Never be in a hurry…

 
A parishioner, and friend, often sends me quotes and short reflections. As a Franciscan he knows I contemplate often and his idioms and writings often propel me along a path for that week.  (Most likely to get back at me for sending him two a week of my own, like this writing here!)  At any rate, his latest was from ‘another St. Francis’, this one from Saint Francis de Sales who once said, “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”  How profound for where I was this past week and where we are as parish! God is indeed good and comes to us often through one another.
 
Yes, the world is always in a hurry. So are we. We want instant results, instant gratification, and instant success. Our communication is instant and our technology is even faster than it’s ever been, but still we want faster. Our coffees, lattes, medicine, dry cleaning, and food all allow us to remain safely ensconced in our vehicles, feverishly tapping the keys of our smart phone, while someone else labors for us to give us what we need, instantly. We want instant poll results, instant news, and instant weight loss. We want to be bigger, better, faster, and stronger, but we want it all now, not later, and please, whatever you do, don’t make me actually work for it. We just don’t have the time.
 

This past Sunday, in my Pastor’s Update Forum, we spoke of where we began less than nine years ago. We spoke of how far we have come and how much we have grown. From that simple, 30-seat rented chapel in a Jewish Synagogue to our 12.5-acre campus in the middle of Montgomery County that is home to two schools, a beautiful parish, a friary, and an historic cemetery. We went from zero staff to a team that is now over 18 members strong and from only two parishioners to our current membership that is fast approaching 600. We indeed have been blessed, but it has taken much sacrifice, much work, much belief, and yes, much time. None of this has been instant. We have labored in the vineyard, dedicated ourselves to the work of the gospel, kept our eye on the ball and remained faithful to our call and to our God. And it has resulted in all that we now call Saint Miriam.

Last Sunday we also spoke about the cost of growth: the loss of some parishioners, and even some team members, including a priest, who simply didn’t see the vision and didn’t support the mission nor the ideal to be better than ourselves and our brokenness. I reminded us last week that sometimes growth comes from pruning. It is not only biblical, but I have found it to be the truth. We run a parish, not a prison. So all that we do must be for the good of the parish, the community, the church, and God. When it becomes only about us, or when we cheat the system or push it to grow so fast that we lose our vision – a vision that has brought us so far already – we stand at the precipice of losing so much more, even our souls. It simply isn’t worth the cost, because we have lots of work left to do.

From the time I felt the tug of God’s call on my life, it took me twenty-one years to become a priest; twenty-three to become a trauma chaplain, and twenty-seven to become a professed Franciscan. It was a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice. It still is. It has made me good at all of these titles because they live in my heart, not just my nametag. But I also see every day how someone is ordained to the priesthood without the needed study, work, formation, and refection, or becomes a Franciscan only to inauthentically wear the habit, but is no more a Friar than the person who never even heard of St. Francis. They will do more harm than good.

Being a priest, being a Franciscan, and being a parish like Saint Miriam is more than a collar, a habit, a name, a building, or a location. It is simply something that cannot be rushed. They have a calm spirit about them, an inner peace, one that only comes from a true sense of something greater and perseveres even when the world is upset.

 


Change is Always Coming…

 

In our weekly devotional, Franciscan Moments, this past Monday we spoke of the changing seasons and how it effects every aspect of who we are and allows us to decide to focus more deeply on where we are going. Change does happen. Change always comes. It is a matter of how we embrace or reject change that effects our overall wellbeing.
 
Autumn holds some strange mystery that I somehow always tried to avoid when I was younger, but as I grow older I find such solace in the coming of fall and the changes that accompany Mother Nature this time of year. Spring remains for me a time of hope and of new beginnings, but somehow I have learned to make the mystery of this time of year into a time of hope and reflection. It is a time where I open my heart fully to a season of change and embrace what needs to come and what I need to let go of. The trees teach me a lesson so deep: They don’t seem to mind the losing of leaves as they stand so still, and one by one are willing to let go of each leaf until they lie bare themselves. Then true change comes. The trees know how to be brave and to wait in their emptiness, not knowing what will come, but believing with such certainty that there will be another spring bursting full with the bright green of life. 
 
So, too, it is for the Church. Change comes. Most reject it and wish the field to simply lie fallow, but then growth never occurs. For true change – real change – meaningful, deep change to happen, things must change, constancy must give way to upheaval, and people come and go. To fall back (no pun intended) on my tree metaphor, pruning is needed and then growth comes again.

Over the last year we, at Saint Miriam, have experienced quite a few changes! Our location has changed, our campus is beautiful, our vision brighter, our building larger, our Masses extended in number and attendance, and our children and school are more abundant! We have much to be grateful for in our progressive, inclusive and loving approach to Catholicism and the world. But, with that growth change has come in many forms. We have added parishioners and programs and eliminated some small groups and mass times. We have new faces and some have gone to new places or houses of worship. We have new staff and team members in both our school and parish, and some have transitioned to other places. All of this has caused both joy, feelings of accomplishment, and a little anxiety.

So, this coming Sunday, in lieu of a homily at all three Masses, I will open myself up to a Pastor’s Forum! You will hear directly from me on recent changes of the past and some exciting changes for tomorrow. I will address any concerns and fill you in on some needed transitions, including staff members.

Let us embrace all that we have become, and all that God will help become anew!

See you Sunday!
 
 


Open the windows, and let the fresh air in.

 
Fall is officially here and the weather has turned to usher in the beauty of autumn. It is a time when soon we will bless our animals in honor of St. Francis Day, unload our pumpkins and open the great pumpkin farm, witness families and children getting their photos taken in the pumpkin patch, enjoy a haunted and historic tour within our cemetery, and marvel at the community that we have created together! It also should be a time for us to pause and ask ourselves if we are trying. I mean really trying. Trying to be a better men or women, better friends, better Christians, better Catholics, better parishioners, but most importantly to become better people.
 

As we come to the Feast of St. Francis, I am reminded that Francis of Assisi lived a model life of humility, compassion, and love, while consistently striving to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Shunning materialism and worldly affirmation, Francis lived a virtuous life of simplicity, and sought to honor the dignity of everyone – especially the vulnerable, and the outcast. He embraced his own imperfections, and allowed God to grow into a world that so often rejected God. He was humble, unpretentious, and welcoming. We strive to do the same at Saint Miriam.

Together, we have built, and live within, a community that enjoys hospitality as its hallmark. In the manner in which we welcome everyone, care for one another through pastoral care, honor the living with a custom birthday card and a simple cake with candles, wrap the ill and lonely in prayer shawls made at the hands of our own, baptize the newborn without litmus test, bury the dead the world rejects, honor and pray for the living and in all its wondered and beautiful forms: the gay, straight, divorced, Black, White, Indian, and Asian, too; the transgendered and the homeless, the addicted and the lost. Our welcome – and our love – has no bounds, no limits, no test, no end. All are welcome. Period. Francis would be proud.
 
Yet, as the season turns, I have sadly witnessed how some of our own parishioners have turned on me and their fellow parishioners. They have become malicious to one another, rejecting the very foundation of who we are, and turned on those who have loved and embraced them the most when no one else would. Those who welcomed them, honored them, loved them, and uplifted them when the world did not. Now their loyalties have turned and their political rhetoric and posted memes have turned mean-spirited and even vengeful. They post on their varied social media platforms in order not to share their lives, but rather to harm and elicit a response, or to make a negative point or worse: to out down and to demean. They have become what we fear moist: the bullies of the world lacking heart or soul. The sadness is that they don’t see it. They have failed to see the harm they do to others, to our parish, and even to themselves.
 

I hurt almost all the time. I have learned to live with betrayal and a broken heart as a pastor. It comes with the job. What I won’t accept is when you harm others or betray them. I will not live in a world so close to mine where you make decisions absent real and honest fact, but rather spew hatred and abuse in your own darkness. Come at me if you wish, my skin is thick and I have endured far worse. But, please, do not harm another of my parishioners. I am their shepherd and my staff and rod close by… 

As the leaves turn toward winter, and life becomes dormant to live again in the beauty of a springtime renewed, St. Francis is asking us again, as fellow Catholics, to live “authentic Christian lives.” Through his writings and life, he has repeatedly called for the Church to be “poor” and “persecuted”, NOT to be poor in spirit ourselves nor to persecute others or to demean them – or the world around us – with our words and actions. We all need to understand that dancing with the cultural, political, and social norms of our day doesn’t square with faith in the living, risen Christ.

Let us pause and reflect on our lives honestly and ask ourselves if our words and our actions reflect the Man encountered in the Gospels. Do you not only get the Gospel’s message, but do you actually live it? I believe in the Jesus who ate with tax collectors, and dined with prostitutes and lepers. I believe in a God of welcome. I believe in a God of second chances. That is the God I reflect in my life…

And if I’m not mistaken, deep down, you are more determined to do the same, despite your past…

Open the windows, and let the fresh air in.
 
 


The Sea is So Large. I am so Weak.

 

The three knots in the Franciscan cord symbolize the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I live my life by these three simple knots. They are now foreign words to most, and certainly the concepts even more abstract to a world that knows them not. They are as archaic as the habit I wear under them.

For some, especially in our commitment-fearing instant-everything world, the idea of taking vows such as these seems almost suffocating. You mean you have to share everything? You have to do what other people tell you to do the rest of your life?  You place others first, even before your own needs?  That’s one way of looking at it. I, on the other hand, have witnessed and experienced these vows as an actual liberating experience.

For the rest of my life, as the world is lost without a compass, I will stand firm on three guiding principles that will continue to mold me into a better human being, a stronger Christian, a worthier Catholic, a more reliable Pastor, and a deeply spiritual Friar. No, the changes that have come, and those yet to occur, did not happen suddenly; they never do. No, I will not be changed dramatically in front of your eyes, but I know beyond a doubt – any doubt whatsoever –  that I am completely “others-centered”, and that amount of caring will increase and overflow until the day ‘my cup runneth over’ and I behold my God face to face.  

Am I leading a sinless life, free from worry and inhibition? No. Certainly not. In fact, over the last few months I have been contemplating leaving the priesthood. I have sat with my Spiritual Director and cried as I discerned a way out. I sat in the Sanctuary of our parish this week and wept like a baby, as I begged God to allow me to go. I explained to my Creator in no uncertain terms that I am tired, exhausted, and deeply sad. The world is an awful place and folks don’t care, nor have much need for the holy Church any more. They certainly don’t need me. This was evidenced by this past Sunday when so few actually even came to Mass. Folks would rather go to a movie or dinner or to the mall, anyplace other than church, so why should I spend hundreds of hours setting up for Mass, planning liturgy, preparing the perfect sermon, working with my music team, struggling to pay bills when so few give from their abundance, as I give from my all; and do it for those who don’t even care to show up? I told the great I AM that I am whipped, tired, and ready to go. I have given it the ‘ol’ college try’, but I am almost on empty. It is time. God said ‘no.’ I cried.

Instead, God sent me a serious reminder. God had a fellow Friar send me the image of the knots I included here in my blog for this week. A very serious reminder, inspiration, and even blueprint, and no excuse that I gave warranted my departure from a life of service and the vows I made so long ago. 

So I am trying to muster the courage and the fortitude to stay; stay here at Saint Miriam, stay in the water as a priest, and stay true to my vows as a Franciscan.  I feel like it is almost an impossible task lately to stay steadfast to them and also hold onto the worries of the world. Perhaps, one day, all my worries will eventually fade away and I will more deeply recognize the significance of what I’m doing. But, for now, I will struggle, but with a sense that my life is consecrated to God and He will need to help me more now to remain. Yes, I’ll still bear the mark of my sinful human nature. Yes, I will still want to fill my life with things, but I pray the better part of me will emerge. I pray there is a better part.

I ask you to please pray for me, and all who have tied these knots, in our continuing need to be in a deeper relationship with God.

Come, Lord. Come. I need you. The sea is so large, my boat so small.
 
 


The Spider, The Beetle, and Me

 
I am sure that beetle thought itself clever. You know, the way it managed to crawl all the way from the earth below, and then run along the edge of the glass pane at my office window. That is, until it found out that Charlotte had been waiting there, ever so patiently. For how long, you ask? Who knows…but she is very patient.
 
Charlotte, my quasi-affectionate name for the rather large spider that has been relentless in her building of webs that sometimes are so large they engulf my entire view from my parish office window, has been hard at work this early September already. I thought that I had lost her, or that she had gone to perhaps spider-heaven, but no… she is back, and this time with a vengeance! Her web has not just poor Mr. Beetle, but also a few others that haplessly wandered into her path and now find themselves stuck, literally, in her grip of web-stuff. Yes, no matter how clever we think we are, there is always someone cleverer, and more ingenious, and always waiting for us…for good or for ill.  
 

A. Bartlett Giamatti, American professor of English Renaissance literature, in his “The Green Fields of the Mind, once said that “There comes a time when every summer will have something of autumn about it.”  As the days decrease, shadows now lengthen and autumn grows, I find myself observing the word in a different way. I like the rhythm that is happening to my world. There is a regularity that is fast returning, like Charlotte. The preschoolers and kindergarteners once again fill the halls of our schools, the folks who were away all summer are quickly returning to the pews, and soon the children of PREP/CCD will begin to learn about God again. The Season of Ordinary Time will soon yield its greenish hue to the blue of Advent and before you now it, a new year will dawn with the Blessed Virgin on New Year’s Day! Yes, there is comfort in the changing of the seasons and the winding down of life this time of year. A time when the summer winds calm enough to allow the ‘Charlottes’ of my world to build their webs.

For the past few years, it has become my custom in autumn to evaluate what needs to be relinquished in my life. Sometimes possessions weigh me down. At other times, I find that it is all of my character flaws that burden not only me, but everyone who lives with me, or works with me, as well. I look into all of the dark closets of my life that need cleaning out, including that one which contains my heart each autumn and I ask myself, “Is there anything I could surrender that would help me become a better person?” Then, I allow myself to be caught, like that beetle, but instead of by some predatory spider, it is by God Himself, who, too, has been waiting patiently for me all this time.

The older and perhaps a little wiser that I get, I have learned that no matter how cleaver we think we are, there is always someone, or something, all the more clever just around the proverbial corner. How about you?  Will you return to the parish now, engage more deeply, revaluate your commitment, and discover what is truly important, as you become closer to a God who saves? Or, will you remain empty and seeking that which you may already have had all along?
 
Many of us have been working hard all summer long. While you have been away on your summer respites, we have been working long days to keep us afloat – physically and financially – so you have a beautiful and welcoming parish home to return to this season. Is it time for you to take stock of the beauty and the gift that is Saint Miriam?
 
PS I asked Brendan to remove that spider web from my window’s view later today. You see, no matter how wise we think we are, no matter how clever we are, there is always something more clever coming…
 


We may hide behind our latest avatar, but God sees us as we are…

 

I’ve noticed lately that many of you are pretty mean people! Oh, I know what you are thinking, “Me?” Yes, you!

As I have watched social media, especially Facebook lately, I have witnessed the decay of civilized discourse and an increase in true unadulterated hate and impatience with one another. The temperament of posts has become angry and mean-spirited and there is little room for disagreement. In fact, I sometimes need to pause and look twice at the name of who is posting and I find myself reflecting, “Is this the Jane Doe who is a member of Saint Miriam?”

I realize that we all must not – and often do not – agree on everything. Some of us squabble about musical selections, film choice, or food and restaurant preferences. But let the conversation turn to politics, and light-hearted conversation often quickly turns ugly. Now a new study has found that this may be because talking about politics engages the same part of our brains as war! Ahh, that explains it!

In a recent article, David Pietraszewski, a former researcher at University of California, Santa Barbara, says that, “As far as our brains are concerned, political affiliation is viewed more like membership in a gang or clique than as a dispassionate philosophical stance.” He reminds us that humans come from an evolutionary history that included conflict among groups or factions. It was important for individuals to know, if a dispute were to break out, which individuals line up with ‘us’ and which with ‘them.’

This is further exacerbated by the fact that most of us have a habit of only paying attention to the information that supports their perspective. We tend to only believe the claims of the candidate we endorse and to perceive the claims of the other as being patently dishonest. And the internet has made it all the easier to only pay attention to confirming evidence! If people believe a certain thing, they can usually find a website to validate their position, or a social media platform to enhance their voice. That has also enabled the spread of these exaggerated claims even easier because anyone can post just about anything they want to in these forums without any regard for truth or accuracy. This leads to a feeling of isolation and that feeling of isolation can spawn feelings of resentment and frustration, and yes, anger. So, we become mean.

I wonder if it is all worth it? Do we really think that everyone will simply forget that Meme we posted with one candidate in ‘black face’ or our racially charged overtones? When the election we are so enthralled with us over, where will we return for support and love and care? The folks back at Saint Miriam whom we called liars because of their open and loving stance or resistance to fall into a political scrabble? Will we be able to sit comfortably next to someone in a pew this Sunday when on Tuesday we posted something so hateful?

Many blame ‘the system’, or the economy, or personal financial situations, or racism, or the lack of jobs, or government, but survey and study after survey and study finds that most folks are pretty content. We may have simply fallen in the way of our own evolution! A good old fashioned pause to reflect may just be the answer to making us a kinder and gentler people worthy of inhabiting the pew this Sunday. The world sure could use a few of us…

When we log into a computer system or platform or social media page, we are often prompted with choosing our profile. For some, it is always the same, but for others it seems lately that we have many profiles and some are more hateful and angry. Perhaps it is time to reflect on ourselves and who we really are before we hit “post” on the social media platforms?
 
We may hide behind our latest avatar, but God sees us as we are…
 
 


Old Brooms into New Life?

 

Well it is almost time to fall back! I know, I know…but it must happen! As hard as it will be to admit, the summer is waning and the heat will soon give way to cooler temperatures and autumn breezes; leaves will begin to turn color and life will return to a regular pattern.

I may be the odd man out, but I find great comfort in the regularity that is fast approaching. Summer is always exciting with new people coming into the parish, some permanently and some just passing through on their own summer’s journey, breaks and family visits, and warm weather and beach time, too. But I do like to see the stability of the regular faces in the pews, especially the families and their children, as school returns and the season changes to one of a rhythm of normal expectations. Yes, there is comfort is being on a regular schedule and pattern in living.

As we all begin to get past this final weekend of picnics and time away and finally turn our thoughts to coming home to church again, I’d like us all to remember what makes Saint Miriam so special. You see, unlike an old broom, we don’t simply discard a person when they are broken or when they are not quite able to do a job. We also find a place for everyone within our community, no matter where they come from or what others think of their past. 

Unfortunately, not all folks operate under that context, but we do. Sometimes when someone is not meeting all the needs of the job or a community of faith, they are made to feel inferior. They can feel devalued when more emphasis is put on their weaknesses and mistakes, rather than on any strengths or success. People are more likely to remember the few mistakes and easily forgot all the times a task was done correctly, if there remains not a few of us to remind them that they are loved and whole and needed.

We hold fast to the basic Catholic tenet that each of us is made in the wonderful image and likeness of God, as our Creator. Therefore, we each hold unique skills and abilities and that is why we welcome everyone to our parish and our altar. In fact, if you asked me to get up and lead the assembly in song, I would fail miserably, unlike Charlie or Maria who amaze me every week! Likewise, I might prepare a pretty standard sandwich, but Lorraine would make me cower to one of her tasty meals! You see, it would not be due to my lack of effort or desire either, because I love to sing and cook! But since I wasn’t blessed with those particular talents, I’ve found other segments of church life to get involved with and where I excel.

The same concept applies to each of you! Each of us brings something new and different to the parish that makes us vital and strong! We can all work towards a similar goal, but we may get to the end result in a different way or time frame. That is why this fall, I ask you to pray and take a closer look at the many ways you might shine within our own walls!

Perhaps God is calling you to be refreshed and teach a child, read His holy word as a lector, serve at Mass as an acolyte, care for the linens and paraments we use as a sacristan, or become more involved with pastoral care, or one of our Small Groups? Perhaps God is also calling you back to a regular rhythm in Mass attendance, giving to support our work, or joining us for Thursday liturgy, rosary, or the newly announced Adoration time? After all, God has done so much for us…for you…for your family…is it not time to give something back?

Let’s all go back to our roles next week with a refreshed purpose – following the servant leadership model that Jesus set as an example. Know that no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes – including me. Strive to lovingly hold ourselves and others accountable for their commitments and work to overcome short-comings and obstacles together. But let us rejoice and show the world what makes Saint Miriam so special…all of us old brooms have now become renewed!

 


All My Goodbyes Hurt.

 
 

Pope Francis spoke recently on the ministry and life of priests and on priestly training, noting the priests’ role as coming from the community and being for the community. He added that the family, the domestic Church, is the center of pastoral work, stating that “the relationship between priests and other people … given that the vocation to the priesthood is a gift that God gives to some for the good of all.”

Yes, I believe this more and more. When I left hospital chaplaincy to enter parish work, my life changed. I was very happy as a Trauma Chaplain, but God wanted me here; to build a parish. So I went where I was called. It has not been easy, but it has been very rewarding despite the great hardships and sacrifices. But, in parish ministry I have learned the one great truth: I am always saying goodbye and every goodbye hurts just like the last.

Sometimes I have found that folks think we are like superhuman, devoid of feelings or needs. The Holy Father said this best when he stated that “Priests are not ‘mushrooms’ which sprout up suddenly in the cathedral on the day of their ordination.” Yes, we come from you, serve you, are you. We feel and we hurt, too, just like you.

These past few months, I have tended to and cared for a dear parishioner. She has become part of my life and inseparable from the very soul of this parish. She has been ill for quite some time, but despite her illness she has attended Mass faithfully, had me over for dinner several times, called me at least once weekly to check in on me, opened her heart and her home to my presence, and never once failed to give financially to help us grow. She prays for us, our parish and people, prays for me, and all the while was withering away from the effects of cancer that somehow would not cease.

I have prayed to God for relief and mercy. I have even asked God to allow me to become sick again with my brain tumor if it would relieve her of hers. I have begged God not to take this one; not this one who loves so deeply and lives so well. This week, she went to hospice care. Soon, she will go to be where we all long to be. I am not a mushroom. I hurt.

The hardest part of being a pastor is always saying goodbye. It seems that I am forever saying goodbye to someone. Former staff, disgruntled parishioners who feel their voice was more important than others, or to those with hidden agendas that do not mesh well with us here at Saint Miriam. We live by mutual respect and a deep love for God that is to trump our own needs. We live by the Saint Miriam Covenant.

Sadly, there are a few times when the parting is intentional. That is, after all, my job as a pastor. In the last eight years of our life together, I have only asked three parishioners to stake a step back from their attending here. The issues are always related to addiction, or some psychological needs, or harming others. I have not just sent them in their way, but offered support and advice and resources, as well as an open door to come back one day. Mostly they refuse and lash out at me in anger, but I have a parish to protect. All of you.  So I accept the abuse and then go back to my office and cry.

I have also had to ask a couple of staff members to go, too. Not because they were not good people deep down, but because they lied, or were deceitful, or refused to give and to serve. I cannot always tell you why I let them go, but you should know me well enough by now to know that I tried to work it out, gave them every opportunity to change or make amends, but in the end, it is always about you when that difficult decision is made. You see, you cannot be here at the parish if you are not willing to put others first and to honor the collar around your neck. You cannot serve here if you cannot live a life of honesty and integrity, including your faults and flaws.

So the truth is hard, but it is very true: We are not a psychiatrists, and this is not a counseling center, or a hospital, and when the needs or instability of the one begin to infringe, harm, or abuse the whole, I must step in and ask that they seek help and support from qualified persons or leave us, at least for a time. I do not stop caring or loving or praying, but my job is to care and to protect all of us from harm. This is a church.

Over the next few days, I will do what I always am called to do – what I have done so many countless times already in my life as a priest – and help someone cross from this life into the arms of a God who always is love. I will do so with the integrity of my office as a priest. I will do so as a caring pastor who has given everything that I have, and all that own, to build this parish. I will do so as a man who loves deeply and was given this chance to serve by folks like you who forgave my mistakes and my sinfulness and allowed me to serve you. But, I will surely grieve. I will hurt. I already am…

So I pray you will stay in the water and see what God wants of us next, even when you don’t quite get it.  And I leave you with the real lessons that I have learned in all my hellos and all my goodbyes. I’ve learned that goodbyes will always hurt, pictures never replace having been there, memories good or bad will bring tears and words can never replace feelings. And, oh ya, and one more…trusting is hard, but think of those 12 when Jesus left…
 
 


My Life as I Date St. Francis and Honor God.

 

My blog is late! I know. Sorry. I have been a little busy with the Synod. Have you ever been in a room with 25 clergy all day long?

Yesterday we ordained a new priest and we also renewed our own priestly vows and our vows of obedience to the bishop. It was moving and heartfelt. It was good to be among my family, my brothers in the presbyterate, parishioners, friends, and my sisters in faith as we gathered in one place and welcomed God into our lived anew. And, later today, we will welcome home two new Franciscan Friars and I will renew my own Solemn vows. I don’t need to, as I have made my Solemn Profession and live it every day, but I want to with my brothers as a way to remind me and those around me that I believe…

You see, the vows and the vow formula are always the same, those in Simple Profession have the same commitment as someone like myself who has made his Solemn Profession, but it is renewable every four to seven years, as a reminder of who we are. Did you catch that? I said who, not what. What we are is who we are as Franciscans. It permeates our very being, our actions, our thoughts, and the way we see the world around us. We live as Friars in a world that thinks us sometimes mad. We serve, and give, repulse and attract, and care for, and sometimes bleed all in the name of our Seraphic Father, St. Francis. It is who we are.

As I stood in our Sanctuary yesterday during the ordination, and later as we gathered for our Sacred Meal Dinner, I thought about how much I really love this way of life and the community that I have come to be a part of and embraced by over the last eight years. I also thought about how powerful and moving the profession formula is. I don’t think there is a prayer, especially within the Franciscan tradition, that I love more than the profession formula.

For me, it contains a richness and beauty that bespeaks the desire one has to follow in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi in living the Gospel, keeping always in mind and making a priority the communal dimension of our way of life in the world. It is a strong a reminder of what our way of life is about: prayer, ministry, all that we are about — in community.  It was, in many ways, the community that first drew me to religious life; to belong. And, in many ways, it is what continues to nourish and sustain my vocation now as a priest here at Saint Miriam.

Like Baptism, religious profession is always about relationship. We are joined together in a unique way: in Baptism, we are united to one another and to Christ in the Spirit; in religious profession, we are united in community to live the Holy Gospel. We are called now to share now with others, albeit and admittedly however imperfectly, striving ever more to live for the One who has called us in the first place to find in the Communion of Saints, the Body of Christ – the living and the dead – the strength to follow Christ and become who we are called to be one day, “With the help of my brothers”, as states the most moving line for me.

So here it is, a portion of the profession formula we will hear later today. 
 

Therefore with all my heart

I give myself to this brotherhood

That through the work of the Holy Spirit,

The intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary,

Our Father Francis and all the saints,

And with the help of my brothers

I may fulfill my consecration

To the service of God and of the Church.

This I promise.
 
 
Yes, this I do promise again, as I continue to be in love and date the God of all…
 
Thank you to all who have so kindly offered their love and prayers for me. Please pray for me, a sinner.