“Unto Us a Child is Given!”

Merry Christmas! Although, this has been the most, shall we say, “unique” Christmas Day we have ever had. There have been Christmas Days we have celebrated during times of conflict, hard economic times, times of disasters, both as individuals, families, communities, and nations! But never, in my memory, have we a time of such as this Corvid pandemic!

We are in grave situation that affects the whole world. Millions of people have been stricken! Millions have died! Economies have gone south, thousands unemployed! And our political leaders seem incapable of breaking out of their ideological strait jackets; arguing, stonewalling, while millions suffer. And we are all getting worn down by it all. It is coming to a point where saying, “Merry Christmas;” sounds very hollow.

Yet, for the Church, the community of believers, this day the cry goes out “Rejoice!” For “ unto us a child is given;”on this day God fulfilled His Promise to send a Savior, His Son! On this day, we are reminded that God has not left us alone, He is with us in our times of suffering, of doubt, of feeling hopeless! We may not be able to acknowledge His Presence, but Jesus is with us, around us, within us. He shares His Spirit through Scripture, prayer and other people we come in contact with! He shares Himself in the Eucharist, Holy Communion, Bread for the hard journey, whether within ourselves or without, that we are on!

So this day, whether it is clear and sunny or cloudy and stormy; remember what this day is truly about. Rejoice!! For “unto us a child is given!”

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!

You Are Not Alone.

This sign appeared recently on the platform of the commuter rail station I go to. I do not know if it’s appearance had been planned for a time, or is in response to the spate of celebrity suicides that have hit the news recently.

These suicides should be a wake up call that there are many persons out there, family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, and fellow citizens; who are deep pain. They are suffering from depression, hopelessness, and despair. They believe they are alone, and they feel they cannot bear the burden any more; and they see death as the only source of relief.

It is up to all of us to give support, and care to our suffering brothers and sisters. To let them know that they are not alone.

Some of us may have the gift of providing counseling. Some may be able to be the one who listens. A welcoming handshake, a hug, or a hand on the shoulder; could make all difference.

God will make visible those opportunities to help. The Holy Spirit will give us those gifts we will need. And Jesus will be walking with us. At that very least, we can pray for those who tempted to commit suicide; for the souls of those who have; and the families they have left behind. May the love of God dispel the darkness, and bring hope to those who need it.

Twilight

Twilight on the campus of Bridgewater State University, MA. Another day draws to a close; another academic year draws to a close. This week, the 2018 commencements will be held. For many students, the twilight of their academic life, and soon, the dawn of a brand new life; with joys and disappointments, uncertainties and hopes.

To the BSU Class of 2018:

May the Good Lord be with you!

May God the Father watch over you and protect you!

May God the Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, walk with you on your journeys. May he give you strength and hope!

May God the Spirit, inspire you, guide you, comfort you.

May Almighty God bless you all, now and forever!

Prayer For The Rough Patches

We all have had rough patches during our lives.  These are the times when our life situations can seem to be difficult, chaotic, and uncertain.  We question why things did not turn out as we hoped; and what the future holds.  I have rediscovered a prayer written by the Trappist monk, and spiritual writer, Thomas Merton.  He included this prayer in his 1958 book, “Thoughts in Solitude.”  I discovered it on a prayer card, issued by a society dedicated to promoting his writings.  I would pray it at times, then forget about it, find it, and forget about it, again.  It does seem to pop up in my sight or consciousness during those times when I need it.  I offer it below for any of you who might need it:

Merton 0218

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will, does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
― Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Morning Prayer – From Psalm 143

Dawn BSU

At dawn let me hear of your kindness, for in you I trust.  Show me the path I should walk, for to you I entrust my life.

Rescue me, Lord, from my foes, for in you I hope.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.  May your kind spirit guide me on ground that is level.

For name’s sake, Lord, give me life, in your justice lead me out of distress.

(Psalm143: 8-11)

This psalm is  one of those that is recited during Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of Hours.  It is a prayer of hope, that God will be with us throughout our day, through good times, and difficult times.  It is a prayer of someone who is seeking the Lord’s guidance in one’s daily life.  No matter how mundane, how boring, how stressful our lives may be, we hope that God is guiding us.  We pray that we are open to that guidance.

Fifth Week of Lent Reflection – 2017

Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’  Martha said to him, ‘I I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day’  Jesus told her,

‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and in me will never die.’

I think that in many ways, the above statement by Jesus is among the most powerful in Saint John’s Gospel.  It is indeed, the “Good News” that a suffering, weary world is waiting for, yearning for.

I feel, however, that these words give more than hope for eternal life, after death.  For those of us weighed down by the life’s heavy burdens; we will rise!  For those of us threatened by persecution and discrimination; we will rise!  For those of us who are in depression and despair; we will rise!  By the love and power of Christ; we will rise!


2017 – A New Year

2017-new-yearSo the year 2016 is past, the year 2017 has begun.  The world, our country has been afflicted by violence whether by state sponsored or terrorist sponsored attacks.  Many times the violence has been random.  The call of “Peace on Earth; Goodwill to all!” seems to ring hollow during this holiday season.

Our country has been through the most raucous presidential election season, since the early days of the Republic!  And it has revealed that there are deep divisions in our nation.  The concept of civil discourse and debate seems to have flown out of the window.  And we have elected a person as President that many do not respect; that others are a little concerned about his style of governance; and what it portends for the next four years

While engaged in Morning Prayer, I came across this verse from Psalm 42 “Why are you downcast my soul; why do you groan within me?  Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.”  This will be verse I think will become my new mantra for this coming year.

On New Year’s Eve, I joined my wife at a worshipping community she goes to; and participated in a Burning Bowl ceremony.  We were invited to write down on a slip of flash paper, something negative we wanted God’s help in taking away from us.  We then placed the slips in a bowl that had a small fire; which consumed the petitions.  It was very moving.

The year of 2016 has been a year of some changes for me personally.  I finally found employment at a South Shore company; starting in January, 2016.  So I will be entering my second year of employment, and it has been good.  The commute is long, two hours to and back; using commuter train and subway.  I am always telling people that at least someone else is doing the driving.

In September of this year, I will be entering my fifth year as an ordained Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.  I cannot believe that much time has passed.  I have been assigned to three Beverly, MA, parishes; where most of my work has been liturgical, assisting at 5 of Masses celebrated in two of three parishes.  It seems a lot; but I have experienced spiritual aid, that helps me perform my sacred duties well.  The Deacon has several ways of service he offers to the Church; a service of Worship, service of the Word, and a service of Charity.  I am still reflecting and discerning what that means in my daily life.  What role should daily prayer, daily reading, and meditating of Scripture should have.  I am not where I think I should be.  Maybe, this New Year, I will find some guidance; and perhaps some improvement.

A New Year begins, a year of fear, a year of anxiety, but also a year of hope, a year of change, and a year of trust in the Lord.

Yearar

Exultation of the Holy Cross

On August 14th, throughout most the Christian world, churches commemorated the finding of the True Cross.  It was found under the leadership of St. Helen, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, during her pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Miracles confirmed it’s authenticity; it’s wood was divided between the Churches in Jerusalem, Rome, and  Constantinople.

Those Romans who had been around during the old Empire, would have shake their heads; seeing a symbol of punishment and death, become a symbol of life and hope.

We all have our own crosses, that we have to bear, that we have to live with.  Jesus Christ calls on us to take up our crosses daily and follow him.  When we open ourselves to his Spirit; we discover that we are not only following him, but he is walking with us.  He is there, helping us bear the burden, helping us, giving us hope.