Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer Camp and Care for Creation News!

It's been a little while since the last post and this is largely due to my having been in "travel mode" as of two weeks ago. For the last two weeks I've been visiting our retreat center in Orlando (San Pedro Center) helping out with Scripture Camp. This camp was established in 1980 and has been going strong for the last 29 years! (with the exception of a brief, two year lay off a couple years ago due to damage from a hurricane). The camp is basically an opportunity for young people to explore their faith at a deeper level with peers in a fun, relaxing, and casual environment. The staff this year has done a marvelous job creating a theme (Jesus, Our Hero) based on the recent plethora of movies focusing on famous super heros (Superman, Batman, X-Men, etc....). The daily teachings examine the correlation between the underlying values espoused by these movies (faith, respect, forgiveness, service, and love) and how we understand these values as expressed through the ultimate "hero" Jesus Christ. It was quite a clever and relevant theme and one that the staff and campers have had a lot of fun with (and also learned a lot from!)

Though I've been here in Florida, I've also been quite active in communications regarding the goings on with our Care for Creation (C4C) initiative at our Monastery in Hollidaysburg, PA. I'm happy to report that we have had two very successful events and are preparing for a third. This past Monday, Fr. Bernie Tickerhoof, T.O.R., presented on his passion of birding. The talk was entitled, "A Spiritual Approach to Birding, On a Wing and a Prayer." 29 people attended this talk at the Care for Creation Center next to the community gardens. This talk was the fifth installment of a series of eight presentations on a spiritual and practical approach to caring for creation that we have had at the Monastery this summer. Yesterday we had our first major "harvest" and nearly all of the produce and flowers that we have grown were given to volunteers, a local food kitchen serving the poor, and a local nursing home. I'm also happy to report that we will be replanting the area where our tomatoes were growing with a cole crop (we lost them due to a late season blight). Finally, preparations have been ongoing and are being "ramped up" for the first festival of the season. Our Summer Bounty Festival will be on Saturday, August 1st from 12-4 pm and will include live music, food, activities for adults and kids, and a tour of the garden to promote what we are doing and what we hope to do in the future concerning community gardening and caring for creation. One thing I'm looking forward to is the "fire pit" roasted corn that we will be having....yum!!! (thanks for the great suggestion, Fr. Christopher!!) We hope that you'll be able to join us, but, if not, please pray for good weather! Peace, Fr. Pat, TOR

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mass on the Day of Independence: To Be Blessed and to Bless!

On this day in which we celebrate our nation's independence and all that we've been blessed with, the readings for Mass (Saturday of the 13th week in Ordinary Time, Genesis, 27:1-5, 15-29 and Matthew 9:14-17) invite a reflection on the theology of blessing. Several days ago I met the mother of a vocation prospect who shared with me her conviction that we live in a country that has been greatly blessed. What makes this insight so valuable is that she has lived in a number of countries throughout her life (Great Britain, Germany, Sweden, Israel, Italy and S. Africa). This insight gave me pause to think about what constitutes a scripturally solid theology of blessing and more precisely in what way America can truly be "blessed."

One example of blessing can be seen in today's first reading. When Isaac blesses Jacob with his final act of blessing, he passed on his patriarchy to him: inheritance rights, "favored son" status, etc... This act of blessing, unlike a blessing before meals, was no simple, pious gesture but one laden with tremendous implications regarding Jacob's future. Furthermore, given the wholly or mostly undeveloped appreciation for eternal life at the time of this event, the act of blessing perhaps also constituted the final gesture of love and outpouring of one's self on the part of Isaac. His "life" and patriarchy would now continue on in Jacob. The important point here with regard to a sound theology of blessing is that Isaac, no doubt richly blessed by God throughout his life, passes this blessing on to his son. In other words, in order for a blessing to remain a blessing, it must be shared with another.

The Hebrew Scriptures reinforce this point through the prophets who castigated the materially wealthy and "blessed" persons of their day. On more than one occasion, God through the prophets referred to the wealth of the well-to-do as a curse or as tarnished by their misdeeds, injustice, and selfishness. What this clearly indicates is that a blessing can become a curse if it is not used to bless others.
In this morning's homily I remarked that a theology of blessing that doesn't include a dynamic awareness of the moral and ethical implications of being blessed cannot help but arrive at the "Gospel of Prosperity." Basically, this age-old "heresy" holds that if one "checks the blocks" in one's relationship with God, one will receive material blessing and even wealth. This also implies that the "terminal point" in our relationship with God is to receive blessing. As a country that has been so abundantly blessed with resources and opportunity, we would do well to recall the example of St. Francis who never ceased throughout his life to be not only an instrument of peace, but one of blessing - perhaps knowing that the terminal point in the life of faith isn't to merely be blessed, but to bless. Pat, TOR