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When you walk up to the door of St. Mary of the Angels Friary in New Orleans you see a spray-painted door indicating that there is toxic flood water within. While that is no longer true, the friary is still in need of a great deal of work. As can be seen on the right, the first floor has been gutted and plans are being drawn up for its remodeling. Even the metal door jams will need to be replaced. Everything was ruined by the flood water of one year ago.
I spent some time with Fr. Bart Pax, O.F.M., the local pastor, this morning and then returned this evening to take him out to dinner. The article in Saint Anthony Messenger that I linked a couple of posts ago tells his story, but talking with him gave me a different slant on the situation. I deeply respect his courage, dedication, and faith.
Between my visits with Fr. Bart I drove the sixty-some miles down the delta where we once had a number of missions. I will reflect a bit more on this when I get home, but for right now I'll share just a couple of thoughts. First, I am amazed how nature recoups itself. Seasons come and go and new growth fills in where damage once was evident. Even the places that used to be inhabited by people and their structures quickly return to nature once we move out. Second, I was surprised how few devastated building I saw until I suddenly realized that that is because they have been cleared away. All that remains in many places is nothing--nothing where once human live flourished.
Finally, I found myself unable to take many pictures on the trip. Sometimes it was because it was impossible to pull off the road to take a picture, but more often it was because I couldn't bring myself to snap a picture. I felt I would be violating someone's privacy. This structure--now reduced to rubble--was someone's home, or business, or school. Human life flourished in this structure that now lies in ruin, and I just needed to leave it alone. It's not mine to use for my purposes.
Tomorrow I visit a prospective and return to Cincinnati. But this day will stick in my memory because of who and what I experienced.
I have been thinking that the comments on this page have been a little hard to find, and therefore hard to respond to. So, in an attempt to rectify that situation, I am going to try something. I will copy each comment over into a new post and identify it by a different colored title.
So the first comment in the new style comes from Ben who writes:
"It's been a long time since I posted a comment. School started Wednesday and I've been a little busy, but any way my congrads. to the friars making their solemn Professions."
Thanks to Phillips Robinette, O.F.M. we have some new pictures of the Solemn Profession of Al Mascia, O.F.M. and Chris Meyer, O.F.M. which took place August 12th. Before the friars pronounced their vows they were with their families on the left of the church while the friars gathered together on the left. Here we see both friars standing next to their mothers and family. Both of the new professeds' fathers are deceased. Fr. Fred, our Provincial Minister was the main celebrant at the Eucharist and received the friars' vows.
At the end of a profession ceremony, the newly professed and their witnesses sign what is affectionately called the "Book of Life;" the official record of every friar's life in the fraternity. Here we see Al on the left and Chris on the right signing the book as their mothers and witnesses look on. Before the ceremony began, many of us were leafing through the book looking for our records. Alas, some of us, myself included, were old enough that our record is in a previous volume. What can I say!
Finally, Brother Phil caught this shot of Richard Goodin, one of our Postulants, standing next to Fr. Murray Bodo, O.F.M. It hit me that this photo is a good image of what our fraternity is all about. Richard is the youngest member of our province and had been with us just over a month at the time that the picture was taken. Just a few weeks prior, Murray had celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his First Profession of vows. As brothers they stood together celebrating the life commitment of two fellow brothers in the fraternity. Richard has just under two years before his First Profession.
First, I apologize for not having posted anything for almost a week. The Vocation Office has been busy and that is great. I've been planning some major trips to visit with many who are contemplating joining us. Believe me, a busy Vocation Office is a great thing.
Second, yesterday some of us joined one of the friars to bury his sister. She died rather unexpectedly last Saturday. So some of us friars joined the family in the funeral Liturgy at one of the local parish churches. I couldn't help but think as I was sitting in church before Mass, how Saint Francis view death as a "sister." In his Canticle of the Creatures he praises "Sister Death" right along with all of the other parts of creation. We believe that it is through death that we are born to eternity. So, while we certainly have a natural fear of death, Jesus has turned it into something positive by conquering death as the absolute end of life and making it a passage to new life. And that is something to sing about!
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death,
From whose embrace no mortal can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your will!
The second death can do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks
And serve him with great humility.
At Clifty Falls State Park near Madison, IN I awoke this morning to the scene at the left out my bedroom window. The morning mist was slowly moving down the Ohio River and the sun was just getting up over the horizon. What a beautiful day, the second and final of two planning days that I and sixteen other friars attended. Yesterday we discussed a very supportive and challenging document we received from our General Minister in Rome concerning the ideals and practicalities of Franciscan life. As a representative group of friars meeting with the Provincial Minister and his Council, we discussed and dreamed of ways to live our life more fully according to the "priorities of our Order."
For the past few years, the Order has set five priorities for ourselves. The first, and the "Priority of all the priorities" is the Contemplative Dimension of our life often call the "spirit of prayer and devotion." The other four priorities are: Fraternal Life in Community; Minority, Poverty, and Solidarity; Evangelization-Mission; and Formation and Studies. We looked at each of these anew and prayed and discussed how we might keep growing individually and as a community in these ideals of our Franciscan Life.
On the left, Fr. Alex Kratz scratches his head as he "ponders" a weighty question in the midst of our discussion while Bro. Tim Lamb sits quietly in deep thought. On the right, Fr. Fred Link, our Minister Provincial, makes a point while Fr. Dan Anderson listens. But the days were not all work. We prayed and sang and celebrated Eucharist together and enjoyed some very good food both at the Inn and at a small Italian restaurant last night.
Yesterday, Saturday, August 12th, was a beautiful day weather-wise and in every other way for our Province of Saint John the Baptist. About 75 friars, 9 Poor Clares, and over 130 friends and family of Bros. Al Mascia and Chris Meyer gathered at Saint Clement Church to celebrate two Solemn Professions. Our Provincial Minister, Fr. Fred Link, O.F.M., lead the celebration(seen entering with Bro. John Barker who served as Master of Ceremonies) and received their vows in a very festive Eucharist.
In the picture at the right, Fr. Fred and Bro. Andrew Stettler kneel between Al and Chris who lay prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary as the entire congregation prayed a Litany of the Saints asking all of the Franciscans Saints as well as those of the universal Church to intercede for them as they prepared to vow to live as Franciscans for life.
Chris (pictured on the left) and Al (pictured on the right) placed their hands within Fr. Fred's and vowed to live the Franciscan Rule given to us by Saint Francis of Assisi in obedience, in chastity, and without appropriating anything to themselves for the rest of their lives. Fr. Fred, in turn, promised that if they remained faithful to their promises they would enjoy Eternal Life.
After praying over the newly professed a prayer of blessing (see picture on the left), Fr. Fred welcomed them into full membership in the Province and the Order of Friars Minor with a sign of peace. Then each friar and Poor Clare individually welcomed them. At the right Fr. Dennet Jung greets Chris.
The Solemn Profession of Vows is always an exciting moment in the life of a province. It means that those making vows have completed their years of initial formation and have chosen, and been approved by the community, to enter into full communion with the intention of sharing their lives and talents with the fraternity for life. It is a time of grace not only for the province and the Order, but also for the Church as these newly professed men take on the life of witness to and service of others. We congratulate and thank Al and Chris for their commitment and dedication and look forward to sharing our Franciscan life with them.
Bro. Christopher Meyer, O.F.M.
Bro. Al Mascia, O.F.M.
Brother Chris will be returning to Chicago for further academic work and Brother Al will remain in Cincinnati working at Saint Francis Ministries.
My trek through Texas ended yesterday with a 5:15 a.m. flight from Lubbock, right at the beginning of the tightened airport security. I got to the Lubbock airport about 4:00 a.m. expecting a sleepy little group of people and a quiet flight. When I walked in, the TSA personnel were scurrying around. I also noticed how many there were on duty. Then an airport official called us together and told us to take all liquid--toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, etc.--out of our carry-ons and throw it away. By then the TSA folks were dispersing throughout the airport like a swarm of locusts. When we finally got airborne we relaxed a bit, but at each airport I experienced the same thing. I was told that every TSA agent was on duty. I must say that they are an impressive group when they move into action.
Last evening the Poor Clares invited all of the Friars in the area to celebrate with them the Transitus of Saint Clare. (At left, Sr. Mary Doris, O.S.C., the Abbess, welcomes us all.) The Transitus is a traditional service that the Poor Clares celebrate the evening before the Solemnity of their foundress. It is a commemoration of the passing of Saint Clare from this life to the next--her transitus. We friars celebrate the Transitus of Saint Francis on the evening of October 3rd, the night before the Solemnity of Saint Francis.
The service consisted of a narrative of the life and death of Saint Clare. At one point baskets of bread were shared with all in remembrance of Clare's motherly care for the Sisters with whom she lived. There are a couple of stories concerning her blessing and sharing bread. In the picture at the right, Sr. Judith, O.S.C. passes the basket to the Sisters and Friars (and Postulants) present.
The celebration continued with an ice cream social in the Sisters' Dining and Community rooms. In a true Franciscan tradition, we PRAYED and PLAYED. At the left Brothers Mark, O.F.M. and Scott, O.F.M. chat. Sr. Dianne, O.S.C. is smiling in the foreground. The friar in a white habit in the background is Bro. Patras, O.F.M. who is a Pakistani friar who works with our friars in Jamaica. All of the friars serving in the tropics wear white habits.
Finally, tomorrow is the BIG DAY for Al Mascia, O.F.M. and Christopher Meyer, O.F.M. as they profess their Solemn Vows. Hopefully tomorrow evening or Sunday I will have pictures of this celebration as Saint John the Baptist Province welcomes two new life-long members.
As I mentioned in the last post, I am on a quick trip in Texas visiting with young men interested in looking at the possibility of joining our province. Yesterday I got up at 4:30 a.m. to catch an 8:00 a.m. flight to Atlanta and then on to Houston-Hobby where I arrived around noon. I hopped in a rental and drove to Beaumont to visit with the first prospective and then drove back to Houston for the evening.
I stayed with Fr. page Polk, O.F.M. who coordinates the Catholic Pastoral team at the Texas Medical University Hospitals. Page lives with three diocesan priests in the humble "mansion" shown above. (If the picture looks a bit fuzzy it is because the humidity was so high this morning that the camera lens kept fogging up. I thought I had it cleared, but obviously I didn't.) We feasted on Mexican fare at Mama Ninfa's. It was WONDERFUL. So was the Mexican food I had again tonight!
Today I drove to Richmond for the day's first visit and then on to San Antonio for the second visit of the day. I am staying here in San Antonio tonight (too late to do any sight seeing) and I fly to Lubbock, TX tomorrow.
This crazy schedule accomplishes two objectives: I get to visit with some good potentials and it gets me home in time for our house Day of Recollection and the celebration of Saint Clare. It will make for an ambitious week, but a very good one. I'm very happy with the visits I have had. It is good to meet young men with generous hearts and deep faith looking at our community as a possible place to share their life and talents. Pray for their continued discernment.
Pray also for the two men preparing to make their Solemn Vows on Saturday. If you are in the area of Cincinnati, join us for the celebration.
Dennis Geib and Richard Goodin, our two Postulants, and I went to St. Paul Parish in Yellow Springs, OH today for an 11:00 a.m. Eucharist followed by an hour-and-a-half discussion on vocations. We were joined on the panel by the pastor, a diocesan seminarian, a married deacon, and a Sister of Charity who is just finishing here novitiate. About twenty parishioners attended. We simply began by introducing ourselves and then taking questions. The discussion flowed freely including topics on Religious Life and priesthood as well as many other vocational possibilities. Whether or not anyone was inspired only the Holy Spirit knows, but then that is how these events go. We do our best and let the effects in the hands of God. We were then treated to pizza in scenic downtown Yellow Springs.
I will be leaving early tomorrow morning to fly to Texas where I will visit five prospectives. I will begin in Beaumont and then move on to Houston where I will spend the night with Fr. Page Polk, O.F.M. Tuesday I will drive to Richmond and San Antonio visiting a man in each city. Wednesday I fly to Lubbock for one visit and then return to Cincinnati on Thursday for our month Day of Recollection and the beginnings of our celebration of the Solemnity of Saint Clare. More on all this as it happens.
Did you ever wonder what Catholics are talking about when they mention "Feast Days" or "Name's Days?" Well, put simply, the Church celebrates some saint (or sometimes more than one) almost every day of the year. Tomorrow, for example, we remember Saint John Vianney. Next week we celebrate two important feast days for us Franciscans: Saint Dominic on August 8 and Saint Clare on August 11.
To read about the saint(s) for each day of the year, go to Saint Anthony Messenger Press' feature Saint of the Day at: http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintofDay/default.asp. Most likely, you'll learn about some saints you have never heard of.