St. Francis of Assisi

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Yes, October 4th, the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi.  It is a very important day for me since I bear the name Francis and was named in memory of the saint from Assisi. We blessed the animals here at the Abbey last Saturday, but it was celebrating Mass today and reciting the Office of Readings for the memorial feast that real brought home to me the significance of Francis of Assisi for all consecrated Religious and all peoples.

As a young man, it is known that he led a rather irresolute life; but after a conversion experience, he became such a close follower of Jesus that he was given the gift of the Stigmata: bearing in his body the wounds of Christ.  This conversion experience is so similar to Paul’s story in the first reading from today’s liturgy: how he gave up his former ways to become the herald of the good news, much like Mary in today’s Gospel, who sat at Jesus’ feet and just listened to His words of life. Francis himself listened to the words of Jesus and found life living the poverty and humility of a God who emptied himself of His Godhead and took on the form of his own creation, living in poverty and humility, using this poverty and humility to change the world.

Pope Francis, who took his name after today’s saint, also calls on us as religious to “wake up the world”, living simply and humbly in respect for and in cooperation with each other and with all of God’s Creation. To be poor and humble affords us all to see beyond the “bling” of this world in order to live the happiness of being redeemed and justified by Christ.  I am drawn to Francis’ words of exhortation, calling us to live humbly and in example of the poor man from Nazareth who changed the world by waking it to the love and compassion of a merciful God. 

I thank God for my vocation and the opportunities it gives me to spread the Good News of Jesus, ever mindful that Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of God is theirs. May we all realize that this is the vocation of all of us who commit ourselves to following the Way of the Lord: in humility, in poverty of spirit, and in imitation of Francis who in giving all to the Lord, attained in his words TRUE happiness and love.

Introducing Fr. Henry Jordanek, part 2

 

fr-henryI found the Norbertine Order a place where I desired to belong. I knew I wanted to live out my faith in community. What I experienced as attractive and only joyful in the beginning, I later found to be a cross and even a burden sometimes. There can be squabbles, ambitions, tensions, envies within the community of religious – Jesus´ disciples. May I remind you of what we read in the Gospel: “A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24). In Luke’s gospel, there is an interesting sentence spoken by Jesus right after this so-human ambitious dispute: “You are those who have stood by me in my trials” (Luke 22:28). Cardinal Martini comments on these words:

“Jesus is not under the illusion that the Twelve have reached a high degree of holiness; he does, however, know that there can be great fidelity even where there is failure, weakness and pettiness.”

I have experienced a variety of failures in my religious community; but also a lot of strength, loyalty, and beauty in this lifestyle. The beauty, which one document on religious life describes this way:

“The spirituality of community means the following:

to share the joys and sufferings of the brothers,

to know their wishes and take care of their needs,

to offer them real and deep friendship.

Further, the spirituality of community is

the ability to see in the other the positive above all

and to accept him and appreciate him as a gift of God;

this is the art of creating room for a brother by mutually carrying one another´s burdens.“

To live in religious community means to struggle with our selfishness, to be very patient with ourselves and others, to find strength and inspiration in God’s patience with all of us. It means to experience human limitations and imperfections and not to give up, but to hold on to God’s mercy all the more. It means to recognize how incomplete and unworthy we are, but to keep following Christ, because he is so worthy and God’s love is so mighty. It means to open our heart to other people – it can be very dangerous and hurtful in some cases, but it is Jesus’ way on which we walk. Perhaps the image of “gold purified in the fire” could be an appropriate image for life in community:

“Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.”
(Wisdom 3,5-6)

Our patron, St. Augustine, carrying the burning heart (heart on fire), reminds me that to be a religious requires the courage not to run away from the fire of God and the fire of community.

I am grateful for my community, and grateful for the opportunity to experience the communio of Daylesford Abbey. It is a nice place with beautiful people. I hope that new people will find in Daylesford Abbey their spiritual home and will praise the Lord with my Norbertine brothers.

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Introducing Fr. Henry Jordanek, part 1

Fr. Henry saying mass for U.S. soldiers - Afghanistan 2009

My name is Miroslav Henry Jordanek. I am from the Czech Republic, but I currently live at Daylesford Abbey. I entered the Norbertine Order when I was eighteen; today I am thirty-nine. In the beginning of my religious life, I had no idea what I would experience. Now I know it was worth going through. I became a priest. I was a chaplain and a parish priest as well. I visited many Norbertine Abbeys abroad, and as a military chaplain, I was three times deployed with Czech soldiers. I was twice in Afghanistan and experienced a war. I could continue and express many very special periods and moments… but the biggest adventure has been life in community.

I was touched by the life of Czech Norbertine communities in 1995. I met many experienced priests there, but also many young clerics. An example here would be Abbot Vit Tajovsky and other Norbertine superiors who spent years in prison during communist persecution. After being released, they still knew about the danger of persecution and could leave the communist areas by going to Western Europe. This possibility was offered to them during the General Chapter in Austria in the summer of 1968 at the end of the “Prague Spring”. But they decided to stay with their communities. They were brave enough to continue life in “the fire” of persecution, which lasted till 1989.

Norbertine Abbots Machalka and Tajovsky in artifical court

Come away with Me

We often read in scripture how Jesus retired to a deserted place to pray, reflect and commune with his heavenly father. “Come away with Me,” he invites.

The summer months are a great opportunity to come away, reflect on our life and focus on the future. Where is the Lord calling to me these days? I recently had a young man call and ask to spend a weekend at our Abbey. He said: “I need to get away and reflect on this invitation I keep getting from the Lord to Shepherd his flock.” In the peace and quiet of the Abbey setting and joining the Norbertine community in prayer, this man went away with a new direction to his life.

If you are pondering what is the next step in my life, we invite you to consider a retreat at our Abbey. Fr. John Joseph is available to assist those considering a calling to priesthood and religious life. He may be contacted at Jnovielli@daylesford.org or 610-647-2530 ext.127.

A new priest for the harvest

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This past Saturday, Father Gerard Jordan, O.Praem., was ordained a priest for our Abbey. In the picture, he is the one standing on the left. It was a glorious celebration for our Norbertine Community and we are so proud that he will now be ministering as a Norbertine priest. We welcomed many guests at the Abbey for the Ordination Mass on Saturday and for Father Gerard’s Mass of Thanksgiving (his First Mass) on Sunday. Please continue to pray for him as he enters into this new phase of ministry in the Church.

The other two people in the picture are myself in the center and Frat. Jeff Himes, O.Praem. on the right. At the end of this August, Frat. Jeff will profess his Simple Vows and I will profess my Solemn Vows. Please remember us also in your prayers.

Ministry At Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital

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This past week I finished my two week temporary assignment at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Philadelphia (Darby) as the hospital chaplain. Fr. Henry from our Abbey is the chaplain there but I was filling in for him while he was away. Our Norbertine Community at Daylesford has a long standing relationship with the Sisters of Mercy and the hospital. Father Paul and Father Joe who are now retired here at the Abbey were chaplains at the hospital for many years.

I always find it very fulfilling being able to do pastoral ministry at the hospital. Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital is a wonderful community hospital and the spirit of the Mercy Sisters has made the hospital a very friendly and caring facility. Along with celebrating Mass daily in the hospital chapel and celebrating the Sacrament of the Sick, I was able to visit many patients and be present with family members during several emergency situations. I have always found pastoral care ministry to be a very fulfilling ministry and I look forward to being able to go back again this September.

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A week of spiritual renewal

blog-picture-retreat2016Earlier this month, following Saint Norbert’s feast day, we had our annual community retreat that went from Monday to Saturday. Father David Komatz, O.Praem., a Norbertine priest from Saint Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin directed and preached our retreat this year. He is the Director of Formation for Saint Norbert Abbey.

The format for this year’s retreat was different from the other community retreats I have experienced in the past several years. Father Komatz used short stories as springboards to ignite discussions among the members of our community. The different themes centered on pride, judgment, redemption, reconciliation and the Eucharist. We had some very lively discussions with great insights share with each other. Father Komatz also celebrated Mass for us every day and focused his homily on the different themes we discussed during the retreat. It was truly a week of spiritual renewal for us at the Abbey.

Our founder’s feast

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This week at Daylesford Abbey we celebrated the Feast of Saint Norbert on June 6th. This is a very special day for us as Norbertines as we traditionally remember our founder. Saint Norbert founded our first abbey in Prémontré France in the twelfth century. Our community is referred to as the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré or Premonstratensians, but most people know us as Norbertines. The two images of Saint Norbert with this posting are images from Germany that appeared after World War II. You will note that Saint Norbert has a shovel in his hand. This represents Saint Norbert as an example of one who is able to rebuild. These two images have been favorites of mine because we can look to Saint Norbert for inspiration to “rebuild” parts of our own lives that may have fallen into disrepair.

Saint Norbert did not write his own “rule” but made the decision to follow the Rule of Saint Augustine for his new community. August 28th is when the Feast of Saint Augustine is celebrated. Because we follow the Rule of Saint Augustine, the Feast of Saint Augustine is also another important day for us at Daylesford Abbey. It is part of our custom that on this day new members of our community professes their religious vows. This August I will profess my solemn (final) vows. I came to Daylesford Abbey over four years ago after being a diocesan priest for thirty years. When I profess my solemn vows this August I will become a full member of the Norbertine Community. Answering God’s call to religious life has been an amazing experience. I pray that with the help of God I will continue to faithfully serve Christ and the Church as a Norbertine.

 

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Visiting Our Brothers in Wisconsin: Part Two

(This is a continuation of last week’s blog and so it picks up where my last entry ended.)
 
I finished my time at Saint Norbert Abbey in June of 1966 – fifty years ago next month. Looking back, they were wonderful years. I much enjoyed Saint Norbert College and living in the Abbey was a great gift. It was a fine community (full of life and talent and friendship). My time in Wisconsin also coincided with the years of the Second Vatican Council, so things were usually exciting and seldom dull. Bob Dylan’s “The Times, they are a changing” was like our theme song. It all seems so commonplace now, but a vernacular liturgy, with the priest facing the congregation, homilies at every Mass — just to mention some highlight. Yes, lots of blessed memories. 
 
Yesterday I visited the Abbey cemetery. (Traditionally, Abbey cemeteries are right outside the Abbey church. It’s a small reminder that as we came together together to pray in the church each day, so too for eternity we continue to pray with and for each other.) As I walked past the markers, I stopped at many spots to share a memory about a friendship shared. I also counted and discovered that there are over one hundred graves since I left in 1966.  So many names of men I gratefully called confrere.
 

Today, Saint Norbert Abbey is still a beautiful place. The church is full of various colors of marble, and the guest room where I am staying is just a few feet from where I lived as a novice (but now it has a bathroom and wi-fi). The hospitality is still gracious as are the men here (lots of retirees but about two dozen active priests and brothers, with one man ordained nine months ago and another to be ordained in June). It has been a blessed few days.

Final thought. Of course, we’ve spent a good bit of time talking politics – and my brothers have several times reminded me that Donald Trump lost the primary in Wisconsin and that, no matter what happens in November, this is something I should not forget!

Visiting Our Brothers in Wisconsin: Part One

I’m writing this blog from Saint Norbert Abbey in DePere, Wisconsin, right outside Green Bay. I first came here as a novice in 1961. Lots of memories.
Never having been farther from Philadelphia than the Jersey shore, everything seemed so different then.  The weather was terribly cold. It snowed around Thanksgiving and it never really melted until after Easter! The community was so large (Daylesford was not yet independent): we were 90 seminarians, some 25 priests and about 5 brothers living here. Many of us, including yours truly, went each day to Saint Norbert College (just two miles away; we had our own school bus that went back and forth several times a day). The day began at 5:05 in the Chapter Room, followed by Morning Prayer (Matins and Lauds) and Mass (of course, the liturgy was completely in Latin). All told, we spent about three hours a day in church – and then we had house jobs (a classmate and I did bathrooms twice a week), community gatherings (meals and recreation), along with carrying 15-18 undergraduate credits each semester (plus at least one summer session). Yes, I guess that was the plan: keep them busy and they’ll keep out of trouble.

 

We only got to go back East for three weeks in August and, since we only made a phone call if there was a family emergency, we wrote letters home each week. (It took just about a week for my letter to get to Philly and my Mom’s reply to get back here.) In those days, the novice master read both incoming and outgoing mail. (That’s just the way it was and I didn’t think much of it at the time.) One day, he called me into his office and asked why I signed my letters “Joseph”. I explained that my father was Joe and I was Joseph. He replied, “No, your name is now Frater Henry” (we received religious names when we received the white habit) and that’s how you should sign your letters”.  I knew this was a mistake, but he was the boss and so I did as I was told.  

 

Sure enough, a week later, before lunch (mail was distributed after lunch), the novice master called me into his office and said, “I’ve given it some more thought and it’s okay to use your baptismal name with your family”. Well, I could barely wait for mail call after lunch. As expected, there was a letter from my Mom (as always, already opened). The first line was perfect: “Dear Joseph (underlined), Your father and I gave the Norbertines our son, our only son, and we did it willingly – but we refuse to give them ‘your name’.”  (Good for you Mom, tell ‘em!)

 

 
To be continued …