Intentional Rejoicing

The prophet Zephaniah exhorts us to “Sing joyfully, be glad and exult” with all of our hearts. He writes in the context of the worst kind of spiritual and political corruption by the very leaders who are supposed to care for the poor and the oppressed of Judah. Isaiah writes in the midst of suffering, as the people experience the devastation of the Babylonian exile.  Paul is writing from prison. But each in their own way tells us to rejoice. Why? Zephaniah says it best: God “… will rejoice over you with gladness…he will sing joyfully because of you.” (Zep 3:17-18).  Because of you. Because of me. Wow! The source, the overflowing fountain of joy pouring into the world. The words of the second reading are the hallmark of Guadete Sunday: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say again: rejoice.A call for a universal chorus of joy. Continue reading

Getting there

he_qi_road_to_emmausLet’s see…where was I? It has been several weeks since I posted about my time in mission in Kenya. In a previous post, The Long Way Round, I was standing in 3.5 feet of snow, shovel in hand, looking down a long driveway to a dirt road that had not yet been plowed and wondering if this was a sign from God about a faulty discernment process to leave the world as I had known it, and serve as a lay missioner in a far away land. Today, if I was looking at the same scene,  I likely would have thought: “this is beautiful and God put it here. Think I’ll enjoy it and let God take care of it in His own good time.” Back then, I dug my way out.

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The long way round

things-2-doIt is not a small thing to decide to leave life as you know it and take up the mantle of missionary. Many of the folks that join overseas mission services are taking a “gap” year – or in our mission society, three years. Lots of folks are recent college graduates or folks at the start of retirement. I was mid-career. I had worked for a company, started a company, sold a company, and as we reached the end of our agreement to remain, friends and I were considering starting another company. Then my pastor asked if this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I often jokingly tell people not to take dating advice from a priest. Perhaps I should have been cautious about taking career advice from a priest. About the same time, as I noted in a previous post I wrote: “Then my friend Susan asked “Hey, do you know what Fr. Joe is doing these days?” As it happens, he was Executive Director of Franciscan Mission Service (FMS).” It was the start of a very long list to things that had to be done.

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A certain lack of clarity

DiscernmentIt would seem this is post 3 of 3 about how I ended up in Kenya. In the two preceding days I posted about the role of memory and serendipity. But I think the original inquiry from a regular reader was probably most interested in the discernment process, and how I gained clarity on what the Spirit might be calling me to do. As part of mission formation we were encouraged to journal. One of our assignments was about discerning the call to mission. I did not record a full fledged account of my discernment, but I did record this: Continue reading

As it happens…

St-Francis-de-Sales-churchIn one of yesterday’s posts, I began replying to an inquiry about how I decided to go to Kenya and take up the mantle of missionary. Yesterday was about memories that persist, today’s post is about context in one’s life. As it happens, the story is part geography, part “betwixt and between,” part random question, and part taking-a-chance.

Upon leaving active duty in the Navy, I took a job in Northern Virginia with a tech company. The company’s offices were in Tysons Corner which seemed to me to be very congested and mostly concrete. So I thought to myself, “I hear the Virginia countryside is beautiful, maybe I should look for a house somewhere west of the office.”  I ended up buying a home west of Leesburg and settling into a small town parish. The church was tiny with a seating capacity of 89 (according to the Fire Marshall). The Sunday 7:30 am Mass was in the Church; the other Sunday Mass was in the high school auditorium.

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Being Sent

“As the Father has sent me…”

Jesus-weptLike all experiences, mission has its own stages and cycles, its liminal moments when we are truly betwixt and between worlds, between what we think and how we see the world. Perhaps there are no more potent moments of being “between” than in the beginning of mission, the first moments away from all you knew (or thought you knew), people you cared for and held dear, and all that gave sure anchor to the way in which you engaged the world.

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Musings from Away

While musing, as I am wont to do, it came to me that 25 years ago this month, I arrived in Kenya to serve as a Franciscan lay missionary. Back in those days there were no blogs to post musings. Where we lived it was a good day to have electricity and that was usually limited to the season when the rains had come and hydro power was available. When you live in the slums and it is time to ration electrical power or water, we often were the first to experience the cuts. Back in 1996 the Web was starting to gain some momentum, but it was still just a few years old.

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The first reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews carries an oft quoted verse: “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2) All cultures have their own sense and operation of hospitality. I think most of us grew up is homes wherein hospitality was rarely taught but always on display. So, it is an interesting experience to live in a culture where the dynamics of hospitality are different. Such was my experience while living in Kenya.

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New Way of the World

c-brown-christmas-treeI wasn’t too sure what to expect for my first Christmas in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Certainly, the slum in which I lived was devoid of any of the commercial excess.  There were no malls, no black Friday, none of the things mark our Advent season.  Occasionally, you could hear Christmas carols, traditional and tribal, float out of one of the wood sheds/tin roofed stores.  But most the familiar signs and markers that Christmas was coming were missing. Continue reading