Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mother of Mercy - Pray for Us

One more day!  We have only one more day before our bishop arrives to celebrate mass with us.  The occasion?  The naming of our new parish – Mother of Mercy.

Mother of Mercy parish is a gathering together of four communities – two churches that closed for a variety of reasons, including buildings that were no longer habitable – Our Lady of Providence and St. Peter Claver and the two Churches with beautiful, but aging buildings, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and Holy Spirit.  This is the final – on paper – step in merging of these four distinct Churches into one new community of the faithful.

In reality, the merging together into one group of followers of the Way, is only in its infancy.  With three predominant languages - English, Spanish and Creole, defined cultural distinctions, - Haitian, South and Central American, old European (Italian, Irish and others) and African-American and differing worship practices (the Mass, may be the Mass everywhere, but our approach to it certainly has diverse local traditions) and separate world needs – immigrant, retired, youth, poor, wealthy and diminishing middle-class, etc., the most encompassing description of us that can be said of people of the new Mother of Mercy parish is that we are all Catholics.

When you come down to it – that is the best description of all.  We are one – holy – catholic and apostolic – One Body in the One Lord, Jesus Christ.

Hail Holy Queen,
Mother of Mercy,
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping
In this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy towards us.
And after this, our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement O loving O sweet Virgin Mary.

V. Pray for us, oh holy Mother of God. 

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014


I spent most of last weekend on retreat. Each year deacons are required to experience a retreat to renew spiritual batteries, revisit old acquaintances and connect with fellow clergy. I went kicking and whining all the way to The Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA.

I usually make my retreat at San Alphonso in Long Branch, but there were too many church event things I wanted to attend during the work week this year and I only have so much vacation time.  So, an additional four day vacation to attend a priests and deacons retreat was off the table this year.  I look forward to going again next year, if only because attending retreat at San Alphonso allows me to sleep in my own bed each night instead of the medieval torture rack found in the cells of most monasteries.

I hadn’t been to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa since I was ordained.  The diocese uses The Shrine for many of their formation retreats for those who are hoping to become priests and deacons.  It is a beautiful place set on a hillside in rural Pennsylvania.  The views are marvelous, especially in the evening and early morning.  There is plenty of room for quiet contemplation and prayer and this past weekend the weather was the BEST!

The Shrine offers a wonderful opportunity for quiet thoughts and contemplations, a prerequisite for discerning a vocation.  One is able to find a quiet spot to pray or snooze; searching for an inner peace that seems to escape most of us in the hectic pace of life – both in the parish and in our personal lives.  To help achieve this blissful state I strongly suggest leaving your cell phone, iPad and/or laptop home or at least locked in the car for the weekend.

My fears and dread of attending retreat at The Shrine with a bunch of my fellow DoT deacons came up (or down) to my expectations.  Deacon John, whom I haven’t seen in several years, was there with his bag of stories – always entertaining and usually thought provoking.  When listening to John one should have a notepad for the homiletic ideas that sprout from his life stories.  Good fellowship and camaraderie abounded with most of my other fellow deacons (even those who fouled the air with their cigarette and cigar smoke outside the main doorway – ugh!).  Several fellows I didn’t get an opportunity to meet (though I really would like to meet the fellow who stayed in the cell above mine, who’s evening habit of clog dancing was a challenge!).

If you’ve stayed with me this long I now come to the highlight of the retreat.  Capuchin Fr. Remo, our retreat master.  Resplendent in his brown Franciscan habit, draped rosary and hood (called a capuche, henceforth the title Capuchin – wow, learn something new every day!), Fr. Remo is a humble man who brought alive for me, at least, the memories of our call to the diaconate.  He reminded us (all of us, clergy, religious and lay) of God’s call to each of us and the gifts we are given to enable us to give life to that call – in service to God and one another.  No matter what our station or role in life is, we serve the Lord in loving one another and bringing the love we receive from Him to each brother and sister.

Fr. Remo also reminded us of our need to be in communion with God and with the Church, His holy people.  God’s love for us surpasses anything we understand and He desires us to be in close union with Him always.  His love and mercy is all we need and restores us to life – abundantly.

So, after all my reluctance, the Holy Spirit (who always knows best) finally penetrated my stubborn heart by knocking me down; sitting on me, saying “Listen up, my child! You need to hear and understand this!”

Next year, I’ll be back at San Alphonso, or wherever the Spirit leads me.  No matter where I am I look to the Spirit to guide and protect me; always leading me back to greener pastures with the voice of the Good Shepherd.  And when I am found, I am scooped up in His arms and embraced with the love I need and desire.

Come Holy Spirit, come!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pentecost Sunday

Three members of our Christian community will complete their sacraments of initiation into the Catholic Church at Holy Spirit Church this Sunday.  Daniel, Eulysis and Amy, after having spent time in study and prayer will receive the Holy Spirit as the Apostles did in that upper room after Jesus rose into heaven.

While, tongues, as of fire, may not be visible coming upon their heads (but do we not just hope that they do appear!), they will be filled with the Spirit of the Father and the Son.  Each will be given the power of the Spirit to bring the Good News of Salvation to the world through word and action in living the Christian life.  

As their guide and protector, the Spirit will give them the confidence, strength and peace to live as disciples in the world, but also as guide and protector, the Spirit will help them resist the temptations of the evil-one, so they may not be of this world, but live in Christ in this world.

Let us congratulate Daniel, Eulysis and Amy and welcome them into the fullness of discipleship. And let us too be reminded of how the Holy Spirit dwells in each one of us; giving us the courage and strength, love and peace to live truly as disciples of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Deacon Don

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Praise the Lord! The Power of Prayer

A quick note - 

Meriam Ibrahim Ishag - the Sudanese Christian woman who was condemned to receive a 100 lashes and then be executed will be released from prison, the Sudanese government has announced.  No mention was made in the government's statement of the disposition of her sentence for marrying a Christian man in this predominantly Muslim country.  

While in prison Meriam gave birth to a daughter.  Her sentence was to be carried out when the child reached 2 years of age.

We thank the Lord for hearing the prayers of His people and changing the hearts of Meriam's tormentors.  Let us continue to pray for all people of faith who suffer persecution and for those who have been martyred for love of God.