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.

August 6, 2014

Landing

A couple of months into my third year in Italy I have landed in my fourth--and presumably final--location. First was a month in Assisi as a student at the Accademia Lingua Italiana Assisi then three months in the Roman neighborhood of Garbatella while a student at the funnily named Torre di Babele (Tower of Babel) language school here in Rome. Then almost two years in the back section of the Collegio Internazionale San Lorenzo da Brindisi in the outskirts of Rome with the rest of the displaced fraternity of the General Curia, where it was staying while the Curia in town began renovations.

And now, even though the renovations aren't quite done, I've moved with the rest of the fraternity of the General Curia back to its proper home in the middle of Rome.


The new building is very nice. For the first time since I was parochial vicar in Yonkers, I have an office that isn't my room, which is a good boundary between work and life. I'm reminded a lot of the beginning of my post-novitiate formation, which was the last time I lived through a building renovation. One of the things that isn't done is the church, so we have been going around the corner in the morning to pray Morning Prayer and Mass with the Montfort Missionaries at their little church dedicated to Our Lady, Regina Cordium. (Queen of Hearts). I don't mind at all. Sometimes in religious life I have missed that feeling of 'going to church.'

Mostly I'm grateful for the landing.

July 10, 2014

Residency Permit Renewal, Part 3

The latest step in trying to renew my permesso di soggiorno went so well and smoothly that it felt strange. Having filled out the forms with the help of a model provided by the same helpful brother from the previous post, I set out with them after Mass this morning.

After the walk to the bus stop, I waited only a couple of minutes before two Franciscan nuns pulled up to the bus stop.

"Pace e bene," they greeted. "Where are you going?"

"Ahead to the Commercial Center," I responded. They said they would take me.

The sisters dropped me off right in front of a tabacchi, which is where you need to go to buy the 16 euro stamp that you have to stick on the top of form #1 before you hand it in at the post office. From there I went across the street to the post office. I pressed the appropriate button on the machine where you take a number. As soon as my number came out of the machine it came up at the Sportello Amico. That's the "friend window," because the Republic of Italy is your friend. No waiting at the Italian post office, that's a new one. I gave my kit to the man, who turned out to be very nice. He checked this, scanned that, typed into his computer, took my €158.50, and eventually provided me with the correct receipts and the sheet of paper that tells you when to show up at Via Del Mascherino 12.

In fact, the only thing that didn't go so well was the wait for the bus to take me home. But at that point I wasn't about to complain.