Category Archives: Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

Got bread? Some thoughts on the Eucharist.

I am sharing this post here today, but it was written for my personal blog, which is called, There Will be Bread, which is published at the Times Union.

Well, you would think that bread would be found here… after all, the name of the blog clearly states that “there will be bread.” That is no accident of course, as I am take the Eucharist very seriously, I believe that the bread is the body… wait, I mean that the Bread is the Body. It is all about the Eucharist for me, and about living eucharistically. So here we are on this day when we as Church celebrate The Body and Blood of Christ, with lots to talk about.

The other day I read Continue reading


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Filed under Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Corpus Christi, Eucharist, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, Times Union blog

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today, during this Marian month of May, we look to the Patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Here is some information from the Saint of the Day page at American Catholic.

The feast in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe goes back to the sixteenth century. Chronicles of that period tell us the story.

A poor Indian named Cuauhtlatohuac was baptized and given the name Juan Diego. He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City. On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass in honor of Our Lady.

He was walking by a hill called Tepeyac when he heard beautiful music like the warbling of birds. A radiant cloud appeared and within it a young Native American maiden dressed like an Aztec princess. The lady spoke to him in his own language and sent him to the bishop of Mexico, a Franciscan named Juan de Zumarraga. The bishop was to build a chapel in the place where the lady appeared.

Eventually the bishop told Juan Diego to have the lady give him a sign. About this same time Juan Diego’s uncle became seriously ill. This led poor Diego to try to avoid the lady. The lady found Diego, nevertheless, assured him that his uncle would recover and provided roses for Juan to carry to the bishop in his cape or tilma.

When Juan Diego opened his tilma in the bishop’s presence, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees. On Juan Diego’s tilma appeared an image of Mary as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac. It was December 12, 1531


Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego as one of his people is a powerful reminder that Mary and the God who sent her accept all peoples. In the context of the sometimes rude and cruel treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards, the apparition was a rebuke to the Spaniards and an event of vast significance for Native Americans. While a number of them had converted before this incident, they now came in droves. According to a contemporary chronicler, nine million Indians became Catholic in a very short time. In these days when we hear so much about God’s preferential option for the poor, Our Lady of Guadalupe cries out to us that God’s love for and identification with the poor is an age-old truth that stems from the Gospel itself.


Mary to Juan Diego: “My dearest son, I am the eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, Author of Life, Creator of all and Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth…and it is my desire that a church be built here in this place for me, where, as your most merciful Mother and that of all your people, I may show my loving clemency and the compassion that I bear to the Indians, and to those who love and seek me…” (from an ancient chronicle).

This is really an extraordinary story, and one of the most beautiful in our church. I have spent a lot of time reading and studying this particular apparition, and I always moved by this chapter of our Mother Mary’s presence.

To understand the power of the story, one must enter into that time. The Spaniards were in serious conquest mode, and the indigenous people were really being pushed to convert to Catholicism. This was not a time to be proud of evangelizing efforts – the Spaniards thought of the natives as savages, and were not very charitable towards them in general.

Some, like Saint Juan Diego were converted, or at least baptized. Many of the local people felt the pressure of being under the foot of the Spanish, and were slow to follow. Many baptisms were done under this kind of duress. It does appear, that Saint Juan Diego was indeed a prayerful man, who had been converted in his heart. All that was about to change, illustrating to one and all, that conversion is an on-going process of faith for everyone, without exception.

It is what happens next that changes everything. Our Lady of Guadalupe does not appear to the Bishop or a priest, not to the men in all their finery, with their educations, and their books, and their words; the men with their extraordinary vestments and who were building churches. Nor does she does not appear to any of the Spanish Conquistadors, who have taken over the land as their own. She  does not appear to Aztecs who were of a higher class than Juan Diego.

No, when Our Lady chooses, she chooses this Juan Diego, a “nobody” in his own words, a class below the classes. A simple man, a poor man, a humble man.

That is the story,  like so much of what we find in Sacred Scripture, the story is inverted. God is forever using the outsider, the one on the edge, the one with no power or position, no real place at the table. It is an important reminder to us all – and it is a most beautiful thing as well.

After they first meet, Our Lady sends Juan Diego on a mission, which he does not succeed at. Then, as Juan Diego tries to avoid her, Mary finds him anyway. I love that part of the story and it brings to mind the great Annie Dillard line from The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:

“Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

The Guadalupe story is so much about how beauty and grace are ever present in the sacramental invitation to embrace all that is offered to us, with great and loving persistence by our God.  God is calling to a certain type of person…. The ultimate outsider. The real shock is the the ultimate outsider is always ourselves.

And then – only when this ultimate outsider is called – then that is when the people open their hearts and change, be transformed and move more deeply into a life of faith. This life is a process, going on for all time.

Another story that comes to mind as I consider this is from the Gospel of John – the Samaritan Woman, at the Well. Jesus makes sense to her and to her compatriots, they are so far out that they have no place to go but in.

And those on the inside, they often remain confused and unconverted.

Like us.

It is a provocative thought for us to sit and pray, isn’t it?  How are we the outsider? How are we the complacent insider? How are we proud? How are we humble? And how willing are we to change?

That is Mary, the Mother of God at work. Calling to us, loving us, bringing us forth. If, that is – we are willing to go. And she always goes to great lengths to find us.

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Filed under Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, Mary Mother of God, Month of Marian posts, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Saint Juan Diego

Lenten Reflection – Wednesday March 21by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

(This is the text of a reflection that I offered at Lenten Tuesday Evening Prayer at St. Edward the Confessor. I am reflecting on Tuesday’s Gospel, John 5:1-16.)

The Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem, November 2004. Photo by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

The words stung as I read them; he wrote: “It’s kinda like this… Many cripples were left waiting at the Pool of Bethesda. I doubt their pain would be mollified by your words. After listening to you talk about the free response that is love, a Deuteronomistic view of the world, and Job 39 – and after you and Jesus walk away with the cheering admirers – they’d still be crippled, in pain, and left behind at the Pool.”

* Ouch *

Those words came to me in the form of a recent blog comment. Ironically it came in response to a blog post that I had written about how lovely evening prayer, and our community at St. Edward’s was. This person had already left a few comments at the blog, appearing like a peaceful, unbelieving, and wistful interloper, but in retrospect, he seemed somewhat hurt and angry. My concern for him was countered with knowing that there were probably no words that I could offer to him. It was not lost on me that the last line of his comment referred to the very Gospel I would be here to talk about tonight.

This is where I Continue reading

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Filed under Evening Prayer, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, healing, Lent 2012, Lenten Parish Reflections

Lenten Reflections – Sunday March 11

(This was also published at the Times Union website today.)

Recently I heard a priest tell a story about when he was growing up. This man is probably about 6 or 8 years younger than I am. He is younger, this I know to be true. He is very gregarious and very funny, but like so many funny people, he is actually saying something serious almost all the time. He was telling us that when he was a kid, sometimes it seemed that all he ever learned was that Jesus handed out daisies. Oh that image, Hippy Jesus, nice all the time and always feeling kind of groovy, mellow and cool.

Forgive me if you find me irreverent, but that is how the image pops up for me. And frankly, it is an image of Christ that I am not too fond of.

While we are at it, I find that the idea that Jesus is judging us with suspicion all the time, and making sure that we behave, is not helpful either. Oh Jesus help us! Jesus holding our hands and giving out daisies is not helpful; Jesus smacking us down. Is this the best we can do?

Why must we project all this on the Lord? OK, OK – for the record, I have spent time in both camps; Tough Love Jesus and Hippy Jesus. At least in my own discernment, I found that those images had a lot more to do with me and where I was at that time, than with Jesus. On knowing God, St. Augustine said, “Si comprehendis, non est Deus.” (If you think that you understand God, that is not God.) Quite simply, God is Continue reading

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Filed under Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, Lent 2012, Lenten Parish Reflections

Lenten Reflection – Monday March 5

If you read or hear today’s readings, the Gospel from Luke is very clear. The links are there, but allow me to present the words here as well.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

Listening to so much of the contemporary rhetoric, you would never know that Jesus pointed us towards non-judgment. That struck me, first of all because I have a pretty judgmental streak. Seriously – just ask anyone who lives with me. My husband and step-daughter would be rich sources of just how judgmental I can be.

What really hit me this morning as I read and prayed were these words – “stop condemning.”

After a weekend away from the internet, by and large (OK, I did post a photo from my phone, but that was about it!) I have to say I was grateful for the respite from all the arguing in the social media sphere. I don’t know about you, but I am sick, sick, sick to death of hearing about who is a good Catholic, who is a bad Catholic, who is cooperating with evil – as if most of us can really express appropriate Catholic moral theology, who is righteous, who is not righteous, who deserves Eucharist (by the way, the answer to that would be no one) and who does not and on and on and on. I want to yell – shaddup!

There you see – I am judging and condemning now, aren’t I? Yes, truth be told, yes I am.

In any case, as I re-read the Gospel, I find that Jesus’ words, are as always, well timed and pointed at every one of us. Jesus intones us to give. The only piece of real estate that I control here is my own heart . God calls me to give. GIVE. If all that I can give is judgement and condemnation, then I better step away from the table.

So maybe I better step away from the table?

Or not. It through and with each other that God brings us to redemption. As Catholics, it is a group deal – not individual salvation. So therefore I better just shaddup and get on with the work of Christ, the work of giving. This is all easier said than done.

Like watching TV with the remote in hand or surfing the internet wirelessly, my judgment and condemnation can be done from the comfort of my chair. You can say “That was easy!” – just like in the commercial. Except – well, it is not easy to do the right thing if you ask me. Even when I want to do the right thing, I so often choose poorly.

Actual giving has to do with how we are in the world – the real world. It has to do with the virtual world as well, in the sense that how we are on the internet should be a mirror of how we are in the world.

May this Lent give us all the grace needed to be givers in the world and not judges.

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Breaking Blog News!

Lately I have been praying for a larger platform to write from. I am so grateful for this space and for my other parish blog, over at Immaculate Conception. In any case, I do have my personal blog and while it has decent readership, it would be a privilege to write about my faith and life for a bigger audience.

As it happened, and out of the blue – well, out of God’s blue – I was contacted by Mike Huber, who oversees all the blogs for the Albany Times Union. Mike, himself a Catholic, had been on the lookout for a blog that he believed would fit the bill for the TU faith blog. One day he googled something, found my blog and he really liked it. He liked it even more when he realized that I was local! So in less than a week’s time, Mike’s google turned into me being a Times Union blogger.

Please feel free to stop by, read and comment if you wish! And I am grateful for any prayers as I pursue writing about the faith that we share and live in Christ. (click here for the link.)

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Guilt? What guilt? εὐθὺς means εὐθὺς! (UPDATED)


εὐθὺς! I know – what’s εὐθὺς?

Sorry, I had to throw that in. You must admit, it is eye-catching, isn’t?! You might already know, it is Greek and it is Greek for immediately. You know – εὐθὺς means εὐθὺς! Like that.

On Sunday we heard this:

Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.

But there are many translations of Mark that use the word, εὐθὺς , in this context:

Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they [εὐθὺς] abandoned their nets and followed him.

Immediately. Straightaway. Full stop.

Father Pat said something during his homily at mass on Saturday (and Sunday as well, I’m sure) that knocked me down in a very immediate, straightaway, full stop itself… “Jesus is completely disinterested in your guilt.”

Whoa?! What? I mean – I’m Catholic with Jewish relatives, isn’t guilt my stock in trade?

In all seriousness, I think that Father said one of the most important things to take away from the Gospel. Guilt is not what is at issue.  Get up and go – now and that means now is what happens when Jesus calls us each by name. This is not about appeasing an angry God, but about responding to the invitation of love-in-action.  (See paragraph four from yesterday’s post also.)

As you might know, I work at Immaculate Conception in Glenville, but St. Edward’s  is my home parish. This weekend,  our own Peter Avvento’s  was invited there, to offer a reflection at all the masses this weekend. He was there to talk about stewardship and this Gospel is very much about that. He pointed to this notion of right away.  He was very clear about the immediate nature of the here and now. I’m not surprised; Peter is a scholar with an Doctor of Sacred Theology degree, from the Accademia Alfonsiana (Special Moral Institute) of the Pontifical Lateran University, and an STB from the Gregorian University in Rome and he probably knows Greek.

I bring all of this up because of Peter’s talk and of course, the Gospel. How do any of us do this?

Yes, we are involved in a process; our faith is relational. It takes time. However, we either decide to enter the journey or we do not. And entering that journey, in our Catholic tradition, is not about God and me alone. No – it is about everybody. Yes – everybody. I know – how annoying.

The call to follow Jesus requires a kind of immediacy. “Yes Jesus -I’m in. Now!” This is not about guilt, which if left to fester can be inward and self-focused in the worst sort of way. This is about repenting with a fullness of being.

Whether it is Jonah, or any other prophet who did not really feel like prophet-ing, the call requires us to get-up-and-go right now. Immediately. εὐθὺς. Frankly – who has the energy? Is it not enough that I showed up for mass?

OK, I’m being sarcastic, but I think you might know what I mean.

None of us can do this easily. Comfort and convenience reign, especially against the backdrop of exhaustion and ennui.  Let’s not forget the ambivalence. And the cold days. And the cry of our daily tasks which keep life seemingly afloat. The tug of love is always there, but it is easy to hold back and keep our distance in a breezy “I’ll-get-back-to-you” sort of way.

Well, that’s not going to work now is it?

Yet the call is present and persistent. We are in a relationship and a process. But like any relationship, we must keep at it. And not just God and me, but you and me. Immediately. Now. Straightaway.

The path to the straightway, the immediate, the – well, you know, the εὐθὺς, is generally through a series of slow and unsteady moves over time, but the immediate part is there. Somewhere that first call took hold. Jesus works with us, but we can’t dither around forever.

That is the call to the Gospel! εὐθὺς! Now! Immediately! Straightaway!

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Filed under Adult Faith Enrichment, Amazing God, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, Peter Avvento, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany