Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Lisbon Papacy

According to freshly-revealed documents, Pope Pius XII and his inner circle made contingency plans to move the Holy See to Portugal, where the college of cardinals would elect his successor if the Nazis kidnapped the still-controversial wartime pontiff:

That Hitler considered kidnapping the Pope has been documented before, but this is the first time that details have emerged of the Vatican's strategy should the Nazis carry out the plan."

Pius said 'if they want to arrest me they will have to drag me from the Vatican'," said Peter Gumpel, the German Jesuit priest who is in charge of researching whether Pius should be made a saint, and therefore has access to secret Vatican archives.

Pius, who was Pope throughout the war, told his advisers "the person who would leave the under these conditions would not be Pius XII but Eugenio Pacelli" – his name before he was elected Pontiff – thus giving permission for a new Pope to be elected."

It would have been disastrous if the Church had been left without an authoritative leader," said Father Gumpel."Pius wouldn't leave voluntarily. He had been invited repeatedly to go to Portugal or Spain or the United States but he felt he could not leave his diocese under these severe and tragic circumstances." Vatican documents, which still remain secret, are believed to show that Pius was aware of a plan formulated by Hitler in July 1943 to occupy the Vatican and arrest him and his senior cardinals.

On 6 September 1943 – days after Italy signed the September 3 armistice with the Allies and German troops occupied Rome – Pius told key aides that he believed his arrest was imminent.

General Karl Otto Wolff, an SS general, was told to "occupy as soon as possible the Vatican, secure the archives and art treasures and transfer the Pope, together with the Curia so that they cannot fall into the hands of the Allies and exert a political influence."

Hitler ordered the kidnapping, according to historians, because he feared that Pius would further criticise the Nazis' treatment of the Jews.

He was also afraid that the Pontiff's opposition could inspire resistance to the Germans in Italy and other Catholic countries.

Some historians have claimed that General Wolff tipped off the Vatican about the kidnap plans and that he also managed to talk the Fuhrer out of the plot because he believed it would alienate Catholics worldwide.

The latest revelations will be seen by some observers as a further attempt by the Vatican to bolster the case for Pius XII being declared a saint.

Pius has been accused of being anti-Semitic and of harbouring sympathies for the Nazi regime, most notably in the 1999 book Hitler's Pope, by British author John Cornwell.

But other Catholic and Jewish historians contend that in fact Pius was loathed by the Nazis for speaking out about the Holocaust and for behind-the-scenes efforts to save Italian Jews who otherwise would have been sent to death camps.

Tensions over Pius' wartime response are bound to flare up anew over the next fortnight; Pope Benedict departs on 8 May for a week's visit to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.

Tip to New Advent.

From Whispers In The Loggia

Our Lady's Message, April 25, 2009

“Dear children! Today I call you all to pray for peace and to witness it in your families so that peace may become the highest treasure on this peaceless earth. I am your Queen of Peace and your mother. I desire to lead you on the way of peace, which comes only from God. Therefore, pray, pray, pray. Thank you for having responded to my call.”

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You are witnesses of these things


Our Gospel today, on this Third Sunday of Easter, ends with a simple yet powerful reminder, “You are witnesses of these things.” During the 50 days of Easter, we hear all of these incredible stories of the Resurrected Jesus appearing to the Apostles and disciples in different settings; and of the way that their lives were changed by the encounter. Today’s passage comes on the heels of the story of the Walk to Emmaus; that great Easter encounter that leaves those disciples exclaiming two wonderful things – that they came to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread and this lead them to say, “Were not our hearts burning within us as He spoke to us along the way?”

And, today, we hear, “You are witnesses of these things” as yet another post-resurrection encounter takes place. You see, Christ wants us, His followers, to be His witnesses because when we witness we do two things. First, a witness sees an event, has knowledge of something through personal experience and not mere hearsay. Secondly, a witness gives an account of that event to others. So, my friends, Jesus is calling us to be witnesses. He is calling us also to first to have a personal experience of Him and then to share this experience with others.

Fr. Mike has given me the opportunity to preach at all of the Masses this weekend so that I can offer a farewell to the parish as I continue to move into my new ministry as Vocation Director. It is my swan song at St. Francis, so-to-speak. I thank him for this opportunity.

It isn’t easy trying to figure out what to say as you move from one ministry to another. But, as always, I found a little help from my beloved Boston Red Sox. Back in 2004, just before I came to New Milford actually, the Sox traded my all-time favorite Sox player, Nomar Garciaparra (properly pronounced “Nomah”). I always remember what he said when leaving Boston, “My initial reaction was, ‘Wow.’ If it was in my control, I'd still be wearing a Red Sox uniform. That's the place I know, I love, and all those fans, I'll always remember. They can take the shirt off my back, but they can't take away the memories.” I know what Nomar was talking about. I, too, share his mixed feelings as I leave this wonderful Catholic community of St. Francis Xavier after 4 ½ years of ministry here with you. Like Nomar, this is a place that I have come to know and love, and all of the wonderful people here I will always remember – and I certainly anticipated that I’d have stayed here a bit longer. But, no one can ever take away the memories. And what wonderful memories I have.

These memories tie in so wonderfully to our Gospel today, “You are witnesses of these things.” And just like our Gospel, I have been a witness of the presence of Christ so often here. I have had personal experience of the presence and power of God in my ministry with, through and for each and every one of you – so deeply at Mass, so profoundly at the fountain of His mercy in the Confessional, and so frequently in the day-to-day encounters with all of you. And we have shared that witness together. You have showed Christ to me working actively in your lives; hopefully, I have reflected Christ to you; and together we have grown to a deeper faith; a deeper love of God and of His Holy Church.

I saw a commercial a while ago that had me in stitches. It starts with two women chatting in a supermarket aisle. The first woman pats the other woman’s stomach and says, “Oooh, you must be having a boy. When are you due?” The second woman, responds indignantly, “I’m not pregnant.” “You’re not?” “No. Why?” she says. Awkward. The first woman stands like a deer caught in the headlights and finally blurts out, “Thank you?” The second woman’s face lights up and she says, “Me?” “Yes, thank you.” And the two hug it out. The tag line, “It’s amazing what a simple ‘thank you’ can do.”

And, it is amazing what a simple “thank you” can do. As I thought of what I really wanted to say to all of you as I leave, it occurred to me that what I needed to say was nothing more complicated than thank you. Thank you for welcoming me. Thank you for encouraging me. Thank you for praying with me; and praying for me. Thank you for sharing your deep and lasting faith with me. Thank you for sharing your joys and triumphs with me; thank you for trusting me with your troubles and challenges. Thank you for showing me true Christian community. Thank you for being a witness of Christ to me. Thank you for being my friend and my brothers and sisters in Christ.

And, I want to offer a very special thank you to Fr. Mike. Most of you know that Fr. Mike and I have been best friends for almost 20 years. But, it is a very different thing when your best friend is also your boss. But, these last 4 ½ years have been wonderful as Fr. Mike’s Associate Pastor. He has allowed me to grow in my ministry and spiritually; he gave me the freedom to work so specifically with all of our wonderful young people – especially the MCs, and our teens through Life Teen and Edge. I have learned from his gentleness, his compassion and his gift of listening and praying with people. Fr. Mike, I thank you for being my brother in community, my friend, my pastor and mentor. This parish is deeply blessed to have you as its Shepherd. We have all flourished in the Lord under your prayerful guidance.

But, most importantly, I want to thank all of you for the incredible, humbling opportunity to be your priest. There is no honor on this earth that I could ever receive that would eclipse the great privilege that it has been serving as your priest these last 4 ½ years. I am a better, stronger priest because of my time here with you. I take you all – your love, and your prayers – with me in my heart. You have been witnesses to me of the power, love, compassion and awesomeness of God.

Like Nomar said, this is a place that I know, that I love, and all of the wonderful people here I will always remember. I thank you all from the deepest places in my heart and I know that God will continue to shower His abundant blessings on each of you in the future.

And, please, pray for vocations! Send them my way! And, stay in touch.

May God give you peace.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Reclaiming America's Soul

Published: April 23, 2009, New York Times

“Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” So declared President Obama, after his commendable decision to release the legal memos that his predecessor used to justify torture. Some people in the political and media establishments have echoed his position. We need to look forward, not backward, they say. No prosecutions, please; no investigations; we’re just too busy.

And there are indeed immense challenges out there: an economic crisis, a health care crisis, an environmental crisis. Isn’t revisiting the abuses of the last eight years, no matter how bad they were, a luxury we can’t afford?

No, it isn’t, because America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for. “This government does not torture people,” declared former President Bush, but it did, and all the world knows it.

And the only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible.

What about the argument that investigating the Bush administration’s abuses will impede efforts to deal with the crises of today? Even if that were true — even if truth and justice came at a high price — that would arguably be a price we must pay: laws aren’t supposed to be enforced only when convenient. But is there any real reason to believe that the nation would pay a high price for accountability?

For example, would investigating the crimes of the Bush era really divert time and energy needed elsewhere? Let’s be concrete: whose time and energy are we talking about?

Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, wouldn’t be called away from his efforts to rescue the economy. Peter Orszag, the budget director, wouldn’t be called away from his efforts to reform health care. Steven Chu, the energy secretary, wouldn’t be called away from his efforts to limit climate change. Even the president needn’t, and indeed shouldn’t, be involved. All he would have to do is let the Justice Department do its job — which he’s supposed to do in any case — and not get in the way of any Congressional investigations.

I don’t know about you, but I think America is capable of uncovering the truth and enforcing the law even while it goes about its other business.

Still, you might argue — and many do — that revisiting the abuses of the Bush years would undermine the political consensus the president needs to pursue his agenda.

But the answer to that is, what political consensus? There are still, alas, a significant number of people in our political life who stand on the side of the torturers. But these are the same people who have been relentless in their efforts to block President Obama’s attempt to deal with our economic crisis and will be equally relentless in their opposition when he endeavors to deal with health care and climate change. The president cannot lose their good will, because they never offered any.

That said, there are a lot of people in Washington who weren’t allied with the torturers but would nonetheless rather not revisit what happened in the Bush years.

Some of them probably just don’t want an ugly scene; my guess is that the president, who clearly prefers visions of uplift to confrontation, is in that group. But the ugliness is already there, and pretending it isn’t won’t make it go away.

Others, I suspect, would rather not revisit those years because they don’t want to be reminded of their own sins of omission.

For the fact is that officials in the Bush administration instituted torture as a policy, misled the nation into a war they wanted to fight and, probably, tortured people in the attempt to extract “confessions” that would justify that war. And during the march to war, most of the political and media establishment looked the other way.

It’s hard, then, not to be cynical when some of the people who should have spoken out against what was happening, but didn’t, now declare that we should forget the whole era — for the sake of the country, of course.

Sorry, but what we really should do for the sake of the country is have investigations both of torture and of the march to war. These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions — not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws.

We need to do this for the sake of our future. For this isn’t about looking backward, it’s about looking forward — because it’s about reclaiming America’s soul.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 24, 2009, on page A27 of the New York edition.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I've learned...

The subjects covered affect us all on a daily basis:

They're written by Andy Rooney , a man who has the gift of saying so much with so few words. Enjoy.......

I've learned.... That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

I've learned.... That when you're in love, it shows.

I've learned.... That just one person saying to me, 'You've made my day!' makes my day.

I've learned.... That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.

I've learned.... That being kind is more important than being right.

I've learned.... That you should never say no to a gift from a child.

I've learned.... That I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help him in some other way.

I've learned.... That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.

I've learned.... That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.

I've learned.... That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.

I've learned.... That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

I've learned.... That we should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.

I've learned.... That money doesn't buy class.

I've learned.... That it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.

I've learned... That under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

I've learned..... That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.

I 've learned.... That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.

I've learned.... That love, not time, heals all wounds.

I've learned.... That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.
I've learned.... That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.

I've learned.... That no one is perfect until you fall in love with them.

I've learned... That life is tough, but I'm tougher..

I've learned.... That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.

I've learned.... That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.

I've learned.... That I wish I could have told my Mom that I loved her one more time before she passed away.

I've learned.... That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.

I've learned.... That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

I've learned.... That when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, that you're hooked for life.

I've learned.... That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.

I've learned.... That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Prayer for Vocations

From St. Francis' Letter to the Entire Order:

For this, my brothers, has the Lord sent us into the whole world:
To testify by word and deed that He has spoken,
and to make known to all that He alone is almighty.

God our Father, you will all to be saved
and come to the knowledge of the truth.
Send workers into Your harvest
that the Gospel may be preached
to every creature,
and Your people,
gathered together by the Word of Life,
and strengthened by the sacraments
may advance in the way of salvation and love,
this we ask through Christ Our Lord.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Newt Gingrich becomes a Catholic

Washington D.C., Apr 13, 2009 / 12:45 pm (CNA).- The Catholic Church welcomed another high profile politician into the fold recently when former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was welcomed into the faith on Sunday, March 29.

Gingrich, who has had two well documented divorces outside the Catholic Church, appeared on Fox News to discuss North Korea’s recent defiance, but also spoke briefly about his conversion.

The conservative leader said that “reading the literature” and “meeting with Monsignor Rossi” gave him “peace” in his soul and a “sense of well being in the Catholic Church.” He referred to his confirmation as “one of the most powerful moments of [his] life.”

When questioned about his past marriages, he said “we have done everything within the law of the Church over the last 10 years, and it’s been a process.” Gingrich also pointed to Pope Benedict XVI as a contributor to his conversion.

He said that “seeing the joy in his eyes, listening to his message” led him to “really believe” in the Church’s message.

Gingrich also echoed Benedict XVI’s Palm Sunday message about self sacrifice and denial as the way to a successful life by saying that he believed that “much of what’s wrong with our country” can be solved not with more selfishness and greed, but rather by “looking inside ourselves, not just looking at money or looking at our wallets.”

On the move

The local paper did a story today on my move to Boston to become our Province's new Vocation Director.

St. Francis Xavier associate pastor in New Milford departs to take on vocations ministry
Associate pastor leaving New Milford church to take on vocations ministry

By Nanci G. Hutsonstaff writer
Updated: 04/13/2009 12:57:57 AM EDT

NEW MILFORD -- Growing up Roman Catholic, the Rev. Thomas Washburn of St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church never felt called to ministry.

In his early college years, he studied psychology but switched to become a newspaper reporter. His spiritual life was on the back burner.

Then one Saturday night, the 21-year-old felt compelled to attend Mass. Eighteen months later, he was taking vows as a Franciscan priest. God ignited a spark in his heart that night that quickly erupted into a spiritual inferno -- leading him to seminary and a life following the path begun by St. Francis of Assisi in Italy 800 years ago.

Some 18 years later, the 40-year-old associate pastor from New Bedford, Mass., says that religious flame still burns. Now he hopes its glow is enough to draw other young Catholic men to consider the Franciscan life as their vocation.

Right after Easter, Washburn will accept a new post as the provincial director of vocations for the Franciscan Province of the Immaculate Conception. He will be headquartered in Boston, but will travel the province that operates 24 parishes, four retreat centers, several schools and other ministries in New England, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Toronto, Canada.

And Washburn is not at all daunted by the fact that this is a demanding call -- the very future of the church depends upon attracting men to the priesthood.

Washburn is a believer that there is a "great openness to this kind of life" but that such spiritual callings are often squelched before they have a chance to mature. His job will be to inspire, encourage and support those who have such leanings.

"Young people are hungry, starving, for a life of meaning; to know that they can make an impact for good, to make people happier, healthier and safer," said Washburn, who has been active in youth ministry. "Young people are open to a life of service in the church, but often we don't encourage it."

Franciscan life is a call to follow Assisi's theology that the Gospel is "not something to be read but to be lived."

"God isn't limited to scripture, or prayer, or liturgy," Washburn said of St. Francis theology.
Franciscans are humanitarians and environmentalists; they are eager to live out the Gospel teachings of Jesus by caring for the poor, the hungry, and the lost. They care about all of God's creations.

"St. Francis couldn't look anywhere where he didn't see God," he said.

Washburn said he sees his mission as instilling in young men a sense that this life can "have an enormous, positive impact on the world."

Parishioner Amy Llerena said Washburn has the spiritual gifts needed for this duty.

"He's so committed; he believes in what he does. And he spreads the word. The role is perfectly suited for him," Llerena said.

Like the senior pastor and other area clergy, Llerena said he has not only left a mark at St. Francis but in the New Milford community.

"We will miss him from the bottom of our hearts," Llerena said.

The Rev. Gail Keeney-Mulligan of St. John's Episcopal Church on the Green, who will be leaving her ministry in the next couple months, called working with Washburn a "blessing."

She said she appreciates that Washburn doesn't tolerate judgement. He believes the good simply must be found and nurtured.

"He looks for the good in everyone," Keeney-Mulligan said.

St. Francis' senior pastor, Rev. Michael MacInnis, who arrived at the church with Washburn 4 1/2 years ago, stated that Washburn's "unbounding energy to share the Good News of Jesus" benefited St. Francis and will serve this ministry.

"I could go on and on because Father Tom has done so much in our community to lead us all closer to Christ," MacInnis concluded.

Contact Nanci Hutson at or at (860) 354-2274 .

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Urbi et Orbi


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world,
From the depths of my heart, I wish all of you a blessed Easter. To quote Saint Augustine, “Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra – the resurrection of the Lord is our hope” (Sermon 261:1). With these words, the great Bishop explained to the faithful that Jesus rose again so that we, though destined to die, should not despair, worrying that with death life is completely finished; Christ is risen to give us hope (cf. ibid.).

Indeed, one of the questions that most preoccupies men and women is this: what is there after death? To this mystery today’s solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word, because Life will be victorious at the end. This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning, but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, is risen with his glorified body. Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message. As Saint Paul vigorously declares: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” He goes on to say: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:14,19). Ever since the dawn of Easter a new Spring of hope has filled the world; from that day forward our resurrection has begun, because Easter does not simply signal a moment in history, but the beginning of a new condition: Jesus is risen not because his memory remains alive in the hearts of his disciples, but because he himself lives in us, and in him we can already savour the joy of eternal life.

The resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of his “Passover”, his “passage”, that has opened a “new way” between heaven and earth (cf. Heb 10:20). It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the Cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb. In fact, at dawn on the first day after the Sabbath, Peter and John found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene and the other women encountered the risen Jesus. On the way to Emmaus the two disciples recognized him at the breaking of the bread. The Risen One appeared to the Apostles that evening in the Upper Room and then to many other disciples in Galilee.

The proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live. I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life. It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, the “emptiness” would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and his resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion. Yet today is the day when the proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection vigorously bursts forth, and it is the answer to the recurring question of the sceptics, that we also find in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’?” (Ec 1:10). We answer, yes: on Easter morning, everything was renewed. “Mors et vita, duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus – Death and life have come face to face in a tremendous duel: the Lord of life was dead, but now he lives triumphant.” This is what is new! A newness that changes the lives of those who accept it, as in the case of the saints. This, for example, is what happened to Saint Paul.

Many times, in the context of the Pauline year, we have had occasion to meditate on the experience of the great Apostle. Saul of Tarsus, the relentless persecutor ofChristians, encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, and was “conquered” by him. The rest we know. In Paul there occurred what he would later write about to the Christians of Corinth: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). Let us look at this great evangelizer, who with bold enthusiasm and apostolic zeal brought the Gospel to many different peoples in the world of that time. Let his teaching and example inspire us to go in search of the Lord Jesus. Let them encourage us to trust him, because that sense of emptiness, which tends to intoxicate humanity, has been overcome by the light and the hope that emanate from the resurrection. The words of the Psalm have truly been fulfilled: “Darkness is not darkness for you, and the night is as clear as the day” (Ps 139 [138]:12). It is no longer emptiness that envelops all things, but the loving presence of God. The very reign of death has been set free, because the Word of life has even reached the “underworld”, carried by the breath of the Spirit (v. 8).

If it is true that death no longer has power over man and over the world, there still remain very many, in fact too many signs of its former dominion. Even if through Easter, Christ has destroyed the root of evil, he still wants the assistance of men and women in every time and place who help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love. This is the message which, during my recent Apostolic Visit to Cameroon and Angola, I wanted to convey to the entire African continent, where I was welcomed with such great enthusiasm and readiness to listen. Africa suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction in several of her nations, and from the growing number of her sons and daughters who fall prey to hunger, poverty and disease. I shall repeat the same message emphatically in the Holy Land, to which I shall have the joy of travelling in a few weeks from now. Reconciliation – difficult, but indispensable – is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My thoughts move outwards from the Holy Land to neighbouring countries, to the Middle East, to the whole world. At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and deprivation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever-present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope. Let no one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ’s Resurrection. For as I said earlier, Christ is looking for men and women who will help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love.

Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra! The resurrection of Christ is our hope! This the Church proclaims today with joy. She announces the hope that is now firm and invincible because God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. She communicates the hope that she carries in her heart and wishes to share with all people in every place, especially where Christians suffer persecution because of their faith and their commitment to justice and peace. She invokes the hope that can call forth the courage to do good, even when it costs, especially when it costs. Today the Church sings “the day that the Lord has made”, and she summons people to joy. Today the Church calls in prayer upon Mary, Star of Hope, asking her to guide humanity towards the safe haven of salvation which is the heart of Christ, the paschal Victim, the Lamb who has “redeemed the world”, the Innocent one who has “reconciled us sinners with the Father”. To him, our victorious King, to him who is crucified and risen, we sing out with joy our Alleluia!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

We too can be raised!


Back during the first Gulf War in 1991, a Kansas mother received the news one Thursday that every mother prays she will never receive. Two army officers walked into the factory where she worked and told her that her son Joshua had been killed in action. She cried and went home to mourn his loss. Then, Saturday night, while she was in the kitchen, the phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “Mom, it’s Josh! I’m alive!” He had to repeat those words three times before his mother realized what he was saying. He went on to tell her that he was very much alive, that he had been injured but would be okay and that there had been a mix up somewhere along the line. His mother, of course, began to cry tears of incredible joy – her son was alive!

That fantastic story bears some resemblance to what happened in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Even some of the details are similar. Like Jesus, Joshua had met death at the hands of enemies as he performed a service for people that he believed in deeply. As was true in the case of Jesus, Joshua’s death was mourned for nearly two days. And, as was true of Jesus, the news that Joshua was alive and not dead filled his mother and his friends with incredible joy.

But the similarity between the two stops there. Joshua was only thought to have been dead. Jesus, on the other hand, was truly dead. Moreover, Joshua’s “new life” if we can refer to it as that, was simply a resumption of his former life. Jesus’ new life, on the other hand, was a leap forward into a higher life – a life that no person had ever experienced. Jesus’ new life involved resurrection, not resuscitation.

The word resurrection does not mean a restoration to one’s pervious life, as happened to Lazarus for example, or Jairus’ daughter, or the widow of Nain. It is not resuscitation. Resurrection is something infinitely more. The word resurrection designates a quantum leap forward into a totally and completely new life. It is something no human being had yet experienced. In other words, the body of Jesus that rose on Easter morning was radically different from the body that was buried on Good Friday.

St. Paul compares a body before and after resurrection to a seed and the plant that emerges from it. He says in First Corinthians, “When the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised, it will be immortal. When buried, it is weak; when raised, it will be beautiful and strong. When buried, it is a physical body; when raised, it will be a spiritual body.”

And this brings us to our gathering here in our church on this day of days. Easter tells us that the personal transformation of life that took place in Jesus is not something that is reserved for Jesus alone. It is something that will take place in each of us through the grace of our own baptism. We, too, are destined for resurrection. We, too, are destined to share in the incredibly transformed life that Jesus now enjoys in heaven.

More close at hand, Easter tells us something else. We see in our Gospels that not only was Jesus remarkably transformed on Easter, but also that His disciples were remarkably transformed. Easter transformed them from a band of despairing people into a brigade of daring missionaries. At the command of Jesus they set out to carry the message of Easter to the farthest reaches of the Earth. And everywhere they preached the Good News, the power of Easter began to work in people’s lives, just as it had in their own lives. Beautiful things began to happen. Despair gave way to hope; darkness gave way to light; hatred gave way to love; sorrow gave way to joy.

In short, everywhere the disciples preached, the power of Easter began to work miracles in people’s lives. And those miracles haven’t stopped yet. They continue to happen to our own day.

This is the Good News of Easter! This is the Good News that we have come together to celebrate today. It is the Good News that we are destined to be transformed just as Jesus was transformed on this day 2,000 years ago. It is the Good News that Jesus also wishes to transform our present lives today, just as He transformed the lives of His disciples after His resurrection. It is the Good News that Jesus is ready to work miracles of new life in us, if we but open our hearts to His Easter power. It is the Good News that every Good Friday in our lives can be turned into an Easter Sunday, if we but open our hearts to the risen power of the risen Jesus.

It is the Good News that we don’t have to wait until we die to share in the risen life of Jesus. We can begin right now, here today, in this Mass, in this moment of Easter joy and resurrection.
This is what Easter is all about. It is the Good News that the risen Jesus is here with us, here in this church, in our midst, right now. This Risen Jesus invites us to a new life of faith, hope and love.

May God fill you with Easter joy!

"Seven Stanzas for Easter" by John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why not my will?


The directives for our liturgy today say, “The priest may give a brief homily.” Now, when I looked at that I thought – does that mean that the priest may or may not give a homily, or that it may or may not be brief. Well, anyway, I will try to be brief.

For the second time this week, we hear the Passion of Jesus powerfully proclaimed. And, I think we can sit with the question – what are we to make of this? What are we to make of this incredibly selfless act of Jesus giving His life for our sakes? Well, I think the meaning is in what happened just before we began our story tonight. We began tonight with Judas handing over Jesus. But, before these events kicked into motion, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, also called, perhaps more appropriately, the Garden of the Agony.

In the garden, He prays, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Imagine that. Jesus knows what is about to transpire. His destiny has been revealed to Him. He knows about the unfair trial and the mockery that awaits. He has predicted the denial by those who love Him. He knows of the public humiliation, and the pain of the scourging and the crucifixion. And yet, he prays, “Not my will, but Your will.” Faced with overwhelming pain and suffering, the prayer of Christ is powerfully to follow the will of God – even to the Cross.

And how about us? How do we face the same trials and tribulations, pains and anguish, in our own lives? When we are faced with suffering that we know, or don’t know, and we bring that suffering to God, what is our prayer? Well, very often, we can be very close to the prayer of Jesus, but sometimes close can still make all the difference in the world. When we are faced with challenges and struggles, do we pray, like Jesus, “Not my will, but Your will?” Or do we pray, instead, “Why NOT my will God? Why me? Why must I carry this cross, endure this pain, this struggle? Not this, Lord. Anything but this. Why NOT my will?”

You know what an inspiration Fr. Mike’s Mom, Adele, was in my life and in many people’s lives. I have preached about her before. As I have been reflecting on this homily for the last few weeks, I kept coming back to an encounter that she had with Fr. Mike in the final months of her life. Although you’d never guess it when you met this joyful woman, Adele’s life had been full of suffering. She lost family members very dear to her when she was very young; in her attempts to bear children, she endured 7 miscarriages. And towards the end of her life, she suffered from diabetes and congestive heart failure. Cancer of the kidney lead to the removal of one of her kidneys and her remaining kidney was failing so that she had to receive dialysis for a few years.

The diabetes had lead to the need to amputate one of her legs at the age of 77. Just before this surgery, Fr. Mike visited with Adele and anointed her with the Sacrament of the Sick. In their conversation, Adele shared how she was constantly praying for her family to know Jesus more deeply. Fr. Mike prayed with his Mom and asked her a question we can all relate to, “Mom do you ever wonder why you’ve had to go through so much suffering?” Adele said, correctively to her son, “Mike, I have never asked ‘Why me?’ The question I ask is, ‘Why not me?’” Smiling she said, “I’m not wasting this suffering.”

My friends, what Adele knew – what Jesus knew – is that our suffering is a gift; our suffering is a grace; our suffering is an opportunity; our suffering is salvific. What she and Jesus know is that our suffering isn’t about us; it is about others. It isn’t full of pain; it is full of love. Jesus could have the courage to trust in God’s will because He knew the glory that this moment would bring to the world; to all of creation. “I make all things new.” He knew the Gates of Heaven fly open in this moment and salvation will spread to all people. He knew that this moment was not about Him; it was about us.

My friends, our suffering, too, presents us with the chance to transform our pain into glory for someone else, for the world. Our suffering isn’t separate from Christ’s suffering. When we unite our suffering with Christ, we are standing at the foot of the Cross on Calvary, participating with Christ in the salvation of the world. When we ask only “Why me?” we are asking the wrong question and missing out on that opportunity. Jesus gives us the chance to make meaning and glory out of the most challenging moments life can deal us. So, why waste it? Why waste that suffering? Now, we don’t have to go and seek it out – our Cross has been custom made for us and it will find us; we need not look for it. But, the question is, when it finds us, what will we do?

My brothers and sisters, as we approach the Cross tonight for veneration, will we kneel before our Lord and say, “Why NOT my will Lord?” Or will we have the courage to say, “Not my will, but Yours be done?” Will we kiss that wood and ask, “Why me?” Or will we have the strength to say, “Why not me?”

Behold the wood of the Cross. O come, let us adore.

Agony in the Garden

He died for you

Thursday, April 9, 2009

He said, "You are going to live!"


A woman accompanied her husband to the doctor's office. After his checkup, concerned, the doctor called the wife into his office alone. He said, “Your husband is suffering from a very severe stress disorder. If you don't do the following, your husband will most definitely die.” The woman quickly said, “Tell me, doctor, what I need to do.”

The doctor said, “Each morning, fix him a healthy breakfast. Be pleasant at all times. For lunch make him a nutritious meal. For dinner prepare an especially nice meal. Don't burden him with chores. Don't discuss your problems with him, it will only make his stress worse. And, most importantly, no nagging. If you can do this for the next 10 months to a year, your husband will regain his health completely.” On the way home, the husband asked his wife. “What did the doctor say?” The woman looked at her husband, thought for a moment and said, “The doctor said you're going to die.”

This humorous story points out a true reality tonight – if love isn’t paired with service, we cannot truly live.

We gather on this Holy Night and celebrate the beginning of the Sacred Triduum, three days which really serve as one singular feast. Tonight’s feast is in itself a mini-Triduum recalling three things in particular – the institution of the Eucharist, the mandate to service, and the establishment priesthood – but ultimately I think it focuses on God’s bounty; God’s goodness to us. On this holy night, our God spoils us.

The Sacred Triduum seeks nothing less than to inspire us; to remind us who we are as children of God and members of the Church; and most profoundly to remind us through dramatic moments of ritual and sacrament and prayer of one powerful reality – that Jesus Christ is real.

We do not merely gather here tonight to tell a very old story. We gather here tonight to meet a real person – our Savior Jesus Christ, who – although He walked the earth some 2,000 years ago – is still living and active and in our midst today. I’ll say it again, Jesus Christ is real!
In the history of the Church, the celebration of Holy Week and the season of Lent were originally established for those who were preparing to enter the Church as new members. Originally, new members entered only once a year, at the Easter Vigil. In my studies for my Master’s Degree in Liturgy, I did a great deal of reading about this process of preparation, particularly the first 400 years of the Church and one thing I discovered is that these rituals in the early Church had the same goal as they do today – to help us realize what Christ has done for us and what we must, in turn, do for Christ.

There was tremendous drama in the rituals in their earliest forms. In our modern ritual, for example, when we do the renunciation of sin, we ask simple questions, “Do you reject Satan? And all his works? And all his empty promises?” But, in the early Church, they took those words and turned them into action. For example, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in a Holy Week sermon from the 4th century explains the renunciation of sin to catechumens this way. He said, “You began by entering the outer room of the baptistery. You faced westward, heard a voice commanding you to stretch out your hand, you spit in the face of Satan and renounced him as though to his face. I will tell you now, for you need to know, why you face westward. The west is the quarter from which darkness appears to us; now the devil is darkness, and wields his power in darkness. So we look to the west as a symbolic gesture, and renounce the leader of shadow and darkness. So, what each of you said as you stood there was, ‘I renounce you, Satan, you wicked and most cruel tyrant’…For Christ has dissolved that power by sharing with me in the blood and flesh…I renounce you, you cunning and most vicious serpent. I renounce you, you plotter, who under the guise of friendship have worked all manner of wrong and caused our first parents to secede from God.” Now, how’s that for drama?

Likewise when it came to approaching the altar for the Eucharist, catechumens were reminded of its awesome power. In a similar Holy Week homily, St. Ambrose instructed catechumens saying this, “Perhaps you say, ‘The bread I have here is ordinary bread.’ Yes, before the sacramental words are uttered this bread is nothing but bread. But at the consecration this bread becomes the body of Christ…When the moment comes for bringing the most holy sacrament into being, the priest does not use his own words any longer: he uses the words of Christ. Therefore it is Christ’s words that bring this sacrament into being. What is this word of Christ? It is the word by which all things were made. The Lord commanded and the heavens were made, the Lord commanded and the earth was made, the Lord commanded and all creatures came into being. See, then, how efficacious the word of Christ is. There was no heaven, there was no sea, there was no earth. And yet, as David says, ‘He spoke and it was made; he commanded and it was created.’ To answer your question, then, before the consecration it was not the body of Christ, but after the consecration I tell you that it is now the body of Christ. He spoke and it was made, he commanded and it was created…You see from all this, surely, the power that is contained in the heavenly word.” What is St. Ambrose’s point? Quite simply and quite powerfully that Jesus Christ is real!

A final modern example. This one comes from Pope John Paul the Great in a letter he wrote for Holy Week 2002. He said, “Before this extraordinary Eucharistic reality we find ourselves amazed and overwhelmed, so deep is the humility by which God ‘stoops’ in order to unite himself with us! If we feel moved before the Christmas crib, when we contemplate the Incarnation of the Word, what must we feel before the altar where, by the poor hands of the priest, Christ makes his Sacrifice present in time? We can only fall to our knees and silently adore this supreme mystery of faith.” My brothers and sisters, the profound question that God places in your heart tonight is this: Do you believe that Jesus is real and is present in our midst? If the answer is “yes” then we’ve got to be like the early Christians and that belief has got to be translated through the example of our lives into so much more than words – it must be lived in action!

Our Gospel proclaimed tonight, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Have you ever wondered why it is that on this night that commemorates the institution of both the priesthood and the Eucharist, our Gospel is about foot washing? We would expect perhaps to have a passage from Matthew, Mark or Luke related to the Last Supper. Instead, we’re given the washing of the feet. Why? Again, quite simply, because Jesus is real. Our liturgy reminds us tonight that our recognition of Jesus cannot end with a recognition of His presence on our altar, or in Sacred Scripture, or at times of prayer. That is just the beginning of recognizing Him. Once we see Him present in the Blessed Sacrament, we must, of necessity, seek Him out in the world, we must show Jesus as present to the world. We do this by reaching out to the poor, the hungry, the lonely, the grieving, the outcast, the marginalized, those who are in need in our world – we do this by washing feet. Just as Jesus is real on this altar in His sacred Body and Blood, He needs to be real in our world by our real acts of Christian love-in-service.

St. Augustine, also speaking to catechumens, said of the Eucharist, “We become what we receive.” When we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, He wants it to be fruitful in our lives, so that we can become a true reflection of Jesus in the world. My friends, the reality is that Service is Eucharist. Our Eucharist is not complete until it finds its full expression in acts of Christian charity.

There is a story about some ladies who met to study the scriptures. While reading the third chapter of Malachi, they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse: “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” Trying to understand this passage, one lady decided to visit a silversmith, and without telling him the reason for her visit, asked him to tell her about the process of refining silver. After he had fully described it to her, she asked, “Sir, do you sit while the work of refining is going on?” “Oh, yes,” replied the silversmith; “I must sit and watch the furnace constantly, for, if the time necessary for refining is exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.” She then asked, “How do you know when the process is complete?” He replied, “That's quite simple. When I can see my own image in the silver, the refining process is finished.” “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

My friends, on this Holy Night, look into the mirror that is Jesus Christ in His Sacred Body and Blood. Look there until you see your own image reflected in the face of Jesus. Then, become that mirror for the world, reflecting the face of Christ to all who see your face. So, my friends, what did the doctor say? He said, “You are going to live.”

“‘Do you realize what I have done for you?...I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

May God give you peace.

Immersed in the Truth

"On the eve of my priestly ordination, fifty-eight years ago, I opened the Sacred Scripture, because I wanted to receive once more a word from the Lord for that day and for my future journey as a priest. My gaze fell on this passage: 'Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth'. Then I realized: the Lord is speaking about me, and he is speaking to me. This very same thing will be accomplished tomorrow in me. When all is said and done, we are not consecrated by rites, even though rites are necessary. The bath in which the Lord immerses us is himself – the Truth in person. Priestly ordination means: being immersed in him, immersed in the Truth. I belong in a new way to him and thus to others, 'that his Kingdom may come'. Dear friends, in this hour of the renewal of promises, we want to pray to the Lord to make us men of truth, men of love, men of God. Let us implore him to draw us ever anew into himself, so that we may become truly priests of the New Covenant. Amen."

-- Pope Benedict,
at the conclusion of his homily for today's Chrism Mass in Rome

Monday, April 6, 2009

A drop of golden sun for you on this rainy day

Advocate for the World's Poor

[FT Comment: Cardinal Rodriguez is an Affiliate of our Franciscan Province. His heart is so deeply Franciscan.]

According to Caritas Internationalis, someone in the world dies of hunger every 3.6 seconds. Eleven million children under the age of 5 die each year, six million of them from preventable causes. And the odds that a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa will die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth stand at one in 16. In the developed world, the odds are one in 3,800.

“Health is the only capital of the poor,” says Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez of Honduras, “and health is at its worst in the poorest nations.” A longtime advocate for the world’s poorest people, Cardinal Rodríguez serves as president of Caritas, which is the global umbrella group for some 160 Catholic charitable organizations.

In late September the cardinal addressed the U.N. General Assembly about the Millennium Development Goals, eight goals established by the United Nations in the year 2000 to combat extreme poverty in the world, meant to be achieved by 2015. The goals, said the cardinal, are “a catalyst for action...a reminder of the suffering of millions of people who live in extreme poverty.”

Progress has been slow; in some areas there has been practically none at all. The problem, said Rodríguez in an interview with America, lies to a large extent with the international community, which is “closed in on its own interests.” The G-8 industrialized nations see the rest of the world as strangers and regard “the market as their god.” Greed has invaded many giant corporations. When human beings forget that there are limits to the spirit of acquisitiveness and do not take into account the needs of the rest of the world, “we see the consequences.” He identified an example of unbridled greed: “The oil industry enriches some nations, but without a greater sense of universal solidarity it will be impossible to overcome poverty.”

“I’ve seen that same greed in my own country, Honduras,” Cardinal Rodríguez told the General Assembly. “International mining companies extract from the land its riches” and then “leave it poisoned and the people who live there worse off.”

Sustainable Development

Rodríguez explained that the international community’s reluctance to foster sustainable development in the poorest countries is partly responsible for the massive waves of global migration that are now taking place, as well as the walls built to stop them.

In May 2008, when he was interviewed in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, Cardinal Rodríguez spoke of the painful irony that while the North American Free Trade Agreement allows for the free movement of goods between Mexico and the United States, human beings are not afforded that same privilege, though they are usually poor men and women seeking only to forge a better life for themselves and their children through hard and honest work. Five years earlier, at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual Catholic Social Ministry gathering in Washington, D.C., the cardinal had also articulated the link between poverty and immigration: “The wealthy North will never have enough steel walls to contain the avalanche of illegal immigrants unless there is a real development” in poor nations.

Development and immigration are global issues that need large-scale remedies. There is a need, Cardinal Rodríguez said in his U.N. address, “to galvanize governments into urgent action by living up to past promises on development.” Past promises have been many. In 1975 at the Helsinki Conference, for example, 35 countries, including the United States, agreed to set aside 0.7 percent of their gross national product for development in poor countries. Without creating development opportunities in poor countries, “the only businesses that prosper are drug trafficking and the trafficking of human beings.”

So powerful has the drug trade become in Central and Latin America, he said, that the leaders of some cartels are able to direct their activities by cellphone while in prison. Complicating matters is the weakness of the justice system; the drug trade “involves so much money that a judge who really does his job places his own life in danger,” said Rodríguez.

Regarding human trafficking, the cardinal observed that traffickers in Honduras, his own country, charge $5,000 to transport a person into the United States, but once across the border they often abandon their charges in the desert. Hundreds die every year from exposure. Kidnapping, too, has become a kind of industry unto itself in Latin American countries.

Over the years Cardinal Rodríguez has commented on other issues affecting the poor of the world. He once described debt as “a tombstone over many nations.” Yet in countries where debt cancellation has occured, the results have been striking. Caritas Internationalis has reported that in Mozambique, for instance, cancellation has freed up money to pay for immunizations for children; in Tanzania it has meant the abolition of school fees and as a result, a 65 percent increase in school attendance.

At the United Nations, Cardinal Rodríguez warned that “climate change is undoing much of the progress made in developing countries.” Hurricane Mitch destroyed half a century of progress in Honduras. Climate change affects all countries, he said, but “the poor suffer disproportionately more than the rich,” even though “they bear the least responsibility for the pollution causing global warming.” To begin to change this dark situation, the industrialized nations “must back up their M.D.G. commitments by cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 24 to 40 percent by 2020,” he explained, and then “by 80 percent by 2050 to avoid catastrophe.”

One hopeful sign of progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals lies in the $16 billion in new contributions and pledges made during the U.N. gathering at a high-level meeting in which Cardinal Rodríguez took part. Caritas Internationalis subsequently reported that $1.6 billion had been pledged to foster food security and another $2 billion to improve maternal health and address child mortality.

In light of the soaring prices and given the global economic downturn, however, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that additional efforts will be needed before the international community can come even close to reaching the targets for reducing extreme poverty. The cardinal’s words at the end of his address were similarly blunt. Much of the world’s ongoing poverty, he said, has been caused by “a failure of politics and a failure of leadership.” How far those failures can be rectified may become evident in the next two years, if the secretary general’s proposal is accepted to hold a summit meeting in 2010 to review the Millennium Development Goals.

George M. Anderson, S.J., is an associate editor of America.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What about the donkey?


Today our celebration of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion begins the great feast of Holy Week – the most sacred week of our Church year. At first glance, today can seem like an odd feast. Before the Second Vatican Council, Palm Sunday was observed one week before Passion Sunday giving people time to savor the echoes of “Hosanna!” for a week before they are confronted with the bitter cries “Crucify Him!” Today, the two celebrations have been brought together. We began by commemorating the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, joining the people of Jerusalem welcoming Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!” And now, we turn to the story of the suffering and death - the Passion - of our Lord Jesus Christ in which our “Hosannas” are changed to cries of “Crucify Him!” The dramatic and emotional effect of bringing these two aspects of the reality of Jesus’ life together is at first strange, but I think ultimately helpful.

These two themes of “Hosanna” and “Crucify Him” serve as a prologue to the rest of Holy Week. This is sort of like a movie preview that we see before the feature presentation. We get glimpses of the glory – Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem – and a look at what is to come – His death on the cross. But, like every good movie preview, it doesn’t give away the ending. We have to stick around to see how this all turns out.

Today, I want to focus on the “Hosanna” of our story – the glorious entrance – and I want to look at a character in the story that perhaps we don’t usually think about. We often focus on Jesus as King, or the disciples and their part in the story, or the crowds and how they hailed Jesus. I want to talk about two characters no one ever seems to mention – the donkey and its’ owner. Think about it for a minute. How different would this story be if the owner of the donkey had refused to give it up? Maybe we would have no story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, at least not in the way Jesus intended.

The point is that no matter how unknown a person is, how small a role someone plays, every part is crucial in the full unfolding of God’s plan. The Lord needs each one of us just as He needed even a donkey and its owner in His entry to Jerusalem.

Now, a donkey was a very big thing in the time of Jesus. The donkey was the equivalent of a car, a truck and a tractor all in one. People used it to move around and do their shopping, to carry a heavy load, and in cultivating the land. Add to this the fact that this donkey had never been ridden, that means it was brand new and had a very high market value. Still has low miles and that new-donkey smell! So, you can see that giving up the donkey just because the Lord needed it was a very big sacrifice indeed. It was a generous and heroic act of faith; even though it seems very simple.

It begs the question of us – do we respond as quickly and as generously when our Master calls for our gifts, talents and treasure? We are reminded today that each one of us has got a donkey that our Master needs. Will we give it to Him freely?

The famous spiritual writer Max Lucado offers this reflection on using our donkey for the service of the Lord. He wrote, “Sometimes I get the impression that God wants me to give him something and sometimes I don’t give it because I don’t know for sure, and then I feel bad because I’ve missed my chance. Other times I know he wants something but I don’t give it because I’m too selfish. And other times, too few times, I hear him and I obey him and feel honored that a gift of mine would be used to carry Jesus to another place. And still other times I wonder if my little deeds today will make a difference in the long haul. Maybe you have those questions, too. All of us have a donkey. You and I each have something in our lives, which, if given back to God, could, like the donkey, move Jesus and His story further down the road. Maybe you can sing or program a computer or speak Swahili or write a check. Whichever, that’s your donkey. Whichever, your donkey belongs to God. It really does belong to Him. Your gifts are His and the donkey was His. The wording of the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples is proof: “And if anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will answer, ‘The Master has need of it.’”

My friends, as we enter into yet another great and glorious Holy Week, let us ask for the grace to hold back nothing of ourselves from the Lord, our Master. Let us freely give of our time, our talent and our treasure – our donkey – to bring forth the very presence of God in our world; to help transport Jesus from this place to the many places where people do not yet know Him. Let us be forever in His service.

So, what is the name of your donkey? Your Master has need of it.

Have a blessed Holy Week and may God give you peace.

Get clean from the inside out with Soul Wow! Go to

This is fantastic!!! Here in New Milford, you can see us after any Mass or confessions again on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Get that "almost baptized" feeling!!

Dr. Oz to Oprah and Michael J Fox: "The stem cell debate is over."

This is really incredible. Take the 3 minutes to watch.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Parish plans for future vocation

I like this idea!! FT

Wichita, Kan., Apr 3, 2009 / 05:15 am (CNA).- Holy Name Parish in Winfield, Kansas has never produced a vocation to the priesthood and hasn’t had a vocation to the religious life in recent years. But that isn’t stopping parishioners from praying and planning for one, or two, or more.

The parish has started what could be described as a college fund for the next young man who begins seminary work or the next young woman who enters the religious life.

Julie Toon, a convert of about seven years, said the parish will be hosting its third dinner Saturday, April 4, to raise money for their future vocation.

The dinner does two things, she said. “Not only will it help pay for books when they go to school or enter the religious life, it also increases awareness of vocations in the parish.”

The parish has been praying for vocations, Toon said, adding that the prayer and events, such as the dinner, help young men and women understand the parish’s support for religious vocations.

“We’re hoping by the time we have a vocation there will be enough money in the fund to help them out considerably,” she said.

Julie and her husband, Tim, are chairpersons of the prime rib dinner which will be held after the 5:30 p.m. Mass Saturday, April 4, in the parish. Several parishioners are acting as chefs for the event. A silent auction will also be held.

“The hallmark of this event is vocation awareness,” said Fr. Bernie Gorges, pastor of Holy Name. “And second to that is the fund.”

Father Gorges said he wants parishioners to understand that vocations to the priesthood and religious life come from normal families.

“We want parents to realize that vocations are possible in their own families,” he said.
Guest speakers will be Father Michael Simone, director of Vocations for the Diocese of Wichita, and Jim and Connie Armour, whose daughter is a nun.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

John Paul 2, we miss you!

It is hard to believe that today marks the 4th anniversary of the passing of this saint in our midst, Pope John Paul II or Pope John Paul the Great. What a fixture he was in our lives, and what an intercessor we now have on our side.
John Paul the Great, pray for us!

Poland marks 4th anniversary of John Paul's death

Krakow, Poland, Apr 2, 2009 / 03:50 am (CNA).- On Thursday Poland will mark the fourth anniversary of the death of Servant of God Pope John Paul II with prayers, poetry and music as a website advocates for his beatification. A web page has been created where readers can sign in and endorse the “Saint now” appeal launched in St. Peter’s Square on the day of the pontiff’s funeral.

“The page was not opened to pressure people or try to speed up the beatification process, but to send a tangible sign that the words ‘Saint now’ were not just uttered on the spur of the moment,” the page organizers said, according to SIR.

The appeal says “John Paul II exerts great influence on the moral attitudes of the Polish population and lives in our hearts as a saint.”

Signatures to the appeal are displayed under a short prayer thanking God for the gift of Pope John Paul II and asking that he be beatified soon, SIR reports.

The Polish-language website is located at

Also on Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI will preside at a Mass marking the anniversary of John Paul II. Young people from the diocese of Rome are particularly welcome at the ceremony as a preparation for World Youth Day, which is celebrated on the diocesan level on April 5.

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