November 3, 2017

Out of the Well

"Which of you, having a son or an ox that fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day?" (Luke 14:5)

That's us, poor children of God and his dumb creatures who have fallen.

And just as the answer to the question is everyone, so Jesus does it too, drawing us up from our fallenness through the well of baptism, and on a sabbath day too, the Great Sabbath, Holy Saturday,  when he descends into the hell we have provided for ourselves with our sins and draws up our humanity, united to his, as the New Creation of which his Resurrection is the dawn.

November 1, 2017

"I Know Nothing Due To Holy Obedience"

An Irish priest sent me this gem of a footnote on Capuchin ignorance from Ulrich L. Lehner's Monastic Prisons and Torture Chambers: Crime and Punishment in Central European Monasteries 1600-1800.


(click to enlarge)

October 28, 2017

God Is Love

I remember once back in Yonkers I was caught off guard in need of a Sunday homily. A missionary priest was coming to make an appeal and was to preach at all the Masses for this purpose, so I hadn't prepared anything that week. His flight, however, was delayed, and he didn't make it in time for the Saturday vigil Mass.

So at the time of the homily I explained to the assembly how I was stuck. On the one hand, I was not willing to take them and my duties as a priest so lightly as to preach without having prepared. On the other hand, it was a Sunday Mass, and therefore the faithful had a right to a homily.

My solution: I brought and read a little passage of St. Augustine's comment on the gospel for that Sunday.

Something similar has happened to me this week. It was a busy week in the office with this and that, but especially preparing the English translation of the Minister General's circular letter for the upcoming beatification of Solanus Casey.

Composing a Sunday homily in Italian probably doesn't take me much longer than it does in English, but it requires a longer span of the week to check on things, find expressions, discover my errors, etc. And this week that time ran out.

So I decided I would write a little introduction, beg the people's understanding, and give them number 18 from Deus caritas est:
Love of neighbor is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. 
[...] 
Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave. Here we see the necessary interplay between love of God and love of neighbor which the First Letter of John speaks of with such insistence. If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God. But if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be “devout” and to perform my “religious duties”, then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely “proper”, but loveless. 
Only my readiness to encounter my neighbor and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. The saints—consider the example of [Saint] Teresa of Calcutta—constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbor from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its real- ism and depth in their service to others. Love of God and love of neighbor are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment. But both live from the love of God who has loved us first. No longer is it a question, then, of a “commandment” imposed from without and calling for the impossible, but rather of a freely-bestowed experience of love from within, a love which by its very nature must then be shared with others. 
Love grows through love. Love is “divine” because it comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a “we” which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

October 2, 2017

The Divine Mission of Brother Wicked Treasurer

Yesterday Pope Francis spoke to priests, religious, seminarians, and permanent deacons in the cathedral in Bologna. He took a couple of spontaneous questions. Here's part of one his answers to a religious who asked about, among other things, the 'psychology of survival' that the Holy Father has mentioned before. Here's part of the Pope's reply:

"You see those religious who are attached to money as a security. This is the heart of the psychology of survival; I am surviving, I have security, because I have money. The problem is not so much in chastity or obedience, no, it is in poverty. Fish rot from the head and religious life begins to become corrupt from the lack of poverty.*  This is truly how it is. St. Ignatius called poverty the ‘mother and wall’ of the religious life; ‘mother’ because she gives birth to the religious life, and ‘poverty’ because it is the defense against all worldliness. The psychology of survival makes you live in a worldly way, with worldly hopes, not to setting yourself on the path of divine hope, the hope that is of God. Money is very much the ruin of consecrated life. But God is so good, so good that, when an institute of consecrated life begins to make more and more money, the Lord is so good that he sends a wicked treasurer who makes everything collapse, and this is a grace! When the goods of a religious institute collapse, I say, ‘Thank you, Lord!’, because they will begin to walk the way of poverty and the true hope in the goods that the Lord gives: the true hope in that fecundity that journeying with the Lord gives. Please, I’m telling you, always, always make an examination of conscience on poverty: personal poverty, which is not just going to ask the permission of the superior to do something, but is deeper, it is an even deeper thing; and also the poverty of the institute, because this is the true survival of consecrated life, in the positive sense, that is to say that here is found the true hope that makes consecrated life grow."

*Il pesce incomincia a corrompersi dalla testa e la vita consacrata incomincia a corrompersi dalla mancanza di povertà.

Full text here.

The full reply of the part I quoted starts around :53.



September 19, 2017

Shrine of Renunciation

The other day, thanks to one of the friars, there arrived in my hands the English version of the pastoral letter of Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino for the recent opening of the Santuario della Spogliazione in Assisi, which recalls the moment when St. Francis, having been brought to trial by his father for the squandering of his goods, divested himself of his rights as an heir and what property he had, including the clothes he was wearing.

I'm glad it didn't fall to me to decide on the English for Santuario della Spogliazione, but this translator has made a fine choice with The Shrine of Renunciation.

The letter is really quite beautiful, and whoever made the translation did a very nice job.
The nakedness of Francis reminds us of Eden. It is not just penance and renunciation. It is a longing for original purity. It speaks something of the beauty planted by God in the body of man and woman before innocence was disordered by sin. It is nudity that is projected towards the splendor of the risen body, when the power of Christ will give new life to our mortal bodies. It is in nudity that we find the taste of truth and beauty, simplicity and sobriety, the serene awareness of our own creatureliness. Francis incarnates the wisdom of Job: “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back again” (Job 1:21). (4)
The Shrine includes the church of St. Mary Major, which is in Capuchin care. Coincidentally, or not, it is right across the little Piazza del Vescovado from where I stayed the first time I visited Assisi, way back in 1993, at the Casa del Terziario.

Read the whole letter here.

August 29, 2017

Silver Jubilee of Christian Initiation

(An ongoing post, updated)

Today is my anniversary of baptism; I am twenty-five years old. It's my Silver Jubilee! When I think of the adventure that began that day at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in little Quaker Hill, Connecticut, I cannot but confess that one of the most abiding graces has been the 'cloud of witnesses' that has guided and supported me along the way. So today in my gratefulness I pray in special way for everyone the Lord has given me to accompany me in this journey.

August 26, 2017

Padre Pio's Daughters

A conversation at lunch.

[Friar mentions a prayer group of friars' mothers in his home province called 'The Daughters of Padre Pio.']

Friar 1: That's very interesting. Being the mother of a friar makes you become a daughter of Padre Pio.

Friar 2: Well, the other day Cardinal O'Malley reiterated that a friar who has a child has to leave to be a father and fulfill his obligations to the child and mother. [So what of Padre Pio and his daughters?]

Friar 1: Well Padre Pio already left the Order.

Friar 2: ?

Friar 1: Well in the friar database [which is kept here in the General Curia] one of the fields is 'way of leaving.' [modo di uscita] And one of the choices [for filling the field] is death.

August 9, 2017

Blessed Maria Francesca Rubatto

Today in Rome it's the feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), a feast day because she is one of the many patron saints of Europe, except where I happen to be offering Mass this week, at the Capuchin Sisters of Mother Rubatto, where today is the feast of their foundress, Blessed Maria Francesca (Anna Maria) Rubatto (1844-1904).

Mother Rubatto

Their General Curia is on the other side of the Villa Borghese from where we are and the priests here who sign up take weekly turns offering the weekday Mass there. I've appreciated getting to know them; they seem like a great community. It's too bad we don't have them in the U.S.A.

So I could prepare for the Mass today, the sisters lent me a copy of the liturgy for the day. Since not much was going on in the office--August in Rome you know--I made a translation of the reading offered for the Office of Readings.

August 2, 2017

Always With Me

Today is a big Franciscan feast, that of Our Lady of the Angels of the Portiuncula, when, also for all the faithful, according to a certain tradition by the request of St. Francis himself, the Pardon of Assisi or Portiuncula indulgence is available at your local Franciscan church or oratory, or at your parish church, visited to honor Our Lady and the Angels, and according to the normal conditions for the gaining of indulgences, of course.

Today I'm thinking of the little holy card of Our Lady of the Angels, which I've had with me since, as best as I can reconstruct the timing, since the morning of Friday, April 23, 1993.

Saint Mary of the Angels/pray for us


August 1, 2017

Updated Comment Policy

Comments on this blog are moderated. When you leave a comment, I receive a notification and choose whether or not to publish it. I have never had much trouble with having to reject comments and I publish almost all that are submitted. Sometimes when I reject a comment I myself leave a comment in its place to explain my decision.

July 11, 2017

Bring Me The Breviary

Over the last couple weeks a visiting friar has displaced me from my regular place in choir. Not a big deal, though I don't like my little choir-cubby ruffled.

One friar noticed my suffering and said,

'Well, brother, there are many displaced persons in Rome.'

June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday, First Mass of a New Priest

A friar who was ordained to the priesthood yesterday invited me to be the preacher at his first Mass. Here's the homily I gave.

(Trinity Sunday, A)

When I was a new priest—and had even less good sense and tact than the precious little I have now—I used to say that one of the benefits of becoming a priest was that you didn’t have to listen to any more Trinity Sunday homilies.

You know; they can be brilliant, but sometimes, not so much. It goes something like this: God is three, God is one, it’s a mystery, you can’t really understand it…please stand for the Creed.

And this is unfortunate; this business about ‘you can’t understand’ the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. We cannot have a full comprehension, of course, but this doesn’t mean we can’t have some understanding. In fact, all of us who are Christians can have some understanding of this great mystery, precisely because we have all had an experience of the Blessed Trinity.

To get at what I mean, let’s turn to something we all know well: Christmas. What is Christmas all about? As we read in the gospel of St. Matthew:

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. (1:18)

June 7, 2017

A Prayer For My Dead Confessors

One of the standard activities of a visit to our place in Yonkers is a trip to the friars' cemetery to remember and pray for our dead.


This is the section where the friars have been buried since I joined the Capuchins. When I was a postulant we were on the back row. A few others who have died since then are buried elsewhere.

I prayed a special gratitude for those friars who had been ministers of the mercy of God for me in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That is to say, my confessors.



Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

Requiescant in pace.

May 4, 2017

Blessed Solanus Casey

Today in the daily Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office there has appeared the awaited news that Pope Francis has authorized the publication of the decree to recognize the miracle attributed to the intercession of our own Fr. Solanus Casey.

Of course I'm happy about this as a Capuchin, and as a member of one of the Provinces of the Order that descends from the one that Solanus, then called Bernard, had joined back in 1897. But I'm also grateful in a personal way.

At the beginning of my postulancy with the Capuchins we made a visit to Fr. Solanus's tomb in Detroit. I remember praying for his intercession as I began this new, Capuchin phase of my Franciscan journey.

More recently, I have been happy to be helpful on the peripheries of his cause for beatification. I have translated emails and been a communication go-between for our friars in the USA and the office of the General Postulator here at the Capuchin General Curia in Rome. Though I must confess that I wasn't a great success at this, I did some translating of pathologist's reports from English into Italian with regard to the investigation of the miracle attributed to Fr. Solanus's intercession.

Today I am happy to see that things are official, and the way forward to Fr. Solanus's beatification has been set. And I'm grateful for having had the chance to help in some small way.

Blessed Solanus Casey, pray for us!

April 16, 2017

The Easter Itinerancy

(An old post updated)

Every year on this holy night I reflect on the grace of itinerancy that the Holy Spirit has given me; only twice in my whole baptism have I been in the same place for the Easter Vigil for more than two years in a row. When I think about the places I've been for the Vigil, it puts me in awe of God and in a state of gratitude for my journey.

April 9, 2017

Franciscan Identity Crisis Ramble

I've been thinking about trying to write this post for a long time.

There's a lot of begging in Rome. There are scammers too, but with the scams that I usually get, I guess because I look like a good 'ugly American' mark, I've grown wise and I turn the tables and frustrate the person and try to playfully shame him."What would your mama say? Going around tricking foreigners!"

But it's the begging that troubles me more.

March 10, 2017

Eating in a Hurry

Yesterday there came around in the Office of Readings the instructions for the Passover in Exodus chapter 12.

This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you will eat it in a hurry. It is the LORD’s Passover. (Exodus 12:11)

The Passover is eaten like those in flight,  fleeing from the oppression and slavery of Egypt, reeling with God's plagues, into the long journey that will one day bring God's people into the Promised Land.

February 25, 2017

On Judging Others (and God)

"Such is the lowliness of our condition in this life; for we think others are like ourselves and we judge others according to what we ourselves are, since our judgment arises from within us and not outside us. Thus the thief thinks others also steal; and the lustful think others are lustful too; and the malicious think others also bear malice, their judgment stemming from their own malice; and the good think well of others, for their judgment flows from the goodness of their own thoughts; and to those who are careless and asleep, it seems that others are too.

"Hence it is that when we are careless and asleep in God's presence, it seems to us it is God who is asleep and neglectful of us, as is seen in psalm 43 were David calls to him: Arise, Lord, why do you sleep? Arise (Ps. 44:23). He attributed to God what is characteristic of humans, for since they are the ones who are fallen and asleep, he tells God to arise and awaken; although he who watches over Israel never sleeps (Ps. 121:4)."

(John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, 4,8)

February 13, 2017

The Many Patron Saints of Europe

One of the things you notice living the liturgy here in Europe is that they have a lot of patron saints. Six, in fact. And so their feast days come around with some regularity:
  • Cyril, monk, and Methodius, bishop, February 14
  • Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor, April 29
  • Benedict, abbot, July 11
  • Bridget of Sweden, founder (and mother of a saint, Catherine of Sweden), July 23
  • Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, virgin and martyr (Edith Stein), August 9
Seeing that tomorrow is one of these feast days, I did a little looking around and discovered that all of this heavenly patronage is of fairly recent articulation.

February 3, 2017

Friday Ramble

Recently I was in an email thread with some friars on the 'Lent of Benediction,' one the fasts described in the Rule. It begins after Epiphany. It's called 'of benediction' because it's optional according to the Rule and those who keep it are 'blessed.'

The conversation inspired me to reread, or perhaps read properly for the first time, Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini (1966) on fast and abstinence. This led me also to read, I'm sure for the first time (to my shame) the United States Bishops' Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence, issued later the same year.

I admit that I was surprised and struck by this section in Paenitemini:
The time of Lent preserves its penitential character. The days of penitence to be observed under obligation throughout the Church are all Fridays and Ash Wednesday ... Their substantial observance binds gravely. (II. 1)
(my emphasis)

January 28, 2017

Dom Chautard on Losing Youth

Recently I read some alarming thing about how people are abandoning the faith younger and younger. I was reminded of one of the times some poor bird got into the church in Yonkers and everyone was discussing how to help it escape. 

"Give it the sacrament of Confirmation," offered one sardonic soul.

January 19, 2017

Macarius the Great

According the Roman Martyrology, today is the feast of Macarius the Great.
A brother came to see Abba Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, 'Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved.' So the old man said, 'Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead.' The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it. The latter said to him, 'Didn't they say anything to you?' He replied, 'No.' The old man said, 'Go back tomorrow and praise them.' So the brother went away and praised them, calling them, 'Apostles, saints and righteous men.' He returned to the old man and said to him, ‘ I have complimented them’. And the old man said to him, 'Did they not answer you?' The brother said no. The old man said to him, 'You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too if you wish to be saved must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved.'
(Sayings of the Desert Fathers)



All Things To All

"I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" said St. Paul. (1 Cor 9:22) And so the saints who followed.

In that spirit, Mother Teresa now available in happy, pensive, disapproving, motherly, frozen in carbonite, and mermaid.

(click to enlarge)