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Showing posts from 2011

A Blessed Christmas to All

Greetings from my home city of Boston where I'm spending the week with my brother friars at St. Anthony Shrine and visiting with family and friends.  Earlier this morning I read a meditation from Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, who by the way offers wonderful daily meditations.  Fr. Richard commented on the popular hymn, O Holy Night, compsed in 1847 by Frenchman Placide Cappeau.  He is especially taken by the phrase "and the soul felt its worth."

   His thought is that because the Son of God chose to become human, to become one of us, that we see the true source of our worth, a worthiness that is based on a gift given to us, the Incarnation, and not on our successes and accomplishments.   Another spiritual writer, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, like to point out that the Incarnation was not meant to be a 33 year experiment that ended with the Ascension, but rather a great mystery that began in Jesus and continues in us.  If we can but allow our souls to feel their worth because …

The Gift of Brothers

In St. Francis Testament written at the end of his life he writes, "....and the Lord gave me brothers."  You see Francis did not set out to found an order and recruit people to join it.  He set out to do the Lord's work and people found there way to him.  He received them as gifts from the Lord. His words challenge us friars to see one another as gifts, and given that we are all so very human that is not always easy.

   Here at St. Anthony Friary we just had the funeral of one of our brothers, Fr. Jim Jones, OFM. Jimmy, as he was known to us, was only 68 years old and had been ill with a heart condition for the past few years. That condition was worsened when he was mugged five years ago while taking a walk here in our generally safe neighborhood.   He was also the seventh member of our community to die in the past 13 months. Ever since I came here Jim has been a positive presence in our community.   He was not able to engage in much public ministry, though I did noti…

And with Your Spirit::Thoughts on the New Translation of Mass Texts

A few weeks ago several readers of this blog asked my opinion on the new translation of the prayers for the Mass. I hesitated to respond because I wanted to wait and see.  We are now into the second week of Advent and are getting used to (or not so used to) the new prayers at Mass so  I thought that I might offer a few thoughts on the matter which I hope are helpful.
   Some explanations are in order.  There is not a new Mass.  The ritual of the Mass has not changed. What has changed is the wording of the prayers used.  What many don't know is that in Rome there is an official Latin text from which all the languages of the world translate.  In years gone by the criterion used for translation was what is called "dynamic equivalency". meaning that the basic meaning of the Latin was translated into English (in our case) or whatever other language.  The Vatican in recent years has called for a more literal translation.   Both have their advantages and disadvantages.  Also…

Prepare the way for the Lord, An Advent Message

I was tempted to introduce Advent by offering a comment on the new translation of the Mass texts, but chose to wait until they have been in use for a while. Instead, some thoughts on the season itself.

  Most of us Catholics think of Advent as the time when we get ready spiritually for Christmas. That is indeed one of the purposes for the season, and certainly we need to attend to that more often than we do, but it is not the only purpose of this wonderful time.  At the beginning of  Advent the Church's focus is more on the Second Coming of Christ, than on the First Coming.  This Sunday's Gospel (from Mark 13:33-37) Invites us to "Be watchful! Be Alert! You do not know when the time will come." (Mk 13:33)

   There is a great deal of sound advice in these words.  For one thing they certainly make it clear that anyone who tries to predict the end times doesn't know what they are talking about.   But how are we to prepare for the end times, for the coming of the …

Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St., John at the Lateran--A Feast of the Church

Today the Church celebrates what for many is an unusual feast, the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.  This basilica holds a special place in Church history, Franciscan history and in my own heart. Back in 1999 our Minister General, Fr. Giacomo Bini, OFM sent a latter to the friars of the order asking for volunteers to serve as confessors for the Jubilee Year 2000.   The Roman basilicas are staffed by the diocesan clergy of Rome, but each one has a staff from members of different religious orders as confessors, the reason being that we can bring in people from around the world who speak different languages.   We Franciscans have been assigned to the Lateran because it was there that Pope Innocent III approved the rule of Francis and his brothers. Ability to speak Italian as well as 15 years of ordination were two of the requirements to supplement the full time team of confessors  there so  I signed on and was accepted. I spent just about 7 months in Rome that yea…

The Way, A Movie for All Saints Day

In these early days of November we Catholics, and many other Christians as well, observe two feast that focus our attention on the next life--All Saints Day and All Souls Day.  I find it interesting that in my case anyway some of the same people that I honored as saints in my own life I prayed for on the next day, because after all we are not certain and in some way all of us are both saints and sinners.
   Often, as we look to the next life, we don't stop to reflect on the fact that whatever happens in the hereafter is based on what we do now, on our response to the call to holiness which comes to us through our Baptism.  What do we do now, in this life, to grow into sainthood.

   All of us are made saints (holy) the moment we are baptized.  It's what we do afterwards that changes things one way or the other.  I remember having this fact brought home to me very clearly back in 1978 when I was on an extended pilgrimage in Rome and Assisi.  We visited the cathedral of St. R…

Upholding the Ideals

Over the past few days the Vatican has issued a statement regarding a restructuring of the way that business is done between nations and by the banks.  Also the pope gathered in Assisi with religious leaders of many different faiths from around the world to pray for peace, marking the 25th anniversary of a similar gathering by Pope John Paul II.  I have been surprised by some of the reaction to both the document and the papal gathering, though maybe I shouldn't be.

   Some folks have criticized the Pope for praying with non-Christians.   Granted that we need to be careful of a one religion is as good as another approach to things but what is so wrong about gathering with people of good will to pray.  If people believe in God and wish to pray that is a good thing, especially if they are praying for peace.    Remember the greeting of the angel at the birth of Christ--"Peace to people of good will", a line we repeat in the Gloria at Mass. The witness of a gathering like …

The Gift of Imagination

As one who strives to keep up with the advances in technology both to advance my ministry as a preacher and for personal enjoyment I was fascinated by the extensive coverage of the death of Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs the past week.  One of the blogs that I follow and that is referenced on this blog is Whispers in the Loggia, a site which puts out news of what's going on in the Church these days.  Last week I noticed that "Whispers" carried an article from Osservatore Romano about this extraordinary man.  You can click on the link here to see this article--Steve Jobs.

   Several things struck me about this article the most important of which is the fact that with the exception of world political leaders  the Vatican does not usually reference the deaths of people outside the Church.  In this case however there is a recognition that this man, who did not share our religious beliefs, was a true visionary who made a significant contribution to life in our world toda…

Be Still, and know that I am God (ps 46:10)

A few weeks ago after celebrating Mass at St. Peter the Fisherman in Eagle River, WI I was stopped by someone who politely asked why the Mass there didn't move along more.  I asked the person what they meant and the response was that after the readings instead of the next reader or leader of the responsorial psalm got up there was a pause.  Likewise, this individual felt, that too much time was spent waiting after communion.  I explained that these pauses are called for by the Church in its directives for celebrating Mass so that we could briefly meditate on the readings or on what just happened while receiving Communion.  The person politely thanked me, shrugged the shoulders and walked away without, I think, really understanding why there should be silence there.

      I mention this incident because I believe that this response to silence reflects a deeper issue in our culture. We like to think of ourselves, among other things, as living in the age of communication, and i…

Tenth Anniversay of 9/11

I was preparing some thoughts to post on the tenth anniversary of the tragic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.  I could not think of anything better than the joint statement of the seven United States Franciscan Provinces and the English province, so I invite you, dear blog readers, to click on the site below:.  I welcome your responses.

Franciscan Provinces of US--statement on Tenth Anniversary of 9/11

Labor Day

This weekend we celebrate the third and final summertime holiday--labor day.  On Memorial Day we remembered our deceased veterans.  On July 4 we celebrated our freedom, and on Labor Day we honor workers.  But what are we as Catholics to make of this day when the unemployment rate is so high and our political leaders seem unable or unwilling to address the problem in an effective way.

  The teaching of our Church basically says that we are all workers.  To be human is in some way to be a worker. From Pope Leo XIII in the 1890's right  up to Pope John Paul II this teaching has been reiterated in various ways.   Also through work we humans share in the ongoing process of creation by producing goods and services that enhance the quality of life on earth  and which provide a means of living to all.

   The problem, of course, is that greed and self-interest, get in the way.  Some goods and services do not enhance, but rather hinder, the quality of human life, and sometimes workers l…

Sing to the Lord--A Wonderful Ecumenical Experience

POPS River Revival--Ecumenical Concert (click on this link to see excerpts from the concert)

    I have been coming to Eagle River to assist at St. Peter the Fisherman Parish in the summerti
me since 1995.  After a few summers I became aware of an ecumenical concert put on by Prince of Peace Lutheran Church here in Eagle River. I joined the choir in 2005 and have sung each summer since then (except in 2006 when I had to stay in Florida to take care of health issues). People from many different churches and denominations come together to praise the Lord in song with music from the Great Awakening and Revival periods.  This year there were 105 of us plus the directors.  You can see some excerpts from the concert by clicking on the link above.

   Ever since the Second Vatican council promoted ecumenism I have been a strong supporter of any effort in that direction.  Honest ecumenism doesn't whitewash our differences with other Christians but seeks to celebrate our common ground whic…

Let Us Pray

One of the prefaces for weekday Masses says, "You have no need of our praise, yet the very desire to praise you is itself your gift."  These words provide food for thought regarding the meaning of prayer and why we pray. While I pray every day (and hope you do as well) over the past few months several requests for prayer have captured more than the usual amount of attention for me. From the viewpoint of "outcome" the results have been very different.

   A few months ago a good friend contacted me and asked me to pray for a baby named Evangeline who was born prematurely and had several medical complications. There was a good chance that she would not make it.  Not only did I set about praying for this child and her parents, I asked my Franciscan community to pray for her, and several communities of sisters as well. In addition to that many other friends have been praying for her While Evangeline is not entirely out of the woods she has made great promise and looks…

St. Bonaventure

I celebrated Mass this morning at St. Peter the Fisherman  in Eagle River, WI.  Today is the feast of a great Franciscan saint, St. Bonaventure.  I asked the 20 or so people who were there if they knew anything about Bonaventure.  Only three raised a hand.  That experience reminded me that this great man and doctor of the Church is so well known in Franciscan circles, but not outside of it, so I thought that I would present a little about him on this blog.

   St. Bonaventure hails from a small town in Italy called Bagnoreggio in 1221. he died in 1274.  After entering the Franciscans around 1240 he was eventually ordained, became a professor of theology at the University of Paris and was a contemporary of Thomas Aquinas.  He became Minister General of the Franciscans and eventually was ordained a bishop and became a cardinal.

   It is a difficult challenge to sum up his great theological work in a few paragraphs, but I will try.  The life of Francis of Assisi was the source of his t…

The Good 'Ol Summertime

After a whirlwind of travel in the  past few months I've settled into my summer ministry at Eagle River, Phelps and Land "O'Lakes here in Wisconsin. My celebration of my fortieth anniversary of ordination has become a kind of moveable feast with the three parishes here all graciously celebrating this with me. As many of you know my summer times here are special to me for several reasons--wonderful people, a chance to experience parish life, a chance to sing in a choir and to offer some adult faith formation are at the top of the list.
   It is a blessing that I have been able to be in touch during my travels via this blog and Facebook especially.   As I've done that I've heard several comments about internet use--friendly kidding about being the "techie friar", accolades from people who urge me on with this, and while no one has said anything negative to me about my internet use I have run into folks who express concern or fear about our modern high tech…

Pentecost:Too Good to be True?

This Sunday the Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost.  Pentecost is also a Jewish feast.  The word simply means "50 days" in Greek, 50 days after Passover, and fifty days after Easter.  We celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and with that the birth of the Church, though it can be said that the Church was born on the Cross or even at the Annunciation.  I won't enter into debate over that issue. There is truth in all 3 approaches. Suffice it to say that it is one of the three major feasts of the Church along with Holy Week/Easter,  and Christmas.

   For the former two feasts the Churches are full, drawing even those who do not come to Church regularly.  Why is this?  While there are probably many answers for this I think that deep down even those of us who believe find it too good to be true. We can believe that God took human flesh in Jesus, or that Jesus rose from the dead,but Pentecost calls us to believe that the Holy Spirit not only descende…

Thanksgiving For Forty Years of Blessings

As you have been made aware earlier on this blog I will mark an important milestone this Sunday--40 years of priestly ministry.   I want to take this opportunity to thank God for using me as His instrument in so many ways, ways that are beyond my own abilities and that have to do entirely with His Grace--be that with preaching, counseling and spiritual direction, or in the confessional. I also want to thank all those who have sent me cards and prayers for the occasion, and to thank the many people who have become part of my life--from Boston, to New York, the Bronx, Buffalo, Camden, NJ, the many places where I have preached missions in English and Spanish, in the US and Canada, the people of Bolivia, especially the campesinos, who left a permanent mark on my life, and the people of Eagle River, Phelps and Land O'Lakes, WI.  I could not have imagined 40 years ago the number of folks who would become part of the fabric of my life.  I would add to the list the people whom I touched a…

St. Francis, Man of Peace and Non-Violence

I am winding up a ten day retreat/vacation here in Assisi and feel renewed in every aspect of my life as a friar and priest.  I look forward to quietly celebrating my 40th anniversary as a priest one week from today after participating in the ordination of two friars on Saturday, May 21.
   What is very much on my mind these days is the figure of St. Francis as the saint of peace, the peace of Christ. As a young man he was a soldier, but a soldier who became disillusioned with war.  After heading off to battle he returned to Assisi in disgrace because he failed to pursue the military career for which his father equipped him.  He later went to the middle east, along with the crusaders, not to fight, but to preach to the Sultan, who while not converting to Christianity, came to respect Francis as a truly holy man.

   What is keeping this aspect of Francis' life before me is the debate that has been going on since the death of Bin Laden.  People have been asking "Was this the ri…

Assisi Alive with Tradition

I'm writing from Assisi today.  It is a wonderful spring morning and the place is bustling with activity.  I went to morning prayer and Mass in Italian with the friars here, then after breakfast I visited the Basilica of Our lady of the Angels.  This is the place where the Franciscan movement really began.  The Baslica was built in the sixteenth century and houses the little chapel of Or Lady of the Angels (beleived to be built in the mid 4th century) one of several small churches rebuilt by St. Francis and his early followers after Francis heard the call to "Rebuild my House."  It was here that Francis and his companions first gathered as a community, a brotherhood.  It was from here that they were first sent out to preach.  It is here that to this day most of our general chapters are held.

   Assisi is rich in tradition, but it is not locked into the past.  Instead it honors and commemorates the past, yet brings it forward.  Today the city sports modern buildings, fes…