Monthly Archives: June 2018

Thursday Reflection 6.14.18

Thursday Reflection                                                                                                    

  June 14, 2018

This morning is Thursday June 14.  To those of you who have a more (or less) patriotic calendar in front of you, you might remember this day as “Flag Day.”  I have a less significant memory (in terms of how it might have affected civilization and life as we know it) but for me, an extremely important date that marked a life changing experience.

On June 14, 1971, having graduated from college about a month previously, I received a letter from the Cardinal-Archbishop of New York.  (Actually it was a form letter from a staff member, but when you’re a recent university grad, you see things having more significance than they may actually have had!).  The neatly typed note on crisp diocesan stationary simply informed me that, although I had applied to enter the diocesan seminary to begin four years post graduate study in theology in preparation for possible ordination to the priesthood, I was being sent on scholarship to live in the American seminary in Rome.  I was to attend the Gregorian University and begin these studies in an international environment at a theological university whose demands and tradition rivals Oxford or Cambridge.  (Here is where I make the comment “with the best and brightest”, but as my sometimes spiritual mentor the great Groucho Marx is alleged to have said, “why would I want to join any club that would accept me?”)

Although “technically” I had a “choice” in this matter, in reality – not so much!   One did not turn down such appointments.  Whatever my class standing had been, no matter my (total lack of) knowledge of conversational Italian (since all lectures there were in Italian), no matter how “average” my background in classical Latin and Greek, guess what, I was being sent into an environment that I could not control, did not understand, and in retrospect was probably as ill prepared as one could possibly be.

And yet because of all of that, I bless this date in my memory.   This was the date that marked a change in my life forever.  The Lord does that to us.  Unexpected challenges that both build us up and humble us at the same time.  From this point in my life, my classmates, friends and mentors would hail from all over the U.S.A. and indeed all over the world.  Because of years living and studying in an international environment, I tend to view issues beyond the myopia that infects us politically.  Living among those who were so talented taught me to push myself past what I had accepted as my limitations.  Being exposed not merely to great theological minds but to those who actually taught those minds gave me a love of scholarship which, even though I hardly share their status, gave me a love for learning that I never previously had.  I learned to experience the sights, smells and sounds of living cultures and important histories.  (Don’t tell anyone, but I even cut a class or two once to insert myself into an archeological dig so that I could touch history rather than just read about it!)

Remember those days when your life was so affected.  Remember the choices you made that shaped you.  Appreciate the choices made and the paths chosen, or even for the choices made for you that you did not appreciate at the time.  Pray for those who made such choices and who just might have appreciated your potential more than you yourself did.  Be grateful for the unexpected blessings.  Know that the Lord has given you far more ability than you might believe about yourself – if you would only stop and remember what has brought you to this day!

–Fr Joe

Thursday Reflection 6.7.18

Thursday Reflection                                                                                       
June 7, 2018
 
 
 A friend of mine commented that the last several of these “reflections” have been rather dark if not downright depressing. Granted that multiple school shootings, political gridlock, racist tweets, sexual misconduct, racial injustice, and the ever unpleasant reminder that nuclear war is not an impossibility can push one’s psyche over into the dark side. Is there hope for us? I speak as a member of a religious movement that seems to lack any influence on general culture (and if you doubt that, just remember, a week a or so ago, Ireland – about as “Roman Cathoplic” Is there hope for us as believers, as citizens, as parents, as stewards of God’s creation?
 These past several months, a group of parishioners and I have been reading / studying (plodding) our way through one of the Hebrew Scripture’s most difficult and haunting texts: The Book of Job. Imagine a “story” or parable – written in poetry but is essentially a series of lengthy arguments about the nature of God and the nature of evil – and one man’s quest for justice.
Those who make it to the end of the poetry text are left with a very unsettling response to it all: the voice of a God who reminds His human antagonist that you don’t know nearly as much as you think you do! You don’t have an overview throughout history and time as God has. Don’t be assuming that the questions that most concern humans are the questions that concern God. (Isn’t that a wee bit annoying?) Will “justice” in the present always solve an issue? What is experienced as horrendous at present often becomes the means or the impetus to make matters better if not for oneself, than for others. (e.g. If one heavy smoker dying wretchedly from lung cancer (clearly a tragedy and an evil) can influence others to not follow her example, has not some good emerged from the evil of the disease?)
Job in the end remains as a person with self-worth and personal integrity. He doesn’t have many answers to the darkness of life, but he is a person of faith, and he can live with his uncertainties. He can believe that God is to be found, not always in overcoming evil, but in my not being destroyed by it because I am not alone.
There are countless reports in the news that sadden me. But I have much to learn from Job. I just wish I could see things with God’s perspective.
 –Fr. Joe