Archive for April, 2022

In Praise of Compost 5-1-2022

Friday, April 29th, 2022

As spring warms the earth, the work of the garden begins. And, as every serious gardener knows, compost is not a pile of garbage but life itself.
Gardeners have long realized the secret of the compost pile for nourishing and maintaining a garden of beauty and bounty. In a compost pile, nature transforms our unused, unwanted scraps into nutrient-rich soil. Like the garden itself, the compost heap rests during the cold winter months under the snow, slowly changing in form from a pile of dead leaves and rotting food into humus, nature’s own rich fertilizer.
Yes, it stinks, it generates heat, it’s an ugly pile. But it is one of nature’s most amazing metamorphoses. The brown of dead leaves provides the carbon; the green of fruits and vegetables, as well as the eggshells and coffee grounds, are rich in nitrogen. Bacteria and fungi, earthworms and insects break the material down. Rain, air, time and temperature transform the worthless and unwanted into the richest of soil for the most bountiful of harvests.
In this Easter springtime, composting can be more than a gardening miracle but a living parable of the transformation we can affect in our own lives. In God’s time, with God’s grace, we can transform the “scraps”, the hurts, the disappointments of our lives into a rich “humus” in which the life and love of God can take root and flourish. The Easter Jesus shows us that change is always possible, that we can always begin again and again and again. Like good composting, such transformation demands the hard work of surrendering our brokenness, our insensitivity, our stubbornness, our self-absorption, and placing it all in the “pile”, then trusting God to work his miracle of transformation. The compost pile teaches us to embrace life, to reject nothing, to be open to mystery, to become what God desires of us all: to be humus, to be human.

God’s Mercy 4-24-2022

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

A few years Pope Francis called a wonderful jubilee of mercy. I was so excited when he did this and I really wanted to make it a special year for myself and the people of the parish. What I had to do first, I had to get a better understanding of what is mercy, exactly. To some people’s modern ears it sounds like weak surrender or cheap forgiveness or even worse, the self-satisfied flinging of a coin to a homeless person. I did not want to let Pope Francis down so I began my search to understand mercy better.
As I was looking I came across a definition of mercy by a Jesuit priest name Fr. James F. Keenan. “Mercy” he says is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another. This definition unlocked my imagination, and I was immediately flooded with images and stories.
Mercy is the Holy Child Jesus Church community in Queens. When a desperate mother left her newborn son in the church’s manger scene in late November, multiple parish families stepped forward to adopt him. “I think it’s beautiful,” Fr. Christopher Heanue, the church administrator, said. “A church is a home for those in need, and she felt, in this stable – a place where Jesus will find his home – a home for her child.” Parishioners have two name suggestions for the baby: John, because he came before Jesus to prepare the way; and Emanuel, which means “God is with us.”
Mercy is the Intergenerational Learning Center at Providence Mount St. Vincent in Seattle – a preschool inside a nursing home. Through planned and spontaneous activities, the kids and the seniors interact throughout the day, sharing in art projects, exercise, story time, and more. Both the youngsters and the residents have a lot to offer one another and a lot to receive.
Mercy is a mother who sleeps on the floor of her three year-old son’s room at 2:00am because he thinks there are monsters in there.
Mercy is Oakland Athletics pitcher Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan, who partnered with Chicago city government officials to organize Thanksgiving dinner for the city’s 17 families of Syrian refugees. And mercy is the nonprofit organizations – many of them Catholic – that have proclaimed “Refugees welcome” in states were elected officials have threatened to close their doors.
Mercy is when a person returns to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after decades, nervous as can be and embarrassed to have forgotten the act of contrition, and the confessor responds with warmth, gentleness, and bit of good humor.
Mercy is the hashtag #PorteOuverte, or “Open Door,” that scores of Parisians used on the night of the terror attacks there to signal that they would open their homes to anyone who needed shelter.
Mercy is Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia, where you can spend an extra dollar to have a post-it put up on the wall. Homeless members of the community are then welcome to come in to the shop and trade in a post-it for a slice.
Mercy is the Gospel stories of the prodigal son, the woman caught in adultery, Matthew the unscrupulous tax collector, and Peter the denier. The forgiveness they receive does not condone them in their selfishness. They are not condoned, but redeemed.
These images of mercy share some things in common. Each example features the element of “willingness” that Keenan emphasizes. Instead of avoiding or dismissing the chaos of another, these practitioners of mercy move toward the chaos with creativity and boldness. They make me wonder, “If we Catholics were 10 times bolder and more creative in our practice of mercy than we are right now, how might things be different?” Well, we’d probably have preschools in all our nursing homes and refugees at all our family parties, for starters.
I close, Mercy the willingness to enter the chaos of another human being. Thank you God for the mercy you show all of us.

Easter People 4-17-2022

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

In one family, it is a Good Friday. A job has been lost, a career derailed. A serious illness has been diagnosed. A once-loving relationship has unraveled. But the other members of the family put aside their own lives and come together at the foot of their loved one’s cross. Their love moves whatever mountain necessary, changes the course of whatever river is in their way. Together, Mom and Dad and Sister and Brother, Step Parent, Single Parent, and Grandparent bear one another’s crosses to bring hope, healing, forgiveness — and resurrection — to every aspect of their life together as a family. The love of our families can transform tragic and desperate Good Fridays into Easter hope.
In this classroom, it is a Good Friday. The numbers and diagrams in the algebra text are a maze to the student. She is lost and frustrated and discouraged and wants to quit. A tired, overworked teacher just wants to go home after a long week; but, seeing her student’s frustration, she takes off her coat, puts down her pile of books and papers, and patiently walks through the problems with the befuddled student. After a lot of hard work and patience, the “lights come on.” A teacher’s selfless caring and generous gift of time transform this student’s Good Friday into Easter light.
At corporate, it is Good Friday. A single mother has lost all of her vacation and leave time to care for her seriously ill child. She is about to lose her job – and the important medical benefits critical to her family’s survival. Her co-workers devise a plan to pool some of their vacation time and cover her responsibilities so that she can keep her job and benefits while caring for her son. A Good Friday of desperation is transformed into an Easter of possibility.
If we are honest, all of us sometimes find ourselves stuck in a Good Friday world – our problems batter us, overwhelm us, strain our ability to cope and make it all work. Our Alleluias are tempered by reality; we approach this Easter Day with “Christ is risen, BUT…” But in raising his son from the dead, God affirms the Good news of his Christ: that good can conquer evil, that love can transform hatred, that light can shatter the darkness. We need to remember and remember it well, the story of Jesus whether told in the Bible or on a movie screen does not end in the cold hopelessness of the cross but reaches ultimate fulfillment in the Resurrection. Easter calls us to embrace the Risen One’s compassion and openness of heart and spirit, enabling us to transform the Good Fridays of our lives into Easter mornings.
This Easter morning I close with a challenge for all of us!
Some years ago, I was in Rome on Palm Sunday with the youth from our Diocese for World Youth Day. We all had the opportunity to hear Mother Theresa of Calcutta speak.
I remember well what she said:
“Death has not put a stop to the mission of Jesus. His mission is to be carried on through us. Living witnesses of his presence.” The challenge, to be Easter People — not just today, but everyday. People whose lives not just their mouths (in church) radiate (not perfectly but as best we can) the hope — the joy – the presence of Jesus risen and alive – right here — right now.
Let us stand and re commit ourselves to Being Easter People everyday!