Friday, September 30, 2016


This month we celebrated the feast days of Blessed Frederic Ozanam (Sept. 8), founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society 150 years ago in France, and that of Vincent de Paul (Sept. 27), patron saint of the society, whose mission is to go and seek out the deprived and forgotten.  I am blessed to serve as chaplain for the society in the Diocese of St. Augustine (the oldest in the country).

Ozanam sought to bridge the gap between rich and poor (immortalized by Victor Hugo in “Les Misérables”).  At a chance encounter with another student, he was challenged, You Christians are fine at talking, but what do you ever do?  He was awakened to the fundamental insight that Christianity is not about ideas but about deeds inspired by love.
He wrote, A battle rages between those who have nothing and those who have too much; it is the violent collision of opulence and poverty which makes the earth tremble under our feet.  His concern was not only the welfare of the poor but the credibility and integrity of the gospel.  The poor, he said, are messengers of God to test our justice and our charity, and to save us by our works.

Vincent de Paul was born to a poor peasant family in 1580 in Gascony.  Ordained at the remarkably young age of nineteen, he applied himself to securing a series of lucrative positions.

In mid-life however he underwent a great transformation.  Summoned to hear the confession of a dying peasant, he was struck as never before by the fact that this man might have died in mortal sin had he not heard his confession.  A simple encounter that changed the course of his life.

He determined to dedicate his priesthood to serving the spiritually impoverished rural masses.  In time this grew to include ministry among the sick, poor and destitute.  Ultimately his motto became, I am for God and for the poor.

Two chance (or providential) encounters that changed the course of their life. 

What encounters have we had that awakened us to find deeper meaning in our life and greater awareness of who we are, and who we want to be? 

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Recently a copy of the Jerusalem Herald (circa the year 30) was unearthed, including two obituaries therein. One said, Dives Silverstein died yesterday. He led a very successful life; was well liked and respected by his peers, many of whom attended his funeral. He was known to open his home to stray dogs and the homeless, whom he knew by name, earning God’s gracious reward. He is survived by five brothers.

The second obituary said, Lazarus (last name unknown) was found dead in a back alley. He never amounted to much in this life. Only God’s mercy will provide him a better one in the next.
But, as we've been told, God’s ways are not our ways.

St. Luke tells us that Lazarus ended up in heaven; Dives in hell. Why?

What did God see in them? What does God see in us?

We don’t know much about Lazarus; don’t know why he received a heavenly reward.  We know only a little bit more about Dives.

If we judge his life according to the 10 Commandments, which are used by many to guide their life, it’s hard to see which commandment he broke.

Moreover, he let Lazarus sit at the feet of his table. How many of us would let a homeless person sit at ours, or even in our yard? He even knew Lazarus by name.  Would we take the time? 

And from hell he doesn’t respond with anger or jealously but politely requests some help...a bit of water.  Even when suffering in hellfire, his thoughts are on saving his five living brothers from ending up where he is now.

A pretty remarkable man…Why then did he end up in hell?

Perhaps, Dives had no time for God during his lifetime, making himself the captain of his ship, sailing according to his own discretion, separating himself from God so that after death there was no way to bridge the chasm. 

Or perhaps he lived religiously the 10 Commandments but merely living by them, without the essence of love, was not enough to save him (or us).       

Maybe that’s why Jesus gave us the Beatitudes, about identifying with the poor and suffering, working for and being people of peace and justice, being gentle and righteous, merciful and pure of heart (which along with love God and love neighbor make ten...Jesus' ten Commandments).

Perhaps when it comes to entry into the kingdom of God, simply being good is not good enough.

Perhaps it is not enough that we should avoid doing any harm; we must actively reach out and share our lives and possessions with the less fortunate (for their sake and ours). 

It seems that it is not enough to be concerned about the wellbeing of one’s immediate family; any person in need must become like a member of our family, meriting our concern.

In short, it is not good enough to be posthumously benevolent; we must be generous while here on earth.                                                             

Or as a mystic said 800 years ago, You should forget about knowing God, unless you are willing to love the world with great abandon. 

As we’ve heard before, such as in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, extravagant love of even the unworthy is what this journey is all about…it is how we become most like God…and are invited to the heavenly banquet.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


It’s hard to believe that it’s been six years since my last blog. I am delighted to begin it again to announce a new ministry, or perhaps (having just celebrated Labor Day) it’s really a continuation of my labor of love - serving others…and being fulfilled in the process. The added wrinkle here is creating a vehicle (organization and website) - GIVE-A-HAND MINISTRY.ORG - to be a bridge for others to find the help they need.

My initial thought was to simply make my availability known to those who might need help in the traditional sense. Very wise friends counseled that we all have needs (and gifts). We are all hungry for something, perhaps the hunger to find purpose, the need to help another…and to be helped in return. So I have broadened the scope of this ministry.

Several thoughts come to mind. First, it has been said that the best gift you can give another is not from your own treasure but to help them discover theirs. This is at the heart of our ministry. Moreover, to quote a dear friend, “None of us is too rich as to not receive; none of us is too poor as to not give.” I am further reminded of the wisdom of Mother Teresa, who was just declared a saint by Pope Francis, that the greatest poverty in the world is in the richest nation, the U.S., “It is the poverty of loneliness.” There is indeed a hunger in all of us…of one kind or another.

Having said all of that, I now ask your help to begin to assess and make a list of “needs”, including those of service providers, and of your gifts/talents to be better able to match providers and recipients. I invite you to seek to discern your gifts (and needs) and to share them with us via 

Thank you for your assistance, your comments and suggestions.

As always, peace and joy.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Imagine an Estate Planning Seminar…making the best investment for our future...with Jesus of Nazareth as the speaker.  What questions might you ask him? 

What would he say to us?  In today's gospel he says, The children of this world are more prudent...than are the children of light! Why does he say this?  

Today's gospel  deals with a dishonest steward who, upon being dismissed by his employer, did whatever he could to protect his future, by building a network for future help among former clients of his boss. It's worth remembering that we are all stewards of God's bounty...which includes our gifts and possessions. 

Which is very different from looking back and saying, It was a good life.  I accumulated a lot of money and possessions. 

Perhaps he is saying to us that we pay more attention and time in how we invest our efforts and resources, our very self for our careers and retirement, our financial investments than we do on our spiritual estate plan.

Through the years we have made, and continue to make, many investments. How do we go about it? We look at what we have...our needs and wants...and assess what steps to take. And then we review our investments periodically. 

Right now we are in the football season. Every week after weekend games, coaches review game films. Why? They want to get the most out of their players to improve their results and achieve their goals. That's what we want too.  We want to get the most out of our game plan to achieve the results we desire.  How often do we review our spiritual game plan?  Do we even have a spiritual game plan?

One of these days our game of life will end. At a retreat for priests this week at Our Lady of Florida in North Palm Beach, our retreat master, Fr. Charlie Smiech, a Franciscan friar, said, We take in the life to come, what we give in this life.   

When our playing days are over we all want to say, I gave it my all. I did the best I could. I spent my money and time well. I invested wisely. I invested them in my future. 

Today Jesus speaks to us about how to best invest for our future. What is the future that we have in mind? What matters most to us? 

Some years back, there was a T.V. commercial about an investment firm which said, When E. F. Hutton speaks...people listen.

What about when Jesus speaks? Do we listen?

Sunday, September 11, 2016


STRIKE THREE!!!  Are there any words more dreaded by a little leaguer (and older ones too). There is a feeling of embarrassment, dejection, worthlessness. But with real little ones, in T-ball, we don't count strikes. We say, Great swing! Just keep swinging till you hit the ball. And when they do, they often run every which way. Why do we treat them differently?

Perhaps we want to be more compassionate and understanding. Perhaps to build their self-confidence...their character.  More important than winning a game is how we help them grow to be their best. Perhaps we have discovered that the best way to help them become better players (and persons) is to affirm what they do well. When do we stop building self-esteem, character? NEVER.

It's worth noting that we were chosen by Christ at our baptism to be on his team. More important than any battle we fight and whether or not we win, is how we shape ourselves to become Christ-like. May we never let anyone or anything change us from being the person we, and Christ, want us to be.

In shaping our kids, and ourselves, whom do we look to? Many of us, particularly on this Mercy Sunday, turn to holy, peace-filled people like Pope Francis and Mother Teresa. But sometimes we are bombarded with violence, and we may want to be more like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. No one messed with these guys. There was no such thing as mercy.

Who are the role models that really shape our character? Whom do we want to imitate?

Can we really try to live in our violent world like Francis and Teresa? Would society work that way?  It seems way too risky. What of law and order? What of justice? Still those of us who follow Jesus can't overlook that his message was, Be merciful! Do we believe in mercy or justice?

Perhaps it depends on whether it is we who are being judged. What do we look for in the Confessional (after confessing the same sin for the umpteenth time), justice or mercy? When a police officer stops us, do we want mercy or justice? When we misplace a bill and then forget about it until we receive the next and the interest and penalties are more than the initial charge, do we want justice or mercy?

Sometimes it's not bills that get lost, but we. Fifteen years ago our lives were shaken. We were lost...trying to make sense of what happened. Much too much of this senseless violence has continued and escalated. We are still trying to make sense of it. What do we do at times like these?

When we are lost and can't seem to find our way out, we can respond with anger or we can seek the peace of Christ within. We can let God find us...and comfort us...and lead us out of the darkness. Without God we remain lost, in the dark.

After 9/11, millions turned to God and returned to their faith. Churches were packed. Thousands responded with magnanimous hospitality and compassion in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada to host those who could not fly home to the U.S. because the borders were closed. We were united as one, not just in the U.S. but all over the world.  It brought out the best in us.

Sometimes we may hurt another, perhaps unintentionally and don't know what to do. And perhaps we find that we are forgiven...shown mercy...not because we earned it or even asked for it, but simply out of their goodness...their generosity of mercy. No strings attached.

That's what we heard in today's gospel passage of the Prodigal Son. The parable tells us of a father who is terribly wounded by his son, who basically said to him, I wish you were dead so I could get my inheritance. He receives it and wastes it all. When the son wants to return, the father responds with magnanimous mercy. But the older son is angry with the father's action and argues with him.  There's a part of the older son in all of us. We shouldn't be surprised if part of us wants to argue with God.  God's ways are not always our ways.

But if faith means anything, we must admit that God's way is the best way. Without God we remain lost.

When all is said and done, we must decide what will shape the person we want to be: justice or mercy?

When all is said and done, will it be, Make my day! or Let me make your day.?