Streams of Living Water. February 28, 2019

“Like streams of living waters,” a beautiful verse from the psalms and John’s gospel, pointing each one of us deep within our hearts. These waters are the Spirit, flowing in the subterranean depths of our beings, waiting to be let go. Lent is the season to tap into these flowing waters of life and love. Prayer, fasting, and helping the poor are ways to go deep. Lent is all about letting the waters of Baptism out of their enclosed recesses and into our consciousness. Transformation. Beauty. Truth. These are the gifts that help us RISE with the Risen One. We are all destined for an eternal Easter. We are an Easter People!!!

Peace. Fr. Frank

Viral Social Media. January 21, 2019

When social media goes viral it can destroy lives. Yesterday before the 9:00 Mass, I read in the news feed about an incident captured on a phone video showing a verbally violent scene depicting a group of men shouting a variety of hateful rhetoric to the people around them. A group of teenagers from a Catholic high school ,on their way to the Match For Life in Washington, engaged these hostile men. While there was no physical violence, the small group of men representing a fringe group taunted the people and a Native American man present at the scene, began to chant and beat his drum, trying to defuse the situation.

It “appeared” on the video that the high school students were mocking this Native American, with one young man staring at him with a smile on his face. Immediately, the report stated that these high school students were shouting racially insensitive comments. The image of this young man staring down the Native American went viral, depicting him as contributing to a racially charged incident. The Catholic high apologized for their abhorrent behavior.

But a viewing of the entire video depicts a much more nuanced explanation. The young man, himself, defending his action saying he was just trying to be a peaceful presence. Unfortunately, millions of people saw the short video with no context and rushed to judgements. I reported the incident at mass after reading the apology issued by the authorities st the high school.

This young man and his family have encountered death threats and horribly violent language. Whatever happened, we only got a tiny snippet of a video with a judgement by people who didn’t see the whole video or wished to depict these catholic youth in a negative light.

Lives can be destroyed when images and videos are posted with literally no thought. These social media posts can literally haunt a person when trying to get into a college or search for a job. We all have to be careful how we carry ourselves in public and in large gatherings. People love to capture an image of something that will attract followers and with multiple responses. Little care is given to the ramifications or consequences. Some individuals have even resorted to suicide when they feel totally overwhelmed and trapped.

Social media is here to stay and has a vital role to play in conveying information and telling stories. But it must never be used to destroy people’s lives. When confronted by a group of individuals saying hateful things, it’s best to simply quietly move on, never engaging these deranged people. It’s impossible to have a rational discussion with people who have no conscience.

Peace. Fr. Frank

Journey of Migrants. January 6, 2019

Epiphany is about a journey, or several journeys, across lands and nations, guided by the light of a star. Their journeys lead to a child who promises to be a unifying force of love and justice for ALL people and nations. The Magi leave the child no longer looking in the skies for a guiding light, but within their hearts. These “foreigners” became believers and disciples of Christ, while the religious leaders of this Child denied Him. Epiphanies are experiences that enlighten, open up, our minds and hearts to God. This encounter compels us to “see” differently, taking new routes.

Millions of human beings are compelled to take new routes leaving their Homeland out of desperation, to simply survive forces of violence and poverty. It is easy for us who are comfortable and have the ability to freely choose to be mobile, changing routes to make life more meaningful. But if you are facing poverty, gang violence and human trafficking, crossing borders, legally or illegally, becomes the only option. You will do anything to protect your children. You will do anything to feed them and care for them if they are ill.

Migration has been a part of humanity, throughout our history, going back indefinitely. People leave countries to find freedom and the ability to follow dreams and desires. But abuse of power and unjust economies rooted in historical patterns of colonialism, are just two realities that FORCE people to migrate. Human rights: the right to have food, shelter, education and medical care are just the basic human rights which must be accorded to every human being. When these rights cannot be realized, instability results.

The problems of migration and immigration are complex and divisive. The ultimate solution is not in building high walls, even if the wall prevents desperate people from entering. They will find other ways. Simply preventing people from entering illegally will not solve the problem. It may even make matters worse. Getting to the root of the problem is the only solution: confronting the various injustices related to the economy, agriculture, imports, exports, land acquisition, to name a few. And ALL nations have contributed to these injustices, including our own.

Foreigners from the East got the message and changed their entire lives forever. All of us are rooted in other nations and cultures. Migration is a part of every human being’s history and this county of America was founded on welcoming immigrants. Those of us who love and follow Christ are called to a higher standard, the standard of the gospel. We are called to welcome the stranger and in doing so, we encounter Christ.

Peace. Blessed Epiphany, especially our Migrants…our neighbors.

Advent Confession December 11, 2018

I’m actually writing this reflection waiting for anyone to come to Reconciliation or Confession. The wait is a quiet one before the Blessed Sacrament with just a few people coming to pray. Waiting can be a lonely experience if you’re expecting a particular outcome and you are focused on that outcome which never quite materializes. In our waiting we sometimes make demands in God: finding the right friend or partner; healing from illness; successful career; happiness. The list is endless.

Advent teaches us to wait simply being aware of God’s presence and offering our prayers and desires not as expectation to be fulfilled but as a way of talking with God, being open and vulnerable. But we must listen for God’s response and surrender to it. Letting go of our own will is what can possibly happen in the waiting.

The people were waiting for the messiah and He came but not as they expected. Being born in a smelly cave in obscurity, no one being aware except shepherds, the lowliest people at the time. They were actually despised as being outsiders. The people waited centuries for this??? We forget how radical the birth of Christ was and how it perplexed so many. We don’t even know the date, the year, the month, even the actual place of His birth.

And so we continue to wait for Christ to enter our lives in ways we don’t expect. Let’s be surprised and open as we wait. Speak our prayers and needs but let them go. Listen to God speaking to us answers we may not expect or want. So be it.

I’m waiting here for people. If they show… great. If not, I’ve written this reflection, which is just fine.

Peace. Fr. Frank

St. Nicholas. December 6, 2018

From St. Nicholas to Sinter Claus to Santa Claus…this wonderful man, forerunner to our Santa Claus, was a bishop in a village called Myra, in what is now Turkey. This saint has a scant biography: came from wealthy, family, loved his faith, became a priest and bishop. It is likely he actually attended the first ecumenical council of the Church: the Council of Nicaea that gave us our Nicene Creed which we pray every Sunday and Holyday. His name, “Nicholas of Myra” appears on the roster of those who attended the Council, though no record exists that he said anything during the deliberations.

The one incident in his life that cannot be verified historically is that he helped a poor couple with three daughters by secretly giving a dowry in the form of gold to each of the daughters. Hence, he became associated with secretly giving gifts. After his death, many legends of Nicholas began to be told: calming of turbulent waters, healing miracles and countless other stories clearly not historical but are testaments to the saint’s popularity. Thousands of churches are named after this beloved saint. Many cities and even countries have Nicholas as their patron.

Nicholas lived a humble life on the rock of Christ. His life was all about selfLESS giving, the heart of our devotion to Santa Claus. If we and our children are to emulate Nicholas, we best do so by giving generously giving to those in need. We teach our children by example when we ask Santa not just what gifts we can get, but what gifts we can give.

The symbols of Nicholas: boot or shoe, since children would put food and treats for Nicholas’s horse or donkey in shoes placed on roadside; candy cane, symbol of Bishop’s crozier or staff; boat or ship, since he is patron of sailors (Myra, his village, was a sea coast town); anchor, due to his ministry to sailors; three gold coins, symbolizing the three poor daughters and their dowries.

If you can have something sweet, do so to celebrate this wonderful Saint. Don’t worry about processed sugar, simply enjoy.

Peace. Fr. Frank

Self Acceptance. December 5, 2018

The eve of St. Nicholas. A joyful hint of Christmas. The first reading from today’s Mass speaks of the great mountain of the Lord, in which He will destroy the “veil that veils the people, the web woven over the nations: God will destroy death forever… wiping away the tears from our faces.” This reading gives us another hint: of our ultimate destiny to live forever in the embrace of Love.

In the Gospel, Jesus heals the many wounded people: wounds of being paralyzed, blind, mute, sick. He frees them with his breath of healing. We ALL are in need of healing but we must approach Jesus just as we ARE, not as we should be or would like to be. He wants us, wounds and all, for it is through our wounds that we encounter Christ.

It all begins in SELF ACCEPTANCE: to approach God in our wounds and sins, without any fear whatsoever. Our true self is the one created by God in His image and likeness; our false self is the one rooted in ego and self created. We have to unVEIL the destructive false self that we have created in our loneliness and inner alienation and allow it to die, revealing the true self created by God, loved by God. Just be yourself…

St. Nick is the saint of children and lost innocence, which means he is the saint for us all. The gift he gives cannot be wrapped, it can only be discovered, deep within our beings: Christ.

Kristallnacht. November 8, 2018

November 9/10, 1938, the Nazis destroyed the property of the Jewish people in Germany; many Jews were hurt or killed during that infamous night. The name Kristallnacht means “crystal night,” since so much glass was shattered or broken as Jewish businesses were destroyed, creating mounds of broken glass shards from the window panes. Tomorrow is the 80th anniversary of this terrible night of infamy.

As Pope Francis reminded us in a homily a few days ago, Christians can never be anti-Semitic, a hatred that must be rooted out in all its forms. The Germans in the 1930’s were a deeply cultured and educated people who were struggling economically following World War I. The Jews were targeted by Hitler as a scapegoat to blame for the difficult economic state Germany was in. Unfortunately, the Church has done its share of targeting Jews throughout the centuries, brandishing them as “Christ killers,” a lie and hypocrisy.

Our church emphatically teaches that we are ALL responsible for the death of Christ because He died for us and for our sins. While a handful of Jewish and Roman leaders had Jesus crucified, every human being, from Adam until the last human being before the Second Coming, contributes to His crucifixion; we are all complicit. The Truth is sometimes too hard to face, so we deflect onto others, creating a lie that is so easy to believe.

Anti-Semitism caused a man to enter a synagogue, shout hateful things, and brutally kill 11 innocent people. This man’s hatred of the Jews caused him to do this. Hatred comes in all shapes and sizes and is directed at one person or a group of people we don’t understand or who threaten something deep within our own hearts.

May each of us have the courage to face our own biases and we all have them in one form or another. As followers of Christ, we are called to love our neighbor, which includes every human being, especial the one we don’t like. Jesus even calls us to love our enemy, turn the other cheek and stop the violent response. This is the hardest of all His teachings, one that we can’t forget less eliminate.

The nurse who was called to take care of the man who killed the 11 people in the synagogue was a Jewish man. This nurse, a Jew, caring for a man who did horrible things to his own people, did not see hatred in the man’s eyes. He just wanted to take care of him, one human being to another. This Jewish man acted more Christlike than many of us Christians.

Fr. Frank

Faith Working Through Love. October 16, 2018

What a beautiful verse from St. Paul’s reading to the Galatians in today’s first reading at Mass. He says clearly that the Law and obediently following its countless precepts will ever save us, for the only thing that truly matters is “faith working through love.”

Our faith is like a hand and love clothes the hand like a glove . Our faith in Christ must find expression in our attitudes and actions. This is at the heart of love: to love God and neighbor, friend and enemy, family and stranger. We are called to “cloth” our beliefs, practices, rituals and prayers with Love. Faith without love is sterile, juridical and judgemental; love without faith is rootless, lacks purpose and becomes self centered.

We, as disciples of Christ, are called to cloth the world lavishly with justice, kindness, joy, mercy, and hope. These are sewn together by love creating a beautiful tapestry. As Jesus says in today’s gospel, our inner hearts will be renewed and cleansed when we give alms. Giving to the poor brightens the color of this tapestry.

Peace. Fr. Frank

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila. October 15, 2018

We celebrate a great saint, the first woman declared a Doctor of the Church by St. Pope Paul VI, who was just canonized yesterday. Her teachings on prayer and spirituality continue to nourish the church on her pilgrimage in time. She was a woman way ahead of her time, brilliant in her understanding of the spiritual life and her legacy extends to many cultures beyond the Spain of her birth.

She found herself despised by many if her own Carmelite Sisters, even being expelled from one of the convents by a mob of angry nuns. The Church of the Inquisition questioned her orthodoxy, believing her teaching preached the heresy of “quietism,” which basically taught that contemplative prayer was superior to the prayer of mediation. And that passivity, being passive to the point of indifference, was superior to the active life, engaging in acts of outreach and justice. In short, the heresy of quietism separated contemplative prayer, at the heart of Teresa’s teaching on prayer, from life and its struggles. If anything, Teresa taught that our prayer MUST lead to action in the world.

If truth be told, the real reason for all the opposition of the Inquisition was that women during this time were not thought capable of deep, contemplative prayer. Women were taught to just pray “vocally,” meaning memorized prayers with established words. Leave the deep prayer of the heart for the monks!! Well, she refused, and was given much encouragement by some key men, including St. John of the Cross. Speaking of St. John, he, too, was despised by many of the friars in his Carmelite community. They locked him up in a closet like room for months and months. He had to flee, escape, from the hatred of his own brothers!!!!! And these were vowed religious men, as were Teresa’s nuns who gave her such hell. Let’s face it, when all is said and done, hell hath no fury than a jealous friar, priest, nun, or bishop! And it’s no less true today.

The reform of the Carmelites, begun by Teresa and John, was another bone of contention. Reform means change, a conversion or re-conversion to gospel living, meaning a life of prayer, sacrifice and helping the poor. Which brings us to the present. Reform of the Church today, in her structures of power, will be vehemently opposed by the very priests and bishops who are in positions of power. But the Holy Spirit will be the force and the source of the reform, regardless of those clinging to antiquated structures.

Teresa was a woman of the Spirit. May she give us encouragement during these turbulent times of reform and renewal. To the People of St. Teresa of Avila Community in Chicago: Happy Feast Day!!! I’m praying for you all today by going on a mini pilgrimage in Rome to the magic basilicas. Teresa and Oscar will lead me and you. Peace. Padre Francesco

A Sea of Humanity. October 14, 2018

I made my way into St. Peter’s Square and not a seat to be had. No surprise. I stand here in front of the Basilica in awe of the multitude of expressions of the human family. Tens of thousands of people from dozens of counties on every continent, and I mean EVERY continent!! The Church is at her very best when she gathers together the people who follow Christ. Scandals will always scatter but faith and saintly women and men GATHER people in a unity of Catholic faith. The SUN shines its bright rays of light on the gathering of the nations; the SON shines His love and peace on His people. What beauty!!!

The seven human beings about to be declared as saints of the Church by Pope Francis are with this gathering of humanity. They are a part of the Church in eternity; we are a part of the Church journeying in time and place, struggling to live the gospel. It’s all one Church separated by the gateway of death. Where these Saints are now, we wish to follow, right through that gateway we so fear and into freedom. May they lead us on!!