Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mid Terms End

After a crazy two weeks the Mid Term Exam period ended. Between studying for exams and writing papers I have scarcely seen the light of day. Luckily I was able to enjoy a long Fall Break Weekend and visit some good friends in Upstate NY. I also caught up with my family who were attending a Rosary Rally with the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm in Germantown, NY. The Sisters were amazing as always and so very full of life. While visiting with the sisters I was able to help lead the Rosary Rally procession and serve Mass for about 150 who gathered for the event. The Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm hold a very special place in my heart, for which I will share on a future post. In the mean time off to bed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Prayer Request!

This evening the seminary community gathered in prayer and prayed the Office of the Dead in the Liturgy of Hours. We did this in response to the tragic news that a young seminarian from Maryland, studying for the Archdiocese of Washington, died suddenly Sunday evening.

The following message appears on the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.'s website:

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Michael P. Fallon, who died this past weekend. Msgr. Panke reflected that Michael was "A good and faithful seminarian of the Archdiocese of Washington, his family, and his brothers in seminary." May the angels lead you into Paradise And when you come may the martyrs receive you. And lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.

Several of our guys knew Michael and described as a kind and gentle man. Please keep him, his family and the Seminary Community at Theological College in your prayers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Apple Picking

This weekend we enjoyed a special break in celebration of Columbus Day. The nice part was we had to responsibilities beyond our parishes. Some guys were able to go home, but because of our weekend ministry I was not. However, I was able to enjoy a little bit of a break and am most grateful for it. On Saturday Francis Ouma, a seminarian from Uganda and good friend of mine, and Father Cliff, a Zambian priest studying for a higher degree at St. Mary's, and I headed to western Maryland to go Apple Picking. I have many wonderful memories as a child doing this very same thing with my family, so each Columbus Day weekend at the Seminary I have headed up to a small little family run orchard to do the same thing. It was a good time and a beautiful way to get away from the grind of the Seminary life. It was also fun to share this tradition with some of our African brothers.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Visit from Archbishop O'Brien

Tonight we were blessed to have our annual visit from Archbishop O'Brien (he actually is a good friend to the seminary and visits often, but this was his official visit). Each year the Archbishop has come in the fall to speak with all of the guys. He usually offers a thirty minute reflection as well as some words of wisdom. During my time at the Seminary (this is the start of my fourth year) Archbishop O'Brien has been a regular presence. He is very friendly and down to earth which allows him to relate well to all of us. His presentation this evening was particularly powerful.

Just a few weeks ago the Holy Father announced that Archbishop O'Brien had been appointed to be the grandmaster of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. As the head of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre O'Brien will be based in Rome and will travel the world helping to support the work of the Church in the Holy Land. Sadly, this means that he will no longer be with us in Baltimore. Seeing and hearing him tonight was bittersweet as we know it won't be long before he has to leave. By special agreement with the Vatican O'Brien is being allowed to stay on in Baltimore until his replacement is installed. In the meantime we are enjoying every minute we have with him.

In his talk tonight he mentioned a Irish Benedictine who once said that when we enter prayer it is like sitting for a portrait, but we are not the subject, rather God paints the portrait in our hearts. I probably butchered the saying, but never the less the image of God painting a portrait in our hearts really struck me as beautiful.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One More Homily, This One on Politics!

One More Fake Homily!

For this assignment we were supposed to preach about a social justice document to a young audience. I decided to pretend to preach at St. Anselm where I attended as an undergraduate. The document is the bishops document on Faithful Citizenship and it supposedly the night before the election.

Good evening, what a joy and privilege it is to be here with all of you, my fellow Anselmians. When Father Jonathan DeFelice and monks of the Abbey invited me to be the guest homilist at these evening’s Mass, on this the eve before the election, I jumped at the opportunity. I was all the more excited when they asked me to speak to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document entitled Faithful Citizenship, a document that speaks not only to my heart but also to my training here at the hands of the politics and theology departments.

In the Fall of 1898 on a night much like this one, a young man not unlike many of you gathered here tonight, made his way across this very campus. The impressive clocks that mark the courtyard, and the quaint street lights were not there, nor the impressive Athletic facilities, the library or even the dorms in which you reside, in fact much of this campus was but in its most primitive stages. Nevertheless, young John Francis traversed across this place, “the hilltop”, much as you did this evening, with the crisp late Autumn winds blowing in his face, just as they do this time every year, carrying with them a hint of the harshness of the winter ahead, and the promise of the gentle warmth of spring, which always follows. John Francis was like any young person, like many of us here, he looked to the future with hope, anticipation and even some worry. In 1898 Young John had no way of knowing that the very winds he felt across the chilled corners of his face, would foretell the future that awaited him, and the stinging bitterness of struggle juxtaposed against the warmth of the Gospel cry which filled his heart, his hands, his pen and ultimately his staff.

John was from the humblest of backgrounds. His parents were not Boston Brahmins, but rather immigrants to a new and strange world. His home was a crowded apartment in the heart of New York, which he shared with his many siblings and his extended family. The world in 1898 was strangely, radically different and remarkably similar to our own. John’s America was experiencing the dawn of electricity, endless streams of ocean liners brought waves of immigrants to our harbors and crowded schools and hospitals, horses continued to lead the way, and the promise of a new day awaited.

The age of the great superpowers had not yet dawned, and life was both remarkably simple and incredibly challenging. The problems facing people were much the same, the horrors of poverty which stretched from the rural heartland to urban centers, corporations exploited workers for profits, while family life was under attack, and the environment was violated for but the whims of industrialists. The rich continued to grow richer on the backs of the poor, the disposed and the marginalized. Sporadic violence enveloped the corners of the world, and the seeds of wholesale division, which would drag much of the world to war years later, were beginning to be sown, all the while the sick and suffering continued to seek after limited resources, and the dignity of the human person was being trampled at the hands of injustice, intolerance, greed, sexism and bigotry. John’s world, like ours today, was filled with a great despair, and yet it looked to the future with hope.

It is precisely hope that John Francis would bring to the marginalized, and it was a hope rooted in Christ that he proclaimed as part of the Church’s long tradition of social justice. You see after John Francis left St. Anselm College he not only became a humble parish priest, and a Midwestern bishop but also the Archbishop of New Orleans. In his late eighties, frail with the ravages of age, and longing to return to this “hilltop” and the long Autumn nights he so enjoyed, Archbishop Joseph Rummel entered the world of American politics not because he wanted to but because his conscience called him to act. Archbishop Rummel understood what Faithful Citizenship proclaims today, that it is the “Church’s obligation to participate in the shaping of the moral character of society.”

Rooted in Jesus’ call “to love our neighbors as he has loved us”, the Church uses her voice to advocate on behalf of justice, on behalf of all those in need, not because She wishes to dictate the rules and laws of the world, but rather because the Church has the moral obligation to use her voice on behalf of the voiceless. Faithful Citizenship and the guide to forming personal conscience which the American bishops have given us, is not meant to inform us on who to vote for, but rather to guide on the issues of the day, and to challenge us to hear the cries of the voiceless and to defend those whom the world has forgotten.

Sure, many of you might naturally say there is no perfect candidate. To that I would reply “tell me about it.” However, I would also echo Faithful Citizenship in saying that we must use our consciences, our informed consciences, to discern that candidate which best represents a way forward without violating the core beliefs we hold. At the end of the day we know that we will not be perfect, that we will not always get it right. However, we must not hide from the uncomfortable decisions that must be made and together we must blaze a path forward.

One would be a fool to think that such a guide, as Faithful Citizenship would be welcomed in all corners of our society. In fact almost from the very moment of its inception critics have attacked it, arguing that the Church has no place in politics and that our faith must be left on the doorstep. However, these critics are wrong our faith must not be left in our homes, but rather our faith must inform every aspect of our lives, including our votes, because it is our votes that will give birth to policies that either promote or destroy human dignity, votes that protect or destroy our environment, advocate or ignore the poor, the homeless and the immigrants. Those whose policies oppose the values we hold dear will certainly attack our legitimacy; they will say we should have no voice, and that our nation’s policies must be devoid of religious influence and values. Yet these very same voices forget that it was a society devoid of the influence of faith and morals that Adolf Hitler proposed when he sent six million Jews to death camps; it was the same society devoid of faith that Josef Stalin promulgated in Moscow when twenty million met their end; and it is the same voices which today want us to be silent when millions of lives are destroyed because of poverty and greed, when millions of lives are destroyed because medicines and health care are unattainable, or when the right to life is violated in the womb and in the final stages of life. A society where people of faith were told to keep their voices silent on behalf of the marginalized is precisely the society into which Jesus was born, and the society in which all of us live.

The greedy, the proud and powerful wished to silence Jesus because the Gospel he proclaimed was contrary to the society which they envisioned, yet Jesus preached change and was met with resistance. Jesus preached a Gospel of Hope predicated on the belief that each and every human person has value. Jesus preached a Gospel raising up the poor, one which responded to the nature of their circumstances not with judgment but with love. Jesus preached peace to those who believed power and might solved the problems of the day. His Gospel, the Gospel we hear this evening at Mass so eloquently proclaiming the beatitudes calls upon us to love one another, and to radically model our lives after him.

In calling on us to consider the defense of human life in all its stages when heading to the ballot box, the bishops are responding to Jesus’ command of love. When the bishops call upon us to protect the rights of workers, to provide debt relief to poor nations, to fight economic inequalities, and provide healthcare for the sick and food for the hungry, they are not preaching politics, they are preaching Jesus’ call for justice. When the bishops speak for just military policies in the world and for the end to war, they are responding to Christ’s call to be peacemakers in this world of violence. Faithful Citizenship is not about the bishops’ political beliefs; it is about the Gospel message and what Jesus calls us each to do. I encourage you all to read this document which is enclosed in your bulletins, and to reflect on it, not in light of one’s political beliefs but rather in light of the Gospel.
What did our fellow Anselmian Archbishop Joseph Rummel do that caused him to be so vilified in his day? He released a pastoral letter called “Blessed are the Peacemakers” in which he said:

"Racial segregation as such is morally wrong and sinful because it is a denial of the unity and solidarity of the human race as conceived by God in the creation of Adam and Eve. Ever mindful, therefore, of the basic truth that our Colored Catholic brethren share with us the same spiritual life and destiny, the same membership in the Mystical Body of Christ, the same dependence upon the Word of God, the participation in the Sacraments, especially the Most Holy Eucharist, the same need of moral and social encouragement, let there be no further discrimination or segregation in the pews, at the Communion rail, at the confessional and in parish meetings, just as there will be no segregation in the kingdom of heaven."

Thus he desegregated New Orleans’ Catholic Schools, Churches, Seminarians and Catholic Institutions in 1953 with one stroke of his pen. He was accused of mixing religion and politics, of interfering with the laws of the state, with bringing faith into the public square. Yet he persisted in challenging not only the people in the pews, but also those in the state house, including those Catholic politicians who lost sight of the Gospel’s call and thus needed to be reminded not only of it, but also of the responsibility that it was owed therein.

Archbishop Joseph Rummel left St. Anselm over 110 years ago filled with a great love of the Gospel message and unafraid to change the world, and unabashed in his defense of the defenseless, the marginalized and all those forgotten in society.
We too are called to have the same courage as Archbishop Joseph Rummel did that moment he put his pen to paper and wrote his pastoral letter. Our pens will never write pastoral letters to be read from pulpits, however they will mark ballots which determine the future of this state and nation. The question remains: will we be led by Christ, and have the courage to use our pens to fill ballot boxes with Gospels of Love?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


One of the classes we take during our time at the Seminary is Homiletics. The goal is help train us to be amazing preachers. As most people have noticed preaching is an important area in need of growth for the Church as many do not have the gift of preaching. I am working hard in the class and hopefully the fruits of my labors will show one day.

Below is my fictional homily for the first Sunday in Lent. (Feel Free to Share your Thoughts)


This weekend marks the first Sunday of Lent. The gospel readings we heard this morning were similar to those we reflected upon last year, when we heard Matthew’s portrayal of the temptation of Jesus in the desert, replete with its rich detail. Mark’s Gospel is simple, straight forward and to the point. What Matthew describes in twelve sentences, Mark does in three.

Billy Miller one of our Altar servers, kindly reminded me after the 8:00 am Mass this morning that he prefer it if I preached more like Mark and less like Matthew.

I kindly reminded him that I wished he would listen a little more like disciples and less like the Pharisees

In this morning’s Gospel we hear how Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, how Satan tempted him and how he was among wild beasts. There is no description, no detail of how this occurred. Mark does not dwell on the temptation, but rather notes that even here God’s angels were with the Son of Man.

I can’t help but to think what an important message this is for us at this time.

One need only turn on the television, open ones bank statement, or talk with family and friends to have the feeling that we are in a desert, that we are among the wild beasts and alone.

Unemployment hovers near 10%, Underemployment near 20%, as our politicians bicker in Washington people continue to suffer, as corporations fight to protect their bottom lines they often forget that they are balancing their profits sheets on the backs of good men and women who have faithfully dedicated their lives to their work, as the pundits pontificate, the people lose hope.

I imagine If I were to poll all of us here this morning, no doubt in one manner or another, everyone of us has been affected by this economic downturn.

Friends, family and members of this congregation have lost their ways of life, their homes, and their hope.

At a time when like this we naturally turn to those solid rocks in our lives. But even there, we struggle. Our nation faces great challenges, our Church even more.

It is not hard to feel overwhelmed, to feel like one is in the desert wandering and amongst the wild beast which wait for our moments of weakness and prey on our fears.

It is here, alone and scared, that many of us stand, and it is here that God speaks. It is here that he speaks through his Son and it is hear this morning that he whispers to your heart.

It is here this morning that we are reminded that God sent his angels to minister to Jesus, and that he never abandoned him in the desert of his life, and that he will not abandon us in the deserts of our lives, no matter what or where they may be.

Jesus entered the desert before he began his public ministry and entered fully into a time of great prayer and fasting, despite “the wild beasts” that surrounded him, despite the hungers of his stomach and the wishes of his body, he endured in faith, offered all in prayer, and God was with him. He still hungered, he was still surrounded by beasts, he still endured, but he was not alone.

Emerging from the desert Jesus spoke words of great hope and words calling for great action when he declared that “this is the time of fulfillment and that his Kingdom is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel”

The words of the Gospel this morning should speak to our hearts as we wander the desert together seeking hope, deliverance and a better day. As the wild beasts of our lives surround us we must be turn to God and to each other, becoming the angels that support one another and the Gospel which preaches hope.

All too often we look at Lent with gloomy eyes. That this time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving is understood apart from the great hope of Christmas and the great joy of the Resurrection which awaits.

As people of faith we offer our hopes and fears to God in prayer. Yet we know that even our prayers do not take away suffering, that pain endures. However, we also know that the God who created us, loves us, walks beside us and strengthens us in our hours of need and that he is a beacon of hope and light amidst great darkness.

We must never forget that we are a people of Hope and that our Hope is in the God who calls us, and in his only begotten Son who said “repent and believe in the Gospel.” Jesus calls us today, he calls this very moment to enliven the Gospel in our hearts and in our lives.

The question for us remains, are we walking hopelessly past one another in the desert or are we the angels that offer support, are we the instruments of love and mercy God calls us to be. We must ask ourselves how are we more present to one another in this desert? How are we more present to those here this morning, those seated beside us, in front and behind us. How is this Lent and our response to it different from the last? If you are like me those are difficult and uncomfortable questions to ask and to answer honestly. However, God calls us to Repent and Live the Gospel. I invite you to join me in making a plan, to make this Lent not just about giving up sweets, but more about being angels of presence in the lives of those who are alone in the desert, so that in five weeks when we gather to celebrate the Resurrection of Hope, others will have seen his light and felt his love.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Lazy End to the Week

For the past several weeks the weather at the seminary has been largely cloudy/rainy. The result is a very subdued atmosphere in the house. After the initial start of the year the work is beginning to pile up and guys are hibernating in their rooms. This morning we were greeted with the first real taste of Fall with temperatures worthy of sweatshirts.

I have always loved the Autumn and the change of the leaves. The crisp air and cold nights carry with them a special beauty which always sings so beautifully across Northern New England. As I hunker down this weekend to write two homilies and an academic paper I am excited to be creeping closer to Thanksgiving, Christmas and time at home and away from school.

I decided this morning to take a different turn with today's blog posting and to post beautiful pictures I have come across. I figure it matches the feeling of this day as I take a quiet moment to sit by the window listening to quiet music, reflecting on the Gospels, cranking out a few homilies and loving the crisp Autumn air that is filling my room. Enjoy

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Please note this blog will begin being regularly updated after August 21st (when I arrive in Baltimore).