Friday, September 24, 2010

Good to Be Home

After a wonderful summer which began with retreat to the priests of the Syracuse, NY diocese and continued with my summer ministry in Eagle River, Phelps and Land O'Lakes, WI, ending with a mission in Florence, WI, I finally arrived home the other day.  I was weary from travel when I came in the door but was delighted with the warm "welcome homes" I received from my brother friars, a warmth which was added to because I managed to make it home in time for what we friars call Preprandium, a nice Latin euphemism for cocktail hour.

Over the summer I was made aware of how illness was effecting some of the friars here and was taken back by the way that cancer and the effects of advancing years had changed some of my brothers so much during my three months away.  Certainly seeing that is a reminder of what could lie ahead for me in the coming years, but more importantly with that comes the assurance that we friars are well taken care of as we grow older, by our province and by the men we live with.  If nothing else St. Anthony Friary is a faith-filled and caring community and it is good to be back in the rhythm of daily Eucharist and prayer withe the guys here and too look forward to celebrating the feast of St. Francis (Oct. 4) before I go back on the road.

The Fall schedule takes me back to Little Rock again as well as to some of the more familiar states of SC, GA and Florida.  I will be looking forward to a visit from my sister Dorothy in November and then Christmas in Boston with my brother and family before our provincial chapter in Maryland right after the New Year.

So that's a little glimpse into my world over the next few months.  A return to some more serious reflection will soon follow on this blog.

Friday, September 10, 2010

On the Lighter Side--From Pines to Palms

(Just click on a picture to enlarge it.)

After several posts about Catholic and Muslims I thought that I would post something on the lighter side.  I have finished up my summer in Eagle River and will be heading to nearby Florence, WI to preach a parish mission, then head home to Florida.  Some have asked me about my references to the "Northwoods".  Exactly what is it. Basically it is a large stretch of northern Wisconsin that is a beautiful land of tall pines and lakes,  as well as a good deal of white and yellow birch and maples. Deer are abundant, and it is not uncommon to see a bear or a fox while traveling about. In the pictures above you can see evidence of that as well as of the early fall colors here in September.

As I head back to Florida and Tampa Bay with its wide assortment of palms and the possibility of taking a walk on which I might encounter dolphins, wild parrots and pelicans, I realize how blessed I am to be so close to the beauty of nature, in different ways, throughout the year.  I will have a posting soon on Catholics and ecology, with memories of both the northwoods and Florida very much in mind.

I will not be posting again until I get back to Florida later this month, so God bless until then.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Word from my Superiors

After two posts related to the mosque controversy and Catholic-Muslim dialogue I am proud to post here a copy of a statement that has come from my Provincial leadership, namely John O'Connor, OFM, our provincial, and Dominic Monti, OFM, our vicar-provincial.   I offer no further comment except that my words and theirs are motivated by our Christian and Catholic faith and its demands, not by any partisan political leanings.  Also, please note Pope Benedict's recent statement on the outrageous acts planned by the preacher in Gainesville, FL. Just click on Papal Statement

 Reflections Approaching September 11, 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For the past eight years throughout our nation, the anniversary of the horrific September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon has been marked by remembrance of the victims and prayers for peace and reconciliation in our world. Each year, the Memorial Mass at our Church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City has called to mind the self-sacrificing dedication of our brother, Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, and the thousands of others who perished on that day, and also has offered an opportunity to pray for healing among the peoples of the world so that such tragedies might not reoccur.

This year, however, the mood in our nation is different. Members of a small independent church in Gainesville, Fla., declaring that “Islam is of the Devil,” have announced plans to mark the September 11th anniversary by publically burning copies of the Qur’an. A project to build an Islamic Center in New York several blocks from “Ground Zero” has unleashed vitriolic abuse against Islam as a religion; strong local opposition has surfaced in a number of places against Muslims providing places of worship for themselves in their communities. Perhaps heightened by our current economic insecurity, there is a mounting cry against the perceived “other” in our midst and that “true” – i.e., Christian – Americans must somehow “take back” the country.

As leaders of the Franciscans of Holy Name Province, we wish to lift our voices against this tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric in our nation. We cannot help but recall that in the nineteenth century, there was a similar outcry against Roman Catholics as an foreign, inassimilable mass within the nation, that our Catholic practices and values were contrary to the American way of life. Time, of course, proved those sentiments wrong. We must give our Muslim brothers and sisters the same opportunity. We must accept them as fellow-worshippers of our common God.

Our position as Catholics is grounded in the clear teaching of our Church. The Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, after speaking of the People of God who have explicitly professed faith in Christ, and then the Jewish people, goes on to state: “God’s plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, first among whom are the Muslims: they profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, who will judge all human beings on the last day” (LG, 16). The Church thus clearly teaches that Muslims are not “pagans” or  “idolaters” but children of the same loving God as Christians and Jews.

On a practical level, the Decree on Religious Liberty of the same Council, Dignitatis Humanae, states that: “religious groups . . . must be allowed to honor the Supreme God in public worship. . . and promote institutions in which members may work together to organize their own lives. . . . Religious communities also have the right not to be hindered by legislation or administrative action by the civil authority. . . in erecting buildings for religious purposes, and in the acquisition and use of the property they need.” (DH 4)  This has clear implications for how Catholic Americans should accept Muslims in our society. We cannot allow the actions of a fanatical minority to define an entire religion.

In a particular way, we Franciscans cannot help but recall that we are followers of a man who crossed frontiers, even battle lines, to offer a message of peace to the perceived enemies of Christianity. As Paul Moses has strikingly portrayed in his recent study, The Saint and the Sultan, at a time when some preachers were urging Christians “to kill a Muslim for Christ,” Francis boldly defied the prejudices of his era to demonstrate to the Sultan of Egypt that Christianity had another face than that of the Crusaders who faced him in battle.  Francis was not able to win the Sultan over to the Gospel of Christ, but returned to Europe impressed by the faith he had experienced among the followers of Islam, convinced that he had met other worshippers of God like himself. Our General Chapter in Assisi last year urged Franciscans throughout the world to take up this heritage and to work in a special way at dialogue among Christians and Muslims and be architects of peace and reconciliation in society.

Three pieces of steel from the tangled mass of debris of the World Trade Center were entrusted to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York and now form a memorial to the victims of September 11th, including our own brother, Fr Mychal. The compressed pieces of steel vividly summon the grief and unspeakable sadness of that tragic morning. Still, a single golden rose rises gently from the mass of contorted steel, transcending the senseless brutality with an enduring promise of hope.

Let this September 11th be an opportunity for all of us to summon the better angels of our nature, to rise above the anger and bitterness that seem to be an increasing feature of our country, to show respect to all people who seek the face of God, and to be agents of true and lasting peace and reconciliation in our own land and among all nations.


Fr.  John F. O’Connor, OFM                                      Fr.  Dominic V. Monti, OFM
Provincial Minister                                                      Provincial Vicar

(Mrs.) Theresa Bartha
Executive Secretary
129 West 31st Street, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10001-3403
(646) 473-0265 x.309
Fax: (1-800) 420-1078

Friday, September 3, 2010

More on Muslim-Catholic dialogue

I want to thank my blog readers for the e-mails and comments that you made last week. My hope is that we can diffuse irrational emotion and enter into a discussion with reason, not only about the ground zero mosque but on a wider level of Christian-Muslim dialogue. Right now the political world, both on the left and the right, is driving that discussion. I believe that in the years ahead the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches, as well as the Jewish faith community, must invite dialogue with Muslims. Dialogue, of course, must be a two way street. there are some questions to raise about violence and the lack of religious freedom, not to mention the treatment of women in many Muslim countries. At the same time we must seek common ground together.

I am in the middle of reading a fine book entitled THE FUTURE CHURCH: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church. by John Allen, Jr., a writer with the National Catholic Reporter. Like myself I'm sure that many will not like all of these trends, but they are there and we must deal with them. Apropos of this entry one of the trends that he brings up is the fact that the next major challenge facing the Church, especially in Africa and the Middle East, is Islam. His Chapter on Islam (pp. 95-140) offers a fine summary of the complexities of dealing with Islam, touching on grounds for hope as well as areas of concern. While no one can offer a complete analysis of a topic like that in a space of 45 pages, Allen certainly points out several important features and offers fine references in his Suggestions for further Reading at the back of the book.

Allen's book was published by Doubleday in 2009. The ISBN number is 978-0-385-52038-6. I'm sure you can purchase it through the usual online services, as well as through NCR. When I finish reading it I will opffer a review on this blog.

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly