25 June 2016

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for beautiful early summer days.

New Bishop of Tulsa Makes His Own Crosier

"Deep in the heart of Texas, a campus chaplain is busy making his final spiritual and practical preparations for becoming a bishop.

"However, unlike many of his soon-to-be brother-bishops, Fr. David Konderla is carving his very own staff - or crosier - to signify his new position and duty as a teacher and head of a diocese.

"'Every Jedi has not completed his training until he's made his own light saber that he uses to fight evil with ' so this is my light saber,' Bishop-elect David Konderla told CNA in an interview.

On June 29, Fr. David Konderla will be ordained and installed as the Bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Currently, the Bishop-elect serves as the Director of Campus Ministry for St. Mary's Catholic Center, the campus chaplaincy for Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

"A crosier is a hooked staff - based on the shape of a shepherd's staff - carried by bishops in the Catholic Church to symbolize their pastoral function in the Church. Other important symbols of a bishop's position are the pectoral cross worn on a bishop's chest, the mitre- or hat, and the episcopal ring."

A recent Catholic News Agency article profiled Father Konderla and the making of his crosier (he has made four previously for other bishops).

To access the complete Catholic News Agency report, please visit:

Catholic News Agency: 'This is my light saber' - Tulsa's new bishop makes his own staff (8 JUN 16)

Background information:

Diocese of Tulsa

St. Mary's Catholic Center at Texas A & M University: Fr. David Konderla

Reflection Starter from St. Josemaría Escrivá

"Christian optimism is not a sugary optimism, nor is it a mere human confidence that everything will turn out all right. It is an optimism that sinks its roots into an awareness of our freedom, and the sure knowledge of the power of grace. It is an optimism that leads us to make demands on ourselves, to struggle to respond at every moment to God's call." - Saint Josemaría Escrivá, whose memory the Church celebrates on 26 June

23 June 2016

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of our parents and for the blessing they have been in our lives.

Spirit and Guts for Father’s Day

Anyone who's seen the Aurora Borealis in pictures, on video or in person knows the beauty these "Northern Lights" can produce. But they've rarely produced anything as beautiful as the time they allowed John Sullivan to reconnect with his long-dead father and try to save his life. That's the premise of the film Frequency, released in 2000, and starring Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid. And it's a great movie for Father's Day.

The story begins in Bayside, Queens, October 1969, a few days before firefighter Frank Sullivan (Quaid) will die while trying to rescue a teenager in an abandoned warehouse fire. Frank is an ideal husband and father who clearly loves and appreciates his wife Julia and their six-year-old son Johnny, who he always encourages to have "spirit and guts."

Frank is also a ham radio enthusiast who enjoys communicating with people around the world. One day, while the Aurora Borealis begins occurring for a period of time in the Earth's atmosphere, Frank begins talking to a friendly stranger on the radio. He soon discovers that this is no stranger at all, but his son John, 30 years in the future.

Grown-up John Sullivan (Caviezel) has obviously suffered from the loss of his father many years ago and seems incapable of building the kind of relationship his Dad had with his Mom. But this mysterious connection with the past - explained by the idea of string theory and quantum mechanics breaking down the barriers between past, present and future due to the Aurora Borealis - ignites in him a feeling of fulfillment that has been missing for years.

Frank, of course, is reluctant to believe that he's actually communicating with the future, while John comes around more quickly, perhaps aided by the fact that this is a dream come true for him. Using the results of the 1969 World Series games featuring the Amazin' Mets, John finally convinces Frank that the unbelievable is actually happening. Then he has to get him to change the course of action that would end his life.

Frequency is largely about the connection between fathers and sons, as well as the strength of family overall. Dennis Quaid exudes character, courage and compassion as Frank. He's a model for how men should treat their wives and children. Jim Caviezel's John, on the other hand, reflects what can happen when a child's father isn't there to be an influence in his life. The story suggests that John had other men to step in as father figures while he was growing up, but that he never got over the loss of his real dad.

If you're mainly used to seeing Caviezel as the intense, deadpan John Reese on TV's Person of Interest, he may surprise you here. While he conveys the wounded, lonely eyes that reflect loss, he also portrays moments of genuine happiness after finding his father again. The scene in which the two of them have accepted that what is happening is real and simply start communicating with each other from the heart is a magnificent piece of acting.

In the end, Frequency is a total wish-fulfillment fantasy. But that's okay because the movie pulls it off through emotionally engaging storytelling and a riveting plot. Watching these examples of what fatherhood and family should be will resonate with viewers regardless of their real life situations, help them better appreciate their parents and children, and offer a timely reminder that we all need to live with "spirit and guts."

This essay is this week's "Light One Candle" column, written by Tony Rossi, of The Christophers; it is one of a series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current events. 

Background information:

The Christophers

Reflection Starter from William Shakespeare

"Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt." - William Shakespeare (in Measure for Measure, Act 1, Scene iv)

19 June 2016

2016 World Communications Day: "Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter"

On the Sunday before Pentecost, the Church celebrated, for the 50th year, World Communications Day. This year's theme is "Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter." The message of Pope Francis for this year's observance is as follows:

"The Holy Year of Mercy invites all of us to reflect on the relationship between communication and mercy. The Church, in union with Christ, the living incarnation of the Father of Mercies, is called to practise mercy as the distinctive trait of all that she is and does. What we say and how we say it, our every word and gesture, ought to express God's compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all. Love, by its nature, is communication; it leads to openness and sharing. If our hearts and actions are inspired by charity, by divine love, then our communication will be touched by God’s own power.

"As sons and daughters of God, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception. In a particular way, the Church's words and actions are all meant to convey mercy, to touch people's hearts and to sustain them on their journey to that fullness of life which Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to bring to all. This means that we ourselves must be willing to accept the warmth of Mother Church and to share that warmth with others, so that Jesus may be known and loved. That warmth is what gives substance to the word of faith; by our preaching and witness, it ignites the 'spark' which gives them life.

"Communication has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and thus to enrich society. How beautiful it is when people select their words and actions with care, in the effort to avoid misunderstandings, to heal wounded memories and to build peace and harmony. Words can build bridges between individuals and within families, social groups and peoples. This is possible both in the material world and the digital world. Our words and actions should be such as to help us all escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred. The words of Christians ought to be a constant encouragement to communion and, even in those cases where they must firmly condemn evil, they should never try to rupture relationships and communication.

"For this reason, I would like to invite all people of good will to rediscover the power of mercy to heal wounded relationships and to restore peace and harmony to families and communities. All of us know how many ways ancient wounds and lingering resentments can entrap individuals and stand in the way of communication and reconciliation. The same holds true for relationships between peoples. In every case, mercy is able to create a new kind of speech and dialogue. Shakespeare put it eloquently when he said: 'The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: it blesseth him that gives and him that takes' (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I).

"Our political and diplomatic language would do well to be inspired by mercy, which never loses hope. I ask those with institutional and political responsibility, and those charged with forming public opinion, to remain especially attentive to the way they speak of those who think or act differently or those who may have made mistakes. It is easy to yield to the temptation to exploit such situations to stoke the flames of mistrust, fear and hatred. Instead, courage is needed to guide people towards processes of reconciliation. It is precisely such positive and creative boldness which offers real solutions to ancient conflicts and the opportunity to build lasting peace. 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God' (Mt 5:7-9)

"How I wish that our own way of communicating, as well as our service as pastors of the Church, may never suggest a prideful and triumphant superiority over an enemy, or demean those whom the world considers lost and easily discarded. Mercy can help mitigate life's troubles and offer warmth to those who have known only the coldness of judgment. May our way of communicating help to overcome the mindset that neatly separates sinners from the righteous. We can and we must judge situations of sin - such as violence, corruption and exploitation - but we may not judge individuals, since only God can see into the depths of their hearts. It is our task to admonish those who err and to denounce the evil and injustice of certain ways of acting, for the sake of setting victims free and raising up those who have fallen. The Gospel of John tells us that 'the truth will make you free' (Jn 8:32). The truth is ultimately Christ himself, whose gentle mercy is the yardstick for measuring the way we proclaim the truth and condemn injustice. Our primary task is to uphold the truth with love (cf. Eph 4:15). Only words spoken with love and accompanied by meekness and mercy can touch our sinful hearts. Harsh and moralistic words and actions risk further alienating those whom we wish to lead to conversion and freedom, reinforcing their sense of rejection and defensiveness.

"Some feel that a vision of society rooted in mercy is hopelessly idealistic or excessively indulgent. But let us try and recall our first experience of relationships, within our families. Our parents loved us and valued us for who we are more than for our abilities and achievements. Parents naturally want the best for their children, but that love is never dependent on their meeting certain conditions. The family home is one place where we are always welcome (cf. Lk 15:11-32). I would like to encourage everyone to see society not as a forum where strangers compete and try to come out on top, but above all as a home or a family, where the door is always open and where everyone feels welcome.

"For this to happen, we must first listen. Communicating means sharing, and sharing demands listening and acceptance. Listening is much more than simply hearing. Hearing is about receiving information, while listening is about communication, and calls for closeness. Listening allows us to get things right, and not simply to be passive onlookers, users or consumers. Listening also means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good.

"Listening is never easy. Many times it is easier to play deaf. Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says. It involves a sort of martyrdom or self-sacrifice, as we try to imitate Moses before the burning bush: we have to remove our sandals when standing on the 'holy ground' of our encounter with the one who speaks to me (cf. Ex 3:5). Knowing how to listen is an immense grace, it is a gift which we need to ask for and then make every effort to practice.

"Emails, text messages, social networks and chats can also be fully human forms of communication. It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal. Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarization and division between individuals and groups. The digital world is a public square, a meeting-place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks. I pray that this Jubilee Year, lived in mercy, 'may open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; and that it may eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination' (Misericordiae Vultus, 23). The internet can help us to be better citizens. Access to digital networks entails a responsibility for our neighbour whom we do not see but who is nonetheless real and has a dignity which must be respected. The internet can be used wisely to build a society which is healthy and open to sharing.

"Communication, wherever and however it takes place, has opened up broader horizons for many people. This is a gift of God which involves a great responsibility. I like to refer to this power of communication as 'closeness'. The encounter between communication and mercy will be fruitful to the degree that it generates a closeness which cares, comforts, heals, accompanies and celebrates. In a broken, fragmented and polarized world, to communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family."

From the Vatican, 24 January 2016


Mavis Staples: "In Christ There Is No East or West"

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer this version of Mavis Staples presenting "In Christ There Is No East or West":