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

A Woman Interrupts A Dinner. September 20, 2018

One of the most beautiful stories in the gospel was proclaimed in today’s Mass. Jesus is eating dinner in the home of Simon, a Pharisee, and an unnamed woman enters the gathering. She is only identified as being sinful. Those eating were actually reclined around the table, their feet facing away from the table, as this woman comes to Jesus with a jar of oil in her hands. She bends down and bathes the feet of Jesus with her tears and wipes them dry with her hair. Then she anoints them. Beautiful. Physical. Sensual.

Simon was not liking this at all and was thinking very judgmental thoughts about Jesus. Why wound he want to allow this sinful woman to do such provocative gestures? Didn’t He know what a horrible person she was? She was untouchable, one of the “les miserables,” the miserables of Victor Hugo’s great novel/play. But Jesus does something that surely stunned Simon, and the others: He forgave her and sent her away from the meal transformed by love. Shocking!! Jesus and women were a powerful combination, allowing God to be experienced in the most unlikely people we encounter.

The depth of Christ’s mercy toward this unnamed woman flowed from the depth of her love of Him. Simon, and the others, were isolated from experiences of transformation because their hearts were small, like the Grinch before the people of Whoville loved him out of isolation. How isolating we can be in our worlds, when we shut people out who are different, who don’t fit in, who have reputations. Simon was oh so safe in his world, with his heart hardened to new life and mercy. She left his home free; he remained a prisoner of his own judgements.

The unnamed woman can have a name, any name, YOUR name. In prayer, shower Jesus with your own tears, of past regrets, painful sins, fears and failed dreams. The joy that you will experience in this prayerful encounter with Jesus will change your life. Trust.

Peace. Fr. Frank.

Celebrating Mary’s Birth. August 8, 2018

In the Church’s Liturgy, only three individuals have a celebration of their birth: Jesus, John the Baptist and Mary. Today, we celebrate the gift of Mary’s birth and every human being who has ever lived, is living now, or will be living in the future can thank her. Mary, without help from any man, allowed the Holy Spirit to overshadow her, making the conception of Jesus a reality. Jesus received His DNA only from Mary, a descendant from King David’s ancestral line; Joseph, himself, surrendered to God’s plan in humility.

Many years ago, a nun at Holy Family hospital took me in her care while my mom visited my father who just had surgery. She brought me in the chapel and talked to me about Jesus in the tabernacle and Mary. She gave me a beautiful and powerful memory that continues to transform me. It doesn’t take a whole lot. Weekly prayers at a Parish novena in honor of Mary is also in the great storehouse of memory.

Mary, Mother of us all, continues to love us and care for us as any mother would do. She is weeping over what happens to children at the hands of those who abuse. But she must be very angry at us shepherds who let this tragedy continue, hidden in shame, but now being exposed. On this, the day we celebrate her birth, I thank Mary for giving the world its Savior, the One she nourished at her breasts, fed, taught to pray and walk. She stayed with Jesus, her Son, through His rejection, suffering, crucifixion and death on the Cross; she was with the Apostles in the Upper Room as the Spirit filled them at Pentecost; she was already Spirit filled.

During these times of pain and scandal, may the beads of the rosary guide us through the mysteries of the Lord and into His Kingdom where all children will be safe.

The Sound of Music. August 6, 2018

A young man is trying to change how people see themselves and the world through the sound of music, specifically the sound of the flute. James Brinkmann plays the flute on Michigan Ave and in the subways to try and change people’s perception of classical music and it’s beauty. As Dostoyevsky stated, if anything is going to change this world it is beauty. And I would add, the sound of music.

When James performs a particular piece from one of the great masters, he encourages people to write or draw on a felt board that stands next to him, in response to the music. In this way, the power of music frees the imagination of the listeners to express thoughts and emotions. Classical music will always be a part of our culture because it is timeless, like Gregorian chant.

I’ve always been a bit intimidated by classical music because it seems high brow and out of reach, until I simply listen, allowing myself to be moved. It usually has a calming and reflective affect upon my spirit. I learned of a high school in Chicago that used to play classical music through the intercom, very softly, it’s sounds filtering through the huge corridors. The students were noticeably more calm and focused. I wonder if they still do this?

In these difficult times, maybe all of us could benefit with listening to the sound of music that can change inner dispositions for the better. I think the power of beautiful music is its ability to help us respond to life in a reflective manner, rather than simply reacting in raw emotion.

Peace. Fr. Frank. Google James brinkmann to see/hear for yourself.

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