Monday, September 7, 2015

Marianist Monday

September, 2015

My dear friends in college . . . and beyond,

First off the bat, let me wish you all the best for a fruitful (and fun!) academic year. Whether you are just starting college or getting ready for your final year, these are exciting times! Sometimes they’re stressful times too, so be assured of my prayers and those of the entire Marianist Community as you navigate your way through the ups and downs of college life. Remember, in your joys and in the sorrows, in your successes and in your failures, in good times and in bad, you are never alone. We are with you in prayer, in spirit, and in whatever other ways we can help. Just pick up the phone or send us a message, and we will help in any way that we can.

More importantly, God is always with you. Call on Him in prayer, seek Him in your campus chapel or church, listen to His message in the scriptures, search for Him in the depths of your heart, and He will be with you. I have no doubt about that.

You are never alone. And, of course, one of the ways we maintain our connections with our college-age friends is through these monthly Magnificat mailings.

Help us keep up those bonds of connection by making sure that we have your correct college mailing address.

Send me an email with your current college mailing address. If your mailing address hasn’t changed, a quick line – “Mailing address same as last year” – would be helpful. Email me (, or send me a message via Facebook.

You know, just as this is an exciting time of the year for anyone in college, it is also an extremely exciting time for the Church.

First of all, Pope Francis is coming to the United States. I am happy to report to you that we have secured a coach bus for our Pilgrimage to the Papal Mass in Philadelphia on September 27: “50 Flyers, 2 Philly, 4 Francis.” We couldn’t find rooms in Philadelphia (unless we were willing to pay $500.00 an night), so we have arranged for lodging in Princeton. Very early on the Sunday morning (to borrow a phrase from the Resurrection accounts in the Gospels), we will set out for Philadelphia; have our coach bus drop us off at a spot designated by the event organizers; and walk the rest of the way into the site of the Mass, which starts at 4:00 p.m. I’ve heard rumors that the bus drop-off may be as far away as Camden, New Jersey, with a ten-mile walk into the Mass venue (the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum – you know, the ones Rocky ran up and down). Come what may, we are eager and excited to take part in this meeting with Pope Francis!

And there’s more excitement still. Pope Francis has declared a “Year of Mercy” in the Church, to begin on December 8, 2015, just as the “Year of Consecrated Life” draws to a close.

Saying that he has "thought often about how the church can make more evident its mission of being a witness of mercy," the Pope announced the new jubilee year during a Lenten penitential service in St. Peter's Basilica.

"I am convinced that the whole church – that has much need to receive mercy because we are sinners — will find in this jubilee the joy to rediscover and render fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time," Francis said in announcing the year.

"Let us not forget that God pardons and God pardons always," the Pope continued. "Let us never tire of asking for forgiveness."

Over the last couple of years, I have had the privilege – the very humbling honor, to be quite frank – to share with you many aspects of your lives in some conversations that have been both disarming and edifying for their remarkable candor. I have learned much about you as individuals and as a group, and one of the things I have learned is how reluctant we all are to forgive ourselves, to extend mercy to ourselves, and to let ourselves “off the hook.” As a card-carrying perfectionist, I thought I was the only one who was harsh on himself. Have I learned differently!

Time and time again, I have spoken with guys who just cannot believe that they are God’s beloved son, who harbor in their hearts a deep-seated doubt that they are worthy of God’s mercy and forgiveness – of His love. I listen to your personal stories each time with a sense of wonder, hearing in your struggles, my own struggles and in your doubts, my own doubts.

And I have come to conclude that we are all in the same boat – desperately in need of God’s mercy, reluctant to believe that He will extend it, and much happier when we let His mercy wash over us. When we do that, when we accept God’s forgiveness and forgive ourselves too, it is as if a huge weight has been taken off of our shoulders. Ironically, once that happens, we begin to change – gradually, to be sure – but change nonetheless, leaving behind the behaviors and attitudes that cause us shame and guilt and growing more and more into the image and likeness of Christ. Further, by letting God’s mercy wash over us, we are then better able to extend God’s mercy (and our own!) to others. Once I understand God’s mercy, I come to see those who hurt or offend not so much as enemies, but as fellow sinners. At least that’s been my experience.

This is the power of mercy, it is the power of the Sacrament of Confession, and this is the great grace that this “Year of Mercy” can afford us, if we let it.

Still not convinced? Think of the Prodigal Son. Think of St. Peter, who betrayed Christ three times, only to become the first head of the Church after Christ himself. Think of the repentant thief. “This very day, I promise you, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23: 43). Think of the good will and unqualified loyalty you have from so many of your friends, and, if I may add, from so many of us on both the religious and lay faculties of Chaminade and Kellenberg.

In this Year of Mercy, may you believe ever more fully that you are a beloved son, and may you extend that conviction to everyone you meet!

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Steve