Monday, November 9, 2009

Stupid is what stupid does.

Autumn Greetings my friends,

Have you ever done something was just plain stupid? I mean, one of those things where the first time you think about it, it sounds good, maybe even gives you a little chuckle, or makes you believe you really are as smart as you think you are. Then you get into doing it and soon you’ve past the line where you are now totally committed and the voice of reason (which apparently was vacationing somewhere far away from the rest of you when the planning of this thing took place) begins to scream, “DON’T DO IT!” But you do it anyway. Then you sit back thinking to yourself that you have outsmarted reason and have done something good. Maybe it was for a family member, maybe it was for co-worker, or a friend, whomever and you just wanted to make them laugh, or brighten their day or do something you thought would bring a moment of happiness. Then they see it, or receive it, or experience it and even as you continue to revel what you did you begin to see in their eyes, or hear it in their voice, “Why have you done this?” Then in wave after wave the stupidity washes over you and you begin to drown in your own carelessness.

Why didn’t you listen to reason?

This happened to me recently. I had a friend who I thought could use a little special treatment that only I could give and so I planned and I plotted and I put it into play. Then not too long afterward this friend called me up and felt totally the opposite of what I had intended. And to add insult to injury I found out that I even touched on an emotional nerve within this person that not only made what I did stupid, but also painful. This one ill-conceived act on my part may have cost me a friendship that I hold very dear. Simply because I was stupid.

I prayed about it a great deal the rest of the week and it struck me what was missing from this series of events, it was prayer. I had allowed myself to be tricked into believing that I could do something apart from finding a place for God within it.

“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me,” it reads in St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 4:13 and I think that we need to pay a lot more attention to that statement. So often I can convince myself that God can stay on the outskirts of my life and my relationships, that I can find the strength and the wisdom to get through them by myself. But I can’t leave God out, because when I do then I turn stupid.

The great parable of the King’s banquet in the Gospel of Matthew 21:1-14 is another fitting illustration of human stupidity. These people are invited to banquet a dinner party and they kill the messengers. Think about for a moment, you sitting at your desk at work, or wherever you happen to be when someone comes up to and says, “I heard that there’s an open buffet, all you can eat over at the this five star restaurant. They’re also providing a live band for dancing. Oh, and its all for free! Do you want to go?” You’re response is to turn towards them and shoot them. It seems a bit extreme, even out of proportion doesn’t it? Well, we do this every time we don’t time to pray our relationships. Every time we think we can guide ourselves where we should be going with this person, be they a spouse, a family member or a friend we are taking giant steps toward killing that relationship. Why, because God is the one who set the table and unless we join in the feast we’re just playing in the “darkness.”

Look at your significant relationships. The times when they have been at there lowest have been the times when greed, or selfishness, or jealousy, or unforgiveness have been the ruling factor. When we have allowed the human stupidity of the moment to blind us to the beautiful gift that God has given us in bringing that other person into our lives. When we begin to kill the messenger of God’s love to us that this person may very well be. When we start thinking only about “Me” and forget “Us.”

You can’t have a party alone (well, you can, but its gonna be real boring) and God has prepared a great banquet for each of us to attend. How do we get in? We start learning how to truly love each other here and now. What that must mean is that I don’t control the relationship, love does, God does! Only then does stupidity find no place in our relationships. Only then are we “dressing” properly for the banquet. Only then are we respecting the gift of the person God has placed before us.

As I reflect on those past events, I realize that this has not been the first stupid thing I’ve done (I know that this surprises many of you). But that I have neglected and hurt so many people in my life because I have presumed to act without relying on God’s wisdom to strengthen me. I know what it’s like to be cast out of someone’s life, “wailing and grinding my teeth.” I think we all know what that feels like. And for myself, as of this moment I am going to rededicate my life to making sure I am prepared for the “heavenly banquet” by listening to the messenger, Jesus Christ, and to all those people He sends into my life to make me feel more connected to His great love. I long to live in the “glorious riches in Christ Jesus,” as we hear in Philippians 4:19.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to repair the relationship with this friend of mine. But whether that friendship return to “abundance” or stays in “need” I will do my best to remind my friend and myself that for all my moments of stupidity I would really like to see both of us, indeed all of us gathered around God’s table, just we are right now, for all eternity.


Fr. John

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Saints go marching home

Hello my friends,

Well, Sunday morning I sent my visitors home. You met them all in the blog entry. At that time I had said that they would offer some final remarks before they left… which they did. So here they are… enjoy.

Hello Everyone! Jessica again. Well, I was in Boston this weekend, as you all know, and I would like to tell you about my experience. My favorite part was learning about all the history in Faneuil Hall. It was interesting to find out all of the great leaders that spoke there, and how they inspired so many people around the world. Thanks so much for listening... or reading! :)

Hey there, good people of the world!

It’s Alexis here! So today was a pretty fun day here in Boston. We started with a little visit to Cambridge. What's in Cambridge you might ask? The answer is Harvard University, obviously. Well, my favorite part of the day was... yes! Harvard! The campus was beautiful and the atmosphere was just splendid. We kept saying how I was getting smarter just walking the campus. Thanks everybody, for coming with me on my journey to Boston!

Hey kids,

Zach here. So, to sum it up, Boston is pretty wicked. The blend of architecture makes it ancient and new all at the same time. Our visit to Fenway Pahk (well, that’s how they say it) was quite an experience. Although I did wear my “James Shields” t-shirt in the open, I was not chased through the streets of Boston by rabid Red Sox fans. Fenway is indeed a gorgeous ballpark and is America's Most Beloved for a reason. Because of this experience, I now have a newfound respect and appreciation for the Boston Red Sox franchise. I will never be a fan, but there are worse things in the world.

Hey all you people,

It's Christian for all who was wondering. I love it up here in Boston we’ve had great weather and a great guide (my uncle). Fenway Park was pretty cool to go through, I also enjoyed the Duck tour, the train rides, the history, the old cemeteries (I saw were Sam Adams and Paul Revere are buried), and can't leave out the wonderful walking that we have done. I don't want to walk for another two years after all the walking I did it all up here. We all went to Church tonight and Cardinal Sean O’Malley said the Mass (it was really cool). My uncle had told us to pick our favorite place and write about it in the blog but I've come to realize that I don't have jut one favorite place to chose from that we went to or did while up here, my favorite part is the entire experience of being able to be here and enjoy all of it. Well, I would keep writing but I am tired and gotta get up at the crack of dawn to get ready to leave. Goodnight all.

And I thank you all for coming this weekend and making it one of the most relaxing I’ve had in a while. Seeing these wonderful young people, all of whom I’ve been blessed to know since they cute (yes, I did go there), I have been reminded of two things: One I am so glad I’m celibate! And second, more seriously, I am so happy that God has brought such glorious people into my family and into my life.

Next time I’ll be back to writing my own stuff. See you then.


Fr. John

Friday, October 30, 2009

My Special Visitors

Hello my friends,

This weekend I have been blessed to have some very special young people come to visit me in the northern hinterlands of Boston. My nephew Christian (who is taller by the second), and the Brasseur kids... Zach, Alexis and Jessica arrived last night. So the next couple of days I will have the pleasure of showing them around town and getting to see this incredible city through their eyes.

I thought it would be fun to have them add a little something to this blog. Let everyone hear from them for a bit. So without further ado here's...

Hello everybody!
My name is Jessica. I am thirteen years young. This is the furthest north I have ever been. I love the chilly weather! I am very excited to see everything today in Boston! I'll keep you posted! :)

Hello there, world.
My name is Alexis. I am fifteen years old and I am Jessica's older sister. I love American history so I am very glad to be here for just the weekend. This weather is a nice break from the heat of Florida.

Greetings children,
My name is Zach. I'm 17 and the older brother of Alexis and Jessica. The Boston area is absolutely gorgeous. However, being a die-hard Rays fan, I am deep into enemy territory (even though I am going to Fenway Park tomorrow... I promise my follow Rays fans I won't like it... much).

Hello friends and family!
This is christian the oldest of the kids up here. I am 17 almost 18 years old and this is fantastic weather. I rolled around in the leaves for the first time today. I can't wait for it to get cooler, getting ready for the first day of Boston. Peace out!

This should be a fun weekend. You'll be hearing from the folks again soon.

Fr. John

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Hello my friends,

I know that it has been quite a while since my last entry. I have been on the road for that past two weeks and had some wonderful experiences in Canada (I was up in the Archdiocese of Edmonton... what a beautiful place in the world, and the people are incredibly welcoming) as well as the time I was able to spend at the Life Teen Basic and EDGE Conference in Dedham, MA (thank you to everyone who had any part in that event).

So Friday was the Feast of St. Juan de Capistrano, OFM and like most people I knew very little about this man as a saint, but I did know about the Mission in California that bears his name. Or more accurately, I knew the song about the Mission that bears his name. Or even more to the point, I know the first line from the song about the Mission that bears his name, "When Swallows come back to Capistrano..." (thank you Bugs Bunny... it was in one of Bugs' cartoon).

Thus my mind always goes to images of Swallows touching down in a Spanish style courtyard at a small Catholic Mission somewhere in a vision of California formed by "Zorro" movies. Among the many parts of this scenario is the fact that I don't think I could tell what a Swallow looks like. I know I could look it up on line or find a book with pictures of Swallows in it, but there is a part of me that kind of enjoys not really knowing... that so much of this memory I live with is in my head and formed by my heart.

There are a lot of "Swallows" in my life recently. Memories and events that actually do exist, but that I enjoy more because of the images they've etched in my heart. These images run the gambit of arenas, from the truly tragic to the blessedly wonderful.

In the past few weeks I have received word of two unexpected deaths. The first was of a young lady who I had the opportunity to know for a number of years, since she was in High School and came to the Youth Group in one of the parishes I was assigned. I remember so many things. There was her smile... so infectious. Her desire to search for experiences that would lend themselves to her journey. True enough, sometimes though searches led to mistakes (who doesn't have those moments), but she never those get to her and she always let her heart be open to want life would offer to her. I was saddened to here that this "Swallow" would not return. She was accidently killed on her motorcycle. My sorrow came not so much in her passing from this life to the next... that is after the goal for all of us, but more so in the manner in which she was taken from this life to the next. Please keep her family in your prayers.

The second, was of a man I never met, yet we share a common bond. In New Jersey this past week a Priest was murdered in his Rectory. I listened to the comments on the TV from parishioners and persons on the street, hearing how generous he was to those in need. The lifetime of Sacraments offered to the young and mature alike. The unspoken moments the faces and vocal tones these persons shared that told of a gentle man of God. And the images I formed in my own mind, knowing the life of a Parish Priest as well I do. All of these forms came together for me and moved my heart to feel such pain. Again, not because this Priest has gone on to the life to come... but because a life dedicated to love and compassion had to end in violence and anger. This "Swallow" would also not return.

Yet, there were also joyous images. The hundreds of "Swallows" who came to the Youth Rally in Edmonton. These young people and the adults who came with them were such a blessing. They each had their own stories and journeys, yet all of them came as one to this event and feed each other for the good of the whole Church in Edmonton. Then there were the people of such parishes as "Holy Trinity" in Spruce Grove, "Sacred Heart" in Wetaskiwin, and "St. Therese's" in Edmonton who were all so different as communities often are, but so bound together in their desire to search for deeper realms of holiness.

Here I would also add the people of "Sacred Heart" in Waltham, where I have been living. They are so amazing as I get to know them more and more. Its like watching birds, the Swallows, fly into view from some distant point and as they move closer the flap of their wings and turn of their bodies shows the direction they are heading in and we marvel in the grace of those movements.

Who have been your "Swallows?" Have you turned your eyes recently to the skies of your hearts? Have you seen the Mission of your souls fill with the expectation of the lives of the people around you? If not. Take the time. Let the Swallows return.

You are all in my prayers.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pray for this man.

Hello my friends,

I know that up to now I've been kind of upbeat in these blogs. Thoughtful, yes, but always trying to be bright. Today will be a bit different and I'm going to ask you to do something at the end of it as well.

You see there was this person I met today at Mass. My heart was so deeply pierced by the sorrow and the anger that this person emitted that I thought about the meeting over and over again this afternoon to the point I had to release some of the feelings I was beginning to gather from this sad, sad person.

I did what I have often done in my life... I wrote. In this case, I wrote a short story formed by this sadness I felt from this person. Some of the instances are gleaned from what I heard when we spoke, other parts I began to feel as I reflected on that conversation this afternoon.

So here it is... and remember I'm going to ask to do something when this is finished.

"There was a man who told me a story once as I sat watching him open his pain to me. He said, 'I think the sun is coming up. I’m only guessing because the blinds on my windows are still closed to protect me from eyes I’ve often imagined are watching me. I do that a lot though, imagine. I imagine sunlight brightening the cracks in a room where darkness is still the reality. I imagine an eye peering at me, when the truth is nobody has ever wanted to look at me. At least not in the way I wanted to be looked at. I even imagine there is a person who loves me. Who comes in to my heart and opens up all those places that seemed dead. The dream is so real that I even believe love can heal me of these fantasies. But that’s just another trick of the mind too, just like the sun coming up.'

'My chair creaks slightly as I lean back and breathe deep, you know kind of thing you do when you want to draw in as much of her perfume as you can and then hold it inside you. If you do it just right it can feel almost as if she were right next to you, but then the scent fades and you’re left alone again. I know loneliness; it’s been the greatest truth of my life. Or else it’s the only fantasy I’ve never been able to awaken from. When I was young I thought it was just a phase, like acne, or the awkwardness of my voice changing, but I was wrong. Loneliness would become my most intimate companion and dysfunctional muse.'

'There are the sounds of cars driving by and I hear them as they are going to work no doubt, or heading off to drop their children at school. I wonder if those people think about their homecoming later in the day? When after a day at work, or shopping or taking the kids from one event to another of how blessed they are to have arms waiting to hold them, lips longing to kiss them and ears open to share in the life they’ve had from now until then. I wonder if they see the beauty of that image?'

'I remember trying to fall in love one time. She was the perfection my spirit had been created for. She was the grace my clumsy frame could never emulate. Yet there she was, looking at me with eyes so filled with expectation and wonder. She was there, her hair flowing like a dark river over the currents of the air. She was real, standing in front of me, and all I could do was imagine. I pondered what she would be like to touch, to love, to dream with. I let my thoughts run over her body and into her soul, believing she was not a fantasy, hoping beyond hope that she would defeat my lonely companion. I wanted so much for my thoughts to stop, and for my heart to be able to speak words that would melt her into me. I loved how she felt completing me, filling me up with her beauty. I remember it all so well. But what I remember most was that I was only one who saw it. Her love was like the morning sunlight, bright in my mind, but still leaving my world dark.'

'There are worse things in life than loneliness, I’m sure of this. The trouble is, I can’t imagine what they are.'"

So, its sad isn't it. This person filled me with this sense of loneliness and I felt the need to pray for him and what I would ask of all those who are following this blog is that you would pray for him as well. No one should be this sad... no one should believe they are alone. Let us remind ourselves that he isn't and that we aren't alone... we are all united in our prayer, in our love for one another as Children of God.


Fr. John

Monday, October 5, 2009


Hello everyone,

This past weekend was a glorious time for all those who have dedicated their lives to following Our Lord through the example of St. Francis of Assisi. Every year the universal Church remembers St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th and so the previous few days have been filled with very "Franciscan" images for me.

Those images of St. Francis of Assisi are interesting in and of themselves. His legacy is filled with both elements are real and historical as well as those which were created in the minds of persons who wanted to convey the powerful influence this blessed Saint had in their lives.

It has been a good weekend for me to bring to mind the things that are real in my faith journey as well as those things I've added on over the years.

There is a beautiful tradition that the Franciscan hold during this time of year. The evening of October 3rd they will gather, as we did this with members of the Conventual Friars, having been invited to join the Poor Clare Sisters for the celebration of the "Transitus." This is a remembrance of St. Francis' passing (which is where the term comes from) from this life to Eternal Life. There are solemn songs sung, prayers and readings from the writings of Thomas Di Celano (the most important biographer of the Saint), as well as the blessing of bread (a commemoration of an action St. Francis took the day he passed to remind his Brothers that they his true companions.

You see the word, "companion" literally means, "with bread." In doing this simple action of blessing bread and sharing one to another the Franciscan remember, as we all should, that we are companions with Christ. He called us to be people of the "Bread that comes down from Heaven."

Fr. Tom Washburn, the Vocations Director for the Immaculate Conception Province of the Order of Friars Minor, began his remarks by quoting from Br. Elias, who said, "Before I begin to speak, I sigh." These words began the letter that Br. Elias, who had been one of the earliest followers of St. Francis and had succeeded him as the head of the Order, sent to the Franciscans of the time to announce the passing of their founder and spiritual father.

As Fr. Tom spoke these words, they struck me. "Before I begin, I sigh." How simple and yet, shouldn't that be our spiritual position at all times. If only we, like St. Francis or St. Clare or Br. Elias, took the time to breathe in the moment.

I recall the words of St. Augustine from his Confessions, "Lord, I have breathed You in and I long to breathe You in again." How beautiful of an image... an image that should be real.

There are few things in our lives that are more real and necessary than our breath. And we should remind ourselves to allow our hearts to "Transitus," pass from the things that keep us from the falsehoods that the world can offer and breath in, sigh, if you will, to such a degree that we fill ourselves with the Divine Presence.

So as companions, I ask you to pray for each other today, offer the bread of your lives to one another, and share a true and honest sigh with someone who needs to breathe in Our Lord.

I end this segment with a quote from the Rule of St. Francis, as it is found in the celebration of the "Transitus:"

In memory of Francis' love for his brothers and sisters, let us greet one another with a sign of love and peace. And let us remember the words of Francis who tells us if a mother loves and cares for her child in the flesh, how much more should we, as brothers and sisters in the spirit, show our love for one another. (Rule of 1226, 6)

Fr. John

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What a week of blessings!

Hello my friends,

I begin by apologizing for not having written here for the past couple of weeks. I'll try not to let so much time elapse in the future.

Though I have not been very communicative with those who are following this blog the past couple of weeks I witnessed some powerful moments... let me offer one for you now.

I've never understood exactly just what it is about sunsets that seem to make people reflective. I know that they certainly lend to me some of the most powerful times of my day. Maybe it’s because of the finality of the day that has past. Knowing, as we watch the fading light, that for better or worse, good or ill, this is the end of another day. A day that will never again be repeated in our already brief number of days on this good earth. Or maybe its the mixture of colors and hues that strike at our optic nerves in such a way that that triggers a part of our brain to automatically start reminiscing. Or it could be just some inner cultural desire, linked to some primal urge that beckons us to want to move to the Florida Keys, or any of the Pacific Islands, or the Western deserts, or some other romantic place around the globe.

It truly is a good time of day, almost holy in some ways, especially for someone like myself who doesn't really see the beauty of the sunrise (mainly because I would prefer to still be sleeping and dreaming about the beauty of the sunrise). Its also a time I fear that most city people have lost themselves in all the “rush-hour” driving, city smog, the forever growing sky scrapers with those mirrored windows that always seem to reflect the light right into your eyes, and never ending rows of private drives and “deed restricted” communities which have become suburbia.

I mean it gets pretty hard to pay attention to the glories of nature being revealed as you are trying to save yourself from being squashed like a bug between the semi-truck in front of you, who’s driver has suddenly slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the person in the Cadillac who was "tweeting" and then just realized that he just missed his exit and has decided to stop in the middle of the Interstate and make a U-turn because he apparently hasn't realized... HE'S INSANE! While a city transit city bus, with an oblivious driver listening to some tunes on their iPod, is trying to inspect your license plate a little too closely. So you are forced to drive simply to save your own life, its no wonder why you haven’t seen a sunset recently.

But then comes the day when the family takes a Sunday drive into the country (maybe just recently in this Autumn season), or you, with sweetheart in hand, are on a romantic beach or the dock at Key West, or you and a group of friends start to bring the boats in after a great day of fishing.

Then you notice it…

At first only slightly aware of what you’re seeing, but as the intensity of colors reach out across the sky and shine on you feel the glow begin to rise within you too. There, in that moment, life is reborn as the memories of the past make you new again. As the feeling of re-acquaintance warms you, you forget everything but how great life is, that’s the power of a sunset.

At these times, for me, the faces of family and friends, of situations and recollections, everything good (in retrospect), all come brightly shining into the dusk of my day. Like a light through a stained glass window will make even the darkest part of it give off color, if the sunlight is strong enough, so do the memories at moments like these bring with them everything in my life, both real and imagined, and returns me to the cascading warmth and shininess of my youth.

Anyone who has ever watched a sunset knows that the dreams of the past are always better when shared with another. So I’d like to invite you to share in a few sunset recollections with someone today. And maybe while your sharing those memories, a few you of will will decide to stay, bringing each other the light of their hearts, even after the sun has dipped beyond the horizon. If they do, tell them to come in and sit down. Because after all, the best memories are the ones we relive with old friends.

I pray that you will all have a blessed day.


Fr. John

Monday, September 21, 2009

Finishing a story

Hello my friends,

This weekend I was spending some time looking through some of papers and things. One of the blessed genes I received from my mother is the inability to throw anything away. As a result, I've been able to find pretty much everything I've ever written. I've always enjoyed telling stories, some of which I've tried, off and on, over the years to write down. Well, finding them this weekend became kind of a stroll through my mindset from years past and for some reason I spent the time to put much of this writing onto my computer.

In doing this I started to notice two themes that seem to thread themselves through most of the stories I've ever written. I thought I would share a couple of them with you and see if you could pick out what I was seeing (if you don't... its okay, I'm going to point them out at the end of this blog... I kind of have to, or else there would be no point this whole entry).

"I was born in the middle of the night, in the middle of the year, in the center of the decade filled with confusion from its own self-discovery; given to a mother who should have been in school and to a father that never wanted to be one. My life has seen many comings and goings, much like all the other lives that have propelled themselves through the countless traces of time; toward whatever Heaven they have envisioned. And like those others before me, with me and those to come after me, the uniqueness of my experiences and the stuff which gives them meaning is not so much in the experiences themselves, but in their singularity of having made a part of my life experiences. In my ability to share them with those people who come to make up the life that I have been given unites my stories with the history of all. This is the story I have chosen to tell. Everyone who reads the story becomes a part of it, allowing my life to become part of their own."

"I sometimes wonder why I recall the events of my life too easily. It seems to me there should be some kind of effort involved, some hidden pain or injustice to be circumvented. And yet, there it is! I think of a time in my life that comes vividly to re-assemble itself in my mind with no problem. Yet again! Another memory with no hesitation right behind the last.

Now, I do not consider myself to be super-naturally gifted in anyway. I just think of anything from my past, like the time when… yeah, that’s the one, and I can’t help but laugh as if it were the first time all over again right now.

I really don’t know why they come with such ease. Maybe I’m just more open with myself? Willing to spend more time with myself, to devolve into my experiences. Like that one right there! Man, that was a good time! Maybe that’s it? After all, a man’s understanding of himself is what he has to share with the people around him…isn’t it? If I don’t know who I am how can I show you?"

"I’ve often wanted to write in the Classic Romantic style. To paint images with words brimming over with the taste of the pictorial illusions created through the well-crafted use of the minds’ eye and my pen’s eloquence. Then could I gaze upon the grandeur of a Cathedral and bring to life the caressing sight that can only be given to the smoothest of stone masonry and the blending of glass stained to prismatic color with the gentleness of refracted light. Or to put into words the melodies of the sweet men who put forth into sacred space their voices which found purchase within the very joints and marrow of the soul. Set there to reverberate again and again as sound through these magnificent walls echoing through the edifice of my spirit. Yet, with my abilities all I can say is that these Monks sing really well for a bunch of guys in a damp and poorly lit church."

These are just three examples, but I think you should be able to start seeing my point. All of these were written when I was much younger and are prime examples of the two issues that seem to have folded themselves into the movement of my life.

What are they you ask? They look like very well thought out, introspective snippets of what we can only assume were marvelous stories!

Well, my friends... if those were your thoughts... thank you. If those weren't your thoughts... good for you!

What I noticed in these stories was that I never finished anything! What you see in this blog was everything I wrote on those story lines. I could come up with the initial idea, but never found it within myself to come up with a full story.

The other thing I noticed was that I was really self-important! Look at that stuff! There was no real introspection going on... just words drooling out of pen left agape.

I bring these up, not to poke fun at my younger self (I was actually a pretty nice person back then), but to remind us all that we've begun stories that we've never finished and, at least in my case, I'm beginning to realize more and more that the only story I will ever find fulfilling is the one I'm not writing, but allowing myself to become more and more a part of with each passing day.

Let's keep praying for each other as we journey together through this great epic that is our life in Christ.


Fr. John

Friday, September 18, 2009

My time in North Carolina

Hey there everyone,

So I'm sitting here next to the St. Charles river and I watching the water flow by. I see some of the leaves on the trees begin to change and the colors on one of them remind me of the color of sand.

Just a week ago I was on the sands of Oak Island, North Carolina. No, I wasn't on holiday, but it was going to be an adventure. An adventure in holiness, because on that Island, surrounded by those grains of sand 200 plus young people came to find Christ and I was there to see Him show Himself to them.

Way back in January the Youth Minister of St. Mary Magdeline Catholic Church in Apex, North Carolina asked me to join her, Chris Padgett, Ike Ndolo, along with the youth from St. Peter's Catholic Church in Greensville, North Carolina for a retreat. I'm always up for a retreat, so i said, "Yes."

The months past and now I find myself, having arrived in North Carolina, driving onto the Ft. Caswell Retreat Center. I know many of you are saying, "Ft. Caswell Retreat Center? That doesn't sound right!" To be perfectly honest, I thought the same thing as we drove in past the walls of this old, Civil War era fort which had been converted into a retreat center back in the late 1940's by a group from the Baptist tradition. Yet, I thought of such things as the great Hymn, "A Mighty Fortress if Our God," or the passage from the Book of Psalms which reads, "You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" And then it made so much more sense to me how perfect a place a fort is for a retreat. Here these young people would have a safe place to find Our Lord in the midst of the chaos they live through every day of their lives.

A breeze has kicked up and the sandy leaves from the tree are blowing across the air currents and landing gently in the river where they keep moving away from me. I begin to think of the young people who drifted in from the lives they have in different High Schools, different Parishes, different cities, different parts of a state and yet, they all seem to be landing in the gentle waters of Our Lord's mercy for this weekend.

Like a leaf on the wind they seem a bit tossed about as they arrive, but very soon, they enter into the heaviness of the theme, "Give God Permission." By the end of the first night, I find myself sitting on the floor in the prayer room listening to some incredibly profound Confessions. Watching hearts lighten and breath return to bodies that held the air tight within themselves as they offered their sins to the merciful forgiveness of God. I could tell from this moment on that these young people longed to find Christ in this fortress of faith we had come to.

The next day I was moved by how these young people, and wonderfully giving adults quickly moved themselves from one experience of Christ to another. From periods of listening to speakers, to singing of song, to praying together, to running through the ruins of the fort and along the sands of the beach. With each of these events, they found, whether they realized it or not, that Christ was revealing Himself to them, through moments of intensity and moments of recreation. It was a blessing to be invited to share and celebrate this time.

The last evening of the retreat we processed with the Blessed Sacrament through the compound (I only image what some of our Baptist friends might have been thinking, but I hope is was... "Those Catholic may be a lot of things... but the really do know how to make an entrance!"). And after the time of Adoration I again found myself in the prayer room becoming an instrument of God's grace for these young people as they kept pouring out the gritty sands of their sins and drinking from the river of God's forgiveness. Before I knew it... it was almost 1:00am... I was tired and enthused (filled with God as the word literally means) at the same time.

As we made our farewells the next day and I headed back to the airport I was being pulled back to those moments of Sacramental grace I was a part of during the past few days and I was struck by the fact. I say a lot. I write a lot. I stand before thousands of people at times. Yet, one of the most important things I will ever do will have nothing to do with my words, of literary style, or my performance behind any podium. The most important things I will do will be in the closeness of a small room where I tell someone that their sins are forgiven, and the Lord actually does the forgiving, or in the intimacy of of speaking the words of institution as the Holy Spirit changes bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, or the gentleness of pouring water over someone who is entering the Church through the waters of Baptism, or the finality of being present to someone who is moving from this life to the next as I anoint their head and hands.

This is my vocation!


The leaves have slowed there drifting and the waters have carried away all those that had already fell. I'm filled with a sense of hopefulness. Of what the changing of the seasons mean and the fact that through all the changes of the past, this river has kept flowing.

Thank you to all the young people of St. Mary Magdeline and St. Peter for letting me see the changing of my heart in this glorious life of a Priest I've been called to and I hope you have been able to see the changelessness of God's Love which will flow through the entirety of your lives.

Have a blessed day everyone. You are all in my prayers.

Fr. John

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A moment to reflect

Hello again my friends,

Today is a special day on the Franciscan calendar. Its the celebration of St. Francis' reception of the wounds of Christ, also known as the Stigmata (nota bene: St. Francis of Assisi was the first person in history to receive this gift of the Stigmata). This day remembered for one holy man's desire to share, truly share, in the sufferings of Christ is also a time for us to reflect on how much do we or don't allow ourselves to conform to Christ in our own lives. Is our faith as visible as the wounds St. Francis wore.

As I sat in our little chapel here at the Friary. I could hear the traffic going by (all driving insanely fast for such a narrow road... of course), and I see the clouds moving in the sky with all their threat of rain, and I could feel the tiniest of breezes coming from under the window next to me that had been left open, ever so slightly to along air into this sacred space. In the midst of this two other sights crept into my mind.

The first, was how close the relic of St. Francis and the Blessed Sacrament were to each other in the small glass Tabernacle we have. This stuck me as a perfect moment... St. Francis of Assisi strove his entire life, after his embracing of his vocation, to be as close to Christ in every way possible and desiring for people to see how loving Christ, to allowing each person to embrace an intimate relationship with Christ can truly be a reality. Or as Fr. Murray Bodo wrote in his book, Francis: The Journey and the Dream, that St. Francis would look at the Eucharist as a grace given, a Sacrament offered for the transformation of souls. He had seen its effects in his own and every time he would look upon the Eucharist he would see that possible transformation for all people, "He thought of all who would let Christ transform them into what they needed to become in order to be happy."

So, as I gazed upon an earthly remnant of St. Francis and a Divine wholeness of Christ found in the Blessed Sacrament I could not help but think how He still is calling to be intimate with Him, even to the point of suffering. After all, that's what "passio" or "passion" means, to suffer.

Today, we celebrate one man's bonding himself to the suffering of Christ and in the process becoming a living embodiment of we should strive in our reception of the Eucharist... to become a people who give thanks to God for every moment and long to more intimate with Him as each days passes.

The second thing that caught my heart in this period of reflection was how truly small this chapel is... and yet, in its simplicity and tiny size there was something to be seen as well. St. Francis was not a physically large man (although, after climbing the hills in Assisi, I believe he had calves the size of footballs), yet he gave every ounce of himself in service... to the point of literally wearing his small body out. Would that we all could do that! Then, again, my eyes were brought back to the Eucharist... it too is physically small, yet how many miracles (its own moment of Transubstantiation being counted among them) have flowed out of such a tiny gift from God.

I would ask all who read this is take a moment... look at your hands, your feet, your head and your sides. Those places were St. Francis received the wounds of Christ and reflect with me.
Do we use our hands for His glory?
Do we use our feet to go were He leads us?
Do we use the gift of our minds for His making His Kingdom a reality?
Do we fill our hearts with His love and breathe it out for all the world to see?

Let us all ask to share in a spiritual Stigmata today that the next time we ask those questions our answers will be more profound.

You are all in my prayers.

Fr. J

Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting to know the people of Sacred Heart

Welcome back to all my friends,

In this segment I would like to talk a little bit about some of the people I've met since coming to Waltham.

Let me begin with the Friars I am blessed to be able to live with for these next few months.

First, there is Fr. Dennis... he is a priest of 25 years and a life-long OFM. The vast majority of his ministry has been spent in education. He is a man of great joy and wry wit. I can only imagine what it must have been like to be one of his students. I'm sure I would never know when he was joking and when he wasn't. Still, I would also be confident in saying that he would have ended up being one of my favorite teachers. Since leaving the teaching realm he has spent the last ten years here at Sacred Heart. At first, bridging the transition from one Religious Order (the Stigmatines) to another (the OFM's). Then fighting to keep the parish open during the period in the Archdiocese of Boston when there were many parish closings. As a result, the people of the parish have truly embraced him as a leader and true father to them. He is a good man, and a holy man... an incredible combination.

Then there is Br. Damien... he is, as the title implies, a Brother and has been forever (or least it sounds that way from the experiences he shares... there are times I think he was walking around cleaning up after St. Francis himself). He is a man of great humility. And yet, he has served in some of the most interesting of places. His life as an OFM has taken him to Honduras, Rome, Assisi (obviously), Jerusalem, Boston, other places I've not yet heard about, I'm sure and now to Waltham. He is a man who genuinely cares for people and wants to make them feel welcome... which, in my case he has done. Thank you Brother.

The staff here are all wonderful people who have lived, for the most, here in Waltham for the majority of their lives. They enjoy being together. They enjoy doing things together (like going to see the "Jersey Boys" musically... thanks for taking me). They enjoy getting loud with each other (this will take some getting used to) and they enjoy praying together. As one person has already told me, "Fr. John we have the ugliest Church in the Archdiocese (actually, I would broaden that circle to include most of the known world), but we have the most beautiful parish you could ever hope for." And from what I've seen... he may be right.

See you soon.

Fr. John

Bicycling in New England

Greetings to all my friends,

I know that I promised to write on this blog every day... and if you've been following that sort of hasn't happened. For that I apologize... and will try to do better.

So what has been going on since we've last chatted. Well, quite a bit actually... so hold on tight its going to get fast here!

The other day I asked if there was anyone who had a bicycle and this community here at Sacred Heart in Waltham, MA and immediately I was offered one. What a great gift! Thanks to the good people who made that happen. Because of this, I am now able to start riding around town and getting to know my way through these strange driving habits of New England.

As I mentioned before, the people here are very nice... that is until they get behind the wheel of a car. At that point these nice people turn into demons... plunging their way through whatever is in their way. Whether that is a traffic light, a corner (no directional lights necessary), or even a young (at least in my mind), holy (again in my mind) priest who is trying to get through a cross walk. I have never come closer to death (yes, I am exaggerating, but only a little bit) more often than I have in the last week.

Still, the riding has been a great blessing for me and I'm grateful for everyone who helped me out.

Alright... this ends the first installment for today... the next will be coming in a little bit.

You are all in my prayers.

Fr. John

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I'm here!

Hello my dear friends,

Well, I think this would be considered my first official post.

I arrived yesterday here in Waltham, MA and I'll be living in the parish of (ironically enough) Sacred Heart (I said "Ironically enough," because if you didn't know my old parish back in Pinellas Park, Florida was also called Sacred Heart).

I was greeted by the two Friars who live here, Fr. Dennis (the Pastor) and Br. Damien, as well as Fr. Tom (the Vocations Director for Immaculate Conception Province of the Order of Friars Minor). They were great and made me feel very welcome and at home. They were also very nice in not taking it personally as I began to nod off very early on in the evening. It seems that I am getting older... there was a time when a 23 hour drive would have had little to no effect on me, but not anymore.

This weekend I will introduced to the parish at all the Masses (I hope I don't scare them too much).

Okay, I'm going to sign off for tonight, but as I do I'd like to let all my family and friends that you are in my thoughts and prayers always. Thank you all for your support at this time in my life and I never want to think that I'm taking anything you do for granted. Even when I don't say it... you are all very much loved and often on my mind and heart.

So, stay tuned here for further details in the days and weeks ahead. I will try to update this blog daily, but no promises.

Fr. John

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Hello my friends. Welcome to my new blog. Yes, I have entered into a new era of technology just so that I can keep all of you in the loop on my continued discernment and travels over these next few months while I am living up north.
Please keep me in your prayers as I will keep you in mine. Check back here every so often as I begin to post updates (maybe as early as next week... if I remember my password!).

Fr. J