Monday, December 21, 2009

Fr. John's Christmas Message--YouTube

Here's praying that all readers of this blog have a Blessed and holy Christmas. For my Christmas message please click on Christmas Message When you get to youtube just click on the big arrow in front of my picture.

Once again, Merry Christmas
Fr. John

Sunday, December 20, 2009

More Friary Pictures

Here are some more pictures of our friary to go with the one below. You can see here our nativity scene, in pre-Christmas mode, our dining room, the beautiful courtyard, the envy of our friends up north at this time of the year and three paintings--of SS Anthony, Clare and Francis done by our resident artist, Miguel Loredo, OFM

Christmas at the Friary

Several folks who follow this blog have asked me about St. Anthony Friary where I live. I have included a few pictures to give you an idea of what it's like here. One picture shows the outside of our newly painted friary. The beautiful Christmas tree is the work of the vicar of our community, Bro. John Capozzi, OFM., who works hard to keep our place looking great year round. John had the help of several friars in this effort completed at the house tree decorating party. The other shows the entryway with Christmas decorations.
For me the friary really is home. As the title of this blog suggests I am indeed the wandering friar, but as much as I enjoy my travels I find it so important to be rooted in my life here. It is always great to have brothers to come back to after a couple of weeks on the road. The fact that our daily routine is built around prayer and the Eucharist is vital to my life, as well as the interchange with the men here who have spent many years serving God's people in parishes, schools, foreign missions, military chaplaincy and much more. The word friar, by the way, means brother. In his testament St. Francis writes, "...and the Lord gave me brothers." To be brother to each other and to those we serve is at the heart of our Franciscan life. As Christmas approaches I'm grateful for the brothers that the Lord gave me, and I want you to know that by calling myself the wandering "friar" I am always, even when alone, part of a family of brothers who help to shape who I am, and who support me in so many ways in all that I do.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Our Lady of Guadaloupe

Those who know me well hopefully know that I am a man of faith, but also a skeptic when it comes to things like apparitions. I generally believe that the presence of God is all around us and that as Catholics we have as well the Eucharist and the other Sacraments in which the Lord is present to us in various ways, and thus ought not to be looking for special apparitions and divine interventions. That having been said I must say that my experience with Hispanic people in my travels with the Ministry of the Word over the past few years have given me a deep appreciation for the upcoming (Dec. 12) feast of Our Lady of Guadaloupe. While scholars debate the details of exactly what happened there I am convinced that the event was "of God". The reason I say this is because in the conquest of 1521 by the Spaniards the native peoples were nearly exterminated. Even Church officials were debating whether they had a soul, as inconceivable as that is to us. Then, a short while later, Our Lady appeared to a young native boy named Juan Diego. Not only does this event impact this young man, but his people turn to Christ and the Church starts looking upon them differently. As they say, the rest is history. His people are now impacting the Church in our country, which I also think is "of God."

So ask, if you will, did she really appear? Whatever happened God certainly acted on behalf of a downtrodden people. Our Lady of Guadaloupe, pray for us.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's Advent, Hurry Up and Wait!

Some of you may remember that back on October 20 I was surprisingly moved by a visit to a community of cloistered hermit sisters in New York state. Part of the spirituality of these women and their male counterparts is an attentive waiting for the coming of the Lord. It's Advent now and many Catholics don't realize that this season is not only about preparing for Christmas, but about preparing for the coming of the Lord.

For those of us who are in the rat race and not spending our lives in solitude on a mountain top we might wonder, "What can we learn from these hermits?" I think that there are several things we can learn. First among these is the need to slow down. We live in a face paced society and certainly benefit from the speed and convenience that technology brings us. I myself marvel at how I can be in Kentucky where I am working this week and book three parish missions for next year via my cell phone as a road in here from the airport. This is all well and good but there are some things in life that do not have a quick fix or solution and we become frustrated, at least I know that I do, when things cannot get done in a hurry. So one Advent discipline in which we might engage is to slow down a bit, taking time to "smell the roses" and maybe to encounter the Lord in the slower pace. Many of you know that I love baseball and other sports. I can remember going to games back in the 50's and 60's and actually having conversations with people between innings. Now there is deafening thumping of music that prevents that. We need silence to listen to God but also to one another. We spend a great deal of time talking and twittering, but do we really listen to each other any more.

Finally we can learn that waiting on the Loird produces joy. There are all kinds of fundamentalist fear mongers wanting us to tremble because the world might be ending, and in the secular world there are movies like 2012 with its big earthquakes and tsunamis. Our faith does not call us to believe in the world's end, though that is inevitable, but rather in the coming of the Kingdom which we wait for, as we say in the liturgy, in joyful hope.

The Lord will come again in the fullness of time. If we are ready for the many little ways in which He comes every day. The big coming will take care of itself.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm sitting at a desk at our friary in Boston on Thanksgiving morning and thinking of the many people and things that I am thankful for on this day and hopefully we are all doing that. Thinking, however, beyond the obvious things to be thankful for I think back to a meeting a few years ago with a brother friar from Africa who was visiting the US. I asked him what his impressions were of our country, and they were positive. When I asked him what most stood out to him about life in our country he told me that all the buildings of New York, the technology that was available to us were not unexpected discoveries, but he couldn't get over the fact that we used the same water for bathing as we did for drinking. In his country drinking water was a precious commodity. A friar visiting from Bolivia where i served as a missionary told me once that he couldn't get over mailboxes on the street and that we Americans trusted enough to drop our mail and them with the assurance that the mail would reach its destination without being stolen.

These two little encounters, I believe, challenge us on this day to ask if we are thankful for the things we take for granted in our country. They challenge us to look beyond the sense of entitlement which affects all of us and to see all of life as a gift, and so to be thankful for everything.

The Mass that we Catholics place at the heart of our life of worship is called Eucharist, which is Greek for "thanksgiving". As I celebrate Eucharist later this morning I will thank God for everything that is gift in my life. I pray that all of us in our own way do the same.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Christ the King

Our Church's liturgical year comes to an end this Sunday with the celebration of the feast of Christ the King. What an unusual title in this era when there are no kings and queens, though there are still plenty of dictators,and others who abuse authority. Let's face it though Christ the President or P{rime Minister just wouldn't cut it.

Actually the word King means Messiah or Anointed one (Cristos in Greek. What we are celebrating is our belief that Jesus is the fulfillment of the messianic promises of God to Israel, yet not in a way that any of us humans would ever have imagined because He is a King who rules by love, who "came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for the many." (Mk, 10,45) The Kingdom that He came to establish is one of love, justice and peace, one where the poor have the Good news preached to them

And so we might ask, "Where is this kingdom?" The easy answer is to say that it is in the future, at the end of time, in the next life. True enough this Kingdom will be brought about in its fullness at the end of time, but it is already here as well. It is here whenever the message of Jesus is lived out, whenever there is forgiveness, whenever the poor and hungry are cared for. One biblical scholar suggests that rather than referring to the "kingdom of God" the texts of the Gospel would be better translated as "the ruling of God," so that we could say that whenever it is apparent that God is ruling over our lives God's kingdom is among us.

This beautiful feast goes back only to 1925, though Christ has been referred to as King from earliest times, including the dialogue with Pilot in this Sunday's Gospel text (Jn 18, 33-37) where Pilate asks Jesus. "Are you the king of the Jews?" the feast was established by Pope Pius XI to make a statement of fascism and communism as well as secularism which wanted to replace Christianity with their own political philosophies. Though many things are different today than they were in 1925 the purpose of this feast is as timely as ever.

Thus the question that we all might ask as we celebrate this feast is "Who, or what, is ruling over my life? On what is my life based? What give meaning to my life?

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Article on my ministry

Fr. Roy Gasnick, OFM, a membger of my community here at St. Anthony Friary, recently interviewed me about the Ministry of the Word. Since many of you often wonder just what it is that I do I thought that you would enjoy the article. Just click on the following and it will take you there.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Bi-lingual Parish Mission

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In the pictures above you see Fr. Marty (top) preaching in Spanish at SS. Mary & Edward in Roxborough, NC. Below, Fr. John is preaching in English.

I've just returned from a busy period in my ministry--four missions in six weeks, two of them bi-lingual missions with Fr. Martin Bednar, OFM. During that time I also attended the "Encuentro" for Hispanic ministry in our province of which I wrote in my last blog entry. Several of you have asked questions about these missions, basically asking what we do and why. The "what" part is easy to answer. We arrive at the parish on Saturday in time to preach an invitational homily at all the Masses, Spanish and English. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings we divide the folks into two groups according to language, the larger one meeting in the Church (and that's not always the English speaking group), and the smaller one in a chapel or hall nearby the Church. Each group hears the Word of God in their own language. Both of us speak Spanish and so we alternate between groups on each of the nights. In this way everyone gets to hear both of us. At the end of each evening we bring the groups together for a common bi-lingual activity of prayer and ritual. Our efforts have proved successful and have helped parishes to work with the tension of trying to serve the two groups.

The "why" part of the inquiries is more complex. The basic answer to "why", of course, is that there are two languages being spoken and that the needs of all must be met. We run into issues however in two areas. One is that often the English speaking feel that the Spanish speaking are taking over their parish, a parish which they and their parents and grandparents helped to build. The other is a concern that many of the Hispanics are illegal immigrants. To both of these concerns we offer a gentle, but clear and firm challenge. Our forebears did not build, at great sacrifice, an Irish or Itlaian or Polish or American parish. They built a Catholic parish and the Hispanics who come are indeed Catholic and usually very good Catholics. Also I like to tell them that while they may be illegal according to civil law they are "legal Catholics" because they are baptized and that while they are hear they have a right o have access to Mass, the Sacraments and all aspects of Church life. Although we don't give any talks on immigration reform we often point out to individuals what the Church's position is on that subject.

One final point is that it is not only a matter of language, but of culture. Again, as I pointed out in last weeks's entry the mission of the Church is not to favor any one culture but to see that the Gospel is proclaimed and lived in every culture. There is one faith, but many cultural expressions of that faith. Over the years, long before experiencing the cultures of different Spanish speaking countries, I was enriched by the ways in which my Irish grandparents expressed their faith and then discovered that people of Italian, Polish and other ethnicities had their cultural expressions as well.

A final note. The Church in our country today also has large groups of African Americans, Haitians, Philipinos and Vietnamese, just to name a few, all working to maintain their faith, in a manner compatible with their culture. For those of us who are English speaking white Americans our job is not to get them to be "just like us", but to support them in living their Catholic faith in ways that are meaningful to them. This is a challenge for all of us.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From A Silent Mountain Top To 500 Alleluias

In my last blog entry I talked about the experience of visiting a convent of contemplative, hermit nuns. This past Saturday I had another wonderful experience that was the polar opposite of that as I attended the "Encuentro Franciscano Hispano" run by my Franciscan province (Holy Name) at St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, MD. I attended this experience along with Fr. Marty Bednar, OFM of our MOW team along with Mr. Pete Suarez from Miami, a lay preacher and collaborator with us. In contrast to the silence of the cloister it began with a solid hour of singing with drums, guitars, mandolins, keyboards and other instruments, not to mention a great deal of hand clapping and other gestures, all part of celebrating the Hispanic Catholic experience. The contrast of these two experiences reminds me of the richness of our Church, a richness that I have seen over the past 22 years of traveling around preaching missions in different places, a richness that I choose to concentrate on instead of the squabbling and bickering that often goes on in high places.

Back to the "Encuentro". In addition to the singing and clapping there was a great deal of time for serious reflection. The main speaker was Alejandro Aguilera-Titus Associate Director of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Multi-Cultural Ministry Office. He made several interesting points, but the one that stood out to me was his statement to the effect that the Church's mission in a multi-cultural parish was not to merge all the cultures together but to allow the gospel to be expressed in each culture in that culture's own unique way. In speaking of the importance of young adult (not teenage) ministry he pointed out something that should get the attention of all of us--50% of all Catholics in the US under the age of 30 are Hispanic. That says to me that there is where the future of the US Church lies. There was also a wonderful dramatization presented by the St. Camillus young adult ministry, several very interesting small group sessions and a wonderful clsing Mass and homily presided over by Bishop Francisco Rodriguez, auxiliary bishop of Washington, DC.

All three of us left that day tired, but exhilarated, and renewed in my commitment to our work of preaching in Spanish as well as in English. You'll note on the top of this blog page that my schedule includes 3 bi-lingual missions this semester. I hope to do many more.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Surprising Moment of Silence

Last week while I was preaching a mission at our Franciscan parish in Calicoon, NY. the pastor, Fr. Ignatius Smith, OFM., invited me to take a ride with him while he went to hear the confessions of some nuns. I wasn't too enthused about the ride at first but I asked him about the nuns, who were they? what kind of community did they have?, etc. and he informed me that they were a community of hermits. This got my attention and off we went.

It was a cloudy autumn day and the fall colors were just past peak in the hills of the region. The sisters lived on a large tract of land on a mountain top. While I didn't get to meet any of the sisters I spent some time in their chapel, took a walk on their expansive property and read a booklet describing their life and history. while founded in 1950 their life taps into the ancient monastic and eremitic traditions of the Church. They support themselves through religious art, works that are beautiful and also expensive.

I commented to several people about my visit and found that while many were interested there were several comments which in effect said," Why would someone waste their life away like that?" My response to that is that while it is not a life to which I feel called I am delighted that there are people whose calling is to pray for the rest of us and who remind us by the life they live that there is something more to life than the war, violence and greed that so easily dominate our lives. Also these contemplatives (women as well as men) and all cloistered religious remind us that there is to be a contemplative dimension to all of our lives.

Several readers of this blog have been wrestling with issues of God language both from a gender point of view and also with issues of blending ancient images and metaphors with modern science. Contemplative prayer (represented by disciplines such as centering prayer) calls us to allow ourselves to simply be, to rest in the presence of God, beyond images and metaphors. For us Franciscans such prayer leads us to a deeper involvement in the world. For our sisters and brothers living in cloisters and hermitages it leads them apart to lift up themselves and the world in prayer. Though this group does not have a website there a many references to them on Google, especially if you click on the followwing:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Defining Moment by Mail


The other day I walked into the mail room of our friary here in St. Petersburg and noticed that there was a large envelope sent from the central office of my Franciscan province (Holy Name Province). In it was my Medicare Card, a jolting reminder that official senior citizen status was just around the corner, though I've qualified for some discounts since I was 55 years old. My mother always said that she would admit her age to anyone who gave her a discount for it.

With the reception of this card two strings of thought passed through my mind. The first one is how blessed and fortunate I am to belong to a community which will provide me with health care and a lot more as I grow older.I will soon receive a card from a Medicare supplement plan to seal the deal. More important is the fact that the friars are my family. I will grow old and die in the embrace of brothers who care, who will provide me with emotional and spiritual support. They always have, but appreciation for it grows as I grow older.

The other thought is about health care in our own country. I wrote a previous blog entry on that so for now suffice it to say that I pray that Democrats and Republicans alike "give a little" on their preferred means of accomplishing that goal and "just get it done." I believe it is a moral imperative, based on the Gospel and on Church teaching.

A Special Blessing of St. Francis

May the Lord give you Peace! With these words St. Francis, whose feast we celebrated last Sunday began his sermons. he encouraged his followers to do the same. As I was preparing some thoughts for the blog this week the following was passed on to me, an apt modern adaptation of the blessing of St. Francis. It comes from a blog which I believe is run by Episcopalian Franciscans. The address is

A four-fold Franciscan blessing:
May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

St-francis May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator, Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word Who is our Brother and Savior, and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

A Word from the Road and a Book to Read

As I write this entry I am at the friary of our Franciscan parish in Woodridge, NJ where I am preaching my first mission of this season. We had a wonderful celebration of Eucharist this morning and I'm looking forward to the first evenin session tonight.

About a week ago I received the gift of the book True Compass, 2009 Twelve Publishers, a memoir by Ted Kennedy. I highly recommend this book to all, Democrat or Republican, those who liked and those who disliked Ted Kennedy. It offers great insight into the heart and soul of this man and into the dynamics of his family. Political opponents are criticized (some of them Democrat as well) but no one's character is attacked. It also offers an excellent review of the great events of the last half of the twentieth century as seen through his eyes. He is very honest about his own failings and shortcomings and delivers a compelling message of hope and persistance in pursuing one's goals. He pertrays his family as loving and he strove to be a loving father not only to his own children but to the children of his deceased sister and brothers and to all of his nieces and nephews. Above all he was a man of deep faith. Some may find this hard to accept because of his pro-choice position and because of the sins and failings which were very much in the public eye. Nonetheless the point of this blog entry and my primary reason for recommending the book is that it gives us an understanding of a wonderful and complex man who though not perfect, though struggling at times with his Church, had a deep and abiding trust in God that he turned to in difficult times and that helped him to see his many blessings even in the face of tragedy. Like most of us he was not perfect and does not present himself as such, but he knew there was a God of immense love, whose most awesome characteristic is "the width of His embrace.(p. 480)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fantastic trip--Some thoughts on science and religion

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Over the summer,while serving the parishes in northern Wisconsin, I entered into several conversations about the relationship between science and religion. I first viewed the slide presentation that you hopefully just watched a year ago. It raises some interesting questions. For me it challenged me to look at the universe as we understand it today and again affirm that there is a God who must be behind all of this and who sustains it continually. There are those who see this and say there is no God. I don't think that one can prove anything either way. Faith is a stance one takes when presented with such wonder. It was also apparent to me that the God who created and continues to create all of this is not somebody that I can easily figure out.
One challenge that our new understanding and awareness of the universe presents to us is that fact that traditional God-talk and religious imagery still speaks of a God in "heaven above" who pulls the strings and controls the life of us "here on earth below.". In light of our present awareness of the universe I prefer to speak of the God who is over all and through all and in all. I believe that in the not too distant future our Church leaders and our theologians will be challenged to walk the fine line between preserving traditional teaching about God, the Trinity and Jesus and expressing that teaching in a new way, with an imagery that fits our present understanding. That having been said it is good to keep in mind that whatever we say about God will always be inadequate.
One final thought--I believe that two principles should guide us in interfacing science and religion. Number one is that insofar as science explains to us what the Creator has given us we must accept that, even if it doesn't jive with images in the Bible. As Catholics we learned a big and embarassing lesson from Galileo in that regard and we now understand that the Bible does not teach science, or necessarily history. It teaches us about our relationship with God and one another. As one of my seminary Scripture profs once said while holding up a Bible, "Every last word of this is true, but not all of it happened." Where religion can challenge science is in the area of ethics, challenging the notion that just because we can do something it must be done. Issues like building nuclear weapons, cloning, genetic engineering, etc are some of the areas where science needs to be challenged. As long as science and religion both honestly seek the truth we will do just fine.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Franciscan Spirituality--Part Two

Greetings to one and all from Atlanta as I head back to St. Petersburg.

In last week's entry I presented what I believe is at the heart of Franciscan spirituality more from a theoretical point of view. this week I would like to suggest what some of the practical implications of this might be. For me it is this--If the son of God became human because it was the plan from the beginning, if the world is created in Christ, then we who follow Christ go into the world, not as the "saved and righteous", looking down on the lowly sinner,but as brothers and sisters who see Christ in every situation as the One who is waiting to be called forth. It is also a spirituality which looks on the Cross not with guilt, but in humble receptivity of a great love which leads us to walk in humble love for all and a greater compassion for all in their weakness. This is why for us to be a brother or sister is not just a canonical title,but a way of relating to all people and indeed to all of creation.

I realize that in two blog entries I cannot plummet the depths of Franciscan spirituality, but I do hope that readers get the general idea.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Franciscan Spirituality--Part One of Two

After my August 13 blog entry on being a friar I received several e-mails congratulating me on my 45 years as a Franciscan, and a few which asked me to say a bit more about Franciscan Spirituality.

Unlike many other founders of religious orders Francis simply instructed the early friars to live the Gospel. He did not develop a systematic spiritual path to follow. The Rule of our order begins with the words--" The rule and life of the Friars Minor is this, to live the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without property, and in chastity." In addition to the rule Francis gave several admonitions to the early friars about living together as brothers. Basically then simply living the Gospel is our spirituality.

People in our order who came later reflected on Francis' experience of God and developed a systematic theology/spirituality from that. Among these were two great theologians, St. Bonaventure and Blessed Suns Scotus. A contemporary Franciscan Sister, Ilia Delio, OSF drawas especially on the work of Bonaventure and sees our path as following Christ as "a God of humble love."

A the heart of this line of thinking is the belief held in the Franciscan tradition as well as by many of the early theologians of the church, like Irenaeus, that the reason why God became human in Jesus was not to get punished for our sin, but to walk with humans in unconditional, humble love. As Duns Scotus said, "God must have had a greater reason than sin for becoming human." The punishment and suffering happen because we humans did not accept this love. Jesus, rather than lashing out in anger, or selling out to the system, was faithful in love and surrendered His life. It is a belief that even had there been no sin the Incarnation would have occurred because it was God's plan from the beginning. In Scripture John's Gospel and the letter to the Collosians provide a grounding for this line of thought. This thinking denies neither the reality of sin, nor the redeeming value of Jesus' life, but casts it in a different light. Redemption happens not because the proper punishment was meted out or a debt paid, but because total love is victorious over sin. The Cross then becomes a manifestation of total love, to which we respond by walking in humble love with our brothers and sisters.

On my next blog entry I will reflect on what it means on a practical level to live out this beleif, to respond to this tremendous love.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Heading Home and Hitting the Road--Some Random Thoughts

On Sunday, Sept. 6 my car will be loaded and I'll begin my drive back to Florida. As much as I hate to leave the Northwoods of Wisconsin and the people and the parishes there, I will be looking forward to returning to my brother friars in St. Petersburg and getting back to my ministry of preaching. I have published my schedule at the head of this page to give you an idea of what I will be up to in the months ahead.

As I begin to prepare to travel to 6 different states I hope to add followers to this blog from the various places that I visit.

I often tell people that being an itinerant Franciscan preacher, a wandering friar as it were, is my vocation within a vocation. Over the past 22 years I have preached over 330 missions and have preached a number of retreats to sisters and priests as well. I have shared this work with several of my brother friars as well as with some fine lay preachers that have joined up with us at times. For those reading this blog who wonder what a mission is I refer you to the very first entry on this blog. (Just scroll down on the white column to the right and click on May).

This ministry has taken me to large city parishes, rich ones, poor ones, suburban ones and rural ones. I have preached in English as well as Spanish, in Canada as well as the United States. I hope to keep doing this until my body doesn't allow the strain of travel any more. As varied as are the people that I have served I find that their faith and their desire to grow closer to God are the one thing they have in common and this is a strength and an inspiration to me. At this time when the goings on of Church leaders can drive me and many others crazy I find that I constantly have to tell me that the Church, the Body of Christ, is these good people and not just the leaders.

So homeward I go and am eager to understand the Church better, not in books, but in the people of the six states I am about to visit.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Play Nice, The Health Care Debate

Though not a parent I have been a first hand witness to the challenges of raising children while visiting the homes of friends, parishioners, etc. Very often siblings will get into an argument which ends up basically like this, "You're stupid." "You're more stupid." After a while one of the kids yells out "Mom, he called my stupid and the other chimes in, he/she called me stupid first."

I'm sure that any of you who are parents know the drill. It is to be expected of five and six year olds. Unfortunately that is basically how the health care debate is being carried out by many so-called adults.

Health care is an important issue not only politically but also morally and spiritually. Going to meetings held by politicians and simply yelling out names will not get the job done. I think that we should ask to see specific proposals and let our leaders know why we agree or disagree with them. We need to avoid hearsay accusations and fear tactics and show our displeasure with those on either side who approach the debate in this way. We also need to be guided by our faith and not just our political leanings in making our own decision about this matter. I found some principles put forth by the Catholic Medical Association helpful in this regard.Just click on the highlighted spot below to go to their web site.
Catholic Medical Association

One final thought. Though the Medical association don't address the public option I do know that our Church teaches in various papal encyclicals as well as in letters, etc from local bishops that a society (not necessarily the government) must ensure that all people must have access to affordable health care. Based on that I do believe that if there is not a public option (which I favor) there must be some means of seeing to it that health care is available to all.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Happy to Be a Friar

On August 16, 1964, at the very young age of 19, I completed my novitiate in Catskill, NY, and took my first vows as a Franciscan. Forty five years have certainly flown by and many things have changed in the world and in the Church. I truly rejoice and am grateful for these many years.

What drew me to the friars was not any book knowledge about St. Francis or Franciscan spirituality.that would come later. It was the living witness of the friars at Christopher Columbus High School in Boston's North End who were my teachers. To sum it up they were "real", "down to earth". They were strict, but they cared about us kids and the things that were happening in our lives. I had wonderful parish priests in my life too, but there was something special about these friars that made me want to join up with them.

My instincts as a young man were correct as a realized that the "down to earthness" of these men was a result of their Franciscan charism. Francis of Assisi called his early friars (friar means brother) to walk humbly with people, as equals, as brothers, not as some sort of spiritual superior who had all the answers.

In his Testament Francis writes, "...and the Lord gave me brothers." He did not set out to found a religious order, but simply to follow God more closely in his own way. As he did so others were drawn to what he was doing and asked to follow him.

During my 45 years as a friar I have discovered that it is this brotherhood which makes our life what it is. My brothers are not always the ones I would choose(believe me) but the ones that the Lord has given me. It has been their love, support and challenge that his enabled me to live my vows and to grow in understanding of what they mean. It is because my brother friars have stood by me in difficult times such as deaths in my family and sickness and times of struggle in my own life,with prayers and moral support and encouragement, that I have become the friar that I am today. I can only hope that I have given back to them as much as they have given to me.

It is this life that we share that brings out the special qualities mentioned above in our ministry.

The initials, OFM, after my name stand for Order of Friars Minor. Minor is a designation of social class at the time of Francis. I like to think that it means the class of ordinary folks, not just the powerful ones, though Francis reminds us that they are our brothers and sisters as well.

So join me in thanking God for 45 years as a friar minor, or lesser brother and now that I thank God for the was that so many have been brother and sister to me.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why We Pray

After 38 years of ministry as a priest many things have changed, but many are still quite the same. One of those is the fact that people are always asking us priests to pray for someone, often a request that they will be spared from some illness or tragedy. I always graciously accept such requests and am presently involved with several such requests for prayer. I see it as an important part of my ministry, but I find that a word of caution is necessary as well.

One cautionary note is the thought that many carry that priests, religious and clergy in general have more of an inside track to God in prayer. While we are called to lead I can assure you that everyone's prayers matter to God. I hope that no one discounts the power of their own prayer.

More importantly we need to ask why we pray. We live in a results oriented society and look to get "prayer that works, that gets me what I want." The problem is that this is not why we pray. We pray to deepen our relationship with God, to allow ourselves to be drawn ever closer to our God.

Certainly there is no problem with presenting the Lord with our desires. The next step though is to surrender to God, to say in effect, "OK Lord, this is what I want, but I now leave it in Your hands and trust that You will be with me no matter what."

This is a real challenge for us. It is only natural that we want ourselves and our loved ones to be delivered from pain and sorrow. No where in the Scriptures does God promise to take away our problems in we but ask. God's promise is to never abandon us, to assure us that he is with us through thick and thin.

Many like to quote Luke 11, 9-10, the passage that says ask, and you will receive, etc. Most of us forget to read though to verse 13 we find that the result of prayer is that we always receive the Holy Spirit when we turn to God in prayer. With the Spirit of God in our lives we can indeed deal with whatever challenges come our way.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bread of Life

Over the next few weeks we in the Catholic Church will be hearing various passages from Jesus' Bread of Life Discourse in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. The discourse begins with the multiplication of the loaves and goes through various stages of Jesus presenting himself to us as The Bread of Life and telling us that we are to eat His flesh and drink His blood.
This chapter has leads us of course to the Eucharist, but before it does that it leads us to embrace Jesus himself as our Bread of Life and makes us ask, I believe, is Jesus in practice our bread, or are we nourishing ourselves elsewhere?
I was listening to a talk show recently and one of the callers said, "we area nation of Christianity and rugged individualism." the only problem with that is that rugged individualism is not a Christian value. Our faith certainly leads us to respect for the uniqueness and individuality of each person (see me YouTube clip of a few weeks ago "On the Source of Human Dignity), but it also sees the person in the context of community, not as running ruggedly solo.
Remarks like this underscore the fact that so many of us choose a philosophy of life based on our political leanings, our favorite talk show host, TV or newspaper commentator, etc. We then blend it in with our religious understanding. The challenge is to ask ourselves, "Is Jesus, the Gospel, the reign of God my first and most basic nourishment for mind and spirit? Do I evaluate everything else on the basis of that?"
I think what we discover then is that being 100% liberal or conservative, as those ideologies are understood in today's world is not possible for a follower of Jesus Christ. Right from the beginning Christians have been challenged to study and evaluate the ideas and philosophies of this world and to take from them what helps us to understand and live the Gospel more fully, but never to replace the Gospel with these ideas.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hello again everyone. I thought you mide enjoy this slideshow sent to me by the directors of the POP's River Revival Concert here in Eagle River. There are several shots of yours truly. You might want to slide down to my posting Ecumenism in Song done a few weeks age.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: 2009 POP's Revival
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

YouTube Clip--Finding Healing in Christ

I've added a new YouTube clip on healing in conjunction with the posting on the Relay for Life

If it doesn,t appear on the Video Bar on this page you can get it at

Monday, July 20, 2009

Relay for Life

Hello one and all.

On August 7 & 8 I will be participating in an event that means a great deal to me--the Northwoods Relay for Life here in Eagle River. Many areas around the country sponsor these relays with the goal of funding better treatment for cancer and ultimately to find a cure for cancer.

As many of you know 3 years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. To say the least iIwas bowled over by this diagnosis but began a journey which, while difficult, I now consider to be a blessing. There are relays back home in Florida, but I choose this one because after informing St. Peter's and the other churches here that I could not help out in 2006 because of the need to seek treatment, I was deeply touched by the outpouring of love, prayers and support that came from parishioners up here.

I am grateful to God and to many people as I enter my third year of being a cancer survivor. I benefited by several advances in treatment as I chose a routine of radiation beam therapy and radioactive seed implants to treat the cancer. I especially want to thank Dr. Frank Franzese and the wonderful people at St. Anthony Cancer care center in St. Petersburg and at Wellspring Oncology Center which Dr. Franzese and his associates have since formed. I am deeply grateful as well to all the people who helped me to make this a time of emotional and spiritual growth as well.

A final, but very important word to all is please, please, please go for regular cancer screenings be it prostate checks, mamogram, colonoscopy or whatever. No matter how good treatment is it won't do much good if the cancer is not detected early. In addition I urge one and all to try to eat right and exercise and do the other things that reduce the likelihood of cancer ocurring.

I will never ask for money for myself on this blog but if y ou would like to donate to our relay team click on the site below marked off with the purple letters. Unfortunately someone needs to be a bit more specific on the team page but you can click on the Donate button at the top (not the one on the side) and then follow directions. If you with to mention my name place an entry in the personal reflection section.

Thanks very much! Fr. John

Click on the

St. Peter's Walkers With Soul

St. Albert, Land O'Lakes, WI

Land O'Lakes is 18 miles north of Eagle River and on the border of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. These are some photos of the church there.

St. Mary, Phelps, WI

As promised, I'm sharing some photos of the other churches I serve in Wisconsin. This is St. Mary's in Phelps, WI. Click on the picture if you want a larger view.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Road to Redemption

Thisis not a theological treatment of redemption but rather a reflection on a wonderful and moving experience that I had last week here at St. Peter's parish.

This past Tuesday evening I attended a book signing, video and discussion led by Elma Shaw. The book title was Redemption Road: The Quest for Peace and Justice in Liberia (A Novel). A video entitled The Road to Redemption (not fiction, very true and real), on which the novel was based, was shown, followed by a lively discussion.

I like to think of myself as well read and aware of world affairs. I was broadly aware of the civil war that had been raging for years in Liberia, but the book, video and above all the discussion led by Elma made it all so very real. Not only did we become more aware of the complex set of political, social and economic factors that brought about the fighting, but most especially the horrible pain and suffering caused by this war and the need for the healing of people's lives in the wake of this terrible ordeal.

In this forum I won't go into any more detail about his horrible ordeal suffered by the people of Liberia, but simply make the point that as Christians, as members of the Body of Christ, we need to become aware of what's happening not only in Liberia, but in so many places around the world that we don't hear about. We all know a least a little bit about Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, etc, but what about so many countries whose ills and sufferings don't impact our country as deeply as these places? We need to keep them in prayer and do what we can (and sometimes there perhaps is not much we can do) to support efforts for peace and justice.

I suggest that those who read this blog entry look at the map of Africa, Asia, South America. Pick a country and Google it. See what comes up. Take an interest. Join an organization which helps. Write to a senator or congressman.

Thank you Elma for your book and your work. Let us pray for and support the people of Liberia. Let's support suffering people's everywhere.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

YouTube Clip

My latest video clip can be found at

St. Peter the Fisherman Church, Part II

More pics from St. Peter's. Click on the pictures for a larger image

St. Peter the Fisherman Church

Some of you who follow this blog have asked me about the churches where I serve in the summer. I have included here some pictures of St. Peter's in Eagle River and will follow up soon with St. Albert in Land O'Lakes, WI and St. Mary in Phelps, WI

Ecumenism in Song

On July 21, 22, 23 I will be participating as a member of an ecumenical choir through Prince of Peace Lutheran Church here in Eagle River, WI. This three night concert, called POPS after the name of the sponsoring Church, is a wonderful way of bringing people from different local churches to praise our God in song. Proceeds from the concert go to different local charities.

On a personal note I love to sing, but don't often get to be in a choir because I am the one celebrating the Mass. I attribute this love for singing to Sr. Mary Magdalene, CSJ, who "roped" me into being a member of the boy's choir at St. William's Church in the Dorchester section of Boston where I grew up.

As for ecumenism I can remember quite enthusiastically participating in ecumenical activities right after the Second Vatican Council in the 60's. For several reasons such activities are taking place less often. I hope we can turn that around. I believe that we need to begin by emphasizing what we share in common--our belief in God, our faith in Jesus Christ and in God's Word found in Scripture. On the other hand we can't settle for a superficial ecumenism that denies our very real differences. We need to name these seek to overcome them.

I think that here in the US with our belief in equality we fear that stating differences is a no-no. This is because unfortunately we often think that differences make us inferior or superior to the other and so we shy away.

I pray that activities like the POPS concert move us in the direction of a deeper unity between Christians and a greater openness to people of all faiths.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fr. Justin Bailey, OFM + R.I.P.+

My friends,

I was saddened over the weekend to hear of the death of my Franciscan brother and friend, Fr. Justin Bailey. Since the preaching ministry in my province was revamped in 1985 and we formed the Franciscan Ministry of the Word Justin is the first of us to pass from this life to the Lord. He will be remembered by me as a good friend and brother and an outstanding preacher. Please keep him, his family and Holy Name Province of the Franciscans in your prayers.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Freedom: An Inside Job

Happy Fourth of July everyone.

In the 233 years since the Declaration of Independence a lot has changed. It is certainly a different world than the one which our forbears lived in when the forged and signed this document. Nonetheless the principles of freedom and human rights that they gave us still stand. Indeed, over the years these principles have been more deeply understood as we finally gave women the right to vote and defended the rights of people of all races to participate in the democratic process.

The freedoms mentioned above however are legislated freedoms. As necessary as are the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights we cannot follow them well if we do not have inner freedom. This freedom is often discovered when legal freedoms are lacking. This is the freedom discovered within by men and women all over the world who stand up to oppressive regimes even at the risk of imprisonment and loss of life. For those of us who have legal, external freedom it is at times our ability to not do something even though we have the legal right to do it.

I believe that this is a challenge for us in our society today. Many of us when challenged on our words and actions respond with, "It's a free country. I can do what I want." Oh! Just because we won't get thrown in jail (nor should we be) for uttering vulgarities in public, for insulting and disrespecting others instead of engaging in civil discourse when we disagree, does that make it OK? If we have inner freedom we understand the real freedom is choosing to do the good, to raise ourselves to a higher level, even though less than that it legally OK.

Enjoy the weekend everyone. Happy Fourth of July

PS. More YouTube video will be on the way. I won't be doing one every week though, just can't keep up with that. Also I'm working on improved quality of delivery. Thanks for all your feedback in that regard.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Getting focused

Over the past two months this blog has become a truly exciting adventure for me. As it has evolved and the viewer list keeps growing some questions have been raised in my mind regarding what direction, what focus will this blog take.

I received many positive e-mails on my Corpus Christi homily as well as some constructive criticism which I intend to put into practice. As people started asking me however if "next Sunday's homily will be onyour blog and YouTube page Fr. John,"I stopped and thought, "Is that what I want to do?" Though I was flattered by the desire to have my homilies available, I realized that at this time I was not in a position to that every week, or even almost every week.

What I have realized more clearly is that this blog is intended to be an extension of my ministry as a member of the Franciscan Ministry of the Word (MOW). What is it that we in the MOW try to do. While some of my brother friars my use different words to answer that question my way of answering it is this--We try to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that people will come to see how God is involved in the nitty-gritty of their everyday lives.

With that in mind my entries on this blog will have that focus. I will post on YouTube some short versions of the talks presented on parish missions and hope to have some video clips from my brother friars as well as others who preach the Word. I will occasionally put up a Sunday homily and will comment on my own experience of meeting people and seeing how the good Lord is at work in their lives.

My first video reflection--A God of Tremendous love can be seen on my YouTube page

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's Day and calming the waters

Greetings to one and all from Eagle River, WI.

Tomorrow is Father's Day. I will be speaking of that in my Sunday homily. The Gospel text of the day is the story of Jesus calming the waters. MMmmmm. How do these two things fit together?

It's no secret that the role of fathers has changed. As I travel around I note that many men's rooms in roadside rest areas have baby changing areas--and they are used. Dads are doing many things that only mom did twenty or thirty years ago--cooking, cleaning, child care, etc. I think that is all for the good. There are also dads who are divorced or separated, but who still have contact with their kids and who are involved in their lives. Behind all of this there is one thing, I think, that good fathers have always done--teach their kids to get through difficult times. My father, who died in January of 2007, did that for me.

Let's take a look at today's gospel passage (Mark 4, 35-41). Mark has Jesus asleep on a cushion in the back of the boat (peculiar?) while the disciples are fighting the wind and the waves. They wake him in a panic and ask why he is not doing something about the situation. He promptly calms the seas but also rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. What's that all about. Doesn't the fact that they call upon him indicate their faith? Not really. When we take a deeper look we realize that He has sent them and us the Spirit so that we can get through stormy waters without asking Him to do it. So often we look for the "divine bailout plan" instead of using the gifts that god gives us.

So it is with fathers and children. When we're young Dad and Mom do things for us. We need that. We're totally dependent on them. Like Jesus they little by little teach us how to navigate the stormy waters of life and give us the confidence that we can do so. That is the challenge to all fathers, of all types. That is what good dads have been doing for years.

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers who read this blog. Let us pray for strength and healing for those dads who struggle to do this. And let us thank God and remember in prayer our fathers and grandfathers who are now with God.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

On Being a Franciscan

Hello again dear friends,

Having just finished a reflection on priesthood a few e-mails asked for one on being a Franciscan. I will do one of my own on this topic later in the summer but for now thought I would share an article written by our vice-provincial, Dominic Monti, OFM in The Evangelist, the newspaper of the diocese of Albany, NY Just click and read

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Year of the priest--A personal reflection

Greetings to all. I am on the move this week and will arrive in Eagle River on Friday evening. Once I get there I will resume my YouTube videos.

Pope Benedict XVI has declared the coming year to be a year of the priesthood. He has asked for prayers for priests and has called us to be more holy, more truly men of prayer. There are many challenges for us priests today, e.g. a decrease of credibility and respect due to the sexual abuse scandals of recent years. There are also issues of who should be ordained--women, married people, etc. I will not address those in this reflection though they loom on the horizon and cannot be swept under the rug. What I will do instead is offer some thoughts on what 38 years of priestly ministry have meant to me.

Let me begin by saying that these 38 years have been rewarding and fulfilling beyond my wildest imagination. I entered the seminary in 1962, just as the Vatican council was opening and was ordained on May 22, 1971. During my years of formation I witnessed a profound change in the church and in society. I found myself questioning both my country and my Church, yet learned with the help of some great teachers to love both more deeply because I did question.

Upon ordination I was thrilled to celebrate the Eucharist, hear confessions and celebrate the other Sacraments as well. As I young priest I was amazed at the trust that people older and wiser than me put in me, opening their hearts and confiding their deepest secrets to me, simply because I was a priest. It was humbling to say the least and continues to be so as i witness God touching peoples lives not because of any skills of mine but because of His grace.

In 1975 I made a marriage encounter. What this experience for married couples gave me as a priest was a profound love and respect for the Sacrament of Matrimony and a realization that the priesthood was not to be defined by the functions I carried, but as a relationship of love with God's people. The functions--celebrating sacraments, providing pastoral care and leadership, flowed from that.

Since then, whether it has been serving in parishes, going to the missions in Bolivia, or preaching missions and retreats, which I have done for 21 years now, I have been continually blessed by contact with so many people who have become true friends and who while truly respecting my priesthood know me as a man, as a human being. I am a better priest because of this. they keep me grounded in the real world.

Along with all of the above has been the gift of not only serving the laity as a priest, but of ministering along with so many different women and men and discovering how our various gifts and roles compliment each other. As we move into the Church's future we need to embrace and empower lay people as ministers and most especially to call forth women to take their rightful place in the ministry of the Church.

Lastly, but most importantly, I personally could not have grown and thrived as a priest were I not a Franciscan. Our fraternal life as friars has given my life as a priest a dimension of being a brother to all as well as of support in my own life that I could not do without.

I do hope that all who read this will continue to pray for us priests and challenge us to move into the future of a Church which is truly open to all.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

YouTube Clip

Hello one and all,

I've added a homily for this Sunday's feast of Corpus Christi. Also some of you had trouble accessing YouTube. I think that if you click on the connection now it should go smoothly.

Fr. John

Monday, June 8, 2009

An Immigrant Church

I recently received an e-mail copy from an Eagle River parishioner of an article entitled Newark: Immigrant Church is its history and future. As I read the article which is about the archdioces of Newark, NJ, where I spent many years of my priestly ministry I was lead to reflect on my present experience as a traveling preacher. I speak Spanish and often find myself, along with the other friars on our Ministry of the Word team, preaching missions to Hispanic congregations in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Most of the folks I meet are from Mexico and Central America, though in south Florida they are predominantly Cuban. There are a good number from South America as well. Besides the Spanish speaking peoples, with whom I am more familiar, I have met immigrants from Vietnam, the Phillipines and from various African countries.
What are we, as Catholics, to make of this contemporary immigrant experience? What can we learn from the immigrants? What challenges face us.
Since I am writing a blog entry and not an extensive article I will make some brief observations and hope that my readers might comment.
The folks I have met are mostly poor people with a deep and simple faith, even in the face of adversity, that quite frankly is humbling and inspiring for me. Simple though they are they are not naive and so are less easily scandalized by issues like abusive priests, though they are still troubled by this problem.
Their faith practice is more devotional, and in that sense more conservative. On the other hand they don't blindly accept everything that comes from leaders. They will speak up, though they are less likely to protest than we are. Many of them are illegal, undocumented. This can be a challenge for parishioners who look down on them for that, though I like to remind folks that if you are baptized you are a legal member of the Body of Christ.
Immigrants are arriving in large numbers (though less so with the slowing economy) and tend to have larger families and will shape, simply by their numbers, the future of our Church. Are we open to learning from them and welcoming them into our parishes as full members, not just as folks we allow to have Mass in their own language?
Finally, with the shortage of priests in our country, American priests are challenged to learn new languages and customs to serve them better. Also more foreign priests are being invited in to serve us here in this country. What are we to make of this?

You can check out the article to which I refer at

My Summer Ministry

Every year at this time I get my room here in St. Petersburg cleaned up well and start packing for my trip north to Wisconsin where I spend the summer months ministering at St. Peter the Fisherman parish in Eagle River, WI.
My time in Eagle River is enjoyable and gives me a taste of regular parish ministry. I also feel that I am fulfilling a real need there as the pastor, Fr. Bob Koszarek, has two other churches to attend to, in addition to St. Peter's. Eagle River is a great vacation spot for folks from southern Wisconsin and Illinois, as well as other neighboring states, and extra weekend Masses are called for during the summer months.
Most importantly the people of St. Peter's parish as well as St. Albert's in Land O'lakes and St. Mary's in Phelps have become a part of the fabris of my life. I look forward to seeing them, cathching upo on what's been going on in our lives, and joining in on the various special activities of each parish during the summer, not to mention the many invites I get to dinner and to boat rides on the chain of 28 lakes that is there.
During the last week of July I will sing in the POPS River Revival choir, an ecumenical choir at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, an event that now holds a special place in my heart. In August I will walk with the parish team in the American Cancer Society Relay for life as a grateful cancer survivor. I will post more about that when the time comes. I will also be conducting a 4 week adult faith formation series beginning in late July.
I am due there on June 19 and I can't wait.
You might want to check out the St. Peter's website at

Saturday, May 30, 2009

An unusual ministry

I am often asked, "Fr. John, where is your parish?" People are often surprised when I tell them that I am not assigned to a parish, or a school, retreat center, etc. I am called to be a traveling or "itinerant" preacher. I have been doing that now for almost 22 years. I say that I am called because I now consider this role to be my "vocation within a vocation".
Since 1987, based in different locations, I have visited over 330 parishes in the US and Canada (20 US states and 3 Canadian provinces) to preach missions in both English and Spanish. I have also preached several retreats to sisters and a few to my brother priests.
More than anything else my travels and encounters with a wide range of people have given me a good perspective on the mystery that we call Church. So often we think of the Church as the hierarchy, the Vatican, the local bishop, etc. The leaders are indeed important and necessary but I have learned that Church is the good people who keep showing up, struggling to maintain faith and find meaning in their everyday lives amidst economic crises, health problems and tensions in marriages and families. I have been in wealthy places and poor,conservative and liberal, urban, suburban and rural parishes, and been in the midst of people of various cultures, races and languages. What they all have in common is a thirst for God and an assurance that God is with them in their everyday lives.
It is and has been a privilege and an enriching experience to serve in such a ministry and to do so with my brother friars and at times with Franciscan sister and with lay people. It is the oldest Franciscan ministry, along with service to the poor, and I hope to keep on with it until am no longer able.
Just thought you'd like to know what I'm about. My God give you Peace!

My Pentecost reflection can be heard on my podcast channel

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dialogue--the way forward

Over the past weekend, while I attended the graduation of my niece from Salem State College, another graduation was going on--at Notre Dame University. While many, including a good number of our bishops, denounced the participation of President Obama in the ceremony because of his views on abortion, the president, as well as Fr. Jenkins, the Notre Dame president, took a wonderful step beyond the impasse. Neither of them compromised their own position, but both agreed to seek common ground. Fr. Jenkins made it clear that he stood with the Church on the issue and the president spoke of seeking common ground, of striving to have fewer abortions and making adoption less difficult. the issue was certainly not resolved but I think that progress was made. Can't we do this on so many other issues that face us rather than denouncing people and refusing to let them speak.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Back to the Future

I"m sitting in a room at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston in the middle of a two week journey north from St. Petersburg. It's a journey which began with a look to the past and will end with a look to the future.
This past Saturday, May 9, I was at St. Stephen's Church on E 82nd St. In NY to celebrate the 50th anniversary of preisthood of 7 of our friars, all of whom are still working. It was a wonderful celebration of the lives of men who have served God and God's people over a time when the whole landscape of Church and society went through a seismic shift. These guys, ordained in 1959, celebrated Mass in Latin for several years but then adapted to Vatican II, the sixties, the space age, computers, etc. All of them adapted and changed with the times yet were rooted in faith and the desire to serve God's people. And they're still going strong serving in parishes, preaching missions, working in the foriegn missions, reaching out to the poor. I'm grateful for all of them and for the blessing of serving with one of them--Fr. Rod Petrie, ofm.--for many years in the Ministry of the Word.
Tomorrow, May 16, I will attend the graduation of my niece Michelle from Salem State College, north of Boston. Like many of her peers Michelle has worked hard and fought through many challenges to arrive at this moment. She hopes to work with children and to write children's books. She and her classmates at Salem State and around the country are the future.
If many of them are like Michelle it is a bright future to which we look forward. Congratulations Michelle and my God grant you many happy and wonderful years.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What is a parish mission

May the Lord give you Peace! Some folks who find there way to this blog and read my profile may wonder, "What is a parish mission?" Basically it is a special preaching event that takes place in Catholic parishes where an outside preacher(s) comes in and guides the parish through a time of spiritual renewal. In Protestant churches it is often called a revival.
The missions that I preach along with my brothers in the Franciscan Ministry of the Word (MOW) involve one or two of us coming to a parish and speaking at all the weekend Masses. On Monday through Wednesday we celebrate a morning Mass with a mission homily and have a one hour service in the evening with prayer, Scripture and presentations on various themes. During the day we may involve ourselves in different ministries of the parish such as religious faith formation of the youth or visitation of the sick. If anyone would like us top come to your parish please go to our website

Also check out my podcasts at

Please keep checking in with this brand new blog. A lot more will follow.

Fr. John

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly