The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Home Again...At Last

Isn't it interesting that the older I get, the more I look forward to returning home from travels? It's not that I didn't enjoy our recent trip to Spain and the week-long cruise we sandwiched in the middle of our visit. Not at all. Diane and I had a wonderful time and found Barcelona to be a remarkable city. But I can't recall a happier return home than this most recent one. Perhaps the series of flight delays, the marathon-like hikes to make our connections, the inexplicably altered seat assignments, the misdirected baggage that arrived two days late, the ever-decreasing legroom of "economy" class seating, the horrendously bad food (bad even for airline cuisine), the incompetent and surly TSA agents, and the fact that we had been awake for 25 hours...perhaps all of this colored my emotional state by the time we arrived at our front door. Yes, as the young Dorothy made clear before her departure from Oz, "There's no place like home." Unlike Dorothy, however, I had neither ruby slippers nor the assistance of a good witch and had to rely on Iberia Airlines for transportation.

Naturally, when I returned home late Thursday night, I returned to a full schedule. Friday evening I spoke to a local neighborhood group about the needs of the Wildwood Soup Kitchen. In exchange for this simple task Diane and I were privileged to join these good people in a tasty dinner catered by a local barbecue restaurant. Then these nice folks handed me a generous check for the soup kitchen and filled the back of my Kia SUV with canned goods and other foodstuffs. We thank God daily for His bounty!

Early Saturday morning five deacons from the parish drove to Orlando to take part in the dedication of St. James Cathedral. The Mass was celebrated by our former bishop, now Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, who was joined by our bishop-designate John Noonan along with several other bishops. It was a wonderful event and only the second time I had witnessed the dedication rite of a church. For the deacons of the diocese, however, our trip turned into an all-day affair since lunch was followed by a mandatory three-hour workshop on the plague of human trafficking, particularly as it exists in Florida. It was certainly interesting and valuable, but it made for a long day. And then, when I returned home, I had to glue myself to the keyboard for several hours as I prepared a homily for a Sunday afternoon Mass.

For Diane and me, the next few days will be monopolized by our preparations for the Thanksgiving Day meal at the Wildwood Soup Kitchen. As the Thursday cook, Diane is always responsible for preparing and serving the Thanksgiving dinner. As is usual on Thanksgiving, we are blessed with many extra volunteers to help us before, during and after the event. As Diane's husband my task is really quite simple: do whatever she tells me. I find that when I do this and refrain from making any suggestions whatsoever, things go a lot more smoothly.

The other event that will occupy my time is my preparation for the Advent Mission that three of us deacons will conduct on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Fortunately, my talk is scheduled for Wednesday, so I have a few extra days of preparation. I am also blessed to follow two excellent homilists, both seasonal residents here in Florida: Deacon Richard Radford of the Archdiocese of Boston and Deacon Claude Curtin of the Diocese of Rochester. Please keep us in your prayers as we strive to help our parishioners, and ourselves, prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I  will post more about our trip in the days to come, and even include a few (only a few) of the nearly 2,000 digital photos I took. I may even add a few videos.

Let me just say that Europe, the cradle of Christendom, needs our prayers. In large numbers Europeans have turned their backs on Jesus Christ and His Church and unless they turn back to the Way, the Truth and the Life, they run a great risk, a risk of self-destruction. It's a very sad thing to see the majority of this formerly Christian people living as if God doesn't exist. But there are signs of hope, especially among the youth, a generation that appears to be rebelling against the nihilism of its parents, a generation that is searching for and remarkably open to the Truth. One day, early in our visit to Barcelona, we took the train and cable car to the Benedictine Monastery at Montserrat. While there, in the spiritual center of Catalonia, we witnessed a group of Catholic youth, accompanied by several young, enthusiastic priests, processing out of the basilica into the adjoining plaza where they sang and danced in praise of God. It was a wonderful, inspiring sight.
Catholic youth process from Montserrat basilica to the adjacent square

Youthful musicians at Montserrat
Pope Benedict's message to the youth of the world seems to resonate with so many as they experience the tremendous dissatisfactions that result from the material enticements which the world holds up before them. As he told the youth of Malta in April:
"God loves every one of us with a depth and intensity that we can hardly begin to imagine. And he knows us intimately, he knows all our strengths and all our faults. Because he loves us so much, he wants to purify us of our faults and build up our virtues so that we can have life in abundance. When he challenges us because something in our lives is displeasing to him, he is not rejecting us, but he is asking us to change and become more perfect...God rejects no one. And the Church rejects no one. Yet in his great love, God challenges all of us to change and to become more perfect...And so I say to all of you, 'Do not be afraid!'...You may well encounter opposition to the Gospel message. Today’s culture, like every culture, promotes ideas and values that are sometimes at variance with those lived and preached by our Lord Jesus Christ. Often they are presented with great persuasive power, reinforced by the media and by social pressure from groups hostile to the Christian faith. It is easy, when we are young and impressionable, to be swayed by our peers to accept ideas and values that we know are not what the Lord truly wants for us. That is why I say to you: do not be afraid, but rejoice in his love for you; trust him, answer his call to discipleship, and find nourishment and spiritual healing in the sacraments of the Church."
Sometimes, as I look at my own generation, I fear for the salvation of those who have created all sorts of false gods and idols in an attempt to taste the "good life" that the world has promised them. I'm afraid we missed our opportunity to change the world. Perhaps this new generation, this seeking generation full of questions and desiring reasons to hope, will be the ones to evangelize the world. I think, perhaps, they are more attuned to receiving Christ's message of hope and love than we ever were. Pray that it is so.

(Oh, by the way...I didn't post much from Spain for a number of reasons. First, the hotel's WiFi signal simply didn't reach our room during our last four days in Barcelona and I really didn't feel like sitting in the lobby with my netbook when I could be napping in my far more comfortable room. Second, posting from the iPhone was just far too tedious. And third, the cost of internet access aboard ship was prohibitively least for my budget.)

God's peace...

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