Feast of St. Anthony of Padua

img_0635On this day, the Catholic Church, and especially members of the Franciscan family, celebrate the life of St. Anthony of Padua.

In many Franciscan parishes, chapels and shrines; the friars will be distributing “St. Anthony’s Bread.” It a practice of charity, harkening back to a time when bread was actually distributed to the poor and hungry. One legend has it that a French cloth merchant could not get into her shop, because of a broken lock. She asked for help and intercession of St. Anthony, promising to give bread to the poor, in return. The lock miraculously opened, the shop was in business, and woman made good on her promise.

Since that time, Franciscan friary distribute small, blessed loaves of bread to people, as a reminder that as they receive blessings from God, they are to share it with those in need, for the love of God.

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“I am the Good Shepherd” – Fourth Sunday of Easter

Jesus-Good-Shepherd-05Acts 4: 8-12

1 John 3: 1-2

John 10: 11-18

 

 

 

11″I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14″I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.   (John 10: 11-16)

In today’s Gospel, we hear again Jesus describing himself as the “Good Shepherd;” and what being faithful to that description entails.  He is the one who will give up his life to protect his sheep; who will guide his sheep to safe pastures.  In turn, his sheep will recognize his voice, will follow him wherever he leads them.  And other sheep, not of his original flock, will also recognize his voice, and they will be gathered into the same flock.

Jesus, indeed, gave his life for his flock (us); by his death and resurrection, he freed us from the dangers of sin and death.  His words continue to guide us along the right path to the Kingdom of God, if we but listen to them, and act on them.  He continues to feed us with his Body and Blood; giving us the strength needed to follow him along the right paths, no matter how difficult they may be.  His Presence among us, within us; gives us the hope that we will find  a place of repose, in this life and into the next.

We also need to recognize, though, that we are all called to be “shepherds,” by virtue of belonging to the Body of Christ; and caring for each other, both friend and stranger.  We are also “shepherds,” when we, by the example of our daily lives, draw others to come and join with us in the flock; in the community of believers.

 

“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

Christmas – 2017

Christmas Eve SBC 2017

 

Christmas time has come around once more for all Christians, for all Catholics. The Church has put away it’s purple colored vestments and liturgical decorations. The Advent wreath has been taken down. In their place, the chapel sanctuary, where I worship, is strewn with red and white poinsettias, a Christmas tree, with white lights. A manger scene with Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus, has been set up in front of the altar.

 
The chapel quickly fills for our 4:00PM Vigil Mass, and soon it is standing room only. Our guitar choral group leads us in song, we join in singing the old Christmas favorites. We have a guest priest as our celebrant this night, and the sacred liturgy begins. We hear the words of the prophet Isaiah spoken; telling of ancient Israel’s future vindication, and rebirth. Then we hear the Good News from St. Matthew, proclaimed by our celebrant:

 

“18
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
19
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
20
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord* appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
21
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.”
24
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
25
He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. “ (Matt. 1: 18-25)

 
After hearing how Christ Jesus, though he was Son of God, willingly came into this world as a child, to begin the work of salvation; we are soon witness to another miracle. Christ is made present to us in the form of bread and wine, transformed into his Body and Blood. It was my privilege and honor to help distribute Holy Communion to those who approach. I feel something in my heart, as I hold up each host for the communicant to see, and say with conviction: “The Body of Christ.” And then place the host in the hands of the person, or on their tongue.

 
There the final prayers, and the blessing of the priest; we then sing joyful Christmas songs; celebrating the sacred event that happened in Bethlehem; the sacred moment we just experienced, and leave with the hope of Jesus’ promised return, when a new heaven and a new earth will come to be.

All peace and joy be yours this Christmas day, and God’s blessings on you for the coming year.

Pax et Bonum!

 

On Retreat

April had been a rough month.  During Holy Week, I came down with flu, and lost my voice.  So I was not able to assist at the Holy Week Services.  Getting over the flu took a lot out of me, physically and spiritually.  So it was probably a good thing that the Archdiocese of Boston annual Deacon retreat took place this weekend.

It was held at the Jesuit Campion Retreat Center, on Weston, MA.  Our retreat director was Brother Paul Feeney, CFX, who is popular with the Diaconate community, both as an educator and Retreat master.

His theme was what we can learn from spiritual master’s Evelyn Underhill, Dutch priest, Henri Nouwen; and how their writings can help us renew our spiritual lives.

It was also an opportunity to recharge my own spiritual life.