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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Where Have I Been?

Dear Friends,

Honestly, I have no idea what has kept me so busy since the summertime, that I have not been able to find a few minutes for a weekly reflection. As I think about all that has happened in our lives, in our parish, in our world since June, it is overwhelming.

Where have I been? While I'm tempted to say: "at work"! I must admit I blew the budget this year on two very special vacations: a week long cruise with the family, a chance to be with the nieces and nephew with little or no cell phone reception. What an amazing week to discover again why those kids are so absolutely amazing to me. Now that half of them are away at college I realize more than ever how important they are to me. I am so excited to see how they will grow through their college experiences.

The second vacation was a trip to England and Ireland with some friends. A chance to visit a land I have always heard about, dreamed about and absolutely loved seeing with my own eyes. I am grateful for the chance to relax and discover more of the beauty in the world around me.

I must acknowledge too, that being in this parish, St Francis de Sales is always, always such a treat. People here really are so good to be with. I love my Sundays on the porch greeting folks for Mass. As I get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for this parish, my family, my friends.

The world has changed a lot since the summer. The elections are finally over and we begin to move on. I can't remember a time when emotions over an election have been so deeply felt. It saddens me to see a map of this country that looks so divided. How did we get to this place where we can't listen to one another? I have found the quality of my prayer has changed dramatically of late. On Thursday, at church, when we sing America the Beautiful, I think there might be tears in my eyes, in my voice. I will continue to pray for God's blessings on this country. Dear God, be with us please!

As the church begins another new year we ask ourselves, as we always do, what are we called to do? How are we to be followers of Christ in our day and age? I find myself remembering what I learned so long ago. I offer it here, if it helps you as you contemplate your "New Church  Year Resolutions".

We are called to listen. Where is God calling to us? Are we willing to hear his voice?

We are called to look at the signs of the times. What is going on around us? How are we to be witnesses to the Gospel in the midst of our world?

We are called to see, to judge (in the best sense of the word, not each other...but to judge what must be done in a situation) and to act as Jesus would.

As our days get darker I can't help but long for the light to return. The very darkness around me reminds me that we are all called to be light in our world. How will you do that? To whom will you be light?

Lots to pray about as we step into this Advent of our lives. Thank you God for this new year. Please guide us and be with us in it all.

Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Advent. See you in church!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cling Fast!

I'm so sorry I missed the last few weeks of blogging...I didn't realize how busy the days could get when you start planning and catching up on stuff that got put to the side while you were doing the actual things you spent last summer planning for! Yikes!

I took a look at the readings for this weekend. I really could not get passed Psalm 63...I think I love every word in this Psalm, here are just a few that call out to me:

You are my God whom I seek
my flesh pines
my soul thirsts
I gaze toward you
your kindness is greater
my lips glorify you
I bless you while I live
I lift up my hands
I call upon your name
my soul shall be satisfied
You are my help
shadow of your wings
I shout for joy
my soul clings fast to you.

Now you have to read the whole psalm to appreciate that I just took out the words that make my heart sing. When I wonder why these words in particular speak to me, I need look no further than the daily realities of our lives.

New births, new loves, graduations and vacations are all causes for great joy. Illness, loneliness, difficulties with family or colleagues, the tragedies in the news are all the things that make me want to hide in the shadow of God's wings and find my comfort there. And I is from the very embrace of God that I find the comfort I need when things get hard, where I find the courage to pray and ask for the blessings and strengths that I need to go forward one more step into the unknown.

How about you? How do you find the courage you need to move forward day by day? Where do you find God when it seems like the world is crazy. The cross of Jesus is never very far away is it?  Some cultures really seem to be way more comfortable with or are much better at accepting sorrow and suffering as a part of life. Then there are those cultures (like my Italian forebears) who look to celebrate and rejoice as often as we can. Both have their place.

June brings Grads and Dads...warm weather and vacations...May we be able to celebrate all the good, even in the midst of the daily crosses. Hold on tight to God. Cling fast!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

How Does God Love Us?

Happy Trinity Sunday. All I can ever remember is my 6th grade teacher speaking of the Trinity in terms of a great mystery. I must admit, it hasn't gotten much clearer for me these last 50 years or so. But if I think of the Trinity within the concept of relationship and love I can find some kind of light in the midst of the mystery.

Relationship is at the heart of all our ministry isn't it? We try to be present to others, pastoral, caring. We teach, we sing, we preach, along side our sisters and brothers. It is only in the mystery of our relationships with one another that we find a glimpse of the love God has for each of us. Our small human minds and hearts cannot truly understand the scope or magnitude of the love the Creator has for the creature. When your heart swells with love for another, when you are touched by the honesty of someone's conversation, when you are privileged to witness the devotion between a couple, or between a parent and child...then you come to know a little bit of what God must be like.

Look around you today for examples of love, of faithfulness, of devotion. Look around you to the ones you love today, the people who touch your heart and remind you of how much more the Creator cares for you than you can even imagine. Tell someone you love them today. I hope that you get to hear that you are loved by another too.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Happy Birthday Church!

I love Pentecost Sunday. It was the very first time I was a lector I think, as a 14 year old in my home parish. Those were a lot of tough words to get through...the names of all those foreign places. I smile every year as I listen to the lector of the day make his or her way through Phrygia and Pamphylia and so on. "You can do it!" I silently cheer....and with the help of the Holy Spirit, they get through it all.

We teach that the Holy Spirit offers each of us many and varied gifts. Each Confirmation student tries to learn and remember: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of Lord...(I know they have different names now, right Olivia? But these were the ones I struggled to learn...Olivia is the next Confirmandi in our family....) As I sit here just now, I wish one of the gifts involved being well rested or getting enough sleep. However...maybe that falls under the category of being wise enough to take care of one's health. question to myself today is which gift of the Spirit will I ask for on Sunday? What gift do I need most in my life? They are all precious and all important. One is not better than the other. I don't know which to ask for as I pray during Pentecost Mass. I do so appreciate 'awe' (I think that was "Fear of the Lord") because I am so grateful for the ability to recognize God's presence in the world around me, through people, through events, through nature and music...

I am mindful that God knows me better than I know myself...and so maybe my prayer on Sunday will be to ask God for the gift God knows I need most...and for the vision to recognize how God is gifting me, so that I may be grateful.

What gift of the Spirit do you need most? What will you ask God for? Isn't it good to know that when all is said and done we will be gifted with peace as well as those precious gifts we need to live the life God calls us to?

Happy Pentecost to you. Happy Birthday Church! Celebrate Well!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Leaning In -- to love...

Wow. Not for nothing but if Jesus really said the words attributed to Him today in John's Gospel, I don't know how anyone understood what he was talking about. There are a heck of a lot of pronouns in this passage...and I had to read it out loud to my self to try and follow it...and was exhausted before I finished. 

Here are my "take aways" from today's Gospel:
God loves us even as he loves Jesus...(wow!)  and
We are God's gift to Jesus...(!!)

I'm not sure how this makes me feel...I know I don't feel worthy of this immense love...but at the same time I am very grateful for it. I did nothing to deserve it, but I am so glad to know that I exist within the reality of God's love for me.

Which, as I write this, makes me think of how appropriate this is for Mother's Day. I can recall as a smart mouth child in the midst of some argument with my mom yelling the words "Oh yeah, well I didn't ask to be born..." and in fact I didn't...(and I was, at times, a brat)...I exist here because of the reality of my parent's love for each other and for me. I did nothing to deserve that love. At times I am the most unworthy of that love, and yet, my parents, my mom continues to love me in the best way she knows how. And today, I am grateful that somehow, this confusing Gospel reminds me to be grateful for all she has given me, done for me and loved me.

We talk a lot about 'leaning in' as a way to grow in skill and proficiency. Somehow today I'm thinking I need to pray for the grace to 'lean in--to love' to learn how to be more grateful for the people in my life who love me the best way they know mom, my aunt, my family my friends...and to be grateful that even though some days I don't deserve their love...they continue to love me in spite of my self.

So, Happy Mothers Day to all who love us with a mother's heart...and let us all lean in a bit to love one another better.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Where Do You Find Peace?

In Sunday's Gospel Jesus speaks very clearly about PEACE...and just as clearly states that the peace that he will leave with us is not at all what our world would recognize as 'peace'. Which makes me wonder what the difference might be.

In these pre election months in our country it is often very disturbing to watch all the news coverage of those who would be running for office. It is very unsettling to me to listen to them, hear their speeches and ponder what kind of world will I be living in if this one or that one gets elected. Will they work for peace? Exactly what is their idea of peace?

This past Monday evening in our RCIA group we had the opportunity to learn a bit about "centering prayer".  After an explanation of the process we sat quietly for 20 minutes in silence.

For some of us this was a great challenge...especially when we are so used to the noise and busyness of our lives, taking care of our children, running for the train, multitasking on our smartphones...20 minutes of sitting still, thinking about nothing, trying to listen to what God might want to reveal...well, none of us came out of the experience saying it was easy. Some felt rather anxious about the whole thing.

Can I feel peaceful in the midst of the chaos of my life?
How does God share God's peace with me?
Where do I even begin to look for that peace?

Look at the cherry blossoms while I'm walking down the street. The sun on the water as I try to get that walk in around the reservoir. The little one talking to their mom on the train or bus. That elderly couple walking slowly hand in hand. The sun setting over the river. (cause I'm not up early enough to see the sunrise!!) Sitting on the stoop watching folks on their commute home from work. The feeling of gratitude I have that I get to 'work' in a field I love, that I am so lucky to be in ministry at St Francis de Sales. Gratitude. Gratitude for family and friends who will help me keep it together when chaos threatens to overwhelm me.

That's where I find peace-- In gratitude. When I can pause to be grateful for all that God has blessed me with, that's where I find God's peace. The world doesn't have to be perfect around me, I just need to remember to say Thank you for the good things that are a part of my life. When I recognize the goodness, I find God's peace within me.  What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

God Dwells with Who? With Us!

Image result for google image love one another

The Gospel this week is short, sweet and too the point: Love one another. What more do we need to say about that? 

The truth of this is fleshed out in the other readings, and in our lives every day....we are called to recognize that God has indeed chosen to make his dwelling with us! To live in our midst, to wipe our tears away, to shelter us from storm, support us in our sorrow and rejoice with us in the moments of gladness. That's what we hear in Revelation. 
The HOW of that...I suspect is what Paul is referring to in a slight line in that first reading that we can so easily missed...he and Barnabas 'strengthened the spirits of the disciples ... and commended them to God'.
I think that is the we know God is present in our lives, by how we love and care and support one another...
In baby showers and weddings, at funerals and in lonely moments. When we struggle to accept illness and loss of vitality, when we are frustrated by thoughtlessness...when we are overwhelmed by the daily worries each of our lives contain. If we're lucky, that's when we find God in the support of those around us.
I am grateful that I am lucky...that I do find God in the love of those around me. I am glad too, that I can sometimes be the face of God for others. I pray I always let God shine through me, let God do the work God wants to do with me. I hope I never get in the way of what God is trying to do.

Happy Sunday to all...and may we each try to be the face of God for others.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Can We Help One Another

I thought I'd have more time today to gather my thoughts...but alas...that was not to be.

I was reading a great book in the car this morning, while waiting for parking to be legal, (you have to own a car in NYC to understand what that means...) and I am captivated my this book. The title is Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber. It was loaned to me by a friend and I can see it is going to be the source of much prayer and reflection for me. You should find it and read it. I especially love the title of the second chapter...just saying...

Looking quickly at the Gospel I see we're talking about sheep again. And I can hear Fr Tony quoting the Pope and saying that the shepherd should smell like the sheep. (yuck!) I get it though...and I agree wholeheartedly!

I know that my inclination is the opposite of that...I don't like getting messy and dirty and dealing with the hard stuff of life. Most days I can push myself to overcome my hesitation and enter into another's reality. I need to ask God to help me do that more often and more graciously. How about you? Can you enter into another's suffering and comfort them? We all need someone to hold our hand or lend a shoulder when life gets tough. We are lucky when we can help each other.

God bless us all as we celebrate the wonders of this weekend!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sunday Brunch with Jesus

We who are NYC dwellers know the joys of Sunday Brunch! How lovely is it to go to Sunday Mass with your friends and family, then head off to one of the many great local restaurants to continue to celebration.

I once heard this gospel referred to as 'Jesus' bbq on the beach'! Who wouldn't love that!! Jesus is so aware of what the disciples need in this story, I am so touched by his care for them.

The story starts with Peter saying: "I'm going fishing"...I can only imagine in the confusion after Easter, and his trying to process his feelings of guilt over his three fold denial, that some time on the water, fishing, is the thing he thinks will sooth his soul. Then there is the frustration of catching absolutely nothing. There is Jesus telling him how to do his job again, 'throw the net over the OTHER side...' like that should really make a difference...and then, oh nuts, tons of fish...more than they can haul in...what do you do with all these emotions-the sorrow, the guilt, the joy the fear and frustration, the doubt, the hope the longing...oh, it is all so very human.

Then Jesus cooks for them. Feeds them. How absolutely lovely. (said this Italian woman!!) How better to express his love for them then to prepare a hot meal? At the end of the meal he gives Peter the opportunity to begin again, to walk into the future with a clean heart. Yes Lord, you know that I love you.

What do I do, what do we do when we are overwhelmed with the emotions and the real demand on our time. How do we breath in the midst of all the multitasking our society is demanding of us? How is Jesus looking to feed us in spite of all the craziness in our lives? Do we even notice when God is trying to touch us?

The Easter stories are great reminders to us to look for Gods' presence in our everyday lives. We say He is everywhere. Do we believe that he is with us in the midst of that unexpected root canal? The car accident? The springtime hail storm? The unexpected death of a loved one? Both the traffic jam and the forsythia blooms give us an opportunity to be grateful for the love of God in our lives.

AA has the great treasure of "One Day At A Time". When life gets too hectic, I try to live by 'one moment at a time', trying to slow down and pay attention to each person, each event as best I can because I know that the potential to find God is present in each interaction.

I hope for you, in the midst of this never ending winter...and as we await our second springtime, you can slow down and look for God in whatever happens today. When summer finally comes and I go to that first bbq, I'm going to remember Jesus loved his friends enough to grill some fish for them. How cool is that?

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Flowers and Crashed Computers

Life is funny. Actually, I have a dear friend who says 'God's a funny guy..." That's sort of how I'm feeling today.

I'm a few days into my annual Easter recovery week...starting to feel a bit human again.

The holy days here at St Francis de Sales were amazing! The best word I can come up with for me was that they were breath-taking. I have to say, as one who works in the parish, I don't always expect to have a prayerful experience of the holy days...but boy was I taken by surprise this year! Every day there were mysteries revealed to me about the immensity of the love God shares with each of us. I am immensely proud of the priests and parish leaders that I share ministry with. I am humbled by the community of St Francis and how we welcome all through our doors.

I am grateful for my family, who jump in to help with the craziness of Easter dinner when help is desperately needed. I who hate to ask for help, learned that I needed to ask others to help me, that I couldn't possible do 'it' all...and everyone was happy to help. A most valuable lesson for me to take to heart.

I was given some lovely roses by one of my young parishioners...and it reminded me in a very real way of all my friends in heaven who are actively supporting me in ministry, and working hard, I believe to help me grow and be the best minister in an ever changing, ever challenging church.

So, when I heard the loud crash this morning at 5:30 a.m. I wasn't sure what it was...As I came into the living room I was not happy to see that is was that particular vase of flowers that the cat (who is lucky he got fed this morning!!) had knocked over onto my laptop. Which is now fried. Not working. Kaput.

How is it that the Easter joy can so quickly slide back into Good Friday sorrow?

How do I hold the serenity of Easter morning, the bliss of the celebrations, and walk into this valley of 'how the  heck am I going to live without my laptop, can they recover my data, and why does everything cost so much' Good Friday gloom?

Our Easter Season lasts 50 days. It would have been nice if I'd had a bit more time to celebrate Easter before the harsh realities of life intrude again. Yet that is our daily journey as Christians isn't hold onto and live out of some kind of Easter joy in the midst the every day 'stuff' we encounter. How we trust God and move through the every day makes all the difference doesn't it? Can I live out the faith I think I have and trust that God is there for me? Can I not panic at every set back? I'm learning.

And maybe finally, I'm learning it's OK, it's even good at times to ask for help. Because when I ask, it gives someone else a chance to step up and be the support, the angel I need just then. Much like the apostles in these early days after the resurrection...they needed to count on one another. They needed to rely on one another. So if I've learned anything this Holy Week and Easter week, it's that I don't have to do it alone. And trust me, for me, that's HUGE!!

Happy First Week of Easter!!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Looking For Holy Quiet Moments

I honestly didn't think I'd even get here this blog thing...but I want to at least take a minute, one minute, to simply say, let us pray for each other during these most holy days in our Church. Let us pray, today, in a special way, for all those men and women who take on roles of leadership and service in our Church. May God's spirit bless them with patience and wisdom in our troubled world.

Let us pray, as we approach Good Friday, for all those places in the world where the crucifixion still happens over and over again...this week I am mindful like many of you for all who mourn in Brussels. There are so many places of suffering in our world, let us remember those souls when we come before the cross tomorrow.

At Easter Vigil my heart is always filled with prayers of hope and joy for all who choose to come into our zany little group we call Church...some days it is a mystery to me what they see in us, but I know it is a loving God who calls them, and it is our joy to accompany them as we all journey toward Easter Alleluias. Broken we may be, but love and laughter will lead us on and make the path unforgettable!

So, Happy Holy Days to each of you. Let us hold one another in prayer these next few days. God's peace and joy be yours.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


We know this Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and is called both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday.

I'm thinking about Passion.

Mostly because I get so nuts that people are more excited over Palms then the Eucharist. I wish we had better explained to our folks that the Eucharist is something of a 'give away' or 'take home' EVERY week, EVERY day...and worth much more to our souls then...palm...

Maybe I need to look at the passion that surrounds folks and their desire to participate in this palm ritual and think about how to help them go deeper into the mystery of Holy Week...with their palm branches.

We retell the story of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, with crowds chanting Hosanna and wanted to be a part of the glory of the moment.
We know those same folks are the ones a few days later shouting "Crucify him!" and rejecting any knowledge of Jesus or the good he had done.

Crowds can be crazy --passionate yes--but crazy too. It's easy to get swept along in the energy of the moment without perhaps paying close attention to  what's really happening around us.

Back in the day, when I was teaching high school, I used to do an exercise with my students to help them think about what values were the most important, the last thing they would willingly give up. After spirited conversation among them, where they said things like: family, friendship, and so on, I would chime in and add my two cents. I'd say that the last thing in the world I would give up would be--passion. And they'd look at me amazed that I would offer something so self revealing to them. I would explain simply by saying that I could't imagine getting up each morning if I didn't care so deeply for the world around me, and the people who were a part of my life. That passion, to me, meant caring deeply for others. That's what I wouldn't give up.

What kind of passion did Jesus hold in his heart for us that he willingly entered into all of Holy week, the excitement of Palm Sunday, the bittersweet moments of Holy Thursday, the absolute horror of Good Friday...the mystery of the tomb and the resurrection. What great love!

What do we need to hold close to our hearts this last week of Lent? What do we need to ask God to help us with?  How can these palm branches help us to remember to live our lives with a passion so deep that we can't help but love our sisters and brothers in the world around us more deeply? Maybe this year, let these palms symbolize a great love, a great passion within us to help make a change for the better in our part of the world. How we do that? I don't know...but I think that should be a part of our Holy Week and Easter prayer! Let us pray for one another during these most holy days.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Righteous or Self Righteous?

What's the difference between Righteous and Self Righteous? This is a question inspired by Sunday's cycle C Gospel of the woman caught in adultery. We know it has to do with how we see ourselves and others before our God. Over and over again we are reminded not to judge others and yet that is a sin so many of us fall into.

Who do you identify with in the Gospel this Sunday? Would it be the Pharisees who, with the law on their side speak against a woman caught in a terrible circumstance, a terrible sin? Would it be those men standing with stones in their hands and hidden in their robes ready to carry out the command of the law? Maybe you identify with the woman herself, and stand terrified before those who would accuse you? Perhaps you wonder about the absent adulterer, the man who was not standing there with the accused woman? Are you an observer to the scene? Are you ready to pick up your own stone and take the law literally into your own hands? Are you a peasant hidden behind the crowd trying to imagine how to change the end of story?

Do we understand what Jesus is really saying?

If I take the time to look at my own life and judge myself honestly…where would I ever find the nerve, the right, the desire to judge my brother or sister? And let's be honest, it's easier and a lot less scary to be looking at the sins of others, then to do the work needed to look at myself and judge myself. Jesus tells us in the Lord's Prayer to forgive others AS we forgive ourselves…how easy is that to do if we don't know how to forgive ourselves?

Judging. Forgiving. Accepting. Mercy…In this most incredible year of Mercy, that is the bottom line isn't it? Mercy!!

I used to wonder, like the chicken or the egg, which came first…God's mercy or God's justice. I do believe and am ever grateful that in the end, it is always God's mercy that triumphs. So, it is no surprise at all in this story that Jesus is merciful. Jesus is the face of God's mercy, and quite simply, calls us to be the same in our time and place.

Happy 5th Week of Lent. Are we ready for Holy Week? Much peace to you and yours.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

New Things are Coming!

At the midpoint of Lent we hear St Paul (cycle C readings) telling us that the old things are passing away and behold new things are coming! Is that ever hopeful!! That is exactly how I'm feeling as the daylight lasts a little bit longer every afternoon and the morning sun is up a few moments earlier during my commute. Darkness is fading, light is taking hold again in the world around me.

I need to get away from the darkness of sin too. We celebrate the scrutinies these last three weeks of Lent, and so I've been mindful of the many many things, the temptations, the evils, the sinfulness that gets in the way of my relationship with my God.

Too many to list for sure, but here's a short list...jealousy, judging others, pride, arrogance, impatience...these vices always seem to be on the top of my list when preparing for confession. I thank God for the days I am not all those dreadful things at the same time...and I am sorry for the times when it all gets the best of me.

Springtime, the end of Lent, the promised coming of Easter gives me hope that new things in me are coming too! I want to be better. I want to be more hopeful and optimistic. I am so grateful and blessed to be in a parish where almost every Sunday people leave church moving to the music, smiling or munching on a homemade cookie. We are happy when we come into Church, and filled with the hope and the challenge as we leave, to bring the good news to the folks we spend the Monday to Friday with. We are the ambassadors for Christ that Paul talks about!

So, as the days get longer, as we await Holy Week in all its solemnity and the Easter joy that follows, let us make the most of this second half of Lent. Let us be reconciled to God and to one another. Look for opportunities to mend fences and heal old hurts.  Let us continue to try harder, to be our better selves, to live in the light of God.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pruning that Fig Tree

Our monthly meeting of our Catholic Gay Straight Alliance group met last night and as is our custom we began our meeting with prayer time reflecting on the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday.

This weekend the Gospel is one of what I refer to as the fig tree stories. There are a few of them in the gospel accounts and sometimes I get them confused. But first I must remind you that I'm Italian and we as a people love our fig trees!  We wrap them in burlap and protect them from the winter snows. We care for them tenderly and rejoice with the harvest of plump juicy figs. Everyone that is except my grandparents. They have, or more correctly, they have left to us, the third generation now caring for these trees, three of the biggest fig trees I have ever seen in my life. I have a photo of me when I was little standing by a little fig bush. A number of years ago I took a photo of me as an adult by that same little tree that now towers way over my head. Because my grandparents did absolutely nothing that I know of to make these monsters grow, I chuckle a bit when I hear of all the fuss others go through to care for their fig trees. Whenever I hear the mention of a fig tree in the gospel, I smile and remember my family trees.

Edward Hayes wrote a another version of a fig tree parable told from the fig tree's perspective. The fig tree wanted to be something extraordinary, not just a plain humble fig tree. The fig tree was very clear about not liking the smell of the natural fertilizer and was resistant to the idea of pruning.

I am very much like that fig tree.

I do not like the idea of all the pruning...the cutting off of healthy branches, that needs to happen in my life in order for new life to burst forth. I am comfortable with my old self. I don't know what that new stuff will be and that makes me nervous. Do I trust God enough to believe that the pruning will bring forth goodness and new life in me?

And what's the deal with the natural fertilizer...(you know what I'm talking about right? Cow poop?)
The smell is terrible. How could that ever be a good thing? I'm supposed to believe that all the 'poop' that can overwhelm my life, that when it it spread around my roots generously, it helps me to grow? In what world does that make sense?

But I know in my heart it's true...because I've seen how fig trees and plants grow. Pruning and fertilizing absolutely bring forth amazing, beautiful, strong new life. If that's what I want in my spiritual journey then I have to be willing to trust the Divine Gardener in how he chooses to nurture and care for me.

And I know in my heart I really do trust Him, I just need a reminder, like this fig tree story.

Happy Third Week of Lent!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Look up at the Sky

Second Sunday of Lent are YOU doing with your Lenten practices? If you feel you can do better, take a deep breath and start again...just like a diet, every week, every day of Lent offers us new opportunities to pray, to care for others, to sacrifice. I am trying to take Francis' words to heart, his invitation to fast from indifference and feast on love. At least once a day, so far, I try to remember kindness in some interaction. I may not get it right all the time, but if I'm trying for one act of kindness daily, that's something.

So, I know we will all reflect this weekend on the Gospel of the transfiguration. A powerful story for sure. But when I took the time to look at the readings today, I was captivated by the first line of the Genesis reading:  "Look up at the sky and count the stars if you can. Just so, shall your descendants be."  The Lord, promising Abram that he will always keep his word.

Look up at the heavens and count the stars.
On a clear night that can take your breath away.
If the stars are our reminders of how much God loves, are we ever blessed. It's incredible to think about. As huge as the universe is, God cares for me. For you. As for our part of the covenant, we are simply to love God back and keep his commands. That's not to say that any of it is easy, but it is pretty straight forward. I love that Lent is my opportunity to tithe my time back to God. Fr. Tony said this past weekend that Lent is 1/10th of the surely I can tithe one tenth of the year back to God in prayer and good works, in a covenant of love.

The Transfiguration must have been amazing. That they didn't have heart attacks up on the mountain after what they witnessed! How hard it was for them to come back down the mountain, yet here in the valleys and plains, in the city streets, this is where ordinary time, ordinary life, ordinary people live. This is where most of us find God, if we remember to look. We spend most of our time here. If we waiting for those mountaintop moments...well, they're few and far between, how would we sustain our faith?

My prayer for us is that we can take those tiny stars in the heavens and let them be our daily signs every evening of the faithfulness of our loving God. He will never fail us.

Happy Lent!

Thursday, February 11, 2016


There's a lot that goes on as we move into this first week of Lent, and in the midst of it all we buried a dear friend today. It's hard to imagine he is gone. He was a wonderful mentor for me and for many. He will be missed a great deal.

So, my heart is quiet and my mind is a bit numb. As I think about what to write this week, I breathe deeply and think about all the catechumens who will gather at cathedrals around the Catholic world to celebrate the Rite of Election this weekend. They have no idea what they are walking into. It will be overwhelming to them. They will be stunned.

We are blessed by the example of their witness. Every year I am overwhelmed along with them as I look around the cathedral and witness thousands of people, young and old, who are standing up and proclaiming they want to be Catholic. Wow! This part of me that I take so for granted, others are yearning for. I am humbled by their journey of faith.

This Sunday, they will hear the truth that God has chosen  them. God has elected them to be part of this crazy community we call the Catholic church. As I sit here today and think about this I realize the truth that God has chosen each of us. From moments before we were born we were called, graced and blessed by God. We are part of God's elect.

I'm know that there is a responsibility that goes along with this, but for this first week of Lent, I just want to sit with the reality that God chooses me. God chooses YOU. I can't help but feel deeply loved because of that truth.

Peace be to all of you. Happy First Sunday of Lent.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Almost Lent

I keep hearing myself say, I just need to survive until Wednesday...then I can breath again. Of course, next Wednesday is Ash of our busiest days in church work...and one needs to really be ready to hit the ground running that day.

But we have so much going on here between now and 5 days from now...we have First Reconciliation on Saturday morning, we have Sunday...and every Sunday is busy, we have RCIA events and meetings on Monday and a first time Comedy night for Mardi Gras Tuesday evening...and after all that, I should be ready for the Lenten quiet...I'm looking forward to it in fact. I need to figure out how to carve some quiet into my busy church work days.

Because with Lent comes more RCIA stuff to get ready, a retreat day for Communion Families, and just more good stuff for the folks of the parish. What is one person to do??

So here's my plan. We're purchased for the parish the "Little Black Books" from the Saginaw diocese. 6 minutes of prayer each the car waiting for a parking spot or on the subway. That's the first thing.

The second thing is an event that occurs next Friday, but I will try and make my Lenten practice: PS I l Love You day...(you can google psiloveyouday and check out the youtube link for the whole story) Simply put, why not take the time to tell people what they mean to you? Why not, in keeping with what Pope Francis keeps telling us, be merciful and joyful?

So, I will try to be a bit more forgiving of others, and of myself.
I will try to be more joyful and less stressed, and share that with others.
I will try to remember to let people know I care for them, because it's important that people know they are loved by others.

These aren't really big things, they're pretty small ... but I think it's important to start little. I don't need to do big things, I just need to do small kindnesses with some consistency.

So, just in case I don't see you soon, please know  you're important to me and to those around you.

PS, I love you.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Gracious Words?

Last night a group of us in the parish gathered to meet and chat and pray with Scripture together. We reflected on the Gospel for this upcoming Sunday. Several different thoughts were shared but the idea that grabs my attention today is how the crowd in Luke's Gospel goes from being amazed at Jesus' 'gracious words' to being so angry with his challenging words that they want to hurl him off a cliff. That's a pretty drastic shift!!

We've been talking too about what it means to be a be someone who doesn't just listen to the Word on Sunday...but to be someone who is inspired to DO, to ACT, to really deliberately live out ones faith in action. We're talking about how to inspire our brothers and sisters who sit next to us each Sunday in these pews, to step more deeply into their faith and be strong enough to invite others to walk this faith walk with them.

We have had the pleasure of talking one on one with some of our young families about how they try to live their lives of faith in the world. What an inspiration you are! And our teens...I'm so proud of who they are growing to be...young people who are finding their rightful place in our assembly! Young people who aren't ashamed to say "I like coming to Mass now...I feel more comfortable here... I understand what's going on now..." How I wish we could get them to witness to the rest of the assembly!

So as I look at the reaction of that crowd to Jesus, it makes me a bit nervous. I don't think human nature has changed all that much. If I were to ask us to think about what our faith really means to us once we walk out the church doors, if we were to look at how we offer our selves in service to others, both here at St Francis and in our work lives daily, would we be proud of our answer?

Everything we do as a parish should find its roots in our prayer together as a Eucharistic community. We know that in our heads, but sometime we fail at putting that belief into action. So, I want to be brave enough to ask you... have YOU found your place in this community yet? What are YOU doing to help others find a welcome here? How are YOU helping to 'set the table' both literally and figuratively?? And if you haven't decided to step up and serve in some way at Mass on Sundays, then WHY haven't you? What are you waiting for? You know we need you. You know we value you. What's stopping you?

And even as I ask these questions I think about how that crowd wanted to hurl Jesus down a cliff because they didn't want to be challenged out of their comfort zone.

So, with a deep breath...I challenge you!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Don't be quiet!!

Ok, when I saw this on Facebook, I thought it was funny. I chuckled! When I saw the gospel for this Sunday, how could I not use this??

But I digress...
Yes, the gospel is the story of that first miracle of Jesus's at the wedding at Cana. I wonder who was getting married? Who were the bride and groom? Were they Mary's friends? There's a lot of great imagery in this story that can really get your imagination going! And it's really one of the few times we see someone telling Jesus what to do! If he's not going to listen to his mother...well then, I don't know who he'd listen to?!! Mary sees a need in front of her, and out of concern, she doesn't stay quiet!

I connect this back to both the first reading from Isaiah, and the the memorial our country celebrates on Monday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King jr.

Isaiah says for the sake of the people he will not remain silent. He will speak of the injustice he witnesses. Isaiah declares that when things have been set right, 'desolate' will become 'delight' and God will rejoice in his children.

How can we not reflect on the life of Martin when we hear these words? I can only imagine that it had to cost him something dear to begin to gather his courage to the point where he could speak loudly of the injustices evident in the world around him. Of course we know what it cost him in the end. We know what it cost Jesus to speak out against injustice.

What is being asked of us today? Most likely, no one will put us to death for what we believe. What does it cost us to speak up in the face of injustice really? An uncomfortable moment at a dinner party? The loss of a friendship?  Do you really want to be friends with someone who thinks injustice is OK?

Isaiah says...don't be quiet!! I'm not saying we should speak without thinking...but we should definitely try to find the courage to speak up in the face of injustice around us.

God grant our world more folks brave enough to speak for peace!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Search Diligently

The beginning of the new year is just getting away from me faster than I can manage to keep up...but I wanted to jot a few thoughts down before my work week ends.

From last week's Gospel, the words that still poke me are "search diligently"...I think for me, the gift of working with RCIA folks each year is to help them discover how to search diligently for God in their own lives, and it reminds me each year to continue my own search. I am grateful when God is easily found...(yay! a parking space! Thanks God!) and challenged when God seems more obscure. But to take a deep breath every day and look again, it's all good!

And from this week's feast of the Baptism of the Lord...I know the scripture says that God was well pleased with Jesus, his beloved...but I've also learned along the way that God feels that way about each of us...that we too are called his beloved. That's just breathtaking to me. God has lots of things to do and lots of people to care remember that EACH of us are called his beloved...well, it really doesn't get any better than that does it?

Ah...the challenge is to ACT like God's beloved! And so, we move into a new year!