Shepherding in Cassock

 

In cassock in Piazza Navona
Seminarians in cassock in Piazza Navona

When I donned the cassock for the first time as a novice, it took me a while to get used to it. Going up and down stairs was a challenge at first, but, after some practice, I mastered the technique. It also took me a while to get used to being in a formal uniform almost all the time. The cassock is not supposed to be worn for outdoor physical activity, but on a few occasions, I have had to make exceptions, including the night of Pope Francis’s election when I had to run full-speed in cassock to get a spot in St. Peter’s Square for his first appearance as pope. Not long ago, I found myself making another exception. Our seminary is located on the outskirts of Rome, where fields and open spaces are much more common than in the historic center. By Italian law, sheep are allowed to graze on fields that are not being used for anything else. Since our seminary has some unused fields, the local flock helps itself to our grass at least twice a week.

imageAfter lunch one day, I was walking down by the fields with a confrere when we suddenly heard bleating. We looked down and saw a lamb that was separated from the rest of the flock by at least 300 yards. The shepherd was nowhere to be seen, so, being the kind-hearted seminarians that we are, we decided to guide the lost lamb back to the flock.

We did not want to pick up the lamb for fear of dirtying our cassocks (this turned out to be a very prudent decision), so we both positioned ourselves behind to guide him in the direction of the other sheep. The idea was to slowly move towards the flock, trying to force the lamb to go towards it.

It turned out to be easier said than done. Every couple of yards, the lost lamb would do an about-face and run directly away from  flock, forcing us to re-position ourselves and try again. This went on for quite some time until we finally got the lamb close enough to a ewe not terribly far from the edge of the flock.

Reflecting a little later on this event, it occurred to me that perhaps God was trying to teach me a lesson for my future ministry as a shepherd of souls. My experience with the lost lamb was similar to what Christ goes through with his own lost sheep. When we stray, he positions himself to gently guide us back, but we stubbornly run in the opposite direction. He always respects our freedom; he never grabs us nor forces us to go the right way. But he doesn’t give up. He stands by us, reminding us with his presence and through our consciences that we are straying. If we return, his joy is more than we can imagine.

imageAs I was thinking this over in the little chapel in my hall, I realized a very interesting coincidence. The Gospel passage during the community mass that morning had been  the parable of the Good Shepherd!

I took that as a sign that my experience of shepherding was not an accident…and that I shouldn’t feel bad for doing it in cassock!

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Mission Youth Evangelization: Carrying the Cross in New York City

Here is an inspiring video of young missionaries bringing Christ to Manhattan on Good Friday.

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Good News!

That is what the New Evangelization is about and what Mission Youth missionaries did on the Streets of Manhattan on Good Friday.

Over 50 high school missionaries carried the cross from Central Park South, down Broadway, to Old St Patrick’s Basilica in Soho —

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“Unbearable Beauty”: Your Upcoming Resurrection

20140417-161738.jpgIn his book, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis recounts a fictional visit to heaven. During his tour of paradise, he encounters numerous holy men and women, but one in particular leaves a deep impression. He meets a spectacularly clothed woman and is absolutely entranced by “the unbearable beauty of her face.” Impressed by her appearance and by the large entourage of angels and saints who accompany her, Lewis asks his guide if she had been a woman of particular importance on earth. It turns out that by worldly standards she was just a simple old lady named Sarah Smith. But the guide goes on to explain that “fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”

Sarah Smith may not have been a celebrity, but she spent her life doing good for others – she spent her life loving: “Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.” Sarah was a mother to everyone, and in heaven she is accompanied by a procession of her spiritual children. She is even joined by the animals who benefitted from her generous heart: “Every beast and bird that came near her had a place in her love…Now the abundance of life that she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them.”

20140417-161754.jpgOn Sunday, we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus, an event that is so huge that we do not limit our celebration to Easter Sunday. Throughout the Easter Season, which will continue until the feast of Pentecost, we commemorate and celebrate Christ’s definitive victory over death.

How important it is to remember that in celebrating Our Lord’s Resurrection we are celebrating our own! As baptized Christians, we have a share in Christ’s new life and it is only a matter of time before we are in heaven with our own resurrected bodies. In 1st Corinthians 15, Paul reflects on the beauty of the resurrected body:

“It [the natural body] is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Our future resurrections give us a special dignity, on which C.S. Lewis offers an interesting reflection:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship.”

20140417-161728.jpgThe character of Sarah Smith is a symbol of “the risen body of maternal love.” If motherly love is so beautiful on earth, we can only imagine how it will be manifested in heaven! But not just mothers – anyone who truly loves during his time on earth will be rewarded with a risen body, the ultimate fruit of his love. The beauty of your love on earth will flow into your resurrected body, and since God is never outdone in generosity,  your resurrected body will be one of “unbearable beauty.”

“Unto Death on a Cross”: Christ’s Passionate Love for You

20140418-112226.jpgToday is Good Friday, the day we commemorate and re-live Christ’s passion and death. It is a day when we remember the incredible suffering that he endured for our sake. We can only imagine what he went through: being flogged, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross and left to die.

We recall these events every year, and it is easy to become desensitized to what they actually mean. It is easy to forget the huge amount of will power that it took Jesus to endure the physical and spiritual suffering to which he was submitted.

In the Gospel narrations of the Passion, there is a lot of talking going on: the chief priests, Pilate, the crowds. It is interesting to note that the main protagonist, Jesus, speaks very little. In the midst of all the accusations and lies, he says nothing, as the prophesy foretold of him:

Though harshly treated, he submittedimage and did not open his mouth; like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

Jesus does not need to speak; he is simply there to get the job done. It is what he came to do, and he is as determined as ever to see it through until the end. He has come to Jerusalem fully aware of what will happen to him:

When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)

Some versions translate this verse as “he set his face like flint on Jerusalem.” Our Lord’s determination is as hard as rock.

Yet, his acceptance of the cross is much more than mere stoicism. His determination is driven by his love for us. It is interesting that “passion”, the word used to describe his suffering, is also the word often used to describe intense love. Christ’s willingness to suffer is driven by his passionate love for us, a love undiminished by our lack of love for him. “Christ redeems us because he passionately embraces our rejection of him with a love unto death, and he will not let go of us.” (Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis)

20140418-112829.jpgThis Good Friday, remember how much Jesus loves you and take a moment to respond to this love. Whether at church or on your own, take time to reflect on and enter into his Passion. Accompany Christ as he embraces his cross and remember that everything he is going through is for you. He will let you know how much he appreciates your company.

– Br. Eric Wandrey, LC

How My Dad Taught Me a Lenten Resolution I Would Never Forget

Another great reflection from my friend, Fr. Jason Smith.

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Fr Jason Smith LC Fr Jason Smith LC

One Ash Wednesday, my dad announced to my brother and I that for Lent he would be fasting on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays. He wondered if we would like to join him.

Aaron and I looked at each other thinking he had flipped his lid. Aaron said he’d stick to giving up arguing; I said I’d continue to refrain from hitting Aaron until Easter. With all of our resolutions on the table we were ready to begin our Lenten regimen.

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Christ’s Unlikely Messengers

A very inspiring reflection on new beginnings in Christ.

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Corpus Angle The Gospels readings for the 3 Sundays leading up to Palm Sunday have something peculiar in common — unlikely emissaries of the Gospel. The Samaritan woman at the well, the man born blind, and this week’s spotlight guest in particular, a dead man , are not the first people we would choose to preach the Good News.

Yet these are the people God chose. Clearly, God can choose anybody he wants to be his messenger. 

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Praying When We’re Busy (And We’re All Busy)

Here are some beautiful photos and an excellent reflection from my good friend, Fr. Jason Smith.

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Fr Jason Smith Fr Jason Smith

I went to Manhattan yesterday to get a wisdom tooth pulled. Thankfully the dentist was so adroit I was left with an hour or two of leisure to snap pictures of the city and Grand Central as I waited for the train.

As I snapped shots here and there I couldn’t help but observe the energy of the city. I kept thinking to myself, “No wonder it is so hard to stop and pray.” On the train ride home I put down the camera and picked up the pen to jot down a few notes–both to remind myself and to help others–on how to pray amid our busy life.

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