November 28, 2013

Observant Expat

As I walked into the breakfast room this morning, the other American in the community gave me the standard festive greeting in Italian, 'Buona festa!'

Grasping about in the dimness of my consciousness, the first thing I thought of was not Thanksgiving, but the feast of St. James of the Marches.

Indeed, I'm a little scandalized that we are not observing St. James today, who for reasons I couldn't possibly fathom comes to us as an optional memorial. But I guess one must admit a diversity of opinion regarding who may consider himself a proper heir of the Observant reform.

St. James, pray for us! And a blessed Thanksgiving to everyone at home.

Archbishop Carballo On Leaving Religious Life

Recently there was a splash in Catholic news and blogs around the figure of 3,000 religious said to leave their institutes each year. This was quoted from a talk by Archbishop Carballo, former General Minister of the OFM and current Secretary for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. His talk, or at least the part of it that made it into print, was folded into another presentation by one of our friars, which I was then asked to translate. Since I haven't seen any other English translation, what follows after the jump is my translation of Archbishop Carballo's talk. I am not an artful translator, and I am entirely to blame for any errors or misrepresentations.

November 24, 2013

An Inmate, a Decree, and a Donkey

The journey is a funny business with all its twists and turns. They all bear and speak of grace, though it's not always easy to see at the time. And grace itself isn't always easy. True, it's often consoling or even comforting. But just as often it's the pruning that the Lord promised. The pruning hurts, but it's also a sign that we have already borne fruit.

It just amazes me sometimes when I look back, how I could never have imagined what would become of me in this religious life, what would later become my relationship to certain brothers and sisters, places and times.

In the summer of 1995 I was a novice in the OFM, spending the summer at St. Bonaventure University. The weather was lovely, the group of novices was still in the 'honeymoon' phase, my prayer life was rich with experiences and consolations and I was full of the giddy pleasure of being finally a real religious, in the habit and everything. There I made my first Capuchin friend, a young friar on his way to priesthood. I coveted his theological knowledge, I admired what seemed like his confidence and I guess you might say, verve. In the lightness of those days I could never have imagined that eighteen years later I would be a Capuchin priest and he would be in prison for sexual abuse.

Seven years later, in the summer of 2002, I was on retreat in preparation for religious profession in the Capuchins. We were in a great old house of the Order in that part of the world, full of history and the old spirit of religious life in North America. It's true that in those days I gave little thought to what would become of me in the Capuchin Order, but I never could have imagined that eleven years later I would be sitting in front of a computer in a little room on the outskirts of Rome, filling out a form that would become the decree to suppress the same house.

I guess it's an ordinary grief of the journey, to watch what were the landmarks behind you crumble. On the positive side it produces a certain detachment in the knowledge that what presents itself as so pressing or attractive in this moment is also destined to a crumbling transformation into memory in the future, and it also reminds the soul that what we were really always drawn to, what we were always truly leaning on was the Spirit of God woven into all these things in his humility and with which they were shot through in his power.

It reminds me of the late spring of 1994. I had graduated from college and my parents had kindly given me a pilgrimage to the Holy Land as a graduation gift. I went with the pilgrimage office of the OFM, the Order I was soon to enter as a postulant. The pilgrimage was led by Fr. Callistus Bamberg, may he rest in peace. Towards the end of the trip he gave me the gift of a little olive wood statue of the Holy Family in their flight into Egypt; Joseph walking, Mary on the donkey holding the infant Jesus. He said, and this has always stuck with me,

"Whenever you look at this, remember that it's a journey."

November 14, 2013

Ramble On My Slow Posting

This blog has really slowed down. Some of it I attribute to my use of Twitter, which, as I have shown, is eminently suited to Franciscan preaching. Not that most of what I do on Twitter is preaching, but the tweets I might consider preaching always end up as the ones that get the most retweets and favorites. But some of the slowing of the blog has also certainly come from changes in my life.

I started blogging during the Easter season of 2006, just when I was edging toward a series of intense transitions: from a temporarily professed religious to a perpetually professed one, from a layman to a cleric, from a friar in formation to one in his first assignment, and finally from a deacon to a priest. 

November 6, 2013

The Box

When I was first called about coming to Rome, one of the hopes that was mentioned was that I could eventually be tried out, as they say, 'in the box'; that is to say as someone who could interpret Italian into English for international meetings of the brothers.

So, almost a year and a half after moving to Rome, I was put in the box for the first time yesterday.

The view from the Box
For the first thing, a talk from the General Minister, I think I did o.k. He had given me his notes for the talk, which was a great help. Later on in the day, during less formal question and answer type things, I didn't do as well.

It's very tiring. On the other hand, it's a little like acting and in that sense kind of fun.

November 3, 2013

Fr. Cantalamessa on Zacchaeus, Francis, and God's Love

The other day, November 1 to be exact, was the feast of Blessed Raniero of Borgo Sansepolcro, one of those poor souls who has his proper feast day on the same day as the Solemnity of All Saints. It's kind of like having your birthday on Christmas, I suppose. He also has one of the zaniest vocation stories you'll ever hear.

In celebration of his Name Day, our own confrere Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, presided at Mass today and preached for us.