Often times we live in two places; the past and the future. The only "real" place there is is the present moment. If we wish to encounter God and experience His grace anew it is in the present moment were we must be.
Homily by Fr. Joseph Mary Deane, CFR, at the Mass of thanksgiving for our newly ordained Fr. Giles Barrie, CFR. What is the connection between the priesthood, fathers, and Corpus Christi? Listen to learn more!!
I. Too often when we speak about ourselves, we define our “I” by the passing things of this world. We call this false notion of ourselves our ego. For example, it is our accomplishments, failures, hopes, roles, and dreams that we are really speaking of and not our identity or our deepest “I.” We often think or say, “I am successful” for example if our salary fits into the category that society has deemed successful. We might say, “I am beautiful” if our physical makeup is in keeping with current fashion and trends. We could even say, “I am holy,” if we maintain an appearance of holiness by saying our prayers and serving others. We receive our identity then, our deepest “I” from either the empirical proof that this world provides or its lack thereof. If I have the proof that I am successful or beautiful, then I am. If that “proof” is lacking, then so am I.
The great tragedy in all of this is that too often we actually believe that we are those things; that our deepest identity can be found in the passing things of this world. But what happens when sickness, tragedy, or old age strikes? Who am I then? Does my identity change? Am I no longer successful, beautiful, or holy if I don’t have the empirical proof to back it up?
The Christian life can be summed up in those words of St. John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Who or what is this “I” that must decrease? It is not our “real self,” the self that is made “in the image and likeness of God,” but our “false self” that is desperately hoping to find its “I” by clinging to a whole array of attachments and illusions buried deep within our ego. Hence, this is what must decrease, this “I” whose foundation lies inside one’s own ego.
II. John the Baptist utters these profound words, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” after some of his disciples alert him to Jesus’s presence: “He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him.” On a purely worldly level we could interpret John’s disciples as saying, “Hey, this Jesus guy is stealing all your disciples.” Yet John the Baptist, completely detached from his own ego and its illusions, responds, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him…whose sandal I am unworthy to untie.”
In other words, John the Baptist recognizes that his mission, to announce the coming of the Messiah, is now approaching its completion. He is not threatened or angry at the presence of Jesus since Jesus is the very one whom he was preparing the people for when he cried out “Make straight the way of the Lord.” Once John the Baptist recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah he realizes that now he must decrease and empty himself of his former “roles,” and all the possible illusions about himself that those roles could foster, so as to respond to the grace of God today.
If John the Baptist placed his identity merely in his role in God’s plan he would have been devastated. Who would he be, now that the Messiah has come and his mission of preparing the way for the Messiah is complete? Yet because of his great humility and the fact that he has spent his whole life obedient to the Lord, emptying himself of all those things his ego would like him to believe, John the Baptist is able, gracefully, to step aside and allow “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” to take center stage.
III. What in our lives do we need to empty ourselves of or in the words of John the Baptist, what needs to decrease? The automatic Christian answer to this question is sin. Though I would not disagree with that answer I would say that answer is simply not enough. Without detracting from the ugliness and seriousness of sin, Christianity is more than simply “sin management.” It is, to put it bluntly, total transformation, i.e. divinization, becoming “partakers of the divine nature.” In essence, divinization means becoming “God like.” How does one become “God like?” Primarily, by taking our eyes off of ourselves, including even our sins, and placing them upon Christ, allowing his love full access to every inch of our humanity. As this process deepens, Christ becomes not only our refuge and our strength but our entire life. We can then say with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” In other words, the soul has discovered its true identity in Christ.
St. Paul tells the Galatians, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Is St. Paul trying to disregard our uniqueness and the distinctions that exist among us? Of course not. What he is doing is reminding us that our identity is already complete, and that it cannot be found in our ethnicity, social status, or our sex. We received this identity not from anything we did, not because of the race or social class we were born into, not because society has deemed us “successful” or “beautiful,” but simply because “God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us,” through Baptism has made us all sons and daughters of God.
Here then is our identity: we are sons and daughters of God. Now, and only now, can we live our lives as teachers, mothers, fathers, athletes, lawyers, cooks, or whatever role God has asked us to play in this world, all the while removing the illusions that these roles would reveal to us our deepest “I.”
IV. The word “emptying” can cause fear inside of those who may hear it because it is often times assumed that by “emptying” we are speaking about a void, or an annihilation of the person. To be clear, by using the word “emptying” I am not speaking at all of annihilation or entering some kind of void of nothingness. By using the word “emptying” I could also use the phrase “letting go.” We empty ourselves, or let go of all that is within us that is not “true…honorable…just…pure …lovely…and gracious” in order to be filled with the fullness of God’s love and life.
Our ego, especially the attempt to discover our deepest “I” there, makes it difficult to perceive the grace of God at work within our lives. Hence, this “emptying” process is necessary to discover our deepest “I.” Without it we can live our entire lives merely swimming on the surface and be prohibited from discovering the tremendous depths that are inside of us. God, in his great mercy, invites us, through the words of John the Baptist to throw away all the junk we have been foolishly hoping in and to realize that right now our identity is firmly established and that it is something much greater than we could have ever imagined.
+ Father Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, C.F.R. Monticello, NY
Lourdes is famous for many reasons, most of which is that everyone who comes receives graces of healing and graces of gratitude. I was privileged the other day to visit the baths with my group. As a priest I was moving about praying with all those preparing to enter the baths. I met an elderly man who had a number of ailments. He could barely walk, had dementia, but loved to talk. For some reason he had no one to help him get into the room to wait his turn for the baths so I went in with him. As i was waiting with him he mentioned to me that when he got to heaven he was going to give the Blessed Virgin a big hug and a kiss. And I asked him "What is she going to do?" he said that she would give him a big hug and a kiss in return. The faith of this failing man was tremendous.
While we waited, Charles spotted a man waiting his turn to enter the baths. Charles saw on his leg a number of terrible looking sores, and prayed at the top of his lungs: "Lord Jesus, heal his sores!' This simple prayer made me realize that suffering makes one empathetic, compassionate towards others. No matter how bad you may be suffering, there are always others who have a worse situation. What one realizes here in Lourdes is that suffering is allowed by God, but the good He brings is to bring us together so that we suffer together, share one another's sufferings as we walk towards heaven.
A member of my group was healed here as a child of terminal leukemia and has been returning every year since then to serve the sick. A mother with a very ill child said she smelled roses as her baby was placed in the water of the baths. Those and other peoples' stories are quite dramatic . But there are hidden miracles here, miracles of the heart, where many find God, find peace, find acceptance of His Will in their lives. And even amidst their sufferings, so many leave Lourdes eternally grateful for their lives and faith. I am so very grateful for God putting Charles in my path the other day. God be praised. Our Lady of Lourdes, Pray for us.
A deer’s sense of smell is at least 500 times greater than humans, and they can smell you up to a half mile away. Hence the sale of deer urine to squirt on boots, sent-blocking sprays, and laundry detergents, etc. I was reminded of all this because this past weekend I was on hermitage at an old farm house in the country where we make retreats…and there were tons of deer!
As I sat on the front porch in the evening silently watching the suns shadow travel across the creek and green fields towards the wooded hillside in the distance, I heard the familiar sound of deer coming down the hill behind the house. On my right side two beautiful doe trotted out into plain view only twenty yards from where I sat on the porch, I just watched them as they ate cloves in the fields and wished that I had at least the single-shot crack-barrel 20 gauge shotgun my Dad made us start hunting with to learn to make the first shot count. ☺ The deer never noticed me and kept on their way. Then on my left a herd of at least a dozen deer descended the hill and entered the open roughly forty yards away. No sooner, however, did they walk past the house than all their heads popped up with noses raised – then they sprinted in the opposite direction. They never saw me, but they were down wind and smelt me, which led me back to the Gospel I was praying with before the glorious distraction of fourteen deer.
I was reading through the various Resurrection accounts we have been hearing at Mass these days of Easter, and I was baffled by the recurring theme of intimate friends and disciples meeting Jesus face to face after the Resurrection and not knowing who he was! The Resurrected Christ somehow was not recognizable as he was in the overpowering manner of the Transfiguration or the miraculous manifestations of His power found in the Gospels. St. Paul tells us that the ability to see the unveiled face of Jesus is a work of the Holy Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18). The Church Fathers also spoke about how the Revelation of Christ was a work of the Holy Spirit, that is to say, without the Holy Spirit at work in us we cannot recognize Christ in His divinity. Throughout the Resurrection accounts we hear of a moment of revelation that comes to the disciples, whether upon hearing one’s name, the showing of Christ’s wounds, a miracle of fish, or in the Breaking of the Bread. The resurrected Christ is present before they realize it, and it is the Spirit of Christ that manifests this hidden presence to us.
St. Francis was on to this very fact when he wrote to his brothers that “because God is a spirit, therefore it is only by the spirit He can be seen.” He went on to connect the disciples faith in the divinity of Christ while on earth with the gift of faith we have through the Spirit to recognize Jesus Real Presence in the Eucharist, or as the Gospel say, the “Breaking of the Bread.” This Easter season the Church proclaims boldly that the Lord is indeed risen. He is in our midst - in our everyday lives, our families, our work, nature, beauty, suffering, and most especially the Eucharist. He is here! The question is whether we are standing in the wind of the Holy Spirit who reveals to us His Presence, or are we up-wind eating grass unaware that “It is the Lord” who is before us. Come Holy Spirit and give us eyes to see the Risen One who dwells among us, especially in the “Breaking of the Bread”!
Podcast from Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR. The risen Jesus offered the first bible study while on the road to Emmaus. Finally it all makes sense, it all fits together. Jesus wants to teach us the meaning of our own lives. Finally it all makes sense, it all fits together. Listen to learn more!!
On this Easter Friday the Friars celebrate the 30th Anniversary of our founding. Time has flown and gray beards have grown. It is a special day we give thanks to all of our 8 founders for heeding the Spirit’s call back in 1987 to begin a new foundation in the South Bronx. We also remember the passing of Fr. Benedict and Fr. Robert, both of them legends for all who knew them. Both of them are greatly missed and loved and are surely looking down and praying for all of us before the Father.
Today is also the feast day of three great Saints: St. Giana, St. Peter Chanal and St. Louis de Montfort. All three represent an important aspect of our CFR charism. St. Giana gave her life for her unborn child in refusing treatment for cancer. She is a great patron for the Pro Life cause to which we are deeply dedicated. St. Peter Chanal was the great missionary to the South Pacific islands where he offered up his life for Christ in martyrdom. This great Saint inspires us to heed Pope Francis’ mandate to become a missionary Church. And finally St. Louis de Montfort is the Saint St. John Paul 2 loved so much for teaching him how to come to Jesus through His Holy Mother Mary. It is She, specifically Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has looked down upon our little community since its beginning and made her maternal love and protection known in numerous ways and occasions. We lovingly proclaim to her as St John Paul 2 did: Totus Tuus. We entrust everything to you Blessed Mother and are all Yours.
Wednesday afternoon I left from Yonkers for our shelter in the Bronx as normal; it was the first time the blue sky had broken the grey sheet of clouds and the temperature was up into the low 60s. Needless to say, my windows were down and I was loving life driving down the road toward the highway. As I approached the on-ramp my blissful thoughts about the beauty of the day were interrupted by a rhythmic sound that was vaguely familiar…a flat tire! I pulled over before I was on the highway and began to change the tire when a car stopped and a middle-aged Hispanic man, named Marcos, got out and approached asking if I needed any help. He was kind enough to assist in the switch that was pulled off with a record time that may qualify us for one of the pit teams of the Daytona 500.☺I thanked him and because I was close to home decided to go switch out the car with another one and deal with the bad tire later.
No sooner did I begin to drive than my ear, now a bit attentive to every creak the car was making, heard the same rhythmic sound coming from the same side…the “spare” was almost entirely flat! This drive was going from beautiful to frustrating real quick. Given all the factors, I concluded that driving slowly back to the friary (roughly a half mile or so) was my best option, and I would avoid paying for towing. As I plodded along with hazards blinking at a whopping 5mph, I was deeply conscious of the inconvenience my presence was on the road, but I figure folks would understand given the evident distress of my situation. In the midst of navigating the potholes from recent snow plows, my ears were stuck with the sustained noise of the woman behind me laying on her horn. “Who in the heck is this woman, and doesn’t she see my hazards and flat spare?! Who does that?,” I fumed inside.
It’s oh so easy in life, isn’t it, to see the splinter in another’s eye and pick up stones…at least mentally. The Lord led me, however, to see that my own response to the weakness and brokenness in the lives of others is often to lay on the horn, not to stop ask if they need help. With the brother who drives me crazy at moments in living community life, or the person who is just having a bad day and says or acts in a way that is difficult for me. How many of us, when we see the brokenness of a spouse, child, parent, co-worker, or stranger on the street respond with judgment, impatience, or a sarcastic comment? When the worst comes out of others, do we seek to know what lies underneath their caustic veneer? Do I patiently bear those moments and bring mercy into the world as Marcos, or do I see only an inconvenience and burden in the weakness of the other? Let’s take the gift of this time of Lent to ask for the grace to draw near to others in their suffering and allow the stripes we may feel from their brokenness to be a source of healing for them. What will you “lay on” this Lent, the horn or love?
Podcast from Fr. Luke Fletcher and Patsy Schlaegel. A conversation over tea in the kitchen at Saint Leopold Friary in Yonkers. Patsy has been a lay associate with our friars in Albuquerque, NM, since the beginning. Listen to learn more!
Heavenly Father, I come before You this day as your son/daughter. I desire to know You with my mind, to love You with my heart, to experience Your presence in those I meet today, and bring your love to those most in need.
Guide me this day, that I may be a beacon of light for others. Purify me, that I may be free from all self centered motivations and from anything that would prevent your light from shining through me. I am Yours to form and use according to Your will.
My God, I believe in You, hope in You and love You above all else. Keep me always faithful to you and never let me be apart from you.
Mary, I ask you as my Mother, to intercede for me and bring me closer to the heart of Jesus. Teach me, Mary how to pray, serve and sacrifice so as to reveal the mercy of your Son more deeply in our broken world. Help me to follow His will and pray for me, that like you, I would trust without knowing, believe without seeing and love without seeking a reward.
I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
(Prayer composed by Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR, for the Associates of Shepherds Café, Dallas, TX)
Congratulations to Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR, on his Silver Jubilee!! Fifty years ago today, Father was ordained to the Holy Priesthood of Jesus Christ by future Saint Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. I've been blessed to spend some time with Father lately. He is a truly holy & pious man. Ad Multos Annos, Father Andrew.