May 29, 2016

4 and 10

I notice that today I begin my fifth year in Rome. What shall I say about that? God is good. I have settled into the life and work of a very particular community; a local Capuchin fraternity sui generis as our statutes say.

The Holy Spirit has provided me with a very suitable spiritual director as well as others to help me along in other ways. I pray with the brothers, and when I miss the prayers I say them on my own. I probably miss my periods of meditation--'mental prayer' as our Capuchin tradition calls it--more than I should, but the devil knows that this is the heart of everything for me so it's the first thing he goes after.

I sign up to take a turn from time to time saying a week of weekday Masses at the General Curia of the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto and the occasional Sunday Mass at the Bethlemite Sisters. These moments I appreciate very much.

I do my little job, Secretary for English, making translations and handling correspondence with the English-using Capuchin world, which is a lot of places. I do a little bit of work for the website, pasting in translations of articles after they appear in the base language, Italian, and I curate the Twitter account that tweets such news as it appears. According to some ancient agreement made by one of my predecessors, from time to time I visit the Office of Papal Charities at the Vatican to request apostolic blessing parchments for the Province of Central Canada.

Yes, there are people and places and aspects of life in the home Province that I miss, and I regret being so far from my family. But there are graces here too, and discerning my obedience I believe that they are the graces that God wills for me to gather and to be at this moment in my journey.

Of course one never knows, but barring anything serious and unforeseen, I will probably be here until at least the General Chapter of 2018. At that time we will have a new General Minister, and on him and his language needs and how he wants to organize the General Secretariat will depend a lot of what happens next.

Of course I trust the Holy Spirit in this, who has always led me and been with me, guiding me to graces and places and people, sometimes through spaces that were spiritually lush and sometimes through the desert, but making each place an opportunity for blessing all the same.

* * *

I also notice that this old blog has passed ten years of posts. Wow. That's the larger part of my religious life with the Capuchins, and a significant part of my life as a Christian. Of course the blog has slowed down a good deal since I have taken up a quieter life here in Rome, and sometimes I wonder if its time has come and gone such that I might close it up. But I don't know. I still enjoy writing it when I do, and I still think its purposes in my mind are valid: to have a means of self-expression that I enjoy, a place where I can preach the salvation we have in Jesus Christ, and perhaps to provide an opportunity for someone to see what it's like to be a religious, especially for someone discerning this sort of vocation. Maybe I'm not the most normal or fitting person for the last task, but I trust the Holy Spirit to use what I write--should it be of any use--for his purposes.

Though I stopped adding to it when I left the parish and was no longer preaching on Sundays in a regular way, I leave my separate homily blog, Praise and Bless, up and published. It still gets a few visits from search traffic. My little attempt at blogging with my meager Italian, Motivi Religiosi, gets a new post now and again, but hasn't taken off at all. There are almost no visitors. But I enjoy it and appreciate the practice so I keep at it. As far as this blog goes, I think I'm in the mood for a new header picture. St. Lawrence of Brindisi in the sunset at our International College has been great, but maybe it's time for something new.

May 24, 2016

Basilica of St. Francis

Happy feast day to a beautiful church. I love this picture I took from the back stairwell of our Capuchin friary on the Via San Francesco in Assisi.


May 23, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Divorce, Remarriage, and Communion

No series on Amoris laetitia would be complete without a post on one of the issues that got a lot of attention, from the two sessions of the Synod on the Family down to the publication of the Exhortation itself, namely the question of Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. Chapter eight of Amoris laetitia goes into this question in detail.

While it's true that the Exhortation gives us no new doctrine in the strict sense of the term, we are in a new place in the post-Amoris laetitia Church. As I alluded to when I began this series of posts, it seems to me that what we have mostly is a new challenge for pastors of souls.

May 19, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Priestly Formation

Seminarians should receive a more extensive interdisciplinary, and not merely doctrinal, formation in the areas of engagement and marriage. Their training does not always allow them to explore their own psychological and affective background and experiences. Some come from troubled families, with absent parents and a lack of emotional stability. There is a need to ensure that the formation process can enable them to attain the maturity and psychological balance needed for their future ministry. Family bonds are essential for reinforcing healthy self-esteem. (203)
Arriving at this paragraph in Amoris laetitia made me happy.

Priests don't fall out of the sky fully formed. They are people who have a background and a family of origin just like the rest of humanity. And as the Pope notes, these backgrounds--like everybody else's--can have their troubles and dysfunctions.

This isn't a bad thing. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to transform suffering and alienation into compassion; this is one of the ways that the pattern of the Lord's paschal mystery of his passion, death, and resurrection comes to take form in our lives. And so it makes sense that many vocations to service, the priesthood included, can have roots in situations of difficulty and personal suffering.

May 17, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Faith

Committing oneself exclusively and definitively to another person always involves a risk and a bold gamble. (132)
Finding this line in Amoris laetitia reminded me a lot of the marriage preparation and pastoral care I used to do when I was assigned to a parish.

Starting out in the parish ministry, I struggled a little to know how to preach faith to the folks who came for marriage preparation and to celebrate their weddings, most of whom--with some brightly shining exceptions--were not practicing the faith.

After some time, experience, and reflection, I arrived at the point that worked for me in preaching and pastoral care: the very thing that they were doing, exchanging the consent of marriage, was a great act of faith.

May 12, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Mary

Nor would it be good for them to arrive at the wedding without ever having prayed together, one for the other, to seek God’s help in remaining faithful and generous, to ask the Lord together what he wants of them, and to consecrate their love before an image of the Virgin Mary. (216)
This quote reminded me of the many weddings I had back in Yonkers that included a little procession of the newlyweds to offer some flowers to Our Lady on her side altar. During rehearsals I would advise the couple to take it slow and spend a good moment on this little pilgrimage, perhaps saying a Hail Mary together and asking Our Lady's prayers for their new life together.

May 5, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Celibacy

Amoris laetitia is a document on the family, but it also has something to say about the celibate vocation in the Church. For example:
Whereas virginity is an “eschatological” sign of the risen Christ, marriage is a “historical” sign for us living in this world, a sign of the earthly Christ who chose to become one with us and gave himself up for us even to shedding his blood. (161)
This is true, so long as we don't push it too far. Christian married people, of course, like all Christians, participate in the eschatological character of the Church, and those consecrated to celibacy still have a foot in history.