Notes from Our Friar
Friar Nick is a Conventual Franciscan from the Province of Our Lady of the Angels.
He lives and ministers in Baltimore, MD.
We are living in a time that many of us will remember forever. I write this from my home, on Sunday, March 22. For myself, and for many of you, it was the first time in a very long time that I was not at Mass. I watched Mass on the internet but it was not the same. It was a realization of the importance of community, of worshipping together. I longed today to not only be able to receive communion but to also distribute communion. I am sure that you long, as I do, to the day when we will be back in Saint Bonaventure worshipping the Lord together.
Today’s first reading is a prophesy from Ezekiel. The Lord says, “I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.” The Lord will put His Spirit in people and they will rise. As our country and the world deals with the Coronavirus death is definitely on our minds. We are reminded that the Lord has power even over death.
Our Gospel reading is about resurrection as well. Lazarus has died and Mary & Martha enlist the Lord’s help. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Him will never die. Jesus says into the tomb, “Lazarus, come out!” Amazingly Lazarus is brought back to life. We too are called to answer the Lord. We might need to come out of a tomb of sin, isolation, or despair. The Lord sheds His light on every facet of our lives.
On April 6, 2014 Pope Francis preached on this Gospel, “May the Lord today, on this Sunday, which speaks so much about the resurrection, give us all the grace to rise from our sins, to come out of our tombs; with the voice of Jesus, calling us to go out, to go to him.” In this new world we need to live our lives in new ways as well. We go to the Lord in whatever way he calls us.
In this unprecedented time, many people are struggling financially, not knowing where their next paycheck will come from. I pray that the Lord will provide for everyone’s financial and spiritual needs. Some people have also expressed concern over the financial well-being of Saint Bonaventure and all of the parishes. In fact, each parish has been asked by the Archdiocese to prepare a cash-flow analysis for future months. First, I want everyone to know that we are dependent on the financial support of parishioners. If you are able to continue supporting the parish during this pandemic, as you have in the past, it would be greatly appreciated. Please know that you can sign up to give electronically on our website or mail in your contribution envelopes. Second, please also know that the parish has a significant amount of savings in Money Market accounts that can be accessed if it is needed. I am confident that the Lord will provide for each one of us and our parish, as He always has. Please continue to pray for our families, our Saint Bonaventure community and the world during this crisis.
While I do not intend to belabor the seemingly incessant newsfeed of the current COVID-19 outbreak, I do think it helpful to express a few tips as to how to continue to nourish our spirit of prayer and devotion during this time of social distancing. Here are a few practical tips for y'all to consider:
With great pastoral affection,
A typical part of many people's Faith journey involves being intentional (which is why I love the title of the Faith Formation Ministry of "Intentional Discipleship"). During my undergraduate experience, I sincerely began to wonder if I myself chose to be a Catholic Christian, or if I merely was a Catholic Christian because that was the Faith and religious tradition my parents supplied for me. To be honest, I did not have any qualms with the Catholic Church; however, I had never afforded myself the opportunity to freely explore this option of choosing a Faith and religious tradition that was "right for me." Admittedly, I was intrigued by the convictions of some of the Bible Belt's Baptist and Evangelical churches; was edified by the moral code and conservative display of the Latter Day Saints; and was also very familiar with the Lutheran and Methodist expressions. So, with so many options to consider, what did I choose to do?
Being the methodical geek that I am, I figured my best path forward would be to give Roman Catholicism one last rodeo to see if it truly nourished my soul, moved my heart, and led me to a deeper sense of life in Christ. So, I made a deal with God. I decided to devote three months to two very "Catholic" things to see if these would supply any merit: the Eucharist and the Rosary. If these two things proved helpful, then I would take it as a sign from God that He is calling me to remain Catholic. If these two things didn't move me in any particular way, then I would venture toward exploring another religious tradition. As such, I began praying the rosary daily - and sometimes with other people - and began doing weekly Eucharistic Adoration and daily Mass.
The short of it is that after the span of those three months of being more intentional about the Eucharist and the Rosary, my life was changed - and very much so for the better. I initially noticed that praying the Rosary would somehow change my day. I eventually noticed that regular Adoration and reception of the Eucharist was changing my life. Honestly, I could not believe how this was all unfolding! Never had I felt more safe, more challenged, and more guided on the reality and purpose of my life; never did I realize how connected I was to the people around me, the Communion of Saints; never did I realize how palpable the faith journey, the working of the soul was until I engaged quite intentionally and resolutely. I am immensely grateful to our Lord and Lady.
Friends, on this Sunday when we recall the Transfiguration of our Lord, we are reminded how some of the disciples are able to see Jesus Christ - the same Person who they have known and followed - in a different and fuller light. This changed their lives! May we, too, consider how we as disciples of Jesus Christ in the Roman Catholic Faith may experience the Eucharist, the Rosary, or other facets of our Faith tradition - things we may have known and participated in for years - in a different and fuller light. There is a great mystery within our Faith life, yet the uncanny piece is that God continuously strives to reveal Himself and draw us closer to Himself through these. During this Lenten season, may we strive to be more intentional in our discipleship, for this may certainly bring forth a transfiguration moment for us.
The Lenten Season is upon us – may we welcome it so as to give ourselves the space and time to delve our souls further in the journey of Faith. Though Lent is at-times met with a sense of “pressure” or sense of being “strict,” I would like for us to consider a few different perspectives to consider so as to benefit more-fully from this liturgical season the Church provides. As such, the following are some notable highlights to consider:
This feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas, carries a slew of particular themes. As such, I simply wanted to identify a few of these themes and connect some dots between them, for these brief catechetical pieces allow us to delve more fully into the context of the Holy Family and our understanding of our sacred religion and Salvation History.
Historically, this feast marks the Jewish ritual action of the 'purification' of the Blessed Mother after having given birth to her firstborn Son and marks the first entrance of our Lord Jesus into the Temple. You will notice that an animal sacrifice of two doves are offered. First, the Jewish people understood there was nothing sinful whatsoever about a woman giving birth or passing her periodic cycle. This is natural. However, blood is precious and is equated to life. So, whenever blood passed from someone -as it does when a woman gives birth- that person was considered ritualistically 'unclean,' so the Jewish people prescribed ways in which people could ritualistically be made 'clean' again. We see motifs of this blood-is-precious throughout Scripture: the gravity of another person's blood on someone else's hands; the despair of the hemorrhaging woman who was healed by Jesus; Jesus sweating blood within the agony in the garden and then Jesus healing the Roman soldier's ear that was sliced (for the emphasis is to be on Jesus' blood, Jesus' life being brought forth and prefiguring how through the flowing of his blood / life is to bring healing to us).
Christianity continues to enliven these aforementioned themes and also uses this particular feast of the Presentation for the blessing of candles. For in Christianity, since our Lord is the final sacrifice for all, there is no need for any further bloody sacrifice. As such, the Eucharist is the continued non-bloody sacrifice where we are able to connect ourselves to the full-offering of our Lord's passion, death and resurrection; instead of sprinkling lamb's blood over the people of God and upon doorposts, we now sprinkle holy water; instead of burning first fruits from our crops, we burn incense or place flowers and foliage within our sacred spaces; instead of burning the first fruits from our livestock, we burn candles, for we recognize that one of the main 'images' of God is light (see the First Creation Story in Genesis, the Burning Bush in Exodus, Christ saying He is the light of the world, halos around angels and saints, and Francis' "Canticle of the Creatures," etc.).
None of these aforementioned things are per-se new catechetical pieces; however, these are catechetical pieces that are quite useful in helping us paint a fuller, livelier picture of our placement within Salvation History. I bring them forth simply because this is the power and goodness of religion. Religion does not necessarily bring forth salvation (only grace does); however, religion is certainly a vehicle which allows us to "bridge" our human experience to God and His revelation. This leads us to a further step in the formation of our minds and a deeper conversion of our hearts, which ultimately leads our souls further into the immersion of intermingling our lives with God.
My prayer is that these thoughts allow us as a people to see the context in which we celebrate the life of the Church, the life of our ancestors of the Faith, so that we, too, may gather together for liturgy not to merely "satisfy a Sunday obligation," but that we gather together for liturgy to actually celebrate the Faith and recognize how we ourselves are connected to the whole scope of Salvation History.