Madison Square Garden Homily of Pope Francis [Full Text]

Posted in Homilies, Pope Francis, Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 25, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

150925-pope-msg-08_c6b18e16877ffb664f22aee3fe95d177.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000The following is the Vatican’s translation of Pope Francis’s homily from this afternoon’s liturgy at Madison Square Garden. Key points: “God is living in our cities. The Church is living in our cities” and Go into the world, proclaiming the Good News of Christ, meeting people where they are (i.e., not where we might want them to be).

We are in Madison Square Garden, a place synonymous with this city. This is the site of important athletic, artistic and musical events attracting people not only from this city, but from the whole world. In this place, which represents both the variety and the common interests of so many different people, we have listened to the words: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).

The people who walked – caught up in their activities and routines, amid their successes and failures, their worries and expectations – have seen a great light. The people who walked – with all their joys and hopes, their disappointments and regrets – have seen a great light.

In every age, the People of God are called to contemplate this light. A light for the nations, as the elderly Simeon joyfully expressed it. A light meant to shine on every corner of this city, on our fellow citizens, on every part of our lives.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. One special quality of God’s people is their ability to see, to contemplate, even in “moments of darkness”, the light which Christ brings. God’s faithful people can see, discern and contemplate his living presence in the midst of life, in the midst of the city. Together with the prophet Isaiah, we can say: The people who walk, breathe and live in the midst of smog, have seen a great light, have experienced a breath of fresh air.

Living in a big city is not always easy. A multicultural context presents many complex challenges. Yet big cities are a reminder of the hidden riches present in our world: in the diversity of its cultures, traditions and historical experiences. In the variety of its languages, costumes and cuisine. Big cities bring together all the different ways which we human beings have discovered to express the meaning of life, wherever we may be.

But big cities also conceal the faces of all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens. In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath “the rapid pace of change”, so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no “right” to be there, no right to be part of the city. They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly. These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity. They become part of an urban landscape which is more and more taken for granted, in our eyes, and especially in our hearts. Knowing that Jesus still walks our streets, that he is part of the lives of his people, that he is involved with us in one vast history of salvation, fills us with hope. A hope which liberates us from the forces pushing us to isolation and lack of concern for the lives of others, for the life of our city. A hope which frees us from empty “connections”, from abstract analyses, or sensationalist routines. A hope which is unafraid of involvement, which acts as a leaven wherever we happen to live and work. A hope which makes us see, even in the midst of smog, the presence of God as he continues to walk the streets of our city.

What is it like, this light travelling through our streets? How do we encounter God, who lives with us amid the smog of our cities? How do we encounter Jesus, alive and at work in the daily life of our multicultural cities?

The prophet Isaiah can guide us in this process of “learning to see”. He presents Jesus to us as “Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”. In this way, he introduces us to the life of the Son, so that his life can be our life. Wonderful Counselor. The Gospels tell us how many people came up to Jesus to ask: “Master, what must we do?” The first thing that Jesus does in response is to propose, to encourage, to motivate. He keeps telling his disciples to go, to go out. He urges them to go out and meet others where they really are, not where we think they should be. Go out, again and again, go out without fear, without hesitation. Go out and proclaim this joy which is for all the people.

The Mighty God. In Jesus, God himself became Emmanuel, God-with-us, the God who walks alongside us, who gets involved in our lives, in our homes, in the midst of our “pots and pans”, as Saint Teresa of Jesus liked to say.

The Everlasting Father. No one or anything can separate us from his Love. Go out and proclaim, go out and show that God is in your midst as a merciful Father who himself goes out, morning and evening, to see if his son has returned home and, as soon as he sees him coming, runs out to embrace him. An embrace which wants to take up, purify and elevate the dignity of his children. A Father who, in his embrace, is “glad tidings to the poor, healing to the afflicted, liberty to captives, comfort to those who mourn” (Is 61:1-2). Prince of Peace. Go out to others and share the good news that God, our Father, walks at our side. He frees us from anonymity, from a life of emptiness and selfishness, and brings us to the school of encounter. He removes us from the fray of competition and self-absorption, and he opens before us the path of peace. That peace which is born of accepting others, that peace which fills our hearts whenever we look upon those in need as our brothers and sisters.

God is living in our cities. The Church is living in our cities, and she wants to be like yeast in the dough. She wants to relate to everyone, to stand at everyone’s side, as she proclaims the marvels of the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. And we ourselves are witnesses of that light.

Photo: NBC/Pool

Initial Reflections on Pope Francis, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton

Posted in Pope Francis, Social Justice, Thomas Merton, YouTube with tags , , , on September 25, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 12.24.19 AMThis video was recorded “on location” in the side chapel of the Mercyhurst University Chapel in Erie, PA. Just minutes after Pope Francis delivered his historic address to the joint session of Congress, I had the great honor and privilege to preside and preach at the Mass of the Holy Spirit, which kicks off the academic year at the university. Being a Thomas Merton scholar and admirer of Dorothy Day, I wanted to share some initial reflections right away, so here they are! My apologies for the lower-than-average production quality, but such is the case when on the road. In addition to the initial reflections, there are a few glimpses of the beautiful campus of Mercyhurst University and a time-lapse video of the opening of this evening’s panel discussion on religious life.

Also, here is the full text of the Pope’s address to Congress.



Pope Francis References Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day in Address to Congress

Posted in Pope Francis, Social Justice, Thomas Merton, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 24, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

merton_painting_webIn what was already the most widely anticipated speech of Pope Francis’s pastoral visit to the United States this week, the Pope’s references to two American models of Christian living — the renowned author and Trappist Monk Thomas Merton and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement Dorothy Day — have surprised many. As a Merton scholar, a three-term member of the Board of Directors for the International Thomas Merton Society, and the author of the recent book The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton, I couldn’t be more delighted at the mention of Merton!

Pope Francis highlights how these two giant figures of American Catholicism “offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality.”

Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day knew each other, corresponded, and represent to many Catholics the depth of an engaged Christian spirituality that extends beyond the personal relationship with God to reach the margins of society and respond to the most pressing concerns of our day. Their lives and model of Christian living anticipated what was made universal by the Second Vatican Council and expressed in Gaudium et Spes, that Christians are called to interpret the “signs of the time” in “light of the Gospel.”

This didn’t happen overnight for either figure. For Merton, there was a growing awareness of the need to engage matters of peace and justice in the world that came when his life of prayer and contemplation awakened within him a sense of interconnectedness with all women and men. He recognized an “original unity,” as he put it in one of his last lectures, that was founded on the “hidden ground of love.”

In a letter to Dorothy Day written on August 23, 1961, Merton acknowledges this growing awareness and turn toward the world:

I don’t feel that I can in conscience, at a time like this, go on writing just about things like meditation, though that has its point. I cannot just bury my head in a lot of rather tiny and secondary monastic studies either. I think I have to face the big issues, the life-and-death issues.

This awakening of his conscience led to addressing concerns of poverty, racism, violence, nuclear armament, the Cold War, economic inequality, among other pressing concerns of his day (and, sadly, still our own).

Both Merton and Day, the latter whose cause for canonization is currently underway, have been somewhat polarizing figures over the last half-century. Those who feel religious people should talk about God and prayer and not the pressing or controversial concerns of the time, have dismissed Merton and Day. Some feel that they represent some kind of “liberal” or “progressive” face of Catholicism. Pope Francis’s references help to put down that sort of polarizing image, pointing to them as icons and models of Christian discipleship for all people!

Photo: Merton Legacy Trust

Learning from Pope Francis: ‘Understanding Laudato Si’ EP 02

Posted in Laudato Si, YouTube Channel with tags , , , , on September 23, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

pope francis_1379610835810_944524_ver1.0_640_480_1386790829863_1635428_ver1.0_640_480Check out this second episode of “Understanding Laudato Si,” which opens with some insight into how to approach the encyclical in terms of the three models examined in the previous episode. Then is goes into the text itself by situating Laudato Si within the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, highlighting the audience Pope Francis aims to reach, and setting up the material that follows in the rest of the text.

Be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel to get the latest information about the series release: and check back for more information.

Getting to Know Saint Junípero Serra, OFM [Video]

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality with tags , , on September 22, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

serrasmallWithin the next day, Pope Francis will celebrate the canonization mass of Fr. Junípero Serra, OFM, the Franciscan friar who founded the California missions in the 18th Century. Though many may have heard something about the controversy surrounding his cause for canonization, namely his alleged mistreatment of native peoples, few know much more if anything about him. Thanks to the efforts of the scholarly society Academy of American Franciscan History, a video was produced and recently released providing the foundational details of the life and story of Serra. Take a look to learn more from the experts and historians.

Photo: via KerstenBeckPhotoArt

Reflections on Itineracy and Behind the Scenes

Posted in Uncategorized, YouTube Channel with tags , , , , , , , on September 21, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

CarShot_Erie_2015Check out this new video for a behind-the-scenes look at my visit to Erie, PA last week to lead a retreat for the priests of the Catholic Diocese of Erie. In addition to a look at the stunning scenery of the conference and retreat center where the event was held, the video contains an impromptu reflection while driving to the airport includes discussion of Franciscan itinerancy, the blessing and sometimes challenge of ministry on the road, and news about his upcoming return to Erie, PA this week for events at Mercyhurst University.

For the record, there was no distraction or danger in this recording beyond what one would have driving talking to a passenger. The camera used on the dashboard has no screen and is small enough to fit entirely in your hand. The experience of recording this was just what you see: as if I were talking through the windshield and directly to the road ahead of me.

I’ll try to post additional videos beyond the new “Understanding Laudato Si” series when possible, including some more ‘behind the scenes’ looks at life and ministry. Enjoy!

Jesus to Us: Welcome Undocumented Immigrants and Refugees

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

ArizonaSB1070UndocumentedImmigrantsIt’s as if today’s readings were selected deliberately because of the current political discussions unfolding in debates and in the news media about immigrants and refugees.

Each of our readings this Sunday could serve as a chapter of a handbook or a “reality check” for those who are prone to emphasize their own Christian faith when it suits their own interests, political ambitions, or personal peace of mind, yet refuse hospitality for the stranger, the outcast, the immigrant, or the refugee.

Our First Reading comes to us from the Book of Wisdom (2:12, 17-20), which highlights the ways in which those willing to follow the will of God are perceived by those who wish to maintain their own interests and protect the status quo. When called out for their hypocrisy, selfishness, the abuse of others, and violence, the voices portrayed in Wisdom begins to plot ways to silence the prophet and cover up their indictment:

Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.

I am reminded of the latest absurdity in United States political showmanship, where a congressman from Arizona has announced his plans to boycott Pope Francis’s address to a joint session of Congress — an invitation, we should remind the good representative, which was extended by the House of Representatives to His Holiness (and not an imposition solicited by the Pope himself — there’s really nothing else like inviting a guest to your house and then deciding not to show up to the party yourself).

This congressman takes issue with the fact that Pope Francis is anticipated to speak strongly about issues of economic injustice and the perilous environmental crises of our day. Because the United States remains the wealthiest and most militarily powerful State in the world, and because we have been at the forefront of promoting an unsustainable and unbridled consumer-driven economy, it is very likely that Pope Francis will address the ways in which the United States must take responsibility and change its collective, social, and institutional behaviors.

He is likely to call us out on our own claims to be “the world’s leader” and demand that we actually lead in justice, peace, and environmental care. It is clear that, like those voiced in the First Reading, those who take umbrage at Pope Francis’s prophetic challenge want to ignore or silence him “because he is obnoxious to us.”

In our Second Reading, taken from the Letter of James (3:16-4:3), we have a continuation of James’s admonition and exhortation, drawing our focus to the source of division and violence.

Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.

Those who watch debates or see campaign ads know all too well that “jealousy and selfish ambition exist,” and that very often “there is disorder and every foul practice” emerging as a result. Actions and campaigns, slogans and slurs that arise from this disposition are neither wise nor Christian, but violent and disordered.

True wisdom is peaceful, full of mercy, and can be seen in the goodness of actions and words toward others.

Finally, our Gospel, taken from Mark (9:30-37), presents us with a twofold insight. First, the disciples continue what began last Sunday in terms of their increasing misunderstanding of Jesus’s mission and ministry. We see how not even three verses after Jesus explains to them the sacrifice required in following the will of God the disciples begin operating according to selfish and worldly logic: who is the best, which disciple is better, who will Jesus favor? It’s clear that going all the way back to the time of Jesus’s own earthly ministry, those who claimed to be his followers didn’t get it.

Second, there is this interesting teaching and example that Jesus gives:

Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Oftentimes, references to Jesus and children elicit an “awwww, isn’t that cute” response. And, in a way, that is perfectly understandable according to the culture and time in which we live.

However, in Jesus’s time children were seen in far less valued terms. They, even more so than women without an explicit tie to a free man, had no legal recourse or status. This is why the bible is always mentioning “widows and orphans,” who occupy the most precarious place in the social strata of the time.

God’s love for these, those who are the most vulnerable and disregarded, is seen in Jesus’s action and in his command to us: if you claim to be my followers, then you will receive those such as this child, those who have no recourse or legal status, those who are despised, forgotten, and overlooked.

In our own day, it seems clear who the most vulnerable and disregarded are, at least in this country they tend to be undocumented immigrants and refugees. The political rhetoric about immigrants has been nothing less than abhorrent and inflammatory, and there is absolutely nothing about it that can be associated with Christianity.

Jesus makes clear in today’s Gospel, supported by the rest of sacred scripture, that we are to welcome undocumented immigrants and refugees. This has been and will likely continue to be a point Pope Francis reiterates in the coming days. If we are unwilling to do that, then we are making it clear that we are unwilling to welcome Jesus Christ. Which, by the way, makes the “amen” at communion time, the moment to affirm acceptance of the Body of Christ, a lie. And as St. Paul says in his First Letter to the Corinthians, to receive the Eucharist and not receive and care for the least among us, is to receive communion unworthily.

Politicians and citizens alike: take note.

Photo: File

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