A few weeks ago, Pope Francis released a new apostolic exhortation titled, “Gaudete et Exsultate.” I was asked to write a commentary for Catholic News Service. I focused on three steps which lead to joy in the document as the key to unlocking holiness. Read it here:
During this Jubilee Year of Mercy we too are encouraged to make pilgrimage. The tradition of the Jubilee year in the Church is originally focused on the four major basilicas of Rome, St. Peter’s, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. Thankfully Pope Francis has recognized that most of us cannot afford to just get up and travel to Rome (as much as we might like to), therefore bishops around the world have set up holy doors in their own dioceses. In our Diocese of Jefferson City, Bishop John R. Gaydos has designated the following Churches to have a holy door:
- The Cathedral of St. Joseph
- The Church of St. Peter in Brush Creek (where Fr. Augustine Tolton was baptized, whose cause for canonization is in process)
- The Church of St. Patrick in Laurie in honor of the National Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Church
- The Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Starkenburg
I encourage you all to make plans to visit at least one (or more) of these sites during the upcoming year. It could make for a lovely family day trip on a Saturday. Travel to the Church, pass through the door, then go out to lunch as a family. If you have any questions or need some tips about organizing such a day trip, don’t hesitate to call me, I’d be happy to help.
The point of pilgrimage and the point of passing through the doors in not a competition to see how many doors or how many times you can walk through a door. Rather, it is about intentionally seeking God’s help to open the doors of our hearts so that we may recognize, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts” (Rom 5:5). We seek God’s mercy and forgiveness for the times we have failed to be Christ-like to others and ask for his strength to do so in the future.
Yesterday evening we hosted a community wide (that is all 3 parishes combined) prayer service for all those who have passed away from within our Catholic community in the past year. The families of the deceased were invited to come and participate as well. We had a nice turnout. As a part of the service, I preached a short homily in both English and Spanish, as the entire service was bilingual given that we had people from both cultures present. Here’s what I had to say to them, more or less.
Our current worldview or cultural perspective tells us that death should be something clean, sterile, and kept at a distance. We try to remove ourselves from death. Yet all of us are here tonight because we know that’s not true. We know that death is real. The pain and hurts we feel are real. The wounds we feel in our hearts are not clear and sterile, but rough and dirty. So what do we do with this real pain, this real hurt?
Pope Francis tells us that the Church is to be a field hospital for the weak and suffering. But who is the Church? What’s she made up of? It’s no accident that yesterday we celebrated All Saints day, and today, All Souls Day. This reminds us of the three-fold make up of the Church. It’s not just us here gathered together. There’s us here on Earth, the souls in purgatory and the Saints in heaven. In our time of weakness and suffering we ask the saints to intercede before God on our behalf. We pray for the souls in purgatory, that they too may experience the glory of God.
The world tells us death is the end. That we are now separated from our loved ones. In the Church we believe that’s not true! Death is not the end, but a new beginning. We are not separated at all, but rather are united in prayer and love. In this way, the whole Church, us, the souls in purgatory and the saints, united by our faith in Jesus Christ as our savior, can become the field hospital which cures our painful wounds brought about by mourning the loss of a loved one. For we are not separated, but are united through prayer and love.
During the Pope’s visit to the United States, I was interviewed by many different newspapers, radio and television stations.
One of these was a sit down interview with a reporter from my new local newspaper, The Sedalia Democrat.
It was a great opportunity to get to know a local reporter and share some of my thoughts and experiences of Pope Francis.
During the month of September, we were blessed to have Pope Francis visit our country. During that time I wrote a pastor’s pen to help people get the most out of the experience.
By the time you’re reading this Pope Francis’ Apostolic journey to the United States will be nearly finished. However, as I write this note, his journey has just begun. So I cannot speak to the specifics of what he has said. After all, I can neither read minds nor predict the future. At the same time I would like to offer a few words for how it is that we can all benefit from the many graces of his visit.
First of all we can’t fall into the trap of thinking, “Philadelphia is far away.” No. We should be grateful that the Holy Father has chosen to visit our nation and culture, and we should listen to hear what he has to offer each of us. He may be speaking on the East Coast, but it’s our job to listen, and then make those words come alive here in Pettis County.
One of the difficulties we all face in our modern world is the need for the quick answer, the one-liner, the headline, the 140 characters in a tweet. Yet, if we are honest I believe we would all acknowledge that life is much more complicated and has much more depth. This is also true of Pope Francis’ message. So don’t remain satisfied or get caught up in only the tweets, headlines and catch-phrases of this week. Take time to read the entirety of Pope Francis’ speeches and talks. This will help you to get a better understanding of what he is saying to all of us. If you’re wondering where to find the texts, go to www.vatican.va, then click on logo for the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to Cuba and the United States. There you’ll find links to all of his public addresses. Thankfully, these addresses, like everything else on the internet, remain forever. So you can still go back and read them if you didn’t have time this past week.
Lastly a reminder that one of the great things about Pope Francis is that he is just that, Pope Francis. So while many might attempt to place our Holy Father into their camp, category, or label, we must do our best to ignore such attempts. For Pope Francis does not belong to the “left” or “right,” he is neither, “progressive” or, “traditional.” He is not a legislator or political leader, he humbly seeks one goal, to bring Christ to people and people to Christ.
Welcome Pope Francis! Thank you for coming to our great nation!
In the last few days I have received a few messages about an article that was published in the Jefferson City News Tribune.
I am mentioned in the article for having helped a young couple from the diocese to get tickets to attend a papal audience with Pope Francis as newlyweds and thus meet the Holy Father. Thankfully it was a successful venture and seemed to have a great impact on the faith of the couple.
What a joy it was for me to get to meet them, take them on a tour of St. Peter’s and to help them have a wonderful experience in Rome.
Here’s a link to the article:
Now that I’ve been in Rome for almost three years, I think there are certain patterns and routines from year to year that are beginning to become mini-traditions. One of those mini-traditions is that each year thus far I have joined the junior professed sisters of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the Via Crucis, the Stations of the Cross with the Pope on Good Friday at the Colosseum.
This year there were fewer of us than the past two years but it was still quite a pleasant evening. We always get there quite early and just spend the afternoon hanging out while we wait.
Another unique aspect of the experience is that between all of the sisters and I we are fluent in at least 7 languages, so as many other pilgrims come by and see us hanging out together, they will ask questions and inevitably we can always point them in the direction of the individual who speaks that particular language. A simple yet profound expression of the universality of the Church.
This morning classes were cancelled at the Pontifical Gregorian University. However, the cause was most certainly just. Pope Francis had invited all of the faculty, students and staff of the university to an audience at the Vatican. I guess you could consider this another field trip.
So instead of heading across the city to the university, those of us from the NAC only had to go down the hill to the Vatican. We met up with our classmates, other students and professors. For the first hour or so there were a series of songs sung by representatives of the various countries and cultures represented at our university. The mixture was quite eclectic. As the time for the audience with the Holy Father approached, the event took a more prayerful disposition, as the rector led us all in prayer. Then Holy Father arrived and addressed all present. His address can be found here. After the address he greeted many of the professors present. Then, to our surprise he started to make his way up the aisle where all the students were present. We all lined up against the barriers and stuck our hands out shake hands with the Pope.
A blessed morning indeed. I took my simple point-and-shoot camera and didn’t get too many good shots. Here are three I can share.
Today is March 13, 2014. A year ago I stood in the Piazza di San Pietro as Pope Francis walked out onto the balcony to greet the world. What an exciting year it has been to see all that has taken place in the Church. I feel very fortunate to be here with a “front row seat” to all that is going on in the life of the Church.
The last few days have provided ample opportunity to reflect on the incredible experiences a year ago as the Church transitioned from Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Francis. Last night, Cardinal O’Brien and Greg Burke visited the college to share some of their reflections.
Here are some of the reflections I wrote a year ago as everything was taking place.
Yesterday I returned to Rome in the morning to begin the new school year. In the evening Pope Francis hosted a vigil for peace as a part of the worldwide day of fasting and penance for peace.
So, jet lagged as I may have been, I knew this would be something worth attending. And I was right, it was a beautiful and prayerful evening.
This event stood out to me in relation to other Papal events because of the spiritual attitude and atmosphere in the square, it was very profound.
I was not able to stay until the end because I was falling asleep standing up and starting to topple over, however I did make it through the Rosary, Litany, and the Pope’s homily.
As I reflected this morning about what made last night so different I came to the following conclusion: all of those present had the same purpose, peace.
So often with Papal Masses, Angelus prayers, audiences etc. many people attend for the sole purpose of seeing the Pope.
Last night was different, yes the Pope was present, and we were blessed to have him leading us in prayer, but the people weren’t there just to see him, they were there to pray for peace.
A beautiful and humbling way to return to Rome and kick off the new year.
Please join me, Pope Francis, and the whole Church in praying for peace, particularly in Syria and Egypt.