Sunday, February 5, 2012

Job and Simon Peter's Mother-in-Law

Here’s my homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. I thought I’d post it because a lot of people seemed to like it. It’s only about 11 minutes.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Pilgrim Shepherd has moved

Each week I get a traffic report on this blog, and find that there are still about 4 visits a day.  Thanks so much for continuing to check back.  Since life is a Pilgrimage, and Pilgrims are on a continuing journey, I moving my Pilgrim Shepherd blogsite to WordPress.  I've explained why in my initial post, which is now there.  It'll take a while to get it up to speed, but I hope to keep it updated and lively.

It's at  Don't worry, all past content will still be here at

Thanks for joining me on this journey of faith and life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Separation Anxiety

America Magazine - Separation Anxiety: "Yet as a major sponsor of education in the United States, the church needs to speak with a clearer voice not merely about textbooks, but about educational policy." Bishop Tom Curry's insightful article on the First Amendment and Catholic schools.

Note: if you have trouble accessing this article, try here.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Paradox of Suffering

This morning in our chapel I read about yesterday's saint, Elizabeth of the Trinity, beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1984.  She was born and died (1880-1906) just a few years after Therese of Lisieux.  There lives overlapped and they were both French, but it's unlikely they ever knew or each other.  Like Therese her brief life was one of total self-giving in the embrace of suffering in union with Jesus as her spouse.

Unlike Therese, she desired to enter a Carmelite convent as a teen, but was forcibly delayed from entering until she was 21 by her mother who hoped she'd get married.  She endured this imposition with graceful obedience, remaining firm in her intention.  Of this she wrote, "Even in the midst of the world, one can listen to God in the silence of a heart that wants only to be his."

Two years later, in 1903, she developed adrenal insufficiency, or Addison's disease, for which there was no effective treatment and which led to a complexity of painful conditions.  Like Therese in her struggle with terminal illness, she was directed to write her thoughts, and in these writings and letters we have a valuable account of her spirituality.  As her illness progressed, she wrote to her mother: "The Father has predestined me to be conformed to his crucified Son.  My Spouse wishes me to be the surrogate human being in whom he can suffer again for the glory of the Father and the salvation of the Church.  This thought makes e so happy."  Although she continued to express joy in her sufferings, like Therese and Mother Teresa, she was also afflicted with feelings of desolation and abandonment and the prospect of death approached.  She died on November 9, 1906, the same year my mother was born.

In these two parallel lives of Elizabeth and Therese there is a pattern of youthful and energetic coming to terms with the most basic paradox of human life: the meaning of suffering. This is a question that is utter nonsense to most people -- in all ages,not just today.  And yet the flight from suffering is a headlong plunge into denial of reality, motivated by fear that often leads to division, blame, violence, and ultimately willfully causing the death one seeks to avoid.  These lives provide an alternate vision -- perhaps the only alternate vision -- and are worth pondering.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pilgrim Pope

Today, Pope Benedict XVI visited Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, the famous and inspiring pilgrimage site honoring St. James, the brother of John, who was the first apostle to be martyred (in 44 AD), but who visited Spain before then, according to a much later legend.  (You can find a lot more about him and the traditional pilgrimage site of Santiago at the Wikipedia entry.)

I found his three talks very helpful in coming to a better understanding of pilgrimage, as a metphor for the whole journey of life, of Christian life, and of the Church.  This shed a lot light, for me at least, on the reality and purpose of our Early Christian World Pilgrimage.

At the welcoming ceremony at the airport, he said:

In his deepest being, man is always on a journey, ever in search of truth. The Church shares this profound human desire and herself sets out, accompanying humanity in its yearning for complete fulfillment. At the same time, the Church pursues her own interior journey which, through faith, hope and love, leads her to become a transparent sign of Christ for the world.

At his speech at the Cathedral, he gave a wonderful definition of Pilgrimage, which I am going to adopt in future informational and promotional materials:

To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.

While he mentioned in particular the persons and events associated with the Holy Land, Rome, and Compostela, the Early Christian World sites of Turkey do not trail behind them in significance for the same reasons.

And in his homily at the Mass, he spoke of the common experience and goal of all Pilgrims, whether those who trek the long hiking trail through France and Spain to Compostela or those who, in the relative comfort of Turkey's hotels and tour buses, follow the arduous schedule enforced by Fr. Tom and Aydin:

The fatigue of the journey, the variety of landscapes, their encounter with peoples of other nationalities - all of this opens their heart to what is the deepest and most common bond that unites us as human beings: we are in quest, we need truth and beauty, we need an experience of grace, charity, peace, forgiveness and redemption. And in the depth of each of us there resounds the presence of God and the working of the Holy Spirit.
I urge you to read the whole of these documents; they are not long, but they very much speak to the heart.

Tomorrow, visit the Vatican site to see what he has to say as he dedicated the imposing "work-in-progress" church of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

You can also watch excerpts from Vatican TV on the Vatican Channel on YouTube.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Initiation and Welcome

This afternoon I gave a talk at the Regional Religious Education Congress for Our Lady of the Angels Pastoral Region here in Los Angeles.  The title I chose was "The Quality of Our Welcome: A Fresh Look at RCIA."  Christian Initiation is all about welcoming people into our family of faith, and I believe it is important for us to take a close look at just what the rite tells us from the point of view of welcome. 

You can listen to the talk using the embedded player.

If that doesn't work, or if you'd like to download it for playing on an iPod or similar device, youcan access it at the following link.

You can also download my handout/notes by clicking here.

Marriage and Initiation

One of the sensitive areas that must be dealt with as we, the Church, prepare to welcome new members into our family, is the question of how our understanding of the nature of marriage in itself, as well as marriage as a sacrament, relates to the life of a committed Catholic Christian.  This becomes very real when one seeking to become Catholic has a former marriage that has ended, often tragically and painfully.  If marriage is a commitment for life, the implications of this former marriage must be dealt with.

On September 29, 2010, I gave a talk to the Initiation community of Good Shepherd parish in an effort to surface and begin to deal with these questions as they might come up among those preparing to become catechumens.

You can listen to this talk using the embedded player.  Please note that the talk is in two segments (Marriage-1 and Marriage-2), and you can toggle between the segments with the two little triangles facing the lines right and left.

If the embedded player doesn't work, you can download the talk at the following link as MP3 audio files, which you can listen to on your computer or play on an iPod or similar device.

You can also view and download the notes (4 pages) in PDF format by clicking here.