Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Hour?

Lectio Divina

Children, it is the last hour.

1 John 2:18

Of course, followers of Jesus affirm this every day, not only on New Year's Eve!


Mumford has moved back to my night-table. Chesterton has moved to the chapel stall.

We were to have a class session on the vow of poverty, but our formator who was to give instruction is sick. So instead we will be spending the morning reading the chapter in the Capuchin Constitutions on our life of minority. We will also read from a compendium called The Path of Renewal: The Documents of the Five Plenary Councils and the First Assembly of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor. These councils took place over a period of 15 years, beginning in Quito, Ecuador, in 1971. Each plenary council took a different theme of Capuchin life as a point of departure for the ongoing renewal of the Capuchin reform of the Franciscan movement. We will read the documents of the First Plenary Council in Quito, on "Fraternal Life, Poverty, and Minority," and the Fifth Plenary Council in Garibaldi, Rio Grande do Sol, Brazil (1986), on "Our Prophetic Presence in the World."


See Library for my morning activities. This afternoon, house chores. This evening, calling my folks back home before the end of 2012. As for me, I aim to be deep asleep by the time midnight comes to the Pacific time zone. Never mind when the new year begins according to chronos time. The new year has already begun for me in kairos time, that is, God's time. See my letter in The Caperone on "Moving in God's Time" when I post the link.

Contrarian though I am, I do wish you a happy and good 2013. To my sisters and brothers in the Spirit, let us begin again today and every day to live the Gospel and obey the Gospel in every thought, word, and deed.


Feeling a little cool and dry but bright and beautiful.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Walk the Walk

Lectio Divina

... walk just as he walked.

1 John 2:6 


Continuing Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi, and expecting to return to Mumford (one can dream, anyway).


The reading I am using for lectio divina today says it all. As it says on the title page of this blog, "Learning to walk like Francis of Assisi and daring to speak in God's name." The deeds come before the words. The deeds prove the words. To walk like Francis of Assisi is really to aspire to walk like Jesus of Nazareth. That's the way I aim to go with my sisters and brothers in the Spirit.

The newsletter is finished and e-mailed. Five issues down, six to go.

Did my other house chore, cleaning the exercise shed, this morning. (By the way, now we have two treadmills, not one. These, plus the elliptical machine, a punching bag, a bench for weightlifting, a Bowflex machine, and other large equipment for fitness and conditioning, as well as barbells, jumpropes, etc.) Took to the treadmill on Wednesday, then took a hike Thursday; perhaps we will go back to the treadmill this afternoon.

"The Holy Family" gifted our fraternity with a set of eight easy jigsaw puzzles. Since the beginning of novitiate I have spent many an evening of communal recreation assembling one puzzle or another. We have conquered nearly every puzzle in the house, including a 2,000-piece of The Starry Night by Van Gogh, which took the brothers and me more than two months to bring out of chaos. Now, using these newly gifted puzzles, I am teaching a fellow novice brother how I solve jigsaws. We shall return to the tutorial tonight! 


Never heard the rain fall so hard and as loudly as it did this morning. It sounded beautiful.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Holy Innocents

Lectio Divina

That you may not commit sin.

1 John 2:1


Finished reading Peguy, my chapel companion, who for me was like a spiritual friend who showed me how to pray. Presently reading Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi. 


Morning prayer and Mass on the normal schedule today, which was not a vacation day. Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, of whom many Catholic preachers surely spoke today in the context of the Newtown massacre. God bless and protect the children of this and all nations from violence of every breed.

In the afternoon, faith sharing with the men at Lompoc -- we were admitted successfully. A little difficulty, however, facilitating the group at the medium-security facility. The gentleman who is our prayer leader and guiding inspiration for the group was absent, and while another brother stepped up to render my English into Spanish and their Spanish into English, it was a little awkward going. Feeling responsible for my persisting and shameful monolingual state.

This evening, faith sharing in our own fraternity, followed by communal recreation. In between and around all activities today, pushing toward the finish line for the January issue of The Caperone. We will publish tomorrow and send out the PDF to our mailing list. A web link to the newsletter will be available to you in several days.


Warm enough in the day, but expecting the winter chill to return, and not only at night.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Return to the Trail

Lectio Divina

The life was made visible.

1 John 1:2 


Caught up with the latest issue of National Catholic Reporter today. Also reading Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi.


Another vacation-like day for the novices. Mass and morning prayer combined, followed by a leisurely breakfast and quiet morning around San Lorenzo. Got a little more work done on the newsletter.

In August, I took my first hike of the novitiate, striding up and down the eight-mile Tequepis Trail near the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area on the way to Santa Barbara. Early this afternoon, I returned with two of my novice brothers. The trail beat my feet, hips, and knees last time, but this time a leaner, gentler novice completed the trail with practically no pain or strain. The cooler air made a difference; the greening and softening of the path helped matters; and refueling with water and energy snacks (almonds and cashews, granola, peanut butter on crackers) kept me running. My stamina has improved considerably, and my strength is greater. I am a more seasoned hiker, and proud of it. Today's return to the trail was a happy one.

This evening, had roast chicken for the first time in two months. Still celebrating Christmas, and still eating at will, even snacking between meals, which ordinarily I will never do. But this is not an ordinary time of the year.

We are returning gradually to our regular schedule of prayer. No hour of prayerful silence tonight, but we will recite night prayer at 7:45 p.m., with communal recreation following.


Sunny and cool but feeling warm inside. The fires are being stoked well.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Heavens Opened

Lectio Divina

I see the heavens opened....

Acts 7:56


A new addition, thanks to the friar who was my secret Santa:

Chesterton, G.K. Saint Francis of Assisi. Brewster, Mass.: Paraclete Press, 2009.

At first glance I thought it was a biography of Francis, but I think it's something different. If anything, it might tell me as much if not more about Chesterton than Francis. At any rate, I will read it with interest.


A vacation kind of day on this, the second day of Christmas. Mass and morning prayer combined at eight o'clock, followed by personal time until evening prayer. With six brothers I went to see Les Miserables at the cineplex in Santa Maria. A good way to spend several hours with the fraternity. This film is many things to many people. It's good for fans of musicals and fans of literature. I went not because I am a theater enthusiast, but because I read the Victor Hugo novel years ago and wanted to see how the drama between Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert could be rendered in image and song. I was not disappointed, but then again I have not seen many, if any, modern movie musicals, so I did not really have a baseline by which to measure the art of this picture.

How many Jean Valjeans there are in the world today, crushed by the letter of the law that kills. How tragic that we, who but for the grace of God and innumerable unmerited privileges would share their lot, would close both earth and heaven to them. How right and just when we personally can open the way to heaven for at least one person.

After the movies, took to the treadmill in our exercise shed to work off the energy surging through me since ending my Advent fasting and abstinence. It is a foreign and almost uncomfortable sensation to feel this full again.

No communally enforced prayerful silence tonight, and night prayer is in private this evening; we are still celebrating Christmas, and the schedule is relaxed.


Feeling quite temperate.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Haven't done one of these posts in a while. Herewith, my Christmas wish list:

1. To build peace in my heart and soul in order to build peace, with the Church and with the state where possible, in society and in all the world. And, with God's help, to purge all violence from my thoughts, words, and deeds, to more credibly witness to Christ's work of extricating humanity from the pit of violence it has fallen (and is falling deeper) into today.

2. To renew my resolution to practice minority, that is, suffering solidarity with the poor, as a contemplative, from the seclusion of San Lorenzo Seminary. To learn how to do this more perfectly through the core spiritual and material practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving construed broadly.

3. To deepen a personal relationship with the Catholic Worker movement, beginning here with the folks of Beatitude House in Guadalupe, and continuing with the houses of hospitality of the Northeast when I move back next summer.

4. To acquire an intransigent obedience and loyal disobedience, each holy and pleasing to God in its part. To be one in the Spirit with the Church and yet unafraid to be a cause of division in this world, including not only the state and society of this world but also the Church in this world, because it is not for anything of this world alone I live, but the kin(g)dom of God.

5. To read some of the books my very smart, very faith-filled theologian friends in Boston are reading.

6. To host, for however brief a visit, a few of my sisters and brothers in the Spirit. This wish will in fact be fulfilled in a week and a half (see No. 3).

7. To pray the Lord's Prayer, really pray it, pray into it, and gain life and strength by it, life and strength to share with others. To pray and meditate on the Sermon on the Mount.

8. To renew my resolution to acquire Spanish. Can I move from liturgical Spanish to elementary conversational Spanish?

9. To continue raising the needs and concerns of disinherited peoples in our twice-daily petitions. This must be primarily for my own conscience and consciousness, and secondarily for my brothers. I must not become self-righteous; I must not become smug. I have no right. In a year when I am mostly removed from the suffering of others -- a suffering for which I am not guilty but for which I do bear responsibility as a son of empire's unmerited privileges -- how can I stay mindful that the way we live in the rich and wealthy United States is so unlike the way most others live the world over -- that the way we live in the United States is largely the reason most others live poorly?

10. To recognize it when people come to me in God's name bearing the image of Jesus Christ, speaking the words and doing the deeds of God. To receive others when they are coming as Jesus. To receive others even when they are not coming as Jesus. In all events receiving others as Jesus would receive them. And going out to meet others and greet them as Mary, the mother of God and the mother of all disciples, would do, even when no is waiting for me. Even when it seems like God is not waiting for me -- even if it feels like the God of light is not there at all, but is being the God of the abyss.

11. To continue working on my total human development -- physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual -- so as to improve the quality of my presence in our religious community. To review my progress in addressing my areas for personal growth as reported to me in my first formal evaluation.

12. To pray about the future and my personal future, and to live into the Hope that cradles all my hopes, all my ambitions, all my desires.

Green Christmas

Lectio Divina

Glory to God in the highest. 

Luke 2:14


Read some of the Christmas issue of America this morning before morning prayer. Not much more reading today; time to read the joy in my brothers instead.


It is a green Christmas on this mild day in the Santa Ynez Valley. Green trees, green grass, green hills -- this must be what the weather was like when Jesus was born. After all, the shepherds' flocks were grazing, were they not?

Mass at midnight was beautiful and fittingly solemn for the occasion. About forty folks from the community joined our entire Capuchin fraternity for worship. Was pleased with my performance of "Bethlehem Is Waiting" in the prelude. Broke my abstinence afterward with a few deviled eggs. Got five to six hours of sleep and returned to chapel at eight-thirty for morning prayer followed immediately by Mass with about twenty-five members of the community and half the fraternity (some went to Mass at Old Mission Santa Barbara). My cantoring was all right -- it was not magical, and my voice, still glued up after the night, felt a little thin and unsteady, but it was strong enough and lyrical enough to lift the congregation into full, active, and conscious participation. Broke my fasting in a serious way afterward with a bowl of cereal, one and a half donuts, Christmas cookies, and some leftover chicken and manicotti. Feeling a rush of energy.

Spoke to all my immediate family an hour ago. They have gathered this year at my sister's house. They are in good spirits and feeling good together. They are one and at peace with each other. We are one and at peace with each other. Amen and alleluia.

After evening prayer at four-thirty, we will have a social, followed by the evening meal at five-thirty with company from the fraternity at Old Mission Santa Ines. Among the desserts are my offerings: vegan gingerbread cookies, and a non-dairy chocolate banana cheesecake. A gift exchange will follow at seven-thirty. Then, to catch up on the sleep I did not get last evening!


Mostly cloudy, not mostly sunny as the weather pages predicted, but no matter -- the light shines through the grayness. The light has always been there. It will always be there. Let us see it; let us feel it with the sense that supersedes our empirical senses.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Ready for the Nativity

Lectio Divina

Instead of Scripture, a line of religious poetry:

All life comes from tenderness.

"Hope," Charles Peguy


Catching up with America, which has become a more interesting read since Jesuit Fr. Matt Malone became the editor-in-chief. Can't wait to curl up again, after Christmas, with a heavy tome.

Also on my select reading list: the greeting cards I have received from friends back east. Thank you, my sisters and brothers, for your prayers and your words of encouragement. You can be assured of my constant remembrance of you to our loving, just, and merciful God. You give me inspiration, in the full meaning of the word. I breathe because you have showed me how good and lovely the Holy Spirit is. I can breathe because you have taught me how to take in the Spirit. This solemnity has been elevated because of your silent and invisible presence, the mysterious complement to my brothers' sonorous and visible presence.


A gentle day, an easy day, but an active one, at San Lorenzo. After Mass this morning, hosing down and sweeping the chapel plaza and the sidewalks to clear the debris the rains brought down from the trees. This afternoon, in between schola practice for the midnight Mass and 9 o'clock morning Mass and a quick phone call to my mother and brother, more work on the newsletter. We're getting there but we'll be dashing to finish production in time for publication on Saturday because we're waiting for photos from Christmas Day festivities and a couple more articles.

I am ready to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord. Now, attempting the improbable: an evening nap to rise refreshed for the midnight celebration and social following. Then, with luck, another five to six hours' rest before morning prayer at eight-thirty and Mass, where I will serve as cantor.

Though I desire to get as much sleep as I can, I am looking forward to the social after Mass. At that hour, I will break 53 days of fasting (eating less, skipping meals) and abstinence (eating no meat and no animal products). I have almost forgotten what chicken tastes like! I promised to post here about what the craving and hunger felt like, what I did with those feelings, and what this discipline did for my prayer habits and general practices of faith. I have not done this yet, and I apologize. Perhaps in a few more days.


Warm during the day, a little nippy in the late afternoon, holding steady at this hour. But my heart feels happily warmed.

Advent-Into-Christmas Greeting

This year, in lieu of greeting cards, I wrote this circular letter, which I sent to friends near and far, and which I now open to you, my reader friends. A very happy Christmas to you.

My friend,

Hello from San Lorenzo Seminary and the Capuchin Franciscan novitiate. Hello from California! Hello from the heart, where I keep everything I treasure. I send you this greeting to tell you I have laid your image and likeness in my treasury to honor your sacred worth to me. In your own special way you have changed my life, increased it, directed it, given or shown it meaning. May God always help me appreciate the value of what—no, who—has been my very good fortune.

In a few years, when I make my solemn profession of the vow of poverty, I will possess nothing of my own and make sparing use of fewer things, all in the hope of enjoying everything God has provided. I do not have to wait for that day to vow to you now that I will never “possess” you or “use” you, but I will rejoice in our friendship and fellowship. Although this year I am secluded from the world and all the places I have known and have been known in, I feel connected spiritually to you. We are only separated, not estranged. And the chances are good we will come together again someday—perhaps even next year, when I return to the Northeast and settle in Boston to continue my initial formation into religious life.

I share with you these hopes for reunion because it is Advent, and the only way I know how to prepare for the coming of Christ is to prepare to meet his likeness in your soul. These days, time flows so fast, there is little cause to wait, but when I look east with my spiritual sense, time comes to a stop, and, looking for you and all my friends, I have to learn patience again. It has been seven months since I left home and traveled to a land far from everywhere to begin a year of contemplation. I have seven more months in this beautiful desert valley. I must wait for you and all my sisters and brothers in spirit. But God, for whom a thousand years is like a day, is so good. I have been led graciously to a place where a hundred days are like an hour. We will come together, and it will only be a little while! Yet it is also time enough to prepare well for our coming. Love divine is truly kind and merciful. Look east with me, my friend. Let us look together, and let us look to each other. Love the Guest is on the way.

It is not in my power to bless anyone or anything, so I pray God, whose power surpasses all, will add the blessing to these words. And surely the God of Israel, the God of Jesus and Saint Francis of Assisi, will be as generous, merciful, and loving to you as to me, and many times over what we dare to hope. 

Your brother,

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Close to the Horizon

Without Advent and Christmas, December would still be a month of celebration and remembrance for me and my family. Both of my grandfathers died in December: Edward, my father's father, on Dec. 14, 1994, and John, my mother's father, on this day in 1991. Yesterday was my sister's birthday. And two weeks ago, Nicholas, my brother, had his birthday.

My family feels close to me today, and I pray that my grandparents and ancestors, still on the way to heaven or there already, are relaying God's graces from beyond the horizon to their children and grandchildren now.

Here is part of my birthday greeting to Nicholas. You will have to imagine the watercolor landscape on the cover of the greeting card.

Dear Nicholas,

I do not know why this watercolor of a beach speaks to me of your birthday or your life. Maybe it reminds me of Long Island; it could be Babylon or Montauk I'm seeing in the sun-splashed sand. I could see the two of us walking this way, our shadows close to our feet, advancing to the ocean and the horizon beyond its restless grasp. The horizon, so straight and thin, seemingly fixed by the sky and sea, belongs neither to sky nor sea. It belongs to the birds balleting over the shore. They are the keepers of the pilgrimage, and wherever they go, they take the frontier with them.

Can you see yourself coming into the picture, striding lightly but firmly on the bright sands, forward to the water?

Brother, I show you a picture that looks like the end of Long Island. Now you show me a picture that looks like Ithaca, Washington, or somewhere I have yet to see even in dreams. Wherever it is, let it be a place beyond the horizon. Show me a place on the way, your way, to heaven.

I wish you a good birthday and a great year to come.

Set Out Anyway

Lectio Divina

Mary set out....

Luke 1:39


Two issues of America arrived one after the other -- the current issue very early, then a back issue much delayed. Once we get past Christmas, I will return to Mumford (or so I tell myself).


A busy day yesterday. Gathering with the brothers for tree decorating in the refectory in the morning and in the community recreation room in the evening. Throughout the morning and afternoon, writing and editing articles for the novitiate newsletter. We will publish on the Saturday after Christmas -- a holiday special. We will probably bump up the size from eight to ten pages so we can run large and colorful photos.

Taking it easy this morning. Worshipping with the men at the prison in Lompoc this afternoon. Two services: a 1 p.m. Mass at the medium-security facility, and a 2:30 p.m. Mass in the chapel of the low-security camp.

My novice brother and I went to Lompoc for ministry on Friday, but we could not conduct our two faith sharing groups. We were not turned away from the low and medium facilities -- we did get our badges. But a Christmas gift bag distribution was in process, and all the men were being held for a general move until it was completed. Unfortunately, this did not conclude until after 2 p.m., so the officers told us we were out of luck. We waited for nothing.

We did not know about this event beforehand, though one of the chaplains who explained to us what was going on must have known. My brother and I felt pretty powerless. I felt insignificant and quite useless for the rest of the day.

Little moments of frustration like this can trigger within me irrational feelings of doubt and inadequacy. God's Spirit is within me, and I do feel called to share that Spirit to herald the kin(g)dom, transform lives, and bring about a new world. But many times I wonder, is anybody really waiting to receive me when I come to visit in God's name? Will my greeting be accepted? Will I even be allowed to enter?

I hate rejection, and this fear of rejection causes me often to hold back from going out to greet others. A justified fear, or a self-fulfilling prophecy? The fear reinforces itself. It also causes me to become like a house with no door, refusing others who come in God's name and seek my company. The one who is denied becomes the denier.

Sometimes, in moments of pessimism, I wonder if God, too, is standing back from me and saying, "No, I have not been waiting for you, not at all. Who do you think you are?"

These pitiful temptations I must resist.

Mary set out, in faith, in love, to visit Elizabeth, not knowing what reception she would get, not knowing if she would be affirmed, not knowing if she would survive the journey at all. Maybe no one is waiting for me today, tomorrow, or for a long time. In spite of this, in spite of doubt and resignation, will I set out again, set out today, set out every day, set out for the future, toward the kin(g)dom of heaven? Will I set out, trusting that even when no one else is waiting for me, God is there--God is here, both at my side and expecting me to arrive at her side?


Always a chance of rain nowadays, and always about to turn sharply cold. For now, it is cloudy but it feels bright, and it feels warm.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter and Night

Lectio Divina

The winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.

Song of Songs 2:11

On this day of the winter solstice, let no one say the Church has no sense of humor.


Continuing with periodicals on the night-table, Ellsberg on the desk, Peguy in the chapel stall. Enchanted by his poem in God Speaks titled "Night."


Feeling cranky this morning, as usual. The world will go on, but we the human race will not unless we grow up, check our greed, and stop being violent to each other. We are only beginning to understand collectively the depths of our bent toward violence. We are nowhere near surrendering our selfish, self-aggrandizing ways. When will we become what we hope? When will I become what I hope? I tire of praising peace without practicing it. I weary of adoration without imitation of what I profess to adore. And I want to hear no more of holiness, much less talk about it myself, unless I offer my set-apartness for the making of justice, of making love in public.

Faith sharing with the men at the prison this afternoon, and faith sharing within our own fraternity this evening. Going into the world today with my face set like flint. 


Feeling the nips of winter and willing my body to stay warm in spite of the austere air.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Las Posadas

Lectio Divina

May it be done to me according to your word.

Luke 1:38


Catholic periodicals on my nightstand, Ellsberg on my desk, Peguy in my chapel stall, Mumford sadly gathering dust on the shelf.


This morning, Mass and morning prayer combined together, as is the custom on Thursdays when we have extended personal time. Went to the post office in Santa Ynez and sent a package to my family, which is expected to arrive on Saturday. Hoping the contents of my fragile package arrive intact and undisturbed!

Around eleven o'clock, met up with Bro. Brendan Buckley, our fellow Province of St. Mary friar who pastors at Old Mission Santa Ines. He took the fellow New York novices to Cold Stream Tavern, a rustic old restaurant off the highway near the Cachuma Lake recreational area and on the way to Santa Barbara. Think of stagecoaches, highwaymen, and coyotes, and gentlemanly but gruff manners, and you'll get the picture of our surroundings.

We are having our evening prayer and evening meal a bit early tonight so we can begin our celebration of Las Posadas at seven. If you have never participated in this traditional (and highly interactive) re-enactment of the pilgrim journey of Mary and Joseph in their search for shelter as they expect the birth of Jesus, know that it is a festive experience. It is typically a nine-day celebration, with the procession taking place at a different home every night. Tonight it is San Lorenzo Seminary that will take part. I took part in a variation of Las Posadas in Boston in 2008 and 2009, in which a coalition of churches and community organizations orchestrated an afternoon procession through downtown. The coalition used the traditional infancy narrative of the Gospel of Luke to dramatize the plight of undocumented immigrants in the United States, who, like Mary and Joseph, are denied a welcome in a foreign land. A fiesta followed at the union hall of SEIU Local 615, the janitors' union. It was good to speak and walk the Gospel in that political key, then. It will be good, this evening, to sing and step out in the Gospel in its original key, now. 


Cold, quite cold in the morning. Doing our best to keep the warmth alive as we come to the winter solstice and the day of least daylight.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our Own Land

Lectio Divina

They shall again live on their own land.

Jeremiah 23:8


Ellsberg, All Saints on my night-table with the latest issues of America and Commonweal. Mumford, The City in History, on my desk. Peguy, God Speaks, in the chapel stall.


About to head into chapel for the office of readings, meditation, and evening prayer. Planning to meditate on the above passage from the book of the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah. I believe this verse can help me understand the Lord's Prayer better where we say "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The reign of God is not just a state of mind. It is intended to take its place among us in this world. The hope of the exiles of Judah, who languished in a foreign land 600 years before Jesus, is the hope of all exiles, political and spiritual (and political as spiritual), who follow Jesus and the God of Israel today. The kin(g)dom of heaven is our nation; its territory lays a claim on us. And we seek it, not in an ethereal ever-after, but in this world. Its land is all the land of this earth. The kin(g)dom of God is our land, and to paraphrase Woody Guthrie, it was made for you and me. May all the nations on earth and their peoples cede their sovereignty to it.

This morning, concluded our class sessions on the Capuchin reform of the Franciscan movement. We will not have class again until Monday the 31st. This afternoon, worked on the newsletter. In between, sent out a few more Advent letters. Also sent an appreciative letter of encouragement to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Going offline for the next 24 hours for the day of recollection beginning this evening. It is being led by the provincial minister of the Capuchin Province of Our Lady of Angels, the California province.


Beautiful but cold.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our Family Tree

Lectio Divina

Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 1:1


Mumford in the bedroom, Peguy in the chapel stall.


This morning, continuing our class sessions on the Capuchin Franciscan reform, looking to the original Constitutions of the order. Looking up the trunk of the religious family tree to which I am being grafted. This afternoon, working on the January issue of The Caperone. This evening, schola rehearsal in preparation for our Christmas liturgies.


Bright and sunny with the promise of more warmth.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Speak Joy, God

Lectio Divina

The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.

Zephaniah 3:15


Found the poetry I've been looking for, from Charles Peguy (1873-1914), a modern with the religious sensibility of a medieval peasant. The collection is titled God Speaks (New York: Pantheon Books, 1945). These are written from God's point of view, but more than that, God the Father is the speaker. Now that is audacity I admire, as I have dared, too, on occasion to make God my narrator, though I fudge it by blurring identities. Now it could be God, in love with God's creature, and then again it could be a human lover. Peguy doesn't hedge.


Mass this morning at Saint Raphael Parish in Santa Barbara, where the pastor, like most every minister in the nation, delivered good news in response to the news in Newtown. Not an easy thing to do, to speak words of wisdom, much less joy, in the immediate aftermath of unspeakable violence. To me, an air of lethargy hung over the congregation. When you are traumatized, it is hard to shake off the lull.

After worship, journeyed to Old Mission Santa Ines for a Christmas luncheon hosted by the friars and prepared by the parishioners. The novice brothers of the schola were hastily assembled after the meal to sing their appreciation, and an open-mic session followed spontaneously. I did come forward and sang this poem I wrote during Advent three years ago. Sister Lucia, a Sister of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart, said my voice had "cultivation." Thank you, sister, for the most gratifying compliment I have received this year.

Later this afternoon, back at San Lorenzo, prayer came over me and I could do no other than enter into it. Holy hour extended my meditation toward contemplation. I prayed with my breviary. I prayed with a poem by Charles Peguy about the Holy Innocents. I prayed with the Los Angeles Times. Silently I gazed at the faces and read the names of Newtown's holy innocents and their fallen shepherds. I prayed, I sang with special fervor.

And God the Son prayed with us. Yes, this God, who became vulnerable and lowly as a child, and who becomes so vulnerable still (and simple and humble) in bread and wine, prayed with us. Perhaps in meditating in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament we do not merely regard God in Jesus Christ, but that we become, personally and corporately, self-conscious of the sacrament we are. We are the body of Christ. We, the Church, are this body. We are becoming the body of the Lord, today newborn, and tomorrow risen into new life.

Been feeling serious, as I usually do at times like this, but also feeling strong, getting stronger. We ought to be looking for the joy that had suddenly gone absent from hearts across the nation on Friday. We must demand it. We must see it set free again.


Wet but warmer. Yes, warm! No, drowsiness!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Speaking and Living Good News

Lectio Divina

He preached good news to the people.

Luke 3:18


Continuing with Mumford, The City in History, and browsing through Ellsberg, All Saints. Looking to get some poetry into my bibliophiacal diet, as we get closer to Christmas.


The men at Lompoc prison told me about the slaughter at the elementary school in Connecticut before I knew about it. From there our reflections on the Sunday Gospel took an urgent tone: how do we speak the good news of God in a world of bad news? More than this, how do we live the good news in a world that makes so much bad news? For God has raised the bar for all of us by sending Jesus, the very image of God, into the world. Far from being excused from doing anything differently, from being transformed, we are called into greater responsibility, greater participation in our redemption, our liberation, our salvation.

It is not enough for us to speak the truth, like John the Baptist. The least in the kin(g)dom of God is greater than John the Baptist. Truth is served when truth is done. Truth is loved and honored when truth is lived.

Now and forever, let us lay down the weapons of the world and turn away from the mysticism of violence and its black arts. We are done learning how to make others suffer. Instead, we ourselves, we personally, will learn how to suffer in love, with love, for love. Let us take the cross off of others. Let us take up our own cross, and the only "weapons" allowed to us are the weapons of the spirit: prayer, fasting, and giving alms.

Dostoevsky said through his character Ivan Karamazov that the suffering of children is the strongest argument against the existence of God. Feeling a strong desire to talk to my sister, who is a schoolteacher and whose birthday is next Saturday.

This morning, house chapter, followed in the afternoon by the regular chores. This evening, being quiet and gentle to others and myself in preparation for Sunday worship.


Chilly but bright, sunny, and stable.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Venturing Forth

Lectio Divina

Wisdom is vindicated by her works.

Matthew 11:19


Hoping to return to heftier intellectual pursuits, namely Mumford and The City in History.


Continuing to mend inside. It was bananas, dry Rice Chex, applesauce, and dry toast the last two days. This morning, a heartier breakfast of granola, banana, and raisins, and white toast with orange marmalade, with decaf pekoe tea. Looking forward to a regular meal this evening.

We are all clear to go to Lompoc prison. Thank you, brother Body, for healing quickly. I wouldn't have wanted my novice brother to go it alone in the faith-sharing groups. It's not that he could not lead the groups solo -- he certainly can -- but Franciscans do everything together, including ministry. We go off at least in twos.

This morning, catching up on what is happening in the world. This evening, a review of life in preparation for the house chapter we are holding tomorrow morning.


Getting frosty in the morning. But it's warming up inside the soul.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Lectio Divina

I hold you by your right hand—
I, the LORD your God.

Isaiah 41:13 (New Living Translation)


Not much energy these last two days, not even to read. The best I could do lately was open a compendium of saints' lives by Robert Ellsberg, All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York: Crossroad, 1997).


I've been under the weather the last two days -- something intestinal, I suspect, leaving me achy and weak all over. My temperature is normal, but my appetite is not yet fully back. One of the occupational hazards of living in a mostly confined environment with 30 other men of varying constitution and a kitchen that, even when immaculate, is full of all kinds of germs. I am asking God to keep his bacteria and viruses out of my body.

If I feel as stable tomorrow morning as I do this evening, I intend to go to ministry at the prison in Lompoc. But I will leave the final determination to the discretion of my formation advisor.

Yesterday, nothing but fitful rest. This morning and afternoon, keeping to my room, doing laundry, and finishing up my Advent/Christmas letters. This evening, bundling up and being gentle to myself. Hoping for a full night of sleep after napping off and on for the last two days.


Not really sure what it's like out there, but it's been cold and stormy within. Time for the sun to rise again in my heart.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Misa en Espanol

Lectio Divina

Fortaleced las manos débiles ...

Isaias 35:3


Continuing Mumford, The City in History, albeit fitfully. Life is getting in the way of my little library.


On Saturday, the novices attended a bilingual Mass, Spanish-English, to celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the 225th anniversary of the founding of La Purisima Mission in Lompoc. Yesterday, I worshipped in Spanish with the people of La Purisima Concepcion Parish, again in Lompoc. This morning, our fraternity celebrated its second Mass in Spanish for the year, reflecting on Saint Juan Diego, to whom the apparition of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, came in 1531 in Mexico. The privilege was mine to serve as lector at this Mass, and I read from Chapter 35 of the book of Isaiah using Spanish translation a novice brother provided for me. I prepared last night by reading the New American Bible Revised Edition English text side-by-side with the Spanish. I asked the novice brother who asked me to read to help me with the pronunciation, accentuation, pace, emphasis, and so forth. And lo and behold, the Spirit of Pentecost was with your humble correspondent this morning, helping him proclaim God's word, in this instance a promise of glory and joy, in the mother tongue of our Latin American brothers.

This is the third day in a row that I have rendered the highest worship in the "language of God." If only I could worship every day in Spanish for, say, three months! How much improved would be my basic skills. More gratifying than the complements for my proclamation was the feeling within me that these words were no longer foreign words, but intimately my own. Liturgical Spanish may be, for the present, my only functional Spanish, but after this morning I am confident that this will soon no longer be the case.

Later this morning, resumed our class sessions on the Capuchin Franciscan reform, situating it in the context of the Renaissance, Reformation, and Baroque era. After lunchtime, cleaning carrots, turnips, and beets harvested recently from our garden, and raking pine needles for compost. Now, to return to my native tongue and speak to my brother Nicholas about his revised graduate school application essays. This evening, schola rehearsal unless told otherwise.


Brisk and quite cool, and perfect for gardening. Feeling comfortably warm after an afternoon outdoors.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

In Lompoc Again

Lectio Divina

I will put enmity between you and the woman.

Genesis 3:15


Received the latest issue of The Pilgrim, the literary newsletter published by homeless and formerly homeless persons under the aegis of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of Saint Paul in Boston. It will make its way into my chapel stall for meditation.

Still plowing, slowly, through Mumford.


Today the Catholic Church observes the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In the Church, solemnities are our highest holy days. This celebration, which proclaims the virtue of Mary as one highly favored by God and protected from the stain of sin, is as important as any Sunday service.

Our novice fraternity celebrated Mass, not at San Lorenzo, but at one of California's historic Franciscan mission churches. La Purisima Mission, located in present-day Lompoc, was founded in 1787 on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception. It is now a state park, but Mass is held there once a year on the anniversary of the settlement's founding. This year, the 225th anniversary of the mission, one of our formators had the privilege of presiding at the bilingual Mass, so naturally the novices would accompany him! The parishioners of the present-day La Purisima Concepcion Parish in Lompoc packed the modest chapel with us. After worship the novices, nourished in the soul by the Eucharist, more than nourished their bodies at Dragon Palace, a Chinese buffet in town.

As it happens, I will be returning to Lompoc for a third consecutive day tomorrow, as a few of my brothers and I will worship en español in the modern sanctuary of the Catholic community of La Purisima.

Now, soon back to our own chapel for evening prayer, and a transition from the special solemnity of the Immaculate Conception to the ordinary solemnity of our Sunday observance. This evening, continuing to address the Advent/Christmas letters I will send out shortly.


A very chilly morning, but bright and glorious and even warm again in the afternoon.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Word of God in the Desert

Lectio Divina

The word of God came to John ... in the desert. 

Luke 3:2


Caught up with my periodicals. Back to Mumford, The City in History. Going to keep the reading list short for now.


A little backtracking:

Wednesday: extended the prayerful silence of hermitage time throughout the whole day. Not an easy thing to do, when silence can be (mis)interpreted by others as displeasure toward them or outright hostility. I want to tend a compassionate silence, a friendly quiet that nurtures and nourishes others. How to do this, when the longer I keep quiet, the further inward I turn, and the more I turn inward, the more I want to withdraw from others? There is the rub: how to be silent without becoming withdrawn; how to cultivate a social, sociable silence. How to practice fraternity in the mode of interiority? Wow. There's a question for the sages of the desert.

Yesterday: a lighter day, a day-off kind of day. Went to see the Spielberg picture Lincoln at a multiplex cinema in Goleta with a novice brother and my novice director. This film examines the final year of Lincoln's life and his final political achievements, the 13th Amendment and the end of the Civil War. It is an adaptation of the Doris Kearns Goodwin book Team of Rivals, which I read almost two years ago. (My brother, who knows I like to read one book about Lincoln every year, gave it to me two Christmases ago.) Fine acting all around, great dialogue, and remarkable likenesses of the men and women whose lives and times I have read and re-read about many times.

Today, ministry at the federal prison in Lompoc. Last week was dedicated to introductions and a description of our aims and vision for faith sharing. Today we are actually getting the faith sharing groups off the ground. As we will do every Friday, we will look ahead to the Sunday Gospel reading. This session, we recall the preaching of John the Baptist, and the words of hope and promise from the prophet Isaiah that became his own -- and, later, Jesus' own. This prison is in a desert; this prison is itself a desert, albeit a crowded, unquiet, violent place. The Word of God is here; we will receive it here.


Getting warmer, but feeling a little nippy right now.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Song for Tanner's Annunciation

A year ago, Bro. Jack Rathschmidt, a Capuchin from my home province, introduced me to a marvelous modern depiction of the Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, an American painter of the late 19th century. My postulant brothers and I spent an evening meditating on the striking composition, a visual form of "lectio divina."

I have returned this Advent season to the painting to fire my imagination, and this time I have written a song to complement the romantic lyricism I see in Tanner's composition.

Before you scan the lines of my song, click here to see Tanner's oil on canvas.


In the morning came the morning complete at my side
All alone before the angel, O where could I hide

Too awake to be like a dream
I remember the brilliant beam
And the whole of my life was right there found

On my bed I sat receiving the miracle light
Knew my eyes were not deceiving -- I feared at the sight

To look on and not disappear
In the presence of what was here
What a terrible favor from this day

I held my hands and waited with the fire in front of me
For disturbing news

Though the room was still with silence I heard many things
Of an end to war and violence, the rule of all kings

And it all sounded so absurd
It depended upon my word
Worlds of promise and peril lay by me

Now at once my body shivered -- I had to decide
Then my belly gave a quiver and stiffened like hide

What is coming has come to me
Don't know why it was done to me
I can only help hoping God will save

You do and you undo -- my life and times are in your hands
Give your word and choose.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

To the Childlike

Lectio Divina

... you have revealed them to the childlike.

Luke 10:21


About caught up with the Catholic periodicals. Mumford awaits.

For your edification, I present the December issue of The Caperone.


This morning, continuing our class sessions on the history of the Franciscan movement. The small groups made their presentations. My presentation on Saint Colette went well enough.

The main significance of her life for the Franciscan movement, the Church, and the world of her age are as follows: Colette ushered in a return to the primitive strict observance of poverty for the Second Order, the women Franciscans known as the Poor Clares, and inspired communities of French Franciscan friars to do likewise; she helped preserve the fragile unity of the Franciscan family amidst internal tensions over how to practice evangelical fraternity and poverty; her spiritual reforms drove forward efforts for unity within the Catholic Church, then divided over who was the pope and rightful leader of the Church in the West; and she succeeded in mediating between the noble families warring for supremacy in France. Colette was a pioneer leader among women religious, founding and reforming convents of Franciscan women (and men!) at a time when women religious never left their enclosure. She made careful use of the privileges granted to her by Church and state, weighing them according to their promotion of Franciscan values. In the long-standing debate over the priority of poverty or fraternity-sorority in Franciscan life, Colette definitely led with poverty. True poverty would guarantee holy sisterhood-brotherhood and achieve for the Church peace and unity in Christ.

This afternoon, moving right along with the January issue of the newsletter. We are a monthly, but there is always something to do in every phase of the production cycle.

Now, for a walk in the brisk air.


Chilly but comfortable.


As promised, a biography of Bro. Zachary Grant, a Capuchin priest of the province of New York and New England who died last week.

Fr. Zachary Grant--21 June 1930-28 November 2012

The Capuchin Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Mary mourn the death of their brother, Father Zachary Grant who passed away on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at Cabrini Nursing Home in Dobbs Ferry, New York at the age of 82.

John Grant, the only son of John and Bridget McKiernan-Grant was born on 21 June 1930 in the Bronx, New York. His father John who was born in County Kilkenny, Ireland in 1902, worked for the New York Subway System as a mechanic until his retirement. His mother Bridget McKiernan was born in Manchester, England in 1899 and nurtured her family as a mother and housewife.

John was baptized at the Church of St. Anselm on 09 July 1930. John was raised in the Bronx along with his four sisters Mary, Leticia, Anne and Cecilia until his family relocated to Brooklyn in 1943. He attended St. Benedict School in the Bronx [1936-43]; St. Teresa School, Brooklyn, NY [1943-44] and St. Mary’s Seminary High School in Garrison, New York from 1944-48. During the summer months of his high school years he worked for Guaranty Trust Company in Manhattan, NY in the company’s lunch kitchen. On 31 August 1948 he was invested by Fr. Elmer a Bloomer at the Capuchin novitiate of St. Felix in Huntington, IN, receiving the religious name Zachary where he also pronounced his first vows on 01 September 1949.

Zachary pronounced perpetually vows into the hands of delegated Fr. Christian Schembre and witnessed by Melchior Moakler and Eymard McKinnon at Mary Immaculate Friary on 01 September 1953. Fr. Zachary was ordained to the priesthood along with his classmates Lee Friel, Jeremiah Cassidy, and Dacian Dee by His Excellency Philip J. Furlong, Auxiliary Bishop of the U.S. Military Vicariate on 23 June 1956 at Sacred Heart Church in Yonkers, NY

Zachary ministered as a parochial assistant at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in the lower east side of Manhattan from 1957-1962 and was later appointed pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows and guardian of the friar community from 1967-1970.

Zachary began his philosophy studies in 1949 to 1953 and continued with his theology studies from 1953-1957 at Mary Immaculate Friary in Garrison, NY.

In 1952, the Province of St. Joseph split and the Province of St. Mary was born. It was a time of great change and much movement. Solemnly professed friars who opted to remain as members of the Province of St. Joseph, Western philosophy students along with teachers, directors, and lay brothers were bused to St. Anthony Friary in Marathon, WI. Eastern theology students along with their directors, teachers, lay brothers and those friars who wished to be part of the new Province of St. Mary returned East to Mary Immaculate Friary.

Eager to address the need for Spanish-speaking ministers, Zachary began his study of Spanish in 1965 and would minister as a parochial assistant at Our Lady Queen of Angels in Harlem [1965-67] where he would later be appointed pastor and guardian from 1984-1987. He was a missionary to Honduras, Central America from 1981-1984 and served in the Spanish-speaking parochial community of Our Lady of Montserrat in Stamford, CT from 1990-1993.

Over the years, Zachary ministered at St. Francis Chapel, serving the spiritual needs of the transient workers in downtown Springfield, MA as a chapel assistant from 1964-1965; 1988-1990; 1996-1998; and later served as Chapel Rector from 1998-2000.

Zachary dedicated many years of his religious life in the service of the Secular Franciscan Order beginning with his appointment as Provincial Director of the then Third Order of St. Francis in 1979 with residence at Sacred Heart Friary, Yonkers, NY. He was instrumental in the spiritual development and renewal of the Secular Franciscan community and author of the Rule & Catechism of the SFO. He later served as a spiritual assistant to many Secular Franciscan fraternities throughout the Province until 1993.

From 1979-1981 Fr. Zachary served as guardian of the friar community of St. Lawrence in Abington, MA where he continued his work with our Secular Franciscan fraternities.

In addition to his Secular Franciscan texts, Zachary authored Paths to Renewal, 1998; Until the Trumpet Sounds, 1998; and The Necrology, 2008.

Over the years, noting Zachary’s example and dedication to our Capuchin Franciscan way of life, he was asked by several provincial administrations to assist in the religious formation of our youngest friars. He was assistant novice master at St. Lawrence Friary in Milton, MA from 1962-64; resided with the postulant program community of St. Michael, Brooklyn, NY as a staff member from 1993-1998; and member of the novitiate staff of St. Conrad Friary, Allison Park, PA from 2005-2007.

Always enthusiastic and willing to serve the needs of the poor and disenfranchised, at the age of 70, Zachary began his study of Portuguese and ministered with the Cape Verdean community in the Archdiocese of Boston while residing in St. Benedict the Moor in Roxbury, MA. [2000-2005]

In 2009, Zachary joined the senior friar community of St. Clare in Yonkers, New York and later, because of failing health, in 2011, began his residency at Cabrini Nursing Home in Dobbs Ferry, NY.

Zachary was survived by two sisters Leticia [Lettie] Grant-Cole of Hendersonville, NC and Anne Grant-Walsh of Farmingdale, New York and their extended families.

A wake service was held at St. Clare Friary-110 Shonnard Place-Yonkers, NY on Monday, 03 December 2012 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. and 7:00-9:00 p.m. The Funeral Mass was celebrated at Sacred Heart Church-110 Shonnard Place-Yonkers, NY on Tuesday 04 December 2012 at 10:00 a.m.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fraternity and Poverty

Lectio Divina

... above the other hills ...

Isaiah 2:2 (New Living Translation)


Continuing catch-up on the Catholic periodicals, and finishing a quick read through the hagiography of Saint Colette.


This morning, resuming our quick romp through the early history of the Franciscan movement, examining the causes of inner tensions within the order during its first three centuries. Tomorrow my small group will present its learning about Saint Colette and her place in the development of the movement during the 15th century. In short, what I mean to say about her is that in the great debate among Francis' followers as to which comes first, unity in fraternity-sorority or poverty in minority, Colette would answer poverty. From true poverty comes genuine fraternity-sorority, the former being the genesis of holiness and perfecting the latter. Colette did not end the debates or divisions within the Franciscan movement, but her personal example did much to preserve the unity of her chosen religious family for almost another hundred years.

This afternoon, spiritual direction at Old Mission Santa Barbara. This evening, schola rehearsal, unless it is cancelled in favor of prayerful silence, which has happened on occasion.

I have drafted my Advent circular. In between and during the week ahead, hoping to compose it on the computer and give it a pleasing design, adding some photos from San Lorenzo. With luck I will send out the letter within two weeks.


The sunshine is back brightly, and so is the cool air. Wearing boots anyway, because my shoes got waterlogged while on my walk yesterday. I'll be expecting rain more often from now on.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy New Year

Lectio Divina

The days are coming....

Jeremiah 33:14


Continuing the hagiography of Saint Colette -- just a few chapters left to skim. Catching up on my Catholic periodicals. Returning to Mumford this week, I hope.


This morning, Mass here at San Lorenzo for the first Sunday of Advent. The presider wished everyone a happy new year, and he was not disoriented in the least. The Church begins its liturgical year on the first Sunday of Advent, when we begin once again to tell the story of God with us, from the beginning and until eternity, in the coming of Jesus Christ. This time, not January 1, is the time of the new year, when we look so far ahead to the end of ends, that we come around to the ultimate beginning.

More and more I look with quiet gladness to this time of year, not in anticipation of Christmas, but to the end of time, the fulfillment of history, beyond Easter and the resurrection, beyond Pentecost and the age of the Church "in between the times," beyond what is to what will be. Your kin(g)dom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread! Grant us admittance to the reign of heaven. Show us the kin(g)dom of heaven in the words and works of God in Jesus, and let us be shown to be citizens of that place, that state, by our words and works. Let there be no cause for anxiety, no overwhelming fear, for "the days are coming." God has come; God is here; God is still coming. Stand up, look up, and and get busy being about the playful business of the children of God. Here comes right; here comes justice; we will find ourselves in the place of peace.

This afternoon, the aim is to work on the circular letter and take a walk now that the sun is breathing warmly upon the rain-kissed earth.


Rain keeps coming, and now that it is, I want it to come all the more.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Keep the Prophetic Message

Lectio Divina

Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message....

Revelation 22:7


Continuing the hagiography of Saint Colette and Catholic periodicals, as before. Colette, what a forceful personality she must have been.


This morning, applying the final edits to the newsletter. The Caperone will go to press this afternoon. For the rest of the morning and early afternoon, work projects (today, in the garden) and house jobs.

Later this afternoon, preparing a vegan banana toffee pudding pie (or two), because we are celebrating a novice brother's birthday, and I want something sweet for the abstinent among us to enjoy! I baked the single pie crusts last night and the coconut cream topping. Today I will cook the pudding.

A typical day at novitiate on the final day of liturgical year 2012.


Looking like rain, but then again, it's also looking like sun. It's going to be both from now on, all through this rainy season.