Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On Retreat!!!!!!!!!

I am officially logging off to head on retreat. See you in a few days.

Happy Easter!

He is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia! I enjoyed a wonderful, albeit incredibly busy Easter Triduum at Sainte Marie Parish. Between Good Friday stations of the cross at two parishes and the cemetary, to an incredible Easter Vigil and three Easter Sunday Masses I was pretty much exhausted by the end. It was a wonderful and refreshing time and great to see so many wonderful parishoners and friends who have been faithfully keeping me in their prayers. Now I am off to say some prayers of my own for a week long retreat at Saint Anselm Abbey. The monks at Saint Anselm are wonderful and have agreed to allow Charlie Pawlowski (a manchester seminarian) and myself to make our required seminarian retreats there. I am looking forward to a few days off and a chance to focus on what is most important.

God Bless and Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

The author of the following Good Friday poem, which first appeared in the newspaper in 1976, is retired New Hampshire Union Leader copy editor Barry Palmer.

The air hangs heavy
My heart stands still
They gather all around me
And hasten for the kill.

They tear my garments from me
Undraped here I stand
While they prepare to crucify
The bleeding Son of Man.

It's hard for me to understand
Or realize just why
My death is made a mockery
Which makes my mother cry.

When just last week I spoke of peace
And everlasting love,
Apparently to deafened ears
And darkened skies above.

It was just last night I prayed,
Father, if the will be thine,
Take away this chalice . . .
This bleeding cup of mine.

But yet, not as I will
But as Thy will be done.
And when pain shot through my heart,
I knew my hour had come.

A noisy crowd shatters the night;
My heart begins to race;
And then a traitors lips
Plant a kiss upon my face.

They scourged me at a pillar
And whipped me till I bled,
But this was just a taste
Of the agony ahead.

A wreath of thorns upon my head;
I ached with every breath;
I went before the multitude
They sentenced me to death.

A cross I had to carry,
The splinters tore my skin.
The treacherous road to Calvary
Was just now to begin.

The mid-day sun took its toll;
My knees buckled and gave way.
My heart was beating very fast
As on the ground I lay.

My head began to spin around
And I felt the blistering heat.
I could not go on, and once again
Fell . . . at my mother's feet.

I looked up at her tear-stained face
And even though she tried
To hold back the emotion,
She looked at me and cried.

I stumbled again and fell once more
As time seemed to stand still.
Bruised and bleeding, I arrived
At the sacrificial hill.

And now I stand here naked;
Tormented by seething pain,
While nails are driven through my flesh.
And piercing every vein.

The agony is unbearable
As spikes drive through the bone;
And they nail me to the cross
To suffer all alone.

I now look down from my cross
And see the brutal few.
Father, please forgive them.
They know not what they do.

To my right and to my left
The two thieves I behold.
One this day finds Paradise
But the other heart is cold.

Below me I can dimly see
My mother so divine,
Trying hard to hold back tears
As I try to hold back mine.

Woman, behold your Son.
It hurts you, that I know.
I can see the torment in your eyes
As tears begin to flow.

Upon my robe they cast their lots
To see who gets it first.
My whispered word goes unheard
As I cry to them, I thirst.

My arms are getting weary,
And I am numb with pain;
The aching and the throbbing
Seem impossible to retain.

Now I hang here all alone
For all the world to see;
My heart cries out, My God, My God,
Why hast thou forsaken me?

I see the sky above grow dark,
And not a sound I hear,
And I know deep inside my heart
That the end is near.

To Thy hands I commend my spirit.
Father, take Thy Son.
I see the light of life go out.
Father . . . it is done.

And the good news is in 3 days, He arose!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Great Chrism Mass Catostrophe (Actually it was perfect but it sounds more exciting this way)

Last night was the Diocese's annual Chrism Mass. The Chrism Mass is the annual Mass held during Holy Week in which the Sacramental oils (baptismal, anointing of the sick, confirmation, Holy Orders/ordinations...)used throughout the year are blessed. It is a wonderful evening as representatives from all the parishes in the Diocese attend, and many of the priests and deacons. It is a wonderful night to get an understanding of the wider reality of the Church, and its large presence in the state. As a seminarian it is also fun to be back in NH, and to serve a Mass with all of the other NH Guys (seminarians), especially the ones that go to other seminaries. Serving the Chrism Mass is always a little nerve racking as the Bishop , most of the priests, deacons, etc... as well as tons of awesome people from all over the state are present and the seminarian servers are front and center!

Father Jason Jalbert, the director of Worship for the Diocese does a really nice job of laying out all the instructions for us on paper. It is great stuff and a huge help. At these Masses he organizes everything, and works with Father Richard Dion. They are behind the scenes making sure everything runs like clockwork and solving problems when things don't. I give both these guys a lot of credit for really pulling everything together in a beautiful fashion, and for dying a job that would make me go crazy or insane.

My job this year was pretty simple, process in and direct the priests and deacons to their seats. There were five or six rows in the front reserved for priests. My job was to guide the priests around the front of the pews, down a side aisle, and guide them to fill in the rows, from the back all the way to the front. This might seem simple enough, but there was one catch, one more critical instruction I was given, "no matter what fill the front row." I can't blame them for such a request, after all it makes perfect sense, the front row should always be filled.

Now there is a simple little saying that is important to make note of, "details, details, details." I have always been told that I am a big picture guy, I look at things, and get a general sense of what needs to be done, and go from there. When I look at a problem or see an opportunity, I dream big, and fill in the details after. Such an approach is important when plotting a vision, planning for the future or brainstorming for exciting projects. However, such a big picture approach is slightly less helpful when one is filling pews, or perhaps more accurately, when one has an endless stream of priests processing towards you. When people are filing toward you, and you need to seat them, it is important to pay close attention to the rows in which you are working with. For example, if the front row must be filled, and you are in charge of seating people in a long procession, it is helpful to notice the giant pillar that cuts the row in half. A details person would notice that the aforementioned pillar is so large that only Flat Stanley (see Awesome Books Second Graders Read)could squeeze by it to reach the other side. A big picture guy would blindly send several older priests down the aisle, tell them to be sure to go all the way to the end, no matter what, and then look up seconds later and realize the ridiculousness of such a request. Luckily for me a few younger priests figured out what was going on, hopped up on top of the pews and dashed around the older priests and the pillar, to fill in the entire front row, and prevent disaster.

After that initial mix-up the evening, everything was smooth sailing. and a lot less stressful. As the rest of the Mass continued it was smooth sailing and a beautiful and prayerful experience. I am not sure what it is about a beautiful liturgy, but it truly speaks to the human heart and soul.

With the Chrism Mass safely behind us it is off and running to the busiest part of Holy Week, the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil). In Seminarian-speak we refer to this as the week in which we earn our keep. In past years I have helped at different parishes in any way I could, trying to provide extra hands to anyone who needed them. This year I am excited to be at Ste. Marie's and helping out on my home turf. There is something to be said for praying together with a faith community that knows you, prays for and with you, and one that is filled with joy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Weekend Homily

I am taking a weekly preaching class which is meant to prepare us for parishes one day. Each week different guys get up and preach for the upcoming weekends Masses. It is great fun, very intimidating and interesting at the same time. Below you will find the Gospel reading for Sunday and my proposed Homily. Let me know what you think. (note: the Homily text is written to read so I followed loose grammar rules). PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND SUGGESTIONS

A reading from the Holy Gospel According to John:

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil
and dried his feet with her hair;
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
hen Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered,
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.”
He said this, and then told them,
“Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him,
“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death,
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,
“The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her,
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,
she fell at his feet and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,
he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

A Practice Homily from Me:

Let us also go to die with him. Those are the chilling words we hear from Thomas in this morning’s Gospel reading.

Jesus, confronted by Mary and Martha, is begged to go and heal the ailing Lazarus. Yet upon hearing this request, Jesus is not rushed. In fact he waits, and he declares that Lazarus has died, and then journeys to Bethany, to Lazarus’ tomb. Where the stone will be rolled away, and Lazarus will rise and walk away from his death, and into new life, covered with bandages, and before the eyes of all of village.

Yet Thomas, upon hearing of Lazarus’ death, and Jesus’ intention to travel near to Jerusalem, to Bethany, declares “let us also go to die with him.”

Thomas’s words speak to the reality developing in the Gospel of John. Jesus’ signs, wonders, and miracles have not only attracted the attention of the people, they also have attracted the scorn of the Pharisees and temple leaders. The tension in Judea is building, and it is only a matter of time before Jesus will be arrested, crucified, and delivered unto death. His very public act of raising a dead man, Lazarus, not only provokes those who seek his death, but it also foreshadows what is to come.

Jesus too will die, the stone will be rolled away, but when he rises, he will not be wrapped in the burial cloth of death, but in the resplendent light of the resurrection. He will have conquered death and given us all hope of life eternal.

Thomas may not fully understand all that is about to transpire, but he does understand that in coming to Bethany, near to Jerusalem, Jesus is becoming a marked man. And Thomas, in a great moment of faith, does not run from this mark, from this impending death sentence, but rather he wishes to journey together with Lazarus, and with Jesus, to death.

This past weekend I joined several friends to watch a recently released French film, called “Of Gods and Men.” The film tells the true story of a French Trappist monastery, in the hills of North Africa, Algeria to be exact. For decades eight monks, eight men of faith, former doctors, military leaders, plumbers and farmers, quietly worked and prayed amongst the people of Tibhrine. There they ran a small farm, raised honeybees, and cared for the sick and the poor. Each of the men had left behind their former lives, their families, and all that they knew to find God in the silence of their prayers, in the joy of their religious community, and in the love they shared with all those they encountered.

Unfortunately for the Monks, a civil war broke out over much of Algeria in the 1990’s. As the government, plagued with corruption, attempted to battle the growing force of radical Islam, scores of westerners, Christians and civilians were being brutally murdered, many in deaths reminiscent of John the Baptist’s. Faced with the reality of the growing violence that surrounded them, the monks of Tibhirine had to decide whether they would stay and meet a certain and painful end, or whether they would retreat to the safety of their homeland, France. After a prolonged emotional struggle, the community discerned their future together. Gripped with great fear and uncertainty, they anguished together, struggled with doubt, and ultimately they surrendered in and to faith. In the end they all decided that they must stay and journey together as a small beacon of light in a time of darkness. They knew what they journey would hold. Yet they knew not, the day, nor the hour. So, each and everyone journeyed in silence and in peace, in friendship and love, awaiting the night when the soldiers too would come for them, and the moment they would join Jesus on his journey to Calvary.

These simple men gave all they had in order to build a community of faith, in and with each other. They gave all they had to the poor and lived by faith alone. They lived in love and charity. Each of us, all of us, are called to do the same. We are called to prophetically witness the love of Christ to all of our brothers and sisters, to live by faith in a world of doubt, to be a light in a time of darkness

We too are called to journey with Christ, to Bethany, in order to raise Lazarus from the tomb. We are called to raise our brothers and sisters who have yet to encounter healing power of God’s love. We raise Lazarus from the tomb every time we care for the least of our brothers and sisters. When we forgive those who have hurt us so deeply, we enable new life to begin. When we reach out to care for the sick and dying, we journey beside them as they roll away the stone, and prepare to enter the loving arms of God. This lent we must all ask ourselves where we can find Lazarus in our own lives? We must ask ourselves who it is that waits for us to call them forth from the tomb.

The monks of Tibhrine lived and died as humble witnesses to the light of Christ. In a time of great struggled they walked beside a people and a nation in need of hope. They called forth the sick and dying from the tomb, and they walked the lonely hill to Calvary. The monks knew, just as Jesus did, that by staying, by refusing to leave, and by continuing a ministry of hope, and healing, and that the cross awaited them. They knew, as He knew, that the world needed love in a time of hate, and that those hidden in the shadows because of fear, needed a great light.

In the closing moment of Gods and Men, the filmmakers did not show the gruesome end to the holy monks lives. Rather the producer chose to show them in their humanity, walking with heads held high, and eyes filled with tears. The film ended with Brothers walking into the light and thus surrendering unto death and into Resurrection. Something they all had already achieved the first moment they decided to give their lives to God and each other.

Like Thomas, Let us also go to die with him.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fire, Fire!

This evening Manchester Seminarian Charlie Pawlowski and I went out for our evening walk. Being that it was in the 80's today we figured it was a great idea. At about 9:30pm we left the seminary. The wind was whipping something fierce and we almost contemplated going back for fear of getting hit by a tree limb, but we didn't it. By the time we made it half away across the property I stopped, pointed and yelled loudly that there was a fire. As Charlie and I looked to the property next door we saw flames some 40 feet in the air. The wind was whipping the flames high into the sky and there was a massive wall of fire. As I called 911 we ran to the street to get a better look. The fire was gigantic and spreading. At first we thought it was the girls school next door. However, on further inspection we discovered it was a massive row of evergreen trees they had in front. The trees are easily 25+ feet in the air and they were fully engulfed. By the time we got to the street the firemen had arrived and we laying in the street trying to gain control of the situation. The fire that had begun on one side of the road had spread to the median, as well as to the boys school's trees across the road. Night security officers frantically tried to stomp it out, but it continued to smolder, even engulfing the wooden trash can. Eventually the firefighters were able to get things under control. As of post time, the firefighters are still out there spraying the trees, the underbrush and ground to be sure nothing kicks up again. The fire was dosed an hour ago and they are still (thankfully) being sure nothing happens. The wind tonight was unlike anything I have seen before, that combined with dryness and fire are a deadly combination.

Charlie and I stopped traffic for 45 minutes, that is until the police came and took over. I know the police down here work really hard and deal with a lot of bad stuff (like an average of 5-6 murders a week). But it was very sad that the department is so understaffed that it took 45 minutes for help. Thankfully the fire was gotten under control quickly. Had it been a little later and people not been out and about, it could have been a lot worse, with much of the block going up in flames and no way to stop it. Thankfully, it occurred when it did and the fire department was able to respond so quickly.

As I reek of smoke I am off to get cleaned up. Just another ordinary day in the life of this seminarian.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Re-Accreditation Roast

The past two weeks have been busy with a flurry of activities. With the end of the semester drawing near the guys in the house have been feverishly working to complete all the large writing assignments that were put off at the beginning of the year. The Seminary hosted the Middle States Accreditation Team last week. The team was making its every tenth year visit to be sure that the Seminary and University were meeting the academic standards needed to be an nationally accredited university. Needless to say there was a lot on the line (like the value of our degrees) and a palpable stress in the air. For the past two years I have been on the steering committee for the visit and have been the designated student representative in the planning and preparation process. Thankfully the accreditors have left and seemed pleased with what they saw.

In celebration of the successful conclusion of their visit and in order to mix things up- I hosted (as part of my job as Community Life/Social Chairman)a "Roast of Re-Accreditation." Immediately following Mass on Thursday the community gathered in the courtyard for a bonfire made up of copies of the report. We gave the fire lighting privilege to a wonderful lay faculty member and father of two.

He put his heart and soul into the report and we wanted to show him we appreciated it. When he lit a report and threw and started the fire, the guys all cheered in appreciation for his efforts and to celebrate his hard work being completed. We also gave him a gift of a beautiful storybook to share with kids, now that he has more free time with them.

Once the fire got cooking we roasted marshmallows over it and made smores. Life is too boring if you don't have some fun!

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