Friday, May 14, 2021

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico
       I have not posted here in over two months and have considered closing down this blog, but alas I have thought of a specific direction to take for it moving forward. while I am tempted to jump into the frey of battle ab out ecclesial and civil politics I will not be doing so. Those who follow me on Facebook know that I often share posts expressing ideas that I agree with.  On this blog I hope to simply share some of my current experiences which I believe may be of interest especially to my many friends.  So here goes.

Walkway along Tampa Bay
    As many of you know I am now "retired". I don't like that word. I don't believe that it fits my reality.  I am a Franciscan friar and a priest. One does not cease to be either.  Retirement in my context means that I no longer have an obligation to engage in a full time amount of ministerial activity or to earn a certain amount of money to support my order.  I can do as much or as little as I like and contribute what I can to the order.  It is a time  really to intensify m life of prayer and to deepen my relationship with the Lord.  As part of this I am finding enjoyment in simply taking in the beauty of Tampa Bay and the many beautiful creatures that are part of this wonderful area.

    Last Sunday I was able for the first time since the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic began to celebrate Mass outside the confines of St. Anthony Friary.  What a joy that was as I went over to St. Paul's church here in St. Pete.  In the months ahead I will do some other Masses in local parishes and begin again to occasionally preach for Unbound.  (If you are not familiar go to Unbound.). I am goind to limit the preaching of parish missions to Lent and Advent with few exceptions.

   For the past fourteen months my Franciscan fraternal life has sustained me. The schedule of community meals, prayer and plain old good times has been a blessing.  Another blessing is the fact that  though restricted in many ways I have been able to go for walks and to visit some local places safely. The biggest blessing is that all of us here at the friary avoided contracting the corona virus and all of us are now fully vaccinated.

  Finally next week, May 22, I will celebrate 50 years of ordained ministry as a priest.  The next day, May 23, is Pentecost Sunday and I will preside at our community Mass to celebrate this anniversary. I invite you to join with me in prayer for that occasion.  My next two blog entries will reflect on what this 50 years has meant to me.

    God Bless!



Saturday, March 6, 2021

A Prophetic Sign of Hope

   Yesterday Pope Francis met with one of the top Muslim clerics in Iraq.  Who would have thought just a few years ago when Isis was attacking some of the towns that he visited that a Pope would be there at this time.

  His Holiness comes to Iraq as a messenger of Peace and as a living witness to the message that he sent out in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti--We are all brothers.

   Does this mean an end to all hostilities between Muslims and Christians?  Of course not, though would that it were so. It does, however, send a strong message to the world, a message that says that peace is possible not only between Muslims and Christians, but between all religions and peoples where there is now hostility.

   In this historic encounter Pope Francis is visibly affirming what the Second Vatican Council said in its document, nostra aetate dealing with Catholic relations with other world religions.   Regarding Muslims it says, "The Chuch also has a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God who is one, living ans subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth," (Nostra Aetate #3).  At the same time it is also important to note that during his visit the Pope also condemned all "violence in the name of God".

    There are too many Christians, Catholics included, who are under the impression that all Muslims are violent and that Muslims worship a different God.  Allah, by the way, is just the Arabic word for God. If you attend a Catholic Mass, or any other Christian service,  in an Arabic speaking country God is addressed as Allah.This visit of the Pope, among other things, calls us to lay aside those misconceptions. Also worth noting, in case you were unaware,Christians, as well as Muslims, have too often used violence in the name of God.

    The call, then, is to move ahead, not denying the many differences between our religions, but most of all finding common ground together.  As Christians we are bothers and sisters in Christ and as humans we are brothers and sisters of all.


Friday, January 22, 2021

Pretecting Life: From Beginning to End--Just Not that Simple


   This morning, as required by the US liturgical calendar, our community prayed for the legal protection of the unborn. Fine. I'm in favor of that, but I've for a long time been  uncomfortable with praying for only that. I am also in the uncomfortable position of believing that neither major political party gets it right. What is my point?  My point is that you cannot protect the unborn if you do not protect and meet the needs of the woman who is carrying the child. 

   It is easy to attempt to ban abortion.  Even if that effort succeeds abortion will not do away.  It has been with us throughout human history, legal or otherwise. My belief is that focusing only on abortion will not accomplish anything even if our goals are lofty.  

   Early on in my nearly fifty years of ministry as a priest I discovered that simply quoting morals at people does not work.  Good pastoral care begins with listening to people's pain. I have listened first hand to the stories of women who have been raped and abused by men, of women who could not afford health care, and thus pre-natal care.  I'm not saying that these sufferings make abortion just OK.  I am saying that trying to illegalize it without providing for the legitimate needs of the pregnant mother is short-sighted. Too many legislators at both national and local levels are guilty of that.

   Then there is the issue of the father of the unborn child.  So many of them abandon the pregnant woman and do not take responsibility.  I realize that it can be a complicated issue but maybe we should at least look into the issue of making them pay for childcare as well as the medical care of the mother.

   Some will object and say that the permissiveness of the times is a big factor in unwanted pregnancies. It indeed is.  It may be fine to encourage virginity before marriage.  We should. But let's be real--How likely is that effort to succeed in a widespread way?

    The other issue is answering the question, "What does it mean to be pro-life and not just pro-birth? When I bring up issues such as rights of immigrants, racism and  capital punishment too many people dismiss that because of arguments such as "Criminals are not innocent." or "These other issues don't invole the actual taking of life." There is some truth there but you cannot dismiss them because to do so is to attack life.  Also, the Church has now said that capital punishment is not right. Please don't holler for the death penalty and say that you are pro-life.

   This is a short article. More nuance may be needed.As the title suggests it's just not that simple. I welcome suggestions by comment or e-mail. If, however, you just want to call me a name or condemn me or say that I am against the Church please pause and take a deep breath.  You have not read this piece carefully.

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly