Wednesday, July 31, 2013


... a treasure buried in a field....

Matthew 13:44

Thinking about and meditating on "the field" again. In the parable of the sower and the seed, says Jesus, the field is the world. Today, in this Gospel, Jesus says the kin(g)dom of God is the treasure buried, or hidden, in the field. If the field is the world in both parables, then it is clear how significant, indeed sacred, the world is. Heaven is lurking within this world; it is not far off. For us who follow Jesus the Messiah, heaven is here and only here. Far from being an evil or godless place, the world is saturated with divinity. This place, this earth, our home and God's dwelling place through Jesus, is of paramount importance in the working out of our destiny. It is here and now, within so-called civilization, that we become domesticated for heaven, that is, the justice and peace, mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ, tomorrow's world today.

So, taking this day gently, to be Church at home with my parents. A quiet breakfast at sunrise and poring over the newspaper, making petitions to God. Morning prayer in my bedroom at 8 o'clock, then Mass at Our Lady of Grace at nine. A trip mid-morning to the post office to send off 13 boxes to Boston, then an afternoon with my mom baking cinnamon raisin bread and putting together a jigsaw puzzle her sister gave her last Christmas. Well, it is Christmas in July for one more day....

Dinner early this evening at my parents' favorite Chinese-Japanese restaurant, followed by a breaking of the bread we baked. My sister Jennifer stopped over en route to a birthday barbecue for her best friend's husband. She and I have already made plans for a day together around the Thanksgiving holiday to visit a children's museum with the nephew and niece. Now, to be still before boarding the Greyhound at the Port Authority Bus Terminal late tomorrow morning.

How precious the moments today and over the last two weeks. A pilgrim and stranger, a wanderer, yes, but also and always at home with everyone as a brother and son, even with my own mother and father and sister and brother, in God's name.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Packed and Attached

... the field is the world ... [t]he harvest is the end of the age....

Matthew 13:38-39

Back in Babylon, N.Y., for the next two days. Up at six o'clock and breakfasting with the Sunday newspaper. Morning prayer in my parents' guest room, with meditation afterward; trying to keep up the practices of prayer ingrained in us in Brooklyn, Kansas, and California. There is no vacation from religious life, no vacation from healthy discipline, robust concentration, and studied patience. This was followed by nine o'clock Mass at Our Lady of Grace with my mom. The parish bulletin this week is running the announcement I submitted about my first profession of vows. Already I know that it has gotten attention: just this morning, on the way to church, one of the neighbors on our block, seeing my parents' car stopped at the corner, and me in the passenger seat attired in the habit, came over from his lawn mower and said hello. He said he saw the item in the parish bulletin and wanted to commend me on this achievement.

After church my parents and I ran two errands. Second, we went to the supermarket to buy some fish and vegetables and rice for this evening's meal. First, we went to a self-storage facility to retrieve four boxes with notebooks from my theology classes at Boston University. These, along with four additional boxes of theological texts, a few boxes of personal papers, and a box of compact discs in storage in my parents' basement since May 2012, are being shipped up to Boston tomorrow. I am of two minds about these books and papers. On the one hand, they will be very useful as I prepare to take up theological studies again, and they will be a help for the social justice ministries I will be resuming. On the other hand, I wish I could be rid of this cumbersome property, because books and papers like these require upkeep. It will not be easy to unburden myself of them. I hope to sell off the CDs eventually; the books I hope to donate to our library at San Lorenzo Friary. But the personal papers and notebooks, these are items that are useful to me alone. Either I must hold on to them or let them go and recycle them. Well, I have at least three years to settle the question on these things. Novitiate proved I can live without these papers, but because I haven't abandoned them I am still attached to them. It is one thing to part with material property that you did not create out of your own labor. That's not too hard. But how do you part with things that are the product of your mental labor?

So, we will continue packing this afternoon, recognizing I am not yet fully detached from things I have carried but aiming nonetheless not to get more attached.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Praying With Martha

... work quietly.

2 Thessalonians 3:12

A travelling day, thus a quiet day of reading, meditation, and prayer on the bus from Ithaca to New York, and from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the E train to Jamaica, Queens, then the Long Island Rail Road to Babylon.

Before departing this morning, first a blessing of my brother Nicholas' new home, using a prayer I wrote three and a half years ago, and the collect prayer in my breviary for today's feast of Saint Martha.

With travelling mercies may you grace all pilgrims and strangers, Holy One.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bound for Cornell, Bound for Glory

... because of his persistence.

Luke 11:8

Sunday in Ithaca with my brother Nicholas, mainly on the ever-evolving campus of Cornell University.

I marveled at developments great and small. For starters, a new wing to the Johnson Museum of Art, itself a gem of modern architecture by I.M. Pei on the northwest corner of the Arts Quad. There is an additional building for the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, Milstein Hall; sadly, it is itself a dud of contemporary architecture -- think of a barcode and glass -- that now links two older buildings in a juxtaposition as inept as a peanut butter and garlic sandwich,  or a mashup of Richard Wagner and Devo. And the College of Human Ecology keeps expanding its empire along Forest Home Road with a new building, called simply the Human Ecology Building, a complement its sister, the gargantuan Martha Van Rensselaer Hall. Among other developments, I could not help but notice the fencing and netting surrounding the East Avenue Bridge that crosses the Fall Creek Gorge, as well as the signs posted with the telephone number for a crisis hotline. The university is serious about preventing suicides ... and incurring any liability for them.

So many changes, but so many familiar things, too. My alma mater is alive, and so I could feel my soul ascending as I showed my brother around his new school.

We joined the Cornell Catholic Community for the 10:30 a.m. Eucharistic celebration at Sage Chapel, one of the most beautiful buildings on campus. My brother, who was a lector at Our Lady of Grace in West Babylon, introduced himself to the associate minister, a layperson, and offered his gifts of liturgical ministry. And I exchanged pleasantries with the lay minister, who knows the Capuchins, especially one of the newly professed brothers from Saint Augustine province, as well as the local fraternity at Saint Fidelis Friary in Interlaken.

For lunch, Nicholas and I walked to North Campus and the Robert Purcell Community Center, where the only dining hall was open. I worked in the dishroom there 18 years ago. It was my first job ever. I think my wage was something like $4.75 an hour. We were not alone in the dining area; among us were students attending summer sessions and varsity athletes beginning an orientation of their own. We walked back to the Arts Quad and to the Johnson Museum, where we drifted for the next couple of hours, admiring the new wing and marveling at the technology that has enabled Cornell both to display many more artifacts from its permanent collection and put a lot more information about its collection at your disposal. I was duly impressed.

Resting now at Nicholas' apartment. After prayer and dinner here, we will head back to campus, this time to Anabel Taylor Hall, location for Cornell United Religious Work, the campus ministries for over 26 faith communities. On Sunday evenings at The Café at Anabel Taylor Hall, the local radio station WVBR broadcasts its long-running folk music program, Bound for Glory. Nicholas and I will check it out tonight!

Saturday, July 27, 2013


... a new heart, and a new spirit....

Ezekiel 36:26

Left Babylon, N.Y., at the inhuman hour of 4 a.m. on Friday to make the five-and-a-half-hour journey to Ithaca, N.Y., with my brother Nicholas. I say inhuman hour and not ungodly, because God is always by our side, no matter the hour or the place. But God raises us up from even the most forsaken hours of the day and brings us to life. Over the trip along highways empty save for the biggest trucks, God animated our conversation; and God made the sun to rise in the sky and the Son to rise in our hearts. God kept our bodies awake, and gradually God stirred our souls to new awakenings.

By quarter to ten, we were standing in Nicholas' new apartment; and an hour later, all his property was inside. By the end of the day, a visitor would have had a hard time telling that Nicholas had just moved in, so settled was the place. It is a good place, a quiet place. He has hot water, good plumbing, electricity and Internet, and central air. Above all, he has a roof over his head. A good place, one you can fill with conversation, prayer, study, and sacred silence. Today we will also fill the kitchen and pantry with food and prepare a celebratory meal. Thanks be to God.

A new start. With this, a renewed hope for the coming of a new heaven and earth. Dear God, give my blessed brother a new heart, and a new spirit, fit to receive these promised things. He is free, and you are the one who has set him free. Help him know and give thanks for his freedom. Help him to use it and guard it for the sake of your promises. With this freedom, help him be who he is becoming, and let him become for your sake, let him act in your name.

And let it happen here, in Ithaca. O Ithaca, my Ithaca ... it is so good to see you again! The place where you woke me, God, and set me on the right path, your path for me to follow. Seeing downtown, sharing a meal of Thai food with my brother, beholding the hills and the lake, beholding the skyline of Cornell University -- these things were good for my soul. I cannot wait to walk the campus of Cornell with Nicholas tomorrow, to worship with him and the local Catholic community, and to breathe more deeply the air up here. Thanks be to God.

O Ithaca, my Ithaca, blessed may you be. Lord Jesus, lord of the pilgrimage, brother of exiles, by the power of your Holy Spirit dwelling in the soul of this place, do for my brother what you have done for me. Give him a new heart and a new spirit, and let him receive it with joy, with love.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Let Go the Boat

... they left their nets and their father....

see Mark 1:20

A short day today and a long today tomorrow. My brother Nicholas is leaving for Ithaca, N.Y., before sunrise, and I will be journeying with him. We'll be on the road along with the team of movers he hired at either four or five in the morning. An ungodly hour for humans, although I trust that God will be at our side for every mile of the journey. Please ask God on our behalf for traveling mercies! Keep the movers and my brother and me and everyone on the road safe for our destination.

Morning prayer in my bedroom around seven-thirty, followed by Mass at Our Lady of Grace at eight, then breakfast in town with my parents and Nicholas. My brother received a special blessing from the priest on this final day in Babylon. Like James the apostle, he is leaving the nets he has been mending and minding here and following Christ in the call to renew his mind at Cornell University. I give thanks and praise to God that Nicholas has come to this day when he is ready to respond to the summons to live more fully, giving up the comfort and familiarity of life as he knows it, in these waters, for other seas and distant shores. Difficult as it may be to let go of our parents and the world as it is, it would be more difficult to remain here and be separated from the love that is coaxing him toward new life. It is time to let go the boat.

Now, another quiet day at home, hopefully prayerful and somewhat useful, and an early end for the early start tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Getting Things Done

... the food the Lord has given....

Exodus 16:15 (New Living Translation)

Rose a little after six this morning. Sleeping in, are we? I must be backsliding.

Breakfasted while reading the news: praying today for homeless families in the Bronx; a Brooklyn woman, arrested after getting violent on a vodka bender, who died in custody; and a Nepalese woman, longsuffering the abuse of her husband and in-laws in a traditionalist culture, who apparently hanged herself.

Mass at Our Lady of Grace at nine o'clock. More greetings and good wishes from parishioners, as well as one of the associate pastors, who presided at the funeral Mass for Adele Zuba, my paternal grandmother. He sensed my happiness and noted it warmly and approvingly.

Hanging around my parents' house today, getting little things done, I hope, with great love. Baked a lemon cake to take tonight to a couple from Our Lady of Grace who I have known for years and who attended the profession. Booked two one-way bus tickets: one from NYC to Boston for the 1st of August; and one from Ithaca, N.Y., to NYC for next Monday. It is my return trip from a weekend stay with my brother Nicholas, who is moving to Ithaca on Friday and beginning graduate studies at Cornell University in a few weeks. To do this afternoon: jotting thank-you notes and re-boxing theology books and papers.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

One Family

... he threw their forces into total confusion.

Exodus 14:24 (New Living Translation)

Rising at the hour I've been rising all year, a few minutes before six o'clock, when the sun arrives. Breakfast over the newspaper, taking what I learned into morning prayer in my bedroom, before heading to Our Lady of Grace for the eight o'clock Mass. Continuing to reckon with the repercussions that come with assuming the identity of a Capuchin Franciscan friar. It's interesting, amusing, and challenging, and I am beginning to warm to the encounters.

Presently computing and corresponding, making plans to see friends and colleagues in the first days of August before post-novitiate orientation begins late on the 5th. Still need to write thank-yous to the sisters and brothers who blessed me and filled my heart on Saturday.

Soon to head to my sister's home for the day to take time with her and her children. We intend to break bread together at a restaurant near the docks in her village. If the hour is not too late, my parents and brother hope to join my sister and her family. One family, one table, one in the spirit of love. I would like that very much.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Brown and Silver Screen

Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.

Exodus 14:13 (New Living Translation)

Rose early, about quarter to six this morning. A quiet breakfast, reading the newspaper and finding people to pray for in their distress. Attended the 9 o'clock Mass at Our Lady of Grace Parish in West Babylon. A few more parishioners approached to show astonishment, give thanks, and wish me well. One longtime friend asked me to remain after worship to participate in a devotion to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. These types of devotions are not a part of my spirituality, and these prayers do not resonate with me -- I ask the saints not so much to pray for me as with me -- but I obliged and took part with the people of our parish.

Bearing the identity of a Franciscan in public is a continuing education, as I am discovering. People who know and love friars will meet you assuming you know and love the prayers they know and love. They will assume their most beloved practices of faith are also yours. This is clearly not true, but it is a reality that I will have to accept. The habit is a screen upon which the faithful will project all kinds of images and meanings, memories and feelings. I can deal with this as long as I find ways not to let those images obscure the light that must shine forth from within me, carrying the true image of God given uniquely to me.

Spending more time with my family today, most of it in the kitchen. Already I prepared the cappucino mousse pie that was a big hit in California. Later, with my brother Nicholas, we will bake eggplant, toss a salad, cook some spinach, warm some fresh bread, and boil pasta.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The One Thing

... only one thing....

Luke 10:42

Yesterday was a very good day in Yonkers. I felt joy and peace ... and pride in becoming a vowed religious in the Capuchin family. What love was shared among all of us, friars, friends, and relatives!

After following a circuitous route to my parents' home in Babylon (lots of traffic on the way from Yonkers), a delightful evening meal with my sister and brother at an Asian restaurant. Then a heart-to-heart conversation into the night with my brother until we could keep our eyes open no longer.

This morning, a pancake breakfast out in town with my parents, brother, sister ... and her children! I met my niece, Jade, for the first time. I see my mother's mother in her face. It is uncanny. When she smiles, it is the very image of my grandmother. And how Jesse, the three-year-old, has grown, and look at what he can do! He is becoming a person before my eyes. How precious to behold. After breakfast, a quick trip to the park and playground next door to Our Lady of Grace Church before going to the 10 o'clock Eucharistic celebration. In my habit, I went to see others and to be seen. This time, after a year of practice in California, I was ready to be received by God's people as a religious brother -- ready to receive the looks and responses. I had good encounters, friendly encounters, and even a happy reunion with one longtime parishioner.

Kept the habit on for a trip to the supermarket with my parents, and more reactions. I am happy to let the habit start the conversation and the brother under the clothes to keep it going.

Now, a calm afternoon after a day and a half of excitement. My sister and niece and nephew are napping. When they awake, I will be there for them. In a few hours, I will prepare the evening meal with my mother for everyone.

I have no anxiety and no worries. I am focused on only the one thing. I am free.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

This Is the Day

Morning prayer in a few moments here at Saint Michael Friary in Brooklyn. Then we're heading to Sacred Heart Church in Yonkers, N.Y., at 8 o'clock. The profession ceremony begins at 11 o'clock.

I feel very much at peace about this day, and proud to make public my commitment to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ more closely, in the manner of Francis of Assisi.

Thank you so much for the prayers -- I will remember each of you in mine. It feels very good to make this commitment to the Capuchin Franciscan way public today. 

Once more, I thank you, readers, for walking with me through the novitiate journey. The peace I feel is your gift to me -- your gift, and the gift of all the people who have been the presence of God at my side, all the people who have walked with me bearing the spirit of Jesus. I hope we may meet again one day to share our stories as we walk toward the New Jerusalem.

Peace be with you, and with all our sisters and brothers in the world. God's peace and goodness be with all of you!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Words of Avowal

When I profess my vows with the Capuchin Franciscans on Saturday, this is the formula I will use. It is a new translation of the formula given through the Constitutions of the Capuchin Friars Minor. It is a bit ungainly in its grammar and a little archaic in its courtly language -- sorry; that's the editor in me speaking -- but the significance of what I am undertaking comes through clearly.

To the praise and glory of the most holy Trinity!
Since the Lord has inspired me
to follow more closely the Gospel
and footprints of our Lord Jesus Christ,
I, Brother Anthony,
in the presence of the assembled brothers,
placing my hands in yours, Brother Francis,
with firm faith and will,
vow to God the Father, holy and almighty,
to live until September 1, 2014,
in obedience, without anything of my own,
and in chastity.
I also promise to observe faithfully
the life and Rule of the Friars Minor
confirmed by Pope Honorius
according to the Constitutions
of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.

Therefore with all my heart
I entrust myself to this brotherhood,
that by the effective working of the Holy Spirit,
guided by the example of Mary Immaculate,
through the intercession of our father Francis
and all the saints,
and with the help of you, my brothers,
I may constantly seek the perfection of charity
in the service of God, the Church, and others.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On the Road

... beyond the wilderness ... the mountain of God.

Exodus 3:1

Halfway through our "victory lap," our "reunion tour," our week of transition from novitiate to post-novitiate. We are leaving in a few moments by van for San Lorenzo Friary in Jamaica Plain, Mass., our new home. I have a large piece of baggage, filled to bursting with most of the clothes I own, which I will bring to the house today. I will get to see my new room, which is being given a fresh coat of paint.

It has been good to see the friars, whose reception of us has been warm all around. Without saying anything, their embraces, their eyes, their gestures show that they know what we have experienced, and they can empathize. They remember the spiritual struggles of their own formation. And although today's novitiate is a different creature from its forerunners, some things do not change at all. It is a long and confining year that moves very fast but leaves you wondering what it was all about. At least that is where I am, just beyond the gates of that time and place. At just the moment the friars want to know "what it was like," and when they want to know "did I like it," my memory and motivation desert me. And I don't know how to begin the conversation. Curious.

Perhaps on Friday, when we have our day of recollection at the Sparkill Dominicans' retreat place in Saugerties, the memories, dreams, and reflections will return. And so will the language.

But for now, literally and metaphorically, we are driving, driving, driving into tomorrow and leaning forward heavily from the present moment. We are not looking back, nor are we much inclined to at this point. We are moving, and the moving is going fast. Let's hit the road!

Postscript: I am retiring the digest format I used for the blog since novitiate, but for recent times' sake, I describe the weather once more: "Is it hot enough for you?" Actually, the heat is quite all right. It's the humidity that gets you. I am getting (rapidly) acquainted once more with moisture. And in this muggy muddle I have praised God that my sweat glands and pores still work.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Your Own Land

... you will ... return home to your own land.

Ezekiel 37:14 (New Living Translation)

How real these words are for me today. Touched down at JFK about ten after six this morning; received by Bro. Tim Jones, our province's vocation director, and brought to Saint Michael Friary in Brooklyn by seven-thirty. By 9:20 a.m., I was standing in the house where I grew up in Babylon, embracing my parents.

How sudden, this collision of worlds old and new, but how soft and gentle, too. Within the heart of every place I have been is an Israel, Egypt though it may be from appearances and in its lived reality.

After a late breakfast, Mass at noon at Our Lady of Grace Parish in West Babylon, where I met a few familiar and friendly faces, souls whose journey of faith will ever be entwined with mine.

Got an hour and a half of rest: try as I might, I could not sleep at all on the red-eye from LAX to JFK. This was not the fault of the environment: the cabin was dark and cool and quiet throughout. Just anticipation tensing the body longing for reunion with its place, I guess. I am neither a Westerner nor a midwesterner, though I could probably make a go of living on the West Coast (but not the Plains). But I know where my heart and soul live and thrive best, and I can feel the grounding begin even now.

Feeling thankful and heart-full. I need more rest, but I am sure it will come, even though the journey in the days ahead will remain busy.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Lectio Divina

... what you hear whispered....

Matthew 10:27

... proclaim on the housetops, says Jesus. God whispers to us; we cry aloud in response. For the prophet, can there be any other response?


For the long trip cross-country, the Bible in one hand and the Los Angeles Times in the other.


After morning prayer, loading up the van that will bring me to Old Mission Santa Ines for the California novices' profession ceremony, then to the Santa Barbara airport. A little breakfast, and then time to be on the way.

It is time for leaving. I will post again once I arrive safely at my family's house in Babylon.


A cool and foggy start. The clouds will lift, as they always do, by mid-morning. And then the sun will be radiant, and no one will be able to deny it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Transitus (I Must Go)

Music by Bro. Jim Menkhus, OFM Cap. (after Dies Irae, Thomas of Celano); lyrics by Bro. Bobby Barbato, OFM Cap., 2011.

Dies irae dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favillia:
Teste David cum Sybilla.

We beg our father not to leave us
As orphans in this tearful vale;
We beg you, "Stay, we need your fervor,
Without your guidance we will fail.

I must go to set you free
To follow Christ, not follow me.

We beg him, "Please, stay your journey."
Give us more precious years,
That we may learn to see as you see
To confront and conquer our earthbound fears

I must go to set you free
To learn from Christ, and not from me.

He sees our tears, and with a smile,
He tells us not to weep or fret
He tells us God is with us always.
He tells us he will not forget

I must go to set you free,
But all your hopes I take with me.

We lay him down with care and sorrow,
Naked on the naked earth.
He feebly raises hands in blessing,
Awaiting that more blessed birth.

I must go to set you free,
Your dreams and hopes I take with me.

Then he sleeps while larks are singing,
The sunset glows a vivid red.
Amidst our tears we will remember
The words of comfort he said:

I am going to set you free
I am going to set you free
I am going to set you free.

If you cling to Christ, you won't lose me.
If you cling to Christ
You won't lose me.

Dies irae dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla.


Tomorrow, after morning prayer and breakfast, I will leave San Lorenzo Seminary for the last time, at least as far as novitiate is concerned. God knows whether and when I will have the good fortune of returning for a visit some day. I will be going to Old Mission Santa Ines in Solvang for the first profession of the California province novices. After the reception winds down, I will leave for the airport in Santa Barbara, there to fly to Los Angeles, lay over for a few hours, and then fly to JFK.

The rest of the week of transition until the first profession ceremony will go like this:

Sunday, July 14

6 a.m.: Arrive at JFK; go to Saint Michael Friary, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Midmorning until evening: Visit with family in Babylon, L.I.
9:30 p.m.: Night prayer, Saint Michael Friary

Monday, July 15

8 a.m.: Morning prayer, Saint Michael Friary
8:30 a.m.: Mass
11 a.m.: Lunchtime visit at Sacred Heart and Saint Clare Friaries, Yonkers, N.Y.
Afternoon: Travel to New Paltz, N.Y.; scenic stop at walkway over Hudson River Bridge
4:30-6:30 p.m.: Prayer and dinner, Saint Joseph Friary, New Paltz
Evening: Visit to Mount Mohonk, New Paltz, with night prayer

Tuesday, July 16

8 a.m.: Morning prayer, Saint Michael Friary
8:30 a.m.: Mass, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Brooklyn
10:30 a.m.: Visit Saint John the Baptist Friary, Manhattan
12:30 p.m.: Circle Line cruise
5:30 p.m.: Prayer and dinner at Our Lady of Sorrows Friary, Manhattan
9:30 p.m.: Night prayer at Saint Michael Friary

Wednesday, July 17

7 a.m.: Morning prayer, Saint Michael Friary
7:30 a.m.: Mass
9 a.m.: Depart for a day at San Lorenzo Friary, Jamaica Plain, Mass. This is to help us get our belongings settled at the post-novitiate house of formation. A "pre-moving day." And a foretaste of life to come! Hold tight, friends, until Aug. 1, the date I move back permanently.

Thursday, July 18

8:30 a.m.: Morning prayer, Saint Michael Friary
9 a.m.: Mass
10 a.m.: Meeting with Fr. Francis Gasparik, provincial minister
12 p.m.: Lunch at Good Shepherd Friary, Manhattan
2:30 p.m.: Rehearsal for profession ceremony, Sacred Heart Church, Yonkers
5 p.m.: Prayer and dinner, Saint Conrad Friary, White Plains, N.Y.

Friday, July 19

7 a.m.: Morning prayer, Saint Michael Friary
8 a.m.: Depart for day of recollection, Saint Joseph Villa, Saugerties, N.Y.
10 a.m.-3 p.m.: Day of recollection
3 p.m.: Mass
4 p.m. Dinner with friars and sisters, Emiliani Ristorante, Saugerties. On the way back to Saint Michael Friary we will stop in New Paltz to enjoy a celebration of the Saint Joseph Festa, the annual parish festival.

Saturday, July 20

7 a.m.: Morning prayer, Saint Michael Friary
7:30 a.m.: Depart for profession ceremony
11 a.m.: Mass and profession ceremony, Sacred Heart Church, Yonkers, followed by reception with friars and families

As you can see, I will remain on a strict schedule up until the profession ceremony! After the reception begins vacation time, my first break in 14 months. I share this (detailed) schedule with you in order to keep you up to date, as my Internet time will be sporadic, not out of obedience to the novitiate program, but because of perpetual motion!


Lectio Divina

"... go down to Egypt...."

Genesis 46:3

Of course, we are always in Egypt in the process of leaving for the Promised Land. Even here, at San Lorenzo, we are in Egypt. Do not be deceived into believing this is heaven or the kin(g)dom of God: it is not. We must always be leaving Egypt for Israel. To do this, first we must confess we are in Egypt and have made of God's creation a plaything for Pharaoh. Then we must dig in our heels and know the place we are in: accepting that we are in Egypt and not in Israel, we go down further into the heart of Pharaoh's domain. Why? To rouse the people, to build up our numbers, and prepare for the exodus of the people of God to the Promised Land. Go down to Egypt? I've been doing that, even this year. I will continue to do so in order to keep my feet planted firmly, ready for the command to head to Israel, to the New Jerusalem, to live my way into the reign of God.


Keeping on with Johnson, Miryam, until I leave tomorrow.


It is time to detach in a gentle but unsentimental way from this place and from the community. This fraternity must part; best to do so in faith, hope, and love. Already I feel myself falling short of the mark, but I will pick myself up again, 77 times today if I must, to make a good good-bye.

More cleaning up and straightening up this morning. This afternoon, a little more work in the vineyard, boring holes into the dense, dry earth and weeding where the new lines of vines were planted last week.

This evening, after the meal, a solemn liturgy for night prayer and our final evening of recreation as a fraternity.

Almost lunchtime now. I hope to get back online later to post the lyrics to "Transitus," as I promised. And at some point I will post my itinerary for the week prior to profession.


A good summer day, hot but not oppressive. Sunny as always. In a few days I will discover again what rain looks like, sounds like, smells like, feels like.

On the Cusp of Vows

A reflection based on some notes I took down during the end-of-year retreat last month. This little essay will appear soon in the vocations section of the website for the New York/New England Capuchin province.

Toward the end of novitiate, as the first day of summer drew near, we made a five-day retreat in order to reflect on the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.

The brothers passed the mornings in prayerful silence while meditating on the meaning of the vows in Capuchin life. Among other helps for our meditation were Capuchin documents like the Constitutions and the documents of the seven Plenary Councils of the Order. We spent the afternoons in gentle quietude or in one on-one conversations until gathering in small groups for deep sharing. This was not a silent retreat, but given the opportunity to make much of it a time of hermitage, I made myself scarce, remaining in solitude to the maximum extent possible. By the end of our retreat, I felt renewed and eager to take vows.

In preparation for the group conversations I jotted a few notes. I share them here with you, to show you how God moves me to affirm the Gospel way of life Francis of Assisi accepted.

1. As to chastity, lived in celibacy and fulfilled in fraternity:

Celibate chastity is emotional poverty, accepted solely out of love for Christ, for the sake of others. Celibacy is the state through which I respond to the summons to love. It is the way I embody the love of Jesus Christ. For me it is the ordinary mode of relating to others as a fully human, fully sexual person.

I believe I would be unmarried even if I never knew God. But God knew me and loved me in this state, and God bids me to love precisely in this state. God has redeemed my loveless life and put love in it. God makes me, in my unmarried state, chaste—that is, free from lust, jealousy, domination, and exploitation—and makes me, in my relationships, capable of communion and generativity.

Celibacy frees me to have healthy and fulfilling female friendships. It safeguards our relationships. It empowers me to seek justice in solidarity with all women and to fight misogyny and patriarchy in society (and the Church).

God has blessed and chosen this state for me: not primarily because it is good for me (although it is), but mainly because it is good for others. I believe I would be celibate even if I were not a Capuchin. But in giving me the gift of celibacy, God is both challenging and helping me to love with this particular religious family. Thus I choose to make a home, a life together, with brothers I did not choose personally, trusting that God will show us how to give and receive more perfectly the love of Jesus Christ.

2. As to poverty, lived in solidarity with the poor and fulfilled in minority:

I find myself tongue-tied. Words have dried up. Once, as an editor, I made a living on words, stacking them, bricking them, describing other people’s lives from a fair distance. From the privileged perch of the journalist, my voice resounded, naming and shaping reality for others. Later, as a community organizer, I helped oppressed peoples, especially workers and immigrants, recover and use their voice, and I used my own to amplify theirs. We worked together to shape a better world, a shared reality. Now as a friar about to vow poverty, I seek to surrender myself totally to the Voice who is utterly beyond my power to command or create. This Voice summons me to let go of control. This Voice I can hear in the cry of the poor—it is the voice of the God of Jesus Christ. It will shape my reality with its absolute and unconditional claim on my soul, my being, my life. If today I hear this voice—and it is always today, and it is always sounding—and if I heed it, then I will know the poverty of spirit Jesus called blessed.

3. As to obedience, lived in humility and fulfilled in ministry:

Obedience is listening faithfully. The only one to whom I must listen absolutely is God. God’s word is the cry of the poor, commanding me to love my neighbor and do justice. Jesus, the Messiah, is that word, the cry of the poor. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to hear the word and obey the word. To live the Gospel is to listen to God. To live the Gospel is perfect obedience.

My ministry is to live the Gospel. I will do anything that enables me to hear the cry of the poor and do justice for them in neighbor-love. I will listen to any brother whose need or request gives me occasion to fulfill the command, the new and old command, to love neighbor. And I will resist any brother whose command goes against the Gospel, or the Rule of Saint Francis by which we live the Gospel, or my conscience.

I take seriously the fact that, because Jesus Christ has come, died, and risen, we are living at the end of time. It is already here; that it is not yet fulfilled is a sign of our lack of faith and our disobedience. I will struggle faithfully with my brothers to live into the reign of God here and now. Nothing less than total commitment to the word-made-Messiah in the cry of the poor, to bring about love and justice for all people, now, today, matters. As Francis and Clare have done their part, now may I listen and do for others wisely!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Insights (3)

Concluding the blog post begun on Monday:

8. Brothers -- can't pray with them, can't pray without them. Bob Dylan said, "You can't make love all by yourself." Well, prayer as an intimate conversation with the God who is love is nothing if not a love-making exercise. Christians cannot pray to the living, loving God who is a communion of persons without their sisters and brothers in the Spirit-filled communion of friendship and fellowship. The prayer of the Church to the God of Jesus Christ, the One who is more than one, is a harmony of voices. Unless you have the gift of singing two notes at once, you cannot harmonize solo. And though God can hear one voice well, God can hear many voices better. I never got adjusted to the sloooow pace of common prayer of novitiate, but I will have to keep trying to pray with the brothers, no matter how off our rhythms may be, because when we harmonize, it is miraculous.

9. "Give them some food yourselves" (Luke 9:13). The silent retreat revealed to me that I must share what is mine to give, not offer what I stole from someone else. The only things that are mine to give are the things God has given me. Thus, a holy offering is an offering that comes from what God gives to you, not what you took from another person and passed off as your own. A gift, to be a personal gift, must come at a personal cost. God's gifts are personal gifts and are given in order to be given away. You cannot share in riches; you can only share in poverty. Understanding this truth and putting it into practice, to me, is a key to the Gospel life Francis followed.

10. Impatience postpones everything. Because of Jesus Christ, God is known now, precisely in the now. But it is also true that no one has seen God; indeed, God has yet to be known, to become real existentially for all of humanity. The God of Jesus Christ is going to be God in the future-made-present. This is why the name God gives to Moses is "I will be who I will be." Impatience, unholy impatience, keeps the future in the future just as much as an erroneous concept of end-time, a unholy complacency, and a sinful procrastination converge in us to put off the realization of the kin(g)dom of God already come. Only a holy patience brings God's reign here, where the brothers (and sisters) are. This phase of initial formation, novitiate, is ending. But I am still training for being with the brothers now in the Now of God's rule. Ready or not, they and I are going together; we are going to stride toward the freedom of the children of God who live in the new creation.

11. My brother is more important than Francis of Assisi. That is, my brother is more important than my idea of him as a son of Francis. Neither he nor I can be compared to the saint, prophet, and founder of our form of Gospel life. Let's face it: we cannot approach Francis as he was when he could be regarded as a person alone and not also an icon of Christ. Useful as they are, icons can also be distancing. My brother is too important to let Francis the icon get between us as persons. I forget this all the time, 77 times a day at least. My brother is more real than my image of Francis; he is bigger than Francis. I will go so far as to say that my brother is more real than my image of Jesus; like The Beatles, he is bigger than Jesus. My brothers, or my sisters, or any neighbors, for that matter, are more real than my concept of them. And so I must consider carefully my thoughts, words, and acts toward them. They are more real than my words to them or my gifts to them, but these pale and poor things do have an effect on them. The kin(g)dom is revealed and arrived, or obscured and departed, in the relationship between me and another person.

12. Brothers are saints and sinners, prophets and liars, angels and devils. They are becoming human and become divine. And so am I. Enough said.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Busy Bee and Lame Duck

Lectio Divina

... he touched Jacob's hip and wrenched it....

Genesis 32:25

Continuing my meditations on this mysterious story from Genesis. Feeling a little out of joint myself. Is this feeling from God, or from a malign spirit?


Reading Johnson, Miryam, for only a couple days more. Sadly, our novice library is not a long-distance lending library, and it is not an exchange, either: we can't take books in compensation for books we have donated!


Woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or as I put it once in a blues poem, got up one morning on the wrong side of my mind. Just crabby the whole day, and not only because of the tedium involved in our thorough house cleaning. Like Congress after elections, this is our lame-duck period: everything has been finished, and everyone is ready to move on, except we have to remain for another three days. So we alternate between days of work and days of leisure. It's not like all the work we are doing now is make-work, and it's not like all our leisure time is a self-indulgent waste of energy, but the skeptic in me won't settle for begging to differ: he demands to differ. If you didn't know before how I hate to wait without purpose, now you do.

Tomorrow is another leisure day; actually, a typical Thursday of extended personal time. I have no more desire to go out and see California. Tomorrow I'll be a hermit at San Lorenzo. I need to go "home" to the places God has prepared for me. Sometimes -- well, actually, most of the time -- our chronos gets in the way of God's time, or kairos. But instead of brooding over not being where God calls me to be, I will try to remain serenely where God called me to be and wrestled with me all year long until I catch up again with God's spirit on the other side of the United States.


Overcast the whole day, and one of our novice brothers reported 15 drops of rain. Noah, get your ark!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

(To)daydreaming at the Beach

Lectio Divina

"... unless you bless me."

Genesis 32:26 (New Living Translation)

Reflecting these last couple of days on God's presence and absence in the world, and my own presence in and absence from the world as a weak image of God. God promises Jacob not leave his side until God has done all that has been promised to the ancestor of Israel, until God has finished giving entirely to Jacob. Jacob says he will not let go of God until he receives a blessing.

What shall we say? Has God ceased to bless us, and have we let go of God in a fearful, deathly way? It does not seem to me that God has finished blessing us. And it does not seem that we are ready to let go of God, either in our sinful selfish concupiscence or in our desperate unbelief. But for all our infidelity and morbidity, we are not done for. God knows our faith is not mature; God knows we are not ready to let go, confident in the invisible blessings we have received. So God "gives in," as God did to Jacob. And so it seems to me that God is still blessing us and revealing to us what has been revealed until we have the sight of faith to see. And we will not let go until we acknowledge, accept, and embrace what God has given totally to us ... and then do as God does and give until we have finished giving everything. God is patient; God will wait for us to see. And God delights when we struggle.


Continuing Johnson and her Miryam series.


A day at Refugio State Beach, ending the novitiate year much as we started it. As I did last summer, I took a long walk along the railroad hugging the bluffs. Only one commuter train passed by on my two-and-a-half hour walk. Marveling at the power and swiftness of the train, I thought to myself, "The train is Christ. The train is still coming." And then I felt Christ everywhere. The tide was Christ. The wind was Christ. The hot sun was Christ. The rocky, sandy earth was Christ.

I paused a couple of times to open my Bible to today's reading from Genesis ... Jacob wrestles with God. He becomes Israel, the one who struggles with God and prevails. And I let myself enter the mystery. There is something about this story that makes it universally relatable, I think. What struck me today was how God came down for a night to wrestle with Jacob only after he left his family and possessions on the other side of the Jabbok River. Well, isn't that what my novice brothers and I have done and been doing all year here, and not merely for a night? Or have I been wrestling with them only?

As the afternoon drew long, I began to feel sad, melancholy, and impatient again, as often I become when I get to daydreaming. I should call it (to)daydreaming because I want tomorrow to be today. I want to think, speak, and act in a way that wastes none of God's time and brings about a more perfect perception of the kin(g)dom come here and now. I don't like being separated from Boston. I don't like being separated from friends. I don't like being so often distant from the poor. I have struggled with the seclusion of novitiate, the social inactivity, the public passivity. I have struggled with being in fraternity in a "hidden" poverty, without a truly manifest poverty or minority. I don't like being celebrated all the time by benefactors when up to now I have done nothing as a follower of Jesus in the Franciscan-Capuchin way. It is time to see Boston, my friends, and the poor. It is time for responsibilities with real consequences. It is time for the kind of freedom to make holy choices that will be seen by a watching world. It is time to be a brother to the world. It is time to be sent forth. It is time to wrestle, but differently!

Lest I seem ungrateful for this proving in the desert, I have to wonder if this zeal would be surging so, were it not for novitiate.


With our trip to the coast, we beat the heat again. Not going to happen tomorrow.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Insights (2)

Continuing the topic begun on Monday:

4. Speaking the truth in love is easier done than said. When in doubt, be silent -- it's more honest and more compassionate than any other language. When in doubt, be merciful. When in doubt, do something simple to convey compassion. When in doubt, and you struggle to tell the truth lovingly, then don't worry about truth and choose love first. The person is more important than the argument. When we are in conflict, we must remember that the things to be overcome are the wrong, the distance, and the coldness. It is not the person. A person is never the one to be overcome.

5. It is hard to focus on heaven when you live in utopia. Stay grounded. So many people who come by San Lorenzo Seminary have told us that it's a little slice of heaven. They mean to compliment the Creator for the beauty of the earth, which is only proper; however, this place is not heaven. It is, to my mind, more properly called utopia, which means "no place." Although we have neighbors -- folks who operate ranches, vineyards -- we are, generally speaking, removed from society. We are literally nowhere near the places in which most people live. How do you make a home in a place that is no place, especially a holy home, a Christian home, a dwelling for Christ? Although I disliked being in Kansas, feeling unmoored from my social center of gravity in a little rural town, at least it was a place with roots. Although I have resided in California for a year, I cannot say I have actually lived in California, being separated from the cultures that make the Golden State the place it is. What little I have experienced that is authentically California, I have loved. Our pilgrimages to San Francisco and Los Angeles were a joy, as were the retreats to Malibu and Soquel. I could live in California for several years if God called me to do so, but San Lorenzo Seminary in Santa Ynez is only a temporary resting place for pilgrims and strangers. Staying grounded has been a challenge.

6. God shows no partiality. Why should I? To quote a friend of my neighbor David Crosby (yes, that David Crosby), "If you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with" (Stephen Stills). Think of Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus turns the question back to the questioner. Do not ask, Who is my neighbor? Ask instead, Am I being a neighbor? This year, I have learned that "brother" is synonymous with "neighbor." A brother is the neighbor who lives in your household. God sees no difference between our external neighbors and internal neighbors; the neighbors who are our friends and the neighbors who are a nuisance; the neighbors we like and the neighbors we dislike. All God sees are her children.

7. Every day is "ministry day." And not only Friday, the day of our external ministry. At home, the opportunities for fraternal service as a lesser brother are manifold. This goes beyond the assigned duties of grounds and newsletter and occasional kitchen service. I failed to take advantage of the opportunities surrounding me, out of self-absorption, selfishness, sloth; whatever the reasons, they were not good ones, and I hope to do better in the next fraternity I live in.

Enough for now. More later.

Deep Cleaning

Lectio Divina

... until I have finished giving....

Genesis 28:15 (New Living Translation)


Continuing Johnson and her Miryam series.

And now, the final issue of The Caperone of the 2012-13 Capuchin novitiate.


Doing a "deep cleaning" of my bedroom and the neighboring guest room: that is the main chore of the day. Later this afternoon, meeting with one of the formators to leave him some basic information about the prison ministry. Also, recording a video in chapel with a few other novices from the schola of a meditation we performed last October on the eve of the feast of Saint Francis. Titled "Transitus," it is a Capuchin original, with the lyrics by one of our formators and the music by a friar of the Province of Saint Augustine. We performed the piece again yesterday as a communion meditation, and we will sing it for the two California province novices making their profession this Saturday. Everyone loves the chorus, which is enchanting and haunting. I will post the lyrics soon, but not yet ... it will be most appropriate to post them Saturday, on the day I leave California. When you read them, you will know why.


We've got that heat! But I've got it beat.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Lectio Divina

Rejoice with Jerusalem....


Reading Ann Johnson's series Miryam, drinking in the spirit of Judaism. Her prose poem on Mary's sabbath captivates me, and it invigorated my experience of worship this morning.


The community that worships with us at San Lorenzo said goodbye to us at Mass and sent us off with a tasty thank-you brunch. As I have said to anyone who will listen, the benefactors are more generous to us than we need, and better to us than we deserve. We will continue to pray for them, and I will ask God to bring their conversion to greater perfection. My hope is that for every good work they do for the novices, they will do seven for the truly poor. 

With all the festive farewell meals we have had lately, we have more leftovers than we can possibly consume. If we prepared no new meals this week, we would still have plenty to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until the end of novitiate. This may explain why my lectio divina is focusing on wedding feasts and rejoicing. We've been banqueting most every day. How does a brother about to profess Gospel poverty do this with integrity? With Christ?

This afternoon, watered the grounds and napped for an hour. Went to bed the night before at midnight -- true, this week we rise an hour later for morning prayer, but I ought not press my luck!


The heat will surge again this week. Looking east, I see there are thunderstorms somewhere every day in the New York metropolitan area. Does my umbrella still work? Do I even know where it is?


Three points (of light?) I shared with my novice brothers when it was my turn to share on Tuesday.

1. Brothers are a mystery, not a puzzle. You can't solve them. You enter them. For all the knowledge we gained about each other through personality tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the enneagram, we found ourselves making mistakes in attempts to get along, anyway. Puzzles like crosswords and jigsaws are fun to finish, but that is precisely their point, to be finished. Persons cannot be dismissed so easily; they are not to be "finished," or dismissed, period. For the enthusiast, puzzles can be ego-boosters because they reveal mastery. But human beings are not things to be mastered, but persons to whom we relate. Puzzles appeal to us because they give us a sense of control: to every question there is an answer, to every clue a meaning, to every piece a place where it fits. But human beings are not to be handled so objectively. They are mysteries, not puzzles. I distinguish one from the other this way: you can understand why Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is a great work of art, you can comprehend how it "works" visually and why it succeeds as a composition, but in the end you either succumb to the charm of Mona Lisa's mysterious smile or you don't, which is the point of mystery. And so it is with brothers: you can figure out what makes them tick and never connect with their souls. You must regard them in their phenomenality and let them into your life; and you must try to enter their lives. This is the meaning of communion. (One final subpoint: whereas puzzles conceal their truth, their reality, mysteries reveal their shining truth, their luminous reality, though that light is not easily apparent. It's kind of what we mean when we say something is "hiding in plain sight.")

2. Like and dislike get in the way of love. Don't let them. I have waxed philosophical about liking and loving before, but this year my words, though they grasp truth, were proved hollow by my deeds and omissions. The day of recollection we had on the Gospel of John and the San Damiano Cross in late November challenged me to the core, and I blogged about this at the time. Over the year I learned that if I want to love the brothers, I need to abandon even the desire to love them insofar as such a prayer turns the focus back on myself and away from the other who is to be loved. Stop praying selfishly to be a lover, and just love already. And if you cannot speak or act in love for your brother, at least begin to pray for the brother that he may be loved. I cannot begin to describe the miracles that such simple prayers wrought in my interpersonal relationships. Grace does indeed transform nature turned inward.

3. Fraternity without minority is blind; minority without fraternity is lame. To the first half of that statement: I found myself being a better brother to my religious family when I was able to share the gifts of our fraternity with the poor of the world, particularly the prisoners in Lompoc, and the Catholic Worker community in Guadalupe. To the latter half of that statement: Jesus of Nazareth, confessed to be the Christ, the Messiah, emptied himself ... for whom? Saint Paul says Jesus Christ made himself poor ... for whom? If I rejoice in the assurance that I have been freed from sinful ways of living, is it for my own sake alone? I am being over-obviously rhetorical. If I have discovered the secret of holy poverty, will I share it? And will I cease to be so self-righteous, and so self-deceiving, as to prefer to grant all my charity the people I agree with politically and philosophically, or the people I do not have to interact with daily, and deprive the people with whom I make a home, or the people I regard coolly?

Okay, enough for now. I will return to this thread throughout the week.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


Pretty soon I will be released from the 90-minute-a-week limit on personal Internet use, and I won't need to use the digest format I have applied to the blog. But for now, force of habit remains irresistible....

Lectio Divina

"Can the wedding guests mourn... ?"

Matthew 9:15


Finished Fischer, Reclaiming the Connections. Aiming to skim the following volumes for spiritual reading this week:

Johnson, Ann. Miryam of Judah: Witness in Truth & Tradition. Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 1987.
--------. Miryam of Jerusalem: Teacher of the Disciples. Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 1991.

Yes, this look at Mary, proceeding from biblical, Jewish, and woman-centered spiritual traditions, takes us off the path of traditional devotions to the Mother of God. But let no one say I haven't tried to cultivate an appreciation of Marian spirituality!


See previous two posts.


Around these parts, we consider mid-eighties a cool day. I have all but forgotten what humidity feels like.


We will be on an irregular schedule in the final days of novitiate at San Lorenzo. Our formators tell us to be ready for impromptu adjustments to the schedule as the occasion requires. To the outsider that sounds like a no-brainer, but consider that we have been fixed to a schedule unyielding in its consistency since our arrival 50 weeks ago. We have been asked to "remain approachable, available, adaptable, and above all fraternal" until the conclusion of novitiate and the hour of our departure.

A quick look ahead:

Sunday the 7th: Mass followed by a breakfast from the benefactors and friends of San Lorenzo Seminary who worship with us every weekend. We will not have our hour of Eucharistic adoration, but evening prayer will follow immediately with our Sunday social and evening meal; and, following night prayer, personal and fraternal time.

Monday the 8th: From this day forward, we get to sleep in! Morning prayer at 7:30, not 6:30, with Mass following a period of meditation. By 10 o'clock everyone will be doing a deep cleaning of the bedrooms and guest rooms, an activity that will carry us through the morning into the evening. We will have our regular hours of prayer, but we will forego the hour of prayerful silence after the evening meal and opt for fraternal recreation after night prayer. It is, after all, our final week together as a community, and we will choose to remain in each other's company as often as we can.

Tuesday the 9th: After Mass with morning prayer, a day trip to the beach, probably Refugio, although that is subject to change. Returning to San Lorenzo for late evening prayer and evening meal, followed by night prayer and personal or fraternal time.

Wednesday the 10th: Following Mass and prayer, a turn to our house jobs, with additional chores thrown in for teams on particular detail. One of my last days caring for the trees and bushes grounded in our thirsty earth. More deep cleaning of the friary, especially all the common spaces, in the afternoon.

Thursday the 11th: This Thursday will be like a regular Thursday in that we will get the day for offsite personal time. Mulling over whether to go out or make of the day a final day of hermitage. Both options are appealing in their own way.

Friday the 12th: Final work projects after Mass and morning prayer. Looks like I'll be washing windows! On this, the last night of novitiate, the evening will close with solemn night prayer and fraternal recreation.

Saturday the 13th: We will head for Old Mission Santa Ines for the profession of vows of the two novices of the California province. Around two in the afternoon I will be driven to the airport in Santa Barbara and board a shuttle bound for Los Angeles shortly after four; then, by 9:30 in the evening I will be up and away, heading non-stop for JFK.

Let the week begin!


Been busy with many minor activities that kept me from blogging for the latter half of the week. To backtrack, briefly:

Wednesday: Continued with our reflections on the novitiate year. My Tuesday presentation resonated with many of the brothers. I hope to gather the insights I shared, jotted down on a page of a marble notebook, and refine them through a rewrite before posting them here. In the evening, we loosened our cords and let our habits down, so to speak: we had a talent show and karaoke night in our community room! (We thank the karaoke rental in Santa Barbara for giving us poor friars a discount on the equipment.) Our singers and poets delighted their brothers and amused God, no doubt. And "Piano Man" has just become a new favorite in my karaoke repertoire.

Thursday: On the morning of our nation's 237th birthday, about half of the novice brothers went to downtown Solvang, mounted a float (read: truck), provided by the Solvang Rotary Club for the local Independence Day parade, and became a body commercial for vocations to the Capuchin Franciscans. The remainder stayed back at San Lorenzo to prepare our favorite Fourth of July dishes for a potluck that evening at Old Mission Santa Ines. I made two kinds of veggie bean burgers: one batch with red beans and certain mix of spices, and another with white beans and a different spice mix. The food was plentiful at the mission church, and the evening fireworks were splendid. I grow more delighted by fireworks with each passing year: the variety of colors and shapes (and sounds) they make, the choreography (that is, the way the lights dance with the music), the sheer play of it all. I can appreciate Fourth of July fireworks shows in themselves, for the artistry, apart from the patriotic rituals they are meant to serve, and draw my own meaning from them.

Friday: Concluded our novitiate reflections in the morning. Paused from newslettering in the afternoon for half an hour to sit for the filming of an eight-minute video on my novitiate ministry, the federal prison in Lompoc. My novice brother and I summarized our routine on Fridays and Sundays, the process of credentialing for the ministry, and offered brief insights on the presence of God in our visits.

Today: Late morning Mass with members of the community of Secular Franciscans from Santa Barbara, followed by a picnic-style luncheon. It was very good to meet these faith-filled women and men, and the encounter only increased my desire to become acquainted with other Secular Franciscans in the New England area when I return to Boston. And if I can't find any communities locally, perhaps I will need to encourage the creation of new ones. Later in the afternoon, finished the final issue of The Caperone of the 2012-13 novitiate class. You will receive the link for this last number next week.

Now, for some foretracking as the final week of novitiate commences....

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

In the Vineyard

Lectio Divina

"What sort of man is this...."

Matthew 8:27


Continuing Fischer, Reclaiming the Connections. Hoping to start some additional spiritual reading this week. Watch this space.


In a previous issue of The Caperone one of our formators revealed that we are planting a vineyard. Now more than two dozen vines are in the ground in a plot on our lookout point. We will have full coverage of this project in the final issue of the newsletter, which will come out next week. Again, watch this space!

Because we are about a week late in planting the vines, and given the high heat that threatens the viability of the vines, all the novices, all of us are working at all available hours outside of prayer and other immovable activities to get this project done. We pre-empted prayerful silence and schola practice last evening to make progress. Your correspondent, who waters the trees and bushes regularly, was watering little grafts.

So, a lot of sun, a lot of earth, a lot of water this afternoon. I hope Brother Wind will send cool breezes to cheer us and Sister Sky will shelter us from with a light cover of clouds, as she did yesterday.

Now, to class, where we are sharing our vocation stories, the story of our novitiate year, and the insights we have gleaned from the light God has given us to see ourselves and our life.


Everyone knows how hot it is. Not everyone feels how hot it is.