Called by name

Catacomb_of_Priscilla-Good-Shepherd-295x300“The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
-John 10:3, From Sunday’s Gospel

Everyone has been moved by the story of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. Abducted by members of terrorist organization, Boko Haram, the story told us of 267 (the number has varied) girls. Horrifying.

Then a priest friend posted this link on my Facebook page the other day, asking for prayers for the girls by name – and I thought of was the upcoming Gospel for Sunday.

10312416_10202989629515392_5516044536055746652_nJesus is Continue reading

On the road

During a particularly broken period of my life, I did not think that God had left me, but I felt very hopeless. In that  state, I tried to focus on God alone, pushing others away. A week in a monastery was booked – the only place I believed I would find God.

The chill of the chapel and its silence caused me to either shiver or sleep, neither way seemed an effective way of talking to God. Mistakes were being made by the minute – thinking that God was only in the monastery and that I needed to do all the talking. (A problem that continues to dog me!) I felt more angry and frustrated than ever.

The next day, another guest showed up in the visitors quarters, a lovely woman, whose face I can’t quite remember.  She was 50? 60? 40? Honestly, I can’t recall; it is all so fuzzy. We ate our meal in relative silence,  but as we prepared after-dinner tea, she asked what brought me to the monastery.

blahDid I let her know! A massive flow of words and tears followed. Everything from my return to the church a few years earlier, my mother’s death, my search for God in the monastery, and my possible vocation to said monastery. How I went on for hour or more! Her presence, her compassion, her listening heart remain in my memory while all else has faded.

For the next day or two, she and I spent a lot of time talking. OK, I talked a lot, but she listened well, and when she did talk, I felt my heart burning within me.

Sound familiar? We have all been on that road, the road to Emmaus. That particular path is a path where, Continue reading

Whimsy full of wisdom – UPDATED

We have a winner! The name chosen out of the hat was Linda Reid! Thanks to one and all for reading the blog, and hopefully the book!

JohnXXIII-1 Although this is not a book review, I am going to talk about a book – and yes, I am going to give one away. Yesterday two popes were canonized, becoming official saints in the canon of the Catholic church – St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II.

Bro. Mickey McGrath OSFS is a gifted artist, author, retreat leader, and speaker. He is also a dear friend, and a colleague of mine. His latest book is about one of our new saints, one who is close to Mickey’s heart. This book, published by Clear Faith Publishing, is called Good Saint John XXIII, Quotes & Quips from the Prophet of Peace.

The book is one that is full of the whimsy we may associate with Mickey’s art, but make no mistake – this is not just simple fun – this book is Continue reading

The Church of Mercy – A book by Pope Francis – UPDATED

We have a winner. Chris Grace will receive a copy of The Church of Mercy. Thank you all for reading and participating.

church-of-mercy-bookcover“Let us ask ourselves today: are we open to God’s surprises”? Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy

Pope Francis’ name seems to be on the lips of many people. There are so many Catholics who are invigorated by his words and way of life. One of the things that is most surprising is the number of non-Catholic friends who bring him up, and generally with great regard. As I have said in other posts, he has not changed on iota, not one element of doctrine, but he has changed the way that people see the Church, and how people see the papacy.

The Church of Mercy, A Vision for the Church, by Pope Francis (Loyola Press, $16.95, 150pp.) brings together homilies, papers, and audiences from our beloved “Bishop of Rome.” This treasure trove of communiques from the first year of his papacy offers readers a chance to truly spend time with Francis’ as he presses Continue reading

Mercy matters

imagesmer·cy ˈmərsē/ noun noun: mercy; plural noun: mercies1.compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. “the boy was screaming and begging for mercy”
synonyms: leniency, clemency, compassion, grace, pity, charity, forgiveness, forbearance, quarter, humanity…

Mercy. It is not a new word, but we seem to hear more of it lately. I feel as if I do, anyway.

Mercy matters. Mercy is at the heart of Christ. God if rich in mercy – go read the definition next to the photo again. There is so much evidence for Continue reading

Authority, transformation, and dirty feet

hi-pope-kissing-feetTrue authority presents itself in service and flows downward. Authentic change presents itself in justice through community and flows upward. Transformation happens when they meet in they dynamism of the Spirit. This is only accomplished through life in Christ.

I have washed feet and I have had my feet washed. No surprise that the getting washed was more challenging than the washing. Well, except for maybe when I had my feet washed by someone with whom I had a difficult relationship.

As a former corporate executive and leader, I can tell you that you can’t make anyone do anything. As an ordinary human, I can tell you that cannot make someone love you. Of course you can force people to do things, you can chase someone to no end, but no real authority, change, or love will come from that. The only change will be the disintegration that comes from anything to discomfort all the way to hate. This is not the integrity that emerges from the love known as agape.

jesus-washing-peters-feet-by-sieger-koderWhatever you do this Holy Thursday, whether you get your feet washed or you wash those of another, don’t think of any church service as a nice re-enactment. That is why the Eucharist is different, we are not re-enacting anything, we are not “getting” anything, we are not forced to something.

Eucharist is about what we give in love, put at the service of world in Christ. Eucharist is about how we are all transformed into what we are becoming. This can only happen in community, it is not a moment that is between any one of us and Jesus alone, it is about the whole, the entire Body of Christ – which is Continue reading

Stay, watch, remain, pray

1932412_10152279350617438_613759620_nWe are almost there, these final days leading to Easter triumph and resurrection. But first we must walk the Via Crucis with Jesus, suffering and dying. How will you walk with Jesus this week?

Perhaps the better question is this, how will we each stay with Jesus this week? The comic to the left is cute and funny enough, but then again, it is not funny at all. How do we fail to stay awake? How do we continually find ways to distract ourselves? How do we avoid what must be done?

As for me, I can name many ways in which I do not watch and pray, far too many to enumerate for you today. Yet, Jesus continues to ask me to stay, to watch, to pray, remain in faithful vigil. So once again, I make my meek attempts.

May your steps this week be blessed with the grace attentiveness to and hope in Christ.

We have a winner!

PrintJane Pelletier has won a copy of Dan Horan OFM’s book, The Last Words of Jesus, A Mediation on Love and Suffering. Congratulations Jane, I think that you will enjoy this book.

Thanks to all who read the post, and to all who commented. There will be more book reviews soon, and while not all reviews come with a chance to win a book, I hope that they help sort out some books new and old. I say old, because there are many fine books that I have not reviewed, that I hope to post about.

The next review will be right after Easter, and it is a real doozy! Just kidding, but it is on a very important book that I think many of you will want to read. Stay tuned. And no, I can’t tell you the title just yet, but you will all recognize the author. (Such mystery!) What books that you’ve read lately really hit you? What reviews might you like to read? Let me know in the comments!

Blessings to all as we enter Holy Week!

 

Welcoming Bishop Scharfenberger!

Bishop Scharfenberger processing into the Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Times Union.

Bishop Scharfenberger processing into the Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Times Union.

Today a remarkable historic and religious event took place here  at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY. Edward Scharfenberger, entered the building for the last time as “bishop-elect” and exited as our the 10th Bishop of our diocese. His ordination and elevation to the office of bishop, and his installation as bishop was a day that reminded me of Francis becoming the current Bishop of Rome.

Bishop Scharfenberger’s presence reminds me of a conversation that I had with my  doctor. She was telling me that she went to medical school abroad. For her, the greatest gift that she from that experience, was that the training put so much emphasis on seeing each patient as an individual, and on listening to each one. All diagnosis and treatment was very one and one, and she attested to the value of getting to know people, treating them with dignity and giving them your full attention as essential elements of healing.

Bp meeting peopleSo, you might ask,  what precisely does that have to do with our new bishop? I observed Bishop Scharfenberger meeting so many people on Wednesday and Thursday, including me – twice. Watching him – and meeting him, it was abundantly clear that he was intent on each individual person, for that moment or two, even with a long line of others waiting. He did not seem to tire, never and his attention never seeming to wander. Our new bishop was using what I would call the gift of holy or sacred listening. This kind of focused presence and attention is what my doctor does. It is certainly what the Jesus, our Divine Physician did. This gift will help our new bishop and will help our church enormously!

BISHOP_SHIELDOur new bishop seems to embody, beyond his good listening, the qualities of joyfulness, prayerfulness, and humility in great abundance. His Coat of Arms represents to much that is full of life, along with his motto, “Lord, make me a channel of your peace.” An explanation of his shield can be found here. The beaver on the left of the shield, which is not detailed in that link, is a symbol of Albany and its fur trading past, and a sign of building things up, the crescent moon a reminder of our Blessed Mother, whom our diocese is consecrated to as Mary of the Immaculate Conception. The crozier is of course, the bishop’s staff.

Bishop Hubbard processing into the Cathedral for the ordination and installation of his successor. Photo Fran Rossi Szpylczyn.

Bishop Hubbard processing into the Cathedral for the ordination and installation of his successor. Photo Fran Rossi Szpylczyn.

None of this is meant to diminish the legacy of our Bishop Emeritus Hubbard. All of this praise for our new shepherd does not mean that he was not a great shepherd – and he surely loved the smell of his sheep. As for listening, I can only say that I once visited him to discuss a challenging topic. Bishop Hubbard graciously gave me one hour of his time. He listened to me,  never once shutting me down, and talking to me about it from his point of view as my bishop, meaning my teacher as well.

Although I continued to struggle with this matter for some time,  part of the healing was the way in which Bishop Hubbard listened to me first, and then responding about the issue. I would expect more of the same from Bishop Scharfenberger.

This is what turns hearts and minds, this is what transforms people – finding a listening ear, finding hope and compassion, finding joy and redemption, finding a home for the heart deep in the heart of Christ who is Lord.  This kind of joy and transformation is not found because many obedient sheep line up, but because many recalcitrant sheep hear the voice of their shepherd Christ, and turn to follow him. That won’t happen without joyful evangelizers at every level of the Church. And a joyful evangelizer is what we seem to have been given by Pope Francis, a joyful evangelizer himself!

Congratulations Bishop Scharfenberger!
We welcome you to Albany with great joy – Ad multos annos!