Sunday, November 27, 2016

Checking in After Two Weeks in Court

Sunday evening greetings from my home here in Chicago's West Loop.

Just thought I would check in. Tomorrow, we enter week three of this federal trial on which I am a juror. Possibly two more full weeks ahead for this trial. I feel like I am living in a parallel world. I check work emails, keep up with what is going on there, weigh in when necessary, and offer my opinions on key issues.

I must say that I do miss those with whom I work very much. For just a few weeks over seventeen years, WLP and J.S. Paluch have been my work "home." I miss my "peeps!"

Obviously, I cannot comment on the trial. Life outside of the trial is about as normal as I can make it. Thanksgiving with friends here in Chicago was a delight. Early morning Advent I Mass this morning at Old Saint Pat's was simple and offered me some time to get re-focused on what really matters.

The greatest positive about the past several weeks is that we have been asked by the judge not to look at any news channels, read any newspapers, nor look at any on-line news outlets. So, in this post-election period, I have neither seen nor read anything from the news. Frankly, that's given me a sense of freedom and detachment.

So, that's what is happening. I am totally focused on the trial every day; I feel proud to be a US citizen called to this kind of responsibility.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Off the Blog for a Bit to Focus

Hello everyone.

The day after the election, I was in El Paso, Texas, and my host from the Diocese drove me along "the wall." I heard stories from pastors about children cowering beneath their desks at school that day, suffering panic attacks in grammar school, wondering if their parents would be deported. Such an "in your face" experience that most Americans will never see or taste so close up.

I returned to Chicago late Friday, and Saturday three of us from WLP reached out to our Afghan refugee family. We took them shopping at a "Super Target." You cannot imagine the looks on their faces when they beheld what you and I see every time we enter a department/grocery store here in the United States. We were insuring that they were outfitted with clothes and outerwear to help them through our harsh Chicago winter.

After the shopping experience, I sat in a Walgreen's parking lot and spoke to some of my family members about what our experience was like. And, to be honest with you, I wept. I wept for this family who, even though they had run out of food stamps with an inability to buy meat in the last twelve days, fed us with a beautiful hospitable lunch with chicken and rice. My heart was aching for them and I ached for a future of what may become a walled country here in too many ways. I choose to focus my life on being Christ for others. Simple.

Life changed for me pretty drastically yesterday, which means I will be out of the blogging world for a while. Summoned to federal jury duty, I was chosen for a jury yesterday. The trial will last at least four weeks. So I have decided to focus my attention on this important civic duty and not post here. I hope you understand.

In the meantime, gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Building for the Future

It's Election Day. I voted early a few weeks ago.

I was very glad to hear one particular announcement at my parish, Old Saint Patrick's here in Chicago, this past weekend.

We were invited to stop by the church any time on Wednesday, post-election day, to spend time in prayer for peace, healing, and unity. Here's the link.

As for me, I will be traveling to El Paso, Texas early tomorrow morning.

I will be presenting an RCIA workshop to the lay ministers in the diocese tomorrow night, and a full morning on the RCIA for the clergy on Thursday. It's a great diocese; I have enjoyed speaking there in the past and am looking forward to my time there over the next few days.

My focus today, tomorrow, and Thursday will be on participating in whatever way I can in the further building of God's kingdom. And it was quite relieving to write that last sentence; helps put things into perspective.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Saints On the Ceiling

Monday greetings from Chicago. It has been unseasonably warm and sunny here. I'll take it!

I read an article in the National Catholic Reporter this morning about "our hungry world needing saints." I was so pleased to see, as part of that article, a photo of the ceiling of the baptistery of the cathedral (duomo) in Padua, Italy.

I have been in this baptistery twice, once about twenty years ago and again about five years ago. My most recent visit was a bit disappointing because the entire glorious ceiling was covered with scaffolding and was being restored. Today's NCR photo showed what looks like the restored ceiling and it is really wonderful:

This is only a small portion of the ceiling. Here is a photo showing it in its entirety.

Here's the exterior.

From the moment I first walked into this baptistery twenty years ago and looked up at this ceiling, I couldn't help but begin singing the litany of the saints. In this holy space, where that litany has been sung over and over again at baptisms for centuries, is depicted those saints hovering over the one to be baptized. It struck me that our Christian pilgrimage begins in the waters of baptism and concludes when, hopefully, our faces appear on that ceiling, as part of the heavenly communion of saints.

As this month of remembrance continues to unfold, I am reminded of all those who have lived lives that have influenced me; those real saints in my own life.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Nostalgic On this Feast Day

Friday greetings. Today is one of those rare and wonderful bright and sunny Autumn days here in the Midwest.

Today is the feast day of Saint Charles Borromeo, the patron of my home parish in Woburn, Massachusetts. Feeling a bit nostalgic today.

It was two years ago today on this feast that I was privileged to be in Rome, traveling with my parents. My friend, Monsignor Larry Spiteri, arranged to celebrate Mass in honor of my parents' 60th wedding anniversary. This was one of those moments that makes for a lasting memory. Here we are at the altar of Saint Thomas in Saint Peter's Basilica, where we celebrated Mass early that morning.

When we arrived at Saint Peter's that morning, my parents had no idea that we would then be taken on a private tour of the basilica and the Vatican Museum. They were in a state of awe inside Saint Peter's; there were very few other people inside at the time. This is one of my favorite photos, taken in front of the main altar; definitely a "deer in the headlights" moment!

I am grateful to have been "schooled" in so many ways by these two characters, "schooled" at Saint Charles in Woburn, and "schooled" by the opportunities that travel has afforded me. 

I hope that your weekend is one that is filled with grace and peace.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Thursday greetings on this historic sports day in this historic sports town.

For the past several months, I have been mistaken for Chicago Cubs' (World Series Winners) manager Joe Maddon. In restaurants and bars and on the streets, people have stopped me and thought I was actually Joe Maddon. Just on Friday an elderly lady asked me for my autograph on her hand!

These are the photos that have hung outside of my office here for the past several weeks. I'll let you be the judge.

It's certainly a happy day here in Chicago.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Milwaukee Mission and Someone Named Ralph

Wednesday greetings from Chicago. To say that this is an anxious and excited city would be an understatement, with our Chicago Cubs playing in the seventh game of the World Series tonight.

I spent the last four days with the staff and parishioners of Saint John the Evangelist Cathedral in Milwaukee, leading their parish mission.

It was such an honor and blessing to speak in such a historic and storied space.

The mission sessions were held twice reach day on Monday and Tuesday. 

I was so impressed with the people at the Cathedral parish. These are people who have been formed in the Church's liturgy so well. Their comments at the sessions and in the periods of discussion revealed such deep liturgical spirituality and formation and a sincere willingness to learn and absorb so much more.

Here's a photo I took of those gathered at one of the sessions. The cathedral provided a meal for each session; the folks were fed both physically and (hopefully) spiritually!

One of the more touching moments occurred last night. The cathedral is a downtown parish and the outreach to the hungry and the homeless is so obvious. Being a downtown parish means that the homeless and those with mental challenges often wander in and out. Last night Ralph wandered in and had supper with us. Ralph has had quite a history at the cathedral, replete with outbursts and inappropriate behavior in the past. But last night it was amazing to watch the parishioners as Ralph joined us for dinner and the mission presentation. I was a little alarmed when he arrived because of his sudden and loud outbursts, but when I noticed that the parishioners were not alarmed and treated him as they would treat one another, I immediately calmed down. When I asked questions of the crowd, Ralph raised his hand and answered. His speech was close to non-coherent to me, but I did catch that he was saying that God wants us to be close to him.

One of the final ritual moments of the mission was a ritual of reverence at the altar. I stood at the cantor stand, singing Paul Tate's Take and Eat This Bread, with its lyrics "Come before the table, come with all your heart . . ." as each participant in the mission approached the altar and bowed, or laid their hands on the altar, or revered it with a kiss." Even though it was not the appropriate thing to do, I did raise my phone and took a somewhat blurry photo of that ritual moment.

After everyone had finished showing reverence to the altar, and as I continued to sing, I looked up and noticed that Ralph alone was at the altar, with his hands firmly holding on to its surface. He blessed himself over and over again. When I meet people like Ralph, I often wonder if he would have been one of the people that Christ chose to be counted among the twelve apostles.

I am so grateful for the time spent in Milwaukee. I needed some spiritual time away and spending so much of it in one of the most beautiful churches in North America fed my spirit. The parishioners touched my heart deeply with their generosity of spirit, honesty, and hospitality.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.