Holiness. February 25, 2015

what makes a person holy? Is it a title, a religious habit, ordination, or living in a monastery or convent? None if the above. The word “holiness” means being integrated and “whole.” Someone is holy who humbly  follows the path God has chosen for them. And accepts one’s strengths and limitations. Holy people have no other desire than to live freely the life God has willed for them, refusing to compare their life with any other. 

Holy people come in all shapes, sizes and walks of life. Like the prophet Jonah, we frequently encounter holiness in surprising, even shocking places. Jonah’s worldview was shattered when he witnessed the repentence and conversion of the ninevites, people he considered to be the enemy. He tried to run away from God who wanted him to preach to these people Jonah felt superior to. 

Be careful about running away from God…you may end up in the belly of a big fish, perhaps a whale!! Jonah learned the hard way that God is to be encountered in the least likely of places. God can even be encountered when we make mistakes, ending up being swallowed up by a monster fish! Yes, God was there with Jonah in the belly of the whale. After the whale spit him out, perhaps through indigestion, Jonah ended up in the beach and God led him to the city of Nineveh where he preached a message of conversion. Jonah, himself, had the biggest change of heart when the God he so  loved broke through the box Jonah had contained Him in. 

You are a person created in God’s image and you are called to become holy. May people encounter God in YOU…and in the encounter, holiness is exchanged and the world is transformed, encounter by encounter. 

Peace. Fr. Frank

Prayer. February 24,2015

Everyone wants to be a person of prayer. The question is one posed by the disciples of Jesus, and continued to be asked today: how do I pray? Prayer is at the heart of our relationship with God, creating an encounter that is deeply personal. God is calling you specifically, now, by your name. Our God is not some distant Supreme Being who is unapproachable, but a personal God who entered our history concretely through Jesus, the Christ. And He continued to enter YOUR history. 

Jesus teachers us how to pray by calling God “Father,” a shocking metaphor for those who are more comfortable keeping God at a distant. In teaching the “Our Father,” jesus made prayer a deeply personal encounter with the Living God. 

Prayer us simplyvbeing in the presence of this Living God: praising, thanking, listening, loving. When we expect some feeling or concrete message in prayer we become disappointed and frustrated. Prayer is simply showing up everyday without fail and trusting when God seems so distant and even absent. This spiritual desert is the very beginning of prayer. When God “seems” absent, He is more present than we can realize at the time. It takes time and a complete reorientation of our awareness as prayer deepens. 

Trust that God is present, for God is luring you into the desert to speak to your heart, as the prophet Hosea beautifully teaches. In the desert we are stripped of consolations and emotions, so that we don’t rely on them or identify them with God. 

Just keep showing up and don’t worry about the words you use or the length of time. Prayer does need time and consistently if it is going to deepen. But we must be flexible and persistent. Spend one minute being aware of your breathing as you let go of thoughts; ask the Spirit to fill you; be silent for 

 two or three minutes, letting go of thoughts; thank God for these few minutes; offer a prayer for a particular person or intention; pray the Our Father. Ten or fifteen minutes everyday is all God needs. Is it worth the effort? 

Peace. Fr. Frank 

Judgement. February 23, 2015

Very few people are attracted to a religion or church of judgement. Religious leaders who come across as judgmental are seen as condescending and hypocritical. And yet we all make judgments everyday of our lives.

We judge attitudes , political and religious; we judge appearances and speech; we judge people who live differently and love differently. Making judgments is important and necessary…we can’t get around it. But there is a great difference between making judgments and becoming judgmental.

Being judgmental conveys an attitude of superiority, taking an, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” approach to life. Judgmental people love to draw the line between who’s in and who’s out…of the church, in social groups , and political affiliations. “Us versus them,” becomes the tired anthem.

God’s beautiful sun shines on us ALL: the good and the not so good. And we ALL fall into both camps, if we are truly honest with ourselves. God is the sole Judge of our hearts and souls. And God’s judgment ultimately is grounded in how we treat each other, in other words, by our actions.
Today’s gospel, Matthew 25, is the “magna carta” of the gospel: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink….that what you do to my least one’s, you do to ME.” This judgement scene has the king separating the goats from the sheep: the goats on the left and the sheep on the right ( a designation having nothing to do with politics!!) the sheep are those who feed the poor; the goats are those who neglect the poor. In neglecting the poor and the thirsty and the sick and the lonely…. we neglect God. The goats end up in hell, not a good end.
Yes, God will judge our characters by how we reach out to the “least ones.” Actually, we end up judging our own selves, our very souls, when we fail to help the needy. And when we live under a bubble of self absorption, we create our own hell. God doesn’t have to put us in this place of torment; we do it ourselves. Words can only have power if they are followed by concrete actions of charity and Justice. Physically encountering the poor will change lives and hearts. Sharing dinner with the poor at any soup kitchen can completely turn one’s life upside down, the position of the saint.
Writing checks just isn’t enough because it’s the easiest out, the road most traveled.

But God wants us for himself…God wants our salvation…God will haunt us every second of our lives…but God will always give us the freedom to elude His grasp…the grasp of Mercy. I have no doubt, though, that when we breath our last , God will breath his spirit into our hardened heart, breaking it open, allowing divine mercy to seep into the crevices of years of brittle judgment.
God will have the Last Word. Forgiveness. Mercy. Resurrection. Eternal Easter.
Peace. Fr. Frank





Temptation. February 22, 2015

The Spirit drive jesus into the desert of temptation. And he faced this battle hungry and vulnerable. The humanity of jesus was in clear focus in the gospel that begins our journey into Lent.

We must face the temptation that faces each one of us and this temptation can be summed up in the following: live life on your own terms not God’s, a journey that leads nowhere. The tempter, Satan, wanted Christ NOT to accept the mission of the Father, to give his life in absolute unconditional Love for us…for all of humanity. Christ chose FREELY the road less traveled, a road of selfless Love leading to the Cross of suffering and salvation.

Freely choose to follow the path God wants for you, a path that respects the character, talents, temperament and limitations given you by God, Himself.
The Tempter will always try and “trip” you up, saying in so manny words, “take the easy way; think of yourself first and find happiness in the things that glitter.”

Now is the time to say NO to these temptations. Choose the way of unconditional love, a way that always involves the Cross… A way that always leads to Resurrection and Joy. The Angels who ministered to Jesus in the desert of temptation will hover over you on the path chosen for you by God. The Angels, the Saints, Christ will be your constant companions on the road less traveled.

Peace. Fr. Frank

The Calling. February 21, 2015

The calling of matthew , the tax collector, in today’s gospel , was portrayed by the great Italian painter Caravaggio. He portrays Jesus as walking past matthew, pointing at him with his index finger. The “calling” is quick, with Jesus walking past him, and the feeling one gets while gazing at this masterpiece : NOW is the moment, matthew. If Matthew remained at his custom’s post with the others in the portrait, jesus just would have kept walking on.

Each person is “called” no less than Matthew, and this “call” is to reorient one’s life to the Gospel. It demands a change , and for Matthew , it meant giving up his corrupt livelihood. Jesus is walking by you, ceaselessly, without fail , and if you are like most of us reading this, you miss the moment. But Jesus won’t give up: he keeps walking by, pointing his finger, asking us to change something about our lives. NOW us the moment….Carpe Diem!!

What the portrait doesn’t show is Matthew getting up , leaving his post and following Jesus. But that is exactly what he did. Later, Matthew invited jesus to his home for a dinner party, causing many to wag their finger in disapproval. Jesus used his finger to call a person to have life and have it in abundance; Jesus’ detractors,those scandalized by his eating and befriending terrible sinners, caused them to use their finger to judge and condemn.

Lent us the time…NOW us the moment to encounter jesus in your heart of prayer…he is looking at you…gazing on the beauty of your very being…loving you in your brokenness and pointing you to follow him. He won’t tell you where he is leading you, but most certainly, a feast awaits.
Lent always leads to Easter.

Peace and Joy. Fr. Frank
Note : I included a photo of the portrait by Caravaggio. It’s the best I could do. Google the portrait for a better shot.





Fasting. February 20, 2015

The word “fasting” brings to mind not eating or giving up food for a particular purpose. Last week, I fasted from food and drink for 12 hours before my annual physical. This fast was done solely for medical reasons. Many fast when dieting, the primary motivation good health or a better looking physique. What about religious or spiritual fasting? All the world’s major religions engage in some sort of fasting, total or partial. In the Catholic tradition our fasting is quite easy: two small meals and one larger one with no eating in between. And once you hit 59 years or older , the fasting laws no longer applies. I think the church needs to look at why the cut off date is so young….this year I turn 59 so I guess I no longer have to fast after this lent.
The first reading from Isaiah gives us a whole new understanding of fasting, at least it’s new for many of us not familiar with the Book of Isaiah written well over two thousand years ago. This prophet, so familiar to Jesus who frequently referred to it in the gospels, speaks of fasting in this manner, “This, then, is the fasting I wish: releasing those bound unjustly; sharing your bread with the hungry; sheltering the oppressed and homeless; clothing the naked when you see them.”

What are we fasting from in these real, human life experiences? In these situations, we “fast” from attachment to clothing and food, only so that our clothes and food can help another human being…we fast from injustice when we work to protect the rights of people who suffer from discrimination because of what they believe or how they live …we fast from our comforting environments by allowing the lonely to have a place. In essence, we fast from self absorption and indifference, making justice and compassion what feeds and nourishes us.

Lenten fasting is meant to release US from what we are attached to…what binds us …what makes us hunger and thirst…what alienates us from community. We become free when we are the ones who give food, drink, clothes, shelter, friendship and Justice.
We fast so that we can become more generous and compassionate.

Peace. Fr. Frank

Carrying Crosses. February 19, 2015

Jesus is clear, direct and to the point: if you want to follow him, deny yourself and pick up your cross. What an invitation that has little comfort or appeal to our modern tendency to want religion to be positive and comforting. The invitation of jesus is to change the direction we are taking in life, to reorient our lives to letting go and accepting the many crosses that are given to us.
Just what are these crosses? They are simple, pervasive and real: the small disappointments and disillusionments; family difficulties; facing illness; loneliness; disliking one’s job or career; not belonging or fitting in; worrying about children; guilt over a past sin; not knowing one’s purpose; boredom; fear of risk taking; the lust goes on.
We all have crosses and the first step as we begin Lent is the awareness of our personal crosses and accepting them. How freeing it is to accept which doesn’t mean they disappear but are lightened…when we let Jesus help us carry these crosses. Something beautiful , mysterious and life changing occurs in letting jesus in on our crosses: our crosses and the one Cross are united in the salvation of the world. Yes, your accepting of your crosses will help jesus in his Redemption of the entire world, humanity and the cosmos. To borrow a strange and off putting phrase of St. Paul’s, we “fill in what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” Obviously, Christ’s suffering in the one Cross is what saves us and redeems us. Uniting our crosses to the one Cross simply completes he Redemption by making ALL of us contributors. Yes, our crosses and the suffering emanating from them help other people!!!! How powerful, beautiful and radical!
You have the ability to reach out to other people in their own suffering by embracing your own crosses. In doing so, your humanity is saturated in compassion…and purpose.
Peace and Joy. Fr. Frank



Ash Wednesday. February 18, 2015

A number of the parishioners from St. Teresa of Avila were sent out into the bitter cold morning to distribute ashes to people on the El, as well as, on the Armitage ave. What an inspiration to begin the holy season of Lent. We enter this season primarily as a “we” and not an “I,” which certainly changes how we live out the days of lent. As followers of Jesus, we want our lives and the way we live them to draw others to Christ. We want to live life in such a way that those who encounter us, encounter the Living God.

Our Church is to be a living, breathing witness of a Christ who loves everyone to the point of giving away His life. Christ did this for you and every human being, no matter where they live, how they believe, or even IF they believe. The Church much pulse with Christ’s love AND His Presence. Each of us who is baptized has been “set on fire” with the power of Divine Love so that we may be instruments of transformation. The Spirit of baptism is waiting to get reignited in our hearts so that our lives become like the “burning bush” that Moses encountered on Mt. Sinai. Do people experience the fire of God’s love in the way I am living life? A question each one of us must honestly ask and answer. The way we answer will determine how we are to live out our Lent.

Lent, the season of springtime, is to reawaken the spirit of baptism. It is also the season to bring people to the waters of baptism and journey with them as they are immersed…submersed…into those waters , sharing in Christ’s death and Rising Out of those waters of death into Resurrection. We are stamped, sealed, confirmed by the fire of the Spirit. Baptism….Baptism….Baptism!!!! Lent is the season to renew and celebrate Baptism, the Sacrament that empowers us to be priests in the world.
Lent gradually thaws our cold and brittle spirits through prayers, fasting and acts of compassion and Justice.
We live Lent as a people and we celebrate this season TOGETHER, as a community with open doors and open hearts. We are to be a Church that is a hospital of mercy…a mercy that begins in our own hearts.
Whatever you do for Lent, whatever you give up, may God be your only audience. And God will lead you to the Joy of Easter.
Peace. Fr. Frank

Burning Palms. February 16, 2015

Last night a group of parishioners burned all the dried palms from last year to create this year’s ashes. What a sight, to see the flames bursting high into the dark skies. Within minutes, hundreds of palm branches were reduced to ashes.
This ancient ritual speaks to the soul on a number of levels. The sheer spectacle of the flames overwhelms the senses. What happens to the palms so quickly is something that begs for reflection and silence. Life is beautiful but fleeting , and the older one gets, the faster time seems to go. Within this somber realization comes the season of Lent, a season that is on the threshold of Spring, even with snow and bitter temperatures.
But in a few days, the lifeless, gritty palms will be transformed into crosses marked in one’s forehead. The cross transforms death and the quickness of time into Resurrection and endless Joy. Time ceases to exist, and with time’s demise, is the end of death.
Lent leads us gradually into warmth, light, emerging beauty….Easter!!!!
Standing near that blazing fire of lifeless palms, the warmth of the Spirit’s breath gave a hint of the Easter about to unfold.
Peace and Joy. Fr. Frank




Anniversary. February 4, 2015

I am so fortunate writing this in gratitude for the people and parishes that have shaped my priesthood and my life. On this, the 32st anniversary, I thank God for the people and students of St. Frances if Rome, Cicero; St Mary of the Woods, Chicago; Archbishop Quigley Seminary High School; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Chicago; St John Fisher, Chicago; St. Eulalia, Maywood; St. Teresa of Avila.

The people of these communities and schools have given me a wealth of memories that I carry with me in
my heart. The gift of the ordained priesthood that was given to me 31 years ago, is rooted in baptism, which roots ALL followers of Jesus in His priesthood. We all share in this one priesthood of Christ. I hope I never forget that my identity is forged first and foremost in Baptism, which roots me in God’s People. When those of us who are ordained as priest or bishop lose our rootedness in baptism , we are bound to succumb to arrogance and clericalism. Ordination does not separate us from the people, nor does it place us above them.

Horrible things happen when we priests and bishops forget that our ordination is a lifetime call to serve the People of God. The icon of Christ washing the feet of the apostles must be the guided image of our ministry.
The gospel on this day happens to be a difficult one that isn’t very comforting. How appropriate. Jesus goes to his home village, preaches and heals, only to be misunderstood by his own people…even the members of his own family. Jesus utters the famous words, “a prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house. ” jesus leaves, “amazed at their lack of faith. ” Stinging words.

Our family and friends are the most treasured people in our lives but sometimes familiarity does breed contempt. Each one of us is perceived in a certain way by those who love us and when we speak or act in ways that shatter this image, the reaction can be very negative and harsh. His own
People apparently didn’t see jesus as one whose words had authority and whose actions brought healing. Maybe jealousy raged it’s ugly head; or the people didn’t want to be challenged by one of their own…too close for comfort.

Being misunderstood and rejected is an unpleasant experience but one in which we all must face. We all want to be liked and appreciated by everyone , something impossible if you are going to stand up for something. However, I hope and pray that if I have caused anyone discomfort, it was always for the right reasons: to gently challenge a person to take a higher road or to rise to a higher occasion. The gospel is all about transformation….change…of mind and heart. May this change begin with one’s self.

But I haven’t always spoken and acted in the best interests of the people I have encountered over the years . I am truly sorry for speaking and acting in ways overly confrontational and strident. I have betrayed a lack of humility in these occasions causing hurt feelings. I can’t be a good priest or pastor without humility, the mother of all virtue. I am sorry for my lack of humility. It is so easy for me to return sarcasm for sarcasm, bitter spirit for bitter spirit. In other words, “an eye for an eye…” On o you know the rest. I believe Jesus overturned that way of responding in the Sermon on the Mount. As Gandhi prophetically said , “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. ”

As I remember and celebrate on this day, I pray my own heart be open and “rent” allowing Grace to invade and conquer spirits and attitudes contrary to my mission as priest. I am sorry for my own lack of faith, or for a weak faith , when life gets messy and confusing. It saddens me to think that the Lord may be disappointed ,or even amazed, at my own lack of faith.

For me, the remedy is always to come out of myself and into the lives of the people I serve. I walk as priest in the midst of the people, shoulder to shoulder in the mission of the gospel. I hope and pray that when I am misunderstood or rejected, it is for the right reasons. This is the fate of all of us who follow jesus. It is my mission as priest to imitate christ in the washing of the feet ….and in laying down my life in service. Those who have showed me the way to bring a great priest have largely not been other priests but the people of the various parishes I have served. May I follow their example.
On the night of my ordination, the earth was blanketed with several inches of light, puffy snow. As in walked out of the reception and saw this quiet beauty I felt a deep peace. Never could I have imagined then, on that snowy night of ordination, where I am sitting now, on third floor of St. Teresa of Avila rectory writing these words of gratitude. That Blanket of snow has been a beautiful image of the blanket of God’s Grace that covers you, me and every human being.

Ad Multos Anos

Fr. Frank