Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Feast of Christ the King

Say what you will about liturgical dance, but this will always bring a smile to my face!!!

Although "King of Glory" has fallen out of favor as an Entrance Hymn at mass, I still have memories of many a childhood mass - in a school gymnasium - opening with this song!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

M-I-C-K-E-Y .... M-O-U-S-E!

It is four o'clock in the morning, and we are about to board a six o'clock flight to Orlando where we will celebrate the triplets' sixth birthday with our parents siblings Mickey, Goofy, Donald and Pluto!

Although I had been to the Happiest Place on Earth many times before, going with our kids for the first time was a emotional experience. So, as we make our final preparations, I leave you with this reflection from the last time we went:

As a child, my family made the trek to Florida about three or four times. Then, Katie and I made the trip a couple times before we had children. As wonderful, and memorable as all those trips were, they cannot compare with the experience we had when we brought all four children down for their first visit.

It did not even take fireworks to make me tear up! Since we were staying at one of the resorts, we took advantage of the Shuttle Bus service from the airport to the hotel. The bus had little tv's to keep the kids (of all ages)occupied during the trip. Then, as we approached the main gate, the bus driver turned off the monitors.

"Alright folks, here we go! Help me count down.

"Ten, nine, eight, seven..."

I looked over at my six year old son His nose was plastered to the window.

"six, five, four ..."

I thought, how cool to see the excitement in his face.

"three, two, one... WELCOME TO DISNEY WORLD!!!"

I was crying. The joy that I had remembered from my childhood. The magic of those days as a young couple, all the wonderful happy experiences that I associated with Disney World. We were going to be able to share with them as they made those experiences their own.

I could not help but wonder, "Is this how God feels? Is this the kind of joy that he feels when we are able to experience His Kingdom?"

I gave Christopher a huge hug. He looked at me, puzzled, and asked "Why are you crying?" I replied,

"Someday, you will know. Until then, promise me you will never forget this trip."

I know that I never will. I look forward to the day when, nose pressed up on the glass, I will ride into the Heavenly Kingdom and feel the embrace of God.

I just hope that the wait for Space Mountain won't be as long!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Sometimes I forget to pray. But some days I pray extra if there's nothing good on television."

I came across this interesting story at the Wall Street Journal website. The headline? "In This Picturesque Village, the Rent Hasn't Been Raised Since 1520"

The related article has some great quotes, including the title of this post.

Yeah, but could St. Peter sing "Piano Man"?

Deacon Greg shared the following video from his new digs over at BeliefNet (be sure to change your bookmark!)

When you get a chance, check out Liturgy - a site out of New Zealand with all sorts of resources about Christian liturgy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Quote of the Day

From Sean Cardinal O'Malley's blog:

“If God were to take away all His blessings, health, physical fitness, wealth, intelligence, and leave me but one gift, I would ask for faith – for with faith in Him and His goodness, mercy, love for me, and belief in everlasting life, I believe I could suffer the loss of my other gifts and still be happy – trustful, leaving all to His inscrutable Providence.”

- Rose Kennedy

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cooperating in a Miracle

Hudson from Midtown Manhattan with Javits Conv...Image via Wikipedia

In today's Wall Street Journal, Father Jonathan Morris, LC, provides a poignant piece on his past week. He has been ministering to the family of the pilot involved in last week's mid-air crash over the Hudson River. A selection:

Capt. Clarke's loved ones—and all the families, for that matter—are cooperating in a miracle. In my opinion, they are giving evidence to the Judeo-Christian belief about how God responds to humankind's suffering. We believe that God's response to our pain is a promise that he will bring forth a greater good out of every instance of evil and suffering in this world, if we let him. These families are bringing into the world and into our lives love and blessings that would never have been there had this tragedy not occurred.

Capt. Clarke believed in just such a promise of God's enduring love. In fact, he believed it so much that just recently he decided to come back to his Catholic faith through the sacrament of confirmation. He described this adult decision in a "letter to God" that his fiancée shared with me.

To find out what he wrote, as well as the responses of all the families involved to this tragedy, go take a read.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B

1 Kings 19:4-8
Ephesians 4:30 - 5:2
John 6:41-51

Walking through the airport the other day, my eye was caught by a photograph on the front page of the Washington Post. The image depicted a woman lying down – the expression upon her face was a study in desolation. Her gaze stopped me in my tracks and I was compelled to read the story – I wanted to understand what could cause such a look of despair. The headline was, “For Many Americans, Nowhere to Go but Down.” This is what I learned:

Scott Nichols sinks into the couch, foot jiggling, his gaze traveling from his wife to the television to the darkness outside, broken now and then by the distant glow of passing headlights.

Then, the 39-year-old husband and father of two thinks of the words he doesn't want to say, what for him, is the option he has hoped to avoid since being laid off nine months earlier.

They already took free food from a church pantry, cardboard boxes filled with Corn Flakes and bologna and saltines, his wife, Kelly, walking in, head down, while he stayed in the car, ashen. They pawned his wedding ring, sold part of her Silver Eagle coin collection and had help from the Salvation Army paying their electric bill.

Now another cliff approaches: the loss of the home they rent.

"Looks like we'll have to go to your mom's," Scott Nichols says to his wife, Kelly.

Moving to her mother's would mean returning to the rundown industrial town where they grew up, a place that makes him feel dirty, inside and out. They would sleep in her basement jammed with forgotten furniture, a few steps from a pair of cat litter boxes and below three narrow windows blocked by insulation.

I could not help thinking what must be going through Scott and Kelly’s hearts and minds, and how close it must be to the sentiments expressed by Elijah when he exclaimed: “This is enough, O LORD!”

The original audience for today’s First Reading was in exile. Most had been evicted by the Babylonians, and those that remained were surrounded by pagan worship. Remember that for the Jewish People, The granting of the Promised Land was central to their understanding of God’s commitment to the people of Israel. The community was struggling to answer the question, “What went wrong?” The editor of the Book of Kings was attempting to answer that very question. Therefore, we read a history that attempts to understand – if not fully explain – why God’s Chosen people had lost the land given to them by God. The editor clearly lays that blame at the infidelity of the People to the Covenant. The pagan worship that infiltrated their land caused them to turn away from worship of the one True God.

The current economic crisis has created massive job loss, and today, many people face an exile of sorts – one of foreclosure and eviction – brought about by the economic crisis that has swept across this country. The economic successes of the past several decades created an ill-placed confidence, an “irrational exuberance.” When many in our country began to presume what tomorrow would bring, instead of simply giving thanks for the bounty of the present day, their subsequent actions came awfully close to desiring to become like gods. Instead of only spending their earnings, many made purchases – financed with debt - based upon what they hoped to earn in the future.

Therefore, an idolatry of a different sorts infiltrated society; this time the calf was made of plastic, rather than gold. Decisions were made economically and politically in order to feed the ‘plastic calf’. Inevitably, when the bubble burst, and the collapse took place, everyone felt the blow. People who saved their entire lives in order to prepare for a comfortable retirement saw their savings evaporate. College graduates – who had invested years of their lives studying, were unable to find employment. Middle class families – like the Nichols family – sit at kitchen tables and struggle to explain why they must leave the only home their children have ever known to live in a basement. Each in their own way, the refrain repeats: “This is enough, O LORD.”

But there is hope. If Scripture has anything to say, it is that God is with us, and will continue to nourish us as we journey through this period of exile. By turning to a more thankful way of life – one that appreciates “Our daily bread” – the Covenant is restored and we step back from the presumption to “be like gods” (Genesis 3:5). A credit card purchase of the newest game for the Wii does not happen. Instead, the old dusty board games are pulled out of a closet and placed on the kitchen table. An exotic trip to a Caribbean beach – financed with a draw on a home equity line is replaced with a tent pitched in the backyard, under a starry sky. Simplicity descends – one that protects that which is truly valuable and discards that which is unnecessary. God has – and always will – provide what is truly needed along the path of life. The challenge we each face is to “[g]et up and eat, else the journey will be too long” (v. 7).

That does not mean that it won’t be painful, or even a bit scary along the way. And that’s OK. Fear is a natural reaction to a difficult challenge. Thomas Aquinas once observed that “fear is the beginning of courage.” But God tells us to move beyond the threshold of fear and live life with courage – courage, after all, I was once told, "is the virtue of living beyond our comfort." I have not done an exact count, but the phrase “Do not be afraid!” appears in scripture over 200 times. It is clearly a message God wanted us to get!

“The fear of any failure is rooted in the fear of death.” It is mixed up with emotions of abandonment and isolation.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that he is the Bread of Life. We are a resurrection people. Through the power of the paschal mystery, Death – in any form – has no power over us. “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you” “Get up and eat” “the living bread that came down from heaven.” “Get up and eat.” and “make disciples of all nations.”

If we live the paschal mystery, if we allow the valleys and depressions of our lives to become opportunities to hope in God and demonstrate God’s love, we then are beacons of hope for the world. We allow courage to be our reaction to fear, confident that nothing can ultimately separate us from life. There is nothing that is truly “life threatening!” The only thing that threatens our lives is our choice not to believe and live that Truth.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What a blessing!

So we have reached the mid-way point in the Beginnings Plus Institute here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It has been such a grace-filled week; God is busy within the community gathered and I have been so blessed to be a part of it! I apologize for not posting sooner, but there simply has not been time. Between revising my reflection for this morning's Celebration of the Word, and putting the finishing touches on my presentation on Evangelization the evening before, I have just barely had time to slip in a few winks.

However, there is a sense of getting over the hump this evening. Tomorrow I am on tap for a brief overview of the period of Purification and Enlightenment, and then my 'official' duties are over! So, I have had some time this evening to look back and put into words some of the wonderful things that have been happening.

This particular institute has a focus on the initiation of children within the context of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. In order to demostrate some of the ways this can be done, a group of local children are invited to take part in part of the institute to model how catechist teams could celebrate the Rites in their own parish. At several points over the past few days, these children (aged eight to 15) were asked to contribute in front of the group. Speaking up in front of a group of over eighty adults is pretty intimidating for a child to begin with; when the subject matter is about something as personal as your faith, that is something else! But children have an honesty from which we can all learn, don't they? Some examples:

On the topic of forgiveness:

Why is forgiveness important?

"Because we all need second chances."
What does Jesus mean when he tells Peter that he must forgive "not seven times but seventy-seven times"?

"That we have to forgive each other all the time."

"To always forgive"
What does that tell us about God?

"That no matter what, God will always forgive you?"
Later that evening, we celebrated an adapted Rite of Acceptance into the Order of the Catechmenate. It was a powerful liturgy, and each of the children again spoke up, asking the Church to strengthen them with knowledge, support, courage, and love. As part of the ritual, they were surrounded by the community, asked to embrace the processional cross as a sign of their embracing the Cross of Christ, and to touch the Book of the Gospels signifying their reception of the Word of God.

Right out of the gate, when asked about what it felt like to touch the book, a young girl, about ten years old said,

"When I touched the book, I felt like I was touching God."
It was a goosebump moment for me. There was Truth in what she said!

"When surrounded by the assembly at the beginning of the rite, I felt loved by God." Asked to expand on that a bit, she said "I felt like God was in my heart."

"When I touched the cross I felt the Holy Spirit come into my heart."

Although these words may sound trite or cliche when spoken by an adult (again, I emphasize may), from the mouth of a child, they take on a new profundity and clarity! It is always important to remember that children have something to teach us.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

And I'm off...

... to begin the "working" phase of my internship with the North American Forum on the Catechumenate. Last year, I spent a wonderful four days observing an awesome team contuct a "Beginnings Plus" institute here in my home diocese of Richmond. This year, they are putting me to work. I will present one component each day and assist as needed.

I am typing this as I wait to board my flight to Grand Rapids, MI via Chicago-O'Hare. All flights appear to be on time, which means I will arrive just in time to attend the first Team meeting, look over the facility, enjoy a meal with a new group of friends and 'co-workers in the vineyard,' and then head back to the hotel to look over my notes and crash!

Anyone who has attended one of these institutes will tell you that there is a good blend on classroom time and reflection time. It has the feel of a retreat more than a workshop. However, things are a little different behind the scenes. Isn't that tre of so much of life? We can put up a great facade that all is under control, but just under the surface, things are not so good. We are always challenged to "take off the masks" and allow our ture selves - warts and all - to shine through. God made and loves us just as we are. We forget that at our own peril. The masks are always uglier!

Please pray for all those travelling today in order to be together for the rest of the week up in Grand Rapids. God will be hard at work, to be sure; let's hope that we all have our eyes and ears open! Pray especially for Katie and the kids, who will be greatly missed, but not far from heart or mind.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Quote of the Day

I am pretty sure you could insert any of a number of Church roles for "bishop" and the quote continues to ring true!

"Believe me, brothers and sisters, if what I am for you frightens me, what I am with you reassures me. For you I am the bishop; with you I am a Christian."

- Saint Augustine

He has such a way with words, don't ya think?

Friday, July 3, 2009

"I am not sure that all disagreements are healthy"

From a piece by Michael Sean Winters in America magazine:

President Obama had a sit-down yesterday with religious editors, including our own Father Drew, in anticipation of his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI next week. There was no verbal train wreck, according to the participants. But, when he discusses anything that touches on theology, he sounds very much like the liberal Protestant he is. He is, of course, entitled to his beliefs, but he should be more judicious in how he applies his own principles to his speaking about the Catholic Church.

For example, after citing the influence of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin on his own career and thinking, the President said, "And so I know the potential that the bishops have to speak out forcefully on issues of social justice. ...There are going to continue to be areas where we have profound agreements and there are going to be some areas where we disagree. That’s healthy." I am not sure that all disagreements are healthy. Certainly, democracy without debate is unhealthy. But, I do not think it is "healthy" that the President disagrees with the Church on abortion. I think he – and all Americans who support abortion – are wrong and that what would be "healthy" is for them to recognize that they are wrong.

Most politicians, and all successful ones, want their interlocutor to see that they are in agreement or close to it. But, here, the President skates very close to the kind of relativism that is Pope Benedict’s biggest worry. Nor is abortion an issue where we can simply "agree to disagree." I do not see that the President grasps how or why the issue is foundational to our social justice tradition he is so quick to applaud.

The rest of it can be found here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

From the mouth of babes...

The kids are enjoying a week at "Church Camp" (also known as Vacation Bible School).

Today, the theme centered on the story of Jesus Walking on the Water. Michael, youngest by a minute and always good for a bit of wisdom, summed the day's teaching up thusly:

"You gotta believe God or you'll sink like Peter."

Yep, that sounds about right!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Joy multiplies when it is shared among friends...

... but grief diminishes with every division. That is life. - R. A. Salvatore Exile.

Although today is celebrated within the Church as the Feast of Pentecost, it has a different significance for me personally. May 31, 1992 is the day that I lost a close friend. I try to take time on the anniversary of his death to reflect upon all the opportunities and gifts I have had in the intervening years.

I hug my children a little closer on this day and remember that life is an awesome gift from God. The best way we can show our gratitude is to live each day to the fullest!

From: Here I Am, Lord: Spiritual Autobiography and
Reflections on the Permanent Diaconate

Tears in Heaven
I was wrapping up my senior year of high school. In less than a month, I would graduate. I was in the home stretch of an important chapter in my life. But the Author had a few plot twists in store that I did not anticipate. It was May 31, 1992; a rainy Sunday morning. I woke up - actually, I was woken up. My mom knocked on my door, announcing that the ringing telephone was for me. As I rubbed my eyes and cleared my throat, I tried to figure out who it could be. After all, my friends were no doubt asleep also!

The voice on the other end of the line was an acquaintance from high school. We were in a few classes together, but certainly not close enough that he would simply call me on a Sunday morning to chat. He did not give me much time to try to guess at his reason for calling.

“Mike Gill’s dead. He was at a party, and slept over instead of driving home. Somehow the house caught on fire and he didn’t get out.” That is all I remember of that call. Although on a superficial level I did not believe him, I guess I knew deep down that it was true. Folks don’t make stuff like that up.

Mike was a good friend of mine. We were in a lot of the same classes, and participated in several extracurricular activities together. He was a genuinely nice guy, sincere and kind. He was the kind of person who would never simply walk by a homeless person. On several occasions I saw him stop to chat. He would take the time to get to know anyone. As I look back on his life, I can see now how, even at eighteen years old, he was a wonderful model of Christian love. He never preached with words; his life was Gospel enough.

But now he was dead. Or, so I had been told. I quickly jumped in and out of the shower, got dressed for church, and told my parents I would meet them there. I said I needed to “check on something.” I never even got to see the house. I didn’t need to. The flashing lights of the police car blocking the road confirmed my fears. I knew the officer, and asked him if it was true that Mike had died. He told me it was. I got back in my car, and drove to the church.

I did not immediately go into the main sanctuary. I went instead into the chapel. It was the original church building. The parish outgrew it years ago, but it was still used for daily Mass and reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. It was the building I used to go to for the early morning Mass with my dad. It was the place where I first experienced the Sacred Liturgy. It was where I received my First Holy Communion. It had been beautifully restored to its original grandeur when the newer sanctuary was constructed, yet still echoed with the sacred silence I remembered from my childhood. I knelt down in a pew to pray.

I recall that I did not cry. I wanted to, but the tears did not come. I prayed that God be with me and my friends; I may even have prayed for this to be some sort of elaborate joke. I cannot remember the words, but the emotions remain vivid: confusion, sorrow, and even a little fear. I did not sit with my family. When I walked into the main sanctuary, I saw some red-eyed classmates. We hugged and sat together in the back. At the end of mass, Father Lasch stepped up to the ambo. He announced that although it had not been officially confirmed, it appeared that a young parishioner had died tragically in a fire the night before. He asked everyone to pray, and indicated that friends would be gathering at a nearby home.

I drove over to the house in the pouring rain. I remember that spring rain vividly. Although it was as if all of heaven and earth was crying, I still wasn’t. I spent the entire day at the house. It was somber. Circles of teenagers sitting on the floor in stunned silence. I will always remember the first face I saw when I walked in the door. It was Amy, Mike’s prom date. The look of total horror and sorrow on her always smiling face will forever be etched in my mind. The prom was scheduled for that coming Friday. But that day it was the farthest thing from everyone’s mind.

That evening there was a memorial service. Afterwards, we decided to gather at a McDonald’s. No one wanted to go home. No one wanted to be alone. I don’t know if it was out of fear that someone else would be lost, or if we just didn’t think that our families could provide the comfort we were receiving from our friends. Either way, amidst the milkshakes and fries, Christ’s comforting presence was at every table. A few of Mike’s closest friends, especially the ones who had been present at the fire, were in no shape to drive; I offered to chauffer.

That night, when I finally got home, I could not sleep. I still couldn’t cry. I don’t know what bothered me more: his death, or the fact that I couldn’t cry about it. I tossed and turned. I didn’t know what to do. Then I remember hearing a voice, clear as day,

“Joe, you need to do what I would do.” It was Mike. That was all I needed to hear. Mike would be the comforter. He would be the shoulder to cry on. He would be helping others to get through this difficult time. Now I had a mission. I finally fell asleep.

I woke up the next day, got dressed, and headed to church. I felt called to start my day with daily Mass. The chapel was empty when I walked in. I knelt down in the first row of pews, looked up at the tabernacle, and lost it. I cried like a baby. I sobbed. It was a release unlike any I
had ever felt. Father Lasch came in, getting things set up for the Mass. He walked over and placed his hand on my shoulder. That didn’t help matters. I wept even more. I finally gathered myself together just in time for the Mass to begin.

At the end of the liturgy, I knelt down again. The waterfall continued. A woman approached me, and placed her hand on my shoulder. To this day, although I do not know who she was, I remember her comforting words:

“Son, I do not know what is troubling you, but I will pray that you find peace.” At that moment, a sense of comfort and peace came over me. It was that same feeling I had when Mrs. Jablecki found me in that parking lot the day that Sunday School was cancelled. I was not alone.

I headed off to school, and for the next four days, I did all I could to minister to others. I was a shoulder to cry on, a friendly ear. I laughed and cried and shared stories about the good times with Mike. At the wake, I remember sitting next to Will, the boy whose house had burned to the ground. He had thrown the party while his parents were away. He and his family had lost everything that they owned. I sat there with my arm around him for so long, that it fell asleep. At one point, the associate pastor, Father Mike, approached me and commented on what I was doing. I told him that it was what I was called to do. We buried Mike on Thursday. The church was standing room only. I served as a Eucharistic Minister.

The day after the funeral, I went to my senior prom. There was a lot of debate about whether or not it was appropriate to have the event at all. In the end, we decided that we needed to be together, and that Mike would want us to celebrate his life, not to mourn it. There was nothing somber about that night! It was a much needed emotional release. That weekend, as was tradition, we headed off to the beach. I remember lying in the sand, basking in the sun, thinking what a difference a week makes. It was so peaceful. In the past seven days I had experienced shock, sorrow, anger, confusion, fear, compassion, joy and now peace.

As I look back on that time, I am not so sure that it was Mike I heard that night that I could not sleep. His compassion and caring nature often made him easy to mistake for Jesus. The more I reflect, the more I realize that it was Christ himself who was telling me that I needed to “do what he would do.” It would not be the last time I hear that call.

JOHN GIVOT/ The Oregonian
Braden Grawrock, 17, (left) comforts fellow Aloha High School student Garret Wilson, 15, (right) at a memorial for their friend, Ross Barfuss. About 60 students joined Monday to share stories about the junior and write notes to his family. Barfuss was at Gleneden Beach off the Oregon coast Saturday with his brother, Lance, and Wilson, when they spotted 11-year-old River Jenison, struggling in the water. Jenison washed ashore and he later died at a hospital. Barfuss went into the water to help the boy and has not been seen since.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Feast of the Ascension of the Lord- Cycle B

Acts 1:1-11
Eph 4:1-7, 11-13
Mark 16:15-20

I recently watched an episode of a program entitled “Life After People.”

It is a documentary that explores what would happen to the world if human beings suddenly vanished from the face of the earth. During the program, a timeline progresses and the absence of human intervention in the world has both subtle and blatant consequences: within a few hours, most of the world returns to a state of darkness as multiple power plants fail due to lack of maintenance. After a few days, animals both domesticated and wild begin to venture into new habitats and develop new modes of survival. Within just a few short centuries, the New York skyline (and skyscrapers around the world) will collapse and be reduced to piles of rubble, Washington DC will be entirely under water, and Miami Beach will resemble a jungle. After watching the series, I have discerned two ubiquitous themes: 1) the great accomplishments of mankind require constant human presence in order to exist, and 2) powerful natural forces are always at work undermining that creation.

On this Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, we as a Church contemplate “Life After Jesus.” We have an opportunity today to reflect upon the impact that Christ has on the world by meditating on His departure. Just as I did while watching the History Channel documentary, I have come to identify two universal themes: 1) God’s love cannot be contained, and is intended to embrace all of creation and 2) the Church is expected to play an active role in that task. What that role is, and how we are to go about accomplishing it, is at the center of today’s readings.

They provide us with bookends of sorts. We start with the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, and we conclude with the ending of the Gospel according to Mark. However, the message is the same - Christ commands us to continue his work here on earth. His disciples ask, “are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom?” His reply plops the responsibility right in their laps: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the Earth.” Mark tells us that he instructs his followers to “proclaim the gospel to every creature.”

Sandwiched in between these texts, Saint Paul provides some important insight into how we are to go about this work. “to live in a manner worthy of the calling” with “humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love.” This calling is through “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

And there’s the rub. Baptism. Not ordination, not consecration, not installation. Baptism. The word appears in all three readings today. Sure, God provides ministers to the Church – their names are on the cover of the bulletin. They have letters after their names and diplomas on the wall. But Paul tells us today, that they play a supporting role. “to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

We - the entire community of believers - are the Body of Christ still present in the world called to maintain His creation and continue the work he started. Today’s celebration – a rite performed under the direction of the Church “in the absence of a priest” is proof that the work of the People of God is not the exclusive domain of the ordained or even professional lay ministers.

If our faith is to be authentic, our worship life – what we do here – must reflect our daily life – what we do out there. If we truly believe the words of Saints Mark, Luke and Paul, today, we must live them once we leave this building – in large ways and in small.

So what does that look like? How does one go about “proclaiming the gospel to every creature” “to the ends of the earth?” Many have interpreted that as requiring the rental of billboard space, or even the wearing out of shoes going door to door. I prefer to look at it in a slightly different way. A good friend of mine who is a liturgical musician and speaker, challenges us to answer the question, “What is the ‘world’ to which I have been called to proclaim the gospel?” Perhaps it is a classroom where you attend school. Or maybe it is an office building. Or perhaps the grocery store and pick-up line at preschool. We often find ourselves describing our relationships with loved ones using words such as “He/she/they mean(s) the world to me. In the light of today’s scripture, that expression takes on an entirely different significance.

In your daily life, where are the “ends of the earth” where God may be challenging you to reach out and be His presence? How are we challenged to spread the Good News that God made us to love him and to be loved by him? Quite often, we know what the answer is, we know what we are supposed to do, but have a tough time taking that first step. We must emerge from our comfort zone and act in a loving way towards someone with whom that response does not come naturally. It could be a perfect stranger, or maybe someone who has acted in a hurtful manner towards us.

In today’s scripture, the phrase “ends of the earth” was intended to be symbolic of Rome. The distance envisioned was vast. When we enter into relationship – or reconcile with someone else, we embark on a journey. Step by step we come closer together. Spreading the Gospel is not about talking at another person. It isn’t even about engaging in a lively debate. It is about entering into friendship. Spreading the gospel in this manner shows the other person what it means to have a God who loves us.

Proclaiming the Word of God is risky – and always has been. The bible is a collection of stories about people who have spoken in the Name of God. They do not get tickertape parades.

It is inevitable that as we depart from this space, we will be confronted with opportunities to take a risk and be the living presence of God in the life of another person. Equally inevitable is the apprehension we will feel, since this typically requires us to move out of our comfort zone. But that is exactly what we are called to do; we must move through the facade of fear into the Kingdom of Courage. In college, my campus minister, the late Msgr. Charles Kelly once observed that “courage is the virtue of living beyond our comfort. It is the reaction to fear of those who choose to believe that nothing can separate them (if they live the Truth in love) ultimately from life. There is nothing “life threatening” The only thing that threatens our lives is our choice not to believe and live it.” In the same reflection, he noted that “the fear of any failure is rooted in the fear of death.”

This Easter season, we are reminded that we are a Resurrection People. Death has no power over us! We live a “Life After Jesus,” one where we are called to continue his redeeming work here on Earth.

I will leave you with the story of a miracle of sorts. I am sure you are all familiar with the miraculous story of US Airways Flight 1549. After having its engines disabled by a midair collision with a flock of birds, the pilot glided the plane in for a perfect landing in the middle of the Hudson River. Not only did everyone survive, but there were no serious injuries. Well, this week in the news, I heard of a related story which is perhaps more miraculous. Those passengers got their luggage back! Professionally cleaned and restored, the survivors of that graced flight were reunited with the small tokens of daily life – a favorite pair of jeans, a newly purchased pair of boots a set of car keys. One woman received back the book she had been reading. Albeit a little water logged, it was none the worse for wear. Still stuck in its pages was the hotel envelope she used as a bookmark. Printed on it were the words, “Sure, life can be messy…. But that’s why I’m here.”

We may live a ‘Life after Jesus,” but as we will celebrate next week, he has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide us as we continue the messy work of maintaining the world he has left behind. However, today we remember that the Spirit works through us. We are not passive observers “looking up at the sky.” Each and every one of us is called to be the loving presence of God throughout our worlds to the ends of the earth!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I'll do my best...

Young people in particular, I appeal to you: bear witness to your faith through the digital world! Employ these new technologies to make the Gospel known, so that the Good News of God’s infinite love for all people, will resound in new ways across our increasingly technological world!

--Pope Benedict XVI, In his May 20 General Audience, introducing this Sunday's World Day for Social Communications

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Baggage Claim

I came across this story in the morning news. Now that the camera lights have faded, and the adrenaline has worn off, It would be interesting to talk with some of these folks about how that day on the Hudson has impacted their lives. Just a small slice of the afterstory surrounding a big event...

The reunions have been occurring, one by one, for the last couple of weeks. The doorbell rings and an unfamiliar face presents boxes filled with personal belongings. Many of them are ruined, but all are carefully wrapped in tissue paper and snuggled in sheets of fabric softener, as though their owners had died.

But their owners, the 150 passengers who rode US Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson River four months ago, are, of course, very much alive, and for each of them, it seems, there has been at least one item that matters far beyond its material value and is worth the unsettling memories its return arouses.

Lori Lightner’s strongest attachment was to her favorite pair of jeans. For Tracey Wolsko, it was the Our Lady of Lourdes medallion her husband had bought for her at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Carl Bazarian was happiest about recovering a set of car keys with the remote button to unlock the doors.

On the afternoon of Jan. 15, those items were packed in duffel bags or stuffed in purses and briefcases that were crammed in overhead bins or wedged under seats. Now, they are coming back.

“The smell was a little overpowering; imagine 100 dryer sheets all at once,” Ms. Wolsko said, describing her first sensation upon opening a box of clothes that FedEx delivered on May 4. “But a lot of care and attention went into the packaging of it. It made a very emotional experience as positive as it could have been.”

Flight 1549, which was bound for Charlotte, N.C., is remembered as a cause for celebration because all the passengers and crew members survived after the plane’s pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberger III, expertly guided the crippled Airbus A320 into the river. Yet the respectful formality in giving back items that the passengers had to leave on the plane is standard practice for Douglass Personal Effects Administrators, the company in El Segundo, Calif., that is managing the returns. When the company returns belongings, it is often to relatives of someone who has been killed in a crash.

I am sure that for those who cleaned and packed these items, it was refreshing to know that the person who last touched them will handle them again! You can find the rest of the story here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Deus caritas est

God is patient, God is kind. He is not jealous, (God) is not pompous, He is not inflated,
He is not rude, He does not seek His own interests,
He is not quick-tempered, He does not brood over injury,
He does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

God never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.
At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

So faith, hope, God remain, these three; but the greatest of these is God.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Quote of the Day

The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly-and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being-he must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ.

- John Paul II, Redemptor hominis

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Quote of the Day

On Evangelization:

These people do not return to us because they have spotted a billboard on the highway or received an invitation in the mail. They come because they love one of us, or some of us, and life's transitions summons them across our threshold

- Fr. James A. Field on "Welcoming the Stranger" in Today's Parish Minister

Monday, April 13, 2009

"God is not a fan of puns..."

but he most certainly gifted Stephen Colbert. His experience as a catechist shows through as he calls author Bart Ehrman out regarding several claims in his new book. Be sure to watch the whole thing he has a number of zingers and his parable at the end is one I will be using in the future!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bart Ehrman
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Could you not keep watch for one hour?

I am heading out to sit vigil at the church. As I sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I cannot help but think of this scene:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

But will the priest be wearing a stole, or a Snuggie?

Deacon Greg, over at The Bench, shared this gem:

Taking time to examine where one can grow in God's love is always a good idea, but as we enter the final stretch of Lent, taking an inventory of where I have 'missed the mark' is a great way to give thanks for the gift Jesus Christ has given to humankind!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lent... it's a winning proposition!

One of my favorite websites is Busted Halo. Produced by The Paulists, it is self-described as, "an online magazine for spiritual seekers."

For Lent, they have put together a daily calendar called "Fast, Give, Pray" to help those who wish to use this period before Easter as a time to do some spiritual housekeeping. When you click on each day in the calendar, there is an inspiring (and challenging) quote, as well as some suggested ways to use this time before Easter. In their words:

So, let’s get back to the basics…

Traditionally, Lent was intended as a time for personal conversion leading up to Easter during which Christians practiced the spiritual disciplines of Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving. The belief is that our consistent participation in these practices—like exercise we do for our physical health—is a form of purification that improves our spiritual well-being by stripping away all that is unnecessary and by becoming more mindful of our ultimate dependence on God in our lives.

But instead of chocolate, alcohol or tobacco, what if people thought of fasting, prayer and almsgiving in a broader context? What if those disciplines involved practices like reducing your dependence on electronic devices for twenty four hours (fast); contemplating the 1.6 billion people in the world who have no access to electricity for a few moments (pray); and spending the extra time you’ve saved on personal interaction with someone important to you (give)? Or what if people reduced their carbon footprint for a day by using less energy (fast); then reflected for two minutes on the magnificent gift our natural environment is (pray); and finally placed $1 in a bowl they’ve set aside to collect money to be given away to a favorite charity—perhaps one that plants trees—at the end of Lent (give).

These are just two examples of the dozens of exercises in our Fast, Pray, Give Calendar that will help readers enter into the traditional spiritual disciplines of the Lenten season every day in ways that are practical, doable and relevant to their daily lives. Each day, starting Monday February 23, our Fast, Pray, Give Calendar will feature a new quote or factoid related to Lenten history and practice as well as practical suggestions for how to carry out the ancient Lenten spiritual disciplines that day.

So, I gave it a try - and was almost immediately rewarded. This past Monday, I was cleaning out the "Spam" folder of my Inbox and came across an e-mail with the subject, "A Lenten Surprise..." Since I had a hunch this was not a request to turn over personal information in exchange for $150,000,000, or an advertisement for some sort of male enhancement drug, I moved it to my Inbox and opened it. I had won! You see, the other part of the "Fast, Pray, Give" calendar is that there are prizes!

Every day we’ll give readers the chance to enter a random drawing to win a different “Lent Incentive,” including: a copy of The Green Bible; a tin can of Busted Halo M&M’s; the March issue of Magnificat with the Lenten Companion; a bag of Busted Halo Swedish Fish; and a copy of The Sacred Art of Fasting.

I had won a copy of The Green Bible. It arrived in yesterday's mail. Lent has always been a winning time for me. It was almost one year ago today that I won another drawing. I think God has a reason for that, and I think I am cooperating with His plan. As I mentioned the other day, it is my belief that Original Sin is essentially a sin of ingratitude. However, these 'winning' moments provide opportunities to give thanks, and to call to mind all the other, everyday blessings and gifts for which I should be thankful.

And so, in this time of 'giving up' I am receiving. Not just prizes in the mail, but time with my family. I spent last night cuddled next to my son on the couch watching "The Empire Strikes Back." In a time of economic distress, the company I work for has been doing well. The parking lot is full, and I can be thankful that I am not having to make decisions on who to keep and who to let go.

"Giving Up" during Lent does not just need to be about deprivation. In fact it is supposed to be about giving too. This year, I have tried something a little different. Instead of giving up time on the internet, I have decided to spend more time there - blogging. You may have noticed that the tempo of my posts has increased. It is my little way of giving - of my heart and mind. I had no idea how many people were reading this blog, until I started getting feedback from the most unlikely of places - someone whom I have not seen in years sent me a note thanking me for keeping a blog and encouraging me to write more.

And so I will, with the hope that it will continue to be of help to her and to others. With God's help, I know it will. After all, everything we have is a gift from God. By finding small ways to be thankful, we condition ourselves to participate in the ultimate act of gratitude - the source and summit of our faith - which derives its name from the Greek word for Thanksgiving. I invite you to join with me in using this Lenten season as a time to exercise our 'gratitude muscles' so that we can approcah the Easter banquet and celebrate the Eucharist in a deeper way!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

“Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”

This past Ash Wednesday, I was asked to assist with the Distribution of Ashes at a family prayer service. Although it would not be the first time I had performed that role, it had been a number of years, and it was a powerful experience. Some observations:

1) I found myself with a huge smile on my face, and as folks approached, their faces (more often than not) lit up as well. A little bizarre, when you consider that I was telling them to "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return."

2) I have to admit that I prefer the alternate formula - "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel." I think it describes the Christian life much more completely. Each time I said "Remember you are dust..." I said to myself "Not entirely!" Our physical body may be dust, but we are much more than that. Even once our bodies return to dust, we will live on in the loving embrace of the God who created us. Lent is a time to turn away from those things that place an unhealthy balance on the physical and reorient ourselves. To turn away, and be faithful! Metanoia, to use the Greek....

3) About halfway through, I realized that for some of the folks that came forth, this may be the last time someone traces ashes on their forehead. "unto dust you shall return." It was a profoundly intimate (and moving) moment for me.

4) "It felt right." I have been more intentional about discerning experiences related to public ministry over the past few months (especially those of a liturgical nature). The smile on my face, the prayerful meditation that took place while performing the act of tracing the cross on the faces of those who came forward, my ability to connect the physical rite to the underlying reality of our Faith - all of these strike me as signs that I am exactly where God wants me to be, and that this public form of ministry will be a good fit.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Valentines Day

My wife and I started dating in January of 1995 – halfway through our junior year in college. Of course, the timing presented an interesting conundrum: what to do about Valentine’s Day. Since we were dating, I knew that I should do something. However, I did not want to go overboard; filling her room with roses and showing up with a tuxedo to take her to the Williamsburg Inn for dinner might scare her away. After all, it had only been two weeks since our first date. And so, I opted for something more low key: a small flower arrangement and a mix tape.

If you have never listened to music on anything but a CD player or an iPod, some background may be helpful. There used to be these things called Cassette Tapes. One could purchase them at the same stores you currently purchase CD’s. They replaced vinyl record albums and eight-track cassettes, but that is another post… Making a mix tape was not quite as easy as dragging and dropping a few .mp3 files from one column to another with iTunes and then clicking ‘Burn CD.’ You had to queue up the tape, start the song you want to record, and start the recording. At the end of the first song, you had to pause the tape, queue up the next song, re-start the recording, and so on and so on. As a result, if you were recording a one hour tape, it took a little over an hour to do so.

Anyway, I dug into my music collection (and that of my roommate) and came up with a collection of songs that I liked that also expressed the emotions I felt at the beginning of this relationship. They weren’t all sappy love ballads, nor were they all even explicitly about love. But they did a pretty good job of expressing how I felt.

Valentine’s Day came along, and I presented Katie with my gift. She appreciated the thought I had put into it, and quite often when I came to visit, she and her suitemates would be listening to it. (Relationship Tip #482: ALWAYS get on the good side of the roommates). Several of the songs quickly became favorites, especially ones with which they were not familiar.

At the end of the semester, I headed back to New Jersey to begin a summer internship with a public accounting firm. Katie returned to Appomattox, Virginia to spend her summer working at a day care center. We spoke nearly every other day on the telephone, and wrote letters (before the days of cell phones and e-mail) almost as often. We planned on meeting in Washington DC after about a month apart, since it was mid-way between us and a number of our friends lived there. A couple days before I was to make the trip south, I received a package in the mail. It was a cassette. Katie had recorded a mix tape for my trip! The four hour drive flew by listening to the tunes and thinking about being together after so long.

Over the next three years of our courtship, there were many other drives, and several more mix tapes. I had listened to mine so often, that when I heard one of the songs on the radio, I expected the next song to be the next one on the tape!

Fast forward ten years, four children, four jobs, and two houses into the future. Things are a bit more complicated then they were back in our days at William and Mary. Through the highs and lows, our relationship has grown all the stronger. Without a doubt, she is my best friend.

In the past few months, she has mentioned that she wanted to burn the songs on those mix tapes onto CDs since neither of our cars have cassette players. So, for Valentines Day this year I decided to surprise her and burn the songs on that first mix tape onto a CD. Finding all of the songs was no small feat. I had lost some of the CDs, and there were other tunes that I had originally recorded from borrowed albums. Luckily, Napster and similar sites allowed me to round out my collection for $0.99 a song! In a little less that thirty minutes I was done, and I did not need to keep hitting ‘pause’!

I have been listening to the CD on the way to and from work, and an unintended consequence has come to light. Listening to those songs, in that order, has brought me right back to those early days in our relationship. It does not do so in the same way that a documentary or history book might. I do not remember that on such and such a date Katie and I went did this, but it does allow me to make present in my mind the feelings and emotions that I experienced when that particular event took place.

Good liturgy does the same thing. It invites us to enter what the Greeks used to refer to as kairos – a concept of time that is not focused upon measurement as much as experience. Since for God there really is not beginning or end, it is how God ‘knows’ time. I can only imagine that for the early Christians, the service that we know as the Eucharist would have had much the same effect. The words, smells, and tastes would have brought the early believers back to an experience of Jesus when he physically walked the Earth. The mystery of the sacraments is that, if we let them, they allow us to make that experience truly present for us as well!

Sure beats a box of chocolates!

Monday, March 2, 2009

“Sitting in a chair in the sky.”

The word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. In the Catholic faith, we use it to describe the liturgical action whereby we enter into communion with God. Thus, we enter into relationship with God first and foremost by expressing gratitude.

The stain of Original Sin is blindness to the truth that we are made in the image and likeness of God. It is the inability to acknowledge what I recently heard described as our “Original Blessing.” Thus, on a very basic level, our Original Sin is really the offense of ingratitude.

The Ironic Catholic recently posted a video clip that points out one way this Original Sin is still present in the world today (Warning: the language is a little bit rough around the edges, but the message more than makes up for it):

We are called to enter into relationship with God. To give thanks for the reality that all we have is Gift and we already are Blessed and Chosen by the Almighty Father. Until we do, we will always be searching for the forbidden fruit, and will feel cheated by the very fact that it is forbidden!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Quote of the Day

God isn’t a God who asks us to punish ourselves. He asks us to love other people which is punishment enough!

– Sr. Wendy Beckett

Monday, February 23, 2009

Quote of the Day

In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.

- Saint John of the Cross

Friday, February 6, 2009

Quote of the Day

From a recent interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair:

"Now my father was a militant atheist," he said. "Before we prayed, I thought I should confess this. 'I'm afraid my father doesn't believe in God,' I said. 'That doesn't matter,' my teacher replied. 'God believes in him. He loves him without demanding or needing love in return.'"

"That is what inspires," Blair said, "the unconditional nature of God's love. A promise perpetually kept. A covenant never broken."

Thanks, Deacon Greg for this nugget from a man of faith recently received into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Why I am Catholic

Julie over at Happy Catholic is always good for a quote. Today, she posted one that I think pretty much sums up the difference between Protestants and Catholics:

I should still say that nothing a pope (or a priest) could do or say would make me wish to leave the Church although I might well wish that they would leave.

- Frank Sheed

It brings to mind another quote:

Community is that place where the person you least want to live with always lives... When that person moves away, someone else arises immediately to take his or her place.

- Peter J. Palmer

Friday, January 16, 2009

Makes you wonder if Satan is searching for a cardigan...

Father Jay observed that today's selection from the Office of Readings is particularly apropos:

The cold north wind blows, and ice freezes on the water; it settles on every pool of water, and the water puts it on like a breastplate.
- Sirach 43:20

Bundle up, folks, and say a special prayer for those who do not have the clothing and shelter to stay warm!