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





Communion in the Hand – An Issue Again?

Communion in the handCardinal Robert Sarah, who is the senior Vatican official responsible for the liturgical practices of the Roman Catholic Church, has stirred things up in the Catholic blogosphere.  In a forward he wrote for a book on Eucharistic theology, he stated his belief that reception of Holy Communion in the hand, and standing, not kneeling and on the tongue, is a desecration of the Sacrament.  He states that the practice helps Satanic powers disrupt the work of the Church.

Now, keep in mind, Catholics  have been allowed to receive Communion on either the tongue, or in the hand since the 1960’s.  What is important is the disposition of one’s mind and soul.  I have received in the hand, since it was allowed in this country since the 1970’s.  I have helped distribute Holy Communion, as both an Extraordinary Eucharistic minister, and as a Deacon.  I have witnessed people of faith come up and reverently receive the Body of Christ, some on their tongue and consuming it, or in their cupped hand, and then consuming it.

What amazes me, is that after all this time, this is still an issue!  Looking back, I found a 2015 post I wrote, covering basically the same ground.  I have hoped that we had learned to accept that both approaches are valid, are holy, and expresses our love and devotion for our Savior.

“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.

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

Sharing A Franciscan Friar’s Reflection On The Global Community

Secular Franciscan OrderThe following link is to a blog post written by Father Thomas O’Shea, OFM.  He is a friar of Holy Name Province, OFM.  For a while, he was stationed at Saint Anthony Shrine, in downtown Boston.  One of his duties was to be a Spiritual Assistant to my Secular Franciscan fraternity, where he contributed to our newsletter on a monthly basis.  He continues write for the Provincial web site:


Happy Birthday, Father Louis

MertonWednesday, January 31st, was the birthday of a Trappist monk and mystic, Father Louis, who was born in 1915.  Most of the world will know him as Thomas Merton.  Born to a New Zealander father and an American mother; he would eventually take up residence in the United States.  While attending college in New York, he had a conversion experience, that would eventually lead him to the Abbey of Gethsemane, in Kentucky.  In 1947, he became a professed member of the Trappist community; he was ordained a priest on May 26, 1949.  The year before, 1948, he published his autobiography, “The Seven Storey Mountain,”  which became the most popular book in American Catholic literature.

To be honest, I have never read the book; to the best of my recollection, my earliest encounter with his writings was either his history of the Trappist order, “The Waters of Siloe,” or one of his journals, “The Sign of Jonas.”  Since then I have acquired a good size collection of his books.  He had a talent for the making what it means to be a contemplative understandable; and more importantly, achievable by us ordinary folks.  His writings continue to inspire me to at least try to deepen my prayer life.  Some attempts have been more successful than others.

There have dry periods; sometimes very long dry periods.  But when I pick up one of his books and read, I get inspired again, and try once more to live contemplatively in my daily life.  And I am not alone, hundreds, if not thousands of individuals, both Christian and non-Christian, have taken up the journey, with Merton as our guide.