Of Memories and Bronze Stars…

Today I will bury my dad. It still doesn’t seem real. My dad will not have the tributes of a fallen officer, nor the attendance of throngs lining the streets like a diplomat or lost president, but to us – his family and friends gathered – he is just as important and just as worthy. His memorial will be much like the manner in which he lived: simple, unadorned, intimate, surrounded by those who knew and loved him best. My dad gave me the greatest gift I have ever received because it was my dad that believed in me unconditionally. You see, even when I was at my worst, my dad loved me for the best that I could be. In many ways, my dad saw me as God did, perfect and whole.

When I was in seminary, I had the chance to study aboard, and before I committed to becoming a Franciscan, I wanted to experience the Benedictines. I stayed for a month at a beautiful monastery in Normandy France called, Abbaye Notre-Dame du Bec. It was a silent monastery where they prayed and worked for the love of God in the world. They prayed for healing and for our needs and they were self-sustaining in their ‘walled off’ living. They paused seven times a day to gather and pray in a simple chapel with chestnut-colored wooden pews; they lived out the mantra, ‘a day of prayer punctuated by work’ and they did so with such deliberateness and intentionality that one could not but admire their simple prayer life. They wanted nothing in return, they just prayed for others’ needs. They were monks and the life they lived was simple, beautiful, and much like my father, many will never know their names, but their actions will live for an eternity in the pages of the Creator who gave them breath in this life.

Almost every day I would watch as the monks labored in two main efforts to sustain their community: some would create beautiful works of pottery for sale in their gift shop, and others would make some of the best wine I had ever tasted. (I don’t think they mixed the two or the pottery would never have been finished!) My confidant became Brother Aelred. He knew enough English to help me get along and to understand the rhythm of the place where I had been so welcomed, and when he was permitted to speak, I learned much. Again, just like my dad. And since I knew almost no French, this became a great influence to my ability to learn and to grow in my faith and spirituality and to discern what God wanted of my life and me.


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A Christmas Remembering by Our Pastor.

It’s hard to believe that yet another Christmas is upon us! It will be our fifth year here on December 24th. Unbelievable, really! Almost seven years ago, Sean and I sat in a large, cavernous rented space at a Jewish synagogue called Mishkan Shalom in Roxborough. We began with our first Mass the Sunday after Easter. (There was no way we were planning for the Great Easter Triduum our first time out of the shoot, and, truth-be-told, we did not know if anyone would even show up!) At first, apart from a few friends, no one came. Week in and week out, not a single soul. We sat in the windows on the third floor of that sanctuary overlooking the parking lot and the “Ugly Moose” across the way, and no one came, but we remained faithful. We wanted to give up, but instead we dug in, prayed, and paid the rent from what little savings we had left. When that money ran dry – we resorted to credit cards and bank loans. We honored the Celebration of the Mass every Thursday and every Sunday no matter what, and oftentimes it was just the two of us sitting there. We have since invested all of my retirement account and almost half of every dollar I have earned since that day. I regret none of it. I am a priest. This is my parish. I would do it again. My reward is being with all of you and one day, being with my Creator. Until then, I labor as I should.

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