Friday, October 19, 2018

‘Enjoying God’s Gifts’ -- new book

New Book
Enjoying God’s Gifts, a new book of my Sunday homilies, features drama, wisdom, and humor. As does the Bible.

Some texts in the Bible evolved over decades, and others over centuries. At least 40 authors probably wrote the Bible over 1,500 years. As a priest at St. Raphael Catholic Church, and as a chaplain for the St. Petersburg Police Department, I get questions indicating many Bible passages aren’t always easily understood.

Enjoying God’s Gifts illuminates Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, and “ordinary time” with 56 sermons, referencing Old and New Testament lectionary selections. I let shine many of the lights populating the Bible, and also saintly and intellectual examples from a worldwide cadre of wise men and women in more recent times.

God speaks to us in the Bible so we can grow in holiness. With every reading, new understandings of our life with God emerge, and we will be better inspired to enjoy God’s many gifts for us.

Enjoying God’s Gifts (WestBow Press, 2018, ISBN 978-1-9736-3959-6) is available now in paperback, hardcover, and e-book format from booksellers including


Barnes and Noble

WestBow Press
Also see A Spirituality for Sunday People, and Integrity: Living God’s Word. The three volumes represent the three-year liturgical calendar cycle of Sunday readings.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Seeking our True Purpose

Duccio's "Jesus calling Peter and Andrew"
In the Gospel according to Mark, we have the story of the energetic, well-to-do young man who is looking for something more. He wants eternal life. And oh, yes, he has observed all the commandments.

But he wants to know: what else should he do? And Jesus recognizes the potential for spiritual greatness within him and says: Go, sell what you have and follow me.

Sadly, this person couldn’t give up what he had. He couldn’t see the potential for spiritual greatness within himself, to follow Christ.

Yes, the so-called “good life” didn’t seem to satisfy him. He wanted to live for something more, for someone greater than himself. This is indeed the quest of many people.

Among the books Viktor Frankl authored is “Man’s Search for Meaning.” In prewar Vienna, Frankl had a wife, two children, a good psychiatric profession and a comfortable home. But as an inmate at the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, just outside of Munich, Germany, Frankl lost every earthly thing he treasured – family, profession, home.

These losses brought him face-to-face with the fundamental questions of human life: What should I be living for? What is my purpose?

Frankl discovered that people could put up with incredible hardships without losing their serenity and respect for others, provided they saw that these hardships had some ultimate meaning.

In their hearts, people yearn for something or someone beyond themselves that can give greater meaning and greater value to their lives.

Jesus in the Gospel recognized the potential for spiritual greatness in the young man, and when asked, gave him a pathway. But the man walked away.

I hope that each one of us recognizes and supports the potential for greatness within one another. And I hope that recognition will compel us to try, as best we can, to help one another to realize the incredible potential for good that we all have.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

An Instrument of Peace

Francis of Assisi receiving Stigmata
In light of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4), I would like to explore this extraordinary person of faith. Francis has been described as a lover of animals, an environmentalist, a peacemaker, a mystic, a reformer, a poet. Who really was he?

Francis, from a middle-class Italian family, went off to the wars in that region and failed miserably. Then a dream compelled him to return to Assisi. Francis began to wrestle with fundamental questions. He yearned for something greater than himself that would give purpose to his life. In silence and in prayer, he began his search for God: “Who are you, oh Lord, and who am I?”

Eventually, Francis gave up every “thing” he had. He experienced his creaturehood, his nothingness. In that experience, he found everything—an all-good and compassionate God; a God who became one of us in Jesus; a God who is alive in our midst by the power of the Spirit, especially in the sacramental life of the community of disciples we call the church.

Francis began to pursue the Gospel in a literal fashion. Eventually men and women began to gather around him, to form what we know today as the worldwide one million-plus Franciscan family.

We may wonder, does the thirteenth-century Francis have anything to say to us in the twenty-first century? I believe we can see his message in three incidents.

As Francis prayed before the crucifix in the tumbledown chapel of San Damiano, he heard the crucified Jesus tell him, “Francis, rebuild my house which you see is falling into ruins.” Francis challenges us to build up our family and community life. Holiness comes from learning to forgive and to ask for forgiveness, learning to face challenges together.

Another incident occurred as he rode one day along a road. Out stepped a man with leprosy. Francis started to ride away. But no! Francis slowly climbed down from his horse and embraced the leper. Francis saw in that leper the brokenness of human beings, lacking wholeness. We experience this, in ourselves and in other people, in many ways.

The third incident was at La Verna, a cliffside sanctuary not far from Florence, Italy. Francis was praying, and suddenly he experienced the stigmata or marks of the crucified Jesus in his hands, feet, and side. This incident captures the depth of Francis’s relationship with God: such a close friendship that God gifted him with the stigmata. Francis challenges us to deepen our relationship with God.

This planet of ours, in some ways, hasn’t changed much since the times of Francis. There are so many ways in which we can be healers, peacemakers, bridgebuilders.

Francis was able to cut through trivial questions and focus upon the essentials: our life with God and one another.

May the life of Francis inspire us to intensify our life of prayer with God, to build up one another, and to reach out with a healing hand to those whose lives have been broken.

More about the blessing of pets:

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Don't Live a Life of Regrets

Bernini's Holy Spirit Window, St. Peter's Basilica
The word invites us to pray anew for the seven gifts or energies of the Holy Spirit: wisdom to focus on what truly matters, our relationship with God and one another; understanding and knowledge, to enter deeply into the mysteries of God and the truths of our faith; counsel to make good moral decisions; fortitude or strength of character; piety, giving God, our creator, our praise and worship; and fear of the Lord--the healthy concern never to lose our friendship with God.

The letter of James speaks about people who become so absorbed in earthly things that they forget their ultimate purpose. James challenges us to spend our energies, not on transitory treasures like money and power and status, but on lasting treasures like our relationships with God and one another. When death comes for us, only the good we have done will accompany us.

In the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus uses “tough love.” His speech was a Semitic way of speaking graphically, vividly and exaggeratedly, to make a point. Today we might imagine Jesus saying to someone: if job security leads you to compromise your ethics and integrity, quit. Better to be employed elsewhere than be thrown into “Gehenna” with all your benefits. Gehenna, you may know, was a smoldering garbage dump outside Jerusalem which came to symbolize “eternal punishment.”

Jesus dramatically calls us to realize that discipleship means not letting anything – anything! – derail us in our quest for God and the things of God, from our true purpose in life: to be in relationship with God and one another forever by living a God-centered, other-centered life.

Yes, we must have the courage of faith to “let go” and remove from our lives whatever cuts us off from God and family and loved ones.

Throughout history, people have written to us, taught us, about “seizing the day.” A compelling message: don’t live a life of regrets. Do good now. Quietly sit down somewhere and begin to think about your own obituary. What do you want to be remembered for?

Yes, today we might ask the Spirit of God to re-energize us so that we will have our priorities straight, that we will not let anything derail us from our true purpose in life: to be in relationship with God forever, and to try, as best we can, to live a life of doing good.