Category Archives: A Concord Pastor

Welcome to the People of Our Lady of Grace, Ballston Lake

A few weeks ago, I noticed that dear friend of the blog, Fr. Austin Fleming aka, The Concord Pastor (from Concord, MA)  had a post welcoming the people of Ballston Lake, NY.  Needless to say, this caught my eye and I realized that the Our Lady of Grace (Ballston Lake) bulletin has some suggested website links, one of which was A Concord Pastor Comments.  Of course I love all small world/community reminders and this one struck close to home and heart in many ways.

Now as it happens, I get the OLG bulletin in the mail where I work since we are in the same parish cluster. I was most delighted and honored to see that our parish blog was on the current week’s selection of recommended websites! Thank you brothers and sisters of Our Lady of Grace!

If anyone stops by from the community of Our Lady of Grace, welcome to you! And I will use this space to send welcoming prayers and wishes to Dorothy Sokol, soon to be the new Parish Life Director at OLG. I got to meet Dorothy at a diocesan conference last week and she seems delightful.

This is how we are Church in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany – which is a very wonderful place to be Church.

I will close with a video of Marty Haugen’s “All Are Welcome.”  That is how we are church, by making room at the table, welcoming all as we would welcome Christ.

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Filed under A Concord Pastor, Community, Father Austin Fleming, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

Pentecost Novena 2010 – Day 1

Last year I was able to offer a novena for these days between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost. This is an important and powerful time of prayer – the post resurrection Jesus has ascended into heaven and has promised us the Holy Spirit, which we know will come on Pentecost.

If you are from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany you know that we just had our annual catechetical event, Spring Enrichment. This week kept me pretty busy and as a result I have not been able to prepare a novena this year.

One of the gifts of the internet and blogging is community and one of the gifts of community is that we can share.

Great friend of the blog, Father Austin Fleming, who blogs at A Concord Pastor Comments, is offering a novena on his blog. I am linking to it here and will keep a link to it on the sidebar of the blog until Pentecost.

Thank you Father Austin for giving us a chance to pray with you and your readers.

From his blog:

The oldest novena is the prayer of the first disciples (Mary, the apostles and other believers) from the time Jesus ascended to his Father (40 days after Easter) to the feast of Pentecost. These nine days are a time for us to pray for the coming of the Spirit upon the Church and upon each of us. Each day of the novena you will find a post with scripture and prayer for that day. For your prayer, I’ve added a widget at the top of the sidebar with 17 musical selections for Pentecost.

Pentecost Novena to the Holy Spirit – Day 1

From the scriptures:

Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices;

you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor,
she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;

but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.John 16:20-23

For reflection…
 Continue reading at the link….

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Filed under A Concord Pastor, Ascension to Pentecost Novena, Father Austin Fleming

Meeting Another Blogger, An Ecumenical Pentecost and Jesus’ Jewish Life

Blogging has been a real gift for me – and if you are reading this, I hope it is a gift for you too!!

I was very fortunate to meet another blogger recently. On Pentecost Sunday I had to go to the Boston area as my cousin was being ordained as a rabbi.

A quick trip to the google machine revealed that this ordination was about 30 minutes away from this parish, which is home to this blogging priest. A road trip was forming in my mind already.

It was wonderful to be at the Lord’s table with Fr. Austin. The liturgy was very beautiful and the music was sublime! After reading his homilies weekly, I finally got to hear one! And on Pentecost no less. It was not a surprise to find that I was in the presence of a very gifted homilist.

Fr. Austin Fleming and Me after coffee talk.

Austin and I got to sit down for about 30 minutes after mass and enjoy some coffee and conversation. And even a big attention hound like myself was a bit embarrassed as he introduced me to one person after another as “St. Edward’s blog.” I guess I find it hard to keep quiet in the comments just like in real life.

Another serendipitous gift of all of this is that I have another friend that I have met via blogging (and now in real life too),Jane Redmont. Jane used to work with Austin at another parish in Boston, some years ago. (On Saturday Father Butler pointed out that Austin was a published author, something that I did not know. And I thought I googled everyone, but I guess not! Jane is also published, that is one of her books to the right.)

Afterward I drove to the temple and experienced the wonderful ordination. It is another gift in my life that I am close to this branch of my Jewish family. My cousin Jeff who is a bit older than me spent about 28 years as a reform rabbi; now his son James is a conservative rabbi.

My cousin – the newly ordained Rabbi James Kahn

Whenever I attend a Jewish service of any kind I am reminded that it was the love of and the study of Torah that was behind so much of Jesus’ ministry. The prayers and rituals are what Jesus would have prayed – not the prayers or liturgy that we celebrate.

This is James’Tallit or prayer shawl. It was presented to him at ordination; it is in a silk case with his Hebrew name embroidered on it, a little hard to see due to the light color.

Whenever I speak with my family – whenever I see them, pray with them, just be with them, I am ever moved at how different and yet how similar our faith is. There are many more similarities in our lives than differences.

That is part of the great unfolding of tradition and salvation as we know it and it is very beautiful to behold and be a part of!

Our faith lives and how we live them are very much determined on how we live, love walk and pray with one another… and not just how we are with God. Those are easy words to write and can be a challenge to live.

This is what Pentecost tries to tell us – hear in one voice, be one, understand one another. We all make our meek adjustments as we try to do this in varying degrees, on Pentecost… and always.

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Filed under A Concord Pastor, Father Butler, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, Judaism, Pentecost

Love One Another – Our Gospel Imperative

I would say that the Gospel we hear this weekend is as clear as any… Love one another.

That’s pretty clear. If we have any doubt about its veracity, let us look at the second reading, from John which very clearly states the same.

Love one another.

Yet we as humans generally stink at this. Oh, but to keep trying.

It struck me as I prayed with the first reading for this Sunday that Peter, and who would know better than he would, says, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.” He says this to Cornelius, who has fallen at his feet, in homage.

I myself am also a human being. When I read those words many thoughts follow. I am human, sometimes I fall in homage, sometimes I fall in error. I do know this – I fall.

Love one another.

Do I love you when you fall? If you fall in homage, unlikely thought that might be, in front of me, do I possess the humility to address you as Peter addressed Cornelius?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I must admit to having a bit of ego issue at times. It is at once my gift and my challenge.

Love one another.

Sometimes I fall in error, I do that quite a bit. Most times God sends the grace to have me do my falling in front of those who seem to follow this “love one another” business. That is all pure gift, grace indeed.

When you fall, do I love you? I try, but honestly, I stink at it. I am often prone to anger issues. Now, on the plus side, I don’t hold onto my anger. On the very negative side, my anger is strong when it comes out. There are people reading these pages who know exactly what I am speaking about. Luckily for me, they seem to pay attention, more than I do, to Jesus’ words.

Love one another.

This weekend, the President of the United States will be the commencement speaker at Notre Dame. I am not even going to link to any posts or stories, no doubt you have seen many of them.

There is a huge outcry around this, very powerful and on both sides of the fence. Honestly, it has engaged Catholics unlike many other issues and I am ever reminded that God uses all things for good. (See Romans 8:28.)

Love one another.

Time and time again, I think of my own conversion – an ongoing and ever dynamic movement that is present every moment of my life. If I let it, that is.

Oh I was so slow to move on certain issues. Feel free to read between the lines on that one, it should be clear.

And yet, over time, God found ways to change my heart. It was far from instantaneous. However, change did come and far more recently than anyone might imagine.

Love one another.

Have I shocked you? Do you not love me now? I know that I often get kicked around on some Catholic blogs for discussing this. How dare I have the audacity to show up at the table under these circumstances? I wonder how we can keep having the “who is a better Catholic conversation” and yet be true and authentic to our faith! (Here is an interesting column on that conversation – click here. H/T to Deacon Greg for that one.)

Love one another.

What other choice did I have? I guess I could have waited to change and then showed up, but how would the change have happened if I did not keep showing up?

If someone can answer that one for me, please let me know.

Love one another.

So as I ponder the synchronicity of this Sunday’s readings and the Notre Dame event, as I ponder my own faith and how I have lived it I am struck with awe and gratitude.

And frustration.

Love one another. (this is exhausting, isn’t it?)

So I shall simply close quoting the blog of of Fr. Austin, the Concord Pastor, :

I see Father Ted Hesburgh quoted as saying that “visits to campus of leaders has never changed the campus but has often changed the visitor.” One can only hope and pray for this outcome.

Love one another.

It is the only way that both the visitor and the visited can engage, be transformed and to transform others.

Love one another.

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Filed under A Concord Pastor, Deacon Greg kandra, Father Austin Fleming, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, The Deacon's Bench

Leading With Our Wounds

Today’s readings are so rich and wonderful. It is easy to think that Easter is over but Easter is truly 50 full days. (please see the graphic at the bottom part of the box at the link, thanks to Father Bosco Peters for this image.)

Easter – in all of its glorious fullness is the foundation of everything we do as people of God.

On Saturday I had a brief conversation about the readings with Father Pat and he spoke about how “Jesus was leading with his wounds.” I really loved how he articulated that. Think about this for a moment in the context of who Jesus is and how we live.

If you were to encounter Jesus and showed up as we see in the familiar Carvaggio painting above, would you put your hand in the wound?

One of the things that I love about that painting is the way that Thomas is really looking hard and reaching in, as the other disciples peer over his shoulder. Look at Thomas’ finger and how it probes, study the expression on his face and in his eyes! How the other disciple’s hand hold’s Thomas’… as if to pull it back. And how Jesus’ hand pulls back and holds his robe so that this investigation can occur without impediment or delay. He truly opens himself us for us, in a most profound way.

Imagine that the Risen Jesus walks into your house and exposes his abdomen to you. Will you stick your hand in? Will you look deeply at the piercing in his side?

We tend to bandage our wounds – there is a health and hygiene reason for that, but think about it metaphorically if you can. We hide our wounds. We take medicines, we bind our wounds, we invest in scar cream to rub into them as they close. We don’t want to see a trace.

Yet it is our very wounds that make us who we are, particularly as Catholic Christians. Go into other churches… In due respect, you are not very likely to see the corpus on the Cross. While some find it garish, Jesus is left upon the cross to reign from there for a reason.

It is only through our wounds where we may be healed. It is only through such bloody wounds that humanity might be redeemed. And we cannot hide those wounds! In imitation we must expose them for the world to see and believe.

This is not to stay on the surface and think only about atonement as a transaction. This is to say that we must truly enter into the wounds ourselves and then to lead with them as Jesus.

As much as I like to think, pray and write about this, it is hard work and needs to be done on a continuum, not as a single transaction.

It is essential to remember all of our wounds – our fear, our despair, our doubt and disbelief, our vulnerability, our neediness, our anger, our abandonment, our whatever – and to let them be seen, felt, explored and thus healed.

The Risen Jesus leads with his wounds, opening himself up and revealing them for all to see. They are to be seen, felt, explored and fully entered into as a way of transforming the world.

I am closing this post with additional images of based on the Carvaggio painting. This was inspired by blog friend and Catholic priest, Father Austin Fleming. He has put up a post with these images. They say that imitation is flattery and I guess in this case it is! Thank you Fr. Austin for your words and your wisdom, so consistently delivered via your blog!

My apologies to those who are a fan of Kinkade’s art. Like the Concord Pastor, this image just brought a smile to my face and is, as he put it, a great visual pun.


Filed under A Concord Pastor, Father Austin Fleming, Father Bosco Peters, Father Butler, Jesus

Holy Week 2009 – Wednesday (with update)

I had some very lofty plans for Holy Week posting. And as is often the case (pardon my turn of phrase here!), Fran proposes, God disposes.

What I have been working on for today, Wednesday has just not worked. And since we are in a time that truly reminds us of just whose will is to be done, I surrender.

In my frustration I stopped writing and re-writing and decided to go read some other Catholic blogs. One of my first stops was a favorite, A Concord Pastor Comments. If you do not know Father Austin I suggest you go meet him over there. He appears to be a true pastor and has wisdom and grace, at least in his “blog pulpit.” Since I know someone who knows him (ah the small world of blogging) I have been told that this is true in real life.

His post for today is called Spy Wednesday. I urge you to read it; it is really good. That said, I am going to offer my reflections on Father Austin’s reflections.

Father Austin says this:

Here’s a contemporary setting of the Agnus Dei by Rufus Wainwright. This is not for every taste. What strikes me about it is the musical connection between the depths of our betrayal and sinfulness and the mercy of God: that God’s mercy meets us in our sinfulness for that is where we need the Lord.

The emphasis is my own. “God’s mercy meets us in our sinfulness for that is where we need the Lord.”

Like someone cleaning the house so that the housekeeper can come to clean, “getting good” for God is something that I have done and still do. Maybe you do the same thing? In any case, it is a pointless exercise. Let the housekeeper clean. Let God be God.

As our own Father Pat often reminds us, the key issue of course is that all this “soul scrubbing” (my term, I read it somewhere recently and it has stuck with me) puts the emphasis on us and not on God.

Let God be God. Period.

So what does that have to do with Jesus, Judas and Holy Week? (*UPDATE* Here is a great link from the Commonweal blog regarding today’s readings and Judas. Click here to read J. Peter Nixon’s post.)

Judas made a decision that he was going to engineer his own situation and with that, he used his sinfulness to turn away from God. He put gain and betrayal before all. And not just any gain or betrayal, but in relation to Jesus, to God.

Through this and through so much more, we are reminded of God’s great mercy and love, we are reminded of our complete dependence on a salvific love that transforms us, if we but let it do so. That is true metanoia, that complete turn of transformational change and not just an adjustment. It would seem that metanoia only happens in this place of complete surrender to God’s mercy.

Father Austin included this piece of music, referred to above, which I found hard to listen to and yet very moving. I hope you will consider its dissonant cries as we approach the Triduum.

Agnus Dei – Rufus Wainwright

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Filed under A Concord Pastor, Father Butler, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, Holy Week 2009, Metanoia

A Prayer for A New President – A Link to The Concord Pastor’s Blog

Regardless of how one feels about the person of Barack Obama, he is about to undertake a most momentous and historic step in history as our first African-American president. Our country and our world is in need of healing and I for one pray that we find our way in peace and in hope.

Prayer – it is the one thing we can always do.

One of my favorite bloggers, Father Austin Fleming has put up a really wonderful prayer on his blog, A Concord Pastor Comments, today. You can find that by clicking here.

I will also put it right here for you to see, but I would always recommend a visit to the Concord Pastor, he has many words of wisdom to share with us almost daily.

The average pastor, rabbi or imam is never in the running for praying at the inauguration of a new president – and for that I’m grateful. But I’m sure that as well as praying for the new occupant of the Oval Office, men and women in pastoral positions, including me, wonder what they might have prayed had they been invited to offer an invocation at the swearing-in of our 44th president. Here’s what I might have prayed… here’s what I do pray… please pray with me…

O God,
upon this man, our new president,
shower your wisdom
that he might govern America
in the light of your truth.

Give him vision to see the future’s demands
and a love for the past
upon whose history we stand.

Grant him inner strength to bear the office
to which the nation and the world look
for guidance and leadership.

Give him a love for the law
the keeps us from chaos
and orders our lives for the common good.

Endow him with strength to make difficult decisions
and with courage to be faithful
to judgments made.

Instill in him a respect and reverence for life
in all its shapes and forms,
especially for the most innocent and defenseless.

Give him a heart for the hungry and the homeless,
for victims of disease and war,
for those everywhere in need of a share of others’ abundance.

Grant him good counsel on the economy
lest our wealth consume us or be consumed
by our foolishness and greed.

Make him a man of peace and a maker of peace,
at home and abroad,
and in his own heart as he stands before you.

Make him a leader of all Americans
and of Americans on all sides of many issues:
make him a president we can trust.

Let the wisdom of your truth,
the rule of good law
and the promise of liberty and justice for all
guide our new president and the people he serves.

God, we pray that you bless America
and President Barack Obama
who begins this day to lead us.


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Filed under A Concord Pastor, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn