Thursday, February 7, 2019

Making a Joyful Noise

We're well into the cycle of ordinary time in our church year and I love the freedom that gives me to relax and breath in the goodness of the day to day. Whether the days be sunny and warm, or icy cold there's always something I can find on my walk to be grateful for. I'll admit though I prefer the sunny and warm mornings!

On Sundays, ordinary time calls us to sing our hearts out. Soon enough we'll enter the somber, reflective Lenten season. For now, I want to rejoice. We do that well at St Francis, in how we greet each other, how we sing, how we pray, how we share coffee and donuts in our newly named "Frank's Cafe" in the parish hall.

A famous actor once said that he never wanted to work with children or animals. When I watch our little ones on Sunday mornings, how they dance and respond to the music of our choir...I understand better what he meant. Our preachers have a daunting task in front of them each week because our little piano player and music lovers steal the show each week. Their joy is contagious.  When was the last time you let the glory of God's love for you just ooze out your very pores? How can we not get caught up in praise when we recognize all the good God has done for us?

What is an appropriate response to such joy? I think our responses are to sing louder, (maybe not better, but surely with even more heart!), to smile more, to engage with those around me in my pray more deeply and with a sureness of purpose. This God we love is real and all around us. We encounter God each day, but in such a special way on Sundays when we come to worship TOGETHER! In the Word, In Eucharist and IN EACH OTHER  God makes Godself present to us in such magnificent joy.  How can we not smile at one another.

This Sunday when you come to church, let the glory of God's love for you fill your heart, your eyes, your face, your voice....and come ready to celebrate. If you need an example of how to celebrate, just watch the little ones by the choir...they'll teach you everything you need to know!

Peace and good to each of you!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

"Good Job, Mom!"

We all know that a word of gratitude or a compliment goes a very long way. We have made it through the crush of the holidays and slid maybe not so gently into our new year. We made it! And so we begin again, with 2019 open before us waiting to see what wonders God will put in our path.

The title of today's blog refers to a comment that one of our parishioners received from a person living on the street. She and her kids had been a part of our Christmas project where we put together gift bags for our homeless neighbors to be distributed over the holy days. As she and her son and daughter offered this gift to one gentleman, with an explanation that it came from their parish community, the gentleman offered her these complimentary words as a thank you for this gift: "Good Job Mom!"  What a beautiful way to say thank you. And yes, GOOD JOB to all our parents here who are doing such a praise worthy effort at raising good, holy and caring young people. We are honored to be a part of that process.

We all need and want to continue to learn how to better live out our faith. A new year is a great time to 'set an intention' for how we want to be attentive to some area of growth in our own lives. Today I suggest that one of our intentions may be to live lives more aware of those who have less than we.
Catholic Social Teaching impels us to look beyond ourselves and to work for the good of others around us.

Here are some ideas, some events going on at St Francis that might be an inspiration to you:

Jan. 12 STILL WE GROW-An Immersive Theater Experience to Fight Human Trafficking 6 & 8 pm

Jan. 14 BOOK CLUB discussion Strength to Love by Dr Martin Luther King jr. 8pm

Jan. 24 Feast of St Francis de Sales--champion of spirituality for all people--
Jan. 27  FEAST DAY POT LUCK BRUNCH  12 noon....what will you bring to the table?

Jan. 29  Ecumenical Prayer hosted by SFDS with Brick Presbyterian and Church of the Living Hope. 6:30 pm at St Francis. Come pray with your neighbors and build peace in our community.

Jan. 31 Inaugural Pop-Up Theology @ Frank's Cafe; A conversation with Dr. Brenna Moore, Professor from Fordham University Department of Theology: Catholic Resistance to Nazism, 1930's 40's: What can we learn today?

I know sometimes the whole "new years resolution thing" can feel like it has defeated me before I even begin. Maybe it's just a difference in wording but the idea of 'setting an intention' feels more accessible to me. I don't feel like I've failed before I've even begun. As we move into the New Year, what are your hopes and dreams for yourself and for those you love? What are your deepest desires for the good of our church and of our world? Perhaps our prayer today is to find the first small step to begin to move into the direction of our future filled with whatever God has in store for us. God bless each of us as we begin our journey into 2019.  Wishing you much peace!

Monday, December 24, 2018

What Do You Think Christmas Is All About?

As my nieces and nephew grow older Christmas for us becomes less about toys and presents under the tree and more about the quality of time we get to spend together. I am tremendously enjoying watching them become adults and wonder what paths they will choose as they move into their journeys.  I pray God will bless them and make them good, holy and caring individuals. I think they are well on their way.

I want to make sure the children and families in my parish have the same opportunities to grow in how they live out their faith lives, both as little ones and as adults. To that end, their parents and I came up with a Christmas project that we shared together on our last session before Christmas. I admit, I was given the idea by one of our young parishioners, who had received the idea from his father, who received it from another friend's parish. This just shows how important it is to share good ideas!

This was the project: we were creating gift bags for our homeless neighbors. A large ziploc bag filled with new socks, bottled water, tuna or chicken packets, protein bars, cookies, band aids, even a gift card for a meal or a cup of coffee. The last thing in the bag was a note from the parish saying that we cared and we were here for them.

Watching the children and their parents create the bags was a beautiful sight to behold. Parents took the time to explain the "WHY", the reason we were doing this, to their kids. The families each took a bag or two with them for over the Christmas break. They are to give the bags away when they encounter someone who needs the bag. When we get back to class in January we're going to spend some time breaking open the experience together. We have extra bags to share with our parishioners on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Already families are letting me know what a powerful experience this has been to share with their children. As they give the bags away, I'm getting emails telling me how proud the children are of having a way to help someone in need. The parents are grateful for a way to talk to their children about how we as Catholics are to care for one another and treat each other with dignity. I am so proud of my parish for choosing to extend our care for others beyond the toys of the giving tree, to the very real needs of our neighbors on the street. Literally.

I've got in my mind the traditional picture on the Christmas card of the nativity, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus in a manger...and it often looks so sanitized and pure. This morning on NPR there was a story on the plight of Christian refugees in Syria and other hot spots in the Middle East. It occurs to me that the plight of these refugees is the same story that Mary and Joseph were living out...not that they were refugees, but they were definitely a family struggling to survive as they were forced to travel quite a distance to fulfill some obligation demanded from a political power. Why have I never thought deeply about this before? This story of Christmas isn't at all pretty. And yet the story of Christmas is the most beautiful of all stories, because in the midst of such poverty and deprivation, God comes to be one of us, one with us in our utter, simple, broken humanity. How unbelievable profound.

So we will invite families tonight and tomorrow, to take a Christmas gift bag to share with a street person that they might run across in the next week or two. We live in NYC, chances are they won't get very far before they find someone in need. We pray that the simple act of sharing a gift and a brief conversation with someone will help us all remember to look into the eyes of a stranger and find Jesus there.

We know Christmas reminds us of the birth of that most special baby, and it calls us to think about when our Savior will come again. This year, let us also remember that Christmas calls us, demands that we see Jesus alive and begging to be recognized in the very eyes and hearts of the people we meet in our every day lives. Let us remember we are called to treat each and every person with the utmost of dignity they deserve simply because they too are sons and daughters of our God.

And when we can do that then there may actually be peace on earth. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Who Is Mary to You?

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

Many of us know Mary under so many different honorific titles drawn from the countries of our origins: Providencia, Mt Carmel, Caridad de Cobre, Altagracia, the more well known Lourdes and Fatima. Today of course we celebrate Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Empress of the Americas!

I came to know our Lady of Guadalupe at the first parish I had the honor of serving in, back in the late 80's. From the community at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church I learned just how much a mother figure she was for so many young men and women far from their homeland. Homesick for their loved ones, their devotion to their heavenly mother touched me in ways I still ponder.

Someone this week described for me how much they depend on and look up to their own earthly mother, for strength, support and wisdom. In her own mother, she comes to know the love of God in a very real and concrete way. Doesn't Mary do this for all of us? She shows us the face of God, she points us to God, she is a doorway to the divine. What an amazing role to have taken on for that young girl from Galilee.

I see as I grow older, that our relationship with our mother changes in many ways for the better. In both cases, with my human mother as well as my heavenly mother, I look to them both for different types of love and support as I enter another phase of life. I am grateful that I've learned to appreciate them both for who they are in my life today.

What about you? Who is Mary for you at this point in your life's journey? How do  you call on her for wisdom or guidance? Do you remember to ask for her intercession? Do you rest confident in her love?

As we honor Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with mariachis and chocolate and roses and pan dulce, let us be grateful that this celebration brings joy and life to our church in such a delightful way in the midst of our Advent winter grayness. Que viva Our Lady of Guadalupe!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Happy New Year!

"The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with my people--let your hearts now be open."  (Paul Wrynn)

So begins a song I learned years ago with words taken from Sunday's Jeremiah reading...What a wonderful way to begin our new church year, with open hearts and minds, ready to hear the word of God and live it to the fullest.

Not to be outdone, Paul in his writing to the Thessalonians prays that they may abound in love for one another, and conduct themselves always from the standpoint of loving one another.

As we begin another Advent Season, what are you focusing on? As Catholic Christians we are called to live in the world but not be OF the world. I find that especially challenging this time of year. I want to reflect and take time for more prayer and focus a bit on what Advent is really about: preparing my heart and mind once again for the coming of Christ in my world. But in my world, there is a rush to jump ahead to Christmas with shopping and decorating and partying and a million other tasks that must get done. What are we to do? How do we live in the tension of such different demands?

And if I'm thinking about the coming of Christ in my world today...oh dear...what does THAT look like? My world is so broken and fractured by so many 'isms', I can't help but think that God would be very disappointed in how we treat each other. I find myself wondering if Jesus Christ would be welcome when he does appear!

Where does that leave me on this first Sunday of Advent?

I think I'll take a simpler approach to the season. I think I won't worry about the gifts or the baking, or the decorating...somehow it will get done, and if I'm smart, I'll enjoy it all. Otherwise, what's the point? I want to take the time to be with people in a significant way...not just talking at one another at yet another party.  I want to pray with and for others, especially those who haven't been given the gifts of family and friends that I so cherish. I want to be grateful. I want to slow down.

I should remember to be careful what I ask for: I had to slow down this last week due to a pinched nerve in my back and I did NOT like that at all. But still, slowing down has it's benefits. It certainly helps me be more in touch with my humanity. (insert a classic Jayne eye roll here!)

Advent is here. Whether I'm ready or not, it's time to reflect, to prepare, to pray for my world. I think I'm ready. I want to join others in this great moment of prayer for our world-that our hearts may be open, and that we will abound in love for one another.

Will you join me in that prayer?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Be Vigilant!

The image of the fig tree resonates with me quite strongly this season for very personal reasons. I have somewhere in one of my prayer books, a photo of me at four years old in front of a fig tree planted by my grandparents in their yard. Now, today, when I go to visit this house for the last time, as we prepare to sell it and walk away from a family history over 110 years old, that same fig tree towers over my head. I need to climb a ladder to harvest the many figs on its branches. I don’t even like figs all that much, but every time the image of the fig tree comes up in scripture, I see this tree again, and am connected to my family story. These feel like the end of days for this particular part of my family story.

Jesus is talking about the ‘end of days’ in this gospel passage. He is trying to help his listeners learn to recognize the signs of the times, so that they will be prepared for whatever comes next. He uses an example of a tree sprouting new green shoots as a sign that summer is near. In our part of the world, as the leaves turn colors and fall, we know winter is on its way. Pumpkin spice gives way to peppermint and woolen mittens, down coats and snow boots.

What of our world? What of our church? Surely we have witnessed many signs these past months, most of them seeming to speak of end times. What are we to do? How are we to be hopeful amidst so much that is terribly sad? Jesus gives us the answer quite clearly “ Heaven and earth may pass away, but my words will NOT pass away”. These are the days when we are called to double down on our faith in the Word of God. We need to look at the signs around us and discern with our inner heart, those things that are of God, and those that are of man. If we can ignore the noise all around us and focus our hearts on God’s voice, on God’s call,  that is where we will find our hope. God will not abandon us no matter how terrifying the end signs may appear.
These are the days when we need to be vigilant in our prayer. We need to ask God to lead us, to guide us on his path, and ignore the chaos around us. Now may be the time to pray even more with scripture and hold on to the Word of God with both hands. Catholic Social teaching is another guide for us here: See, Judge, Act!  Can we look at the signs that the world puts before us, use our educated and informed conscience to make some prayerful decisions and choose to act in the best way possible?
We have so very much to pray for don’t we?

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Love Our Neighbor...and Vote!

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A few months ago I was having dinner with family and saw a banner on a church that said: "Love Thy exceptions". I was struck by the thought that it really IS that simple, and we human beings make it so very complicated, don't we?

I guess I am pondering two questions:
Who is my neighbor? and, Why do we make it so complicated?

Standing as I do in my catholic faith, I know the answer is that all people are my neighbor. I don't always feel comfortable with this, and most days I'm challenged by this in big and little ways. I didn't rise to the occasion so well last night when I had to wait for a neighbor (really, a neighbor in my building!!) as she unloaded a ton of garbage from the only elevator we have when all I wanted to do was get to my apartment and relax after a long day at work. I was ashamed of myself when another neighbor graciously helped her unload the elevator when all I could do was grudgingly hold the door for her. I could have been so much better, if I was thinking of someone else but me.

In Sunday's Gospel, Jesus reminds us that our greatest commandment is to love God and our neighbor. And yet, we find so many ways to make this way too complicated. We argue semantics over who our neighbor is,when we know the truth, Jesus meant everyone, even and especially the folks we don't gravitate towards naturally, even the ones who make us angry, those who speak a different language, even the folks who we disagree with.

It occurred to me this morning that this would be a great gospel to keep in prayer as I prepare to go vote next Tuesday. I'll be glad when the elections are over for several reasons, not the least of which is that the negative ads on the television are so disturbing. Perhaps the most encouraging thing I've heard lately about voting is the plea that all of us who can vote, must use this privilege-no matter which party or candidate we choose...we must exercise and use our right to vote. I agree with that.


Because in my deepest core I have to believe that faithful voices raised in meaningful, respectful dialogue can change the course of history. It doesn't happen quickly and it takes great patience, but change does happen. Our Judeo-Christian values...heck, even basic humanistic values, can lead us back to those two commandments, Love God and Neighbor...and act accordingly!!

So if we are honest with ourselves, we know darn well who our neighbor is, and we know exactly what we're supposed to them in every action and way we can. It's not complicated. It is hard, for love others. But just because it's hard doesn't mean we don't have to do it. Lots of things in life are hard and we do them anyway because we want the good results (dieting, exercising and school work come to mind).

Are we up for the challenge of loving our neighbor? I hope so! And I hope and pray we go to the voting booth on Tuesday contemplating how our choices will show our love for one another.

Peace and good.