October 15, 2016

Lazy Capuchin Friars

One of the brethren brought to my attention this excerpt from William Dean Howells's Venetian Life.
The islands near Venice are all small, except the Giudecca (which is properly a part of the city), the Lido, and Murano. The Giudecca, from being anciently the bounds in which certain factious nobles were confined, was later laid out in pleasure-gardens, and built up with summer-palaces. The gardens still remain to some extent; but they are now chiefly turned to practical account in raising vegetables and fruits for the Venetian market, and the palaces have been converted into warehouses and factories. This island produces a variety of beggar, the most truculent and tenacious in all Venice, and it has a convent of lazy Capuchin friars, who are likewise beggars. To them belongs the church of the Redentore, which only the Madonnas of Bellini in the sacristy make worthy to be seen.

October 14, 2016

The Beard From Head To Heart

Recently I was in an email conversation about an occasional topic on this blog, Capuchin beards and Capuchin beard-growing.

One of the participants offered a link to an interesting Jewish take on the spiritual meaning of beard-growing. Rabbi Aron Moss writes:
One of the greatest struggles in life is to live up to our ideals. ... Between theory and practice there is a huge gulf. It is one thing to have good intentions, but that is far from actually doing good. ... This is what the beard represents. The beard is hair that grows down from the head to the rest of the body. It is the bridge between mind and heart, thoughts and actions, theory and practice, good intentions and good deeds.
Read the whole thing here.

When I was a kid the Chabad-Lubavitchers had a van that they would park in town in order to attract unobservant Jews and therein convert them. People called it the 'Mitzvah Tank.'

October 1, 2016

Quid Pro Quo

On a Saturday morning one of the General Councilors of the Order was mopping his room. As I passed in the hallway, he remarked that in the olden days the General Definitors (as they were until recently called) would bring along to Rome a brother famulus to assist them with such things.

As I thought upon this as I started to clean my own room--it is a duty explicitly defined by the Statutes of the General Curia and customarily fulfilled on a Saturday--I began to wonder if it wasn't because the Church has largely abandoned the Roman Canon (e.g. Eucharistic Prayer I), and so no longer prays pro famulis, that the brothers were no longer found ready to be famuli.

One gives himself to obedience for the sake of some spiritual benefit, of course. And if the spiritual benefit disappears, what use is the obedience?

September 26, 2016

Rant Follow Up

I received a couple of bits of salutary feedback on yesterday's post; I won't say 'fraternal correction,' just fraternal thoughts.

Though we can't always agree with or support certain choices of our brothers and sisters in religious life--or in the faith, for that matter--we can try to understand them and of course we are commanded by the Lord to love them. Probably just as many us around my age find some of the choices of our fathers and mothers in religious life hard to understand, so probably they found their spiritual forebears difficult as well. And probably when I get even older there will be younger friars who think I'm crazy and that my priorities are out of order.

To one degree or another, we are all conditioned by our experience and our historical moment in the world and in the Church as she exists in time (the Church Militant, if the traditional term is still retrievable), and this can have a great effect on the particular things we care about as well as our blind spots. I know well enough that there are aspects of the religious life at which I don't excel because of my deficits and the injuries of my own story.

I am proud of my resistance to the abuse of the liturgy and my unwillingness to participate in it. Once or twice I have had the happy occasion to suffer humiliation for it. But this doesn't mean I don't love or perhaps very much respect my brother. I understand that our choices arise in part from the complex places we come from. And I am grateful for all the ways I am sure that the brothers make similar allowances for me in the areas where my religious life is deficient and less than coherent.

September 25, 2016

(Franciscan) Liturgical Abuse Rant

Recently I've had some occasions to think about liturgical abuse.

Some of it, I think, is just pride and vainglory on the part of clergy. I need to do things my way. I need to get my theological or, horribile dictu, political tagline or slogan into the Mass, etc. But like most expressions of clerical vainglory and pride, these are often more laughable than dangerous.

But there's another form of liturgical abuse I've encountered in my Catholic life, in certain religious houses, schools, and parishes. It's the liturgical abuse that derives from the intuition that the liturgy as the Church presents it does not properly express who we are as a community, and therefore has to be adjusted or changed to fit our needs and identity.

Perhaps my experience of life as a Franciscan friar provides an example.

September 1, 2016

All Seraphic Saints Friary

Religious houses are usually named for some heavenly patronage, either a saint or some mystery of the faith. For example, the first friary I ever lived in was the former Holy Cross Friary on Soundview Ave. in the Bronx. Right now I'm taking some vacation while staying at St. Francis of Assisi Friary, the second house to bear that title during my time in my Province of the Capuchins.

Somewhat strangely, the house where I am assigned now, in which resides the fraternity of the Capuchin General Curia, did not seem to have such a patron. It was just 'the General Curia' or, in the habit of religious to call places by their earthly location rather than by their heavenly patron, 'Via Piemonte.'

Well today we have received a letter from the General Minister in which he decrees a remedy for this situation. The house is to be dedicated to All Seraphic Saints, with the corresponding titular feast day of November 29.

August 29, 2016

Twenty-Four Years of Brothers and Sisters

[an old post, updated]

Today is my twenty-fourth anniversary of baptism. I don't think I had any idea what I was getting into that Saturday midday when I walked up out of the basement of Freeman Hall at Connecticut College, made my way out the Williams St. gate and went down to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Quaker Hill. Perhaps it's part of the mercy of God that I had little idea. In any case, the Holy Spirit knew what he was doing and that's what matters.

As always, this anniversary reminds me to thank God and pray for all the people he has given me along the way, those who have been bearers of the graces God has willed in his generosity towards a lukewarm disciple like myself.