Padre Pio does it again


Padre Pio taking the place of Simon of Cyrene in the Stations of the Cross in San Giovanni Rotondo

Not again! Why was someone knocking at my door? Another broken light switch, no doubt. I ignored the knocking and continued my studying.

I was nearing the end of my time in Rome. Electrical work always came easy to me, but my talent had become something of a nuisance as more and more of my fellow seminarians asked me to help them with their electrical woes at all hours of the day. I was studying to become a priest, not a handyman.

And I was focused. I had to pass all my theology exams. And, well, only a week before I had taken store of my time in Rome. I remembered with satisfaction my many visits to Assisi, the home of Saint Francis. And Siena, Saint Catherine’s hilltop hometown. Some dear friends and I had visited Loreto, where the Holy Family’s house was. Monte Cassino and Subiaco had been beautiful, truly Benedictine places. And I had visited every single holy place and Church on my list in Rome many, many times. Continue reading

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Idle worship

busDespite the old joke I tell my kids, I really didn’t walk 25 miles to school in the school, uphill both ways.  I either lived with a mile of school – or took the school bus.

Taking the bus wasn’t a thrill, but at least I spent the time waiting with a couple good friends in the neighborhood.  We talked sports, books, television and, occasionally, homework.  The important thing is that we actually talked to each other.

A few days ago, I was driving to grandma’s house in the morning and found myself following a school bus along its route, which meant stopping every few blocks while the bus loaded its students.  I’m guessing the bus was bound for a junior high school because the kids were too big to be cute munchkins and too small to be pretend-adult high schoolers. Continue reading

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Devout comes cheap

devoutShe was one of those little old ladies you see often in our parish:  kneeling, praying the rosary, lace head covering, a look of quiet piety.  Ah, what a devout Catholic.

Mass had started, but I was still in the confessional.  When I finished, Father told he if anyone else was waiting, tell them to come back after Mass; he needed to stop during the service.

I opened the door and found myself face-to-face with the aforementioned little old lady.  I whispered to her Father’s directive, expecting a knowing nod in return.  Instead, she muttered that Father was a jerk, an inconsiderate and worthless priest. Continue reading

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princesses and thunderstorms


the first altar

“Are you sure?” I asked. “It’s raining cats and dogs out there!”

“Father, we have to do this, the girls have been preparing all day for it.”

It was the last day of the Cinderella-themed Girls Summer Camp I was chaplain at last week in Wisconsin.  The weather had been amazing all week long – gentle breezes, light and fluffy clouds, temperatures in the 70’s. But then came the last day. Severe thunderstorms vied with each other for the upper hand. Puddles formed everywhere.

During a break in the rain, the four teams of girls had each set up and decorated an outdoor altar for our evening Eucharistic Procession.

My proposal, as the rain beat against the windows, was to move everything indoors: “We can have a procession around the chapel,” I suggested. Continue reading

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The Missionary Mentality

missionIt’s a normal day on Facebook : presidential commentary, comical videos, cute overloads and friends’ baby uploads. Then, almost as if it were radiating straight to your pupils, you see that one friend’s updated profile picture in a field with a slew of African children holding American keepsakes. (Let’s call this friend ‘the missionary’).

You stop  and recall the winter email blast requesting donations. Your mind goes one of two directions:

  1. You get a good sentimental feeling about his willingness to help others (a solid non-judgmental reaction), or
  2. You are compelled to question his motives behind the profile pic (a thoughtfully probing reaction – which I also appreciate)

Continue reading

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I will stand

nationalI will always stand for the national anthem.

Once I didn’t and it was a foolish moment I regret.  Let me explain.

College was a chaotic time for me (and our country).  It was the early 1970s, and the protests against the Vietnam War were at their peak.  The University of Illinois was more about sex, drugs and rock-and-roll than math, science and the arts.  Everyone was mad about something and protests were constant.

I wasn’t much of a protester.  Just to be clear, I was no fan of the war.  It wasn’t so much that I opposed its goals, but the way we waged it with intellectual, political foolishness.  Continue reading

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A Plastic Wrapper, a Sign from God

villageThe little piece of trash under my boot was a sign from God. I knew it.  For four years the Mission Youth team has been visiting Gallette-Chambon, a small village outside of Port-au-Prince.  This small gathering of huts, suffering immense poverty, needs much help and support.  To date we have done everything from bringing supplies, building pews and furniture, and to helping construction on the church facility.  And year after year, Fr. Aupont, the village priest, said that in the hills around the area he had seven other poor communities.  I would see them in a distance and wonder when we could go to them.  Some day.

Well, last year God told us it was time.  Fr. Aupont was beaming with joy this past Easter when he proudly handed me piece of paper which was a title for a plot of land. It was land to build a school!  Blueprints were quickly produced and the Mission Youth staff huddled together to make a plan.  Continue reading

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Profession of vows

brothers“By your profession of vows today, you are telling the world that Jesus is real.” – Fr. John Connor

On Saturday, 22 brothers professed vows (one missed the photo!): 16 of them for the first time, 5 renewed, and Br. Adrian Lawrence (San Diego) made his perpetual profession.

Their bold and faith-filled “yes” ignited an explosion of joy that was felt by all who attended, including my parents!

On behalf of all the brothers, thank you very much for all your prayers and support!

May God bless you all!

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Thank you, Mother Teresa

teresaStories of the sacrifices, holiness and determination of Mother Teresa fill the media this week.

People who were blessed to know her and work with her are recounting how she influenced their lives.  We can read the poignant and sometimes humorous stories everywhere.  She inspired millions.

I didn’t know Mother Teresa, never got to meet her, never saw her speak from a distance.  But I read much about her and enjoyed her gentle (but firm) honesty – especially when encountering the rich and powerful.

Mother Teresa didn’t pull any punches.  And she was focused like a laser beam before laser beams were part of everyday conversation. Continue reading

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Religious profession

simonFr. Simon: Br. John, tell us about your two years of Novitiate.

Br. John: It has been a time to deepen in my knowledge and love of Christ. Everything has taken on a much deeper spiritual significance.

Fr. Simon: What attracted you to the Legionaries?

Br. John: I was always attracted at the call to give of myself to a great mission. There was always great beauty and simplicity in the Legionary vocation. It is a call to live the gospel in a real way: prayer and apostolate.

Fr. Simon: What does religious profession mean for you?

Br. John: It is a special call to follow Christ up Calvary and join him on the Cross poor, chaste, and obedient.

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