Mary, Don’t You Weep for Me

(This blog post was meant to go up last week, and regrettably did not get posted. Many thanks to parishioner and author of the post, Charles Burre.)
p1050156On Monday we attended our granddaughter Nora’s preschool Christmas pageant. She was chosen to play Mary, but she was not feeling well on the day of the pageant. When the director told her to look tired, she did not have to change her expression at all. As I reviewed my pictures on the computer and saw this one, a song recorded by Bruce Springsteen, “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep No More” started playing in my head. I knew I had to put this on Facebook. I could not recall the exact words of the song so I titled the post “Mary Don’t You Weep for Me.” The more I thought about my title, the more I liked it.

Besides the pangs of childbirth, Mary had many occasions to be brought to tears. At the Presentation in the Temple, Simeon told Mary that her son’s life would be opposed by many and that she would be “pierced by a sword.” When Jesus was twelve, his parents lost track of him for three days only to find him teaching in the Temple. We are told that Mary “kept these things in her heart.” Of course, Mary’s agony was the greatest during Jesus’ passion and death. I am sure that during these times that Jesus wanted to say “Mary don’t you weep for me, we’ll get through it.”

Today we are concerned about the future of our country, our world, and our Church. On a personal level, we may be fraught with anxieties or grief due to illnesses, material needs, family strife, or the loss of a loved one. In these times we need to know that Jesus is by our side saying, “We’ll get through it.”

In the Advent readings we find the assurance that God has brought his people through many times of trial and that the promised Messiah will provide a new and lasting deliverance. This Messiah, Jesus, has revealed to us how much God loves us and wants us to be his children. For me, the message of Advent this year is “We’ll get through it.”


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Advent blog update

thumbGreetings to all! As you might have noticed, it has been a long time since anything was posted. Typically Advent postings would start right about now, but I am not sure that will happen with any real consistency. I am sorry about that, but sometimes the field must be fallow for new things to grow.

This was a very different year in my life, and as editor of this blog, things slipped. No excuses, just a year that was unlike any other. Not that there were problems, just other preoccupations and responsibilities. In the end I never sent out my typical email calling for posts, nor did I get anything into the bulletin. I am sorry.

Advent does begin this evening and I wish you a most blessed one. This is a liturgical season of waiting and watching. Maybe we can pray together to wait, watch, and discern where this blog is going after 9 years. A reboot and redesign may be in order, or a retirement? I’m not sure.

Having said that – if you have something that you would like to reflect on this Advent, please contact me. I welcome all reflections and posts. If you have ideas about the blog, please let me know. It would be great to refashion it and go forward, something I would love to do in community and not in isolation.

Let us hold one another in prayer. May the peace of this season be yours!


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Why God, why? By John Koubek

Why-Pic(Parishioner John Koubek approached me about posting this column. Here is his introduction, which is a powerful invitation for us all in the Year of Mercy. Thank you John!)

How many times have we asked this question when we are confronted with so much tragedy and suffering in the world! God, why!

Maureen Dowd’s column entitled “Why, God?” appeared in the New York Times on December 25, 2012, and it was authored by a priest friend of hers. This was shortly after the tragedy in Newton, CT where 20 children and 7 adults were murdered.

How does one celebrate Christmas with the fresh memory of 20 children and 7 adults ruthlessly murdered in Newtown; with the searing image from Webster of firemen rushing to save lives ensnared in a burning house by a maniac who wrote that his favorite activity was “killing people”? How can we celebrate the love of a God become flesh when God doesn’t seem to do the loving thing? If we believe, as we do, that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, why doesn’t He use this knowledge and power for good in the face of the evils that touch our lives?

The killings on the cusp of Christmas in quiet, little East Coast towns stirred a 30-year-old memory from my first months as a priest in parish ministry in Boston. I was awakened during the night and called to Brigham and Women’s Hospital because a girl of 3 had died… (read the entire piece here)

Her friend and priest Father Kevin responds to the question of “God, why” as a meditation. The truest answer that Father Kevin gives is that he does not know.

Father Kevin does believe that God enters the world through us and that we can be a comfort and healing to those who are suffering and points out “How we are with one another in that suffering and dying makes all the difference as to whether God’s presence is felt or not and whether we are comforted or not.”

In this Jubilee Year designated by Pope Francis as a year of Mercy, Father Kevin quotes a contemporary theologian who describes Mercy as “entering into the chaos of another.” What a wonderful description of Mercy by being Jesus to those who are suffering!

– John Koubek


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UPDATED The pope on the family

Ce37JtsUIAAVT_DToday we have the release of Post-Synodal Aposotlic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia
of the Holy Father Francis to Bishops, Priests, and Deacons,Consecrated Persons,Christian Married Couples, and all the Lay Faithful on Love in the Family. That is quite a title! The document was released about half an hour ago. At 260 pages, it will take me awhile to go through it, but here are some places to begin.

First up – the link to the PDF of the exhortation in English from the Vatican website. As I said, it is long.

Our second link, from William T. Ditewig writing at Aleteia says tells us that Pope Francis says this early on in the document:

“Given the rich fruits of the two-year Synod process, this Exhortation will treat, in different ways, a wide variety of questions. This explains its inevitable length. Consequently, I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text” (AL 7).

Our third link comes from Fr James Martin SJ offers us his top 10 takeaways in a piece from America magazine.This particular sentence struck me: “We should no longer talk about people ‘living in sin.’” To which I add a very loud AMEN!

There are many more things to read (see updates below), but Continue reading

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Giving in, getting to yes



(Yes, I know – hiatus. Back briefly on this day.)

51dTCidubqL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_Many years ago, when I was an toiling away in corporate America, I used to call myself an E.L.F. – or executroid life form. It was a joke meant to poke fun at a world around me. It seemed that we were less and less focused on people, and more focused on getting sales and good numbers, whatever that meant. Today as I reflected on this, I thought of a business book that was popular many years ago, “Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher and William Ury. (I never did read the book, so none of this is commentary on it, just the title.)

aaunknownThis is on my mind because today is the moved Feast of the Annunciation. This is of course the triumph of Mary’s fiat, or yes. Mary’s yes had nothing to do with negotiations, Mary’s yes was a surrender to God. Imagine that in this political climate, surrender as a path to glory. It happens that today is also the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. I love the tension held between two days of profound meaning and memo

mlkDr. King did not surrender to the forces around him, but he did surrender to God. In doing so, he was called “the most dangerous man in America” by none other than the head of the FBI at the time, J. Edgar Hoover. I thought about how Mary’s yes turned into Jesus’ life. He too, the One that was the underpinning of Dr. King’s life and work, was thought of as a most dangerous man of his own time.

Mary, Jesus, and Dr. King have this in common, they all surrendered to God by saying yes. And by saying yes they did not “win” in the sense that we consider winning. They said yes and found sorrow, and cruel death in the case of Jesus and MLK. Yet, by every spiritual standard they triumphed. Without giving in to the forces around them.

Dr. King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Mary said yes and the Light came into the world. Jesus said yes and light became the eternal illumination of life everlasting. King said yes because he was committed to justice – all built on a foundation in Christ. Saying yes in this way means giving in to the Light of Christ, to being that Light in the world.

How will you give in today? How – and to whom or what – will you say yes?


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Bury fear, resurrect love, keep Easter

50_days_easter_graphic_webIt happened about midday on Monday, as I sat at my desk. It happens every year, in every way, but this year it hit me hard; perhaps I was snappish in my reply, I don’t know. This “it” is something we’ve likely all said or thought over the years. The gentleman sitting before me, a very “churched” person said, “I bet you’re glad that Easter is OVER!”

The snappish bit? When I looked up and (was I roaring like a lion?) and said, “Easter has just begun! Easter is 50 days! Easter is not over, it never is!” (H/t Bosco Peters.)

Keeping Easter Continue reading

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Now we begin

resurrection-of-christ-with-angels-orthodox-christian-icon-11On Good Friday we hear Jesus say:

“It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Today what was before us is gone and now we begin.

When I was growing up in the 60’s, I went to a more old fashioned church, a mission parish, very tiny, and traditional. The changes from Vatican II trickled in, but I have very vivid memories of Latin masses, incense, the works. Yet it was not a strict and scolding message, which many others may have heard. Yet, I was told that Jesus died for my sins. Mostly this made me feel weird; I would want to ask what I was supposed to do about that. I did feel badly, because I had appropriated that we are all bad at some level – but I was also assured of the love of Christ, so somehow it was more balanced

Now I recoil at the punitive message that some Christians, Catholics included, that Jesus died for my sins. Yesterday I even saw a bumper sticker with font that emphasized those words, “Jesus died for YOUR sins!” Yikes. No wonder people run away.

Yet – Jesus did indeed do just that.

9b84c9b0a13cb7bf720b7445be51d63eBeing a self-focused people we love to make things about ourselves. Imagining a Dana Carvey church lady moment, in my head I hear, “Hmmmm, you are just a bad person! Tsk, tsk! Jesus died for your sins, because you ______ .” Go ahead, fill in the blank. “Oh Jesus, I’m so bad, I lied, and I manipulated certain circumstances, and I cheated, and I…. ” We can all say that. But sometimes I think we get caught up in some obscure details, for example – lying. Let me say that I have told a big lie. I go to confession, I say that I lied, and then I do my penance. That was the “old days” anyway. Today, a good confessor will probe a little, stirring up the murky waters of my conscience, asking what that lying might be about. Now we are getting somewhere. Lent offers us that opportunity every year, to really dig deep, not for the purpose of guilt and self-flagellation, but Continue reading

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Do you want to live?

the-crucifixion-1311.jpg!BlogA vaccine is made up of something that might harm us, but is used in such a way to give us a dose of it so that we might remain well. Homeopathic medicine has the “law of the similars” which says that substances that might cause ill, when used in particular doses, heal. I’m sure you see a theme emerging.

Once I met a woman who was deadly allergic to cats, but she fell in love with a man who was a cat person. She realized that if they were to ever find happiness, she would need a solution. She told me that she would go up to the cats and hold them to her face, breathing them in, causing congestion and asthma. Eventually she said the symptoms lessened, and her allergy was gone. Love and happiness ensued.

We were at a party when she told this story. A few people, despite seeing a young woman of robust good health before them asked why she would risk her life by going head first – literally – into what might have killed her. Her reply was simple – because of love.

Today we are faced with the Cross. The conundrum of death leading to new life hits is before us. Will we take some of the poison in order that we might be healed?
With that thought in mind I find myself going to John 5:6 when Jesus asks a man, “Do you want to be well?” Today I ask myself – do I want to live?

If the answer to either question is yes, I have to do something. No, not the rugged independence of healing or saving myself, but rather the taking of the medicine that might kill me, so that I might live. In this case the medicine is the cross, a sure and certain death, so that I might live. In this context, the question of whether I want to live or not takes on a new meaning.

Of course I want to live. Don’t you? But are we willing to die in order to do so? Today we commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion. Many non-Catholics recoil at our crucifixes with dead, sometimes bloody Jesus on them. Someone recently wrote to me in an email, “The first thing you Catholics have to do is get rid of those awful crosses!”

But no. We are the Body of Christ. The incarnation, which is at the heart of all of this, God made flesh, demands that we, like the woman at the party, inhale deeply the scent of death. The only reason to do such a thing is love, the love of Christ.

What will you choose today? Good Friday after Good Friday, frankly – day after day – I want to be healed, I want to live, but I employ stupendously complicated mechanisms to avoid the cross. That’s why I need to see the whole picture, not seeing just a dead and bloodied man, but seeing open arms and the invitation to love and to life.

The question comes before us today in a special way. What will we choose? Do we want to be healed? Do we want to live? The only response for me is to open my arms, inhale deeply, and go to the cross. Christ is there. Will you be there too?

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Holy Thursday – ¡Presente!

Today we celebrate Holy Thursday and we remember the martyrdom of Blessed Oscar Romero. ¡Presente! – this is a term is meant to say that they who once were are with us now. So it is with Christ our Savior and with all those who have gone before us.


A young Romero celebrating mass.

Let us look at the words found in one of the Eucharistic Prayers that are used at mass in the Catholic church. They speak to what we do on Holy Thursday, and what we do every time we celebrate liturgy.

He always loved those who were his own in the world. When the time came for him to be glorified by you, his heavenly Father, he showed the depth of his love.

While they were at supper, he took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples, saying:

Take this, all of you, and eat it:
this is my body which will be given up for you.

In the same way, he took the cup, filled with wine. He gave you thanks, and giving the cup to his disciples, said:

Take this, all of you, and drink from it:
this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.

Take this,” Jesus said, “all of you, and eat it.” These words are powerful, a reminder of the real presence we know today. Christ made real and present, as Flannery O’Connor once famously said, “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.” That’s why on Holy Thursday, punctuated this year by the anniversary of Blessed Oscar Romero’s death, the real should be very clear to us. Things were very real for Romero as he was martyred while offering mass in El Salvador on this day in 1984. Make no mistake, we do not need martyrs for any
“real” to happen.

Today let us live deeply the meaning of eucharist, which is rooted in eucharistia, or thanksgiving. Let us live deeply that thanksgiving for the life of Christ, the lives of the saints and martyrs, meaning those known to us, and those unknown. Many an unnamed saint is an anonymous person to the world, but a treasure to God. Everything we do is very real, may the real presence of Jesus nourish us all, and give us strength.

(If you are in the Albany, NY area please join us for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Roman Catholic Community of St. Edward the Confessor in Clifton Park at 7:30pm. All are truly welcome.)

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Holy Week by Joanne DeNovio

Today’s Lenten reflection is based on John 13:21-33,36-38, and comes to us from parishioner Joanne DeNovio.

HolyWeek_2014_BannerSo here we are at the end of this Lenten season. In a few days we can bring back the chocolate, the sweets, the alcohol and anything else we choose as our fast this Lenten season.

Holy Week was always a special time for me when I was child and I still look forward to this week each year. Not only because I am able to end my fast…and it typically is from something sweet …but because Holy Week and the season of Lent was always a memorable time growing up in my Italian Catholic family. This time of the year was filled with so many traditions and customs that I treasure to this day.

When I was a child, preparation for Easter usually started with the hunt for the prettiest spring dress, Easter hat and patent letter shoes. My sister and I looked forward to wearing our matching dresses and were always thrilled on Easter Saturday to receive a small corsage of flowers from my dad to wear to church the next day.

I recall the delight of visiting my grandmother house during Holy week to witness and taste test the many Italian recipes she made that were reserved just for Easter.

italian-easter-bread4The Ricotta pie, Easter bread, and trays of Italian cookies that filled her kitchen would definitely compete with what see today at Bella Napoli bakery.Easter time also included coloring easter eggs, Easter egg hunts, the Easter bunny and so many more great traditions. But as I look back years later, I am so grateful that in our family it wasn’t all about the food, the clothes and the easter bunny. My parents made sure that my sister and I learned the real meaning of this season by passing on the Easter traditions of their Catholic faith.

In our house, every Friday during Lent meant that we fasted from meat and went to stations of the cross after school. I attended a Catholic elementary school and our parish church was right across the street from Continue reading

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