The Tragedy of Las Vegas – “And Jesus Wept.”

And Jesus weptThe tragedy of what has occurred in Las Vegas, the enormity of it, has yet to be fully felt by many of us.  The raw power of the images we have seen on television, our computers, and tablets; has hit us all in the gut.  The politics, the partisan speeches, the proposals; they will, they must come, but later.  Right now, we need to mourn for those who have died, We need to help the wounded, and the survivors.  We need to stand with those who have lost loved ones.  We need to come together as a nation, as a people; in the face of such evil.

Psalm 57  (Confident Prayer for Deliverance)

Have mercy on me, God,
have mercy on me.
In you I seek refuge.
In the shadow of your wings, I seek refuge
till harm pass by.

I call to God Most High,
to God who provides for me.

May God send help from heaven to save me,
shame those who trample upon me.
May God send fidelity and mercy.

I must lie down in the midst of lions
hungry for human prey.

Their teeth are spears and arrows;
their tongue, a sharpened sword.

Be exalted over the heavens, God;
may your glory appear above all the earth.

Eternal rest grant onto them, O Lord! And let perpetual light shine upon them!  Through the mercy of God, may they all rest in peace.

Francis crys

9/11 – An Anniversary of Sorrow and Loss

Our Lady of Sorrows 911Today is the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States that changed this country for years to come.  Never, in the history of the Republic, were so many civilian lives lost through such brutal acts.  There have been other attacks on this country since then, but this particular assault will remain seared in our memories for ages to come.

We pray for the souls of those family members, friends, fellow Americans who were lost.  We pray for those who still grieve for the loss of loved ones.  We grieve for our country, still bearing the scars of that day.  We pray:

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
Poor banished children of Eve;
To thee do we send up our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us;
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.  Amen.

 

A Thanksgiving Psalm

thanksgiving-2

118 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

Let Israel now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord now say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

I called on the Lord in distress;
The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
The Lord is on my side;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me.
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in princes.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them,
And I will praise the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord,
Through which the righteous shall enter.

21 I will praise You,
For You have answered me,
And have become my salvation.

22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save now, I pray, O Lord;
O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
27 God is the Lord,
And He has given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, I will exalt You.

29 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

(Psalm 118: 1-10, 19-29; NKJV)

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day) – 2016

Yesterday, the Church honored the memory of the unnamed saints in heaven.  Today, we remember all those who have died; family members, friends and acquaintances; and we pray that they are in the embrace of our Father’s loving arms.  

We Catholics hope that those who die, will quickly go to heaven.  However, we also believe that before many of us reach that blessed home; we need a time of purification; a cleansing of the stains of past sins.  The Church believes that this purification take place in a place called “Purgatory.”  Whether it is an actual place, or a state of being; it is still a place of longing for God; of preparation to finally encounter him, in all his glory. 

We, who are among the living, pray for these souls, that their time of purification will be short.  And we hope that, when it is our turn; our family and friends, both on earth and in heaven will pray for us; that we will all be in the indescribable joy and glory of the Presence of God.

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Pope Francis has asked all Catholics, indeed, all peoples, to pray for the care of Creation.  He asks that we first offer praise and thanks to God the Creator for the precious gift of this earth.  Then, we should pray that He sends His Spirit into our hearts, to inspire us to care for this gift He has given us.  Pope Francis composed a prayer that he included in his encyclical “Laudato Si’,” that could provide a good starting point for our reflections.  I am also including below, a prayer, a hymn, by St. Francis of Assisi.  He is joining with all of Creation, in giving praise to God.  May we all do the same this day.

Francis and Brother Sun

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

The First Novitiate – Friday Fictioneers

RivoTorto photo-by-piya-singh-bittercharm-6The farmhand walks through the Italian woods, heading for home.  His body aches from his labors; his heart aches because he will barely feed his family with what he earned today.  In the twilight, he is passing by an abandoned farmhouse, when he hears the sound of chanting, coming from it.  He peers in, and sees a group of men, dressed in brown robes, kneeling on the dirt floor.  They circle a little thin man, who is leading them in prayer.  The farmhand sees a glow of light emanating from him, touching the others, touching him.  He experiences great peace.

 

 

 

 

NB:  After Francis of Assisi won provisional papal approval for his rule of life; he and his small group of brothers went down to a small Italian area known as RivoTorto.  There they lived; during the day they cared for lepers.  Some would work in the fields, and get paid in food and drink.  They spent their evenings in prayer, and being taught by Francis.  It was the Order’s first novitiate.  One day, a farmer pushed his donkey into the hut, and pushed the brothers out, into the wider world.

Praying Before the San Damiano Cross

Most High, Glorious God,

Enlighten the darkness of my heart,

And give me true faith, certain hope,

And perfect charity, sense, and knowledge,

Lord, that I may carry out

Your holy and true command.

(Prayer before the San Damiano Cross – Saint Francis of Assisi)

Francis and San Damiano CrossOnce a month, I go into Boston, MA, for a meeting with my spiritual director; who is a Franciscan friar at St. Anthony Shrine on Arch St.  I was crossing that street, on my way for my July session, when I ran into two of my former co-workers.  We exchanged pleasantries; I learned that the company was still having a rough time of it.  We said our goodbyes, and I entered the Shrine.  Now this all took place on July 7th, I was entering the seventh month of unemployment.  I have been sending electronic job applications, three to six of them on a weekly basis.  To date, I have had two telephone interviews, each lasting, on average, about fifteen minutes.  I have been to several job fairs, left resumes with prospective employers; never heard anything back.  Life is getting a little “interesting.”

Usually, when I enter the first floor chapel of the Shrine, I go to the left side, where the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament.  That day I went to the right side of the chapel, where in the sanctuary is a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, praying before a large representation of the San Damiano cross.  The original cross was in the Assisian chapel of San Damiano, where a young Francis went to pray.  The origins of the cross are shrouded in mystery, but it is made in the Byzantine icon style.  Praying before the cross, Francis heard the voice of Jesus speaking from the cross: “Francis, rebuild my church!”  The rest, as they say, is history!

I seated myself before the large replica of the San Damiano cross, and began to pray, saying over and over the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  I was focused on the face of the Crucified Jesus.  I was drawn to the eyes, which are unique.  I cannot describe the experience, only to say that at that moment, I was in a different space.  The anxieties, the concerns, the worries, suddenly disappeared from my consciousness, if only for a moment in time.  A light dispelled the darkness that was in my heart.

Many of us, perhaps most of us, when times get tough, will pray to God for some kind of miracle that will solve all of our problems.  Usually we are hoping the Lord will influence the interviewer, or we will win the Lottery!  And miracles can happen, will happen, and does happen!  But what we can really hope; what we need to be aware of is that we are never alone.  We may be carrying a burden, but we do not carry it alone.  Jesus calls us to take up our crosses daily, and follow him.  The One who carried his cross to Calvary, knows our suffering, knows what pains, and fears weigh us down.  He is walking with us, encouraging us onward.  His Spirit is within us, filling us with peace, with hope.  We need only to keep our hearts; our souls open to that light.  And hear Jesus assure us, that over that dark hill of Calvary, a new dawn does await us!

Reflection on Last Weekend’s Retreat

As I have posted previously, members of the Diaconate classes ordained in 2012, 2013, and 2014, are required to come together for a jointEnders Island Chapel retreat.  This year’s retreat was held at Saint Edmund’s Retreat Center, on Enders Island, Mystic, CT.  Our retreat director was Father William Murphy, who is on the staff of St. Pope John XXIII National Seminary, MA.

Some random thoughts from the retreat:

The Church’s primary message, received from Jesus Christ, what we Deacons are to proclaim by our words and actions: God loves us, God cares for us.

No matter what matter troubles afflict us, no matter what anxieties there are in our lives, “we are being held in God’s arms, we are safe!”

In the Book of Exodus, we see the Hebrews threatened by Pharaoh’s army, God tells them to stand firm, and not to be afraid, and He will save them.  God is also telling us to stand firm in the face of pain and suffering we may be experiencing; He will be there to help us.  God wants us bring all thing to Him, our joys and our fears.  In the Gospels, Jesus promises that He will be there to help us with our burdens.

As Deacons, we are to be witnesses of the Love of God.  When we proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, by the words we speak to others, by the care we give to others, we are witnessing to God’s love.  When we help to raise people up from their burdens, we are witnessing to the love and hope that comes to us through Jesus Christ.

I know that for some these words may sound hollow; I will admit that at times the road ahead right now looks dark threatening.  But I also know that God cares for me, and is trying to help me, right here, right now, if only I just open my heart and soul to his Presence.  I trust in the words of Jesus, when today, He promises to be with me, and will be with me till the end of the agEnders Chapel JFJe.

This is the truth all of us Christians, especially we ministers of His Word must witness to, at every moment of every day.

A task Father gave to us Deacons was to remember the words from our Ordination and live them: “receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ whose heralds you have become.  Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

The retreat was definitely a time to practice deeper prayer, to be more present and open to my God.  The challenge now is carrying that experience forward into my daily life. Enders Island 3

Keep On Moving On!

Job Search Continues

“I wait patiently for God to save me;

I depend on him alone.

He alone protects and saves me;

he is my defender and I shall never be defeated.

Trust in God at all times,

my people.

Tell him all your troubles, for he is our refuge.”

(Psalm 62: 1-2, 8)

I have posted several times about my layoff, and the aftermath.  I have written about the struggles with unemployment assistance, the uncertainty of the job search situation, and the depression that can come with the experience.  I do not want to give the impression that everything in my life is doom and gloom.  I am not alone in dealing with this new chapter in my life; there is my wife, who has supported me, and when needed, has given me a much needed kick in the ass.  There have been family members, from both sides, who have provided help and support in so many ways.  There are some members of my parishes, and parish staff, who always inquire on how I am doing, and encourage me onward!  My brother deacons continue to be very supportive; some have been an informal networking group for me.

I continue to discover, through the Career Place, and through the Web, new ways to job search; how to get my name and resume out there.  At the Career Place, whether in a workshop, or a seminar, you come to realize that you are not the only one going through this.  The thing I have to do now is to get my butt in gear.  To not just sit and rot, but to get going, to greet each day as an opportunity; not just in job searching, but in those activities that also feed my mind, body, and soul.  My job searching will continue to take priority, but also my need to just get out, walk around, get some decent exercise, and enjoy God’s Creation, especially as Spring is really beginning to dawn.  This blogging, this writing, is an outlet for my creative and reflective juices.  Also taking up the drawing pencil and paintbrush is also another approach I need to look at, and make some time for.

Finally, I need to take care of my soul, to make time for prayer.  And not just liturgical prayer, as important as it is, but also for deep personal prayer.  I need to entire that type of prayer, which opens me to experience God’s Presence in my life, to experience God’s love and care for me, as I am traveling this new road in my life.  In God, I will find my refuge during the tough times; in God, I will recognize the joy and love that is out there in the world.  So I am just going “keep on shuffling!”