Sunday, June 25, 2017

Movie Recommendation: The Journey

I recommend the movie "The Journey" about the leaders of two fierce enemies who, through an unlikely dialogue, create a process of reconciliation. It pits the intractable, hardline Democratic Union Party (United Kingdom) leader, Ian Paisley, against Sinn Fein's (Ireland) politician Martin McGuinness. At a peace conference arranged by the Prime Ministers of the U.K. and Ireland, Paisley and McGuinness are forced to take a short journey together, in which they will take the biggest leap of faith and change the course of their history.

It is a testament to the power of staying in the dialogue when there is disagreement. It is a study on how difficult conversations can lead to reconciliation.

In today's polarized society in the church, in Congress, and in politics, this movie is a refreshing film that teaches us not to withdraw from difficult conversations and to firmly believe that reconciliation is achievable.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

So what is heaven like?

When I visited my mother today, I saw her holding hands with a tiny old woman who was scrunched up into a barker lounge. They looked so happy as they just held hands, and rubbed one another’s arms. Then my mother saw me and gasped in surprise. I hid behind the column and she called out, “Jack, Jack” and everyone smiled at me because she was the only one who could not see me. When I came forward, she hugged me and cried.

We chatted for a while and then my mother snacked on a Fig Newton, sharing the second cookie with her friend Carol. We talked about family members and she told me about the women in the nursing home with her. They are awfully afraid of people stealing items from them. I guess it is not surprising because they really have so few possessions to their name.

So, it came time for our communion prayers again and Carol prepared herself and set the environment well. We with reading of scripture that focused upon the promise of heaven. They liked it so much and it was so comforting that I read a few passages. The “Ooohs” and “Ahhhs” expressed their consolation for being inspired. They began a litany of praise and I started the official prayers. Each leaned back and closed her eyes and firmly proclaimed the Lord’s Prayer. I gave them silence and space afterwards because they seemed to be in a zone.

I then gave them communion and they slowly chewed on the Blessed Sacrament. We finished our prayers customarily, but then I added a twist. I said, “Now that you are in communion, you have to wish peace to one another.” They reached out their arms crossed them, held each other’s hands, and said, “Peace to you.” They smiled and thanked each other, and my mother kept looking away. I said, “It is good for you to look into each other’s eyes.” My mother tried to do it but kept looking away, so Carol said, “Look at me, dearie. We just thanked God and I’m grateful for you, and I love you. We have to stick together.” So, my mother raised her eyes and just gazed at her and smiled for several seconds, and they said to each other, “I love you.”

Our prayer ended and we just sat there. Time passed.

My mother turned to me and said, “Will I have a heart attack?” and I said, “Maybe. I just don’t know. Sometimes when you don’t stand up and walk around, part of the body just gives up. The body starts to shut down, but it will be gentle and there won’t be pain. Your body is on your side.” I then asked, “Why do you ask?” “Well, that’s how Dawn Mari went.” “Yes, that’s true, and you can remember that she did not have pain.” “That’s right.”

“Are you concerned about dying?”
“I just don’t want to leave you kids.”
“We’ll be fine, and we’ll remember you. Don’t worry about that.”
“I’m not that scared to go.”

“Well, what do you think heaven is like?”
“It is peaceful, friendly, settled, restful, and calm, and, and… I won’t cry anymore. There won’t be a reason for me to cry.”
“That sounds like a nice place to be.”
“And I miss Ma. I miss her a whole lot. And I even miss her cooking. She knew I liked her cooking even though I told her I didn’t. I would make faces, but she knew I liked it.”
“And Dawn Mari will be there.”
“That’s right.”
“I like how you describe heaven. I think it is just like you said.”

My mother then started to talk with a woman about the wounds of this woman’s leg, and then she showed the women her own. Other discussions ensued and I knew my mother was in a good space with her colleagues. As she talked with them, I excused myself to go see my sister, and she said, “OK. You’ll be back.”
“Yes, I’ll come back.”

And I departed and the woman came over to my mother to talk. The staff was preparing dinner and everyone was getting ready for their meal. I left feeling settled, restful, and calm. My mother is connecting with so many women who are showing her love and acceptance, and thankfully, she is receiving their goodness.

Friday, June 16, 2017

St Benedict the Moor Parish

This summer I will work at a parish in Omaha, Nebraska called St. Benedict the Moor parish. I've not read much about this saint so I decided to look him up today.


St Benedict the Moor


St Benedict the Moor
1526 – 1589

St Benedict the Black was the son of Negro slaves who were taken from Africa to San Fratello, Sicily, where they were converted to Christianity. They lived such exemplary lives and fulfilled their

duties so thoroughly that their owner, in appreciation, granted freedom to their eighteen-year-old son, Benedict. He continued to work as a day laborer, generously sharing his small wages with the poor and spending his free time in caring for the sick. Because of his lowly origins, St Benedict the Moor was often the object of ridicule, which he bore so patiently and cheerfully that he was called even during his youth, “The Holy Black.”

When twenty-one years of age, he became acquainted with Jerome Lanze, a nobleman who had left the world to live under the rule of St Francis of Assisi. Benedict sold his few possessions, gave the money to the poor and joined the monastic group at San Fratello, later moving with them to Palermo. For many years he was happily employed in the kitchen as a lay brother at the Friary of St Mary of Jesus, but upon the death of his director, he was chosen the guardian of the friary, even though he could neither read nor write. After serving one term in this office, he was chosen novice master, his counsels being eagerly sought by the novices, professed religious and people of every class. He possessed extraordinary gifts of prayer, was divinely given an infused knowledge of the Scriptures, and had an intuitive grasp of deep theological truths, which astounded learned men and aided him in the direction of souls.

The reports of his sanctity spread throughout Sicily, and the monastery was constantly beset with visitors – the poor requesting alms, the sick in search of a miracle, and people of all ranks seeking advice or prayers.

St Benedict's face was often seen to shine with a celestial light, especially when he was praying in the chapel. He was employed as a cook, but it was noted that angels were seen assisting him in the kitchen and than, moreover, food seemed to multiply miraculously under his hands.

From: http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/st-benedict-the-moor.html

Benedict the Moor

This summer I will work at a parish in Omaha, Nebraska called St. Benedict the Moor parish. I've not read much about this saint so I decided to look him up today.


St Benedict the Moor


St Benedict the Moor
1526 – 1589

St Benedict the Black was the son of Negro slaves who were taken from Africa to San Fratello, Sicily, where they were converted to Christianity. They lived such exemplary lives and fulfilled their

duties so thoroughly that their owner, in appreciation, granted freedom to their eighteen-year-old son, Benedict. He continued to work as a day laborer, generously sharing his small wages with the poor and spending his free time in caring for the sick. Because of his lowly origins, St Benedict the Moor was often the object of ridicule, which he bore so patiently and cheerfully that he was called even during his youth, “The Holy Black.”

When twenty-one years of age, he became acquainted with Jerome Lanze, a nobleman who had left the world to live under the rule of St Francis of Assisi. Benedict sold his few possessions, gave the money to the poor and joined the monastic group at San Fratello, later moving with them to Palermo. For many years he was happily employed in the kitchen as a lay brother at the Friary of St Mary of Jesus, but upon the death of his director, he was chosen the guardian of the friary, even though he could neither read nor write. After serving one term in this office, he was chosen novice master, his counsels being eagerly sought by the novices, professed religious and people of every class. He possessed extraordinary gifts of prayer, was divinely given an infused knowledge of the Scriptures, and had an intuitive grasp of deep theological truths, which astounded learned men and aided him in the direction of souls.

The reports of his sanctity spread throughout Sicily, and the monastery was constantly beset with visitors – the poor requesting alms, the sick in search of a miracle, and people of all ranks seeking advice or prayers.

St Benedict's face was often seen to shine with a celestial light, especially when he was praying in the chapel. He was employed as a cook, but it was noted that angels were seen assisting him in the kitchen and than, moreover, food seemed to multiply miraculously under his hands.

From: http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/st-benedict-the-moor.html

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Take a walk or a Ride in a Porsche?

I went for my evening walk to get in my 12,000 steps and I was so pleased to get an easy parking space near my favored place to park. In fact, there were two open spots behind me. I locked my car and crossed the road when a super sporty green Porsche pulled up beside me and tried to squeeze into an illegal spot. I was about to tell him there were two empty spots when he asked me for assistance.

He asked if I heard of a restaurant in South Boston called Lo La 42. I told him I heard of it but could not remember how to direct him.

He then told me his phone’s battery died and he was late for a birthday party. His wife would be angry with him. I went to my phone to look up the address of the restaurant and he wrote it down. I asked if he had a GPS in the car and he said “Yes,” but he could not operate it. He tried for a  couple of minutes and then asked if I could do it. I tried with no success because we could not clear out the zip code that was previously entered. I spent about four minutes and then I said, “A solution is in you allow me to be your navigator as I pull up the WAZE application to get you to the restaurant.”

“Would you do that for me?”

“I’m just going out for a walk and I was intended to head down in that direction anyways.”

He said, “Jump in.” He continued, “This has been an ordeal. I took a cab to Southie but the cab driver could not find the restaurant so he took me home. My phone’s battery died and I can’t operate this GPS. This is a life-saver.”  Then he said, “I have to buy you a drink.”

I said, “I would love nothing more than to have a chilled Sapphire martini with three olives and a splash of brine, but I will respectfully decline. I simply want you to go to the party.”

The man was about 42, a Lebanese-American named Tarek. He was grateful for my offer to navigate and he said, “You must come meet my friends.” I declined. He protested.

He said, “They will never believe this story. You have to come tell them so we can all have a good laugh.” I said, “I will vouch for you.”

His friends howled when the story was told to them. He kept saying many sentences about kindness. I did not tell them I was a priest. I thought it would be better to be a mysterious stranger.


Courteously, I left them to enjoy the night. The restaurant was filled with corporate types and the well-heeled, but I want to get my heels put to the pavement. I enjoyed the unusual encounter, and though I was dragging at the end of the night, earning 16,380 steps, I felt lighter for making their day a bit happier.

It is not time yet

My mother was sound asleep when I visited her in the nursing home. I gently placed her legs on my lap and massaged them. After ten minutes or so, she woke up and asked, "Am I dying?" "Yes," I answered. "O.K., but it is not time yet."

She said, "I'm scared." So I asked, "Why are you scared?" "Well, I won't get to be with you and the rest of my kids." "Sure you will. You'll be more present to us than you are now. Did you know that a person remains alive to God when they leave this world?" "O, that's right, but this is all I know." 

"Yes, of course, it is natural to be afraid, but we will remember you and you'll still get to be with us because you'll be alive to us in our memories and in a new way to God. Every time I say mass, you will be part of that in the communion of saints. We are not very separated from each other when someone dies."

"Think of the people you will see. You'll see Dawn Mari again."
     "I miss her so much. Every day."
"You'll see Ma and Pa!" 
     "O, I'd like that."
"You'll see your sister, Betty."
      "And she can knock me on the head again."
"Yes. It will be a nice reunion, and before too long, the rest of us will go where you are. We won't be apart for too long, and you can pray for us and know exactly how we are doing."

"O.K. When the time comes, but it is not time yet."
       "That's fine. You can go when you want. Would you like communion now?
"Yes, and Carol too."

Carol comes by and says to another one, "This man knows God and is his friend."

So, we prayed, and she asked to be able to go to heaven. So I asked, "Do you know God has forgiven your sins?"
       "I guess. I just wanted to do better. I don't have big sins."
"Well, this is about being able to help you in your prayer so you can ask questions to Jesus and to let him answer. He doesn't care about your sins. He wants you to be happy, at peace, and to have no fear."
       "I'm afraid of leaving all of you. I think of death when I am alone."
"You can go when you would like. We don't want you to have pain."
       "The pain is in letting go of you. I want my kids to be near me."
"And you will be very near to us because you will be alive with God - always."
        "OK"

A woman in a wheelchair came over to wipe away my mother's tears. They just looked at each other with sensitivity and concern.

My mother said about a woman across the room reclining in a chair, "Look at this woman. She keeps smiling at me. She keeps loving me. She is very kind." My mother sat back and gazed at the woman and they both smiled at each other. 

After chatting and massaging her legs, she shared ice cream. She had chocolate and I had orange sorbet. Carol had chocolate.

A non-verbal woman in a wheelchair came over to take the rest of Carol's chocolate ice cream. Carol held her hand, caressed it, and said, "You'll be all right, dear."

Then another woman in a wheelchair came over to us and she said, "Do you remember my name?" I asked for her name, and she said, "I thought you would remember. You were my favorite student. I just want to be remembered." Carol said, "She taught all the children in Whitinsville for many years."

Another non-verbal woman came over to my mother and caressed her hand. They just looked at each other and smiled.

I was amazed at all the love that was being passed around by these women. They take care of each other very well and they do not want anyone to suffer alone. In whatever way they are able, they reach out to one another and share their mercy to the one in need. They simply love one another and are exceedingly kind, and each person is able to communicate something through a simple gesture. They give all they have - heart to heart - for the good of others. This is a wonderful community of grace.