Last week I had the opportunity to attend a symposium at the University of Notre Dame entitled, "Stewards of the Treasures of Our Faith." The focus of the event was how to minister to young adults (aged 18-24) in ways that are compelling and relevant. One of the keynote talks dealt with trying to make the doctrine of the Trinity more accessible to young adults. This is a challenge that the Christian and Catholic faith has been addressing more directly for the past sixty years or so. More precisely, the task is to translate the doctrine of the Trinity which, for the most part, is cast in a terminology that was used during the first several centuries of the Church and during the medieval period into a language that will resonate with contemporary minds and hearts. Failing to do this implies that the most fundamental and important aspect of the Christian faith, namely that God exists as a communion of persons united in essence and mission, is akin to a book that rests on the top shelf in a library, just out of reach, destined for the most part to only collect dust.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
On May 30th, Br. Matthew Hillman and Br. Paul Johns (from our sister province) made their first profession of vows to religious life. This ceremony is the culmination of the novitiate year (see blog entry below for more information on the novitiate year). The celebration took place in the context of Mass and was beautifully done as always by Fr. Christopher Dobson (and others) from our sister province, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Br. Matthew and Br. Paul will both begin studies in the fall. May God bless and keep them during this time of transition and anticipation.
On Friday, May 27th, our postulant brother, Corey Smoot, along with five other postulants from our sister province were vested with the Franciscan habit for the first "official" year of religious life (known as novitiate). It is said that even angels envy a religious novice! Why, you might ask? The novitiate year of religious life is something of a "honeymoon" you might say between the novice and God. One spends a great deal of time in prayer, study, and discernment. As far as the prayer life of a Franciscan T.O.R., novice, one commonly spends 2 or more hours daily in communal and personal prayer. The studies during the novitiate year focus on Franciscan history, Franciscan T.O.R., history, and the spirituality of religious life and the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The discernment part of the experience mainly consists of meeting with a spiritual director every two weeks to reflect on one's relationship with God and if God is indeed affirming the call to religious life. Knowing Corey, I'm sure he'll make the most of the year ahead of him! May God bless him and his novice brothers (Nathan, Richard, Rick, Jared, and Paul). Pat, TOR
Thursday, May 27, 2010
This morning I was having breakfast at a restaurant and I overheard two persons talking about the oil spill tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico. One of the persons stated that the worst thing that could come out of this is for the United States to stop the practice of off-shore oil drilling. He also said quite non-chalantly that "disasters happen all the time" and that we should therefore be undeterred in our quest to extract more oil presumably wherever oil reserves can be found. What made these comments so disturbing to me is that they were being made directly in front of a television set broadcasting incredibly disturbing images of the oil-saturated gulf waters. So, the question that I would like to pose is, "what really is the worst thing that could happen as a result of the Gulf tragedy?" My response to this question is twofold: one response is based on my Catholic, Christian, and Franciscan orientation to the world and the other is based on a rationale analysis of the event (I offer two responses since not everyone has the same faith orientation as I do).
Saturday, May 22, 2010
This afternoon approximately thirty persons gathered at St. Bernardine's Monastery for a blessing of the community gardens, a blessing of seeds that will be planted in area gardens this spring, and a potluck picnic. The blessing ceremony was presided over by Fr. Christopher Panagoplos. The purpose of the event was mainly to raise awareness regarding our dependence on the land for sustenance and to develop a spirituality inclusive of creation and mindful of the rhythms of the seasons. St. Francis was very aware of humanity's reliance on the earth. In his Canticle of the Creatures, he speaks of how the earth governs the human race. What a vastly different take on our relationship to creation from the contemporary, progress and technology driven mentality! This gathering also gave us the opportunity to build community and share in food and fellowship. The C4C project is off to another great start! Pat, TOR
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Reflection on 7th Sunday in Easter: It's All Well and Good That Jesus is the Beginning and End, but What Ever Happened to the "Middle"?
This Sunday's readings for the 7th Sunday in Easter give us the opportunity to examine a very important question regarding forming a contemporary and relevant Christian faith up to the task of meeting the challenges of the 21st Century. In the second reading we read from the Book of Revelation that Jesus is the "beginning and the end." In the Gospel we encounter Jesus prior to his Crucifixion basically offering a long intercessory prayer on behalf of the Apostles he is about to suddenly depart from. His prayer is that they might be one in communion just as intimately and intensely as he and the Father are. When I reflect on the second reading in light of this Gospel passage from John, the question that comes to my mind is, "If Jesus is the beginning and end, what about the middle?"
Friday, May 14, 2010
What a blessed time this year and four months at St. Bridget's has been for me. A chance for me to settle into community as an aspirant really helped me test myself out, and allowed the friars to get to know me. Then I was officially accepted as a postulant in August and was able to learn more about the Order and the life of a Franciscan while I was still working with developmentally disabled clients at a group home and taking a couple classes at a community college for further education. I was able to hone up on my Spanish skills and write a term paper in English about St. Francis' kiss of the leper and what that means to be accepting of the social outcast in our society. My classes with Br. David, Br. John and Fr. Pat at the friary were times to reflect on Franciscan Spirituality and how I can apply those principles in my life today.
But my time in Minneapolis is quickly drawing to a close. The people I have met and with whom I've worked will always have a special place in my heart as I go out from here to the next phase of my formation: the novitiate. In Loretto, Pennsylvania I will live with 5 novices from the Sacred Heart of Jesus Province in a joint novitiate program. We will have just over a year to deeply consider our desire to become Franciscans and what this means to us. I have been told to prepare for classes 4-5 days a week, retreats and hermitages, and lots of time for prayer, communal and private, and a time of intense discernment. I will not be on line much, I will be away from the big city and many of the distractions of life: one very long retreat: a liminal space for study and prayer as I consider taking vows.
Having Br. Jeffrey here after his novitiate year, and having visited my classmates in Loretto a couple of times, has given me some insights into what it will be like. But it is still mysterious to me. I'm taking a lot of note cards and stamps so that I can keep in touch with others while I am without internet access, and I'm taking a lot of books.
Today Fr. Anthony gave me the cord that I will be wearing with my novice habit, a plain black tunic, and he taught me how to tie the knots that represent my vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In a very short time I will be going on the pre-novitiate retreat with my 5 classmates and I'll be adjusting to a new living arrangement and a new lifestyle. I am excited, but a little trepidatious. I have been blessed up to now though with this new family of brothers, and I know that God is taking me on this journey for a reason. I will trust in God to make me the best servant I can be, no matter where I go. Peace and good, Corey
Thursday, May 13, 2010
The community gardens at St. Bernardine's Monastery in Hollidaysburg, PA, and the Care for Creation Project are springing back to life! The community gardens moved to St. Bernardine's Monastery two years ago after losing their garden at a local VA facility. The gardens have been going strong since just after World War II and were a continuation of the Victory Garden movement. The Care for Creation project is in it's second year. We are hoping to build on the success we experienced last year. For more information on our community's Care for Creation initiative, go to:http: www.franciscanfriarstor.com/care-for-creation.php. Pat, TOR
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The first reading from today's Roman Catholic Mass describes the tension of the early Christian community as it became inclusive of Gentiles (Acts 15:7-21). Apparently there were Judeo-Christians who thought that the Gentiles must observe the Mosaic Law in order to be saved while others believed this to be a hindrance to them receiving the faith. Eventually it was decided that Gentiles need only observe those statutes of Moses that would allow them to commune with their Jewish counterparts without causing scandal or division.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Today's readings from Mass offer us the opportunity to reflect on the gift of peace that Jesus gives his apostles prior to undergoing his passion, crucifixion, and resurrection. No doubt Jesus and his apostles saw the storm clouds gathering on the horizon: he had stirred up the hornet's nest through his message and ministry and there was a price to be paid. The peace that he gifted the apostles with, however, is not to be in any way understood as an "otherworldly" gift of bliss, detached from the messiness of this world nor the coming storm. This would fly directly in the face of the earlier proclamation of John's Gospel that, "God so loved the world that he sent his only son." (John 3:16). The world that God so loved and entered into to save in Jesus would not be one that God now turns his back on. No, what Jesus offers is no "escapist", "pie in the sky", disembodied peace that seeks to flee in the face of so much agony and anguish but one forged directly in and through an intimate experience of the world's travail. What Jesus is offering the disciples is precisely what he came to experience in daring to sink to the depths of the world's misery by associating with the wretched and forsaken of the earth: God's abiding presence laboring to bring about a New Creation. Far from being a gift of blessed, undisturbed repose, this gift of peace is the assurance that if the apostles dare to sink to the depths that Jesus did they will likewise encounter an unparalleled depth of communion with the God who works with a patient restlessness that all creation be utterly transformed. The reason why the "world" (understood as all of those forces allied against God's Kingdom and not the created world) cannot give such a peace is because it's definition of peace is precisely the opposite. The peace of the world is the negation of tension, conflict, or opposition that comes by force of arms, oppression, or the simple, seemingly harmless counsel that the oppressed of the earth accept their lot passively because the next life will bring all that they hoped for in this life but were often brutally denied. For Christ's disciples of the 21st Century, the offer and gift of peace will similarly be experienced only in going to the lengths and depths that he did to trouble the waters of the pseudo peace that so many have begrudgingly or unwittingly settled for. Pat, T.O.R.