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

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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

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