Monday, January 16, 2017

Commercials and Parables

The numbers are staggering.  Americans watch an average of more than four hours of television a day.  If you add this up over a year, it's 61 days.  If you add this up over 40 years it's just shy of seven years. Phew!  That's a lot of TV watching.  What useful things could we do if we leave our easy chairs and break away from the "boob tube?"

Further, at least 25% of this TV time is commercials.  Haven't we seen our fill of sexy new cars, goofy insurance companies, skinny people eating fattening pizza, young people drinking beer, old people swallowing pills, and promotions for forgettable movies?  (At least the despicable political commercials are gone for another four years.)

Actors and directors have a love/hate relationship with commercials.  All want to do "important work," yet production values have risen for these 30-second stories, and doing commercials sometimes pays the bills for starving talent.  And once in a while a well-written commercial brings out the best in the human condition.

Over the Christmas holidays I saw two commercials which touched my heart.  One was for Toyota.  The opening scene is a typical Friday night high school football stadium.  Boys competing on the field in a playoff game.  Time running out, the quarterback throws a pass into the end zone.  The receiver catches it, but the referee rules he was out of bounds.  No touchdown, the receiver's team loses.  A huge disappointment.

The next scene is Dad and Mom driving their son home through a driving rainstorm.  Dad sees a car broken down, and a soaked man trying to fix it.  Dad pulls over, winds down the window and asked the stranded man if he'd like a ride.  It's the referee!  Dad says, "Son, move over."  The receiver looks at the referee, dripping wet, looks at his father, then reluctantly moves over in the back seat.  The referee says nothing, acknowledging the awkward moment, but gratitude is written all over his face.  The receiver hands him a cloth to wipe his face. Simple human compassion beats a football loss.

The second one is by Amazon.  Two elderly clerics are enjoying conversation and a cup of tea in a rectory.  One is a Muslim imam, the other a Catholic priest.  As they make their goodbyes, both have trouble getting out of their chairs.  Oh, those aching knees.  The priest and imam embrace, and grin at each other as they depart, recognizing their shared stiffness.

As the imam walks home, he has an inspiration.  He pulls out his smart phone, and buys something.  The priest, back in his rectory, also has an idea.  He does the same. (Commercial pitch--2 day free delivery with Amazon Prime!)  In the next scene, an Amazon delivery person comes to each of the clerics's doors.  Both gave the other the same helpful gift--a lime green knee brace.

In the concluding scenes, the imam puts on his knee brace, and then the priest does the same.  Both kneel in prayer, in mosque and in  church.

This commercial is truly unique.  Have we ever seen a priest in a commercial in a positive light, much less in genuine friendship with a Muslim leader?  Interfaith relations are presented in a positive, personable light.  When have we seen men at humble prayer, with bended knee?  In our violence-filled world, a subtle yet powerful message of peace.

I confess that the first time I saw this commercial I had tears in my eyes.  There was no dialog, only a haunting piano score in the background.  The bonds of affection between the clerics were clear.  This is the way friends act.  Isn't this the way we should act too?

My twelve years of seminary studies consisted of reading and studying the best textbooks of theologians, and the most important papal and episcopal statements.  Yet one day someone said to me, "You know, Jesus never wrote a single thing.  All he did was tell stories and live out stories of compassion."

These two commercials confirm the power of storytelling.  How should we act?  What kind of persons do we want to be?  In the wasteland of television commercials and popular culture, these imaginative parables help us to see how to do the right thing and be good persons.


You can see these commercials on YouTube at Toyota  and at Amazon .


Letter from a Dying Priest

Father Mike Crosby, O. F. M. Cap., is another noted spiritual writer.  He is also a social activist.  Recently he was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and colon.  Here is a circular letter he sent recently to members of his family, his Capuchin family, and his friends around the country.  Truly an "encyclical."

When our Founder, St. Francis of Assisi, wrote his Testament, he urged us to greet people with the words of Jesus:  "May the Lord give you peace."  So, as I begin this blog post, I repeat the same to you.

I didn't expect I would begin 2017 writing a blog like this but none of us knows the day nor the hour when some of us will hear the words, "You have cancer."  This happened to me the last week of Advent.  While I still don't know the extent of it and my prognosis, my GP has let me know that most people with my type of cancer die within the year of experiencing the symptoms.  A CT scan shows I have cancer of the esophagus (four centimeters at the juncture of the esophagus and stomach) that also has entered at least one lymph node.  It is lodged in an inaccessible place in the area of the esophagus, stomach and pancreas.  I also have a cancer of the colon (which is in its initial stages).  Because of this uncertainly I will have a PET scan on Friday, January 6.  I will then meet with a radiologist and my oncologist.

While studying in Berkeley, I had a very bad car accident.  My injuries later turned into blood clots.  When the doctor told me I might die, my first reaction surprised me:  "That wouldn't be too bad."  This led me to try to maintain the same attitude if I lived and if something like this would ever happen again.  A key element of this involved having no hard feelings in my heart against anyone.  It seems this time has now arrived.  So, while I am prepared for that day and hour (for which I'm not volunteering) I have no especial desire to postpone it.  This gives me great peace.

While I can't yet answer the question, "What's the prognosis?" I can respond to a question many have asked me since I've received the diagnosis:  "How are you doing with all of this news?"  Simply said, I'm doing (to my own surprise and gratitude) very well.  Not only am I not afraid of Sister Death; I find something deeper is happening in me.  And for this I cannot thank St. Francis of Assisi but the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

You may recall that when the Jesuit Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope, he did not take the name "Francis" to honor the Jesuit missionary disciple, St. Francis Xavier; rather he took the name of our founder, Francis of Assisi.  Well, conversely, I have learned something very important from St. Ignatius.  He wrote the Spiritual Exercises; I prayed them for 30 days some years ago and have been forever thankful for the experience.

Many of us who attended Catholic grade school were asked in Catechism:  "Where is God?"  We dutifully replied:  "God is everywhere."  Now that I have an adult faith that response is becoming ever more meaningful.  Heaven isn't a "place" that we "go to" but a way of being in relationship with and connected to God and all God's people, whether friend or foe, now and forever.  This realization led me to adapt something from the Exercises.  I greet each day praying:  "Loving, Trinitarian God, grace me to seek and find you in everything and to love and serve your Divine Majesty in everyone and everything."

Now at this time of my cancer, I can thankfully say, I have found God's real presence in my cancer and all those cell-critters that are fighting the good cells in me.  "This is my body" too, another form of the Eucharistic banquet of life to which I now find myself invited.  I don't know if I'd have this assurance without faith and know many without it also find such acceptance in the face of their cancer too.  But I believe it and it grounds me and sustains me.  I also am sustained in this faith by a passage from Exodus 15:2.  I read it the other day during the Prayer of the Church shortly after my diagnosis:  "God is my strength; this is the God who saves me.  This is the God I praise, the God of my people."

You, good reader, are "my people" and for this I am most grateful.  As we continue this part of my journey, I am thankful that we have been able to walk together and hope it will be a long, long time before we part ways here on this earth!

In hope, Mike

P.S.  If you want to make a donation in my name, I'd ask that you consider our Province, the Midwest Capuchin Franciscans.  We still are not fully funded for our retirement and health care (which will be at my service these days) nor for the care of the significant number of men who are now in the process of making their full commitment (vows) to our way of life.  You can send anything you desire to St. Benedict Friary, 1015 N. Ninth Street, Milwaukee WI 53233.  Thanks for this too!




  Father Mike Crosby, O.F.M. Cap.

A personal connection.  One day several summers ago I was preparing for Sunday Mass at St. Mary's Church in Sharpsburg (St. Juan Diego Parish), where I was pastor.  I saw a bunch of men in brown robes walk into the church, and sit in the middle pews.  Most were young, in their 20's, one an older, bald man.  It was very unusual for us to have men in brown robes in our church!  But Mass went on.  That day, for a Spirit-filled (but unknown to me) reason, I preached on connecting the Gospel to everyday life.  Somehow I mentioned as an example the difficulty the city transit authority was having getting stable funding.  I said, I have a car, and find it easy to get around.  But what about people on the margins, who need bus transportation.  Supporting their need was an act of solidarity in this community.

After Mass, I greeted the men in brown robes.  As I had guessed, they were Capuchin Franciscans, in stages of formation.  And yes, the bald leader of the pack was Father Mike Crosby, whom I had never met.  He complimented me on my sermon, which was right up his (social justice) alley.  I mentioned I had read several of his books.  I dropped the name of a friend whom I knew he knew from his years of working in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in New York City, and internationally.  Mike said he was giving a retreat to Capuchin novices and seminarians in Pittsburgh, and thought it would be good to go to "an ordinary parish church" for Sunday Mass.  How small the world is, that a famous author and speaker would end up in tiny Sharpsburg.  

Pray for Mike.  Share his words.





   

Five Nice & Easy Pieces of Advice for a Happier New Year

Here is a new year's piece by noted contemporary spiritual writer Father Jim Martin, S.J. "Nice and easy!"  This sounds like a talk he gave.  The advice may be "simple" but it is sure down-to-earth.

Okay, we all like making lists of New Year's Resolutions.  And most of the time--well, much of the time--we have a really hard time keeping them because they're so difficult.  Lose 20 pounds.  Read a new book a month.  Avoid all sodas and alcohol.  Don't eat any chocolate again.  Stand up to my boss.  Go to the gym every day.  Sometimes you feel defeated by January 2!

But how about five simple things you can do to be happier--which you really can do?  Here are five easy things you can do for a happier life this year.  And they're a lot easier than losing 20 pounds.

1.  Be a Little Kinder.  I think that 90% of the spiritual life is being a kind person.  No need to have any advance degrees in theology or moral reasoning, and no need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the world's religious traditions, to get this:  Be gentler and more compassionate towards other people.  In other words, say "thank you" and "please."  Ask people how they are.  Listen more carefully when they speak to you.  Don't say snotty things about them behind their backs.  Basically, give them the benefit of the doubt.  I know that sometimes you feel like acting like a jerk--you feel justified because of the way you're being treated--but you don't have to.  Most of the time you have a choice:  I can be a jerk or I can be kind.  Be kind.  You'll find that you'll be happier with yourself at the end of the day.  And, as an added benefit, everyone around you will be happier.

2. Relax a Bit More.  Let's not belabor the point:  a lot of us are rushing around like lunatics these days.  Overbooked.  Overscheduled.  Overworked.  Crazy busy. Exhausted.  Checking our phones and iPads and blah blah blahs every five seconds.  Do you really, really, need to be checking in every few minutes?  Can you set those things aside for just a little bit?  And aren't there just a few tasks you can let go of?  A few months ago I realized that I had completely booked myself for the next few months and started to bet a little overwhelmed.  The more I thought about these supposedly fun things, the more depressed I got.  I had to ask myself:  How many of these things did I really have to do?  For me, the answer was about there-quarters of them.  The other quarter I could let go of.  Maybe the proportion is different for you, but looking at cutting back a bit is a good exercise.  Relaxing a little bit more can lead to more creativity, more time to think, and more time to pray.  Paradoxically, it may make you more productive.  It'll certainly make you happier--and again, everyone around you happier because you're not stressing everyone else out with your stress.  I'm not saying check out completely, or quit your job, or tell everyone that you're stopping every activity you presently do.  Just relax a little more.  You're a human being not a human doing.

3.  Enjoy Nature More.  Look up at the sky.  It's pretty amazing.  Every moment of the day.  Yesterday where I saw staying it was a brilliant blue. Clear. Cloudless.  Ahhhhh.  Enjoy it.  How about noticing something as the trees in your neighborhood?  Are you watching them cycle from spring green to green to red to barren?  Give yourself a few seconds to be aware of that.  If you life in a city, can you notice the wind on your face or the occasional burst of sunshine peeping through the gray buildings?   If you're lucky enough to live by the ocean or a lake, well, I envy you!  Notice nature a little more.  It's always changing and so it's always a surprise.  And can you thank God for the natural things that you notice everyday?  Natural beauty is, I think, happy-making for most of us; and being more grateful to God will add even more to your happiness.

4.  Be a Little More Grateful.  Try this:  Notice the small daily things that you tend to overlook.  The stuff you take for granted or like, but don't really consider "special."  The taste of your favorite cereal or coffee or juice in the morning.  An unexpected phone call from a friend.  Your child's laugh or a nephew's or niece's giggle.  Your cat's crazy antics.  A funny TV show.  A small house job finally finished.  Stop and savor those little things.  And say thanks to God.  I'm not saying that you can't be sad or bummed out.  Life's really tough sometimes.  Most times.  But I'll bet that there are a few things in your life that make you feel lucky.  Just a few seconds a day is all it takes.  Gratitude is the gateway to the spiritual life.  Open that door today. You'll be a happier person once you step through.

5.  Pray Just a Tiny bit More.  I'm not saying that you need to enter a monastery or take out a mortgage on a hermitage.  But just a few more minutes a day is enough to jumpstart your spiritual life.  Think of it as a relationship. If God is important to you, wouldn't you want to spend some one-on-one time with God?  That's what prayer is.  And there's no best, or only way, to pray.  Whatever works best for you--imagining yourself with God, quietly meditating on a favorite Scripture passage, or reciting an old prayer that comforts you--is what's best for you.  Just a little bit of prayer will help you feel in closer touch with God.  And that relationship, because it connects you to the transcendent and makes you feel less alone in those tough times I mentioned, will make you happier.

There.  Those aren't so hard, are they?  Be kind.  Relax a little bit.  Enjoy nature more.  Be a little more grateful.  Pray just a tiny bit more.  You can do all those.  And in doing those you'll be happier.  And have a Happy New Year.

Father Jim Martin, S. J.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Themes of a Life

A few weeks ago in my weekly column in our bulletin ( available here:  www.catholicnewcastle.org ) I mentioned that one of the themes of my life has been gratitude.  Another is education.  From my earliest memories I recall the importance my parents placed on my brothers and me doing well in school.  Mom and Dad were children of the Great Depression.  Dad did graduate from high school, Mom was a 10th grade dropout.  Both did not want their sons to work in the coal mine or steel mill as did Dad, or as a janitor, as did Mom.  Education was their golden highway to success.

This may be an odd scene from my childhood, so bear with me.  I have a vivid memory of one night taking a bath.  I think I was in the 7th grade.  As I was in the tub, Dad came into the bathroom, sat on the toilet seat, and began to tell me how important it was that I worked hard in grade school, succeed, and went on to high school and college.  This vivid memory has stuck with me all these years, because (1) I was embarrassed by Dad coming in to see me; (2) Dad talked to me so long I started to shiver as the bathwater got cold; and (3) Dad was clearly pouring out his heart about something urgent to him, and so to me.

Mom and Dad's desire came true.  All four of us finished college, three of us have graduate degrees.  Education was and is meaningful to us.  Further, as a priest I came to treasure teaching adults about the Catholic faith, in various parishes through the diocesan adult education program, at Duquesne University, in the diocese's permanent diaconate program and now at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh (where I am an adjunct professor of moral theology).

Why do I mention this?  Somewhere in my education career the church taught me that learning was a lifetime endeavor.  It was not enough to earn a degree.  Faith formation, and growth in God's grace through the sacraments, was my responsibility to nurture and building on cradle to grave, assisted by the church.

This was the message Bishop Waltersheid tried to impart to our 77 young adults who received the sacrament of Confirmation last month.  Confirmation was not the end of CCD.  It is the beginning of a lifetime of learning Jesus, living Jesus, loving Jesus and sharing Jesus.  And I dare to say it should be your witness too.

Our parishes have offered many classes and talks over the past several years, most successfully the 24 week bible study, with over 100 adult learners.  A four-session explanation of the Mass begins in a week.  The diocese continues to offer a number of interesting courses.  

And, of course, anyone can pick up the bible to pray or read, or borrow or buy a book to read.  

Next year the parishes of Lawrence County will be working together to offer growth in the Catholic faith through a program called Christlife.  Our evangelization task force is considering other programs for leadership development and maturing in the Catholic faith for parishioners.  On Mission for the Church Alive offers many avenues for ministering to others.

The message is the same, whether 13, 33, 63 or 93:  All of us believers in Jesus Christ are responsible for growing in faith and knowledge.  We can make use of the ordinary--and still very valuable--means of practicing one's faith.  These include daily prayer, participating in Sunday Mass each and every week, receiving Holy Communion reverently and frequently, going to confession a couple times a year, reading and studying the bible, reading Catholic authors from ancient times and today, praying the rosary, spending quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament in our Adoration Chapel, and being willing to share our faith with our family and neighbors.  Every Catholic learns differently, and each of us has to find out what works to grow in the love of God in our lives.  All of us are in the "dynamic ongoing school of faith development."  We can hope that the Holy Spirit, who taught his apostles and hungry crowds, and who bestowed the Holy Spirit on all his followers, guide our efforts to know, love and serve him better.  


A Prayer for Thanksgiving

We used this prayer at our most recent meeting of the Pastoral Councils of the city of New Castle parishes.  I saw on line that it was attributed to "an unknown Confederate soldier."  Well, wherever it came from, it's very appropriate to the season.



I asked for health, that I might do greater things.

I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy.

I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of people.

I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.

I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I received nothing that I asked for, but everything that I hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am among all people, most richly blessed.

Amen.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bad News and Good News from the Holy Land

It was one year ago this week that 32 pilgrims, along with our expert guide Mrs. Helene Paharik and me, visited the holy shrines of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the Galilee.  My memories are still fresh for these very special eight days of travel, prayer, common meals and fellowship.  When these sites come up in the lectionary's gospel readings--such as yesterday for the Beatitudes, or this past Sunday, for the cute story of Zaccheus in Jericho--my imagination and memory go wild in having these stories, and places, burst into view in my brain.

Two of the holy shrines we visited, and most Christian pilgrims visit, have been in the news lately.  One good, one bad.  Let's start with the sad one.

Sometime in the night of October 24, vandals and burglars broke into the Church of the Transfiguration atop Mt. Tabor.  They destroyed the tabernacle, desecrated the Sacred Hosts, and stole the ciborium after throwing the Hosts on the floor.  Icons were damaged, chalices were stolen, and the donation box was robbed.  

The tabernacle at the Church of the Transfiguration in Israel, desecrated by burglars.

There have been other Christian churches in the Holy Land which have been vandalized by Jewish extremists.  Last year we saw some of their anti-Catholic graffiti and their arson attempt at the shrine of Tabgha, on the Sea of Galilee.  But church officials said they believe only robbery was the motive in this instance, since there was not graffiti painted on the church.

This act of robbery strikes me as odd, since the church sits atop 1,500 foot high mountain.  The way most people get there is by taxi or tour bus.  Almost nobody walks up the steep slopes, where Jesus and three of his closest friends went to pray, and his appearance was physically changed.  According the gospels, Jesus conversed with the prophets Elijah and Moses.  This location is next to a Franciscan monastery, whose friars guard the church and grounds.   So how did the robbers get there?  And how did they get down the mountain? 


I remember this site vividly, as the simple lines of the late 19th century church moved me to prayer.  I must have sat in the cool of the church for 30 minutes or more, admiring the icons on the walls and taking in the presence of Christ.


On a blessed more positive note, in Jerusalem archaeologists have been deconstructing the facade of the Edicule, the  shrine which houses what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  The Edicule has been held up by scaffolding for a long time, as water has damaged the shrine.  This act of conservation in itself is a minor miracle, as the five Christian denominations which control parts of the Holy Sepulchre Church have not been able to agree on anything for decades.


But news broke the other day that after the marble cladding was removed, the researchers found first a layer of fill material, and then another marble slab with a cross carved into its surface.  It is believed that the original limestone burial bed where the crucified body of Jesus was laid was revealed intact.


National Geographic's archaeologist-in-residence, Fredrik Hiebert, said, "I'm absolutely amazed.  My knees are shaking a little bit because I wasn't expecting this.  We can't say 100 percent, but it appears to be visible proof that the location of the tomb has not shifted through time, something that scientists and historians have wondered for decades."  

Chief scientific supervisor Professor Antonia Moropoulou of the National Technical University of Athens, who is directing the conservation and restoration of the Edicule, said, "This is the Holy Rock that has been revered for centuries, but only now can actually be seen."

In addition, researchers confirmed the existence of the original limestone cave walls within the 18th century Edicule, which encloses the tomb.  A window has been cut into the southern interior wall of the shrine to expose one of the cave walls.

According to a story on the National Geographic website, when Constantine's representatives arrived in Jerusalem around 325 to locate the tomb of Christ, they were allegedly pointed to a temple build by the Roman emperor Hadrian some 200 years earlier.  Historical sources suggest that Hadrian had the temple built over the tomb to assert the dominance of Roman state religion at the site venerated by Christians.  But his action actually seemed to have preserved the site.

According the church historian Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, the Roman temple was razed and excavations beneath it revealed a rock-cut tomb, just as the gospels stated.  The top of the cave was sheared off to expose the interior, and a church was built around it to enclose the tomb.  This church was destroyed in 1009, and rebuilt a century later.  


This restoration has been going on for months, but the burial bed was only left exposed for 60 hours.  It was extensively photographed and all work recorded by video.  The burial bed has been resealed in its original marble cladding dating to 1555, and may not be exposed again for centuries or even millennia.  

Last year Helene and I were able to visit the Holy Sepulchre three times, and twice we entered the Edicule to pray.  I also celebrated Mass in a side chapel of the Holy Sepulchre Church for our group.  Only feet away from the tomb is the actual hill of Golgotha. Once can hardly describe the feelings you have to get down on your hands and knees, reach down under a marble altar, and touch the actual stone of the site where Jesus was crucified. 

Both of these sites I hope to visit again one year from now.  I have begun preparations, with Unitours of New York, which guided our tour last year, to spiritually lead another pilgrimage to the Holy Land from October 31--November 7, 2017.  Let me know if you are interested in joining us.  

Monday, October 31, 2016

Jubilee Year of Mercy Soon to End

In three weeks on Sunday, November 20, the Roman Catholic Church will celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King (or as it is formally titled in the Roman Missal, "Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe").  This day also marks the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

How does anyone judge the "success" of a Jubilee Year?  Certainly the Vatican can point to the several international pilgrimages Pope Francis made during this year:  to Sweden, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Greece, Mexico and to World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland.  Literally millions of people have themselves made the pilgrimage to Rome to see and hear the Holy Father and walk through the Holy Door of St. Peter Basilica.  Untold millions have journeyed to Holy Doors of cathedrals, chapels and shrines in their own diocese.  

(The website of the Jubilee Year,  www.im.va , incredibly states that 19,246,338 persons have participated in the Jubilee in Rome, as of October 24.  How do they know this?)

Image result for jubilee year of mercy

Catholics are just beginning to gain insight into the love of husband and wife in the sacrament of marriage by reading the apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love.  The them of "Merciful like the Father" has been tweeted and re-tweeted around the world, as the key understanding of Pope Francis's ministry of Christ-like service, and the witness of Christians everywhere.

But more importantly than these externals are the spiritual exercises known only to God conducted by Catholics and other Christians.  These include the gift of plenary indulgences offered to the faithful who received Holy Communion, made a confession, and prayed for the Holy Father and his intentions.  

How many souls were re-awakened to the challenges and joys of performing the corporal works of mercy:  

  • feeding the hungry
  • giving drink to the thirsty
  • clothing the naked
  • welcoming the stranger
  • healing the sick
  • visiting the imprisoned
  • burying the dead.
Or how many have carrying out the spiritual works of mercy:
  • counselling the doubtful
  • instructing the ignorant
  • admonishing sinners
  • comforting the afflicted
  • forgiving offenses  
  • bearing those who do us ill patiently
  • praying for the living and the dead.
We priests know that our dear pope's kindly persistent references to mercy allowed us to be vehicles of God's forgiveness in the sacrament of confession (reconciliation) to larger numbers of penitents in Advent, Lent and throughout the year.  In other words, like St. Peter we caught a great deal of big fish, and were blessed to bring them God's life and love.

Bishop Zubik was moved by the Jubilee Year of Mercy to waive all fees associated with the annulment process in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  This act has opened the door for so many more persons to seek a nullity of their prior marriage, and to move toward the sacrament of matrimony and more grace-filled lives.

We in New Castle had an official pilgrimage to the Holy Doors of St. Paul Cathedral and St. Anthony Chapel.  At the end of June 52 parishioners joined me in a wonderful journey to Pittsburgh.  In two weeks I will accompany the children, chaperone parents and faculty of St. Vitus School on a similar prayer-filled and joy-filled pilgrimage to these beautiful churches.

Perhaps the Jubilee Year of Mercy brought home the many references to mercy in the bible. Here are a few:
  • Psalm 136 ("For his mercy endures forever")
  • Luke 15: 1-32 (parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the merciful father with two sons)
  • Matthew 18:22 ("forgive 70 times seven times")
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ("Love is patient, kind, not rude")
  • Ephesians 4:26 ("Do not let the sun go down on your anger")
  • 1 John 4:8 ("God is love")
In every Sunday Mass we celebrate God's mercy
  • in the penitential act ("May Almighty God have mercy on us")
  • Gloria ("You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us")
  • Creed ("I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins")
  • Eucharistic Prayer III ("In your compassion, O merciful Father, gather to yourself all your children")
  • Lord's Prayer ("Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us") 
Truly any success of this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy will be found in the days and years to come as we act upon the lessons offered and learned. 
  • When families more readily forgive.
  • When the unborn, children, elderly, persons with disabilities and immigrants are given full human dignity.
  • When diplomats are busy building peace and soldiers can stand down from waging war.
  • When we desire to grow in the wealth of humble service, not mammon.
  • When our parishes are hospitals for the sick and sin-filled.
  • When our common home, the earth, is treated with mercy.
  • When our daily prayer is enflamed by the words of Pope Francis:  "Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy.
In the few days remaining for this Jubilee Year, may we revel in the superabundance of God's mercy.  May the blessings and joy of God's ineffable mercy because of our experiences of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.