Thursday, November 21, 2019

An End and a Beginning

This, my friends, will be the last entry for The Wandering Friar blog.  No, I am not finished writing.  You may have notices that entries have been infrequent and scattered.  I have decided to start a new blog in order to give me a new focus. You will hear from me shortly

Fr. John

Still Wandering and preaching the Word.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Lord of the Dance

Dancers in costumes of recycled materials

 I arrived home from Peru, tired but full of joy and gratitude.  I was intending to begin with a description of various aspects of the Unbound program in Peru and I will be doing that in my next entry.  However, as I brought this experience to prayer and reflection another aspect of this trip, a very important one, emerged for me. You see, I encountered the Lord there. He danced with me.

  One of my favorite hymns come from a 19th century Shaker community, the Lord of the Dance.  Each line of the hymn basically says that Jesus danced with us at each stage of  His life.  The chorus, however, goes beyond that. It says:

    Dance then, wherever you me be.  I am the Lord of the dance said He.  I'll lead you all, wherever you may be.  I am the Lord of the Dance, said He.

   The trip to Peru as one of Unbound's awareness trips.  It is not called a mission trip because the focus is on becoming aware of not only the work of Unbound, but also the realities of the countries we visit.  While in Lima I became very much aware of the work of Unbound and why certain things were done.  I also was struck by the poverty there as well as the contrast of the poorer neighborhoods with the wealthier ones.

   Upon returning home I became more aware of the Lord's presence in all of that.  Twice during the week we were treated to presentations of native folk dances.  At the end of those presentations the dancers came and picked out one of us sponsors to dance with them.  Yes, then, the Lord of the Dance
was drawing me in.

 On Thursday of our visit those of us in the group who were sponsoring children in Peru got to meet them.  To say the least it was a great joy to meet 13 year old Anthony whom I sponsor as well as his mother and his 5 year old brother. While I had brought a few small gifts for Anthony I was touched by the fact that his family had a gift for me, a knitted lion that his mother made.  It is a small thing but it expressed so well the love that they had for me.  I encountered the Lord in that as well.
Special needs young woman who chose me to dance with her

  So, as I think back on that week I am so grateful that the Lord of the dance called on me during that wonderful time.

Member of our group called to dance

With Anthony and the special "Lion"

Friday, August 9, 2019

Sponsored Elders an Special Needs

On this final day of our journey we met with a gathering of  sponsored elders and special needs people. It was truly a joyful time, one of being overwhelmed by their love and appreciation. After that it was off for a nice lunch and on to a hotel near the airport

Special need group performing

Elders with  typical fold dance

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Meeting My Sponsored Friend

Today was the highlight of the trip, meeting our sponsored friends. Pictures say it all
With Anthony, what a joy to meet him

Anthony, his mother and little brother 
Sponsored Friends and families waving goodbye 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Wonderful Mother’s of Unbound Kids

Today we again broke up into three groups to attend a meeting of Unbound mothers.  They make decisions as to how the sponsorship money is doesn’t and also decide on other activities to earn more money for their families.  We also did some sightseeing including the Lima Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in the Americas More details next week.

Sponsors with mothers

Mothers getting down to business
Lima Cathedral 

Outside the Cathedral 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Visiting Unbound Sponsored Family

we had a great time today, split into 3 groups, visiting sponsors friends homes.
Did some sight seeing in the afternoon

Our group outside home of sponsored friends 

Warmly received in welcoming home

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Monday, August 5, 2019

Let the Children Come to Me

We had a great day today visiting a community and seeing some sponsored kids engaged in educational activities, doing crafts from recycled materials and gardening vegetables.  It was a great time and the kids were wonderful.  Again a few pictures, more whe I return home.

Planting in the garden

Like I was back in kindergarten—loving it

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A Wonderful Unbound Community

Yesterday was a long. Day and I didn’t get to post on this blog.  What I will attempt for the feast of the week is to give a brief summary of each day and write a lengthier post next week when I am back from in the states.

We visited Huaycan where there are over 1000 sponsored friends.  We stopped at the Unbound office there and were treated royally by sponsored friends with a great greeting, an exhibition of some of the projects there including a show demonstration f their work with recycling  and the environment, They also performed several typical folk dances.

Here are a few pictures, more next week

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Journey begins in Peru

No promises to do this everyday but I will try, busy schedule and weak internet,
We arrived this’s morning and are getting acclimated,
Our program begin in earnest tomorrow as we will visit different areas where Unbound is working at giving people a hand up, not a hand out.There a several. Interesting initiatives among the sponsored people.

 The pictures below show St. Francis Solanus Retreat Center and some of the nearby homes standing precariously (I think) on hillsides.
St. Francis Solanus Retreat Center

Thursday, August 1, 2019

A New Direction

   As I write I imagine that some of my regular blog readers have thought that my blogging days are over.  They almost were.  I was running out of gas, new thoughts and ideas. Also, I wanted to avoid the vitriol afflicting our society and passing over the internet.

  I have decided, for the time being at least, to use this blog to offer folks a glimpse into my life and ministry.

   For almost thirty-two years I have been an itinerant preacher, preaching over 500 parish missions, several retreats for priests and religious and a number of days of prayer and recollection. For the past 3 years I have preached weekend campaigns for Unbound, a wonderful Catholic charitable organization that invites people to sponsor children and elders in various poor countries. Every one of these events had given me the opportunity to meet some interesting people and more importantly to experience God's action in many lives.

   Since I last wrote on this blog I have been in Florida, Utah, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, North and South Carolina, Hawaii, Texas and North Dakota.  There are interesting people everywhere. I have been with priests from Vietnam and Zambia as well as several Latin American countries.  I have met 2 beekeepers and one wine maker.  Also, and most importantly I have had a glimpse into the life of the Church.  If one takes the image of the Church given by the media we are dying and ridden by scandal.  I don't want to minimize the impact of the sex abuse scandal.  It is real. It has driven people away, but I am also meeting many folks who say that their faith is becoming stronger because the scandals have caused them to go deeper in their living of the faith. 

   Another point that I would make strongly is that we are an immigrant and diverse Church.  There are few "nones" (those who believe in God but have no Church affiliation) among the Latino, Filipino, Vietnamese populations, to mention the most predominant immigrant groups. There are young families and children in these groups and they are the future of the Catholic Church in America, just as Irish, Italian, Polish and German immigrants were in previous generations.

   Unfortunately most people, including practicing Catholics, associate Church with clergy. The Laity my friends are the Church too and these days I think they are the strength of the Church.

   All of the above are my own impressions, not based on any formal sociological study, but I believe them to be true.

   I have mentioned Unbound in this article and in previous ones.  I will see more about my experience with them in the future.  In fact, the next time I write will be next week from Peru where I will be on an Unbound awareness trip which will include meeting with Anthony, a young man that I am sponsoring.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

I Have Done What Is Mine to Do,May Christ Teach You What is Yours to Do.

  Our friary community has just finished a retreat presented by Ray Bucher, OFM.  The theme of the retreat was the spirituality of aging.  Interestingly enough I had to pass up the last day of the retreat to have a colonoscopy.  I have had several.

   As well as offering me some valuable insights on aging the time has afforded me the opportunity to refocus the aim of my life and ministry.

    Ray, our retreat director, cited, among others, a work by Sr. Joan Chtister, OSB, The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully.  I won't be using this entry to offer a workshop on that subject, but I have begun to read the book and one line that jumped out to me is this "Life after sixty-five is not a pathology. It is  whole new look at what life can be at this stage".

   Those words express what I have been feeling lately. So, what can life be for me?  In spite of what I consider to be minor health issues for my age I am living a dream, preaching the Word of God and living in a wonderful Franciscan community. At the same time there has been an unease in me lately, an unease about the condition of our world, our country and our Church. You can guess the reasons why. Unfortunately my presence on social media has drawn me off course a bit.  Last week a very good friend of mine visited our friary for a few days.  She pointed out that I was getting of course, swallowed up in the anger of the present moment.  I resisted her advice at first but upon reflection realized that my role, my purpose, at this time in my life and ministry, is not to try and correct all the evils of the world, though I must walk the fine line of being aware of them, but rather in the midst of them to remind people of the basic message of Jesus" love and his commandment to love one another. This is what I do well.

   This does not mean that I will back off of my basically Catholic and Christian vision of respect for life at every stage, respect for the unborn, those already born, people of every race and tongue and faith, etc., but at this stage I see my calling as stepping a bit outside of the political realm and simply reminding people of Jesus message to love our neighbor, whoever and whatever that neighbor may be, not just the neighbor next door, but all people.
   For most of my life in active ministry I have served in poor or working class areas, as well as serving the poor in Bolivia.  In recent years I have traveled to Honduras and El Salvador and seen first hand the effects of poverty and government oppression that people  there experience. The solution of the problems experienced by the poor is beyond me.  What I can do is A:  Invite everyone to share Christ's love in any way possible.  B. Be aware of the suffering of so many.  C.  Do what I can to help the poor.
   Over two years ago I came across Unbound, a Catholic organization our of Kansas City, that invites people to sponsor children and need elders in 18 different poor countries. They are helping over 300,000 people at the present time, not just offering a handout, but a hand up and empowereing them towards a better life.I visit parishes for them and invite people to sponsor.  Perhaps you, my reader,will consider becoming a sponsor. Go to

   I am still preaching 12-15 parish missions a year, preaching the basic Gospel message of love and mercy.  What a wonderful life I have at this stage. I pray that it continues.  When more diminishment comes it will be in God's hands.

   Finally, fear not growing older. Welcome what is next as  new stage of life. And do keep in mind the title of this blog entry which are the final words of St. Francis to the first friars. "I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what you are to do."

Monday, January 7, 2019

We Three Kings--A Revelation

   Yesterday we in the Western Church (Roman Catholic and Protestant) observed the Feast of the Epiphany (Greek for Manifestation or revelation) and heard the story of the visit of the magi to Bethlehem.  The Orthodox Church celebrated Epiphany as the Baptism of Jesus, which we in the West will celebrate this coming Sunday.  In addition the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana (recalled in 2 weeks) was noted in the early Church as an Epiphany Feast because there Jesus is revealed as Son of God.

   All three of these events have profound meaning but to me the account of the visit of the Magi is rich and filled with meaning.  It has also inspired several spinoff stories such as Ahmal and the Night Visitors which I took the time to view last night.  I highly recommend it.

    Did this event really happen?  I like to think that it did in spite of the fact that there have been many embellishments.  Matthew's Gospel 2:1 simply tells us that magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem asking the whereabouts of the newborn king. Notice that it does not say that they were kings, nor does it say there were 3. It was most likely easy to designate 3 as the number because there were 3 gifts--gold,frankincense and myrh.Early Church writers tell us that the gold was for Jesus as a king, the frankincense was to worship him as God and the myrh was for his burial.  Also as early Christians who were still practicing Jews hear the Scriptures read in the synagogues they heard, for example, from the prophet Isaiah, "All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord." (Is 60)  Psalm 72:10 says "May the kings of Tarshish and the Isles bring tribute, the kings of Sheba and Sela offer gifts."

   In any event the meaning of the event is that Christ is revealed as Messiah not only for Israel but for all  peoples.  For me this does no mean a triumphalist imposing of Christianity on all bur rather is a call to realize that God loves all and in Christ draws all to himself.  Also I see the star as the light that draws all to Christ who is the Light of the world and who chooses to dwell in us that we may be light.
Finally in the 3 gifts, indeed symbolic but most importantly sign of generosity.  This account is what inspired the practice of Christmas gifts (which in many countries waits until January 6, but most importantly it should inspire us to be generous with the gifts that God has given us. The above mentioned story of Ahmal certainly points us in that direction.

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly