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.

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly