Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What a Showing! Chick-Fil-A Values

Here are some photos from the Burlington Mall today.  The Chick-Fil-A was well supported as you can see.  No surprise that there were zero news media outlets covering this outstanding show of support.  The line extended beyond the escalators when I arrived and still stretched that far when I left.  That wasn't because the service was slow, it was because people kept showing up.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Menino vs Chicken

Boston Major Menino wrote the following letter to the head of Chick-Fil-A who voiced a strong opinion based on his Christian faith against gay marriage.  Please read this:  

In summation, Chick-Fil-A voiced an opinion. Mayor Menino is using his public office to discriminate against a business and a citizen's right to speech and the freedom of religion. This is nothing to be prideful about. Massachusetts and Boston are taking another step away from reason.  By Menino's logic, the Catholic Church should be excluded from Boston. Mayor Menino, are you going to write a letter to Cardinal Sean next?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Save a Historic Instrument!

St. Mary Star of the Sea in Beverly, MA is a beautiful church and one of the backbones is the music and the backbone of the music is the organ.  If you attend a service there, you will understand.  Please help save this instrument!

Donate here.

Blessed be God forever.  Be well.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

If you took time this past weekend to see the last installment of the Dark Knight trilogy, I hope you were surprised, like I was, by the conclusion to these three epic movies.  

Stop reading now if you haven't seen it and you want to without ruining any of the plot.

Looking back on Batman Begins and the Dark Knight, you see the character Bruce Wayne, burdened by the shooting dead of his parents after he prompts an earlier exit from an opera.  Bruce plans revenge and the killing of the murderer, but that plan is interrupted.  Then Bruce disappears on a journey into what it means to be deprived, a criminal.  Taken up into the League of Shadows, Bruce thinks he has found his answer until a certain interpretation of justice is forced upon him and he rejects it in favor of compassion.  Thus begins a righteous fight for right through the symbol of Batman.

This series has a lot of angles to pursue and to reflect upon.  The questions of justice, revenge, corruption, evil, darkness, light, chaos, order, truth, a noble lie, and the debate between needs of the many versus the needs of the few.  Fresh off of seeing this most recent film, I am most interested in the rise of Bruce Wayne, through the symbol of the Dark Knight.  

Bruce Wayne had been eclipsed.  First by guilt, then by anger, then by the symbol he created and finally by the loss of hope in the death of his one love, Rachel.  He implodes upon himself and allows all the blame for the death of Harvey Dent and others to fall on the shoulders of Batman and in turn becomes a recluse.

The arrival of Bane and the League of Shadows' new plan to destroy Gotham allows for an emergence of Batman.  Wayne, unprepared and overeager jumps into the fight against the advice of Alfred, but encouraged by Gordan and a rookie cop.  This ultimately leads to his betrayal, defeat and imprisonment by Bane in a desert pit.

In the desert, Wayne faces despair.  He contemplates what it means to fear different things, in particular death.  Wayne realizes that he hasn't feared death in as long as he can remember.  As a fellow prisoner wisely points out, the lack of a fear of death is the lack for love of life.  When Wayne rises out of the prison by a perilous climb and death defying jump, after failing several times before, he is reentering life.  Wayne is now choosing a both/and approach to life, not just an either/or approach.

When he returns to Gotham, he is not a loner.  He seeks out assistance for the impending battle.  Batman and Wayne are the same person, which is no secret, and Wayne's new hope of life powers Batman's resurgence and victory.  A victory that leaves both as perceived to be dead.

The city honors the memory of its true hero, Batman and four friends honor the memory of Bruce Wayne.  But shortly after, we see that Wayne lives, as Alfred had always hoped to see him.  Wayne embraces a life and a future freed from the burdens of his past and his other persona.

The Dark Knight Rises is a story of the human spirit's triumphant over despair, chaos, and anarchy through selflessness, commitment to life and moral virtue.  It is a long portrait of what a human life, marred by tragedy can offer and an invitation to transformation.  It is a testimony to the vocational struggle that the invasive nature of that world can cause.  

We are all seeking what Wayne found.  Peace.  

I'd love to hear what people thought and debate this great Christopher Nolan trilogy.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stations of the Cross Resource

After a decade of creating Stations of the Cross services aimed at young adults, I've compiled all my musical selections on one page.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Continuing the Fortnight Spirit

This is a Campus Ministry Minute from the Fall.  You can see the blog post "Give to Caesar" for the text.  The gospel is the same gospel used by the Bishops for the Fortnight for Freedom celebration.  Let us as Christians continue to define God's image for our neighbor.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Facebook for Nuns

Last Fall I offered a Facebook workshop at Rivier University specifically for Nuns.  Today, I saw this story on CNN about one of my workshop attendees.  Never too late to learn!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I AM the gate

4th Sunday in Easter Cycle B 2012 – 

The stone rejected by the builders has become the corner stone.  In life we sometimes miss the bus.  Last week I asked the question of where on your Easter journey were you.  Did you make it to the empty tomb, the upper room, the sea shore or the road to Emmaus?  Today, Good Shepherd Sunday, reinforces our likelihood to miss our chance at a life changing opportunity now and then.  But the message is that it is ok if this happens. 
Have you ever wondered what the builders were building when that stone got rejected?  Maybe a temple, or a marketplace.  Maybe a home or a government building.  That stone could have been one in a thousand pieces of stone in one of those buildings, but it was cast aside.  It missed its opportunity.  It was deemed not of use.  But a short time later, it was rediscovered and it became the foundation for a new creation, that would support thousands of other stones.  It took a place of glory. Our Gospel reading today gives us one of the famous “I AM” statements of Jesus.  I AM the good shepherd.  Though we don’t hear it today, it is paired with another I AM statement in the few verses before.  An I AM statement that is sort of rejected like the stone:  “So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.   I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.  I am the good shepherd” (John 10:7-11).
“I AM the gate for the sheep.”  You will notice in the Church’s liturgical year that we don’t have Gate for the Sheep Sunday.  But maybe we should.  When it came to protecting sheep, there was the shepherd and there was the gate.  The sheep could remain safe by being in a fenced in, gated location.  Or, they could be safe by having a shepherd willing to chase of predators. 
In Jesus, we have both.  As we are reminded in the Easter Season, we enter through the gate of baptism into the life of Christ and his Church.  Then, we listen for and follow the voice of that shepherd.  Without the gate to pass through, we never reach the shepherd.  Without the gate, there would always be anxiety about the threats we face in the world.  It is similar to locking the door to your home at night.  We hold a treasure in our hearts, and we want to protect that sacred space.
The imagery of the Good Shepherd is hard to ignore though.  There is always something very comforting in the idea that we could stray from the flock and someone is going to notice.  Someone is going to come after us and not only bring us back, but carry us back with haste.  In the First Letter from St. John today we are told the following and I think it fills out our understanding of the Good Shepherd story:  “We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). 
Being picked up by the Good Shepherd carries with it a lesson.  It is not a free ride.  In fact, the Shepherd may have to lay down his life for his sheep.  As we are told in St. John’s letter, after we experience this, we shall be like him, for we have seen him as he is.
The Easter season is all about seeing Jesus as he is.  Alive.  Glorified.  At Peace.  Joyful.  I think this is why Good Shepherd Sunday is also a day for the promotion of vocations.  A vocation is quite simply a call that we have all received and I can tell you what your vocation is right now and save you years of discernment.  Ready?  All Christians are called to insert love into the world.  Period.  The end.  The manor in which you do this can be very varied, from marriage to priesthood, religious life to single living.  The key is that when you wake up in the morning and you recognize where and who you are, you are putting yourself in the position to see Jesus as he is, so you shall be like him.
Over the course of the past year, we have done many things.  Most we have done before, some we have not.  As we conclude this semester and Academic Year, we need to be thankful for all these things and like a shepherd collect them in our mind to do so.  Whether it was a walk in Mine’s Falls, a rainy trip to a corn maze, an overrun Foundations Retreat, a fire place in the Campus Ministry Lounge, over 300 Thanksgiving Basket donations, a Spring Break Trip to Camden, NJ, the Inauguration of our New President, the anticipation of University status, bowling with Jesus, serving soup, a candle light mass, Brother Mickey McGrath’s artful healing, or any other number of one off experiences of prayer or community, we are grateful for all of these chances we had to be like God, and to see him.  And if we missed these chances, if we were the stone rejected, we know that all these and more will be happening next year to give us the same and the new chance to experience an Easter blessing.  Blessed be God forever.

Acts 4:8-12Ps 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 291 Jn 3:1-2Jn 10:11-18

Friday, April 20, 2012

Easter Joy: The Union of Glory and Peace

3rd Sunday in Easter Cycle B 2012 –

Incredulous for joy.  This phrase is the reason that Easter is the longest season of celebration in the Church liturgical year.  Let’s recap the some of the things that happened in the few days following the Resurrection.  First, we are given an empty tomb then an appearance of Jesus in the locked room, then another on the road to Emmaus, then again in a locked room and then finally on the shore of the sea with Peter.  In all of these instances, the disciples have a new encounter and level of intimacy with Jesus.  First his body is missing from the tomb.  Not only did Jesus die, but now they don’t even have a way to memorialize him.  Then he appears to them and they lay eyes on him.  Jesus allows them to come so close to him they could experience his scent again and touch his hands, his feet and his side so they can feel his flesh and living body.  Jesus walks with them to Emmaus and opens their minds to the scriptures.  Jesus eats fish and breaks bread with them and sparks a taste for belief in their hearts.  Finally, Jesus enters the heart of his church by Peter’s affirmation that ‘Yes, Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.’ During these 40 days of Easter and 10 days of preparation for Pentecost, Jesus slowly reintroduces all the senses of his disciples to his risen presence; their sight, scent, touch, taste, hearing, and finally their minds and hearts. 
I think for most Catholics, the death of Jesus is very fresh.  More than other Christians, we emphasize this aspect of the story we have been instructed to tell.  But we have also been instructed to live the Easter truth.  Just as we limited our senses during Lent through fasting and abstinence, prayer and almsgiving, now we need to be reintroduced to the fullness of life that is promised in the Resurrection.
Take a moment now and think about where you are on your Easter journey.  Did you make it to the empty tomb?  Have you placed your eyes on Jesus or your hand in his hand?  Have you heard his word and opened your mind to its movement in your life?  Have you confessed your love and welcomed his challenge to serve in your heart?
Incredulous for joy.  The disciples were and we still are incredulous for joy. Mistrusting.  Disbeliefing.  Sceptical. Unwilling.  Those are all synonyms for incredulous.  Just like the disciples, we are being led through a never before conceived journey by a man who was dead.  Disbelief is only rational in that circumstance.
When I consider the concept of joy, I always think of Christmas.  Joy to the world, the Lord has come; Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.  Now some of you probably think I just relate everything to Christmas, and you may be right, but this one is actually legitimate. 
I think of joy as the coexistence of glory and peace.  God’s Glory is an aw-inspiring and terrifying thing.  Peace is finding the right fit, coming to rest, being settled in one’s choices and convictions.  When you combine something that is terrifying and also just feels right, you have joy.
Think of the Bruins winning the Stanley cup last year.  They are at the height of their sport and given an enormous parade to glorify their achievement.  The players could all rest with the peace of mind that they did it, they won.  It was a contagious feeling of joy. 
During the Easter season, and the first few encounters of Jesus with his disciples, we see the glory of God in the fact that a man, who said he was God, and did things to prove it, and then died, is now standing before them.  Jaw-dropping disbelief and terrify display of glory; that would be my reaction.  As doubting Thomas exclaimed to Jesus: “My Lord and My God.”  And as Peter tells us today in the Acts of the Apostles:The God of Abraham, [the God] of Isaac, and [the God] of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus” (3:13).  In the face of all this glory, what is the first thing Jesus says to his disciples?  “Peace be with you.” Jesus repeatedly offers them peace. Jesus wants them to see that their belief in him and their conviction to follow him are choices they can rest in and glory in. Jesus wants the glory they are witnesses of to feel right, so they can become bearers of peace from the overflowing joy of their experience.  Jesus wants this to be “truly perfected in us” (1 John 2:5).  The way Jesus eases his disciples into his Resurrection and offers them peace, is such a compassionate, temperate and understanding outreach.
Now, we don’t have the freshness of these events, so how do we process all of this?  How do we transition?  The liturgy of the Church tries to help us experience this Resurrection.  From the bleak days of Lent through the solemn days of Holy Week culminating in the glorious light of the Easter Vigil and Easter celebrations of peace triumphing over violence and death, the Church is inviting us to embrace the sacramental life that renews our senses and the Church is inviting us to engage our Catholic imagination that revels in the joy that is produced by the coexistence of glory and peace. 
In other words, go nuts with baskets of eggs and chocolate bunnies!  Have ham and turkey.  Indulge those things you had sacrificed over lent.  But allow your senses to experience these things anew.  Return to the sacraments of the Church like a child.  Confess your sins and leave them behind you.  Receive Holy Communion like never before saying with Thomas, My Lord and My God.  Serve your neighbor and smile at a stranger and realize that just as Jesus can enter into a locked room and offer peace, he can also enter the hearts of those you share love with.
The glory of Easter is unbelievable. The peace of Easter is a gift.  If you ever wonder why they used the word incredulous, just remember it is because of the union between glory and peace. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  And let us pray that the joy of Easter will be what we share.  Blessed be God forever.

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9; 1 Jn 2:1-5a; Lk 24:35-48

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Yada-Yada Lent

1st Sunday in Lent Cycle B 2012 –

I would like begin this evening by rereading the Gospel for you.  As you noticed, it is rather short and also a pretty familiar, even expected story for the beginning of Lent.  That makes it a prime candidate for us not to listen and that’s not a good way to start Lent.  But this Gospel also reminds me of the yada, yada, yada, Seinfeld episode that comments on our tendency to skim over the details. For example, in one scene, George is driving with this woman and she says, “So, I’m on 3rd avenue, minding my own business, and yada yada yada, I got a free massage and a facial.”  So, if this Gospel was used in the context of Seinfeld, this is how it would sound:
“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. [
and yada yada yada,]  After John had been arrested, [yada, yada, yada] Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:12-15).
To me, it seems that Mark provides us with a yada, yada, yada version of these very familiar stories of Jesus’ temptation in the desert and John’s execution.  It doesn’t seem to do justice to this time in Jesus’ life because just a few verses before this passage, Jesus is baptized by John and a voice breaks through the heavens saying “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).
            I think this express version of the Gospel that Mark provides,  aims at the ideal baptismal impulse.  Yes, Jesus took 40 days in the desert to ponder this message, but what is more important is that he came forth from those 40 days convinced of his message and fearless in his desire to live and share it.  One of the theme’s we have heard through the course of the last seven weeks of ordinary time has been that of boundaries, in particular how Jesus expanded and broke through boundaries.  Lent is our time to return to our baptismal vows and evaluate where they may be limited by boundaries we have imposed.  Hopefully, forty days from now, we will be able to recite those vows again at the Easter Vigil and find ourselves less bound by sin and more led by God’s grace.  More open to growth.
            But, what is our inspiration to live up to these promises?  On Ash Wednesday I talked about how the cross of ashes is a motivator by reminding us of both death and love: Our mortality and God’s embrace and transformation of it through Jesus.  Today, let me motivate you more by the love aspect.  God wants us to believe the following: “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.”  In fact, I would like to share with you a conversation between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to prove it. 
God the Father called Jesus over and said, ‘Jesus, I need you to do something.  See I made this whole universe, the stars and the planets, the earth and humans and yada, yada, yada, I want you to redeem them from sin by sharing our love with them.’  Jesus, always attentive to his Father’s will said ‘sure, thy will be done.’
Then God the Father said, ‘hey, veni sancte spiritus.’ and the Holy Spirit came over.  God the Father said, ‘Holy Spirit, first off, thanks for your help with Mary, as you know, I sent Jesus and yada, yada, yada, he conquered death and saved all my children.  Will you go guide them now?’  And the Holy Spirit said ‘how can this be?’  And God the Father answered, ‘You know, the scriptures, the saints, the Church, yada yada yada, O just show them that we love them and we’re with them always.’  With a swift breeze, off went the Holy Spirit.
A short while later, the Holy Spirit returned to God the Father and said, ‘I inspired the scriptures, and the Church and some saints, and yada yada yada, they still don’t believe we love them.’  To this, God the Father paused un-phased and replied, ‘we create them; we save them; we guide them; we love them;’ And we always will.’
This story is a summary of salvation history and I think it poses a problem of complacency for us because if God loves us no matter what, then what is the rush to change our lives?  Shouldn’t our participation in God’s love be required?  Participation is key, but first we need to accept that God loves us and always will.  That makes us feel very unworthy.  It makes us feel in debt.  Lent is a time to let go of the unworthy feelings and to step back into a balanced relationship with God.  Lent is an invitation to believe the effects of our baptism that made us children of God.  Then the love we have for God will be shared with our neighbors.
God has gone to great lengths to say I love you.  We can count on this from God, but these great lengths are not the substance of our belief and our love.  God alone needs to be the substance of our belief and our love.  Lent is the reminder that even if you haven’t acknowledged it in the past year, God still loves you.  God believes in you.  And you don’t need to go back and count the ways and the times of God’s love, to start anew this day.  Ultimately our answer when we stand before the gates of heaven needs to be “God I believed in you and I loved you and yada yada yada.”  May this Lent be the Lent we always remember the love of our God.  Blessed be God forever.

Gn 9:8-15; Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Pt 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday's Dual Motivators: Death and Love

Today is Ash Wednesday.  It is the day most people are eager to not wash their face and instead bear on their forehead a black cross.  At first glance this practice is directly contradictory to what we hear in the Gospel at Mass this very day.  In the sixth chapter of Matthew Jesus tells his disciples:  “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father” (Matthew 6:1).  Don’t give money to charity and then make a commercial saying you gave money to charity.  Don’t stand out in front of everyone and pray loudly making a scene so people will think you are holy.  And finally, don’t dress all drab and decide not to shower or brush your hair when you fast so everyone will see how much you are suffering.  At first glance, this little cross seems like a very loud contradiction.
The truth is that there are not many things that will get us to change our minds, never mind our hearts.  In fact I will come out and say that I don’t even understand my own heart a lot of the time and I suspect you don’t as well.  So, boasting about my charity, bible thumping and dressing to reflect my mood are not going to make much of a difference when it comes to change.  In fact, these actions just reinforce our same old thoughts and same old behaviors. 
So, what can convince us to change?  I think there are two things strong enough to do that and they are what these ashes represent.  Death and Love.  “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Yes, we are mortal.  Our technology is doing everything it can to hide and to change that fact, but we are bound to die.  And even as I say this, I know how little impact it has on my own life and on yours.  We have learnt really well to keep the secret.  But anyone who has faced death and lived will testify to how convincing it can be to inspire change.  So we wear ashes, with the hope that maybe having a black smug on our forehead might remind us when we look in the mirror that we are mortal.
The second powerful motivator is love.  That is why we wear our ashes in the shape of a cross.  That cross reminds us that even Jesus died.  Jesus, our God, suffered death on a cross, specifically to say to us that he has been there.  And Jesus faced death and didn’t have anything about him to change, so he changed death.  He rose from death at the resurrection and he gives that gift to us.
Our Church loves sacraments because they bring the grace of God in a real and physical way into our presence.  This imposition of ashes follows the same formula.  It is a physical reminder that death is real and that death is transformed and for both reasons we should be transformed.  Our hearts and our minds want this change.  Our hearts and our minds want a home that gives rest.  That is what God provides if we want to take time to be still and know who he is.  Let’s take time this Ash Wednesday to reflect in a mirror on these ashes.  And to remember that we are mortal and we are loved and that God embraced both of these things in Jesus.  Blessed be God forever.
Jl 2:12-18; Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17; 2 Cor 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Home: An Expansion Project

7th Sunday in O.T. Cycle B 2012

Where is home for you?  The other day one student said to another that she was going home.  This was followed by some confusion because ‘home’ in the other students perception was several hours away and not a practical venture in the middle of the week.  One student was referring to the place she lived, the other the place where she came from, where her family was.
In today’s Gospel, St. Mark tells us that “Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, [and] it became known that he was at home” (Mark 2:1).  I’ve never really thought of Jesus as having a home.  Sure we know of Nazareth and Bethlehem, but don’t you get the impression that Jesus is on the road a lot?  It almost sounds like Jesus’ return to Capernaum is a chance for him to have the equivalent of a semester break and he decided to return home.
Home is a very important thing for us as relational human beings.  There is something special about home and that can be for a number of good and bad reasons.  Home certainly is a perception before it is a physical place.  I think conventionally speaking, good feelings abound at home.  That is why we can find it whether we are at school, on vacation, doing a service trip, or visiting family.
Home at its best is a sacred space.  We want to be protective of it and share it with caution.  When we consider our relationship with Jesus, we need to see how he opened his home to everyone.  They even made an opening in his roof to lower a paralytic man to Jesus.  And when considering the body as the home of the Holy Spirit, Jesus gave his life to heal our sins. 
God’s asking us to expand our notion of home this weekend.  Who do we extend our hospitality to and why do we choose them?  When we recognize someone who is homeless, figuratively or literally, what is our response to them?  May the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the home of our hearts grant us courage as our perceived notion of home is expanded.  Blessed be God forever.
Isaiah 43:18-19,21-22; 24-25 Psalm 41; 2 Cor 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12