Thanksgiving Day – 2017

Thanksgiving_grace_1942I am on Cape Cod this Thanksgiving Day, with my wife, her mother and some of her siblings, nephews and nieces.  After a wet drive from the South Shore the night before, this day has been sunny, clear, crisp and cool. In the morning we went to the local Catholic church, and attended a Thanksgiving Mass.  My wife, Peg’s father passed away in October, so after Mass, we visited his grave.

As I write this, various members of the family have bringing their donations for this Thanksgiving tableevening’s dinner.  Food is being prepared, table cloths spread out, and the table has been set.  With all this activity, I have begun to reflect on the meaning of Thanksgiving Day.  Some trace it roots to the English Reformation, during the time when the Puritans had strong influence over the Church of England.  Holy days were done away with; to be replaced by Days of Fasting during times of national tragedies, or stress, and Days of Thanksgiving for good harvests and national victories.  The Pilgrims brought these practices with them to New England.  Various colonies and then states would proclaim days of Thanksgiving.  Abraham Lincoln would issue a presidential proclamation, establishing Thanksgiving as a holiday throughout all the states.

Thanksgiving Day was meant to be a time of both feasting, and prayer.  But as with Christmas and Easter, Thanksgiving has fallen prey to commercial interests.  Stores, car dealerships, you name it, sponsor special “Thanksgiving sales,” using the images of Pilgrims, Indians, pumpkins and turkeys to promote their wares.  Groups of people have a different approach to the day.  The Massachusetts town of Plymouth has a community parade celebrating the day; Native Americans hold a Day of Mourning.

May it be time to try to bring back the spiritual aspect of Thanksgiving?  Whether you are a Christian or not; a believer or not; we all need to have time reflect on what good has happened in our lives this past year, if only to counter the negative experiences we may have had.  As a believer, this day makes me aware that all Creation is gift; that our lives are gift; gifts from a loving God.  Sometimes, circumstances may lead us to doubt that, but life is a gift, and God still cares for us, in wondrous and mysterious ways.  And I am grateful for that.

As I walk around and see the woods and fields in autumn; when I look up into the evening sky, studded with stars, I am moved to thank God for the awesome beauty I am seeing.  I close with a prayer from the writings of St. Francis of Assisi.  Not exactly a Thanksgiving prayer, but I think it is appropriate for the day:

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,
and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention 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.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.

(Canticle of the Sun)

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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St. Elizabeth of Hungary – Patroness of Secular Franciscans

St. Elizabeth of HungaryToday, November 17th, Franciscans around the world, but especially Secular Franciscans, will celebrate the memory of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.  With St. Louis IX of France, she is Co-Patron Saint of the Secular Franciscan Order.

Born in Hungary, in 1207, she went to the German territory of Thuringia, to become the wife of its ruler, Louis.  Together they would have four children.  She would become well known for her acts of charity to the poor, establishing a hospital for the ill; and food for her poor subjects. Her husband would die from illness, while he was traveling to join an Imperial Crusade to the Holy Land. Court intrigue forced Elizabeth, with some of her children, to abandon the capital city, and flee. In a smaller, poorer city, she took residence and continued her service to the poor. Influenced by the recent arrival of Franciscan friars, she took one of them as her spiritual advisor. She would eventually become a Franciscan penitent. She would also eventually die relatively young.

St. Elizabeth can be, in fact, is a counter cultural example for our modern times. With our fascination with the rich and famous. With a minority of people controlling the majority of wealth in our country; to hear of a young, energetic woman willingly give up her riches for the poor, should shake our complacency. How best can we answer Christ’s command to feed the hungry; shelter the homeless; welcome the stranger. And what opportunities have we missed to do so?

Through the intercession of St. Elizabeth, may our eyes and hearts be open to those in need.

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.

Would We Prefer the Better Part or Not?

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.’ The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.’ (Luke 10: 38-42)

I am sure that there are many of us, who could identify with Martha, the Martha and Maryultimate hostess. She has invited an up and coming rabbi, and his followers, to her home. She has invited her friends and neighbors to come and come and hear Jesus speak and teach. And, of course, she must make sure everyone has had their dusty feet washed; that they have a beverage to drink, and something to eat. And she is beginning to feel stretched, and resentment towards her “do-nothing” sister begins to grow. Finally, she demands that Jesus tell Mary to get off her butt and start working. Jesus makes the point that Mary prefers to listen to the Good News, and this moment will not be taken away. Mary is being present to the Lord, fully present to the Word; open to the Word, letting the Word she hears change her. Martha is allowing too many tasks preventing her from being fully present to Jesus, she is not hearing the Good News, she is not allowing it to transform her. One can imagine that as Jesus tells Martha; “…you are anxious and worried about many things, it is with a tinge of sadness. Martha is missing something wonderful.

Many of us also lead very, very busy lives, what with family issues, work issues, and social media issues. There is so much on our plates, so much, that maybe we too are missing something wonderful. Jesus, through Luke’s Gospel; is asking us to stop, be still, and open ourselves to His Spirit. He is asking us to find peace and rest in His Presence; refreshment for our souls.

And I am not saying this would be easy, to still our minds, hearts, and just listen. It takes practice; it takes discipline. And there are many different practices that can help us grow; centering prayer, lectio divina, and the Jesus Prayer, are techniques that can help us be more still, just sitting in the presence of Jesus Christ. And every experience we have, as our discipline grows more stronger, will lead us to prefer this quiet moments alone with God, more than anything else.
Prefer

Weekend Coffee Share – 10/22/2017

deacon coffee mugWelcome! Here is a cup of coffee, hot off the Keurig. Today, I want to share experiences from last weekend. Last Saturday, the second Saturday of the month, my Secular Franciscan fraternity holds its monthly meeting. It is held at Saint Anthony’s Shrine, located in downtown Boston, MA. I have been trying to attend this meeting more regularly; so, I was up early in the morning, grabbing a commuter train. I transferred to the subway, and got off at Downtown Crossing, Boston.
I came early into the city; so I would be able to walk around the area before the meeting. It had Downtown Crossing 2017been a while since I had made such a walk about. The biggest change in the neighborhood, is the Millennium Tower. Built in the space where the famous Filene’s Department Store once stood, it is a very, very tall high-rise building. It houses department stores, offices, and condominium apartments. I have not been around Millenium Towerthe entire building, so I was amazed at the changes I saw! One thing that really stood out for me; was the number of coffee shops that are in neighborhood now! I am not talking about an increase in the number of Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks; but places like Caffe Nero. One can imagine the amount of caffeine flowing through the veins of the residents and office workers!
Bromfield Pen ShopOne stop that I had to make was the Bromfield Pen Shop, which is located, where else? On Bromfield Street! It has the largest collection writing instruments, including fountain pens, I have ever seen. And the most expensive collection of pens I have ever seen! I like looking over their pens, and the notebooks and journals they sell also. Sadly, I have only been able to purchase a Pelikano Junior, a very sturdy plastic fountain pen. I purchased a new box of ink cartridges for it, and with a wistful look behind me, left the shop.

St Paul cathedral EpiscopalI continued to walk up Bromfield St., towards Tremont St., which forms one border of the Boston Common.  My intention was to visit the Episcopal St. Paul Cathedral.  The church was established in 1819, as an Episcopalian parish.  In 1912, St. Paul’s was designated as the Cathedral Church of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.  When I worked in the Downtown, I would visit St. Paul’s on a regular basis; I found the quiet interior to be conducive to meditation.  Back then, it still had, what I would call, cubicle seating.  The pews arrangedInterior St Paul and separated by stalls.  I had heard that the cathedral church was going to be renovated, and I wanted to see the result.  When I entered the main church, I was stunned!  Gone were the pews, the memorial plaques on the walls, the altar rail.  It was wide open space, with stackable, plain chairs arranged for some service.  The interior was flooded with natural light, streaming from the skylights above.  And in the center, was a labyrinth.  Music flooded the church, as an organist was playing at the organ in the chancel of the Cathedral.  I still had a very peaceful experience during my time there.
I left the Cathedral and made my way to the Shrine, to attend the 12:00 Noon Mass, with the rest of the fraternity. I had forgotten that this Mass was going to be a special one, because we were St. Anthony Shrine 2017celebrating a Profession. A young man, Bobby Hillis, was going to profess his intention to live the Gospel life, in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, by following the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order. For about a year and half, he has been in formation, learning what it means to be a Franciscan; in his personal life; his life in the Church; his life in the world. After the homily, before the Franciscan priest, who was our celebrant, and our fraternity Minister, and the whole Fraternity, he declared:

I, Bobby Hillis, by the grace of God, renew my baptismal promises and consecrate myself to the service of his Kingdom. Therefore, in my secular state I promise to live all the days of my life the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Secular Franciscan Order by observing its rule of life. May the grace of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our holy father St. Francis, and the fraternal bonds of community always be my help, so that I may reach the goal of perfect Christian love.
[Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order, pp. 23 & 24.]

After the Profession Mass, we all gathered in the Shrine’s auditorium for a celebratory luncheon. For anytime a new member is professed, it “is a cause of great joy and hope for all the members of the community and for the whole Church.” (Ritual, p. 24)

SFO Profession 1 102017

SFO Profession 2 2017

 

So that was my trip into downtown Boston; now the coffee cups have to go into the dishwasher rack. Hope to see you again next week.