When the pope resigns…. did you know?

This is the current insignia/logo of the Vatican during the papacy of Benedict XVI. The symbolism shows the “keys of the kingdom” (Matthew 16:18) and the papal tiara indicating that there is a pope in office. But what happens at the sede vacante on Feb 28th when Pope Benedict resigns and the chair of Peter is vacant?

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We are only instruments in the Lord’s hand…

“There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord’s hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength….”

–Pope Benedict XVI
Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (35)
25 December 2006

Healthcare: A Tale of Two Worlds

….well at least two worlds. TIme Magazine published an article on the “bitter pill” that is healthcare cost. The worlds seem to be the well-insured, the insured, the under-insured, the I-thought-I-had-insurance-but-this-has-more-exceptions-than-coverage-insured, the under-65 with no insurance, and Medicare-insured. It is a long article but well worth the read. It is hard to read this article and not come away with the sense of how vulnerable we are in the time of medical emergencies.

Glory in the Midst of Bad News

There is someone in Tampa that clearly enjoys the Tampa Bay Times. Most mornings – recently at least – they help themselves to the copy intended for the friary. At the crack of dawn, one of the friars makes the daily pilgrimage to the Florida Ave. curb to retrieve the newspaper. Sometimes we are rewarded for our journey; some days not. But even the days when the paper has been absconded, perhaps that too has its own rewards. When our newspaper takes flight it also carries away the bad news with it. I know, I know – it’s not all bad news, but… At least for a while we get a respite from the next report of death, doom, despair, flood, fire, famine, pestilence, poverty, and plague. Continue reading

Francis of Assisi: The Problems of New Growth

By the spring of 1213, four years after the founding of the “order,” Francis’ reputation had risen to the attention of the Italian aristocracy – not just in Assisi but throughout central Italy.  The order was beginning to attract men from the higher social classes. Sons of merchants like Francis, sons of the landed wealthy, sons of ruling households, men with established careers in law, music and the arts, and also ordained priests. They joined the already formed group of men from middle and lower backgrounds in muddling through what it meant to follow Christ in the manner of Francis. G.K. Chesterton’s later definition of the Catholic Church – “here comes everybody” – was being lived out in Francis’ day. Continue reading

RCIA Rite of Election

One of the great joys of Lent is to watch the RCIA catechumens and candidates begin the last leg of their journey of faith to the sacraments of Easter. The first Sunday in Lent the church celebrates the Rite of Sending in which the parish affirms the readiness of these good folks and “sends” them to the bishop. The bishop receives them in the Rite of Election (catechumens) and Call to Continuing Conversion (candidates).  They are both beautiful rites.  Here at Sacred Heart, our RCIA group is so great; to see them take another step in the journey is an answer to prayer.

Enjoy some of the scenes from that day:


Thomas Merton on Christian Self-Denial

This is from Fr. Dan Horan, OFM at his blog Dating God.  I thought it was another take on the classic Lenten question: “So….what are you giving up for Lent?” One point of Fr. Dan’s insight is that ultimately self-denial needs to lead to new life.

“No one can really embrace the Christian asceticism mapped out in the New Testament unless he [or she] has some idea of the positive, constructive function of self-denial. The Holy Spirit never asks us to renounce anything without offering us something much higher and much more perfect in return … The function of self-denial is to lead to a positive increase of spiritual energy and life. The Christian dies, not merely in order to die but in order to live. And when he [or she] takes up his cross to follow Christ, the Christian realizes, or at least believes, that he is not going to die to anything but death. The Cross is the sign of Christ’s victory over death. The Cross is the sign of life. It is the trellis upon which grows the Mystical Vine whose life is infinite joy and whose branches we are. If we want to share the life of that Vine, we must grow on the same trellis and must suffer the same pruning.” — Thomas Merton Continue reading

St. Francis: A Reputation for Holiness and Miracles

Over the last several weeks we have been considering what awaited the men who came to join Francis of Assisi and this growing fraternity of believers seeking to follow Christ more fully in the world. We had mentioned there were no rules, regulations, or even a formation program; there was only Francis and the other brothers. But what drew the men to want to “come and see?” Undoubtedly, as today, a complex of reasons, but key among those reasons was Francis of Assisi’s reputation for holiness and miracles. Continue reading

Some thoughts on prayer.

There are three traditional “pillars” of Lent: prayer, fasting, and the giving of alms. As we enter Lent, I thought I would share some thoughts (mostly borrowed) concerning prayer.  There are wonderful books and treatises written on prayer in the Christian tradition, but perhaps there are at least five things that form a beginning place when considering the role and place of prayer in our spiritual life:

Prayer is a mystery. In the Christian tradition, “mystery” is not that which is unknowable, but something that comes through revelation. And the thing is, we have been the recipients of the greatest of Revelations – the person of Jesus Christ. “Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion, Who[Christ] was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16.) So, should we be surprised that even after a lifetime of prayer, no matter how much we pray, no matter our experience, what happens in and during and through prayer remains a mystery? A mystery to be approached with intellect, learning, faith, and reflection, to be sure, but just as much a mystery to be embraced through practice and experience. Even if…

None of us knows exactly how to pray. We may find something that works or is comfortable for us, but everyone in the conversation seemed aware that prayer is something we keep learning and that we learn best by doing. Even if we don’t know what we are doing. “The Spirit … comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.” (Romans 8:26-27)

There is no one way to pray. In private, in community, in song, in Scripture, in tongues, in repetitive phrases, contemplatively, in meditation, and more.  In the many ways and richness of our cultures, dispositions, and traditions, there is a multitude of different ways to pray that suit all persons and situations. Take a measure of freedom and try out different ways of praying.

Doing and being are all mixed up in prayer. Our usual distinction between being and doing, or between identity and activity, don’t apply to prayer. Prayer is doing something, certainly, but it is also a way of being, and as we enter into prayer with our whole being, we are changed and things happen.

Just pray. There is no wasted prayer. God is eager to hear and receive and respond to our prayers because there is, I believe, nothing more that God wants than to be in relationship with us –all of us – and for us to flourish in this life together and with each other. Just do it.