Category Archives: Father Austin Fleming

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

Developing Our Conscience

One of the Roman Catholic magazines that I try to read regularly, is America, the National Catholic Weekly, published by the Jesuits.  In my experience, there are always thought-provoking articles and essays, poetry, book and movie reviews; I highly recommend it.

This week one such essay really captivated me and that is this one from John F. Kavanaugh SJ, titled Uninformed Conscience.

We live in fractious moral times and Kavanaugh decides to tackle some of the implications of this in regard to our lives as Roman Catholics. Now this is hardly just a Roman Catholic issue, so I would urge anyone to read this piece.

Kavanaugh begins with the words of St. Thomas Aquinas on conscience:

“Conscience is a particular kind of judgment, a moral judgment, by which we apply our knowledge of good and evil to practical action.”

I think that most of us have some clear ideas – well founded or not – what we think is “right,” “good,” and “evil.” This is how we develop our conscience. However, conscience must be developed and that requires some actual work and challenge.

In the Roman Catholic Church, there are no shortage of opinions about all sorts of things and people claiming that they are “right” and that someone else is “evil” or “wrong.” Sometimes these pronouncements are made from ordained, but more often perhaps from one Catholic taking down another.

This is so destructive to community and to be destructive to community. I have heard so many people defend their position because they feel like they have a moral imperative to do this… And I understand that. However, when does moral imperative collide with strong personal and possibly un or under informed convictions? I can think of about a zillion times I have judged another unfairly, can you?

The more I learn, the less likely I am to judge, however, I can’t claim that I am free of this destructive behavior.  On the other hand, I suppose there must be some form of “correction” that has to come from somewhere.

I digress, but I wanted to bring forth the notion of how and why community matters and if we are attacking one another, we are dismembering the Body of Christ.

Kavanaugh goes on to deliver the line that I think has the most punch. It made me uncomfortable in a way that means I am invited to further examine it:

“As Aquinas would say, a conscience may be certain; but that does not mean it is correct. .”

Certain. But not correct.

This is an issue for us as Catholics and as American; it matters no matter what faith practice or nation we are from. It matters. I am focusing on this from a Catholic American perspective at this moment however.

We live in a time where ideas flow freely, and that is in general a good thing, but we must have some anchors, some place to put down, in our lives. An objective external standard is required… which is what I think Kavanaugh is referring to when he says:

Unfortunately, it is the resistance to evidence and information that marks so much of our present moral discourse. That is why the “marketplace” of ideas, or the “public square” has become so segmented and rigid.

We are so polarized… we say this all the time, but what does it mean? And what does talking about it do, if we can’t find ways in which to repair the places where we are torn?  If this were a living conversation, this is where someone might  (and has!) said to me, “Well you or so-and-so needs to get in line with the Church on that one!”

However, do most of us actually know what the teachings are? And even if we do, do we follow and believe them? And if we are to learn them, are we not obligated to have tremendous intellectual freedom to explore widely so that we might understand the context of the teaching?

I will add a big paragraph from the essay here, as I think it matters:

“In the world of politics and media, we find an increasing segmentation not only of markets but of convictions as well. Information is edited and selected to conform to the conviction of the viewer or the voter. Thus, information no longer informs or challenges one’s moral judgement; it only confirms opinion, whether that opinion is warranted or not. Spend one evening comparing the programs offered by MSNBC and Fox News. Compare Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz with Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. Whom do they ridicule? What is their presumed moral universe? What information do they never consider? If we listen to only one side of these polarities, we are not forming our judgment, we are propagandizing it.

We can’t just listen to one side, we can’t just learn one side. It doesn’t matter who or what your source is… Fox, MSNBC, America, Commonweal, The Weekly Standard, Mother Jones… we must examine multiple sides of issues. It is frankly dangerous to do consider little. Here the piece goes on to say:

“As for those who aspire to form the consciences of Catholic believers, they too must do more than make pronouncements. They must engage the evidence and data offered by those who dissent from their opinion.”

If there is one way in which I think we are called to heal, it is to come together in our Catholicity to find our communal conscience and our individual conscience. This really matters. In the world of cable news, blogs, Twitter and Facebook, how do we do this? It is not easy, but like any element of our faith practice, what is?

As Roman Catholic, our faith demands our obedience, which is based in listening. If we can’t listen, we can’t be obedient. In order to listen, we must open our hearts and our minds to really follow Jesus.

This is such hard work.

Friend of the blog, Fr. Austin at Concord Pastor has two excellent posts on this column. The first one posits that the Kavanaugh piece is one of the most important things that Fr. Austin has encountered in many years. The second one, here, is about how this impacts our youth. Please read them if you can.


Filed under Father Austin Fleming

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

Feast of the Transfiguration – UPDATED (see end of post)

I really wanted to be able to write something for today, which is the Feast of the Transfiguration. It is also the anniversary of Hiroshima, so there is something to pray about and ponder there. Here is a link to the readings for today.

In any event, the words just did not come. I would like to direct you to the blog of The Concord Pastor today.

Father Austin has written some good words to reflect on and posted a beautiful video of the hymn Finlandia.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

**UPDATE** Please stop by St. Anne Pray for Us for some excellent exegesis and insights from Missy!

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Filed under Father Austin Fleming, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, peace

Digesting God – Some Thoughts From Ron Rolheiser, OMI

We are in a wave of Sunday readings and Gospels that are all about “food” and “eating.” Of course, that is what we come together for each week, to be at the table of the Lord and to share the Eucharistic feast.

In any event, this past Sunday, favorite FOB (friend of the blog), Fr. Austin Fleming, the Concord Pastor, posted this video on the Eucharist. It is worth watching and also read the comments if you can which offer many viewpoints on what Eucharist means to people. ( And not because so many are from me!)

Then I encountered these words, which really speak to what we do when we eat and “digest God.”

If you are not familiar with Ron Rolheiser, I highly recommend him. Clicking that link will introduce you to the writings and words of this Catholic priest, author, speaker, writer.

Digesting God – Ronald Rolheiser

When Israel’s great prophets are called, God initiates them through an interesting ritual. They are asked to physically eat the scroll of the law, to eat their scriptures. What powerful symbolism! The idea is that they should digest the word and turn it into their own flesh so that people will be able to see the word of God in a living body rather than on a dead parchment. The task of taking God to others is not that of handing somebody a Bible or some religious literature, but of transubstantiating God, the way we do with the food we eat. We have to digest something and turn it, physically, into the flesh of our own bodies so it becomes part of what we look like. If we would do this with the word of God, others would not have to read the Bible to see what God is like, they would need only to look at our faces and our lives to see God.

Source: The Holy Longing

The Eucharist is our source and summit, it is essential… If we think about what Rolheiser is saying, we understand that is what we do every time we are at mass. We, like the prophets before us, must consume the Word and then transform the world, as we ourselves are transformed.

This is also a reminder of what we are told at our baptism – that we are all baptized as priest, prophet and king. We’ve been given an awesome task, haven’t we? It may not always seem that way, but as this thought, as our Scriptures remind us – we are given what we need for the journey.

Our great commission is to go and transform the world, to serve God by serving one another. It is in the nourishment that we receive at God’s table that we are strengthened and it is how we can then go to serve and to transform.

Which is why we do not, as so many will often say (and as I have said so often myself before hearing Fr. Pat say this over and over again), I “took” communion. What we are doing is not about getting or taking, but rather about what we are receiving and more importantly, about what we are giving.

When people ask me why I am Catholic there are many reasons I can give them, but none remotely more powerful than the Eucharist.

(H/T to the wonderful Inward/Outward for inspiration once again and thanks to my boss, Fr. Jerry Gingras and the people of Immaculate Conception Glenville for some additional thoughts presented here.)


Filed under Eucharist, Father Austin Fleming, Father Butler, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, Inward/Outward

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

Process Theology in the Easter Season

Our Catholic Christian faith is so dynamic and I am ever troubled when I experience things that deny that.

Our faith tradition is broad and wide and meant to be entirely incarnational – we must be fully alive and engaged in the world as Roman Catholics and not withdrawn from it. It was the disciples huddled in the Upper Room that the Risen Lord sent forth… The desire to be in the Upper Room is not justification for staying there; we must be alive, engaged and in process with our faith in the world.

When I refer to Process Theology I am reminded of something that I read in a book by Richard Rohr, OFM.

Our faith is not static or linear. No – we might just look at the Stations of the Cross, which many of us “followed” during Lent. As Rohr says in his book, the stations are about “movement, stages and phases: First this has to happen, then you have to go through that; you have to remain on the path in all its stages and relationships.”1

Have you been attending daily mass or just praying with these Easter readings? If not, I hope you consider clicking on the link to the US Catholic Conference of Bishops so that you can read the daily scriptures and pray with them or to go to mass. These readings are so rich and are redolent with faith and new life.

Our faith is alive and engaged. Our God is alive in the form of Jesus! He is almost always on the move in some way. This is our model – not to only be in silent prayer before an altar but to bring our faith out into the world in a fully integrated way.

It is only when this happens that we are transformed and that we can transform others as God intends.

Yesterday I attended a funeral liturgy at the parish that employs me. (I worship and am involved in ministry here at St. Edward’s but I work at Immaculate Conception in nearby Glenville.)

The Gospel of John 20:11-18 was proclaimed. I was reminded in a most profound way as I heard Father Jerry proclaim, “Jesus said to her, “Mary!” of how clearly God calls our name.

Jesus is very clear in saying to Mary:

“Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.

Stop holding onto me. The imperative is clear. Go and tell. Be in the world.

Our faith is a process. I often get into some challenging discussions while reading some other Catholic blogs. (each word is a different blog, go visit our brothers in faith and see what they have to say. I visit them often so that I may stay engaged and alive in faith.)

Flu. Graduation speakers. Politicians. Our family troubles. Death. Birth. Life. Despair. Money. Employment. Food. The Curia. Rules. Faith. Practice. Fidelity. Sin.

Not that we should not be aware of these things, but we should not hold onto God in a static way… No we must be in process with Jesus, doing this and then that and thus may we all be risen and transform the world as we ourselves are transformed.

That is process theology for me.

1 Radical Grace, The Catholic Worldview: Process, Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter.

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Filed under Deacon Greg kandra, Father Austin Fleming, Father Jerome Gingras, Googling God, Immaculate Conception Parish, Mike Hayes, Richard Rohr, The Deacon's Bench