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!!

Waiting. October 14, 2018.

I arrived near the Vatican at 5:30 in the morning where the line was already blocks and blocks long. The atmosphere is joyous and electric. I’m standing with a delegation from El Salvador who are just marvelous. As they were singing a song I have heard many times from our 10:30 Mass at St. Teresa’s, a woman just put her arms around me. She said she was moved by the Spirit!! So be it.

I have my ticket which I imagine is pretty useless. I’ll be standing until after noon when the mass will likely conclude. It’s all worth it. A priest standing near me was somehow involved in the miracle associated with Romero and he will be in the procession of the relics of each new saints. The Pope will wear a vestment worn by Pope Paul and the blood stained cincture that ties his alb underneath was worn by Romero when he was killed.

In this massive crowd, I just pray that everyone will be safe and the Celebration gives all a memory to be cherished. May we journey back home continuing to become the saints God wishes us to become. Every human being is a saint in the making

Getting Ready for the Canonization. October 13, 2018

There certainly is a buzz in the air. Yesterday, all seven tapestries, each with an image of those to be canonized, were hung over the balconies on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica. Just seeing Oscar Romero up there was deeply moving, a martyr of the Faith…a martyr of Justice, the foundation of Peace. It was Pope Paul VI who famously said “there can be NO peace without justice.” This very same Pope, the Pope who carried out the Second Vatican Council and implemented its teachings, will be canonized right alongside of Romero. His tapestry is to the right of Romero’s.

I’m walking miles and miles through piazzas and hidden alleyways, and my feet aren’t even touching the cobblestone pavement!! I’m awed and inspired by a witness to our faith I never met in person. After all, he lived and was killed in El Salvador and I never even heard of him until the day he was assassinated on March 24, 1980. It I feel as though I know him, and I truly do know him, through my prayer, biography reading, and the way he makes himself present to me. What a beautiful mystery, the Communion of Saints, a great treasure of our Catholic faith.

We never walk and journey alone…we are NEVER alone in this life but are accompanied by these great women and men who lead us and guide us. Who is YOUR Saint, the one who you just know is with you, loving you and leading you to Christ? The only way this special Companion can make any difference in your life is if you establish a relationship with a particular saint and work at it, day by day. The word “companion” means to share bread, “pani” with another. I just had penne arrabiata, looking very much alone at my table, but Oscar and a few others were with me, breaking bread. And in the breaking of the bread I recognized Christ. Not a bad lunch!!!

A Roman Adventure. October 12, 2018

Off to get tickets to the canonization of Oscar Romero. The weather is beautiful and the streets are very crowded. Traveling is wonderful but difficult, especially when you forget an important medication. Phone calls to doctor relatively useless and the Vatican pharmacy even worse. A pharmacist at a local farmacia ended given me what she thought I was taking. But the dosage isn’t exactly my prescribed dose but close. So far I’m still alive and feeling well.

Things just happen in life that are unplanned and make for some anxiety. Why get all hot and bothered? What’s the point? It is what it is and it’s your reaction to the conundrum that makes all the difference. Time for a cafe con leche, molto caldo!!! To go…

Planting Seeds. October 3, 2018

I have a beautiful of my grandfather, who lived with my family in Des Plains in the early 1960’s. I actually shared my bedroom with him and felt the deep comfort and love of a man who shared his live with me and my sister. His name was Bartolommeo, but changed his name to John when he moved his family from Italy to Chicago. Assimilation meant fitting in and letting go of culture and language, a horrible mistake. The melting pot has its drawbacks.

My grandfather loved to plants different kinds of seeds, not just in our backyard, but in those of neighboring houses: corn, tomatoes, and spices. My grandfather became a candy maker at Fanny May and had many samples I took advantage of. I preferred the candy to the vegetables, a preference that remains strong in my life nearly 60 years later.His seeds took root in many gardens bearing much fruit… or rather vegetables.

We are all farmers planting gospel seeds in the many gardens of our lives: our families, workplace, neighborhoods and beyond. In any encounter with a person we can plant seeds, by our engaged presence, a glance or smile, a kind word of gratitude, stopping to help someone in need, talking with a friend rather than watching the game. And you don’t need a green thumb for these seeds to flourish, just an open heart.

Peace. Fr. Frank

Letting Go. September 21, 2018

Today is the Feast of St. Matthew, gospel writer and evangelizer, called by Jesus from his post as tax collector, to leave everything and become a disciple. Matthew responded to Jesus in a bold and powerful way by “letting go” of the way he was living life, letting go of established ways of thinking , letting go of possessions and money that slowly took possession of his heart. This was one dramatic moment of conversion. Matthew completely and definitively broke with his life by letting it go, while at that moment of letting go, he embraced a whole new way of living.

The process of “letting go” is one in which we all are called to do if we are going to let our faith have any effect in our lives. But most of us do it slowly, gradually, inch by inch, not in one dramatic moment of dispossession. We let go of things around us as we simply our lives, as we start resisting the pressure to press “click it” for an Amazon purchase. We let go slowly, not only of possessions, but of inner attitudes. The grudges we are holding onto, the bitterness of regrets, the painful memories all need to be let go of if we want to grow and develop new ways of healthy living.

Jesus is pointing at each one of us, gazing into our hearts, piercing them in love…. calling us to follow. The vast majority of us respond with a bit of reluctance. That is just fine with this wonderful God of ours. As long as we respond.

Peace. Fr. Frank