One Billion Stories: “Made With My Own Bare Hands”


Geoffrey and Anna Keating are parishioners at Sacred Heart. Geoffrey is building our new pews, altar furnishings, outside doors and more. His story is compelling, having given up an academic career to work with his hands. Anna is a writer and her words about beauty and art inspire me. I hope you will view this five minute video and enjoy the story of Anna and Geoffrey Keating.

When the Sun Shines on the Crystal Again

We remember our dead in the month of November. Twenty-five years ago today, my mentor died whom I mention in this article from 2008. 

Originally published in Ministry and Liturgy Magazine, September 2008

The autumn sun burns most deeply into my room. Every year the hours of daylight shorten but the rays of sunlight lengthen to stretch beyond the windowsill to the crystal vase on my bookshelf. My mother passed down the crystal heirloom to me when my grandmother died. The first arms of this light bring back fond memories of my grandmother and now my parents as well. I see my past more clearly every year when the crystal seduces the sun.

The soft light so often surprises me because I always forget it will appear again.  When I finally settle into the memories, the late autumn light also brings the darkness of my loneliness and the reminder of the rapid pace of my adult life.

I first noticed the friendship of the sun and the crystal when my spiritual mentor, Richard, told me he had AIDS. He sat at the piano bathed in this light and for the first time could not play Mozart because of his dizziness. This light cracked open a new experience for me of delicate conversations with a dear friend who was dismantling his relationships, discovering a soulful and physical dying. The devastating news wore in me a new place of vulnerability and fear.

A year after sitting at the silent piano, he died. I preached his funeral in autumn after sunset. The roles of friendship reversed that final year. I mentored Richard through extreme physical suffering and letting go of all life. Now every year, I begin to fear the earthly change of cold air, shorter days, and the autumn memories of all the dead. I frolic in reminiscences like a lost child in a pile of fallen leaves. I feel the cold regrets and pray through the emptiness.

This autumn ritual catches me off guard. Yet, my body senses every year the deep experiences of all the loss in my life. No one autumn contains all my fear. No one crystal vase receives every regret or memory. Grief lives within the confines of our earthly life forever. The human heart calls for this flow of ritual, the current of memories, and the natural course of sorrow to find healing.

Every parish community in autumn must prepare people to feel their grief and connect their memories to faith. There is no way around death. We must find new ways to ritualize what is most common, the fear of loss. We must sort out ways to help people ritualize within in their own families and circles of friends the grief that keeps us numb to new ways of relating to people.

Death keeps every community honest. However, we must risk telling the truth about life. Naming real issues and celebrating loss breaks through much of the narcissism and pretense that strangles most communities of faith. This truth cuts into our natural instincts of thinking that money, power, education and fear create community.

These are the days to create this awareness of loss. Gather grief counselors, professional spiritual directors and liturgists from your assembly to facilitate discussions for parish staffs and liturgy committees on death and grieving. When we build a network of openness and honesty about what is most important, a new vital energy emerges to help people deal with sudden grief, sustained depression and the release of anger.

Create forums where the Gospels ignite genuine discussions in preparation for homilies during the months ending the liturgical year. Connect elderly people in the parish and school parents by creating opportunities to pray in silence for the dead. Instruct school age children to write follow-up letters to grieving families a month after losing a loved one in death. Suggest that volunteering among the poor is a way for every family member to memorialize a loved one. Create an opportunity in the church lobby for parishioners to write down not only names of the dead but how they grieve them at home and with family members. Organize discussions and name rituals for home reminders that grief needs to be ritualized within everyday experiences.

Ritualizing our grief comes in the everyday awareness of living life. Members of our communities need the assurance that they are not alone in the simple ways grief becomes articulated and lived. We need to live an honest life to lovingly grieve other people’s death. I wait for this autumn, when I will be reminded of those I love in death, when the sun shines on the crystal again.

Saint Andre of Montreal and Blessed Solanus of Detroit, Pray for us!

Yesterday, November 18, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan, a humble Capuchin priest, Solanus Casey was Beatified in the Roman Catholic Church. His very humble ministry, faith and presence resembles our very own Saint Andre Bessette, CSC from Montreal.

Rev. Thomas Rosica, CSB, of Salt and Light media in Canada, writes about both men today on his blog. I ask all of you to pray for the intercession of both men on this World Day of the Poor, initiated by Pope Francis. We are all called into such service, love and tenderness with our brothers and sisters.

CLICK HERE: Opening the Doors of Tenderness: The Lessons of Solanus and Andre


Blessed Solanus Casey of Detroit


Saint Andre Bessette of Montreal 

Click here: To learn more about the World Day of Pray for the Poor


On the Margins: Matthew 25: 14-30


On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 19, 2017


Gospel MT 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: My Cover Art and Column

Nov. 19th Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers in Jesus, the Master,

Today’s gospel, Matthew 25:14-30, invites us to be caretakers of faith and of the world. We hold within our hearts the love of God that is entrusted to us. We are responsible to be grateful and good caretakers of our earth, our resources, our relationships and the dignity of each and every human being. We seek the words of the master, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

The word, “Eucharist,” means “Thanksgiving.” Our gratitude and thankfulness becomes a rich and rewarding prayer each week at Mass. As we reflect on the gift of how God entrusts life to us, we enter into the mystery of becoming a grateful people.

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving as a nation. This is not just a holiday for us as Christians; this is a way of life. To act with gratitude and gratefulness is an essential action of each and every follower of Jesus.

This has been an overwhelming year for many people in our country with multiple hurricanes, mass shootings, numerous floods, out of control fires, children shooting children and civil unrest on many levels. Yet, in the midst of such chaos, we are challenged to be open to God’s love and care and to find within our hearts a moment of gratitude and thanksgiving. Our prayer of gratitude must begin within our own lives.

Thanksgiving is not just sharing a turkey sandwich but an act of consciousness toward God and one another and our selves. Thanksgiving helps us realize that we do not live on our own; we do not act single heartedly. We are not self-reliant. Our lives are interdependent on the gifts, talents and actions of all people. To become a people of gratitude means that we realize that the collective wisdom of our nation must include the care for all people including the poor, the immigrant, women, people of various ethnic backgrounds and religions, and people who are much different from our selves.

Thanksgiving for us as a nation means that we celebrate diversity and all people in the love of God. I want to thank all of you who worship in our three churches, who behold the mystery of God in your own lives. This year, I am especially grateful for all the people who are making the renovations at Sacred Heart possible. Thank you for your financial resources, your energy and interests and your concerns for our future.

I am also grateful for the ways folks in our three communities offer their resources to serve people in need, for all the second collections, the preparing of food for our Lord’s Dinner and the stocking of our Food Pantry to feed hundreds of people in our area. For all the ways in which you put love into action, I am deeply grateful.

Thank you all for your faith and living that faith in real life.


Fr. Ron




Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini

Today, the Church remembers the first American saint, Mother Cabrini. Here is a blog post about the window I helped design in Burbank, CA for Saint Francis Xavier Parish built on land owned by Mother Cabrini and her sisters.

Broken But Not Divided

Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini-
First American Saint

Last week I started a series on the set of nine stained-glass windows from Saint Francis Xavier Church in Burbank, CA. This next window honors Mother Cabrini. I hope you enjoy the series. The text that follows is  from a booklet I wrote in 2000 and edited by Jim Fanning. 

The history of Saint Francis Xavier Church is rooted in the life and faith of the first American saint, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini. On property owned by the religious community she founded, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, sprouted the faith community of St. Francis Xavier Parish. This window reveals the historical background of education, healing and a missionary zeal that burned bright in Mother Cabrini’s life. Within the central image of the window, Mother Cabrini is surrounded by children and adults, which speaks of her life interests in teaching the young…

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Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover and My Column

Nov. 12, 2017 Bulletin Cover


Dear Believers in the Living Christ,

I usually focus on the gospel in this column. However, the first scripture text, Wisdom 6:12-16 catches my attention first. “Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.” Wisdom is key to our earthy seeking of Jesus, to our way of life and our mission of the Church.

Let’s start with wisdom. Wisdom is difficult to come by in our age of technology. Bantering, unedited posts and arguments fill cyberspace and wind up in our inbox every day. Wisdom, both on the individual level and in public discourse, is not easy. Sound bites are not wisdom, no matter on television or on Twitter.

Wisdom is worth our focus in these last days of our Liturgical Year. Wisdom outlines a pattern of life that is from God and toward God. Wisdom cultivates a home within us if we are open to deep reflection, prayerful reading of the scriptures, dialogue even among those with whom we disagree, and discernment about situations and patterns in our life. Wisdom is a friend for the long run. Wisdom is a result of living a rather humble and beautiful life.

Recently, I heard that one of the results of our mobile society is that we now tend to move to cities with more likeminded people. Given technology, so many people can work from any city in the country. One of the negative aspects of such moves is that we are no longer living and working with people who have varying opinions from ours. This leads to living more rigid lives. Wisdom, true wisdom, is more difficult to discover when other people, or even the gospel itself, does not challenge us.

Wisdom is relevant for the long term. We live between Christ’s Resurrection and his Second Coming. This is the real place for wisdom, not just for individual morality, but also for our common discourse of social issues, political discussions and the moral consequences of our actions as a people. Wisdom takes time, courage and a moral life. Wisdom befriends those who believe in something more than themselves.

Today’s second reading, Thessalonians 4:13-18, also captures my attention. This reading is usually proclaimed during the Easter Vigil. This gives us hope in the interim between Jesus’ Resurrection and his return. We shall live with God all the days of our life and we should console one another with this message of compassion and hope. This is wisdom, that death gives way to new life. This is in fact what we base our lives upon; the wisdom of Jesus that his life is our salvation. Anything that disturbs this message within our hearts is not wisdom. We have life and hope to share with people. This is the message of faith that we should be sharing with one another. Wisdom is love manifest within us when we turn first to the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Blessings to you wise ones,

Fr. Ron

On the Margins: Matthew 25: 1-13


On the Margins

On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time



Gospel MT 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time: My column

Nov. 5th Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers in the Christ,

These November days close out another Liturgical Year. The Sacred Liturgy also invites us into deep reflection on the end of time. In fact, this past week, we celebrated All Saints and All Souls. The act of prayerful reflection about our own death is part of our heritage as Christians. We do so because we believe that death is the doorway into God’s Kingdom even for the least among us.

Today’s gospel, Matthew 23:1-12, invites us into reflection about how to live on this earth in the meantime. We are called to live lives of profound integrity. If any person is to be great here on earth, then each of us is called to humility. A bloated ego gets us nowhere in faith. A life of self-importance is a life not based on the humility of the gospel. A life centered on blowing our own trumpet of power, control and egoism, is not a life that will move us into the heavenly realm.

It is never easy to practice what we preach. Take it from me, a preacher of over 35 years. I still am learning and God is patient with me. The gospel challenges us to place on other’s shoulders not burdens, but the love God has for us. We are to live what we preach by offering other people mercy and hope. This is the mission of the Church. This integration of prayer and service changes us all into humble servants of the gospel.

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” What does this mean for us? Humility means belonging to the earth. The word, humus, and humility are related. This does not mean self-deprecation or putting ourselves down. Humility means that our ultimate authority comes from God. Our voice, our actions, our thoughts are centered in learning about our true selves in God. It is very interesting that humility, being grounded in our real selves on earth, means that we find our true meaning in heaven. Humility comes from admitting that we do not have the all the answers or even know all the correct questions to ask.

We are servants of the Master. We find our lives in God alone. Humility also means that we keep learning from God. There is always something to work through, to find, to search for, to discover, to enter into, to find in our hearts when it comes to our relationship with God. We are not yet finished until God takes our breath away.

Here are some questions to consider about your own humble approach to God:

1. How do you feel when you don’t get your way in life? Where do you turn?

2. How would you define humility?

3. How does humility form your concept of death and eternal life?


Fr. Ron