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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Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly