Saturday, September 26, 2015

View My Live Streams From The Papal Visit In Philadelphia



Live From Philadelphia, it's... Pope Francis! 

Miss my "live streams" from the Papal Visit? No worries, you can still live vicariously through my phone as I have archived my "live streamed" videos of the Papal Motorcade and The World Meeting of Families Closing Mass in Philadelphia.

Reflections from the World Meeting of Families & Papal Visit

I've just posted a new reflection from my time so far in Philly, including the first Papal Mass this morning at the Basilica and a conversation I've had with Bishop Walkowiak about what it was like in the Cathedral during the Pope's visit to Washington DC and special mid-day prayer with the Bishops. You can read this and all my reflections to come this weekend on my special "World Meeting of Families (WMOF) 2015" blog page. Keep an eye open for more photos and videos to come as well! 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Join Me In Philly!


Even if you can't make it to the Papal Visit at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this weekend, be sure to keep an eye on the "World Meeting of Families (WMOF) 2015" page on my blog for exclusive content including videos, pictures and reflections from this historic first visit of Pope Francis to the United States!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Trumpisms



One of the great lessons that I learned in the seminary was from one of our spiritual directors. He tried to ingrain in us that a truth or a lie can be spoken by anyone, and it's up to us to determine whether or not something is true or false. It doesn't matter what the source is, where it's coming from or who says it. We ultimately have to take it to heart and say, "Is that true or is that a lie?" 


Audio Version Available - Click To Listen



I thought of this when I was watching some of the YouTube highlights from the last Republican debate, and one of the things that I've been keeping up with is what has been come to be known as Trumpisms. It's definitely worth a Google if you haven't heard of them yet!

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump will say some pretty absurd things, and they tend to get a lot of attention when he says them. So the media has started calling them Trumpisms. And some of them I can't even repeat without going to Confession, so I will leave it up to you to Google the rest. 

However, one of the Trumpisms that I can talk about is how Trump responded when he was asked, "If you were president, how would you deal with the tension going on with Russia?" And this is what he said: "I'd make friends with them. I'd make friends with President Putin." It kind of shocked everybody, and it was really written off as the first Trumpism.

I thought about that statement. Is it true or is it false? It's true, right? What are we called to do with our enemies? We are called to love them. So he made a true statement. It doesn't matter what the source or where it came from. It's true, we are called to love our enemies. 

Saint James says, "Where do wars and where do conflicts among you come from? It is from your passions that make you members of war. You covet but do not possess; you kill and envy, but cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask." 

So James is telling us what happens when we do anything that is selfish of our own passion, we wage war against each other. And in the beginning of the reading he says, "Beloved, where jealousy and selfishness exist, there is every disorder and every kind of foul practice and there's nothing more foul than war." "But," he says, "the wisdom from above is, first of all, pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits without inconsistency and insincerity, and the fruit of righteousness is sewn, is peace for those who cultivate in peace." 

We are ultimately called to be a people of peace. And the reality is that we're used to wanting victory over an opponent, to achieve something of our own gain. And the Trumpism that proves to be true, at least how I interpret it is, we're called to befriend our enemies. We're called to actually befriend them. And I think about this on a very real and practical level in my own life, and ask you to do the same. Is there anyone right now that you consider an enemy? If so, how can you befriend them? The tendency is to want to attack or bring them down, but the reality is we're called to befriend each other.

I know a couple that have gone through a messy divorce. Having been divorced for a couple years now, the former husband said to me, "I've finally made friends with her. We're no longer enemies, but we have figured out a way to be friends." And I think about couples that have been married for 50 or 60 years and at some point, you know, through all of life's ups and downs, they have made friends with each other. Hopefully, by the end of 60 years, they have learned to love each other and accept each other and become the best of friends. 

I think about it within the father and son relationship, you know where you have the defiant son and the domineering father and they grow up and there's all this tension in their lives; that hopefully at some point the father and the son become friends as they grow older. This is true with me and my pastors. You have the young priest and the older priest. So Father Martello and I, by the end of his time here, we became good friends. And I hope the same is true for Father Tim and I. 

But that's the reality for all of us. Hopefully though, over time, we become friends, especially with our enemies -and this can seem very hard to reach and difficult to obtain. And that's why, Donald Trump is being ridiculed in the media; because it's so simplistic. You can't just make friends with a leader of a country that has opposing views as us. But the reality is we can. We are called to actually befriend everyone, especially our enemies. 

So I just want you to reflect for a moment now. Is there anybody in your life that you are at opposition with? Is there anybody in your life that you feel is kind of an enemy or someone that you are constantly at odds with? Those are the people that you are ultimately called to cultivate peace. 

And so the Trumpism that I at least find to be true is, what do we do with people that we've waged war on? We try to become friends with them.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: The Holy Family Prayer Medal Featured during the Papal Visit!

I am very excited to announce that a featurette of the Holy Family Prayer Medal story will be shown at the World Meeting of Families during the Papal Visit in Philadelphia later this month!

Many thanks to Rev. Thomas Rosica, CSB and his team at the Salt & Light Catholic Media Foundation for presenting the opportunity and making it possible!

My hope is that with this expanded reach, the story and sacramental of the Holy Family Prayer Medal will help many more families as it did Michael's, who are going through difficult times, so that they may experience the love and support of the Holy Family.

For more information on the World Meeting of Families, click here.
To learn more about Salt & Light and the great things that they do, visit www.SaltAndLightTV.org.

Please keep an eye on my blog for photos and reflections from the World Meeting of Families when I attend later this month!

Not Attending the World Meeting of Families? Be sure to check out a special glimpse below of the Holy Family Prayer Medal featurette that will be shown at the World Meeting of Families.


Click Here To View on YouTube

Prayer Medals Available in Limited Quantities, Click Here to Get Yours!


The Story of the Holy Family Prayer Medal

Every Christmas I attempt to create a unique gift to give to the staff and to special people who support me in the parish. A few years ago I had this moment of inspiration to create a prayer medal, something that people could hold in their hands and be drawn into the mystery of Christmas. And so I took on the adventure of casting. A friend who is a jeweler showed me the process of creating a wax model, a mold, melting and pouring the medal, allowing it to harden and then breaking the cast to reveal a metal form of what I had created in wax. It became for me a beautiful meditation in prayer during the advent season. Choosing the Holy Family as my subject, I began researching the many icons, paintings and statues depicting this image. I prayed with the different scripture passages of the infancy narratives, always asking God the questions: “What was it like the night Jesus was born?” “How was Mary holding him?” “How was Joseph with him?” “How was Joseph with Mary?” “Were they close?” “Were they affectionate?” Over the years one of the images of Mary that has most touched my heart is the painting “Kissing the Face of God.” Mary is tenderly cradling the infant Jesus and pulling him up to her as she nuzzles her face up to him and kisses him on the cheek. It is such a tender and intimate image. I was also struck by some of the statues that I saw of Joseph holding Mary as she held Jesus. As I carved into the wax, the images began to take shape and it became an icon for me. It was important for me that when the prayer medal is held, it would rest comfortably in one’s hand and feel secure (Psalm 91 “Whoever clings to me I will deliver”). It was equally important that, as the holder rubbed it with their thumb, their touch would be drawn to Jesus. Ultimately, as one’s thumb is pressed across the image, it would come to rest on the face of Christ.

I know that there are times in life when we just need some sacramental to hold, something to rub or squeeze when the pain is so intense or when we are plagued with doubt or sadness. Something to hold when we so need to be held. This is an image in which God allowed me to rest. My hope was that it would bring others that same sense of security. I wanted to give the medals to some of the people I visited, especially those in hospice. One of our local businesses blessed me with their kindness and generosity when they offered to donate the medals that would be given to the sick and suffering.

Sometime after the Holy Family Medals were finished a young boy named Michael asked to see me. He came to my office and broke down in tears as he told me his Grandpa Joe was diagnosed with terminal cancer. My heart broke as Michael choked up before me. We talked and I let him get it all out. I prayed with him, but I still sensed there was such hurt; he seemed so lost. I couldn’t just let him walk away like this, and yet it seemed as if there were no words to help. Then God reminded me of the medal. “Michael, I have something very special that I would like to give to you,” I said excitedly. I took his hand and opened it and placed the medal into his palm. “Michael, I just want you to hold this. Keep it with you as a reminder to hold your Grandpa Joe in prayer.” He looked down at it with such gratitude and, as he flipped it over in his palm, he noticed the inscription on the back - “God is with us.” He looked at me and said “I know that He is.” I had a sense that Michael could now go in peace.

A few Saturdays after that I was walking along the back of the church getting ready to process down the center aisle for the Vigil Mass when an elderly man tugged at my chasuble. When I turned to greet him he simply held out the medal. I quickly scanned my memory: “When did I see this man? Was it at the hospital, a nursing home?” I didn’t remember giving the prayer medal to him, but I must have. And then he said “Michael wanted me to have this. Thank you, Father.” He smiled as he clasped it in his hands. Michael would later tell me that he thought his grandfather needed it more than he did, so he gave the medal to him to pray with.

Some time later I received a call from one of Michael’s best friends telling me that his family needed to see a priest because their grandfather didn’t have much longer to live. I was just getting ready to head out for my day off so, thankfully, I was totally free. I drove to Michael’s house where they had been caring for Grandpa Joe. Michael was in the drive pacing and he hugged me tight as I told him I was glad he called. The whole family filled the house, in the living room, in the kitchen, and in the back bedroom where Joe was. I walked into the room and there was Joe with his wife at his side. The family gathered around and I began the prayers of the Anointing of the Sick and the Commendation of the Dying. It was a very moving experience. The children smiled and the grandchildren wept, but the calmest of all was Joe. As I looked into his eyes I could see in them the eyes of faith and, with each prayer spoken, Joe was the first to respond, “Lord have mercy.” I’ve never been with someone so near the point of death that was still able to pray in that way. The words, formed by his blackened tongue, came ever so softly out of his blood stained lips. As I laid hands on his head I motioned for his family to lay their hands on him. You could feel the peace of Christ wash through his body and his family. I anointed his forehead with oil and, as I reached down to open his palm; Joe opened his hand to reveal the Holy Family Prayer Medal. His wife told me he wanted me to know that he was holding it and praying with it. I tucked my thumb under the medal and anointed his palm and then gently folded his hand around it once more, feeling him firmly grasp it once more. Michael’s Grandpa Joe would die later that night with his family at his side. As he prayed with the medal of the Holy Family, God had surrounded him with his family made holy.

When I went to the wake, Michael hugged me once more and out of his pocket he pulled the medal. He said to me with such joy - “My Grandpa wanted me to have it. I’ll keep this with me forever.” What a gift God has blessed me with in the priesthood, given me hands with which to bless, imagination and creativity, and a compassionate heart that would help me to mold and shape a memory that Michael would hold close for the rest of his life.

And though we may never know exactly what it was like the night that Christ was born, one thing I know for sure is that he was held. There was touch. There was tenderness and safety as Joseph held him in the palm of his hand and Mary treasured all these things in her heart.

Click Here to Get Your Prayer Medal!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sanitize Sin

Sanitize Sin

The truth is, we all sin.  And we all probably have some sin in our lives that we are terribly ashamed of and terribly humiliated by.   It is a sin that we really do not want to share.  That is the one that NEEDS to be confessed, because until we do, that sin will ruin our lives.


Audio Version Available - Click To Listen


I think we pretty much have the hand sanitizer down in our culture. I always laugh whenever we go to El Salvador, because every time Americans are done seeing or greeting people, the first thing we do is go into our bag and sanitize our hands. To the locals, is has become kind of a joke about us.

We have it in all different forms, right? There is the Purell liquid that you can use on your hands and body. Then you can wipe everything else down with the Purell wipes. And for the air, there is even an aerosol spray that kills 99.8 percent of germs. We have that part down. What we do not have down is the internal purification.

Jesus says very clearly that it is only the things that come from within that can defile. We do not have to worry about what comes from the outside hurting us.

No matter what you have been through in life, no matter what horrible things you may have encountered, no matter what terrible things have been done to you or against you, that does not have the ability to defile or to hurt your heart. What does have the ability to defile is that which is within us. The things that we keep inside of us and do not let God touch. The things that we keep in darkness and the things we keep hidden and do not let others see. That has the power to defile.

I will give you a few examples. And just as they say before a novel or before a movie: the characters described in this do not necessarily reveal anything about the characters I am going to talk about.

As a priest, I have the great privilege of hearing Confessions. Over the last nine years, I considered it one of the most sacred and profound things - to be with somebody and to hear confessions. Especially with people that have been away from the church or away from the Sacraments. That privileged moment where they, for some reason, feel safe enough to confess a sin to you, which they may have been holding onto for years.

I will give you a few examples of this, and again let me preface by reiterating that they are not particular examples...

I was thinking about a man dying in a hospital. It is the last day of his of life here on this Earth. He receives Last Rites, and goes to Confession. There is a sin that he has been holding onto his entire life. He has never spoken about it to anybody from the time that he was a child. It was something foolish that he may have done as a child. He never had the courage to confess it. Now, finally, on his deathbed, he is able to, for some reason, have the grace to confess and get that sin off his chest.

The amazing thing is, the moment that he does and he is received by the priest in Confession and absolved, there is a sense of relief. This sin that has haunted him his whole life (that he thought was unforgivable, and was so embarrassed by), he can now finally confess and experience forgiveness.

I think about a woman that came to Confession. She had been distant from God ever since having committed an abortion in her teens (this has actually happens more than you'd think). She had felt pressured into it by her family. Afterward she remained a practicing Catholic, she had been to Confession numerous times, participated in renewals and retreats -but she remained distant from God, having never been able to confess this sin. For some reason, she felt safe enough with me that she could get it off her chest, and she confessed it. She said to me, "Father, can this be forgiven?" And, you know, in that moment of absolution, I just think about the Lord, the Father, who has been desiring so much to forgive this sin, to heal her and to free her from this burden.  

I think about other situations where someone got into an affair early on in their lives. Think of a young woman who was a baby-sitter and got involved with the husband and it lasted for 40 years, and she never told anyone. Finally, she could bring it into Confession and bring it to light. All of a sudden that sin that seemed so unforgivable, so much of a burden, that has been controlling and destroying so much of their lives, now all of a sudden could be redeemed.

It's only the things that we keep to ourselves that can defile us. It is only that sin that we keep within ourselves and do not share with anybody else, with our most trusted friend, or our spouse, or even God. It is only that sin that can defile us. When we do that, when we keep it to ourselves, that is when it leads to addiction. That is when it leads to affairs. That is when it leads to whatever it is that could destroy our lives.

When we finally do share it with the Lord, in Confession, God then has the power to transform it.

Jesus tells us so clearly, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: nothing that enters you from the outside can defile that person; but things that come out from within are what defile." And the truth is we all have sin. We all probably have some sin in our lives that we are terribly ashamed of and terribly humiliated by. We probably have some sin that we really do not want to share. That is the one that needs to be Confessed! That is the one that we really need to bring to God, because until we do, that sin will cause defilement. That sin will ruin our lives. When we bring it to the Lord or we bring it to the Sacraments, we bring it to Christ, we bring it to Confession, and then we can finally experience His mercy and His love.

Brothers and sisters, we are so used to cleaning ourselves on the outside. We are so used to 'Purelling' our hands, and washing our hands, and showering, we have that down; but what we do need is the internal hygiene. We all need to, from time to time, look into our hearts and see if there is any sin there that is hidden, if there is any sin there that we have not wanted to share and been afraid to bring to the light. That is the sin that we need to bring to Christ, because until we do, it does defile us, and it will wreak havoc in our lives. Once we do, it brings great freedom and great love.

Our Lord revealed to Faustina in Divine Mercy that the one who has the greater sin is the one who is justified to have greater mercy.

It is in that sin that we have hidden that we will experience His mercy. God the Father, wants to give you His mercy. He wants you to experience it! 

I invite you to do that. Look within yourselves, to see what needs to be cleaned, and purified, and reconciled. Then bring whatever sin or thing may be hidden to our Father.