Sunday, May 24, 2009

Acts and Paul: St. Paul Parish, Kensington, CT: May 16-21, 2009

May 24, 2009

Peace and Good,

This past week I was at St. Paul's Parish in Kensington, CT (Hartford diocese). The theme, of course, was the Letters of St. Paul. We did this mission a little differently than the others that I have done. The morning and evening sessions were different topics. In the morning, we looked at the Acts of the Apostles (with coffee and pastries). In the evening, we looked at the Letters of St. Paul. The talks were complementary, but one did not have to attend one to appreciate the other. I think it worked out very well, and was pleased with the turn out.

The confessions on Monday (remember, I listen to confessions each afternoon during a mission) were light and I thought that maybe everyone had gone during Lent and after Easter. Then Tuesday came and the lines were as long as they normally are. I truly enjoy this part of my ministry, especially when I can be there for someone who might have been afraid to go to confession to their local priests (not because they are not welcoming, but because they know them too well).

I received a great new idea from one of the ladies who attended. She was talking about how her children feel that they are religious and that they pray, but they do not go to Church. She told them that when they call on the phone, she is very happy. But, when they come to visit, she is even happier. I love these down to earth examples because I feel that they really speak to hearts better than theological arguments.

I finished another book: Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. It is the story of the Lewis and Clark exploration. Ambrose has been accused of plagiarism ( charge which he admitted). He is nevertheless a good, entertaining history writer. I enjoyed the chronicle of the courageous trip these explorers made. There is a bit of a tragedy in the story as well. It seems that Lewis might have suffered from bi-polar disorder. He killed himself only a few years after his trip of discovery. As I said last week or the week before, I feel so badly for those who suffer from mental illness and their families. It is such a difficult cross to carry.

I will be home in Ellicott City this week. This coming weekend I will be travelling down to Virginia Beach to perform the wedding of my nephew Brian. Please keep him and his bride to be, Sarah, in your prayers.


fr. Jude

Saturday, May 16, 2009

St. Paul and Hockey: Priests' Retreat for Kingston Ontario: May 11 - 15, 2009

May 16, 2009

Peace and Good,

I just finished a priests' retreat in a resort at Rideau Lakes, Ontario, just across the border from Watertown, NY. This was for the priests of the Kingston, Ontario archdiocese. Kingston is the first English speaking diocese in Canada. The present archbishop and a previous archbishop were both present. There were about 50 priests there as well. The theme was the usual for this year: the Letters of St. Paul.

It is always great to preach to priests. First of all, many of the older ones did not get all that good a formation in scripture. Before the council, most scripture classes in the seminary were a very different style than what is available today. For the younger priests, it is an opportunity to refresh what they learned in the seminary. Furthermore, since they have all preached for years, they immediately see the usefulness of various insights for their preaching and their own lives.

For me, it is an incredible privilege to be able to share what I have learned in my own training and along the road. What is especially good is that my insights will be shared with hundreds and thousands of people through the preaching of the priests to whom I am speaking.

The welcome was typical Canadian, very friendly, courteous, etc. This is also the Stanley Cup play off time, so I could see how hockey crazy many of the men are. It was an enjoyable time for me and I hope for them.

I finished a book on tape: Fire Lover by Joseph Wambaugh. It is the story of a serial arsonist who especially like to set fires in stores which were still open. The irony of the story is that the arsonist is a fire investigator. A couple of things hit me as I listened. The first is the incredible ability to some people for self-deception. They just cannot see or care that what they are doing is terribly harmful to others. The other thing is the whole question of radical evil. I understand that people who do these things are sick, probably sociopaths if not worse. How do we respond to their crimes? How do we stop them and yet treat them with dignity as a child of God? (I know that we might think that they don't deserve that dignity, but our faith tells us otherwise.) I do not mean that they should be let out on the streets again. That is not a real solution. But what to do?

You might know that when I give parish missions, I set up a prayer basket for people's prayer intentions. Then, when I leave, I take the intentions with me and pray on ten of them each morning and evening when I am saying my morning and evening prayer (from the breviary). I read one this morning of a parent whose child is suffering from mental illness. It is so difficult for parents, spouses, siblings and children when mental illness visits a family. Please keep those individuals and families in your prayers.

This coming week I will be preaching a mission at St. Paul's Parish in Kensington, CT.

God bless and


fr. Jude

Monday, May 11, 2009

Prayer and Service: Air Force Chaplains Retreat: May 4 - 8, 2009

May 11, 2009

Peace and Good,

This past week was a rewarding experience for me. I gave a retreat to Catholic Air Force Chaplains at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago. The Seminary itself is incredible. It gives the expression, "It's not home, but it's much," a whole new meaning.

But the best part of the retreat is how my own experience of itineracy was mirrored by many of the men on the retreat. There were over 50 of the chaplains there (out of 70 or so in the Air Force). They are used to basings that last a few years at the most, so they are called to serve their community and then move on to the next posting. Furthermore, many of them are being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with increasing frequency. I could empathize with the idea of serving and then moving on to serve a new community. I think that this is part of our commitment to celibacy - to serve intensely without possessing.

The theme, of course, was the Letters of St. Paul. All of the men were priests, and they had all studied theology. Yet, it is one thing to study it in class and another to pray it on a retreat (especially when you know that you will be preaching it yourself).

My time with these men reminded me of all of our men and women who are serving our country all over the world. These can be frightening times, and we have to continue to work for peace (in whatever way we can).

Going along with that theme, I finished a book called Overworld by Larry Kolb. It is a story about a man whose father was a spy and who is recruited himself to work at the edge of governmental agencies. He has insights into spycraft and what is going on in the world just below the surface. I'm not sure that I believed all of his stories, but it was a good read.

I also finished a course on Henry VIII from the teaching company (24 lectures). These are taped courses produced by college professors. One does not get credit for the courses, but there is a lot to learn. I listen to these courses in between the detective novels, etc. The professor who taught this course was a bit more prejudiced toward the Ann Boyleyn crew and away from the Thomas More and John Fisher point of view.

I will be in Kingston, Ontario this week for a priests' retreat.


fr. Jude

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Centuries of Service: Immaculate Conception Convent, Hamburg, NY April 27 - May 2, 2009

May 3, 2009

Peace and Good,

I preached a retreat for a group of sisters this past week. They were mostly from the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, but a number of other sisters from other communities also joined us. I feel a special bond with these sisters, for they are the ones who taught me in grammar school. In fact, one of the sisters whose example was a great influence on my vocation, Sister Vincentia, was there.

As I looked around the room, I realized that the years of consecrated life, if added all together, would take us back to the times of Jesus (if not before). It is humbling to share my gifts with them. Yet, it is also such a joy because they have given us so much, I truly feel that we owe them whatever we can repay in return.

The retreat was on the usual theme for this year, the letters of St. Paul. I preached on the readings for the day which worked out well since the first readings were from Acts. I notice in one of them something that I had never seen before. Remember when St. Peter heals Tabitha. I had always realized that this miracle and the one that precedes it were ways that St. Luke could show that the apostles were carrying on the ministry of Jesus (with his authority). But I never before realized how much this miracle reminds one of the healing of the daughter of Jairus. Remember what Jesus says to raise her, "Talitha qoum!". What would Peter have said to raise Tabitha. Most probably "Tabitha qoum!" Like Stephen who forgives those killing him just as Jesus did, so also Peter is doing just what Jesus did.

I finished a couple of tapes in the car. (I'm always listening to books on tape when I travel.) The first one was Truth or Dare by Joyne Ann Krentz. I was simply a detective novel (a bit more sex in it that I prefer). Yet, they talk about the ability to sense things below the surface of things. Krentz speaks of it in terms of psychic ability, but I do believe that we have an ability to sense things. I have heard many stories of people having a sudden feeling of dread, and finding out shortly afterward that someone was ill or in an accident. Or else you think of a friend and the phone rings and your friend is on the line. How did that happen? I think love and prayer and hope and even conversion are communicated at this level (as, I suppose, is sin, for when we sin we close ourselves off to others). Whether people know things intellectually or not, at some level they can sense it. There is never a wasted prayer or act of love or sacrifice.

The other book was much darker but also better written. It was a Holy in the Universe by Mary McGarry Morris. It is about a man who commits a murder when he is very young and gets out of prison many years later. It deals with the struggles and fears of adjustment to his freedom, the crime ridden old neighborhood in which he tries to live, the expectations of others, etc. Some of the characters, like the child of a crack mother, leave your heart broken. There is one redeeming character, Dolores, who always hopes, always sees the best in others. Some of the source of her outreach is a neurotic need to be loved, but even so she uses that brokenness to heal others.

I am giving a retreat to a group of Air Force chaplains at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago this week.

God bless and Shalom,

fr. Jude