Fr. Bob’s Greeting – May 2024 Enews

April 17, 2024
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When Catholics think of May, we think of our Blessed Mother, or Mother’s Day, and that is what I usually write about. But this year I would like to talk about a very important feast that is celebrated in May—Pentecost. This Feast of Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Church. That is a good description. However, for most of us, when we think of the Church we unconsciously think of the Church as we know it now. There was no papacy as we understand it today. There was a leader of fishermen; he was named Peter. He made mistakes, often messed up. There were no papal encyclicals; the first one was written in 1730. There were no Cardinals; that rank was created in the eleventh century. It was not until medieval times that we saw the title “Monsignor.” There were no church buildings, basilicas or cathedrals until the fourth century. There was no canon law until the twelfth century. There were no monks or nuns at the beginning of the Church, but still there was Church. Much of the organizational growth of the Church over the centuries was necessary, but it had the unfortunate effect of making people identify the Church with its real estate, bureaucracy, titles, and laws instead of with themselves. Remember—the Holy Spirit fell on people that first Pentecost and the Church was born. The spirit did not fall on the structure or the externals, for as we have seen, there were none. The spirit fell on tax collectors and seedy marginal folk. The spirit glued them together by three things: baptism into Jesus, the breaking of the bread, and witness by ordinary people. These were the basics of being “Church.” The presumption was that each one upon whom the spirit fell had gifts to use to spread the Gospel. This was the early Church—fishermen, tax collectors, and simple people with a variety of gifts. The miracle of Pentecost was not that people could understand what the disciples said: the miracle was that ordinary people, who recently had been in hiding and full of fear, suddenly were Church and making bold proclamations without fear. If we were set down in the desert, we would still be Church. If we had to gather in a prison cell to celebrate Mass, or if we had to hide in a barn to baptize our children, we would still be Church. Baptism, Eucharist and Witness make us Church. They are our defining identities, as they were on that first Pentecost when the Church was born.

Fr. Bob’s Greeting – April 2024 Enews

March 25, 2024
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Every day at Graymoor we receive prayer requests from people asking the Friars to remember them and their petitions in our prayers. People often tell me that they are having a very difficult time praying. So, let’s talk about prayer. Prayer can be a very difficult practice for many of us. What does it mean “to pray?” There was a song some years ago that really sums up prayer very well. It was called “Reach Out and Touch.” Prayer is a reaching out to touch someone and that someone is God and all that God involves and includes. One of the best ways of reaching out to God is in the mass. While it is not our only form of prayer, the liturgy, the mass is the principal prayer for the Christian community. It is the prayer Jesus gave us as the memorial, the link and the connection, to the spark of life between ourselves and our God. Then there is private prayer when we are alone with God. There is no set pattern and really no rules. During those times we simply talk to God in our own words like we would to a friend. These are times when you say whatever you feel to God. Talk about anything, talk to Him about your life. But, also talk to Him about His Life and the things He did. But, whatever you talk to Jesus about, be sure to pause now and then to let Him reply. He might want to talk to you. When He speaks to us, it will not be His voice but an inner feeling. Always remember prayer is not a monologue where we do all the talking. Prayer is a dialogue and God also wants to talk to us. You cannot have a relationship with anyone unless you talk to them. It is the same way with God. You have to make time to speak to Him and to communicate with Him. Prayer is not just a personal matter. There will always be time when we pray for our own needs. But, our prayers must also include those around us and even those we do not know. That is why we say “Our Father” and not “My Father.” Often we try to make our prayers productive. They have to yield something or we try to change God’s mind. Ideally, just place yourself in God’s presence, open yourself to Him, be receptive and let Him change you. Private prayer is so important. Jesus showed this when He went off by Himself to pray, when He was pushed, shoved, shouted at and when He was stretched to His limit. He drew strength and regeneration from periods of private prayer. His disciples observed this and feeling frazzled themselves said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Perhaps we all need to ask the Lord, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” Teach us how to pray to find a deep sense of peace and wholeness. Teach us to pray from the heart. Teach us how to pray when we feel far from any shore, far from any person and adrift without a send of direction. Teach us to pray when we are overwhelmed by day-to-day living. Teach us how to pray when we are feeling great, everything is going well, and we are joyful. Teach us how to pray when we are celebrating. But, above all, in all situations when convenient and inconvenient, in season and out of season, for God’s sake Lord, “Teach us how to pray.”

Fr. Bob’s Greeting – March 2024 Enews

February 29, 2024
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Yes, I know Spring is just around the corner, but we are still in Lent. And I would like to talk to you about one of the holiest days in this sacred season: Good Friday. I shall not dwell on the distressing details of our Lord’s Passion; you know them all too well. The bloody sweat in Gethsemane. The bloodless kiss of Judas. Caiaphas blasting Jesus for blasphemy. Pilate washing his hands of Him. A murderer released in His stead, and a crowd clamoring for crucifixion. The whips lashing His back, and the thorns piercing His brow. The cross on His shoulder and His shoulder on the cross. The darkness that covered the Earth and the darkness in Jesus’s soul. The last cry of Jesus: “It is finished.” I shall not dwell on any of these because, believe it or not, there is something more important to consider: a vexing three letter word. Why? Why? St. Paul tells us why. He says the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. Every human being that ever lived can repeat these words. You and I, we can all claim that He died for me. But still the question, why me? St. Paul saw the problem. He tells us in the letter to the Romans, at the appointed time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for us, Godless people. It is rare that anyone should lay down his life for a just person. Though it is barely possible that for a good person someone may have the courage to die. It is precisely in this that God proves His love for us that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. And St. John echoes St. Paul when he tells us, “God so loved the world that he gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” But what is so lovable about us sinful folk that the Son of God should leave the glory of heaven, become human like us, be born in a stable, walk our dust for three decades, sweat our sweat and die our death? Why should God love sinners, love man and woman who reject God with a curse, or pass God down the street in their neighbor, is ultimately hidden in the mystery that is God. And we cannot explain why the Son of God drew our love by crucifixion. He could have saved us in so many simpler, bloodless ways. A single breath of Bethlehem’s breeze. The hidden years in backwater Nazareth. His baptism by John. His compassion. Your sins are forgiven. Then why Calvary? Frankly, we do not know, and we do not know because we cannot fathom or begin to comprehend the three slender syllables of why? In the first letter of John, God is love. God not only loves, God is love. That alone begins to make sense of Calvary. Out of a God-man pinned to a cross for sinners, for you and me. If God offers you crucified love, offers God’s son on a cross for you, the least you can do is accept it. Welcome the mystery, and move on from there. The problem for us is the very word, love. It is so misused that it has lost meaning. Television and radio fill our ears with the word love. We have forgotten what Christ-like sacrificial love really is. The kind of love that was God’s when He gave His own divine son to die on a criminal’s cross to save me. Some time ago, I gave a retreat for prisoners. Not the ordinary prison population, but people living with HIV/AIDS. On the altar there was a banner: “Love is all we have for now. What we don’t have is time.” When it’s a question of what it means to be human, to be Christian, what makes the difference is love. St. Paul put it another way to the Corinthians. He said, “In the end only faith, hope and love are left. But the greatest of these is love.” Christ-like love is the one gift that can make our world more human, more livable. We must live Christ’s command: love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. If we fail in this, we are living almost as if Christ had not made a difference. And when the final judgment is passed on to me it will rest on one four letter word: Did you really love? With that question goes the second line of the banner: What we don’t have is time. That’s true for all of us. Live this day as if it were your first day, not your last day. Each new day is a chance to be more Christ-like and to share the greatest gift He gave to us – Love.  

Fr. Bob’s Greeting – February 2024 Enews

January 26, 2024
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In spite of the bitter cold weather, February is one of my favorite months, not because it is the month of my birthday, but it is the beginning of the holy season of Lent, which moves us towards the glory of Easter. Lent has always been one of my favorite holy seasons.  It offers us a time of repentance, a time of renewal, and a time of peace.  In this joyful season, which begins on Ash Wednesday, we hear “the Kingdom of God is at hand – repent and believe in the gospel.”  It is the time of year for us to ponder our relationship with God.  Often people look to feel closer to God during this time.  After all, unlike Advent, when we often get caught up with holiday preparations, Lent has no such distractions, allowing us more time to grow closer to God. No one ever saw God more clearly or more often than Jesus.  He saw the saving work of God in a shepherd searching for lost sheep.  He saw the grace of God in a father embracing a prodigal son.  He saw the love and mercy of God in the good Samaritan.  For Jesus, ordinary events and ordinary people were windows to Heaven:  He could look through and see God. You and I can do the same.  Our failure to see God does not mean that He is absent.  God is with us all the time.  We know this because why else would He take simple bread and wine and say, “This is My Body, this is My Blood, given for you.  Do this in memory of Me.” Don’t let the gloominess of winter hide the light of God that is always with us.  Let this most holy season bring the gifts of hope and peace.  Because of our baptism, we are called to bless, and Lent is a time to recall both how we are blessed and how we bless others. Let this glorious season of Lent keep us strong in our faith and help us feel closer to God.
Fr. Bob Prays the Rosary

Fr. Bob’s Greeting – January 2024 Enews

January 8, 2024
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As we enter the New Year, we could become disheartened as we read the newspapers or watch the news on television. Things never seem to change. Wars and violence, not only in distant places, but right here on the streets of our cities. Sometimes it is difficult to remember the words of Jesus: “Do not let your heart be troubled. Have faith in God, have faith in Me.” Yes, we live in dangerous and difficult times, but as the Friars and Sisters of the Atonement celebrate 125 years of our foundation, we still have hope. Our founders, Servant of God Father Paul Wattson, and Mother Lurana White founded our community 125 years ago at Graymoor, and they chose its name, Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, which they interpreted as At-One-Ment: unity for all people. So, we continue to have faith in God and pray and work for the unity and wellbeing of all people. And so, as we enter the New Year, we will continue reaching out to people of all faiths because we believe that many things on Earth are precious, some are holy, but humanity is Holy of Holies. I invite you to join us this year as we continue our prayers for unity and understanding throughout the world in hopes that it may truly be a “new” year.

Fr. Bob’s Greeting – December 2023 Enews

November 28, 2023
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All of Us Belong at the Stable An author, Ian MacLaren, tells a true story in his book, “Beside the Briar Bush.” It is about a woman raised in a Catholic home by strict parents. In Ireland, she wanted to find freedom—freedom from all the rules of the house. Freedom from religion. She was fed up with being told what to do and how to do it. She goes away and finds the kind of life she thinks is free. She gets all she ever desired, but it is never enough. And what she possesses begins to possess her. Now, she does not even know what it means to be free. One day she, like a prodigal daughter, goes home. When she gets to the cottage of her birth, she wants to turn around and run away. But as she turns to go the dog starts to bark. Her father opens the door. He cannot see her, but he calls out her name, even though he doesn’t have a reason to expect her. She runs toward him, and he takes her in his arms and sobs out blessings on her head. After she returns to the city and to her job, she says to a friend, “It is a pity that you do not speak Gaelic. That is the best of all languages for loving. There are fifty words for ‘darling,’ and my father called me every one of them the night I came home.” Jesus has fifty-plus words for all of us. That is what the stable scene is all about—what Christmas is all about. It would seem that God’s method of judging must be different from that of the world. Just recall the message of the angels: “I bring you good news for all people.” “All people.” That means that Christmas is for everyone no matter who you are. If you are not treated like royalty by the world. If your job makes your life feel menial. If your life is full of burdens. You have a special spotlight in God’s stage, and He has a special place in his heart for you. He found a church for the outcast, not a church that casts people out. What is Christ’s Christmas message? Simply this. Be you saint or sinner, you belong at the stable. Be you rich or poor. You belong at the stable. Christ did not come to earth to exclude anyone. His arms reach out to all who turn to Him, whoever we are, whatever we have done in the past. All of us belong at the stable.

Fr. Bob’s Greeting – November 2023 Enews

October 13, 2023
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I always think of November as the twilight of the year. The nights are getting darker, the trees are bare and it’s getting colder. But in the middle of that month, we celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving stems from a discovery of God’s greatness and glory, and we know that, in spite of all the problems we face today, we can still turn to a loving God in prayer. But also, for us Catholics, November is special. In the Catholic tradition we set aside the month of November as a special time to remember those who have gone before us. Starting on Nov. 2, the Feast of All Souls, we remember our dearly departed loved ones. St. Paul tells us that after death comes judgment and, perhaps, our imaginations conjure up a court trial with God as judge and ourselves as defendants with a lengthy list of offenses. But I tend to think that God is so much bigger that a list of good and bad. I like to think that God sees every fall from grace as simply a lack of love in some form or another, and that at the moment of death, God shows us His perfect love for us and our lackluster response. When I think of Purgatory I reflect on the homecoming of the prodigal son. Yes, he is dirty, disheveled and unworthy like many of us at some point in life. Yet the father comes looking for him and does not listen to his self-accusation. He just takes him in his arms, and at that moment the son sees and feels the enormous love that the father has for him. He also sees how little his response has been to that love and that searing moment is Purgatory. As the book of Maccabees tells us, it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead. I doubt any of us want to die. Not because our faith is weak, but because there is so much to life. We live for life. And inevitably in death, we must never forget the words of the funeral Mass—life is not ended, just changed.

Fr. Bob’s Greeting – August 2023 Enews

I receive many letters over the course of a month. I have to admit most of them are sad. Good people tell me their problems—loss of a job, serious illness, divorce. The list goes on. Inevitably, there’s always a reference to carrying one’s cross. It seems part of the human condition that at some time in life we will all carry a cross just as Jesus did. But I ask you to remember that even Jesus had someone helping Him carry His cross, and He will help us carry ours. I do not know what kind of cross you carry now. I do know, that whether it be pain of body or spirit, disappointments, the death of a loved one, the insecurities of youth and the trembling of old age, the cross touches all of us. The cross hangs over all of our lives and with all my years of Theology, I still do not know why. We all shudder a little when Christ warns us that life can get tough, and that we have to face up to it. None of us likes cross carrying. Yet, there is no human pain that cannot be touched to the cross of Christ. The only thing that can help us carry the crosses that are so much a part of life is our relationship with God. And through this relationship you will love Him because you have touched Him and He has touched you. The questions of why suffering, why pain, why do bad things happen to good people, those questions will not wear away. Still, we don’t have to be like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Remember them? They were walking away from Jerusalem after Christ’s death, away from the suffering, away from the cross, when the resurrected Christ joined them on the road. They did not recognize Him. They tell Him of all their disappointment and frustration of seeing their Savior crucified. And when He told them they were foolish for leaving, they did not recognize Him—because they had missed the Resurrection. We need not run away from our problems, pain and suffering. Just as your Gethsemane is His garden, and your Calvary is also His cross, when you carry your cross, He is there, you are touching Him and His love. And through His love you will be sharing in His Resurrection.