Sunday, April 20, 2014

Vigil

(Anonymous)

by: Josef Žáček

Emptiness,
darkness, 
silence
as if all hope has been lost.

A strike of flint, 
a spark of hope, 
new fire blazing in our midst.

One light pierces the darkness
and then spreads
more...and...more...
until all is aglow with new light,
rekindled hope.

Rejoice!  
Exult!
This is the night!
Adam's sin 
gives way
to so great a Redeemer!
Work of the mother bees,
heaven weds to earth,
morning star that never sets,
hope for a broken world.

Ancient stories shared and told,
yet seem so present to us.
Creation, 
deliverance,
prophetic call,
salvation,
hope.

Glory to God in the highest
sung by bells and organ.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Never again
must we forget
the refrain. 
They are our songs,
the songs
that sing out "Hope."

An empty tomb,
confusion,
fear,
despair.
And then 
amazement,
good news,
joy,
resurrection,
hope.

They say that 
water and oil
cannot mix,
but tonight
they cannot separate.
New life,
rebirth,
sealed in the Spirit.
We are bathed
in new water,
hope for eternal life.

Bread and wine
placed on a table,
our gift of self
is present there, too.
Now body and blood,
gifts transformed,
just as our lives
are transformed, too.

Emptiness,
darkness,
silence.
But now 
it is the tomb.
Hope is never lost,
but always found
ever anew.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Living in the In-Between

Holy Thursday
Good Friday
Holy Saturday
Easter Sunday
"Lamentation at the Tomb" icon.


I've always found Holy Saturday kind of weird.  We find ourselves in a liminal space, an in-between time.  At a spiritual level, we have remembered the death of Jesus, and he is now in the tomb.  At the same time, we know, fortunately, how the story ends.  But we can't really go to the empty tomb, yet.  It's just not the right time.  On a more personal level, our Friday of fasting and abstinence is over and we need to start making plans for the grand feast tomorrow.  But we can't really start to celebrate, yet.  It just might not seem right.  In both of these, tt just seems that we should wait.

I think that Holy Saturday is about waiting.  In the liturgical life of the Church, that's what we do - we pause and wait for a bit.  There are no liturgies today, other than the regular chanting of the psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours.  There's no morning mass or special service until the night falls.  We are invited to sit at the tomb, to see the stone still rolled in front, and just wait.  In fact, maybe that's all we can do.

"Jesus is Laid in the Tomb" by Gwyneth Leech

Friday evening, I attended a Way of the Cross with the Community of Sant'Egidio, a lay organization committed to works of justice and peace.  It took place on a hill that sits just above the Colosseum and a very busy section of the city.  The meditation began with noticing that as we prayed we would encounter the noise of the city below - the traffic, tourists, trams, ambulance sirens, and even the choir practicing for the Pope's Way of the Cross later in the evening.  But, we were also asked to encounter the noise that is within ourselves.  While we can't do anything about the incessant noise that is Rome, we can do something about the noise from within.  It was an invitation to pause and quiet ourselves so as to enter into the mysteries upon which we would reflect.

I think there is a lesson here for us on Holy Saturday.  Today is an opportunity among all the preparations for tomorrow and the daily noise we encounter every day to pause and to quiet ourselves.  Today is an invitation to sit outside the closed tomb and ponder the great mysteries which we have experienced and will still experience.

Mosaic of the burial of Jesus

The Gospel of Luke tells us the story of the boy Jesus being lost in Jerusalem and finally found in the Temple.  For three days, Mary and Joseph waited.  I can't imagine that they were too calm or quiet during those days.  But at the end of the story we are told that "Mary pondered all these things in here heart."  Mary, once again, is our model - of quieting ourselves and reflecting on our experiences in our hearts.  In her Stability, she shows us how to be quiet, to sit and ponder, to pause and take in everything that has happened.

"Mary, Seat of Wisdom" pondering.

At the Way of the Cross, the final song was quite touching, and I think it encapsulates our invitation to ponder and wait in this in-between moment.


Non piangere, Madre di Dio,                                     Do not cry, Mother of God,
presso la croce del Signore                                        standing near the cross of the Lord
e gioisci perche` egli e` risorto.                                   but rejoice because he is risen.
Nel suo corpo e` nascosto                                         In his body is hidden
tutto il riscatto e la salvezza                                        all the redemption and salvation
d'ogni uomo.                                                             of every person.

Blessed Triduum, my dear friends.

Ciao!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Behold the Cross

Holy Thursday
Good Friday
Holy Saturday
Easter Sunday

The San Damiano Cross in the Basilica of Santa Chiara, Assisi


The celebration of the Paschal Triduum continues today.  Once again, our liturgy is hauntingly beautiful.  The church is bare.  In some places, the statues are covered.  The ministers prostrate themselves before the altar.  We hear Scripture.  Prayers are offered for all peoples of the world.  No mass is celebrated.

Crucifixion at the Church of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

But, perhaps, most importantly, we gather around the cross.  We hear the story of the cross of Jesus in the Passion Narrative from John.  We chant "Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world.  Come, let us adore."  As we leave the church in silence, the cross remains.

"Crucifixion" by He Qi

Today, we are invited to stay at the cross, to look upon the cross, to behold the cross.  But, we know that this is not easy.  The cross is a sign of destruction, a method of torture and death.  It's gruesome, in fact.  It just doesn't seem right, does it, to look upon it.  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke seem to tell us the same thing.  There is no mention of Jesus' closest friends, his disciples, staying with him.  There are only a few women, but they are off in the distance.  No one is close.  It's as if Jesus' only companions in this hour of greatest need are the two thieves crucified beside him, and one is mocking him!

"Pieta" from Anguillara, Italy
Fortunately, the Gospel of John gives us some hope.  We hear that standing by the foot of the cross are his Mother, the Beloved Disciple, and a few women.  Still, not the crowd of followers who had earlier done everything they could to witness a miracle or hear his teachings.  But, Mary and the Beloved Disciple had the courage to stay at the cross, to behold the salvation of the world.  It has been said that Mary's presence at the foot of the cross is the confirmation of her "Fiat" spoken at the Annunciation.  When the angel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus, her response was "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.  Let it be done unto me according to your word."  In that moment, she said "yes" to all that God would do in her life, even seeing her only son die on the cross.  And yet, she stayed, she accepted it all.  Again, in the person of Mary, we see Marianist Stability.  We are called to stay at the foot of the cross, to embrace the cross even when it is difficult.  Luckily, we have the gift of community to support us and be with us, just as Mary and the Beloved Disciple had each other. 

"Three O'clock Icon" in the Marianist Generalate


So, today, we have a choice.  Who will we be like?  Will we stand at the cross like Mary and the Beloved Disciple?  Will we run away, or at best, just stay at a distance?  The choice is not easy.  We know what the cross entails.  But as people of faith, we also know the ultimate meaning of the cross - the salvation and life of the world.  Let us try to embody what the third antiphon from Lauds says today:
We worship your cross, O Lord,
and we praise and glorify your holy resurrection,
for the wood of the cross
has brought joy to the world.

"Behold the Wood of the Cross" by Dan Schutte


Blessed Triduum, my friends.

Ciao!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Stay and Watch With Me

Holy Thursday
Good Friday
Holy Saturday
Easter Sunday

"Last Supper" by Sieger Koder


Tonight we enter into the most sacred time of the our Church year, the Paschal Triduum.  In it, we remember the central mysteries of our faith - the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.  Our liturgies contain some of the most beautiful rituals and traditions.  Tonight is no different.  We wash feet.  We celebrate the Lord's Supper with renewed vigor.  We process through the church while chanting an ancient hymn.

"The Washing of the Feet" by Sieger Koder

At the end, we strip the sanctuary of all things.  The altar is left uncovered.  The candles are extinguished.  The tabernacle is empty.  The joy that began the evening with the singing of the Gloria and the ringing of bells now leaves us in silence, nakedness, darkness.   In an instant, we are transported from a festive meal with friends to the solitude and fear of the Garden of Gethsemane.  And we hear the urgent plea of Jesus, "Won't you stay and watch with me?"

"Hour of Darkness" by Sieger Koder


We are invited this evening to spend some moments in silent prayer before the altar of repose where the Blessed Sacrament will be kept during this most dark night.  We hear in the Gospels that Peter, James and John couldn't stay awake with Jesus in the Garden.  Three times Jesus came to them, and three times Jesus found them asleep.  Could they not stay and watch with Jesus?  Can we stay and watch?  We also hear in the Gospels that Jesus was tormented, that he was full of anguish.  German theologian Karl Rahner suggests that part of Jesus' distress and sorrow came from our sins that he would carry with the cross.  In the Garden, Jesus knew our sins for which he would die.  For us, Jesus stayed awake.  For us, Jesus watched.  For us, Jesus prayed.  For us, Jesus died.  Can't we stay awake and watch with him for just a little while?

Our Marianist charism offers us an image that I think can help us to stay and watch.  It is the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.  While the Visitation and Garden of Gethsemane are two totally different situations, we hear that Mary went in haste to her older and pregnant cousin.  All the while, Mary's life had just been turned upside down with the news that she was pregnant.  But, in that moment, Mary went, and we are told she stayed for three months.  Mary had preoccupations and preparations to make, but she went, she stayed with Elizabeth.  Mary was present in her cousin's time of need, and she carried Jesus to her.  Our Marianist Vow of Stability calls us to do the same - to be present with our brothers and sisters in need, no matter our own preoccupations.  Stability invites us to offer our support and comfort, even in the darkest moments.  Like Mary who stayed and watched, Marianist Stability calls us to the do the same - tonight to stay and watch with Christ, in his suffering, our suffering.

"Magnificat" by Sieger Koder
In Rome, there is a tradition of visiting several churches on Holy Thursday night and spending a few moments in prayer there.  While this isn't so easy to do in many places, there's a church on about every corner in the city of Rome.  But, however we can do it - in your own church, in a corner of your house, in the silence of your heart - let's spend some time watching and praying.  Let's take the lead of Mary.  Let's be with Jesus in his agony, knowing that he did it all for us.



 
 A video with the Taize song "Stay with Me"
 
Blessed Triduum, my friends.

Ciao!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

All Roads Lead to Rome

They say that all roads lead to Rome.  That might be true, but today was about the roads in Rome.  While many athletes competed in the Rome Marathon, running 42 kilometers and change, about 80,000 of us opted for a somewhat smaller distance - the Rome Stracittadina .  It is a fun, festive 5km through the heart of Rome starting just after the Marathon and traveling the first 3km of the Marathon route.  So, I have no problem saying that I ran the Rome Marathon (5k) - ha, ha!  I can't ever imagine doing a full marathon, so for all those who did it today: Bravissimi!

Here's a few pictures from the day's festivities.  Enjoy!

Yes, I did the FUN run.
Just call me a Gladiator.
Now here are some real marathoners - a Marianist and a friend from Spain who came and did the whole thing!  They let me bask in their glory.

It was quite a crowd

An Italian family insisted on taking my picture since this was my first Rome 5k.



Just the scenery (Colosseum and Forum in the background) was worth it.

Here we go!

Caesar salutes us.

Bro. Dan came along to cheer on the Kenyans.  He also told me that I could be an honorary Kenyan today so that I would run faster!  I'm not sure that it helped.
By the Theater of Marcello.

The Vittoriano and Campodiglio in the background.

Running by the Baths of Caracalla.

Finito!

After party at Circus Maximus.

My attempt at a selfie...they're harder than I thought.

Afterwards, they had the running of the dogs.

Who doesn't love a beagle?

Breakfast of champions. (Thanks to Bro. Lester for making cornetti - Italian donuts.)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

One year ago...

All day, I have been asking folks what they were doing one year ago today.  Most just shake their head and look at me kind of funny (okay, that's a normal reaction around me).  However, I can tell you exactly where I was (even down to the hour) exactly one year ago today.  In fact, as we were walking home from school today, Bro. Javi and I recounted our exact actions and whereabouts. 

With Bro. Javi on a recent trip to Siena.
To put it shortly, I was in St. Peter Square at the Vatican this time one year ago.  And like the rest of the world, I got my first glimpse of Pope Francis.  The only difference - I was there!
Yep, I actually took that picture.

As I think back on that historic and joyful day, I still get goosebumps.  I can still remember seeing the first whiff of white smoke.  I can still remember hearing the bells of the basilica start to ring.  I can still remember the shouts and cheers, the hugs and high fives.  I can still remember the excitement and electricity as we awaited and then heard "Habemus Papam," and then the confusion of the name:  Bergoglio?  An Argentinian?? A Jesuit???
Celebrating one year ago.


And then, I remember Pope Francis stepping onto the balcony and saying, "Fratelli e sorelle, buona sera" ("Brothers and Sisters, good evening") to which the crowd went NUTS!  The first words of the Pope to his flock were words of welcome, spoken as from a friend, normal words. 

Now I don't consider myself an analyst or an expert by any stretch of the imagination.  But, I think in a way, these first words signified what he has tried to do in his pontificate.  He has tried to be a welcoming voice to the world - welcoming all into the fold and welcoming us all back into the mercy of God.  He has tried to treat us as brothers and sisters, and to show us what it means to be a friend of God.  He has tried to speak to us not as a theologian, but as a pastor speaks to his congregation.  He hasn't, as some feared, gone and changed any doctrine of the Church.  But, he has shown what it means to be a servant and what it means to be with others, particularly those on the margins of society - two things that all Christians need to be reminded of daily.

Perhaps this was best shown in the words that followed:  "I would like to give you my blessing.  But I ask you a favor.  Before the Bishop gives his blessing, I ask you to pray that God would bless me, that the people would pray for God's blessing on their Bishop."  It was a very simple act of humility, but one that has left a deep impression on me, and one that I hope to carry with me in my future ministry. 

I will never forget the silence that followed - a profound silence like no other, especially considering the tens of thousands of people who had filled the square.  This, surely, was a gift of grace.
During a recent audience. It's never quiet at an audience.

Finally, as the new Pope prepared to leave, he simply greeted his flock once more in the most familiar of terms: "Buona notte, e buon riposo." ("Good night, and sleep well.")  In a weird sort of way, I remember sleeping well that night!  Let's hope that Pope Francis can continue to lead us as a servant and help us to follow Jesus Christ, Son of God who became Son of Mary for the salvation of all.

Ciao!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Deacons

On January 11, five Marianist Brothers were ordained as Deacons.  This is the final step before being ordained as a priest.  As Deacons, Brothers Arul Raj Maria Francis (India), Ilkyu Bosco Shin (Korea), Jinu Muthukattil Devasia (India), Jonas Hodabalo Kpatcha (Togo) and Robert Tchakpala Sidakou(Togo) are called to be servants - particularly to be servants of the Word of God, to be servants at the Eucharistic Table, and to be servants to the poor.  I simply offer the following pictures (there's a bunch of them) from the beautiful celebration in Our Lady of the Pillar Chapel at the Marianist Generalte in Rome.  Of course, afterwards, there was a Festa!

Ciao!

Preparation

Practice, practice, practice.

Getting ready for the big festa afterwards.

Nobody was going to go hungry.

Arrival

The guests are starting to arrive.

Here come the Sisters.

Three Dominican professors from the Angelicum University.

Let's get started


The procession begins.
The future Deacons are in place.
The rector, Fr. Pachi, calls the Deacons forward



Eccomi!
Bishop Ladaria gives the homily.

Rite of Ordination

Questioning the candidates.
Bro. Jinu pledges obedience.

The candidates lay prostrate as the congregation chants the Litany of the Saints.


Bishop Ladaria lays his hands on Bro. Jonas.

Bro. Bosco becoming a Deacon.

The prayer of ordination.

The Marianist Sisters carry in the new vestments.
The singers look on (very piously).

The new Deacons are vested.


New Deacons.

Bro. Arul receives the Book of the Gospels.


Bro. Robert receives the sign of peace from Bishop Ladaria.

Eucharist

The offertory.

Preparing the altar.


The Eucharistic Prayer.


Doxology.
Cleaning up afterwards.

Sending Forth

Final Blessing.

With the new Deacons are Fr. Manolo (Superior General), Fr. Dominic (from Korea), Fr. Pachi (Rector) and Fr. Andre (Assistant General of Religious Life)

Group shot!

Students from the Angelicum University.

With Bro. Bosco's nephews.

Two Boscos!

Festa

Bro. Dan is blessed among women.

Bros. Bob, Javi and Sean

Bros. Sean, Robert and Beams

Bros. Bob, Giuliano, and Nereo.

The clean up crew.



 One more

The Wednesday before the Ordinations, Bro. Bosco's family attended the Wednesday audience of Pope Francis.  Here's a little video of the audience.  Bro. Bosco's nephew is child #3.  Just watch it and you'll understand.  (sorry if you need to look sideways)