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