Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Few Things For Which I Am Thankful

Right about now each year, the nuns I had in grammar school would be telling us to take out a piece of construction paper and draw something to express our gratitude to God.  Having no artistic capabilities, these types of projects were always pure torture for me.  But, expressing gratitude in words is never a painful undertaking for me.  I love that I have so much for which to be grateful.  I'm sure that I will forget some things, but here is at least an attempt.  Some of these things are obvious and plain.  Some will be inscrutable.
The BU Catholic Center Men's Hike

This year, (in no particular order), I am thankful:

For the Word of God
For priests who give time to hearing confessions
For the sheep
For the gift of an iPad and for the inscription
For a family who has suffered a lot, but perseveres and loves
For an email about Charlie's theological questions
For people who write cards
For my family
That my family members all talk to each other frequently and all get along
That the Barnes' will all be on one continent soon
That my parents sent me to Catholic School
For the people who support the Catholic Center at Boston University
For the privilege of being able to assure those who suffer of the nearness of Christ
For old friends
For new friends
For those who accompany me on the Christian path

For Monday night adoration
For the Men's Hike
For Andre the Giant Reading at Mass
For Scones
For the privilege of living priesthood in the midst of the people
For young people who are witnesses to Christ
For the young people that I see every day
For the coffee room
For the flock entrusted to my care
For the friendship we live together as the Church
For the words, "Father, do you have a minute?"
For being entrusted with the interior life of people
For Prayer
For the privilege of accompanying others along the Christian path

For liking the stars at Camp Fatima
For Interns, husbands of interns, Focus Missionaries, and Agnes
For being on mission together
For parents who raise good children
For seeing God work through others

For having time to hear confessions each day
For seminarians
For vocations
For the privilege of accompanying men along the path to ordination
For a newly ordained priest
For hearing good reports about good priests

For those who visit me at the Catholic Center
For people who treat me really well
For Game One of the World Series
For the Second Row at Fenway 
That St. Paul wrote twice to St. Timothy
That the Lord stood by me
For my joy and my crown
For THE BEST party I've ever been to and for family and friends who were there
For the party and toast at St. Margaret's
For dinners
That He calls us friends
That I was pastor of the best parish in the Archdiocese of Boston
That I learned how to be a shepherd
For the Anglican Ordinariate
For Mariage and for Families
For Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, and Easter Dinners

For brother priests and for priests who are brothers
For a priest who--although a Yankees Fan--helped me
For Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis
For JP2's zealous preaching, his fortitude, and his being a pastor
For Benedict's joy, writings, humility, and liturgical style
For Francis' directness, authenticity, and the way he keeps the system (and me) on our toes
For Evangelii Gaudium
For the Encounter with Christ
For the Year of Faith
For my share in the Cross
For the joy of preaching the Gospel
For the New Evangelization
For being part of the New Evangelization before it was fashionable or safe
For lay people who witness to Christ in the world

For a good home
For the back porch and the company
For Facebook, Twitter, and texting
Sometimes for email
For Hoppy Beer and Coffee
For Finbar
For getting to spend almost all of my time with regular people

For the privilege to offer Mass and to absolve sins
For vocations to the priesthood
For Celibacy and for fatherhood
For the witness of persecuted Christians and for martyrs
For Mercy
For the Forgiveness of Sins
For people who bring joy into a room
For the example of people who know how to pray

For the house of Peter and for the house of Caiaphas
For the Pools at Bethsaida
For God's Providence
For CCC 312
For the Summa
For Saints
For Augustine, Gregory, and Chrysostom
For Grace
For Vianney, Borromeo, and Newman
For Fr. Ragheed Ganni
For the Memorare
That the New Evangelization works if we let it
For being a man who has great friends
For many other things
For Christ

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Homily Delivered for a Soldier's Funeral

I'm still on hiatus from blogging, but today is Veteran's Day and I was thinking of a Funeral Mass that I offered a few years ago for a young soldier who was killed in action.  Thank you to him and to all who have served our country in the Armed Forces.  This is the homily that I delivered at his funeral.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
At the very founding of this Nation, our forefathers recognized and acknowledged what was — in their words — self-evident. Namely, that every human life is sacred. And, that these inalienable rights — of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — are given not by an act of law or by man made decree, but rather are given as a gift from the Creator. The Founders declared that it is the role of government to secure and protect these inalienable and self-evident rights. Today — at home and abroad — the sacredness of human life is everywhere under attack. Today, what was self-evident to those who came before us is often obscured by ideology, by a culture of death and by evil.

Today we mourn the death of Stephen Fortunato. Stephen was a soldier. The soldier does not primarily exist to take human life, but to protect human life. What inspired Stephen to enlist in the Army was when he saw the inalienable rights of his fellow Americans threatened in the terrorist attacks of September 11th. In order to defend and to protect the life, liberty and happiness of others, Stephen voluntarily surrendered his own freedoms. He gave up the right to be with his own family and friends so that others could enjoy that right. He gave up the warmth of home and familiarity, so that others could enjoy such things. He gave up the right to come and go as he pleased so that others could enjoy that right. And last week, on a roadside in Afghanistan, he made the supreme sacrifice and surrendered his own right to life in order to secure and to protect the lives of his countrymen. Our Lord tells us that there is no greater love than to lay down one's own life for a friend.

On an October morning in 1983, it was actually October 2nd — the Feast of the Guardian Angels — a baby boy was carried by his family into this church and he was baptized. In that moment, Stephen Fortunato was given the promise of immortality; the promise of eternal life. From that moment on, he belonged to Christ. Christ, the Good Shepherd, was forever at the side of Stephen.

Today, we — who live half a world away — cannot help but wonder what the last moments of Stephen's life were like. Perhaps you wish that you could have been there with him as he breathed his last; with him to comfort and console him; with him to express your love and affection; with him to say goodbye. But this was not possible. In this way, Stephen's sacrifice is also your sacrifice. You have given a husband, a son, a brother, a grandson, a friend to a grateful nation. That nation and its citizens owe you and Stephen a debt of gratitude. Stephen was rightly outraged when others attempted to steal the God given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness from his countrymen. Stephen's response to that outrage was to sacrifice his own rights to protect and defend the rights of others. All of us who are gathered here today might well learn from his example. Imagine how much our nation would benefit if there were more persons who — like Stephen — were dedicated to protecting the inalienable rights of others — the right to life, to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness.

Although you are undoubtedly consoled by the military honors that Stephen deservedly receives today, our gathering here in this church reminds us that when the volleys have all been fired and the sound of the bugle has faded, there is something that lasts forever — something that remains.

When Stephen entered into the valley of the shadow of death on a roadside in a faraway land, he was not alone. You — his family — made sure of that. You gave him something that lasts forever. When you carried him into this church 25 years ago, you introduced Stephen to the Good Shepherd. And Christ has never left the side of Stephen. "Even though I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. With thy rod and thy staff, thou givest me comfort." Christ, the Good Shepherd, has led the way through the valley of death and in his resurrection, he has conquered man's greatest enemy — death itself. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, went ahead of Stephen to prepare a place for him in the Father's house. When Stephen closed his eyes to this world, Christ was beside him. And it is our Christian hope that when Stephen opened his eyes again, the Good Shepherd welcomed him to life eternal.

On an October morning 25 years ago, you carried your son into this church, and entrusted him to Christ the Good Shepherd. You trusted that Christ, the Good Shepherd would stay forever at his side and guide him beside restful waters and would refresh his soul. This morning, your family, your community, your parish, your country, carries your son again into this church. We ask God to have mercy on the soul of Stephen and to purify him. We give thanks to Almighty God for Stephen's life and for his devoted and complete service. We also ask God to give to each one of us a deep and abiding friendship with Jesus Christ — for he is the way to the Father's House. And apart from him we can do nothing.

Stephen began his journey to eternal life here in this church — dedicated to Mary, Star of the Sea. Today marks the end of Stephen's mission; of his journey. May Mary, Star of the Sea, now guide him from the troubled waters of Earth to the safe harbors of heaven. May Christ, the Good Shepherd, now open to Stephen the doors of the Father's House, and may Stephen discover within its halls what he so willingly and valiantly sacrificed for others — true life, true liberty and everlasting happiness. Amen.