Kristallnacht. November 8, 2018

November 9/10, 1938, the Nazis destroyed the property of the Jewish people in Germany; many Jews were hurt or killed during that infamous night. The name Kristallnacht means “crystal night,” since so much glass was shattered or broken as Jewish businesses were destroyed, creating mounds of broken glass shards from the window panes. Tomorrow is the 80th anniversary of this terrible night of infamy.

As Pope Francis reminded us in a homily a few days ago, Christians can never be anti-Semitic, a hatred that must be rooted out in all its forms. The Germans in the 1930’s were a deeply cultured and educated people who were struggling economically following World War I. The Jews were targeted by Hitler as a scapegoat to blame for the difficult economic state Germany was in. Unfortunately, the Church has done its share of targeting Jews throughout the centuries, brandishing them as “Christ killers,” a lie and hypocrisy.

Our church emphatically teaches that we are ALL responsible for the death of Christ because He died for us and for our sins. While a handful of Jewish and Roman leaders had Jesus crucified, every human being, from Adam until the last human being before the Second Coming, contributes to His crucifixion; we are all complicit. The Truth is sometimes too hard to face, so we deflect onto others, creating a lie that is so easy to believe.

Anti-Semitism caused a man to enter a synagogue, shout hateful things, and brutally kill 11 innocent people. This man’s hatred of the Jews caused him to do this. Hatred comes in all shapes and sizes and is directed at one person or a group of people we don’t understand or who threaten something deep within our own hearts.

May each of us have the courage to face our own biases and we all have them in one form or another. As followers of Christ, we are called to love our neighbor, which includes every human being, especial the one we don’t like. Jesus even calls us to love our enemy, turn the other cheek and stop the violent response. This is the hardest of all His teachings, one that we can’t forget less eliminate.

The nurse who was called to take care of the man who killed the 11 people in the synagogue was a Jewish man. This nurse, a Jew, caring for a man who did horrible things to his own people, did not see hatred in the man’s eyes. He just wanted to take care of him, one human being to another. This Jewish man acted more Christlike than many of us Christians.

Fr. Frank

Faith Working Through Love. October 16, 2018

What a beautiful verse from St. Paul’s reading to the Galatians in today’s first reading at Mass. He says clearly that the Law and obediently following its countless precepts will ever save us, for the only thing that truly matters is “faith working through love.”

Our faith is like a hand and love clothes the hand like a glove . Our faith in Christ must find expression in our attitudes and actions. This is at the heart of love: to love God and neighbor, friend and enemy, family and stranger. We are called to “cloth” our beliefs, practices, rituals and prayers with Love. Faith without love is sterile, juridical and judgemental; love without faith is rootless, lacks purpose and becomes self centered.

We, as disciples of Christ, are called to cloth the world lavishly with justice, kindness, joy, mercy, and hope. These are sewn together by love creating a beautiful tapestry. As Jesus says in today’s gospel, our inner hearts will be renewed and cleansed when we give alms. Giving to the poor brightens the color of this tapestry.

Peace. Fr. Frank

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila. October 15, 2018

We celebrate a great saint, the first woman declared a Doctor of the Church by St. Pope Paul VI, who was just canonized yesterday. Her teachings on prayer and spirituality continue to nourish the church on her pilgrimage in time. She was a woman way ahead of her time, brilliant in her understanding of the spiritual life and her legacy extends to many cultures beyond the Spain of her birth.

She found herself despised by many if her own Carmelite Sisters, even being expelled from one of the convents by a mob of angry nuns. The Church of the Inquisition questioned her orthodoxy, believing her teaching preached the heresy of “quietism,” which basically taught that contemplative prayer was superior to the prayer of mediation. And that passivity, being passive to the point of indifference, was superior to the active life, engaging in acts of outreach and justice. In short, the heresy of quietism separated contemplative prayer, at the heart of Teresa’s teaching on prayer, from life and its struggles. If anything, Teresa taught that our prayer MUST lead to action in the world.

If truth be told, the real reason for all the opposition of the Inquisition was that women during this time were not thought capable of deep, contemplative prayer. Women were taught to just pray “vocally,” meaning memorized prayers with established words. Leave the deep prayer of the heart for the monks!! Well, she refused, and was given much encouragement by some key men, including St. John of the Cross. Speaking of St. John, he, too, was despised by many of the friars in his Carmelite community. They locked him up in a closet like room for months and months. He had to flee, escape, from the hatred of his own brothers!!!!! And these were vowed religious men, as were Teresa’s nuns who gave her such hell. Let’s face it, when all is said and done, hell hath no fury than a jealous friar, priest, nun, or bishop! And it’s no less true today.

The reform of the Carmelites, begun by Teresa and John, was another bone of contention. Reform means change, a conversion or re-conversion to gospel living, meaning a life of prayer, sacrifice and helping the poor. Which brings us to the present. Reform of the Church today, in her structures of power, will be vehemently opposed by the very priests and bishops who are in positions of power. But the Holy Spirit will be the force and the source of the reform, regardless of those clinging to antiquated structures.

Teresa was a woman of the Spirit. May she give us encouragement during these turbulent times of reform and renewal. To the People of St. Teresa of Avila Community in Chicago: Happy Feast Day!!! I’m praying for you all today by going on a mini pilgrimage in Rome to the magic basilicas. Teresa and Oscar will lead me and you. Peace. Padre Francesco

A Sea of Humanity. October 14, 2018

I made my way into St. Peter’s Square and not a seat to be had. No surprise. I stand here in front of the Basilica in awe of the multitude of expressions of the human family. Tens of thousands of people from dozens of counties on every continent, and I mean EVERY continent!! The Church is at her very best when she gathers together the people who follow Christ. Scandals will always scatter but faith and saintly women and men GATHER people in a unity of Catholic faith. The SUN shines its bright rays of light on the gathering of the nations; the SON shines His love and peace on His people. What beauty!!!

The seven human beings about to be declared as saints of the Church by Pope Francis are with this gathering of humanity. They are a part of the Church in eternity; we are a part of the Church journeying in time and place, struggling to live the gospel. It’s all one Church separated by the gateway of death. Where these Saints are now, we wish to follow, right through that gateway we so fear and into freedom. May they lead us on!!

Waiting. October 14, 2018.

I arrived near the Vatican at 5:30 in the morning where the line was already blocks and blocks long. The atmosphere is joyous and electric. I’m standing with a delegation from El Salvador who are just marvelous. As they were singing a song I have heard many times from our 10:30 Mass at St. Teresa’s, a woman just put her arms around me. She said she was moved by the Spirit!! So be it.

I have my ticket which I imagine is pretty useless. I’ll be standing until after noon when the mass will likely conclude. It’s all worth it. A priest standing near me was somehow involved in the miracle associated with Romero and he will be in the procession of the relics of each new saints. The Pope will wear a vestment worn by Pope Paul and the blood stained cincture that ties his alb underneath was worn by Romero when he was killed.

In this massive crowd, I just pray that everyone will be safe and the Celebration gives all a memory to be cherished. May we journey back home continuing to become the saints God wishes us to become. Every human being is a saint in the making

Getting Ready for the Canonization. October 13, 2018

There certainly is a buzz in the air. Yesterday, all seven tapestries, each with an image of those to be canonized, were hung over the balconies on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica. Just seeing Oscar Romero up there was deeply moving, a martyr of the Faith…a martyr of Justice, the foundation of Peace. It was Pope Paul VI who famously said “there can be NO peace without justice.” This very same Pope, the Pope who carried out the Second Vatican Council and implemented its teachings, will be canonized right alongside of Romero. His tapestry is to the right of Romero’s.

I’m walking miles and miles through piazzas and hidden alleyways, and my feet aren’t even touching the cobblestone pavement!! I’m awed and inspired by a witness to our faith I never met in person. After all, he lived and was killed in El Salvador and I never even heard of him until the day he was assassinated on March 24, 1980. It I feel as though I know him, and I truly do know him, through my prayer, biography reading, and the way he makes himself present to me. What a beautiful mystery, the Communion of Saints, a great treasure of our Catholic faith.

We never walk and journey alone…we are NEVER alone in this life but are accompanied by these great women and men who lead us and guide us. Who is YOUR Saint, the one who you just know is with you, loving you and leading you to Christ? The only way this special Companion can make any difference in your life is if you establish a relationship with a particular saint and work at it, day by day. The word “companion” means to share bread, “pani” with another. I just had penne arrabiata, looking very much alone at my table, but Oscar and a few others were with me, breaking bread. And in the breaking of the bread I recognized Christ. Not a bad lunch!!!

A Roman Adventure. October 12, 2018

Off to get tickets to the canonization of Oscar Romero. The weather is beautiful and the streets are very crowded. Traveling is wonderful but difficult, especially when you forget an important medication. Phone calls to doctor relatively useless and the Vatican pharmacy even worse. A pharmacist at a local farmacia ended given me what she thought I was taking. But the dosage isn’t exactly my prescribed dose but close. So far I’m still alive and feeling well.

Things just happen in life that are unplanned and make for some anxiety. Why get all hot and bothered? What’s the point? It is what it is and it’s your reaction to the conundrum that makes all the difference. Time for a cafe con leche, molto caldo!!! To go…