Thursday, October 1, 2015

Final Thoughts On The Papal Visit & My Pilgrimage To Philadelphia

Following the Closing Mass, we sat around and had coffee reflecting on the "Highs and Lows" of our pilgrimage to see the Pope in Philadelphia.

The "high-points" of our journey were being together in this "City of Brotherly Love." William Penn named the city Philadelphia which comes from the Greek "Phileo" Love (for a friend) and "Adelphos" Brother. As a Quaker, Penn himself had experienced religious persecution and wanted this to be a place where anyone would be free to worship.

At Philadelphia's Independence Hall, Pope Francis gave a passionate speech on religious freedom, immigration and tolerance. It's very providential that this message would be given in the city of "Brotherly Love" founded with the desire for religious freedom.

"The Quakers who founded Philadelphia were inspired by a profound evangelical sense of the dignity of each individual and the ideal of a community united by brotherly love," he said. "This conviction led them to found a colony which would be a haven of religious freedom and tolerance. That sense of fraternal concern for the dignity of all, especially the weak and the vulnerable, became an essential part of the American spirit."

The Pope also said, "You should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land."

It is also providential that in the "City of Brotherly Love", Pope Francis would also speak about God being Love. He went on to tell the story of a child who once asked him (“you know how kids ask difficult questions”) what God did when he existed before the creation of the world. His response, after some thought, was, “before creating the world, God loved! Because God is love.”

Francis went on to eloquently summarize Catholic teaching on creation and the family: God’s love “was so big” that he created the world “to share that love with something outside of himself.” In his view, “the most beautiful thing that God made … was the family.”

After all, he asked, “where did [God] send his son? To a palace? To a city? To a company? No, he sent him to a family!

The pope recognized that some could consider his optimism about the family groundless, since he is celibate. So he was quick to acknowledge the difficulties that can emerge in family life. “We can get in fights. Sometimes plates go flying. Children bring headaches.” He cracked a broad smile as he quipped, “and I won’t speak about mother-in-laws!"

Read more of Pope Francis' Amazing Unscripted Speech on the Gift of Family

Many have asked me what it was like to be there and if this experience has changed me. Here's what I know for sure. It has given me a renewed hope in married life. The greatest blessing for me was to be at the closing of the World Meeting of Families with a wonderful young married couple, whose wedding I witnessed last year, who are now more in love than ever. They have not only given me a renewed sense of hope but they even mentioned that their involvement in the church renewed the hope of their own parish priest.

I realized that over and over our message needs to be that of Love. Pope Francis continuously models for us the axiom "you get more bees with honey than with vinegar". I realize too that we are blessed in this time to have a good, humble Holy Father, who doesn't consider himself a "Rock Star in the USA" but the servant of servants.

What a wonderful time for our country, for our world, and for our Church.

Viva il Papa! (Long live the Pope!)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

View My Live Streams From The Papal Visit In Philadelphia

Live From Philadelphia, it's... Pope Francis! 

Miss my "live streams" from the Papal Visit? No worries, you can still live vicariously through my phone as I have archived my "live streamed" videos of the Papal Motorcade and The World Meeting of Families Closing Mass in Philadelphia.

Reflections from the World Meeting of Families & Papal Visit

I've just posted a new reflection from my time so far in Philly, including the first Papal Mass this morning at the Basilica and a conversation I've had with Bishop Walkowiak about what it was like in the Cathedral during the Pope's visit to Washington DC and special mid-day prayer with the Bishops. You can read this and all my reflections to come this weekend on my special "World Meeting of Families (WMOF) 2015" blog page. Keep an eye open for more photos and videos to come as well! 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Join Me In Philly!

Even if you can't make it to the Papal Visit at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this weekend, be sure to keep an eye on the "World Meeting of Families (WMOF) 2015" page on my blog for exclusive content including videos, pictures and reflections from this historic first visit of Pope Francis to the United States!

Sunday, September 13, 2015


One of the great lessons that I learned in the seminary was from one of our spiritual directors. He tried to ingrain in us that a truth or a lie can be spoken by anyone, and it's up to us to determine whether or not something is true or false. It doesn't matter what the source is, where it's coming from or who says it. We ultimately have to take it to heart and say, "Is that true or is that a lie?" 

Audio Version Available - Click To Listen

I thought of this when I was watching some of the YouTube highlights from the last Republican debate, and one of the things that I've been keeping up with is what has been come to be known as Trumpisms. It's definitely worth a Google if you haven't heard of them yet!

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump will say some pretty absurd things, and they tend to get a lot of attention when he says them. So the media has started calling them Trumpisms. And some of them I can't even repeat without going to Confession, so I will leave it up to you to Google the rest. 

However, one of the Trumpisms that I can talk about is how Trump responded when he was asked, "If you were president, how would you deal with the tension going on with Russia?" And this is what he said: "I'd make friends with them. I'd make friends with President Putin." It kind of shocked everybody, and it was really written off as the first Trumpism.

I thought about that statement. Is it true or is it false? It's true, right? What are we called to do with our enemies? We are called to love them. So he made a true statement. It doesn't matter what the source or where it came from. It's true, we are called to love our enemies. 

Saint James says, "Where do wars and where do conflicts among you come from? It is from your passions that make you members of war. You covet but do not possess; you kill and envy, but cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask." 

So James is telling us what happens when we do anything that is selfish of our own passion, we wage war against each other. And in the beginning of the reading he says, "Beloved, where jealousy and selfishness exist, there is every disorder and every kind of foul practice and there's nothing more foul than war." "But," he says, "the wisdom from above is, first of all, pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits without inconsistency and insincerity, and the fruit of righteousness is sewn, is peace for those who cultivate in peace." 

We are ultimately called to be a people of peace. And the reality is that we're used to wanting victory over an opponent, to achieve something of our own gain. And the Trumpism that proves to be true, at least how I interpret it is, we're called to befriend our enemies. We're called to actually befriend them. And I think about this on a very real and practical level in my own life, and ask you to do the same. Is there anyone right now that you consider an enemy? If so, how can you befriend them? The tendency is to want to attack or bring them down, but the reality is we're called to befriend each other.

I know a couple that have gone through a messy divorce. Having been divorced for a couple years now, the former husband said to me, "I've finally made friends with her. We're no longer enemies, but we have figured out a way to be friends." And I think about couples that have been married for 50 or 60 years and at some point, you know, through all of life's ups and downs, they have made friends with each other. Hopefully, by the end of 60 years, they have learned to love each other and accept each other and become the best of friends. 

I think about it within the father and son relationship, you know where you have the defiant son and the domineering father and they grow up and there's all this tension in their lives; that hopefully at some point the father and the son become friends as they grow older. This is true with me and my pastors. You have the young priest and the older priest. So Father Martello and I, by the end of his time here, we became good friends. And I hope the same is true for Father Tim and I. 

But that's the reality for all of us. Hopefully though, over time, we become friends, especially with our enemies -and this can seem very hard to reach and difficult to obtain. And that's why, Donald Trump is being ridiculed in the media; because it's so simplistic. You can't just make friends with a leader of a country that has opposing views as us. But the reality is we can. We are called to actually befriend everyone, especially our enemies. 

So I just want you to reflect for a moment now. Is there anybody in your life that you are at opposition with? Is there anybody in your life that you feel is kind of an enemy or someone that you are constantly at odds with? Those are the people that you are ultimately called to cultivate peace. 

And so the Trumpism that I at least find to be true is, what do we do with people that we've waged war on? We try to become friends with them.