March 31, 2020

Friars vs. State of Israel

(Original post, May 22, 2009)

Riffing on the case of Dr. Tim Whatley, who was accused of converting to Judaism "just for the jokes," one of my classmates in the Order once mocked me with the accusation that I entered religious life "just for the bizarre stories."

The story of the Capuchin friary in Jerusalem is one such story.

Back in the 1930s, responding to the beginning of the twentieth-century flowering of Biblical studies, someone in the Order decided we ought to have a house of studies in Jerusalem, where brothers could live while they studied Sacred Scripture or patristics at the local institutes and universities. Ten years or so later, it was all ready to go.

But in 1947, before any friars actually studied there, it was commandeered by the British as a military headquarters as the British Mandate was coming to an end. Then, during the 1948 war, the Israelis took it over in the same way. Once independence was established, instead of returning our new house of studies to us, the Israelis turned it into a psychiatric hospital.

This continued for about fifty years. Israel paid a small rent to the Order for the use of our building, but did not raise it once the whole time.

However, in order not to lose the property through adverse possession, the Venice province of the Order kept a couple of friars assigned there the whole time, staying in small, adjacent building where the custodian and his mother lived as well!

At some point in the 1990s, someone decided that enough was enough and the Order hired a Jewish lawyer and sued the government of Israel. The judge not only returned the property to the friars, but awarded all the back rent, adjusted for time and inflation, back to 1948.

It will now be renovated and turned into a guest house for Capuchins and folks with them on pilgrimage to the Holy Places.

UPDATE: Fr. Kevin, the guardian, introduces the house:

March 29, 2020

The Resurrection and the Life

Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.” 
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.” 
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." 
(John 11: 23-25)
I am the resurrection and the life. A final hope, a theological concept, is revealed in person. Eschaton made flesh.

That's the sacramental mystery at the heart of Christianity.

March 7, 2020


With Lent comes the Lord’s invitation: to let ourselves be led up the high mountain where we become our deepest and truest selves. The mountain is prayer. It is there that we discover the call that is God himself. In prayer we get to know God and ourselves, for our true identity is nothing more than who we are in God’s desire for us. This divine desire—or will of God—is revealed in how the call takes shape in our particular circumstances, and so becomes our vocation.

If we consent to remain on this high mountain of prayer we will have glimpses, visions of Resurrection glory, of the Christ who transfigures creation. These moments will be short and obscure for they are only a touching of the hem of his garment, but they will also be beautiful beyond our own imagining and desire. They may also be frightening, for they call us to a new boldness and single-mindedness in following Jesus. But the vocation is not to be feared, for wherever it leads us, the call is only to him, to Jesus Christ, and to the life of the new creation that dawns in his Resurrection.

(Reflection prepared for our vocation office to post on its social media for the 2nd Sunday of Lent)