Monday, January 30, 2017

Salt, Light, Community and Mission...Music for February 5th


Hello St. Francis,

So we are coming off a fabulous weekend at our church as we celebrated the feast of St. Francis De Sales.  as I was looking around the Fellowship Hall, I noticed something.  To me, at least, it seemed like a group of people from all walks of life, all nations, all political and social ideologies, from many diverse and beautiful cultures all sharing themselves with each other.  It did not seem forced, it just seemed right.  It is amazing what can happen when any group of people gather to celebrate their faith, their charism and their joy in the community they call home.

As our universal church evolves to be an open door welcoming community that we at St. Francis have already accomplished, and continue to accomplish,  I think sometimes we get caught up in the fluffy "kumbaya" type stuff and sometimes forget that living the Christian life requires sacrifice and consistent leaps of faith.  Isn't that one of the reasons we come to church?  To be strengthened in our conviction and made courageous to live as we are called to.  Also, isn't our time in church one that we are instructed and inspired in what that call is? 

The Christian ideal is a vocation that calls us into mission.  Put quite simply, a vocation is WHO YOU ARE not what you do.  Our vocation has been given to us as a gift.  For some, their vocation is a life devoted to God as a priest or religious.  To others, its being a spouse and a parent.  For some it is a career and for all it is a life centered in God's love.  When we cherish and nurture our vocation, it inevitably leads us to fulfill the mission of that vocation.  For all of us that is a little different, but for all of us it leads us back to our community, our church family, just like it did this past weekend; to worship and be strengthened in our mission.

Being a Christian is a radical, challenging and sometimes frustrating thing. So often we think that we are doing the right thing and the door is closed.  So often, our prayers seem to go unanswered and so often, people who want the hearts full of joy and life full of love and laughter fall away when the reality of our world sets in.  I know that to leave everything behind and follow Jesus is a "metaphor" but, isn't it true when we focus more intently on Jesus and less intently on the pleasures of this world that we receive more pleasure?  It's almost like a surprise gift, you know the one you really need but would never get for yourself.  The more radically I live my faith, my mission, the more willing I am to leave everything behind and follow Jesus, the clearer my life becomes.  When my vision is clear, it is easier to see the person who is struggling who needs someone to help.  When my vision is clear, it is easier to take the jumbled up things in my life and organize them into priorities. When my vision is clear, that is when I recognize the radical call and the road that I must travel.  Because my vision becomes God's vision and that road only leads to good things.

So, be challenged, be frustrated, try and sometimes fail.  It is all part of radical vocation we are called to.  May we, live our mission courageously, knowing that there is a place for us to be strengthened and encouraged.  Every time you walk into St. Francis, we journey with you, your mission becomes our mission and your joys, your struggles, your failures and your triumphs all are taken up by a group of people that love you.  And then, when Jesus calls us to be salt and light, we will be ready to say "YES LORD" encouraged by a family that will always have your back.

Jim


Music for the weekend of February 5th






Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Reflection on the CHARISM of our Patron and Music for Our Celebration

Hello St. Francis,
This week we celebrate the feast of our Patron, St. Francis De Sales.  He is probably one of the more famous saints and is the founder of the Salesian Order.  His charism (set of beliefs of how we should live) is beautiful.  I don't know how much we all know about Francis De Sales so indulge me as I lend this weeks reflection to find a better understanding of who our Parish community is named for. Some may call it a coincidence, but I feel our Patron working in our hearts, in our community, helping to create the parish we all love.

Enjoy this reflection on St. Francis De Sales and his charism.  Thank you to DeSales University and The Oblates of St. Francis De Sales for providing this beautiful message.

The wisdom of St. Francis de Sales has been given to us in the charism we live.  It is a wisdom guided always and everywhere by love, imbued with an imperturbable optimism, lived with characteristic humility and gentleness, expressed in words of inspired common sense, and proffered for all in a universal call to holiness.

The motto "Live Jesus!" captures the approach to life Francis De Sales lived, wherein our aim should be to live every moment of our lives with the same humility, gentleness, and charity as Jesus did. In this way, others will see the Savior walking on earth once again!  As a young student, Francis de Sales would write the initials  “LJ” at the top of his notebook pages as a reminder that this is how he should live.  Later, he concludes his masterful Treatise on the Love of God with these words: "But that we may live in your eternal love, O Savior of our souls, we eternally sing, 'Live, Jesus!  Jesus, I love!  Live, Jesus whom I love!  Jesus, I love, Jesus who lives and reigns forever and ever.  Amen."

The legacy of St. Francis De Sales offers a vision of the world founded on a deep appreciation of the love that God has showered upon us through the gifts of creation and human life, particularly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. St. Francis de Sales believed that beauty and goodness are the hallmarks of our world, as gifts born from God's deep and abiding love for each one of us. Enabled and ennobled by this love, human beings are capable of much more than might well be imagined. They are capable of living a true life of devotion in the midst of worldly pursuits. They are capable of giving birth, through faith, to a new culture of life and of love.

St. Francis De Sales leaves us with this charism.  Let these words form your prayer. 

  • All people are called to holiness, not just a select few. It is a “heresy” to banish the devout life from any career or lifestyle.
  • Since all people are called to holiness, then the means to achieve that holiness must be readily available. One lives the “devout life” by passionately and joyfully meeting the demands of one’s state in life for the love of God. It is not what you do in your life but how and for whom you do it. We are called to do the ordinary “passionately well.”
  • The devout life is relational. It is in the living out of our relationships in love that one lives the devout life.
  • All in life is to be done through LOVE and nothing through force. Love in this case is an act of the will, not a sentiment of the heart. It is seeing good in another and choosing and acting to make that goodness grow. We should accentuate the positive rather than condemn the negative. We should assume a positive stance towards everyone. “The measure of our love is to love without measure.”
  • HUMILITY – living in self-truthfulness about who we are, both positive and negative, and about who God is towards us – is an essential virtue. “Come and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.” Our charism is unpretentious, natural and approachable.
  • Humility leads us to GENTLENESS towards our neighbor. Because one is so aware of his or her own needs and weakness, one extends to another person similar understanding and compassion. Gentleness is not weaknesses, but rather controlled, directed and loving strength. It might also be described as knowing how to react to life appropriately and proportionately. To quote de Sales: “There is no nothing so strong as gentleness and nothing so gentle as real strength.”
  •  CIVILITY and RESPECT must mark the behavior of a truly “gentle” devout Christian.
  • The PRESENT MOMENT is where a Christian lives life. The past is over. The future is yet to be. “NOW is the time of salvation.”
  • Because we have a Savior, we are always OPTIMISTIC. We already know how things are going to end. Sin, death, and the things which deny life will not triumph.
  • A truly devout life enhances, does not detract from, one’s life. Real devotion never inconveniences others.
  • The devout life is a process. It only happens with grace, perseverance and patience over a lifetime. One is always striving to be devout.
  • Our charism is primarily a matter of the conversion of the heart. It is therefore something interior. We are called to be patient with everyone, especially ourselves.
  • We are called to a “liberty of spirit” – something which includes obedience but excludes “constraint, scruples and anxiety.”
  • Our charism flows from the premise that, made in the Divine Image, everyone is called to holiness and that God, who cannot be outdone in generosity, wills that all be saved.


Let us be what we are and be that well, in order to bring honor to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork we are.”  – St. Francis de Sales

Music for Jan. 28-29

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Be The Light!!!

Hello St. Francis.

What a week of contrasts.  The celebration of Dr. King's message followed by the inauguration of a president that so many people fear may in some way negatively effect the perceived harmony of our nation.  So, what do we take from all of this?  There is certainly an abundance of topics to reflect upon, but, I'd like to focus on something that I think can and will be very easy to slip into if we are not careful, hypocrisy.  As I look at those things that I have a more difficult time "going with the flow" with, I recognize that most of them are centered in hypocrisy.  Now that REALLY frustrates me.  I should clarify here.  People often say one thing and do another. Though it does aggravate me a little, over the course of my life, I have come to understand that all of us try to deceive ourselves about some things and that as we grow in wisdom (if that is our choice) that many of these things become apparent and we work towards fixing them.  What really gets me is the more systemic, social or societal hypocrisy that is so easily sold to us by so many with an agenda. YEAH!!! We all so often call out the hypocrisy in others, this reflection will hopefully lead to an opportunity to reflect on our own hypocrisy.  

So, here's the premise.  I know that sometimes I attempt to fight for what I think is right, which is good, except when I lower myself to the depths I perceive those who do not agree with me do.  It is a travesty to see all of the unrest that we all blame on everyone else.  The point...when we make our point the "How" is maybe even more important than the "What".  It is easy to try and advance my point, my belief, my agenda, by using the same tactics that we are so against in those who have an opposing point, belief or agenda


I must say that I purposely attempt in most cases in my life and in my writing on this blog to not make sweeping generalizations and of course, even if this sounds like one, I am well aware that this is not a 100% always type of thing.  Nonetheless, it still "gets my goat".

Jesus, in my opinion, became the enemy of the religious and political leaders of his time mostly because He never shied away from making a statement that made those who were filled with hypocrisy really uncomfortable. The amazing thing though is that all of those statements came from a place of love and reconciliation, it is for that reason that I, in my reflection, take Jesus so seriously.  He made his statements not to win an argument but to begin, in a small way, a conversion.  Those who opposed him had no reason not to at least listen. Whether or not they bought into his message was not influenced by tactics of anger.  It was an invitation, not to do and believe everything right away, but to at least listen.  Boy, do we want people to listen to us (especially since my point and my belief are right all of the time in every possible way...haha). Oh...I'm not always 100% right? I need to listen too?  Is that really a part of the deal?


YES!!!!!

 As a result of the hypocrisy being slammed into our society, and especially into our young people, they have come to believe that their way is the way it should be.   The fact of the matter is that even today, people are uncomfortable with the truth. People are equally as uncomfortable with an opposing view...All of us!!! People sometimes don't want to be told that there can be and is a different, a better way.  Why?  It messes with their rock solid belief that what they believe is the Gospel truth.  

Jesus never had an issue making the difficult statement, the one that rocked the foundation of any self indulged person or organization.  We too need to find the courage to make a statement.  You see, it is ok to say that you believe in, follow and live your life by faith, (whatever that faith may be).  It is ok to stand up and say that Jesus' message of love, mercy and compassion is a better way.  It is ok to say that living selfish lives that tear a person down and make them feel less beautiful or less worthy is not the way our culture should be.  It is ok to witness to the difficult teachings of Christ and live our lives centered in the joy of the good news. But, it is not ok if we proclaim these truths in a way that hurts others, that does not seek to find the other but instead violently tosses them into the abyss of the ignorant, the evil, the sinners.  Jesus never made his point that way.

We are often told that we are called to a "radical" faith.  I am convinced that we need to live this radical faith in a couple of ways.  First, a radical faith never discriminates or closes doors on anyone, regardless of their beliefs. Second, we are called to be the light, the reconciler.  That means that we must be the example by living with open minds and hearts, with compassion for those who have strayed from the truth of the Gospel, but, also a willingness to meet them where they are and journey with them back to the light.  Finally, we are called to make a statement.  Our statement should be based on conviction of faith and the joyful love of the Gospel.  We need to dismiss the notion that evangelization is not politically correct because it forces people to challenge themselves to be more than our society calls or wants them to be.  When we live as Jesus would have us live, our statement does rock the foundation of our hypocritical society and offers an opportunity for all to see life as a gift as opposed to life being about the gifts you receive.  So, be radical in your faith, proclaim it and live it out fully, unabashedly, knowing that your statement may be the one that opens the eyes of a person who seeks truth. 

Hey SFDS, BE THE LIGHT!!!

Jim

Music for the weekend of January 22nd

Processional - The Lord Is My Light

Psalm 27

Offertory - Lord, You Have Come

Communion - I Receive The Living God 

Communion Meditation - Draw Me Close

Recessional - O Magnify The Lord

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Dream and the Challenge is the bridge

Hello St. Francis,

So, our country is preparing to celebrate the life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.  I must selfishly admit that I love this holiday because it means a long weekend. (and I need a long weekend) But, for some reason, this year I have found myself really thinking about what Dr. King lived and died to proclaim to the people in our country.  Our world is certainly in a place where we are hypersensitive to say the least about people of different races, faiths, lifestyles, etc.  Over the next few days we will again get to listen to Dr. King's words and hopefully be inspired by his belief in his dream.  What an amazing dream it is too.  A dream that envisions all people regardless of their differences walking hand in hand unified in their humanity.

At the same time, in church this week we heard about a new shepherd who is now the leader of the Archdiocese of Newark.  His message was a simple one.  We should let go of the semantics of hot button issues and focus our energy on living in the "real world" what we are called to practice in our faith.  We here this message time and time again at St. Francis.  Pope Francis calls us to be a church on the margins, a community centered in the most basic ideals that Jesus calls us to, namely, to love.


If I may, one of the qualities that I truly admire in Jesus is the fact that even though his contemporaries and even the biblical authors would consistently define others by their race (Israelite and Samaritan) or by their occupation (poor fisherman, tax collector, Chief Priest, Prostitute) or because of the particular culture of that time when women were seen as less than their male counterparts, I don't ever remember Jesus judging a person by any of those characteristics, but rather, by their hearts, their love, their kindness and dare I say their potential.  I often think we miss the mark in understanding the labels placed on those in Jesus' time.  You see, it is great that Jesus would have dinner with the tax collector and save the prostitute from stoning but the question I pose is this.  Did he have dinner with the man only because he was a tax collector or would he have entered the house of anyone seeking the truth?  It is great that Jesus saved the prostitute but did he only save her because she was a prostitute?

I think Jesus' and Dr. King's message is about a deeper and more profound level of unity. In the real world, we announce with pride at the top of our voices who should and shouldn't be counted among the faithful.  We often place parameters around our "margins".  Instead of looking at our neighbor's heart and showing them ours, we sometimes demand to categorize people and to be categorized ourself.  In all honesty, let me tell you that I don't want to know you as a member of a certain "category" that is based on your race, culture, skin color, sexual orientation, age or anything else.  Who I really want to know when I meet you is the person.  Our dignity does not come from our differences, our uniqueness, our political beliefs or anything else.  It comes from God.  The God who created us in God's image, who lives and moves within us, each in our own unique way.

I think the message of Dr. King, the new Archbishop of Newark and Jesus is that when I look at you, I don't see our differences, I don't need to treat you differently because you are of a certain culture, religion or lifestyle.  Instead, we should look at each others as what we are, brothers and sisters.  You see, when I hold your hand and walk in solidarity with you, it's not about a cause, it's not about two people saying, "Look how different we are but we can still walk together", The dream, I believe is when our "differences" are meaningless.  When we hear Jesus' words that he spoke over and over again that He came to live in the hearts of all, I think he meant it.

So, this week, as we continue to try to live the dream, instead of accepting or even celebrating our differences and therefore categorizing others, maybe we should just walk together in solidarity as human beings, created by the same God (no matter what name you happen to give Him or Her) We are not different, we are unique.  We are not a statistic in a category, we are part of the human race, all created in God's image and all doing the best we can to "Live The Dream".

Jim

Music for the weekend of January 14 and 15
This week we will be singing a few of Dr. King's favorite songs.  What beautiful messages they proclaim.

Processional - This Is Amazing Grace 

Psalm - Here Am I Lord

Offertory - Jesus Is A Rock

Communion - We Shall Overcome

Meditation - If I Can Help Somebody  

Recessional - Bless That Wonderful Name

Thursday, January 5, 2017

My 2017 Epiphany

Hello St. Francis.
I hope this message finds you winding down from an amazing Christmas celebration and for many of our parishioners,getting excited as we prepare for the Feast of the Three Kings celebrations this week.  It does go fast, huh? Prepare the house, the gifts, Advent, wait, wait, wait and then BOOM!!! it has come and gone.  Even as I sit here writing this blog, I feel as though the passion with which I prepared for Christmas as well as the prayerfulness with which I made a concerted effort to kick up a notch has already been attacked by the NEXT BIG THING.  So, here I am, a little chunkier (Italian Food), a little poorer (two kids) and ready to start 2017 with a bang or a thud...can't make up my mind.


Now, I know that the whole New Year's Resolution thing is written about over and over again so I am not going to give you the full proof way to keep that promise to lose 20 lbs. or exercise more or call your parents or your brother once a week.  We've all been there and done that.  I really would be barking up a dead tree if I concentrated on the whole "Keep the Christmas Spirit alive the whole year round" thing because I think that would just make me want to smack myself with the leftover Lasagna noodles from Christmas.  So, what wisdom can I impart on you this week?  Not much.
What I can say is that as I go through my social media and posts, I have been seeing a lot of things. It seems like only a moment ago our facebook and instagram pages were filled with Christmas and New Year wishes.  They were inspirational and drew us closer to our hopes and dreams for a future filled with a little more peace and joy.  However, it seems like as soon as the ball dropped in Times Square, many were right back to their political, social and societal tangents that were spewing hate and intolerance.  It really is kind of sad.  

Now, don't get me wrong, I certainly have at least a couple of things I could be standing on my soapbox and advocating for in the pursuit of convincing the world that my ideology is the one and only correct one.  But, really, what am I saying if that is the way I advocate?  This year, I am turning over a new leaf...I am (by the grace of God) going to attempt to truly listen to people.  I am going to trust in people.  I am going to believe that even those with whom I disagree are coming from a good place.  As passionately as I attempt to live my life and as dedicated as I try to be to the values that I profess, I must also see others regardless of their political, socioeconomic and religious viewpoints as trying to live the same way.  If we truly seek diversity in our communities, in our parishes and in our country, we must accept and cherish the gift of diversity that we have been given.  This year, I am expanding my definition of diversity to include not only people who do not look like me or come from the same origins and faith practice that I do, but also those whose views are different than mine.  I don't know about you but for me the people that I see as being most different from me are those who disagree with me.  Maybe, by opening my ears, my mind and my heart to these people, I can begin to truly live out the peace and unity that I pray for.


So as we celebrate the New Year and The Three Kings and we hug and kiss those in our life who we love, maybe we can share a gift like the Magi did.  Maybe we can start a trend to change hearts,  and make a New Year's Resolution to be a little kinder to those we don't agree with.  So, Happy New Year to my extended Church Community.  I wish you happiness and health for you and your family this year. 

Peace,
Jim

Music for the Epiphany...Big Day...Let's Sing Away!!!

Processional - We Three Kings - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJxBlJFjOU4


Offertory - Behold the Star - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrVK9HODphE

Communion - What Child Is This - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ePja2yZhQw

Recessional - Joy To The World - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBMPBoFcOZ4