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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Reality shows and real reality

Yesterday was spent doing research for a couple of projects I have coming up. The first is a bit more academic and focusses on the subject of evolution and Catholicism. There are quite a bit of different opinions running the gamut from strict Creationism to strict Evolutionism. I am looking less at attempting to identify the correct opinion but to identify a means of presenting the relationship between the theory of evolution and Catholic theology in a way that doesn't cause my future students intellectual and religious distress.

My other project is a bit more pastoral and focusses on the problem of faith development for families. My own life enables me to go down to a chapel to pray whenever I want, to attend daily Mass, to go on periodic retreats, and to talk about God with others a whole lot. However, I also know that it can be difficult, if not impossible, for families to spend time praying and discussing their faith in a life with many other demands upon time or a life which leaves them too tired at the end of a long work day or week. I realize that the disconnect between valuing faith, yet being unable to spend time developing that faith is very frustrating. I sometimes think that perhaps instead of doing reality shows like "wifeswapping", they should allow religious and married to exchange lives for a couple of weeks - perhaps they can call it "vocationswapping". The religious can get up at six to get the kids ready for school. The married can get up at six to pray the Divine Office. The religious can deal with difficult co-workers. The married can deal with difficult parishioners. I'm not sure if this idea would be very popular, but maybe they could join it with my other reality suggestions - "Extreme Friary Makeover", which involves someone paying to send all of us to Assisi for a week while they remodel our Friary with jacuzzis and "Franciscan Eye for the Lay Guy" which involves dressing everyone in black or brown habits.

Seriously, as I research this paper, I'll leave some notes on what I find that may be useful to you or others seeking more prayer time in your busy schedules. While the question I am looking at involves the ability of married families to have prayer time in their own homes, there already exist "couple retreats" which do not involve children and "family retreats" which do. For information about these type of retreats in general, there is an article by Ed Blaine for the National Catholic Reporter at http://

Some other links are
Ed Blaine's retreat site at
Family Retreats at the Hoste Center in Georgia at
Marianist Family Retreats in New Jersey at

For those who are unable to travel, Creighton University has a thirty four week Online Retreat focussing on the Spiritual Exercises which can be done alone or in groups at
This retreat might be more manageable as it looks for a time commitment of only about an hour every two weeks for group time.

Peace and Good

Monday, September 27, 2004

Another Manic Monday [with apologies to the Bangles]

Mondays are my longest days. I start with my class on the Sacraments of the Anointing of the Sick and Penance at 8:30 and finish with a class on the history of Christian spirituality at 5:00, with just enough time to rush home for prayer and dinner. Br. Timothy volunteered to lead our mock celebration of a service for the sick, so I was annointed twice on Sunday night and three times today - twice with an emergency service for those in danger of death. I guess if I'm not healed by now, I never will be. In any case, after all that anointing with the oil of the sick, my forehead is very shiny, but it smells nice.

The class on spirituality is about average, I already know a lot of what is being covered right now - though the last couple weeks should cover some new material. Right now we are reading the desert fathers and mothers. Basically, we read some material and then write a two page reflection on how we think that the spiritual texts compare with our own spirituality.

I'm also working on the next month's cooking list for the house. As senior brother [except for Dominic who will be moving out in November], I have been given all sorts of new responsibilities including being in charge of the shopping and figuring out schedules. I haven't found any benefits of my senior brother status, yet. I have tried to impose my iron will upon the others without success. Apparently, this vow of obedience is not quite as advantageous as I had hoped.


Sunday, September 26, 2004

Return to peace and quiet

All of our many guests left today, so a brief return to tranquility before heading back to classes tomorrow. As has been my habit the last couple of weeks, on Sunday I attend liturgy at a local Byzantine Catholic Church. There are only about fifteen to twenty who attend, but the worship space is pretty small, so it seems crowded anyway. The regular cantor is recovering from back surgery, so I get to practice my chanting skills with one of the novices of the Byzantine community and one of the lay members. I call ourselves the Byzantine tenors and we will try to have a CD come out just in time for the Christmas holidays.

Sunday is also the day for making sure I have caught up on all the homework before Monday's classes. Our class devoted to the Sacraments of Healing and Penance meets tomorrow and Br. Timothy will be portraying a pastor in a mock healing service. I get to play a sick person, so I am practicing my cough. Hack. Hack.

Peace and Good

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Oh, the people you meet and the places you go

Well, today was quite the strange one. Almost, like I had gotten trapped in a Seinfeld episode. I went to prayers this morning to find our chapel overrun with nuns, just one large sea of black. Fortunately they brough Poptarts, I hope they leave them behind. Later in the morning a large group of Secular Franciscans descended upon our friary for somesort of meeting. I decided that since we had obviously lost control of our friary, I needed to get out. Plus, it was a pretty nice day. I am learning that all this excessive Franciscan hospitality can be a real bother if you are an introvert. I like to be hospitable, just on my own terms.

Well, it turns out that God wasn't going to let me escape that easily. I decided to get away by going to a Ukrainian church festival up in Silver Springs, Maryland. After walking around the various booths selling Ukrainian religious and folk art, I wandered over to the booths selling food and drink. My persual of the beverages was interrupted by a gentleman who carried an open beer in one hand and wanted to know where I was from. I told him that I was from Washington, but he wanted to know my nationality and not American, but all the way back to the Old Country. When I told him that my ancestors came from Germany, he wanted to know why I was at a Ukrainian festival. I told him that I was interested in the culture. He then offered to buy me a beer. Oh the temptation of free beer. I really should have declined, but it was free. So, then he tells them to bring me a beer and adds, "the cheapest".

This strange gentleman then engages me in conversation for about thirty minutes. I can tell that he is not native to the US because when he talkes he is constatly touching my arm and makes sure his face is only about an inch away from mine. Needless to say, my personal boundary alarms were going off like crazy. He spent most of the thirty minutes talking about various other people who had come to the festival and expressing how amazing it was that the two of us just happened to run into each other. Most of these comments were interspersed with a liberal dose of profanities. Fortunately, he was a happy drunk. I'm also happy I spent a summer doing ministry with those with psychiatric disorders so that I wasn't bothered much by his inability to make sense. I was concerned when he approached two young girls claiming that he was a police officer checking for tickets. I was worried that he would do something that would get us both in trouble and worried that if I stopped listening to him [I didn't do much talking] that he might accost some less willing to put up with him. Still, after thirty minutes I could tell that our conversation was not going anywhere productive and getting quite repetitive, so I was able to excuse myself and escape.

Was there a purpose in the two of us meeting besides free beverages? I don't know, perhaps kismet. I'll have to think about this one. Still, living in DC gives you an opportunity to meet lots of people who are very, very different.

Ah, its good to be back in the silence of my room.


Friday, September 24, 2004

Friday Musings

Fridays are free from class and so usually occupied with homework . I also spent some time today working on a project for Eastern Christian Publications - where I am doing my ministry this year. The progject is essentially editing a Lectionary for future publication. I am hoping that by working with this publisher that I will get the opportunity to meet other people involved in the East/West ecumenical endeavor, and I am learning how to use Corel Ventura.

We have also found ourselves overrun with nuns. There is a be Eucharistic Congress down here in DC this weekend and we have opened our doors to about eleven sisters who are attending. As I see all these nuns, I have to remind myself that I am in the right house. Our friary used to be a convent, perhaps they are coming to take it back.

We two other guests also staying with us. They are a doctor and a nun from South Africa. The work with Africans suffering from Aids and have come to the United States seeking support for their endeavors. Aids in Africa is a terrible tragedy, especially for the children who will only live five to seven years after contracting it. Many children suffer from Aids from birth.

One of the house computers has become infected with the W32BeagleX virus. It's a nasty one, fortunately my computer is separate and has strong anti-virus protection.

After going out last night, I'm staying home this evening. I wonder what's on TV?


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Hungarian Gulash and Sweet Potatoes

Today was my turn to cook. Now cooking for a house of twelve can be quite a chore as most recipies are written for groups of four or five. Cooking gives me a chance to experiment with different styles, sometimes it works out as it did tonight, sometimes it doesn't. Still, if you don't try, you don't learn.

I also had my class on the Sacrament of Marriage. We are currently looking specifically at the theology of marriage both for Catholics as well as for other Christians. It is interesting to look at the history as well as how different groups deal with the problem of difficult marriages and reconcile that with the ideal of indissoluability. Our teacher is a canon lawyer and is generally supportive of a change in contemporary marriage practice so as to allow those who have divorced and remarried to be fully accepted back into communion. How that can be best accomplished is an issue to be discussed later in the semester. The class requires that I work on a pastoral project involving marriage. I am looking at setting up a structure for enabling families to participate in a home-based retreat. I have heard some of my married friends wish that they could participate in some of the same type of retreats that they did when they were single, but their responsibilities to their families don't leave them the time or ability to spend a weekend alone in meditation. I am trying to figure out a way to help them meet their spiritual needs better. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know!

This evening Brs. Nathan, Timothy and I went out to a local Scottish pub that has Scotch tasting every thursday night. It gives me an opportunity to taste 25 to 30 year old Scotch without breaking my bank. I had a 25 year old MacClellan this evening, nice and smooth. It also gives us a time to socialize with each other outside of the friary. Even within community, you need to form some bonds of friendship with other friars and naturally you will find that you hit it off better with some than with others. Plus, we are in a similar state of affairs, so we can share gripes together. Miserly loves company and all that. Some may think that life in a friary is all prayer and happy living. Believe me, it is like living with a very large family. You love them, but they still can drive you crazy.

Peace and Good

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Mid Week Reflection

Wednesday Mornings are spent in small group reflection over the upcoming Sunday's scripture passages. So I spent an hour with Brs. Timothy, Sean and Father Nicholas talking about Jesus' parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man [Lk 16:19-31] . Quite a bit of the discussion focussed on the changing of attitudes - particularly towards the poor. For me, it is a question both of encouraging those who are wealthy to engage with those who are not as will off, it is also a question of showing that this encounter is one of equals - that both rich and poor bring something to a common table.

The rest of the day was spent doing various homework assignments. I am in the initial stages of a paper for a class entitled the "Integration Seminar" which is supposed to help us integrate what we have learned the past years of seminary, focussing on a real situation which took place during my apostolic year in Steubenville last year. I am not really looking forward to this class as I already reflected on this situation last year when it took place and because the other people in my group don't really know much about the Steubenville environment nor my role as a college teacher. Oh well, I guess it's just another hoop to go through.

For those who are curious as to what I am reading right now, it is a book by the Church Historian Fr. John Meyendorff called "A Study of Gregory Palamas". St. Gregory Palamas was an Orthodox theologian of the 14th century who can be considered on the par with Thomas Aquinas. St. Gregory is most known for his theology of God and that the goal of the Christian was the glorification of all that makes us truly human, body and soul. He also believed that the same light that the apostles saw at the Transfiguration is possible for us to see today through grace and prayer.

That's about it for today...
Peace and Good

A new beginning

Here is the beginning of a new attempt both to enter the 21st century world of the "blogger" as well as develop, perhaps, a better way to communicate with everyone than the less and less appearing "Letters from the Friary."

It seems to be the nature of these things to be somewhat "stream of consciousness" and so I hope that the faithful readers won't be put off by this. As this is my first attempt at this be prepared for a bit of roughness and changes as I get used to all of this. You will note that you can comment on my posts, so if you have any questions about anything I write, let me know.

Today we celebrated the birthday of our Brother Matt [age 27] and also had one of the bishops who lives next to us over for dinner. This bishop used to live with several other bishops in charge of the diocese of the armed forces, but they have been moving out for some reason. I expect that in the next couple of days their house will be empty and then, in the Franciscan fashion, we will move in and claim squatters' rights.

Other than that, I spent the day running errands. I have been put on grocery duty for the house. This means going to the store once a week and buying food for twelve. This is quite a bit different from my shopping from my days as a bachelor student - no more Ramen noodles and Spaghetti O's [tm].

Pax et Bonum

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Cartoon done by Father Dominic Scotto, TOR for my birthday last year at Steubenville. Posted by Hello