April 10, 2020

The Way of the Cross

A cross is first of all an intersection. The Cross of Jesus Christ reveals several: the intersection of deity and humanity, of heaven and earth, and of love and suffering. When love and suffering are joined, they become a sacrifice, a ‘sacer-facere’, a making of something holy. Discernment is the discovery, each day, of what will be the sacrifice I make of my own life, how I will follow in the Lord’s footsteps in suffering love. “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

In loving prayer and attentive discernment we discover the particular, individual ‘way of the Cross’ to which God invites us. This ‘way’ comes to be revealed not only in the ‘big picture’ of our ‘vocation’ but also in the activities, relationships, and struggles of daily life, which, in the light of the Cross, take shape as opportunities for charity and holiness. Let us seek this ‘narrow gate’ (Matthew 7:13) of our salvation. In the words of St. Bonaventure, the great Franciscan Doctor of the Church, “There is no way except through the most burning love of the Crucified.” (The Soul’s Journey into God, prologue)

(reflection for Good Friday prepared for our vocation department's social media)

April 2, 2020

RIP: Fr. Christopher Dietrich, OFM Cap.

Fr. Christopher Dietrich, OFM Cap.
Fr. Chris was one of those friars who kept to himself and did his own thing, so I probably would never have gotten to know him at all except that he was parochial vicar at Sacred Heart in Yonkers when I was sent there for my first assignment. I became the second parochial vicar, the 'junior' one I suppose you could say. He was very attentive to me when I was new, taking me on walks around the parish boundaries and telling me about the history of the neighborhood (he was a native), introducing me to different parks in the area that were good for walks (he was a great walker), and so on.

As a new priest with a head full of theory and theology but very little sense of what the sacred ministry looked like in day-to-day practice, I was careful to observe the priests around me in those days. I noticed that Fr. Chris was very much appreciated by the people as a confessor and preacher. He had a gift for the sort of folksy preaching that has long been associated with Franciscans.

Having gone to Fordham for college (where he came under the influence of Avery Dulles), Paul -- as he was known in the world -- entered the Order when he was twenty-two, making him a 'late vocation' by the standards of his time. I always got the feeling that this left him with a hint of alienation with regard to the brothers, as if he were an irregular member. It was something I began to identify with in my developing understanding of the particulars of my own vocation to consecrated life.

He was one of the few friars of my province who kept his religious name after permission (and encouragement, I suspect) was given to return to use of one's baptismal name. He liked to joke about how his patron saint had been removed from the general calendar, and disputed the allegation of non-existence by producing a relic of St. Christopher that was in his possession.

Fr. Christopher was also an ordination classmate of the late Fr. Benedict Groeschel, something I didn't realize until we had a celebration for Chris's fiftieth of priesthood and Benedict showed up.

Perhaps in your charity you could offer a prayer for the eternal rest of this friar and priest, my first colleague in the sacred ministry.

Requiescat in pace.