The Beginning

The Beginning

Monday, February 28, 2011

Christs' Message to Young People

What does Jesus ask of young people to do? What is His message for them? What is His challenge for them? Today in the Gospel reading we are given that message and as the Gospel was read and as the homily was given I began to reflect on the many conversations I have had with people who I care deeply about, whether close friends or kids in the youth groups I have been apart of and am apart of now. Todays Gospel was about the "rich young man" who, after having observed faithfully the Commandments all his life, went to Jesus daring to ask Him, "what more must I do?" Point number one, this man new that he was still lacking something. He was still empty inside despite everything he had already done. I think it is very common for people to feel this longing for something deeper and more substantial in their lives. Young people especially are drawn to finding the deeper meaning to things. Point number two, this man had the courage to ask Jesus what more he could do. I think often times we have the feeling that there is something more and we desire something more and we know without a shadow of a doubt that there is in fact something more to life than what we have, but we often fail to take the extra step of what this man did and stand before Jesus and actually ask him for the answer to our question. I think we often fail to do this because we are afraid of the answer and we see in the Gospel that the man despite having that longing for something more and despite having the courage to ask did not like the answer he got. "What more must I do Lord?" And Jesus says in reply, "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven: then come, follow me." The man then walks away sad because he has many possessions. I cannot begin to express how frustrating it can get for me to talk to so many young people who have the same response as this man in the Gospel. We find ourselves living in a society that teaches us that more is better and we must keep ourselves busy all the time with the various material things in our lives which we must have or we will not be happy. And not necessarily always material things eaither. I think the main point that Jesus has for young people and really all people is don't let your possessions get in the way of entering into relationship with other people and most importantly not letting things in this world get in the way of entering into relationship with Jesus Christ. And if they do keep us from entering into that relationship then go and sell them and give to the poor. When I talk to young people I get this general message. They are like the man in the Gospel who know there is something more, something deeper, some even have the courage to ask what more must I do, though not very many are able to get this far, but then the ones who do get that far then react like the man in the Gospel. But to be fair every once in a while some do follow Jesus' last instruction and when they do they are truly happy because of it. What is keeping us from building a relationship with Jesus? We may think that our relationship with Jesus is good as it is. We may think that our faith life and our prayer life is good enough. The only problem with that is that in this life we will never be at that point in our relationship with God that we cannot go deeper. There is always more, but do we accept that? We have our Ipods and Ipads, we have our cell phones, we have our playstations, X-Box's, and Wii's, we have DVD players and T.V.'s. We have computers full of things like Facebook and Myspace. We have Twitter and texting. We have school, we have work, and we have sports teams. But do any of these matter if we don't first of all have a deep and continuosly growing and deepening relationship with Jesus? Do the things I have mentioned above often keep us too busy and take our focus off of our faith and prayer life? The question I think Jesus is asking in this Gospel passage is, "are you, my children, who I love so deeply, willing to give up the things that distract you from Me? Are you willing to give these things up and in response enter into a deeper relationship with Me? Are you willing to Give up everything to follow me?" He calls the man in the Gospel to not only sell his possessions, but also to follow Him. Are we willing to do this? Can we let go of everything and follow after Christ? Lent is coming up soon. A perfect time to maybe start getting rid of the things in our lives that distract us and start spending more time in prayer, more time at Church, more time with each other, people who are a positive influence and will help us grow in our faith, and ultimately more time with Jesus. It is a very challenging message. But it is what Christ asks of us. Are we willing to answer His call? Are you willing?

Peace and all good,

Monday, January 31, 2011


Last week all of us postulants were on a discernment retreat up in Orangeville, Toronto. Yes, way up in Canada! And I do have to say that it came at a pretty good time. Mostly because I was already beginning to enter into a time of my own discernment. This week just gave me some extra time to think. So what was I thinking about? What was I discerning? As you may already know, my ministry here in Milwaukee is at St. Francis of Assisi Parish working with the youth group there. We just had our retreat not to long ago and in my opinion it didn't go well. But at the same time more kids are coming to youth group every week so I guess maybe I was wrong. Maybe it didn't go how I wanted it to go, but it went how God wanted it to go and thats the imoprtant part. But I began thinking alot after the high school retreat. I began wondering if this is what I'm supposed to be doing. Because in my mind I failed. I began praying that God would show me how to minister to these kids. And to get to the point what was going through my mind was that I am a white guy from a mostly white suburban area growing up in a nice middle class family. Every youth group I have worked in up until now has been upper middle class to the low end of upper class. And now here I am ministering in the inner city, with inner city kids of minority racial backgrounds. Now I find that I am the one who is in the minority. That is a huge switch for me. And I have been trying to find a way to connect with these kids. And I keep doubting my ability. Then a few days before we left for Canada I had a profound, yet terrifying thought that came to my mind as I was praying about all of this. I was praying, and when I say praying I mean I was mostly complaining, to God that I don't know if I'm the right person for this ministry. There has to be someone better than me. But unfortunately no one ever puts any effort or money into inner city youth programs and I thought if no one else is going to do it then who is? And in the depths of my heart a heard a soft and gentle voice respond, "You are." And it scared the crap out of me. It's one of those moments where you just want to laugh at God and be like you've got the wrong guy. You got me mixed up with someone else. So what do I do with this? Well I took it with me on my discernment retreat and thought a lot about it. But the thing about discernment is that it is ongoing. I didn't get the answer while on the retreat. But it gave me the time to pray about how I am suppoosed to minister to these kids. How can I connect with them? So a series of events took place. Our last day in Toronto we were walking around the city with the Canadian Candidates. Guys who are thinking about beginning postulancy next year. And one of them worked in education and he was telling me that to connect with kids you have to find out what they are interested in and then become interested in that yourself so you can talk on their level. I didn't really think much of it at the time because I thought I knew that already. Obviously I didn't. On Saturday we left Toronto for Chicago. It was about a 12 hour drive so it gave me a lot of time to think and so I was praying more about this whole situation and suddenly what that Candidate told me sank into my head. What are the kids interested in? Become interested in it. Well they all love rap music. So I began to think that maybe a way to connect with them was through rap. We could do a bible study and then from there we could as a group write a rap song together about how the message of the scripture passage is relevant to them in their lives. One of the kids already writes his own rap music so I thought this could actually work. For the first time in a long time I was filled with joy and excitement about my ministry. I feel like this could be it. This could be how I start to make a breakthrough with the kids. Take what they already love and re-direct it to fit the message. Isn't that what evangelization is all about? Heck Saint Paul did it in Athens when the people were questioning him he pointed out to them "You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, 'To an Unknown God'." (Acts 17:22-23) He took what they knew already. They had an altar to an unknown god because they knew that there would always be a god they didnt know about so they wanted to make room for it. And he took that and turned that unknown god into the God of heaven and earth. The only God, creator of all things. He re-directed them in their worship. He re-directed the altar of the unknown god to fit the Christian message. I hope I am able to do the same with these kids. Pray for me that God will guide me in my ministry.

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

O come, O come Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
In this second week of Advent we reflect upon the "voice of one crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." We call upon the Lord, our God...Emmanuel, God with us. This simple word both humble and divine holds within it the very notion of our salvation. Within this word lies the slavific plan of an all loving Father. The word Emmanuel reflects upon the mystery, which is our Catholic Christian faith, that God in all love and humility would become of us. It is easy to lose sight of this fact. In fact it would seem that now days we as a society are listening to another voice crying out. The voice of materialism. We tend to skip advent all together and go straight into the Christmas season, which is focused on making sure we get the newest and best material items. And while I can say that the spirit of giving is still alive it seems we have almost forgotten why we are giving. We give because we are made in the image and likeness of a God who gives totally of Himself. Advent is a time of preperation. It is a time of reflection. We prepare ourselves and reflect upon the coming mystery of our faith which is the incarnation of God. For Franciscans the idea of the Incarnation is held in a different light than much of the rest of the Church which tends to focus more on Christ's coming to save us from sin, which is part of it but for Franciscans not the main point. I have come to have a greater and deeper love and understanding of this view of the Incarnation. Franciscans believe that God did not become incarnate first and foremost to save us from sin, but instead because He loved us. Even if we hadn't sinned God would have still sent His Son Jesus into the world to be with us, to be present to us. God is constantly giving Himself away and so the 2nd Person of the Trinity bows down to us and gives love away. But as we all know with the taking of the risk to love comes the possibility of rejection. And because God created us free, which is the source of true love, Jesus Himself was rejected by those He loved. "He came to His own but His own did not receive Him. Those who did were given the gift to become sons and daughters of God." This is the gift given to us through the Incarnation. We are shown how to become true sons and daughters of God. We are shown what love is and how we are to love one another. If we focus to much on our sins we lose sight of God. Because our sins are our own, not God's. When we focus only on our sin we become focused on ourselves which is not the point. Our point of focus is God's love and mercy. If we focused more on ways to show God's unending love instead of focusing on sin our lives would become much more whole. God's greatest gift to mankind is the Incarnation. Love made manifest. And so the greatest gift we can give is the gift of love for one another. So how do we prepare for the greatest gift of God's love for us? Do we accept the gift? Do we listen to the "voice of one crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths," or do we lose sight of the meaning of Advent and get caught up with the other endless voices around us filling us with distractions from what is most important? I pray that we all may make the rest of this Advent season one of deep personal reflection on what love is and what it means to truly love and who are we maybe being called to love more? Is there someone in our lives we find difficult to love? May you all have a blessed Advent season.
Peace and all good,

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Prayer for Vocations

I received this prayer card with this prayer for vocations on the back of it and I thought I would share it with everyone. The Church is always in need men willing to answer the call that Christ has planted in their hearts. It is often said that we are in the midst of a priest shortage, which is a correct statement. But people often go further in saying their is a vocation shortage. However there is no shortage of vocations, but there is a shortage of those vocations willing to say yes to the call God has for them. Be not afraid is a constant theme in scripture and it was picked up by our beloved Holy Father Pope John Paul II. It was the center of his message to young people in the Church. Be not afraid. Open wide your hearts to Christ. I think it is often out of fear that young people choose to ignore the priestly call. But I also think they are also distracted. Distracted by this world. Wanting to make money, to have things that will supposedly make them happy. To have a career that they will enjoy. To have a wife and kids. The last two are not bad. I want to make myself very clear on that. They are obviously very good and gifts given by God. But I think young people don't understand what it means to be a priest or religious. When I ask young guys if they have ever thought of being a priest I usually get a common response. "Yes". Well then what's the problem? "I like girls to much." And thats usually followed by the both of us laughing. But its so true and its so common. There are two main reasons why I joined the Capuchins. One was because I was affirmed in the fact that the order works with the individual so that the individual can do what he loves and enjoys. The order wants us to use the gifts God has given us for the greater good of the community and of the world wide Church. For instance there are friars that are artists, teachers (in every subject), preachers, chaplains, architects, mechanics, scholars, missionaries, parish priests, so on and so forth. My opinion is that for the most part whatever you want to do can in some way be done within religious life. That is my opinion. You can take it or leave it. But the important thing is that the order wants you to be happy and a lot of freedom is given. I was filling out job applications for youth ministry when I decided to apply to the Capuchins. When I started getting involved in youth ministry my freshman year of college I started putting off the thought of religious life. That grew the longer I was in youth ministry. Then I realized that I can do youth ministry as a religious. And now here I am. lol. Second is family. Would I love to have a family? Yes! But one thing that attracted me to the Capuchins was that even though I was a person from the outside looking in, a new guy, I felt like family. I was welcomed into the community and shown great love and hospitality even before I officially began my application. I felt at home. And even though I will never have a family in the literal sense of a wife and kids, as a friar and God willing one day as a priest, my wife will be the Church and my children will be the people of God. Countless in number. What greater thing can a guy ask for? Is it easy? No. I wont lie. But nothing that is worthwhile is easy. Is it scary? Heck yes! New people, new experiences, new everything. Is it hard being away from family and friends? Yes. But do I trust in God that whatever happens is meant to happen? Yes I think I can say I do for really the first time in my life I can honestly say that I trust it will all work out in the end. So "Be Not Afraid". These are my thoughts on vocations and I ask you all to pray with me that more will answer God's holy call to such a blessed way of life.
Peace and all good,
Prayer for Vocations
Most High and Glorious God,
You called Francis of Assisi
to follow Jesus, your Son,
in the spirit of gospel poverty,
humility, and charity. Through
the waters of Baptism and the
power of the Holy Spirit,
you continue to draw others
to discipleship and service.
Through the intercession of the
Blessed Virgin Mary and
Saints Francis and Clare, grant
that there may be an increase
in vocations in the church.
We especially ask that more
young men will generously respond
to the invitation to follow your Son,
Jesus, as Capuchin Friars.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Our Week at St. Lawrence

The last week has been a busy one. On Friday Oct 29th the postulants from the New York province arrived here in Milwaukee. There were four plus their postulancy director. On Saturday we took them to the lakefront and bought them coffee at one of the local coffee shops. From the very beginning we got along great. On Sunday we headed up to St. Lawrence High School Seminary about a little over an hour north of Milwaukee. We were going up to have class by one of the friars from my province over the history of the Mass/Eucharist/Liturgy. Some of it for me was review but other things were knew. The classes were Monday through Wednesday for about 5 1/2 hours a day broken up into different sessions. We began with the Christian community during the first century and how they celebrated the Lord's Supper and we traveled all the way up to our present day. It is amazing to see how much the Mass has changed over the centuries. What began as a meal in the homes of what were then still Jewish families has now transformed in to the Eucharist celebrated in large churches and cathedrals. It wasn't until the period between 313-750 that because of the time period and people focusing more on their own sinfulness than the mercy of God, that kneeling first came into practice. It wasn't until the 600's-700's that the sacrificial aspect of the mass came into practice. And up until this point there weren't even prescribed Eucharistic prayers as we have today. I think it's just interesting for me personally to see how the celebration of the Mass has been evolving throughout the centuries and even up to today when the bishops of the United States are again introducing changes into this ancient and holy celebration. The purpose though remains the same. "Do this im memory of me," Christ told us. We come together as community to express our beliefs in Christ Jesus our Lord and God. Fully divine, yet fully human. And that as the bread and wine are transformed into His body, blood, soul and divinity, so too must we transform our own lives following after the one who gave gave everything not because He had to, but because He loved us. The humility of God was something that astounded St. Francis and should astound each and every one of us. That God emptied Himself, stooping down and accepting the limitations of the human condition and remaining with us under the species of Bread and Wine. What greater love is there than this?

While we were busy with classes we were also able to spend time in community with each other. We were truly blessed to have the New York postulants with us and we came together as brothers very quickly. We were also lucky to have such fine hosts as the friars living up at St. Lawrence Seminary. They are always very welcoming. Capuchin hospitality. There is none better to be found. I would have to say that this week was probably the best week I've had in postulancy so far. I cannot wait to go to New York in April when we are scheduled to visit the New York postulants on their own terf.

Peace and all good,

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Mustard Seed

It has been awhile since I've written a new post on here. Things have been pretty busy and I have had little time to write anything. But I guess, since this is a blog about what the Capuchin way of life is all about, me having little time says a lot about the way of life. lol. Between 15 hours of ministry a week, 10 hours of class a week, plus all the reading for those classes, and on top of that prayer, cooking, cleaning and trying to find time to just relax life gets to be pretty busy. Last week we had a visiting friar from the New York province come and give a week long class on Scripture. Being able to look at the world behind the text, the world of the text, and the world infront of the text which we all bring to scripture everytime we read it. What does it mean to us today? It was rather interesting. Yet at the same time challenging. For instance do you know the meaning behind Jesus telling the parable of the mustard seed? I thought I did until last week. It was surprising to find out that the real meaning of it isn't what's often preached about on Sundays. What is preached about on Sundays is the world infront of the text. What we can get out of it today. In Jewish history there was a set of laws which eventually became what we know as the Kosher Dietary laws which actually prohibited the planting of mustard seeds. Why? Because they were seen as invasive plants or weeds. And as Jesus says it grows large branches so that birds can come and nest in it. This is what he compared the Kingdom of God to. He compared it to a seed that was illegal to plant and was invasive and brought birds to nest in it. What farmer wants birds around? They destroy everything! Hence why we make scarecrows. So what is he trying to say? The message literally is that the Kingdom of heaven is not kosher. Which for the Jews was a huge challenge. The Kingdom of God is not meant to be something easy. It is a challenge to live it and bring it about. It takes us outside our comfort zones. It removes us from legalistic thinking. It's different. No one likes different. We to easily become comfortable with how things are always done. Myself included. So I learned a lot from this class. And it gave me things to think about. It is very easy to water down scripture and make it look all pretty. But really the Gospels pretty radical messages. Jesus himself was seen as a radical. So much so that they killed Him for it. What does this say for us today? I don't know. It is something we each have to think about. Something I will continue to discern for quite some time.

This last Saturday all of us postulants and our director, Fr. Bill, were invited by the OFM's in Chicago for prayer and dinner. It was a gathering of the 3 first orders of Franciscans. Us Capuchins, the OFM's and the Conventuals. There were probably about 45 all together. About 26 of us alone. So we were definately the majority. It was a great time. After prayer and dinner we ventured downstairs to find out that they had a karaoke machine. So there were about 20 some friars singing karaoke. Yea isn't that an interesting image? lol. It was so much fun. We got to meet and talk to different guys from the different orders and come together as a Franciscan family. Me and Michael, the guy from the Canadian Capuchin Province, stayed in Chicago overnight. We stayed at the post-novitiate house in Chicago. I always enjoy staying over and visiting there. It's a very young house which is a nice change of scenery for me being the youngest guy here in the house in Milwaukee. We left Sunday around noon and came back to having to prepare for presentations we have to give this week. This week is the Life of Francis with Fr. Bill. We each are giving presentations on a person or theme from the life of Francis. Mine is on Bishop Guido who was the bishop of the time of Francis. Let's just say things haven't changed much from college. I am still a huge procrastinator. I was up till 2am working on mine and then I didn't even have to give it today. O well. At least its done.

This weekend the postulants from the New York province will be here and we travel up to St. Lawrence, the high school seminary, up about an hour and a half north of here in Mt. Calvary Wisconsin. So I'm sure I will have lots to write about after that.

Peace and all good,

Friday, October 8, 2010

What is Poverty?

About once a month, instead of having class in the morning, the five of us postulants get together with Fr. Bill and Fr. Marty, our directors, to have a morning of reflection. Usually beforehand a topic is chosen and then they give us something to read about the topic along with some questions to think about and to prepare us to have a discussion about the topic. Today's topic was on poverty. Now for me personally the issue of poverty has weighed heavily on my heart. I don't think that I can say that I know what poverty is or what the best way to live it is. There are so many definitions, and ideas about what it means to live a life of poverty. Infact it has been this one issue of poverty that has been at the center of the many divisions within the Franciscan family. As a kid and as I entered into high school and thinking about religious life at the time, what always attracted me to religious life was the radical sense of material poverty. I was attracted to it for many reasons which I wont get into. And I think that maybe a small part of me may still be attracted to it. Coming into the Capuchin order the idea of poverty is different. And let me make myself clear that when I say different I do not mean it in a bad way. Like I said before there are many definitions of poverty. One is not better or worse than the other. Within the Capuchin community I will always be provided for. What I have is not my own. But we do have many good things. There is always food on the table, and with Capuchins it is always plenty of food. lol. I have a bed to sleep in, though small, is still more than what many have. I have a closet and dresser full of clothes, a bookshelf full of books, not all of which are mine. I have a sink in my room and a desk and my computer. I could go on and on with the things I have. the issue I brought up in our reflection is the question of how can I relate with and be empathetic with those who have absolutely nothing when I myself have never and probably never will experience the situation of having absolutely nothing. I can go and help at a soup kitchen, I can go and be the youth minister for inner city kids that have lived more difficult lives than I could ever imagine, I can go into a prison and visit the people there. I can do all these things, but I will never "KNOW" what it's like to have nothing. And I guess this bothers me a little bit. How can I relate? How can I minister? I have always been a man who has believed heavily in experience. It is our experiences that drive us to become who we are today. It is our experiences that help us to help others. So the issue of poverty is a troublesome one for me in all honesty. But at the same time by having what we need, being well fed, well rested, we are able to be better ministers. What we do have we take care of and cherish. We have been blessed as a community to have many great and holy benefactors that provide for our needs. So maybe I'm looking at it in the wrong way. Maybe instead to live a life of poverty is to be humble enough to be thankful for what we do have. Maybe poverty is realizing our dependence on God and relying on Him to provide for us, which He does through our benefactors. So maybe this is what poverty is. I don't know. It is something I struggle with and pray a lot about. And hopefully one day I will find the answer. Until that time keep me in your prayers.

Peace and all good,