Welcome to the blog of Deacon Thomas Picciano. Published usually three days a week, this blog gives you another avenue of reflection.
To read Dc. Tom’s posts from 2020, click here.
June 14, 2021
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith….”
I started a retreat on June 6th. Each day I read, pray and write from a thick spiral-bound book on Ignatian spirituality. One entry scribbled so far: “I hope I can keep this up.” You see, it goes on for 12 weeks.
You may have heard of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a soldier who was wounded severely in the legs by a cannonball 500-years ago. Took him a year to recuperate. He did so by acquainting himself with Jesus. Then he went on to found the Jesuits. They’re marking the half-millennium that’s passed in many ways.
The Ignatian Examen asks first to put yourself in God’s presence. There are four other parts to the prayer. Read more here if you wish.
Wonder how God will reach out to me in the nearly 3-month faith journey I’m on?
“…test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” 1 Cor 13:5
St. Ignatius, please pray for us.
June 11, 2021
About Roses and Mary’s Immaculate Heart
My phone rang this morning as I was almost out the door to Mass. It was Esther calling—one who helped my mother during her years of dementia. She was near and wanted to stop to get some items.
Outside she saw the overflowing rose bush. Of the dozens of red flowers, she uncovered two pink ones. Interesting find. Just yesterday, there was a pink among red roses at the grave of my mother’s two sisters.
Thought of the Blessed Mother and her connection with roses. Tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Read more about it in an article from the University of Notre Dame. It’s said that the feast day comes the day after the Sacred Heart of Jesus, because it’s a devotion that was put together to “enter more deeply into the mystery of God’s love.”
“And his mother kept all these things in her heart. ”Luke 2:51
June 7, 2021
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel…”
It’s happened to us all. Someone promises something, but doesn’t come through. And on occasion, we do the same. Seems If it’s in writing, an agreement spelled out, makes it easier to follow. So, it was with God too.
I’ve always been interested in the Old Testament pacts. It said a lot for the houses of Israel and Judah. While they broke the agreement—this one would be different. God was renewing the covenant to be written in hearts and last forever. That includes us!
“I will be their God and they shall be my people. They will no longer teach their friends and relatives, ‘Know the Lord!’ Everyone, from least to greatest, shall know me.”—Jeremiah 31:33-34
How do we know the Lord?
June 4, 2021
Of the Sacred Heart
June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Solemnity is celebrated next Friday, June 11. It was 65 years ago that Pope Pius XII wrote the lengthy summary encyclical HAURIETIS AQUAS—You Will Draw Water. He referred to Pope Leo XIII’s 1899 ANNUM SACRUM, which is a bit easier read about the Sacred Heart devotion.
Either of the above would be good to look at. But I think part of Pope Francis’ Twitter message today about this month would be the best start. He suggests a simple prayer: “Jesus, make my heart resemble yours.” That, he says could lead to more.
“In this way, our own hearts will slowly but surely become more patient, more generous, more merciful.”—@Pontifex, (Pope Francis) Twitter 6-4-2021
June 2, 2021
Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to save me…
The words of Psalm 31 called to me this morning. I reflected on what I read for a half hour. Took a little walk outside too. Found a decent sized boulder along the driveway.
I can’t pick it up. Impossible to budge by hand. Anchored in the earth. It would take tools…perhaps heavy equipment to lift it away.
This psalm is said to be a “prayer in distress and thanksgiving for escape.” When we seek God in our most difficult times, we sometimes forget He’s there for us. Not going anywhere. Immovable. Always present. Maybe it’s a good day to reach out more to Him.
“For you are my rock and my fortress, for your name’s sake lead me and guide me.” —Psalm 31:4
May 28, 2021
“The earth is the Lord’s and all it holds, the world and those who dwell within it.”—Psalm 24:1
Still thinking about Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, a three-night conference by the Syracuse and Ogdensburg Dioceses. Music, prayer, speakers. Plus—inspiration from Bishops Lucia and La Valley.
Last night featured Zoom “breakout sessions.” I chose Parish Creation Care Team. It’s working in several parishes in our diocese. Perhaps it’s time to consider something like it here?
I liked the title of another: Getting our hands dirty. Maybe related to my growing list of planting sites. Before last night’s session, my brother turned over a garden not used in a couple of years. I added tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and marigolds to the earth.
Our conference came as Laudato Sí turns five years old. Perhaps take a few minutes to read Pope Francis’ writings on care for our common home.
“I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” —Laudato Sí, (14)
How can we help?
May 26, 2021
“Peoples stand in awe of your marvels…”
Admiring lots of growth in the last couple weeks. Planted tomatoes and eggplant at home, with marigolds to keep the deer away. Coleus taking off in a variety of shades and shapes and sizes. Strawberries coming back again and some parsley too. A single red rose has peeked out…just waiting for more.
Added geraniums and daisies by the house at St. John’s in Bainbridge. New hosta in a tractor tire on the big patio. How to keep it all watered in two places, 40 miles apart? May I pray for rain?
Maybe I should ask those gathered for a Zoom conference I’ve joined this week. People from the Syracuse, Ogdensburg and Rochester Dioceses. Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future draws on the writings of Pope Francis and others. A great time to share ways to maintain and praise God’s creation.
How are you seeking Him in the beauty that’s just outside the door?
“…the places of morning and evening you make resound with joy.”—Psalm 65:9
May 24, 2021
“He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity…
There’s a stone by a tree trunk in front of the church. The word HEALING isn’t easy to make out with fading glittery paint. It also has a scripture reference: Isaiah 53:5.
Taken with the previous verse, scholars note it’s unique to the Old Testament. Suffering was thought to be for a wrong, yet in this case, it’s for others. Looking ahead to Jesus?
It was half a millennium ago that a soldier’s legs were severely wounded by a cannonball. The recovery was long. That’s how Ignatius of Loyola read a book about Christ. His inspiration led to a new kind of prayer and formation of the Jesuits.
Last night there was a livestreamed half-hour prayer service at the beginning of the Ignatian year 500. Learn more about St. Ignatius at the website. And check out his form of prayer that’s still used today by clicking here.
…he bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed.”—Isaiah 53:5
May 21, 2021
Peace be with you…
Today’s gospel was from chapter 21 of John’s Gospel. Peter had denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion. Now after the resurrection, he said definitively three times: “Lord you know I love you.” To which Jesus asked him to become the shepherd of the flock of followers: “Feed my sheep.”
The popes since have followed that call. Sometimes with words from John Chapter 20: “Peace be with you.” Or those like the pictured pin. And today too, as Pope Francis issued a call on Twitter.
The Holy Father noted that the Vigil Mass of Pentecost at St. Stephen’s in Jerusalem will be celebrated to “implore the gift of peace.” (It will air at 5:30 p.m. Saturday on EWTN.) He’s asked all to join in the prayer, pleading with the Holy Spirit so that Israelis and Palestinians “may be open to living together as brothers and sisters.”
May 19, 2021
Pope Francis speaks of growing when facing obstacles to prayer
“Embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.”—Luke 8:15
Lots of small, tender plants have gone into the ground the last few days. They seem ready to grow as I’ve removed some grass and weeds. Perhaps it’s like the parable of the sower in Luke’s Gospel. Keeping the tomatoes and eggplant from rocky ground or among thorns will allow for a crop this summer.
I think Pope Francis’ message at the General Audience this morning shows us how to grow too…when we face obstacles to prayer. He notes that if there is “distraction” it calls for the “cultivation of the virtue of vigilance.” With “aridity” or “moments of dryness” as we pray—“desolation”—then we “share in the Lord’s sufferings.” And “acedia or sloth” brings a “temptation to abandon prayer altogether.” The Holy Father noted that saints handled this “spiritual fatigue” with daily perseverance.
“As we strive to grow in our life of prayer let us ask for the grace of perseverance, that our loving Father will grant us, through the Son and in the Spirit, all that we need to draw us ever closer to him.”—Pope Francis, General Audience 5-19-2021.
May 17, 2021
“Hail favored one! The Lord is with you.”—Luke 1:28
Most of us easily pick up a Rosary and start praying. But do we always remember some scriptural background? The words above from Luke come from the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she’d be the Blessed Mother of Jesus, the Son of God.
Each day in this month of May, Pope Francis has asked us to recite the Rosary with others around the world “to invoke an end to the pandemic and the resumption of social and work-related activities.” Each Rosary takes place publicly at a different place at 6 p.m. Rome time.
Today it comes from the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. While it livestreamed at noon, it’s also available for playback later at Youtube. EWTN is re-airing it at 3:30 p.m. The printed program to follow along is available by clicking here.
Please feel free to join any of the above or just say an extra Rosary today for the Pope’s intention. And please continue this through the end of the month.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen
May 14, 2021
“It was not you who chose me….”
I saw the new Rumble Ponies baseball team line up on opening night Tuesday. Reminds me of elementary school days. Captains would choose teams from kids shouting “pick me, pick me.” The last couple remaining were anxious to see where they’d end up.
How was a new apostle picked to replace Judas? Acts tells us two were proposed as prayer was offered. “Lord, you know the hearts of all, show which of the two you have chosen.” It doesn’t say the pair lobbied for the position. Then lots were picked. It didn’t go to Justus, but Matthias.
Not much is known about St. Matthias, whose feast day is today. He was a disciple who followed Jesus from His earliest days in ministry.
“…But I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”—John 15:16
St. Matthias, please pray for us!
May 12, 2021
As they were looking on, he was lifted up…
Sunrise from the top of the dormant Hawaiian volcano Haleakalā is beautiful. Brightness illuminated the clouds on my only visit there—pictured here. One look brings back the memories of the trek to the top of the crater more than 40 years ago.
Wonder what it was like for the apostles at the Ascension? There’s not a big description of where it took place. Yet some writers have said it happened on the Mount of Olives or perhaps Mount Tabor. Scripture, New Testament and Old, offers many examples of going up to a higher place to meet God.
The apostles witnessed the unique. The Son returning to the Father, “as a cloud took him from their sight.” An amazing, maybe confusing time. But what happened that day has spanned nearly two-thousand years…as does His message.
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”—Mark 16:15
May 10, 2021
“Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean….”
As a 17-year-old just out of high-school, my brother and I went to visit my sister who was attending the University of Hawaii. This 1970s circa photo shows Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. Had another snap of King Kamehameha in front of the Iolani Palace. Nearby at the state capitol I saw a box-like statue of a man wearing a hat and wire-rimmed glasses. Some 30+ years after my visit, that priest was made a saint.
Since I first “met” Fr. Damien DeVeuster in Honolulu, I’ve spent a couple of days in his home country of Belgium. I also learned of his work with lepers. And then there’s the Syracuse connection with the Franciscan sister who took over for him on Molokai…now St. Marianne Cope.
Damien hadn’t originally planned to be in Hawaii, he took his brother’s slot, and went on to care for those with the disease. After several years, he contracted leprosy and died at the age of 49. Today is St. Damien’s feast day.
“… He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” His leprosy was cleansed immediately.”—Matthew 8:3
St. Damien and St. Marianne, please pray for us!
May 7, 2021
Of Deacon Ordination and Mother’s Day…
Chatted Thursday with 3 of 4 surviving deacon brothers on our 15th anniversary. Bishop Moynihan ordained us for Word, Sacrament, and Charity. Less than two months later, I was asked to “rebuild” part of a church after the big flood. Helped affected parishioners and neighbors too. My deacon’s cross felt heavy then. Still does sometimes now…as I serve in different ways.
Thanks for so many kind greetings in recent days. Fr. Jim and the staff celebrated with me the other day. Also, cards and texts from several, including some who were there in Syracuse on May 6, 2006. Didn’t hear from others, who have lost touch. They are still in my prayers.
Three women sat near me in the pew on ordination day. Secular Franciscan “Clare” continues to inspire me on the path. Benedictine Sister Donald Corcoran, still my Spiritual Advisor, helped me vest for the first time. And my mother Helen, probably smiles just as brightly from heaven.
I know it’s a couple of days early, but let me offer a Happy Mother’s Day! God Bless all who have been “moms” in any way for someone.
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”—Matthew 5:12
May 5, 2021
I look at him and he looks at me…
These yellow tulips remind me of a long-ago June quest to the Netherlands. The approach to Amsterdam Schiphol airport is a long glide over a massive flower farm. But I missed the fields of color I had so much wanted to see. The tulips are harvested by May.
Pope Francis’ audience this morning focused on a prayer in which we can “see.” Contemplative prayer, he said, is an “act of the heart, by which we fix our heart on Jesus.” He said a farmer once told St. John Vianney of prayer at a tabernacle: “I look at him and he looks at me.”
“By gazing on our Lord in this way, we come to feel his loving gaze upon us and our hearts are purified. This in turn enables us to see others in the light of that truth and compassion which Jesus brings to all.”—Pope Francis, General Audience 5/5/2021
Read the Holy Father’s words above. Contemplate. Try not to miss anything. What do you see?
May 3, 2021
We do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”—John 14:5
Our old Plymouth logged many miles when I was growing up. Coast to coast and in between. Sometimes Dad would take what he called “the alternate route.” That includes one-way up an old logging road in the Rocky Mountains barely wide enough for the car.
Dad always knew the right direction. His secret? Mom. A faithful navigator with stacks of maps and TripTiks from AAA. At times he pulled over to have a look and confirm her information.
Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus directing Thomas. A curious apostle at the Last Supper, just wanting to check out how to get to heaven. Happy that Jesus is preparing a place for them, but wanting that last reassurance.
Thomas knew. We know. Easy to confirm with Jesus.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6
April 30, 2021
Hail Mary, full of grace…
The month of May is dawning. One of the special months in the year dedicated to the Blessed Mother. This year, Pope Francis is asking everyone to join in a Worldwide Rosary Marathon. He will start it off Saturday.
Then for each of 31 days, it will be highlighted from shrines around the globe, beginning with the Vatican and Our Lady of Walsingham, England and concluding in the Vatican Gardens. You can find the entire list here.
It’s the Holy Father’s intention that his month of prayer will ask for an end to the coronavirus pandemic in our world and for the “resumption of social and work activities.”
Please join in this prayer for all in our world!
April 28, 2021
“ For us Christians, meditating is a way to come into contact with Jesus.”—Pope Francis, 4-28-2021
Sometimes I like to look at a word that’s not electronic. I dusted off Webster’s College Dictionary (circa 2003) this morning. Still know how to turn a page!
I was reminded meditate was defined to “reflect or muse over.”
“Contemplate.” From the Latin: meditari. And meditation is “serious contemplation or reflection.” Yet neither connected it with “prayer” as did Pope Francis during his weekly audience today.
I like his definition: “For a Christian, to “meditate” is to seek meaning: it implies placing oneself before the immense page of Revelation to try to make it our own, assuming it completely.”
Maybe we can all take a few minutes today for this type of prayer and see where it brings us?
April 26, 2021
A weekly gift from God to His people…
We’ve had a blessed few weeks this Easter season. It seems that numbers are growing…as people come back to church. Perhaps more are comfortable to return in the wake of vaccines. Receiving the Eucharist is most important. While we’ve been taking communion to some, others have returned to Mass to receive. All are welcome.
I read in this morning’s Vatican News that the Bishops of England and Wales are reaching out to their flocks. They’ve asked people to place Sunday Mass at the “heart” of post-pandemic lives. This message, following a meeting last week, asks people to come “back to the Church and to her Sacraments.”
An interesting note…the bishops want to most importantly reach two groups: people who are out of the habit of coming to church and “Covid curious” who found the Church for the first time during the pandemic. You may read their entire letter here.
“The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the lifeblood of the Church. It requires our active participation and, to be fully celebrated, our physical presence.”—from The Day of the Lord, Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.
April 23, 2021
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”—Mark 16:15
Sun. Tulips and daffodils coming up. Trees showing off their leaves. Others flowering for all to see. I’ve walked a lot here at church in the last year and a couple of months. Reflecting again today on the beauty that God has created for us.
The verse above comes from Jesus’ message to the apostles just before the Ascension. It applies to us too. We receive the Word every time we attend Mass. We too are asked to share the Gospel with others. A thought to take with us as we exit toward the parking lot.
Sometimes we fall short…or forget. But mostly we live out the message in bringing His love to others in our daily lives.
Remember today: Love God, Love Neighbor.
April 21, 2021
Pray then like this…
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t pray. My parents encouraged us with the Our Father and Hail Mary when we were kids. I can also recite the Latin versions…Pater Noster and Ave Maria…and sometimes still do.
I have offered many silent intentions in the nearly 15-years I’ve been a deacon. The pandemic has increased my prayer…sometimes speaking to Him in the middle of the night.
Shortly after 3 this morning, I woke to Pope Francis’ weekly audience. His message in several languages…PRAY! And…vocalize it…as prayer is a dialogue with God.
“Prayer becomes word, invocation, hymn, poetry… The divine Word is made flesh, and in each person’s flesh the word returns to God in prayer.”—Pope Francis, General Audience, 4-21-2021
His entire “catechesis” is short and insightful. Enjoy it.
And don’t forget to “speak” when you pray today!
April 19, 2021
“Having loved his own… loved them to the end.”—John 13:1
In May of 2004, Pope St. John Paul II used this scripture during the canonization of St. Gianna Molla. A wife, mother and doctor, she cared for many in her short life. The Holy Father said the “holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage.”
During her fourth pregnancy, in 1962, doctors found a tumor. At her request, she had a risky surgery to remove it and save her baby’s life. A few days after Gianna Emanuela was born, St. Gianna died of an infection.
The daughter Gianna followed in her mother’s footsteps in medicine. She has retired from practicing as a doctor. In recent years, she’s spent time traveling to speak of St. Gianna.
I noticed that one of the young women confirmed here yesterday took the name of St. Gianna. The saint’s feast day is April 28.
“Through the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, may our age rediscover the pure, chaste and fruitful beauty of conjugal love, lived as a response to the divine call!”
April 16, 2021
“I believe I shall see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living.”—Psalm 27:13
I’m on retreat with other deacons for a couple of days. But it’s virtual, so we have much time in between sessions. Sister Donald is focusing on the Easter season. She’s told us how in the Orthodox Church, time after Easter is called Bright Week. Sister has shared how many people who are faith-filled…often have a “brightness” that can light up a room that’s otherwise dark.
I’m not sure if that’s the case for the saint whose feast is today, but I suppose it’s possible. Bernadette Soubirous first met the Blessed Mother by the river in Lourdes France. Mary appeared a total of 18 times there. She declared to Bernadette that she was the Immaculate Conception. It took some time for her to be believed.
St. Bernadette was in poor health for much of her life. She recovered a bit after entering the Sisters of Notre Dame. But she died at the age of 35 on this day in 1879.
St. Bernadette, please pray for us!
April 14, 2021
For God so loved the world…
I took a moment this morning with a marker to scrawl out a word and two numbers. It’s likely that you’ve seen them before, perhaps on a TV screen. For many years, there was a colorfully dressed man who would hold up his JOHN 3:16 sign at sporting events. And he always seemed to get on camera.
While most of us are familiar with that, perhaps we may not know so much of the verse. It’s said to Nicodemus, a Jewish official, who visited Jesus under the cover of darkness. Well before it happened, Jesus spoke of his crucifixion in this one line. Plus, there’s a promise of eternal life.
Take some time to read John 3:16, which was today’s Gospel. Then…continue on through verse 21. Look for the words: “belief” and “truth” and “light.” Does it bring us out of the darkness?
“…that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”—John 3:16
April 12, 2021
Unless one is born from above…
On Saturday I baptized a nearly two-year-old boy. This young one was full of energy and enthusiasm. He wanted to see all that was going on. When the time came, his Godfather held him over the font as the water was poured on his forehead. Smiles all around to welcome the newest child of God.
Today’s Gospel from John features Nicodemus, a Jewish leader who wanted to learn more of the “signs” that Jesus brought from God. Jesus told him that unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, they cannot enter the Kingdom.
Just wondering, do we ever overlook the presence of the Spirit in our lives, perhaps while taking a simple walk near the water?
“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”—John 3:8
April 9, 2021
Jesus revealed himself again…
I don’t know why it is…but I feel drawn to water. I’ve mentioned before my many treks over the Atlantic, some with the Pacific as well. Time in the Gulf, the Med, and the Channel too. And then there’s driving alongside Cayuga Lake…so many trips…back to the 1970s.
Someday, maybe I’ll visit the Holy Land and that body of water that Jesus and the apostles spent much time on. Called the Sea of Tiberias in today’s Gospel…known also as the Sea of Galilee.
I can almost see the Fishers of Men, still not sure about Jesus’ resurrection. They’re afloat and head off to cast their nets. With Jesus urging, they try the side that brings 153 fish. Peter can’t wait to see Him—swims ashore. The rest follow with the boat.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Come, have breakfast.’ And none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they realized it was the Lord.”—John 21:12
How has Jesus revealed himself to you this Easter week?
Peace be with you! Alleluia!
April 7, 2021
What are you discussing as you walk along?
Nice weather recently. The other day, a friend and I decided to have dinner at Roundtop. After, we had a walk. God seemed close as sunset neared.
Today’s Gospel from Luke tells of two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They don’t know it was the Risen Lord walking beside them that Easter afternoon. He heard them tell of the recent events. And how that day, the women discovered Jesus was no longer in the tomb. Then He reminded them of what scripture foretold.
They invited Him to stay with them as evening was near. It’s then He blessed and broke bread and soon vanished. That’s when the pair realized who He was. And they returned to Jerusalem where the apostles were.
“The two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”—Luke 24:35
Are our hearts feeling Jesus with us this Easter week?
March 30, 2021
“Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God…“
I’ve been listening to a podcast for the last several weeks. It is a read of the Bible in a year. Only takes about a half hour a day to hear, even as you’re doing something else. Fr. Michael Schmitz has a good voice delivering the pages.
Yesterday a few verses from the first chapter of Ruth stuck with me. Together with the other three chapters, it tells the story of her family and their moves in life. She’s an ancestor of Jesus. A good connection for all of us.
Take some time to ponder…a day from Holy Thursday and then Good Friday and Easter. Who like Ruth came before us in faith leading up to Jesus?
“Wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”—Ruth 1:15-16
March 29, 2021
“Let us ask for the grace to be amazed…”—Pope Francis
I love watching flowers that come up year after year. On Sunday, daffodils readied their yellow. Tulips anticipating red and white? But the crocuses were first—pictured here in front of St. Agnes in Afton. Amazing!
In his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis spoke of amazement which he says “remains open to others and the newness they bring.”
The Pope asked what’s the most amazing thing about Jesus and his Passover?
“He achieves glory through humiliation. He triumphs by accepting suffering and death, things that we, in our quest for admiration and success, would rather avoid.”
Maybe take a few minutes to read the Holy Father’s entire message. You’ll be amazed.
“God continues to fill our minds and hearts with amazement.”—Pope Francis, Palm Sunday Homily 2021
March 26, 2021
Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
I read Mark’s Gospel with others a couple days ago about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Some didn’t understand Palm Sunday.
The word hosanna is defined as “to save, to rescue” or “savior.” Certainly a big welcome for Jesus. Yet we wonder how it changed so quickly, with the crucifixion to follow days later. Remember the reason…for our sins. And then his resurrection on Easter morning.
I have palms from a couple years ago, with other former greenery in a vase. Look for palms again in church after a one-year hiatus. Take Sunday as a “Hosanna” day. Perhaps watch the clip from Jesus Christ Superstar to get a feel for what it was like.
“Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches
that they had cut from the fields.”—Mark 11:8
March 24, 2021
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane…
In 2013, Fr. Zandy had an idea to transform an area of the church grounds for prayer. There is the rosary garden we spoke of the other day. Another path will take you along the stations of the cross.
A nice place to pray, silent for the most part, among the trees. You may see deer and sometimes other animals. Each station is under a wooden cover. There have been several editions, due to wear from winter weather.
It’s easy to follow, beginning closest to the church and winding around the sandy path. Stop and pray. Maybe bring published prayers, such as the US Catholic Bishops Stations of the Cross for Vocations.
Perhaps try it on your own or invite the family or a friend as Lent moves into Palm Sunday and Holy Week?
“…and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’”—Matthew 26:36
March 22, 2021
I am the light of the world…
The weather guy on TV said the other night that we’d be in for several days of nice weather. If I’m not mistaken, he mentioned that it would pretty much be blue sky with no clouds. Looks like he’s right with the forecast today.
I was walking near the small Mary statue on Sunday morning. I think the ground settled over the winter, so the base is tilted a bit. She’s beautiful with the sun above her. Perhaps you’ve taken time to walk and pray our living rosary that encircles the Blessed Mother near the path to the rectory?
If you have time, over the next couple of days, pay a visit with your rosaries. Pray Hail Marys in a unique setting. Maybe you can say a couple while you’re there. There’s a bench nearby if you get tired.
And consider that His light will be with you! You’ll spend some time with the sun and/or the Son too.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”—John 8:12
March 19, 2021
The son of David will live forever…
Just after 4:30 this morning, I tuned into a St. Joseph Day Mass live from Nazareth, just as we’ve completed the 33-day consecration. Pope Francis released a statement today on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations on April 25. Vatican News quoted part of the pope’s message.
The Holy Father said vocations should focus on “dream, service, and fidelity.” He noted that’s what led St. Joseph to care for Jesus and the Blessed Mother. And he said God calls us in a similar way.
“He does not overwhelm us with dazzling visions but quietly speaks in the depths of our heart, drawing near to us and speaking to us through our thoughts and feelings.”
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”—Matthew 1:20
March 17, 2021
May the road rise with you….
My mother’s Irish heritage was very important to her. Every March 17th, we remembered St. Patrick. Lots of work in the days before as the kitchen became a production line for Irish soda bread. The ladies would come in the afternoon for tea, bread and of course, green mint jelly.
I rushed around a bit this morning to find her shiny green wreath, the sweater with the Irish crest, and the statue of St. Patrick. He was hiding behind some cards on top of the TV cabinet. A bit shy about having his picture taken, yet I got one snap of him.
It’s said that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps, but I think it’s important to remember how he brought Christianity to Ireland some 16-hundred years ago.
There are so many prayers to share, some attributed to him, some that came after. Here’s a link to a virtual Irish Blessing, sung by members of more than 300 churches in Ireland last year. I’ll finish with the blessing that hung on my mother’s door for many years. She sometimes recited it with guests before a meal.
May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again…may God hold you in the hollow of his hand. An Old Irish Blessing
Happy St. Patrick’s Day
March 15, 2021
Here I am!
Ever been called by the Lord? Sometimes we’re not paying attention or don’t want to listen. Took three calls and many years before I answered. Just shy of 15-years since ordination now…
Moses, Abraham, Isaiah, Samuel, Jacob and Ananias were six whose calls were recorded in the Old Testament and New. It was various times, at various ages and in various ways. A burning bush, awakened from sleep, in a vision, before a sacrifice, by an angel, the voice of the Lord…
They all answered: “Here I am.”
I came across a virtual performance of Dan Schutte’s “Here I Am” by the Choir and Orchestra of St. Lillian. Interesting that this popular hymn was initially composed for a diaconate ordination. Learned that from a 2017 feature in America Magazine.
“Here I Am” was published 40 years ago. We starting singing it during Mass my junior or senior year at college. Wonder why it took me so long to respond. Are we missing His call to answer “Here I am” to help in some way during these challenging times?
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”—Isaiah 6:8
March 12, 2021
“All the days of the earth, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, Summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”—Gen. 8:22
We’ve had a taste of spring this week. Mostly sun, higher temperatures and a near absence of snow on the ground. So many walking outside to take in the light, the warmth and the fresh air.
Someone asked if I’d seen crocuses so far. I’ll know soon, as a neighbor has a front lawn full of them, when they come up. But…walking into church the other day…a few bits of green poking through the mulch caught my eyes. Snapped a couple of pictures.
There are so many verses in the bible about plants and growth. Take Isaiah 40:6: “All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.” The Genesis verse above and the earlier creation story as well.
As we look ahead to new growth in the coming season, I turn to St. Augustine with words to ponder:
“Before God made heaven and earth, he was not making anything. If he was making anything it could only be something created.”—Confessions, xii (14)
March 10, 2021
His mother kept all these things in her heart…
One year ago, we celebrated my mother’s 94th birthday. The day after, her health began a steady decline. She died (not of the virus) on March 21, 2020, just before the pandemic took hold. I remember how many of you supported her and the family over the years.
Helen Loretta Brown was born in Queens Village, New York, and baptized at Our Lady of Lourdes there. She was proud of her Irish-German-Swiss heritage. Green was the color for March.
This morning I was getting ready to leave for Mass in her memory. I opened the medicine chest. Mom’s morning prayers are still there. I was surprised to find a neatly folded paper. Her handwritten recipe for Irish Soda bread is now in my hands. I’ll make it soon.
My mother was very devoted to the Blessed Mother. Got me thinking of the relationship that Jesus had with his mother. Perhaps we could all pray the rosary today…maybe an extra one too…for our parents.
“He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.”—Luke 2:51
March 8, 2021
“The LORD will be your light forever; your God will be your glory.”—Isaiah 60:19
What a beautifully sunny day to visit the church grounds Sunday. Met a parishioner who I’d not seen in several weeks. A tiring day for both of us yesterday. We didn’t have a socially distant walk as many times in the last year. Just talked a bit from perhaps a dozen feet away.
We’ve all been touched by COVID. It has limited interactions with others. But we must remember continued prayer for those who have died and their families, as well as those who have recovered. And we should offer prayer for the entire world community that’s struggling with isolation and more that the virus has brought.
I’ve offered prayers recently for a friend and his young daughter in Brazil who have COVID. Just a little while ago, another friend in Italy told me they’re going into lockdown again.
In today’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus talks of drought and famine in when Elijah the prophet helped only a widow and her son. He also spoke of lepers in Elisha’s days, when only Naaman was cleansed. Certainly difficult times for people then. The hometown audience didn’t like what Jesus had to say…and wanted to do away with him. But it didn’t work.
“He passed through the midst of them and went away.”—Luke 24:30
Perhaps a reminder to put our prayers and confidence in the Light…to face the challenges ahead?
March 5, 2021
“Does the eagle fly up at your command to build his nest up high?”—Job 39:27-29
I took a virtual visit last evening around the U.S. via Explore.org webcams. Many scenes were still in daylight. Just breathtaking beauty that God has created for us. I was taken by two bald eagle “nest cams” including one on Catalina Island. I waited to see them spread their wings and fly.
Makes me think of Pope Francis…who took to the sky this morning from Rome on his first foreign trip in 15-months. Speaking at the presidential palace in Baghdad, the Holy Father said he came to Iraq “as a pilgrim of peace in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace.”
Later he spoke to clergy and religious at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in an address covered by the Vatican News Service.
“May your witness,” he said, “matured through adversity and strengthened by the blood of martyrs, be a shining light in Iraq and beyond, in order to proclaim the greatness of the Lord and to make the spirit of this people rejoice in God our Saviour.”
March 3, 2021
“See what you have stored up for yourselves against the last days!”—James 5: 3
When the daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia family paid a visit to Pope Leo XIII, it changed her life and that of countless others since. Katharine Drexel had earlier put aside becoming a nun. Then the pope suggested she consider becoming a missionary. After some prayer and consideration, she did.
It’s been 130 years since the founding of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Under the guidance of Mother Katharine, they grew to serve Native and Afro-American communities. Many churches, schools and other facilities were established, including Xavier University in Louisiana.
A heart attack cut back her work at the age of 77. Mother Katharine continued on almost another 20 years until her death on this day in 1955. It’s now her feast day. The sisters have an incredible history of their foundress on their website. She was a great writer of letters, some of which are available online through the Catholic Historical Research Center of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
When Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Katherine Drexel in October 2000, he noted how she gave her family fortune to the less fortunate.
“To her religious community, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, she taught a spirituality based on prayerful union with the Eucharistic Lord and zealous service of the poor and the victims of racial discrimination.”—Pope John Paul II, Homily, 10/1/2000
March 1, 2021
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing….
Remember Sister Bertrille, TV’s The Flying Nun? Actress Sally Field portrayed the 90-pound nun who was lifted off the ground by gusts of wind due to the cornette on her head. The fictional convent in Puerto Rico was named for a real saint—Tanco. He was a missionary who served in first in Belgium and then Germany where he was martyred. Tanco was a Benedictine from Ireland.
I took a virtual visit to the Emerald Isle Sunday afternoon to see a joyful group of nuns in Dublin. They’re Redemptoristine…Red Nuns for short. They “write” icons and bake altar bread. And while they don’t exactly “fly” like the make-believe Sister Bertrille…they come close. How’s that?
In the time of the pandemic…this group of cloistered nuns performed the Jerusalema Challenge. The Irish Post calls it a “gospel influenced house song by South African producer Master KG.” Watch the sisters “bust a move” to the music or clap along, depending on their physical abilities.
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Feb. 26, 2021
For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go…
Ever have one of those days? Thursday, I was getting ready to put my computer bag in the trunk of the car. Somehow the lid came down just as I leaned in. The rim from my glasses left a cut at the top of my nose. Startled. A bit of blood. Yet OK.
Told the story to my friend last night. Then he mentioned how he slipped by his car yesterday, just missed hitting his head on the bumper, but cut his hand. Later, my brother related how he slid on his front steps, grazed the railing, but was unscathed. Possibly a busy day for our guardian angels!
I suspect the coronavirus has us all thinking a bit more when things happen nowadays. In Pope Francis’ Lenten Message, he wrote of experiencing Lent with love: “caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“In these days of deep uncertainty about the future, let us keep in mind the Lord’s word to his Servant ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you’ (Is 43:1). In our charity, may we speak words of reassurance and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters.”
I’d add: Listen…be present…talk to and pray for others!
“…With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”—Psalm 91:11-12
Feb. 24, 2021
Happy the one who finds a friend…
I was looking at some not-so-familiar Old Testament books last night, when I came upon the verse above. The primary writer of this Second Century B.C. wisdom book was Ben Sira. It was called the “church book” for teaching catechumens in the early days of Christianity.
Sirach wrote of 3 things pleasing to the Lord and human beings: “Harmony among relatives, friendship among neighbors, and a wife and a husband living happily together.”
My evening was not complete until I visited Italy (virtually). Strange…I couldn’t account for a stream of light that seemed to bounce around the mostly darkened chapel of St. Anthony. 801 years ago in Padua, Blessed Luke Belludi was born. At age 20, this nobleman asked to become a Franciscan.
Blessed Luke became St. Anthony’s friend and companion. He took care of him until he died. Luke was named a leader of the Franciscans. When Padua’s new city rulers shut down the government and the church in 1239, Luke prayed for intercession at Anthony’s tomb. It worked. Blessed Luke is now entombed in the Basilica which he worked to complete in St. Anthony’s name.
“Happy the one who finds a friend, who speaks to attentive ears.”—Sirach 25:9
Feb. 22, 2021
“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”—Psalm 31:25
Friday night and Saturday was “interesting.” Listened to chant music while preparing the weekend homily. Read some Pope Francis and Thomas Merton.
The last entry in the Holy Father’s new To Heal the World refers to the “Kingdom of darkness” in pandemic experiences. Positive and reassuring words at the end. “May God grant us to ‘virualize’ love and to ‘globalize’ hope in the light of faith.”
Merton’s In Alaska still includes sticky tabs from a presentation I gave on the hermit/monk for the 100th anniversary of his birth. Found at two yellow ones: “When things get difficult, mixed up and tense, then drop them and get to the center of peace.” And… this… “I am the answer to someone’s prayer.”
Should have paid attention to the last. Didn’t think my sermon went exactly as planned, at least on Saturday night. Better at 10 a.m.
Sunday afternoon was silent, but for sound of vegetables being chopped. Texted a photo of the finished stew to relatives. Best comment: “What is this—the cooking channel?”
“Blessed be the Lord; who has shown me wondrous love.”—Psalm 31:22
Feb. 19, 2021
Practice prayer from the beginning…
We’ve just entered Lent a couple days ago…a time of conversion with fasting…almsgiving and prayer. While many of us are spending lots of time at home with the snow and the cold and the pandemic…do we have a time and a place for prayer?
St. John Chrysostom, a bishop nicknamed “golden mouth” for his long and insightful sermons, says “prayer and converse with God is a supreme good.” He suggests that it should be from the heart and not confined to “fixed times or periods”…rather…“our spirit should long for God” in whatever we are doing.
A Doctor of the Church and gifted preacher, St. John lived a simple life and strongly urged others to do the same. Called a prophet in his time, he drew the opposition of many in the early church and died in exile. But he was an eloquent homilist who spoke of the importance of reaching out to God.
“Paint your house with the colors of modesty and humility. Make it radiant with the light of justice. Decorate it with the finest leaf of good deeds. Adorn it with the walls and stones of faith and generosity. Cross it with the pinnacle of prayer.”—St. John Chrysostom, Homily
Feb. 17, 2021
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart…”
Each Ash Wednesday I look forward to the Old Testament reading from the Prophet Joel. The book itself is only four chapters. While it looks to the “end times,” scholars tell us that the prevailing theme is “the day of the Lord.”
I know someone who gives up chocolate and coffee for Lent. It’s admirable to give up something, a sacrifice. While we may look to do the same, perhaps try something different too. Maybe we can cast off things in our lives that aren’t so important. It’s possible to give more to our neighbors, especially in this time of the pandemic. Make this a fruitful Lent for our souls. Don’t forget: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Joel reminds us to return to Him with our whole heart.
“…with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Joel 2:12
Feb. 15, 2021
Happy is the man who has found wisdom…
Remember that cartoon of guy sitting on a triangular mountain peak? High atop on the point is a man in robes, usually with a flowing white beard. He’s the one who people seek out for sage advice. Seems like a long way to go for an answer. It may be no further than a reading in today’s breviary from St. Bernard, the abbot. He’s writes of seeking wisdom.
Just a couple days away from the beginning of Lent, perhaps we can listen to the saint. He questions whether we’re aware that wisdom is in our hearts and on our lips if we seek it. And he says we may be too cautious in looking for it. Hmm. Ready to take that chance?
St. Bernard says wisdom can come to someone in three ways. Confess sins. Give thanks and praise. And “If your speech is edifying.” In other words, if it helps someone morally.
“Look for wisdom while it can still be found. Call for it while it is near.”—St. Bernard, sermon.
Feb. 12, 2021
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”—John 1:1
I’m a communicator, launched into the profession while still in college nearly 42-years ago. I’ve been “up and down” the dial at several radio stations. TV too, in front of the camera and behind the scenes—locally and NYC. Now I write…for The Catholic Sun, Faith Columns for the Press & Sun-Bulletin and here. What’s my favorite? What we used to call “broadcasting.”
This morning I listened to Sergej Prokofiev’s Romeo alla tomba di Giulietta followed by Vespers in Latin with some German mixed in. It’s from a new section of Vatican Radio that’s live-streaming. Ninety years ago today the switch was turned on at the Holy See to hear the voice of Pope Pius. Radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi engineered the first setup.
Vatican Radio is now heard in 41 different languages “broadcasting” around the clock. A variety of short-wave transmitters are still at work, including one in Greenville, SC. The service has grown to include television as well. And now much of the content is available on the internet.
Today’s anniversary was marked by some words of Pope Francis offering well wishes. With Vatican Radio’s global reach, the message of Jesus is available to just about anyone with a computer. Amazing!
“Whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life.” John 5:24
Feb. 10, 2021
“You have but one teacher and you are all brothers.” —Mt 23:8
Tomorrow is the 27th World Day of the Sick. In his message for this year’s observance, Pope Francis wrote of the theme in Matthew seen above. He said we should be there for others “to feel empathy and compassion, and to let their suffering become our own as we seek to serve them.”
The Catholic Health Association of the United States has provided a short prayer for the day. Though prepared for a group, it’s suitable for individuals too. Please click here.
February 11 is also the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which marks the first appearance of Mary to St. Bernadette Marie Soubirous. That’s when the Blessed Mother declared she was the Immaculate Conception. Dozens of documented healings of illness have taken place there since.
A Mass from the Lourdes Basilica is live at 4 a.m. (repeated at 1130 a.m.) on EWTN. A Virtual Pilgrimage airs on EWTN at 1030 a.m. They will also be at the Lourdes website either live or by playback.
“Blessed are You for having called us, like Bernadette, to see Mary in Your light.”—From the Act of Trust in Mary from the Family of Lourdes
Feb. 8, 2021
The law of the Lord is perfect…it gives wisdom to the simple.”—Psalm 19:8
A friend and I have seen many films together over the years, either at the theater or on DVD. Once, he brought over Bakhita: From Slave to Saint. Parts of it were not easy to watch.
It’s the story of a slave from Sudan who was given freedom in Italy. Josephine Bakhita converted to Catholicism and became a religious. She died in 1947 and was made a saint in October of 2000. At her canonization, Pope St. John Paul II called St. Josephine a “shining advocate of genuine emancipation.”
This is her Feast Day, also the Seventh World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking. Pope Francis said today that: “The liturgical memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita is a powerful reminder of this dimension of faith and prayer: her witness always resonates, alive and relevant! And it is a call to place trafficked persons, their families, their communities at the center. “
St. Josephine Bakhita, we ask your intercession!
Feb. 5, 2021
“Come to me all you who are weary and heart-laden and I will give you rest.”—Matthew 11:28
When I started to come in the driveway a little while ago, I had to avoid a trash can and a recycling bin. Looking further up—toward the door—another can and bin were askew. Wait…there’s a brown bag there…and a multi-colored one almost on display. Inside, a bouquet of a variety of flowers and a box of special candy.
My birthday was a couple of months ago. Christmas season is over. Did someone leave this package at the wrong house? Searching frantically for a message inside as the wind is gusting. There it is…a sympathy card from a friend. Titled “What did Jesus say about sorrow?” Four verses including the above. It’s part of the scripture read last night during the Vigil Service for Fr. Tom Hobbes.
His funeral ended about noon today at Holy Family church. Delayed by a snowstorm, held instead on a sunny, yet cool-ish day. I hope these flowers will warm to open soon so I can see the of types and colors.
The card was a thank-you as well…for being a friend to “Father Tom.” Touches my heart so much.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:3
Feb. 3, 2021
He permitted them to cross the Red Sea dry-shod…
It was 39-years ago next month that I went to Charlotte (pronounced Shar-lot) beach in Rochester. My first (and only) visit there was at the invite of my friend Diane. She wanted to take me someplace special. So, on a chilly yet sunny day we trudged through the sand.
That summer, I’d moved to New Jersey where we visited more beaches together. When I came back to Broome County a couple years later, she was then at “SUNY-Binghamton” for her masters. Those memories all brought back by Diane’s picture of a deceased fish on the shore of Lake Ontario. I took it out of the frame this morning and found another photo—of me—beneath. It was from that cold March afternoon, in the sand—camera in hand.
A reading in today’s breviary comes from St. John Fisher…namesake for our college. He was the bishop of Rochester, England who stood up to Henry VIII’s desire to divorce his wife and go against the church.
In the reading he wrote first of the Israelites crossing the sand where the Red Sea had been to escape the Egyptians. St. John Fisher reminds us how God provided much for them as they made their way across the desert. His words of about 500 years ago still apply today to remind us to be grateful for what God has given us.
“We give no thought to his love, nor do we recognize the extent of his kindness for us.”—St. John Fisher, commentary on the Psalms
Feb. 1, 2021
Prefer nothing to the Love of Christ…
I’ve been a Benedictine Oblate of the Transfiguration Monastery in Windsor for 16 years. An oblate is one who from the outside follows the Rule of St. Benedict. His words are above…the same ones I used on a prayer card for my ordination day.
I was intrigued on Sunday to read about Blessed Benedict Daswa of South Africa. He was born into a Jewish tradition of herders in a remote region there. A convert to Catholicism, his given name was Tshimangadzo which means “miracle or wonder.” After taking the baptismal name Benedict, he soon became a catechist in an area where there were few priests.
He lived by words of the Rule…Ora et labora…pray and work. Deeply faith-filled, Benedict was concerned as people sought to find a “witch” after a lightning strike damaged homes in the village. He refused to add money to the search or take part in it. He said, “My Christianity does not allow me to do this.”
A mob plotted against him. On the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 1990, they attacked and killed Benedict. This contemporary martyr was beatified in September of 2015. His feast day is February first.
“If you remain in my word you will truly be my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8-31-32
Blessed Benedict Daswa, please pray for us!
Jan. 27, 2021
Concerning those who are asleep, do not be sad like men who have no hope…
Msgr. Putano and Fr. Jim called me last night to tell me of the death of my former pastor, mentor and friend. It was Fr. Tom Hobbes who gave me the final push to become a deacon.
Fr. Hobbes was my guidance counselor at Seton Catholic Central in the 1970s. As pastor of Christ the King, Endwell, he hired me for maintenance and other duties in 1999. I helped him move to retirement in 2008. He gave me many books from his collection then.
Fr. Hobbes was a gentle man, a faith-filled priest and sometimes strong in opinions. He enjoyed barbecues with my mom and others at my house. I was his guest at many performances of the Binghamton Philharmonic. Once, he got me to attend the opera in NYC. We took a side trip that day to Central Park to see an “orange wall” of fabric put there by artist Christo. Many memories, not much space.
He drove me many times to Alexandria Bay for the clergy conference. But something changed about 4 or 5 years ago…he pulled into the rest stop on Interstate 81 and handed me the keys. It was too much for him. His health changed in the ensuing months and he eventually moved to Vestal Park, where he was a resident until his death.
Fr. Hobbes loved his family and his parishioners. And they loved him.
“…if we believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again; God will bring forth with Jesus all who have fallen asleep believing in him.”—1Thessalonians 4:13-14
Jan. 25, 2021
The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul…
When I think of St. Paul, I’m often drawn first to Acts Chapter 7. St. Stephen, one of the first seven deacons, preached to a crowd who would not accept his message. It didn’t end well as they stoned him death. An original deacon became the first Christian martyr.
A young man was caught up in it all. Doesn’t exactly say Saul took part in the stoning. But he certainly didn’t accept Jesus’ teachings in the time going forward. That is—until an encounter on the road to Damascus.
Paul’s conversion is told three places in Acts. The first comes in Chapter 9, with a bright light and quick knock down. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Struck blind for three days, his eyes were opened by Ananias and he was baptized. Paul also retold the story in Chapters 22 and 26.
Today we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul, the author of 13 letters in the New Testament. Pope Francis suggested the other day that if Paul were alive today, he’d be tweeting Jesus words.
“Things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized…and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”—Acts 9: 18, 20
Jan. 22, 2021
“Try to accept what God is pleased to give you, no matter how bitter God wills it.”—St. Marianne Cope
Back in April, I wrote about Mother Marianne Cope who became St. Marianne in 2012.
Born in Germany in 1838, Barbara Koob and her family moved to the Utica when she was a young girl. They attended St. Joseph’s Church, which still exists today. She worked in a factory to support her family before joining the Franciscans.
Mother Marianne was founder of both St. Elizabeth’s, Utica and St. Joseph’s Hospital, Syracuse. She and five others went to the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1883 and eventually succeeded St. Damien on Molakai, treating the lepers. None of the sisters sent there have ever contracted leprosy in their 138-year history on the island.
Tomorrow is St. Marianne’s birthday and feast day in the Church. We’re continuing to ask her intercession in this time of pandemic through Bishop Lucia’s prayer, part of which is below:
Help us, O Blessed Mother, to be filled with confidence and trust in the tender compassion of our God. Let us not be afraid, like our own Saint Marianne Cope, who entrusted her life and ministry among the outcasts of society into the care of our Divine Physician.
St. Marianne, please pray for us!
Jan. 20, 2021
“Love one another as I have loved you”—Jn 15:12b
A couple of weeks ago a parishioner came to me with about five rosaries. I thought he wanted me to bless them. He said “Tom, I want you to have one of these. I make them by hand.” All were beautiful, the beads were in several colors.
I asked him which he thought would be good for me. He handed me a purple set. They’re on my desk now. But next time I stay overnight in Bainbridge, they’ll be with me in the bedroom to pray. What a wonderful gesture from “A”!
The Vatican relates Jesus’ washing the feet of the disciples. Peter was reluctant at first, yet then agreed to it. The reflection tells us that Peter was “touched by the humility and gentleness.” He later followed the example “to serve the fellowship of the faithful.”
Maybe each one of us can pray a rosary today for Christian Unity. As you do, keep in mind these shared words.
“You are no longer alone; in all things you are advancing together with your brothers and sisters. With them, you are called to live the parable of community.“—The Sources of Taizé (2000) p. 48-49
With peaceful prayer for all,
Jan. 18, 2021
“Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit.”—John 15: 5-9
For 8-days beginning January 18, there’s a week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Pope takes part in the event with the final day of prayer, this year held virtually on Monday, January 25. During this week, all are invited to take part in any prayer.
The Gospel verse from John was picked to “express the Christian community’s vocation to pray and work for reconciliation and unity within the Church, our human family and all of creation.”
Sisters from the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland, have prepared the resources for the week. You can join them in prayer by going their website.
Please pray for one another this week!
Jan. 15, 2021
Here I am, you called me…
We’ll read these words from the Book of Samuel on Sunday. He was confused after being awakened from a deep sleep three times. But Eli told him to listen for it again and respond: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” That’s when he heard God.
How’s it for us? Could it be that there’s so much going on around us that we aren’t hearing Him call us? Maybe we should try some silent time to just be with the Lord. Or direct our attention to formal prayer, alone or together in new ways.
Perhaps reach out to Lourdes, France and the grotto there. Beginning tomorrow, Saturday, January 16, they’ll be offering the Rosary and Mass in several languages for people of the world. In between are prayers to the Blessed Mother that “she may intercede for peace.” Here’s the schedule, all listings are in French Time.
To help a bit, look for the Rosary in English at 9 a.m., Mass in English at 11:15 a.m.—both our time. You can connect to their live feed by clicking here. If you miss the time, there’s a “replay” option at the same link.
“Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”—1 Samuel 3:10
Jan. 13, 2021
“Always give praise, in good times and bad…”
I read some of Aesop’s Fables last night. He was a slave who lived several hundred years before Jesus, who earned his freedom through his wisdom. Aesop delivered short messages with much to ponder.
Ever hear the expression about a wolf in sheep’s clothing? As Aesop tells it, a wolf was looking for easy living so he disguised himself as a sheep. Worked out okay until the shepherd wanted a meal so he went among the flock. Unfortunately, the disguised wolf became the supper that night…
Hmm…thinking about difficulties, things we face in everyday life and the not-so-normal months of COVID-19. In his general audience today Pope Francis addressed that point, with much to reflect on. We should praise God always, he said, including “difficult moments” as our prayer to God will allow us to “see a new panorama, a broader horizon.”
The Holy Father noted that St. Francis of Assisi praised “all the gifts of creation, and even for death, which he courageously manages to call ‘sister’.”
“Always give praise, in good times and bad, because God is the faithful Friend. This is the foundation of praise: God is the faithful Friend, and His love never fails.”—Pope Francis General Audience 1-13-2021
Jan. 12, 2021
What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God?
I was driving home from church a bit later than usual Monday afternoon when I saw the large sun setting in the sky. I should have pulled over to get a pic, but I waited the extra three minutes to get home. Just out of the car, I snapped something just as beautiful. Glad to take a breath and recall a hectic day. Can you see my thought balloon?
An early visit to the doctor’s office lasted much longer than I expected. But the six-month checkup had positive results. A quick lunch and off to a two-hour meeting by internet. Later—time to talk with parishioners by phone. And then I realized it was near sunset and time to leave. A gifted day wrapped up as I stood in the driveway and looked west. Thank You God!
Please take time today to allow Him to show you His majesty, perhaps as another sees it.
“It is natural for us to want things that are good and pleasing to the eye, even though at first different things seem beautiful and good to different people.”—From the Detailed Rules for Monks by Saint Basil the Great, bishop.
Peace and God Bless,
Jan. 8, 2021
Have mercy on me and hear my prayer…
On Tuesday, my college buddy texted me from Italy while I was on a video call to a “family” member in South America. Michael looked concerned. He asked me to pray for one of his twin daughters. One-year-old Lara is deaf. She was scheduled for implant surgery the next day. A three-continent intention was offered as from Europe, Gary said he’d pray too.
Wednesday’s world focus seemed to be the negative events in Washington. But I offer an important positive that happened that same day in Fortaleza, Brasil. Michael texted. All went well with the operation. And in two-weeks’ time, the doctors will turn on devices to allow Lara to hear for the first time. Thanks, God.
I’ve turned to prayer for myself and many others a lot this early January. I feel He has been listening.
A couple months ago I wrote that we could share ideas on prayer together as some still remain remote from church. I received several suggestions, including this: posting Prayers of Gratitude—”We all have something to be thankful for everyday even on our ‘less happy’ or ‘bad days.’” I’ll start: I’m thankful that Lara’s surgery went well.
Let me leave you with more from Psalm 4, taken from my grandmother’s Manual of Prayers, copyright 1888.
For thou, O Lord alone: hath established me in hope…
Jan. 6, 2021
They were completely astounded…
I had my first real “walk” around the church grounds this morning since the 40-inch snowfall, followed by the big rains. Lots to see. The slushy hoof prints of deer that crisscrossed near the Blessed Mother statue are melting into the grass.
A parishioner saw me taking pictures. “Another blog!” she called out.
“Yeah,” I admitted. Taking photos for this space.
Mark’s Gospel today is just after feeding of the 5,000 men. Before going off to pray, Jesus ushered the apostles into a boat. Once off shore, evening winds picked up and the waves tossed them around. Then Jesus appeared, walking on the water, planning to go past them. The disciples thought he was a ghost and cried out. They were “terrified.” Jesus boarded, spoke and the weather calmed.
Look at the photo of the Jesus figure here in a “boat” of shrubs, with lots of water in front of Him. Reminded me of the Gospel passage and our recent weather. Like the apostles, I was “astounded” when I opened the door to all that snow. I was “fearful” driving back from Chenango County on Christmas morning with raging waterways out of their banks beside the road.
I prayed hard both days, but I’m not sure I listened to his words:
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.”—Mark 6:50
Jan. 4, 2021
You are children of eternity. Your immortal crown awaits you…
Back with you after a few days away from here between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I went looking for a high school yearbook this morning. I started there a year before our patron became the first American saint in 1975. Our principal, Fr. Van Amburgh, often led us in prayer for her.
Elizabeth Ann Seton was born in 1774 in New York City. Baptized in the Episcopal Church, she married and had five children. Her husband took ill and they went to Italy where he died. That’s where Elizabeth converted to Catholicism.
Back home in NY, her friends didn’t accept her new faith as she tried to help young people. Eventually she moved to Maryland where she founded the first parochial school in the United States. She also formed the Sisters of Charity which grew in numbers after her death on this day 200 years ago.
The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is located in Emmitsburg, MD, where she is buried. A short film on her life was released by the shrine on her memorial today. Please click here to see it.
“The best of Fathers waits there to reward your duty and love. You may indeed sow here in tears, but you may be sure there to reap in joy.”—St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (from a conference to her spiritual daughters.)
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, please pray for us!