Monthly Archives: October 2018

Laity and Mission

When our general chapter reconvened after visiting with Pope Francis on Monday we explored our mission with the laity. Our mission is “with” the laity. As a religious community our mission is incomplete without them.

“What’s your experience working with the laity?” That question yielded a rich response from members of my community from all parts of the world. Their life experience is different than ours, their holiness often deeper than ours, so we need to learn from them. We need to develop a mechanism to gather their wisdom and establish ways to work together.

During the chapter we had an excellent presentation on continuing formation by Fr Amedeo Cencini, who called “docility”, the willingness to be taught, the key to grow daily in life. Life in all its shapes and forms teaches us, day by day. I wonder if we need a mutual “docility” to create the best relationship between us and the laity.

If the present sexual abuse crisis in the church brings about anything good, it should lead to a greater docility in the future– a docility among church leaders and ministers to be taught and a docility among laypeople to offer their wisdom and experience to the church at all levels.

As I waited for the pope to enter the Clementine Hall in the Vatican on Monday, I took a picture of the large painting beside me of Jesus inviting his disciples, Peter, James and John and the others, to follow him to Jerusalem.(above) Mark’s gospel in recent Sundays says the disciples did not understand what that invitation meant. Neither do we.

But they learned, together, painfully, never completely. The gift of the Spirit made them docile.
Come, Holy Spirit, form us into a docile church.

A General Chapter

Every six years my community, the Passionists, has a general chapter. This is our 47th general chapter and delegates from all over the world are here in Rome to elect leaders– a superior general and his council– and to chart the course for the future.

What’s our mission in the church and in the world? What are the challenges we face? What practical decisions can we make together?

Charting the course for the future may be a good way to describe what we doing here. In the retreat chapel where we pray every day the altar has become a ship as well as a table, and nets promising a catch fall from the ceiling. A model of an old sailing ship stands on one side of the altar. We have a voyage to make.

An article in the news around October 12 described the map and the mapmaker Columbus followed on his way to America. The map and the mapmaker get little credit, but without them Columbus wouldn’t have gone on to the “New World.” The mapmakers didn’t get it all right; sometimes they put imaginary islands where there were none, but their work was enough that Columbus and the others set out and got there.

I think that’s what we are doing here at this chapter. Maps are being drawn–not perfect– but they’ll help the community, the global community, sail on its way and put down the nets.

October 19th we celebrated the feast of St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists. He gave us the first map. Still good, but we’re updating it now. We do what we can, and hope it’s God’s plan for the catch.

Signs of the Times

Today members of the Passionist general chapter here in Rome went to see Pope Francis at the Vatican. In the picture above I’m ten rows back, but all of us were able to meet him and shake his hand at the end of our meeting. He gave us each a rosary and his blessing.

The headline for the story on the Vatican website was “Passionists are Called to Read the Signs of the Times.
You can read the story here.

I hope we do.

Letter to the Ephesians

It’s always surprising to see how the scriptures offer light to see. Last Saturday at our general chapter in Rome we were discussing the difficulties we have today living in community with others, praying together, working together. So many things get in the way and divide us. It’s easy to surrender and think nothing can be done. We’re going nowhere.

The Letter to the Ephesians, read this week at Mass, says that’s not so. It was written, not to one church at Ephesus, but to the church worldwide, commentators says. It describes a great plan of God at work from “the foundation of the world,” a plan for the “fulness of time,” a “mystery made known to us” in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

We have this “word of truth” this gospel of our salvation, from Jesus himself. The Spirit he promised is the “first installment of our inheritance.”

“First installment,” That’s what we working with now, but it gets us where we want to go.

And it promises more. “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, (Ephesians 1)

Last Saturday afternoon, we had reports of new missions in China and Myramar. “Mustard seeds” but that’s how the mystery of God unfolds, Jesus says.

Every Monday of the four week cycle of the Liturgy of the Hours we read Ephesians 1, 3-10 at evening prayer, a reminder to see the day, however small and confusing it may be, as part of the great unfolding plan of God in Christ, our Lord.

29th Week of the Year b

Is 53:10-11/Heb 4:14-16/Mk 10:35-45 or 10:42-45 (146)

22 Monday
[Saint John Paul II, Pope]
Eph 2:1-10/Lk 12:13-21 (473)

23 Tuesday
[Saint John of Capistrano, Priest]
Eph 2:12-22/Lk 12:35-38 (474)

24 Wednesday
[Saint Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop]
Eph 3:2-12/Lk 12:39-48 (475)

25 Thursday
Eph 3:14-21/Lk 12:49-53 (476)

26 Friday
Eph 4:1-6/Lk 12:54-59 (477)

27 Saturday
Eph 4:7-16/Lk 13:1-9 (478)

North American Martyrs


The North American Martyrs, eight Jesuits and their associates were killed by warring Indian tribes in the 17th century. They’re the first saints of North America and we celebrate their feast October 19th.. I’ve visited Auriesville in New York State and the Midlands in Canada where they were martyred; in both places their heroic faith and bravery are remembered.

The missionaries came to the New World expecting a new Pentecost among the native peoples of this land, but it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, disease and political maneuvering made the native peoples suspicious of the foreigners and the seed of the gospel seemed to fall on hard ground. The martyrdom of the eight Jesuits witnesses that resistance.

Letters back to France from the early Jesuits–marvelously preserved in “The Jesuit Relations”–often express the missionaries’ disappointment  over their scarce harvest, but it didn’t stop them. They were well grounded in the mystery of the Cross.

Not far from Auriesville, near Fonda, NY, is the Indian village called Caughnawaga.  In the spring of 1675, after the Jesuits were killed in Auriesville in 1646, Father Jacques de Lamberville visited Caughnawaga . The priest entered a lodge where a young Indian girl Kateri Tekakwitha was alone because a foot injury prevented her from working in the fields. She spoke to him of her desire to receive baptism and on Easter, 1676, the young Indian girl was baptized and took the name Kateri, after St. Catherine of Siena, the mystic and a favorite patron of Christian Indian women. She was 20 years old.

Her uncle and relatives in the long house opposed her conversion to Christianity and pressured her to marry and follow their ways. The early Jesuits considered it a miracle that Kateri resisted  family and tribal pressure.  Her early biographer says “She practiced her faith without losing her original fervor and her extraordinary virtue was seen by all. The Christians saw her obeying their rules exactly, going to prayers everyday in the morning and evening and Mass on Sunday. At the same time she avoided the dreams feasts and the dances,” practices endangering her belief.  (The Life of the Good Catherine Tekakwitha, Claude Chauchetiere, SJ , 1695)

Father de Lamberville finally recommended that Kateri escape to the newly-established  Indian Christian village in Kahnawake near Montreal, where she could live her faith freely.  In 1676, aided by other Christian Indians, she made the dangerous journey northward. There she lived a fervent life of prayer and faith;  she died and was buried on April 17th, 1680.

Kateri was canonized  October 21th in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.” (Tertullian)