Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Different way of looking at Church

Daily I receive by e-mail a brief meditation from Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, a friar based in Albuquerque, NM.  Over the past few weeks his reflections have been centered on St. Paul's theology of the Church as Body of Christ. In his November 27 reflection he writes:

"For Paul, you do not live in the world and go to church.  You live in the Church and go to the world.  Take off your head, shake it and put it back on; because that was not the way any of us were trained to think."
 This thought provoking statement is a great summary of the direction that my own thoughts of taken over the past month.  My province's chapter at the beginning of the month had as it's theme "Where our deepest longing meets the world's great need." This theme certainly resonates with Richard's vision of Church.  Basically it tells us that the Church exists for the world, not for itself.It exists to bring the Gospel to the world and that doesn't mean to go out and try to convert everyone.  It means to bring love, justice, mercy and compassion to the world.  If we concentrate on that there will no doubt be many conversions.  This morning's Gospel from Matthew 5 gives us the beatitudes, wonderful statements that we are blessed by being poor in spirit and by working for justice even when we are persecuted.  It tells us that we are blessed when we are meek and lowly.  This is surely not the message of the world that tells us we are blessed by being rich and powerful.

  During the past month we have seen the Tuscon incident and several other acts of violence in the streets of our country.  In the past week we have witnessed the uprising in Egypt.  It is to issues such as these, not to mention the many who suffer from hunger and poverty, undocumented immigrants, etc. that our eyes must be turned as Church and while I don't deny that many in the Church are focused in this way too many of us are more focused on rearranging the candlesticks at the altar and worrying about who can clean chalices or trying to retreat to a Church of the past that never really existed because nostalgia is always unreal.

  So let's focus and being Church rather than going to Church. If we do that all kinds of wonderful things might happen, and the pews might get filled in the process as well. Finally, as I come to the end of this reflection my attention was just called to a wonderful blog entry by a wonderful young friar from my province, Dan Horan, OFM.  In this blog entry he raises the question "What makes a space Sacred?" after giving a lecture on Thomas Merton. Does a Church building make it Sacred or is it that we come together in faith and love?  Just click below to see more
 Dan Horan, OFM--Dating God

Monday, January 24, 2011

Benedict XVI on social networking

  I just thought my blog followers would be interest in the Pope's talk for world communications day regarding social networking and the internet.  It certainly encourages me to keep going with this blog and also my Facebook page (which you can access on the right side of this page.  Just click on the highlighted line below:
Pope's talk on Social Networking

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blessings of the Past

   I'm not one to spend a lot of time dwelling on the past, but during the past month I have been provided with several opportunities to do so. That can be dangerous since it often leads to unrealistic thinking about "good old days" that never really existed because there is good and bad in every age.  In this case my backward look has lead me to a sense of gratitude for the people and places that have shaped my life.
  Earlier this month I gathered with the friars of my province who were ordained 40 years ago. Although I went through my formation in another province I have been fully adopted into the Holy Name Province class of '71. Eight of us gathered at our friary in Margate, NJ (4 could not make it), and reminisced about seminary days, recalling a lot of funny and crazy stories, but also thinking of the influence of the 60's and the Second Vatican Council on us. We were so hopeful (in some ways naively so), but happy to be a bunch who have served the Lord in a way that has been shaped by that council even as many today would want to undo it or reinterpret it. We all felt a certain sadness over that and the sex abuse crisis and other things that we just could not foresee in 1971. We celebrated the Eucharist together and in fine Franciscan fashion went out to dinner on the Saturday night.
  Just the other day I had another call from the past. In late grammar school and throughout my high school years I was a member of the CYO band in my parish, Saint William's, in the Savin Hill section of Dorchester, MA where I grew up. I found out via the internet that a reunion of band members is being planned and that there is a Facebook page for the band.  I was delighted by the pictures and the flood of great memories that this brought about and I put myself down as a member.  We were the champions for many years of the CYO music circuit, and we paraded with dignitarie played at big events,  but more importantly the band, the parish and many wonderful people from there helped to shape my life in a wonderful way. The parish is now merged with another parish (St. Margaret's) and renamed (Blessed Mother Theresa), but there will always be some St. William's in my heart.
  Finally this morning at Mass with the Gospel that recalled the call by Jesus to Peter, Andrew, James and John, Fr. Marty Bednar in his homily shared his own sense of a vocation that came to him as a high school student and it brought back memories of my own discerning of a call to join the Franciscans.  I thought of St. William's parish again as well as the friars at Christopher Columbus High school, both of which nourished my vocation.
  My last blog entry spoke of looking to the future, this one to the past, but right now is all that any of us have, and right now I'm grateful for the blessings of the past that have shaped me and looking forward to the years of life that I have left as a friar and a priest.

Friday, January 7, 2011

On to the Future: Looking out to the World

I'm sitting in the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal and looking forward to a weekend with my fellow classmates from the class of '71 as we celebrate and reminisce over our experience in 40 years of ordained ministry.  In my last entry I explained to readers what a provincial chapter is.  Today I would like to share my experience of the chapter now that it is over.

   The past week was a roller coaster ride between excitement and tedium.  At a chapter we tap into our vision as Franciscans and our contact with the God who shapes that vision.  At the same time there is business to be conducted, finances to be discussed, and election of new leaders.  We did all of that in a very wonderful, if fatiguing, four day period at the Hyatt Conference Center in Cambridge, MD.

   Fortunately  at the end of all I am left with a sense of vision renewed and hope for the future in these very challenging times.  The theme that we chose for the chapter was Crossroads 2011: Where our deepest longing meets the worlds great need. (See the above picture with our new provincial council)  This theme is exciting for me because we chose to look outward at the world and not inward at the workings of the Church.  Yes, we discussed at times our frustration with the direction that our Church and its leaders are taking, but our energy was directed at how we as Franciscan Friars can bring the message of the Gospel to the weak, the powerless, the alienated and the marginalized and to all people of good will through our life and ministry.

   For us Franciscans our fraternity, rooted in our life with God, is our primary gift.  Though are numbers are getting smaller and we are withdrawing from parishes and other ministries, we are at the same time identifying needs in the areas where we serve and seeking ways to be more and more a brotherhood in mission. For us itinerancy is a core value.  This means that we are not attached to places, that we can move on and be present in new ways even though are numbers are smaller.

   Though our numbers are smaller and vocations are less than in the past we are blessed with some quality young friars who unlike the younger members of many groups in today's Church,  are not caught up in the need for clerical trappings and positions of power to provide them with security.  Many of them that I met said that they chose us because we were more real and not clerical.  In addition to their many talents that gives me good reason to have hope in our future.  I certainly hope that my readers  who are not religious have gained a little bit of insight into our lives as friars through this sharing.  Also, for some more pictures and comments on our chapter click on my Facebook page to the right.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Holy Name Province Provincial Chapter

  I'm writing on Sunday, January 2, from Margate, NJ on the way to our provincial chapter in Cambridge, MD. Several of you who saw my schedule understandably asked, "What's a provincial chapter?"  With that in mind I thought I'd answer that question.

 In our order, and in most orders of men as well as women, the chapter is a periodic gathering of members to elect leaders and to make important decisions. We Franciscans have a general chapter every six years to elect the minister general and his council and to formulate policies for the whole order.  This gathering is attended by the outgoing council and the provincials of each province of the world.  In the provinces we meet every three years.  At one time only the top leaders went to the chapter.  In recent years there has been a democratization process in most provinces.  In the case of Holy Name Province, to which I belong, all of us friars are delegates and expected to attend unless there is a good reason.

   This year our provincial minister, John O'Connor, having completed a 6 year term, can be re-elected for three more.  We also elect his vicar (vice-provincial) and a 6 member council for three years.  Perhaps even more important than the elections these days are decisions that we make about the future.  Like most religious we are getting smaller and have to make some tough decisions regarding use of personnel. In doing this we try to move forward by setting criteria as to how we do this based on the priorities of living our Franciscan life. There will be some strong debate but I'm sure we will live this gathering with a lot of hope and a clearer sense of where we're going.

   Our chapter runs from Mon.,evening, January 3, to Friday, January 7 at Noontime.   Please keep us in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly