In Czestochowa, Poland, there is an ancient cloister of monks known as the Pauline Fathers. They look after one of the most revered shrines in the world dedicated to the Black Madonna. During a private tour in the sacred halls nears the cloister our group meditatively inched passed the Stations of the Cross painted by Polish artist Jerzy Duda Gracz. I submit the 14th Station for your meditation.READ MORE
Here's a pilgrimage highlight. I made my way through Saint Stephen's Basilica (pictured here) in downtown Budapest to a back chapel that most Hungarian Catholics are familiar with. There lies the incorrupt right hand of Saint Stephen of Hungary who brought Christianity to the Hungarian (Magyar) Peoples in the year 1000. That hand wielded a scepter allowing Catholic Monks to take up residence among his people. His efforts of evangelization were not appreciated in his days but thanks to the patient labors of missionaries and nobility the Hungarian peoples as a whole came to embrace the beauty of the Faith.READ MORE
As I sit on a train from Bekescsaba, Hungary to Budapest I recall the sweet memory of August 15th. On that day tens of thousands of Polish citizens came from every corner of their little Nation to honor the Mother of God at a place called Kalvaria. They brought church statues and banners for a procession lasting perhaps some three hours. Here, young and old paid tribute to the greatest of saints and for whom everyone can address as 'Mother'. There was no recklessness, no hurry and no agitation in the surroundings. Young and old alike seemed at peace in doing what they did. The faithful offered songs and prayers. I saw through this event the Catholic Poland everyone speaks about. But I also saw in this event a sort of window to the past of how Europe celebrated its faith in centuries past. Our pilgrimage group had plenty to meditate on. When did we ever have an experience like this? It wasn't something you could simply see or touch. The environment was special. It was a holy gathering of the Church. I never experienced anything like it before.
My parents grew up in small towns in East Texas. This is one of several hayfields that separated their towns. Not too far from this place something happened that I would never forget. One summer before entering the 3rd Grade, my Uncle Joe grinned and said, "Hey Boy! Do you want to ride the tractor?" At once I replied, "Sure." The open air one-seater had me standing throughout the experience with one hand grasping a handle on the fender and the other wrapped around Uncle's shoulder. Behind us attached to the tractor was a cutter designed to raze the sorghum stalks to the ground after the harvest.READ MORE
I sat on a dock next to this effigy of an 18th Century pirate. As I waited for the stars to come out Ol' Blackbeard began to remind me of the pillaging lifestyle pirates had as they combed the high seas in search of treasure accumulated by wealthy tradesmen. The life of a pirate and his natural surroundings unceasingly moved, even to the point of making him not only morally but also physically sick. The Church is depicted as being built on Rock (Petra or Peter). Who is Peter now? Pope Francis.READ MORE
A boat trip around Horseshoe Bend near Page AZ is a tourist's appetizer of the majestic views yet to admire a few miles down the Colorado River. The winding river's path amid precipices and isolation speaks to me of the sinner's journey toward God.
I am no stranger to egoistic propositions. And when they have fueled my pursuit of happiness, they have also furrowed high canyon walls of vice with no way out except to run the course. If we give it some thought, anyone of us could name some of the forces at work wooing us to believe this is the only world we get: so goes our struggle with the things of the world (Jn 15:18). None of us, save the Virgin Mary, had a direct path to God. Luckily for us, God's grace is found even in the gorge of our self-reliance, flowing like a river to bring us back to safety, to bring us back to holiness (Jn 7:38).READ MORE
George Bernard Shaw was quoted once to have said, "Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world—and what a pity that it has to be wasted on children!" And yet while the youth of our day have so many obstacles and pressures that seem to undermine their pursuit of virtue and grace, the youth of my parish really did want God when they chose to sign up for the Pilgrimage. I heard them tell me this personally.READ MORE
The young persons of our parish are so important for the future of the Church. I believe I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to open up the Altar Servers retreat to the Holy Doors at Holy Cross Chapel in Sedona to all the youth of our parish when we had quite a few spaces left on our bus. I feel young around them and very hopeful about our Church as they too express their desire for God in ways we older adults need to understand and appreciate. Greet our youth. Get to know them. Welcome them. Ask them for their names. They are members of our Parish Family.READ MORE
In the afterglow of well-spent vacations with Family in Texas, a most memorable moment came in Houston. The National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM) gathered for their annual Convention, and our Jaime was recognized as Musician of the Year. How many of you have YouTubed him yet? The quality and sound of the professional recordings are uplifting—and not just with the message, but also with the music. I am grateful that Fr. Felt had the foresight to see the talent he had in Jaime. I was taken aback by the number of people around the country who shared their appreciation for his contributions to NPM over the years. With the support of his loving family it also stands to reason why he is where he is. I believe it was Jaime who coined the phrase, ‘A family who plays together, stays together.’
This is the last Pastor’s Desk article for a couple of months. My library of usable photos has dwindled. So, I’ve got to do a little vacation traveling. It is most wise to remember that when vacationing here and there, one must never take vacations from the spiritual life. Do we ever take vacations from all forms of eating or drinking? And yet, many fail to see that the soul has just as much a need for nourishment as the body.READ MORE
'Cur' in Latin means 'why?' Man is naturally CURious about the whole of his world. Kids at an early age often astound their parents when they discover the world around them, especially when as adults, the parents themselves are no longer seeking and investigating spiritual matters. "Mommy, is there a squirrel heaven?" At a park recent, I snapped this photo of a child being encouraged to learn something new about the world through the assurance of a mother's gentle grasp.READ MORE
We've come a long way since the days of the log cabin. Roughing it in the wild in such quarters is more like a wild weekend adventure some do for kicks once every ten years. The peaceful excursion on Taylor Creek Trail in Zion National Park, Utah was a visual feast and a welcome rest. But I remembered something important on that hike: don't confuse comfort with peace. The world gives comfort. Peace, on the other hand, is fruit of the loving union we have with God. Jesus makes the distinction at John 14, 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.' Don't get me wrong. Comfort has its place. I open a faucet in the room over to have drink. At the old log cabin in Zion, you'll find drink 200 feet away down in the ravine.
I took a few days of rest during the Easter Season to enjoy the beauty of Bryce Canyon. On the rim overlooking the Fairyland Trail a crescent moon allowed me to capture the Canyon's contours and shadows. It was a crisp 35 degrees at 8000 feet. I and another priest were the only souls on that part.
When the surroundings get quiet, retreat mode kicks in—a spontaneous crying out to God ensues. I recalled God's promise to Abraham who would make his descendants as numerous as the stars. The big fat twinkling star was my reminder of where God wants you and me. But the needed rest in Bryce is in function of my duties to Holy Cross. We rest so that we may fulfill once again the tasks assigned to us by God. The break at Bryce had me also looking forward to getting back to the office.
There's a gentleman from Washington State who, as a child, lost a leg in a lawn-mowing incident. From that time he strove to achieve all sorts of personal goals such as climbing Cathedral Rock in Sedona earlier this month.
As tourists scurried up the hill to his right and to his left, we slow pokes began to chat. His courteous manner allowed me to ask if he would share his inspiring story, which he did so gladly. All the while, his determination and persistence could be seen during the climb. Later that evening I recalled our encounter and felt drawn to examine my own determination with important aspects of my spiritual and apostolic life. I didn't learn anything knew that I already knew about myself. I was just reminded of a good lesson: suffering can bring out the best in any Christian provide it is joined to Lord's own Passion. It is in suffering that our imitation of Jesus Christ is rendered most perfect.