A Prayer for the Sisters

From Fr. James Martin:

Evening prayer: Dear God, tomorrow in Vatican City the leadership team from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will meet with Cardinal William Levada and Archbishop Peter Sartain at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. God, I know that all of the men and women at this meeting are devoted to your Son and want to serve your church as best they can. As they discuss the future of the LCWR, and of the tens of thousands of generous women religious in the United States, give them the spirit of “mutual understanding” that the Vatican spoke of today. Most of all, pour out your Holy Spirit on them so that they may all discern wisely, listen carefully to one another, and be aware, awake and attentive to the workings of grace. Help them make each decision in a spirit of love, respect and charity. Amen.

A comment: Archbishop Sartain invited me to his diocese when he was in Joliet and my colleague Paul Jarzembowski, worked closely with him for years. He’s a very fair-minded and smart guy who listens to people and I think that gives us some hope that the sisters will be treated fairly.

Regardless, let us pray for our women religious today and always.

And our prayer for them reminds us of our gratitude for all they have done.

Elizabeth: The First Spiritual Director

Today is the feast of the Visitation, where Mary travels to meet her cousin Elizabeth after the news that she was with child is revealed.

I have many thoughts on this, the first of which is the wonder if Mary needed to get out of Dodge? It probably wasn’t easy to be a single, pregnant teen in this time in history. And so, rather than bear the shame of the neighbors (or perhaps the possibility of stoning), Mary set out to talk with someone she knew she could trust.

And there was Elizabeth waiting, big stomach and all in her own pregnancy. Ever see two pregnant women get together? It’s magical. Similar things happening to their bodies, the stress on the back and on the feet carrying all that extra weight. The wondering of what is to come. What kind of mother will I be? What will my child be like? To watch two women consider the future together is indeed something. Companions on the journey are they and they most need one another to help discern their unknown futures.

Like Mary, we all need trusted individuals to turn to regularly. Someone we can depend on for advice, perhaps even someone with a bit of companioning wisdom who might know a bit more about our situation than we do.

I imagine Elizabeth, just a bit more pregnant than Mary was that person that Mary needed. A companion that could tell her about morning sickness or strange cravings. She stayed with Elizabeth for some time the scripture tells us, I wonder if she witnessed the birth of John the Baptist, midwifing him into life?

The relationship between “trusted source” people and those who seek them is often symbiotic. I know as a spiritual director myself, I often feel blessed that these people trust me enough with their stories and wonder sometimes what they see in me that enables them to offer all of themselves without editing. They share much with me and I am blessed for that.

And we laugh. A lot. We find God’s ways of communicating with us hysterical at times and sometimes we are so frustrated with our lives that we have to laugh sarcastically as if we can’t believe that these things happen to us.

Elizabeth seems to understand that. Picture her laughing as she does in the picture above as she says:

And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

I often hear words like this come out of my own mouth:

“Thank you for all you have shared with me.”
“I am humbled by your openness with me.”
“Be able to believe in all that God is doing in you.”
“Do not be afraid.”
“Clearly you are cooperating with where you believe that God is calling you.”

It’s given me pause to reflect today on the many people who “visit” with me. I hope I can be as good of a listener for them as Elizabeth was for Mary.

After all, she helped Mary find God’s presence within herself.

And that’s exactly what we spiritual directors try to do for those who visit with us as well.

For those who visit me…thank you. And know today that the spirit of the living God resides quite deeply in all that is within you.

50 Day Giveaway (Part 2)

So last lent, I riffed on Flip Caderao’s Lenten 40 day giveaway and did a 50 day giveaway for Lent. I’ve decided to do the same thing this year as I really enjoyed doing that last year.

I’ve decided to make it harder and simply do it locally here in Buffalo—but I will also be spending time this Lent in Hawaii for a week so that might make it even more difficult. I mean, I may just have to give something away to some random strangers.

The reflections will be a mix of both video and writing. Harkening the themes of prayer, fasting and almsgiving for Lent. I also can’t buy anything new. I have to give away something I already own or have in my power to possess. I can however, do a task as well. For example, I can make a friend dinner or give someone a day to spend time with.

So starting tomorrow–when we will begin Lent with Ash Wednesday–you too, Buffalonians may be the winner of a free gift.

Stay tuned.

Pope Benedict: Occupy Wall Street Rocks!

NPR called Benedict and “unlikely” supporter of economic reform. Shows that the image of the Catholic Church is misconstrued as a solely right-wing organization because they are against abortion and gay marriage.

Here’s more from NPR on the Pope’s take on redistribution of wealth. NPR acts as if this is a “Who knew?” kind of situation.

The Vatican released a document on the world economy on Monday that will cause heartburn in the Tea Party, but will be cheered by the folks occupying Wall Street.

This will surprise most Americans who think the pope is a Republican because he opposes abortion and gay marriage. But when it comes to economic justice, Pope Benedict XVI is to the left of President Obama. Heck, he is even to the left of Nancy Pelosi.

Those who read the pope’s 2009 encyclical “Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth)” will not be surprised by this new document. In that encyclical, the pope decried “corruption and illegality” among economic and political elites in both rich and poor countries. He told financiers they must rediscover the ethical foundation of their activity and stop abusing savers. He wants a radical rethinking of economics so that it is guided not simply by profits but by “an ethics which is people-centered.”

Benedict notes that economic “inequalities are on the increase” across the globe. He does not accept the trickle-down theory, which says that all boats will rise with the economic tide. Benedict condemns the “scandal of glaring inequalities” and sees a role for government in the redistribution of wealth.

Yes, you heard that right. The pope favors the redistribution of wealth. When was the last time you heard a liberal Democrat use those words?

For the uninformed, Catholics are economic liberals with a strong record on protecting the environment as well. They are also moral conservatives, basing much of those arguments on natural law, simply put, there’s objective truth in the world that we can know and should base our decisions on.

Most people are the opposites. They’re economic conservatives (I take care of my family first and give what’s leftover to charity, etc. They don’t want taxes and look for loopholes to protect their money) and liberal on the socially moral questions (do what you want, everything is relative…just don’t hurt someone else).

We have much to consider here. One is the image of the church as being aligned with the Republicans. True probably only on issues like abortion and gay marriage. Catholics are against capital punishment for the same reasons as they are against abortion. All life is sacred.

But what of our more liberal positions? Seems that Catholic Social Teaching is still the best kept secret out there! But perhaps Pope Benedict is looking to open the window a bit wider here? We stand with those who are vulnerable economically, as well as, those in harm’s way in war torn parts of the world, the unborn, the prisoner on death row.

Now that being said, because I am the king of fairness, there are people who fall heavy on one side or the other. When I go to conferences about social justice, I don’t hear much about the unborn and sometimes they don’t spend a lot of time praying together or even providing time for reflection privately. On the other hand, at a conference on family life there seems to be too much self-concern and while prayer is filled with personal piety, we don’t hear much about working as families for the needs of the poor, prisoners, or even single mothers!

That friends, needs to change. If we’re not consistent then we are sending mixed messages to the world. And then entities like NPR (who should know better) are surprised when they hear the truth of what we believe.

We now live in a world where young people don’t have time to guess at who we are and what we stand for. We need to be better at proclaiming who we are and what we believe publicly.

If we don’t, all we do is confuse people. And that friends, doesn’t help. It makes us look like the right-wing fringe most of the time and the left-wing disorganized the rest of the time.

We’re more than that and need to rise about mere factions to express the tenderness of the Catholic heart which encompasses everyone.

Details to Follow

We’ve taken a blogging break for the holiday and now head home from the snowbound NYC. Should be an adventure and I will add some details later.

We stayed at a hotel in Tarrytown after visiting my parents. A good visit all around. Pictures will also follow, for the moment they are unavailable though. Again, details to follow.

We celebrated a brief word service on the feast of the Holy Family as we couldn’t make it out of the hotel. I was touched by the first reading from Sirach which implores “Take care of your father when he is old.”. And generally it reminds us of the importance of a parent’s love and their patience.

Right now I’m in the waiting area prepared to travel back to Buffalo. There is a little kid who frankly is having a complete meltdown. His mother is being very patient with him and continues to try to keep him in line. It’s confirming my own lack of children as a good thing for me as I don’t think I’d handle him as well. In fact my own stress level is rising just being next to him. The kid is wearing a hat that says “Never give up” and indeed that must be a reminder to his parent to continue being patient with him. Perhaps the same lesson applies to our care for those at the other end of life’s spectrum? We need patience and commitment to care for all of those who need just a bit more attention, maybe even a bit more than we are willing to give.

Today in the gridlock that is NYC, patience will be required to be practiced by everyone as they struggle to get home. (that’s the genesis of the kid’s meltdown BTW. Marion and I had a small one when we realized we’d have to extend our trip.

Patience is a virtue. And perhaps that virtue needs practice in order to be perfectly executed. We’ll make a few mistakes with this. But when we come before God in prayer, we humbly offer our weaknesses to God hoping for patience as well.

Today may God grant us the patience that we need when we are too tired to give anymore of ourselves, when we are at the end of our ropes, when we simply run out of patience. And when we do and we get angry and meltdown, may God have patience with us as well.

And for this young child who is suddenly peacefully waiting with his book, may God help to get him home.

What Kind of King Are You Anyway?

Reflection for Christ the King Sunday:

I don’t know why I opened the email.

It was from my friend, Keith and I hadn’t heard from him in years.

When I opened it. I read possibly the most evil thing I have ever heard.

Keith’s brother was going through a divorce and his soon to be ex-wife, distraught over the breakup, went and killed their two children, ages 7 and 8.

How would any of you react to such horrifying news?

I sat down and cried for two children I have never met. And then I got angry.

“What kind of King are you anyway? Aren’t you God? Couldn’t you have saved them?”

The bad thief in our gospel today has nearly the same reaction that I did. What kind of king are you? If you’re a king, save yourself and us.

I’m just like that bad thief. I went looking for a savior and when I found him I was disappointed because I found that he was hanging from a cross.

It’s tough to look at the cross. But we have a cross in every church. We wear them around our necks. We obviously don’t merely see the brutality of capital punishment here and senseless death. And it’s the good thief who reminds us that we need to look beyond the cross, to look beyond death and pain and destruction.

Because it’s there that we find a King. A king who redeems our pain and suffering with everlasting life. A king who enters into our suffering and understands our pain and a brutal horrible death.

The good thief only asks one thing of Jesus. He asks to be remembered. How many times do I want to say “Jesus, please DON’T remember me.” Because I’m a sinner and I’m no good and I’ve done stupid and hurtful things to others.

And Jesus’ response is the same to us that he offers to the good thief: “I assure you today you will be with me in paradise.”

Facing the cross and all the different ways people continue to be crucified today is indeed a difficult task. But to not look at the cross and see more puts limits on what we believe God can do.

Doesn’t evil want us to believe that God can’t redeem the evil murder of those two kids? Isn’t it all too easy to be the bad thief and only see pain and death and not believe that God can defeat death and bring us all to everlasting life?

Or can we be the good thief and have the faith that Jesus remembers us–even when it seems hopeless?

For when all seems hopeless, we look to the cross and we find the broken body of Christ. And we know that we have a God who not only suffers with us, but who also redeems all the suffering that we could ever face.

And who remembers us all forever.

What Ties You Down To Your Mat?

Reflection during the reconciliation service for the UB Charis Retreat this weekend:

Sometimes our friends think more of us than we think of ourselves.

Don’t they?

Take the friends of the paralyzed man. By being friends with someone who couldn’t walk, they are actually making a huge theological statement.

For you see, at the time of Jesus, people who were paralyzed were thought to be sinners. And their disfunction was God’s response to their sin. God’s punishment for being an evil person.

We still think like this sometimes today, don’t we?

Take my friends John and Kelly. For 8 months Kelly carried their first child in her womb only for her heart to stop beating just a few weeks before her due date. She delivered a dead baby. The pain of childbirth followed by the pain of mourning. John came to me afterwards and said: “I only have one question for God. What did I ever do to anyone to deserve going through this kind of pain?”

God’s gonna get you. Don’t we all say that sometimes?

So when the friends of the paralyzed man bring him to Jesus the mere fact that they are friends with him says that they don’t look on him the same way that others do. He’s not some dastardly sinner that we should just leave to die because God is punishing him. No. This is our friend. We know he has some redeeming values. They believe in him so much that they hoist him up to the roof and punch a hole into it and lower him down to Jesus. Imagine what an effort that must have been to do. Certainly they wouldn’t just do that for anybody.

When Jesus sees their faith, he understands what they are trying to say. “Hey Jesus, surely, this man isn’t a victim of some kind of God-induced karma. He may be paralyzed, but God didn’t do that, right?

The first thing that Jesus does in fact is her tenderly tells him “Child, your sins are forgiven.” And THAT sets the scribes off!

“Who is this that he forgives sins? And of someone who is obviously a HUGE sinner.”

So imagine the shock when Jesus says to them in essence, “Not only has God already forgiven this man. He didn’t give him this paralysis either. Just watch. Rise, pick up your mat and go home.”

Sometimes aren’t we paralyzed by our own sins? Don’t we have things that tie us down to our mats? Don’t we think that God couldn’t possibly forgive us for all the things that we do that are sinful?

I know I sometimes really get down on myself sometimes. And that’s why we have the sacrament of reconciliation. We come before God as sinful and instead of smiting us, God tenderly says “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Confession celebrates God’s mercy. We need our Catholic community to remind us that God is just like the friends of the paralyzed man. God thinks more of us, than we do of ourselves. There is always room for our redemption.

And more importantly, God doesn’t hold grudges. God completely forgives us our sins and there is no trace of our sins. God lets go of all that keeps us mired in guilt and yet we sometimes hold onto that, don’t we? Sin continues to paralyze our thinking into believing that we aren’t altogether healed by God’s mercy.

Do you want to really understand how God forgives us? Well you all were given a piece of paper tonight. I’ve already written my own sins down on this paper–notice I used both sides. And when I touch this piece of paper to our Candle’s flame–the light that represents Christ’s presence to us.

That’s how God forgives us. There is nothing left of our sin. Believe it. You are completely forgiven. Let us celebrate God’s mercy tonight. Rise, pick up your mat and dance for joy.

Deaf Interpreters: Jesus is Not Like Godzilla in Today’s Gospel

This comes from Amy Smith Delamer at the wonderful University of Dayton. (Go Flyers!) She noted on Facebook today that today is the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus (Corpus Christi). Today’s Gospel is the Feeding of the 5000 but to the deaf community in some places the Gospel could have a whole other meaning.

“There is this wonderful woman — Jenny. She’s 78, and she speaks at (a conference I go to) every year. She tells the story of just beginning to interpret (for the deaf community) at her church, and, not knowing that there are different signs for “feed” and “eat”, she told the deaf community in her church that Jesus ATE the 5,000!”

My wife who is a deaf interpreter at mass will love this story. She’s got a bunch of stories likes these but this one is one of the funnier ones I’ve heard. Thanks, Amy.

BTW…I own both of those figures pictured. Scary.

Everyone Should Go To This Conference….

To all faithful viewers who are interested in Campus and Young Adult Ministry…

This summer on June 25-26 Fordham University’s Curran Center for American Catholic Studies is holding a conference called: Where Have All the Young People Gone? I would like to personally invite you to attend the conference and ask that you publicize it to all young adults and parish ministry professionals that you know. I’m trying to drive people to the conference to boost early registrations before May 15th so we can guarantee a solid number of attendees for our grantors.
The conference is simply a solid 24 hours on the intersection of Campus and Young Adult Ministry. Jim Davidson, a major sociologist, will have new numbers and facts on the generation and Melissa Cidade from Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate will respond. We’ll also have a number of workshops featuring different issues that young adults face during that transition. Lastly, they’ll be two panels featuring the best practices of both ministries and the WORST practices as well.

The conference is only $50 for commuters and housing is $75/night at Fordham. So it’s an easy and cheap solution for a quick continuing education option.

And I’d love to see you besides! So come. It’ll be a good conference and I need good people with great insights to be there.

Below find links for more info:

For more Information on the conference

Register here: