Monthly Archives: June 2014

Proud to be a Mountie

This is a picture of a stained glass window in our Chapel Hall depicting St. Margaret Mary Alacoque who was responsible for spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the late 1600s.

This is a picture of a stained glass window in our Chapel Hall depicting St. Margaret Mary Alacoque who was responsible for spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the late 1600s.

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is a moveable feast, like many others in the life of the Church. It falls at the end of the octave for Corpus Christi – which falls the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. This means that the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus falls 19 days after Pentecost. Glad it is a day that is easy to figure out when it is.

This day, while not on the calendar in The Episcopal Church is a day that is very near to my heart.   After all, I did graduate from a Junior/Senior high school run by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. While I am always thankful and proud to be a Mountie, today I give particular thanks for that community, the faculty, and the Brothers. The people without whom, I would not be the person I am today.

Lately there has been a lot going on at the Mount. Enrollment is down, and that is causing serious financial difficulty for the school. This difficultly has lead to cut backs of staff. I was recently struck by the outpouring of love and support for our former choir teacher who was let go due to, as far as I understand, the current financial reality. It was heartbreaking to see that future generations of Mounties will not get to have this amazing man in class, but also inspiring the way former students and colleagues rallied on Facebook to offer prayers, support, and leads on new opportunities of employment.

In the midst of all of this several Alumni have posted reflections on their experience so I on this the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I thought I would do the same.

I am incredibly blessed, that my parents were able to afford a private school education for 7th-12th grade. TheMSC foundation I received at Mount changed my life. I was given an amazing and solid academic formation that went above and beyond the basics of college preparation. I was cared for and tutored by faculty who care more for their students that any other educators I have ever met. The faculty, lay and religious, embody what it means to live out ones vocation. I cannot even begin to count the number of times my teachers stayed after school or arrived early to give me the extra help I need in my studies or to be a kind and loving support in navigating difficult teenage years. If it were not for the education I received at Mount, I would not be preparing to head off to Yale to begin a Masters program – that’s how good these people are. (Note: I received an amazing education from Rhode Island College from outstanding professors for whom I also owe a great deal of gratitude. But that story is one for another blog post).

More importantly than my academic education, I learned how to be a better person and a better Christian.

The very first vows we take in life, at least for Christians, are in our Baptism. In The Episcopal Church these vows are lived out and expressed in the Baptismal Covenant. My six years at Mount St. Charles taught me more about living into this covenanted relationship with God than any Sunday School, Confirmation class, or Baptism workshop I have ever attended.

The Baptismal Covenant begins by asking the people about basics of their life of faith, “Do you believe in God the Father? . . . Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God? . . . Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?” Six years at Mount means six years of religion classes, six years of all school Masses, six years of retreat days – six years of exploring what it means to believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. While I did not always agree with what was taught – and wasn’t always the most gracious about it, but seriously what high school student is always gracious and kind – my time at Mount gave me a focused to explore what it is that I believe. Looking back it was a great gift that I did not agree with everything I was taught, because I had to learn to express why I did not agree and support my own beliefs. I remember lengthy conversations with in the Campus Ministry office and with various religion teachers about the nature of faith, about differences in the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions, about vocation and what it means to listen to God working in my life. I was cared for enough in this place to be able to ask questions and explore my faith and vocation. I was encouraged to figure out what exactly it is that I believe. I was never forced to accept something as truth that I did not believe, with a few minor exceptions; I was always respected and honored for my beliefs even when they did not match the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church.

As the Baptismal Covenant continues the celebrant asks the people a series of questions. “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?” Continuing in the apostles’ teaching goes along with the experiences outline above. In addition to all school Masses, and class communion breakfasts, Mass was celebrated every Friday morning in Sacred Heart Chapel. While I could not receive Communion, I was always welcomed to join in that liturgy and begin my day with prayer and thanksgiving. Each and everyday at Mount began with prayer – the first this that would happen during morning announcements. Many teachers also began their classes with prayer. Thanks to Brother Cliff, I can say the Gloria Patri in Spanish. In all that we did, community was kept at the center. There were numerous occasions through out the year where we would gather for fellowship and break bread together. On a few occasions, I remember be invited into the Brother’s residence to share a meal with the Brothers and other students. The Mount continues in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayer.

“Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” I will never forget standing outside of Chapel Hall my Senior year while leading a retreat day for some underclassman before their class community breakfast. There was Mr. Edwin Burke, then Vice Principal and current Principal, saying, “It smells like burning sins.” Everyone of these retreat days ended with confession. Brother Nelson, then Chaplain, and other local clergy would invite students to think about their sin and the ways they have fallen short. One by one we would go up to one of the clergy share with them our thoughts, they would offer council, support, and prayer. At the end of the time with each student the clergyman would take the paper burn it and put it into a designated container. There was a very distinct smell that filled Chapel Hall, anyone walking by knew what was going on. In the words of Mr. Burke, we were burning sins. We were taking stock of the ways we had sinned and fallen short and finding way to heal from those situations and be sent forth to try again. The Mount perseveres in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.

“Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” Each and every faculty and staff member at Mount lived – and continues to live – this out. In particular they proclaimed by their example what it means to be a follower of Jesus. They cared for students, the shared in the pray life of the academy, they went out of their way to model for us the values of faithful people. Many, at least with me, were not afraid to talk about their faith, to share what it means for them to be a follower of Jesus. They used their gifts and talents – beyond academics – to support their students. I still have the cross that Mr. Marc Blanchette made for me as encouragement for my vocation to the priesthood and support for a really challenging situations I was going through.

One of my favorite classes that I took at Mount was the Liturgy class – an option for junior and senior year religion requirement. In this two-year program, Brother Nelson and Mr. Greg Cooney helped us think about what it means to bring our lives to the liturgy and the liturgy to our lives. To come before the presence of the Holy, to receive the Word and Sacrament, to be strengthened, healed, and renewed by God’s grace. In return we were to take ourselves, our souls, our bodies and go out and change the world. We were to take our gifts and talents and use them to strengthen, heal, and renew the broken and hurting world around us. As part of my application for Postulancy I had to write a series of essays, I wrote one of them on the importance for this experience in my life. The experiences in the liturgy program have forever changed and shaped my ministry. In all that I do, I am reminded that I bring my life to the liturgy, and the liturgy to my life. Without this class, and the faculty at large, my ministry would not be what it is today. It was at Mount that I developed the very foundation of which my incredible ministry stands upon today.   The Mount proclaims by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” At Mount I learned about abundant generosity in caring for those in need. Every year at Christmas (actually during Advent) we would adopt a couple hundred families from a local social service organization and provide food and gifts for the family. It was an unbelievable and amazing undertaking. This ministry is what I have modeled the St. Nicholas Drive at St. Peter’s on. TCs (Mount’s version of Homeroom) would adopt a few families each and put together gift baskets and get today for the kids. It was truly a holy moment to see Chapel Hall filled with these gifts and baskets, to see the impact we were able to make on our community. Delivering the gifts was a breath taking experience.

TC 210 with Mrs. Smith and her blue hair.

TC 210 with Mrs. Smith and her blue hair.

Every Lent we would have a Lenten Mission Drive. During my time at Mount this was to raise funds to send to Africa to help the Brothers build a school for orphaned children. We would have competitions to help us meet our goals, to see which TC could reach their goal, which TC raised the most. Mount teachers have a great way of giving of themselves to motivate and encourage students, while having a good time. My senior year TC – Mrs. Carol Smith – was a bit competitive. She wanted to be sure that her TC raised fund above and beyond our goal. So she made a bet with us. She would dye her hair blue if we raised more money than any other TC, or a certain percent over 100% of our goal, or something like that. You have to understand, dear reader, that Mrs. Smith is a bit of a fashionista – so for her to dye her hair blue was a big deal. Long story short we made the goal and she dyed her hair blue. At Mount I learned that sacrificial generosity is important, that it is our Christian duty. I also learned that there can be, and should be, great joy in making sacrifices for others.

I also learned the importance of hands on service. During my junior and senior years I went to St. Anne’s Mission (run by the Brothers of the Sacred Hear) in Klagetoh, Arizona for February vacation. These two weeks were amazing, experiences I think I am still processing. Students who never hung out at school traveled together to share in intense service work, exploring God’s creation, and spend time in community and fellowship with the Navajo people who are part of the mission and local community. I built a wheelchair ramp, made and delivered meals for meals on wheels, went and taught a pre-school class, unloaded and stored 300 barrels of hay, and put on family nights for the community. One year, we got to share in leading the Ash Wednesday liturgy. It was a beautiful combination of Navajo tradition and Roman Catholic practice. I got to experience what so many experience when they go on these types of trips – I thought I was going to help them, but really they were the ones to help me. Mount seeks and serves Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.

“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” Throughout my time at Mount I was taught to use my voice to stand up for those who have no voice. Now, I know some of what I advocate for goes against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, but I still had my first experiences of using my prophetic voice at Mount. We were constantly reminded that we have been abundantly blessed and it is our responsibility to care for the voiceless and use our blessings in service of others. In liturgy class, during our senior year, we went to the nursing home behind the school to hold a monthly mass for the residents. Some of these people were left alone and forgotten, but they all needed someone to value them, to listen to their stories, and honor their personhood. Mount actually had an excellent relationship with the nursing home, and students in the liturgy class, in the CAP (Christian Action Program) class, and in the community service club went next door to be present with these individuals at the end of their lives. I learned more about respecting human dignity in those encounters than any other experience I have had sense. Mount strives for justice and peace among all people, and respects the dignity of every human being.

Today I give great thanks for being a Mountie. It is because of this experience that I plan on getting a school chaplaincy certificate as part of my Master of Divinity training at Yale. For better or worse, Mount Saint Charles Academy gave me the foundations to be the person I am today. Were it not for them I do not know where I would be, but I am fairly certain that I would not be a postulant for Holy Orders and be about to head to Yale Divinity School. From the very core of my being I offer my thanks to the Brothers of the Sacred Heart and each and every faculty and staff member at Mount. I’m not even going to try to name everyone hear, because I do not want to miss anyone.

Brothers of the Sacred Heart at Mount's 90th anniversary liturgy held on June 14, 2014.

Brothers of the Sacred Heart at Mount’s 90th anniversary liturgy held on June 14, 2014.

 

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The Most Amazing Relationship

Sermon preached on Trinity Sunday (June 15, 2014) at St. Peter’s by-the-Sea, Narragansett RI.  You can listen to the sermon here.  

Today is one of my favorite feast days in the life of the Church.  As such, I find it baffling that all week long my Facebook feed has been filling up with clergy lamenting on having to preach today.  The Trinity is one of the most – maybe even the most – complicated doctrine the Church holds.  A poor metaphoric choice can easily lead the preacher down the path of heresy.  The Trinity is like water that can be found as a solid, liquid, or gas.  Nice try, but that’s modalism and it’s heresy.  The Trinity is like the Sun, which is star, heat, and light.  That understanding is arianism and it is a heresy.  How about the three-leaf clover metaphor?  That’s partialism, and you guessed it that is a heresy too.  Like I said, the Trinity is a very complicated thing to understand.

So if the Trinity is so hard to understand – if it is in fact beyond human comprehension why do we bother preaching on it?  Why bother having a Sunday dedicated to this doctrine?  If you ask me, it would be completely foolish not to.

TrinityIn a recent interview, I was asked what my image of God is when I pray.  My image of God is one of relationship.  Not only is God in relationship with God’s self – three in one and one in three – but God also desires nothing more than to be in a deep and abiding relationship with each and every one of us.  All that we are and all that we believe as Christians is based on this – God loves us so much that God will do absolutely anything to build and maintain this relationship with us.  We know the extent of this love; we know what happens on Good Friday.  This relationship, this desire to love us completely, even when we do not love ourselves in the same way or return that love to God, is what this day, this Trinity Sunday, is all about.  Understanding the Trinity is how we understand our relationship with our Triune God.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to baptize people in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  But, what if we had been given a different formula?  What is there was no Trinity?

“I baptize you in the name of the Father.”  To only recognize the Father, leaves out the person and work of Christ and the ongoing activity of the Spirit.  This would mean being baptized into a God full of mystery and power, but it would also mean being baptized into the fullness of a God who is detached.

“I baptize you in the name of Jesus.” In this we miss the Maker of heaven and earth, we miss that which is larger than what we can see, understand, or even image.  Only baptizing people in the name of Jesus also leaves out the continual presence of God with us today.

“I baptize you in the name of the Holy Spirit.”  Here we miss the awesomeness and creativity of God the Father.  We also miss the work of Jesus Christ, who is God in human flesh.  Without this work, we miss the redemptive work of God – the God who rose from the dead for our salvation.  If we are to leave that out, we might as well go home now because we are clearly wasting our time.

This is the relationship we are drawn into – we are immersed into by virtue of our Baptism.  We are in relationship with the creative, mysterious, and awesome God the Father.  We are in relationship with the God in human flesh that brings our salvation, God the Son.  We are in relationship with the presence of God that is the ongoing workings of God the Holy Spirit.  When we are in relationship with this God we are not powerless in the world, but we are powerful.  We are connected to God’s creative work, we are redeemed, and we are filled with the spirit that works wonders in, among, and through us.  This is what we celebrate this day.  We celebrate the most amazing relationship we could ever be invited into.

By virtue of our Baptism we have been invited into this relationship, but relationships are not one-way streets.  We must accept the gift of this relationship, and participate in its growth and development.  We do that by living into the very act that gave us this invitation in the first place – our Baptism.

Last Sunday as Tucker and Charlotte were baptized, we reaffirmed that which was promised for us at our own baptisms – that which many of us have affirmed for ourselves in confirmation.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?  Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?  Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?  Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

First and foremost, we build our relationship by being present with God and learning about God and how God works in our lives.  We participate in our continued lifelong formation as disciples of Jesus.  We pray.  We celebrate that which is the heart of our life of faith – the Holy Eucharist.  We come week by week to be strengthened, healed, and renewed:  to come closer to the Holy and participate in the foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

We know we will fall short, that we are human.  When that happens we cannot beat ourselves up.  We cannot tell ourselves that we are not good enough, that it is always our fault when things go wrong.  We cannot blame ourselves for things beyond our control.  So when we fail to get things right, we must remember where our center is and go there.  We must turn to God to be healed and strengthened, and go out and try again.

We must live our lives so that all people know we are disciples of Jesus.  We must in our words and actions proclaim this Good News of Great Joy that has been embedded deep within us.  We must not be ashamed of this most glorious relationship we have entered into with God; and what does any person do when they are in an amazing, powerful, and love filled relationship? – they tell the whole world.

We must share in our Gospel mandated work to seek Christ in the people and places we think are most unlikely.  Will you love your neighbor?  I am not just talking about the person who lives across the street, but the person across the world, the person who is other than you are, the person who supports the other political candidate, the person who has participated in hurting you.

We must use our prophetic voices to call out the injustices of the world.  The places where people are being systematically oppression, the places torn apart by endless war and violence, the places where the created order is being used and abused to the point of no return.  We cannot rest until every person is treated with the love, dignity, and respect they deserve by virtue of their being beloved children of God.  Take a moment and imagine what the world would look like, if in fact, we treated everyone like the beloved child of God that they are.

GoMakeDisciplesJesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus is calling us and all nations – the entire world – into this life.  It is scary, it is hard, it is down right impossible to achieve on our own.  But thanks be to God we are not left comfortless, we are not left alone, we have this beautiful, awesome, love filled, and holy relationship right in front of us.

When God the Father created the world and calls everything good and invites us to share in the power of creation; when Jesus ascends into heaven and bestows upon us the power and responsibility preach, teach, heal the sick and raise the dead; when the Holy Spirit descends upon us like tounges of fire to enliven our souls on that great day of Pentecost we have two choices.  To say no and turn our backs on the greatest gift we have ever been offered or to say yes and share in this most holy relationship.

If you ask me, Trinity Sunday ought to be a bigger deal.  We cannot continue to let it silently sit there on our liturgical calendar.  We cannot as a Church find ways to skirt around it, because we do not understand.  Today is a day to celebrate.  To celebrate the precious invitation offered to us in Baptism to be in relationship with the Triune God.  To celebrate our place in this life as disciples of Jesus.  To celebrate the fact that we cannot even begin to comprehend the nature of God, but that we do not have to understand to change the word in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  And that is why I love Trinity Sunday.

 

AMEN.

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