Sunday, August 08, 2010

A New Assignment: Honduras

As of August 10th, 2010, I will be transferred down to Honduras. Here is a little blurb I wrote up for the parish bulletin that explains the situation. Names have been removed for privacy sake.

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Dear brothers and sisters,


When my provincial asked me this summer to consider an immediate transfer to Honduras, my heart sank. I asked myself: who would want to give up the fraternal support of Fr. X and Br. Y and the warmth and vibrancy of the people of St. Z? And yet as I began praying over this decision I remembered, from when I first started discerning a call to religious life, how much I wanted to be generous in my response to God’s love and to let Him do with me as He wills. In 2008, the last time I was in our missions in Central America, my prayer as to whether I was to come to the missions after seminary was answered with what I discerned to be God’s reply of “not yet”. I asked what I was to do in the interim and was shown that God had growth in a particular area in mind for me. So my discernment in response to my provincial’s proposal was not a matter of asking God “if” He was asking me to go, but rather “when”. My own plans were that I spend three to five years in the US as a priest before going to the missions, and I had hoped that I could stay here for that. Yet as I prayed over the decision for a few days, I noticed that God was reminding me of the generosity to which He was calling me and showing me that the area of growth He wanted from me was near completion. So, fully aware of my limitations, but with trust in God, I answered “yes”.

At the same time I realized the answer, I became acutely aware that by placing more trust in God and being more generous in my response to God’s will, I would be, in fact, asking Fr. X, Br. Y and the entire community at St. Z to place more trust in God and to be more generous to God in their response to His love, to dedicate themselves more to the Lord’s work for His people, the Church. Though I do not leave easily, I can only hope that the void left will inspire others to lend a hand to help the parish fulfill its God given mission of evangelizing the families of D... . I also hope that some of our youth may discern God calling them to the consecrated religious life and some of the young men to priesthood.

I thank you for opening your hearts and home to me and for your well wishes and prayers. Please know that I will also be praying for you and offering the sacrifices of mission work for you and your families. ... God bless you all.

Peace and Good,

Fr. Chris Gaffrey, OFM

Homily for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

Here is my homily for this Sunday, August 8th. (Note: I never deliver a homily the way I write it).

If the greatest thing we can do while on earth is truly love God and our neighbors, than faith is the first step toward loving. In the gospel Jesus tells His disciples to not be afraid, that the Father is pleased to give them the Kingdom. By doing so, Jesus is asking them to have faith in God, to believe that God is indeed present in their lives in a way that is not seen with our physical eyes, but discerned through the eyes of faith.


Knowing that God is near that His providence is at work in our lives calms our anxieties over our daily needs and enables us to hope in God for our welfare. No longer afraid for ourselves, but trusting in God and confident He will provide should we be lacking, we no longer cling to possessions, to the excess just in case, but are able instead to open our hearts and turn our attention to those who have-not, to be willing to give to others in light of God’s goodness to us now and in light of the reward awaiting those who are truly God’s servants, those who served their fellow men and women in need.

Oddly enough we have a bad example in the steward who begins to beat his fellow servants and is busy eating and getting drunk on the very food and drink he should have been distributing to his fellow servants. What went wrong with this servant? Why did he stop doing the master’s will and turn instead into a selfish servant? Jesus tells us he began to think that his master was delayed in coming.

We too can begin to think that “our master is delayed in coming” when we begin to think that God does not actually want to have anything to do with us, when we question whether He is even present in our daily lives. We too can easily get caught up in fear and selfishness when we forget that God is indeed present in our lives even when we can’t “see” it.

The stronger our faith, the more we hope to receive from God, the more we let God love us and are willing to give back to God in love. One example of this is Abraham who the letter to the Hebrews extols as an All-Star of faith. Abraham had just as many difficulties to face as we do, if not more, and yet he always faced them with God, firmly depending on Him and not relying on his own strength. As a result Abraham grew steadily in wisdom and holiness. He trusted God and hoped for all things from Him, and God was able to advance his plan of salvation through him, preparing Abraham to be willing to give all back to God and to do all for the good of others.

Abraham is an example that we are called to imitate. We too are called to follow God no matter what. We too are called to let God do wonderful things for us and through us. But if we want to have greater hope and if we want to love more we need great faith that is strong and mature. The question that comes to us today is how can we grow in our faith? The answer is just as easy as developing strong mature muscles. Just as we need to eat carbs and protein to build muscles, we need to feed our faith on the sacraments and prayer, just as we are doing here today at mass. And just as we exercise our muscles, likewise we need to exercise our faith. One way we can exercise our faith is to say small, spontaneous, and sincere acts of faith, mini-prayers, every day, in the quiet of our hearts. When we see a beautiful sunset or feel the tangy ocean breeze, to say, "Thank you Lord; I believe in you." When we visit a loved one who is sick or dying, to say, "Lord, I believe in you; don't abandon this person, give them strength." When we experience life's sorrows, to say, "Lord, you suffered for me; teach me to suffer with faith for you." When we experience life's joys, to say, "Lord, this is just a small hint of your love for me; teach me to believe in you more deeply." Today, when Jesus comes to us in Holy Communion, let's consciously exercise our faith. And let's promise that we will continue exercising it all week, so it will grow, and we will be able to live life to the full, hoping in God and loving Him and our neighbors both now and for all eternity. May the Lord give you peace.

Homily for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

Here is my homily for last Sunday, August 1st.



This is one of those gospel passages that can really puzzle us if we don’t understand what is happening. Here is a man who comes to Jesus with a real problem. His brother is trying to make off with most of the inheritance. He asks Jesus to step in and arbitrate, to get his brother to give him his share. Yet Jesus refuses to do so. Instead he tells a parable about a man who is so busy searching out wealth and luxury that he dies without having had any regard for what comes after this life. In essence, Jesus is telling this man: don’t be so concerned with this life that you end up taking your eye off the prize, the gift of eternal life in heaven. How true this is and the readings today are chocked full of reminders.


We hear in the first reading how pointless and vain it is to work so hard without any thought for our soul or for our salvation. In the psalm we prayed that God give us wisdom to realize that this world is passing and that we need to be attentive to God’s voice to show us what is really worth working for, what labors of ours truly bear lasting fruit. In the gospel we hear how the man in the parable spent so much time working that he did not prepare his soul for death and all his earthly treasure went to others.

Jesus reminds us that it is important to be rich in what matters to God, and in the second reading, St. Paul reminds us what that prize is that is truly worth working toward. He tells us to keep our eye on the prize of our life in Christ, not only that life in Christ that we already possess even now, but that future life of glory that we will live with Christ after death. Paul reminds us that we are to be busy at putting an end to the reign of sin in our lives and to seek Christ as our all. In no way does this mean we shouldn’t work for the things of this earth. We don’t hear the author of Ecclesiastes, St. Paul, or Jesus condemning our earthly work. Instead they are simply reminding us that the good things of this world are not the end all and be all of our lives. Instead, the prize is our life with God, our victory over sin and death in Christ Jesus, our becoming saints with the help of the Holy Spirit.

There once was a young man from a wealthy and influential family, whose father owned a prominent newspaper firm. Despite his father’s financial success this young man was more interested in helping the poor than he was at securing his inheritance or making a name for himself in politics and business. He deeply loved Christ, went to mass daily and prayed the rosary three times a day. Yet his devotion and faith did not stop him from continuing his studies, going on hiking trips with friends and looking to better the plight of the poor with social activism. One cold night, when he returned home without his coat, his frugal father scolded him for having given it to a poor old man. The young man replied “But you see, father, it was cold.” This young man’s name was Pier Giorgio Frassati, who Pope John Paul II beatified and called a man of the beatitudes. Upon Pier Giorgio’s death the greatest outpouring of love was not from the social elite that his family knew and not from his circle of friends, but rather from the poor of Turin, who had no idea that Pier Giorgio was even from such an influential family. Blessed Pier Giorgio understood that it is necessary for us to keep our eyes on the prize, that living for Christ and for others, becoming saints, is more important than riches and wealth.

Not all of us are called to the kind of charity practiced by Blessed Pier Giorgio, especially since not many of us come from rich and influential families. However, like Blessed Pier Giorgio, we are all called to keep our focus on Christ, our eyes on the prize of eternal life. This may seem a bit difficult today, but it is not impossible. Today we live in a society that values work and recreation. We work so that we can afford the pleasures of television, movies, vacations, sports. After the recreation, we go back to work. Yet all too often we can get trapped in the idea that we work so as to afford recreation and do recreation in order to take a break from work. In the midst of this pendulum between the toil of work and the pleasure of recreation we can easily loose sight of why we are here in the first place.

One way we can keep our eye on the prize and not forget that our life in Christ is what is most valuable is for us to plan out time for a retreat. This doesn’t have to mean going off for a few days to a monastery to pray, though if we did that it certainly wouldn’t hurt. However, going on retreat, taking some time to be silent and pray can be as simple as scheduling an evening where the tv, computers, cell-phones and video games are turned off and the family can gather for the rosary or for reading a passage of the gospel and sharing one’s reflections on it. Or ‘a retreat’ could be as simple as scheduling one day in the midst of vacation for silent prayer, or for visiting a holy site, like a monastery, a shrine, or a basilica. For those who like to travel on their vacations, the idea of taking time for a retreat could be as simple as arranging to go some place on pilgrimage instead of simply touring. No matter what for our retreat may take, it can be for us the perfect opportunity to take inventory in our lives, to see where we are going, how we are living, if we are truly happy, and for us to not take our eyes off the prize of the life that God calls us to live in Christ. May the Lord give you Peace.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Independence Day and True Freedom

Here is my homily for the 14 Sunday of Ordinary Time, July 4th, 2010. The reading may be found here.

Today our nation celebrates the freedom that we have because of our independence from the King of England. The liturgy has the church celebrating the freedom that we have because of our dependence on the King of Heaven and Earth. We as Americans remember how the Sons of Liberty struggled to throw off the reign of tyranny in order that we might live in a country built on freedom. And as Catholics the gospel presents to us disciples throwing off the reign of evil so that, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, we may enjoy the liberty of the sons and daughters of God. As citizens of New Hampshire, today we celebrate in a special way the state motto “Live Free or Die”. And as Catholics we recognize the eternal truth in that statement that unless we live free from sin, we will indeed die spiritually and not come to enjoy the blessings of eternal life promised us by God.

Yet on this Independence Day, a day we celebrate freedom, the good news given to us is that we can indeed live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God, free of the power of sin in our lives, that we can indeed become saints, in and through our dependence on God.


With God, what seems impossible to us is possible. After the people of God had been scattered and Jerusalem had been destroyed, it seemed impossible to our ancestors in the faith that their nation would ever be restored. And yet as Isaiah announces in the first reading, God brings about what is beyond our human capacity. He promises to restore Jerusalem, to comfort his people as mother comforts her child, and this promise He fulfills.


In the gospel, Jesus sends out 72 disciples, giving them authority over evil spirits, and they come back rejoicing that what had seemed impossible to them was made possible by God, that they might be able to overcome the power of sin and evil in their lives and help be instruments of God's Kingdom in the lives of others.
 

Saint Paul reminds us of how important it is for us to become new creations, that as important as the our rites and sacraments are, they mean nothing if one is not willing to break free from the reign of sin in one's life. This is why at mass we recall our sins and ask God for pardon and the strength to to break from sin. This is why in the sacrament of reconciliation when we say the act of contrition we express, not only our sorrow over our sins, but also our intention to pick up where we left off in our struggle against sin and its power over us, so as to reform our lives and sin no more.

St. Paul also stresses how important the power of Christ's cross is. He does not boast of his own ability to be righteous but in the power over sin that Christ has given him (Paul) in and through His death on the cross. This is why Paul speaks of being crucified with Christ.


Being free from sin and becoming a new creation can seem impossible to us. Often we tend to fall into the same sins, and we can get discouraged. We can even begin to think it impossible for us to not give in to a certain temptation. And yet Jesus Christ overcame sin and death through his cross and resurrection. To his disciples he gave the “power to 'tread upon serpents' and scorpions ... upon the full force of the enemy”, that is power to overcome sin and to resist temptation. Not only that, but as he does in the gospel, Jesus also warns us when we are about to fall into sin. The disciples come back from having done so many amazing things and are overjoyed. Yet Jesus warns them about one of the most sneaky temptations to sin, the temptation to spiritual pride, that is getting puffed up in one's own not so humble opinion of one's self. Jesus reminds them that it is not so important what they are able to do but that God so loves them that He has revealed himself to them in order to free them from sin and bring them into the joys of His Kingdom. So we see a couple of things that may surprise us. Jesus give his disciples the ability to overcome sin and temptation through a sharing in his power and his authority. But Jesus also has his disciples' backs. He warns them when they are in danger of sinning. If this is what he does for his disciples in the gospel, can he not also do this for us? He can indeed do this. This was indeed His plan when He gave us “power from on high” in the person of the Holy Spirit. God is with us in our own struggle for spiritual freedom. And if God is for us, who can be against us. As long as we persevere in our struggle against sin and not get discouraged at our own lack of results.


One such saint who struggled and did not let herself get discouraged was St. Therese of Lisieux. Despite realizing her inability to do great penances or to pray without being distracted or without occasionally falling asleep, and even coming to terms with her own personal struggles, St. Therese took comfort in the words of Isaiah, “As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Therese decided to trust God in her smallness and follow what would be called the Little Way of Spiritual Childhood. Because of the prophetic value to the Church of her teaching of simple childlike trust in God, Pope John Paul II declared her to be a doctor of the church in 1997.


We have a great need for Therese's childlike simplicity and dependence on God's goodness. In a world that prides itself on rugged individualism, on know-how and technology, we can easily begin to rely on our own strength and our own capabilities even in the spiritual life. And yet our true freedom, our true strength and joy, come not from declaring and proving our independence from God, but from recognizing our very dependence on His goodness, on His mercy, on His grace and on His love.


To help us cultivate our trust in God in imitation of St. Therese we can practice what's called an attitude of gratitude. Often times we look at our lives in terms of successes and pleasures that are tangible instead of remembering that our true happiness comes from God. We tend to take our eyes off the prize of heaven and forget that God is completely and totally for us and on our side when it comes to our spiritual life and our sanctification. To counter this tendency we can take some time to count our blessings, to remember that our names our written in heaven. Whether at the end of the day or on the way to work or especially when we feel down and out, we can take the time look back and think of all the blessings God has given us, the very gift of life that we so often take for granted, the friends and family members, who at the least have been there for us or provided for our needs, the many small ways that God has answered our prayers, even going so far to recognize the good things that have come from suffering and trials. All these can help us to see God's hand at work in our lives.

 

If we take time to count our blessings we can indeed grow in the hope and the trust that God is on our side and that God is for us, and that through Christ's passion and cross, He will indeed give us the strength and power to live free from sin, to cast off the tyranny of temptation, and to celebrate our true freedom as sons and daughters of God. This Independence Day, we Catholics celebrate our true freedom, because in God, and in His power to overcome sin at work in our lives, we trust.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rumor Has It...

... "that they have approved the miracle, and Ven. John Paul II will be beatified in April."

"No, rumor has it that the Ven. John Paul II will be beatified in October..."

The rumors are only that: rumors. The process for the recognition of a miracle is more complicated. First the local diocese has to investigate, which Aix and Arles in France did in regard to Sr. Marie Simon. They submitted the report of their Process "Super Miro" to the Postulator, who then submitted it to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. But the congregation doesn't look at supposed miracles until a declaration of heroic virtue is issued by the Holy Father. 

And that process begins with the Postulator writing a "Positio" or "position," which gets submitted to a committee of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. After the committee decides to accept the "Positio" it moves on to the vote of the entire Congregation. When they have approved the "Positio", they ask the Holy Father to issue the decree of heroic virtue, declaring that the Servant of God is indeed "venerable." That happened for JPII this past December. 

Now the supposed miracle submitted to the Postulator by the Diocese of Aix and Arles goes through a similar process. A certain committee in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has to approve it, submit it to the vote of the entire Congregation and then the Congregation presents it to His Holiness for his final decision. When the Holy Father signs the approval of the miracle, we will know because Vatican Information Service will issue a press release with the news of the Holy Father signing various decrees recognizing miracles. 

He just did that Saturday (March 27th) and the miracle attributed to John Paul II was not among them. Even if it were, a beatification would not be scheduled so soon after the signing of the recognition of the miracle. It would be scheduled at least 6 months later as that amount of time to plan for the event would be necessary. 


So there is no way the rumor that John Paul II is going to be beatified in April is true, and unless the Holy Father signs more decrees from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in April, it does not look like the rumor that John Paul II will be beatified in October holds any water either.

The thing to remember is that there are thousands upon thousands of causes open and under investigation, and the number of people working on the committee in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints can be counted on one hand. So, they will get to the miracle attributed to JPII when they get to it. And when they do get to it, it will not be signed by the Holy Father until everyone has had their say. We just need to be patient.


Once a recognition of a miracle attributed to John Paul II is signed by the Holy Father, please be sure to add six months to a year to that date for all your rumors about when John Paul II's beatification will take place.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Real St. Patrick

Here's a little prayer connected to St. Patrick to counteract the false notion that today should be about getting drunk, wearing green, and being kissed (and more) simply because one claims to be Irish.


Lorica of Saint Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377) 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! -- The Blessings of the Feast of St. Patrick to you all!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Listening to the Word of God

At Youth Group last night we were discussing listening to the Word of God with humility from the Imitation of Christ.

How all the words of God are to be heard with humility, and how many consider them not:
"My Son, hear My words, for My words are most sweet, surpassing all the knowledge of the philosophers and wise men of this world. My words are spirit, and they are life, and are not to be weighed by man's understanding. They are not to be drawn forth for vain approbation, but to be heard in silence, and to be received with all humility and with deep love."
And I said, "Blessed is the man whom Thou teachest, O Lord, and instructest him in Thy law, that Thou mayest give him rest in time of adversity, and that he be not desolate in the earth."


One of the things that was discussed is that listening to the Word of God is more than simply reading scripture or obeying the commandments, as important as these are. Listening to the Word of God also means hearing God speak to us in the depths of our hearts in the midst of our daily lives.

When one encounters God directly speaking to us where we are at, we begin to see that He really does love us and is looking after us, that He is not a "far off God", but one who draws near to us.