What kind of leader?

What kind of leaders do we want? Certainly, a good question here with the mid-term elections upon us. It is always a good question for the Church. I have lived during the pontificates of seven popes and in my lifetime, we have certainly had a wide variety of types and styles of leaders. In our history, we have had 266 popes. We have had some spectacularly amazing leaders, saints in the making, and we have had some spectacularly horrific leaders, who would have been quite at home in Game of Thrones (so I hear, I actually haven’t seen it…).  All took up the Keys of Peter, with the same job description given Peter: Feed my sheep; tend my lambs. The Pope is the most visible of leaders in the Church, but not the only ones with that same job description. The simple mandate, “feed my sheep; tend my lambs” applies to priests, pastors, parents, principals, police, and anyone who would lead – anyone who would answer the call to minister in the Holy Name of Jesus. Continue reading

The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

In a 13th century text called the Il Foretti (The Little Flowers), a story is told about St. Francis in which a brother friar came to him and asked, “Why after you? Why is the whole world coming after you, wanting to see you, to hear you, to follow you?” Some 800 years after the life of St. Francis, this question remains. What is it about this unpretentious figure from the early 13th century which continues to exert such a perennial fascination for Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and agnostics alike? What is it that has made Francis the subject of more books than any other saint? Why has he inspired artists, led ecologists, peace activists, and advocates for the poor to claim him as a patron? Why has he inspired countless tens of thousands of men and women to follow his Rule of Life in religious and secular communities? Continue reading

Living our mission…

In the 11 years I have lived in downtown Tampa, the change has been constant and continuous. When I moved into the friary, there was no Curtis Hixon Park as we know it today. The “Elements” had not been built and “Skypoint” was mostly dark at night. The “Floridan” was still closed, as was the 1905 Federal Courthouse on Florida Avenue. And then slowly, growth and expansion started. The courthouse became a boutique hotel and restaurant. The Floridan opened and expanded as did the Elements. Buildings started to rise in Channelside. There are blocks of downtown being developed that I can’t remember what used to be there. And that is just on this side of the river. Remember The Tampa Tribune building? Remember the parking lot behind Oxford Exchange? Both will be finished residential complexes soon and very soon. Continue reading

Staying tuned

A lot of people in the parish know that in my former life I was a naval officer serving on nuclear submarines in the Pacific. And people know me now as a Franciscan Friar and ordained priest. I think most people assume I went from the “monastic enclosure” of the submarine to the hallowed halls of the friary. Not so much. There was a 14-year period when I was out there in the world working in the field of consulting. I started out advising commercial nuclear-power plants – kind of an obvious transition. Before I knew it, a less obvious path opened, and I found myself working on information-technology projects. That eventually led to strategic-management consulting for several different industries. Looking back on it, one thing was for sure: It was never dull. It was exciting to continually enter into new engagements, with new clients, and have the chance to think creatively, strategically, and in all different ways. Continue reading

Curating our stories

Over the last two pastor’s columns I have been talking about stories: sharing your story with God as part of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and just last week, sharing your stories of God with your family. And I continue to think about our stories of faith and this life of grace.

One of the amazing moments of my sojourn to Israel this summer was actually holding mustard seeds in my hand. And, trust me, you had to look very closely. I took a picture and when I show it to people most guess that it is very fine grains of dirt. When I say that it is a mustard seed, then the power of Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed comes to the fore. Continue reading

Our Lady of Sorrows

Mother-of-SorrowsOur Lady of Sorrows is celebrated on September 15th in the western Catholic Church. It is a devotion on Mary’s experience of the way in which the prophecy of Simeon came to be:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord… Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:  “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:25-35)

In Catholic religious imagery, the Blessed Virgin Mary is portrayed in a sorrowful affect, with seven daggers piercing her heart. These represent the seven traditional sorrows:

  1. The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
  2. The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13)
  3. The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:34-45)
  4. Mary meeting Jesus on the way to Calvary (John 19:26-27)
  5. Jesus dying on the cross (John 19:30)
  6. The piercing of the side of Jesus and Mary’s receiving the body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57-59)
  7. The body of Jesus placed in the tomb (John 19:40-42)

What’s your story?

Stories carry the lifetime of wisdom, experience, reflection, and all manner of insight – a true treasure trove. When I am at the bedside of a dying patient at TGH, with the family gathered, if it seems appropriate, I will ask them to tell me stories of their loved one. It is often difficult to be the first one to offer an account, but when they do, the floodgates open and the stories pour out. They are stories that make you laugh, cry, roll your eyes, and remember all the impish delight and love this one person brought into the world. As I said, a true treasure trove. Continue reading

Have mercy that I may tell you

St. Augustine of Hippo begins his great work “Confessions” with a question: “How shall I call upon my God and my Lord, when by the very act of calling upon him I would be calling himself into myself? Is there any place within me into which my God might come? How can God who made the heaven and earth come into me? Is there any room in me for you, Lord, my God?” (I:2)

As Augustine continues to write, you can sense his feeling of frustration or bafflement grow until he asks the ultimate question to God that we all should ask of ourselves: “What are you to me?” Then wonderfully Augustine continues, “Have mercy on me, so that I may tell you.” (I:5) Augustine then proceeds with the rest of “Confessions” in which he finds God in the telling of his own story – not in the universe or theological books – but in his own story. Continue reading

We hope…

Last weekend was one in which there was an intersection of what is best and worst about the Catholic Church. We had a mission cooperative weekend scheduled in which we hosted Fr. Machado from St. Rita’s in Dade City. The parish was welcoming, listened to his message, responded generously with financial assistance, and asked “What can we do to help?” Already parishioners are in dialogue with the staff at St. Rita’s seeking to organize some help programs for the school children. It is Church and community at its best when a people sustained and nourished by the Eucharist, spontaneously reach out to help nourish others. Continue reading