Friday, February 28, 2014

From The Hermitage
February 28, 2014

Dear Friends,

First an update on my brother, Jack.  Last evening he had to be taken to the ER at nearby Beebe Hospital where he had been for the prior three weeks.  Why?  He developed a nose bleed which the nursing staff and the Rehab Center could not stop.  So .... off to the ER.  From what I learned late last night, Jack was on his way back to Rehab.   I will talk with him later this AM.

The second characteristic of the Christian, as mentioned by Pope Francis, can be a challenge to most of us especially in our contemporary world.  Christian identity "must always remain as a lamb.  There is an old Easter antiphon we sing with the words:  'these are the new lambs, the baptized.'"

The Holy Father cited Luke 10:1-9:  The Christian is a lamb and needs to preserve the identity of being a lamb: 'Go, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.'"  During the yesterday's homily the responses of several of the youngsters in the lower grades were so on target.  Wolves are mean!  Wolves are vicious!  Wolves are like bullies!!!!!!!

Why is it difficult to be like a lamb today?  Because there are so many of our challenges today are brought about by the lack of others being charitable, caring and calm.  It seems so many today carry buckets filled with anger, distrust even envy.  Wolves are clever animals and we could easily be drawn into contests with them.  The Holy Father said that we must remain "as lambs, not as fools, but as lambs.  Lambs with Christian guile, but always as lambs.  If you are like a lamb, the Lord will defend you.  But if you feel as strong as the wolf, he will not defend you, he will leave you alone and the wolves will viciously eat you."

Rather strong words from the gentle Pope.  But, this man has suffered much in the junta that took place in Argentina during his administration of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires where are times the "aires" were not so "buenos."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Who Are You, Christian?

From the Hermitage
February 25, 2014

Dear Friends,

Yes, it is a question we might consider because our life as a Christian can become something taken for granted since we live it, or try to live it, each and every day.  So, what is it that make me a Christian?  To answer this question, I have taken one of Pope Francis' recent homilies for my own prayer and reflection.

First characteristic:  A Christian is someone who does not standstill.  The Pope refers to such a Christian, one who does not move forward, as one that is "not well."  He is certainly an example to all of us of someone who does not stand still.

Those who know me well, realize that characteristic in my ways.  Change does not frighten me.  It is a welcomed gift in my life.  As a Jesuit and now as a diocesan clergyman, life is only meaningful to me when it is not stagnant.  Nothing is more painful than standing still, not moving forward.

A Christian is a disciple.  And what is a disciple?  Well, if you have read the gospels of the four Evangelists, did you even consider how much traveling those early followers of Jesus incorporated into their following Jesus.  Here, there:  wherever Jesus could do good for others; wherever Jesus could attract other disciples and/or apostles; wherever Jesus could find a place to be in prayer with his Father.  And when these followers were not with Jesus, they became is disciples (those who would teach what Jesus was teaching).

Let this first characteristic be the fodder for your prayer or reflection today.  What we might consider for ourselves today is whether or not each of our personal lives is one that exemplifies the moving forward attitude.  Especially in our times when there is so much criticism of individuals, it is easy to let others' observations of who and what we are weigh us down.  A disciple does not let that happen.  Are you a disciple of Jesus?  Do you call yourself a Christian?  How does the notion of always moving forward despite difficulties of set backs sit with you?  Together let us ponder this characteristic, especially trying to understand what great treasury there is in being recognized as one dedicated to moving forward, committed to the changes that Jesus brings into our lives.

Tomorrow and Thursday, we can together consider the other characteristics Pope Francis mentions so that we might recall them for our own consideration.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Monday, February 24, 2014

Making Ready

February 25, 2014

Dear Friends,

Including today, Tuesday, there are only eight days remaining before we begin our "annual retreat," the season of Lent.  Perhaps Easter 2014 can have greater meaning if we do set aside some time during these pre-Ash Wednesday moments to look at ourselves and the way we interact with our God, our Church, our world, our communities, our families and most especially ourselves.  If we recognize a particular reality in our lives that creates some stress, confusion, frustration, isolation, anger or even violence, Lent is an opportunity to bring about order to the complexity brought about by our society and its times.  Let the candle above be a reminder to look into our selves in a overview mode.  Hopefully there you might see what Lent can be for you.

In his first major sharing of his vision for the Church, Pope Francis extended an invitation to look at our Church and ourselves in the chaos that can be found in many of our lives: the chaos brought about by the above mentioned complexity.  Evangelium Gaudium, the official title of the Apostolic Exhortation (as it is formally titled but translated into English as The Joy of the Gospel, and abbreviated as EG).  What follows are several thoughts from Pope Francis that might give each of us, myself included, some initial direction for us to consider during these eight days so that we might begin to bring about some order in our lives.  If you find yourself saying to yourself "I just don't have time any long to ...," or if you find yourself saying to others "I cannot find the time I need to ...," there is need to grapple with the complexity that brings chaos into our lives.

These are the words of Pope Francis, our first Jesuit pope (Deo gratias!!!), that can serve all of us as we walk towards Ash Wednesday:

"Now is the time to say to Jesus: 'Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you.  Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.'" [EG, paragraph 3]

We have an instrument, a way of life, that is "radiant with the glory of Christ's cross."  It is the Gospel that "constantly invites us to rejoice." [EG para. 5]

Let us use these eight preparatory days for making ready our hearts and minds for Ash Wednesday and the subsequent days of Lent that will bring us back to the joy of the gospel life.

Oremus pro invicem!

From the Hermitage,

Fr. Milt

Sunday, February 23, 2014

7th Century Hallmark Sentiments

February 24, 2014

Dear Friends,

If you read all of this, you are about to discover something of a 7th Century saint who had a unique sense of sharing his prayers with us.  St. Maximus the Confessor and abbot could easily have produced a "thought for the day" calendar.

As I began to read the Sunday Breviary, my morning felt-need was a fire in the fireplace.  No doubt the warmth and the crackling of burning wood opened my mind and heart to something unusual ... at least for this scribe!

In Sunday's Office of Readings for the Roman Breviary, there is a part of "On Charity" written by St. Maximus.  He is a stranger to me and perhaps to many of you as well.  But there was something that captured my attention which led me to "St. Google" to learn more about him and his writings.  The following is what instigated the search:

The Lord himself reminds us: Whoever loves me will keep my commandments. And this is my commandments: that you love one another. So the man who does not love his neighbor does not obey God’s command. But one who does not obey his command cannot love God. A man is blessed if he can love all men equally. Moreover, if he truly loves God, he must love his neighbor absolutely. Such a man cannot hoard his wealth. Rather, like God himself, he generously gives from his own resources to each man according to his needs.

St. Maximus the Confessor
Photo of Icon from

What further seemed interesting was a citation in one of the Google discoveries that indicated St. Maximus had created four "books" called "Centuries" in which he listed 100 thoughts or insights that would help him in his prayers.  There was a link to the four hundred pithy statements: St Maximus' Century Books.

Reading through several of these statements, you may well discover a treasury of thoughts for the day or starters for a time of prayer or as a handy "prayer safety jacket" when distracted by thoughts having nothing to do with your prayer.

Surely you might "knock the socks" off relatives or friends if you included one of these thoughts, especially those on love, on charity, on a note card, a birthday or anniversary card.  Wisdom from a 7th century, pre-Hallmark sentiment.  Imagine the reaction!!!

Let me close with thought #23 of the "First Century" that can be found in the citation three paragraphs above.  I suspect it is the fund raiser in me that chose this for a closing.  In particular this is a thought that should have been included in remarks last evening while speaking at the Vigil Mass about the current Cardinal's Appeal.

The one who loves God surely loves his (her) neighbor as well.
Such a person cannot hold on to money
but rather
gives it out in God's fashion
to each one who has need.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

In the Small Things

Weekend of February 22-23, 2014

Dear Friends,

Please continue to pray for my brother who has been moved from his local hospital to a rehabilitation center near his home.  He will be there for a week or two learning how to navigate on his two feet again.  The severe gout, one of four major bodily issues that laid him low for two weeks at the hospital, made it impossible for him to walk for almost two full weeks.  He is now able to stand but need assistance getting himself onto his feet.  Prayers appreciated of course.  I am back at the parish until he is able to return to his home.  At that point I will return to be with him for a week or so.  Now to the business at hand.

During the last year or so, "the meaning and answer can be found in the details," seems to have become a favorite phrase of politicians here in the nation's capital city.  I want to reflect with you on that remark as it relates to our dealings with God.  We might say that God can be found in the small things of life, especially the smallest.

Think about this for a few moments.  First of all when we find God, we find peace and comfort.  Most of us know that.  However, our culture and times and brought us to believe or act in ways that always lead to the biggest things.  How many are trapped by such things as a large house even when there really isn't a need for so much space.  And how often does it seem that a Ford or Chevy is so much less that a BMW or Lexus.  Of course I dress so much better when I have a tailor made suit!!!!  A rather prominent Cardinal I worked with and for in the past could  be found at Target or Kohls when he needed a new suit.  "It covered my just as well as those other, expensive suits," we would say.  These are the worldly things that differentiate the truly spiritual person from one who gets captured by the need to have the biggest and the best.  Most all of us have to struggle with these realities, don't we?

And when it comes to personal relationships, we can be trapped by similar realities.  A dinner with a prominent politician or social figure surely beats inviting some folks to dinner, folks who are really having a difficult time financially and for whom a dinner out of the house would mean so much.

How about those relatives that don't keep close contact or friends who may be hospitalized or simply overwhelmed with personal problems?  What effort, even the smallest, like a Hallmark card or a cell phone call does it take to give support to a person?

If you read carefully the four gospel accounts of the life of Jesus Christ, you can find more often than not Jesus was not drawn to the bigger things, the more important people.  For him it was almost always those we might consider the little people:  those without, those alone, those sick, those rejected, those in prison, those who are thirsting for justice in their lives, the single parent, the kids enduring a divorce, the teen who just cannot get his/her act together.  Why so many suicides among teens?  Why so much use of drugs or alcohol by teens and other younger adults?  How can we not see the goodness in them, the presence of God himself, hidden inside all of these suffering people?  So often because they are among the "least" that we easily overlook them yet deep within them is the Lord who suffered and died for our salvation.  These are the poor, again, the "least" among us. 

The gospel reading for today reminded me that God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit are so present in the "least," the smallest of things and people.  What is my reaction when encountering such a person or situation?  Ask yourself these questions:  Do I look for God in the not so small?  Have I ever considered that God really is present in the small things or people the I encounter?  Remember has always been that in the creek or river beds, among the smallest stones, that a gold miner finds the clues to wealth.  The same is true for those seeking to find God.  He is so easily found in the smallest of things and situations.  Overlooking the smallest is the easiest of mistakes we can make.

Have a good weekend.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Love Covers All Offenses

Dear Friends,

Proverbs chapter 10, verse 12:  Love covers all offenses.  This verse appears in the first reading in the  Office of Reading in the breviary selections for today.  It is one of those verses that can be read quickly because that same sentiment appears throughout the New Testament.  But, when the one who prays pauses and begins a little thinking on the realities of life, the mind and heart open up to the Holy Spirit.

First, whose love?  Well, for me, the fact that it is God's love for me that brought his son, Jesus, to be with humanity.  He is with me and you each day of our lives, present to "cover" our sins, to offer again his sufferings and death as an atonement to the Father for us and the forgiveness of our sins.

Second, if we consider our relationships with our sisters and brothers, we come to an awareness once again that it is our love for others that  "covers" our actions that offend our brothers and sisters.  Can you even begin to imagine what the absence of love would be in your life?

These days I see those who come to the hospital to visit my brother in his serious illness or the ones who call from so many distant places or the many get well cards tacked to the cork board in his hospital room.  Every word, every smile:  these are the manifestations of the love God placed in our hearts when he created us.

The question in my heart now is this:  when and how have I failed to share the love God has shown me in my life by the forgiveness of my sins with my sisters and brothers I have offended at one time or another in my life?

Look outside.  Where I am the sun is bright, the sky is clear and blue.  What do I see?  So many signs of God's love for me ........ And YOU,

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

No Post!!

Dear Friends,

Sorry no messages this week.  I am spending each day with my brother who is still in the hospital.

I continue to marvel at the service the nursing staff provides for the patients here at Beebe Hospital in Lewes , DE.

Trying to get time for some reflection time to prepare a weekend message for you.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Monday, February 17, 2014

Which Anniversary?

Dear Friends,

A friend is celebrating another birthday!  For most there are only two dates we remember:  birthday and anniversary dates like wedding, religious profession or  ordination.  That seems to be it with just a few exceptions.

Recently someone asked this question:  "do you remember the date of your baptism?"  The response was "You must be kidding."  Of course most of us do not have that date in our memories because, when someone pour the baptismal water over our heads, we were only in the world a few days or weeks.  The only thing you might have done is bellow forth with a scream as the cold water hit your head!

See if you can find the date.  Why?  First, to know that day is to know a blessed day.  Why again?  Because on that day you became someone special in God's eyes.  Indeed you were "born again."  Our baptism placed each of us in a very particular and powerful relationship between Jesus and his Father.

At that moment each of us became a special bearer of a new hope.  It is the hope that carries us on the path of salvation whenever we come to The Lord Jesus seeking pardon for our sins.

Likewise the sacrament opens us to a new sensitivity to God as well as all our brothers and sisters.  Our baptism is the source of the drive within us to live like Jesus did and as he called us to live.

These are some of the reasons that the date of a person's baptism can have significance.  I
These are reasons that remind us again of who we are and hoe blessed we are by our loving God.  And, just maybe, it might be a cause for another little celebration.  I think life would be different in so many circles of friends were we to gather for a time of sharing this special day in our lives!  It would certainly bring many of us to halt and think how each of us is truly a special person.

My brother continues to improve.  Soon moving to a rehab center sometime this week primarily to regain his walking skills.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Where is He Leading Us?

A Weekend Letter

Dear Friends,

The following may seem, at first, out of place.  Hopefully, you may find some insight for yourselves and possibly for others.

During these last few days, I know that God has blessed me in several extraordinary ways.  To be honest, the "blessings" have stirred up some unusual moments of reflection and prayer, asking for the gift of understanding.  Like Solomon, I am praying for a few grains of wisdom to get to the heart of several conversations about faith that have taken place.

These have been serious, heartfelt discussions with two individuals who are baptized Catholics but for one reason or another have discerned that it was their "time" to leave our Church.  Neither person was brought to this decision by something that caused anger or frustration.  Rather each felt that the Church was no longer providing the spiritual life they were seeking.

Throughout the discussions it was clear that each of these people was searching for a deeper relationship  with God and a church community that that would be an instrument bringing them closer to Jesus Christ and to a community that was alive with faith, confident that their experiences were leading them to a deeper faith and a strong relationship with fellow Christians in sharing their faith.

Mulling over their stories, their experiences, their new found hope, I began to consider our Church's current thrust for Evangelization.  This current effort strives to bring back those who have left our community as well as to renew our own faith in Jesus Christ and our Church.  

This thought captured my attention:  perhaps our Evangelization efforts should strongly focus on the "spirit" in our Church.  The question is simple:  "Why are so many Catholic finding faith, hope and charity in other religions, in so many non-denominational congregations.

Pope Francis, says we need to change our Church to be a Church that is not a fortress, a Church that is not walled in, so self-referential.  This is a dream to see us become a Church that builds bridges.

So much to think about; much to bring to prayer and community reflection.  "Come Holy Spirit, renew the HEARTS of the faithful."

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Friday, February 14, 2014


Pope Francis recently spoke about the theophany that occurs at each Eucharistic celebration.  It is our chance, our privilege to participate in the true sense of the sacred.

Theophany is described/defined as a direct communication or appearance by God to human beings.  Events that are theophanies recorded in the Old Testament are among more than a few God's appearance to Adam and Eve, Moses meeting God in the burning bush event and when Abraham seeks mercy from God on behalf of the Sodomites.  These were one time appearances.  However, in the New Testament a different kind of theophany has occurred:  the Incarnation of Jesus Christ which began with his conception but which will never end.

The Lord speak to us in different ways.  We read in the Old Testament prophets conversations with Yahweh.  We have heard it from priests for years.  We hear from Sacred Scripture.  Theophanies, however, are different.  God is actually present to someone in a theophany experience.  God comes to us in theophanies today but, no doubt, many among us seem to have forgotten when the one theophany God has given us occurs.

We have the privilege of this sacred presence each time we are present for the celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass, the Sacred Liturgy.  Ask younger people in today's Church if God is actually present when they attend Mass.  Responses are unbelievable!  Pope Francis reminds the whole world of our belief that during the celebration of the Eucharist "the presence of the Lord is real, truly real."

What we experience is not a representation of the Last Supper.  The Pope continued saying, "... it is the Last Supper itself."  And here is the mystery, in this daily celebration of the Mass, the theophany given to us is "the Lord is made present on the altar to be offered to the Fatter for the salvation of the world," the Pope further added for us as a reminder of the sacredness of the moment of consecration.

We look up the Child Jesus in the Nativity scenes that are visible during the Christmas season.  Jesus is not an image in the Mass.  Jesus is present for us.  Our Sacred Liturgy is much more than our recited prayers, our contemplating Jesus in the Way of the Cross.  The time we are present for the liturgy each day, each Sunday we are present once again on Mt. Calvary.  If we are fully aware of this unique belief of our religion, how strange it is to hear someone say "Mass is so boring.  The priest doesn't know how to preach.  The music is terrible.  It's all about the collection."  The Mass is more than all of those issues.  God is with us in the Mass.  God is truly present among us on the altar.  The sacrifice of Calvary takes place again in each Mass.  How can our salvation be boring?  It is the moment of our continued Redemption.

If we truly believe what this extraordinary theophany is, wouldn't we want to be present at every celebration of the Eucharist that we can attend?

This letter is not meant to be a preached sermon.  It is a reflection on a recent homily of Pope Francis where is reminds his hearers and those who would eventually read or hear read his words about this extraordinary blessing from God to each of us.  If we stop and think about it for a few moments, isn't it mind-boggling?

Happy Valentine Day everyone!

Oremus pro Invicem.

Fr. Milt

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Listening Gift

Dear friends,

“If only my people would hear me,
and Israel walk in my ways,
Quickly would I humble their enemies;
against their foes I would turn my hand.”

Words from the responsorial psalm.  How many times have people uttered those first seven words?  So often I say those words to myself about myself.   How many times have I failed to listen to the words of the Holy Spirit or Jesus himself?

I continue to tell myself that if I would  take time to listen, time to be alone with the Lord as I was yesterday.  Walking in the way if the Lord would, I am sure, be so much easier if I tried to listen each day.

One of the signals that I am not taking time to listen is the unrest that troubles my heart.  So often I find myself wondering why a solution is taking so long.  My spiritual director smiles when I share that with him.  I know the answer, too.

May the Holy Spirit always be with you and may you make certain to provide time in your life to be a genuine listener.

Happy Valentine Day!

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

The Graces of Snow!

Dear Friends,

If you are living in the area that has been coated in white -- now being covered by genuine icing, if you can, let this act of mother nature provide you with some quiet time.  I hope you can use it to visit with a good friend, Jesus.

No one showed up for the morning Mass.  Prudence and wisdom seem to have had success!  After some time behind a snow blower, I was walking to the Hermitage, where I live.  As I neared the house, I felt a strong urge to do nothing but sit in the house chapel.  So, with a cup of hot tea, I took my chair in the chapel and began a wonderful time with God.   I found it much easier today to let Jesus lead the conversation.  There were not great distractions.

It is in these moments when I know that Jesus is with me.  And, to be sure, I pray not just for you, but that that you can find time today to allow yourself to let heart and mind be at rest -- especially with Jesus Christ.

A friend wrote these words I would like to share with you:  "Worries can be the mother of discouragement and isolation.  Prayer is a meeting with God's grace that reinvents my spirit and my graced life."

This is what can happen on a snowy, icy day.  So, let the words of a song that come to mind be sung a few times today:  "Let it snow! Let it snow!"

Let us treasure the opportunity to listen to the voice of a loving God who desires only goodness for me ... and for you.  Let the snow that covers the grounds around you, also cover those worries that might bring you discouragement or isolation today.  Let that openness of snow-covered yards and fields bring you to the presence of your God.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Beauty of Service

Dear Friends,

First a report:  my brother is recuperating from congestive heart failure.  There are some other concerns as well that competent physicians are handling at the moment.  Perhaps Jack will be able to return home by the weekend.  He is in no hurry to leave until his doctors have discovered the difficulties that involved his heart, lungs and kidneys.

During the many hours that I sat with Jack in his first "room" -- almost 24 hours in the emergency room because the hospital was full --- I tried to imagine myself as an administrator of the hospital having the opportunity to be sitting in a patient's room.  Even when I left, yesterday, there were still patients awaiting an empty room in the regular patients' rooms.  As of yesterday the emergency room continued to be a place of holding.  However, during the time I was there, I noticed the attitudes of those who came to my brother.

Hospital service can, as we all know, be somewhat lacking.  I would have expected there to be a shortage of patience and good TLC because the nursing staff was not experiencing any break.  These
servers of healing were so pushed by so many needs that there was almost a sense of overwhelming care and concern because they were so busy with so many patients.  Every nurse and doctor came with a genuine sense of service, of outreach, of care.  I watched as one particular nurse who was changing the sheets etc. on my brother's bed while I was listening to a presentation by a woman giving a parish retreat in Hawaii.  Under the nurses breath I would hear such things as "Yes, Lord Jesus, Yes."  When her task was completed, she asked me ever so politely, "Can you tell me what that was you were listening to?"  And thus began a conversation about the story of Martha and Mary which was the topic of the retreat director she overheard.   Another moment came when another attending nurse was giving my brother another round of medications, said to me "You know, I used to be a Catholic.  But now I attend a community church which gives me so much support and so much awareness of sacred scripture."  Thus began another lengthy conversation about service, about youth ministry programs and the excitement of her pastor who is so strong in building up the faith among the late teens.  She told me how many 18-19-20 year old boys were so often filling up the front areas of the church!  And they were not embarrassed by their faith.   They could talk to anyone about church, about God, about faith and they loved being able to do that.

What a great experience for me to see that these and others were the kind of people working under great pressures but who did not forget what it mean first and foremost:  we are human beings!

Have to run over to Mass.  Going to be late if I go any longer.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt

Monday, February 10, 2014

Seeking God's Care

Dear Friends,

Today my message to you must be brief.  It is early in the AM and darkness still prevails.  Since last evening I have been in special prayer for my brother, Jack, who had to be rushed to a hospital nearby his home because he could not breathe.

He suffers from COPD, that terrible disease (?) or damage to his lungs because of 2ndary smoke (he has never smoked the first cigarette or cigar).  He came down with a heavy chest cold several weeks ago.  It seems that it will not leave his chest.  Last evening his lungs were having a terrible time doing their mission.

I have not heard any news during the night ... thanks be to God.  As soon as I send the parishioners on their way after the morning Mass, I will immediately leave to be with him.

On his behalf and that of his family at this time your prayers would mean so much.

God is with all of us but at times it surely is scary.  Join me in asking God to bring a renewed health to Jack so that he can accomplish what has been the dream of his later years in life ... reaching out to others.

Oremus pro invicem and my family!

Fr. Milt

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Strength in Our Darkest Moments: Weekend Message

Dear Friends,

The words you have read and/or heard are, I believe, powerful reminders to us that each of us can stand as a David against the Goliath's of our times.  Focus on what seeks to beat you down or even what can ruin the person you are.  There may be struggles with addictions which can twist a person's spiritual life, for sure, but which can alter that a person's mind and personality.  Surely you think of every kind of drug on the markets or on the streets.  Yet today there is something just as destructive.  It is one particular use of the marvelous invention that is so much a part of our lives today:  the computer and its key to what can destroy an individual perhaps in ways worse than drugs. It is online pornography.  This is an addiction that is so difficult to remove.  It has become the "fix" that has ruined not only the viewer but his/her family as well.

Our world today is much like the world of the Corinthians Paul speaks to on his visit with them.  These were bright individuals whose wisdom and use of language was strong.  They were recognized for their interest in learning, especially in Greek philosophy.  Even St. Paul acknowledged that he was no match to their subtlety, their wisdom.  Yet he spoke clearly from what was in his heart not from a carefully designed or developed philosophy.  Paul was the bearer of the wisdom of God.

Let me invite you, my friends, to join with me in looking at the strength of persons like Paul, like David, who could see so clearly from his great sin to the light of Yahweh that "shines through the darkness for the upright."  In our times, when we need encouragement, look to the strength of the many women and men veterans who return from the hellacious moments that totally changed their lives.  These are the moments that destroyed their bodies and/or minds as they had been.  These noble men and women are extraordinary examples of strength in the weakness of their mangled or ruined bodies and/or minds.  Now they do not fear that damage brought to them.  Like St. Paul and David, their "physical weaknesses"are the sources of their greatest strength.

Surely, if these wounded warriors are models of conviction and determination that have turned their "new lives" into an overwhelming power for goodness and hope, we, too, should do all we can to turn our weaknesses, our struggles, into opportunities for grace.

Do not forget that even the slightest light of faith and hope is never overpowered by the darkest moments of our lives.   Jesus is, for me and you, our Light and our Life.  Let it burn brightly and give courage to our convictions.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt

Friday, February 7, 2014

Praise the Lord in Song and Dance!!!

Dear friends,

Those who may not have any interest at all in liturgical music will have to put up with this message today.  The first reading caught my attention with a specific message to me as priest-celebrant at Masses.  Because I consider myself as a fixer-upper, as have my superiors, I have had a number of assignments both in the Jesuit order and in the Archdiocese of Washington.  As a result, I have had to enjoy and endure liturgical music of every sort in the years of my priesthood.  Music programs can be  an "Agony and Ecstacy" for Pastors!!!  This feeling, no doubt, impacts you, those who sit in pews and are subjected to what some have called "manditory music."

Hear the words that caught my attention: “He set singers before the altar and by their voices he made sweet melodies, he added beauty to the feasts and solemnized the seasons of each year so that when the Holy Name was praised, before daybreak the sanctuary would resound.”  Sirach

Music programs, good music programs, are costly not only in funding salaries for well-educated musicians (organists) and music directors but also in the amount of time that volunteers practice just for a "regular" series of weekend Masses.  In the parish where I help, there is a traditional church/parish choir as well as an African Choir and a Filippine Choir.  Translated:  hours and hours of practice.  And why?  because these Pastors and their music aides know well that a silent (music free) Mass brings about far less genuine praise of God than does a Mass with music regardless of its genre.

In parishes where there is a very good liturgical music program most parishioners of proud of this aspect of their parish life.

There is always time for quiet prayer and reflection at Mass: in the times before Mass begins (that is if chatty parishioners can keep their spoken voices outside the church proper) as well as after Mass.  I am amazed in my parish at the numbers of men and women kneel before the altar as well as the tabernacle after Masses ... morning and weekend.

Let me conclude this plea for good music in all our liturgical celebration with several suggestions offered by a professor in the Journalism department at a mid-western Jesuit University.

Knowing how much a “resounding sanctuary” adds to prayer and worship, I offer a few suggestions to those stuck in churches" where the music programs are painful:

•Speak out. Ask your pastors and parish councils to place a priority on using music that the people can and will sing. Suggest that every Mass include at least one hymn that people know, even such old standbys as “Immaculate Mary” or “Holy God We Praise Thy Name.”

•Ask your cantors to practices hymns with the congregation before Mass. Whenever I’ve seen this done, participation improves.

•If you are blessed with a good voice, organize a chorus that will sing at Mass. It’s amazing how much participation improves when there’s a musical ensemble leading the way rather than just one person.

No, our music director did not beg me to write these thoughts.  Just the Sacred Scriptures!!!!

Oremus et cantamus pro invicem!!!

Fr. Milt

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Let Your Heart Be Filled With Joy

Dear Friends,

Let me share with you thoughts from a recent homily of our Holy Father, Pope Francis.   His words were his reflection on a scene presented in the 2nd Book of Samuel.   The Holy Father speaks of a need all of us have in a world that is cluttered, in a world that has become so technical, in a world where the simply joy of praise has, I believe, fallen to the wayside for so many Christians.

"King David offered sacrifice in honor of God," the Holy Father said.  "Then his prayer became exultant... it became the prayer of praise and of joy, and he began to dance.."  We read in Samuel "David danced (highlighting mine), he danced before the Lord.  Pope Francis read these word and then said, "This is an example of the prayer of praise."  He danced.  Imagine what the reaction would be if, during a liturgy, liturgical dancers participated in a dance during the Sanctus, the "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts ...."

Prayer of praise is what we rarely offer to the Lord.  Far from our normal ways of praying, our asking for something from our God or again far from those prayers of thanksgiving.  The Pope noted that this kind of prayer does not come easily to most contemporary Christians.  Who today would "behave" as Sara did when Isaac was born?  "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears (about what happened to Sara) will laugh over me."  Yet, the 90 year old mother for the first time, laughed and danced for joy when her son was born.  Even King David, expected to be a man of formality as the king, danced before the Lord.  These two people knew what it mean to offer prayer of praise to the Lord.

The Pope noted that we can easily stand in a stadium and scream whenever a favorite team scores a goal, a touchdown, a home run or drops a ball through the hoop from mid-court.  We shout, we hit each other on the shoulders, etc. etc.  Yet, bring the same crowd, or at least some of that crowd, to a church for a "celebration of the liturgy," and suddenly most have no voices.  Composure seems to place our hearts in a vise!

The Holy Father reminded those attending his Mass that giving praise to God is "totally gratuitous.... We do not ask, we do not thank.  We praise:  you are great. 'Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.'"  "The joy of praise leads us to the joy of celebration."  And he further says that those who "close themselves into the formality of a cold, measured prayer perhaps end up ... in the sterility of formality."

After reading the Pope's reflection, I turned to YouTube's collection of music of praise.  I was surprised by the collection.  I spent the next half hour hearing songs of praise, adding my voice to the silence in my chapel!

When we are celebrating a liturgy, let it become a celebration.  Often times we priests hear a complaint:  the liturgies are so boring!"  Indeed they are boring when we restrict praise to God!
Lift up your hearts.  Let God fill your heart with joy .  But don't everyone come dancing up the aisle!!! And, God forbid, don't clap your hands when the music seems to fill us with genuine joyful celebration!!!!!!!

Oremus (et cantemus cum jubilatione - and let us sing with jubilation) pro invicem!!!

Fr. Milt

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How Can I Work Here?

Mark 6:1-6

Dear Friends, 

The above citation is from today's liturgy.  If you read it carefully, you can understand why I felt the title of this letter seems suitable and appropriate.

In these words and actions I sense a truly frustrated Son of God.  Simply because one man, son of a carpenter -- reducing Jesus to a menial status in society -- speaks like someone they have not heard before.  Additionally the temple folks had heard the gossip about Jesus and his miracles.  Jesus, one of their own, had become a threat to them.  They could not figure out this man, one they had known for years -- since he was a young child.

When someone enters your life with words or ideas that are different and challenging, how do YOU react?  Words from Pope Francis?  From our Cardinal Wuerl?  From the American Church leaders, your Pastor or another preaching priest?  Or just another Christian sharing thoughts that may be the results of his/her personal prayer?

Perhaps the words of Jesus recorded by the Evangelist, Mark, speak challenging words to the temple congregation that are just as significant to us today as they were when they were first spoken.

I recently saw a picture of a young person climbing up the face of a mountain.  This is a person facing true challenge.  She would not do this if it were not exciting!

Pray to God today that you might always possess the excitement of a mountain climber when God puts a challenge in your life.

Oremus pro invicem,

Fr. Milt 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

And They Ridiculed Jesus

Dear Friends,

Good morning!  Today one sentence in today's gosopel reading caught my attention:  Mark 5:40.

Mark presents a few miracles.  In one instance word came to a synagogue official that his daughter had died.  Immediately Jesus went with the man to his home.  Upon arriving to a scene of chaos and tears, Jesus said that she was not dead but asleep.  "And they ridiculed him...."

The question that came to my mind was this:  do I "ridicule" Jesus?  Of course most of us would immediately respond "Of course not."

But what should I call my sinful actions that are repeated time and time again?  Is that not a type of ridicule, a mockery of Jesus' final hours on this earth?  When I fail to live the Commandments, when  I decide how to live my life contrary to the teachings of Jesus and my Church?  Gossip that truly hurts another person's reputation?  Living a life with immorality or unethical practices in a way that I want to?

Yes, I know I would not want to ridicule the Son of God.  I would not do anything to make a mockery of Jesus' death and resurrection for me.  Yet, as we know well, falling into the same sinful pattern in my life is, if we can face ourselves with honesty, we would have to say that we have allowed ourselves to ridicule Jesus Christ's effort to bring us salvation.

The Lenten season is rising on our horizons.  Maybe we can use these pre-Lent days to examine how we live our lives with regard to what our Church calls "habitual sin."  The season of Lent offers us the opportunity to end those habits that harm us, those sins that deprive us of true freedom that offers us genuine joy.

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr.  Milt

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Joy of God's Healing

Dear Friends,

My thoughts from Mark 5: 1-20.

Yes, I am a little late today.  Me and my computer.  All was typed and ready for you just before 8 AM when I lost all that was done.  Had to leave for Mass.  More than an hour trying to get this into print this afternoon.

If you can, a read of the Mark citation above will help you better understand what the Holy Spirit put into my mind yesterday when I started preparing this letter to you.  What went on between Jesus and the deranged man and others like him can be helpful to us in our needs.  This is not to insinuate that you are or have been deranged!

As I read the story over several times, I found myself focusing on the experience of the deranged man coming to Jesus for help in ridding himself of the pain he must have been suffering.  Here was a man to whom I found a linking.  I do not hang out in cemeteries or find myself shackled by chains.  But I do recognize that in my life there have been times when I have found myself struggling to maintain a close relationship with God, with Jesus and at time with the Holy Spirit.  I honestly assume that you have encountered the same experience.  We have allowed ourselves to become shackled by one bad habit or another.

Finally, when I am smart enough to realize I need the help of God, I come before Jesus, just as did the deranged man.  "Get me out of this cemetery and the chains that shackle me," is my prayer to Jesus.  Continuing to break free through my own effort but with the added help of my brother, Jesus, my world begins to change.  You know it could be laziness; it could be letting myself become so absorbed in a project that I let prayer slide or get very little attention.  Whether something not terribly significant or a habit or practice that creates difficulty between God and me, I know that all I need to do is turn to Jesus Christ.  And, just as quickly as he healed the deranged man, He will turn his healing powers to me and to you.

When I realize that I have been given new strength by my Savior, I sense the joy of new freedom.  I have overcome one thing or another and realize what a blessing it is to have our God, our brother, Jesus, as friend.

And, you know, when you go through this healing, your joy most likely instigates a feeling in your heart to share with others the greatness of God.  When the healed man asks Jesus if can go with him to wherever he is going, Jesus refuses his request.  Why?  Because Jesus knows that the man is alive again with faith.  Jesus tells him to return to his family and friends, his community.  There he should tell the people how God came into his life with such healing and love.  It is the feeling I experience each time I am absolved of my own sins when I take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
I want others to know how great our God is.

Imagine what our world would be like if all of us were able to share with others not an account of our sinfulness but an account of how willing God is to free us from what shackles us.  Try it sometime.  You will feel even happier and freer.  What a blessing!

Oremus pro invicem! [Please get used to this "sign off" from me:  it means "Let us pray for each other"]

Fr. Milt

Saturday, February 1, 2014

And So The Christmas Season Concludes

Dear Friends,

To fully understand the title of this communication to you,  if you have about five minutes, read St. Luke's gospel chapter 1:5 through to Chapter 2:39.   The events and words in this part of  Luke's gospel make up what theologians and scripture scholars call The Infancy Narratives.  These few verses are packed with so many events we hear about in the Christmas season.  Read all at once, these events invite us to see the whole story and to realize what God is doing for us even today.

So, Mary and Joseph drop the curtain on the Christmas story by bringing their new born son to the temple according to Jewish law.  And once again the Christmas message is proclaimed by the elder man at the temple:  here is the true light of the world for all nations and forever!
31which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”k
For me, reading through the above mentioned verses, there was a renewed sense of the power of God's plans for all of us.  Luke, responding to the inspirational gift of the Holy Spirit, tells us how we  came to be Christians.  This story is the foundational beginning of God's Church.

I am captured by the bookends to the story:  senior citizens --Elizabeth and Zechariah then Simeon and the prophetess Anna-- begin and conclude the story of the coming to us of the Son of God.

Before 1969 this feast day of the Presentation was known as the Purification of Mary.  It was always a day marked by processions -- people bringing to the church candles for use in their homes as well as candles to be used in the liturgies at the altar.  In a way it is a fitting way to conclude the Christmas season:  Jesus is brought to the temple for the first time.  The "Light of the world" is presented to the world in the words of Simeon and Anna and our Church blesses candles that may remind us in each liturgical celebration at the altar that we are in the presence of the true Light of the World.

May Jesus be the light in your life!  May the candles you see lighted at the altar remind you of the presence  of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.

God be with you!  Oremus pro invicem! (Let us pray for one another!

Fr. Milt