Archive for eucharist

Time, Hospitality, and Eucharist: The Road to Emmaus

Posted in Easter, Homilies, Scripture, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 4, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERALast week’s Gospel featuring the so-called “doubting” Thomas, one of the Twelve also called Didymus, tends to draw most attention to the individual struggle of belief experienced by one disciple. Many, with good reason, take the opportunity to reflect on how they struggle with their own belief in the Risen Christ, in the Scripture, in the witness of the other disciples. Yet, one of the things that is often overlooked is the dynamic at play when Thomas does believe. The good news, the Gospel, here is that Jesus meets Thomas in his unbelief, always already present after the Resurrection. But how and where is he present? Have you ever noticed?

Jesus doesn’t just appear to Thomas for Thomas’s sake, alone as if to offer the individual special treatment. Rather, Jesus appears to Thomas one week later again in the midst of assembled community. A community traumatized by the execution of Jesus Christ, a community also confused and uncertain of what’s to come. Thomas comes to believe when joined to the rest of the community of faith, in communion with those who, in spite of their doubts and fears and struggles and weaknesses (let’s not forget “Denying Peter” is there as much as “Doubting Thomas”) they come to call to mind who Jesus is and what God has revealed to them.

The location of belief, the where Christ is made present after the Resurrection is seen in last week’s Gospel, and this week’s Gospel begins to reveal more to us about what it means to encounter the Risen Lord after his life, death, and resurrection. Here I want to reflect on only three of the many themes that come out of this incredibly powerful Gospel pericope: Time, Hospitality, and Eucharist.

Time

One of the most interesting things about the Gospel passage this week from Luke’s Gospel is the time in which the narrative is set. This is the day of the Resurrection, it has just been reported that morning and the two disciples traveling out of town are still pondering the meaning and the credibility of the accounts reported to them, first by the women — the earliest witnesses of the Resurrection — and then some of the Twelve.

This is a time of confusion, uncertainty, unexpectedness, doubt. It is a liminal time, placed between the experience of knowing Jesus as one knows another person in this life, and something else, a new way of coming to know Jesus — but how?

The time is our time as much as it is the disciples’ time early in those first days. One of the things that is revealed in the other dimensions of this narrative of encounter is that knowing the Risen Lord is for the disciples on the afternoon of the Resurrection the same as it is for us today.

We share this time with earliest believers. It is a new time, but it is not yet the end time.

Hospitality

The disciples only come to recognize the Risen Lord among them in the hospitality of welcoming a stranger into their midst. Today, perhaps more than ever, welcoming the stranger, welcoming the other, welcoming the unknown, welcoming what we don’t understand, welcoming the one of who we are afraid — this is not easy. So many barriers are easily placed between us and others: technology, money, status, social location, and the like. We tell ourselves comforting stories about why we should or shouldn’t welcome this or that person, pay attention or be concerned with another, be justified or entitled to fear or despise another, but the journey on the Road to Emmaus tells us something very different.

It is in welcoming the stranger that what could not be understood among those of like-mindedness becomes clarified in the encounter with another. The stranger, not yet recognized as Christ, is the one who is able to help make sense of these disciples’ lives and provide meaning to their faith. It is in meeting the stranger, in listening, and in sharing a meal in hospitality that the Risen Lord is encountered after the Resurrection.

Like St. Francis who encountered Christ in embracing the leper on a road outside Assisi, the disciples encounter Christ in the welcoming of a stranger and, likewise, we encounter Christ in the other when we, like these two believers, open our hearts to the experience of relationship with those we encounter on our own journeys — especially those we may not wish to encounter.

Eucharist

Like Thomas last week, these disciples do not encounter the Risen Lord alone. The setting is very clear, it is a setting that we celebrate each week when we gather as a community of believers, bringing out weaknesses and our doubts and our uncertainties, along with our hopes and needs and thanksgiving, to the celebration of the Eucharist.

The two disciples on the road journey together and welcome another, that small community then of “two or three” share the Word of God in the Scriptures, which enlivens their hearts like a fire within, and finally move to enter into communion with each other in the presentation, blessing, breaking, and sharing of the bread. Here is where the disciples realize what it all means. It might even have been the only time that week they understood.

What happens at the end is telling, and I don’t just mean the beautiful line about what is reported to the other disciples about “recognizing him in the breaking of the bread.” I mean the fact that they ran to report what they had experiencedThe celebration of the Eucharist is not an isolated event or a one-off experience. Instead, it is something that calls us together at a given time and with a concrete spirit of hospitality, and then drives us out into the world by the Spirit to proclaim what we’ve experienced in the community, in the Word, and in the breaking of the bread: the Risen Lord.

Eucharist, that liturgy of thanksgiving and grace, is where we encounter the Risen Lord most completely, which has been the case from the afternoon of the Resurrection to today and through the end time. It is not about “me” or “you” or “doubting Thomas.” But it is about the gathering together of those who have been touched by the encounter with Christ and seek to continue to make sense of what has happened and what is happening. We come to make sense of all of this in the breaking of the bread, but not in that alone, in the breaking open of the Word, and in the hospitality of the gathered community in this time.

Image: James B. Janknegt

We Are the Body of Christ

Posted in Lent, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 17, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

LastSupperTonight on this solemnity of the Lord’s Supper, a lot of attention will be paid to the institution of the Eucharistic celebration, which is as Sacrosanctum Concilium (Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”) explains, is “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (no. 14). So it is with good reason that we recall when Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper room to break bread, pass the cup, and demonstrate the meaning of Christian discipleship and leadership by washing the feet of those gathered.

Yet, while the Eucharistic species of bread and wine are a right and just focus of our reflection this evening, an over-emphasis to the exclusion of the other ways that Christ is made present in the Eucharist is a problem. It is for this reason that I’m thinking about the manifold way Christ is made present when the Church, which is the Body of Christ, gathers together to hear the Word and come to the Table of the Lord. Sacrosanctum Concilium explains:

Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, “the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross” [20], but especially under the Eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes [21]. He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20) [no. 7].

According to the teaching of the Church, summarized here, Christ is made present in four ways: (a) in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine; (b) in the word, that is the scriptures; (c) in the entire assembly, that is the Church gathered in prayer; and (d) in the person of the minister, that is the presider.

Tonight, when we reflect on what happened when Jesus dined with those gathered, altering the traditional table prayers of his tradition, the Birkat Hamazon and the Kaddish, establishing what we would later call the Christian “institution narrative” and the accompanying Eucharistic Prayers, do we only focus on one quarter of the way that Christ continues to be present to his Body, gathered in prayer? Or do we recognize too the sacramental dimensions of the washing of the feet, the call to service, the connection that the table fellowship and the giving of his Body and Blood have to the proclamation of the Word of God, the prayers of all the people, and our being sent outward to do as Christ has done for us?

Photo: Stock

The Meaning of Holy Thursday: Perhaps a Surprise

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 28, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

“So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:14-15)

Oftentimes some folks get distracted by the celebration of what is commonly viewed as the institution of the celebration of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday to the point where its meaning is lost. Yes, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is indeed what is commemorated as we gather around the table tonight to break open the Word and break the bread, but what is the significance of this celebration? It seems to me that some people, religious and priests included, get so fixated on the establishment of the Last Supper — as if Jesus on the night before he died sat down and wrote the first Sacramentary — that they forget the powerful and important challenge Jesus puts to all who follow him.

I can assure you that Holy Thursday, or any Celebration of the Eucharist, is not about the individualism that gets emphasized when people focus solely on the Eucharist as their personal means to ‘obtain’ Christ. The Eucharist is certainly the true Sacramental presence of Christ made present within the ecclesia, but we are not called to be a collection of individuals who happen to gather together to have our own wants met. At the heart of the Eucharist (from Eucharistia which literally means “thanksgiving”) is the Body of Christ, the Church. It is always interpersonal.

The Community of Believers gathers together to give thanks to God and to “Call to Mind” (as the Eucharistic Prayer says) the life, death and resurrection of the Lord. We share Communion with one another as the community of the baptized and, in doing so, we are all challenged. Did you not notice the challenge before? Well, tonight is the time to pay close attention to the prayers and readings.

The last paragraph of tonight’s Gospel from John sums this all up well.  Jesus asks, demands: Do you realize what I have done for you?” My guess is that most of us, like the disciples that first night, can only answer “No.”

But Jesus goes on to explain what it is he has done and what it means for us. “I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”  To be a Christian, to bear the name “Christ,” to approach the Table of the Lord and share in Communion with Christ and his entire Body means that we are follow his example.

No easy task.

How willing are we to follow Christ’s example? To the point of what? Death? Death on a Cross? How about to the point of embarrassment or apparent foolishness because of the decisions we make out of charity and solidarity? How about to the point of washing the feet of the other sinners, enemies or others in our lives that we cannot stand to face? How about in the embrace of nonviolence, like Jesus, in order to announce the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom?

To follow the model of Jesus is not as easy as one thinks. As we hear the words of Christ proclaimed tonight according to John’s account, let our hearts be moved to embrace the call we have been given — to live up to the name Christian.

This post was originally published on April 21, 2011. It continues to receive a surprising amount of traffic, so it is being reposted again this year.

Photo: GODSPACE

Thanksgiving Day: (e)ucharist in the Public Square

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 22, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Both the United States and Canada have a tradition of celebrating a day set aside for offering thanks during the end of the harvest season. Canadian Thanksgiving is the same day as the US “Columbus Day” holiday. The US Thanksgiving Day is today.

Many people go to Mass with their family, a tradition common for many Roman Catholics (I will celebrate Mass with my extended family up in the Adirondacks this afternoon). It is both curious and laudable to gather in the celebration of the Eucharist to mark this day of gratitude, even though the feast itself is entirely secular. From a liturgical perspective there is no obligation or need for a Mass to commemorate the holiday, yet there is indeed a eucharistic and pneumatological crossover that makes this secular holiday the most liturgically appropriate of all the US national celebrations.

Unlike Independence Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day and others, thanksgiving has a ‘secularly’ liturgical cast to it. The entire assembly (ecclesia) of the US population (and in October, the Canadian population) pauses to “call to mind” those many blessings and gifts that God has freely offered. The very definition of the Eucharist (eucharistia) literally means “thanksgiving,” a celebration of the life-giving gifts of the Triune God. In that weekly memorial, we gather as an assembly (ecclesia) of believers in the Lord to offer again our entire lives in response to the generous and entirely contingent address of God and the promise of all creation being brought back to the Creator through the Son in the Spirit (salvation) that has been revealed to us in the Incarnation and Scripture.

The Church’s celebration of the Eucharist doesn’t just stop at the celebration of thanksgiving in response to God’s gifts, but we are renewed in our baptismal relationship to one another in Christ and strengthened in that communion to go forward from the Liturgy to life the Gospel life in service of our brothers and sisters (see, for example, Matt 25).

In this sense, I believe that we might look to the ‘secular’ holiday of Thanksgiving in the US as a form of eucharist in the public square. Eucharist, that is, with a little ‘e’ to distinguish it from the Liturgical celebration we commonly associate with this word meaning thanksgiving.

Like the Liturgical celebration of the Eucharist, the eucharist in the public square — Thanksgiving Day — is a time of gathering communities to recall the many blessings that have been freely bestowed to us and to become strengthened in our familial bonds of relationship. But it also doesn’t stop there.

Thanksgiving Day in the US is a time when we are called to move beyond our families’ dining-room tables to return to our places whence we came renewed in gratitude for what we have been given in order to bless those who go without. It is a time for us to be more aware of the systems in our communities, nation and world that promote injustice and an imbalance of resources, thereby prohibiting certain populations from fully participating in the joy of a holiday of gratitude amid abjection.

A happy Thanksgiving Day to all! May the Spirit move you to share in the gratitude that comes with an awareness of God’s gifts in your life and move you to share your blessings with others, working to change structures of injustice in our world.

Peace and good!

An slightly difference version of this post originally appeared on DatingGod.org on November 25, 2010.

Photo: Stock

The Meaning of Holy Thursday: Perhaps a Surprise

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 5, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

“So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:14-15)

Oftentimes some folks get distracted by the celebration of what is commonly viewed as the institution of the celebration of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday to the point where its meaning is lost. Yes, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is indeed what is commemorated as we gather around the table tonight to break open the Word and break the bread, but what is the significance of this celebration? It seems to me that some people, religious and priests included, get so fixated on the establishment of the Last Supper — as if Jesus on the night before he died sat down and wrote the first Sacramentary — that they forget the powerful and important challenge Jesus puts to all who follow him.

I can assure you that Holy Thursday, or any Celebration of the Eucharist, is not about the individualism that gets emphasized when people focus solely on the Eucharist as their personal means to ‘obtain’ Christ. The Eucharist is certainly the true Sacramental presence of Christ made present within the ecclesia, but we are not called to be a collection of individuals who happen to gather together to have our own wants met. At the heart of the Eucharist (from Eucharistia which literally means “thanksgiving”) is the Body of Christ, the Church. It is always interpersonal.

The Community of Believers gathers together to give thanks to God and to “Call to Mind” (as the Eucharistic Prayer says) the life, death and resurrection of the Lord. We share Communion with one another as the community of the baptized and, in doing so, we are all challenged. Did you not notice the challenge before? Well, tonight is the time to pay close attention to the prayers and readings.

The last paragraph of tonight’s Gospel from John sums this all up well.  Jesus asks, demands: Do you realize what I have done for you?” My guess is that most of us, like the disciples that first night, can only answer “No.”

But Jesus goes on to explain what it is he has done and what it means for us. “I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”  To be a Christian, to bear the name “Christ,” to approach the Table of the Lord and share in Communion with Christ and his entire Body means that we are follow his example.

No easy task.

How willing are we to follow Christ’s example? To the point of what? Death? Death on a Cross? How about to the point of embarrassment or apparent foolishness because of the decisions we make out of charity and solidarity? How about to the point of washing the feet of the other sinners, enemies or others in our lives that we cannot stand to face? How about in the embrace of nonviolence, like Jesus, in order to announce the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom?

To follow the model of Jesus is not as easy as one thinks. As we hear the words of Christ proclaimed tonight according to John’s account, let our hearts be moved to embrace the call we have been given — to live up to the name Christian.

This post was originally published on April 21, 2011. Due to the popular demand, it is reposted here this year.

Photo: GODSPACE

Where do You Find the Body of Christ?

Posted in Solemn Vow Retreat with tags , , , , on June 26, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Sunday 26 June 2011

The Body of Christ can be found on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, California. It’s not what it at first seems, especially for those who find that today’s feast is mostly about medieval hylomorphic theories about how bread and wine become the Sacramental Presence of Christ. The Body of Christ – the Corpus Christi – means more than just the Eucharistic species, while that is certainly a major focal point of this solemnity. St. Paul reminds us in his First Letter to the Corinthians, however, that what we celebrate today should be the communion that results from the Body of Christ, that is the Church, participating in the Eucharistic celebration and sharing the True Body of Blood of Christ.

Brothers and sisters:
The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf (1 Cor 10:16-17).

What we partake in the communion of the Eucharist is a recognition of the Spirit’s uniting all the Baptized (Lumen Gentium no. 13), and indeed the whole human family, in Christ. That is not always an easy thing to celebrate.

Sometimes that comes in the form of those with whom we don’t want to be in communion. Such people might take the form of estranged family and friends, those close to us who have hurt us. Such people might take the form of political or social rivals, with whom dialogue and compromise comes with great difficulty. Sometimes that comes in the form of a homeless woman with whom you find yourself talking and having an unexpected realization that the Body of Christ is so often found in the encounters with those with whom we would otherwise ignore, walk past or forget.

Jonnie, from Minnesota, sat on the street corner in a wheelchair in Santa Barbara – a city that has a quiet, if rather visible homeless population – begging for money from those who would hear her, from those that could hear her. I almost didn’t.

Her voice was faint and my mind and body tired from a day wandering around the town lost in my thoughts. “Do you have thirteen pennies?” I heard as I was snapped back to the reality within which I had found myself removed. “What?” I asked the dirty woman in a leather jacket on a hot California day, sitting in wheelchair. “Thirteen pennies?” She replied. Why thirteen, I didn’t ask.

I didn’t have thirteen pennies, I didn’t have any change, but I did have a few dollars in bills in my pocket – a practice I’ve started not that long ago, carrying a few dollars in a handy location in case someone should ask me for money. I’ve found myself too often in situations where I’ve been asked by someone for money and, in addition to the general ambivalence about how to respond (years in urban pastoral ministry where experienced ministers and other friars discourage giving money to beggars on the street, instead encouraging them to seek assistance through one of the many resources such ministries offer), I have felt uncomfortable about digging around in the middle of a public place for a donation. So, believing, as a friend of mine articulated well once to me, that I have no reason to withhold money, particularly the little I often have with me, from someone who directly asks for it, I started to keep some with me.

“No,” I told her, “I don’t have thirteen pennies, but I do have a few dollars.” I told her as I then offered the bills. What happened next surprised me. Her eyes welled up as if I were Oprah having just told her that she’s won a car. Having taken the few bucks, she asked, “What’s your name?”  Dan, I say.  “Daniel, that’s in the bible.” Yes, the prophet, I respond. “Where are you from, Daniel?” I tell her New York and she said she loved the East Coast. What’s her name? “Jonnie,” and I ask where she’s from, “Minnesota.”

She asked me for a hug. There in the middle of the street I found myself hugging someone who was a second ago a stranger and now is someone with a name. And I came to realize, while feeling the incredibly intense grip of her embrace, that the reason her eyes welled with tears had nothing to do with the few dollars I was willing to give (which were not mine to keep to begin with, sine proprio), but had everything to do with being seen. Having someone else recognize her.

Jonnie said that I should never forget where I’ve come from, never forget my family. It was clear at this point that her story was a painful one, as if that couldn’t already be seen in her current situation. She told me that several times as we held hands and I, not used to this sort of pastoral experience, much less in the setting I found myself, simply listened as I could.

She pulled me down and kissed my forehead and my hand and I hugged her again, stunned as I was to consider exactly how St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians played out in some small way in my life. I also couldn’t help, Franciscan that I am, thinking of Francis’s own experience. Realizing that “never forget where we’ve come from” also includes those who do not bear the same last name, but those with whom we share our very existence.

I’m afraid that most times I will continue to fail to see my sisters and brothers like Jonnie. I don’t always know how to see the Body of Christ, especially in the more challenging situations of life. It is easier to avoid encountering the other, to give charity by tossing some change at a nameless, storyless person. But Caritas is much more than American charity.

What the Spirit showed me today is that Corpus Christi can only be celebrated when we participate fully in the Body of Christ, of which we are its members. I realized that if I had dismissed Jonnie, something that is a very tempting possibility in a giving situation, then my participation in the Eucharist earlier that morning would have meant absolutely nothing.

Photo: Stock

The Meaning of Holy Thursday: Perhaps a Surprise

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 21, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

“So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:14-15)

Oftentimes some folks get distracted by the celebration of what is commonly viewed as the institution of the celebration of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday to the point where its meaning is lost. Yes, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is indeed what is commemorated as we gather around the table tonight to break open the Word and break the bread, but what is the significance of this celebration? It seems to me that some people, religious and priests included, get so fixated on the establishment of the Last Supper — as if Jesus on the night before he died sat down and wrote the first Sacramentary — that they forget the powerful and important challenge Jesus puts to all who follow him.

I can assure you that Holy Thursday, or any Celebration of the Eucharist, is not about the individualism that gets emphasized when people focus solely on the Eucharist as their personal means to ‘obtain’ Christ. The Eucharist is certainly the true Sacramental presence of Christ made present within the ecclesia, but we are not called to be a collection of individuals who happen to gather together to have our own wants met. At the heart of the Eucharist (from Eucharistia which literally means “thanksgiving”) is the Body of Christ, the Church. It is always interpersonal.

The Community of Believers gathers together to give thanks to God and to “Call to Mind” (as the Eucharistic Prayer says) the life, death and resurrection of the Lord. We share Communion with one another as the community of the baptized and, in doing so, we are all challenged. Did you not notice the challenge before? Well, tonight is the time to pay close attention to the prayers and readings.

The last paragraph of tonight’s Gospel from John sums this all up well.  Jesus asks, demands: Do you realize what I have done for you?” My guess is that most of us, like the disciples that first night, can only answer “No.”

But Jesus goes on to explain what it is he has done and what it means for us. “I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”  To be a Christian, to bear the name “Christ,” to approach the Table of the Lord and share in Communion with Christ and his entire Body means that we are follow his example.

No easy task.

How willing are we to follow Christ’s example? To the point of what? Death? Death on a Cross? How about to the point of embarrassment or apparent foolishness because of the decisions we make out of charity and solidarity? How about to the point of washing the feet of the other sinners, enemies or others in our lives that we cannot stand to face? How about in the embrace of nonviolence, like Jesus, in order to announce the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom?

To follow the model of Jesus is not as easy as one thinks. As we hear the words of Christ proclaimed tonight according to John’s account, let our hearts be moved to embrace the call we have been given — to live up to the name Christian.

Photo: GODSPACE

A Vocation Lived to Challenge and Support

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

There are two sides to the coin: challenge and support. This is how I understand, at least in some part, my vocation as a religious in the Church is to both challenge and support the community that I have come to love and associate with the Body of Christ seeking to proclaim the Kingdom of God — no easy task. What is particularly difficult, I should note right away, is striking the balance between the two.

Oftentimes there are those who wish to do nothing but challenge the community. This type of person primarily sees the flaws in structure or governance and has lost sight of the fact that the Church is not an end in itself, but a community of human beings striving to actualize Gospel life in the world. The exclusive challenger is one who does nothing the build up the Body, but acts only to tear it down. It is sad and unfortunate, such behavior strikes me as disappointingly pessimistic.

On the other hand, there is an equally if opposite incomplete approach to the Christian community: the blind supporter. This type of person expresses acknowledgement of no flaws in the community, its leadership or the public expressions of faith and disciplines of the Church. Every aspect of his or her experience or perception of the Church is exalted, resulting in a tireless effort to defend all actions and words stemming from the community composed of imperfect and finite persons striving to follow Christ in the world. The ‘Church can do no wrong’ in this worldview.

Both of these approaches are inherently problematic because their equally myopic outlook limits a fuller appreciation for the complexities of a community established by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, while composed of sinful, imperfect, finite and fallible human beings. Like the discovery of a virtue between two vices, so too the Christian vocation is lived somewhere between these two extremes. This is especially true for religious in the Church, and it is the ongoing modus operandi for those who follow the Franciscan way of life.

I am not the first Franciscan to speak out in a matter concerning a bishop and a politician. In fact, it was Francis of Assisi himself who, on his deathbed, sought to resolve a conflict between the bishop of Assisi and the mayor of that city. What guided the poverello‘s intervention was the dual-commitment reflected in his love for the Church and his understanding that there are times to challenge it too. He is credited with helping to bring peace between the two leaders — the Church and the state — and that event is captured in the penultimate section of the famous Canticle of the Creatures where we hear what the human vocation is: peacemaker.

There is another aspect to Francis’s way of life that is timely at a moment when some members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church, are disputing the proper way to respond to a politician or other public figure who approaches a minister of the Eucharist to share in Sacramental Communion. This is found in the Saint’s writing on how one is to live his way of life.

In the Rule of 1221, Francis dedicated a chapter to how the friars were to engage with the Muslims. This section of his Rule was inspired by his 1219 trip to Damietta, Egypt to peacefully dialogue with the Sultan — which, it should be stated up front, was in direct disobedience to the Church, both in terms of the mission of Pope Innocent III in his directives for the Fifth Crusade and more locally disregarding the Cardinal in charge of the Crusaders outside Damietta, who did not want Francis crossing enemy lines.

Chapter XVI of the Rule says that the way the friars were to go among the “saracens and other nonbelievers,” that is non-Christians, was “not to engage in arguments or disputes but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake and to acknowledge that they are Christians” (v.6). This last line is most important for our day. When engaging with who the pope called “perfidious saracens” and another bishop of the time described as “sons of the antichrist” (both referring to the Muslims that the crusaders were fighting), Francis says that they were to be treated as ‘one of us!’

Those that were dehumanized by the Church as enemy and less-than-human, were elevated by Francis and his followers to ones-like-us, acknowledging that they are already Christian — that they were to be seen and treated like any member of the Body of Christ.

How much more so is this disposition, this attitude necessary today? Especially in light of the fact that we are indeed talking about someone (and others) who are Christians.

I know that there are those people out there who do not like what my response to the Bishop Hubbard and Governor Cuomo situation has been, but I believe that I am only striving to live up to my vocation to remain loyal and faithful to the community of believers we call the Church, while at the same time following the way of life I have professed, which demands that I speak out against injustice — even injustice within the community of the Church — and lovingly challenge the Church when such instances become manifest.

On a final note, I want to say that I appreciate Edward Peters’s joining the conversation here about his take on Canon 915 and the situation in Albany involving Bishop Hubbard and Governor Cuomo. For those who don’t know, he is the one originally cited in the news stories making this matter public. I respect his expertise and interpretation, although, as one can read among the many comments to that earlier post on this website, I join a number of other canon lawyers, theologians and ecclesial ministers in interpreting the prescriptive action of the canon in a different way.

Prof. Peters did make reference to my comments here at DatingGod.org in his own blog some days ago, selecting an introductory line that included a reference to Francis’s devotion to the Eucharist that I believe was then treated in a way that diminishes its relative significance and used out of context. This was more apparent in subsequent citations by other bloggers more than in Prof. Peters’s own post, which is not so polemical (I believe Prof. Peters does try to be fair). Here I refer to the rather disrespectful and contextual-less comments of a blogger who goes by the name “Fr. Z (Zuhlsdorf).” Who recently wrote:

However, in the context of his most recent entry, Peter also educates a “young Franciscan” who, it seems, thinks that St. Francis would have given Communion to anyone no matter what that implied or what the Church’s law is.

I am right now thinking of some of the things the real Francis wrote and did in his life.  Francis wasn’t just bunnies and birdies and Sister Moon.

While I may be young, I also happen (to use Prof. Peters’s own use of the distinction between ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’) to be a professional in the field of Franciscan studies, both by religious profession and by virtue of my scholarly work including more than 20 academic and popular articles, conference papers, invited public lectures and books. If anyone involved in this current conversation knows “the real” Francis, I believe it would be me. This “Fr. Z,” clearly an amateur by Prof. Peters’s terms, obviously does not know about whom he is speaking, by which I mean both Francis and me. I would be the last person to characterize Francis as being about “just bunnies and birdies and Sister Moon.” It certainly made me laugh to read that.

What “Fr. Z” and others must realize, as I hoped to have briefly highlighted above, is that Francis and his followers (myself included) are much more complicated than some of these commenters would like to suggest. There is a profound loyalty to the Church that is part and parcel of our way of life, but there is a prophetic call to be the loving voice of challenge too, calling all Christians to return to a Gospel way of life.

Not Letting the Tail Wag the Dog, or Why I Readily Admit to Being a Bad Christian

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on March 1, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

This reflection is now available in Daniel P. Horan, OFM’s book Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century: Selected Reflections from the Dating God Blog and Other Essays, Volume One (Koinonia Press, 2013).

The Eucharist is Not a Weapon: Part I

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

This reflection is now available in Daniel P. Horan, OFM’s book Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century: Selected Reflections from the Dating God Blog and Other Essays, Volume One (Koinonia Press, 2013).

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