Painting and Poem: “Padre, My blurry memories of holding my child haunt me”

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I have been at a loss to do something in these past weeks to respect our brothers and sisters who have crossed our borders with little children. Here is a simple poem and painting to remind us that the reasons people come here vary. As believers, we cannot let the memories of these mothers, fathers and children fade in our national consciousness, especially within our Church communities.  

 

“Padre, my blurry memories

Of holding my child haunt me

I am so tired

Since I walked so far

Trying to escape my

Husband

And my fear

That I would lose little

Esther

Since she was crippled at birth and my husband

Said to get rid of her

So I carried her over the boarder

And now I don’t know where she

Cries for me

‘Cause the angry men

Took her and I don’t know

How to find her

‘Cause she can’t walk

And I have to hold her

Tightly, Padre, really tight

So tell me where to find my little girl

To find her back in my arms

The memories of holding her

Protecting her from my husband

In our home with a dirt floor and no food

Are disappearing since I am so upset

And I can’t afford

School for her and if I have to

Carry her to heaven with Jesus

I will but

Please help me find her now somewhere

In your country.”

Fifteen Sunday in Ordinary Time: My Column

July 15, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Seekers of Jesus,

Today’s gospel (Mark 6:7-13) splashes us in the face to wake us up. The message is quite sobering. We are to take nothing with us in this journey of faith. Jesus sends his disciples out of the nest two by two and tells them that they must realize their sheer dependency on God. Take a walking stick. No food. No sack. No money in their belts. Wear sandals. No second tunic.

Jesus challenges his disciples to go into the world and accomplish absolutely amazing things. Drive out demons. Anoint sick people with oil. Cure them. The focus here is truly grace filled. Jesus wants the best for his people beginning with sheer repentance.

This extreme command of Jesus sets an incredible tone of what our call is about even today. We are to live in our world with an amazing intention of faith. I admit, there are few people today who live out their faith with such purpose and drive. Perhaps, this is the reason why the Church and faith seem rather dim and purposeless today.

Each generation of believers bring their own zeal from the call of Jesus. This year I have celebrated thirty-five years of priesthood and I am now on a brink of a new generation of believers who will bring their own faith and formation to the Church. I have preached retreats to priests in several dioceses in recent years and all of the young clergy are very vocal about how they hope to restore the Church that my generation has messed up. Every generation says such things because of the zeal and hope that young hearts bring from their faith in Christ Jesus. This is what is supposed to happen. I look forward to our young people who will step into leadership within the Church. They will arrive carrying little with them and they will focus on healing and forgiving, exactly like Jesus has asked each generation.

On the bulletin cover this week, we view the art of Anna Conklin once again on our baptismal font. This image of the Resurrection gives us our true purpose and call from God. Our baptism becomes the call for discipleship and it also fuels the fire for our desire to live out this gospel in each generation. Our purpose in the Church is to make sure the Resurrection is made known to people— people who are in real need, people who most need to understand God’s mercy, tenderness and forgiveness.

In each generation, we are to take the Resurrection to heart. We are to seize this new life. Jesus calls us and challenges us to make sure that we believe that life can break through death, that healing can restore suffering, that hope overrides our despair and that peace can find a home even in hearts that are cold and bitter.

I invite you to take to heart this gospel message this week. Ask yourself some questions such as: What possessions in your life weigh you down in living out Christ’s mission? What is the real goal of your life of faith? How are you living in your day the gift of Christ’s resurrection? How can you make room for a new generation of believers?

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

National Association of Pastoral Musicians: Baltimore 2018

This is part of a talk I gave today, Tuesday July 10, 2018 at 3:00pm. “Broken But Not Divided: Connecting Prayer and Service” at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians at the 41st Convention in Baltimore. This talk is sponsored by World Library Publications, Chicago, IL

NPM

Tuesday July 10, 2018

Baltimore, Maryland

Opening: Sung litany

Save Us, Send Us. “Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” Page 131.

My Dear Followers of Jesus,

Thank you so much for inviting me back to NPM. Thank you so much for your ministry, your time and talent in the work of the Church. I am deeply humbled standing among all of you who pray and who share your gifts within the Church. Connecting prayer and service, Eucharist and justice is the foundation of our faith. Yet, this connection intimidates many parishes and worshipping assemblies since we must learn how to share God’s love with people who are different from ourselves, people who most need compassion in our cities and neighborhoods.

We may find it easier to gaze upon the Real Presence of Jesus in elements of bread and wine on the altar than to look our brothers and sisters in the eyes who face life situations that challenge us beyond imagining. We make these spiritual and vital connections only when we learn to face Jesus, the truth of our own lives, and real tumult of our people.

My priesthood calls me to the margins of society and the Church. These margins have converted my heart and opened my eyes. My conversion has emerged from penetrating the Eucharistic liturgy with heart-felt prayer and from bending down to hear the whispers of the gospel to the poor. I want to speak today about our relationship with God and how it bears fruit for people living in poverty or addiction or spiritual malnourishment. Continue reading

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: My column

July 1, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Cover art from our new baptismal font at Sacred Heart Church: Saint Andre’s Door, representing his forty-year ministry of porter in Montreal. 

 

Dear Believers in Christ Jesus,

The gospel passage today (Mark 5:21-43) invites us into the depth of Christ’s healing. Jairus’ daughter is at the point of death. Even though he is a synagogue official, he understands who Jesus is and what he can do for people who are ill.

Jesus also encountered a woman who suffered from hemorrhage for twelve years. I love when the woman says, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” What deep faith and profound witness of what Jesus does for people.

We are all in need of healing and in need of new attitudes, a vital and new awareness of our selves and our world. In the depths of our hearts, we all long to touch the hem of Jesus’ garments to discover that we belong to him, that we are his in his service and that we are worthy of such a healing in the first place. In fact, we can come to him as we are and we do not need to fear his presence. We do not need to think that we should only touch his hem. Jesus’ complete life and love belongs to us all. We just need to go to him with our needs, with our broken hearts and fragile egos.

On the cover of the bulletin this week, we view a painting from one of the panels of our baptismal font at Sacred Heart. This panel is a picture of a door that represents Saint André Bessette, our first Holy Cross brother to be declared a saint. He was canonized in 2010. His ministry was at the door of our college near Montreal, Canada. Our community really did not know what to do with him, so he was assigned to be a porter, to answer the door. He performed this ministry for over 40 years.

In those years as a porter, Brother André became a healer. During the highpoint of these years, he would encounter over 600 people a day. People just wanted a second or two with him. They wanted an experience of God, a simple encounter with the healing touch of Jesus. Reading the life of Saint André, I can feel the desperation of people who needed help. He died in 1937 at the age of 92. Over one million people came out in the bitter cold of Montreal for his funeral. His life reflects our mission from baptism to be united with people’s suffering.

The image on our baptismal font reveals to us that baptism is the beginning of sainthood. We become more authentic in God through the grace presented us in baptism. I hope you will stop by our new baptismal font and pray with the image of the door, André’s door, and the rest of the images. In the next couple of weeks, I will be writing about some of them so that we can all see the connections of our call to service from the gift of baptism.

Today’s gospel shows us that Jairus’ daughter was raised from the dead. Jesus even becomes aware of who touched his cloaked. Jesus is with us, invested in our lives and our hopes for a broken and fragile world.

Saint André Bessette, pray for us.

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

Prayer for Immigrants: Our Home, When Life Divides Us

I composed this prayer for a benefit album being produced this weekend in California for awareness and the physical, social and spiritual needs of our immigrants. Please pray this prayer especially for our children. 

 

Our Home, When Life Divides Us

 

O God, of arduous journeys,

 

You create your home in our hearts

 

When violence shackles our hope,

When despair colors our dreams,

When fear wounds our tomorrows,

When systems divide our families,

When exhaustion takes our breath.

 

For your face

 

Gives us hope when we are lost,

Gives us serenity when we are conflicted,

Gives us direction when we do not know where to turn,

Gives us comfort when we are bruised,

Gives us courage when darkness arrives.

 

For your presence satisfies

 

Like refreshing rain upon the desert,

Like healing balm upon our bruised bodies,

Like swaddling clothes for our weeping children,

Like honey on our parched lips,

Like cool breezes upon our souls.

 

For you save us

 

When walls separate us,

When grief ensnares us,

When hunger overwhelms us,

When fear halts us,

When doubt trips us.

 

O God, invite us home to your heart

 

Our place of rest,

Our place of peace,

Our place of love,

Our place of unity,

Our secure home at last.

 

Amen

 

The Nativity of John the Baptist: Cover art and column

June 24, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Dear Followers of Jesus,

Today, the Church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist. This is one of the feasts during the year when the Church becomes very literal. John was six months older than Jesus. So his “birthday” is in June one-day prior to Jesus’ “birthday” of December 25. These dates most likely are not the true dates of birth for either John or Jesus. The Church only celebrates the human birth of Mary, John the Baptist and Jesus. The Church usually celebrates the death of the followers of Jesus because human death is entry into the Kingdom of God. So, if today we celebrate John’s birth, he is of course extremely close to the message of Jesus and his life of opening our earthly existence into the glory of heaven.

The birthday of John the Baptist shows us the work of the Holy Spirit to prepare us for the coming of Christ in the Incarnation. In today’s gospel, Luke 1:57-66, Elizabeth and Zachariah, the parents of John, teach us the beauty of the Holy Spirit’s presence. The birth of this boy in their tradition was to be named after his father. Instead, Elizabeth speaks out at John’s circumcision that his name is “John.” How beautiful this story is while we wait for the person whom John was born to teach us about, Jesus Christ himself.

John the Baptist is one of my favorite people in the gospels. There are many reasons for such devotion. Even in the womb, John leapt for joy while in the presence of Jesus, recognizing his cousin who was also in womb. The Holy Spirit destined this man to be the forerunner of Jesus, to show us all that the presence of the Kingdom rests in Jesus alone.

In traditional iconography of the saints, John the Baptist, as a child is seen next to Mary and Jesus while they fled from King Herod into Egypt. Even as a child, the image of John shows us the focus of our faith, the fidelity of Jesus in our earthly lives. John as a child, from the very beginning, reveals the love, the healing and the redemption of his cousin Jesus. He spends his entire life pointing into the direction of Jesus, into the direction of the Kingdom of Heaven from our earthly existence.

In my own prayer life, I love the image of John pointing toward Jesus. Also within the history of painting and iconography, John’s posture in these paintings tells us that the focus is not on himself, but on the person of Christ Jesus. John’s finger literally points away from himself into the direction of Jesus, into the direction of hope and healing in God, into the direction of the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.

My painting this week of John the Baptist for his bulletin cover shows half the face of this saint. His intensity is revealed only partially. This is to suggest that John is living both on earth and in heaven. His focus shows us that his life is split between this earthly mission and his real heavenly home. The painting is a reminder for us all that we are to live with such a focus, splitting our lives from the intensity of our human concerns and longing within our hearts to live in heavenly peace and freedom. John points us into the direction of our salvation. I pray we all may heed such an invitation. May grace come and this world pass away.

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover art and column

June 17, 2018 Bulletin Cover

Cover art: Ronald Raab, CSC

Dear Believers in Christ,

There are many summer days I miss the dark, rich Midwestern soil upon which I grew up. I reflect back in my mind and view the rows of corn across acres and acres not far from the lake on which our family made our home. I see in my mind’s eye the mighty oak trees and the everblooming, lush plants, flowers, and bushes nestled against the homes and ivy growing on the old buildings.

It is easy for me to listen to this gospel text, Mark 4:26-34, and feel the summer rains and thick humidity on my skin. Planting and harvesting in the Corn Belt is a way of life. Even speaking about sweet corn was a family project while driving along the highway. As my grandparents used to say, the corn must be “knee high by the 4th of July.” The corn and other summer vegetables and fruit were also important for my family’s livelihood since my parents and brother owned a grocery store for 45 years. Summer crops were so important for our business and for our own table.

Conversations in our home often revolved around our waiting for the first crop of strawberries so my mother could bake homemade shortcake. Our favorite family pastime was anticipating fresh peaches from our local farmers. Homemade peach cobbler or rich, flakey peach pie was like Christmas in August. There were only certain times for certain foods, and the crops were not only anticipated but we watched over and over again for the correct amounts of rain and temperate days. Tornadoes in our area could destroy the long awaited crops of the bushel baskets of perfectly ripened peaches or large ears of sweet corn or boxes of strawberries or blueberries or raspberries that would be delivered to the back door of our grocery store.

The gospel invites us into patient waiting for God’s Kingdom. We wait for the ripened world where hope will live beyond a certain shelf life. We wait for the redemption of the world like waiting for the harvest of apples in the Midwest. I am not sure most people know what to wait for anymore.

We are now a very impatient people. Not only do we purchase our vegetables and fruit from other countries throughout the year, (which are tasteless by the way), but we also have little patience waiting for God. We have grown into a people who think life is all in our command. We have little dependency on God unlike the farmers living close to the earth. We think we know everything and everything is under our thumb. We have little to wait for.

I believe we need to read this gospel again. There are many things about which we need to wait. We should be humbled by the shootings of our teens as we wait for a harvest when mental illness and guns are somehow resolved. We need to take stock of not only the tornadoes that destroy the land, but also review the remedies for depression and loneliness that contributes to our ever-growing suicide rate in the US. When shall we see the true hungers of our people? Our children, believe it or not, are malnourished in many parts of the US, while others face growing isolation and despair from their technology. Many Catholics have narrowed the eternal harvest down to one or two areas in life. However, there are many weeds in the fields and many places in which we need to view the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth. I pray for the patience to examine all of life so that we can be together under the shade of God’s Kingdom right here today, in this summertime and in our world. Love after all, creates the deepest shadows on summer days.

Blessings,

Fr. Ron