Thursday, December 17, 2015

Blessed are we...

Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent Friends,

The Gospel today is one of my favorites, the story of the Annunciation...of Mary and Elizabeth coming together each to help the other in their time of need, as well as to share a great joy.

For so many years and in so many places I've prayed with this reading, I am always touched by the idea of these two amazing women, one young, one not so young, being able to spend this amazing time of their lives together in love, support, care and creativity. Can you imagine the baby clothes being knitted...or whatever they did in the middle east to prepare for the birth of such beloved sons?
That time must have been such a treasure to those cousins.

Today it is the last line of the Gospel that is compelling to me: Blessed are  you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord, would be fulfilled.

In my own life I know this is absolutely true! There are many times when I can now see that God has called, moved and directed me (most times unknowingly) towards a certain path. That path always leads, eventually, to greater life and love in Him. As I get older I realize that the trick is to listen a bit more to try and hear where God is leading and what God might be asking of me. In order to believe what God has said to me, I need to quiet down enough to hear God's voice.

I am getting better at trusting that God's promise will be fulfilled. Even more, realizing that fulfillment will come in God's time and not my own. That doesn't mean that there aren't small moments of doubt along the way, they just don't overpower me as much. Recently someone shared a quote with me, attributed to Joan of Arc- "I am not afraid, I was born for this!"  I've been praying with this line a lot. First of all, I think Joan should have been, and I am sometimes, a little afraid...but beyond that very human emotion, I would like to think that I am living the life God imagined for me. That these years of service to the church, the honor of working with as many families as I have, the love shared in my own circle of family and friends, all of this, nothing big, just normal day to day life, is what God had in mind for me. And I feel very lucky, very blessed by the gifts given to me in my life.

So, I do believe that God's promises are fulfilled to me and on a much larger scale, to our world. I know we as a world don't listen well. Maybe that will be my prayer this Christmas day, that in the midst of the suffering and pain, the violence and heartache that seems so prevalent today, I can pray that more people will begin to take the time to listen to the quiet voice of God in their hearts and create small pockets of peace in our world. Maybe those small little peaceful places can grow big enough to cover the world with hope!

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Happy Third Sunday of Advent.

It seems to me like I've had this conversation multiple times in the past week about WHY this is 'rejoice Sunday' or why we light the pink candle...but I can't complain for the opportunity to say to someone that it's all about being happy. It's that joyous expectation that something wonderful is going to happen soon...but we still have to wait for it...

That must be how a couple feels as they await the arrival of their first baby...I know grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends go crazy waiting for that first baby! Such joyous anticipation. Such happiness. God is so good to give us these moments of great joy!

It is way too easy to see December with all it's commercialism as a time of stress and anxiety. I am grateful to God that for some unknown reason, so far, deep down, I feel pretty peaceful about life. I know there is a lot to do, I know we're trying to make the season prayerful for others...and I may lose my cool with the ones I love, but mostly, I think I feel pretty calm. I am looking forward to time to celebrate the love of family and friends. I am excited about the beauty of the liturgies we will celebrate together as a parish family. I am grateful for the abiding trust in the God that cares for us even in the midst of a scared, crazy world.

One of our students this week asked a really great question: If they thought that John the Baptist was the Messiah, how come they didn't listen to or believe him when he pointed toward Jesus and told them that HE was the Messiah? What a really good question!! If the guy you thought was the Messiah told you straight up, "Nah, it's not me, it's HIM!" Why wouldn't you believe him?

I don't know. Maybe because they had a preconceived image of what the Messiah should look like...(really, John covered in camels hair was their image?)  and since a poor carpenter from Nazareth didn't fit their image, they weren't interested. What a shame. They missed what was right in front of their faces because they couldn't open their eyes or mind or hearts to see the truth!

Perhaps as we move into the third week of Lent, this reminder of the joy in life, we might ask for the grace to find the moments to be happy in the midst of all our Christmas preparations. Maybe we can go a little slower, breathe a little deeper and hold close to our hearts a few of the little tiny thing that cause us to remember that God is with us, that God loves us, that God holds us close with abiding care.

So light that pink candle on the advent wreath and hum that song of rejoicing. God is truly with us, in our world, and that is something to celebrate.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Gracious Heart

What is there to say today but "Thank you"!

I want to start a new tradition in my family where we each take time to put on paper exactly what we are grateful for on this Thanksgiving day in this particular year. I think that's important because, each year we will be in a different place at least emotionally, and our hearts will be grateful for different things. Of course, this means I need to remember to bring the same notebook each year to record our pressure there!!

Aside from the obvious thankfulness for the love and craziness of my family, especially my nieces and nephews, and that of my friends...(especially that Jersey crowd!!) I think this year I'm grateful for the ways I can see I have grown. I'm not so afraid, still a little, but not lots. I'm more content. More peaceful. More grounded. I think I have learned to trust that God really is in charge and will take care of me, better than I can take care of my self. From that awareness comes the ability even at this point in my journey to dream new dreams. To wonder what comes next? What the heck does God have in store for me next year? And to think about that excites me. To imagine what the future holds for all I love, but especially those adored nieces and nephew...well, that just is amazing.

There is sadness in thinking of the friends I've lost this year. But I know, beyond all knowing that they are at peace, and I am so grateful for that belief. I rejoice with friends who are expecting new life in their families, and with those who are nurturing little ones on their path. I am grateful I still get to play with the kids at church just like when I was a teen ager in my home parish.

My life feels complete.

For that, and for you, I am most grateful.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hope and Peace

It happens every so often that our liturgical readings really and truly reflect what is going on in our world. Wow, is that ever true these we see in the news all around us terror and threats and mayhem and destruction. Our readings reflect that as well, we call these the 'end times' readings...filled with images of what the world might be like when the Son of Man comes.

As I look closely at this Sundays readings I am surprised. I keep thinking I should see something that frightens me, but what I see in all three readings are words that describe how awesome our King is! Dreams speak of dominion and glory, and countries proud to serve Him. Psalms speak of splendor and strength of holiness and trust. Revelation speaks of faithfulness and power and John reflects Jesus' passion for Truth. I don't see fear here. I see hope.

And hope is what I need.

I was on the subway today, for a longer than usual commute. My goodness! In the space of the time it took to go 4 stops I witnessed three occasions where strangers were actually yelling at each other. I don't scare too easily after 20 some odd years living in Manhattan, but I was a little nervous. I didn't know if things would escalate or get out of control. I didn't know why people were so cranky. Then I remembered everything that we've been seeing in the news and prayed...Oh dear God, we have every right to be cranky...we're scared...of the unknown crazy person out there who will do something awful.

So how do we live with that fear? I don't know. But I know I'm not going to hide. I'm going to take a deep breathe, pray more for sure, and try to treat others better...and continue to live the life God gives me. Each day. I hope being aware of God's care for me, will make me better able to love the ones around me, and be patient with those who are afraid.

We need to be people of Hope and Peace.  Please, God, help us all.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

My words last forever

In the Gospel this weekend Jesus says "heaven and earth will pass away but my words will last forever". Somehow, on this bleary Thursday, this comforts me. I know the readings at this time of the year are all about the 'end times' and generally serve to unnerve me a bit...but today, not so much, probably because of how my week has gone.

I was very fortunate this past Sunday - Tuesday to join a group of certified directors and coordinators of Religious Education in the Archdiocese of NY for our annual Wisdom Gathering. OK, let me stop you right now and clarify that 'certified' means we've all gone through a certain course of study to improve our skills, not the other kind of at Bellevue...! Stop snickering!
In any case, a few days away, quiet, prayer, study of scripture with Sr. Carol Perry, a bit of laughter and friendship was truly life giving.

I came back from this event into an amazing evening of parish community building...a group of 31 folks from the parish who really didn't know each other all that well, went out to dinner together just for the fun of it! What a great night! And really, what a terrific way to take the church out of the church and bring it into the neighborhood! Thanks to Charlie and Maria who took such excellent care of us at Lexington Pizza. Tuesday evening was table fellowship at its best.

But then, Wednesday was amazing. While everyone else took the day off, (thank you to all the Veterans who are such an example of loving service), I had the opportunity to take 8 of our young people on a special confirmation retreat out at Bishop Molloy Retreat House in Jamaica, NY. I don't know these kids all that well. What a delightful day with a bunch of polite, funny, thoughtful and kind young people. But here's when they stole my heart...

The retreat team had provided an opportunity for the sacrament of Reconciliation for the students. As we went into chapel I explained to them the time was theirs if they would like to receive this sacrament. I expected some hesitation. I expected questions. What happened next blew me away...they couldn't wait to go! They were so anxious to be 'next' on line...and so sincere in their approach to this sacrament. How could I be the ONLY one NOT to go...those kids actually shamed me into going to confession!! I couldn't believe it.

So, after lunch when we were talking about how people give witness to their faith, it gave me great pride to share with them how their example of wanting to go to confession pushed me to receive the sacrament I so often shy away from. I could tell them what a great witness they were to me. I will never look at those 8 teens in the same way again. I am so grateful to God for their witness to me yesterday in so many simple ways.

So, among all the things Jesus said I hold onto his command to  love, respect and welcome his 'little ones'. Those words will forever be with me  I promise I always will. They have so much to teach me.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Giving and Trusting

Two of the three readings this weekend talk about widows and their generosity. I feel guilty. I'm not that generous. I work hard for the paycheck I receive and I try to stretch a dollar pretty far to pay bills and spoil nieces and nephews. When I wonder what God is asking of me as I listen to these readings, I think...I've given up so much already, according to societal standards...what more do you want from me?

I should never ask that of God...because the answer is always the same...God replies very simply, "Jayne, I want it all..." Oh man....I'm in trouble.

How did she do that, the widow of Zarephath? She had only enough to feed her child and herself and yet she shared the little she had with a stranger? How does the widow give away the tiny bit she had to live on, in a society that had no regard for her as a could she risk giving her last pennies as a tithe to the temple? How would they take care of themselves after they gave it all away?

Maybe there's a lesson in trust for me here...

If God truly wants me to give all I have away...metaphorically, literally, and any other way, maybe the way I can do that is if I trust God to take care of me when I have nothing. I can spend the next 20 years worrying about who will take care of me when I can't work anymore...or I can trust that in my old age, God will provide. I can worry about how will I  afford a new car when this one breaks down, or I can trust that God will show me a way...and maybe mass transit is a better option for me some days. I can worry about paying the bills, or I can believe another when it is said "I'll help you." How hard it is to ask for help, believe in help, trust in's easier to try and do it all myself.

So, maybe when I hear these readings this week I need to remind myself that it is about more than important as that is...for me at least, it's about trusting, on every level, that when I need help, from my God, from my friends, from my family...that I will find help. And I probably won't even need to ask, because it will be offered out of love.

I need to trust.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

What shall we become?

I've prayed a lot with the Beatitudes lately, and recalled some really important funerals, my friend, my Dad, where this was the reading chosen as the Gospel. It gives me comfort and hope, and for that I am most grateful.

Today I am caught by Paul's words in the second reading..."We are God's children now, what we shall be has not yet been revealed."  It makes me wonder what plans God may still have in store for me. As the winter darkness approaches, as days get shorter and colder and my whole being wants to hide under the covers until it's warm again...I wonder...could there be new dreams still in store for me? Does God have more still for me to do? How will I know what path I should travel next?

These two quotes by amazing women were shared with me last week:

You have created me. What do you want me to do?   Teresa of Avila

I am not afraid. I was made for this.    Joan of Arc

I must admit, even typing that quote from Joan frightens me...I am not that brave, at least I don't think I when I ask God what does He want me to is with a bit of trepidation...because, I live a pretty simple life and I'm not sure I'm courageous enough for something big and different.

But, Paul says, 'what we shall be has yet to be revealed' maybe there is more in me than I know.

As we head into November and a cold winter...I give myself over to the hope that God knows what he is doing in my life...I just have to trust and listen to his call.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Do we REALLY want to see?

This past week in our Monday Religious Education program, the youngsters spent some time 'breaking open' the Sunday scriptures. At the end of the session, I asked the children to tell me something they had learned, or something they hoped was wonderful to listen to them tell me what they had learned about the 'blind man' and how Jesus helped him. It was even more amazing to watch their catechists face shine with pride and happiness as she realized that she had helped the Gospel become real for these children. It was a great way to end a Monday afternoon.

As I look at the story of the blind man this afternoon, I am caught as I often am, by the question and answer exchange between Bartimaeus and Jesus. Why would Jesus ask, "what do you want me to do for you"? Wouldn't it be obvious that a blind person would want to see? What else could he possible desire? And so his answer reflects that..."I want to see"!!

I wonder, now that he CAN see...WHAT does he see? What is he looking for? Is he glad he can see? Is he disturbed by what he sees?

What about us? If we are men and women who take the words of Jesus to heart, how do we see the world around us? Do we see God's love and care evidenced in nature and relationships and sunrises and warm embraces? Do we see God's challenge to us in the homeless and the poor and the forgotten? What do we see when another police officer is shot and killed? What do we see when another house burns down in a poor neighborhood?  Maybe more importantly...what do we DO, with what we see? Are we moved to prayer? To action? To the desire to work for change in an unjust world?

Sometimes I have to we really want to see or would we rather be blind to the issues that haunt us and challenge us? What do you think?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

No Regrets

I usually take this time to reflect a bit on the readings for the upcoming weekend, but, today I digress a bit.

First, my compliments to our music director on HIS music blog! He was the one who showed me how to start this whole blog thing, and my goodness, his blog is quite inspiring! Thanks Jim for the uplifting words and thoughts this week on discipleship. We all need to be encouraged to go outside ourselves and be men and women of faith and action.

Secondly, I am glad to notice that I am more excited and less nervous about our upcoming Religious Education classes this weekend. Our kick off weekend was really terrific and it's been great meeting and getting to know all our families new and old. I really hope to invite many families to make the ministries of the parish their own: music, hospitality, serving...the parish really does need and want all members to find a place where they are happy to serve. I hope together we can make St Francis more vibrant and vital in our neighborhood.

I find myself in quiet and stillness remembering the life of a very special woman who passed away this week. Anne was an amazing, honorable woman who I was graced to know for the last 15 years. She was fun, loving, kind, thoughtful, virtuous, and so many other things...and she was my friend. She's been sick for a long time, never complained about her illness or fell into the 'why me'? trap...She bore her suffering with dignity.

When time was getting short I asked her if there was anything else she would like to do while she still could...? Was there anything left undone or any place she wanted to see or go? Her answer humbled me...there was nothing left that she needed to do or see, no loose ends, no regrets...she was content with her life and at this point wanted nothing more than to have dinner with her friends.

I am in awe of the idea that she could get to the end of her life and have no regrets, have everything settled. She was at peace with her God and with the world.

So, my reflection this weekend is quite simple, I wish the same for myself and for all of you. That we find the wisdom to live our lives, each day until the end with no regrets.

Pray for us Anne!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

It's about relationship.

I think it's always about relationship. In the beginning we long for relationship, in the end, that's all that matters...'did you love?' I hope is the question God asks us when we come before Him.

The Gospel today mentions marriage and divorce...and we know how messy that can all be. I know God wants us to be people who love. People in relationship..with HIM first of all, and then with each other.

So today we begin another year in Religious Education at St Francis de Sales. I'm excited and nervous too. I want it all to go well! I want everyone, children and parents to feel comfortable and welcome. As always, my hope for the year is that we help our children learn to grow more in their relationship with the God who loves them. I imagine that if we help them develop a real relationship with God, with Jesus, that they will be able to weather whatever storms lie ahead for them in life. I want them to know they have a person to turn to when things are hard.

Life isn't perfect. Stuff happens. I believe God is always there, waiting to console us, celebrate with us, comfort us, cheer us on. That's what I want our kids to learn. I want their parents to learn this too.

So, if you have a spare moment this weekend, pray for us on Sunday...that all will go well, that children and adults will hear the message God wants them to hear, and that all will go home happy, ready to spread the Good News to others.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What gets in your way?

It is so hard to respond to Sundays' Gospel with the usual words: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ!
Praise?? For chopped off hands, feet and missing eyes? Gross! Yuck. Ewwww. That really can't be what Jesus is talking about here.

Going deeper into the absolute mystery of this passage these are the things that catch me:
That 'cup of water' and the 'little ones'.

Living in NYC, it's almost a daily event to see a person in need asking for some help. Money, food, a own personal favorite story was the day I lost my last job, I was approached by someone looking for money to get on the train to go to a job interview...and I simply told him I had just lost my job...and he wished me good can't make this stuff up!!

In any case, I am often reminded of the need to be respectful and compassionate, even if I can't be financially helpful...I can always offer what I think of that biblical cup of water...sometimes on a hot day, it may be an actual cup of water, other times it may be just treating a less fortunate brother or sister as a human being.

And the little do we not think of the tenderness our Pope is showing to all, especially the youngest ones in the crowds that are greeting him on his U.S. trip? Pope Francis certainly seems to embody this gospel he embraces and blesses our children.

But then I'm back to the chopping off hands and feet...we had a discussion here last night at our monthly LGBTQS group in the Parish and we all found our way to the idea that maybe what Jesus was trying to tell us was: If there is something or someone in your life that prevents you from drawing closer to God, to following Gods' will for you in your life, then maybe we need to separate ourselves from that obstacle. It's easy to see how money, power, fame, and even some relationships may lead us down a path away from all that is good and holy and of God. It's not comfortable to look at that, and not simple to make the change that might be needed. But in our quiet moments, if we are thoughtful people, we know what brings us closer to God, what makes us our best selves, and what gets in our way...

So, with the image of Pope Frank everywhere this week...let's take a few minutes in prayer to ponder how we too, like the Pope, can be a good example of living out the Gospel message in our world.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Christianity isn't for the faint hearted

I was going to say, Christianity isn't for wimps...but do we even use that word anymore? I was speaking with a young couple who are interested in beginning the RCIA process this week and we were talking about the benefit of discovering the desire for a faith life when one is old enough to take the commitment seriously. Christianity is certainly something we hope to grow in throughout our lives, because it is certainly not meant to be easy. Look at what Jesus says in the Gospel...that whole "take up your cross, deny your self' riff...who in their right mind would be attracted to that?

Yet, we know, as adult believers, there is no other way to Jesus but through the cross. Not that we need to go creating some of our own making! No, life has a way of knocking us down, without us needing to go looking for any more suffering or difficulty. The mark of a Christian, perhaps, is how we live through the pain and suffering, the hardship and the disappointments, and still manage to be joyful witnesses to Gods' love for all. I think the secret to that is found in the second reading which speaks so well to the need to be of service to one another. We  can not truly be happy in this life if we are thinking only of ourselves. If we think of and work for the good of others, it is there that our hearts swell and we find joy. Think about it's true isn't it? When you do something for another is when you find your self most happy.

As we in NYC prepare for the arrival of Pope Francis, my prayer is that we will put aside our 'NY attitude' and be open to what he would like to say to us. We may be called to consider moving outside our comfort level and be of service to others. May the Spirit give us ears to hear!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Be Strong! Fear Not!

What words could be more suitable as students and teachers and parents everywhere prepare to enter into the mystery of a new academic year? From Isaiah: "Be strong! Fear not!"

When I paused at my desk this afternoon, surrounded by class lists, calendars, text book orders and the like, I thought, with only a few minutes to spare all I really want to say this week is "I'm praying for you all". Those students beginning in new schools, or going back to continue in your 'old' school; teachers, new and old, getting ready to face new classes; parents struggling to let little ones go for the first time, or, exhausted from summer, ready to send big ones back into the care of the new teachers.

It's another letting go. It's another beginning. It's another change. For most of us change whether its good or bad, fun or hard, our choice or another's --we find change hard. That's OK, I think. Once we acknowledge it's difficult, then we just have to live through it until the new and uncomfortable becomes something we're used to again. That's just the way life is, isn't it?

So, looking at the Gospel story this week where Jesus heals the deaf man, I pray for each of us, but especially those going back to school, or anyone starting something brand new...that we have ears that are open to hear all that God wants us to learn in the year ahead. Most of all, every morning, may we hear how very much God loves us.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Where would you go??

Wow! Every once in awhile, all the readings line up perfectly...and hit us right between the eyes don't they? I know there's a theme each week, in the Church's infinite wisdom, but some weeks it is so obvious even I can see it!!

So, when Joshua proclaims in the first reading: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!"
and Peter cries out in the Gospel: "Lord, to whom would we go?" (Is it just me, or do you hear him in a whiney voice?) I get it! I really do!

I have been fortunate to work in church ministry for my whole life...really, I probably started when I was 12 or 14 in my home parish of  St Frances de Chantal in Wantagh. I loved being a part of the youth group, the folk group, the plays we put on, working as sacristan, serving as lector and Eucharistic minister and it was no surprise to anyone when I chose church work for my career. I have worked in a girls Catholic HS, then in 6 parishes, including where I am now. For the most part, I have loved every minute, and so many of the people I have met. I truly am blessed.

Still, every now and again, in a difficult moment...something makes me wonder if it wouldn't be easier to do something else, be something else, believe in a different way...cause we Catholics certainly have a lot of rules and regulations to live by. But my mind and heart really can't even begin to conceive of being anything other than the person I am in the faith I was raised in. Sure I wish things would change more quickly...Lord knows, and my family does too, I was not gifted with the virtue of patience. And so, like St Thomas More, I think, said..."Here I stand, I can do no other."

For better or worse, I am Catholic through and through. Proud of my faith, proud of my church, (especially with the leadership of Pope Francis) and even though sometimes it seems very hard to follow the words and will of Jesus in scripture...I find myself like Peter crying out: "where would I go?" I choose You, Lord. I put my life in your hands.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mary understands

It's been a strange, long week. Really, it has been. And I'm looking forward to some time to just step apart and breathe a little bit.
As I paused to think before I started writing, I noticed that this Saturday we will celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. And my eyes fell upon the beautiful prayer, the Magnificat. And all of a sudden, I could breathe again. The knot in my stomach dissolved. I found peace for the first time all week in my mother's prayer:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
my spirit rejoices in God my savior
for his has looked with favor upon his lowly servant...
From this day all generations will call me blessed
The Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his name...

Why don't I pray this more often?
Why don't I turn to Mary in my distress and confide my worries in her?
Why do I think I have to handle it all on my own?

It was so many years ago now, that I met Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe when I was fortunate to work at that church on 14th st in NYC. It was through the humble faith of those strong immigrant men and women that I came to know Mary as a mother again...Having grown up in a world fighting for equal rights for women, I had neglected what was there all along-the image of Mary as a strong, loving, faith filled woman.

Most days I think I have to handle it all on my own. And that makes me tired and sometimes cranky.
Today, when I remembered Mary, all of a sudden, the burden was lighter. That's kind of amazing to me. So I invite you to do the same. Feeling stressed? Feeling beaten down?
Stop a minute and slowly pray the words of the Magnificat...and feel your heart open again. Just relax and breathe.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Be Compassionate

St Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians today: "Be kind to one another, compassionate, ...."
I find the word 'compassionate' resonating with me today as I anticipate Sunday.

We have received a surprising amount of phone calls this week that began with the words: "I used to be a member of St X church...but they closed last week and I'm looking for a place to...worship, come to Mass, baptize my child, find a 'faith home'..." We knew we might get some phone calls, some folks at Mass...but there have been more than I would have imagined.

I feel deeply for these parishioners with no parish, who find themselves searching for a new place to be nurtured and fed. And I'm so glad they've found St Francis de Sales on 96th St...because this place is so ready and willing to welcome new comers! I love watching folks greet each other when they come into church, it's like everyone is a new really is just beautiful to watch and I'm so glad to be a small part of it all.

So, as we move through these lazy days of August, I pray for all our brothers and sisters in the city who are searching for a new parish home. I hope that if they wander by our doors, they come in and receive a warm, caring welcome. I'll be waiting at the doorway to say hello to you. Together, let us follow Jesus where he leads us in our daily lives. What an adventure it promises to be!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Be Who You Are!!

Jesus says very clearly this weekend in our Gospel, He is our Bread of Life. No doubt about it, it is Jesus who nourishes us, sustains us, feeds us...Jesus is all we need to survive. Our daily bread.

What does this have to do with the quote so beautiful illustrated above by Br. Mickey McGrath? Everything, I think.

Jesus knew who he was, in his very core...a Son of God the Father...and he lived out his truth in every moment of his days.

Who are we? Who are you and I? Do we act out of the knowledge that we are God's sons and daughters or do we act as less than that?

I was gifted with the opportunity to see the show "Amazing Grace" on Broadway the other night. Even as I sat watching this historical drama, I knew I'd have to say something about it. There is a line in the play when one character says something like: "Audiences are fickle, they'll leave the theater and forget all about this...." "This" being the issue of slavery that is the core of the story. That makes me sad, for the playbill took the time to explain that slavery/human trafficking is a more extensive problem today then it was in the days of the slave trade, yet no one is paying attention...I can't even get my head around the reality of slavery, 200 years ago, or now. Certainly not an example of human beings acting as their best selves. What are we called to do about this now?

How do we act as our best selves, children of the God who created us, more often, rather than less? I guess we pray. I guess we try to serve others. I think I try to be more generous rather than less. More loving for sure. And when the opportunity comes to speak the truth...God give me the courage to open my mouth for the good of others.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Not Counting Women and Children

We had a group meet in the parish last night, and together we broke open the gospel for Sunday about the feeding of the one of the group pointed out, in John's version of the story, it doesn't even say 'not counting women and children'. How much more invisible could those women and children possibly be?

I remember learning in scripture study that one school of thought on that miracle was that folks sitting on that hillside, once they saw the example of the young boy, opened up their cloaks and decided to share the food they had brought with them for the days journey. Who do you think prepared and brought that food?? I'm pretty sure it was the women!!

But the opposite of being invisible is being judged solely on how you appear in public. Which is the other issue that women and, yes, all people deal with all the time. Women are judged by an unrealistic beauty image and more often that not, found lacking. Men too for  that matter. We do it to each other.

It's impossible not to have a first impression, I guess. I think what I need to try and do is not ACT on my first impression. I have to learn more to look in the eyes of the other person and see who they really are. I need to listen to their story before I decide if this is someone who I want to get to know better. I need to be respectful of the humanity of another. And that's what I want to teach by example to my nieces and nephew, and to the children in our faith formation programs. In a society where we are so quick to judge people because of difference, I want to learn better to take a breath, and see for myself who the other person truly is. (And yes, I'd still like to be thinner, but that would be for my health, not because I need to look like a Barbie doll...)

Everyone has their gifts to share...and what a blessing it is in life to discover what each other's gifts are! Who can bake? And share their goods at the hospitality table? Who can sew? And make an amazing Glinda costume for a crazy aunt? Who had money to share? And does so very generously with the parish they love? Who can teach? And will help our youngsters learn about God's love for them? Who can organize? And will keep us all on track? Who can make us laugh? And will lighten the mood at any meeting?

I guess what I'm thinking as we approach the weekend is simply this: In God's eyes, we ALL count! The sooner we learn to live like that, see others the way God does, the better off the world would be!

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Go off to a quiet place

I'm excited to say I'm going off to a wedding this weekend.

This lovely young woman, who I have had the honor of knowing since she was about five or so, is getting married to this great, fun, warm, charming guy. I am looking forward to celebrating the sacrament of their love, their marriage to one another.

The Gospel this Sunday talks about Jesus looking for a 'quiet place' to recharge his soul. We certainly all can understand that, especially since so many of us use this summer vacation time to do just that for ourselves! To get to this wedding I have a six hour car ride to use as my 'quiet place' before I enter into all the hustle and bustle that comes with a wedding.

If you've ever been involved in a wedding you know that the stress level of everyone seems to escalate in a mystifying way...and it seems difficult for the immediate players to really savor the moments leading up to and including the big event. Everyone is worried about all the peripheral things being 'just so'... to the detriment of the actual sacrament. And then the day is done and married life begins.
It reminds me of what it is like to live Ordinary Time in the church year. These green days of summer. I love them! I love how each day holds a beautiful mystery waiting to unfold. Small things like children laughing in a sprinkler or an older couple holding hands as they sit on the bus. Ordinary time brings difficulty too we know, but if we're lucky we have family and friends to help hold us up then.
This brings me back to my young friends getting married this weekend. I wish them a lovely day of course, but more than that, I wish them many many years of happiness and contentment in the ordinary days of their lives. I pray they can handle the stress of the big moments that will come their way, and more importantly, that they will enjoy and cherish the little ordinary moments that will make up their lives together. May God bless them.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I feel very lucky, and most grateful.

The readings this weekend talk about the many ways God chooses us, cares for us, calls us to mission and accompanies us as we 'walk the walk and talk the talk' of being a Christian. The readings reminded me of another reading from Jeremiah where the prophet hears God say: "work for the good of the land to which I send you, for on it's welfare, yours depends" (Jer. 29:7)

As we move into the summer days in NYC I find myself with time to breath, time to reflect, time to plan for the year to come. And as I reflect, I find myself very grateful for all God has done and is doing in my life.

Yesterday, I took a break from the computer and went out to sit on the front steps of the parish house for a little bit. Surprisingly enough, the first person I saw was someone I knew from my last parish assignment. I said hello quickly before she vanished into the rushing 96th St crowd. She was surprised I saw her and said hello. We chatted for only a few minutes as she was in a rush...but one of the things she said as we ended our conversation was this: "you were so lucky, you went from one parish to another so quickly"! (and since my former place of employment is slated to close/merge this month...even more lucky)!

I do feel lucky to be here at St Francis. More than lucky, I feel blessed. I feel like God absolutely led me here, to this place, in this time. Therefore, I feel so very grateful. I am grateful for all the good things that have happened this past year, for the people I've met, the opportunities I've been given to grow professionally, as a parish minister. I'm grateful for the things that made me smile, and the things that challenged be to stretch my understanding of myself and others. In the midst of a larger church that is changing and struggling to find its equilibrium, the people here at St Francis are good, and faithful, and caring and committed to trying to live Gospel values. I am grateful to be among them.

In the Gospel Jesus says "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave".  I think of our parishioners here at St Francis. So many folks find this church when they move into the neighborhood because of a job opportunity. While they are here in the city, they make this place their church home. For one year, for five, for however long they are living here. And they get involved! Our challenge is to get to know one another quickly and work together well. This fast paced ministry turnover is quite a challenge! It's hard on the heart too, you get to know a family or a couple or a great individual and before you can blink they are moving on to wherever God is calling them next. Sigh.

So, while we have the time together, let us be grateful. Let us work for the good of this parish God gives us. Let us enjoy each other and our neighborhood at brunch this Sunday at noon, or with lemonade on our urban 'front porch'.  Please know how much I am looking forward to getting to know you better!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

To See With New Eyes

Lots of us will be headed out of town this weekend for family BBQ's celebrating the 4th of July.
In my family, the 4th was my dad's birthday, so we were always together, a tradition that continues today. This year, my dad's nephew, my cousin, (who was named after my dad!) is having us all over to his new summer house in Hampton Bays. Yay for him and double hurray for us!! I am looking forward to this family reunion to see cousins I don't get to see that often, especially the youngest who are 4 and 5 years old and live a few hours away. It will be fun to see them again and see how they've grown in the last year. One of the little ones was having some speech I wonder how he's doing now. The little girl seems to be 'the boss' of the boys, and it's always amusing to watch her run the show. My older cousins have finished another year in college, have new girlfriends and boyfriends, so it will be fun to see how they are growing into adulthood too.

The Gospel this Sunday speaks about how Jesus was received when he went home to his 'native place'. As we hear the story, it is apparent that this home visit did NOT go well. His neighbors were not happy to see him. They perceived Jesus as being 'too big for his britches' it seems. They sound like jealous,unhappy people. Yes, they were 'astonished' at his teaching, but apparently not in a good way. They took offense at his sharing his learning, his ideas about who God his Father was. Wow. Talk about not seeing what's right in front of you! Jesus, scripture says, was "amazed at their lack of faith." That's pretty bad.

They just couldn't see him with new eyes. They could only see the little boy who grew up in their midst as the carpenters son. I wonder what kept them from rejoicing at their 'native son' having grown so well in holiness and wisdom. What kept them from proclaiming with pride 'he's one of us!' instead of the hurtful 'who does he think he is'? Ah, we are all broken humans at times aren't we? Just like St Paul speaks of in the second reading...we all have a sin or a weakness we wish we could conquer, could grow past, and yet somehow, that one thing, so often drags us down. Yet Paul reminds us, it is in our weakness that God gets to show his power, his greatness, his goodness.

So this weekend as we gather together with family and friends, let us celebrate how good it is to be together in love. Let's try to see each other with new eyes and let go of the past. The handsome young nephew who is 26, yes, was once that bratty 5 year old, but oh my goodness, look how nicely he's grown up! If we can see the good things that have blossomed in others, maybe they will be kind enough to see the goodness that has grown in us as well.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Healing Stories

This weekend the Gospel is about a great dad, named Jairus, who begs Jesus to heal his young daughter. I love this story for so many reasons, the faith and love of the father most of all. The way Jesus deals with the skeptics. The little bit of Aramaic (I presume...) that they put in there for some unknown reason, just another little Gospel mystery.

We also hear parenthetically, the story of a woman who is healed of a chronic illness. Again, a story of great faith and courage. She is an example to all of us about trusting what we say we believe.

I have two other stories of great courage and faith that I have been keeping in my heart this week. One is personal, the other belongs to us all.

Last week we all were shocked, saddened, by the terrible event in Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina. I wonder how much more brutality our hearts can absorb? As I was preparing to come to work in the parish last Sunday morning, the news was reporting that the families of the murdered victims and the congregation at that church were speaking out with love and forgiveness in their hearts for the young man who committed this crime. What I want to say is that their forgiveness was more shocking to me than the murders. I think we have become accustomed to all the violence in our society. We are bone weary from it all. We have no defense against it. Except to love. I am amazed that there are people for whom seeking revenge is not their first action! These parishioners truly are living out what they pray about each week. Their faith is real, solid and strong. In the face of their witness, I am humbled.

Then my sister told me the story of how my beautiful, awesome, lovely 14 year old niece was bullied by a classmate last week. This classmate, for whatever reason, felt the need to put my niece down in public, to try and embarrass and shame her. As an adult, I know I have been on the receiving end of this bullying in professional circles. This is what my niece did: she approached the bully in the lunchroom, very clearly said she didn't appreciate that the bully had been speaking poorly about her behind her back, and told her she should stop that behavior. When the bully tried to protest, my niece simply turned away and said, "I know what  you did, I don't want to discuss this any further." Wow! I am amazed at my niece and her courage to approach the bully, confront her and then be done with the drama. I need to learn from a my niece how to be that brave!

I need to learn from the people in Emanuel AME church how to be forgiving.

I need to learn from Jairus and his daughter, and the woman with the chronic illness, how to ask for healing and be ready to receive it.

What do you need to learn from the Gospel or from our world this week? What is God trying to teach you today?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Happy Father's Day!

In the gospel this weekend, Jesus calms the storm while out on the sea with his friends. After a long day, trying to get away from the crowds Jesus suggested they take some time apart for themselves. I imagine a little quiet time, some restful conversation, a few laughs,  a bite to eat...all on the opposite shore. It should have been a relaxing ride over there.
But a storm comes up and the boat is getting tossed about, his fishermen friends get nervous, wake him (wake him? How tired was he that he fell right asleep??)  and ask him to do SOMEthing. I wonder what they thought he would do? It seems to me this must still be on the earlier side of their relationship because of their amazement at the end of the story--who IS this that even the wind and sea obey him?? Why were they surprised? They asked him to do something to save them, to take care of them, and he did.
It must have stung a bit when Jesus makes that remark about their lack of faith...really? Come on?
The storm had to be pretty bad for fishermen to be afraid of the sea! Can't Jesus cut them some slack? But in the end, they are filled with awe at what Jesus had done.

What has filled you with awe lately? Really, made you stop and lose your breath? Was it the look in your child's eyes in a tender moment? Was it the touch of a loved one's hand on your face? Was it the sunlight through the trees as you wandered through the park? Was it the sound of little ones playing in the park? God's love and care for us is everywhere if we have eyes and heart open to see.

It's Father's Day this weekend. Like many little girls growing up my dad was my first hero. I thought he could do anything. I though he knew everything. I loved spending time with him. I loved when I could make him laugh and when we had thoughtful conversations. I hated the two times something I had done made him cry. I remember being surprised as I got older when I learned that not everyone had a father as wonderful as mine. I realize how easy it is for me to think of God as a 'loving father' because I had one myself.  My memories of my dad fill my heart with gratefulness and with awe. I miss him everyday, but lots on Father's day...

After a busy day, my dad would sometimes want to take a ride down to the beach or a walk around the block. No matter how crazy things could get, in that quiet time my dad could find a way to make most things seem better.

So when I hear this reading this weekend, about Jesus calming his friends down, even in the face of a storm at sea, I'll think of my dad. Who, like Jesus, in my little girls mind, could fix anything.

I invite you to think about who are the people in your life who fill you with awe, with love?  Whoever they are, make sure they know how special they are to you!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Seeds grow.

So many things running through my mind right doors, seeds growing into huge plants, unexpected opportunities to share faith, and my youngest niece 'moving up'. I'm not sure if or how they are connected.

I used to think of summer as a time to kick back and relax a bit, even if I still had to work. I'm learning at St Francis it's just a different pace ... not really more relaxed, but maybe a chance to focus a bit more. So, tonight, in keeping with the idea that our doors are open to new experiences, our music director Jim Stayton is bringing his boys choir from Newark to perform here in East Harlem. I find myself wondering what the boys will be like, will they be excited to be in NYC, will they be excited to perform, will we have a good crowd in church to welcome them? I am really looking forward to hearing their music and appreciating the gifts they will share with us.The least I could do is make chocolate chip cookies for them!

The gospel this Sunday talks about that mustard seed of faith growing strong and firm and vibrant. I've been preparing for a class this weekend and part of the discussion will be on faith. For a while now I've been more aware of the whole idea of faith as a gift...but I'm thinking more today about what we need to do to nurture that gift...just like a gardener nurtures her plants. Do I take the time to share my faith with others? Am I aware of God's presence in my life each day? What makes me stop and meditate? Am I grateful? Do I ask for forgiveness? Can I find the quiet in my life? How do I nourish my spirit? All these little things, and so many more, help that kernel of faith to grow strong and true.

Just like this last baby in our family has somehow grown to be 10 and moving on to middle school. From the infant that tickled us with her innate sense of humor to a very outspoken pre-teen, these years have flown by in the blink of an eye...and I'm NOT her mother!! Like I wonder what our Newark boys will be like, and I wonder where I will find God today...I wonder what life will be like for her as she grows older. I pray with all my heart that God will guide her steps into a safe and happy future.

Last Sunday night I had the opportunity to share some of what I had written here in this blog with our parishioners who gathered for evening prayer. It was unexpected. I was taken by surprise, but, with God's help, I was ready. I was grateful for the chance and tried to make the most of the gift that was given to me. I pray that people heard what they needed to hear.

So as we prepare to move into a busy weekend I will think some more about faith and prayer. I am grateful that God recognizes even the smallest efforts on our part as a sign of our immense love for Him. Seeds grow, if cared for well, like our Newark boys, like my niece, like our faith.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Why are we NOT different?

These weeks in the church hold hidden treasures for us: Pentecost, The Holy Trinity, The Body and Blood of Jesus. These feasts bring us from our celebration of Easter gently back into Ordinary Time.

Sometimes we realize what we value only when we have lost it. I feel like that when I ponder the great mystery that is the Eucharist. I say I believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but I really don't get overwhelmed by that truth on any particular Sunday.  The one day of the year I am startlingly aware of how deeply I believe this Eucharistic truth is on Good Friday. When I walk into the church on Good Friday every fiber of my being knows without looking that something is very different. Then I am humbled by how patient God is with me in the way I take my faith for granted.

A few years back I was at Mass where the celebrant was a friend of mine I had gone to visit. It happened to be the weekend we celebrate "Corpus Christi", (the Feast of the Body and Blood, NOT the city in Texas!!)

I still remember his words that afternoon, and how they blew me away. As his words live in my memory this is what I recall he said, quite forcefully I might add:

"If we say we believe that this Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Jesus, if we receive this communion into our selves week after week, year after can we NOT be different? How can we NOT be changed by God's very presence within us, closest to our hearts? Why are we not different people? What are we afraid of? Why do we refuse to let the Eucharist change us?"

In that moment, and still today, the truth stings a little, the Eucharist is meant to change us! We are supposed to be different! Different how? Oh, I don't know, stronger, braver, kinder, more loving, more patient...we could go on right?

I've been thinking about our newly Blessed Oscar Romero. How lucky we are to add him to our roster of holy ones. Much like St Peter, he is one of the ideal models of the power of change. I was young and idealistic like most college kids when I first learned about Bishop Romero after his murder in El Salvador. What an impact that had on me. I am still in awe of his ability to turn his life around, his conversion if you will, from a Bishop who supported the status quo in a poor little country, to a man who would bravely stand with and for his people and their basic human rights, even in the very face of death. That he was murdered while at the Eucharist itself seems so profound to me still.

Bishop Romero let the Eucharist change him forever. I want to let the Eucharist change me always. I need to pay attention to allow that to happen. In a world that swirls around me at such a frantic pace, I need, for those moments when I come to the table with you, my sisters and brothers, I need to let myself be changed by Jesus. I think that would just be amazing. I pray that we will all be changed by this amazing gift of the Body and Blood of our Lord.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

First Communion blessings!

Do you remember your First Communion?

Oddly enough, I do remember particular, I remember the homily. OK, if you know me, it's not really that weird that I'd remember this...

Msgr McLaughlin at St Frances de Chantal in Wantagh, NY, preached this dynamic homily about bread and eucharist and faith. I'm sure I didn't understand much of it at seven years of age, but I remember his passion, I remember how eloquently he spoke to us and our families that morning.

Whenever I have the opportunity to speak to families who are preparing their children for communion I always ask...'what do YOU remember from your first communion"? and then, "what do you want your CHILD to remember from this day"?

This weekend we have 19 youngsters who will come to the table for the very first time. They have been preparing for this moment for a long time. Their families have encouraged them, supported them, surrounded them with love and nurtured them in this faith. I find myself praying deeply for these children and their families.

Following Jesus isn't easy, Christianity isn't for the weak of heart. It demands courage to stand for what we believe in this world. The gospel this Sunday speaks of faith, as well as acknowledging our doubt. It ends with the reassurance that God will be with us always, even until the end of time.

What consolation I find in that one line of scripture. No matter where life takes us, God is there with us. I can imagine God being thrilled in our moments of great faith, supporting us in our doubt and loving us through it all.

When I look at our little ones this weekend, I wonder what life holds in store for them. I wonder how they will grow in the society we live in. What kind of people will they be? How will they care for the people in their lives? How will they share their faith? What difference will they make in their world?

Let us pray together for our first communicants and for their families. May they grow to be strong members of our St Francis de Sales church community. May they always know that God is truly with them no matter where life leads them.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What birthday gift do you want?

Happy Birthday Church! This weekend we will celebrate Pentecost and hear the story of how the Spirit poured out many gifts on those frightened disciples. I think the gift I value most in this particular story is COURAGE. How scared those poor disciples were, locked in the upper room. How confused. How sad. And then more fear!

What amazing words and deeds came from their courage to speak about their friend Jesus. As we decorated the church today for this great feast, I find myself praying for that same gift of courage. Now, God knows, I could surely use more of each and every gift of the Spirit, but, in the way our world can be so hard, so mean, so angry...I want more courage to be a follower of Christ. I want more courage to do the right thing, even when I get teased. I want courage to be my better self. I need courage to try harder in every aspect of my life. So today, I'm praying for courage.

What about you? What gift will you pray for? What gift do you feel you need more of? And, even more importantly, how will you share that gift with your church and your world?

May the Spirit of love...the Spirit of Courage be with us this week in all we do.

Much Peace!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Doors are Open!

We had a busy Sunday at St Francis de Sales this last weekend. Families are getting ready to celebrate First Communions. We had four children baptized at Mass. We had great music, lots of life, a bit of noise...(one little one who really could hit those high notes! Perhaps a future choir member?) and in general all the stuff that is full of life! Sunshine, smiles, conversation, was all good. I am grateful.

After reading an article this morning about church and children I find myself thinking again of how different our experience of church is when you sit with a youngster, toddler or baby...or even a teen.

If I am by myself at church, that is, if I come 'solo' without any family members, I have the luxury of sitting where I want, singing as loudly as I want, pondering freely where Scripture and the words of our liturgy and the homily take me. Chances are my soul is nourished and refreshed by the closing song.

Every now and then in the last twenty years or so, I've been blessed to attend Mass with my nieces and nephew. I came to learn quickly, when they were small, how different church is when you come with a two year old! A pause here to commend every parent who comes to church with your toddler and tries to both pray AND keep them occupied! I can recall being at the 'month's mind mass' for my dad years ago, and my 2 year old niece, deciding, right after we all sang the memorial acclamation, that the song shouldn't be done yet, so in her little soprano voice, as we all were kneeling quietly she piped up with something like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. My mom was horrified, I was hysterical...I thought she was so cute and so funny...and no surprise, she turned out to be a great singer! But what I realized in that semi embarrassing moment was, she somehow, on a two year old level, understood that music was an important part of this celebration.

So many times, when I am at mass with children, the young and the not so young, I find myself compelled to explain to them what is going on...because I want them to appreciate and love the liturgy like I do! Seeing the liturgy through the eyes of a young person is another whole way to pray! If I have to explain the homily to a 7 year old, I'd better be paying close attention, so I can translate. If I'm showing my little one the stations of the cross or the stained glass windows, I am telling them in a most colorful way, the stories of Jesus. We should be singing together, following the readings and prayers together, because how else am I going to pass on my faith to the next generation? It's certainly not the same prayer as when I come by myself, but it is beautiful in a whole different way.

So, if you are lucky enough to come to church with little ones, enjoy it! Celebrate well! Show them what we're doing! Teach them to sing along! If you need to walk around with them at the entrance way, feel free! It's summer so the doors are wide open, you can still hear what's going on and they can explore their church home. If they get too antsy or too loud for comfort...the steps are a great way for them to burn off energy...just know, the doors are always open to you and your little ones!

Much Peace,


Thursday, May 14, 2015

My weekend is about to start!

Dear Friends,

Since our new music director Jim Stayton created a blogspot for music in the parish, I felt inspired to try and see if I could do the same. He was more than willing to share his wisdom with me, and so I make my first attempt.

The Easter season is quickly drawing to a close as we anticipate the celebration of Pentecost on Sunday the 24 of May. I remember back a billion years ago (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) this was the first Sunday I ever read in a young teen, and I valiantly tried to pronounce all those names of all those towns that writer of Acts of the Apostles spoke of. I always hold my breath as the lector begins, and pray they'll have the wisdom to get through all those crazy names!

I am blessed to be the Pastoral Associate here at St Francis de Sales Church on E 96th St in Manhattan. This is an amazing parish, lots of  folks really committed to following the Gospel of Jesus.

As a staff we have been talking a lot about what is wonderful here, and how to help God's kingdom grow stronger in and through all of us. We have discovered we keep using the same few words over and over again, sort of buzz words if you will, to inspire our conversation. I'd like to share them with you.
Ownership   Changing the Paradigm   Ours / We   Lay Leadership   Financial Stability  Stakeholders   Grow St Francis   and finally Intentional Community.

I invite you to say the words quietly to yourself and see what word or words touch your heart. In the days to come I'm sure we will have much to say and pray about as far as how all these ideas help us continue to create a parish that is most welcoming to all. For my part, from where I stand, the idea of creating more of an intentional community of believers here, people who choose to come here because of who we are as a church...well, that's exciting to me.

I look forward to welcoming you and your loved ones at the doors of the church.

Much Peace,

Jayne Porcelli