Posts Tagged ‘Mass’

FIVE GUYS

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Yesterday, Saturday, May 21, five men were ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of St. Petersburg. To a Cathedral packed to the rafters with a local Church loving and welcoming, these five men embraced the call to be good shepherds to the People of God whom they will soon serve.

May 21, 2016 - Fathers Felipe Gonzalez, Alexander Padilla, Bradley Reed, Jonathan Stephanz and Kevin Yarnell were ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Robert Lynch at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle. Please keep them in your prayers! (DOSP Photo / Maria Mertens)

With the newly ordained. Father Jonathan Stephanz, Father Felipe Gonzalez, myself, Father Alexander Padilla, Father Bradley Reed and Father Kevin Yarnell. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Elsewhere on the diocesan website you can see pictures of the ordination and, if you have 145 minutes, you can even watch the whole ceremony. Below I wish to share my words to the men, likely to be my last as the power and privilege of ordaining will pass to a new good, maybe even better shepherd.

ORDINATION TO THE PRIESTHOOD
Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle
St. Petersburg, FL
Saturday, May 21, 2016

Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop

“It is a reality that God often interacts with humanity through the medium of dreams. While few of us have the experience of St. Joseph to whom an archangel, no less, appeared in a dream with life changing news, most of us who are ordained or to be ordained began to seriously develop our notion of priesthood through dreams of some day becoming one. Throughout formation, we sometimes made it through the more challenging and darker moments by dreaming of our ordination day or our first Mass or our own image of what kind of shepherd we might ultimately become. But as our five deacons soon to be ordained will find out, reality can and often does supplant dreams and today I would offer my counsel that this can be tragic when unforeseen and ill-prepared for.

When tomorrow afternoon, they literally roll the proverbial stone before the tomb and all your family and friends withdraw leaving you alone with your new reality, I would counsel it is precisely then that you need to begin to fashion new dreams in which you see yourselves, Felipe, Alex, Brad, Jonathan and Kevin as good shepherd of God’s people. What you are soon to become is far deeper, richer, transforming than what you have dreamed you might be on the day of your ordination.

Pope Francis almost daily reminds his priests of what God wishes them to be and what they may or may not have become. His dream is that we become so attracted and attached to Jesus, the Good Shepherd that “we press forward in faith, to advance in the spiritual pilgrimage which is faith that is nothing other than to follow Jesus; to listen to him and to be guided by his words, to see how he acts and to follow in his footsteps to have his same sentiments. And what are these sentiments of Jesus? Humility, mercy, closeness to others but also a firm rejection of hypocrisy, duplicity, and idolatry. The way of Jesus is a love which is faithful to the end, and even unto sacrificing one’s life; it is the way of the cross.” [Pope Francis, Marian Day, 10,12,2013].

Francis is redrafting the dream of priesthood. It is far from an office of privilege for the ordained, but rather a privilege which through ordination allows us to be Christ to the terrified immigrant father and mother facing deportation, to the confused and wounded young mother who has chosen to take the life within her womb for fear of being unable to care for the child once born, to pray with the condemned prisoner on death row or the overnight visitor to the county jail who has been arrested for a DUI or a lesser offence, to promise a parent that their parish will work hard to improve literacy at the miserably failing local public schools their children are attending by working with FAST or HOPE in two of our counties, to comfort a dad who has just lost his job that while searching for new employment, we will work to retain his children in our parish or diocesan school even though we might be at a loss also of how to make ends meet. These are a few of the pastoral realities which must reshape the dream of how we are to become that good shepherd tomorrow when all withdraw and a lifetime of priestly ministry awaits and begins.

“Being Church means being God’s people, in accordance with the great plan of his fatherly love. This means we are to be God’s leaven in the midst of humanity. It means proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation into our world, which often goes astray and needs to be encouraged, given hope and strengthened on the way…. The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” [Francis, JG]

It is almost the nature of dreams, especially about priesthood, to see us as ministers of the sacraments and indeed that is an essential part of the job description of today’s priest. But that you can accomplish in several waking hours, what are you going to do in the remaining time – wait for the phone to ring or the doorbell to sound? Pope Francis calls us to dream of using more of our time as good shepherds in a different way – as ministers of God’s mercy, taking the initiative to seek out the lost, recapture and reclaim the disenchanted and disenfranchised, to get dirty in the hubris of daily living by giving special attention to the poor, to the lonely, to the forgotten, to the angry,

If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, might and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them; without meaning and a goal in life.

            More than a fear of going stray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within the strictures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, “Give them something to eat.” [Francis, JG]

Dear Felipe, Alex, Brad, Jon and Kevin, I wish I were younger and could join with you and my brother priests who may live the dream of a new form of priesthood born of the vision and the conscience of Pope Francis. It is far more challenging and exciting than anything I have experienced to date in my life and even somewhat scary. But it is more faithful to the image of Christ the Good Shepherd whom I was to become at my priestly ordination than the “dream I dreamed in times gone by” [Le Miserable]. It is the Good Shepherd who loved us to death, the alter Christus who in a few moments you are to become and I once became.

Today this Church is filled with love and great expectations. Your soon to be brother priests are renewed that in these times and with these challenges, you have already said “yes” to the call of Jesus, “follow me.” Together with me, they welcome you as brothers. God’s people whom you will serve will honor you as “father”. May Jesus welcome you many years from now as “faithful servant.”

+RNL

NO “TEN LITTLE INDIANS”.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Agatha Christie, that marvelous writer of mystery fiction and plays once wrote for the stage a mystery play entitled “Ten Little Indians” about ten friends who gathered for a reunion and one by one they disappear, victims of murder perpetrated by some one among them. As in another of her dramatic mysteries entitled “The Mousetrap” she was clever enough to write several endings so that if you saw the play on Broadway and attempted to give the finale away to someone who was going to attend the play, there was a one in three chance that the ending would not be the same. Great stuff.

On Saturday last, I ordained ten married men to the order of deacon at St. Jude’s Cathedral in an ancient ceremony made new every time by the excitement and participation of those in attendance.

View of the Litany of the Saints from inside the Spirit FM 90.5 radio booth. Photo courtesy of John Morris.

View of the Litany of the Saints from inside the Spirit FM 90.5 radio booth. Photo courtesy of John Morris.

Prayer of Ordination over Mark Manko. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Mark Manko. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Jorge Suarez. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Jorge Suarez. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Elix Castro. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Elix Castro. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Joe Zucchero. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Joe Zucchero. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Glenn Smith. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Glenn Smith. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Tony Quattrocki. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Tony Quattrocki. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Ted Martin. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Ted Martin. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Steven Girardi. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Steven Girardi. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Greg Nash. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Greg Nash. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Prayer of Ordination over Frank DeSanto. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Prayer of Ordination over Frank DeSanto. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

For most of these men, and their wives, it was the culmination of eight long years of preparation, some first in the Lay Pastoral Ministry Institute and then in the deacon formation program.

The wives bringing the newly ordained deacons their stole and dalmatic. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

The wives bringing the newly ordained deacons their stole and dalmatic. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

While it is always a joy to see the pride and happiness on the faces of parents, grandparents and siblings when I am ordaining priests, it is even more of a “kick” to witness the same on the faces of spouses, children, and even parents of married men being ordained.

Seminarian Elixavier Castro greeting his father, the newly ordained Deacon Elix Castro. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Seminarian Elixavier Castro greeting his father, the newly ordained Deacon Elix Castro. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Newly ordained Deacon Glenn Smith offering the Blood of Christ to his father-in-law. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Newly ordained Deacon Glenn Smith offering the Blood of Christ to his father-in-law. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

We have a great diaconate program in this diocese and the formation is about as good as it can get given the first and overriding obligation of the candidate to his family. The path to priesthood is much longer, more intensive, and delves much deeper into the wonders and mystery of theology, scripture, and pastoral practice. But the four years of education and formation for these ten men was demanding and no small accomplishment, given their work and family responsibilities. Most of you who read this blog posting will encounter them on Sunday and when they are exercising their preaching office so I thought I would share my homily for the occasion with all of you. Men who get ordained in their own mind just to preach and teach do not comprehend the awesome nature of the order to which they have been ordained. But preaching is integral and should  be a small part of “witness.” Here is my homily for last Saturday and I hope it lived up to the high standard God’s people have a right to expect.

           Ten men supported by ten women have just responded that they are both present and willing to assume the ministry of deacon in our beloved Church. For each it has been a long journey and I am certain that on many occasions there must have been doubts in their minds as to whether or not this day would ever come. Well, dear brothers, never forget that on this, your ordination day, the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs will be playing their first game in the National League Championship Series. Who would have thought?

            This morning I wish to devote a few moments to a sacred trust, which will soon be yours – the gift of preaching that accompanies this ministry in the Church. Preaching is a privilege. It often defines our ministry. We can have the finest bedside or graveside manner but if we strike out in the twelve minutes or so that are ours on Sunday, we have likely failed in the exercise of one of the most important aspects of our ministry.

            Good preaching begins with four verbs: receive, believe, teach and practice. Put another way, as you will hear when I place the book of Gospels your hands: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.

            The prophet Jeremiah in the first reading of your ordination received from God the task of preaching to a resistant people. Each of us should be like Jeremiah and doubt whether or not we are truly up to the task for we certainly are not worthy. Yet faith affirms that God has chosen us for this task. Each of us must receive and embrace this privilege with genuine humility, knowing that only God can open our lips and invade our hearts.

            We do not approach preaching operating from a tabula rasa. We preach from the experience of the Church in defining and developing its beliefs over the course of two plus millennia. It is not the duty of the deacon, priest, or for that matter even the bishop to share his own personal core beliefs but rather to adopt, adapt, and apply the insights of God’s people from Abraham to the last apostle as well as the understandings of the faith community to the present moment. Breaking open the Scriptures means wrestling every time we preach with a well-defined belief system and making application to the present moment. Trust me, this task is not easy, and success is not guaranteed by the grace of ordination but most likely born from an acquired ability of trial and error. You must share with God’s people to whom you preach timeless truth and also present reality. That struggle is mirrored every day in the Synod on the Family now meeting in Rome on this weekend of your ordination. It is not an easy task but it is an essential task.

            Preaching is teaching and not just proclaiming. The best teachers we have had in our lives have reached that status because they inductively led each of us to a conclusion that we likely could not have acquired on our own. No one in your congregation is going to learn just because you said it. They will learn when like the wise teacher you lead them on a journey of discovery to a point where they say, “ah, now I get it.” Pope Francis on several occasions has reminded us that more often than not, those to whom we preach are likely smarter than ourselves. And, successfully teaching through preaching, today, is more Montessori than Mueller. Apodictic, non-apologetic statements of perceived facts are dismissed by today’s well educated Catholics as simply one person’s opinion where a didactic teaching, breaking open of the word has a better chance of ultimately taking root.

            However, the best weapon to be found in the arsenal of effective preaching and proclamation is to be found in the witness of your own personal faith practice. God’s people know a genuine article when they see one and even more when they hear one. “You are the light of the world” today’s Gospel quotes Jesus as saying. Jesus did not say, “You are the voice of the world.” He was pointing out that example trumps words on most occasions and here, dear soon-to-be-deacons, you have an advantage over we non-ordained clerics. Your love for your wives and children should always be the “take away” from those whose lives you will soon touch in your ministry. Your wives have accompanied you in this journey with loving patience, generous support and constant encouragement. They preach so eloquently as you will by continuing to live fully your first vocational commitment – together for life, practicing what you preach, loving one another constantly as the prophet Micah says.

            Finally, as the second readings from Acts notes, the early Christian church and its leaders needed help. It needed assistants. It needed workers and not itinerant preachers. It needed lovers who could lead if they must but who were more interested in helping the members on the margins. So it chose seven whose task was not specifically preaching but rather doing the ministry of mercy. I think it can be fairly said in this moment in the life of the Church in the world as said in Acts, “brothers, select from you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Today we have ten such men and brothers, as important as preaching may be in your ministry, practice what you preach in the less glamorous but more grace-filled ministry of caring for those on the periphery of society and our Church.

With the ten new deacons and members of the Office of the Diaconate. Deacon Peter Andre, Deacon Greg Nash, Deacon Jim Grevenites, Deacon Joe Zucchero, Deacon Mark Manko, Deacon Steve Girardi, Deacon Ted Martin, Deacon Tony Quattrocki, myself, Deacon Frank DeSanto, Deacon Jorge Suarez, Deacon Glenn Smith, Deacon Elix Castro, Deacon John Alvarez, and Father Ralph Argentino. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

With the ten new deacons and members of the Office of the Diaconate. Deacon Peter Andre, Deacon Greg Nash, Deacon Jim Grevenites, Deacon Joe Zucchero, Deacon Mark Manko, Deacon Steve Girardi, Deacon Ted Martin, Deacon Tony Quattrocki, myself, Deacon Frank DeSanto, Deacon Jorge Suarez, Deacon Glenn Smith, Deacon Elix Castro, Deacon John Alvarez, and Father Ralph Argentino. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Maria Mertens, who superbly manages our diocesan website and use of digital/social media, has some spectacular pictures of the event beyond those shown within this text, which you can see here. You can watch the video replay of the ordination ceremony here.

These were not “ten little Indians” ordained last Saturday but the latest additions to a “tribe” of incredible deacon ministers in the diocese. Blessings on their ministry.

+RNL

HOSPITALITY, HUMILITY, AND HORROR

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

HOLY THURSDAY 2015
St. Jude the Apostle Cathedral

Because of the succession of small West Virginia and Virginia towns we lived in as a child, I only attended one Catholic elementary school in the first eight grades of my education. The school was run and taught by the Sisters of Providence of Terre Haute, Indiana. We lived right next door to the church, school and convent and whenever they needed someone to serve, the good sisters would call my parents and off I would go. I remember very well the three Holy Thursday liturgies from those days and especially the procession, which we will do at the conclusion of this Mass. I would carry a candle and the choir would sing something which sounded like Tom Tom Arrow but there would be a break in the music and Sister would use her cricket and all of us would turn to the priest holding this gold vessel with Jesus under class and together we would say, “O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament Divine, All praise and all Thanksgiving be every moment thine!” Then the cricket would sound, we would turn and face forward and off we would go again.

It was hard for a child to understand and embrace the importance of this day in both the life of Jesus and of the Church. So, following upon the theme I set on Palm Sunday, I would like to take just a few moments to reflect on what must have been on the mind of Jesus on this night long ago. Again, following the formula I have used throughout this week and will employ again tomorrow and on Holy Saturday night, I would focus on three things which might have been on his mind: hospitality, humility and horror.

It was Passover night and Jesus wished to celebrate this massive moment in the religious life of every observant Jew with his friends. Knowing that his life was down to minutes and hours and not days, he wished to do the hospitable thing and welcome them to share one final meal together. A preacher’s trick on Holy Thursday is to often ask the congregation, if they knew they had only a day to live, with whom and how would they wish to spend that time. It is was a slam dunk for Jesus – he would spend it with his friends, even inviting the one he knew would betray him – Judas.

However, he did not wish to leave them or us alone and so he used the occasion to institute the Eucharist taking the very bread and wine, two elements on every table at Passover in those days and telling them that they were to do the same. The perfect host, wishing the friendship, the relationships might never end and at the last supper he would institute for the first time the first supper, which we do two millennia later when we gather for Mass. What truly magnanimous host ever wishes to say goodbye to those whom he or she loves? Even though tragedy would precede triumph, Jesus was ever solicitous of his friends as he is of each of us. Are we hospitable to the foreigner, the stranger, the homeless, the hungry, the medically indigent? Have we learned anything from this night and this example of the Lord?

But during the meal, he also knew that he had one more lesson to teach his friends who would outlive him on earth. Try as hard as he might, and he tried often; they just never learned the fundamental lesson of discipleship, which was humble service to others. They would quarrel among themselves and then ask him who would have the first places at his side in the life, which was to come. Wrong question, he replied. Did he not say, “The Son of Man has come to serve and not to be served.”? The miracles, the teachings, the healings had all gone to their heads and they naturally thought that their inheritance would be a life of relative ease and comfort. After all, they had walked the dusty paths, slept in strange beds and it would be their time to be waited on. Humble they were not – none of them at this moment, so the greatest among them put on an apron and proceeded to wash their feet, the dirtiest and filthiest part of their bodies. The ministry of humble service was once more put before them and they still did not get it. He tried. He humbled himself. We priests are privileged to serve you, hopefully always with the deepest humility. Even approaching this altar tonight, it must be and always will be a service of love. We are humbled before our God each and every time we raise the bread and wine and it becomes his body and blood. Sometime we may forget that, as did the disciples, who could not understand why in the world he would wash their feet.

Finally, and perhaps the easiest thing to understand is that his thoughts and his head were full of horror at what he knew was likely to happen to him. In a matter of minutes, he would one more time ask the Father to allow the cup of pain and suffering to pass from him. One thing our Lord was not was a hopeless romantic. From the circumstances of his birth, throughout his life, and especially in the three years of his ministry, he knew it was going to end badly for him. But he persevered, he plowed on, he trusted His Father in heaven right to the end. There was hope to be found this night in horrors of his mind. Only hope can overcome horror. Only hope in God can help one through loneliness, through a sense of failure, through the inevitable rough patches od daily living. Jesus knew that soon, perhaps not soon enough, he would once again be united with his Father and our Father and the horror of that which was to come would itself be overcome with a sense of accomplishment.

Soon the priests and I will have the true privilege of washing the feet of some of you. It is a reminder that He whom we wish to serve and make present to you later in this Mass humbled himself in the penultimate symbol of service, the cross being his last act of humble sacrifice. We wish to serve you. It is our mission. It is our life. It is our hope. And should we fail, it is also our horror. Jesus gave us this night long ago the gift of sharing with you the bread of life, the sacrament most holy, the sacrament of his divinity. Tonight we welcome him into our lives; we offer him the hospitality of our hope and our faith. Truly all praise and all thanksgiving should every moment be his, thine.

+RNL

CHRISM MASS 2015

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Here are some photos from the annual Chrism Mass earlier today. To read my homily, scroll down below the photos. To watch the video recording of the Mass, please click here. To see more photos, click here.

Renewal of Priestly Promises. Photo kindness of Jeanne Smith.

Renewal of Priestly Promises. Photo kindness of Jeanne Smith.

 

 

Blessing the Oil of the Sick. Photo kindness of Jeanne Smith.

Blessing the Oil of the Sick. Photo kindness of Jeanne Smith.

 

 

Parish representatives holding their parish’s Oil of Catechumens as it is blessed. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Parish representatives holding their parish’s Oil of the Sick as it is blessed. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

 

Blessing the Oil of Catechumens. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Blessing the Oil of Catechumens. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

 

Parish representatives holding their parish’s Oil of Catechumens as it is blessed. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Parish representatives holding their parish’s Oil of Catechumens as it is blessed. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Consecrating the Sacred Chrism. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Consecrating the Sacred Chrism. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

CHRISM MASS HOMILY 
March 31, 2015
Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle
Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop

The late bishop John Nevins of Venice with whom I spent five of the first six years of my priesthood would often tell the story of what happened to him late in his formation for priesthood, indeed just weeks before he was to be ordained a sub-deacon. An only child of an Irish mother and English father who separated and divorced shortly after young John was born, John J. Nevins could only find one religious order and no diocese which would accept him as a seminarian for the priesthood. That one community was called The Fathers of Mercy. Finishing his studies at Catholic University in Washington, John Nevins in the Spring of the final year came home from class to the Fathers of Mercy house only to be told that the community had been dissolved, its ordained were free to find any benevolent bishop or other order who would accept them and as for the seminarians, “clear your room out, move, stay warm and well fed.” As he approached the end of telling this story, he would always end it with this line: “There was no mercy to be found in the Fathers of Mercy, buster!” I know of few priests in my soon to be forty years who was kinder, more merciful and forgiving than John J. Nevins. He lived the virtue under whose title he longed to minister.

We have been hearing a lot about mercy the last two years, much of it emanating from the Holy Father. He has challenged the whole Church, all those who have been anointed with the sacred chrism in baptism, confirmation, and priesthood and episcopacy, to new heights of merciful ministry. He has preached forgiveness, inclusion, welcoming not just the sinner but also the foreigner, the immigrant, the poor. He has joined his ministry of words with a rich panoply of encounter and gesture. He has called us all, but especially we bishops to a simpler lifestyle more in touch with all God’s people which might make us more aware and understanding of the pain of poverty. The one constant through the first two years has been the bedrock belief in the mercy of God which we have both received as a gift of the spirit of God to share with the world and we have been anointed with oil to heal the wounds of people, some of which even the Church we love have caused.

Allow me for a few moments this Holy Week to reflect on the image of oil, noted in today’s very familiar readings by both Isaiah and Jesus. The glass jars which await our prayers of blessing contain simple olive oil though to the chrism will soon be joined an aromatic. All oil (olive and petroleum) has three aspects worth a few seconds: value, volatility and viscosity.

VALUE we have learned in recent times from oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, to wars of religion over oil in the Arabian gulfs, to four dollars a gallon at the pump to a 125% increase in the cost of Chanel No 5 in the last ten years. From King David through to the Saudi princes, oil is worth a lot, of money, sadly of lives lost and environment destroyed. So for moderns the oil has value and for the ancients it did as well. It healed the wounded, anointed the chosen leaders, was then and is now one of the more valuable fruits of God’s creation. And it is shared with us in sacraments. When we use it properly it dispenses mercy and love on the newborn, comforts the sick and aged and when accompanied by sacramental confession it too dispenses God’s mercy on the scared, the scarred, the solitary soul in search of God.

VOLATILITY – Oil also ignites more readily than other liquids. Jesus says that the anointing he received ignited in him a fierce blessed rage for order (in the words of David Tracy decades ago). It made him palpably burn within to bring healing to the sick, hope to the homeless, compassion for the poor, freedom not just to jailed prisoners pbut the freedom of mercy and the love of God and the presence of Jesus Christ to those imprisoned by addiction, by religious laws that limited love, and an end to tyranny from whatever source which limited mankind’s ability to drink at the cool well of mercy, kindness, love, compassion and forgiveness.

Tell me one sinner in the Gospel who having acknowledged his or her sin was dismissed by the Son of God without healing. The highly volatile oil of his anointing set Jesus on fire with the desire to establish his Father’s kingdom – a fire that did not cease within him until his penultimate breath in one Gospel account: “brother, this day you shall be with me in paradise! Has our anointing in baptism spent all its volatility or is the fire within us to reconcile the world heating up again to the point where we have a blessed rage for dispensing God’s mercy and compassion?

VISCOSITY – All oil is thick, gooey, and sticky, even olive oil. Just try to get it off your hands after confirming 150 youngsters – even lemon does not really cut it. My fingers continue to smell like PLEDGE furniture polish through at least three washings – but I digress! It is precisely the perfect image in a way to describe our ministry when it is working. What we do well sticks. What we offer is sometimes thick. Our ministry of mercy often moves far more slowly than we might wish. Maybe it is time in a sense to apply a merciful thinner to our passion for compassion. Pope Francis certainly does it, daily in his Mass homilies, in his brief but sticky audience teachings. Listen to how his words should stimulate all of us to a deeper engagement in social action ministry:

‘These days there is a lot of poverty in the world and that’s a scandal when we have so many resources to give to everyone. We all have to think about how we can become a little poorer.”

“A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just”

“We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love, be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.”

“Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.

With Peter and under Peter my prayer is that today, recalling the awesome power of anointing in our own lives, everyone here has been anointed, most likely at least twice, we may ignite again in our hearts and in our ministry the joy in being agents of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “The joy of God is the joy of forgiveness. It is the joy of the shepherd who finds his lost sheep, the joy of the woman who finds her lost coin; the joy of the Father who welcomes home his lost son.”

Ah, the oil of gladness. My brother priests, this very Holy Father speaks to us often, challenges us, wants us to once again recover the fire of the day the sacred chrism was spread on our hands, the day of our ordination. He particularly it would seem focuses on our ministry of reconciliation. Most all of you have given of yourselves the past few weeks with penance services, The Light Is On For You, and hours in the box. You are very good, indeed wonderful at this expression of tender mercy. Your anointed hands and your blessed words become the sign of the forgiveness of God.

“The service that a priest assumes, a ministry, on behalf of God, to forgive sins is very delicate and requires that his heart be at peace, . . .that he not mistreat the faithful, but that he be gentle, benevolent and merciful, that he know how to plant hope in hearts and, above all, that he be aware that the brother or sister or sister who approaches the sacrament of reconciliation seeking forgiveness does so just as many people approached Jesus to be healed. . . .The penitent faithful have the right, all the faithful have the right, to find in priests servants of the forgiveness of God.

Lawrence O’Donnell, a commentator on MSNBC likened the Pope’s remarks on one occasion to his last Catholic school teacher, a Father Harrington. “Father Harrington knew that he was our last religion teacher,” O’Donnell said. “He didn’t use that final year of class time to cram our heads with rules and condemnations. . .Father Harrington talked only about the things that mattered the most in Catholicism, which meant he talked about God and love and goodness and kindness, and he never talked about sin. O’Donnell continued by noting that Pope Francis seems to be eager to deliver the same message. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrine to be imposed insistently. Indeed, O’Donnell noted, Pope Francis warned that the moral authority of the church could “fall like a house of cards” if its condemnations are the only thing people ever hear about. Quoting the Pope, “The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.” O’Donnell in that electronic moment ended his reflection with “If Father Harrington was still with us, he would like this pope. A lot.” 

Beginning soon we shall together plan for how as a local Church we shall observe the year of grace to begin in November called the Holy Year of Mercy. It could well be a very graced moment – a moment of mercy. Let no one in these five counties say of us what Bishop Nevins said of the manner in which he was treated by a community to which he had already given years: “There is no mercy to be found in this local Church, buster!”

+RNL

THE FICKLE FINGER OF FAITH?

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Palm Sunday 2015
Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch

Beginning today and continuing throughout this holy week, I have chosen as my theme, “What was Jesus thinking?” Admittedly the question reveals an “arrogance” on my part, but I hope that my humble effort at armchair psychology might be helpful in making the most of this important week of our faith.

So join me in attempting to discern what Jesus might have been thinking on that day when he entered Jerusalem for the final time. I wish to focus today on that singular moment captured in the Gospel read during the blessing of palms knowing that on Good Friday together we will have an opportunity to reflect at greater length on the Passion account.

I can see at least three important thoughts which Jesus might reasonably be expected to own in the account of his arrival at the portal to his death: fraternity, fickleness, and fulfillment.

Knowing that his days were surely numbered and a horrible and painful death was awaiting him in Jerusalem, he wished one final thing for himself and for his disciples – the opportunity to celebrate the Passover together one last time. Ever mindful of others and ever the teacher, the rabbi, the “master” Jesus knows that he and they will soon be put to the test. Were they ready for it? Were they sufficiently cognizant of his presence in their lives for the last three years that their memories would sustain and perhaps even overcome their doubts in the days to come? He must have sensed that day that if what he had done and what he would do would ultimately glorify the Father, then he had to teach them again about placing themselves at the service of others, becoming less to accomplish more.

He knew that those citizens of Jerusalem who hailed his arrival knew little about him except through rumor. In his public ministry, Jesus spent little time in Jerusalem, choosing instead the region of Galilee as the major locus for his ministry. So as he surveyed those throwing their cloaks before him and waving their palms, he must have known of their fickleness. All glory, laud and honor shouted in this moment, he knew would give way soon enough to “kill him”. Yet he took the chance to once again be seen by those who were basically fence sitters at best and fair-weather only friends at worst. Even those he sent ahead to gain his method of conveyance, a donkey, and secure a room for the last Passover supper, how would they measure up to the hostility to their friend and his message? Despite the romance of the scene of the so-called triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he knew they were fickle – all of them.

Finally there was the matter of fulfilling the will of the Father. No person seemingly in their right mind would say to themselves or to others: well it’s time for me to die so let’s get on with it. Only that deep commitment to the will of the Father could explain why he would set off to Jerusalem in the first place knowing what would await him. Obedience to the Father would find its finality in the fulfillment gained on the cross.

That inevitably begs the question of what does this entire moment mean for us on this Palm Sunday 2015? How close is our friendship to Jesus? Do we trust him, believe in him, follow him 24/7/365 or is he simply a historical figure of some attractiveness and interest but not a personal friend, an intimate. Is he truly our brother? Does his willingness to embrace pain, loneliness, and opposition to what he believes and preaches translate for us in our own faith commitment?

Are we fickle, fair weather friends who take comfort in our faith only when things are going well, only to abandon the same belief when faced with the inevitable crosses of everyone’s daily life? Is it easy to be a friend of Jesus unless and until we are challenged to stand for human life in all its phases of development, from conception to natural death? Can we also be seen as a follower of Christ’s teaching when friendship with him makes us seek genuine immigration reform while welcoming the stranger. Are we willing to question and challenge the death penalty in a state (in this we are one of only two of the fifty states) that requires only a simple majority of a jury’s vote? There are lots of things about Jesus we can love and embrace, but there are other things, which lay open our fickleness. What part of the crowd would we likely have been in: hosannas or kill him?

Finally, the cross was the fulfillment of our Lord’s mission. How well do we carry the crosses of our lives? Do we really believe that suffering, opposition and uncertainty, the hubris of daily life in our times, gain for us the favor of the Father for our future?

There was a lot which Jesus must have been thinking during these his final days. Join us this week, on Holy Thursday and Good Friday and next Sunday at Easter as we attempt to get into his mind and answer the question: what was Jesus really thinking?

+RNL

THREE NEW “LINEMEN”

Monday, May 19th, 2014

In a week which witnessed this writer on an emotional roller-coaster, Saturday was a beautiful day of rejoicing and being glad.

Somehow, with God’s help, I squeezed the ordination of three new priests and two weddings into the daylight hours. Our Cathedral of St. Jude, newly remodeled, was the scene for the ordination as well as one of the weddings and the new space works magnificently.

Filled to over-flowing, the ordination ceremony is certainly the most beautiful liturgy at which any bishop presides. You can relive the two-hour and twenty-minute ceremony by watching the archived “livestream” replay of the ordination ceremony by clicking here.

Should you not wish to watch the whole ceremony, you may look at a few photos that I am including below (see more photos by clicking here). You may also read my homily on the occasion which is included below the photos (click here for a PDF version of my homily). However, if you wish to merely listen to the homily and neither watch it nor read it, that too is possible by clicking here. Isn’t technology amazing?

Deacons Jonathan Emery, Fabiszewski and Kyle Smith processing in at the beginning of Mass. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Deacons Jonathan Emery, Brian Fabiszewski and Kyle Smith processing in at the beginning of Mass. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

The Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle was full for this glorious occasion. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

The Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle was full for this glorious occasion. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Litany of Supplication (Saints).

Litany of Saints. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Laying on of Hands upon Deacon Kyle Smith. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Laying on of Hands upon Deacon Kyle Smith. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Anointing the hands of Father Brian Fabiszewski with the sacred Chrism. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Anointing the hands of Father Brian Fabiszewski with the sacred Chrism. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Greeting Father Jonathan Emery during the "Kiss of Peace". Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Greeting Father Jonathan Emery during the “Kiss of Peace”. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

The new fathers at their seats among the priests while the congregation spontaneously applauds. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

The new fathers at their seats among the priests while the congregation spontaneously applauds. Photo kindness of Mike Donovan.

Liturgy of the Eucharist. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Liturgy of the Eucharist. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Father Brian Fabszewski, Father Jonathan Emery, myself, and Father Kyle Smith after their ordination to the priesthood. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Father Brian Fabszewski, Father Jonathan Emery, myself, and Father Kyle Smith after their ordination to the priesthood. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Ordinations to the Priesthood
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of St. Petersburg
Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle
Acts 10:37-43; Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; John 15:9-17

            Barely nine days ago, much of the attention of the nation seemed to be directed toward the annual National Football League draft. Countless commentators spouting off on who might be chosen first, second, and third in the draft all listed the following requisites: height, weight, size. This morning the Church of St. Petersburg’s annual “draft day” has all that going for it and far more.

For these three men there was no suspense about whether or not their names would be called; there certainly was no “money sign” given by any of the three a few moments ago when we signaled our pleasure at their generosity, courage and determination, and in thirty to forty minutes, each of these men will “don” our equivalent of the “team jersey” – the chasuble worn at Mass.

            Our new “offensive linemen” will not get monetarily rich either. Their agent, St. Paul, in lieu of telling them how much their life and talent is worth in worldly terms, instead “urged [them] to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Clearly this isn’t the football of Vince Lombardi. This is the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

            In our world, love trumps violence. These men came today with excellent coaching: by their parents, by the example of priests they came to know and admire; by women and men in formation who shaped their vision of vocation and service. They did not have to first go to Indianapolis, to try out, prior to being called. Brian, Jonathan and Kyle’s calls came much earlier in their lines, as we heard moments ago in the Gospel, “it was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain. . . .This I command you: love one another.” Quietly, humbly, patiently, persistently, presently, fully and completely, these three men are in a very real way laying down their lives for the friends of Jesus.

            And when they might wish to be watching football on a Saturday afternoon, they will more likely sit in the dim light of the confessional waiting for that someone who has not darkened the door of the same for years to arrive seeking the reassurance of God’s mercy and compassion.

          When they might wish to be watching football on a Sunday afternoon or spending time with their family at both the end and the beginning of a long week, they will instead be pouring the water of new life over the head of a child screaming as if he or she wants God in heaven to know that they are free of original sin, the devil’s grasp and now here present, in His Church.

          And in that daily split-second of Divine accomplishment when the bread and the wine, the body and blood of the Lord is raised aloft at the words of institution, at the Great Amen, or at the invitation to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, all eyes and all light will focus on the Eucharistic Lord, not the person of the celebrant. It’s a whole new world. It’s a whole new way of loving. It’s a whole new manner of self-giving. It’s not about us, no matter how long we have been waiting for the moment. It’s all about Jesus and his love for us. We cannot give what we do not have but what we have to share is worth spending the rest of our lives for.

           Today, then, is not draft day. Jesus took care of that nine years ago, or seven years ago when these men first entered the seminary. And today is not the Super Bowl either, for that moment of glory in the sun is all too fleeting. Luke’s words, quoting Peter in the first reading from Acts, capture the essence of this moment perfectly as he reminds us of: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.

            So Brian, Kyle and Jonathan, after invoking on you the assistance of the saints, laying my hands joined by those of the presbyters on your heads, and anointing your hands with the same Holy Spirit and power, you shall take your place at the altar of God. It’s absolutely amazing. After multiple years of preparing for, dreaming about, working hard for this moment, it will be over very quickly. But a wonderful, rich lifetime of ministry is only just beginning. Priesthood is more than just a moment. It is a way of life.

          Everything that the NFL, major league baseball, the New York Times and CNN or Fox and the media in general think are the true markers of success in life are merely passing idols. For you and me, for your brother priests, Jesus Christ is the constant and like him, as Pope Francis constantly reminds us, we must be humble, gentle, patient, forbearing messengers of his presence. Today and perhaps even tomorrow you and I are dressed in our finest. These are signs of celebrations, of a festive occasion but they are not what Christ would have worn today. We earn our stripes which identify who we are and what we do not by what we wear but how and to whom we minister.

            Brian and Kyle, please give me just a moment for a special word to Jonathan. Many here present today do not know that from the second to the sixth year of my priesthood I served as Rector/President of St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. For two of those five years I had a student named Robert Emery, Jonathan’s Dad. He was a larger man than even his son and at times he was even larger than life. He could be a handful. But Bob Emery was at his best when he was on his knees in the chapel and at prayer, often asking God if he should continue in the seminary perhaps not putting up with the likes of me. After I left St. John Vianney, he left the priestly pursuit and we did not meet again until twelve years later when I confirmed Jonathan and he told me, “this one has a true vocation.” I have thought about your Dad, bigger “Bob”, a lot these last couple of days, Jonathan, and I know he could not be prouder of this moment and the other good things which have happened to his family following his sudden, unexpected death seven years ago. I truly sense a presence among us this morning, a twelfth player, if you will, very proud for sure, but telling his son, it’s past time to get on with the rest of your life.

            Three great men present themselves to the Church today. But we reaffirm that there is, “one Lord, one faith; one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” This you can take to the bank: rejoice and be glad for this is the day the Lord has made!

Newly ordained celebrate what is somewhat inaccurately called their “First Mass” following the ordination rite and normally on the next day, Sunday. Father Kyle Smith left the cathedral, went home for a few minutes, and then was off to his parish church, Our Lady of the Rosary for his Mass on Saturday afternoon.

Father Kyle Smith celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Land O' Lakes. Photo kindness of Ron Ludwin.

Father Kyle Smith celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Land O’ Lakes. Photo kindness of Ron Ludwin.

 

Father Kyle Smith celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Land O' Lakes. Photo kindness of Ron Ludwin.

Father Kyle Smith celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of Our Lady of the Rosary in Land O’ Lakes. Photo kindness of Ron Ludwin.

Click here to see more photos from Father Kyle Smith’s first Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish.

I did the same thing thirty-six years ago, having been ordained on the Saturday just prior to Pentecost and managed to get everything out of the way by sunset on the day of ordination itself. The other two priests celebrated their Masses on Sunday. Truth to tell, they actually concelebrate their first Mass with their bishop following the ordination rite itself but we all know what they mean when they invite you to their “First Mass of Thanksgiving.”

Father Jonathan Emery celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of St. Clement in Plant City. Photo kindness of Carol Rodriguez.

Father Jonathan Emery celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of St. Clement in Plant City. Photo kindness of Carol Rodriguez.

 

Father Jonathan Emery celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of St. Clement in Plant City. Photo kindness of Carol Rodriguez.

Father Jonathan Emery celebrating his first Mass at his home parish of St. Clement in Plant City. Photo kindness of Carol Rodriguez.

Click here to see more photos from Father Jonathan Emery’s first Mass at St. Clement Parish in Plant City.

Father Brian Fabiszewski celebrating his First Mass at his home parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Clearwater. Photo kindness of Wayne Clegg.

Father Brian Fabiszewski celebrating his First Mass at his home parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Clearwater. Photo kindness of Wayne Clegg.

 

Father Brian Fabiszewski celebrating his First Mass at his home parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Clearwater. Photo kindness of Wayne Clegg.

Father Brian Fabiszewski celebrating his First Mass at his home parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Clearwater. Photo kindness of Wayne Clegg.

Click here to see more photos from Father Brian Fabiszewski’s first Mass at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Clearwater.

So now they are priests and are given some time to relax between seminary, ordination day, and reporting for their first assignment. The faithful parishioners of St. Cecilia, Our Lady of the Rosary, and Most Holy Redeemer will now have the task of “breaking them in” as their associate pastors and I am sure that these three communities, led by loving and hard-working pastors, will see to it.

But it will still be some days before the applause of gratitude and affirmation dies down in their memories, the love and pride of their families diminishes once again in commands to clear the family table or dry the dishes, or do your own laundry, the joy of their brothers already in priestly ministry subsides. Saturday was a great day for the ordained, for their families and friends, and for their bishop who badly needed such a wonderful moment. (Apropos of the difficulties of last week, please watch this space the next several days as I attempt in homiletic form and information source to share with you what I know and believe relative to the death of Father Vladimir Dziadek).

The country singer Glen Campbell, back in the age of dinosaurs when I was growing up, sang a song called “Wichita Lineman” which began with these words, “I am a lineman for the county. .  . .” Our three new priests are “linemen for Christ” and we wish them many happy, wonderful years of playing in the “big leagues” of ministry and service.

+RNL

HOLY WEEK AND THE BISHOP

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

As I begin to pen these words, it is “spy” Wednesday of Holy Week, the day when the Gospel reading at Mass prepares us for the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil) by reminding us of the treachery of Judas who sold his friend Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. I always have varied thoughts entering these most sacred of days which range from some discomfort with “bumping” the Rector and priests of the Cathedral parish from celebrating and preaching these days to the exhilaration and excitement of the Chrism Mass and the Easter Vigil.

Yesterday we had the annual Chrism Mass with an unexpectedly high attendance of 186 priests (we ran out of seats I am told), about 100 deacons, most of our seminarians (some are studying outside of the state or abroad and four who will be ordained to the transitional diaconate a week from Saturday were on their canonical (read that “required”) retreat, and a standing room only crowd in the Cathedral.

The magnificence of that new space for large ceremonies like yesterday’s was obvious to all in attendance.

Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

The Oil of the Sick, designated by the letters OI, is presented by a representative of those who minister to the sick or by someone who works in the healing profession. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

The Oil of the Sick, designated by the letters OI, is presented by a representative of those who minister to the sick or by someone who works in the healing profession. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

 

The Oil of Catechumens, designated by the letters OC or OS, is presented by a representative of those who minister in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults from each parish. Photo kindness of Jeanne Smith.

The Oil of Catechumens, designated by the letters OC or OS, is presented by a representative of those who minister in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults from each parish. Photo kindness of Jeanne Smith.

 

Consecrating the Sacred Chrism. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Consecrating the Sacred Chrism. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

The Liturgy of the Eucharist. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Invitation to Communion. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Invitation to Communion. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

My homily for the occasion is shown below (note that there is more blogging after the homily and you can read the homily as a PDF here) but I pulled a “popey” which is something like a “selfie” by departing from the text near the end to ask questions of segments of the congregation. For that you will need to watch the video replay which you can do by clicking here. As of this writing, about 1,300 people have watched the Chrism Mass online with about 700 watching live during the ceremony. The ability to share these moments with anyone who has the time, inclination and a computer or mobile device is wonderful. You can see more photos of the Chrism Mass here.

CHRISM MASS 2014
Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle
Tuesday, April 14, 2014
Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop 

            Once again we have heard the words of Isaiah, now so familiar to us. Twice in this Liturgy of the Word alone, every year at this Mass, quite often at our ordinations as priests and/or deacons, these familiar and haunting words of Isaiah are heard: “the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord, and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn. . .”

            In the Gospel passage this morning Jesus uses this passage from the great prophet when he returns very early in his public ministry to his home town, to his friends and family, to his Jewish co-religionists with whom for some thirty years he joined in the local synagogue to learn the law, approach its application to daily life, to challenge, to encourage, to fortify their faith. However,  one cannot fully embrace this passage from Luke’s Gospel without spending some time analyzing its context. The verses we have heard are easy enough. The total package of the passage is a “horse of another color.” It is worth, I believe, a moment or two of our time this morning.

            Situated early in Luke’s Gospel account, Jesus comes back home from his baptism in the Jordan, having survived his temptations in the desert and on the way back to Nazareth, beginning to preach and teach, to heal and to challenge – four important pillars of his public ministry. He does some of this in Galilee and word of his power, of his preaching, of his proclamations and of his presence elsewhere has already come to Nazareth. The town is waiting for him. His return home is a moment of great expectations. The locals want him to do the same things in Nazareth that he has done from Jerusalem to Jericho, to Capernaum. I can imagine the sentinels dispatched by the locals to announce his imminent arrival in Nazareth as he climbed from below sea level to his mountainside home village.

            When he preaches God’s word, challenges the locals to action, he disappoints. They want him to do for them what it has been said he has done for many others – give us a miracle or two Jesus, not just words. If you take time to read the very next verses of this famous passage and listen to the response of his own townsfolk as they turn from anxious anticipation to dangerous anger. It is produce, Jesus, or perish. They become so angry with him that they attempt to kill him but he slips away, likely never to return to family or friends in Nazareth. What could have been a moment of unity and reunion becomes instead a moment of threats and rejection, of jealousy and resentment, of criticism, carping and complaining. And that was the Lord’s early experience of ministry.

            Today the message and mission of those prophetic words from Isaiah remain the same, but the reception as well as the atmosphere is no less problematic. We are the bearers of the message, dear brothers. We are the deliverers of the mission. And if, at times, our audience seems out-of-touch with the Gospel of Joy which we try to live out, preach and deliver, the temptation can more easily turn to run, to anger and frustration at the worst and disappointment at best. Making Jesus Christ present, real, embraceable, believable, acceptable, even within our own faith community can be as difficult today as it was for Him on that return to his hometown. That is setting the Scriptural stage for the second and third part of this reflection I wish to share with you today.

            There is no day in the yearly calendar of the Church to rival this one for providing us a sense of unity in mission, commitment and fraternity.  It is the day when the greatest number of us gather during the year to concelebrate the Eucharist, recommit ourselves to our priestly ministry together, and to experience a sense of unity in the work of service. Nineteen times I have had the privilege of doing what I am doing right now, truly and always supported by your presence, your witness, our communal prayer of Thanksgiving. There is no other time when I feel more like being a servant leader, a bishop, than this day. For a little more than ninety minutes we set aside our individual identities, our ecclesial offices, our disagreements and disappointments and recall the intensity of our desire for service. We lose our identity and assume that of Jesus, healer, teacher, catechist, anointer, blesser, and source of hope, messenger of justice. And we are joined by a good segment of God’s people who love us, support us, assist us, lift us up when we fail or disappoint and sometimes even challenge us in ways once thought unimaginable.

            If I feel this unity annually on this occasion, I hope and pray that you do as well. We are in communion with Christ and with one another. There are moments in each year when we can sometimes share the feelings of the townsfolk of Nazareth. It is the dark side of the humanity of most of us all. But there is something about this Eucharist, which enlightens our ministry. Pope Francis on February 27, 2014 said this: brothers who love each other despite their differences in character, origin or age. . . this testimony gives birth to the desire to be part of the great parable of communion that is the Church. When a person feels that mutual love among the disciples of Christ is possible and is capable of transforming the quality of interpersonal relations, he/she feels called to discover or rediscover Christ, and opens to an encounter with the Living and Working One.[Pope Francis to Bishops and Friends of Focolare].

            Dear brothers, unity, patience, forbearance and, yes, even love are contagious. If we are to ultimately be successful in encountering and encouraging and accompanying others, it surely begins with us, here, now and when we leave this place for another year. We need to resolve to care for each other better. I will try in the time remaining to me.

            Finally, preaching the “Gospel of Joy” sometimes comes at a high price – not unlike the Nazareth experience of Jesus in the whole of Luke 4. Many of you have more years in the priesthood under your belt than I but in my thirty-six years of priestly ministry I have never felt the challenge, which I feel today, and it is coming from a man we hardly knew at this Mass a year ago.

            There is no part of my ministry that is untouched in the last thirteen months, from where and how I live, to whom I give central focus upon in my ministry, to what I assign pastoral priority, to how best to deliver. The world and in a special way our Church has quickly fallen in love with Francis because of how he lives out his life and ministry – simply, humbly, with Jesuitical clarity, with firm resolve, and living comfortably on planet earth as first among sinners ever needing and feeling the warmth of God’s mercy and kindness. He has set the bar high for we bishops. Nothing, which might once have been a treasured “perk”, is any longer to be treated as “sacred.” He is redefining episcopal ministry, which will quite quickly redefine priestly ministry.

            And just like in Nazareth, there is a certain “grumbling” to be heard in a few quarters. In a short time, he has given new strength and vitality to the three-fold challenge of this morning’s readings: you/we are fulfilling your ministry best when you leave the comfort of your safety zone to preach the Gospel to the poor; you/we are best when you/we devote more time to proclaiming release to those captive to sin, addiction, serious physical and psychological illness; when we help those who are spiritually blind see that God, the Church, we ministers love them more than we judge them; and we welcome back those who felt oppressed by anything which might be more of our creation than that of the Creator.

            I close by appropriating the words written by Peggy Noonan for a former president of my generation, changing them only slightly: there is a new dawn breaking over the Church. Some of us will not live to see the high noon which this new day heralds, but I, and I hope you do as well, thank God that my ministry, your ministry has survived whatever darkness we may have felt enveloped our hopes and dreams and have lived to witness this dawn. For with Francis, and through Francis, and, yes, even under Francis , we can affirm this morning that ours is a great Church, capable of stirring the imaginations of many and embracing all. That, or so it seems to me, is today’s “spirit of the Lord which is among us.”  What a great Church to which we have devoted our lives.

Following the Chrism Mass, my Clergy Personnel Board met for the rest of the afternoon. It is that time of the year.

For the last couple of years, I finally adopted some advice given to me long ago by one of my “hero-bishops”, Bishop Anthony Pilla, (retired bishop of Cleveland) and allow the Board to meet by themselves to discuss the changes. The discussion is led by my wonderful Vicar General, Monsignor Robert F. Morris. When they have “shuffled the deck” and are ready to show the “cards” they call for me to recommend the changes they have been able to determine.

I then approve or raise questions and concerns and when there is unanimous consensus among us, I begin to call the pastors who will be affected. Sometimes the call is easy and that is the case when someone has put in writing their interest in being assigned to an opening. We “bulletin” our parish vacancies most of the time as they become open so priests can, if they wish, show interest. However, sometimes we must ask someone who is comfortably positioned and serving their parish well and ask them for the good of the whole church to accept a change of assignment. To the credit of our good priests who find themselves in this unexpected predicament, I normally do not have to play the “obedience” card. Often sadly, somewhat reluctantly, they accept the new assignment. Those are tough phone calls.

Some lay people in the parishes are consulted in the process and they usually are the staff, the parish finance and pastoral councils, the school administrators, etc. Unlike some of our Protestant sisters and brothers, the Catholic Church does not engage congregations per se in choosing their ordained leadership. At the end of the afternoon yesterday, I was weary. Pumped by the Chrism Mass and sad about the work which followed. Show me any bishop who loves moving priests around and I will find a psychiatric ward that might help him. Too many lives are at stake.

Today (Wednesday) is quiet and tomorrow evening starts the Triduum with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The priests who will concelebrate with me tomorrow night and I will first go to a neighborhood Italian restaurant and then move to the Lord’s table. By 8:30pm we should be finished at the Cathedral and then I make a round of the parishes for private prayer in the places of reservation which follow the Holy Thursday liturgy until around midnight. I will try to continue these thoughts on Good Friday when I have the morning free.

Try to join your faith community at all or as many of the ceremonies of the Triduum you can make. You won’t regret it.

+RNL

NOT EXACTLY THE RED SEA BUT A SEA OF RED

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

I am on the plane returning to the diocese from two recent board meetings which I serve on. The first is the Board of Directors of the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) which is located in and requires travel to and from New York five times a year.

CMMB has been around a long time but is not well known to most Catholics. With its origin and roots in the Society of Jesus, CMMB accepts donation of huge supplies of pharmaceuticals, hospital and medical equipment, etc. and distributes them for use in about nine poor “focus” countries and elsewhere in the desperately poor world. I will write more about CMMB soon.

From bitterly cold New York I flew Monday evening to bitterly cold Tallahassee for the annual Red Mass at which I was asked to be the homilist and the quarterly meeting of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Our day yesterday began with breakfast with Governor Scott at the Mansion. The governor has grown quite comfortable and relaxed with the bishops over the last three years and our conversation focused on many items of common concern. I brought up the subject of Medicaid expansion to allow access to non-Emergency but necessary medical care to the poor and indigent. Governor Scott would be supportive but the legislation has no “legs” in the present Florida House and Senate. This is a shame and an embarrassment.

After a morning of Conference business, we met our various delegations who descended on capitol city dressed in their traditional red clothes for Catholic Days at the Capitol, a two-day event for Catholics from around the state to gather and discuss human life and dignity issues with elected officials.

There were over 350 at the luncheon for the volunteers which the bishops host each Spring during the legislative session, including forty-seven from the Diocese of St. Petersburg, including a delegation from St. Petersburg Catholic High School who are pictured here with me prior to the luncheon.

With seniors from St Petersburg Catholic and chaperones "lobbying" the Legislature

With seniors from St Petersburg Catholic and chaperones “lobbying” the Legislature

Here is a photo of our entire delegation, graciously taken and shared with us by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Our delegation. Photo kindness of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Our delegation. Photo kindness of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In the afternoon, the state’s now eight bishops gathered for the Red Mass in a jam-packed Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More.

With the Bishops of Florida before the Red Mass. From left to right: Most Reverend Gregory Parkes, Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee; Most Reverend Peter Baldacchino, Auxilary Bishop of Miami; Most Reverend Felipe J. Estévez, Bishop of St. Augustine; myself; Most Reverend Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami; Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach; Most Reverend John Noonan, Bishop of Orlando; and Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice.

With the Bishops of Florida before the Red Mass. From left to right: Most Reverend Gregory Parkes, Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee; Most Reverend Peter Baldacchino, Auxilary Bishop of Miami; Most Reverend Felipe J. Estévez, Bishop of St. Augustine; myself; Most Reverend Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami; Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach; Most Reverend John Noonan, Bishop of Orlando; and Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice.

My homily which is solely based on yesterday’s two readings from Deuteronomy and Matthew follows, or you can read it as a PDF by clicking here. I hope I did not embarrass our beloved diocese.

SOMETIMES WE NEED A GENTLE TAP ON OUR SHOULDER
Homily at the Red Mass
St. Thomas More Co-Cathedral, Tallahassee, FL
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of St. Petersburg 

            There are those moments in the Church, more rare than regular, when through the daily readings from Sacred Scripture and on special occasions such as this that one can feel the gentle touch of the Lord’s hand on our shoulder and his whisper, “this is meant for you.” The two readings just proclaimed are those for the day, everywhere, throughout the world, and yet they seem to have special import for us this evening gathered in this place.

            In God’s plan for His people, law has always occupied an important place. In the first reading, freed from the tyranny, slavery and wanton injustice of the Egyptian exile, God knew that his chosen people would need a framework of law by which to govern their life and actions upon their return to their homeland. Statutes, which would govern their relationship both with their creator as well as with one another. To Moses. their liberator and leader, he proposed ten simple statutes: thirty percent dealing with their relationship with Him and seventy percent dealing with their relationship with one another. Called “commandments” because they were to allow for no wiggle room of interpretation or appeal to a higher power, since there was no such thing, they set the framework for life which endures throughout the millennia to the present moment.

            Respect life, don’t take it. Never steal. Stealing the good name of another through calumny and slander has no place among God’s people. Honor your parents and ancestors. When you take someone to be your wedded partner, be faithful to that person. God knew well the weaknesses, which dwell in human hearts and he legislated primarily for the common good. In so doing, in the eyes of God and humankind, law became constitutive of the human experience, necessary to insure right conduct and hallowed by none other than the creator.

            Moses knew that ten laws would never be enough but were to provide the foundation, the framework for future guidance of human conduct. Centuries passed between Moses and Jesus, but the Lord himself underscored the need for law in the lives of us all. Pharaoh had been replaced by Caesar and divine law had been forced to give way to legislation enacted in far-away pagan Rome to be applied in far distant Jewish Palestine. But Jesus in the Gospel again affirms the place of law in the lives of a faithful person. Though not a lawyer, I find Jesus siding with the Scalia, Thomas, and Alito wing of the Supreme Court in a belief that law, at least divine law, is not organic but foundational. I think that is precisely what Jesus is suggesting in the Gospel tonight: “whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” 

            Thus my second point is that God’s Word tonight touches us ever so gently on the shoulder to remind us that all law is founded on the twin pillars of love of God and love of neighbor. While a secular state must approach the former with great dexterity, the rule of law rooted in the love and care and welcome provided to one’s neighbor is embraceable by all the world’s great religions. If as Jesus affirms, his appointed task in becoming man and coming to earth was not to abolish the law but rather to fulfill it, then that fulfillment finds itself in his never-ending desire to place his life, his ministry, his mission at the service of others. Government works best when it is constantly at the service of others and not of itself.

            Third and finally, in most of our lives, we sin today not so often by commission but by omission. The commandments tell us what we must avoid doing. Our Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions tell us more about what we ought to be doing. Caring for the modern day equivalents of widows and orphans, the defenseless and the endangered, the lonely and the brave (especially those who bear the emotional and psychological scars of having served our nation in defense of the rights of others.) I am convinced that I will be judged not so much on how well I fulfilled the ten commandments but rather on how often I reached out to grasp the hand stretched out to me by a homeless man, a battered woman, a fear-filled immigrant, a family seeking medical care for a child which they can not afford, a single mom working at McDonalds forty hours a week but still not earning enough to support her two kids, a victim of sexual abuse by someone they should have trusted like a priest, scout leader, big-brother. So often these acts of loving outreach get filed away as what Jesus called tonight “the least of these commandments.” My generation has a lot to answer for to the Lord on Judgment Day, even if all we seek is entrance into and not the greatest place in the Kingdom of heaven.

            Governor, Senator, Representative, Judge, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Religious and all of God’s people. Feel the touch. Listen to His voice as he says, this one’s for you. Often it is what we have failed to do which is more violative of the spirit of the law than what we do with the letter of the law. 

We do have some photos from the trip already, graciously taken and shared by Sabrina Burton Shultz, our Director of Life Ministry and Jackie Briggs, Campus Minister at St. Petersburg Catholic High School. You can see the photos by clicking here. More photos will be added to that album as they are received.

So it is back home this morning and hard at it till Easter.

Tonight I will be hearing confessions from five p.m. to seven p.m. as we offer our annual THE LIGHT IS ON FOR YOU opportunity for all to experience the healing graces of the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

I invite you to come to Confession at one of our parishes tonight. EVERY Catholic Church in the diocese will turn on its lights and open its doors for YOU. Here is a short guide on Reconciliation in English and Spanish should you need it.

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 It will be nice to be back home.

+RNL

BACK TO THE FUTURE

Monday, March 24th, 2014

I am giving an anniversary party this Saturday morning, March 29, 2014 and you are all invited.

It will be held at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg beginning at 9:00 a.m. and will end no later than 1:00 p.m. What’s the occasion, you ask?

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Last December the universal Church celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the first document to emerge from the Second Vatican Council entitled Sacrosanctum Concilium. We know it better as the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” and it was to change, rather quickly; some might say too quickly, the manner, language and style of Catholic worship.

Out, or so it seemed, went the use of Latin as the universal language of the liturgy; gone, or so it seemed went much of the music which Catholics of my age and generation had grown up with. The seeming mystery of sacred action taken by the priest with his back to the congregation quickly gave way to moving and shifting altars so that suddenly the priest was facing the people and they, in turn, were encouraged to full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy.

I am absolutely certain that had the Council fathers not seen to the reform and renewal of the sacred liturgy there would be far, far fewer Catholics in the pews today than we currently enjoy.

Over the intervening fifty years, there have been some horrible moments (the introduction of so-called “clown” liturgies being the absolute pyrogee) and some pretty bad music. But those were the early years and over five decades the liturgy of the Eucharist has become more ritualized than in the beginning and while, when one travels throughout the world, Mass can be attended in the many languages of humanity, it has morphed into a celebration which has nourished the mind and spirit as well as the soul with the reception of our Blessed Lord.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory. Photo kindness of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and Michael Alexander.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory. Photo kindness of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and Michael Alexander.

At this Saturday’s “anniversary party”, I have asked Archbishop Wilton C. Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta and himself a holder of an advanced degree in Liturgy, to review in a keynote address the evolution of the Mass from what it was fifty years ago prior to the Council to the best of the present moment.

The Archbishop did this for the nation’s bishops last November at our meeting in Baltimore and I knew then that we could all benefit from listening to him as he recounts how far we have come from those early days. We are graced to have the Archbishop with us next Saturday morning.

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond. Photo kindness of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond. Photo kindness of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

To look into what the future of liturgy may hold, I have asked Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans, to give the follow up address. Archbishop Aymond has just completed three years as chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship and the Liturgy and knows well what is being contemplated for the future.

Liturgical renewal is a constant process that should never end as long as there is life on this planet. For example, the prayers which priests, deacons and some religious pray each day, The Divine Office, has not been touched since the 1970s and is currently under study. So is the form for some of the other sacraments, several of them for the first time in fifty years. Archbishop Aymond will give us a peek into the future in his talk.

This local Church is very lucky that both of these men so generously will give of heir time to be among us and share with us the blessings of the first fifty years of the renewed liturgy as well as what it portends for the future. I am personally grateful for their willingness to accept my invitation to enlighten us next Saturday.

I hope we fill the Cathedral. Morning prayer will begin at 9:00 a.m., coffee and donuts will be available at the break between the two talks and, best of all, there is NO CHARGE for the morning. Consider it an anniversary gift from me to you!

Visit www.dosp.org to register (so we know how much coffee and donuts to provide) and please share this invitation with those who might not regularly read this blog.

+RNL

IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

On Christmas eve I celebrated three Masses for Christmas around the diocese as has been my custom almost every year since coming in 1996. I try for the first Vigil Mass for Christmas to go north in the diocese since they often feel left out on many things.This year I was the celebrant and homilist for the 400pm Vigil Mass at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Citrus county. At almost every parish in the diocese, the first Mass on Christmas eve targets children and families and this was no exception. The parish is largely a retirement community so there are not an awful lot of children to begin with but add to their number the grandchildren and nieces and nephews who travel at Christmas and we had about forty kids between the age of 3 and 7. I invite them to come forward to the altar after the Gospel proclamation and there I tell them my favorite Christmas story. Here are some of the pictures from the Mass yesterday afternoon.

Mostly all ears!

Mostly all ears!

 

Land the plane, Bishop. one of the kids was thinking

Land the plane, Bishop. one of the kids was thinking

 

With special thanks to Father Ryszard Stradomski. gracious host and splendid pastor of St. Benedict parish

With special thanks to Father Ryszard Stradomski. gracious host and splendid pastor of St. Benedict parish

With  barely two hours to spare, seminarian Joseph Plesco who was driving for me last night as well as assisting in the ceremonies and I left for ninety mile trip to Nativity parish, Brandon. I wanted to go there because Christmas is, after all, the feast of the Nativity for birth of our Lord and they had a scheduled Spanish Mass for 730pm, giving me time to celebrate the Mass and be back in St. Petersburg with time to spare prior to the Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of St. Jude.  So off we went to Brandon.

Nativity is our largest parish in the diocese and from its inception under the pastoral guidance of Monsignor Jaime Lara, retired and still very much a force major, Nativity has always been a happy home for and mixture of the Hispanic as well as Anglo cultures. It produces the greatest number of vocations for the diocese and is known for its excellent liturgies. Last night was no exception, except maybe for the principal celebrant whose Spanish sometimes cries out to heaven for vengeance.

About 800 people came for Mass in the Main Church while another 800 attended Mass in English in the parish hall. With full choir and my discovering my voice once again, we sang the newborn Christ Child into life.  The liturgy was reverential yet lively, congregation fully participating and the celebrant singing away in Spanish. Sometimes I do find I make less mistakes singing the Mass parts in Spanish than in simply reciting them because I go much slower when musically inclined.

Here are some pictures from the liturgy in Spanish a Nativity. A last minute decision was made to have Father Nelson Restrepo preach the homily whiles yours truly at the end invited the children between 3 and 7 years old to come forward for a second retelling of my favorite Christmas story. Once again the kids “got into it” and their parents also full participated.

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By the time Midnight Mass had begun at the Cathedral I had failed to hand my camera over to anyone to take pictures of that beautiful setting. But if you wish to see the whole Mass, you are in luck. Simply log on to www.dosp.org and click on “Click here to watch Christmas Midnight Mass at the Cathedral.” You and those lucky people will not and did not hear my favorite children’s Christmas story.

I write these thoughts with two hours remaining in Christmas of 2013. I am exhausted and going to bed but there will be least two more posts before we call 2013 a wrap. Merry Christmas all.

Bishop Robert N. Lynch aka +RNL