September 11th – Day of Remembrance

Our Lady of Sorrows 91119 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, conflicts in the Middle East still being fought, with its share of dead, wounded and families shattered.  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 are now struggling through another crisis; fighting a foe that is invisible, but very, very deadly. And to me, there is a different feeling throughout the country. We are not as united as we were once were against a common threat. Conflicts over individual rights versus the common wellbeing. A government on national, state and local levels splintered over politics; rather than the common good.

However, we still 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.

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

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!

Unexpected Gift!

An unexpected surprise awaited me when I took my seat on the morning train! This sticker was on the windowsill of my seat. Needless to say, it brought a smile to my face.

Sometimes, God scatters unexpected surprises for us to stumble upon. Whether we encounter them in the world, or deep within our soul; we should be open to them in the moment, and rejoice!

Mourning For Those Lost; Praying For The Injured!

canadian flag half mast

We are all shocked by the events in Toronto, Canada, last Sunday evening, where fifteen individuals were shot, with two fatalities.

To our Canadian brothers and sisters, we send our prayers.

You saints of Canada, please hear us and intercede for us!

Saints Jean de Brebeuf and Issac Jogues, please pray for those who died.  May they be in the Father’s embrace.

Saint Marguerite d’Youville, please pray for the injured.  May they experience the healing touch of the Son.

Saint Andre Bessette, CSC, and Blessed Frederic Janssone, OFM, pray for  the citizens of Toronto, and all of Canada.  May they all receive comfort from the Holy Spirit.

Saints of Canada, hear us!

 

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

Feast of St. Anthony of Padua

img_0635On this day, the Catholic Church, and especially members of the Franciscan family, celebrate the life of St. Anthony of Padua.

In many Franciscan parishes, chapels and shrines; the friars will be distributing “St. Anthony’s Bread.” It a practice of charity, harkening back to a time when bread was actually distributed to the poor and hungry. One legend has it that a French cloth merchant could not get into her shop, because of a broken lock. She asked for help and intercession of St. Anthony, promising to give bread to the poor, in return. The lock miraculously opened, the shop was in business, and woman made good on her promise.

Since that time, Franciscan friary distribute small, blessed loaves of bread to people, as a reminder that as they receive blessings from God, they are to share it with those in need, for the love of God.

“I am the Good Shepherd” – Fourth Sunday of Easter

Jesus-Good-Shepherd-05Acts 4: 8-12

1 John 3: 1-2

John 10: 11-18

 

 

 

11″I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14″I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.   (John 10: 11-16)

In today’s Gospel, we hear again Jesus describing himself as the “Good Shepherd;” and what being faithful to that description entails.  He is the one who will give up his life to protect his sheep; who will guide his sheep to safe pastures.  In turn, his sheep will recognize his voice, will follow him wherever he leads them.  And other sheep, not of his original flock, will also recognize his voice, and they will be gathered into the same flock.

Jesus, indeed, gave his life for his flock (us); by his death and resurrection, he freed us from the dangers of sin and death.  His words continue to guide us along the right path to the Kingdom of God, if we but listen to them, and act on them.  He continues to feed us with his Body and Blood; giving us the strength needed to follow him along the right paths, no matter how difficult they may be.  His Presence among us, within us; gives us the hope that we will find  a place of repose, in this life and into the next.

We also need to recognize, though, that we are all called to be “shepherds,” by virtue of belonging to the Body of Christ; and caring for each other, both friend and stranger.  We are also “shepherds,” when we, by the example of our daily lives, draw others to come and join with us in the flock; in the community of believers.

 

“The Time of Fulfillment” – First Sunday of Lent, 2018

Kingdom of God is at hand!Genesis 9: 8-15

1st Peter 3: 18-22

Mark 1: 12-15

 

 

“After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.'” ( Mark 1: 15)

 

When Jesus Christ made this proclamation, what would have been the reaction of the people of Galilee.  I suspect that many would have gone on with their daily work; some with a tired look on their faces.  They have heard this before; many so-called prophets and messiahs must have gone through the villages, promising a new world, only to wind up dead at the hands of the Romans or Herodians.  But there was something different about this Nazarene, something about his manner, his style.  And he performed miracles of healing and more, acts not seen since the times of the great prophets!  He made them believe that the longed for kingdom of God was just over the horizon.  Then came a dark Friday on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where they saw their expectations, their hopes dashed, as they witnessed their messiah die on a Roman cross.  Many must have went home to hide; crushed and angry.  Others felt compelled to remain in Jerusalem, to mourn in hiding.  Then came Easter morning, and the disciples who stayed, realized that the time of fulfillment had begun!

 

Fast forward to our present time; and when we hear this Gospel passage proclaimed, our reaction might be: “Yeah, right!”  This reaction might be understandable; considering the fact that we all have just witnessed the most tragic mass shooting in a school in our history.  The horror of it all, is that this is just the most recent of many mass shootings in our country, and none of our political leaders seem willing to do anything about it.  We are also seeing a rise of bigotry, some of it born of fear, in the nation.  We are becoming a divided people.  Terrorism, war, threat of nuclear war, ethnic cleansing, hatred; seems to be the new reality in our world.  So we may find ourselves calling up to the Father; “How can this be the time of fulfillment?  How can the kingdom of God be at hand?”

 

And Jesus Christ responds, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  “Repent;” we all need to reflect on our own individual lives and ask;  In what ways, large or small, have we added to the pain our world is in?  In what ways, large or small, has our inaction allowed evil and suffering to grow?  And when we have an answer; when we are able to see the realities of our lives, we seek the forgiveness, and that healing that can only come from God.  And in that moment, we experience the reality of the Good News, and we believe in the gospel.  And the Good News that Jesus is revealing to us, is that through God, through living the Gospel, we are transformed.  And with every transformation, the time of fulfillment draws closer.  “The kingdom of God is at hand.”

 

 

Reach Out and Touch Someone

jesus Cleanses the Leper

Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46
1st Corinthians 10:31—11:1
Mark 1:40-45

In the Scripture readings for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we see again passages that emphasizes the role of Jesus as healer. We saw in last Sunday’s readings, that his reputation as a healer spread so fast, that the whole town of Capernaum crowded around St. Peter’s home, many seeking a cure, others wishing to witness a miracle. Realizing that he could be trapped in Capernaum by the crowd, he leaves the town early the next morning; before anyone else is awake to stop him. He goes to a deserted place for prayer, but his disciples are still able to find him. He tells them that his purpose is to bring the Good News to all the Galilee. But even in that deserted place, Jesus encounters someone in need of healing, a leper. Now leprosy was among the most dreaded diseases of ancient times, seen as highly contagious. In the first reading, from the Book of Leviticus, we see the ritual one had to go through if he or she was suspected of leprosy. The leper was driven from the community, living in solitary suffering. That person would eventually either die alone, or in company of fellow lepers. Jesus wishes to heal the leper before him, so he does what would be considered madness by his companions, he touches him. The miracle happens, the person is made clean, made whole. Jesus instructs him to just go and show himself to the temple priest and be brought back into the community. Of course, this does not happen, the cured man proclaims to all what has happened to him, and who did it, and Jesus must change his approach to the people.

 

However, I would like to offer another interpretation of this Scripture. It has to do with the fact that because of this disfiguring disease, this person was separated from the people of Israel. He was lost, destined to be alone in deserted places. Now, consider that “leprosy” can come in many forms; like poverty, like addiction, homelessness, mental disabilities. One can be considered a societal “leper;” if one is an immigrant or refugee, with different languages, different customs, different beliefs. They feel separated from the wider community, ostracized, discriminated against. And here is Jesus Christ, who is telling us, by his example, to reach out and touch them; reach out and embrace them; reach out and bring them back into the wider community of our cities and towns, our states and nation. This is the mission, the calling of the Christian community. This is the work of our Church, to heal and bring back those who are wounded, lost and alone.