Advent is upon us, the season of holy waiting. This short prayer from Karl Rahner is how I began my own Advent prayer.
We wait for what already is, we hope for what we know, we long for the One. This year I pray for a simple Advent, one of expansive silence and hope. I pray that we all find our way into the place of waiting and watching and always full of the grace of the God who is, the God who is to come…
In Judaism the one year anniversary of someone’s passing is called yarhzeit – which essentially means “year time.” At this time a candle is lit, kaddish is prayed, and the deceased person’s headstone is unveiled. That person is gone, but they are remembered with love forever and each year yarhzeit is noted.
I grew up in a very Italian neighborhood, either immigrants or the children of those immigrants. Our parish was a very Italian one, it was built by hand by using stones, a small but beautiful worship space.
When someone died, everything went black for the following year. The women all wore black, often pictures were veiled. Life was somber as they mourned their departed loved one. Any big celebrations, weddings included, were canceled or postponed.
My mother was Irish Catholic and she found the entire business dreadful and far too mournful for her cultural sensibility. Don’t wear black when I die, she’d say, don’t cry and cancel things. Just remember that I lived, and send me off with joy and love. When she did die, many years later, I wore a red dress to her funeral, one that she loved to see me in. Some people were scandalized, but I had not doubt I was doing the right thing.
How I digress – anyway, the one year anniversary of a death was as important to my Irish Catholic mother as it was to our Italian Catholic neighbors, as well as to our Jewish friends and relatives. We just marked it differently.
Yesterday, October 8, 2022, was the one year anniversary of the death of my former boss Fr. Jerry Gingras. A garden was created in his memory and it was dedicated before the 5pm mass. The combined choirs of our three parishes sang, there were prayers and a reading from the Book of Genesis. It was very beautiful and deeply moving. Our new pastor Fr. Tom Konopka is deeply pastoral and is trying to shepherd us all as we move from death back into life.
Death and loss impacts each of us differently. Grief has myriad facets and no two people experience it in the same way. Because Fr. Jerry died unexpectedly, the suffering of our parish communities was something akin to a ginormous water balloon hurled to the ground. The rubber snapped, the water exploded, things went flying, we were soaked in sorrow. It was such a difficult time.
Here we are one year later, each of us experiencing our on-going grief and mourning in a different fashion. Sometimes the grief of another makes us want to ask them what’s wrong with them. To our own wounded eye, we see someone who is either suffering too much, or someone who seems aloof. We see disrespect where there is simply an emotional distance from where we stand. We grow impatient with one another as we attempt to hold each other up and muddle along.
All of this is part of the grieving process. It does kind of suck, but it is necessary.
Anne Roiphe wrote this: “Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.” Those words are where I find myself as October 9, 2022 dawns. May this year ahead be full of that remaking of life, remember and holding all that was in our hearts, and going forward in hope.
Fr. Jerry we miss you so much, but we know you are with us. We go forward in faith from here.
“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?” -Acts of the Apostles 10:47
Despite being in the Easter season, I have been a bit discouraged about the state of the church. There is so much division and it is wearing me down. Yet, when I saw today’s first reading from Acts, I took heart.
Church is a field hospital, to quote Pope Francis, a place for the weary, the longing, the marginalized, the poor. Guess what, no matter our station in life, we are all of these things at various times whether we realize it or not. I’m always heartened to read this passage from Acts as a reminder that “God shows no partiality.” How could God? When I tell people that God loves each of us equally, no matter how bad we are, they often go pale and silent, or shake their heads no no no. Mostly because they feel unworthy, not because they are deeming another unworthy. I’m glad that I never fully appropriated a fear of an angry and capricious God, but I worry because so many people have done so.
Back to my field hospital imagery, I see church as a place where we come to be healed, to share, to offer ourselves completely – both at church and in life. The Eucharist is at the heart of it all, our divine nourishment. We bring ourselves as the offering as Christ has done, the broken off piece that we receive is what makes us whole and one in Christ. The dynamism always makes me tingle with excitement, even when I am at my discouraged worse! God is always waiting to feed us, tend to us, heal us, bind us up with love – no matter what. Sure we have to offer ourselves in utter vulnerability, our hearts open to reveal our wrongs that God will make right. That’s the hard part – not God.
On Saturday I was at the supermarket and ran into my former professor, friend, and priest, Richard Vosko. He lives nearby and I often see him amidst the spices or the pasta! This time he was in line ahead of me, I wasn’t sure it was him – masks! “Richard… ” I said tentatively, and he immediately said “Hello Fran!” What a delight to encounter him. He asked me how I was feel about church and I shrugged (paraphrasing here), admitting to my discouragement. Ever the people pleaser, after telling him that I still loved my job, I added that I always try to have hope.
Richard, never one to mince words, shook his head. He told me an anecdote about hope, one he has shared before – a reminder that hope is not always what is needed. Then he offered an alternative – resilience. “How about that?” he asked. Immediately I experienced an interior shift, knowing that resilience is precisely what I needed to focus on.
Trust me, I am still as Catholic as I ever was. And I do love my job, although it is exhausting as we labor on during Covid-19 and a lot of diocesan changes. As anyone who is friends with me or my spouse and daughter will tell you, I am a difficult person when I love someone or something. Critically examining everything and asking way too many questions, probing deeply. I do it to myself too. It is no different with the Church, I have issues and I discuss them with Jesus at length in prayer.
Today I awakened to a real Mother’s Day surprise. I cried when I saw what Mark and Erica had done for me. Then I went off to pray. As I did I was aware, thanks to all the moments that had preceded that one in recent days and the current moment, that it was not hope rising in my heart, but a desire for resilience. That’s what I will be praying and living with, a necessary adjustment, a refocus – a calibration actually.
My wish and prayer for you is to find resilience – or whatever you need to find, whether in nature, a pew, or even the grocery store.
On this Good Friday, I think that this expresses how I feel right now. I found it on my Facebook the other day, from years ago. I cannot recall the context of why I posted it, but I can clearly see its point right now.
At this moment in time we may feel imprisoned in our isolation, but may we always feel a sense of hope.
May you and yours be blessed as we move through this Triduum in ways we could not have imagined.
Be full of hope today, be as full of hope as you possibly can be. Times are tough, they are very hard everywhere for so many of us. Even in the times of greatest joy, things can be challenging and hope is the fuel that propels us onward.
Motivational sayings often steer us towards optimism – conflating or confusing it with hope. Hope is not the same as optimism, just as joy is not the same as happiness. Hope is the warmth of a flame that is in all of our hearts, sometimes a roaring fire, other times an ember that we fear may go cold.
Optimism is not a bad thing – it is necessary, but it should not be confused with, or worse yet, replace hope. Optimism is something in our head, something that we can think and conjure with a mindset. Hope lives within each one of us and radiates something essential to ourselves and to our world. Optimism can help us with develop endurance, but it is hope that strengthens our soul for the trying times when we must wait.
Hope is strengthened in silence and stillness, nurtured in its dynamism and grace through quiet, meditation, creativity, and prayer. This is how we approach the dark days of December, with this inner posture illuminating the world around each one of us, illuminating the world within us, as we await in hope the dawning light of Christ.
During times like these, I cannot help but think of Bl. Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop gunned down as he celebrated the Eucharist. Romero will be formally recognized as a saint on October 14, 2018. A tweet from Tobias Winright, Ph.D. prompted me to look for this particular scene from the film Romero, starring Raul Julia as the Salvadoran archbishop gunned down while celebrating the Eucharist. (I will add that you will see a representation of assassination in the video, be advised.)
In his last passionate homily on March 23, 1980 Romero said:
“I would like to make an appeal in a special way to the men of the army, to the police, to those in the barracks. Brothers, you are part of our own people. You kill your own campesino brothers and sisters. And before an order to kill that a man may give, the law of God must prevail that says: Thou shalt not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to fulfill an immoral law. It is time to recover your consciences and to obey your consciences rather than the orders of sin. The church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, the dignity of the person, cannot remain silent before such abomination. We want the government to take seriously that reforms are worth nothing when they come about stained with so much blood. In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuously, I beg you, I ask you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!”
On March 24, 1980 he was gunned down as he consecrated the Eucharist.
We cannot remain silent before abomination, and we must at some point choose to follow God before all else. We must also, if we heard today’s Gospel, choose to love our enemies. Romero fought for justice, with hope for peace – which would include loving those very enemies that we fight. May the Blessed Romero intercede for us as we discern and make our choices for present justice and future hope. We cannot wonder who the next Romero is, we must be our own next Romero, whatever the cost.
Today began like many others. Despite thinking that I should not look at the news so early in the day, I look anyway. It has been years since I have looked to cable news for anything; that is far too upsetting a landscape, one meant to incite and upset more than inform. That leaves me with national newspapers, many of the sort that people refer to as “fake news.”
Today I – wisely or unwisely – read an article about the prime minister of an Eastern European nation. It seems prudent to leave his name out of this post, but you can read it here. Calling this an article is incorrect, it falls more closely into opinion or, as it is described by the paper, perspective. Yet, certain facts remain, this person is someone steeped in the kind of nationalism that points me over and over again to a certain Anne Lamott quote. (She claims the words were said to her by a Jesuit priest friend Tom Weston, SJ, but it seems that Anne gets the credit.) So often, those who Continue reading →
The word creed comes from Old English, and has traces to other languages; all point to what someone believes. Some meanings speak to where one “places one’s heart,” others to “trust.” In Sanskrit it means “to have faithfulness.” On this day when we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, and while we reveal ourselves to one another as a nation, I am struck more by how we are one, not by how we are divided.
Yesterday I posted an image of a Black Virgin with a Swahili phrase. Soon after, I began to think about a translation of the Nicene Creed that has long stayed upon my heart, the Masai creed. I first heard about it when I was listening to an On Being podcast about Jaroslav Pelikan many years ago.
We are all the same and yet we are all different. It is in how we bring those differences together and weave ourselves into the fabric of God’s world that carries us forth.
Can we honor Dr. King’s memory by finding beauty in the differences and joy in the similarities? Or at least by finding some respect and/or mutuality? What do we believe, that we are stronger together, moved by justice, mercy, unity, and love? Or that we are better served by hate and division, insult and cruelty?
What do we believe? With that, I leave you with the Masai Creed to pray with and ponder. What does it bring forth in you? What does this tell you about belief? And with that, what does our silence say if we do not live deeply and act in the light of our beliefs?
We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth. We have known this High God in the darkness, and now we know him in the light. God promised in the book of his word, the Bible, that he would save the world and all nations and tribes.
We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing that the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He was buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from that grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.
We believe that all our sins are forgiven through him. All who have faith in him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love, and share the bread together in love, to announce the good news to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.
Well, tomorrow is Friday, January 20, 2017 and we all know what that means… The past eight years have been far from perfect. In fact if I could sit down with President Barack Obama, there are many frustrations that I would share with him. Having said that, I would say that overall, I mourn the end of his days in the Oval Office.
After the prior eight years, he seemed a dream in many ways. An African-American, young, hopeful, inspired to do grassroots change, socially progressive, and so much more, he inspired so many of us. Yet, the reality of governing versus campaigning set in, and some of the dreams evaporated. Add to that, many made him a hero, and nothing good comes of that. The hero-making, idolizing is what turned me off early on during the campaigning, so I was very late to hop on the Obama for President train.
There is not much that I feel like I can say right now. It has been a tough week, although I did have a birthday and I continue to ponder my Camino. Finding words to write about that is difficult, but on the other hand, maybe more important than ever now!
In any case, this song has been on my mind since Tuesday night, so I put it here to begin the week. Nothing is over really, in fact Continue reading →