October 22, 2014

Pope St. John Paul II

Here in Rome, the Pope is our local bishop and therefore we celebrate the feast days of more beatified and canonized Popes than in other local churches.

Today we have the joy of celebrating the obligatory memorial of Pope St. John Paul II. His reading for the Office of Readings is taken from his homily at his papal inauguration, October 22, 1978, and ends with some vintage JP2:
So often today, man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.
Pope St. John Paul II, pray for us.

October 21, 2014

A Preaching Life

Msgr. Mongelluzzo, our dear preaching teacher, used to say that it was "a preaching life," by which I understood that preaching from the Sacred Scriptures wasn't to be just an activity of our lives but something woven into the whole fabric of our days. This was easy to understand when I was at the parish and preaching almost every day, often enough more than once. But in my current circumstances, in which I preach perhaps once a month, I sometimes wonder what Msgr.'s affirmation might mean.

Perhaps there is something like an answer in a grace that I have sometimes, of which today is a good example, when the Scriptures invite me to pray for particular people. Today's gospel:
"Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.” (Luke 12:37-38)
That used to be on my go-to gospel passages for wakes. I would preach the great reversal--the master who waits on the servants--as our hope for our dead, that they might come to the heavenly rest, cared for and nourished by the Master who makes himself Servant.

So in the pause after the homily this morning, I was invited to pray again for all those deceased and their families with whom I had once prayed and preached this gospel. It's a preaching life.

October 14, 2014

beloved in the Beloved

"In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'" (Mark 1:9-11)

"Also the storm of persecutions beats on Christians. They will not fear, for they see the heavens open above them" (St. Cyprian in the Office of Readings for Pope St. Callistus I)

A Christian is someone baptized into the baptism of Jesus Christ. The heavens have opened above her, the Spirit has descended upon her, and the Father proclaims her beloved in the Beloved.

From embracing this knowledge comes the courage to face all the persecutions that come from the world, the flesh, and the devil, from within or without.

October 5, 2014

RIP: Fr. Benedict Groeschel

In  the quiet of the afternoon of the feast of St. Francis I got the news that Fr. Benedict Joseph Groeschel, CFR, had passed from this life.

I met Fr. Benedict a few times over the years: a couple of times at Capuchin events, once on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the CFR novitiate in Newark, and once at a celebration of Confirmation at The Children's Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York, at which Cardinal Dolan presided.

As I prayed for Fr. Benedict's eternal rest last night, a couple bits of gratefulness came to mind in particular. The first was for a television series he had on EWTN in the early 90s. If I remember rightly, it was called The Truths of Salvation. I don't remember if I was watching it while still a 'seeker' or if I was already baptized, but that show provided a lot of my early catechesis. The other thing I thought of was Fr. Benedict's book, The Courage to be Chaste, which was a great help to me at one time.

Requiescat in pace.

September 9, 2014

Best Penance Ever

On my way home from an appointment this morning I stopped by the Lateran Basilica to visit the Italian-English-Irish confessor, a gentle old friar. (How many penitents does he get who confess in Irish?) I really appreciated the penance he gave me:

"Pray the Veni Creator Spiritus for yourself, five Hail Marys for the people of the parish, and few more for the person you hurt."

September 2, 2014

A Couple of Joys

It's been almost a month since the move to town, and I find myself just thanking God for some of the joys of the new situation. Here are a couple of them:

After lunch and supper we friars do the dishes. Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it's something plain and wholesome and honest that wasn't part of our life during my two years at the Collegio. Most days it has fallen to me to do the drying at the end of the pots and pans line. I enjoy the conversation or pray if there isn't any. I often think of St. Teresa: Mirad que entre los pucheros y las ollas anda Dios. "See that God walks among the pots and pans."

Another joy is that now that we are in town, I'm able to take some Masses outside of the house. This week I'm going to the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto. It's good to have to preach at daily Mass, even if it's with my very few words of Italian. It's also a nice walk to the sisters--through the Villa Borghese park and around the zoo, where I hear some of the animals getting up in the morning. It's also good to pray and be with women, even if Mother General gave me a translation project to do!

One other note about the sisters: Since I would be going all week, I left my alb at the convent. Sister Sacristan, perhaps regarding my paper-clip zipper pull as undignified or inadequate, replaced it with a loop of cord.

August 29, 2014

22

That's how old I am today. In the Lord, anyway. Twenty-two years ago this afternoon I walked up and out of the basement of Freeman dormitory and down to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Quaker Hill, Connecticut, where I was baptized into the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was the most important moment of my life, and I had little idea of what I was getting into. And this was mercy on the Holy Spirit's part.

It's been quite a journey since then. If you had told me then that on the twenty-second anniversary of that day I would get up in Rome, pray Morning Prayer and Mass and then descend to the secret life of an office where I would translate news blurbs from Italian to English and prepare letters for bishops in Ethiopia and Eritrea, I don't know what I would have thought.

After twenty-two years, my greatest challenge is getting too comfortable. For better and for worse, I am fully socialized to religious life. I could live this life without devotion, without real prayer. I could do the assignment the Order has given me on natural talent alone. The few times I have to preach in my current circumstances I could manage on natural cleverness, though it would be a betrayal of the Church that has ordained me. The great danger is to get comfortable saying all my prayers and doing what I have to do, all without God.

In this regard I am fortunate that God permits me certain afflictions, angels of Satan to beat me and keep me from getting comfortable. (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7) Though I have put on Christ in baptism, the old Adam still haunts me, carrying on because he doesn't realize that he's dead, drowned at the bottom of the Jordan.

But, though occasionally tempted, I don't despair. On the contrary, I have joy because God gives me the desire to pray each day, and I know that this is the Holy Spirit praying in me, if only I surrender to the grace. When I have to preach the same Holy Spirit gives me the words. And above all I know that God is faithful, and that if he has put into my heart the desire to be a 'convert' he will bring this grace to fulfillment, in this life or the next, and convert my heart to him.