Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One Day at a Time...


It's rare that I write about my recovery. Over the last few weeks, however, it's come to the forefront for various reason; an unexpected craving that I've not experienced in quite some time. An acquaintance going back out to try some "controlled drinking" again with catastrophic results. And so I've hit a few meetings, and am planning on staying closer to the program for the time being. Seems I've been forgetting to "keep things in today"; either living in the past or dreaming about the future instead of paying attention to the only thing that actually matters.

Now.

When I forget the now is when I tend to get into trouble with my recovery.

So today, I'm simply going to post these recovery links, 12-step and non, to any all all who might read this. If you're drinking/drugging/hurting, want to stop, and don't know how...PLEASE follow these links and call these numbers. Help is out there and you don't HAVE to feel this way anymore. God Bless You.

Alcoholics Anonymous Worldwide Services
Narcotics Anonymous Worldwide Services
The Calix Society Catholic spiritual fellowship to enhance AA
Pioneer Total Abstinence Association Irish prayer society, "taking the pledge"
Smart Recovery Secular recovery program
Rational Recovery Secular recovery program
The Addiction Recovery Guide Catch-all addiction recovery reseources

If you've found something else that works by all means go for it! And contact me if you need fellowship...been there, done that, still need it myself!

Memorial of St. John of the Cross
Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 45:6c-8,18,21c-25
Psalms 85:9-14
Luke 7:18b-23

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Keeping it simple...


Not always the easiest thing to do, especially for someone who imagines himself complicated like I do. It's best to go back to the basics when I start tying myself up in knots; breathe in and out, feed and clothe myself, kiss my wife and kids, don't drink and go to meetings.

Or in the words of St. Padre Pio:
"Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry!"

Brother Pio, ask God to remove the clutter from my life and heart and allow me to follow the precepts of simply being alive and in His service.

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 40:25-31
Psalm 103:1-4,8,10
Matthew 11:28-30

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The "Kneeling Santa" and why I love him


We've all seen "The Kneeling Santa".

Maybe you've got it as an ornament for your Christmas tree, or as a lawn decoration. It has become the calling card of those who want us all to remember that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season", to "Keep Christ in Christmas". And it certainly is that.

Myself, I prefer to think of this idea of Santa and Christ together as a beautiful reminder of how the secular and the sacred can share a special day of generosity and giving and goodwill toward each other. Christians celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, the coming of our Savior into a world that sorely needs it. Many non-Christians or non-practicing Christians don't acknowledge that...AND THAT'S OK. Like it or not, Santa has become an icon in our culture, embodying the spirit of giving and joy and the unbridled happiness of children. Can these ideals not be emnbraced by everyone? The fact that many of us come together, share a meal, gifts, and good cheer is a GOOD THING. Non-Christians are not stealing our holiday (as if anyone could 'take' Christmas from us). They are sharing fellowship and love of their own. Many are celebrating their own festivals of giving; Chanukha, the Jewish Festival of Lights. Yule, the pre-Christian celebration of the coming of the Sun (sound familar?)

And in my opinion, that should be CELEBRATED and EMBRACED by all. Yes, there are politics involved; who can show their display on which public ground. I prefer to leave that to others.

KEEP Christ in Christmas, by all means. But share the love and joy and giving of this holiday with EVERYONE.

Daily Mass Readings
Romans 10:9-18
Psalms 19:8-11
Matthew 4:18-22

Monday, November 28, 2011

I HATE when that happens!

I'd fully intended on getting a good start with the Advent season. Unfortunately, between a busy weekend and a lousy cold, I didn't get to Mass yesterday (ALSO missing the introduction of the new Missal!), didn't get the Advent Wreath out of storage, didn't do a lot of things.

I could get down on myself, and scramble to catch up. But that's not what the Season is about. Advent is about the patient waiting for the Christ Child to come into the world. Scrambling will not make me any more ready to welcome Him. To parahrase a Zen quote I once came across, "The mind is like water; it cannot be made still through any effort. It can only be made still, by being still", or something to that effect. If any of you know the exact quote or source, please let me know!

Embrace the Holy Darkness of Advent. Come, Christ Child!

Memorial of St. Joseph Pignatelli, S.J.
Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122:1-9
Matthew 8:5-11

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Show me where it says that in the Bible"

L and I had an interesting afternoon on Saturday while mudding and repairing the kitchen ceiling. A former teacher of J's came to visit, dropping off a present for his birthday. She'd hoped to see him, but both guys were at their grandparent's house. She is a sweet intelligent woman who adored J as much as he adored him; she left quite an impression on his life an ours.

Somehow, some way, we all sat in the kitchen talking for 2 1/2 hours. The subject of God came up. Made me cringe a little, because L doesn't practice and I know this woman is a born-again "Bible-believing" Christian. Being Catholic, I smelled a headbutting contest emerging. And I wasn't wrong. She asked me what the Secular Franciscans were about. I told her that we are Catholic Christian men and women who try to follow Christ in the manner and footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi (pretty much right from the website, www.nafra-sfo.org). And then I found myself suddenly on defense...

"See, that's not right. You can't pray to 'saints'. If you're not going directly to GOD, Father Son and Spirit, The Three-in-One, something is wrong. If you're praying to saints like Francis, that's idolatry."

I explained that we ask the saints to pray for us the same way you'd ask anyone to pray for you. The saints carry those prayers to God. She countered that I shoujld be taking my prayers directly to God. This went back and forth until she said:

"OK...you show me where it says it's OK to do that in the Bible, and I'll believe it."

Poor L. She was sitting in between this thing all afternoon. And believe me when I say it wasn't nearly as combative as it may seem from this post. The discussion was lively and agreeable. There was a lot of laughing and believe it or not high-fives throughout the afternoon.

A lot of times she "zinged" me, in that I couldn't tell her where to find a belief or practice in the Bible. However, since Scripture is not the only source and authoritty of the Catholic Christian faith, I didn't feel TOO bad about it. We all hugged and kissed and promised to get together soon.

I may secretly study up on my apologetics in the meantime however.

Daily Mass Readings
Wisdom 2:23-3:9
Psalm 34:2-3,16-17,18-19
Luke 17:7-10

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Congratulations!


Today my dear friend Dylan participated in and completed the 2011 New York City Marathon. Not only did he run down this unbelievable achievement, he raised over $5K for a an extremely worthy charity, Standing Tall:

For thousands of children with neuromotor disorders, “standing tall” is something that others do with ease. Yet motor-impaired children must work very hard to stand, walk, write, sit, and sometimes even to speak. “Standing tall” is something other children do frequently during their school day. Yet, children with serious motor disorders often spend their day strapped into wheelchairs or other passive seating. Many are bright, social, creative children who welcome the opportunity to combine active physical involvement with academic learning. Yet their opportunity to get out of their wheelchairs and practice physical skills while learning is limited.

Fortunately, for these children Standing Tall now has another meaning:

The name of a non-profit educational program offering a better alternative to motor-impaired children.

Standing Tall’s program is based on an approach called Conductive Education. Our daytime programs for pre-school and school age children combine a highly structured, intensive program of daily physical training with traditional academic studies. At Standing Tall, young students use their bodies actively throughout the day while learning reading, math, literature, music, science and art. They get out of their chairs - quite literally “standing tall” - to meet physical as well as academic goals. After-school programs for these ages and our programs for younger children combine Conductive Education with age-appropriate cognitive activities.

Standing Tall was founded in 1997 by a group of parents, medical professionals, and educators seeking a more powerful and integrated approach to educating young children with motor issues. Since then, Standing Tall has grown from a six-week program for a handful of children to a full-time center serving children from all over the Tri-State area. We continue to improve our current programs and to develop new ones for this generation and the next.

Dylan...I am humbled witnessing this awesome accomplishment. You have my undying admiration, as you always have.

Daily Mass Readings
Wisdom 6:12-16
Psalm 63:2-8
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 or 4:13-14
Matthew 25:1-13

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Interesting changes

I made the decision to put "SFO" at the end of my name on Facebook, after my profession. What's happened since is amazing...and maybe a little unsettling at least at the start.

I've been getting messages from a number of FB friends asking what the abbreviation means. After I explain it, many of them have tentatively been asking questions about certain Church teachings, spirituality, where they themselves are on their own journey with the Divine. At first I was taken aback by this...who am I, and what the heck do I have to say about their spiritual path? As the conversations developed with these folks, I began to find my voice. And I've been thankful and humbled to share a just little piece their journey with them.

Maybe it's time for me to get into spiritual direction again. Not as a spiritual director myself; as one needing direction and to share that path with another. It is so rewarding to join with another seeker who can see my path from another perspective.

"For where there are two or three gathered in My name, I am there in their midst." - Matthew 18:20

Daily Mass Readings
Romans 14:7-12
Psalm 27:1,4,13-14
Luke 15:1-10

Friday, October 28, 2011

A political shift

I'm also experiencing a quantum shift in my political outlook. I'm
heading towards the ideology of the bleeding heart liberal, and I DON'T
LIKE IT. However, I'm finding the "every man for himself" type of philosophy more amd more diificult to reconcile with my faith, particularly in light of my recent profession. SO...

- I am renouncing my libertarian leanings and have left the
Libertarian Party. The unregulated, unfettered free market and the bungled attempt of our government to trust the mice with the cheese in the bailout has convinced me that there needs to be far more oversight, not less, of the financial markets.

- I'm still pro-life, but I take the seamless garment approach. Life is ALL life, not only pre-born life. Every person, from the unborn child to the convicted killer to 'collateral damage' in foreign wars, has inherent worth and dignity and right to life. These are HUMAN rights, not American rights.

- I continue tobelieve that the primary use of our Armed Forces is the defense of our country, not empire building or in pursuit of business interests. However, I believe it is proper to use our Armed Forces overseas to protect basic human rights, where human beings are dying of starvation, thirst, disease, and murder by corrupt governments.

- Every human person has the right to food and shelter.

- Every human person of age has the right to a living wage.

- I've become convinced that every person has a right to basic healthcare.

- I've become convinced that every child under the age of 18
has a basic right to a world-class education.

- I'veI continue to believe that the "War on Drugs" is a gross
failure. Our society incarcerates more non-violent criminals than any western nation. The land of the free? Regulate the sale of drugs in a similar fashion to alcohol, and watch the street gangs dry up as quickly as the Mafia did when Prohibition ended.

Now, I've ridiculed the policies of FDR in the past as vast overreaching of governmental power. But his "Economic Bill of Rights" is making more and more sense to me. And in my considered opinion, these ideals are far more in line with a just and fair society. See below:

"...In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all-regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security...America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world."

Amen, Brother.

Again, I'm not happy to come to these realizations. Fire away, folks.

Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude
Daily Mass Readings
Ephesians 2:19-22
Psalm 19:2-3, 4-5
Luke 6:12-16

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Profession!

On Saturday, October 22, 2011, I made my solemn Profession as a Secular Franciscan. The ceremony went by in a whirlwind, my biological family and Franciscan family came together for the first time, and I am STILL floating on air!

Here is my actual profession, made in front of the altar of our Lord in the presence of my family, friends and fraternity, with my hands in the hands of our Minster, Pauline:
I, Thomas, by the grace of God, renew my baptismal promises and consecrate myself to the service of His Kingdom. Therefore, in my secular state, I promise to live all the days of my life the Gospeel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Secular Franciscan Order by observing its Rule of Life.

May the grace of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our holy father, St. Francis, and the fraternal bonds of community always be my help, so that I may reach the goal of perfect Christian love.


Thanks be to God.

Daily Mass Readings
Romans 8:31b-39
Psalm 109:21-22,26-27,30-31
Luke 13:31-35

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Preparing...and an end to the hiatus

As I move closer to my profession as a Secular Franciscan(happening this Saturday, God willing), there is trepidation, anxiousness, a little fear, and a lot of excitement. It feels a lot like the week leading up to my wedding. But there are some differences, of course.

There will be a lot less people in attendence. There will be far fewer bells and whistles. At least outwardly, my life won't appear to change that much. No presents and no honeymoon (DANG!)

But the people who count will be there. My wife, who has been my daily strength, love and encouragement. My children, the two greatest accomplishments of my life, who've already taught me far more than I could ever teach them. Two VERY dear friends, kindred souls, who've shared a good portion of this journey with me (you know who you are). And most importantly for this day, my Franciscan Family.

Brother Jules, our formation director, said at our very first meeting 4 or so years ago that we all were already Franciscans and "we've got to go through some hullaballoo to make it official". Somehow, with plenty of bumps and bruises, I've come out on the other side of this thing.

Please pray for me and my fellow candidates - Eddie, Geri, and Joe - as we profess to live the Gospel life in the footsteps of Brother Francis. The journey of the rest of our lives now begins...as it does each and every day.

So as far as this blog goes, I guess I'm back. I won't go into the events of the last few months; suffice to say I'm a bit humbled, and perhaps a bit more grateful than I was at the beginning of the summer. If anyone's still reading...thank you for sticking around.

Memorial of St. John de Br├ębeuf and St. Isaac Jogues
Daily Mass Readings
Romans 6:12-18
Psalm 124:1-8
Luke 12:39-48

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The man comes around...


I've discovered recently that ecumenism between multiple faiths is something that is piquing my interest. Am I being "called" there? Perhaps, and I plan on following it. Why do I feel such kinship and intrigue toward multiple faiths? Because of the people I've met and the way they live their lives; I feel the spark of Divinity in them all. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Paganism, even the varying degrees of Agnosticism and Atheism. I'd like to do something within the forever unfinished work of bringing all these faiths just a little bit closer, a little bit further from the chaos (although there's something to be said for some chaos at times!) All of these lenses with which we view the Mystery are distorted, necessarily incomplete. We recognize that that Mystery through the culture and times through which we experience it, through the faiths (or lack thereof) which we are given and/or which we choose. There is a purposeful diversity that must always be cherished. But we focus on what divides us as a People far, far more than what unites us. I find this sad. I enjoy conversing with these people, and would love to solve the problems of the Universe working with such people. Or at least share a bit of fellowship.

I will be rebranding this blog, or possibily starting a new one from a completely different angle. This periodic trumpeting of where I am on my spiritual journey is all starting to taste like beans. I've been censoring myself and I am admittedly writing in part to scream "LOOK AT ME, HERE I AM, SEE HOW GOOD AND HOLY I'M BECOMING?" Now there's nothing wrong with that, per se. But for me, it's getting old, and there are other things in my faith and my life that merit more attention (the above-ecumenical thing is but one of them.)

I'll leave this blog up for any who'd care to peruse it in the future. To those who've actually been reading, thank you for honoring my writing with a glance or comment. I've learned a lot from this experience, but it's time to evolve. I've gone as far as I can here.

Thursday in the Seventh Week of Easter
Daily Mass Readings
Acts 22:30; 23:6-11
Psalm 16:1-2a+5,7-11
John 17:20-26

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A quick chuckle

This is from Fr. Jim Martin SJ, writing at AMERICA magazine. He was addressing graduates at the University of Pennsylvania, and it's too much of a gem not to share.

There's an interfaith gathering at Penn and all the participants --
Catholics, Protestant, Jewish, Muslims, Buddhists, even agnostics andatheists --are on lunch break. They go to a local food truck (my favorite, which we called Ptomaine Tony's), and they all get food poisoning and die.

So they arrive at the gates of heaven, bummed out because, you know, they're dead, but happy because they're in heaven. And St. Peter comes out to take care of business. So he turns to the Protestants and says, "Hey, thanks for all that great work you did in helping people learn the Bible and all those great hymns. So welcome to heaven. Why don't you go to Room Five, but make sure not to look in Room One." Off they go. Then Peter says to the Jewish crowd, "Hey, thanks for keeping the Covenant faithfully, and following all the Commandments that God asked of you. So Mazel tov! Welcome to heaven. Go to Room ... Four, but don't look into Room One." Then he turns to the Muslims and says, "Thanks for all daily prayers and your devout observances of all that the Quran taught. Welcome to heaven! Go to Room Three, but make sure not to look into Room One."

Finally, one of the agnostics, who's surprised to be there at all, says to St. Peter, "What's in Room One?" And he says, "Oh, that's the Catholics. They think they're the only ones up here."

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Daily Mass Readings
Acts 12:24-13:5a
Psalm 67:2-3,5,6,8
John 12:44-50

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Who are these "Franciscan"-type folks?

Thanks to my Franciscan sister Cyndie for posting this:

Franciscans... Wordless witnesses of life...

These are faithful who, in the midst of their own community, demonstrate their capacity for understanding and acceptance, sharing of life and destiny, solidarity for what is noble and good. They radiate their faith in values and their hope in something that is not seen.

We stir questions in the hearts of those who see how we live:
Why are they like this?
Why do they live this way?
What or who is it that inspires them?

We are who God calls us to be: witnesses to the Gospel by action. Servants of the unworthy servants of God

I'm grateful this morning! We were given the date for our permanent profession to the Order! October 22, 2011! Whoa...this is HAPPENING! Gonna be a long summer this year!

Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Easter
Daily Mass Readings
Acts 11:19-26
Psalm 87:1b-7
John 10:22-30

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wrestling within the Church

Where am I in my faith?  I love God.  I love the role that God the Son, The Father, and the Spirit have played in my life; indeed I likely would not be alive had it not been for my faith.  As a Christian, I could not be anything other than Catholic; the Sacraments and sacramentals, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the reverence, the beauty, etc.  I've not seen this or experienced this in any Protestant church. There are not many local Orthodox churches about, so I haven't experienced that brand of worship (I'm also not in a position to learn Greek or Russian at this time, so the point is moot.)  Catholicism is the Church of my Clan and always has been.  We are raising our sons as Catholics.  We take part in a vibrant parish community.

So what in particular is the angel I am currently wrestling with?

I have had it up to "here" with the exclusionary mindset of many of my
brothers and sisters in the faith.  Some of the more glaring examples
for me:

- Open, unguarded contempt of homosexuals; not homosexuality as an orientation or homosexual acts, but the people themselves.  They do this through ridicule, scorn, name-calling, and ostracizing, either under the guise of "correcting the sinner" and "winning souls for Christ" or just out of naked unmasked malevolence.  Unjust discrimination of homosexual persons, which all of the aforementioned can rightly be identified as, is something expressly to be avoided according to our Catechism (CCC 2358).  

- The idea that a Catholic ought not to present himself or herself to receive Communion if one has voted or supported a candidate that supports so-called "pro-abortion" policies -that a candidate's position on Roe v. Wade is an all-or-nothing litmus test defining whom we are "allowed" to vote for.  Never mind if the social policies of the candidate in question may actually reduce the number of abortions. Never mind if you simply do not believe the opponent's supposed "pro-life" stance, whose policies have not demonstrably prevented one abortion, whose social policies force women in crisis pregnancy into a place where they feel they have no other choice but to abort.

- That "outside the Church, there is no salvation", also known
as "Feeneyism" after Leonard Feeney SJ and his strict interpretation of
the aforementioned doctrine known as Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus.  Plenty of Catholics, many of whom I am acquainted with online and offline, continue to hold this view to a greater or lesser degree. They pay ecumenism with other Christian and non-Christian faiths lip service, but in fact look on them with contempt.  This is in spite of the Catechism's teaching which states that "those who nevertheless seek God with a
sincere heart and moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as
they know it through the dictates of their conscience" may be saved as
well (CCC 847).

Many of my brothers and sisters with these mindsets simply label me a
"victim of the culture", a "cafeteria Catholic" or some derivative
thereof.  That may well be true.  However, I will not ignore that my
conscience becomes disturbed when these topics come up, when my brethren
trumpet these "unwavering" Church teachings from the rooftops.  Whether
I am right or not - and I certainly allow for the possibility that I am
NOT - I cannot and will not remain silent at these mean-spirited,
uncharitable pronouncements.  

In the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, it is "better to suffer the pain
of excommunication, than to act against one's own conscience."  I pray
that my conscience is properly formed, but until that day of certainty
(likely the day I die), I must operate as my conscience dictates.  I can
do no more.  I will do no less.  

Friday in the Third Week of Easter
Daily Mass Readings
Acts 9:1-20
Psalm 117:1,2
John 6:52-59

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why I am Catholic, and why I stay Catholic

I've been asked this a lot recently Why are you Catholic? Why do you STAY Catholic? They're good questions, with long answers. So I'll nutshell it here for you...

I was enamored with Church and Mass from the moment I can remember; from the smell of the incense, the sound of the hymns and choirs, the beauty of the art. Before I began CCD, I knew something...huge...was going on up on the altar during the consecration. When I did begin CCD, I became a "Church nerd". This meant my teachers loved me, my classmates ridiculed me, and I was left to ponder the Mystery on my own. I thought I wanted to be a priest (at least until puberty hit).

Fast forward a couple of decades...like many Catholics of my generation, I stopped attending Mass after confirmation, and my faith and prayer life dwindled. I dabbled in various esoteric religions; Buddhism, Paganism, etc. All had shreds of wisdom and the ritual I so loved, but my heart longed for the Eucharist. I tried to fill the emptiness from that and other things with booze, and this developed into full-fledged alcoholism. Luckily, I've been blessed enough to have an understanding and long-suffering wife to help me through all this without leaving me or killing me (but that is a whooooooole other story).

To make a long story short (too late), I remain Catholic due to the intercession of John Paul II. On August 30th, 2001, my wife and kids were away at my inlaws suummer house, and I was grimly setting myself up for a full weekend bender. I had been to the hospital several weeks before for excessive alcohol consumption. Didn't phase me a bit. There was drinking to be done. I was finishing off my third bottle of wine, had the bottle upended and was slugging it down. EWTN happened to be on in the background...I certainly was not conscious of turning it on...and my back was to the TV. As the last of the wine was disappearing down my throat, I heard in a warm yet unfamiliar voice:

"Thomas...you need to stop, NOW."

Of course I was alone but it was conversational, right in my ear. I looked back at the TV and there was the Pope, beset by his Parkinson's disease; leaning on his Papal Cross. And looking right at the camera. Right at me.

The urge to continue drinking disappeared. I called my wife, told her I was an alcoholic, and that I needed to get help. I called AA and made my first meeting the next day. I've been sober for going on 10 years, thanks to my wife, AA, Jesus in the Eucharist...and the intercession of Blessed John Paul II.

I'm a better husband and father than I ever was. I'm a better man than I've ever been. And it's largely due to my regained faith.

Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, Apostles
Daily Mass Readings
1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Psalm 19:2-5
John 14:6-14

Monday, May 2, 2011

Death of an enemy

I'm not going to post any links to the news stories about the death of
Osama bin Laden or any conspiracy theories about what "really" happened.
We've all heard them by now.  Even amongst the conspiracy theorists,there is universal agreement that bin Laden is dead.

It's hard to know how to react.  I was 2 blocks away from Ground Zero on
9/11/2001, and continued to work there until 2005.  Friends and relatives of mine were killed, wounded, and worked on the pile.  It took almost 10 years (perhaps not that long, if some of the conspiracy theories are to be believed), but the man who claimed responsibility for orchestrating these attacks has been killed.  I pray this brings some small modicum of closure for the victims and their families.  When I watched the news in the wee hours this morning, part of me wanted to join in the spontaneous jubilation in front of the White House, in Times Square, and at Ground Zero.  

Another part of me was embarrassed and ashamed by what I saw.  

The parallels between the celebrations of Americans at the death of bin
Laden and that of many in the Arab world (and certain Arab-American communities) in the wake of the 9/11 attacks struck me hard. Celebrating the death of a person or a people you believe to be evil: How far removed are we as Americans from those who celebrated our darkest moment?

Loving our enemies is a tall, tall order from God.  It is one I am not prepared to carry out in this instance, at least not yet.  I pray that someday God will grant me the will to forgive.  I'm not there right now, and I know God understands.  He doesn't expect anything from me I'm not
capable of.  Maybe the idea that I write "not yet" instead of "never" is a small instance of progress and the movement of Grace within my heart.

I hope so.

Peace be upon us all.

Memorial of St. Athanasius
Daily Mass Readings
Acts 4:23-31
Psalm 2:1-9
John 3:1-8

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Today's Angel - Hell

My old spiritual director, Father Jim, said to me once,
"Tom, as a priest I must say that there IS indeed a Hell. That aside, who am I to say whether anyone is there or not."
I don't deny Hell, per se. I do however, have difficulty in perceiving Hell as existing in tandem with an all-loving God. I realize that God's ways are far beyond my own, but that doesn't make this any easier for me to understand.

I relate it, perhaps poorly, to the relationship I have as father to my children. Could my children one day insult and reject me, denouncing their relationship with me? Sure they can. Would I ever stop hoping they would have a change of heart and return to a loving relationship with me. I can't imagine I would. I'd wait on the porch for one or both of my prodigals son to return, bounding off the porch as soon as I saw them on the horizon taking one step toward me. I understand punishment and the need to answer for our actions and inactions spiritually. I understand free will, BUT I have a hard time applying it here.

I get tripped up by the idea a flawed limited human being could possibly make a reasoned free will decision about being eternally damned. That an all-loving God, who loves us more than any parent ever loved a child, could possibly allow his Beloved to make a decision that - by its very nature - is limited, flawed and incomplete about an eternity of suffering. Would I allow my children to make such a decision? Never. There's "tough love" and then there is infinite sufferng versus finite crime, regardless of the heinous nature of the crime. "Tough love" eventually teaches a lesson. Hell does not allow learning...it is eternity without the possibility of parole.

In this context, I guess that the concept of Purgatory makes spiritual/metaphysical sense to me; do the crime, you do the time, so to speak.

I do know the biblical and catechetical teachings on the problem of Hell and the problem of suffering in general. I understand them. I do struggle mightily with them, all the same. May the veil be lifted from my eyes...one of these days.

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Daily Mass Readings
Acts 2:36-41
Psalm 33:4-5,18-20,22
John 20:11-18

Saturday, April 23, 2011

In the upper room...


Talk about despair. My friend, my master, my Lord was executed and buried. All our hopes that were linked to you, Jesus, that you just might be the Messiah that would deliver us from underneath the boot of the Romans.

Everything we'd seen...ah, how could it possibly end like this??? You turned water into wine! You walked on water! You fed thousands of people with half a wicker basket of food! You restored sight to the blind man! You cast out demons more times than I can count! You gave US the power to cast them out! Lazarus was DEAD, and now he's alive, hiding here with us!

How is it that Lazarus is alive, but you are dead? How is that possible???

You mentioned in the garden before they took you away that if you wanted, you could summon 12 legions of angels to protect you! Why DIDN'T you? What were you waiting for??? All the good you did, all that you taught us...where was the fire you showed in the Temple when you drove out the moneychangers? You just let them take you, like a lamb to the slaughter.

Oh and it was a slaughter. John told us what they did to you. The beatings. The spitting. That unending flaying with the whips. That horrific crown they made you wear...what, was that supposed to be FUNNY? Being made to carry your cross (I know that sounds familiar to me, but I can't place my finger on it). And then, being nailed to that same cross, disgraced, naked, for hours in agony, all in front of your Mother. I would have stayed, SHOULD have, but I was frightened. They would have recognized our accent, they would have known our faces from that day in the Temple.

Then that terrible storm.

I know the Temple guards are looking for us, probably to do the same to us as they did to you. No one's been able to talk to Peter at all...I've never seen him like this. No one's seen Judas since the Garden, and that's a damned good thing too - how could he DO that to us, to you? And dammit Jesus, how could you LET him??? How could you let this happen??? You wouldn't even let us fight for you. We believed what you said! We believed you were what you said you were! We...ah, I can't go on. I don't have the strength.

It's better that we stay here for awhile, at least until things calm down. Mary wants to go to the tomb to tend to your body, since they had to leave in such a hurry yesterday because of the Sabbath. We were looking to Peter to stop her, but he waved her out anyway...she seemed to need to go. It's still dark, but no one's sleeping here anyway. I cannot believe that it's ended this way. I miss you, Jesus, so, so much. And I'm angry. And I'm frightened. And I feel alone.

If only I could see you, hear your voice, feel your hand on my shoulder again. If only...

Vigil of the Holy Night of Easter
Genesis 1:1-2:2
Genesis 22:1-18
Exodus 14:15-15:1
Isaiah 54:5-14
Isaiah 55:1-11
Baruch 3:9-15,32-4:4
Ezekial 36:16-28
Romans 6:3-11
Matthew 28:1-10

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday


Behold...Behold the wood of the cross
On which is hung our Salvation.
Oh come let us adore.


Good Friday of the Lord's Passion
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 31:2,6,12-13,15-16,17,25
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who was Judas, really?

Reading this article in America Magazine
today got me thinking; has Judas Iscariot gotten a bad rap throughout Christian history?

The Gospels describe him as greedy, a thief, jealous, demon possessed. In Paradise Lost, Dante portrays him being chewed headfirst in Satan's mouth for all eternity. Does Judas deserve such a fate? And the article makes an excellent point; how could Judas remain an Apostle, amongst Jesus's closet friends in the world, and retain all of these horrid qualities?

I have no answers, but it is something I've thought about often, particularly when entering the Triduum. Was Judas a Zealot, trying to force Christ's hand in proclaiming His Kingship by having Him arrested? Did Christ somehow make Judas understand and accept the role he was to play in salvation, as in The Last Temptation of Christ? Was he some poor dupe of the wiley Sanhedrin, as he was in Zefferelli's Jesus of Nazareth? Did Satan literally have his minions enter into Judas as described in the Gospels and in the visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich?

When he saw the havoc his betrayal had caused, did Judas weep as Simon Peter wept after denying Him?

Judas Iscariot, Apostle of Christ, I wonder about your fate from time to time.

Holy Thursday, Mass of the Last Supper
Daily Mass Readings
Exodus 12:1-8,11-14
Psalm 116:12-13,15-18
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-15

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Preparing to enter the Mystery

"C'mon back! Get your sins forgiven and be ready for Easter!"
- Father Ralph

St. Brigid's was packed today, with folks both going to Mass and waiting for Confession. I was there for the latter; it hasn't been the best Lent for me and I wanted to enter the Triduum with a glad heart to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries. When I saw how many folks were waiting for Confession before me, I almost walked out. I counted 10, and lunch hour was already half over. I stayed.

Even after the first "confessee" took 10 minutes or more, I stayed. When it appeared the second wasn't going to be zipping along either, I gathered myself to go. That's when Father Ralph and his assistant pastor came in from the rectory. They were both in street clothes...but both were wearing their purple stoles.

Father said, "I heard through the grapevine that we are blessed to have a large number of faithful looking for God's mercy. So we're doing triple duty today! C'mon back! Get your sins forgiven and be ready for Easter!"
They both set up shop at opposite ends of the church, quietly hearing confessions in the pews, while Father J continued in the confessional.

Father Ralph kept me in that church today...for a confession that was admittedly difficult. Diffcult, but oh, so necessary. Thank you to all the good priests of St. Brigid's for making sure all of us who needed the sacramentally grace of Christ was able to receive it.

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 49:1-6
Psalm 71:1-6,15-17
John 13:21-33,36-38

Monday, April 11, 2011

A letter to the Catholic League

This morning, the Catholic League, a civil rights organization that advocates for the rights of Catholics took out a full page ad in the New York Times, addressing the sex abuse scandals. Please follow the link to read this ad., which has been labeled "straight talk".

While it is admirable and right for the League to advocate for wrongly accused priests and bring false accusers to light, this ad in my opinion again misses the mark when it comes to addressing this scandal as we in the pews see it and experience it. I sent the following letter to the Catholic League this afternoon:

To Mr. William Donohue, President of the Catholic League

My name is Thomas Rooney. I am a Roman Catholic husband and father of two boys. I am also a 3rd Degree Knight of Columbus, a degreed member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and a candidate to the Secular Franciscan Order. I am active in my parish. I want all that to be clear, in that I have nothing to gain and no axe to grind against the Catholic Church. I feel I must address the ad which the League placed in the New York Times today.

The Catholic League and the hierarchy of our Church in general are frustrating to me (and I imagine, to many other faithful Catholics), in that they don’t seem to realize the depth of this issue or the breadth of our embarrassment and anger. They don’t seem to understand that there are two prongs to this abuse crisis. The first is where the hierarchy has concentrated, and has done so admirably; the actual sexual abuse of children and teens by clergy and religious. Most dioceses in the United States have implemented the specifics of the 2002 USCCB Dallas Charter well to address past abuse and prevent further abuse. Yes, the charter needs tweaking, in order to protect innocent clergy and religious against unwarranted accusations from those seeking financial gain at the expense of the Church. But the spirit of righting the wrongs seems to be there.

The second prong to the scandal has been, in my opinion, woefully ignored by the vast majority of the hierarchy. This is the seemingly callous nature of many in the hierarchy addressing the scandalizing of our children. To us in the pews, especially those of us with children, the age of the victims doesn’t matter. The degree of abuse (one-time fondling versus serial rape) doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if the abuse was “consensual”, as if such a thing could exist. It doesn’t matter that “this happens in other churches”, as if that is supposed to make a difference to us. And most of us could care less if the abuser's orientation is homosexual or otherwise. The legal hairsplitting has to end. The indignant scrambling for excuses has to end. “Mistakes, horrible mistakes, were made” statements, always in the passive voice, always grudgingly given, have to end.

We in the pews hear constantly, from the Catholic League to the bishops themselves, about the horrible media that simply won’t let this go, the media which always wants to paint the Church in the worst light to sell subscriptions. In many cases, I must agree with this assessment. The Church makes for a big target, and the scandal makes for a “juicy” ongoing story. However, keep in mind that the “horrible media” in Boston is the only reason this scandal came to the light of day in the first place in the U.S. Would Cardinal Law, now with a plum Vatican assignment, have brought this forward, indeed, addressed this at all, had not the Globe forced his hand? It is not only the abuse, which is horrible enough…it is the shuffling of the abusers, the secrecy, the lies by many of the hierarchy that simply has not been addressed in any adequate manner that continues to scandalize our beloved Church.

There is a sacred trust between the congregation in the pews and those who are to teach us, to lead us in prayer and Sacrament. This trust has been shattered by the hierarchy’s actions and inactions during these proceedings. With the bishops’ collective role in allowing this horror to continue all in the name of, ironically enough, protecting the Church from scandal, we as Church were scandalized twice. Many have left the Church in disgust. Those of us who remain have had to endure explaining, time and again, how we could possibly remain Catholic, how we could remain members of this Church where our leaders stick their heads in the sand, hoping scandal will disappear if they can only remove it from their own diocese. Many of us who remain are embarrassed and humiliated for our beloved Church. The answer I give is simple; that the Catholic Church my home and I will not be run out of my own home. My older son lovingly and proudly serves at the altar, and we have wonderful priests at our parish. However, even with these fine role models, I would think twice about encouraging a priestly or religious vocation in my son, so he wouldn’t have to bear the brunt of that damaged trust, simply by virtue of wearing a collar or habit. It hurts to admit that, and this is only a small aspect of the pain as a whole. I suspect similar pain is widespread amongst the faithful who remain.

When we go to Confession, Catholics say an act of contrition before we receive Sacramental absolution for our sins. We then have to do our penance; make amends for the harm we caused by our sin, either through prayer, action or both. If there were any sense of true contrition from the hierarchy for the role they’ve played in perpetrating this scandal against the Church - the People of God, the very people whose spiritual care is entrusted to them - then perhaps we’d be further down the road to healing. We as Church hunger for healing. We want our shepherds to care for us, to help feed our souls, and to defend us from the wolves. But we will not be dismissed as unreasonable when we see our shepherds hiding in the brush as the wolves are circling. Especially when our own lambs are at risk.

Your Excellencies and Eminences; be the Men you were ordained to be. Stand up for us. Protect us. Lead us by example. Be truly contrite to those you have wronged, do your penance, and make your amends. Lead us down the road to healing our beloved Catholic Church.

Pray for us, as we pray for you.

Pax et Bonum,
Thomas Rooney

This ad coincidentally is released as the USCCB released its own report of the need to update the Dallas charter.

May God grant strength and compassion to the spiritual leaders of our beloved Church, William Donohue of the Catholic League, and the rest of the People of God who endure and pray for an end to this ongoing crisis.

Daily Mass Readings
Daniel 13:1-9,15-17,19-30,33-62
Psalm 23:1-6
John 8:1-11

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

From a Sibling.....

One of my Franciscan brothers, Deacon Joe, sends daily tidbits via email. It's usually forwarded several times over so as a rule, I usually don't read them (sorry, Joe!) Today's tidbit was different and it's definitely something I needed to read through today. I share it with you now:

POINTS ON HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR LIFE

Personality:
1. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
2. Don't have negative thoughts of things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
3. Don't overdo; keep your limits.
4. Don't take yourself so seriously; no one else does.
5. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip.
6. Dream more while you are awake.
7. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
8. Forget issues of the past. Don't remind your partner of his/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
9. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don't hate others.
10. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.
11. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
12. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
13. Smile and laugh more.
14. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

Community:
15. Call your family often
16. Each day give something good to others
17. Forgive everyone for everything
18. Spend time with people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6
19. Try to make at least three people smile each day
20. What other people think of you is none of your business
21. Your job will not take care of you when you are sick. Your family and friends will. Stay in touch.

Life:
22. Put GOD first in anything and everything that you think, say and do.
23. GOD heals everything.
24. Do the right things.
25. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
26. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
27. The best is yet to come.
28. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
29. When you awake alive in the morning, thank GOD for it.
30. If you know GOD you will always be happy. So, be happy.

Keep sending these nuggets, Joe! You never know who might dig them up.

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 49:8-15
Psalm 145:8-9,13-14,17-18
John 5:17-30

Monday, April 4, 2011

Confirmation

"Be sealed with the Holy Spirit...Peace be with you!"
Congratulations to my Godson, who became a full member of the Catholic Church today when he was confirmed by Bishop William Murphy this afternoon!

Bishop Murphy gave a fairly long homily that had some of the newly-minted full Catholics moaning, I'm sure (I remember the homily at my Confirmation Mass all too well...excellent nap!) Then he said something that truly stuck with me, After speaking to me parents and sister after Mass, it stuck with them as well.
"You are truly now Brothers and Sisters of Christ. There are many wonderful reasons for being full members of the Church. The best is this...as a true friend of Christ, you will never, EVER be alone."
It reminded me of my own relationship with Jesus. Even when I'm by myself, feeling down, have had a bad day, I sometimes forget that Jesus, Mary and the Saints are there for me. The smile on my Godson's face after he received the Chrism of Confirmation helped me smile as well. Thank you, my nephew and Godson, for teaching me and inspiring me...and reminding me who my best friend is and always will be.

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 65:17-21
Psalm 30:2,4-6,11-13
John 4:43-54

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The power of prayer...and abstinence


Sometimes I forget why we pray.

Recently, I began offering an intercessory prayer for suffering active alcoholics and addicts at Franciscan meetings, Knight meetings and the group I facilitate for our parish's Lenten mission. As a recovering alcoholic, I've done this in the past - admittedly more to pray for something that I was familiar with. A lot of times I pray out of habit, rather than with real intention.

Since I began offering these intentions over the past 2 weeks, 2 friends of mine who have been struggling with alcohol abuse have found their way to rehab. They're both a long way from recovery...but they have both taken steps to improve their health and their lives.

From the Pioneers Total Abstinence Association, an Irish Catholic prayer society who "take the pledge" daily in order to make reparation and prayer to the Sacred Heart for the recovery of alcoholics and drug addicts.
The Heroic Offering

“For thy greater Glory and consolation, O most Sacred Heart of Jesus, for Thy sake, to give good example, to practice self-denial, to make reparation to Thee for the sins of intemperance and for the conversion of excessive drinkers, I will abstain for life from all intoxicating drinks, Amen”
.

The "Heroic Offering" is the permament Pioneer pledge. There is also temporary (perfect for Lent) and youth pledges. Check out the site!

Thank you Venerable Matt Talbot, Patron of Alcoholics for your intercession! And thank you to my brother Knights, Franciscan brethren, and Mission pilgrims for your prayers as well.

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 1:10,16-20
Psalm 50:8-9,16-17,21,23
Matthew 23:1-12

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Remembering the Irish Catholics...

Y

On St. Patrick's Day, we of the Ancient Order of Hibernians celebrate the glorious "Apostle of Ireland" and glory in our heritage as a people of culture and faith. We also remember what our ancestors have had to overcome to get where we are as a people today. Our Order's namesake originally materialized in Ireland during the vicious Penal Laws, in order to protect Catholic priests who were forbidden under penalty of imprisonment or death to celebrate the Mass. Irish Catholics constructed a narrow crucifix, today known as a "Penal Cross", designed to hide up their sleeves as they were not permitted any outward expression of the Catholic faith; sneeringly called "Popery" by the Protestants.

Here is some of what Irish Catholics were subjected to under Britain's Penal Laws which were in effect from 1691 until well into the nineteeth century:

The Irish Catholic was forbidden the exercise of his religion.
He was forbidden to receive education,
He was forbidden to enter a profession.
He was forbidden to hold public office.
He was forbidden to engage in trade or commerce.
He was forbidden to live in a corporate town or within five miles thereof.
He was forbidden to own a horse of greater value than five pounds.
He was forbidden to purchase land.
He was forbidden to lease land.
He was forbidden to accept a mortgage on land in security for a loan.
He was forbidden to vote.
He was forbidden to keep any arms for his protection.
He was forbidden to hold a life annuity.
He was forbidden to buy land from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to receive a gift of land from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to inherit land from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to inherit anything from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to rent any land that was worth more than thirty shillings a year.
He was forbidden to reap from his land any profit exceeding a third of the rent.
He could not be guardian to a child.
He could not, when dying, leave his infant children under Catholic guardianship.
He could not attend Catholic worship.
He was compelled by law to attend Protestant worship.
He could not himself educate his child.
He could not send his child to a Catholic teacher.
He could not employ a Catholic teacher to come to his child.
He could not send his child abroad to receive education.

Irish-Americans had to deal with similar, albeit less formal, discrimination in the New World, when the Know-Nothings and "nativists" wanted the newly immigrated Irish out of "their" country. The Hibernians were formed again, to physically protect Church property which was under constant threat of vandalism and destruction.

If you're of Irish-Catholic descent and faith, spare a vote of thanks for the Ancient Order of Hibernians this St. Patrick's Day. Your freedoms as a people of culture and faith have been hard won.

ERIN GO BRAGH!

Daily Mass Readings
Jonah 3:1-10
Psalm 51:3-4,12-13,18-19
Luke 11:29-32

Monday, March 14, 2011

Franciscan Prayer at the end of the Day


From the SECULAR FRANCISCAN COMPANION:

Thanksgiving for the Day
How shall I be able to thank you, O Lord, for all your favors?
You have thought of me for all eternity; you have brought me from nothing;
You have given your life to redeem me, and you continue still, daily,
To load me with your favors.
My God, what return can I make you for your benefits
And in particular for the favors of this day?
Join me, you blessed spirits and all the elect in praising the God of mercies who is so bountiful to so unworthy a creature.

Invocation of the Holy Spirit
O Holy Spirit, eternal source of light
Give me light to know the sins I have committed this day
And grant me the grace to be truly sorry for them.

A good night and peaceful rest to you all!

Daily Mass Readings
Leviticus 19:1-2,11-18
Psalm 19:8-10,15
Matthew 25:31-46

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Prayer for a New Day

From the SECULAR FRANCSICAN COMPANION:

Franciscan Morning Prayer
Jesus Lord, I offer you
this new day because
I believe in you, love you,
hope all things in you
and thank you for
your blessings.
I am sorry for having
offended you and
forgive everyone who
has offended me.
Lord, look on me and
leave in me
peace and courage
and your humble wisdom
that I may serve others
with joy, and be
pleasing to you all day.
Enjoy and take delight your day, my friends! This and every day is a gift.

Daily Mass Readings
Tobit 1:3; 2:1-8
Psalm 112:1-6
Mark 12:1-12

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spring cleaning: Embracing and Releasing

See, I was ALL ready to post complaints about any number of people, places and things today; I'd had a few run-ins, both online and offline yesterday. I was feeling pretty self-righteous, and got the venom-laden blog post all set to go!

After a short prayer and a long walk, I changed my addled mind and wrote the poem which follows instead. As Lent approaches, I am inclined to think about what belongs in my life and what simply needs to go; a spring cleaning of the soul if you'll allow. So here's what I came up with:
EMBRACING and RELEASING
I embrace You, my God, my Love, my All,
With Your myriad faces
To release that which I know is not You or of You.
I embrace love, peace, understanding, and empathy
To release false guilt, shame, fear and conflict.
I embrace the tonics of creation, health, and life
To release the toxins of destruction, sloth, and death.
I embrace my true Family and Friends
To release those who have done me harm, and those I've done harm to.
I embrace forgiveness
To release vengeance.
I embrace the possible
To release the doubt.
I embrace the passions that make me the Man I am
To release the indifference that hinders my path.
Daily Mass Readings
Sirach 35:1-12
Psalm 50:5-8,14,23
Mark 10:28-31

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A political...oh, h*ll, let's call it a RANT.

Like my moral/religious compass, my political compass tends to fluctuate wildly.

My political "home" that I keep coming back to is libertarianism: This country was founded on the notion of freedom from an oppressive and over-taxing government. The idea of being free to live as one pleases, as long as one doesn't infringe on those same rights of others while doing so, appeals to me and makes sense to me. I don't want the federal government telling me what I or my children can or cannot watch on TV, in the movies, or on the internet. I don't want the federal government dictating what I can consume, be it alcohol, drugs or fatty foods. I certainly don't want the federal government telling me who I can or can't sleep with, what acts are accpetable in my own home between consenting adults, or who I am allowed to set up housekeeping and legal documents with. I don't want the federal government monetarily penalizing me and my family should we choose not to buy into the healthcare system. And while I myself oppose abortion, I recognize that a government with the power to ban the practice outright paradoxically has the power to mandate it (Don't believe me? Check out China's '1-child policy')

Now...all that being said:

I also recognize that we are no longer living in the 18th century. We live in a complicated, interconnected world. When Thomas Jefferson made his wise quote "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none", he couldn't imagine the complexities of dealing with oppressive regimes that we alternately bomb/impose sanctions upon and rebuild/do buiness with. Tom certainly could not foresee the stand-off that occured in the Cold War, stemming from the fear of 2 countries literally blowing each other off the planet.

And most importantly (to me anyway) I'd be willing to bet that Tom never for one moment envisioned the genocide going on in countries like Congo and the Sudan. The American libertarian ideal says that this is simply not our problem; we ought to simply donate to our charities and leave their own governments to sort the mess out. I won't go into the detailed atrocities the aforementioned regimes have committed - they are inhuman and well-documented. But in the name of God, don't such atrocities cry out for justice??? If similar events were taking place in say, Canada or Europe, American boots...scores of them...would have been on the ground long since. For better or for worse, we have the most massive and imposing military in history, many times over. If we wish to proclaim democracy and fairness, don't we owe it to not only to our light-skinned business partners or the folks with oil, but also to the dark-skinned people who perhaps don't have a lot in the way of "American interest"?

As a country of HUMAN BEINGS for Christ's sake, don't we owe something to these, our brothers and sisters in humanity, who by simple accident of geography are being starved out, poisoned, raped at gunpoint, shot, tortured, mutilated, and generally being killed off by agents of their OWN government??? It's hard for me to accept that because they're not Americans, it's simply none of America's business. To paraphrase Jacob Marley, "Mankind IS our business"

Well. I guess I just had a bit of a nutty. Again, my poltical views are currently in a state of sometimes incompatible flux; a lot of this I simply can't seem to get out of my teeth lately.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 49:14-15
Psalm 62:2-3,6-9
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Matthew 6:24-34

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah


"Your are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" - Matthew 16
I love Simon Peter; so many all-too human qualities in the first Pope. Peter was the head of the Apostles, and the first to recognize who and what Christ was. As we read in today's Gospel, he became Cephas , the Rock upon which Christ would build His Church.

Simon Peter also made a blithering fool of himself trying to pitch tents when Jesus was transfigured in His glory with Moses and Elijah. He also lost faith is Jesus's power to sustain him, as he walked towards Him on the water. Finally, he ran from his Master and denied their friendship at the first whiff of trouble. Worse, Peter did so after blustering about his loyalty during dinner.

This gives me comfort, that Peter and those who followed - some saints, some scoundrels - up to and including the Holy Father Benedict XVI, are sinning, fallible men. I read somewhere that John Paul II had his own confessor he went to on a weekly basis, knowing his own sinning nature well enough to sacramentally confess to God regularly, setting an example for us all.

St. Peter, like all the Popes who followed, was a man. Not impeccable, not perfect. Just a man, with a very important task - to help ensure Christ's promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. Those gates have been tested and tried over the centuries, by Schism, Reformations, Counter Reformations, and Scandal. The gates stand strong. The promise remains fulfilled.

Thank you Simon bar Jonah...for being the Man you are.

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter
Daily Mass Readings
1 Peter 5:1-4
Psalm 123:1-6
Matthew 16:13-19

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A hard teaching

For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? - Matthew 5
I've written about this before; when today's Gospel passage comes up, I find myself challenged. It seems reasonable, does it not, to love one's friends and hate one's enemies? Sounds pretty much like the natural order of things to me. Why then, does Jesus ask this of me? It feels so much easier to be reasonable in this instance.

What's He saying to us in the above passage; that indeed it is easy to love those who also love us. Love is already there; there are no obstacles to it. Everyone, good and evil, can love those who love them in return.

"BIIIIIIIG deal!", I imagine Jesus saying.

What of the people we find irritating? Annoying? Downright reprehensible? The reasonable human response is to back away, gossip about, condemn such people, and perhaps worse. Jesus asks us to demonstrate His love by loving them as well.

This is a hard teaching for me. However, it reminds me that Jesus dwells in each and every person whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not, whether we always see it or not. We are to recognize that indwelling and inherent Love.

God, help me to help others see Your face, through my actions and reactions.

Daily Mass Readings
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18
Psalm 103:1-4,8,10,12-13
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Matthew 5:38-48

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Will the Irish be called on to save the Church again?


Centuries ago as Europe plunged into the Dark Ages, it was the Irish monasteries that preserved the learning and culture of the Roman Empire and the Church...not to mention Sacred Scripture.

Today the Church in Ireland strives to preserve the credibility and integrity of the Church at large. From America Magazine:

A “listening program” has been launched across the 88 parishes of the Diocese of Down and Connor, near Belfast in Northern Ireland, intended to draw the counsel of parishioners in church affairs. Noel Treanor, the diocesan bishop, said, “The history of the church includes moments when the people of God are called to reform and renew the church. This is one such moment.” While the program is seen as a response to the widespread disappointment and anger felt by Irish Catholics in the wake of the scandal of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, Bishop Treanor insisted that “even if the scandals didn’t happen, even if there were just as many priests now as there were 50 years ago, this process would still be necessary.

"We have been grappling since the 1960s with the whole idea of how we make the church more participative,” he said. “This will be a step toward that, a step toward a church that is more open, transparent and where there is accountability.” Bishop Treanor said he wanted 'to live in a church where someone can feel free to say exactly what they think to a bishop and where a bishop can be free to say exactly what he thinks...'"

In a country such as Ireland, where the Catholic Church is intricately woven into the very fabric of day-to-day life, the thoughts and actions of one of its bishops is not insignificant. May more bishops such as Noel Treanor remember to care and minister their flock, rather than simply care and minster solely to the institution. First and foremost, the Church is the People of God.

Memorial of St. Claude de la Columbiere, S.J.
Daily Mass Readings
Genesis 6:5-8,7:1-5,10
Psalm 29:1-4,9-10
Mark 8:14-21

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A blessing from Ekklesia

Lasts night, L and I attended the wedding of a dear

friend of ours, a neighbor from across the street. The wedding and ceremony was held at Oheka Castle in Huntington.

Okeka is a most impressive and grand structure (for you TV buffs, the Castle is a fixture in the USA show Royal Pains). It was a beautiful backdrop for what turned out to be a most unique and beautiful wedding ceremony.

After we arrived, we were escorted into a huge stone reception hall. A string quartet playing Chopin greeted us as we found our seats. As we anticipated the wedding party's entrance, we were able to watch the sunset from, I have since learned, is the highest natural point on Long Island. After the bridal party entered, the quartet switched to the familiar strains of Here comes the Bride. J was escorted down the aisle by both her proud parents. She looked stunningly beautiful.

The celebrant, Fr. Tom was not vested formally; he wore a simple clerical suit and collar. Fr. Tom left the readings of this simple ceremony up the the cherished family and firends of the bride and groom. The familiar wise words about love from Corinthians were heard, along with rich poetry from the likes of ee cummings.

After the traditional priestly blessing, Fr. Tom requested the congregation take some vows of their own. He asked up if we...as the family and loved ones of the bride and groom..would be there for support and advice. We said we would. He asked us if we would be present, if not in body then in spirit, for the couple. We said we would. In short, Fr. Tom was exhorting ALL of us, as representatives of God's Community or Ekklesia (Greek for CHURCH), to witness this collectively, to be the offical celebrant to the Sacrament along with him.

Then Fr. Tom asked us to raise our hands. He, in all our names, bequeathed our collective blessing on the newly married couple, that they may smile upon each other's lives and walk life's journey together. I have never felt so much a part of a wedding ceremony since my wife and I were married. A wedding is the recognition of Love from the community, the Church, the Ekklesia. Fr. Tom included us in that honor, that reponsibility, instead of simply relegating us to spectators.

An interesting note about the priest; Fr. Tom had been a Roman Catholic priest, actually served at my home parish when we moved ot Levittown. From what I understand, he fell in love with a woman, and so had to discontinue his ministry in the Roman Catholic Church. However, Holy Orders like Baptism leaves and indelible mark on the soul; Fr. Tom could not discontinue being a priest any more than he could become un-baptized. He continues to minister as an indpendent priest to those who need him, sacramentally and pastorally. Please follow the link to his website and learn more about this wise and courageous clergyman.

Daily Mass Readings
Sirach 15:15-20
Psalm 119:1-2,4-5,17-18,33-34
1 Corinthians 2:6-10
Matthew 5:17-37

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Living simply

Living simply is key to living as a Franciscan. In that spirit, I offer the following from an unexpected source:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

- from Robert Fulghum's "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten"
There's nothing I can do to improve upon that so I won't even try. A blessed day to all!

Memorial of St. Scholastica
Daily Mass Readings
Genesis 2:18-25
Psalm 128:1-5
Mark 7:24-30

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Gift of the Rosary and Reconciliation


Today is one of the days I'm glad I remain a Roman Catholic.

There was no pressing urge. There was no horrid sin I suddenly felt needed to be unburdened from. There was none of the oft-mentioned, much-maligned "Catholic guilt". I simply felt off. I wasn't at ease, for no particular reason. I didn't feel at peace. I tried praying, and no answer (to my perception anyhow) was forthcoming. Instead of wallowing in the irritating confusion, I decided to plan my lunch around getting to church; see if anything could be brought to light there. I wasn't particularly focused nor hopeful. I simply had a free lunch hour.

I got to St. Brigid's after Daily Mass had completed. I figured I'd see if God had anything to reveal to me through praying the Rosary (the Rosary Society prays in church directly after Mass). I settled in and began following along withe the prayer. As we got to "...pray for us sinners" in the first Hail Mary, I looked toward the back of the church and noticed there were only a few people on line for Confession; there are usually many more on a nice day like today. I figured that this could be Someone nudging me along; I was moved to ready myself to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I continued to pray the Rosary as I waited, reflecting on any damaged areas in my relationship with my God. I was surprised to find there were more than I'd realized, more than I usually feel comfortable with. I was exactly where I was supposed to be, as is the case more often than not. My turn came as the last decade of the Rosary was completed.

Although I won't share the details of my Confession - that's between Christ and myself - I will say that it was precisely what the Doctor ordered! I returned to work refreshed, renewed, and wonderfully reconciled with my God.

Thank You, O God for Your mercy and for prayers joyfully answered! You heal me and You comfort me!

Act of Contrition ('Irish' version)
O my God, I am heartily sorry
for having offended Thee
and I detest my sins
above every other evil
because they displease Thee, my God,
Who, in Thy infinite wisdom,
art so deserving of all my love
and I firmly resolve
with the help of Thy grace
never more to offend Thee
and to amend my life.
Amen

Daily Mass Readings
Genesis 1:1-19
Psalm 104:1-2,5-6,10,12,24,35c
Mark 6:53-56

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Native Americans & Franciscans


From my Franciscan sister, Vicki. Thank you for providing this comparison that I never thought of before. It is apt.

If only Franciscans realized with more clarity how alike they are to Native Americans!
Both respect and reverence nature and the God Who created it. Both seek in their daily lives personal direction from the One Who lays down the good, red road for each life. Both attempt to live simply, waste not, share generously with those less fortunate and wonder at the power and misuse, of treasure. Both were given "Ten Rules" for life. Commandments, which if followed, maintains harmony among all peoples. Both esteem community, children, spouses and family life. Even children participate routinely in dances, rituals, prayers. Both care for the aged and infirm and honor their many years of life.

Both love legends, stories and mysteries. Both have them. Both know that in all legends there contains a kernal of truth. Mysteries, signs, visions and dreams were for the guidance and well-being of both the person who received them and those he loves. To deny the supernatural, is to deny the mysteries of God.

Neither Franciscan or native (ideally) fear death. Both know without doubt that death is not the end of a person's journey in life, only upon earth.
Vicki mentioned the Native American 10 Commandaments. I'm not sure what tribe or nation this originates from, or how authentic it is, but it is beautiful nonetheless:

1. Remain close to the Great Spirit
2. Show great respect for you fellow beings
3. Give assistance and kindness whenever needed
4. Be truthful and honest in all things.
5. Do what you know to be right
6. Look after the well being of mind and body
7. Treat the earith and all that dwell thereon with respect
8. Take full responsibility for your actions
9. Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good
10. Work together for the benefit of all mankind

Sounds familiar.

Daily Mass Readings
Isaiah 58:7-10
Psalm 112:4-9
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Matthew 5:13-16

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Obligations

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
- Talmud (attributed)
.
Sometimes I think that's my problem; being overwhelmed by the sorry state of the world stymies me into inactivity. I ask, almost indifferently, "What the hell can I do about it? Why waste my time? I certainly can't make eveything better, so I may as well not even bother." I suspect many folks feel the same.
This Talmudic quote tells me why. I have an obligation to love, to act justly, to be merciful, and to walk humbly, whenever the opportunity presents itself. I don't...I can't...make everyting better. I have a responsibilty to make better what I can.
May I...may we all...remember this always. We can't make it ALL better...we're required to make the world in front of us a little more just, more merciful, more full of love. With God's grace, this will spread to the world at large. We may never see the fruits of the seeds we plant. Planting them is the thing that matters.

Daily Mass Readings
Hebrews 12:1-4
Psalm 22:26-28,30-31
Mark 5:21-43

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lost in translation?


I was interrupted during Mass today by trying mightily to stifle an attack of the giggles. The Gospel was the Sermon on the Mount according to Matthew, one of my favorite passages. Fr. Jerry got to "Blessed are the peacemakers" and my mind immediately dialed to Monty Python's LIFE OF BRIAN:
Spectator I: I think it was "Blessed are the cheesemakers".
Mrs. Gregory: Aha, what's so special about the cheesemakers?
Gregory: Well, obviously it's not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.
After I had gotten over the worst of my unseemly chuckles, I got to thinking about how Scripture and Tradition have made it all the way to the 21st century. It really is impressive. However, it makes one wonder what the message originally was. As the above quote demonstrates in all the Pythons' silliness, even as the original message is delivered, something can get lost in translation. And if the message is immediately translated improperly, some fantastic gaffes can occur. It's like a centuries-long game of Telephone.

Don't get me wrong; I believe that the gist of Christ and his message have been as preserved through Scripture and Tradition as is possible. But it leads me to ponder...what HAS been lost in the translation?

Daily Mass Readings
Zephariah 2:3,3:12-13
Psalm 146:6-10
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Matthew 5:1-12a

Monday, January 24, 2011

March for ALL Life

Let us remember as we advocate today for our most precious human right; the unborn possess this right. So does the convicted murderer on death row, the Wall Street executive, the homeless man who pandhandles outside the Wall Street executive's office, the women who bring their children to term, and the women who make the solemn choice to abort.

From Consistent Life:
"We are committed to the protection of life, which is threatened in today's world by war, abortion, poverty, racism, capital punishment and euthanasia. We believe that these issues are linked under a 'consistent ethic of life'. We challenge those working on all or some of these issues to maintain a cooperative spirit of peace, reconciliation, and respect in protecting the unprotected...We serve the anti-violence community by connecting issues, building bridges, and strengthening the case against each kind of socially-approved killing by consistently opposing them all."

Amen.

Daily Mass Readings
Hebrews 9:17,24-28
Psalm 98:1-6
Mark 3:22-30

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Writing again...

After a month and change of consciously staying away from my blog, I have decided to continue it (with a snappy new title to boot!)

My soul is at its most peaceful (a relative term to be sure) when I write regularly. Not only have I not been blogging, I've not been journaling either. As a result, I feel a bit in a fog, not grounded, and I need to be as I hopefully move closer to my profession. I am going to try and keep things a bit more low key as I continue, and stop trying to make every post a literary juggernaut. I've noticed that the more I try to do so, the worse my writing becomes.

So just a word on today's Gospel:
He warned them sternly not to make him known. Mark 3:12

I've never understood why Jesus, today in Mark and elsewhere in the Gospels, seemed to exhort His followers to keep quiet about who He was and what He was about. I'm at a loss and I don't really want to speculate - I can't imagine Jesus humbled or even frightened by what He was doing. Then again, perhaps He was. Maybe His human nature was still trying to come to grips with the enormity of His identity and all its implications (but there I go speculating!)

If anyone who still reads this blog could shoot off a comment with some thoughts, I'd be most appreciative!

Good to be back.

Daily Mass Readings
Hebrews 7:25-8:6
Psalm 40:7-10,17
Mark 3:7-12