Monday, January 25, 2010

A Well Deserved Award

Holy Name Province of the Franciscans, to which I belong, has over the past twenty years encouraged us friars to not only promote lay involvement but to "partner" with the laity in all of our ministries. By way of backing up this commitment our province since 1998 has given ministries the opportunity to award the Francis medal to those lay people who make outstanding contributions to our life and ministry.

Many of you have commented favorably on the fact the we in the Franciscan Ministry of the Word preach in Spanish as well as English. One of the reasons for our success in this endeavor is Mr. Pete Suarez of Miami to whom we gave the Francis Medal this past Saturday at a dinner in his honor here at St. Anthony Friary.

Rod Petrie and Marty Bednar of our team met Pete back in the early 90's. Pete not only introduced them to various pastors in the Miami area but also became involved as a lay preacher. Pete has been doing that ever since. He also became involved with us on a province wide level, serving as a member of our Hispanic Ministry Committee for several years and participating in several province wide convocations for ministry. In addition to his work with us Pete, who by profession is a plumbing contractor, has earned an MA in Theology and teaches part time at the college seminary of the Archdiocese of Miami. He is likewise involved in his home parish.

At the award dinner Pete was accompanied by his wonderful wife Hilda and four other couples, all of whom are wonderful Catholic Christians and examples of how laity can make a difference in the Church and the world. Congratulations Pete.

In the picture above Pete is pictured with his wife, Hilda, Rod Petrie and John Anglin, to their left, and Marty Bednar on the right.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Human Tragedy, Haiti and God

Once again we receive news that a population made up of some of the poorest people in the world have been struck by a natural disaster, this time the terrible earthquake in Haiti. As soon as such events happen the cry goes up, and understandably so, "Where is God? How can a just and loving God allow things like this?" While I do not pretend to have any definitive answer to that question and no one really does, I would like to offer a reflection and a perspective on this terrible tragedy.

First of all I reject offhand, and indeed find it appalling, that anyone who considers them self Christian would suggest that God is punishing these people. Shame on the Pat Robertsons of this world who say things like this. What is true is that the Creator has placed us in a fragile world where storms, earthquakes, pandemics, etc happen frequently. Life is fragile and when these things happen they should provide an awakening to all of us and a reminder that we are not in charge here, that there is no guarantee that we will live to be 80 years old, even though that is more or less the statistical norm. I say this not to frighten anyone but rather to suggest that in spite of our modern technology and great advances in medicine we will never succeed in total control over nature. It is an illusion to think otherwise and when we face the truth of this we become more free and more aware of what is really important in life.

More importantly we can so easily ask, "Why does this happen to poor people so often?" Instead, I think we need to be asking "Why is there so much poverty? Why is there so much unequal distribution of the goods of this world, gifted to us by the creator?" A 7.0 earthquake is a tragedy whether it happens in Beverly Hills, Greenwhich, CT, Nigeria or Haiti. The challenge for us is to learn the lessons, not so much that the Creator sends us from above, but that are naturally built into such tragedies by the Creator. The whole world is and will continue to respond to help the poor people of Haiti. We always seem to step up to the plate when these tragedies strike. In a short while, however, the aid will cease to come and the poverty and injustice will continue, or will it? The blame for that falls on us humans, not on the creator. Will our response be different this time? Will we numb ourselves to the human suffering in Haiti and elsewhere, or will we change our priorities?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Gold, Frankincense, and all that stuff-An Epiphany reflection

This past Sunday we celebrated the feast of the Epiphany, a feast originally celebrated on January 6, but now moved to the nearest Sunday. What are we to make of this well known story in our modern age. I find it helpful to dwell not on questions such as "What really happened?", but on the deeper meaning of this account, and how we in the 21st century can apply it to our lives. To me there are two challenges of this feast.

The first thing is the famous star. The star is a symbol of light. The magi (and the scriptures don't say how many there were) were drawn to light, not only the light in the sky, but the light who was Christ. Do we today seek the light?, The Light? It's easy for people of faith to say yes. The problem is that we so often focus on the darkness. There is indeed plenty of darkness out there and all around us--war, terrorism, heinous crimes, lack of disrespect for life, corrupt politics, etc. While we should not have our head in the sand and make believe that these things are not there we need to look to the One who is Light of Light to nourish us and guide us in difficult times, to send us light to show us the way. Without this focus we can so easily fall into the cynicism which is one of the great "poisons" of our culture today.

The second challenge is to be bearers of the Light that we follow. Whenever we bring love, forgiveness, healing and peace to others, whenever we strive to do justice where injustice prevails the Light Of Christ shines through us and draws others to him. Those who bear the Light might not be great in numbers, certainly not a majority of the world population, but the Light we bear is powerful and that is what makes the difference.

A Happy Epiphany or "little Christmas" to all

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly