All Souls.  November 2, 2016

When you walk 6-7 hours each day, alone, the solitary journey elicits deeply rooted memories of people who have passed though the gateway of death. This  soulful walking connects one’s life to the earth, footstep by footstep, and this connection releases buried, mostly forgotten, memories. The problem with a religious pilgrimage is God has other unplanned plans in regards to these memories. One can’t be healed of the past if one is DISconnected with it. Pilgrimages mean Reconnecting…with God through remembering the people who have walked in and out of our lives, sometimes welcomed, sometimes surprised, sometimes very unwelcome. 

Walking hour after hour surfaces many wonderful memories causing a bittersweet joy, since you deeply miss the person remembered but know they are present with each step. You just KNOW it. However, difficult memories WILL surface that are quite painful when they become conscious…relived. The Camino is not for everyone, especially if you choose the route of repression. Bury the pains of the past…don’t face them, for often they’re just too painful. 

I encountered many pilgrims who were forced to face these unpleasant realities that lie deep in the lower regions of the subconscious. Some need serious help to the point of returning home. “Now is the time of salvation,” St. Paul teaches. When the rubber hits the road, or each walking foot connects with Mother Earth, the source of our bodies, this is our moment to TRUST God will carry us through these moments of trial. The basement of our subconscious needs to be cleaned out…aired out….the Light let in. Freedom.  Release. New memories. Healed memories. Maybe we are just not ready for the Camino right now. It takes Wisdom to admit this. 

The movie, “The Way,” with Martin sheen, which caused the Camino to explode in tourist popularity, is really about the healing of memories. The main character walks with his son’s cremains, spreading them at various places and shrines. His relationship with his son was strained and distant; his untimely death in the Pyrenees did not give this father the time to reconcile and offer forgiveness. But it wasn’t too late. Even after his son died so suddenly, the walk reconnected him with this distant son, forgiveness and healing occurred and a man is freed to walk a new Camino pushing in new directions. His son was alive…and well…

All Souls Day, a time to remember the people who helped to shape our identities and journeys. Some of these people may have inadvertently hurt us, or worse, advertently. Healing and forgiveness CAN happen.   NOW. Our faith teachers us that life continues when we breath our last, and those we deeply love and missed are safe and happy…waiting for us to join them. This never ending season of Advent compels us to wait with an openness to gratitude and forgiveness, given AND received. 

Peace. Fr. Frank

All Saints. November 1, 2016

The great teaching of Vatican II was that ALL are called to holiness, not just those who dedicated their life to service in the Church. We focused on the change of language, new liturgical ministries, study of Scripture, ecumenical outreach and a Church that must be engaged in the world,  instead of creating walls of suspicion… these are essential to the renewal of the church. But something is missing…the foundation of the reform and renewal. The teaching that all Catholics are called to a life of holiness, whatever state of life, is truly the radical teaching of the Council. 

I’m reminded of this epoch-changing teaching on this  feast of ALL Saints. The beatitudes, which frame the sanctuary of St. Teresa of Avila Church, are the foundation of gospel living and parish life. Every time we celebrate the Mass, those Beatitudes illuminate and inspire. The very Eucharist we celebrate week after week, nourishes us all to  live out these beatitudes, making our lives Holy and blessed. Every human being is called to be a “saint,” which means we are all ” saints in the making.” Every human being has the potential and the call to exude the holiness of a saint. 

There is nothing arrogant about wanting to be a saint, for becoming a saint means allowing humility and poverty of Spirit, the first of the Beatitudes, to transform how we live. Surrendering to a Spirit of poverty naturally leads us to be merciful, peaceful, compassionate, single hearted, righteous and self giving. I have met countless men and women whose lives beautifully reflect these gospel Beatitudes, people leading lives of holiness. Mothers and fathers giving their lives in sacrifice for their children; teachers who will do anything to reach their students, lawyers defending the rights of the poor, Doctors Without Borders, the unseen faces of the people who clean and work to make our lives easier, volunteers who get to know the people they serve, talking with them and eating with them, musicians, artists, architects…the list is truly endless. 

Countless  people have changed my life and my priesthood, inspiring me to live out my own calling in new and creative ways. The Saints were people of creativity, reflecting the image of God as Creator, Who wants us to share in the glory of transforming the world. Our God is the most humble reality the world will ever know, for our God wants US to shine and share in His beauty and goodness. A vital parish is a creative parish that seeks new ways of being church. The more creative we are, the more we are in tune with our God of three Persons in a community of love. Our parishes are to mirror this divine community, by living out the Beatitudes, accepting that God calls ALL of us to lives of holiness, by studying scripture and catechism, and praying every day, not just when convenient. We are called to take responsibility for the church and its growth, never leaving this to the priests and sisters and bishops and popes. Jesus called the apostles, and the bishops who succeed them, to a life of service, walking shoulder to shoulder with the People who are the church.  Those who lead have the responsibility to hand on the tradition in ways new and creative, but never wavering from the Truth. 

We are a Pilgrim Church on a journey to a point, a destination, which is the the fullness of the Kingdom. The Camino has a saying: the way IS the destination, meaning the endpoint isn’t the main point of the pilgrimage . There is a truth in this little phrase, but it can be very misleading for us who follow Christ. A destination does exist for us and this  Feast is a celebration of that is  destination. Perhaps the journey continues after we pass through the doors of death …who knows but God. But the journey in Paradise will not be fraught with dangers or getting lost or feeling left out. This heavenly journey will be creative ONLY in love and how it is expressed. 

Peace and Joy. Fr. Frank