Archive | February, 2012

“We are not killing, fighting, just praying”

27 Feb

One day I will celebrate Mass on a Friday afternoon in an olive grove in Beit Jala with Father Ibrahim Shomali in prayerful protest of the land confiscation and the building of the separation wall at the Cremisan monastery, ensha’allah (God willing). 

Father Shomali is the parish priest of the Catholic Church of the Annunciation, in which I have celebrated Mass on several occasions. I have enjoyed the hospitality of the Latin Patriarchate seminary, which is connected to the parish church in Beit Jala, and at which I have been honored to speak to the new seminarians under the care of Father Faysal Hijazeen shortly after their arrival for the new school year. I have visited the children and teachers at the Latin Patriarchate School on numerous occasions, and in 2008 I was humbled and delighted with an invitation to address the high school graduates and their families at the graduation ceremony on the outdoor plaza overlooking Bethlehem. I have walked from the Beit Jala parish to the Cremisan monastery to buy wine to bring home with me. I know Beit Jala. I know the people of Beit Jala and I know Father Ibrahim, and am blessed to be able to call them my friends.

They need my prayers – and yours! They deserve my attention – and yours! 

At the Friday afternoon Mass they are not killing, fighting – just praying.

Benedictine nun and Academy Awards nominee

26 Feb

A still from Hart’s second film with Elvis Presley “King Creole.”

Photo: Globe Photos /

Mother Prioress Dolores, Benedictine nun and Academy Awards nominee, has gotten quite the press:


Busted Halo

USA Today


ABC 20/20

Her one-time fiance continued to visit Hart at the convent every year until his death this past November.

Photo: Producer Julie Anderson/HBO


from Elvis’ first onscreen kiss to nunnery

26 Feb

She is nominated for an Academy Award, and might receive an “Oscar” statuette tonight at the awards ceremony.

She will walk the red carpet in the full habit of a cloistered nun.

She gave Elvis Presley his first onscreen kiss, as they both blushed.

The man to whom she was engaged when she entered the convent has never married.

Name the Beast; Notice the Angels

25 Feb

Mark seems to be “fasting” from words. There are two sentences in two verses: 

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,

and he remained in the desert for forty days,

tempted by Satan.

He was among wild beasts,

and the angels ministered to him.”

The beasts indicate struggle. The angels imply victory.

For 40 days there is Lent. There will be beasts. There will be angels.

Name your struggles. Notice your angels.

I’m “fasting from worry” during Lent

22 Feb

In addition to not eating any bread during Lent, I am going to try to fast from worry.

On the Fridays of Lent, when I am abstaining from meat, I will do my best to “abstain” from worrying about the one thing that worries me most on that day. That one thing that I am worrying about most or that worries me most on that Friday – I will abstain from that one big worry, while I am abstaining from meat. I am just not going to worry about it, just as I am not going to eat goetta or a hamburger. No meat and no worry on Fridays.

On every other Lenten day, I am going to try to “fast” from worry. In a playful spirit, following the customary guidelines for fasting from food, I will allow myself to worry once a day for a reasonable amount of time, and then to worry for two other shorter periods of time which together will not equal that one, main reasonable amount of time – and, of course, there will be no snacking on worry in between.

This may sound silly, unless you have a tendency to worry like I do, which takes a lot of trust out of life as well as a lot of joy and enjoyment. Maybe I’ll be able to give the worry to God, and be done with it. Maybe I’ll just wind up putting it aside until Easter, when I’ll gorge myself on worry, after fasting from worry for so long. We’ll see.

In any case, Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) was quite the day: I worried all day long about as many things as I could think to worry about, hoping that beginning today, Ash Wednesday, God does something new with me.

“Hey, Father, I can’t get to church today.”

22 Feb

You have your own favorite Ash Wednesday story, no doubt. Mine involves a city Metro bus. In any town, on Main Street is a good place for a Catholic church to be. There are multiple advantages: presence, curb appeal, access, visibility, passing traffic – all those and more. Add on the relaxed nature of the small town of Milford, and the location of St. Andrew is about as good as it can get.

Anyway, on to my Ash Wednesday story. Standing near the sidewalk outside church after the noon Mass on Ash Wednesday, I heard a voice. It was coming out of an open window by the driver’s seat of the city Metro bus #28, “Hey, Father!” He had stopped the bus, and the traffic behind him, right in front of church, in the eastbound lane.

As I stepped off the curb, the traffic in the westbound lane stopped, too. I got to the bus and was standing on the double yellow line in my purple vestments, as he continued, “It’s Ash Wednesday, and I can’t get to Mass today.” I didn’t have the ashes with me, but … instinctively (and playfully) I reached to my forehead, wiped off my ashes with my finger, and reached toward his head hanging out the window, “Remember that you are dust. Get moving!”

He was as pleased as could be as he drove off, as were the people in the cars and trucks behind him when he started moving again. Thankfully, no one else expected a drive-through imposition of ashes.

Yes, I know that for him the distribution and reception of ashes was not preceded by an appropriate Liturgy of the Word, but Jesus might say, “The ashes are made for man, not man for the ashes.”

Would you like a “spirit of compunction” on Ash Wednesday?

22 Feb

In the new translation of the “Prayer over the People” at the end of the Ash Wednesday Mass, the priest asks God to pour out a “spirit of compunction” on the people. With a speed that made the ashes on my forehead fly in the wind, I ran to dictionaries after Mass to see what I was asking God to do to them, wondering whether or not I wanted that done unto me.

Prayer over the People

For the dismissal, the Priest stands facing the people and, extending his hands over them, says this prayer:

Pour out a spirit of compunction, O God, on those who bow before your majesty, and by your mercy may they merit the rewards you promise to those who do penance. Through Christ our Lord.

I am the cheese to your macaroni

21 Feb

I am the milk to your cookies … I am the cheese to your macaroni … I am el zeit to your zatar … I am el laban to your mansaf.

It sounds like something Jesus might say, “I am light for your darkness, forgiveness for your sins, hope for your despair.”

Actually, it is written by my Palestinian friend, Ranim. She spends her family time in Beit Jala (Bethlehem) in the West Bank of Palestine and her school time in the neighboring country of Jordan. Ranim and her American-Jordanian friend were taking a break from their study of medicine and were relaxing by thinking of things that just belong together or are always found together or complete each other like …

milk and cookies

macaroni and cheese

zeit (olive oil) and zatar (thyme)

mansaf (lamb, rice and pine nuts) and laban (yogurt)

— and like justice and peace!

17 say “yes” for the children

20 Feb


Photos by Mark Bowen/HOPE

Since the initial planning of a working-pilgrimage of teachers from schools in our archdiocese to the Holy Land, situations in the Middle East have worsened, particularly in Syria and in relation to Iran.

In the midst of a flurry of emails with information, questions and concerns, a few (4) pilgrim-teachers have decided to delay their visit until 2013. But the majority has recommitted themselves to make the trip. The educators, under the auspices of HOPE (Holy Land Outreach to Palestinian Educators) will spend a significant amount of time learning with teachers from Catholic schools in the Holy Land, in addition to visiting the holy sites.

In renewing her decision, one of our pilgrims spoke for herself and another, “We figure we should make our decision based on the reality of today and not on what might or might not happen in the future. We will trust that, if God wants us to go, He’ll provide the safe path for us to travel.”

HOPE leaders and participants have believed, since the beginning of the project, that “it’s God’s project” and “it’s for the children.” It will be an honor for me to be with them as their chaplain. 

 Photos by Mark Bowen/HOPE

Father Nagel gained as much yardage as Eli and Tom

19 Feb

Remember the priest and the parish church in Indianapolis which decided to open its doors on Superbowl weekend?

It worked.

A young parishioner with a beautiful smile is quoted: “It’s great to be able to open up my home for so many people.”


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