This has been an apocalyptic day in an apocalyptic time. We have had nearly a week of looting and rioting following the murder of an innocent black man by police in Minneapolis. The country and world are enduring a pandemic and now we are beset by civil strife the likes of which we have not seen in over fifty years. We are descending into chaos and perhaps worse. Tonight our president threatened to send the military into states that did not meet his ultimatum to end the uprising. It’s all bound to fail as only love can conquer hate but our president is not a man who loves anyone. I pray for him everyday. He’s out of his depth. Worse yet we need real leadership at this time in our history and in the world as we grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic.
People are hurting and sending in the troops is not going to allay their fears nor will it end the strife. It will likely cause the pandemic to worsen. Recently I read that Michael Joncas had released a new hymn in the midst of this chaos. It’s called ‘Shelter Me.’ It’s going to be a classic and maybe it will bring peace to our strife torn country and world. The enemies of peace and freedom seem to be winning tonight.
This is a great memoir and one that was an easy read especially in the dark days of this pandemic and our nation falling into ruin. The book reminded me of a happier time when the USA was. a place of hope and prominence. Reading this love story was refreshing and brought me joy. I’m sure you would enjoy it.
Interesting book and one I’m glad I read. It gave me insights about Nancy Pelosi that I would never have known. She’s an incredible person. You have to admire her verve even if you don’t agree with her politics. Lots of insights and information about how she worked with the Congress and the Executive Branch over a career that’s now spanned over thirty years.
If you’re an American and you’re not sick of racism and bigotry in this country then perhaps you’re part of the problem. I grew up with a racist who threw one of my high school friends out of our house and called him a black bastard. My friend’s fault was that he had beat my Dad in a game of table tennis. My father would not allow me to play Motown music nor allow me to watch the NBA on our television because according to him I was a “n-word” lover. That was fifty years ago. I bore the brunt of my father’s prejudice because I liked Martin Luther King Jr.
A couple of weeks ago we saw men armed to the teeth with assault rifles and more trying to intimidate the governor of Michigan and members of their legislative body. What did the police do? Damn little. A couple of days ago a black man was apprehended in Minnesota for a non-violent crime and in the process of his arrest he was handcuffed and then choked to death by the police. This was recorded and witnessed by other people. Following that there was civil unrest and the police showed up with riot gear and tear gas.
There is a multi-tiered system of justice in the United States. If you’re white you can show up at a state capitol, intimidate folks you disagree with and not even get a slap on the wrist. But, if you’re black and you protest the murder of an innocent man you get police in riot gear and tear gas.
We are deeply flawed and broken. Our racism and bigotry are on full display for the world to see. White folks who don’t want to wear masks storm state capitols with assault rifles and other paraphernalia. Yesterday police in riot gear answer a protest by black Americans angry over the brutal murder of a black man stopped for a traffic infraction.
Is there a path to redemption? I’m not sure. We’ve allowed the cancer of racism and xenophobia to brood and fester for too long. We even have national leaders who promote it. We are not true to our founding documents but then we never were. Pundits and preachers say we’re a Christian nation while turning a blind eye to systemic racism.
The sin of the white man is to be expiated, through a genuine response to the redemptive love of the Negro for him. The Negro is ready to suffer, if necessary to die, if this will make the white man understand his sin, repent of it, and atone for it.
There’s been a lot of pushback on social distancing and mask wearing. Many consider theses measures as umbrage. It isn’t always a pleasant experience. It is an annoyance to have to wear a face covering. When I was a little boy my Mom would say, “offer it up.” In other words doing thing that were not pleasant were in fact a call to holiness. I have begun to look at mask wearing differently since remembering my Mother’s missive.
Many times in life we’re called to endure situations that are irksome, worrisome and annoying. This is just one more of those instances. When we think of holiness it’s sometimes confused with piety and perhaps going to church on your day of worship. However, there are myriad opportunities to be holy or called to holiness. For some it may be a stoplight, for others it might be waiting in that line in the grocery store. In this pandemic standing six feet apart, wearing a mask and washing our hands frequently can be calls to holiness too.
The more I try to avoid suffering the more I suffer. I need to learn to embrace the suffering and embrace the mask that I am called to wear. The mask is my penance, my cross and my redemption.
When I joined the United States Naval Reserve in June of 1972 I could never have imagined how that would change my life. I was a draftee who was looking for a better option than going in the Army and possibly going to Vietnam. I had just finished my first year of college and being drafted was at once frightening and also a disruption to my plans. I remember well the day of my enlistment. My grandmother accompanied me to the Naval Reserve Center in Jamestown, New York. My decision to become a Navy Hospital Corpsman could well have sent me to Vietnam but that was not my fate. Instead I served at a dispensary at Naval Air Station Albany GA and later at the Naval Submarine Medical Center New London which was actually in Groton CT.
I did well on active duty and in less than two years time I became a Petty Officer 3rd Class after having started out as an E-1. I learned a lot about labor and delivery and neonatal care in the newborn nursery. In New London I worked in the surgery clinic and assisted with minor surgery. Leaving active duty in early 1975 I returned to civilian life and eventually married and later finished college. I was never active in the American Legion and was very low key about my involvement with the military. Then a couple of years ago i got the chance to go to Rome and Assisi as part of the Franciscan Pilgrimages Program for veterans. On the pilgrimage I met other veterans. Some older, some younger but we all had one thing in common, we had served our country in time of war. After returning from the first pilgrimage I was determined to help other veterans have this pilgrimage experience. I contacted Francisco Morales who is the Director of Veterans Services at St. Bonaventure University and expressed my willingness to help. Frank who is a retired US Army combat veteran accepted my offer and gave me some swag to take home.
St. Bonaventure University’s Office of Veterans Services has teamed up with the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Program on the Food4Vets program. I’ve been a volunteer in that program. The past couple of weeks Frank has invited me to have a free meal and today I couldn’t say no. I joined another veteran volunteer at one of the local restaurants involved with the program. We each received a fish fry with the trimmings. Shortly after we put our food in the car Frank arrived to present each of us with a “Military Aligned Service Award” from St. Bonaventure University. I was very moved by the experience. Frank had personally designed the medallions that include an image of St. Francis astride a horse as he returns from battle. In the background of the medallion you can see the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi as it appears and then the back of a contemporary soldier.
This beautiful chapel was my favorite place at the Franciscan Sanctuary of La Verna. The beautiful statue of the blessed mother really captured my attention and imagination. The building was the Chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Mary in Heaven), built in 1216 by St. Francis himself.
Since the lockdown began I’ve been prayer walking daily. As I walk I pray and each day those prayers include the rosary. I prefer the Franciscan Crown Rosary. The last decade of the Franciscan Crown is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There’s always been something about Mary because I was born on a Marian feast day. My favorite hymn is Ave Maria. Ave Maria Gratia Plena Dominus Tecum. Protect us this day.
Today I received a new shipment of my favorite bread from Abbey of the Genesee. I’ve been eating Monks Bread since I was a boy in the 1950’s. We used to be able to purchase the bread in local grocery stores but that’s not the case anymore. The Trappist Monks who make the bread believe that’s due to market forces brought on by an increasing number of people who are gluten sensitive.
With the onset of the pandemic I am no longer able to visit the abbey and purchase the bread in person. Thanks to the Monk’s online bread store I can choose from a variety of selections and have it shipped to my door. Today I received six loaves of bread and four boxes of biscotti. My favorite breads are sunflower and multi-grain. I absolutely love their dark chocolate biscotti too.
Buying the bread helps support the monastery and the brothers. It keeps me connected with them physically and spiritually. Everyday I have two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with Monks bread. Whenever I have lunch the unique aroma of this special bread fills the room and I’m connected in thought and prayer to this special community of men who pray without ceasing. Last year the Monks opened a new bread store at the abbey. Now with the pandemic neither the store nor the abbey are open to the public but thanks to the internet I can still be connected to the abbey and their wonderful bread which feeds my soul and spirit.
I have been praying the Franciscan Crown Rosary almost everyday since the quarantine began. I have not missed a day in the month of May trying my best to follow the example of Pope Francis. I use a five decade rosary which is the one most folks are familiar with and then after the fifth decade I go back and pray the last two decades again. This brings me to a total of seven decades. There have been days and times when I have questioned the effectiveness of my prayers and whether there were any results.
Today I received some good news about our family and I knew immediately that my prayers are being answered. I gave thanks for the good news and tomorrow when I’m walking I’ll be praying the Franciscan Crown again. Hail Mary is a metaphor for a desperate pass to win a game. I don’t know how that came to be but I do believe that Mary does intercede for us.
One of the reasons I like the Franciscan Crown is that it’s easier for me to remember the mysteries that I’m supposed to meditate on. Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Visit of the Magi, finding Jesus in the Temple, the appearance to Mary after the Resurrection and the Assumption.
I can’t remember the Pope’s prayers each day so I substitute my own. Each day my prayer focus changes and I continue pray for leadership in this pandemic and for the people and patients on the front lines.