Sunday, April 7, 2013

A post Easter update

7 April 2013 - Divine Mercy Sunday

It has been a full couple of weeks, here is the tip of the iceberg for you:

1 - Pope Francis
It struck me that this "Year of Faith" has been divided for us.  The first half of the year was with Pope Benedict XVI, a master teacher and believer who turned our attention to the heart of faith.  He taught us that fides quarens intellectum (Faith seeks understanding), with clarity and confidence.  This second half of the year is with Pope Francis, who is showing us how to live the faith in our concrete daily lives.  He's leading us down the path of conversion with courage.  If we follow it will be challenging, but man will it be rewarding.  Simplicity and convinced living of the Catholic Faith is his message.  Particularly striking to me was his homily at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday where he spoke to the heart of the priesthood and his Easter Vigil homily telling of our fear of being surprised by God.  Today, St. Peter's Square was full to the brim with pilgrims come to pray the Regina Caeli with him.  Its a precious time to be here in Rome.

2 - Archbishop Sample
On Easter Tuesday, 2 April 2013, Portland's new Archbishop was installed.  We have a new shepherd.  Although I didn't get to be there I joined in praying by offering Mass for Archbishop Sample and reading his installation homily.  His coat of arms description is also very telling to read as he seeks to lead us to vultum Christi contemplari (contemplate the face of Christ).  After being blessed to be trained to be a priest by Archbishop Vlazny and benefiting from his fatherly care as a seminarian for the last 9 years, Archbishop Sample will be the one to shape and direct my first years of priesthood.  I look forward to meeting him when he receives the Pallium here in Rome on 29 June.  I am excited to learn from him and follow him in contemplating the face of Christ!

3 - Retreat and Pilgrimage
During Holy Week I was in Lourdes, France on retreat, probably the only retreat I'll ever get to take during Holy Week.  Fr. Michael Monshau OP directed me and I went with Dale Tuckerman to my favorite place to go, hidden close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as we relived His Passion.  I felt like one of the Apostles, so close to the holiest of mysteries and yet not fully understanding what I was experiencing.  Here, I concelebrated my first Masses in French and Latin in the sanctuary of Lourdes.  On Easter Monday we left Lourdes and retreat, making our way on pilgrimage to Ars, Paray le Monial, and Annecy.  There I got to celebrate Mass at the tomb of St. John Vianney twice and beg his intercession for my priesthood, that I too would be a faithful priest and holy confessor, ardent believer and solicitous teacher of faith.  This whole time I was struck by a deeper need for penance in my life, greater simplicity.  Paray le Monial is where the devotion to the Sacred Heart began and we celebrated Mass at the tomb of St. Margaret Mary (Fr. Monsahu's special patron) and the next day at the tomb of St. Francis de Sales (Dale's confirmation Saint).  What a gift do be near the Sacred Heart for so long.  I prayed each day for you at the grotto of Lourdes and especially for all priests, particularly those I know and who influence me, at Ars.  I was also able to finish reading Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and Band of Brothers by Steven Ambrose.

4 - The next run
Now its time to run through the finish line.  My days in Rome are numbered (less than 3 months) and we head towards the home stretch.  This week we have our annual Rector's Dinner which is busy for us as we host many gracious benefactors who help make our time here possible.  I will also meet with my thesis director and prepare my final draft to turn in, Saint Thomas More and Fatherhood.  There is also a seminar paper to write on genetics, classes to resume, and course reading to dive into before finishing at the end of May.  I have gotten to assist as a chaplain to the University of St. Mary's college students, the Missionaries of Charity, and the US Navy Base in Naples this year and so I will have to say my goodbyes there.  Exams begin in June, then a lectio coram exam where I teach my professors on a topic they choose and also defend my thesis.  I will be studying and packing up so that I can come home and begin my new assignment, wherever Archbishop Sample sees fit to place me.  I'll be blessed to have some guests coming to visit over the next couple of months, including my sister Kate, which will be a great boon to me, as well as getting to be here for the Pallium Mass for Archbishop Sample.  Please pray for me and I will for you, as I look forward to fulfilling what Archbishop Vlazny told me to do 6 years ago when he sent me here:  "to be a good pastor for the people in the Archdiocese of Portland".

The Resurrection is real; He is present to us now right when we needed Him most.  Do not be afraid!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pope's Inaugural Mass

19 Joseph 2013 - Feast of St. Joseph

Up at 4:30am, prayer, breakfast.  7:15am leave for St. Peter's Square - Pope Francis' Inaugural Mass today and we get to be distributors for Communion.  With Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket in our hand we breeze past security, get vested and set to go.  They lead us to our places, I'm in the second row, right next to the ambo - best seats I've ever gotten.  Pope Francis received the Pallium - the yoke of Christ that is easy and light made of lambs wool that was resting next to the bones of Peter, and the Fishermans' Ring - the sign of his call to cast out into the deep for a catch.  One of my classmates had the job of bringing the Pope his ring.  

Got to pray with Pope Francis and assist him in feeding Christ's sheep, with His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.  What a gift.  They anticipated 1 million people came today, the acutal number I don't know, but I always love praying with the Pope.  He preached on being good guardians, protectors of those around us.  Here is a snipit of his homily, always focusing on deeper conversion, Faith put into concrete, practical action

“How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly, and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.”“How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by humans, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the heart of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!”“The vocation of being a 'protector', however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!”“Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and our hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are 'Herods' who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.”“Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political, and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be 'protectors' of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany our world's journey! But to be 'protectors', we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy, and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up or tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!”

His blessing goes to each one of you as I called your intentions and you to mind as Pope Francis imparted his apostolic blessing.  Please pray for me on retreat, see you after Easter.  To keep up on what Pope Francis says in the next few weeks I encourage you to compare the reports in the papers and sites to, which has the original texts/translations.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

First Angelus

17 March 2013

Cardinal George celebrated Mass for us today at the college - man, what a great priest, leader, and preacher!  My favorite line from his homily was "They got all the facts right, but the story was all wrong".  He spoke about the conclave and what was actually most important vs what was reported as important.  Freedom to act was the key.

After brunch we all headed down to St. Peter's square to hear Pope Francis' first Angelus message.  It took a half hour just to get into the square, glad I left early!  We were jammed so tight together I couldn't even lift my arms - I'm not a fan of being pressed up against everyone around me from every side.  Finally we squirted out into the square where there was more space...for a while.  There were crowds of people pouring down every street and they closed the square it was so full.  Pope Francis came to the window and the crowds exploded.  He greeted us just like he did the night of his election:  a very formal "Dear Brothers and Sisters" followed by an informal and joyfully "Good Morning!"  We all laughed.  He spoke mostly without a text and only in italian, but 3 times he repeated the message he didn't want us to forget:  "We grow tired of asking God for forgiveness, but He never gets tired of forgiving us!"  His mercy is so great.  Its worth reading in full.

Cardinal George was right, freedom is key.  Thanks be to God Pope Francis is showing every sign that he is free to act as Pope, free to follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, free to lead each of us away from sin and towards Christ.  As much as I dislike the craziness of crowds, coming and listening, learning and praying, and receiving Pope Francis' blessing was definitely worth it.

I will try and post at least once more this week, but I probably won't post much for a while - I leave on friday for my canonical retreat for the 2013 year in Lourdes and Ars.  Please pray for me.  If you would like me to keep you in my prayers in a particular way, please send me a note to let me know so I can write it down in my journal.  May you be free today to not be tired of going to God for what you need from Him most!

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pope Francis and the Media

16 March 2013

Today I finished the rough draft of my thesis - thank you Jesus!

Pope Francis had some interesting and insightful comments in his meeting with the press today:

“The role of the mass media has been continuously growing in recent times,” he said, “so much so that it has become essential to narrate the events of contemporary history to the world. I therefore especially thank you for your distinguished service these past few days—you have had a bit of work to do, haven't you?—when the eyes of the Catholic world, and not only, were turned toward the Eternal City, in particular to this area that has St. Peter's tomb as its focal point. In these past few weeks you've gotten a chance to talk about the Holy See, the Church, her rites and traditions, her faith, and, in particular, the role of the Pope and his ministry.”
“A particularly heart-felt thanks goes to those who have been able to observe and present these events in the Church's history while keeping in mind the most just perspective in which they must be read, that of faith. Historical events almost always require a complex reading that, at times, can also include the dimension of faith. Ecclesial events are certainly not more complicated than political or economic ones. But they have one particularly fundamental characteristic: they answer to a logic that is not mainly that of, so to speak, worldly categories, and this is precisely why it is not easy to interpret and communicate them to a wide and varied audience. In fact, the Church, although it is certainly also a human, historical institution with all that that entails, does not have a political nature but is essentially spiritual: it is the people of God, the holy people of God who walk toward the encounter with Jesus Christ. Only by putting oneself in this perspective can one fully explain how the Catholic Church works.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

The ides of March

15 March 2013

We have a potent new Pope.  I've been reading is homilies and talks every day so far.  They are good.  You can find everything on  Here is a brief word from Pope Francis today:

“Courage, dear brothers! Probably half of us are in our old age. Old age, they say, is the seat of wisdom. The old ones have the wisdom that they have earned from walking through life. Like old Simeon and Anna at the temple whose wisdom allowed them to recognize Jesus. Let us give with wisdom to the youth: like good wine that improves with age, let us give the youth the wisdom of our lives.”

His inaugural Mass will be on Tuesday, Feast of St. Joseph spouse of Mary.  It looks like I'm going to get to be one of the priests who will distribute Communion for Pope Francis for his first public Mass as Pope.  God never ceases to bless.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis' First Words

14 March 2013

We've prepped ourselves with silence, now is a good time to listen.  Enjoy, they are rich!

Pope Francis on the night of his election:

First “Urbi et Orbi” Blessing of the New Holy Father Francis
At 8:24pm, the Holy Father Francis, preceded by the Cross, appeared at the Loggia of the brightly lit Vatican Basilica. Before imparting the “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world) apostolic blessing he greeted the enormous crowd that had been gathering all afternoon in cold and rainy St. Peter's Square saying:
“Dear brothers and sisters,
Good evening. You know that the duty of the Conclave was to give Rome a bishop. It seems that my brother cardinals picked him from almost the ends of the earth. But here we are! I thank you for the warm welcome. The diocesan community of Rome has its bishop. Thank you! First and foremost I would like to say a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI. Let us pray together for him, that the Lord bless him and the Virgin keep him.”
After leading the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Gloria, Pope Francis again addressed the crowd saying:
“And now let us begin this journey, bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which is the one that leads all the churches in charity. A journey of fraternity, of trust between us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the world so that this might be a great brotherhood. I hope that this journey of the Church that we begin today, and in which my Cardinal Vicar here present will assist me, will be fruitful for the evangelization of this beautiful city.”
“Now I would like to impart the blessing, but first, first I ask a favor of you. Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask that you pray to the Lord that He bless me: the prayer of the people asking a blessing for their bishop. Let us pray in silence, this your prayer for me.”
“Now I will impart the blessing to you and all the world, to all men and women of good will.”
After imparting the apostolic blessing Pope Francis added: “Brothers and sisters, I take my leave. Thank you for your warm welcome. Tomorrow I'm going to pray to the Virgin, that she will safeguard all of Rome. Good night and rest well.”

Pope Francis' first homily:
In his first homily as Pope, and speaking in Italian without a text, Francis noted that the three readings have something in common: “Movement. In the first reading the movement is the journey; in the second the movement is the building of the Church; in the Gospel the movement is in the witness. To walk, to build, to witness.”

The pontiff recalled that the first thing God said to Abraham was: “'Walk in my presence and be blameless.' Our life is a path. When we stop walking there is something that isn't right. To walk always in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live the blamelessness that God asks of Abraham in His promise.”
“To build,” he continued, “to construct the Church. This means stones. Stones are solid but these are living stones, stones that are anointed by the Holy Spirit. To build the Church, the Bride of Christ, on the cornerstone that is the Lord himself.”
“To witness … We can walk when we want to, we can build many things, but if we do not witness to Jesus Christ then it doesn't matter. We might become a philanthropic NGO but we wouldn't be the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we don't go forward we stop...we go backwards. When we don't build on rock, what happens? The same thing that happens to children when they build sandcastles at the beach. They wind up falling down because they have no solidity.” Then, citing Leon Bloy, the Holy Father affirmed: “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil” because “when we don't witness to Jesus Christ, we witness to the worldliness of the devil.”
“To walk, to build, to witness. But this is not so easy because when we walk, when we build, when we witness, at times there are upsets, there are movements that aren't proper to the journey. They are movements that pull us back.”
“In the Gospel,” the Pope continued, “even Peter who confessed Jesus as Christ, says to Him: 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. I will follow you but let's not talk about the Cross. That doesn't have anything to do with it. … I'll follow you, without the Cross.” But, “when we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess a Christ without the Cross … we aren't disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.”
“And I wish that all of us, after these grace-filled days, might have the courage, yes, the courage to walk in the Lord's presence with the Cross of the Lord, to build the Church on the blood of the Lord that is poured out on the Cross and to witness to the sole glory: to the crucified Christ. And thus the Church will move forward.”
“I wish for us all that the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of Mary, our Mother, grant us this grace: to walk, to build, and to witness to Jesus Christ.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam!

13 March 2013

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum;
habemus Papam:
Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum Georgium Marium
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglio
qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum

You know the news and all the info is out there, here's your take from the ground floor...

By 6:40pm I was in a packed St. Peter's square with Jack Schraeder from MA. Last night I talked while we waited for smoke, tonight I felt impelled to pray so I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours as I am wont to do. Praying the prayer of the Church in St. Peters square as the cardinals were voting was striking to me. I finished praying at 7:02pm. I had no feeling in my gut of what tonight might hold. 7:05pm Smoke popped: white. Bells. Habemus Papam! (we have a Pope!)

The crowed rushed forward. Fr. Jacob Strand, Dan Westerman, Jack and I found ourselves together 20 yards from the front, just to the side of center when the rush slowed. So many people, so many hugs and yelling habemus Papam, complete strangers were now close friends. 1 Peter 1:8 flood my mind: "Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy." We had not yet seen the Pope, but we had one, and we loved him.

It was cool and sprinkling, dark with bright lights everywhere. The crowd overflowed the square and down via conciliazione. Everyone was joyful, electric Mostly young people filled the square. 80% of the people I saw tonight looked to be younger than 40. We did not expect anything to happen tonight, here we were, it was epic. 8:15pm, the designated Cardinal announced the quote above, then went back in. The crowd was stunned. A fem minutes later out walked His Holiness Pope Francis. He stood. We cheered: "viva il papa", "Fran-ces-co, Fran-ces-co". He remained silent and so did we. When he spoke his humility stirred us: "we must lead the way in charity...let us first pray for Benedict XVI...before I give you my blessing, I ask you to give me yours..." As he bowed low to receive our blessing the crowd was silent. It was an extremely powerful moment. My heart was moved as I offered my poor prayers for him. He then humbly stood and gave us his blessing and indulgence. Wow.

Our jaws were dropped most of the night. Fr. Jacob, Dan, and I prayed a Memorare for the Pope. We went back to the college just in time to start our community offering for the new Pope: Adoration. The first thing Pope Francis asked of us was to pray for him, so we offered our best prayers. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed to O Salutaris hostia. The Gospel "You are Peter..." was proclaimed. Voices were vigorous and full as we prayed together the Church's great hymn of praise: the Te Deum. The lyrics to O God beyond all praising were my prayer. After a while of silent prayer we chanted Tantum Ergo and Msgr. Checchio gave us benediction.

Pope Francis - whether from that humble, poor man who God called to "build My Church" or from that great missionary who taught and baptized millions in the Faith - is leading us in the New Evangelization. Habemus Papam.