Ongoing Tragedy!

Even in the best of times, it has been difficult to write and post anything on this blog recently. This is especially true these past days. I may have been like many of my American Catholic brothers and sisters, thinking that we, as a Church, at least in this country, were beginning to climb out of the clergy sex abuse hole.

Then came two gut punches that shook our complacency; the results of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury investigation, and charges of sexual misconduct and harassment at the Archdiocese of Boston seminary. It speaks to a total failure of the hierarchy to act; and to come clean about those failures to act.

It appears also that this is not just an American Catholic problem; that there are other tragedies, in other countries, to be revealed.

It speaks to a need for lay action, for laity to demand independent investigation, accountability and reform. We can no longer be silent, we need to demand that those who accept the role of “shepherd” in a diocese, take the care of their people as primary; and not the pomp and circumstance!

I am writing this on my IPhone, started this morning because I felt compelled to write something about what is happening in the Church. I am finishing it now on a home bound train. I hope to write more about my feelings on this; my fears, anger, distress, and, yes, hope!

Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola – A Reflection

St. IgnatiusThe story goes, that when I was born, my father put forward an unusual name for me.  He had been a recent graduate of Boston College, an institution founded by the Society of Jesus; also known as the Jesuits.  He had been impressed by these priests and brothers; so much so, that he wanted to name his first born after their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola!  My mother, being of strong willed Irish-Italian stock, basically said: “No way!”

A compromise was struck, my baptismal name was given as “Francis,”  after St. Francis Xavier, SJ, one of the original members of the Society.  My connection with the Jesuits was renewed, when as part of my Deacon formation, I and my classmates attended annual retreats at Campion Hall in Weston MA.  It is a Jesuit run retreat center, as well as a retirement home for their members.  So I began to learn more about the saint, whose name I almost inherited.

St. Ignatius was born in the Basque country of northern Spain.  He originally was raised to be a soldier of Spain.  At age 30, he was seriously wounded in a battle defending a town against an invading Spanish army. One of his legs was broken by a cannon ball, and he was brought back to the family home.  During his recovery, he read the only books available to him; a life of Jesus Christ, and stories about the saints.  Reflecting on what he read, he had a conversion experience.  He dedicated his life, body and soul to Christ.  The path that he took to reach this point, he would eventually create The Spiritual Exercises.  It is a blueprint, a process to help a spiritual director guide a person into a closer, more intimate relationship with God; developing an attentiveness, an openness, and responsiveness to God.

When he was studying at the University of Paris to become a priest, he was also guiding some of his classmates through the Spiritual Exercises.  Inspired by what they experienced, six of them, along with Ignatius, decided to form a company, a society, dedicated to serving the Church, under the direction of the Pope.  Thus was the Society of Jesus formed.  Since that time, Jesuits have traveled the world; as missionaries, educators, writers, parish priests and spiritual directors.  One of St. Ignatius’ spiritual sons would be elected as head of the Catholic Church, our current Pontiff, Pope Francis.

St. Ignatius, has been recognized as more of  a founder and organizer of a powerful religious community; and not so much as a mystic, except perhaps within the Jesuit communities themselves.  That has been changing, more diocesan priests, religious, and laypersons have taken the Spiritual Exercises, and it has enriched their spiritual lives.

Prayer for Generosity

Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will.
Amen.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

 

 

Fifty Years And Counting; Celebrating in “The Big Easy!”

deacon red stoleFrom July 22 to July 26, 2018, 1,300 Catholic deacons, along with their wives and children, gathered in New Orleans, LA, for the 2018 National Diaconate Congress.  This year’s meeting was significant because 2018 is the fiftieth anniversary of the restoration of the permanent Diaconate in the Latin Rite Catholic Church.  Nationwide, there are  18,500 permanent deacons in the United States.  Columnist, blogger, and Deacon, Greg Kandra, shares some of his experiences of the Congress.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, presided at the opening Mass.  In his comments to the deacons before the end of the celebration of the Eucharist, he challenged them “to be an evangelizing force in the world.”  The homilist at the opening Mass, was Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans.  He called on the deacons present to be the “conscience” of the Church; bringing it’s attention to the needs of the poor and powerless.  “All Christians are called to charity by their baptism, but deacons lead us as a church in the works of charity,” he said. “We look to you in some ways as the conscience of the church. We ask you to find those who are in need and to invite us to serve them. And when we forget them or fail to be people of charity as a church, we ask you to be our conscience and to call us back to what God asks.”

It is a challenge that all of us deacons need to accept, and act on.  Through reading and reflecting on the Scriptures, through prayer and being open to the Spirit, to realize new ways to serve the poor; to be a voice for the poor.  To seek from the Holy Spirit the strength to reach out of our “comfort zones,” and encounter the poor where they are.  Now is the time for us discover what new ways are open to us on how to live and minister as husbands, parents, and deacons.

Saint Benedict, Happy Feast Day!

Benedict of NursiaOn July 11th, the Catholic Church; and other Western Christian Churches, remembered and celebrated the life and work of St. Benedict of Nursia. It is believed that he was born around 480 AD. Not much is known about his life. The only biography we have, was written 50 years after his death. Born into a wealthy family, he decided to seek a deeper relationship with God. He became a hermit, loosely attached to a monastic community, in the Italian mountains. Later, as his reputation for holiness grew, he would establish many monastic communities. He is most well known for his monastic Rule.

Many early Christian monasteries were being guided and governed by a rule of life. But, there was something about the Rule of St. Benedict that appealed to those seeking to live a holy life in Christ. Benedict sought to create a balanced life of prayer and work; solitude and community for his followers. It was structured, yet open to the promptings of the Spirit. Benedict goal was to create a community, where the monks could encounter the Christ, the Son of God.  Because of this, many communities of monks and nuns were founded throughout Europe; governed by this Rule.  St. Benedict is considered the founder of Western Christian Monasticism.

His words continue to inspire and guide religious and laypersons, who wish to draw closer to God.

Listen, O my son, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart, and cheerfully receive and faithfully execute the admonitions of thy loving Father, that by the toil of obedience thou mayest return to Him from whom by the sloth of disobedience thou hast gone away.

To thee, therefore, my speech is now directed, who, giving up thine own will, takest up the strong and most excellent arms of obedience, to do battle for Christ the Lord, the true King.

In the first place, beg of Him by most earnest prayer, that He perfect whatever good thou dost begin, in order that He who hath been pleased to count us in the number of His children, need never be grieved at our evil deeds. For we ought at all times so to serve Him with the good things which He hath given us, that He may not, like an angry father, disinherit his children, nor, like a dread lord, enraged at our evil deeds, hand us over to everlasting punishment as most wicked servants, who would not follow Him to glory.

Let us then rise at length, since the Scripture arouseth us, saying: “It is now the hour for us to rise from sleep” (Rom 13:11); and having opened our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with awestruck ears what the divine voice, crying out daily, doth admonish us, saying: “Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps 94[95]:8). And again: “He that hath ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches” (Rev 2:7). And what doth He say? — “Come, children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps 33[34]:12). “Run whilst you have the light of life, that the darkness of death overtake you not” (Jn 12:35).

And the Lord seeking His workman in the multitude of the people, to whom He proclaimeth these words, saith again: “Who is the man that desireth life and loveth to see good days” (Ps 33[34]:13)? If hearing this thou answerest, “I am he,” God saith to thee: “If thou wilt have true and everlasting life, keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile; turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it” (Ps 33[34]:14-15). And when you shall have done these things, my eyes shall be upon you, and my ears unto your prayers. And before you shall call upon me I will say: “Behold, I am here” (Is 58:9).

What, dearest brethren, can be sweeter to us than this voice of the Lord inviting us? See, in His loving kindness, the Lord showeth us the way of life. Therefore, having our loins girt with faith and the performance of good works, let us walk His ways under the guidance of the Gospel, that we may be found worthy of seeing Him who hath called us to His kingdom (cf 1 Thes 2:12).

Preamble of the Rule of St. Benedict

Welcome the Stranger

Cardinal SeanThere has been a lot of reporting recently on the effects of the Attorney General Sessions order to have all immigrants attempting to enter the country illegally, to be arrested and jailed.  A part of that order is to separate any children from their immigrant parents, and hold them in separate facilities, pending placement in foster homes.  Some in the government have advanced the theory that it will deter immigrants from attempting to cross the border, at the cost of losing their children.

Many spokespersons of civil rights and religious organizations have spoken out sharply against this policy.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting in Florida have condemned the policy, and is discussing sending a delegation of bishops to the border to examine the conditions at these facilities, and the condition of the immigrants being held.  Here in Boston, MA, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston has issued a statement on the current immigration situation.

While our country has the right to control it’s borders, and who is be allowed into this country, humane policies should be implemented in enforcing immigration laws.  What we are beginning to see on our screens, and reading newspapers, shows a failure of empathy and charity by this government.  It is yet to be seen if the American public will voice it’s concern for the immigrant children, given the growing hostility towards illegal immigrants in general.

What is really upsetting many religious leaders is the attempt by Attorney General Sessions and Press Secretary Sanders to use Scripture to back the government immigration policies.  There are commentators who criticize  the use of Scripture passages out of context.

Well, I may about to do the same thing; but I close with this Scripture passage that always turn to when reflecting on the moral issues of immigration policies.  It is from the Book of Leviticus:

When an alien resides with you in your land, do not molest him.  You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.  I, the Lord, am your God.”  (Lv 19: 33-34, NAB)

We are citizens of a country of immigrants; we are all descendants of immigrants.  Those who come to our shores, approach our borders; need to be treated with dignity, care, and respect.

The Catholic Worker – 85th Anniversary!

CW

Dot and PeteOn May 1, in the year 1933, a Socialist group was holding a May Day demonstration in New York City. The Great Depression had the nation in it’s grip. The demonstrators were protesting very strongly against the bankers, and capitalists they blamed for this economic disaster. On the edges of the demonstration, a small group of men and women were selling copies of a newspaper, for a penny. It was “The Catholic Worker,” and it heralded the beginning of a Catholic social movement by the same name. Co-founded by Dorothy Day, a Catholic convert, single mother, reporter, author and socialist; and Peter Maurin, former religious brother, philosopher, and traveling vagabond. They introduced a radical way of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

They established “houses of hospitality,” where the poor would be received as friends, brothers and sisters, fed and given shelter. They spoke out for the poor, powerless and downtrodden. They and their followers, down through the years, have worked to make the world a place “where it was easier to be good.”

The Catholic Worker continues this work, through autonomous Houses of Hospitality scattered throughout the country and the world. They have a different measure of success. If only one person is welcomed, clothed, and fed, it has been a good day. If they have gathered together for prayer, to reflect and discuss what it means to radically love the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it has been a good day.

The Catholic Worker continues, inspired by the words of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. May we all be inspired by them.

Servant Church – Diakonia

So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, ‘Do you realize what I have done for you?  You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.  If I therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.  (John 13: 12-15)

In the above Gospel passage, and in many others, Jesus stressed that those who follow him, must be willing to serve both those within the faith community, and those who are outside of it.  Throughout all the Gospels, Jesus showed through his healing ministry, that the Messiah in their midst came as a servant to all.  So his Church was also to be a servant to all, providing aid and support to the poor, serving those both within and without the Church.  The Greek word “diakonia,” meaning “service,” has been applied to describe an aspect of life in the Christian Church.  As related in the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles appointed seven men to serve the Hellenist Christian widows.  In Christian tradition, they became known as the first Deacons.  As the Church grew, so did the number Deacons, performing works of mercy to the poor.  They became an Order in the early Church, an official sign of Church acting as servant to all.

As Europe moved into medieval times, as Christianity became the dominant religion in Western Europe, as bishops and the Pope inherited secular power, changes began to take hold.  The papacy and the episcopacy began to take on the trappings of the nobility; some adopting the view that they, with the nobility, deserve to be served by the serfs and peasants.  The idea of a servant Church almost disappeared; it was preserved by laypersons who were inspired to serve the poor; by some bishops and priests who established hospitals, homes for orphans, lepersariums.   An active Diaconate also declined, becoming a transactional position that a man would acquire for a period of time before being ordained to the priesthood.

With the Second Vatican Council, the concept of a servant Church was reborn.  The Council, and many encyclicals since then, have stressed that all members of the Catholic Church are called to participate in the ministry of service to the poor, the homeless, and the forgotten.  Fulfilling this call can take many forms: giving financial support to charities; volunteering for food pantries and kitchens, homeless shelters and centers; visiting patients in hospitals and nursing homes.  We need to be open to promptings of the Holy Spirit; and discern an opportunity to serve and show mercy.

The Council turned once again to the Order of Deacons, to be a visible sign of being a Servant Church.  About fifty years ago, Pope Paul VI reestablished the permanent Diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church.  Men, married and single, from many countries, including the United States, have stepped up and been ordained.  They are servants to the Church and the world, through liturgical participation, works of charity, preaching and being religion educators.  In the Archdiocese of Boston newspaper, The Pilot, three Deacons have written an excellent column on the Permanent Diaconate of today.  I invite you to go read it.

In our country, in our world, there are people in need, who feel abandoned and discarded.  In such times the world needs a Servant Church, to bring hope and relief.  A Church who follows Our Lord Jesus command; “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

deacon red stole