Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Increase our faith

One work that I am blessed to contribute as a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey is supplying brief commentaries on the Sunday Mass readings for the worship aids that are distributed to our guests. Since it may help motivate me to get them written on time for the printer, I thought I might post them here a few days ahead of time for your own reflection. Feel free to comment further on each commentary--for the benefit of us all.
Br. Francis
Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time—C

Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
2Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
Luke 17:5-10

“Increase our faith!” The plea of the apostles to Jesus is a simple prayer for us all. Jesus tells his apostles—and us—that just a tiny seed of faith can do wonders. We don’t need to have it all figured out or be doubt-free. The struggle to persevere when we are surrounded by evidence suggesting that it makes more sense to give up (as the prophet Habakkuk laments) is itself that tiny seed of faith.

What’s more, we already have it. Notice the apostles don’t ask to be given faith, but to have theirs increased. In his letter to Timothy, St. Paul reminds us that God’s gift of faith is already in our possession. We have only to recognize and “stir into flame” the strength that comes from God.

The flame will take some time to grow within us, but “it will surely come.” God does not disappoint. And whenever we do discover that strength within us, we must always remember its true source, and give thanks to God. This is what we are obliged to do as God’s servants.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Introducing ...

... Mr. and Mrs. Tylon Snodgrass, married this afternoon in Maumee, Ohio. Mrs. Snodgrass is none other than my little sister, Shannon.

With them is Ty's son (and now my sister's stepson, and my step-nephew) Ian Snodgrass, age 7, who was the official ringbearer and hair-style trendsetter.

May God's peace always surround them and lead them together to everlasting life.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More majestic than the mountains

"When I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw all people to myself."

John 12:32

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Birthday blessings

On this gorgeous early fall Sunday, Br. Mauritius and I were invited by former Archabbot Fr. Bonaventure Knaebel to join him in a couple of anniversary celebrations (I was the chauffeur). First, we attended a 150th anniversary Mass for the parish of St. Michael in Charlestown, Indiana, where Fr. Bonaventure served as pastor from 1981 to 1986. It was one of many assignments he's had as a monk of Saint Meinrad--including abbot from 1955 to 1966, and procurator for our former mission in Peru in the 1970s.

The bilingual (Spanish and English) Mass attracted a large crowd of parishioners and well-wishers. Presiding was Diocese of Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel Buechlein (also a monk of Saint Meinrad). Several former pastors and associates returned for the occasion along with Fr. Bonaventure and concelebrated with the archbishop.

Incidentally, last week Fr. Bonaventure celebrated his 92nd birthday. He is still quite active and sharp as a tack. He even takes an occasional class in the Seminary on a topic of interest.

After the anniversary celebration in Charlestown, we drove to Fr. Bonaventure's hometown of New Albany, Indiana, for another party. This time, much of his family had gathered to celebrate the 1-year birthday of his great-great niece Kate. That's her above matching smile for smile on the lap of her 92-year-old great-great uncle.

I cannot close without mentioning another interesting piece of information. While we know him here in the monastery as Fr. Abbot Bonaventure, his family knows him simply by another name: Uncle Merton.

Since returning from Einsiedeln with Br. Mauritius a month ago, I have been busy giving my first guesthouse retreat, and with oblate talks, the beginning of classes, and my work as associate editor at Abbey Press Publications. However, later this week I will be taking a brief break to head back to northwest Ohio for a family celebration of my own. My "little" sister Shannon is getting married. .... And .......... yes ........ I think this is worth the risk--in our family (courtesy of our Uncle Kenny), Shannon has been known since childhood as Monk, short for Monkey.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The road less travelled

A snippet from today's Gospel (Luke 14:25-33):

Jesus turned and addressed the crowds traveling with him, saying, "If anyone comes to me without hating ['without hating' -- read: 'preferring to me'] his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. ... Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. ... If you do not renounce all your possessions you cannot be my disciple."

Hard sayings. However, that doesn't make them untrue, or impossible. Jesus should not only comfort, but challenge us. To paraphrase a reflection by Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington, "Salvation is free. Discipleship costs."

Fr. Harry Hagan, the former novice master at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, oftens says something similar: "It's easy to be a Christian. It's hard to be one every day."

Hard truths are profoundly simple. But what we find difficult, God's wisdom places within our grasp. Then, we will have it all--the things of heaven.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Living things, great and small

Monasteries are never without guests or pilgrims, and Saint Meinrad Archabbey is no exception. Hospitality is a hallmark of Benedictine spirituality, as the Rule of St. Benedict states that "all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ."

Word of our hospitality has seemingly spread to the animal kingdom of late, as a number of species have come to us recently, apparently intending on extended stays. They include:

-- A lone squirrel who somehow found its way into the monastery courtyard, and can't find the way out. Perhaps it does not want to leave, desiring to live the life of a hermit. Each morning during the lectio period, he keeps the monks in the reading room company by peering through the window.

-- A lame pigeon also confined to the courtyard, who spends its days waddling about and squawking at Fr. Guerric whenever he comes by. God knows who started it.

-- A black cat with white paws (we call it Socks) who patrols the campus looking for attention and finding plenty of it from monks, guests, and students alike. Br. Zachary and Fr. Vincent are particularly sweet on it. I must confess also sneaking it a bowl of milk and a sweet roll now and again.

-- Two stray dogs--a beagle and a black terrier--sniffing around, perhaps looking for Socks. The other day, they galloped up to the abbot's office window to request an audience. Perhaps they were seeking entry. I don't think the abbot is too fond of dogs (but I am working on him).

-- A flock of wild turkeys. Perhaps they are seeking refuge here until after Thanksgiving. I'm not so sure they're completely safe. They'd better steer clear of Br. Angelo and Br. Flavian. Sometimes hospitality only goes so far.

-- In years past, we have had a couple of turtles in the monastery courtyard, but they have not been seen this summer. Must have transferred their stability.

This list, of course, does NOT include the critters who occasionally make their way uninvited into the basement level of the cloister where the juniors and novices live. These have included crickets (and worse), mice, lizards, bats, snakes, and even (once, years ago) a deer.

Understandably, these last guests do not receive as warm a welcome. Some critters have boundary issues. All are welcome, but it's also good to keep a respectable distance (excepting, of course, man's best friend, who is, after all, G-O-D spelled backwards).