Pope Francis Names Cardinals on the Margins

The Pope named 15 new Cardinals today most from countries that have not had representation recently. No Americans as Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia would be options for red hats but there’s usually a wait for the former Cardinals of those Archdioceses to pass the voting age of 80.

The Pope is preferring Bishops from the global south and moderates including as John Allen reports at Crux

Archbishop John Atcherley Dew from New Zealand, for instance, argued for allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion at a 2005 Vatican synod of bishops. Archbishop Ricardo Blázquez Pérez is president of the Spanish bishops’ conference and generally seen as a moderate opposed to the harder line of former Madrid Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela.

The other newly named Cardinals are:

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

Archbishiop Manuel José Macario do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon (Portugal)

Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M., of Addis Abeba (Ethiopia)

Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli of Ancona-Osimo (Italy)

Archbishop Pierre Nguyên Văn Nhon of Hà Nôi (Viêt Nam)

Archbishop Alberto Suàrez Inda of Morelia (Mexico)

Archbishop Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B., of Yangon (Myanmar)

Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok (Thailand)

Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento (Italy)

Archbishop Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, S.D.B., of Montevideo (Uruguay)

Bishop José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán, O.A.R., of David (Panamá)

Bishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado, of Santiago de Cabo Verde (Archipelago of Cape Verde)

Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga (Island of Tonga)

In addition honorary Cardinals beyond the age of 80 were named:

José de Jesús Pimiento Rodriguez, Archbishop Emeritus of Manizales

Archbishop Luigi De Magistris, Major Pro-Penitentiary Emeritus

Archbishop Karl-Joseph Rauber, Apostolic Nuncio

Luis Héctor Villaba, Archbishop Emeritus of Tucumán

Júlio Duarte Langa, Bishop Emeritus of Xai-Xai

Pray for the new red hats who will be officially given their red hats in February.

A Final Boo-Ya!

Stuart Scott, the renowned ESPN anchor who was a pioneer in many ways in sports, died today from Cancer at the much too young age of 49. He lived, likely unaware that I admired him for a living out a great and important piece of Ignatian Spirituality: he was himself. Stu was who God had created him to be and for that he would not apologize. He brought hip-hop and the barbershop to the desk at Sportscenter, in the too often buttoned up position of anchor. He made it fun. He was fun. He was on a ride and he never wanted it to end. His enthusiasm not only reflected black culture, but it reflected conversations I had with friends, colleagues. I used to say back when I was in broadcasting that the show “off the air was often better than the one on the air.” Scott brought off the air to in front of the camera. His personality and his joy for all he lived will be missed.

I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but he was always someone I looked forward to watching.

Here’s some poignant words of his from the Espys this year:

View on YouTube

Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May Stu’s soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen ….

and Boo-ya!

Of Gifts and Stars

This Epiphany we hear of the Three Kings, astrologers most likely, who come bearing gifts after following a star and finding the Christ-child.

While not Jewish the notion of the specialness of visitors who come not empty handing must truly have been a
Mitzvot for Mary and Joseph, two poor people with a newborn son who couldn’t even find lodging for the birth. Their stars were these men, three who brought gifts from afar. Gold which probably kept Jesus alive when infant mortality was quite high. Frankenscense which is given to kings, and Myrrh which prepares a body for its burial for a king who will offer his body for us.

Who is your unexpected visitor? Who has given you a gift that was most welcomed at a precarious time in your life? That gift may have been monetary or sentimental, or it may have been their presence that was more than enough. Whatever the case, remember and give thanks today.

Lord, send us stars that we might be overwhelmed by the light that reflects your love. Amen.

Leading by Fear

Donald Trump, among other candidates, has taken to a political style that I call “Leading by Fear.” He points out troublesome things going on in the world and then expect a fearful reaction and falls into a hasty despair.

Too often, I fear we all default to this mode in our own everyday affairs. Ignatius of Loyola would call this the fatal flaw of making decisions in desolation. Leaders would do well to not make a hasty decision, but rather a measured one.

This is age-old wisdom and it is in the heart of today’s gospel today. King Herod is also leading by fear and the reaction to Jesus’ birth is a perfect example of overreacting. Herod not only tries to hoodwink the astrologers into pointing out the Christ-child, but he later would kill all of the newborn babies in the land.

Despair drives Herod’s decision–always a bad way to go.

The astrologers, on the other hand, lead by intuition and a gathering of facts. They realize that the baby is in fact a threat to King Herod and they are troubled enough by their experience with Herod that they discern a better route to head home instead of heading back in Herod’s direction.

Anxiety and despair are always going to come our way. It finds us faster than we would like. But we cannot lead with our fear. We have to notice that we are feeling anxious and in that, it should signal to us that we need to push those feelings away and walk into the light of a new day.

So when someone annoys us, we have to stop and count to 10 instead of snapping back.

When we feel distrust, we have to ask direct questions from those we perceive as a threat to shine more light on the situation, so that cooler heads prevail.

And in all of life, we have to look for where God provides us with consolation. So that like the astrologers we can be comforted by the presence of God in our lives and then head down the path of life by a more discerned route, living by the light that God sheds on our experience.

Of Grandmothers, Wives and Guardian Angels

So my beloved wife, Marion, is home today while I attend a funeral for the grandmother of a student who was in my small group on retreat. Since the college has been shut down, I didn’t have plans to get to the office where we keep our Mass cards, so I opted for a sympathy card, and figured I would follow up with a Mass card when we return.

My wife, however, who adored her own grandmother dearly, handed me a card with a small coin on it, that she got from Catholic Relief Services and said “Here, put this in Beth Anne’s card.” The coin and accompanying card refers to one’s guardian angel. Now, in a million years, I probably would not have thought to do this, but Marion is very tied in to showing sympathy for people when their grandparents die. And so…

There were a number of eulogies for Cecelia, the deceased. And she was a very devout woman, who her grandchildren called “Baci”. And it turns out that she had a number of devotions, but perhaps none moreso, than to her guardian angel. She even taught people a prayer to their guardian angel.

And now, Cecelia is a guardian angel as well, not that she wasn’t already in this life for her children and grandchildren and all those whom she loved dear.

It is my belief that there indeed are angels amongst us, my wife being one of them. I’m sure her grandmother placed that coin into her hand this morning and said “Here, this will make her feel better.”

While Guardian Angels may seem saccharine to some, I can say that today they don’t to me. They are likely made up of legions of grandmothers and they all told God that they already knew what their job was in heaven, thank you very much, Lord. They would be watching over their families and anyone else who just needed a grandma.

So today, I pray the prayer to a guardian angel and pray for the repose of Cecelia’s soul and pray in gratitude for my own living guardian angel, my wife and her grandmother who watches over us and reminds us how to best minister to others.

Angel of God, my guardian dear
To whom God’s love commits me here
Ever this day, be at my side
To Light and Guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

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Putting Skin on the Ideas of Jesus

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Sometime ago I was single and out with friends. Two young women came over to “chat up” my friend Dan and I. I was wearing a Fordham sweatshirt and was a recent graduate. The two women in question were at Fordham for graduate school and we began a nice conversation.

Then Sean came over.

Our friend Sean was introduced and he was asked if he was also a Fordham graduate. His response was:

“Oh no, no. I went to Iona. But I like the idea of Fordham.”

At that point the two young ladies about faced and left.

“Way to go, Sean!” I replied.

But since that time I’ve heard a number of people use the “I like the idea of…” phrase and I’d never really understood what the heck that even means!

And then I realized that there is great comfort in ideas. We don’t have to fully engage beyond the idea itself to embrace the idea in all of its fulfillment. We can keep ideas at bay, but once they take flesh, they become more than an idea.

They become enfleshed in our lives and they shape us.

The incarnation is the central point of connection with this er…idea. God cannot bear to be away from us and so he requires the Godself to enter humanity, to experience all of who and what we are. God becomes human, so that we might be with God forever.

The idea of humanity was not enough for God. God enfleshed himself in our humanity.

These days, we hear a lot about the idea of Jesus, maybe even the idea of God. “Jesus was a cool dude.” “What would Jesus do?” The abstract idea of God, or even of a distant historical Jesus seems palatable to many. But the actual flesh and blood of Jesus, the one who DIED for the love of the entire world, the one who loved and loves seemingly unloveable people…that seems too much to take for many.

Pope Francis in his New Year’s message talked about how so many people find it easy to divorce themselves from the church, while holding onto their comfortable and distant idea of God.

Without the Church, Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling. Without the Church, our relationship with Christ would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, our moods.

In short, we try to make God in our image.

And instead, God makes us into His image and reminds us of that by entering that humanity, giving us His entire self.

A friend often says, “The world would be a better place, if everyone would just listen to me.” We laugh, of course, but then, I always think about how God must say this all the time. The renowned Jesuit, Bill O’Malley once put what he thought God must think of us crudely:

“Dumb bastards, they just don’t get it.”

You see, God reminds us that we are not just abstract ideas. That the church is not, and cannot be abstract. The church must be a place where we meet each other and relate to one another. And when we do this, we find God even amongst a two or three gathered.

And if we can’t do this with our friends and relations, well then, what chance do the poor have? Or are they just an idea to grapple with but not to hold onto and embrace? God calls us to put on their flesh and understand their lives just as God understands our lives.

Today, may we not be satisfied with ideas, but rather enflesh those ideas in action, rooted in love. Amen.

#Whynot?

My dear friend Fran blogged today about New Year’s Resolutions and reminded us to not merely make resolutions, but to ask why we don’t make resolutions?

For example, “Why don’t I work out 6 days a week?” If I really want to lose weight, I need to watch my diet. So why don’t I do that with vigor and what stops me from doing so?

It’s a great example of Ignatian spiritual practice at its best. We can’t just merely notice things in our past or even see where we should be headed. Rather we need to make a firm purpose of amendment and then to ask ourselves what presents itself to us instead of what we should choose, instead of making a better choice.

We can go even deeper with our longings. While we should “bloom where we are planted” we also have to be brave enough to ask ourselves where and what we are doing and if that really is leading us towards the Magis, the more in our lives.

So this year, I pray that we can all do this. To look at the good and bad that enters our lives and remind ourselves that God is within all of this. In each choice we make are we really making a move towards Magis, even if the larger choices can’t be attained instantaneously? What unhealthy attachments might we have that prevents us from even looking at these choices? Fear? Apathy? Comfort? All are not bad in and of themselves, but they may prevent one from being more, being better.

So today, let us pray for open eyes as we look for Magis and what turns us away from it and allow God to open our hearts a bit more too, so that we can be closer to who we are called to be by God.

Fran started the hashtag #whynot. So let’s all think about that and ask questions going forward about why we do and don’t do things!

2014: Get Lost!

So the end of a crappy, crappy year is upon us. I spent today taking my beloved pet, Haze Hayes to the eye doctor who thankfully sent him home with meds and not with surgery plans.

Might as well end on a sort of an up note.

But the Holy Father noted today that the end of a year should be marked by gratefulness, for what has been and for what will be, but more importantly…

“…the Church teaches us to end the year, and in fact each day, with an examination of conscience. This devout practice leads us to thank God for the blessings and graces we have received, and to ask forgiveness for our weaknesses and sins.

The fundamental reason for our thanksgiving, the Pope explained, is that God has made us His children. It is true, he said, that we are all created by God – but sin has separated us from the Father, and has wounded our filial relationship with Him. And so “God sent His Son to redeem us at the price of His Blood.” We were children, the Pope continued, but we became slaves. It is precisely the coming of Jesus in history that redeems us and rescues us from slavery, and makes us free.”

This indeed is true. And so here’s a look back at some of the great things in 2014.

From the World of Medicine
My father survived a bout with colon cancer.
The dog went through a lot of surgery but lived despite it all.
Great doctors, great vets are a sure sign of thankfulness.
Two tough guys duked it out with illness and prevailed.

From the World of Vocation
3 semesters into being the director of Campus Ministry with ups and downs, joys and sorrows.
New initiatives taking hold as we move forward.
Appreciative students who make it all worthwhile and easy.
Good colleagues and friends continue to bring much joy and companionship, especially on tough days.
I’ve developed a greater appreciation for order, calmness and beauty.
That God-forsaken rickety ugly church sign is gone and replaced by a lovely smaller sign affixed to the outer church wall.
I will be editing/writing a new retreat manual for the U.S Pilgrims with two of my favorite colleagues.

From the World of Relationship
Marion and I have been together for 14 years, 12 of them married.
That girl, loves me, you know?!
And I love her more with each passing day.

So the year hasn’t been all bad.  And in the process, I will begin a new year of more focused blogging again.  So I am indeed grateful for much…and for you dear reader.

And so we pray…

Dear Lord, teach me to be grateful and patient.
Teach me to find you in all things, past, present and what will be.
In these things, remind me that I need to see the goodness in the world
Even when times are tough.
Mostly, Lord,
Teach me to find you in all things
For your love and grace are enough for me
If I but remember this all the year through.
Amen.

 

 

Presente!

This weekend marks the 25th Anniversary of the Jesuit Salvadoran Martyrs. For those unaware, at the University of Central America, 6 Jesuits, their housekeeper and their daughter were brutally killed by ARENA, a government-run death squad in 1989 in El Salvador. The Jesuits, most notably Ignacio Ellacuria, were speaking out on government reforms for the poor, guarding against the oligarchy of the rich that was prevalent in their country at the time.

Civil War had already claimed the lives of thousands including 4 Maryknoll churchwomen and Archbishop Oscar Romero earlier in the decade. It was a brutal time for the people of El Salvador.

In 1989, I was a Sophomore in College and was blissfully unaware that things like this were going on in Central America. When I heard of the massacres, I was really shaken up. Our University President, Joseph O’Hare, SJ travelled with other Jesuit Presidents down to the University of Central America (UCA) to investigate. When he returned, he insisted on presiding at our 10PM mass that evening.

I was the sacristan for that mass and I cornered him before mass began:

Mike: Papa Joe, (As we called him) dare I ask, how was your trip?

Fr O’Hare: “Mike, it was horrible and beautiful. These men gave their lives for their faith and for the poor. (He started to tear up here) We know who did this! But there’s not a damn thing we can do about it!”

Then I stupidly asked him the following question:
Mike: “Does this mean the Jesuits are going to be leaving El Salvador?”

Fr O’Hare: (Smiles) “No, son, we already have guys lined up around the block volunteering to take their places.”

I think it was then, that I started to cry.

That was a faith changing moment for me. Seeing actual martyrs giving their lives for something that mattered much to me, the poor of the world inspired me and gave me much to consider. How often do I even mildly sacrifice for the poor in my life? Growing up as the son of a school custodian, we too, were of meager means, but by no means close to the poverty that existed in El Salvador. And yet, priests had given many opportunities to me to be able to climb out of that kind of poverty. The least I could do was to make some kind of effort to not merely speak for the voiceless but to pitch in now and again as well.

Needless to say, I signed up for several social justice initiatives that year of college.

This past summer, I went to El Salvador with students from Canisius and with Fr. Frank LaRocca, SJ, a good friend. We went to the UCA to see where the martyrs were killed and to look at the museum dedicated to the martyrs. It was more moving than I had imagined and less moving in many ways as well. in many ways it made me angry. Seeing the books of the Jesuits that had been “machine gunned” during the massacre–a message for certain that said not to use your intelligence to speak out against the government. There were two small photo albums that has the gruesome pictures of the Jesuits dead in the backyard with their brains splattered on the grass. Seeing the room where Elba Ramos, the cook and her daughter were murdered so their would be no witnesses was one of the more moving places there. They had huddled in the room and when the death squad heard them breathing, they blew rounds into the wall, killing these two innocents who had stayed there that night because they thought it was safer than trying to travel home at night with violent uprisings going on closer to their neighborhood.

Looking at the backyard today, you’ll see those spots where the slain Jesuits were dragged now marked by roses. The rose garden (pictured, here) is holy ground for me. In the chapel, you’ll find a tiny mausoleum where the Jesuits now rest. As I was about to leave, I turned toward the mausoleum and was about to walk over and say a prayer and touch the cold metal markers of the Martyrs. It was then I saw Fr. Frank do exactly that. He did so tenderly and prayerfully and as I followed him I realized that we are all following these men on our journey to care for the least of us. The Jesuits have led us in so many ways, but these men, men I have never known personally, have given me more than I had hoped.

This week, our President here at Canisius and a number of delegates are in El Salvador celebrating the 25th Anniversary. Celebrating seems like the wrong word. And yet, it seems so right to say. These men did not just live life, they celebrated it. And with their lives they looked to restore dignity to the poor. It was their indignant murder that now has been transformed into so many who have lifted up their lives to give them poor in Central America an opportunity to live peacefully and joyfully.

And if that’s not worth celebrating, then I’m not sure what is.

Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual life shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.