Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Lesson From Sports


The Stanley Cup
   During this time of pandemic I have not traveled out to preach. I have done a great deal of reading, praying, reflecting, etc.  I have also watched more than my fair share of movies and TV series.  I am also an avid sports fan especially when it come to the teams from Boston, my home town. We have been blessed over the past twenty years with a treasure trove of championships

   Living as I do in the Tampa Bay area I follow the local teams, not with quite as much enthusiasm as I do for my Boston teams.  Last night I watched with great joy as the Tampa Bay Lightning captured the Stanley Cup as champions of the hockey world.

   Given that this blog usually reflects on issue of religion or life in our world and its various cultures you might wonder why am I writing about sports.  Good question. I certainly admit that  scoring goals, touchdowns or baskets or hitting home runs is not the most important thing in the world.  I also lament the huge salaries of players and the large sums of money involved in sports. Having said all that I believe that there is an important lesson that our nation, the Church and the world in general can learn from sports, especially from those who win championships.

   Let's just take our hockey champions as an example. Their season was stopped in March with the Covid-19 outbreak. They resumed play at the end of July with playoffs that would lead to a championship over a two month period.  Because of the pandemic they stayed in what is popularly called a bubble staying only in two different cities, away from family and friends for most of this time. The players come from different countries, speak different languages, though all seem to speak English. They worked together as a team and did not let differences of culture, politics or personality keep them from focusing on the big goal--winning the championship. 

   That is what we call all learn from any sports championship--unity of purpose.  Our country and even our churches oar so terribly divided.  It's not bad to have differences of opinion but the hatred and vitriol, even in the Church which is supposed to be following One whose basic commandment is love is deeply concerning.

   So let us rejoice and celebrate when our favorite team wins but more importantly let us learn from them the importance of working together.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Returning God's Gift

    At this point in my Franciscan journey I have noticed that there are more friars that I knew and often have lived with that are listed in my province's necrology (list of deceased friars) than there are in our directory of the living friars.

   This morning we gave another one of our brothers back to God--Brother Valerian Vaverchak, OFM., or simply Val, as we knew him. Many of the men that have gone before me and on whose shoulders I stand have made contributions to the Church and to the world, contributions that were known and publicized.  I think for example of Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, one of the heroes of 9/11, a loving and gifted friar and priest who was widely known even before that tragic day.  there are many others.

   Val's life was not lived in the limelight but it was a life a quiet and loving dedication and prayer, a life that touched many in a quiet way.

   He served in the missions in Brazil where he selflessly helped many poor people there. He became a nurse and worked tirelessly caring for our elder friars for a number of years. Fr. Jack McDowell who preached the funeral homily mentioned that he showed up at one assignment where the guardian greeted him by handing him a cookbook. He said,"but I'm a nurse." he was told that they needed a cook, not a nurse, so he became a cook. Such was his vow of obedience.

   I have lived here at St. Anthony Friary with Val for fourteen years. In spite of having a number of health issues he was the weekend cook when I came here.  He also gladly did little chores for the friars, never seeking recognition. I traveled to Assisi several years ago with Val and another friar. It was then that I saw the deeply prayerful side of this wonderful man as we visited the places where St. Francis lived and worked.

   At a time when the Church is judged solely on the basis of bad things done by priests and religious I think that it is important to note that countless thousands of priests and  of men and women religious continue live and work quietly to share God's love. I thank God for the gift of Val and am glad to share in our effort to return him back to our loving and merciful God.


Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly