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.

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Blogger’s Block? Here’s How to Beat it

Well, talk about good timing, when I came across this during my web surfing. Thank you, Mr. Peters!

The Art of Blogging

Too many of your posts start with an apology for not having been around of late? The joy you first brought to blogging now a distant memory?

Looks like a case of blogger’s block. Don’t worry… there is a cure.

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Writer’s Block During The Crisis In the Church! Oh Heck!

Writer's blockWe are currently in the most serious times in the recent life of the Catholic Church.  In Rome, in the United States, and other parts of the Catholic world; stories of the cover up of misdeeds of an American Cardinal, involving Pope Francis; the findings of a Pennsylvania grand jury on clergy abuse of children; and reports of sexual misconduct in an Archdiocesan seminary have filled the air ways.  And we now have bishops calling for the resignation of Pope Francis.

And in the midst of all, I cannot yet put fingers to keyword, and write my own reactions, my own reflections on what is happening now!  How does all this negative news affect me?  Because I am, as a deacon, a member of the clergy; although our lives are divided among family, work, and service to the Church.  I am not really that plugged in to the clerical culture.  So how do I react, one foot in Church “culture;” the other in the “real’ world?  I have not quite figured that out yet, so my fingers are still.  For the moment.

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!

Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola – A Reflection

St. IgnatiusThe story goes, that when I was born, my father put forward an unusual name for me.  He had been a recent graduate of Boston College, an institution founded by the Society of Jesus; also known as the Jesuits.  He had been impressed by these priests and brothers; so much so, that he wanted to name his first born after their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola!  My mother, being of strong willed Irish-Italian stock, basically said: “No way!”

A compromise was struck, my baptismal name was given as “Francis,”  after St. Francis Xavier, SJ, one of the original members of the Society.  My connection with the Jesuits was renewed, when as part of my Deacon formation, I and my classmates attended annual retreats at Campion Hall in Weston MA.  It is a Jesuit run retreat center, as well as a retirement home for their members.  So I began to learn more about the saint, whose name I almost inherited.

St. Ignatius was born in the Basque country of northern Spain.  He originally was raised to be a soldier of Spain.  At age 30, he was seriously wounded in a battle defending a town against an invading Spanish army. One of his legs was broken by a cannon ball, and he was brought back to the family home.  During his recovery, he read the only books available to him; a life of Jesus Christ, and stories about the saints.  Reflecting on what he read, he had a conversion experience.  He dedicated his life, body and soul to Christ.  The path that he took to reach this point, he would eventually create The Spiritual Exercises.  It is a blueprint, a process to help a spiritual director guide a person into a closer, more intimate relationship with God; developing an attentiveness, an openness, and responsiveness to God.

When he was studying at the University of Paris to become a priest, he was also guiding some of his classmates through the Spiritual Exercises.  Inspired by what they experienced, six of them, along with Ignatius, decided to form a company, a society, dedicated to serving the Church, under the direction of the Pope.  Thus was the Society of Jesus formed.  Since that time, Jesuits have traveled the world; as missionaries, educators, writers, parish priests and spiritual directors.  One of St. Ignatius’ spiritual sons would be elected as head of the Catholic Church, our current Pontiff, Pope Francis.

St. Ignatius, has been recognized as more of  a founder and organizer of a powerful religious community; and not so much as a mystic, except perhaps within the Jesuit communities themselves.  That has been changing, more diocesan priests, religious, and laypersons have taken the Spiritual Exercises, and it has enriched their spiritual lives.

Prayer for Generosity

Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will.
Amen.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

 

 

Fifty Years And Counting; Celebrating in “The Big Easy!”

deacon red stoleFrom July 22 to July 26, 2018, 1,300 Catholic deacons, along with their wives and children, gathered in New Orleans, LA, for the 2018 National Diaconate Congress.  This year’s meeting was significant because 2018 is the fiftieth anniversary of the restoration of the permanent Diaconate in the Latin Rite Catholic Church.  Nationwide, there are  18,500 permanent deacons in the United States.  Columnist, blogger, and Deacon, Greg Kandra, shares some of his experiences of the Congress.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, presided at the opening Mass.  In his comments to the deacons before the end of the celebration of the Eucharist, he challenged them “to be an evangelizing force in the world.”  The homilist at the opening Mass, was Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans.  He called on the deacons present to be the “conscience” of the Church; bringing it’s attention to the needs of the poor and powerless.  “All Christians are called to charity by their baptism, but deacons lead us as a church in the works of charity,” he said. “We look to you in some ways as the conscience of the church. We ask you to find those who are in need and to invite us to serve them. And when we forget them or fail to be people of charity as a church, we ask you to be our conscience and to call us back to what God asks.”

It is a challenge that all of us deacons need to accept, and act on.  Through reading and reflecting on the Scriptures, through prayer and being open to the Spirit, to realize new ways to serve the poor; to be a voice for the poor.  To seek from the Holy Spirit the strength to reach out of our “comfort zones,” and encounter the poor where they are.  Now is the time for us discover what new ways are open to us on how to live and minister as husbands, parents, and deacons.