This Might Be the Most Quotable Pope in Decades

The esteemed Dave Sampson from our diocese passed this on to me moments ago.

“We need saints without cassocks, without veils. We need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies, that listen to music, that hang out with friends.

We need saints who put God in first place, ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints who look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity, and all good things. We need saints, Saints of the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time.

We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it.

We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends.

We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open, sociable, normal, happy companions. We need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.

–Pope Francis, World Youth Day 2013, Rio

All I can say is “Amen.”

Well…maybe that’s not all I can say. This is a very Ignatian moment for the Pope talking clearly about finding God in all things. I’m not sure if I’ve heard anyone say this more simply nor more eloquently than Papa Francisco.

I hope the Canisius students are finding these messages as uplifting as I am finding it and that they see the clear Jesuit connection from the Holy Father.

Beware of World Youth Day Booty Call

As preparations for World Youth Day begin, Busted Halo produced this short video introducing you to the big event.

I’d also like to offer some additional thoughts based on my experience of the Papal rock concert.

Now, up front let me say, I really have enjoyed the two World Youth Days I attended, especially Sydney where I spent time not only with youth from all over the world but also with my colleagues from Charis Ministries in Chicago and a Koala or two.

One thing really troubles me about World Youth Day though. I’d like to call it the World Youth Day Booty Call. Some situations I encountered at both World Youth Days (Toronto and Sydney).

1) A young man, shirtless, had written on his chest in “black out” the words “Hug Me for Jesus.” Creepy! And yet plenty of young girls fell for his ploy. I saw him again about an hour later making out with a girl against the side of the food carts.

2) A group of French young people (most of whom were smoking constantly) had a sign that said “Free French Kiss.” Don’t believe me…check it out.

Now the demure young lady in the video only hugged the young man, but moments after I stopped filming a young woman walked up to him and full on open mouthed french kissed the guy. Tonsil hockey for a good 30 seconds ensued.

3) The kicker. So students sleep together outside at World Youth Day the night the Pope arrives and awaken to celebrate mass with the Holy Father the next day. Some bring small tents and some just rough it with their sleeping bag in the open air. Honestly, I wimp out on this and head back to my nice hotel bed, but my colleagues from Charis braved the elements. Like Brianna:

But lack of sleep is not the kicker. As I was walking around the campgrounds I came upon three young men (I’d guess they were 18-19) putting up a tent. Three young women yelled their way, “You guys, we’re all set for toni—” and she tripped over something and went flying. Oh, but that’s still not the kicker. The kicker was that the bag she was holding also went flying and out of that bag flew about a dozen condoms which landed at my feet!

She looked at me and said, “Ah, um, you see, we saw people distributing these and so we decided to collect them so they wouldn’t give them out to anyone else.”

Right! And I’m Pope Benedict.

True stories all.

Now that said, I’m sure this is not the normal state of affairs (no pun intended) for World Youth Day attendees. And I write it not out of shock value, but rather to make sure that my colleagues who take teens and young adults to the event consider that the possibility for easy sexual access is great.

So as you travel to be with the Holy Father, this time in Madrid, beware of the booty call, have a great time and most of all keep us in your prayers.

Day 7: Lenten 50 Day Giveaway: The Aussie Flag

Did you ever get to know someone while taking a trip together? World Youth Day in Sydney was like that for me. My colleagues from Charis Ministries were with me on the trip to Australia to see the Holy Father. I made a lot of friends that week including this one:

One of the great challenges of the spiritual life is staying connected and I think I often use things as a poor substitute for genuine connection. The flag was getting in the way of me actually communicating with Brianna. I’d settle for just remembering instead of reaching out to her and our other colleagues as well. Sometimes pictures serve the same purpose. We settle instead of becoming inspired to connect once again.

Lord, may I always reach for others instead of settling for a memory. You gave us your own body and blood so we never have to settle for mere memories, but rather, you always give yourself to us completely. May I be more able this Lent to give my body and blood for those who need me and may that sharing bring me closer to you. Amen.

Salt and Light

One of my only memories of seeing John Paul II was at World Youth Day in Toronto. At that point, he was well past his prime and his speech was quite labored. The crowd yelled loudly at every little sentence. He announced one evening, “The Pope is old now!” And the cries of “NO!” rang loudly through the air, even though it was obvious that the Pope was old indeed.

The theme of that year’s World Youth Day was “You are salt of the earth and light of the world.” Both salt and light are obvious tastes and sights. Salt preserves and light makes clear. Perhaps that was exactly what we hoped for during those days in Toronto. We wanted our Pope, for some of us, the only Pope we knew, or certainly the only one we knew well to be preserved. The Pope’s wishes however, is that we would see things as they are. To see him in all his feebleness. To watch his struggle and to see the value of a human life that would struggle for the youth of the world. Whether or not one agrees with John Paul II’s administrative policies as Pope, I think we might all be able to agree that his presence amongst the people of the world was quite gracious and astounding. It was a simple ministry of presence that said “The Pope has time for you.”

In a world that seems all too fast, where nobody has enough hours in their day to do all they hope to do at times, perhaps the Pope’s choice to be present often is a good lesson that he has left us with. His salty presence, chanting along with the youth of the world and stomping his feet on stages brought loads of people a bit closer to the church. This Pope as Rock Star mentality gave light to the world, the light that said I will give you as much as I can.

A taste of our presence is often enough for those who we minister to, or for those who simply crave company. We all know what it’s like to be lonely or separated from those we love. The light that we can shine to others to see the beauty in their lives is all we really need to do.

While World Youth Day is a large peak experience for many, aren’t the big moments of our lives comprised of moments where someone was simply there for us. That special teacher that took an extra moment, the coach who gave you a chance, that time someone forgave us, or the day a friend or family member comforted us over the death of a loved one.

Presence is what gives all people life. Jesus knew that well. So well that he gave us His presence here each week in a tangible way. May our presence here with each other be simply that: presence. Might we think about how we are present to those around us in this community of worship? Do they even know our names? We all need salt and life from one another–do we dare give our presence to those who need us?

UB Students Rock!


A capacity crowd came over for dinner on the North Campus last night and a good deal of students stayed to hear lil’ ol’ me talk about discernment. Great insights were shared around the tables and I felt good about it…this was an abbreviated version of a talk I’ve been giving for the past 9 years but I felt like people were attentive and engaged.

In particular, there is a small group of students from the South Campus who made their way over to the North side who stayed to hear me, their campus minister. Now that’s dedication and a nice vote of support. I can tell that they’ve been waiting for someone to start ministering on this campus. So we’ll hit the ground running this weekend.

My job is going to be challenging as the folks who come regularly will need to be accentuated by others who can bring different gifts and help provide us with some different activities. Then we start to get a critical mass. But the folks who are already engaged are so nice and so dedicated to being part of the ministry that I know that they will be a great help in helping me to engage the rest of the campus.

There are 27,000 students on UB’s campus. 50% of them are Catholic. Take another 50% and that makes about 6750 Catholics on one campus which is a huge pool to shoot for. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

I loved the fact that the students asked me what possessed me to come to Buffalo from NYC. I replied that the job was open and the great Patty Bubar Spear who is our youth minister encouraged me to apply. Another friend Ann Marie from the Center for Ministry Development also has an office at our church, so I was enthused by the possibility of working with them and then when I met the rest of the staff I just knew it was a good fit.

But the real answer is that I’m here for them. That God has led me to realize that I’m called to be a pastoral minister for young people. To guide them in their prayer, to give them opportunities to serve others, to lead them on retreat and to simply give them an opportunity to socialize with people they are proud to be associated with.

We’ll start feeding people soon and then the numbers will start to jump. It will take some time to learn the place but that’s not an excuse. The Spirit waits for nobody and I think it’s already beginning to flourish here. A huge hat tip to Katie Trapp, my colleague over on North Campus who has done such a great job and whom I will have much to learn from and much to share with as well.

Sunday is a big day. I get to do a reflection on the Gospel and on World Youth Day.