The Signs of the Times. October 24, 2014

A couple of evenings ago, I celebrated a memorable Mass outside the cathedral in Leon. I created a meg-shift altar using metal tables from a cafe and my I Phone for the readings and prayers of the Liturgy.
I brought the rest of the necessary articles for saying mass and packed them neatly in my backpack.

The mass brought together pilgrims from a number of countries, one of whom said he had never participated in a Catholic Mass before. They were mostly young who prayed with depth and faith , even if not familiar with the ritual.
There I was outside the beautiful cathedral celebrating mass rather than inside. I couldn’t have celebrated inside anyway since most of the doors were locked ( the usual story)
and the main door to the cathedral, itself, was open for tourists to take pictures and participate in guided tours. I did what Jesus would have done: celebrate the Mass in the open air, with streams of people passing by, looking and wondering what was going on.
At the homily, I asked them to share what was on their mind or in their hearts and the responses were amazing. Our young truly want to make a difference and they want to reach out and help.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is telling the crowds, US, to read the sign of the times. I tried my hardest to read the signs of the times at this impromptu outside Mass. And what I “read” is that people , especially the young, are hungry for the Truth that will anchor their lives. Four of the young who came to the Liturgy were in the Peace Corps giving their lives to help people in need. They are living the gospel and don’t realize it. Yes, they expressed the idealism of their age and we should encourage them and not drag them down with our myopic vision of life. Pessimism kills the spirit!
The Truth, who is Christ, is sending us into the world , so that we can transform it into His Kingdom. The Liturgy must be at the heart of this transformation as we are formed by Word and Sacrament. But the young are not coming to the Liturgy nor do they see a need to. Organized religion is seen as a barrier to spiritual growth with outdated traditions and teachings.
How can we mend the disconnect ?
We have to witness to our love of Christ, that we KNOW Him and FOLLOW His way. Beginning with the catechism and doctrine is a sure fire way to fail. Jesus can get lost very easy in many expressions of Catholicism.
Yes, we must read the signs of the times… These times NOW. Our Church should be present to the “crowds” of pilgrims, welcoming them with the doors of the church wide open!!!!! And I mean the physical building!! The Church should respond to the times we are living and meet these young where they are at and listen to their hopes AND their fears.
Instead, our churches and beautiful cathedrals are being turned into dens of tourist traps and , worse yet, museums. Many of these magnificent buildings that speak our Faith are being turned into lifeless museums.
It is wonderful to celebrate the Liturgy outside, but just as wonderful gather people inside, close to the altar where they can feel less overwhelmed. Too often people enter these impressive worship spaces (during limited hours) and sense that they are foreigners, not know how to act or what is appropriate. The physical building of the church needs to speak our faith through windows and light, statues , icons, incorporating these expressions in an organized way that has narrative and meaning. The Liturgy, the living celebration of Christ’s love for us , must be at the heart of how the building speaks our faith.
The Catholic Church is missing a phenomenal opportunity to see in this Pilgrimage to Santiago a way to begin to bridge the disconnect , by being present to the pilgrims as they enter the towns and cities along the Way: open the churches, forget the siesta since most pilgrims finish walking around three in the afternoon and are thirsty and hungry, have priests and lay leaders available who speak a variety of languages, have the Mass and prayer offered everyday. The church can be alive and present by reaching out to hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, listening to them ….reading the signs of the times.

Buen camino. Fr. Frank

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The Deposition. October 22, 2014

At every trial, a court reporter “takes down” every word spoken by all involved in a trial. A “deposition” is an accurate ,word for word account, aimed at getting to the truth.

In catholic tradition, after Jesus died on the Cross, He is “taken down,” or “deposed,” hence the Deposition. This ” taking down ” off the cross the lifeless body of Jesus, aims at getting to the Truth of all human existence. God entered our life in incarnation and witnessed to the greatness of God’s Love by giving His very Life. This sacrifice of love is what pulses through the human family AND all creation and the cosmos.
Sacrificial Love, every good parent or friend understands exactly what I am saying… is a love that doesn’t “make sense,” nor can it be measured. It is lived, and only later, reflected upon.
The Deposition of Jesus from the Cross expresses the Truth, the absolute Truth. that God’s Love has undone whatever happened at the moment we call the “original sin.” Love undoes the harm and alienation caused by our own act of sin. Love “untied the knot,” so to speak, freeing us to love in the same way.

Rarely does one see the crucifix above the altar portraying the lifeless body of Jesus being taken down from the cross but I found such a church in one of the villages. I was so taken aback by this portrayal that speaks to a part of the Passion we rarely think about : taking the lifeless body of Jesus down from the cross. This beautiful crucifix spoke the Truth in such simplicity of sculpture, as I have never seen before.

And now I write this reflection in s small chapel with an image of Mary holding the lifeless body on her lap: the Pieta. This is a very popular image seen around the world in almost every culture. Mary is gazing down in piercing sadness at her Son, her lifeless son deposed on her lap. His Body is limp in surrender , a Body soon to break the bonds of tomb and death in Resurrection.
Mary’s sadness pierces not only her son but the sadness of everyone reading this. Many the prayers that you pinned on the wooden cross during the liturgies before I departed for the Camino speak sadness. They are prayers that: ask for healing from cancer and so many other illnesses, like ALS and MS, reconciliation in marriage and family, freedom from addictions, fear and depression and a lifting from loneliness.
Mary’s piercing eyes penetrate out sadness with hope , the hope that only this seemingly lifeless body can bring. He returns… He Rises…Jesus, the New Adam and Mary, the New Eve gaze at each one of us, a gaze which transforms heavy sadness into pure JOY…the final stamp on our lives…JOY!!

Burn camimo. Fr. Frank

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What Holds Us Together. October 21, 2014

I am gazing at the Cathedral in Leon, a magnificent building , built of brick and mortar centuries and centuries ago. Why is it still standing when most of our own buildings are lucky to make it to a century? Yes, the workmanship was meticulous and slow, but it had a purpose : to give praise to the the Living God , Who Jesus embodied and made known in his Incarnation and life. This “edifice” stands and is held together by faith.
In the first reading in today’s Liturgy from the Ephesians , Paul speaks of the LIVING edifice of the church being held together ….. standing…. secure in Christ, the cornerstone. We as a church are held together in Christ. We stand in praise of the Risen Lord and remain standing in praise….in His Spirit.
As individuals of the Household if God, as individual citizens of the city of God, we stand in and with Christ.
Without Christ, our lives slowly lose that which keeps us together and standing : His Spirit. Once we accept Christ, our lives fall apart without Him as our center of stability.

Sitting in the quiet and beauty of the cathedral , I was awakened by the God who entered our lives in unexpected ways. In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us to stay vigilant and awake for the Lord will enter life and He wants us expectant. I was caught a bit off guard as I sat in the cathedral and became overwhelmed when I thought of the voices of people raised in prayer for 800 years!!! In a sense, Jesus entered my life in the “third watch,” the darkest hour, as I was being bathed in the light of the sun (SON) beamed through the countless windows of color , telling the story of the People of God. It is Christ’s Light that shines through each one of us and our story in 2014 is very much a part of the same story told through these windows. Our lives can only have meaning and depth and purpose if we see our very selves as a part of the whole story. This larger story is incomplete without You!!!!!!!
Please….Please, awaken to your beauty and the part you play in the story, and history , of God’s pilgrim people, the Church.
Buen camino. Fr. Frank.

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What Is Your Treasure. October 20, 2014

Jesus tells the story about a man who decides to keep building barns to store
more grain to insure a brighter future. But what happens when the Lord calls him from this life to the next?
There is no insurance policy for death. It comes to each and every one of us when we least expect it. All the money in the world and the barns of storage one builds will prevent this inevitable passage in life.
Yes , death is a passage , a journey….a pilgrimage in which the destination point is a reality jesus refers to as the Kingdom. In this life as we journey we can make this kingdom a reality…a state of mind and heart , that lives in the present moment. Yes, we must make plans for our future but those plans can NEVER become our “treasure” because they assure us of nothing. The treasure is living love…

The treasure we have is living the commandment to Love God and neighbor. Love is the only thing we take with us in the passage from this life to the next. This Love is surrounded by the memories of those who have shared with us the journey in this life. And the One Memory of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ that we live and celebrate in every Liturgy and with every breath we take…transforms those memories into lived experiences, once again and forever. This is the greatest Treasure.
Buen Camimo. Fr. Frank

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The Mysterious Call of God. October 19, 2014

I am a person who gets lost easy , so the Camino experience is God calling me in the darkness, literally, to guide people who are lost. I was walking alone in absolute darkness early this morning when I came upon a young woman lost, looking for the actual camino. I did the best I could and pointed her toward the camino. Lo and behold, I saw her and a young man , about a half hour later , bewildered as to whether they were actually on the camino. I know what it’s like to be lost, carrying a 25 pound backpack and being filled with fear in a strange country.

I stopped and tried to point to actual yellow arrows and shells. So I had them walk with me and when I pointed out a yellow arrow painted on back of a sign ( so easy to miss) their faces lighted up with huge smiles. I spoke as best as i could telling them to keep their eyes wide open for the many ways these yellow arrows and shells are hidden. And walking with flash lights in the pitch darkness can be frustrating and fearful, especially for a young woman in her early twenties.

I was called in the darkness to stop on my journey and be a guide for two strangers who needed me to stop.
Frequently, our God calls us to stop what we are doing and help a stranger in need. We miss out on the call if we don’t look up at the person and see their face and eyes. What I allowed myself to see was two people who wanted to be reassured.

Dorothy Day once said that if you can’t see God in the stranger than you are an atheist !!! She certainly was bold and not afraid to speak her mind. Jesus had that knack to see in the stranger and outcast the dynamic presence of God. He was a threat to so many as was so evident in today’s Sunday gospel when both the herodians and the Pharisees tried to trap jesus in speech. They wanted to “pull him down” so to speak , so that his words and witness would be diminished, losing their power to change minds and hearts. Oh, how we love the status quo…

He is “calling” us…YOU, to let God enter life in surprising ways. Sometimes God calls in the darkness of the pre-dawn time when that darkness is at its darkest; or God calls in the darkness of suffering and grief to let go of the weight of the sadness; sometimes God calls in the darkness of loneliness, leading us to forge new relationships; sometimes God calls in the darkness of fear, begging us trust that we will make it.
In the first reading God called Cyrus to lead the people; God called him, giving him title and purpose, and Cyrus had NO idea he was even being called!! Mysterious!
Paul reminded the Thessalonians that they were called by God to live the gospel and proclaim it with their very lives. It was the mysterious presence of the Holy Spirit that empowered them to speak the language of the Gospel v
Yes, the mysterious call of God fills the readings and liturgy. That call seemed to fill my camino journey today beginning in the mystery of darkness. We will never be able to plan or foresee God’s call. We have to be open to how God may be calling us in our own unique life situations. The calculating Herodians and Pharisees had no power to suppress the call of God. May we, or our Church , never try to be so calculating.
The same Holy Spirit that so influenced the Thessalonians is calling us to surrender to the mysterious Call of God. Buen Camino. Fr. Frank

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You Are God’s Instrument. October 18,2014

God is absolutely dependent upon you to complete the gospel. By your words, your actions, your work or career the gospel can either be given a voice or remain dormant. In today’s reading at Mass from Paul’s Second Reading to Timothy, he says, “the Lord stood by me and gave me strength …. so that through me the proclamation might be completed and the gentiles might hear the Word.”
It was through Paul that the gospel takes root… It is through You that the same gospel is proclaimed and takes root. By your choices, demeanor, the way children are raised , how money is spent, the kind of home one lives in, the friends you have , what one does with free time, how one speaks about another behind their back…the gospel is either lived or ignored.
In the gospel, Jesus sends the disciples out in pairs. Paul had his companions and we need each other. The gospel is not meant to be lived, or proclaimed , in isolation or alone. We need each other to spread and live the gospel. Without support ,I believe it is next to impossible to be a disciple of Jesus.

Our baptism has given us a purpose : to live in the school of discipleship with other believers SO THAT we attract others to gospel living.
We are not meant to create closed families or communities but ones that are open to new
people and possibilities.
The most dysfunctional families and communities are ones that are closed in on themselves creating a suffocating and rigid environment.

Gospel living is always about moving forward into new towns creating new expressions. The church and every parish needs to create open and welcoming structures that are not threatened by new people with new ideas. There is no better way to repel new parishioners than to say ,in so many words , “you’re welcome here, but this is how we do things. ”
Our parish of St. Teresa has been a powerful presence in the Lincoln Park neighborhood for 125 years!!!! Yes, we are alive and vibrant because we are a people on a Mission: we are being sent into the world, rooted in the fires of Baptism, as disciples, paving the way for Christ. The more we create open paths for Christ to walk, the healthier and joyful will be our families , our parishes … Ourselves.

Buen Camino. Fr. Frank.
I’m just about at the halfway point.

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The Meseta. October 17, 2014

Most people think that this portion of the Camino , the Meseta , is the worst part of the journey because it is flat and seemingly endless. I find the Meseta to be beautiful and essential to the journey….absolutely essential! Walking in this environment ,that resembles the prairie, with fields of wheat and other crops, is phenomenal for the soul.
These past few days in the Meseta have allowed me to go deeper and allow a hidden wound from the past to surface. To be healed of that which haunts us demands that the Light reveal it. In the safety of God’s Love we CAN trust Him to heal the hidden wounds which only grow with time and repression.
The Meseta is allowing me to let this old wound finally be acknowledged and exposed to the God who will care for me. It took many years for me to trust and let go, thanks to this beautiful land, what many find so boring that they bus it to Leon !!! Maybe they are afraid of the silence and the void in which things we don’t like come to the surface. So many of us hate silence because in the silence we don’t have the distractions that prevent us from going deeper.
In today’s gospel, Jesus teaches us, his disciples, that God has counted every hair on our heads. If you’re bald , God can see and count what should be there!! And He says that what lies hidden will be revealed. Yes, the hurts and wounds need to be safely placed in God’s hands if we are going to grow out of hurt and resentment. How sad we sometimes choose to hang on to bitterness rather than let go and allow forgiveness and sorrow for sin to free us. God wants all of us to be free!!!
There are Mesetas everywhere, places of silence and solitude, in nature, a church, a room in your house, anywhere that will not allow distractions to prevent you from doing the inner work of letting hidden realities be revealed.

The irony: some of what lies hidden is NOT something bad or negative but beautiful and good. So many of us have hidden gifts or dreams or desires that have been buried in years of self doubt and denial. God wants them to be revealed and explored !! YES, our God is the God of exploration
and risk. I repeat: God wants You free.
My steps are just a bit lighter in this sojourn through the flat Meseta. Our wounds don’t just disappear but often take years to truly heal. So be it. I’ll just keep walking. We gotta start somewhere. And it’s never too late… I’m proof of that.
Buen camino. Fr. Frank

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