Wind Turbines. October 18, 2016

Throughout Spain, one can see countless wind turbines in various landscapes, large, white ominous-looking structures: a huge,  white horizontal column rising hundreds  of feet, capped by three long outstretched blades that turn with the wind, creating a natural source for energy. They are the post-modern version of the traditional windmill, not nearly as beautiful, however. I see them each day as I gaze on the distant horizon, walking past them, attune to their “humming” sound. It feels almost eerie. 

When I think of these massive turbines, I’m drawn to the Holy Spirit. The blades of each turbine is completely dependent upon the wind and its force. Without the wind…no energy, which means back to fossil fuels. We need to “harness” the wind to create energy. Isn’t it true of the Holy Spirit: we need to harness the Spirit of our lives and the life of the church so that we can be propelled forward.   Each human being is a human “wind turbine,”harnessing the wind of the Spirit, giving a spiritual energy that ignites the human spirit within. Our Church must allow the Spirit to give it the energy and impetus to move forward, proclaiming Christ to the nations. The Church must “catch” this Spirit wind and be moved by this Holy Breath of creativity. 

Today we celebrate the gospel writer Luke, who also composed the second volume to the gospel known as the Acts of the Apostles. Luke was a gentile physician who experienced a conversion to Christ and the Gospel. This conversion transformed Luke into a human turbine of the Holy Spirit, as he was moved to go into the world as companion to Christ and other disciples. He listened to the stories of Christ told by disciples and the Spirit “harnessed” the faith and imagination of Luke which  propelled him to write down the message in a beautiful form called the “gospel,” which is nothing more than a unified piece  of writing with a particular focus or vision. Luke, the physician, presents a tender Jesus who wants to heal the sick and reach out to the sinner. Luke’s gospel unfolds a Jesus deeply in love with the poor and the outcast , who have a central focus in this gospel. 

Luke, like the other three gospel evangelists, allowed the Spirit to move heart and pen, creating a written expression of the Truth, who is Christ. The message of Christ is not just one among many equals. His is the only Message that embraces the totality of the truth about God, creation, humanity, grace and redemption. Luke is NOT Jewish, but gentile,  and his gospel expands the message to the whole world and beyond. 

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus sends the disciples…US..into the world, never alone but in pairs to eventually create communities of faith propelled and energized by the Spirit. Can you imagine what could happen if our parish and our Church became completely dependent upon the energy of the Spirit? Can you imagine what would happen to our liturgies, our programs (do we even need them) our catechetical and social outreach, our presence in the larger world, our music and religious architecture, our bible study, our spirituality…if the Holy Spirit were given more freedom to move us and transform us? 

I have such hope. Let’s move foreword together, in prayer and in Spirit, allowing this Spirit greater breath and freedom. Changing our teachings will do nothing to swell the ranks; changing our hearts is the only response that will attract people. Transformed hearts moved by the Spirit of Christ. 

St. Luke. Pray for us.

St. Teresa of Avila. Pray for us. 

St James of Santiago. Pray for us. 

Buen camino. Fr. Frank

The Veil of Veronica. October 17, 2016

I rarely think about the one Station of the Cross depicting Veronica wiping the tortured face of Christ as he makes His  way to Calvary. Nothing in Scripture supports this encounter, and yet it is one of the traditionsl 14 Stations. Two different depictions of Veronica wiping the face of Christ that I encountered in a church in the town of Domingo de la Calzada struck me for some reason. I was drawn to these two depictions of Veronica and her Veil.  This “veil”has been depicted in art countless times, particularly in the Stations of the Cross, but I never gave it a thought, until now. 

A “veil” is a beautiful symbol in scripture and liturgy. People’s faces had to be “veiled” so that they could not see the Face of God directly. There is a hiddeness, a mystery,in being”veiled,” in that a complete and totally transparent encounter is elusive….a beauty is waiting to be exposed, but we are not yet ready for it. 

Underneath the veil of Veronica lies the terrible beauty of suffering and sacrifice. We can focus on the IMAGE imprinted in the cloth that veiled His countenance for a brief moment. To “see” this tragic beauty is sometimes too hard to behold. The “veil” is a symbol of a mystery waiting to be revealed, only when we are ready. There is something poignant and moving about Veronica reaching out to comfort Christ is His agony with her ordinary cloth being transformed into a “veil” of mystery. 

We never “cover” statues or sacred images during Lent, we VEIL them, allowing for their beauty to be UNVEILED at Easter. In the Resurrection of the dead,  when Christ returns to usher in the final eternal age of unending Easter, veils will no longer be needed for we will be able to encounter beauty in its utter fullness. 

In the meantime, we honor Veronica and her beautiful Station, we honor the women who bare her name…Veronique… a name reminding us of the hidden beauty “veiled”in each of our humanity. 

Buen camino. Fr frank. 

God, The Persistent Widow. October 16, 2016

We have a rich reservoir of metaphors expressing a unique facet of our God. God is father, mother, king, shepherd, creator, friend, lover, and the list goes. Jesus most frequently spoke of his “Father,” but used many other images to speak to our hearts. Today’s gospel gives us a rather unusual metaphor or image of God: the persistent widow! How wonderful and powerful: God compared to a helpless, vulnerable woman who lost her husband and ALL her security. Imaging a God who is vulnerable and without security and status. 

When we hear this story, we usually take the place of the widow and WE are the ones who refuse to stop pleading , Jesus urging us to be persistent in prayer: never give up. Fair enough. However, what if God were that widow pleading to US, refusing to give us on US? What if God were that widow, knocking on the door of our heart…pounding and shouting,”Let me in your life?” God is the One who is persistent and won’t give up on us. 

Yes, discouragement can overwhelm us, making our hearts heavy with apathy and cynicism. We give in to these dark spirits and close our lives and hearts to possibility…to hope. We immerse ourselves in the various narratives that saturate our culture, voices that make us fearful or bitter. Give yourself a gift on this Sunday: turn off the TV, the computer and every other device that distracts. In conversations, turn off the arguing, angry voices that go absolutely nowhere. Discuss and talk about realities that uplift and stretch the Spirit. The Widow God, doesn’t that sound joyful, is persistently beckoning us to engage in things that can change the world for the better. 

Instead of staring at a screen feeding you endless images of nothing, play with your child or grandchild; take them out to somewhere fun; govout with your significant other on a long walk, saying nothing, just being present; if you want to turn on your computer, do so to write some needed emails or to learn a language; read a good book; clean out the garage; collect colorful leaves; PRAY; go to Mass. 

Our Persistent Widow God is completely vulnerable to our free will. This  is the one area where we have the edge: we are free to create beauty or to create chaos. God allows us to make the choice and God is totally beholden to our response. This is such a responsibility that God gives us: to recreate the world, participating in its restoration or to tear down and destroy. 

Give in to the Widow God. Answer God’s prayer for us, that we surrender to His will and plan…that we let ourselves be loved by Him…that we see the world and every human being as He sees them….that we love ourselves, each other, and all creation into “a new  heaven and a new earth.” 

Look at this wonderful cathedral and see its magnificence, and its awesome beauty. Humankind did this, but only with the help of our Widow God who inspired the artisans, builders, sculptors, musicians, architects litugists, bishops and the people of God who prayed this  Temple into being. In the first reading,  Moses is depicted as one who needed help , trying to confront his adversaries and he got the help he needed, to keep his tired arms uplifted and outstretched. We, like Moses, need help in being our best selves, the ones created in God’s image. 

God helps our spirits to be uplifted and stretched out, to embrace those like the Widow, vulnerable and powerless to forces of darkness. God wants us to create a Temple made of human lives and hearts, more beautiful than the Temple church in Burgos or Leon or Rome or Chicago. God is Persistent, like the Widow in the parable: he won’t give up on us…on YOU. 

Buen camino. Fr. Frank 

Teresa, A Woman of the Spirit. October 15, 2016

In every depiction of St. Teresa of Avila, the Holy Spirit is above her, inspiring her to write her magnificent theology of the spiritual life. She holds the pen that will give expression to the inner inspiration of the Spirit of God. She stands on the corner of Armitage and Seminary, with open book and pen in hand, welcoming those who pass by to open the book of their hearts to God in prayer. 

Prayer is our relationship with God, Who wants nothing more than to have our lives be a completely open book to His Presence. God knows us more than we know ourselves and we never have to fear revealing to Him even the thoughts that trouble us the most. As Teresa teaches, the humanity of Christ is the gateway into God’s very life. And the humanity of Christ teaches us to be completely transparent to God, talking to God like a friend we trust to tell ALL our deepest secrets.  Teresa was a close and deep friend of Christ, Who taught her the foundation of prayer and the spiritual life is friendship with God. How beautiful!!!!

I spend much time walking alone, praying, trying to give expression to my love of Christ. Sometimes, inner thoughts and difficult memories trouble me, even embarrass me. I want to hide them from Jesus, fearing what he might think. How  ridiculous to even think this, since I know that God knows everything and that I can’t hide anything from Him. My intellect knows the Truth, but my heart wanders in other directions, away from the Spirit. Jesus teaches in today’s gospel to trust in the Spirit. He goes so far as to say that the one sin that can’t be forgiven is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, which means to completely doubt the power of Spirit to transform our hearts. To refuse to let the Spirit breath in our hearts, in our parishes and in our Church is truly grievous in the teaching of Christ. 

Teresa was a woman led by the Spirit and transformed by the Spirit. She fought many demons, her own and those who tried to prevent her theology from finding expression. Teresa was much too smart for  her “inquisitors,” who never tired of hounding her, trying to keep her quiet, even accusing her of heresy!! Yes, this devout, daughter of the Church, loyal to the Pope and Church, was deemed dangerous! The only thing dangerous was these religious leaders trying to shut down the workings of the Holy Spirit. 

Teresa had the last word: the tremendous body of her spiritual teaching, making her the very first Woman Doctor of the Catholic Church, declared so by Pope Paul the VI in 1970!! This is the inscription on the pedestal on which the statue of Teresa rests. What a beautiful tribute to this woman of the Spirit. 

Buen Camino. Fr. Frank

Why We Exist. October 14, 2016

St. Paul answers the question of our purpose, why we are here on this earth, bluntly and with beautiful simplicity: we exist to praise God…to give God the glory. How simple a response. I am not here to first and foremost to be happy in my own life, but to praise God for creating me in love.  Everything I do must be for the glory of God, and only then can I find happiness. I think sometimes we have the cart before the horse. 

Synchronicity is a wonderful phenomena: things happen as a series of meaningful events that don’t seem connected but are. There is a purpose and a plan that unfolds gradually and quietly, provided we do what we can to discover what the plan is. This process of synchronicity must begin with praising and thanking God. We surrender our life AND our own plans to what God’s purpose is for us. The right career, vocation, relationship will somehow follow when we FIRST give God the glory and ask that He lead us to  open our hearts to this glorious plan. 

So many people are unhappy and filled with anxiety because life is not going as they wish or had “planned.” Unhappiness seems to be a growing spiritual problem in our culture, so much so, that we are becoming unhinged and unanchored. And so we flee to the various forms of social media becoming absorbed in what others think or do. Immersing one’s self in external distractions only deepens the problems we face. 

We are God’s possession, says St. Paul, and our hearts can only find security in the Heart of God. From the foundation of the world, each one of us, every human being who lived, is living, or will live, was conceived in the mind of God. Every pregnancy, especially those that didn’t come to term, ends with LIFE fulfilled in God. God will fulfill every human life, no matter what. This ultimately gives God the glory: when each one of us lives a life of joy rooted in the praise of God. When life doesn’t go as planned, as it rarely does, when we are broken, when we make bad decisions, when we have regrets… the mercy of God will embrace us and heal us. 

Immerse your life and plans in this awesome truth that God knew you before you were even conceived. You are loved by this God. Give God the glory for the life that is yours and may your life and witness help others to uncover their hidden dignity. There is no better way to give God glory than to help another person see themselves as loved by God. Every human being is a reflection of the Divine Imprint in all of creation. 

Buen camino. Fr. Frank

Walking With the Spiritual Not Religious. October 13, 2016

So many of the pilgrims I encounter are wonderful people who seem to have an aversion to any form of organized religion. Our conversations are positive and interesting, but I wonder how God wishes me…us… to respond? It’s almost a badge of honor to be able to say, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” as if adding religion to the equation means one is not truly enlightened and free. I love my “spirituality,” and know the Spirit can unite us beyond religious teaching, practice and tradition. But I also love  my religion and don’t know how I could possibly be spiritual and not religious. The word  “religion” means to bind together opposites: body/ soul; heaven/earth. How can I ever commit myself to a particular faith community and be a part of its life, being formed and transformed by its teachings, if I refuse to value religion?

This entire Camino infrastructure was built,  not just with spirituality, but with religion and religious faith. The beauty of specifically Catholicism is that the human person is part of a LIVING PEOPLE with a past rooted in every culture and language. The rituals, sacraments, saints, seasons, social justice teachings, music and architecture are meant to embrace each and every human being in their DIGNITY given by God alone. Each person is “planted” in this communal, spiritual AND religious SOIL so that they will flourish and blossom. 

The worst thing we can do as a catholic people is force the religious tradition on others…even our children. For too many years, centuries, parents left it primarily to the schools,  nuns and priests to form their children in the faith. But Children need their parents to teach them and show the Way. Each  house becomes a domestic “church” with the supper table, at which meals are shared,  connected with the  Eucharistic table, at which the meal of the Body and Blood of Christ is shared.  In order for parents to do this, they have to become adults in the faith, learning and studying scripture and the catechism; they have to develop a daily discipline of prayer, showing their children that they are believers and don’t rely on religious leaders to do what is needed. And they have to participate at Sunday mass knowing that their life depends upon it. 

I know the horrible abuses of religion, especially when it is interewined with political power and prestige.  For centuries, the Catholic Church weilded extreme power in what was the Roman Empire. This  power created inquisitions and crusades, putting to death countless people seen as heretics. Currently, we are experiencing the terrible effects of the abuse of power on the part of many of our bishops in protecting priests and other church leaders who did horrific things to children and teens. These are realities that need to be faced and dealt with on a continual basis. The Church can NEVER again be the political power of a nation. It always goes bad. 

Our church has done many injustices to women, those who disagree, gays and lesbians, indigenous people, and those who have no voice due to some aspects of their background.  But our church and its institutions have done countless acts of justice and mercy, both corporal and spiritual. The heart of the Catholic Church is the beautiful people creating a tapestry of color and beauty. And the leaders are a part of this wonderful tapestry held together and strengthened by the Spirit of Christ.  As Paul says in today’s first reading from Ephesians, we are all adopted by God as His sons and daughters. A wonderful people, pilgriming in time and space, the priesthood of baptism and the priesthood of the ordained, washing feet in service. We are together, a spiritually religious or religiously spiritual people celebrating in a church which is a hospital of mercy for sinners, who want to become saints…a lifetime endeavor. 

Pray that I LISTEN to these primarily young people and respond in a way that might attract them, and not further alienate them. 

Buen camino. Fr. Frank

Teaching By Example. October 12, 2016

Jesus is saying some very harsh things in today’s gospel. He’s in a tirade against some if the leaders and teachers of his time, who like to make pronouncements about following the Law, do little, if anything, to follow the heart of the Law: love of God and neighbor. They were the worst of teachers because their example….their witness…was totally missing. Hypocrisy, the greatest enemy to religion and the church, was exposed by Jesus. They were not pleased, and neither would any one of us be overjoyed at experiencing  our hypocrisy exposed, particularly if it is so public. 

Our Lord is not doing this to humiliate us, but to free us by facing the inner truth of our hearts. When we face this “inner truth” as unpleasant as it can be, we can change!!! Yes, we can live out a love  that doesn’t judge or impose but one that is patient, kind, generous and filled with joy. 

Let us be led by the Spirit of Jesus that wants us to take responsibility for those in the world who are demeaned and have no voice. Our faith begs us to become witnesses and teachers who live out the Beatitudes and Matthew 25: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink…”We will be judged by how we live out these gospel values. The only judging that should take place is when each one of us judges OURSELVES by how we live out the Law gospel Love and whether or not people can see us as authentic witnesses and teachers. Peace. Fr. Frank

Appearances Can Be Deceiving. October 11, 2016

Some of the leaders consistently criticized Jesus for not following the letter of the Law. Jesus responds by saying that it is what lies WITHIN the heart that truly matters, not external appearances. In other words, you can follow the letter of the Law, appearing to be holy, but be filled with evil within. The words Jesus uses are strong and harsh, many would say even judgmental. But he doesn’t seem to care about such sensibilities, since he frequently lashes out at individuals who love to point their finger at others who aren’t following all the laws and prescriptions. 

On the Camino, it’s easy to judge other people’s journey by the places they stay or the food they eat. You can’t stay in a hotel or eat at a good restaurant to be “authentic” , nor can you send your backpack via a service to avoid carrying such a heavy load. Or if you take a train or taxi skipping some of the “steps.” To make such judgements is so horrible because there are pilgrims living with the after  effects of chemotherapy, surgery or the debilitating realities associated with MS or ALS. Yes, many people are walking this difficult journey carrying a heavy inner load of suffering. They are an inspiration to all, perhaps more so than the self-appointed authentic pilgrims who simply wish to be noticed.

Jesus teaches the most beautiful antidote to judging by appearances: give ALMS. May this sacrifice of money to help one in need purify our inner intentions…the ones that lie within the heart, unseen by all…except God. 

Buen camino. Fr. Frank. 

Visitation. October 9, 2016

The Visitation celebrates Mary’s journey to “visit” her cousin Elizabeth who was  pregnant with John the Baptist. In the greeting between theses two mothers, John “leapt for joy” in the womb of Elizabeth as she joyously called Mary “blessed among women.” But what is frequently overlooked in the Visitation scene is Mary’s response, a beautiful prayer echoing the prayer of Hannah in the Book of Samuel :  “My soul proclaims the greatness of God my spirit rejoices in God my savior for he has looked upon his servant in her lowliness…”

It is a few verses later that Mary, the humble Virgin declares: “God has shown the stength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit…he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly…he has filled the hungry with good things while the rich he has sent away empty.” 

These are not sentimental words of piety but a subversive message proclaiming a new world about to be born. This world  vision, given impetus and clarity by Mary, will only come about through many “labor pains.” How appropriate to use the image of “labor pain” in trying to describe the birth of the Kingdom that Jesus preached and Mary foreshadowed. New life…new purpose… new directions…a “new heaven and a new earth”…a clashing of the new with the old erupts. There will be conflict and pain in the gradual birthing of the Kingdom of Jesus into full blossom. So be it…

How often have I heard a mother say that the pain in giving birth, while not totally being forgotten, is so worth the joy  in the life that came forth. Mary, Mother of the Church…Mother of God…is at the heart of this subversive experience in which the lowly, the humble, the powerless, the poor will be raised in dignity. But it won’t be easy. 

Buen camino. Fr. Frank

Annunciation. October 8, 2016

Mary encountered an angel,Gabriel, who “announced” God’s desire to have her be the human instrument of the Incarnation. Without her YES, Jesus could never have been conceived and we would  never have been redeemed. This WOMAN accomplished her yes and the pregnancy without a man, her Spouse being the Holy Spirit. Jesus received the totality of his humanity from the humble Mary,  who surrendered to the overshadowing of the Spirit. 

Gabriel has been depicted in so many ways through the medium of art and portrait. My favorite depiction is Light, the angel Gabriel portrayed through rays Light. The Annunciation is not a past event that happened only to Mary, but a present reality open to every human being. An angel, Gabriel or other, shines on YOU, overshadowing you with the “announcement” that you are to give birth to God…to Jesus in YOUR flesh and humanity. 

Just let the Encounter with this Messenger happen…look…wait…surrender sighing deeply, letting out the breath of fear only to breath in the Spirit of new Life. This encounter can never happpen without nurturing an awareness of a God Who wants each and every human being to do their part in the great restoration of the world. This  restoration is completely and utterly dependent upon the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ, the only Savior, who gave his life so that we may receive the power to re-create. This power is rooted in selfless love of all, especially the outcast. 

And the Church shines powerfully when it refuses to align itself with any particular political party or economic theory. The more the Church is at odds with any political power, the better she is. The fate of the church must mirror the fate of Christ: to be condemned, stripped of riches, carrying the cross of suffering and injustice, dying to power that controls…RISING to a new Easter Life that is the definitive response to evil and sin. 

The Annunciation is the news that this is happening now, in our world and in our church. No wonder there is so much confusion and violence in the world, because the force of evil does not see the message of Christ and the gospel as “good news.” Our response must be rooted in peace and a refusal to give in to the violence. The Church, our parish, must spread its “arms” of embrace, not in an ivory tower, but on the cross. 

Buen camino. Fr. Frank