Second Sunday of Lent – A Short Reflection

“Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call; have pity on me, and answer me. Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.

Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me; do not in anger repel your servant. You are my helper: cast me not off.

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27

We have experienced many tragedies in our world, in our country, in our community, and in our Church. Our world has been shaken by the massacre of innocent Muslims in New Zealand. Our country continues to experience natural disasters. Communities in my home State have witnessed shocking violent crimes. And the Church still struggles with the effects of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

And we speak out, where is God in all this? We seek the Lord to come to our aid; to give us comfort. The truth is that he is always with us. He is present in ones who give us help and comfort. He speaks through those who speak up for the poor and forgotten. And we feel his Presence, when we are still, and listen for his voice.

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.

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!

Honor The Fallen

Outside my office building in the South Shore, the company lowered the American flag to half staff. It honors the memory Sargent Michael Chesna, a Weymouth, MA police officer, who died in the line of duty. Many of us, in the face of violence or disaster, will run for cover. Extraordinary men and women, like Sargent Chesna, with the duty of protecting us, will charge forward. Sadly, some do not return.

We remember their courage, we pray for, and support their loved ones that are left behind. And we also must remember the victims. In this incident, we pray for Vera Adams, shot in her sun room.

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them!

Through the mercy of God, may they Rest In Peace!

What Happens Next?

Country Mourns 1A week later, our nation is still in mourning over the tragedy occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada. 58 individuals confirmed dead; over 500 individuals wounded, some critically. And for an untold number of families and friends of victims; and the citizens of Las Vega, their lives have been turned upside down forever. What makes this event even more frightening, is that authorities still cannot get a handle on a motive; why did a person, for no reason at all, slaughter innocent persons? In many ways, that question alone is terrifying.

Prayer services and remembrances are being held in Las Vegas, and across the country. Politicians are sending condolences and words of comfort to the victim’s loved ones. There are some politicians, however, who have refused to join in such ceremonies or gatherings. They do so because such events have become far too frequent in this nation because of far too many mass shootings. They want actions that will help prevent something like this from happening again. And then, there are those who wish to mute the uproar; who are passionate about their interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They feel that any discussion on the issue of gun control, will deny them of their rights, of their way of life.

So, here is where I go out on a limb. There is a part of me that is a pacifist, who is against the use of lethal force. An early Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, of which I am a member, forbade it members to carry weapons, (during the Middle Ages, that would get you in very hot water!). Yet, at that the same time, I am a pragmatist/realist. I know that American gun culture is here to stay. I am not against those who hunt; whether for need or for sport. I am not against those who feel the need to have a licensed weapon for protection. And I know that lethal force sometimes must be used to defend oneself, and others. What I am against, is the unregulated proliferation of weapons, especially military class automatic or semi-automatic weapons, which are designed to kill as many persons, as rapidly as possible. We have seen what havoc these weapons can wreck upon a community, when they are in the hands of an unstable individual. Yet, our politicians are, in many cases, afraid even to debate or just discuss measures to address this, for fear of the powerful gun lobby.

I pray that reason will take hold again in this country; I pray that our political leaders will be able to sit down with each, and discuss a way forward, that both respects the legitimate desires of gun owners, and will protect citizens from another tragedy like Las Vegas.

I feel the need to quote from Scripture; it might be out of context, but at this moment, it speaks to me:

Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.  (Matt 26:50-52)

I hope soon we will all put our “swords” back into its sheath.

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

Weekend Coffee Share – o6/19/2016

deacon coffee mugIf we were sharing a cup of coffee, I would tell you that my wife and I are on Cape Cod this weekend.  We are visiting her parents, and celebrating Father’s Day.  The weather is beautiful; cool sea breezes, blue skies and bright sunlight.  It is a nice break, a nice change of scenery for a bit.  And it is a little respite from the feelings that I still have concerning the tragedy in Orlando, FL  My in-laws do not have their TV on much, so I have been out of touch with the world.  It is a nice break, but only a temporary one.  We still have to reflect on, pray over, and act on the events of that terrible night.

Over a cup of coffee, I would tell you that since last we met, I, as a deacon, baptized two little girls into the Catholic Christian faith.  One was a relative newborn, the other was a toddler.  I preached a short homily, telling the assembled families and friends that we were about to witness something awesome!  The power of the Holy Spirit was going to be at work before us.  Through the waters of Baptism, they were brought into the Mystical Body of Christ.  And their lives will be forever changed.  And the lives of their parents are forever changed, for they have made a commitment to the Church to bring their children up in the Faith.  I tell them that fulfilling that promise means something more than just seeing to it that their child goes to religious education classes.  It means that they must show how the Faith is lived, by the example of their own lives; both the struggles and the joys.  They are in my prayers.

ACMNPOver a cup of coffee, I would tell that many years ago, when I was a young seminarian, I spent a couple of summers in an ecumenical program, called A Christian Ministry in the National Parks.  They recruited seminary and college students from all Christian denominations; to go out to various national parks, and lead Sunday worship services for park visitors and employees.  We seminarians were called Student Ministers.  Those of us who were Catholic, would either assist a visiting priest at Mass, or lead a Service of the Word.  I had my first experiences of preaching before people back then. Some of usalso organized Bible study groups, or organized choral singing groups.  We earned our keep by working for the park concessionaires; I found myself working in some kitchens in Yellowstone National Park.  Recently I signed up to become a ACMNP Prayer Partner for someone who will be going to a park in Alaska.  Daily, I remember this young man in my prayers; praying for his safety, and success in his ministry.

Well, the coffee cup is empty, I wish you all wellness and blessings, and hope to see you again over a hot cuppa joe.