The last Utterance

Catholic Priests & religious throughout the world pray five times a day. Whether you are a nun or the Pope, five times a day, we pray the same prayers. It is one of the many things that unites us as Servants to the Body of Christ.

The last prayer of the day is:

May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.

Thankfully, God continues to grant me the former, and not the latter!

It’s such a simple, and yet powerful moment, this the last utterance of the day. I have been saying this prayer since Seminary, twenty-five years so far, and it’s meaning and power are never lost on me.

It is an amazing experience! Every day, my sister and brother clerics and I are so willing to bear our souls so completely to God’s will and direction. Whether we wake up here to serve another day or wake up in Heaven, in God’s warm embrace- that we welcome the outcome without reservation.

Sort of brings me to ground. Reminds me that, regardless of where I am or what I am doing, at the end of the day, it’s up to God what happens next.

Sometimes, we need that reminder. Often a hard thing to admit- that we can so easily get ahead of ourselves, forgetting our true nature- our purpose driven life, and focus on ourselves- who we think we are, and all too often- who we want other people to think who we are.

A self-serving life is not a life of sacrifice and service to others.

Grant me a peaceful death takes on new meaning.

Grant me the peaceful death of my self-serving ego; my consumerism, and my self-centered ideal.

Grant me the peaceful death of my self-portrayal of personal importance, my self-aggrandizing, and my poor behavior.

We should all beg for the death of that person within us, so what when we awaken after the restful night we prayed for, we can be renewed, wiped clean, and ready to be Servants of God… and each other.

Grant me a peaceful death.

My Funny Hat

14 years ago today, I laid prostrate in front of the Altar of God. When I rose, I was a successor to the Apostles- a Bishop in Christ’s One Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.

Have I done a good job? Maybe… I won’t know until I see our Lord face to face.

Have I tried my best? Yes. Have I failed? You better believe it.

Am I done? No. Is God done with me? Doubtful.

The best part of being a Bishop is all of you. Your work is the church! Without each of you, there would be no flock for me to shepherd.

If that were the case, I’d just be another old man sitting in a field, wearing a funny hat.

Thank you all for keep me from looking like an idiot… Although, God does protect the foolish!

God Bless you all.

Oh, Gregorio!

My all time favorite ancient piece of Sacred Music is “Miserere Mei Deus” written by Gregorio Allegri . It was written in the early 1600’s for performance only in the Sistine Chapel, with an imposing threat of excommunication of anyone who attempted to make a copy.

In 1770, Mozart was in the Eternal City. Heard the piece performed twice, and in his brilliance, transcribed it note for note, word for word, all 14 minutes of it. The first unauthorized copy of the piece – he left with his Catholicism in tact.

This work is generally considered a prime example, and one of the most recorded pieces of late Renaissance music. It is based on Psalm 50, and is always sung in the presence of the Holy Father on Maundy Thursday.

This isn’t a song for a community sing along! In fact, it takes 2 choirs to sing it.

Why the music history lesson? Well, I was so pleasantly surprised on Ash Wednesday while attending Noon Mass at the Basilica that their choir, split in two and placed at different places within the Great Upper Church sang this amazing piece for us.

When I saw it in the worship leaflet, I leaned over to my son and said “be prepared for tears.” I cannot hear this song and not cry.

It bring me to a profound sense of the divine. My mind takes flight, brings me to a place where I focus only on prayer and supplication- to a place where, my soul resonates with the music.

Good music should be heard by the ears, processed by the mind, and sung by the soul, thus joining us to the choir of Angels in Heaven. Well written, expertly performed with instruments only finely tuned by the hand of God, music should always move us to a sense and awareness of the Creator, His Son and His Mother.

Music makes us better people- and better Christians.

In the 1700’s, playwright William Congreve, in his play The Mounring Bride, coined the phrase, “Music has charms to sooth a savage breast.” True words from British Neoclassical Period.

Music does sooth us! We meet through music, we fall in love with and through music, we breach divides with music, music engages our soul, mind, and heart. Music provides a background of sorrow and celebration for our lives.

And most of all, we sing prayers of thanksgiving to God through music.

Oh Gregorio! Thanks for helping me sing to God.

Amen

40 days, 40 nights

Ash Wednesday is upon us, signalling the 40 days of Lenten reflection, which leads us to the celebrations around the Resurrection of Our Savoir, Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow we are marked with ashes as a reminder of the struggles and denials we experience as children of God.

Ashes also remind us that, even through our striffe, God loves us, gave us His Son, and will watch over us until we go home to the reward promised.

Be prayerful during Lent. Be mindful of our personal and corporate sacrifice’s, our denials, and the reward that awaits us.

Peace

A Rare Evening at Prayer

It was raining- pretty steadily the other night. In spite of the dismal effects a cold winters rain has on many of us, it was the perfect setting for some reflective music, candle light, some reading and meditation.

… oh, and a visit from long past relatives.

My house is rarely quiet. Between my husband, 2 of my 4 sons living with us, a good friend couch surfing and the cat’s ruling over us all, it is indeed rare that I have the whole place to myself (well, the cats… but you know what I mean) so I decide to take advantage of the solitude.

So, I lit some candles, put on Gregorio Allegri (starting with Miserere Mei Deus of course!) and dive into a new book Amazon brought me that day.

The book, “A Book of Uncommon Prayer- 100 Celebrations of the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary” written by Brian Doyle, was not at all what I was expecting.

It’s reflections had titles like “Prayer of Thanks for Good Bishops, as Opposed to Meatheads who think they are important.” & “Prayers in Celebration of Brief Things, for example, Church Services.”

Thank heaven for the Gregorio, or I may have chucked the book into the bin.

I then read a reflection that brought my soul into harmonious refrain with the Gregorio, and the choir singing it – which happened to be my relatives, long gone home to sleep in Christ, waiting for the Eternal Easter.

Prayers for Women named Ethel, and Men named Elmer, for We Will Not See Their Likes Again.

It speaks to these “cool, hoary names like that that reek of American character and dignity and hard work and laced dollies on Sunday before the Roast. For all the brave though quiet generous unassuming souls who came before us and built this country and built our cities and farmed our generous land and raised their children and never asked for much except the chance to breath free and love widely. “

And I wept.

I wept because in that description, I saw all my childhood memories in an instant. Names like Rose, Naomi, Edith, Albina, Eva, Antoinette, Francis, William, Mary, Otlie, Donald, Eleanor, Harold… all so fresh in my mind. They were homemakers, farmers, blue collar factory workers, truck drivers, railroad men and construction workers, living the small town American Dream, and more importantly, contributing to who I am today.

The reflection continued… “… their rough, worn hands and their seamed leathery faces that endured allot of a lot of weather and war and pain and loss but they kept working anyway.”

These passages remind me of my entire life back in small town Connecticut. It reminds me of my family, whose presence I felt with me in this dark, cold winter rain. Despite the conditions, I was warm, I was being embraced, and I was reminded of the deep love that family brings to us.

My thoughts then turned to the reflection in my mind- to the family I have. 4 wonderful, amazing sons. My wonderful relationship of 15 years, and our close, close friends who are also family. In each of them, I see my relatives.

As I reflected on my present day family experience, I see my relatives long gone, but ever present. Their examples passed to me are reflected in those who I pass along their wisdom, stories, and love, and I see the effect that ripple in the ancestral pond. That realization, until that night, was lost on me.

And I weep. I weep with sadness for those faces I can no longer touch and the laps I can no longer sit on. I weep for the loss of the farming lessons I will no longer receive, and how good a tomato plucked from the vine and immediately eaten has a taste that is truly indescribable.

I weep for the long gone family Christmas Eve, the every-pasta-ever-consumed for the first 25 years of my life came from a kitchen and not a box, and attending Mass every Saturday evening, 5th pew on the left, with scowls at the ready if some visitor took our pew. Oh, Saint Barnabas- what you must have thought!

I also weep with joy. Sunday Mass with the kids. Family dinners and trips, and truly the most amazing bond we all share.Watching them each grow into their relationships and the people they choose to bond with. I revel in joy that they are all in public service, working to help others in their hour of need.

This was such a cathartic experience for me truly. Thanks to my passed on family, for in that exact moment, you reminded me how you aren’t gone from my life, but that you define it.

The reflection ends, “For those names, which are mere sounds and handles, but mean so much to so many. And so: Amen.”

Indeed.

May God Bless you all.

Consigned to Ovens of Silence

Today while many of us are focused on our daily lives, I want to remind everyone that 75 years ago today, the Auschwitz death camp was liberated by Allied Forces.

Survivors gather there today to reflect, grieve, and remember.. As their numbers dwindle, so does our ability to be reminded of the true horror that we see the faces those who survived what was both the biggest mass murder in the history of creation, as well as the largest failure of humanity to be human.

We as the members of the modern human family have an obligation to never forget just how horrific we can be to each other. Had you told people in the 1930’s what was to come, the story would have been to terrific for people to believe.

If you think today that this sort of thing could never happen again, then you are as naive as our ancestors.

Pfennig Postcard, Wrong Address
by Michael R. Burch

We saw their pictures:
tortured out of our imaginations
like golems.

We could not believe
in their frail extremities
or their gaunt faces,

pallid as our disbelief.
They are not
with us now . . .

We have:
huddled them
into the backrooms of conscience,

consigned them
to the ovens of silence,

buried them in the mass graves
of circumstances beyond our control.

We have
so little left
of them

now
to remind us …

You call them Firefighters

There are men and women who fight for us every day; who face uncertainty, leaving their families to rescue yours, knowing that the chance for them never coming home is higher than most; whose uniform not only identifies their commitment and belief in honor, valor, brotherhood, and tradition, but is their only line of defense against the forces they face.

They are the only one left in the evacuation zone, staying until the last possible moment. They wake up at any time of the night, ready to respond to the call to duty. They are the face we see breaking through the flames, and the face of the one who carries you to safety.

They are the some of the bravest men and women the world will ever know, risking their lives in an a attempt to save the lives of others. They run into burning buildings, at raging forest fires, and stare death and fear in the eyes with no hesitation or second thoughts.

They are on the front lines in the war against Mother Nature’s fury, providing the last stand to protect that which we love and cherish most.

They have families, loved ones, interests and hobbies.

They are the warriors of the people, the fighters, our saviors, and the bravest among us.

We call each other Brother and Sister, and cherish each as if they were our very own flesh and blood.

You call them Firefighters.

September 11

These days in September are always an emotional roller coaster for me.

On the morning of 9/11 I went to work early. I had a pretty large meeting scheduled with the Superiors of the Jesuit Provinces in the US, as well as a few bishops.

I was at work for about 30 minutes preparing, and my phone rang. It was my then partner and still best friend Fredo Alvarez, and he was inconsolable. He was finally able to tell me that there was a plane crash at the World Trade Center. His mother worked on that block and he couldn’t reach her.

I turned on the TV in the conference room and watched the second plane hit on live TV.

We immediately cancelled the meeting, and I said Mass with the fellow priests and bishops. We prayed. We prayed harder than I think I have ever prayed. At the moment of the consecration of the Body and Blood of Our Savior, the plane hit the Pentagon.

We finished Mass and sent everyone home. I took a cab to my other assignment- The Basilica in DC, where the Cardinal was going to say a televised Mass for the nation.

Again we prayed. We prayed harder than I had ever prayed before.

I prayed for Fredo’s mom, and for the men and women I have come across in FDNY- the greatest fire department man has ever dreamt up.

I Prayed for a former co-worker and now FDNY Lt. on Rescue 1. He would have been on the initial alarm that day. I wrote him a long letter of recommendation so he could get on his the job- his dream of all dreams.

I finally made it home hours later- Metro was closed, taxis were overwhelmed. I shared a cab at one point with a woman who was a reporter for the Washington Post- her girlfriend was a reporter at the NY Times, and she couldn’t reach her.

I prayed again.. prayed harder than I had ever prayed before. We cried. Crying was the default action of the day. Our Nation was bleeding- taking as close to a mortal wound as freedom can bear.

Fredo’s mom was alive- she was late to work that day, exited the subway and saw the plane hit. She then walked from lower Manhattan to the Bronx- it took her 12 hours.

I spent weeks looking through the published list of FDNY’s losses looking for Matt’s name. Six days later I found out he was ok.

I prayed.. prayed harder than I had ever prayed before.

And I cried.

Today, 18 years later- I still cry. I cry for what our country lost; for the pain those left behind still feel every single day; for those lost in the battle against those forces who hate us just because we, like those lost, chose to get on a plane, to go to work, to don an SCBA, climb in a patrol car, to hold the hand of a dying elderly woman.

We lost a sense of our innocence that day. Something that no war, no memorial, no prayer will restore to us.

And today, 18 years later. I cry.. and I pray… I pray harder than ever before for those still in harms way here locally, in the military, and for those brothers of mine who are about to join the military.

We all have more praying to do.

God Bless you all.

#neverforget

Notre Dame

I Continue to pray for the Church Catholic as we watch Cath├ędrale Notre Dame burn.

While the Church are the people gathered (ecclesia), and never the building- it is the great edifices made by man to Glorify God that give us community, focus, the sense of sacred and divine that dwells within us.

As Easter approaches us this Holy Week, we are in the midst of prayerful witness to the fire of sin, doubt, and fear that consumes the Roman’s to the point of the crucifixion of Jesus, in a vain attempt to destroy love.

Then we all together witness radiant resurrection on Easter morning. Proving to us yet again, and in the most powerful way that God survives, provides for us, and that His Church can be built again on the Rock of Love- just as the Cathedral will be.

Secretary Carson: “40 Acres and a Mule!”

Although I am retired from public ministry, I still like to think that on occasion, I have a voice and something to say about certain issues that either effect Christians, or myself personally.

Today was one of those days.

If you didn’t see what Secretary Carson, the new head of Housing and Urban Development said today, I suggest you check any news site.

Here is my letter to him regarding his shameful comments labeling African slaves as “another form of immigration.”

 

6 March 2017 letter to HUD Carson address redacted