About Friar Musings

Franciscan friar and Catholic priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Tampa, FL.

The Forerunner

This coming Sunday marks our journey into a new liturgical year and a new Season, the 2nd Sunday in Advent in Year A. You can read a complete commentary on the Sunday Gospel here. The Gospel readings for the Second and Third Sundays of Advent always focus on John the Baptist. Since we are again in Lectionary Year A, the two selections are from Matthew 3:1-12 and 11:2-11, respectively. One might ask: Why were these two passages from chapters 3 and 11 chosen? The short answer: They both deal with John’s role in preparing for Jesus, making them particularly suited for Advent. But how? On the 2nd Sunday of Advent each year, the Gospel reading presents the preaching of John the Baptist. Although we normally call him “the Baptist,” Matt 3:1-12 does not focus on his baptizing activity as much as on other aspects of his ministry: John as Preacher/Prophet, and John as the Forerunner to Jesus.

1 In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea 2 (and) saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 3 It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” Continue reading

Waking Up

sleep2Note: Fr. Chuck Dormquast, the diocesan vocation director, is preaching all the Masses this weekend. So, I thought I would post a homily from three years ago. Enjoy.

To sleep, perchance to dream” such are the words of the great William Shakespeare written for his character Hamlet. It is only in such dreams can we mark the passage of sleep. Short of dreams, we really do not know we are asleep until we wake. We can be aware of the long glide path to sleep – the yawns, the stretching, the telling ourselves “just one more chapter in this book….” Or perchance, our afternoons when we think “I am just resting my eyes.” The thought gives away to the sweet rapture of the most awesome afternoon ever. Perhaps the reverie of our daydreams leave unperturbed the here and now. One short sleep past and we awake and the here-and-now is like our pet dog at the end of the bed or couch waiting for us to get up and fetch them a doggie treat. Continue reading

Darkness: Waiting and Unknowing

Advent [meaning “coming”], to the Church Fathers, was the right naming of the season when light and life are fading. They urged the faithful to set aside four weeks to fast, give, and pray—all ways to strip down, to let the bared soul recall what it knows beneath its fear of the dark, to know what Jesus called “the one thing necessary”: that there is One who is the source of all life, One who comes to be with us and in us, even, especially, in darkness and death. One who brings a new beginning. Continue reading

The Gift of Forgiveness

The First Sunday of Advent readings might strike you as somewhat odd. The don’t seem very…well, in the Christmas spirit. Perhaps it helps to consider where Advent falls on the liturgical calendar for the Church. It is immediately preceded by the Solemnity of Christ the King and followed by the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas). Advent lies between the celebration of the Seconding Coming of Christ at the end of time and the commemoration of the First Coming of Christ at Christmas. The theme of readings and teachings during Advent is often to prepare for the Second Coming at the end of time, while also commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas. With the view of directing the thoughts of Christians to the first coming of Jesus Christ as Savior, and to his second coming as Judge, special readings are prescribed for each of the four Sundays in Advent. Continue reading

Franciscans in China

Ideograms for Rabban Bar SaumaServant of God – John of Montecorvino
Franciscan and first Bishop of Beijing

Today is a day in which we Franciscans remember John of Montecorvino. To which most people – even most Franciscans – will say “who?” Brother John was the first Catholic missionary to China, centuries before the efforts of other Catholic religious orders. It is a compelling story.  If you would like to read an interesting and accessible account of the travel within the context of an art historian comparing 13th century Italian and Chinese art, read Lauren Arnold’s: Princely Gifts & Papal Treasures: The Franciscan Mission to China & Its Influence on the Art of the West, 1250-1350 – fascinating book.

Beginning with the pontificate of Innocent IV (1243–1254), the popes and Mongol khans began to communicate and exchange gifts in a diplomatic effort to see if there was a basis upon which to effectively bind and subdue their common enemy, the Muslim Empire.  The two most famous envoys were the Franciscans John of Plano Carpini and William of Rubruck. Their journeys, remarkable and daring, were not specifically missionary but were more as political emissaries. Carpini traveled in the years 1245–1247 while Rubruck’s mission was 1253–1255. Although Rubruck was sent by Louis XI of France to enlist the aid of the khan against Islam, Rubruck also attempted to convert the Mongols (also known as Tartars) by converting the Great Khan.  William’s Itinera is a masterful travel account  that also includes observations about the Saracens and Nestorian Christians found in the Mongol territories. On Pentecost 1255 William met with the Great Khan who received William but nothing more came of the meeting. Continue reading

Practicing Gratitude

When I lived in Kenya, there came a day in the slum when I beheld a Chevy pickup truck heading my way. Now pickup trucks were not uncommon, at least not if they were a Toyota. But a Chevy…well, I had to wave the driver down and inquire about the origins of such an American icon on the unpaved roads of Kibera. Turns out the driver was a pastor of a missionary Baptist church in the Nairobi area – good ol’ boy from Tennessee. Now the pickup truck made perfect sense. Continue reading

Remembering the Roots of Thanksgiving

I am grateful for a day in which we, as a people, pause to give thanks. And who do we have to thank for this holiday? Your answer is likely “The Pilgrims.” You would not be wrong, but then not completely correct, either. Certainly, Thanksgiving and the religious response of giving thanks to God is as old as time. When one considers enduring cultures, one always finds men and women working out their relationship to God. There is almost always a fourfold purpose to our acts of worship: adoration, petition, atonement, thanksgiving. Such worship is part and parcel of life. And yet, there is still a very human need to specially celebrate and offer thanksgiving on key occasions and anniversaries. Since medieval times, we have very detailed records of celebrations marking the end of an epidemic, liberation from sure and certain doom, the signing of a peace treaty, and more. Continue reading

Ecclesial Anatomy

This weekend in prayer, I ran across this small quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “Let us profess the truth in love and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head. Through him the whole body grows, and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

This is not the only place where St. Paul discusses Christ as the “Head” and the church/believers as “the body”. For example see Col 1:18 and compare with 1 Cor 12:12–27 and Romans 12:4–5 where Christ is identified with the whole body, including the head. (The full scriptural quotes are provided below for your consideration) Continue reading