Archive for church

The Church: A Community of the Ordinary

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 26, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

feet walking sandEverybody loves an underdog story. Humble origins, overcoming disadvantages, surpassing expectations, courage in the face of adversity, and so on, these are the themes that ground the contexts of innumerable narratives that are passed down from one generation to the next — from David v. Goliath (pace Malcolm Gladwell) to modern-day sports triumphs. We seem to take collective comfort in knowing that anything is possible, anything can happen, and anyone can be a success, regardless of the obstacles ahead.

Yet, when it comes to the church, which is the Body of Christ, we are slow to recognize this familiar underdog setup.

Today’s Gospel from Matthew’s account brings us to the foundations of Jesus’s ministry and the famous “call” of the first disciples. These men were illiterate fishermen, unimpressive in their trade (how many pericopes throughout the Gospels focus on when these guys do not catch fish), and even less impressive in their social standing. They were and remained underdogs, the least likely to continue the mission and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth after his death, no matter how charismatic his presence was in life.

But they do.

When it comes to saints and sinners, I think it is far too easy for us to forget the underdog and unlikely origins of the Christian community and instead assign the magic, heroic title of “saint” to Simon, Andrew, James, and John, while appropriating “sinner” for us today. Time has allowed these early disciples, the Twelve especially, to become more than who they were and, therefore, allow us to pale in comparison — at least within our own imaginations.

Today’s Gospel calls to mind how the church began and remains a community of the ordinary, a collective of those who try and fail, but try again no less.

There are ways that today’s Gospel account has also been reduced to a priestly vocations ad, which is really misguided. Yes, the Spirit of God calls people to different ministries and ways of being in the world, this includes those called to the ministerial priesthood. But this Gospel passage isn’t about the ministerial priesthood, it is about the way in which God in Christ continues to call women and men where they are — like the Simon and Andrew at the seashore — and call them to do something both ordinary and spectacular.

The ordinary activity of Christian living is to follow in the footprints of Christ, to “Follow me,” as Jesus asks us to do. It is little things done with love and lovely things that bring light to the world.

The spectacular is what happens when all are engaged in the ordinary activity of Christian living.

Simon Peter was not the one responsible for the continuation of the church after the death and resurrection of the Lord, but it was the entire community bonded to one another in the spirit of Christ and sharing the love of God. This is what St. Paul alludes to in the beginning of his Letter to the Corinthians in our second reading this Sunday. What makes us who we are, we can hear him suggesting, is the call we have received to love one another, walk in the footprints of Christ, and embrace the invitation that comes to all women and men. When we bicker and dispute about ultimately unimportant things, we weaken our connection to each other and work in ways that stand in contrast to the true meaning of our faith. We are the Body of Christ and therefore constitute and continue the community that we call church.

The Christian community began and remains a story of underdogs, those who are not necessarily hailed by the world as clever, popular, intelligent, original, or special. The Christian community is what happens when our ordinary efforts and ability to love meets the invitation from and power of God.

When we consider our proximity to Simon and Andrew and James and John, we can begin to see the responsibility we have to do what they have done — to come and follow Christ.

Photo: Stock

The First Postcolonial Pope?

Posted in Pope Francis, The Papal Watcher with tags , , , , , on July 11, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

117049-pope-francisIt may be too early in the relatively new pontificate of Pope Francis to make such strong claims about the potential signs of postcolonial awareness and sensitivity on the part of the current Bishop of Rome. Yet, a consistent thread of continuous admonition and reading of the Gospel through daily homilies and catechesis suggest there might be something to consider about the ostensible shift in the papal worldview. There are the superficial factors that one might rightly take into consideration, although with an effort to avoid overstatement, including the fact that this pope is the first from the Global South, which also makes him the first from a Latin-American nation, which also makes him the first from a nation whose entire history has been marred by European colonialism in a way that no previous pontiff has known. He is the first non-European Bishop of Rome in more than one thousand years.

There is also his vocal expressions of solidarity with the poor, the marginalized, the forgotten, the immigrant, and the stranger. If the subaltern could speak and, even more impossibly Gayatri Spivak might add, if a pope could speak for the subaltern (which is, understandably, contradictory in so many ways), perhaps Francis would be the one most capable of the task. His words are words of exhortation to heed what liberation theologians like Gutiérrez and Sobrino have said for decades: the church of the poor is the church.

Despite these superficial reasons, or perhaps in addition to them, what has captured my attention in recent days and led me to ask the question that titles this post, is the visit Pope Francis made to the island of Lampedusa last week. In his homily during a mass celebrated there, the pope began with these powerful words:

Immigrants who died at sea, from that boat that, instead of being a way of hope was a way of death. This is the headline in the papers! When, a few weeks ago, I heard the news – which unfortunately has been repeated so many time – the thought always returns as a thorn in the heart that brings suffering. And then I felt that I ought to come here today to pray, to make a gesture of closeness, but also to reawaken our consciences so that what happened would not be repeated. Not repeated, please!

Reflecting on the first reading from the Book of Genesis, Pope Francis asks — as God does in the scripture — “Where are you?” and “Where is your brother?”

These two questions resonate even today, with all their force! So many of us, even including myself, are disoriented, we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live, we don’t care, we don’t protect that which God has created for all, and we are unable to care for one another. And when this disorientation assumes worldwide dimensions, we arrive at tragedies like the one we have seen.

“Where is your brother?” the voice of his blood cries even to me, God says. This is not a question addressed to others: it is a question addressed to me, to you, to each one of us. These our brothers and sisters seek to leave difficult situations in order to find a little serenity and peace, they seek a better place for themselves and for their families – but they found death. How many times to those who seek this not find understanding, do not find welcome, do not find solidarity! And their voices rise up even to God! And once more to you, the residents of Lampedusa, thank you for your solidarity! I recently heard one of these brothers. Before arriving here, he had passed through the hands of traffickers, those who exploit the poverty of others; these people for whom the poverty of others is a source of income. What they have suffered! And some have been unable to arrive!

The situation at Lampedusa is emblematic of the worldwide plight of those who are exploited, abandoned, abused, forgotten, and left for dead. They are the nobodies, the people who cannot speak, the ones who have no resources or recourse. As the pope notes, so many of these immigrants risk everything — their lives and the lives of their loved ones — to seek something slightly better than the squalor and misery the world has forced upon them.

And it is forced upon them. Abject poverty is not part of God’s plan for creation. It is the result of our sin, for what we have done and, perhaps especially, for what we have failed to do.

Here is the most powerful of points in Pope Francis’s homily, which is well-worth quoting at length. It is here that the pontiff, who has been over the course of centuries symbolically representative of the European colonization of the two-thirds world, it is here that the pope makes a historic shift in pontifical outlook:

Today no one in the world feels responsible for this; we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility; we have fallen into the hypocritical attitude of the priest and of the servant of the altar that Jesus speaks about in the parable of the Good Samaritan: We look upon the brother half dead by the roadside, perhaps we think “poor guy,” and we continue on our way, it’s none of our business; and we feel fine with this. We feel at peace with this, we feel fine! The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business…

We are a society that has forgotten the experience of weeping, of “suffering with”: the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep! In the Gospel we have heard the cry, the plea, the great lament: “Rachel weeping for her children . . . because they are no more.” Herod sowed death in order to defend his own well-being, his own soap bubble. And this continues to repeat itself. Let us ask the Lord to wipe out [whatever attitude] of Herod remains in our hears; let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty in the world, in ourselves, and even in those who anonymously make socio-economic decisions that open the way to tragedies like this. “Who has wept?” Who in today’s world has wept?

The critique of globalization rooted in faith, in scripture, in tradition, is striking. Those who unthinkingly participate in institutions and systems of global commerce — which is all of us in the United States, for example, if only by proxy — are responsible. We are responsible in some part for the plight of others, for the subjugation of the majority of the world, for the blood of our sisters and brothers. But do we even weep? As the pope asks, “who in today’s world has wept?”

Photo: File

Universal Pastor: What a Pope Should Be

Posted in Pope Francis, The Papal Watcher, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 19, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

06212013p01phaIn a recent article by NCR’s John Allen, Jr., titled “Francis at 100 Days: ‘The World’s Parish Priest,'” the veteran Vatican reporter attempts to offer a summary account and initial analysis of the new pope’s first 100 days as Bishop of Rome. He highlights what appears to be the ostensible dissonance between what is (or is not) actually being done and what the perception of the pontiff’s “administration” has been. In other words, there are some who might suggest that not a whole lot is, in effect, changing or has changed because of the relatively few and minor substantive changes that have been inaugurated to date. Put another way, Allen suggests: “The usual models would thus say that so far, Francis has been all sizzle and no steak.”

“Yet,” as Allen notes, “at the grassroots, there’s a palpable sense something seismic is underway.”

This is not to be underestimated. There is a way in which cynics (including me at times…let’s face it, we’re all cynical now and then) follow Allen’s initial observation: on the one hand, some presume nothing new is happening until something dramatic unfolds and, on the other hand, some are simply waiting for “the shoe to drop.”

While it’s by and large true to say that “actions speak louder than words,” perhaps in the case of Pope Francis we might need to simply say that actions speak louder than actions. Or, as Allen puts it, “sometimes style really is substance.” Allen explains:

Perhaps the key to resolving the conflict boils down to this: Francis seems determined to function as a pastor, at least as much as a primate or politician, so the right model may not be the one used to assess chief executives. Rather, it’s how Catholics tend to think about a parish priest. Their basic question usually isn’t what his policy positions are, but whether he inspires.

What is interesting about Pope Francis’s style is that it really does seem to inspire. Whether or not there are empirical correlative effects — such as the alleged rise in confession and mass attendance — there is a near-universal sense of Pope Francis’s sincerity and intention. He points, not to himself — which could sometimes be the effect of the late John Paul II’s charismatic side — but to those for whom a singular voice, let alone a world stage, is unimaginable. Pope Francis’s words and actions point beyond himself to the poor, the marginalized, the forgotten. His words and actions point simultaneously to Christ and the meaning of authentic Christian living.

As I shared yesterday, Thomas Merton draws our attention to the fact that the Bible is about God’s promise to the poor and marginalized, just as liberation theologians have reminded us ever since. Likewise, Pope Francis is reminded the world of exactly the same thing, which is why even business newspapers and magazines are on the defensive in response. Allen highlights this:

As evidence that people are taking notice, the august business journal Forbes felt compelled in a mid-May editorial to admonish the pope. “Profit isn’t what drives poverty,” the editorial asserted; rather, “profit is what overcomes poverty.”

Of course, fervorinos on behalf of the poor have long been a staple of papal rhetoric. What seems to give Francis’ appeals punch is the perception they’re backed up by personal commitment.

In addition to Pope Francis’s simplicity, Allen highlights humility, accessibility, and staying out of politics as key themes of his first 100 days as pope. All together, these elements construct the foundation of the pope as universal pastor. He is for the church the spiritual leader it needs at this time, a person disinterested with the office and trappings, a person who seems to understand that he is first a bishop — a local leader — and not a ecclesiastical monarch, a person whose ability to walk the walk gives force to the talk of the magisterium in an age when all thought the church had lost all moral authority.

Indeed, Pope Francis strikes me as a universal pastor but, really, isn’t that exactly what a pope should be?

Photo: CNS

Vatican II, Inculturation and What the Church Learns from the World

Posted in Vatican II with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Among the many important insights that arose from the Second Vatican Council, one of the more timely is the recognition that the church has not simply been a self-contained and distinct civilization or institution from the “rest of the world,” but has always been a part of the world. Additionally, the church has benefited and, even more strikingly, has needed the culture, philosophy, and traditions of the world in which it exists. This is a wonderfully insightful development given the state of the so-called church-world relationship prior to the ecumenical council. Whether theologically, or otherwise in theory, the church understood itself as apart from the world, it pragmatically acted as such. Here I mean the church in the literal sense as the Body of Christ, which is — as Vatican II put it, among other ways — the People of God. The baptized acted as if the church, its ministers, and so forth, were quite different from the quotidian experience of their lives and work. This was perpetuated by the attitudes and dispositions of the church’s leadership in those years.

And what is troubling, in my view, is that there is an undercurrent of similar attitudes percolating in our own day. There are women and men, especially within the ranks of the church’s leadership in certain sectors of our society, that feel as though the church should be “purer,” more isolated, and set apart from “the world.” As the great theologian Edward Schillebeeckx once said, the idea of a “pure church” is a heresy. Those who maintain such a view need to realize that the teaching of the church’s magisterium, here in the documents of Vatican II, especially Gaudium et Spes, confirm Schillebeeckx’s observation. The church and the world are inseparable and, further, the church needs the world, as we read here:

Just as it is important for the world to recognize the church as a social reality and agent in history, so the church also is aware of how much it has received from the history and development of the human race.

The experience of past centuries, the advances in the sciences and the treasures hidden in the various forms of human culture, which disclose human nature more completely and indicate new ways to the truth, are of benefit also to the church. From the beginning of its history it has leaned to express Christ’s message in the concepts and languages of various peoples, and it has also tried to throw light on it through the wisdom of the philosophers, aiming so far as was proper to suit the gospel to the grasp of everyone as well as to expectations of the wise. This adaptation in preaching the revealed word should remain the law of all evangelization. In this way, in every nation, the capacity to express Christ’s message in its own fashion is stimulated and at the same time a fruitful interchange is encouraged between the church and various cultures.

To develop such an exchange, especially in a time characterized by rapid change and a growing variety in ways of thought, the church has particular need of those who live in the world, whether they are believers or not, and who are familiar with its various institutions and disciplines and understand them intimately. It is for God’s people as a whole, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and especially for pastors and theologians, to listen to the various voices of our day, discerning them and interpreting them, and to evaluate them in the light of the divine word, so that the revealed truth can be increasingly appropriated, better understood and more suitably expressed (Gaudium et Spes no. 44).

Hopefully, in returning to the documents of the Second Vatican Council as we mark the half-century that has passed since this great moment in the history of the church and world we can renew our vision of what it means to live the Gospel in our own day.

There is a clear call here for the validation of various cultures, philosophies, and ways of thinking. There is value in the thought and practices of people throughout the world, no matter how different those ways of being-in-the-world might appear alongside the Euro-normative traditions we generally associate with Catholicism since the middle ages. What can we do to live this truth out in our own lives, communities, and universal church?

Photo: Stock

Vatican II and the Equal Rights of All People

Posted in Vatican II with tags , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

As we continue to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, I plan to make occasional posts related to the documents, history, and reception of the Council. There is a lot of talk among Christian women and men about the Council — people talking about its apparent merits and problems, the “spirit” and challenges, and so on — but there is very little discussion of what the Council actually said. The truth is, as one seminary professor said to me a few years ago, very few people, including very few priests and other ministers in the church, have actually read the texts themselves or have only half-heartedly read portions of the texts for coursework and the like. My interest is to stir up discussion about what we believe, what the church has actually said as an Ecumenical Council (the highest teaching authority in the church), and what these teachings might mean for us today.

Today I’m struck by one of the most important texts, Gaudium et Spes (The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World). There is a striking passage in section no. 29 that deals with the question of the equal rights of all people.

Since all men and women possessed of a rational soul and created in the image of God have the same nature and the same origin, and since they have been redeemed by Christ and enjoy the same divine calling and destiny, the basic equality which they all share needs to be increasingly recognized (no. 29).

What the Church teaches is that by virtue of being a human person, all people have inherent rights from the creator. The problem isn’t the “granting” of these rights by a particular government or group of people, but the uncovering or recognizing the truth that is always already present in the fabric of creation.

Furthermore, the next two paragraphs of this section really deliver home the meaning of this uncovering or recognition of the equality of all.

Not everyone is identical in physical capacity and in mental and moral resources. But every type of discrimination affecting the fundamental rights of the person, whether social or cultural, on grounds of sex, race, color, class, language or religion, should be overcome and done away with, as contrary to the purpose of God. It is matter for deep regret that these basic personal rights are still not universally recognized and respected, as when women are denied the choice of a husband or a state of life, or opportunities for education and culture equal to those of men.

Moreover, although there are just differences among individuals, the equal dignity of persons demands access to more human and equal conditions of life. And the excessive economic and social inequalities among members or peoples of the same human family are a scandal and are at variance with social justice, equity, the dignity of the human person and, not least, social and international peace (no. 29).

As the church notes nearly fifty-years ago and as we still experience it today, people do not have access to the basic rights and needs that ground fundamental human flourishing. This is a social sin in which all who don’t work, in whatever capacity she or he is able, to overcome this are in some way complicit.

Healthcare, equal and living wages, the right to vote, the right to love whomever one loves, and the like are contained and expressed above as included among those rights that — as Gaudium et Spes makes explicit in a later section — all human institutions (e.g., governments and the church) are to work to guarantee for all people, regardless of any person’s mental, moral, physical, or social capacity or utility.

The church does not ignore the practical differences of each person, but instead affirms the reality that aptitude does in fact vary from person to person. Nevertheless, one does not earn something like access to healthcare or the right to make as much money doing the same work as someone of another sex. These are the intrinsic rights that the Creator has bestowed and that other human beings have unjustly curbed or outrightly taken away from other women and men.

Fifty years after the call of the Second Vatican Council, we can look back and reflect on how we’ve responded to this challenge and the needs of the modern world as seen by the church. We have a long way to go. What can you do to make a difference?

Photo: Stock

Giving a Retreat this Weekend for New England Young Adults

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

This weekend I am in Hingham, Mass., giving a retreat at the Benedictine Glastonbury Abbey. The retreat, geared for women and men in Boston in their twenties and thirties, is titled “Being Catholic in the 21st Century.” This is the third year in a row that I’ve been humbled by the invitation and honored to lead the 20s/30s Boston annual retreat. I’m especially excited to reconnect with folks I haven’t seen in while and to discuss, reflect, and pray about the retreat theme about which I asked to speak.

I don’t wont to spoil the surprise for those who are attending this retreat with the particular details of three sessions of the retreat, but I can share that during this week when we celebrate the opening of the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago, being a “Catholic” in today’s world needs to be understood as always flowing from our ecclesial identity expressed by the Council — particularly in terms of Gaudium et Spes, which directly addresses this question of what it means to live a life of faith in the ‘modern world.’

Much more to come on this weekend. Perhaps there will be internet access (and time) for me to update you along the way. In the meantime, Peace and all Good!

Photo: Glastonbury Abbey

Some Reflections on Ordination to the Priesthood

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Do you feel any different? Has been the recurring and most popular question posed to me since Saturday morning when I and my Franciscan confrere, Steve DeWitt, were ordained priests by Cardinal McCarrick in Silver Spring, MD. It was a wonderful and absolutely amazing liturgy, made even more spectacular by the many family, friends, friars and parishioners from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle, VA, that attended! The blogosphere “radio silence” from me has not arisen from a lack of things to share or upon which to reflect, but is simply the result of having too many obligations along with travel. I am now able to catch a breather and offer a few initial reflections on the tremendous events of the last few days, they are but a small portion of what could be said and for which space is too limited to share.

As for that question everybody keeps asking me — “do you feel any different?” — the answer is no and yes! No, in the metaphysical, magical, substantial sense that one might assume comes with ordination to the order of presbyters (also known as ‘the priesthood’). I still “feel” very much myself. However, the answer is yes in the sense that I do, in some way, feel different. This difference is most noticeable in terms of my relationship to other members of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. In other words, it is wholly relational. Whereas before my place within the assembly was first as active participant and then deacon, now it is as priest, which often means presider and celebrant.

The types of ministries for which I am able to serve the Body of Christ has now changed, which makes me feel, in a sense, different from the way I felt before as a friar and deacon. As a friar who is an ordained priest, the variety of ways that I can serve the people of God has increased. The two most notable are the celebration of the Eucharist and the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation (or, sacrament of penance, as it is more technically called). Within three days of my ordination I have celebrated both of these Sacraments of the Church. And that change in my role within the community of faith certainly elicits much upon which to reflect.

My general response to all sorts of people — family, friends, strangers — who have inquired along these lines, has been to say that, perhaps to my and others’ surprise, everything feels perfectly natural and right. By this I mean to say that I feel comfortable and blessed to serve the Church in this way. Another way to describe this feeling is to say that, on some level, I feel as though I was meant for this way of life and ministry, which might very well just be another way of describing ‘vocation.’ I enjoy presiding at the Eucharist and I have been blessed by the privilege and responsibility of administering the other Sacraments.

My other general response has been one of absolute gratitude for this vocation and the ability to respond to it within the fraternal community of my Franciscan Order. To be a Friar Minor, a Franciscan, is my primary and central vocation. That God has also called me to a life in which I can serve the Church through the ministerial priesthood is indeed another blessing for which I am grateful. I am also grateful to my family, friends and brother friars, all of whom have been nothing but supportive of me over the years. I could not reach this point and will certainly not be able to continue in this line of ministry without their support, encouragement and prayers.

I look forward to (what I hope will be a long and healthy) lifetime of service as a Friar Minor and presbyter in the Church. Please continue to pray for me as I certainly remember all of you who support me along the way in prayer.

Peace and good!

Photo: Liz Horan

New Vatican Document on Economy Released (Updated)

Posted in Social Justice, The Papal Watcher, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 24, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

While the text is not yet available online [UPDATE: Link to full text!], news reports outline the new text titled, “Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority,” drafted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Here is a brief overview published by Catholic News Service this morning.  For more information, see the links below.

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican document called for the gradual creation of a “world political authority” with broad powers to regulate financial markets and rein in the “inequalities and distortions of capitalist development.”

The document said the current global financial crisis has revealed “selfishness, collective greed and the hoarding of goods on a great scale.” A supranational authority, it said, is needed to place the common good at the center of international economic activity.

The 16-page text was titled, “Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority.” Prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, it was released Oct. 24 in several languages, including a provisional translation in English.

The document cited the teachings of popes over the last 40 years on the need for a universal public authority that would transcend national interests. The current economic crisis, which has seen growing inequality between the rich and poor of the world, underlines the necessity to take concrete steps toward creating such an authority, it said.

One major step, it said, should be reform of the international monetary system in a way that involves developing countries. The document foresaw creation of a “central world bank” that would regulate the flow of monetary exchanges.

The document also proposed:

– Taxation measures on financial transactions. Revenues could contribute to the creation of a “world reserve fund” to support the economies of countries his by crisis, it said.

– Forms of recapitalization of banks with public funds that make support conditional on “virtuous” behavior aimed at developing the real economy.

– More effective management of financial “shadow markets” that are largely uncontrolled today.

Such moves would be designed to make the global economy more responsive to the needs of the person, and less “subordinated to the interests of countries that effectively enjoy a position of economic and financial advantage,” it said.

In making the case for a global authority, the document said the continued model of nationalistic self-interest seemed “anachronistic and surreal” in the age of globalization.

“We should not be afraid to propose new ideas, even if they might destabilize pre-existing balances of power that prevail over the weakest,” it said.

The “new world dynamics,” it said, call for a “gradual, balanced transfer of a part of each nation’s powers to a world authority and to regional authorities.”

“In a world on its way to rapid globalization, the reference to a world authority becomes the only horizon compatible with the new realities of our time and the needs of humankind,” it said. Helping to usher in this new society is a duty for everyone, especially for Christians, it said.

Additional Reports about new Vatican document.

UPDATE: Link to full text.

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Profile of ‘Dating God’ Author Featured in Publication

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

The latest issue of HNP Today the twice-monthly newsletter of Holy Name Province of the Order of Friars Minor featured a profile of Br. Dan Horan, OFM (author of this blog) as the first installment of a series on the friars on internship (also known as the apostolic year). This year is a year when the friars work in a particular ministry of the province that is closely aligned with the respective friar’s gifts and talents with particular attention to connecting those attributes with the ministerial needs of the larger province. Below is the published version of the profile, a longer transcript of the interview is scheduled to be published here at Dating God in the near future.

Dan Horan Feels ‘Wonderfully Blessed’ By Internship

by Rebecca Doel

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — As the youngest simply-professed member of Holy Name Province, Daniel Horan, OFM, is no stranger to the classroom. The newest friar faculty member at Siena College graduated from St. Bonaventure University just over five years ago.

“When I’m around campus and not in my habit, I am usually mistaken for a student,” said the 27-year-old. “The friars here particularly like recalling how I was stopped early in the year by campus security — twice in one week by different safety officers — and asked for my student ID, only to discover I was a new friar.”

Dan, who joined the faculty in August 2010, is teaching “Introduction to Christian Theology,” an upper-level course in the religious studies department as well as a yearlong freshman seminar in Siena’s “Foundations Sequence.” The interdisciplinary course, part of the college’s core curriculum, includes a service-learning aspect, pioneered byKenneth Paulli, OFM, and passed on to Dan.

Enjoying Teaching and Music
Now able to laugh about his student-like appearance, Dan has discovered many advantages to being close in age to the students he teaches. “I think we (young professors) all share that ability to understand cultural and entertainment references, the use of new technology and other generational characteristics of the students that may be more removed from some of our older colleagues on faculty,” he said.

In addition to teaching, he has found himself involved in other aspects of campus life, including the college’s pep band.

“I was recruited to play the drums … a responsibility that I inherited, believe it or not, from my little brother Matthew, who graduated from Siena this past May,” Dan said, adding: “It’s a unique opportunity to work with the students and be part of the college life that most friars never get to experience. It’s certainly a different way to be a minister of presence.”

In fact, Dan’s involvement has encouraged some of his fellow band mates to sign up for one of his spring courses.

He has also been recruited to work in a consultative manner with Siena’s Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy and Office of the College Chaplain. He is helping to develop a resource guide and theological reflection program from a Franciscan perspective for students and staff participating in domestic and international service trips.

“I will be initiating the program in March when I go to the Dominican Republic with a group of students,” he said. It will also be used for an alternative spring break immersion trip led by Shannon O’Neil of the Siena College Women’s Center.

Inspired By Dedication
After spending two summer assignments serving at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston and one in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Dan said he appreciates the opportunity to truly practice his skills as a college instructor.

Before coming to Siena, the Utica, N.Y., native had already been active in academic work beyond graduate studies, having published more than 20 scholarly and popular articles.

“The research and publication part of academic ministry was something I was already aware of as a strength and interest,” he said, “but I needed to explore the teaching side of that way of friar life.” He added: “There really is no other way to discern whether or not God is calling you to a particular form of ministry than to do it.”

Despite living as a friar for nearly six years now, Dan — like many other Holy Name friars — did not have “a very good sense” of the day-to-day life of Siena or SBU friars. “I have been very inspired by the dedication and work of the friars here at Siena,” he said. “I have found myself wonderfully blessed by the example of my brothers as well as learning a lot from their wisdom, example and advice.”

Utilizing ‘New’ Media
Amidst the other recent changes in his life, Dan has immersed himself in social media — with extensive use of websites like Facebook and Twitter and with frequent updates to his blog, “Dating God,” which now has more than 200 entries.

“I take seriously the call to evangelization that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Pope Benedict XVI have talked about in recent months concerning the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other web-based media.”

He admitted to initial reluctance toward creating a blog, but has found himself “really getting into it.” He said, “For me it is a very real ministry, a way to connect with hundreds of people daily, offering a particular — not “the” — Franciscan perspective on prayer, theology, current events, culture, entertainment and a variety of topics.”

“Dating God” was the result of “strong encouragement, bordering on insistence” from Dan’s publisher, St. Anthony Messenger Press. His forthcoming book on contemporary spirituality with the Cincinnati-based publishing house is one of three he is currently writing. In addition, scholarly articles by Dan will appear in a variety of religious journals, and he has been invited to give several lectures, including one for the Thomas Merton Society in New York City on Jan. 29.

“I am also working on a very exciting book with Robert Lentz, OFM.” The two friars are developing a unique project on interreligious constructive theology. “Robert is creating new icons that work together with my text in a dynamic and interrelated way,” said Dan, who plans to profess solemn vows this summer.

With one semester down and one to go, Dan cannot say enough about how valuable the experience has been for him. “My internship year so far at Siena has given me great experiences in and out of the classroom, and the feedback from my teacher mentors has been very positive,” he said.

“Of course, every particular ministry and friar assignment is a process of dual-discernment that takes place as a friar comes to better understand God’s gifts in his own life, while the Province also comes to recognize those gifts of each friar and assess the ministerial needs of the Province.” In light of that, Dan said, “I can absolutely see myself continuing in the ministry of education after solemn profession and ordination.”

— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.

Editor’s note: The full text of Dan’s interview for this profile will appear on his blog, “Dating God.” Future articles in this series will feature friars Frank Critch, OFM, Stephen DeWitt, OFM, and Eric Dwayne Fernandes, OFM.

Related Links

“Vocation Gatherings Focus on Digital Outreach” — November 2010 HNP Today
“Washington Theological Union Graduates Three Friars” — May 2010 HNP Today
“Vocation Director Builds Momentum Promoting Friar Life” — February 2009 HNP Today
“Learning Spanish, Experiencing Fraternity in Bolivia” — September 2008 HNP Today
“Magazine Publishes Dan Horan’s Photos” — July 2008 HNP Today
“Holy Name Friars Concelebrate Mass with Pope” — April 2008 HNP Today

The Notion of Causing Scandal in ‘Light of the World’

Posted in The Papal Watcher with tags , , , on November 29, 2010 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

I find it particularly interesting that on the occasions that Pope Benedict XVI discusses standing up for what is right, defending the faith and speaking the truth to power, his words most often and aptly describe those Catholic Christians that are singled out by this or that bishop or by some self-described conservative Catholic organization.

What I mean is that Benedict XVI reinforces the belief that to preach the good news (literally, the Gospel) will necessarily bring scandal to a world hostile to that message. The challenge raised by authentic Christian living in times and places where religious skepticism and intolerance, injustice and greed flourish can bring out hostility or resistance against the believer.

I am struck by one line in particular. Benedict XVI is responding to Seewald’s question about a paper the young Ratzinger delivered on the papacy, which included the line: “[the pope] must be the least one and conduct himself accordingly.”  And the now-pope, within his response, said:

Yet the Church, the Christian, and above all the Pope must always be prepared for the possibility that the witness he must give will become a scandal, will not be accepted, and that he will then be thrust into the situation of the Witness, the suffering Christ.

Here I am reminded of the example of Christ, dining with the outcast, lifting up the fallen, healing the broken, ignoring the perimeter-establishing laws of his own faith (Judaism) to reach out and touch the hearts of those seen by his culture as “unclean” or “possessed.”

Yet, when people do that today, reach out to embrace other human beings seen as outcast or marginal, they too suffer the consequences of scandal. The stumbling blocks created in Jesus’s ministry live on today in the stumbling blocks erected by Christians who seek only to meet people where they are and love them as Christ had.

Lest one think that the Pope is advocating for precisely this sort of ministry, the Christian embrace of all to the point of scandal, here’s another passage from much later in the book.

With that we are basically experiencing the abolition of tolerance, for it means, after all, that religion, that the Christian faith is no longer allowed to express itself visibly.

When, for example, in the name of non-discrimination, people try to force the Catholic Church to change her position on homosexuality or the ordination of women, then that means that she is no longer allowed to live out her own identity and that, instead, an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow.

On one level the Pope is right. Religions should not be made to change their beliefs “in the name of non-discrimination.” I suppose that such a standard is far too broad and subjective. Yet, on another level, the examples used do not adequately reflect instances in which core Christian doctrine or disciplinary beliefs are threatened. No one, in the name of ‘non-discrimination’ or anything else, is pressuring the Church to change its belief in the Incarnation or the Apostolicity of its origins. Nor is there a call to abandon the central value of human life.

Instead, the Pope’s examples are oftentimes raised by people within and without the Church to illustrate systemic injustice and violations against the Church’s own teaching on the central value of human life. These same people are the ones figuratively nailed to the cross today — issuances acknowledging excommunication, the denial of Holy Communion, exclusion from participation in parish life and so on.

The cross is a sign that the world does not readily tolerate even charitable breaks with the status quo. What is one to do when the Church at times becomes as intolerant as the world?  If only the Church, as the Body of Christ, could be more willing to risk scandal and embrace those pushed to the side, treated as evil and marginalized. In those pastoral situations, we should ask about what Jesus would do — and then do it.


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