Let me share just one more image from the night sky from the Benedictine Monastery guesthouse. In monastic thought nocturnal rest was a time to rehearse death, not as a morbid thought of becoming swallowed by a grave but rather seeing ourselves always needing to be prepared to give an account to God who could summon anyone of us at anytime. In this context life down here is the only precious time we have to know love and serve God with all our being in order to be with Him in the next. I once heard the story of a monk who assigned every heartbeat during his sleep as a beating drum in praise of God. Talk about doing everything for the love of God!READ MORE
Priests are required by the Church to make an annual retreat during several days. In northern New Mexico there is a Benedictine Monastery in a remote canyon which is accessible when road conditions allow. I went there to try something new—a self-directed retreat. It is a solitary place where you can hear your own heartbeat in the stillness of evening. God is heard quite readily in a place of solitude. He has no competitors: no internet, no phone signal, no presidential debate results. The nearest civilization is only 26 miles away.READ MORE
At the end of my pilgrimage I dropped in to see my dear friend, Jeanne Marie Wenkheim Dickens. She fled Hungary to Austria with her family in 1944 to escape the Soviet Army. She left behind childhood memories of Doboz, a small town near the Romanian border where her family formed part of the ruling nobility. In fact Jeanne-Marie is a Countess, a title of nobility handed down through birthright and bestowed by the ruling king or emperor.READ MORE
In Poland, there's a famous little village called Tyniec which sits on the Vistula River. Since 1973, it has been a suburb of Krakow. But Tyniec is better known for the Benedictine Abbey that sits on the hill. It is the oldest functioning monastery in all of Poland, founded in 1044. It was here that Karol Wojtyla, (Saint John Paul II) spent days of retreat and recollection.
This image speaks volumes to me. Holy Mother Church throughout the world offers her children places and times to take a pause from ordinary cares in order that we contemplate another reality as in a mirror (2 Cor. 3:18).READ MORE
Every man's home is his castle. Somewhere in Southern Poland we came across this impressive structure. I couldn't find the doorbell to ask for details. I understand it once had a moat filled with crocodiles. The stuff of fairytales.READ MORE
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.’