Voices of Hope. August 27, 2018

While staying with the monks last week, I learned the story of two individuals who made an impact on the Catholic Church. Their witness is desperately needed during these times of scandals. I learned about them because a series of framed photographs depicting their image were hanging on the wall outside the room in which I was staying. Once I learned their name, I learned their story, rooted in African American culture. The voices of Black Catholics need to be heard by all.

Sr. Thea Bowman, a woman and Sister, preached in a way that drew people into the message of Jesus and His gospel. She witnessed to God’s love and justice through preaching and music. She worked with the Bishops, helping to address the painful reality of racism and segregation. Sr. Thea did so in a way that brought people together, celebrating differences and diversity. Her music and preaching are a beacon of light for our Church. Her image in the photos exude Joy. She is on her way to becoming a saint!!! Sr. Thea lived from 1937-1990.

Fr. Cyprian Davis was a monk at St. Meinrad Abbey in southern Indiana. He experienced the horrible effects of racism in the years before the Civil Rights legislation of the mid 1960’s. He participated in the march on Selma and was very much involved in the civil rights movement. His first love was history, and Fr. Cyprian wrote a deeply respected book on the history of Black Catholics in the American Catholic Church. Their history in the church has been largely muted because of poverty and the ravaging effects of racism. The legacy of Black Catholics is both powerful and troubling. Their example remained largely in the background due to the color of their skin and their social position. Their story reminds us of the fact that they were slaves in the lives of some of our “established” saints.

Fr. Cyprian was a gifted scholar, theologian, educator and monk. He was a dedicated monk of St Meinrad Abbey since 1950 and passed away in 2015 at the age of 84. His scholarly works are still being read and studied.

Sr. Thea and Fr. Cyprian, two voices of hope during these trying times, give me…us hope. When I first arrived at the Abbey, the original room assigned to me was changed by a kind woman welcoming visitors at a reception area. She wanted me to have a quiet and peaceful time of solitary prayer, so she, completely on her own, changed my room to a different wing. The wall next to the door of my new room had the photos of these two wonderful witnesses of Catholic faith. How God works!!!

Peace. Fr. Frank

Waiting For God. August 23, 2018

Sitting in a beautiful church, I was simply waiting for Someone… In this wait, I noticed the stained glass windows, surrounding me, their colors clothing me in a multi-colored blanket. As I looked, the images given life by the SUN, were formed into the Beatitudes, the eight blessings Jesus began His most well known Sermon on the Mount. What a beautiful blanket of color to be clothed in, but totally dependent on the SUN. Just sitting, waiting, caused waters of spirit baptism to be stirred within. Hope.

When we let the SON shine in and through us, we become living, human stained glass windows, reflecting BLESSING, beatitude. Every act of humility, mercy, compassion, sincerity, and witness to Christ frees the rays of the SON to shine through our humanity onto the larger humanity. The Beatitudes must be lived through a choice, since they usually don’t happen naturally, unless your a living saint. We have to make the choice to live these gospel blessings by renouncing pride, privilege, material wealth, inner violence, arrogance and abuse of power.

My wait in the church was complete…I found the Someone, God, in this reflection. How many colorful, beautiful, living stained glass of humanity surfaced in my memory: of parishioner, friend, volunteer, and stranger. These people of brilliant color have brought to me by the SON, Who only wants me to learn from them and be inspired by them.

My advent wait, at the end of August, was well worth it.

Peace and Joy. Fr. Frank

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Aretha. August 17, 2018

Yesterday’s entry surfaced beautiful responses, thanks to, Mairead, Linda, Frank jr, Mary Jo, Jane and Michael (not Banks), Tom and Mary, Nick, and others. How our wonderful God inspires the connections between us, creating a community of care and love. What a gift you have given!! Hope is slowly surfacing…

And then news can of Aretha passing over into her new home in the Kingdom. What a loss. Her voice has uplifted, inspired and challenged us for well over 50 years. As Aretha has said, her signature song, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, was meant to convey the message that “respect” is the one reality that every human being, in all times and places and cultures, so desperately wants. Respect is the foundation of all social justice teaching: the dignity of each human being comes from God and demands respect. Yes, horrible actions can weaken and even destroy respect for those who abuse their authority or position. But God sees into the human heart, a gaze that penetrates into the darkest corners, revealing the core humanity. And this only God can see for God is the One who creates each and every human being. God can only love and respect what He has created.

Who doesn’t know Aretha and her music? Her voice can never be silenced for it lives in vinyl, tape, CD, Bluetooth and memory. Can you imagine the choirs of angels and archangels in heaven, now that Aretha has arrived driving her pink Cadillac! Their sound has certainly changed and only for the better. Move those choirs with your gospel voice. May you sing in peace. Ff

Church: A Temple of Tears. August 16, 2018

I am at a monastery praying with a community of monks trying to come to grips with the news concerning the extensive coverup of sexual abuse by bishops and other church authorities in various dioceses Pennsylvania of hundreds priests. I just finished reading some of the details describing the horrible acts these poor children experienced, all at the hands of a trusted priest. Stomach churning. Disgusting. Outrageous.

What truly makes this damaging is the coverup by bishops, the ones who wield the power and close the ranks in secrecy. The image of the church and their position of authority were more important than dealing justly and opening with acts of horrible abuse of God’s most vulnerable: children!! Where is the accountability? Why doesn’t Rome respond boldly and openly, calling bishops to face the truth, their truth in covering up this scourge. The first response of cardinal Wuerl was to acknowledge how disappointed some may be by how he handled abuse issues but that everyone knows he did his best to address this problem, which can be seen by his actions and statements. Really??? What a dismissive response.

I’m waiting for the Pope, the only one who has the authority to discipline and remove a bishop, who needs to come out NOW with more than statements and apologies. He needs to find a way to openly discuss the closed clerical caste system regarding who is ordained, how bishops and pastors are chosen, and the incorporation of the laity into the hierarchical structures with authority. If we have to have a hierarchy, then the theology must be developed such that those who are not ordained, women and men, will be a constitutive part of the structures. Something has to change and only the Pope can get the ball rolling. If he can’t or won’t do this, what’s the point of even having a Pope?

On another point, how can we go through Renew My Church and launch a process of evangelization with a horrible cloud over the church? How do we attract new people to the faith if there is such moral decay in the institutional structures?

In our prayer our hearts must go to the countless victims whose lives have been so shattered. I admire the courage of these people to stand tall and speak truth to such an abuse of power by many of our bishops. May they find peace and somehow be able to forgive these sins against the dignity of their humanity. I hope they can become free of the horrible memories given them by “priests”, men who are supposed be instruments of God’s love.

I can’t say much more. I can only pray that the Holy Spirit breath the fire of repentance , renewal and transformation on the Church and her leaders.

Peace. Fr. Frank