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no longer a reluctant pilgrim

4 Jun

Keep Hope and Be Hope cover

Until my somewhat reluctant pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1994, I had absolutely no interest or desire to go the Holy Land. Now I cannot seem to get enough. Tomorrow I begin my 15th pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the second time accompanying HOPE teacher-pilgrims.

Three teachers from my St. Andrew-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School are going on this pilgrimage, which totally delights me. To know that they are partnering with three teachers from my beloved Latin Patriarchate School Beit Jala gives me HOPE that our partnering with the Catholic parish and school in Beit Jala will continue, even when I retire from being the pastor of St. Andrew next year.

At 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, May 28, there was a school Mass for the 6th, 7th and 8th graders, the students that Mrs. Bohlen, Miss Petrozzi and Mrs. Taylor teach. At that Mass I  asked the students to send their teachers off with a blessing and a prayer, reminding them that their teachers are taking their prayer petitions with them to the Holy Land. That Mass was offered for the repose of the soul of Jabra Na’eem Sema’an, a twelfth grade student at the Beit Jala school. Jabra died just a few months before his graduation, after having made the best of his learning and his life, although he was afflicted with muscular-dystrophy since an early age, and spent his school days in a wheel chair. There will be an empty chair at his graduation. We live streamed the Mass, so that George Abu Dayyeh, his grandfather and also a teacher at the school, could hear one of our students try to pronounce Jabra’s name in the general intercessions.

One site I hope to visit is the archeological remains of the town of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, the birthplace of Mary “of Magdala,” that is, Mary Magdalene.

One hope I take is that I can feel myself being mothered by Isabelle, my earthly and deceased mother, and by Mary, the Blessed Mother.

I look forwarded to handing to Father Ibrahim Shomali, the pastor of the Catholic Church of the Annunciation in Beit Jala, the gift that my parishioners are giving to him for his school children. I look forward to celebrating Mass at the empty tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, encouraging my pilgrims to “name your dead – and – listen to hear your own name spoken by Jesus, as Mary of Magdala heard Jesus call her by name on the morning of his resurrection.” I look forward to leaving something behind in the tomb of Lazarus, as I imagine hearing the voice of Jesus calling me by name and calling me out of that thing that holds me back and has had me tied up as if in burial cloths, hoping that Jesus resuscitates me into a different way of living, in the same way that he resuscitated Lazarus.

Here at “With Open Doors” I will post photos and words, as I make pilgrimage with our teacher-pilgrims.

bless Sharon John, Abby William and Christy Earl

31 May

On May 28 at our St. Andrew-St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School Mass for the 6th, 7th and 8th graders, we blessed three of our teachers who are making pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

blessing of teachers

We give you thanks for those who teach us along the way.

We give you thanks, O God, for those who teach us about you.

We give you thanks, O God, for those who teach us about right and wrong, and what it means to be Christian and what it means to be Catholic.

We give you thanks, O God, for these women who are spiritual mothers to all of their students.

And as they set out on their pilgrimage to the Holy Land, O God, we ask that you bless Sharon John, Abby William and Christy Earl. Keep them healthy. Keep them safe.

On this pilgrimage, O God, may they keep hope within themselves and be hope for someone else.

Draw them ever and ever more closer to yourself, O God, through your son, Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit. We give you praise now and forever. Amen.

lest we drown in the sea of our fears and anxieties

26 May

“But the Lord’s goodness does not dispense us from the need for vigilance before the Tempter, before sin, before the evil and the betrayal which can enter even into the religious and priestly life.  

We are all exposed to sin, to evil, to betrayal.  We are fully conscious of the disproportion between the grandeur of God’s call and of own littleness, between the sublimity of the mission and the reality of our human weakness. 

Yet the Lord in his great goodness and his infinite mercy always takes us by the hand lest we drown in the sea of our fears and anxieties.  He is ever at our side, he never abandons us.  And so, let us not be overwhelmed by fear or disheartened, but with courage and confidence let us press forward in our journey and in our mission.

 On Golgotha, when everything seemed bleak and all hope seemed pointless, only love proved stronger than death. The love of the mother and the beloved disciple made them stay at the foot of the cross, sharing in the pain of Jesus, to the very end.”

 Pope Francis, Gethsemane, May 26, 2014 (before planting an olive tree)

Geth 01

keep hope and be hope

19 Apr

Keep hope within yourself.

Be hope for someone else.

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Be hope for someone else.

Keep hope within yourself.

 

it’s like I’m married to them

23 Mar

The well was the biblical meeting place, where one often met a future spouse. Many a couple still meet at a watering hole, but, of course, where the drink of preference is not water.  A well was the Old Testament version of eharmony.com.Jacob well 02

Jacob met his wife Rachel when she came to the well at noon. He did not win her immediately. It took some doing.

 Jacob well 01

Jesus sat at Jacob’s well at about noon, when a woman arrived. It is no wonder that the disciples were a bit surprised and stressed to see the two of them together at the well. It is also no wonder that the conversation turned towards marriage. But the conversation is about marriage of a different kind.

Jesus had come through Samaria on purpose and for a purpose: to woo the people of Samaria into a right relationship, to win them over. As we hear the conversation about, “Get your husband … I have no husband … you are correct, you have had five … and the one you are with now is not your husband,” we imagine Jesus fighting  the inclination to end, “not yet!” We know what he has in mind. And we know who she is with right now, who is not her husband, yet: Jesus. 

Rather than thinking of a woman walking down the aisle five times, each time to meet her man in a wedding ceremony, and five times being disappointed, think: marriage between God and his people, Christ wedded to the Church, the community of believers being the Bride of Christ, who is the Spouse of the Church. 

Jesus had come through Samaria to win the Samaritans into a “marriage” that would be life-giving and eternally lasting, not like the five “marriages” that they entered into with the gods and the cultures of the conquering people, which always led to a disappointing life foreign to their Jewish faith. 

Jesus had come to Samaria to win the whole people of Samaria over from their five bad marriages into the one good one – with him! He started with her, and she helped him pull it off. She left the well and went to her home and her town to bring the announcement that there was going to be wedding, not with a dead beat husband, but with the Savior of the world. 

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As I went to the well this morning at Mass, it dawned on me that I often speak  to God the same five faults, failings, missteps, habits and sins. I confess the same handful of sins to the priest. It seems like I am married to this handful – these five things – that get me nowhere and keep me from being free and happy.

I must return to the well of Sunday Mass every week to be wooed from my bad five marriages.

Today’s homily is at minute 21:50 of our parish’s “On-Demand Archives” under the titled,Bible eHarmony.com

did Mother Nature take the hint?

21 Mar

Spring 01

Perhaps Mother Nature looked at the calendar, and took the hint.

It was piled up to the top of the grotto in the back of my house. I was thinking that it would never melt. Now I feel a bit of sadness, as the last of it disappears, drip by drip.

One day into Spring the long Winter seems like a pleasant memory. I love snow and cold, so these last months would have been just fine for me, if it had not been for the high gas and electric bills for our six buildings and for the low Sunday attendance with the low Sunday collections.

My mom used to sing, “Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the birdies is.”

Well, mom, the “birdies is” in that tree right next to the grotto.

spring 02

the lights are (finally) out – 6 hours later

19 Mar

the Light is ON for You  02

THE LIGHTS ARE OUT!

Father John and I started at 6:50 p.m. because people were already in the church. It was 9:40 p.m. when the last person had left.

That was two priests for ten minutes less than three hours of confessions – that is, twenty minutes less than six hours of confessions – 5 hours and 40 minutes of confessions. That is a lot of God’s mercy assured and realized.

I had not told my parishioners about the usual Lenten penance service on April 8, so one could wonder whether people were thinking that this was it for Lent. But I am suspecting that the parish penance service will be BIGGER than usual, too.

My guess is that the priests of the diocese will give feedback to the bishop that the event was a success and should be a re-do.

My advice to the Bishop will be that we do it again next Lent, adding two hours on a Saturday morning, and two deanery-wide penance services, one led by one of the bishops and the other led by the dean.

Could we possibly have too much of such a good thing?

we will be ready

18 Mar

the Light is ON for you 05Father John and I will be ready to hear their confessions and to assure them of God’s forgiveness.

In every Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati the doors will open and the lights will be “on” for God’s welcome from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, March 18, 2014.  

At our beloved St. Andrew we are ready for all who come through our doors during this “The Light is ON for You” event.

We have experimented with our lights, so that attention will be gently directed to the tabernacle, to the altar and to the crucifix, while having enough light in the nave for people to be able to read the “how to go to confession” tri-fold.

There will be greet-ers and pray-ers, that is, a couple parishioners who will quietly and unobtrusively help people know that we are pleased that they have come, and who will then slip out of the way and let God do God’s work.

In addition to our every day and all the time reconciliation chapel, we have set up a confessional in the priest’s sacristy. the Light is ON for you 04

At the priest’s chair all is in place. There is a box of tissues to help wipe away any tears of fear or sorrow or gratitude or overwhelming joy … the Light is ON for you 03

… a variety of acts of contrition …  the Light is ON for you 01 … and the gift of a prayer card that might be given as a penance or might be given just because.

the Light is ON for you 02

All is ready, except me.

It is 5 o’clock. I will eat a quick little supper: some leftover cheese and spinach perogies. Then there will be a 15-minute nap, 10 minutes on the treadmill and a quick shower. That should get me alert and refreshed for two hours of God’s welcome.

no “volunteers” wanted

14 Jan

Trinity Ministry 01

At Baptism we are welcomed into the inner life and the outer activity of the Trinity.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit we love one another and enter fully into the lives of each other.

In the name of the Father, the Creator, we protect and enhance all of creation, leaving everything and everyone better than we found them.

In the name of the Son, the Redeemer, we use our every God-given ability and our every God-given situation to lift up and rescue everything and everyone from any distress and despair.  

In the name of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, we live life with serenity, courage and wisdom, and live among everyone as people of gratitude, hope and joy.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, everything that we are and everything that we do is spent for the good of others and the glory of God, for the sanctification of the world and the salvation of souls.

When it comes to ministry in the Catholic Church, there are no “volunteers”. Being involved in the work of the Church is not optional. When we were baptized, we became “co-workers” with God. Being baptized, it is our duty to work with God in creating, redeeming and sanctifying the world. We have been given a mission!

St. Andrew Parish Ministry Fare takes place in the church (basement) hall after all the Sunday Masses on the weekend of January 18-19, 2014.

God in Diapers

1 Jan

baby-jesus-and-mary

The one who reads aloud the Gospel of the visit of the shepherds must make the appropriate pause, lest it sound like “they found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger.” All three of them lying in the manger together sounds cozy, but cramped. Yet the failure to pause (and the accompanying chuckle) gives us pause to remember that God chose to be that close to us. God has invited us into that kind of intimacy with him.

What we celebrate on the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God is quite simple: “God chose to have a mother. God chose Mary to be that mother.” That is amazing. If it were not so true, it would be unbelievable.

God chose to have a mother. I had no choice. I had to have a mother or I would not exist. God, who creates everything, chose to be a creature. God did not choose be like us; God chose to be one of us. God, who creates every mother, chose to have a mother. The woman he chose for his mother, he himself had created. God, who creates all life that lives in the womb, chose to live in the womb. God chose to be born and to wear diapers. God chose to be held, changed and nursed. That is outlandish. If it were not so true, it would be unbelievable.

God chose as his mother someone who was humble and simple, trusting and loving, brave and strong. God chose Mary to be his mother. When Mary felt movement within her, she was feeling God within her. When she felt a kick, she was feeling God’s foot. When she held her baby and smelled him, she smelled something of herself, and she smelled something of divinity and eternity. When she slobbered him with motherly kisses, she was kissing the face of God.

We call him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Prince of Peace. We call her God-bearer, God-birther, Mother of God. If it were not so true, it would be unbelievable.

The painting above is by American painter Morgan Weistling. “Kissing the Face of God” is lovely and tender. Take a generously long look at the painting, savor the emotion, and then maybe ask Mary to kiss the face of God for you.

[Thank you to Caitlin Kennell Kim of Busted Halo  for the inspiration and for many of the words I have used.]