Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blessed are the poor

Don't by-pass this beautifully produced slideshow/video.

The photographer, Paul Jeffrey, is a Methodist minister, and the remarkable photographs remain a vibrant and haunting reminder of his ministry to some of the poorest of the poor.

Just watch. I couldn't stop until the end.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Prayer of Abandon

Blessed Charles de Foucauld made a conscious effort in his daily life to grow into the likeness of Jesus, his "beloved brother and Lord." Imitation of Jesus was a powerful theme throughout his life. He had to struggle with himself just as we do with ourselves.

Blessed Charles does not refer explicitly to the Prayer of Abandon throughout his life. But from his other writings and what we know of his life it seems to have expressed his basic attitude towards God, one that saw him through the ups and downs and struggles and, ultimately, in the face of his own violent death.

Prayer of Charles de Foucauld

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures—
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

The Good Life

The New York Times bestselling author Mark Albion's 3-minute animated movie "The Good Life" is based on Mark's new book, More Than Money.

"The Good Life" takes you to a chance meeting between an MBA and a fisherman on a small island. As the MBA tries to teach the fisherman about business, the fisherman teaches him about life.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Marianist Monday

“A Prayer for Memorial Day”

Eloheinu v’Elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu –

Our God and God of our ancestors,
Watch over those who defend our nation.
Shield them from harm and guide them in all their pursuits.
Grant their commanders wisdom and discernment
in their time of preparation and on the battlefield.
Should battle erupt may their victory be swift and complete.
May the loss of life for any of your creations be avoided.
Grant healing to those who are wounded
and safe redemption to those who fall into enemy hands.
For those who have lost their lives, grant consolation
and Your presence to those who were close to them.
We also ask that you stand with our President and all our military leaders.
Guide them in their decision making
so that Your will is implanted within their minds.
May it be Your will that world hostilities come to a rapid end
And that those in service are returned safely to their families.
We pray that freedom will dawn for the oppressed and
Fervently we hope that the vision of Your prophet will come to be,
“Let nation not lift up sword against nation nor learn war anymore.”
May this vision come to pass speedily and in our day,
                                                            by Rabbi Matt Friedman

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Sunday Word

It's amazing that there are in the Judeo-Christian tradition holy days that aren’t considered to be Hallmark holidays. While Hanukkah and Yom Kippur are great Jewish holidays, Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, doesn’t really make the card cut. And while Christmas is certainly a card-sending event and Easter a feast of chocolate bunnies, Christians and card writers just tend to look past Pentecost. Poor Pentecost.

Now, you’d think a greeting card giant like Hallmark would be all over this holiday. After all, what’s not to like? You got your fire, your wind, your speaking in other languages, your birth of one of the great religious movements in history, your built-in holiday Spirit — all the stuff that makes for a memorable event. It even lends itself to great slogans like “Hope you get fired up this Pentecost” or “More power to ya!”

But the shelves of your local greeting card stores are empty of any Pentecost cards.

Maybe the whole idea of Pentecost is less about celebrating the past event and, instead, embracing the present reality.

The text for Pentecost gives us a clue that the work of the Holy Spirit was not a one-shot deal. Jesus was preparing to return to the Father and was preparing the disciples for his departure. Still confused about all that Jesus was saying, Philip spoke for the rest: “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied. " Give us a sign, make it plain.

Jesus’ response, however, was to remind Philip and the others that he had been doing that all along — all they needed to do was “believe.” Their belief was to translate into action, and their love for Jesus would find its foundation in obedience to his “commandments” or instruction.

The coming of the Holy Spirit should remind us that claiming to be followers of the historical Jesus is one thing, but allowing the Spirit of the risen Christ to fully dwell in us is another. The former can be confined to simply knowing a lot about Jesus — marking the Christian holidays — while the latter actually involves representing Jesus and acting every day on his behalf according to his model of life and faith.

Given the work laid before those first disciples and their mission, which we continue as their spiritual descendants, we might look at Pentecost as being a true “holy day” but not necessarily a holiday where we can kick back and reminisce about what once was. The coming of the Spirit is present, active — one that motivates us to work, to act, to represent Jesus to the world. You just can’t confine that to one day a year. Sure, we need to gather on Pentecost Sunday and be reminded. But, then again, every day should be a new Pentecost: a fresh wind of the Spirit and a firing up of our desire to serve God with our whole hearts.

We don’t need a card for that!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Gifts of the Spirit

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit include: wisdom... the spirit of understanding and right judgment... courage... the spirit of knowledge and reverence... and the spirit of wonder and awe in God's presence...
For these gifts I pray today.

Let us pray:

Come, Holy Spirit
to this time of prayer, this quiet time
and in the stillness, let me know your presence and your power...
Give us the courage
to stand in the light of God's truth
and to confess our infidelities.

Draw your Church,
your ministers and your people,
to the font of God's mercy
where our sins are washed away.

Give us the wisdom to understand
that nothing can come between us
and the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Give us confidence to surrender to God's mercy:
melt our hardened hearts,
shaping them as you made them to be.

Come, Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your people
and kindle in us the fire of your love...

Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created
and you will renew the face of the earth...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Marianist Moment

In my Novitiate, I accepted Silence of the Imagination--in my mind, at least.

 In practice, that was a different matter. I must have sung every "old" songs (it was the early 60's) in existence.

Why did I do that? Was it that I didn't want to face myself?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pentecost and Community

Acts tells us that on the day of Pentecost, the apostles of Jesus were all together in one place.

Were they all there? Yes.

Were they all together? Yes.

Were they all in one place? Yes.

They were all together, gathered in community. They were not in different places, but were in the same spot and on the same page.

Community is critically important, because when the Holy Spirit came with a sound like the rush of a violent wind, it came to one group in one house. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. If Peter had been in Capernaum, John in Nazareth, James on the Sea of Galilee, Andrew in Cana and the other eight scattered across the country, there would not have been a catching of the Holy Spirit wind. Pentecost was a communal experience, and it was only because they were together that all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Gathering together is a challenge for us today because we have become so individualistic in our lives. But religious communities have a long history of drawing people together, and something precious is lost when people choose to practice their faith in isolation. It is only when we are all together in one place that we can catch the wind of the Holy Spirit, and begin to use the gifts that God wants to give us.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

‘Passionately Catholic lay people’ help spur New Evangelization on Long Island

Garden City — “The New Evangelization” means more than talk, activists, educators, and writers told close to 150 people at a May 5 conference at Nassau Community College (NCC) here.

Rather, it means much labor and prayer to rekindle faith and to engage people, the culture and society through the Gospel of Jesus, various speakers said at the daylong conference, “Revitalizing the Church and Society: the ‘New Evangelization’ of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI,” sponsored by NCC’s Center for Catholic Studies.

“There are so many successful initiatives going on throughout the diocese,” said Peggy Clores, education/formation coordinator for Our Lady of Mercy Church, Hicksville, one of the organizers of the conference who moderated a panel on apostolates and ministries. So Joseph Varacalli, director of the Center for Catholic Studies, initiated the conference.

“For so long a lot of what we were doing was not resonating with people,” Clores said. Now, through the growth of campus ministry, LifeTeen (liturgically centered youth outreach), Catholic Writers of Long Island, and various educational efforts “we wanted to bring them together and create an awareness.”

Msgr. Robert Batule, professor of systematic theology at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Huntington, in his theological overview of the new evangelization, referred to the words of Jesus at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. “Go therefore and make disciples,” often referred to as “the Great Commissioning.”

At the time, Msgr. Batule noted, Jesus’ command to “go” referred to venturing out to foreign lands. “Now, the message is to go to your families, those closest to you.”

“Being Christian and being Catholic means being a missionary,” said Marianist Brother Timothy Driscoll, a teacher at Kellenberg Memorial High School who coordinates the school’s missionary outreach to the Solomon Islands. “Lack of missionary zeal is a lack of zeal for faith.”

Yet being a missionary doesn’t always mean going off to foreign lands, he said. “You can stay here on Long Island.”

Tim Mulhearn, veteran school choice advocate, pro-life activist, and involved lay Catholic, cited the writings of Pope John Paul, who drew heavily on the thoughts of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI’s 1975 Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii Nuntiandi,” “On Evangelization in the Modern World.”

Though evangelization refers to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the new evangelization refers to “re-evangelization,” Mulhearn said, “a comprehensive process of Christianization.”

He quoted Pope John Paul. “Many Catholics have not been effectively incorporated into life in Christ. Baptized as infants many have never made a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel. As adolescents and adults many drift away from the Church.”

A number of speakers, such as Frank Russo, president of the New York State chapter of the American Family Association, noted that “Church attendance among Catholics has declined in the past half century to a point where only about a fifth of Catholics now attend Mass on Sunday, and other Catholic practices are lacking as well.

“We first have to evangelize ourselves,” said Rick Hinshaw, editor of The Long Island Catholic.

Clores discussed an adult formation program that she helped start at Our Lady of Mercy, Hicksville, where adults learn about their faith.

Clara Sarrocco, founder of the C.S. Lewis Society, noted the importance of personal conversion, “not just one moment of conversion, but lifelong conversion,” continually growing in faith. The writings of C.S. Lewis have much to offer for people who seek the truth to navigate past the obstacles to fullness of faith.

“There is a quest of wisdom and truth,” especially among young people, said Andrew Scott, campus minister at St. John’s University, even among those who seem to be looking in the wrong places. Evangelization can appeal to that.

Brother Timothy cited the need for “transformative experience,” such as through Mass, and other experiences which “are deeply affective.” For example, vivid experiences such as World Youth Days begun by Pope John Paul and continued by Pope Benedict, offer more than a “beige Catholicism,” which is bland and does not engage.

Brother Timothy also emphasized the need for “creating a culture in which the Catholic faith is nurtured.” Catholic schools can help create that environment where students feel the warmth of the faith and it becomes a part of them.

Father Brian Barr, diocesan vocations director, noted the zeal he sees from the diocese’s seminarians, from young people who have participated in a monthly holy hour for vocations at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, and the increased zeal of young campus ministers serving colleges on Long Island.

Much of this arose, he said, from the work of “passionately Catholic lay people,” such as teachers at Kellenberg who love the Eucharist and share that love with their students.

Yet the new evangelization also requires confronting the larger culture, especially when the culture stands against Gospel values.

“Evangelization is not just cheap talk,” said George Frost, retired professor of economics at Suffolk Community College and chairman of the Long Island Coalition for Life. “It requires tough action on behalf of the Gospel of Life.”

Lisa Mladinich, one of the organizers of the conference, author and founder of the Catholic Writers on Long Island, talked about how her plans for a book signing to publicize her book grew into a 2010 conference for Catholic writers. As a result, Catholic Writers of Long Island arose to help Catholic writers evangelize, grow in their faith, develop their craft, and connect with each other.

Despite the difficulties that new evangelization faces, many of the speakers emphasized, the rise of different efforts demonstrate the potential.

“This day is about hope,” Clores commented.

The Long Island Catholic
Peter Sheehan

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Marian devotion

One of my first "Catholic" memories has always been the May Crowning. The songs are still—and always—in my head.

Hail, holy Queen enthroned above, oh Maria.
Hail, mother of mercy and of love, oh Maria.
Triumph all ye cherubim, Sing with us ye seraphim.
Heaven and earth resound the hymn.
Salve, Salve, Salve Regina.

One of the defining aspects of being Catholic is devotion to Mary. The Marian celebration recognizes Mary as queen of heaven and earth. To a person of any age, this is a mighty big title, but to a child, it expands to enchanting, magical proportions. How many queens does one get a chance to meet in a lifetime, much less crown?

May Crowning marked a new spiritual season. Our Mary, queen of heaven and earth, lifted us right out of the last long, cold days of winter and firmly planted our hearts in the warm and promising soil of spring.

In all of our Marianist high schools we set aside time last week to focus on Mary in a particular way. We offer the prayers of the church for bringing Mary to us, and we are grateful to Mary for bringing us her Son. We may never have discovered the gaze of Jesus if I had not first felt the maternal, nurturing, and safe embrace of our mother in heaven. That's why we crown her on our Catholic version of Mother's Day. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Marianist Monday

Brother John renews his vows after 25 years of dedication
to Mary and her Church
Every year we who are called Marianists renew our vows whether we are in temporary or perpetual vows. The vows and the vow formula are always the same, those in First Profession have the same commitment as someone in Perpetual Profession, but we renew yearly. Yesterday afternoon two of our Brothers renewed their profession of chastity, poverty, obedience, and stability. One for 25 years of dedication and the other Brother for 50 years of Marianist dedication.

As we stood in the Hearst Auditorium two Marianist Brothers renewed their commitment to Mary and the Church. Together 75 years of Marianist religious life was reaffirmed.

I recalled how powerful and moving the profession formula is. I said to one of the Brothers that I don’t think there is a prayer, especially within the Marianist tradition, that I love more than the profession formula.

Brother George pauses with his family after renewing his
vows after 50 years of religious profession
It contains a richness and beauty that bespeaks the desire one has to follow in the footsteps of Blessed Chaminade in living the Gospel, keeping always in mind and making a priority the communal dimension of our way of life in the world. It is as strong a reminder as one can have of what our way of life is about: prayer, service,  dedication, all that we are about — in community. It was in many ways the community that first drew us to religious life. And, in many ways, it is what continues to nourish and sustain our vocations.

Like Baptism, religious profession is about relationship. We are joined together in a unique way: in Baptism, we are united to one another and to Christ in the Spirit; in religious profession, we are united in community to live the Holy Gospel.

Just as with the Baptismal vocation we all share and at most times live imperfectly, striving ever more to live who it is we are called to be and find in the Communion of Saints, the Body of Christ the strength to follow Christ and become who we are called to be; so too in religious life the intercession of those who have gone before us, as well as our Brothers in community, provide one another with the strength and support to follow Blessed Chaminade's model of following Christ.

So here it is, the full text of the profession formula. Thank you to all who have so kindly offered their congratulations and prayers for our Brothers who renewed their vows yesterday. Please continue to pray for Brother George and Brother John, all the Marianists around the world preparing to make Profession this Summer.

Renewal of Profession

"For the glory of the Most Holy Trinity, the honor of Mary, and to follow Christ more closely in His saving mission, I promise to God and vow to observe chastity, poverty, obedience, conformably to the Rule of Life of the Society of Mary."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Sunday Word

So what do we mean by the word "love?" Is this just a human description of a warm and fuzzy feeling? Not at all, insists John. " In this is love," he writes, "not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the  sacrifice for our sins." John makes the case that God is the source of love, and that this love is seen most clearly in the death of Jesus on the cross -- a sacrifice designed to bring us forgiveness of sin.

So God is love, at the very core of God's being. God reveals that he is the source of love by sending his only Son to bring us forgiveness and new life. As recipients of such amazing love, there is really only one response we can make: to show love to one another. And this is precisely what John recommends: "Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another."

Love is who Christians are.

These are challenging words. After all, John is not talking about an emotion here, but an act of the will that can have a transformative effect. "If we love one another," promises John, "God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us."  If we take the bold step of loving one another -- God will live in us and bring his love to completion in us.

Love is at the core of what it means to be a Christian. Loving one another and believing in Jesus are two sides of the same Christian coin.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Marianist Moment

The Province of Meribah visited Blessed Chaminade's Chapel of the Madeleine
while we traveled to World Youth Day 2012.
In my Novitiate, we were taught to observe Silence of Words at all times. When I told that to some of my students in school, they were shocked, even dismayed. "How were you able to be silent all of the time?" they asked. I explained that we are instructed as follows: speak when only you mean to, and mean to only when necessary. In other words, "Control of speaking."

I wonder what this says about this generation.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


There are a number of paintings depicting the Ascension of the Lord which feature a group of disciples staring up at the heavenly hosts awaiting the Lord's return to the Father. Dali's contemporary rendering is to the left, Kulmbach's classical version is below on the right.

The Ascension is celebrated this Thursday where we live -- for some this coming Sunday.

The Preface prayer for the Ascension offers a brief theological summary of what the Church celebrates on this 40th day after Easter. Check out the verbs. The theology is in the verbs!

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks and praise. For the Lord Jesus, the king of glory, the conqueror of sin and death, ascended to the highest heavens, as the angels gazed in wonder.

Mediator between God and man, judge of the world and Lord of hosts,  he ascended not to distance himself from our lowly state but that we, his members might be confident of following where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before. Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise and even the heavenly Powers, with angelic hosts,
sing together the unending hymn of your glory, as they acclaim:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


What is meant by New Evangelization? In simple terms: Millions of people, particularly in the Western world, are Christian in name, come from Christian backgrounds, are familiar with Christianity, believe that they know and understand Christianity, but no longer practice that faith in a meaningful way. They've heard of Christ and the Gospel, even though they may be overrating themselves in their belief that they know and understand what these mean. No matter. Whatever their shortcomings in understanding a faith they no longer practice, they believe that they've already been evangelized and that their non-practice is an examined decision. Their attitude toward Christianity, in essence, is: I know what it is. I've tried it. And it's not for me!

And so it no longer makes sense to speak of trying to evangelize such persons in the same way as we intend that term when we are speaking of taking the Gospel to someone for the first time. It's more accurate precisely to speak of a new evangelization, of an attempt to take the Gospel to individuals and to a culture that have already largely been shaped by it, are in a sense over-familiar with it, but haven't really in fact examined it. The new evangelization tries to take the Gospel to persons who are already Christian but are no longer practicing as Christians.

How to do that? How do we make the Gospel fresh for those for whom it has become stale? How do we, as G. K. Chesterton put it, help people to look at the familiar until it looks unfamiliar again? How do we try to Christianize someone who is already Christian?

There are no simple answers. It's not as if we haven't already been trying to do that for more than a generation. Anxious parents have been trying to do this with their children. Anxious pastors have been trying to do that with their parishioners. Anxious bishops have been trying to do that with their dioceses. Anxious spiritual writers, including this one, have been trying to do that with their readership. And an anxious church as a whole has been trying to do that with the world. What more might we be doing?

My own view is that we are in for a long, uphill struggle, one that demands faith in the power and truth of what we believe in and a long, difficult patience. Christ, the faith, and the church will survive. They always do. The stone always eventually rolls away from the tomb and Christ always eventually re-emerges, but we too must do our parts. What are those parts?

The vision we need as we try to reach out to evangelize the already evangelized will, I believe, need to include these principles:

1. We need to clearly name this task, recognize its urgency, and center ourselves in Jesus' final mandate: Go out to the whole world and make disciples.

2. We need work at trying to re-inflame the romantic imagination of our faith. We have been better recently at fanning the flames of our theological imagination, but we've struggled mightily to get people to fall in love with the faith.

3. We need to emphasize both catechesis and theology. We need to focus both on those who are trying to learn the essentials of their faith and those who are trying to make intellectual sense of their faith.

4. We need a multiplicity of approaches. No one approach reaches everyone. People go where they are fed.

5. We need to appeal to the idealism of people, particularly that of the young. We need to win people over by linking the Gospel to all that's best inside them, to let the beauty of the Gospel speak to the beauty inside of people.

6. We need to evangelize beyond any ideology of the right or the left. We need to move beyond the categories of liberal and conservative to the categories of love, beauty, and truth.

7. We need to remain widely "Catholic" in our approach. We are not trying to get people to join some small, lean, purist, sectarian group, but to enter a house with many rooms.

8. We need to preach both the freedom of the Gospel and its call for an adult maturity. We need to resist preaching a Gospel that threatens or belittles, even as we preach a Gospel that asks for free and mature obedience.

9. We need today, in an age of instability and too-frequent betrayal, to give a special witness to fidelity.

10. We need, today more than ever, to bear down on the essentials of respect, charity, and graciousness. Cause never justifies disrespect.
We need to work at winning over hearts, not hardening them.

Ronald Rohlheiser

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

The first North American Mother’s Day was conceptualized with Julia Ward Howe's Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870. Despite having penned The Battle Hymn of the Republic 12 years earlier, Howe had become so distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War that she called on Mother’s to come together and protest what she saw as the futility of their sons killing the sons of other mothers. She called for an international Mother's Day celebrating peace and motherhood.

At one point Howe even proposed converting July 4th into Mother’s Day, in order to dedicate the nation’s anniversary to peace. Eventually, however, June 2nd was designated for the celebration. In 1873 women’s groups in 18 North American cities observed this new Mother’s holiday. Howe initially funded many of these celebrations, but most of them died out once she stopped footing the bill. The city of Boston, however, would continue celebrating Howe’s holiday for 10 more years.

Despite the decided failure of her holiday, Howe had nevertheless planted the seed that would blossom into what we know as Mother’s Day today. A West Virginia women’s group led by Anna Reeves Jarvis began to celebrate an adaptation of Howe’s holiday. In order to re-unite families and neighbors that had been divided between the Union and Confederate sides of the Civil War, the group held a Mother’s Friendship Day.

After Anna Reeves Jarvis died, her daughter Anna M. Jarvis campaigned for the creation of an official Mother’s Day in remembrance of her mother and in honor of peace. In 1908, Anna petitioned the superintendent of the church where her Mother had spent over 20 years teaching Sunday School. Her request was honored, and on May 10, 1908, the first official Mother's Day celebration took place at Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia and a church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Sunday Word

“As the Father has loved me,” said Jesus, “so I have loved you; abide in my love."  Jesus’ own idea of friendship was defined and shaped by God’s love for Him. Jesus was “one who was loved” by God: chosen, equipped, guided, embraced and held all the way from the manger to the tomb. As that love shaped and defined Jesus’ life and ministry, so would Jesus’ love shape and define His team of disciples, both then and now. “You did not choose me but I chose you,” Jesus reminds us. The kind of love that causes someone to be willing to sacrifice his or her own life springs from the deep well of having been loved that way him or herself.

To be a “friend” of Jesus, then, means to be one who is loved in a sacrificial way. But it also means following Jesus’ example. “This is my commandment,” says Jesus to his disciples, “that you love one another as I have loved you." We must love others sacrificially, too, being willing to lay down our own lives as Jesus did for us. That’s a tough teaching, in many ways, but maybe we see it that way because we ourselves have not fully embraced the love that Jesus has given us. We cannot truly learn to love until we have been loved ourselves.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Marianist Moment

Marianist Brother Peter pauses at the bust of Blessed Chaminade
during the World Youth Day pilgrimage

Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, the founder of the Marianists, gave us the Five Silences as preliminary to any real religious life. They consist of Silence of Words, Silence of Signs, Silence of the Memory, Silence of the Imagination, and Silence of the Passions.

Each Silence can lead one to perfection. Do they work for you?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Marianist Vocation Story

Bro. John Kirrane, S.M. 
This is a synopsis of the vocation story of Bro. John Kirrane, S.M.  Bro. John is a 28 year old 

Marianist Brother who served as a teacher and administrator at Chaminade High School in Mineola and now works at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale.

My love for the Church began to develop when I became an altar server at St. Agnes Cathedral (Rockville Centre) in 5th grade. The priests of the parish were men who I liked and respected very much. They taught me a great deal about faith and how to live as a young Catholic. I loved when they visited us in school to run programs or just to spend time with us. My years as an altar server became a springboard for my service in the Church.

In high school at Chaminade I began to meet and interact with many of the Marianist Brothers and priests. They introduced me to a wide array of service opportunities and prayer experiences, including retreats, Adoration, and even a pilgrimage to Rome for World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II. The idea of priesthood had often surfaced in the back of my mind but I was even more attracted to the Marianist life in community, ministry in schools, and consecration to Mary.

At first when my classmates began to ask if I was going to be a Brother or priest I didn’t know what to say. “No way!” was my answer at first and for many years actually. I went on to college at Fordham and continued to engage in my faith, attend daily Mass, and participate in retreats and campus ministry. After graduation I accepted a position teaching Scripture and working in the president’s office at Chaminade. Six years went by and I realized that I was indeed called to a religious vocation but that I had been fighting it for a long time. One of the things that has been difficult for me is that my parents do not support my decision to enter religious life, which has become a true cross and a test of my vocation.

It is often much easier to harden our heart than to let grace permeate it. Today’s culture and the people around us unfortunately allow for easy opportunities to shut God out, but I found that He doesn’t give up on us so easily! A religious vocation is not pop-culture, it is indeed counter-cultural, and its rewards are abundant. In my final years of discernment before I entered the Marianist formation program, I found it important to have a good sacred space in which to pray. Our Lady of the Snows (Floral Park) became that sanctuary for me. It was an easy walk from my apartment, the new church was beautiful, and the parishioners were prayerful and friendly. “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts,”(Heb 3:15).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A reveille call

All of our seniors from of Marianist high schools have returned from their  pilgrimage to America's heartland, Disney.

It's rather interesting that Disney plays a role in America's modern mythology that is absolutely critical, even central. Increasingly the world sees Disney as the real symbol of America. Forget about the Statue of Liberty, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights - America means Mickey Mouse. The recreational mecca called Disney World has now supplanted America's historical mecca called Washington, D.C., as the nation's most popular tourist site. Some now argue that Disneyland is the spirit of America, the nation's key sacred space, the bearer of the images that carry American meaning and mission.

Disney's mission statement is simple and straightforward: "Provide People Happiness." In its quest to meet this goal, Disney focuses all its energies in the realm of fantasy - convincing the whole country that to find happiness involves escaping reality.

If Disney entices participants to escape life, then Christ's message is to urge people to wake up - in order to experience an authentic and full existence. Easter is a reveille call to all believers announcing the dawning of our new relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This is a radically new reality. The message of Easter wakes us, not just from a stuporing slumber, but also calls us forth! Easter is not an empty Disney-fantasy. Easter is the rousing, transforming power of God shaking each and everyone of us awake to a life in Christ, a life eternal.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blogging as usual

Looks like I have been having some difficulties over the past two days. Nothing to worry about in the area of blogging. Just the normal confusion with the technical world.

All the areas have been resolved with a lot of help from one of my technical friends.

Many thanks

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I am the Vine

Way back in the vineyards of Jesus' day, grapevines grew naturally along the ground instead of being propped up on poles as they are today. The vinedresser would come along to lift and clean the vine, pruning away the excess and dead growth. Jesus uses the same image to describe the way the disciples themselves had been cleansed by the Word. That "word" was the teaching and commandment of Jesus and the disciples' meditation on and obedience to that "word" would help them remain or stay connected to his "love," the nourishing flow from the vine.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Sunday Word

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Our rootedness in Jesus is what gives us the ability to be truly productive, because no good can come from a branch that is broken, dried out, fallen or dead.

Keep connected, says Jesus in Sunday's Gospel, “because apart from me you can do nothing."

At the same time, branches on the Jesus Vine know that it is better to bunch together than to stand out. The True Vine has always been healthiest when its branches have grown together instead of shooting off in a thousand different directions. To do the work of Christ requires commitment and coordination, not occasional flashes of brilliance and daring individual efforts. To be true disciples, we need to love one another, just as Jesus has loved us.

Keep together, says Jesus, “bear much fruit and become my disciples." Being a fruitful disciple is always a team sport, not an individual activity.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Today's Marianist Thought

How often do we go into a quiet room (say, our bedroom) and turn on the TV, radio, or CD player? What does this signify? We fear silence. What is there about this silence that upsets us? It is fear of meeting ourselves nakedly.

This is a test to see whether our self-concept is favorable or not. If it is favorable, that is, if silence can be tolerated, there is nothing to fear. But if it is not, then we have some work to do.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Tree of Life

"The sun has risen. The trees have parted. And Disney has opened the gates to a world of adventure celebrating man's enduring love of animals, with Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park. Every path in this fourth Walt Disney World park leads to thrilling encounters with the real, imaginary and extinct creatures who rule here. So get ready for a journey into the mysteries, marvels and thrills of the ever-unfolding story of animals."

So starts the description of Disney's Animal Kingdom, available on its home page. At first glance, it appears that this theme park is a place of peace and harmony, where the wolf is living with the lamb, the imaginary and even extinct creatures are lying down together. But after a few clicks, it becomes clear that God's own peaceful kingdom has not yet come to Orlando.

Disney sure makes it sound like the real McCoy: "Carved into the gnarled roots, enormous trunk and uplifted branches are the twisting, turning shapes of more than 300 animal forms. And the entire Tree is surrounded by shimmering pools and grass filled with a host of birds and small mammals. Every guest is invited to stroll The Tree of Life Garden through the root system of The Tree of Life. This soft landscape is filled with otters, flamingos, tamarins, lemurs, tortoises, and colorful ducks, storks, cranes and cockatoos."

Ah ... paradise.

The fact is that God's peaceful kingdom has not yet come to earth, neither in Orlando, Florida nor anywhere else. Please don't be fooled by the Tree of Life - it's a 14-story fake, although a beautiful one! And don't be tricked by the apparent harmony of the Animal Kingdom -- it's a high-tech theme park!

The Tree of Life does not exist at Disney. It can only be touched through a relationship with Jesus, the "shoot" from the stump of Jesse, who gives us nourishment and everlasting life. We are to remain attached to him, like a branch to a vine, and to bear much fruit with him. "Apart from me," says Jesus, "you can do nothing."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

St. Joseph the Worker

Together with the Virgin Mary, his wife, all holiness flows into the life of the Church. He was the head of the Holy Family and so was the head of the Head of the Church, a ministry far beyond the work of a priest or Pope. He ministered also to Mary, our Mother, as any good husband does and enabled her who is full of grace beyond imagining to increase in grace as she capacitated him to do the same. Marriage is a communion of life and love.

For someone whose words do not exist in the scriptures, it is remarkable that he takes on such an important role in Heaven as Patron of the Church, of which our province is a part thereof. Yet he spoke to us by doing the will of God when he had his annunciation, so to speak. The angel told him to take Mary as his wife and Jesus as his son and name Him. He did not divorce his wife quietly as he had planned when seeing her pregnancy. And, like any married man he had his joys and sorrows and worked hard to support the family as a carpenter which included in those times someone who could fix things. Being in the hidden life of a family, we can all feel Joseph understands us. As the Catechism says about Jesus,

During the greater part of His life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labour. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God, a life in the community. From this whole period it is revealed to us that Jesus was "obedient" to His parents and that He "increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man."[222. Lk 2:51-52.]

Reading the gospels of Christ's public ministry, we discover something of Joseph's character based on the concept: like father, like son. Jesus knew how to act like a male in His society, not afraid of confrontation, argumentation and possessed a deep self-assurance. Some of this undoubtedly came by osmosis from Joseph because normally the father would take over a boy's education and training as a carpenter from about the age of six or seven. Again the Catechism has a wonderful number for our reflection on this:

The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life: The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus - the school of the Gospel. First, then, a lesson of silence. May we esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us. . . A lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character... A lesson of work. Nazareth, home of the "Carpenter's Son", in you I would choose to understand and proclaim the severe and redeeming law of human work. . . To conclude, I want to greet all the workers of the world, holding up to them their great pattern their brother, who is God.[225. Paul VI at Nazareth, 5 January 1964: LH, Feast of the Holy Family, OR.]

While he was not present at his son's passion and death, yet the incarnation and the redemption are indissolubly linked together. He prepared his son for our sake. Our province has been blessed to have him as our patron and we await the day when one of our Friars may even be canonized a saint because of Joseph's intercession and presence to us throughout our history as contemplative preachers.

Fr. Basil Cole, O.P.