extraordinary Chapter--A New Beginning for Franciscans in the US

As I shared news this week that 6 of the 7 US provinces met in chapter and decided to merge into one province several people asked, "What is a Chapter?"  Good question. Sometimes the workings of religious orders are a mystery even to practicing Catholics so I thought I would shed some light on how we operate. In religious orders members meet periodically to elect leaders, pass legislation and to take stands on various issues in the Church and the world.  In our Franciscan order there are general chapters, usually held in Assisi, every 6 years, to elect the leadership for the order.  In each province chapters are held every three years.  These are ordinary chapters.

   Occasionally an extraordinary chapter is held, not for the usual purpose, but for some specific reason.  In 1967 my province, Holy Name, met in extraordinary chapter to implement clearly the changes called for by Vatican II.  This past week 6 of the seven US provinces met in extraordinary chapter to decide …

Thoughts from a Wandering Friar--A New direction for this blog.

I have received several e-mails and had comments made in conversations as to why I have not posted on this blog in a while. There is no simple answer to this question.  For one thing I have been sensing that I am not adding much to the conversation about what's going on in our world and I refuse to get drawn in to the angry ranting that passes for intelligent conversation.  I do admit that on a few occasions I have fallen into that trap.

  Secondly I realize that this blog did not have a clear focus.  That can be OK.  This is not a newspaper or magazine with deadlines for writers and an editorial position for the product.

   With all of the above taken into consideration from now on my blog will be about my ministry of preaching, especially preaching parish missions and retreats for religious, but also my work with Unbound. See Unbound. See as well my own Unbound outreach page in the Links section to the right. I will present thoughts on my preaching themes as well as comments…

My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

I have been a priest for almost 47 years and a traveling preacher for the past 30 years.  During parish missions people often come to me feeling that their faith has been stretched to the limit.  They pray and pray for something--to overcome an illness, to deal with a difficult family problem or life situation and there seems to be no answer.  They wonder, "Where are You God with all that is going on in my life?"

   This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, or also Passion Sunday.  The account of the Passion of Christ from one of the synoptic Gospels is always read, usually by the priest and two other readers.  From the cross Jesus cries out, "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken Me?"  The picture at the top of this article quotes Matthew. This year it was from Mark 15:34.  How can this be?  Jesus, after all, is the eternal Word of the Father, always one with the Father and the Spirit. How then, can He be forsaken by God?

   Over the centuries there have been several a…

Healing the Anger Within Us, A Task for our Times.

Once again another school shooting. Once again thoughts and prayers are offered.  Once again there are discussions about gun control and mental health.  Thought, prayers, discussions and above all actions are necessary to resolve this issue, but it strikes me that there is another, a deeper dimension to this problem that we are not facing, a spiritual and emotional one that applies to all of us.

   One psychologist made the statement that most of the perpetrators of these horrible crimes are not truly mentally ill.  They are ANGRY, excessively and over the top, but they are ANGRY.  Anger in and of itself is not a mental health problem, nor is it always inappropriate.  Anger is an emotion that motivates us to strive to correct injustice, both great social injustices and individual grievances. The non-violent expression of anger by people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. did a great deal of good for the world.

   The individuals that have gone on violent, gun shooting rampage…

Lent is coming, Time to do Penance

In a few short weeks the season of Lent will be upon us.  Catholics as well as many other Christians, will be giving thought to what they might do for Lent, what type of penance to undertake. A good beginning is to visit the three-pronged approach to this practice--prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Focusing on these three, and not just on fasting (sacrificing, giving up) helps us to go beyond a trap that can really be ego-driven because Lent is not just about "what I give up", but about deepening our relationship with the Lord through prayer, and expressing our concern for the poor.  Our fasting should be fueled by these two to insure balance.

   I would invite my readers to include the above, but to go beyond it.  We need to take a look at the meaning of the word repent, or do penance  as found in the Gospel.  Mark's Gospel, the most direct and to the point of the four, has Jesus, right after His baptism by John in the Jordan, going to Galilee and proclaiming the mes…