Thursday, January 19, 2017

To Be Light!

I feel like the thing I hear most in our scripture readings lately is the call to be a light in the darkness. I'm stuck praying with this image for  awhile I think. I don't have to be the 'perfect' light in the darkness...and I am learning that cracks can reveal the light too. 

A group of community members are going to join hands in solidarity and prayer for peace in the next hour or so. I will be with them. I am proud that the organizers reached out to St Francis de Sales Church and asked us to participate. I am glad that people know what we stand for here on our little corner of El Barrio.

I remember my novice mistress teaching us that the daily newspaper should be as much a part of our daily prayer as scripture. In these last few months that has been overwhelmingly true for me and for many of you. I was reminded today that perhaps I should be praying for our President elect. Perhaps I should be. I certainly will try. Because that's what it means to be a light in the darkness right? Will you pray too? Perhaps if we all pray together, God's grace will shine on us all like that light in the darkness.

I have to go hold hands with my neighbors now, but I wanted to at least write a little something.
God bless!

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Isaiah is called. The Psalmist is called. Paul, Sosthenes and the people of Corinth were called.  John the Baptist and Jesus were called. You and I are called, still today. If that doesn't make you take a deep breath I don't know what will!

I can sort of cope with the notion of being called, as scary as that may be. I struggle with understanding exactly WHAT I am being called to do? WHAT am I called to be? I can count with ease the number of times I thought that I knew what God was asking of me, only to be rather rudely surprised by a twist of fate, or a clearer understanding of a situation. And that pesky little "thy will be done" prayer is an easy thing to trip over for sure.

Much of the time I take enormous consolation in that prayer from Thomas Merton, the one that starts: My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not know the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I may think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so...."
The prayer goes on, and in a very human manner states that as long as I am trying to follow God, and God's will for me...that the effort to do so counts, even if I mess up due to my feeble understanding.

Well thank goodness for that! A combination of this prayer and a very humble, "Lord, help me get out of my own way so you can use me to say or do what needs to be done in this situation" pretty much how I get through each day.

I know I want to be God's servant. I want to do God's will. Most days, I haven't a clue what that may mean or what it may cost me. But the desire is there, and that counts!

What about you? Do you have the desire, the courage to follow God's will for you? Even if you don't know where that might lead or how to know what that means?

As we move in the new year, perhaps we can pray for each other as we continue this journey and strive to follow God's will for us. We never know where it will lead, but wow, what a ride for sure!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

How Do We Welcome Others?

I was putting together a Christmas Bingo game for my students before the holiday and one of the questions was, "How many Kings were there"? Obviously the answer was 'three'. Or so I thought. According to my sources, no where in scripture do we read that there were three Kings. In looking at the Gospel this weekend, Matthew simply states that 'magi from the East arrived'. Perhaps it is because it is said they brought those famous three gifts that we arrived at the artists interpretation of three kings.

In any case, when we look at the traditional creche scene we always see three kings of different ethnicites. I always thought that was cool as a kid, because that was probably one of the few times I actually saw people who looked different from me. My hometown on LI was pretty much a place where we all looked the same.

I reflect now on how much I love ministering in a city parish. There are so many different types of people here and very few look like me! They are younger, some older, different nationalities, personalities...use whatever image you like...melting pot, fruitcake, the differences are beautiful! I feel safe within the diversity. I feel safe within my church family.

Sometimes, when I'm outside the boundaries of my church, on the busy streets of NYC, I don't always feel that same sense of safety or being at home. Sometimes when I see folks who dress or look differently from me, I sort of feel a little nervous. I'm not sure why...other than having to admit some level of ignorance on my part. I have come to understand I'm comfortable with folks who think like me...even if they don't look like me. It's when I don't understand where another is coming from that I can get uneasy.

Today in the church we celebrate Three Kings, and this month in our country we will see a new president move into the White House. When I put these two things together I am struck by the question how well do I, do we, welcome others when they are different from us? I'm trying not to cringe.

At St Francis we often hear how well visitors are welcomed when they join us for worship. We have a right to be proud of the hospitality we offer, but also need to challenge ourselves to look beyond the church folk and think about how well we will welcome the person off the street who hasn't been to church in years. The young person who has been hurt by the church. The older person who is carrying around bitter memories from years past. How well can we make them feel at home? That's our challenge I think in 2017. Welcome the new person to your group!

For me, I need to figure out a way to feel more comfortable with those folks who think and do things differently from me. I need to stop thinking my way is the only right way. I must admit it seems like an insurmountable task as I write this. But I am grateful at least for my desire to somehow try and be more welcoming with those who think and believe differently from me.

May God give us the wisdom and grace to be open to welcoming the stranger in 2017.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

From Darkest Night to Brightest Day

Christmas Morning Sunrise Light

We all, well, maybe many of us anticipate Christmas with the joy appropriate to the season. The smell of cookies and fir trees, the sounds of carols and bells, the sights of  multi-colored lights dancing in the night...and of course, our many versions of the Christmas Manger and the churches we call home.

This year I am mindful in a new way that for some, for a variety of reasons, Christmas might be a bit more low key. The reading we hear at night from Isaiah sums it up nicely I think: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwell in the land of gloom, a light has shone."

Some people aren't as close as they'd like to be with their families, either geographically or emotionally. Some people have loved ones in the hospital or have lost someone special in the last year or so. Some folks are just sad and this time of year is especially difficult. 

What can we do to reach out to them? Sometimes all it takes is a knock on a neighbor's door, or an invite for a cup of tea. In the world of social media it only takes a few strokes of the keyboard to let someone know you are praying for their special intention. We may have no idea what the promise of a prayer to be said may mean for a soul who is suffering.

Christmas certainly is a feast of Love. What we learn is that not only is God's love abundantly generous, but that God calls us to be the same. To be free to love, to give love away...not to be stingy with our hearts.

Yes, even in the gloom, the Light that is the Christ shines and can break through the darkness. If in the next week or so, you are called to be that light for someone else, don't be generous with your love. (and your Christmas cookies!)

Let us pray for one another this Christmas season, that we will freely share the love God has given us.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How Many Yeses?

I'm not one for holy pictures that make saints look other worldly, I like this image of St Joseph because at least he has muscles, as a carpenter would and looks tired after a long day of work and worry. He looks human...and not stuck as some guy forever holding a lily.

The Gospel this weekend tells us the story of Joseph's visit from an angel and his 'yes' to taking on the role of caretaker, husband and foster father for Mary and Jesus. I find myself wondering how we know this story? Since the dream was Joseph's, who did he tell? Who did he share this vision or dream with? I guess I'll have to presume at some point both Mary and Joseph shared their dreams with each other. Were they trying to understand what their roles were in this most amazing story? Were they trying to understand just exactly how they got to where they were on a particular day? Were they looking back over their history in awe of where their personal 'Yeses' led them?

Hindsight really is 20/20 isn't it? When we take a moment  in prayer to look back at how God has led us through the years, over the rough patches and into some very blessed opportunities, it makes me wonder why I would ever doubt God's care for me. In truth, from every event that seemed so horrible, a job lost, a missed chance, a broken friendship has come a new situation that has made my life immeasurably better.

What must it have been like for Joseph and Mary to look back over their lives, their many yeses, and see how God was leading them from one place to the next, helping them create a strong and loving family for Jesus at every moment. I know what that feels like for me, I can't even begin to imagine how much more profound those moments of realization must have been for them.

So, as we come to the end of another Advent I think about "Yes". The many yeses I have tried my best to offer to God over the years, some said with much hesitation, some more bravely, some foolishly...and I think of the incredible "Yes" God offers to me each and every day...

Yes, I will be with you, hold you close and support you.
Yes, I will comfort you when you are afraid.
Yes, I will lead you when you are lost.
Yes, I will laugh with you and share your joy when you are happy.
Yes, I will love you, especially when you feel unlovable...
Yes to you every day my child....and I am incredibly humbled.

That's probably a great way to enter into the Christmas mystery this year.
Happy Fourth Week of Advent to each of you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Patience? You've got to be kidding me....

The readings this weekend are something else! That first reading and the image of the flowers blooming in the wasteland, the joyful words of hope and expectation-song, wonder-Here is your God come to save you...just take a deep breath and drink that all in!

The second reading calling me, (us!) to be patient until the day of the Lord is here. We'll come back to that idea of patience and how that has been a life long struggle for me!

The Gospel with John asking the question: "Are YOU the one or should we look for another?" (They were cousins...he didn't know??) I spent a significant amount of time recently praying with this passage in relation to current events this Advent. Both the first reading and the gospel speak about the blind seeing, the lame walking, the deaf hearing and so on, as signs that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Wow. Advent, we know, is the time not just to remember the story of Jesus' birth, but to think about and prepare for that second coming...whenever that will be.
What if the second coming was coming now? What are the signs of the times we should be paying attention to? The world certainly seems 'on the brink' sometimes... Would you be prepared if this second coming were coming...sooner rather than later? What would you want to change in your life, in your heart if you had a moment to prepare? Yikes! It would take me more than a moment...

Which I guess brings me back to James's advice to be patient ( and not judge one another and don't complain about each other...simple right?) It seems to me like there's a  both/and here....we need to be patient with one another and encourage each other to grow in these virtues. At the same time we can't sit back and lollygag...(do we still use that word?) We need to be about the work of the kingdom! We need to speak for justice, for the poor, we need to stand up for our brothers and sisters when we see harm being done...we need to be on fire with Gospel values.This Sunday we light the pink candle and perhaps you'll see a priest or deacon in a pink vestment. This is our reminder to be joyful, to be excited as we hope for the kingdom. "Pink" has become a by-word too for both Victoria's Secret and Breast Cancer awareness...(coincidence?) This third Sunday of Advent, let PINK be a reminder to us that we need to be patient with ourselves and each other and at the same time, we need to be on fire for the coming of the Kingdom of God. How we accomplish both those virtues, I'm not sure...maybe it's a day by day thing. But I'll be happy to work for Kingdom with you. 

Happy Pink Sunday!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Where Was God at Your Thanksgiving Table?

Last weekend was Thanksgiving weekend for us. Honestly, I don't remember ever worrying about the political talk at the dinner table any other year. Over and over I saw blogs and news stories and all manner of social communication telling me how to avoid conflict at the dinner table.

I don't know about your dinner, but mine was just lovely. Uneventful even. No drama. And for that I am most grateful.

We are a big, warm, loving and loud Italian family that gathered at my sisters house this year. Three big kids were home from college and we couldn't wait to hear their stories and smother them with hugs and kisses. There were elderly aunts (myself included now I guess...) sisters and cousins. We all just enjoyed each other. (alright, for the most part...) And for that I was grateful.

When I asked folks afterwards about their Thanksgivings and where they might have found God in it all (because that's what we do in RCIA after all right?!) folks had simple tales of seeing how much they've grown because of rugby, practice parenting with younger siblings and what that felt like, HS reunions and welcoming old classmates, gratitude for studio apartments and life after 15 years of cancer wars, and friends at thanksgiving meals. In all our gatherings and in the coming home to quiet, we could find God. In weddings and lunches and small business Saturdays we found God. (I think God avoided the black Friday's hard to find anything or anyone in those crowds!)

Finally, at church on Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, in the routine of the prayers and the music, with this congregation I love, there was a very real quiet breeze that gave me goosebumps, and helped me see how very grateful I was for how I absolutely know God is with us here, in this place, in all our crazy humanity, as we await his coming once more.

If you're wondering about that photo on top, that's my Goddaughter Olivia. She gets frustrated with me when I don't remember to snapchat or instagram as many times as she teaches me what to do. Where do I find God? Look at that smile of hers! Look how her face lights up!! She reminds me all the time to be more loving, more patient...she makes me my best self. I find God in her!!

As we move into Advent, take time to look around you and see where God is for you today.