Thursday, November 29, 2018

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you join me in that prayer?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Be Vigilant!

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

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

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

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Love Our Neighbor...and Vote!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Peace and good.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Who Are Our Saints?

As we move through October more quickly than I'd like, I'm looking at Halloween decorations and thinking that by now everyone must know the connection between Halloween and All Saints/All Souls day, right?

If you don't, simply, quickly, All Hallow's Eve, the vigil for All Saints day, with the addition of folk customs and local traditions over time morphed into the crazy, fun, candy filled night we call Halloween. If you've seen the movie "Coco", you may have recognized that some of the customs that appear in a celebration for The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) are similar in many ways to our Halloween.

There's much fun in this celebration, and for many, as seen in "Coco" a real and deep desire to remember and honor our ancestors. If you haven't seen this particular Disney movie, it is both moving and beautiful.

So who are our ancestors in faith? Whose shoulders do we stand on? Who do we celebrate when we remember All Saints and All Souls Day? Do we still need saints today?

What do you think?
Church history has taught us that saints arise at our most troubled times, when the world is in darkness and needs to be called back into the light. During times of war and revolution great souls have arisen to give their people hope, to remind them of God's faithful love.

This Sunday the church officially recognizes one such hero: we will canonize Blessed Oscar Romero, the Bishop Martyr of El Salvador. Hopefully we will hear much about him at Mass this weekend and there's a great bio-pic starring Raul Julia that you can watch. A brief synopsis of his amazing life would look something like this:

Bishop of El Salvador--unaware of extreme poverty of his people--living a life of church power broker in a third world country--suddenly shocked when one of his priests (Rutilio Grande, SJ) was murdered for teaching the Gospel message of justice and peace for all God's people--suddenly became aware of the terrible injustices the government was inflicting on his people--began to speak up for human rights for the Salvadoran people--was murdered by the army while celebrating Mass (at the consecration!) for speaking the Gospel.

St Oscar, as well as Fr Grande, and the four women religious and lay workers who were killed, the other Jesuits and their staff, all these people were murdered for believing in the Gospel of Jesus. This isn't ancient history, it happened in the 1980's. Less than 50 years ago.

Should it frighten us to think that we are called to sainthood as well? No it shouldn't be frightening at all. Living holiness is a matter of living authentically who God has created us to be. For Oscar, it meant learning about the lives of his people and speaking in their defense. For you or I it might mean treating someone politely in a conversation when we disagree and believing we can still be friends despite the disagreement. Perhaps for us it may mean treating our elderly, ill parent with love and care no matter how many times she asks the same question. Could it mean teaching our NYC children how to treat the unfortunate homeless on the street with dignity and respect?

Not all of us are called to be holy in big flashy ways. Like one of our newer saints (Mother Teresa)said so often: Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.
So it is with sanctity, holiness, we can all be holy in every day ways. Every day.

As we celebrate with our church the life of St Oscar Romero, let us commit ourselves this week to finding the everyday little moments of holiness in our lives and celebrate those as well. Amen.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Look at Where You're Going!

As we start to approach the end of the church  year, the readings are very 'end times' and it gives us much to ponder. A recent Gospel reminded us that if we 'put our hand to the plow, we'd best not be looking behind us, but paying attention to where we are going. Like the magnet on my fridge says: Don't let yesterday use up too much of today.

When I think about the plowing image...or, in contemporary times maybe Jesus would be saying something like "look up from your phone once in awhile and pay attention to what's in front of you!" I wonder what Jesus is really asking us? My guess is, it's a question of trust. Do we trust God enough, believe in God's word enough to know that the path God has set us on will lead to life, and to good things? I suspect if we're not sure, we'll keep looking over our shoulder wondering about the what if's and what could have beens. In the end, wondering about the road not taken doesn't really help me move forward in life does it?

Sometimes, like my beloved niece Danielle, all we can do is take the opportunity that is given to us and run with it. Receiving the possibility of a second job offer on the day you begin your very first adult job is disconcerting for sure. God does like to mess around in our lives doesn't God? What do we do? I firmly believe that if we have made what we think is the best possible decision for ourselves, then when other options present themselves, if the timing isn't right, we need to be grateful for the offer, and be faithful to what we have already chosen in good conscience. How many times in life have we learned that choosing one path necessitates letting go of another? I think we find happiness on the journey if we walk confidently down our chosen path knowing that God will be with us, leading and guiding us into new life and wonderful surprises.

I pray that we all have the courage to follow the path that God has shown us, and that we find much joy on the journey.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What Do I Do When I Fail?

I am struck this week by the very visual nature of the first reading this coming Sunday.  The writer says that the Lord took some of the Spirit that 'was on'  Moses and shared it among the 70 elders that were gathered on the mountain. I imagine God scooping up some of the Spirit in his cupped hands and pouring it like water over the heads of the elders. Quite a picture the writer paints.

We talked a lot this week about how God is generous in giving us all gifts and talents. Some of us wonder what our talents are and how we are supposed to use them for the kingdom. If you don't know what gifts the Lord has given you, here's a clue...listen to what others say they see in you...often times people will recognize gifts and talents in us that we would never see in ourselves. Of course, then you need to trust that they are speaking in charity and helping you to truly discern.

We met with our families last weekend and we touched on this in a roundabout way. Parents have asked how they could speak with their children when they are effected by a lapse in judgement made by some pop star or sports icon that they hear about through social media. Our children hold entertainers like Demi Lovato, or sports figures (you can tell I'm not much into sports if I can't drop a name here...) in such high esteem. What do we tell them when these men and women suffer a very public fall from grace?

I believe we talk about forgiveness. We talk about prayer. We talk about our common humanity. All of us have made mistakes at one time or another. Luckily for most of us we don't live in the public eye and we don't have to deal with massive publicity when we make poor choices. I pity those folks who have to deal with that on a regular basis. It frightens me to think that in our world of constant social media, our children can be shamed by their peers via snapchat or instagram if someone catches them in a less than perfect moment. Gosh, even having a zit can be traumatic if you're a 13 year old.

How do we protect our children from this nightmare? What do we as adults do to shore up our souls so we are not battered by the criticism of others? I go back to the previous paragraph, we learn to not only accept, but revel in our humanity, warts and all. If I believe that God made me good and that God loves me, then no one can harm me with their words. We need to teach our children this too, so that they know that for themselves, and they know how to be kind and accepting of others mistakes.

So when your daughter is so very sad because that awesome young singer has sadly had a relapse, maybe that's the time to stop and say: "let's say a prayer for her recovery. Let's ask God to give her the strength to try again. And let's talk about why this is a situation you don't want to find yourself in as you get older."

May God share a portion of the Spirit of wisdom on each of us, so we learn better how loved we are, and how to graciously live to share the gifts and talents we have been given.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What Does It Mean To Be Humble?

Yesterday we buried an elderly woman who had been a life long parishioner here. I really did not know her at all. I knew OF her. What I learned at her funeral yesterday will stay with me for a long time.
But first, what I knew OF her. I first saw her with her brother a few years back when they could still get out of their apartment. They were on the line coming to reverence the cross on Good Friday. I didn't know who they were yet, what I saw was an elderly gentleman leading an older blind woman down the aisle toward the cross. Slowly, with great care, they both venerated our Good Friday Cross. The picture of them in front of the cross was like something off of a holy card. Quite simply, it was beautiful and profound.

I learned after that who they were, our neighbors across the street, but I still never had a cause to visit them. Others did so and would tell me about how hard it was getting for them to stay in a walk up apartment, but how they wanted to keep their independence.

On one occasion I answered the phone here at the parish and it was her on the other end. When she found out who I was on my end of the phone she told me how happy she was to talk with me. While we had never met, she said she was hearing from others and seeing in the bulletin all the activities that were happening here in the parish and wishing me God's blessings on my ministry. She was so very encouraging.

And so yesterday we commended her soul to God. Her brother had gone before her, can't be more than a year ago. The family gathered to pray our final prayers for her and to remember her. Her nephew spoke of what a beloved aunt she was to them all. How she was always encouraging them in their endeavors and challenging them to be, in his words, the best version of themselves. They miss her already.

This woman lived a simple life with great humility, and her family is different because of her. They will in turn, live their lives in such  way as to make her proud of them, and make their part of the world a bit better. Her life like a pebble thrown into the water, will spread ripples of goodness for years to come. Though she may know nothing about it.

As Christians, this is the life we are called to. Some people will do great things and receive accolades for their work. Most of us will not. We trudge through our every day and try to do our best. Our reward is the satisfaction of a job well done. A life well lived. Jesus says, if we want to be first, we must be last. That doesn't mean putting ourselves down, it means knowing who we are, where we are, and whose we are! It means if I know I belong to God, at the end of the day, that is more than enough.

I wish I had gotten to know Kitty while she was here among us. I am sorry I didn't take the time. I know that I hope I live my life as well as she did. I want others to know I care about them and encourage them to be their best selves. I am grateful for every evening when I can put my head on the pillow and know the satisfaction, the blessing of having tried my best for the coming of the kingdom. For the days when I fall short, I'm grateful for the opportunity to try and do better tomorrow.

St Vincent de Paul claimed humility as one the three virtues he strove for.  As I have always admired his story of conversion and his heart for the poor, humility is something I value as well. Not an easy virtue to cultivate in a world that is always telling us we are the most important person in the universe.

So I am always grateful to know where my center is, and who I belong to. What about you, who do you belong to?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Can You Keep A Secret?

Man in Red Crew-neck Sweatshirt Photography

When my Small Christian Community met this past week, we were again mystified by the idea of the messianic secret employed by Mark's writer. How did anyone think that a deaf man with a speech impediment, who is suddenly amazingly healed by Jesus, would keep this miracle a secret? Of course he would go shouting it from the rooftops, along the highways and byways, in his newly clarified speech! He'd be thrilled just to hear himself shout out his good news!

We know the idea of keeping this secret was a literary tool engaged by the writer of the gospel. Jesus really didn't think he could keep these miracles a secret did he? I can see why he'd want to: the more miracles that folks heard about the bigger the crowds around him grew. It became so much more difficult to find time to pray to his father, or gently teach his disciples. Peace and quiet rapidly became a distant memory.

As I think about this I'm wondering, are we, in our day, supposed to keep secret the wonderful things God has done for us? Are we supposed to keep the Good News to ourselves? Of course not! In a world that is sometimes so dimmed by darkness and sadness all around us, are we not compelled to share the joy we feel when we discover how God is working in our lives? Sometimes it's really big things like when you're 17 and you pass your road test after many tearful practices with your parents. Sometimes it's things that seem coincidental like the person who was difficult to work with has been transferred to another building. Sometimes it's a simple as a fine conversation with a colleague.

September is always a new beginning for so many of our children and our teachers. Parish programs kick back into full gear after a lighter summer schedule. Here at St Francis we are super excited to announce that there are new ways to share our good news. Some of our parishioners have been working diligently all summer long to put up a new, way more fun website for us. Along with the new website comes a very cool 'app' for your phone, a new way of supporting the parish electronically, and other neat social media tools. The way our youngsters used Snapchat so frequently...well, let's take advantage of that in the healthiest ways possible. We encourage all of you, but especially our families with pre teen kids, to Snapchat before Mass on Sunday and let everyone know that you're proud to be here with us at St Francis.

Jesus didn't really think that deaf man was going to stay quiet after he was finally healed did he? Surely we're not supposed to keep secret the many gifts God gives us each day. Don't be shy about sharing your good new whatever it may be. We all need to hear some good news!

And Melissa, congratulations once again !

Thursday, August 30, 2018

What's In Your Heart?

What in our hearts is good and clean and holy? What in us in sinful and evil? How do we grow stronger in all that is good and holy and leave behind sinfulness?

That's the question I hear in the Gospel this weekend. Under the guise of talking about the Judaic laws of ritual cleanliness, the Pharisees and scribes question Jesus on the behavior of his disciples and why they are not following the proscribed laws.

Jesus' answer is quite direct. He challenges them to look at the heart of their actions and he names those actions for exactly what they are: evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly. All these evils, Jesus says, come from inside our very selves and they defile us.

Sadly, I guess there really is "nothing new under the sun". (Ecclesiastes 1:4) These last few weeks we have seen the tragedy of evil and sinfulness on the part of our leaders. How our young people were sacrificed for the sake of an institution trying to protect its reputation. Today's scripture calls out to us to look at how we choose to live our lives, and how we need to make serious changes as we seek to move forward.

Changes need to happen on every level. All of us need to examine our hearts. If we're honest with ourselves, those sinful behaviors that Jesus delineates in today's Gospel, we all participate in one or another of them at some points in our lives. Hopefully we are growing stronger and more virtuous as we seek to live our faith more authentically. Some days we do better than others.

Yes, the hierarchical church needs to change, must change in real substantive ways. We, the laity, need to look at ways in which we can call our bishops and priests to a deep and real conversion. Can we, laity and clergy together, grow in an awareness that each of us were called at our baptism to be leaders in this church? What if we could create a new model for leadership in the church that is based on humble loving service, as Jesus imaged for us at the last supper, and not a leadership based on power, prestige and titles? What would that church look like? What amazing gifts would THAT church bring to our world?

This is not in any way to excuse horrific behavior on the part of many sick, broken or power hungry men. It is a call to each of us in the pews to figure out quickly how we, like John the Baptist need to  speak our truth to the powers that be. We the faithful must claim our voice in how the church will start to heal from this terrible crisis. What happens next isn't up to "them" or "the Pope" alone, we have a responsibility to be a part of the healing process as well.

In Sunday's Gospel Jesus calls us out on our sinful behavior. All of us. What we do next is up to us. Do we have the courage to step forward and try to help create a new vision of a holy and healthy church?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Woe to You, Shepherds

I know that the Bible is relevant. I know that God still speaks to us through what may seem like a very ancient text. Yet, I am more often then not, so very surprised by the word of God. Today, I'm just dumbfounded.

I was on vacation last week enjoying the last few beach days before heading back to my desk to get serious about calendars and planning for the upcoming year in the parish. In speaking with a dear friend on the Feast of the Assumption, he said to me cautiously, "How long have you been on vacation?" I had been so off the radar that I had missed the news about the Pennsylvania scandals in the church. I spent the rest of the week reading everything I could, (thank you America and NCR) and trying to prepare myself for Sunday liturgies back in the parish.

Truly Sunday was a long day. I am filled with admiration for the men I am in ministry with,who preached so humbly, so eloquently of their sadness, their fear, their shame for the church we love, and their hope and the challenge that the laity might finally have their voice heard and find the ability to claim our leadership potential. It was a lot to take in.

I know praying is not the answer in and of itself. Dear God, those poor can we ever know how to help them heal from such a horrible abuse of power. I don't know how it was ever allowed to happen. In my prayer, I am seeking a viable answer to the question what am I supposed, what are WE supposed to do now? What is the next appropriate action step? The whole "see, judge, act" component of Catholic Social Justice is gnawing at me....We are finally starting to see this sin and call it what it is, we can certainly judge it as evil, but now do we stand for and support our sisters and brothers who have been victimized by the shepherds of our church? How do we hold our Bishops accountable?

As I look at the first reading for this coming Wednesday, as I prepare my reflections for our morning prayer, I feel like I've gotten punched in the gut...for Ezekiel says..."Woe to the shepherds of sheep have been given over to pillage, for lack of a shepherd. I swear I am coming against these shepherds, says the Lord God. I will save my sheep." I guess if I were a Bishop these days I'd be nervous.

I know whatever action I seek to take, we look to take, must be rooted in prayer. I know most times folks don't comment on this blog when they see it, but for this  I'd be really curious to know...if I picked a weeknight, an hour, to invite folks to come together to pray for our sisters and brothers who were victimized, to pray for healing, to pray for wisdom and humility on the part of our shepherds...would you come pray with me? I don't know what else to do right now, accept pray...and then to ask God and my companions in prayer, what do we do next?

Please let me know what you think: Thank you.

We Are the Trader Joe's of Churches!

With all gratitude and apologies to Trader Joe's for borrowing their name, I intend to use it for the best of purposes. A while back, at another parish, this was the example one gentleman used to describe how he felt about the parish. What he was trying to say was that you can get brand name items at any type of grocery store, big or small. If you wanted something that was really special and unique, the best of quality, you went to Trader Joe's. At Trader Joe's you won't find Oreos he said, you'll find their own version of the famous cookie and so much more to delight in.

That's what St Francis de Sales has become I believe. We are not just any parish church here in the Archdiocese of New York.We are a 'destination parish'! We are the place you want to come to for spiritual nourishment, for a community, for music and homilies that will rock your world and make you think about ways you want to be a better person in your world.

Jesus is truly present here, in the Eucharist and in the Word, in our community gathered as one. Here we learn and we practice this essential truth of our faith, not only is Jesus the bread of life, the bread of our lives, but we have a mandate to be bread for one another. This is evidenced in the smiles and hugs, in the concern for one another, in everyone watching out for each other's children as they wander around the church. I see it most strongly when we greet one another at the opening of Mass, we hold hands for the Lord's prayer and embrace at the sign of peace. This is a church community that I am proud to call my own, and always so happy to come home to.

As we anticipate (not yet, I know. One parishioner teacher referred to August as the Sunday night of the summer...sigh)the rush and busyness of September perhaps we can take a few minutes while the sun is still shining to ask ourselves how we will be more present and more involved in our parish home in the year to come? Our lives are incredibly busy for sure, but what is more important than taking a little extra time to take care of ourselves? How can our parish help you do that? Perhaps you want to join a small Christian Community to make time to pray with a few other folks? Perhaps you want to sing in the choir? Perhaps you can come to Mass early once a month and help greet folks when they come in on Sunday morning-sharing that warm smile that someone once offered you? What gifts do you have to share to make our parish more welcoming,  stronger, and more vibrant? And please, make no mistake, if you're saying to yourself "I really don't have time to do anymore, but I can at least write a check"...heck yeah, we'd love that too...because that check allows us the financial freedom to fund more good works, both here and outside the confines of our own four walls.

Jesus said "I am the Bread of Life" those who come to me will not hunger." Together with Jesus, adopting some good Trader Joe's philosophies, St Francis de Sales seeks to feed our common hunger for spiritual nourishment we all long for. Don't be surprised if you see us in Hawaiian shirts one day soon!

Thursday, August 2, 2018


I was most fortunate to spend my birthday in Italy last week, and it was absolutely wonderful. Each day was lovelier than the next, the weather was hot and sunny, the pool cool and refreshing. Each sight, each meal, each conversation was a special gift.

I was traveling with 9 other cousins, so when I woke up on my birthday morning and had some quiet time all by myself, well, that was a precious gift too.

As I sat here early in the morning with my first cup of coffee, I found myself very aware that I was most certainly in God's presence, and, overwhelmingly filled with gratitude for the gift of life, for the gift of MY life specifically, and all the many blessings I have received.  Among those blessings I counted this very special birthday in Italy, my family and friends, those who have mentored me as I've grown in ministry and in who I am. I counted all the folks from the parishes I've worked in over the last 40 or so years, and in particular, the people of St Francis de Sales who are such amazing folks to work and pray with at this point in my journey. 

I was just filled with gratitude and I couldn't hold it all. I wanted this feeling to stay with me for a long time. I wanted to slow down and savor how it felt to know that God has cared for me each and every day of my 58 years, and to know that I finally have learned to trust in that care.

So I just took the whole day slowly. I was very deliberate about what I did and how I chose to relax that day. I enjoyed each moment and each person. 

In this week's Gospel, the crowd asks Jesus "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" I'm not sure if they really wanted to know, or if they were baiting the Lord. Jesus' answer is that the should simply believe in Him. Well, yeah....but we never seem comfortable with the easy answer do we? As humans we always want it to be more complicated.  Silly us. 

My birthday prayer in addition to immense gratitude, was also the question of that crowd, in my own words...What more do you want of me? How can I be the best servant for you and your people? How can I be the person you call me to be?

I don't have the whole answer yet, but I know that part of the answer involves being grateful, being joyful, and being present to the moments when God surrounds me with his love and beauty. I know that God is enough for me, and that if  I stay centered on God, I will not hunger for anything else.

I challenge you today to ask the question of the crowd: What can you do to accomplish the works of God?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Jesus on Vacation

In Sunday's Gospel we hear that even Jesus and the disciples needed a chance to 'get away from it all' for a bit of rest and relaxation. Why is it, do you think, that we have such a hard time giving ourselves permission to take some time off the grid and just refresh and renew ourselves?

Theoretically we KNOW that time away from work, from ministry, will make us better, more effective, happier and healthier upon our return. Yet sometimes, for some of us, we may think we are indispensable, that everything at work will come to a grinding halt if we're not there to keep the wheels in motion.

I am happy that I have learned over the years that I am not indispensable, that work will continue without me, and that taking time to renew is good for me.

Self care is a popular topic these days I hear. I understand why. Everything about our society pushes us to be faster, stronger, and more ambitious with little thought to our hearts, minds and souls. I love that summer offers many of us an opportunity, even if just because of the heat, to slow ourselves down and be more deliberate in our actions and choices for how we spend our time. Aren't we given these long lovely summer nights to be outside enjoying concerts, picnics and sunsets? Last Monday evening I had the opportunity to host a meeting with some of my catechetical team members at a friends' rooftop garden. Now THAT'S the way to have a summer meeting! It was a great way to build community among ourselves as well, especially since we don't often have the time during the year to stop and enjoy one another.

So, how are you taking care of yourself this summer? In what ways are you slowing down and enjoying the long days and nights? Are you paying attention to the opportunities given to you to try new things, to explore those places you have been meaning to check out? Are you grateful to God for the folks who fill your life? Have you taken a few extra minutes for prayer and reflection when you can?

I hope so. I'm trying to do this as well. Tonight I'm on a plane to visit with family and friends (some of whom I've never met!) in Italy. I'm excited and grateful for this upcoming adventure.Time to relax, time to explore. Time to pray differently, (with an expresso overlooking the sea I hope!)  I pray for all of us, time to slow down and enjoy the world God has given us. Ciao for now!

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Spirit of Truth

When I look at this picture it helps me imagine what I hope the spark of the Holy Spirit looks and feels like when it catches in our hearts!
There is just so much going on in our world that calls for a truly Christian response from each of us, and on days as warm as this it can all seem a bit overwhelming. I find myself asking of myself, what can one person do? Even Jesus in next Sunday's Gospel seems to have had a tough time figuring out how to make a difference in the lives of the people who knew him best.

Prophets call us to pay attention to what God is asking of us. Theirs is not an easy task, for no one likes to be reminded that they've fallen short of the mark. I wonder who our prophets are today? Who are the folks who remind us that we're supposed to be the best we can be, not our worst selves!

It takes great courage to speak the truth. I'm not sure I always have that courage.

We celebrate our independence on July 4th. I also always celebrate my dad, Jim Porcelli who was and lives on in our family memory as a wonderful man. My dad was a quiet guy, but I think he had convictions he was willing to stand up for. I believe he was an honest man who tried to do the right thing in all circumstances. He was a loyal friend. He was funny. He had his shadow side for sure, but when all is said and done, he was a man of principle.

So, while the rest of you celebrate Independence this week, I will hold in  my heart a memory of a man who taught me to be an independent woman, strong and loyal. A person who holds dearly to her values and tries to stand for the truth. My prayer for each of us is that, when the time for courage is needed to speak the truth, in love, the Holy Spirit will fill our hearts with all that is needed to speak and stand for what is right for our world.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

To Become What We Receive

Image result for image for holy eucharist

Sunday, the Church celebrates the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. It seems to me that this should be a huge wonderful celebration in our Catholic community, given that our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is one of the few theological realities that distinguishes us from our Christian sisters and brothers. Yet, very often we take the sacredness of the Eucharist for granted don’t we?

Every Sunday, or even, every day if we choose, we have the opportunity to come together in prayer and worship. Along with one another we hear Scripture proclaimed, we pray for the needs of our world, we come to the altar to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. We ‘Go in peace, to love and serve the world”.

We are supposed to become what we receive, aren’t we? Once we share in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ are we not invited to be his hands and feet in our world? Aren’t we supposed to be changed to our very core by the mystery of the Eucharist? Shouldn’t we be better people after Mass then when we began?

Do we allow the Eucharist to change us? Do we want to let Jesus transform us to be more like Him or, is that too overwhelming a thought to grasp? May our prayer today for each other be that we have the courage to want to be more like Jesus. As we leave Church, let us take to heart the mandate to love and serve the world, as Jesus asks us to.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Pruning? Ouch!

Image result for google images of pruning plants

I've been thinking a lot about pruning this week. Probably because at least twice if not three times I've had the opportunity to pray with the "I am the Vine You are the Branches" scripture passage.  At first I got caught up in all the usual thoughts, didn't seem to move my heart anywhere in particular. Soon I realized that pruning isn't really about removing the dead useless branches as much as it is having the wisdom to remove healthy growth, so the plant can grow fuller and more healthier. God knows I can't keep a plant alive to save my life. I have no idea how to prune anything.  But God must be pruning me all the time. Apparently it's not a choice between good and bad, but rather a choice between good and better! So the question I'm pondering is, do I have the courage to trust that God knows what God is doing in my life? How much do I really trust God anyway?

I can look back on my life's journey and see all the ways God has led me from one place to the next. And in each of those moments, there really was a letting go of something that had made me happy, for the possibility of greater ministry, more work for the kingdom in a new place. It truly was a choice for something I didn't even know could be 'better'! What a "sneaky" God we have. Bringing us to more joyful moments we couldn't even imagine.

So here at St Francis de Sales we prepare now to celebrate baptisms, communions, confirmation, and a pretty significant anniversary for our pastor. I'll throw in my niece's college graduation for good measure! Oh, and another niece performing at Carnegie's gonna be a busy month.  And for all the blessings that will be shared in all these beautiful moments, I am most grateful.

These are the joyful moments I'll hold on to on those less than perfect days when my mom doesn't seem to recognize me, when I find myself in a ridiculous argument with someone close to me, or when a day is just too sad to move through. Maybe these are the moments of pruning that I need to endure in order to blossom better in the days to come.

I want to believe I trust God enough to let him prune me as he sees fit. I'm not sure that's true, but it's what I've been praying all week long, so, maybe...I'm getting there bit by bit. Hope you are too!

Thursday, April 19, 2018


I found myself transfixed by the word "hunger" in the weekday Gospels this week. A few images come to mind rather easily, the most vivid is what our communion line looks like on any given Sunday as parent and toddler approach the altar. So often, that little one is desperate to receive what mom or dad has just received from the priest or communion minister. With absolutely no knowledge of Jesus as Eucharist this little one very enthusiastically wants what mom or dad has. Surely you've seen this played out in your church. It may look a bit raucous sometimes, but what it always awakens in me are these questions: Do I want Jesus as much as this little one does? Am I THAT excited about receiving Jesus into my heart and soul? Am I hungry for Eucharist? And ultimately, will I let myself be changed because I have received communion today or will I be the same old person when I leave the church as I was when I walked in? What's different in me because of this communion with Jesus?

Those are pretty significant questions to dwell on as we move through the Easter season. I find them helpful for me because of what I witnessed at Easter Vigil: the joy of our "elect" young men who could not wait to be fully initiated into our church family. They are so very excited. They want so much to be closer to Jesus. I am truly humbled in their presence. Their enthusiasm for their faith and the God who has called them here is inspiring and I want to be more like them. I want to be on fire with the Holy Spirit. I want to believe again, that God is calling me to be his witness in this crazy, upside down world.

As we hear the stories of Jesus' post resurrection appearances, what stirs in your heart and soul? What do you want to be different about how you are living your life? What are you hungering for?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Will You Let God Surprise You?

Some of our "Men of RCIA" with apologies to the rest of the group who were out of the room when I took the picture....

I used to be a person who really just gritted my teeth and tried to make it through Lent without too much thought to pain and suffering. That's what I thought Lent was about. When people in my past talked to me about the Paschal Mystery...I could only hear the stories of suffering and death, I never seemed to be able to see the Resurrection.

It came to my attention recently, that my feelings about Lent have changed. Without my even realizing it, I know that Lent is now a sacred season that I find awe inspiring. I know what made the difference too...the difference has been walking my Lenten journey with those folks who are preparing to be initiated into the Catholic church. (RCIA folks)

What an amazing gift they have been to me, and to the church at large. These folks come from such different backgrounds, with wonderfully individual stories of how God has called them into a relationship with himself. Feeling a desire they could not yet fully understand, they courageously took the leap of faith to discover who this God was. They question. They pray. They struggle. They search relentlessly. And they respond to God with open hearts. They amaze me every day.

And their example inspires me to want to be as generous as they are in giving my whole heart to the service of God's people.  As we enter into these most sacred days, I hold my brothers and sisters who are on the journey to baptism, to becoming one with us, in my heart and in my prayer. I ask you to do the same for my friends here, Muhan and Ramel, and for those in your churches who are entering into the waters of baptism, and joining us for the first time and the banquet of the Eucharist.

We who are the church, are a crazy bunch, "crazy" in the most loving sense of how we talk about our family...for all our strengths and our weaknesses, these folks want to join us on our journey to salvation. How privileged are we to have these new believers, on fire with the love of Jesus, to join us and renew the spark of faith in our hearts.

May these holy days be filled with many blessings for one and all of us. May we all pray and celebrate well. May we leave some room for God to surprise us! 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Can You See the Divine in Yourself?

The story of the transfiguration makes me wonder what Jesus knew and when he knew it.

I mean, when he got up that morning, did he know it was going to be an outstandingly spectacular day? Was the transfiguration on his 'to do' list? Or, were they out hiking and enjoying the beauty of the day when suddenly this crazy event happened? We know the disciples were amazed at the sight. I wonder what Jesus' own internal felt experience of the event was? What did he see, hear, and feel?

I wonder because while I believe that Jesus was both human and divine as the church teaches us, I am not sure what he himself knew of  his divinity. I can imagine that he would have grown into his understanding of what his relationship with his father was. Days like his baptism and the transfiguration must have been peak moments of knowing of his father's love for him in a most unique way. What did he do with that? What did that feel like to the carpenter's son?

As we move into this Lenten season is the question we ask ourselves really that different? How in touch are we with the Father's love for us? Do we recognize that we are God's own sons and daughters and thus have a spark of the divine in us? What does it feel like to recognize that just as the Father called Jesus his beloved son....he says the same to us, about us...

Most days I know I don't feel like that. Last Sunday night at Vespers, Sr Carol Perry invited us to use this Lenten time to change our hearts. Yes we need to repent, but frankly, (she said? I heard?) it's a given that we are all sinners....God knows that already, and loves us anyway. Our Lenten task is to change our hearts. To believe that we are loved by God and to act like it! How are my actions different if I start from a place where I believe that I am God's beloved?

If I believe I am God's beloved I think I am much more gentle with  myself and with the world around me. I stand firm in my purpose, to be the change for good I want to see in my world, with a sense of peace that the world cannot shake.

If I believed in the good that God sees in would that feel like? What about you? What in you needs to be transformed this Lent?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

When do I feel like the leper?

The person who is outcast has come up rather frequently in the last few Sunday Gospels, whether it be the person with the unclean spirit or this weeks' leper.  For some reason, my attention has been caught by the idea of how the leper might be feeling, as one who is outside the community, trying to find a way back into his family, his friends, his place of worship.

In a perfect world we all feel welcome in the circles we inhabit, most of the time.  But where is that perfect world? Most times when I hear these Gospels, I feel badly for the poor leper, the outcast, who is shunned by their loved ones through no fault of their own. I feel pity for the other.

Oddly enough, today I feel like 'the other'. If I dwell on this too much, I can start my own pity party. I can feel like no one understands me, no one loves me, that I'm being punished for something I have no clue about. Maybe I'm just tired of being cold for so long, that it's seeping into my soul. I am longing for the warmth of the sun to shine on me and brighten both my outlook and my heart.

Today I remember my dad who went home to God 19 years ago. This morning as I walked across the park the sun was shining brightly on the trees and seemed to shine right on my face. I stopped several times to feel the warmth and imagine my dad watching over me today, sending me a special message of his love. Sometimes that's all you need to feel less alone, some small sign that you are connected to the larger universe.

Where do you find your connection to God? To the greater story of who we are as a people of faith? As we get ready for Lent, for the coming of Spring, what gives you hope? I pray that each of us, like the leper, actively look for ways to stay connected to our sisters and brothers in faith, today and always.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

How is Life this Busy?

  feed your own ego i'm busy meaning - Google Search

I really don't understand how for months I have just been too busy to collect my thoughts to share a bit of reflection on a weekly basis. I couldn't even tell you what I've been doing. I've been busy, sure, with all sorts of things that are seemingly very important. It saddens me to think that I'm not being faithful to prayer and reflection. And so, here I am to start again. Sort of like dieting, right? Every day is a new opportunity to make good choices. I choose to be mindful of how God is trying to reach out to me in the days I am given.
These are the things I would like to be busy about: dreaming, living simply, loving, laughing and being grateful.

I had to chuckle when I read the first reading: Job is the picture of a person who needs a vacation! All of life is drudgery and he can't get out of bed in the morning. Does that sound familiar some days or what??

And the demons make an appearance in the Gospel again this weekend.  Between casting out demons Jesus has time to heal Peter's mother in law. This is a man who knows what its like to be busy in ministry! I really have nothing to complain about, I know. It helps to know that Jesus understands when I can't seem to remember where I am, what the next thing is, or try to open my home door with my work keys.
I absolutely love that Jesus went off to that lonely place to pray. I know I need more of that in my life. In these days leading up to Lent I want to give myself the gift of quiet time. How or where I don't know yet, but I'm going to look for it. What about you? Do you need quiet too?