The Book of Revelation

On Monday I participate in a course centered on the Pentateuch with a Catholic theologian and priest. He is also an archeologist. As my week moves forward I am in a Wednesday morning class studying the Torah with a professor that is a Rabbi from the local Jewish community. She is also a published and well-respected author.  Life as a graduate student… WOW. I have indeed come to appreciate graduate school in a new way. But I am so glad that I can always remain a student who reads, studies and prays even after graduation.

My Monday morning revelation!  The Song of Debaroh in Judges 5:5 and the book of Judith in the Old Testament…what do they all have in common? Perhaps, at first glance, you would say the name of a women is obvious and so, then you would say these scripture passages both have a female connection to the scriptures. This is no doubt, yes they do. But, for me today, the one thing these scriptures have in common is that I very rarely read, study and pray on these scripture passages. Now I want to read and study and pray with the other parts of the scripture I have neglected for far too long! I am excited. I will be forever grateful for my time of studies that have given me an improved habit of praying, reading and studying the bible in a new way, with new insights and new habits.

Fall Pictures at the Abbey

Well, I was unable to take some photos for a few weeks now because of some eye problems I was dealing with, but finally today I got outside to capture some Fall pictures from around the abbey. Even though many of the trees are not a brilliant as they were last week, I did manage to take some pictures. Below are some of these pictures.

Fr. Dave

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breaking out of one’s shell

I visited a relative who is in his 50’s these past few days and suffered a stroke a little over a year ago. I must admit it jarred me to be so “up close” to a person who is experiencing difficulties “breaking out of the shell” that he is in, almost literally, since the stroke.  He cannot talk and  is paralyzed on one side, yet he is totally cognizant of what is happening around him and has full use of his intellect.  He can think of what he wants to say but cannot express it…..he is literally locked up in a body that is keeping his mind a prisoner….He  wants to participate in the world around him and yet he can’t.

As I was driving home, I was thinking of him and how hard it must be for him to negotiate his way through a day….and then I began to think of it being similar to trying to break out of my shell and proclaim the kingdom of God in word and sacrament when I am bound up in the shell of my self-centeredness.  I know what I want to say and proclaim about God’s love, mercy and goodness in the world and yet, at times, my “shell” keeps all these good tidings inside of me for fear of being either politically incorrect or offensive….and then I think about a great homily I heard the other day about Jesus coming to set the world on fire, ablaze with the flames of destruction so that something new can come into being…..

All seemed to come together for me in the car ride home…..like my relative who can’t express what he wants to say, I often let my feelings of insecurity and brokenness keep me from setting the world on fire with God’s love…..I want to, yet I don’t because I feel as though I am in some shell that can’t be broken.  I admired my relative for his tenaciousness in trying to get his points across and for not just wallowing in self-pity.  I realized that many of my “only if I could” were mere excuses for not daily answering fully God’s call to me to proclaim God’s good news in the way I live…..I knew what I wanted to say and I had the grace of Providence to say it…..my relative taught me a valuable lesson yesterday…..to let go and let God do with my life as god wills…..after all isn’t that what Jesus and we pray every day…..give us this day our daily bread to YOUR will may done on earth as it is in heaven….I just have to “crack open” that shell!

In Sickness and in health

One of the priestly ministries that I have enjoyed over the years is that of visiting the sick and the home bound.  I missed that in my time in the Novitiate.  As the assistant rector of the Abbey Church I have been called on to visit members of our Sunday assembly when they are hospitalized or confined to their home.  There was a telephone call about six weeks ago that was directed to me.  It was  from a couple who had worshiped here a few years ago. The husband was diagnosed with leukemia and after many moths of treatments there was no more that could be done by the world of medicine.  I went to their home, we talked and cried. We prayed and I gave him the Sacrament of the Sick and Holy Communion.  I have visited when they called.  He has taken time to prepare the Funeral Liturgy.  We have had good talks about God, and life and death.  He has been a blessing for me allowing me to minister to him.  Both he and his wife are so strong.  Their love for each other is beautiful.  Please keep them in your prayers.

A Truly Divine (Devine) Sunday…

On Sunday October 19th, 2014, the Norbertines and the Immaculate Heart Of Mary Sisters (IHM’s) came together to celebrate 50 years of profession for Sister Rita Devine, during a special Mass ceremony held at Daylesford Abbey. This was such a wonderful occasion for both religious groups, let alone for Sister Rita, who serves faithfully in the front reception office at our Norbertine Spirituality Center. Close to 150 specially invited guests of Sister Rita’s came out to Daylesford to show their love, support, and gratitude for the many blessings Sister Rita has bestowed on all their lives, in which we give thanks to God for her “Yes”. I served as a backup Acolyte this day, assisting the three IHM Novices that were designated by Sister Rita to serve as Acolytes for her celebration. After Mass was over, the entire assembly made their way back to our large dining hall for a special celebratory toast and turkey dinner, which was absolutely delicious I must say. Once dinner was over, a music DJ started spinning appropriate dance floor tunes and invited everyone to get up onto the dance floor to shake a leg and grab a partner. While yours truly abstained from killing himself on the dance floor, this did not stop other Norbertines and IHM’s from having a great time showcasing all the latest moves, which were perfectly in synch to the beat of the music blaring from the DJ’s stereo speakers. I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate Norbertine “Communio” between the two religious orders than sharing not only the meal at the Sacrifice Table, but also a meal and festive dancing later on in our large dining hall. This truly was a wonderful moment and a blessing to all of us!

Theologically speaking and pertinent to this past Sunday’s celebration, I also learned a little bit more about friendship from my class on St. Augustine this week. St. Augustine says “authentic Christian friendship has God as it’s author and reference, which is rooted in Christ Jesus, the mediator, and is elevated by HIS grace, finding it’s ultimate perfection in heaven.” Taking the time to ponder this definition in my heart today, I can honestly say this is how I felt having the IHM’s with us to celebrate the glorious and momentous occasion of 50 years of Sister Rita saying “Yes” to our Heavenly Father. We are a close-knit family that gives continuous thanks to God for His love and the Gift of a religious vocation, and we pray that He will continue to work within us, sending the Holy Spirit, so that we may make known the good news of the Gospel.    God Bless

In God’s waiting room?

Last Wednesday one of the simply professed Norbertines had a trip to the Emergency Room at the local hospital with what turned out to be a serious eye condition… while I was in with a directee for Spiritual Direction, the Prior came to the office and told me about this Norbertine’s trip to the ER and suggested that I get there as soon as possible.  It was near the end of the session with the directee so when I finished I went to the ER room and stayed with the confrere until it was determined that surgery was required and a trip to a hospital in Philadelphia was necessary.  I accompanied the Norbertine on his “journey,” but while I was in the ER with the confrere, an older gentleman came to the cubicle where we were sitting as asked if I would come next door to talk with his wife of over 60 years who had been battling cancer for 13 years.   I forgot to mention that since I was in a hurry to get to the ER, I still had my Norbertine Habit on when I went to the hospital so when the older gentleman saw me walk in, he knew that I was probably a priest.

He came to the cubicle and called me out into the corridor….I left the confrere in his cubicle, and the older gentleman began telling me about his wife and that the doctors had done pretty much all they could do, and now he told me that she needed me more than them at this time…..I was really humbled to hear him say that…..and it gave me a great appreciation for my vocation, my calling to be a priest ready to serve those persons God placed before me.  I went into the ER cubicle where his wife was lying on in  bed and her eyes lit up and she gave me such a big smile and held my hand as she began to talk with me about how much she was loved by God.  She asked me to pray with her and to anoint her if I had my “oils” with me and since I did, I anointed her as she lay there with her eyes closed and a huge smile on her face. She and her husband kept on saying how I must have been sent by God right at the moment she needed me the most…and as I left her room, I began to think that maybe God sent me to her when I needed her the most.

It was a transformative experience…..and gave me a deep appreciation for the call to priesthood and service….and I must admit, it also showed me how important that white Habit of mine could be at times.  I began to think that the ER was really God’s waiting room where one encountered the Supreme Other in the persons waiting to be “waited on”!

By the way, the Norbertine’s surgery proved successful!

Guest Master

One of my assignments as a Simply Professed Norbertine  is serving as Guest-master at our Spirituality Center. There are outside groups who meet at the Abbey on a regular basis.  We have groups who come to the Abbey for days of reflection or weekend retreats.  We also have folks who spend several day or a week on private or directed retreats.  And then we have book discussion groups, spiritual suppers with talks or presentations that follow.  This is a well used facility.  My mission is to be the face of the Norbertine Community to all who are guests.  This includes being present when they come here, showing them around the Abbey, explains schedules of Prayer and meals, and even introducing speakers when needed.

 

In addition to this , the director of the center and I designed a brochure for school faculties,parish staffs, a student retreat days.  I will be visiting parishes in the Archdiocese to sell the Abbey as the place to use.

 

This is a great assignment and I am loving it.

The Heart of the Matter…

Not only does the title of this week’s blog showcase one of my favorite Don Henley songs from his amazing catalog of hits; it also indicates the theme of my entire week in regards to my classes and participation. Starting with my InSearch course at Immaculata University last Thursday, students were asked to put together an arts and crafts project that traced the moments of our lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly. This “Heart Map” was to also include how God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit made Himself present in these moments. First, let me tell you that I really do not like assignments that include artistic elements of drawing, as I’m not very talented in this area of creative expression. I think I almost failed Art Class and Shop Class back in High School, and so, this brought back a ton of bad memories and frustrations. However, once I got the ball rolling on this project, the Holy Spirit took over and helped me create something that surprised even my worst critic…Myself …The best part about this assignment (or worst, depending on your phobia) was that each student got up in front of the class and displayed their hearts (and souls) sharing their joys and struggles, which is not easy to do when you only have known this group in front of you for one month. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever witnessed, as my fellow students suddenly became vulnerable in the telling of their life stories and how their relationship with God supported and brought them through each moment. This is truly one of the best things about being a Christian…Our hearts hold the keys to the Kingdom; the very Kingdom that Christ tells us about in the Holy Gospels.

In my class with my Formation Director last week, the theme of the heart continued when we discussed the Rule of St. Augustine, the same rule we Norbertines follow throughout our spiritual lives together as a community. We are called to be “of one mind and one heart on the way to God” (I-2.) and “live together in harmony and love”(1-8.) In fact, everything we say and do must reflect God’s love in our actions and words towards others, which is where the heart comes into play. While this may be hard to do, especially when we are feeling angered or cheated in some sort of way, we need to always ask Christ Jesus for the grace to overcome our own selfish and destructive desires, defeat the father of lies, and shine the divine light and love that emanates from the holy temple within. Live a Big-Hearted life! God Bless.

The dying colors of autumn bring life

In the past four days, I have attended two funerals, one of which was for a woman who was only thirty-nine years old.  Yesterday, was another funeral and today marks the twenty-sixth anniversary of my mother’s death.  I took a walk outside to ponder these three events happening so closely together because it seemed to me that God was trying to speak to me in some way about the meaning of death.  I know that with the novices and those in Formation, I often speak with them about the kenotic self-emptying and self-death that we must all experience in our journey to live religious life in a community setting.  But was there more in the message?

As I walked outside along the roads and trails on the Abbey grounds, thinking about my recent encounters with death and my mother’s anniversary, I was struck by the light of the sun reflecting on the dying leaves of autumn as the chilly wind brought them to the ground.  I was struck by the beautiful colors that surrounded me in all the foliage.  The leaves and bushes were ablaze with bright colors of orange, brown, yellow and red….certainly not the colors of death but of glorious life.  The message came to me about the seed having to die in the ground in order to bring forth life and I was enveloped in a deep sense of calm and heart peace.  Autumn, usually associated with the “dying” of  things, really is ablaze with life.  No one, to me it seemed, could walk these trails and roads and not feel the vibrancy that God was painting on the leaves…..death has no victory for believers and autumn’s colors are only one way that Creation gives us this message.  Though the wind be chilly and the leaves be falling, the brightness of the sun on the beautiful colors surrounding me made me think only of life, even the life that comes from one’s death to self.  Most assuredly for me, this walk in the woods was God’s prompting me to see the message in the medium.  The bright colors, though the product of a darkening day and chilly wind, are really reminders of the life to come….it was all making sense to me especially when I came to the tall wooden cross on the hill by the roadside, framed in a beautiful blue sky!

I walked and sat and mindfully became present to the beauty around me.  In doing so, I opened myself to the dying colors of autumn that bring life….God’s beauty revealing his everlasting love.  I would like to invite you to come walk our Abbey grounds if possible and see the life-giving colors of the Spirit that cover our property.  If you can’t I strongly encourage you  to take a walk in the woods somewhere near your home and experience the glorious colors of a dying season radiating the warmth of God’s love.   To quote the hymn of St. Francis, “it is in dying that we’re born to eternal life”!

The Divine Painter

Peace be with you… The highlight of the past week for me was the start of the 42nd Annual Art Show on Friday October 3rd. Who needs to travel to NYC or Paris when you can wake up from bed in the morning and practically be enveloped by great works of art. While these works may not receive the same adulation and fanfare as those that are produced by the artistic masters like Rembrandt or Picasso, they do remind you of the great local and regional talent that’s out there that sadly goes unnoticed. This year close to 100 artists have agreed to display and make available for purchase their mini-masterpieces, with part of the proceeds going to the Norbertines at Daylesford Abbey. We held a reception on Friday night that rivaled the opening of any great exhibit located in a major metropolitan area, and yours truly donned an orange flag to help with the influx of connoisseurs looking for parking spaces. Life as a Norbertine Novice is never dull or predictable, on the contrary; it’s a life full of passion and color, especially when you’re surrounded by paintings and sculptures from the area’s finest.

I truly believe that all forms of artistic work come from God, a divine gift that inspires the heart and soul of the one doing the work of creating. As a long time songwriter, I know it’s really not of my doing, in terms of putting the chords and melodies together, for I really could not tell you how this process works in some sort of textbook fashion, let alone repeat it over and over again. Rather, the notes and the ideas seem to be channeled into me from a source, a divine muse if you will, and I bet if you ask painters, architects, movie directors, or video game makers the same question, they’ll tell you their greatest creative works appeared to them from out of nowhere as well. If you’re someone who believes you don’t have an artistic bone in your body, and the best you can do is draw stick figures, ask Christ Jesus to inspire you in this creative process and who knows, maybe they’ll just make it into the Louvre.

God Bless!

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