“Where is the Newborn King…?”

On this January 6, 2019, many Christians will be in church, celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord. We are celebrating the moment, when three magi, wise men, came from the east and proclaimed to the leaders of Jerusalem that the birth of the Messiah had been revealed to them. They had traveled from a far land, to see with their own eyes, this wonder. Their belief in this revelation was so strong, that they were willing to make this risky journey, guided only by a unique star, to a foreign land. And the Gospel gives no indication that they were disappointed at what they found. Finding a small child, with his peasant mother, in a simple village house; they “did him homage.”

We are all seeking that intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, with our God and Savior. Sometimes, that life journey may take many years; sometimes, the encounter can happen in just an instant. We find that we need to give up our own preconceived images of Christ; let the Holy Spirit guide us on our journey; and be open to what the Scriptures will reveal to us. And above all, open ourselves to the experience, the wonder of the Eucharist; which in a real sense, is food for the journey we are on.

There have been others, who have also been on this journey before, who, by sharing their own experiences, can help guide us on ours. Some of my favorites, Francis and Clare of Assisi, who made living the Gospel of Jesus Christ an intimate part of their lives. Teresa of Avila, founder of monasteries and mystic. Caryll Houselander, laywoman, artist and mystic; who had a vision of Christ in every passenger of a train she was on. Thomas Merton, author, monk, and mystic. Despite being in a monastery, he was always on a journey, seeking our Risen Lord. And finally, I would recommend Sister Wendy Beckett, who recently passed away. Hermit, art historian, media star; she brought a fresh look at art, with both a scholar’s and mystic’s eye.

I am still very much on journey, seeking the Lord. I have sometimes gone off course, sometimes felt like not going any further. But always, I feel that tugging to continue on; something many pilgrims feel, to finish the journey. I still am not sure what I will find; I have faith that when I truly see the Lord, with eyes of faith; I will bow and do him homage.

The Long Drought

My New ComputerIt has been several months, since last my fingers touched a keyboard for this blog. Now that I have something to say, my laptop will not load the WordPress page for it. So I am using my IPhone, and my thumbs this morning.

It is safe to say that current news involving the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is beginning to wear me down. Living in the Boston area, the so called epicenter of the crisis, I have struggled to be both a faithful Catholic, and a supporter of accountability. I, perhaps foolishly, thought that, at least in Boston, we had begun to turn a corner and begin to rebuild the community.

Then came the report of the Pennsylvania grand jury, and other reports from other cities, states, and overseas. The amount of news of the inability of the Pope and bishops to get a handle on the situation was another blow to my “spiritual” gut.

Perhaps the among the things that has kept me from drowning in a sea of depression has been my interest in Church history. I am well acquainted with both the glorious and inglorious moments in the life of the Church. We are a world-wide community of both saints, great and small; and sinners. Many of us are to a lesser or greater degree, both. And there have been dark, indeed, some very dark moments, that the Church has risen up from and shined.

Another saving factor has been my prayer experiences. Moments when the Holy Spirit breaks through my shell of indifference and depression; and the Light of the World blazes forth within! There are moments when I am joined with others in worship, when the Presence of Christ is felt deep within me.

There will more dark moments in the life of the Church that will be revealed. We need to be open to those moments, move through the pain, sense of betrayal, and doubt. As we seek healing for ourselves; we need to be healers and reconcilers for others.

We need to hold on to that faith, and believe in the promise Jesus Christ made to the first disciples, and to us, that the powers of Hell will not prevail against His Church!

Enders Island Chapel

“Good Pope John”

Pope John XXIIIToday, the Catholic Church celebrates the life of St. John XXIII, was Pope, Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, from 1958 to 1963.

Born Angelo Roncalli, in the Italian province of Lombardy, to a family of sharecroppers, in 1881. He would be ordained a priest in 1904, serve as an stretcher bearer and chaplain in the Italian army, during World War I. After the war, he would be a bishop’s secretary, papal diplomat to Bulgaria, Turkey, and France. During World War II, he would use his diplomatic and ecclesial status to help hundreds of Jews escape the Holocaust.

He was appointed Patriarch of Venice, Italy, and made a Cardinal, in 1953. In 1958, after the death of Pope Pius XII, he joined other Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, to elect the new Pope. After eleven ballots, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli was elected Pope. As is custom he took a new name, and became Pope John XXIII.

He was expected to be a “caretaker” Pope, his papacy was to be short and uneventful. He shocked everyone when in 1959, he summoned the world’s bishops to what became the Second Vatican Council. He would not live to see it’s conclusion, dying of stomach cancer in 1963.

I have no memories of his pontificate. As an altar server, I witnessed the steady changes that came in the liturgy. When I was in high school, I came across a book listing his memorable sayings, including his more humorous ones. I became attracted to this Pope from the Italian countryside. In seminary, I read his spiritual journal, “Journal of a Soul,” and encountered the deeply spiritual Pope John. And I have read, or at least tried to read his social justice papal encyclicals “letters,” especially his famous “Pacem in Terris.”  I am finding that this letter still has something to say for our times.

Recently, I learned that there is something St. John XXIII and I share; we are both Secular Franciscans.  He joined the OFS during his seminary days, I joined in 1988.  So to my fellow Franciscan, I ask his intercession for our troubled Church, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into living the Gospel life more fully.

September 11th – Day of Remembrance

Our Lady of Sorrows 91117 years ago today, the United States was forever changed.  Terrorists hijacked four airliners, intending to make suicide attacks on certain institutions of the United States.  Two planes were crashed into the World Trade Center, in New York City, NY.  A third was plowed into the Pentagon, command central of the U.S. military, in Washington, DC.  On the fourth airplane, passengers and crew attempted to take back control of the plane, the terrorists dove the plane into the ground in Pennsylvania.  The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, from the structural damage caused by the crash, and the fires that followed, collapsed in on itself, killing all those trapped inside.  The Pentagon suffered severe damage, and many military and civilian personnel were either killed or injured.  All together, there was 2,977 victims of the attacks, who died.

On the day this happened, I was working in an office, in downtown Boston, MA.  I could listen on a radio, while I worked; so I was listening to public radio news.  I was shocked when I heard of the first plane crash into the Twin Towers.  The historian in me, remembered a similar crash in 1945; when a U.S. Army Air Corps bomber accidentally crashed into the Empire State Building.  But as time went on, and more stories came over the air waves, I could tell that what was happening was no accident.  Further down the street from where our office building was, was another building that housed the Boston Stock Exchange.  In front, they had a display window, that held large TV screens, showing news and how the markets were performing.  I could see a large crowd gathering in front that display window.  The size of the crowd extended out into the street.

Our bosses called us together, gave us a rundown of what was known, and told us to go home.  I stayed for a bit, I know it seems not to make any sense; but I was not going let any act of terror, keep me from doing my work.  It took a nervous call from my wife to get me to stop and leave the office.  Once outside our building, I found streets and sidewalks normally bustling with cars, trucks, and pedestrians, deserted.  Also, deserted was the train station.  The following mornings, when I would be waiting for the commuter train to take me into the city; I looked up into sky.  Normally, I would see a half a dozen contrails of airline jets flying to and from Logan International Airport.  That day, I only saw a few contrails, and they were circling overhead.  They were jet fighters.

There is not much more I remember of those days that followed the tragedy of 9/11.  I know I attended prayer services.  Prayer intentions for the victims and their families were mentioned at Masses I attended.  Little did I know what the long-term effects would be, resulting from those acts of terror.  Two wars, one still ongoing, to a certain extent, with its share of dead, wounded and families shattered.  We became a country that seems to be constantly on guard; with the individual rights we have held so dear, sometimes willingly given up for security.  In our name, persons have been subjected to “enhanced interrogation;”  torture by any other name is still torture.  And there are still victims of the 9/11 attacks who are dying; dying from the cancers and other illnesses brought on by the smoke and contaminated dust from the Trade Center.

We cannot forget those who lost their lives in the attacks; we must continue to remember them.  We must pray for and support the survivors; those who lost love ones; and those who are still trying to deal with the effects of those days on their minds and souls.  And honor to those first responders, in the past, today, and in the future; those who charge forward into danger, when others may flee.

I close this reflection with a prayer to Mary, Mother of Sorrows, asking her intercession for us all in these dangerous times:

Remember, most loving Virgin Mary, never was it heard that anyone, who turned to for help, was left unaided.  Inspired by this confidence, though burdened by my sins, I run to your protection for you are my mother.  Mother of the Word of God, do not despise my words of pleading, but be merciful and hear my prayer.  Amen.

 

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.  And let the perpetual light shine upon them.

And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Blogger’s Block? Here’s How to Beat it

Well, talk about good timing, when I came across this during my web surfing. Thank you, Mr. Peters!

The Art of Blogging

Too many of your posts start with an apology for not having been around of late? The joy you first brought to blogging now a distant memory?

Looks like a case of blogger’s block. Don’t worry… there is a cure.

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Writer’s Block During The Crisis In the Church! Oh Heck!

Writer's blockWe are currently in the most serious times in the recent life of the Catholic Church.  In Rome, in the United States, and other parts of the Catholic world; stories of the cover up of misdeeds of an American Cardinal, involving Pope Francis; the findings of a Pennsylvania grand jury on clergy abuse of children; and reports of sexual misconduct in an Archdiocesan seminary have filled the air ways.  And we now have bishops calling for the resignation of Pope Francis.

And in the midst of all, I cannot yet put fingers to keyword, and write my own reactions, my own reflections on what is happening now!  How does all this negative news affect me?  Because I am, as a deacon, a member of the clergy; although our lives are divided among family, work, and service to the Church.  I am not really that plugged in to the clerical culture.  So how do I react, one foot in Church “culture;” the other in the “real’ world?  I have not quite figured that out yet, so my fingers are still.  For the moment.