The Monday Morning Chaplain is a weekly exhortation to the Trinity College community from Chaplain John Campbell, associate chaplain for Roman Catholic Life, begun on June 1, 2020 and continued for the year through May 23, 2021, to help keep us focused and inspired during our Covid-19 "exile" from each other. It has continued throughout our re-gathering as a community, and has, hopefully, made a difference to those who read it.

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May 23, 2021-FINAL

Hello Everyone,

Well, it’s time to go. All the work has been completed, the tests taken, the books put aside, the rooms emptied, the cars filled, and the road ahead looks clear. The Class of 2021 is on to their next adventure, using their talents and integrity to change our world. The undergrads are off to their summer whirlwind, some continuing their studies, doing research or following other academic pursuits; some working, some travelling, some just lounging, taking some time off to recharge and reexamine their goals, and some doing a bit of all of it. Whatever it is you are doing, know that a whole community has got your back. Yes, the Catholic Community at Trinity College is praying for you and hoping that your Summer is filled with joy and that all your endeavors bring you closer to the one who created you. “Rejoice!…do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with gratitude, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

I started the Monday Morning Chaplain (MMC) on June 1, 2020, in response to the pandemic and to stay in touch with all of you during what promised to be an anxiety filled summer. I decided to continue it throughout the school year, which also proved to be a challenging endeavor, and I hope it brought some sense of security and hope to all who followed along. This week marks the completion of 1 year of MMC, and it seems like as good a time as any to put it to rest. I thank all of you who kept up with my words and sent encouragement back to me. As much as I thought I was writing this for you, it ended up helping me through all that was going on around me. It still remains true that we always get more than we give when we reach out to those around us.

And so, as we move on to what’s next in all of our lives, let’s remember the days we spent sharing our friendship, having a meal, singing a song, praying for each other, and having a laugh or two in the process.

I’ll see you all a little further on up the road…

The Irish Blessing:
“May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields,
and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

May 17, 2021

Hello Everyone,
I find myself thinking about all of you today.  It has been a long 14 months since the Covid 19 pandemic hit us full force, and it has been an interesting, if not very weird time in all of our lives.  Some have told me that they really weren’t too adversely affected by this, they like their privacy, they don’t go out much anyway, no one they know got sick, and their life went on pretty much as usual.  Others have told me it was a time of introspection, a time of change, a time to look at things through a different lens, but mostly a time to reassess, and to come out a better person for it.  Still others told me that it was a horrible time, they lost loved ones, got sick themselves, lost jobs, money, friends, and lost respect for many people in their lives who disagreed with their point of view.  Most of us fit into or somewhat close to one of these descriptions, and all of us have a story or two to tell about what we have experienced.  The good news is we are around to tell our story, and there are many more here to listen.  We have come out of this with many emotions, but one of them, maybe the strongest one, is hope.  Hope in a better day to come, hope in a renewed kindness in our world, and hope that we can take the next step in our lives to continue our growth as people of this world, and as children of God.  May hope rule the day today and may hope be part of your daily experience from this day forward.
As I write about hope, I am also thinking about some of the stories I have been reading from the Acts of the Apostles during my daily prayer in this Easter Season, and specifically the First Reading from yesterday’s Mass, the 7th Sunday of Easter.  We are introduced to two new names, Barsabbas, (Justus), and Matthias.  These are the people being considered to replace Judas as one of the twelve Apostles.  Peter explains, “Therefore, it is necessary that one of those who accompanied us the whole time Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the Baptism of John until he was taken up from us.”  So, these two, and many others, have been hanging around with Jesus and the Twelve this whole time, and we have never heard their names before?   Were they less thought of or less effective in their work than the others?  Why were the twelve the twelve and everyone else well, everyone else?  And what makes these two stand out over the rest that they are the two nominated to take Judas’ place?  I can relate to their place in this story.  How many times have I been involved in something, but not been part of the “main” group?  Maybe I am committed to the cause but just not in with the right people to have a voice.  Maybe I am not “all in”, and so am either kept at arm’s length, or do not put in the effort to be counted on.  Either way, I’m there, but in the background.  Most often in these groups a time comes when I have to declare my true intentions.  Maybe it is of my own choosing, or maybe it is thrust upon me, but it is time to choose; am I ready to take that next step and be a visible member of this group.  Am I ready for what’s next is the question of the day.  Are you ready for when this hope I am writing about comes to fruition in your life?
As this school year comes to an end, for some your undergraduate career, and summer, or the rest of your life, stares you in the face, are you ready for what’s next?  Sometimes it is easy, even comforting, to be one of many, in a family, or a small town, or a college campus, and find a place where you can do the things that you need to, to get by, to complete your responsibilities, to be happy.  But, eventually, for all of us, there comes a time when we have to stand up and be counted, stand up and become visible to all, stand up and stand for something we truly believe in.  For Matthias, who the Apostles chose to be one of them, this was his time.  Was he ready?  Are you ready for your time to shine?  “God never gives you more than you can handle”, is an old saying that people use when they try to comfort those who have more than they can handle.  To me it’s an empty sentiment.  It just adds more of a burden because now, besides being overwhelmed by all that is happening we are telling the person that they should be able to handle it all because God would never put them in to position to fail.  Really?  Maybe a more accurate sentiment would be, “I’m here for you and I will walk with you as you navigate your way through all that is happening to you.”  God just may give you more than you can handle, but God will also give you people around you to help you with the load.  Maybe Matthias liked being in the background, maybe he was yearning to be an Apostle, (remember the song in Jesus Christ Superstar, the lyric goes “always hoped that I’d be an apostle, knew that I could make it if I tried”), or maybe when his name came up for consideration, he said to himself, “no, please, not me”.  Whatever his state of mind was, God was calling him to step up, and so he did, and he had 11 brothers in arms to help him through it all.  There is always someone to walk with, or someone who will walk with you when you are ready.  Find them and your life will be more complete.
I don’t know what God is calling you to do.  (I’m still trying to figure out what God is calling me to do. 🙂)  What I do know is that you can do it.  Whatever it is, you can do it.  Maybe not right this second, or maybe not all by yourself, but if you look around, ask the right people for help, use all the gifts God has given you, then yes, you can do it.  Get ready, the best is yet to come!
Happy Easter!
Your Monday Morning Chaplain

May 10, 2021

Hello Everyone,

What a great celebration Mother’s Day is! In all we do and in all we have, our mother is the primary rock which we build upon. She is always the foundation of our direction, our energy, and our view of the world. Yes, we grow, and yes, we change, and yes, we become our own self with all that entails, but first and foremost, for all of us, is our mother and the beginning of our lives when it was her love and care that made us whole. Yesterday for our family it was even more special. We celebrated the life of my mom, who passed away 10 years ago, May 9, 2011. The day started with the sighting of a rare bird at our bird feeder, an Indigo Bunting. This is a great sign of my mom who loved birds, watched them from her window religiously in her last years, and always talked to them, and counted them as friends. She especially loved Cardinals, and the Bunting is a member of the Cardinal family. The last time I saw my mom was Mother’s Day 2011 and sitting at her kitchen table every time I spoke to her, she would say, “what?”, and I would have to start over and speak louder. After a while we were quiet, and I heard very faintly through the open window the song of a bird. My mother immediately said, “Oh that’s the Cardinal saying hello”. I said, “Mom, you say “what?” to everything I say to you and I’m sitting right next to you, but a bird tweets softly a mile away and you can hear it?” She just laughed and laughed and shrugged her shoulders seemingly saying, “hey, what can I tell you, me and the birds are simpatico”. She passed away the next day, and the memory of that last encounter stays with me like it happened just yesterday. Thanks, Mom, for all you are in my life and thanks for filling our family with our faith in God and the ability to love others. You were one of a kind!

When I was a younger man and spent some time living, working, and praying with the Capuchin Franciscans, there was a great controversy over praying the “Our Father”. The Friars that led the formation house were teaching us to use inclusive language in prayer, using different pronouns to describe God and how God interacted with the world. During a meeting of the whole Province, the younger guys led morning prayer and when they prayed, they prayed how they were being trained to, “Our Father, Our Mother, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…”. Well, the older guys were up in arms over this. After prayer had ended, they called the formation leadership out, demanded to know what they were teaching in formation, and wanted to put a stop to this. Well, it started a wonderful conversation in the community, and though most of the older guys continued to pray their way, they became more tolerable of teaching this method of prayer. You see, once the conversation started to focus on how these men felt God’s love in their lives, and how it was compared to how they felt their mothers love in their lives, they understood, and though not sold on the new wording, came to realize its accuracy and that yes, God loves like a Father as Jesus describes, but also most certainly loves like only a mother can. When it comes to God, there are no comparisons to how much we are loved, but the place we come the closest is through our experience of the love of our mother.

As we continue to move through this life of ours, encountering all the sights, actions, feelings, and emotions that come our way, we filter them all through our lens of love. Our parents, our siblings, our extended families, our loving friends and neighbors, and those “other adults”, (teachers, coaches, family friends, mentors, priests, nuns), who showed us what love is are our examples of how to navigate this world. But in it all, none of it compares to how God loves us, and not just you, and not just me, or not just people like us, or even just those who love God back. As Jesus told us in yesterday’s Gospel, (JN 15-9-17), “As the Father, (Mother), loves me, so I love you… so, love one another as I have loved you”. So simple, yet so, so, hard to live in our day-to day lives. But we know, from the glimpses we have in our lives of the love that we receive and the love that we give, that it makes all the difference. No, it doesn’t compare to how God loves all of it, all of us, all of creation. Yet, if we want to understand how God loves it all, the closest we come is by watching a mom love her family, all her family, all with the same deep feeling, all of the time. It is beautiful to watch, almost perfect, and it’s not even close to how much God loves us. Wow! Own that, live that, give that away to others, and you’ve found “the Kingdom of God”.

May the Lord Bless all of our Mom’s today!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

May 3, 2021

Hello Everyone,

Can you believe we have made it to May and are closing in on the end of our Spring Semester? It seems like just yesterday that we all arrived back in Hartford, ready for the start of an excellent 10-week adventure. We have waded through the abyss that Covid 19 has placed us in and come out of it with a few scars, a few missed opportunities, a changed perspective on the world around us, but filled with hope for a bright future, and a reimagined place in the world. As we look back at the courage and fortitude we showed as we continued to work, love, and pray our way through the tough times we faced, let us always know that when adversity strikes, we have the ability to overcome. We know we do, because we just did, and this memory can spur us on and keep us aware that we are capable of facing anything if we put in our best effort, look out for others and let others look out for us, and always hope in what is yet to come. As people of faith our hope is in God and the promise of eternal life, and with that hope always in our hearts we can persevere anything!

As always, our faith life and our day-to-day life seem to intersect at important moments, and it is fitting to talk about virtues like courage, fortitude, perseverance, and hope at the beginning of May because we Catholics dedicate this month to Our Mother Mary. Mary is one of the heroes of our faith who we can turn to when we are in trouble and look to her witness as inspiration during times that we don’t quite understand. (Which for me is most of the time!) Most of us have heard Mary’s story and know how much God asked Mary to do, things that were out of character for young women of her time, things that were life altering, dangerous, and painful for anyone, especially a mother, to endure. Yet that is just what she did, she endured, she prayed, she faced all that God asked of her with grace, (Hail Mary, full of Grace!), and the hope of a better day to come. She gave her best effort, trusted in her faith, and was rewarded for her patience and love by witnessing the Resurrection of her Son, and her own Assumption into Heavan. Mary shows us just how to make it through the tough times and we are so lucky to have this time in our Church year to celebrate her resolve and her ultimate victory over adversity. As we work our way through the end of the school year, with all of the work still to do, all the plans still to be made for summer jobs, internships, next year’s courses and living arrangements on campus, or studying abroad, or new jobs and new cities to live in after graduation, we can turn to Mary and ask for her to help us make good choices, work hard, and live in the hope that what we do will be in line with God’s Will and will lead us to live the full life God wants us to live.

What I also love about May is that though the Church dedicates it to Mary, we start the month with May 1st being the Feast of St. Joseph, the Worker. Yes, in the month of Mary, the man who stood by her, helped her raise Jesus, and walked with her through all those trials and tribulations, is put up as an example of how to stand with and stand up for those who need help. Joseph is a great example of someone who could have listened to the voices of his society and shunned someone who was outside of the norm, who had broken the codes of society, who was desperate, in need of an ally, and just walk away, but instead stepped in and fulfilled his promise, his vow of fidelity to Mary, and his actions changed the history of our world. Joseph had no idea at the time that his stand was to have the outcome it did. He only knew that Mary was in trouble and needed someone to stand up for her. He did. We all know what happened, no room in the inn, hunted by the King, chased into exile in Egypt. Yet through it all he stood by Mary and Jesus and must have watched in amazement as things came together, Jesus grew into a young man, and Joseph and Mary settled into a life of parenthood, work as a carpenter, and domestic life like most of us have known in our lives. His stand for Mary made all the difference. What difference might we make if we were to stand up for the other, and stand with those who need us? What would happen if we were all committed to celebrating diversity at all times and in all places “Wherever We Go”*, and stood up for anyone who needed someone to stand up for them? I believe we would change the world as well, and I believe that Joseph’s example is part of what Jesus wanted us to learn from his time here in our world.

So as always, we walk in this world as people of prayer and people of hope. Let our prayer today be to Mary for the Spirit of Fortitude, to persevere through all that comes our way, and to Joseph for the Spirit of Courage, to stand up for those who need us most. By our prayers we become closer to being that person God wants us to be, open to God’s Will, and filled with the passion to carry it out. We accomplish all of this in a Spirit of Gratitude, thankful for our freedom to pray, to believe what our hearts and minds show us to be true, and to allow our Faith to lead us to places that we might not go but for the Grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. May God continue to bless us through this month of May, and may we continue to look for ways to share these blessings with those around us!

Regina Caeli:
“Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son you merited to bear, alleluia.
Has risen as he said, alleluia.
Pray to God for us, Alleluia.”

Prayer to St. Joseph:
“Compassionate Joseph, one with us in our humanity, together with Mary and Jesus you experience exile, hunger, and violence. Refusing vengeance, you choose mercy. Your forgiveness breaks the circle of violence. Through your goodness, God’s Hope for our humanity is preserved… Sustain us in fulfilling our responsibility of cultivating inner peace, joy, and serenity. In your wisdom counsel us to close the doors to bitterness so that watched over by God we can dance for joy!” Amen.

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

April 26, 2021

Hello Everyone,

As we continue to pray our way through the Easter Season, we start to get a picture of how this Church of ours was formed and grew. As I have written about in previous posts, we tend to focus on the main stories of our faith and tend to skip over or ignore some of the others. The Daily Readings of the Church, the Mass Readings for all the daily celebrations during the Easter Season, lay out a wonderful timeline and paint a historic picture of the beginnings of the Church. They focus on the Acts of the Apostles, which is the fifth book of the New Testament, ( 4 Gospels and then…), and is presumably written by St. Luke, and traces the time from the Ascension through the early days of the “Christian” community or “the Way”, and the move to include not only Jews but the Gentiles into God’s saving Grace. It is a fascinating work and one that I recommend that all of us pick up our Bibles and read. (Or just go to daily Mass during the Easter Season and you’ll hear it all read to you by wonderful Lectors! 🙂) This past week we heard the story of the conversion of St. Paul, whose writings went on to shape most of what we believe as Christians today, and it got me thinking about rhetoric, divisive action, restorative justice, how we see these ideals working in modern times, and about “cancel culture”.

We all know the story of Paul, (Saul). He was a devout Jew and a stickler for the law. There is no mention of him as part of the Passion or Crucifixion stories of Jesus, but he shows up immediately afterward as the chief persecutor of Jesus’ followers. We first hear his name at the stoning of St. Stepen, the first Christian Martyr, (Acts 7:54-60), and continue to hear about him and his persecution of the Church as the story unfolds, “But Saul tried to destroy the Church: going from house to house, he dragged out the believers, both men and women, and threw them into jail.” (Acts 8:3) As the Church scattered about to try and avoid him, Paul heard about a group that was hiding in another city and went after them. As he was travelling to Damascus to find and imprison other followers of “the Way”, he was struck down and blinded by a bright light and heard the voice of Jesus ask, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) I love the image this passage portrays; Paul, furious, filled with rage and bitterness, hurrying to exact mayhem in Damascus, in his mind doing the Will of God, and God striking him down to the ground and imploring him, “why, why are you doing this?” It allows us to see the struggle in our own lives between what God truly wants from us but how we rush around, our own idea of what we think God wants steering our decisions, while God wonders what the heck we think we are doing! Now, most of our behaviors don’t involve life and death, but many of them could be described as “mini persecutions” of others, their beliefs, their way of life, and some may cause more harm than we realize. In this case, we can all see the harm Paul is doing, and this sudden stop that God gives to Paul changes his perspective, changes his life mission completely, and changes the course of human history as well.

Paul comes out of his encounter with God in a state of bewilderment, a need to rethink his world view, and most likely with a sense of shame and regret, and with a new appreciation of how God wants us to act toward each other. In making his peace with God Paul has taken the most important step, but he has to now overcome the perception the world has of him, atone for the things he has done, and try to move forward in life doing God’s true Will. This will not be easy, and he will need to prove himself to others and need others to dig deep and find compassion for him. As the story continues, Jesus appears in a dream to a man named Ananias and asks him to go to Paul and heal him of his blindness, but Paul’s reputation precedes him, and Ananias has a worried response, “Lord, many people have told me about this man and about all the terrible things he has done to your people… and he has come here with authority… to arrest all who worship you.” (Acts 9:13-14) Ananias has heard of this guy, knows his reputation, and wants nothing to do with him. But, of course, God has other plans and starts the redemptive process for Paul. He tells Ananias, “Go, because I have chosen him to serve me.” (Acts 9:15), and that is all Ananias needed to hear; his trust in God was strong and it changed his heart toward someone who he previously had viewed as evil to someone who was a child of God. God chose Paul, someone who misread the truth, was fighting as hard as he could to alter God’s Will in the world, to bring suffering to those around him, and God changed his heart, inspiring him to lead a life of service, love, and encouragement to all he met. That is how God works. Ananias trusted it and acted. Paul “saw the light” and acted. It changed everything, it changed all of us.

There is so much rhetoric in our world today, so much divisiveness, so many of us looking to point out differences, looking to blame, and hold others responsible for the faults that are all around us. Yes, there is so much going on that we need to change, so many ways people are failing to “love one another’, and it is easy to think, just like Ananias did, that we should shun those people, judge them, call them out, and “cancel” them. But as we see in Paul’s life, God sometimes has other plans for people. If we believe God wants only good things for us and wants to lead us to a better way to live, don’t we think that God wants that for others as well? Who are we to “cancel” someone when we know that God is always trying to bring people back? Like Ananias, we need to listen for God to lead us, show us what to do, and have that be all we need to hear, and act accordingly. No, I am not saying that we should sit back and allow bad things to happen. We must continue to speak truth to power, seek justice for all, stand up for the other, and speak God’s truth, but when we do this, we must do it as we would have others do it to us, with compassion, with the mindset of redemption, restorative justice, and in treating everyone as a child of God. (Yes, even the abuser) Our faith is based on “metanoia”, or spiritual conversion, dying to one’s old self and being reborn to new life. Not just for all of us fighting the good fight and walking our faith journey with the Lord, but also for those have have done things that hurt others. (and haven’t we all?) All of us need to take a close look at ourselves, our own thoughts and actions, and pray for God to take away our blindness and help us, like Ananias, to lead others from their blindness, to a new, exciting perspective, doing God’s Will in the world. Isn’t that how we would want others to treat us when we fail? Isn’t that “the Way”?

Happy Easter!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

April 19, 2021

Hello Everyone,

As a Chaplain at a college, as a campus minister, my “job” first and foremost is to form relationships with people in the community I serve. I need to get to know the people I encounter, get to know the nature of the place, open myself up to let people get to know me, and allow myself to be present and always honest with people. I need to be a friend to those around me, and I need to accept the friendship of those who want to be my friend. Not an acquaintance, not a “work friend”, but a true friend, someone who can be counted on to be there to listen and to act. That is what I hope I have done here over the past 14 years and that is what I hope to continue to do as long as I remain here. As I form these relationships my next “job” is to catechize, that is, pass along the Catholic faith, my faith, to the community. Sometimes I can do that by writing, or putting on a program, a service, a prayer time, or participating in Mass, or a Wedding, or a Funeral, or some other rite of passage, but most of the time it is accomplished by just hanging out, sharing a coffee or a meal, a conversation on a walk across campus, a Newman Club dinner or meeting, or some texting or a phone conversation. These are things that friends do to get to know each other, to build up the friendship, and to live their day-to-day life as friends. This becomes a time to share faith and learn about faith, not in official learning environments but in the moments of our lives, or as Jesus might call it, “in the breaking of the bread”. What it comes down to, where my “job”, my ministry, my faith, my life gets its meaning, is in friendship.

I start here because I am thinking deeply about how people are relating to each other in our world, today. I am thinking about the way our society is so divided, how we talk to or about each other, think about or value each other, and how that fits with who I am, who I want to be, and the type of life I want to live. I’m also thinking a lot about how we as people of faith have misinterpreted so much of what God, through his Prophets, through his Son, through his Priests and Ministers, and through his baptized faithful has communicated with us. We, as the “People of God”, have missed it, we’ve gotten it all wrong, and we are surely paying the price for our misguidedness. (To put it mildly). No, I am not saying that God is punishing us for our iniquities, I am saying that we are facing the consequences of our own ignorance, lack of humility, and dare I say arrogance in the face of the simplicity of what God has asked of us. Do you understand how much we have complicated this? How many burdens we lay on each other by ignoring God’s truth? What God wants from us is so simple, yet we refuse to do it. All God has ever asked from us is to love; Love God, and love all of God’s creation including loving each other. Period, end of quote, end of teaching, end of complication. Just love! We have filled up books, written speeches, sermons, and laws with judgements, applied punishments, committed heinous acts against others all in the name of God. We wonder why we are divided in this world, yet we are the dividers. Even those of us who try every day to do good, to do the right thing, we still in our own way are dividers. I am thinking about all of the gun violence in our country, I am thinking about the way some governments around the world treat people who don’t agree with their ideals, I am thinking about neighbors who ignore or abuse those in their communities who they view as “other”, I am thinking about neighborhoods racked in violence, how people treat each other as disposable, how the authorities respond at times so recklessly and callously and add to the dysfunction and violence, and I am thinking about my own heart and how I can’t seem to get it right when I really should know better, and do better. As I have written since this pandemic has taken hold, we need now to go back to basics, to really dig deep and find the things that we believe, the lessons we have learned, the truth of who we are as people of faith and as citizens of this country and see how our behaviors look under the microscope of “Love thy Neighbor”, or “We hold this to be true that all are created equal”. Once we look and take stock of where we are, can we tell if we are dividers or uniters? Can we see what we are going to do next?

When I was a young Youth Minister just learning the basics of my chosen vocation, I worked on a retreat team that gave day long retreats to 7th grade Confirmation Candidates. These were raucous days of 12- and 13-year-old kids, out of school for the day, away from their local community, at a beautiful retreat house, and we were talking to them about their faith. (Should work, right?) I was always amazed at how well we did with these groups, but I believe it was because we presented our faith in a way that they could understand. Our go to talk was called “Religion is Friendship”, and we asked the kids to tell us about the attributes of a true friend, and we wrote all their ideas on a pad, flipped the page and asked them to list all the attributes of Religion and wrote all of them down. Then we tore off both pages and taped them to a wall side by side. The attributes were always exactly the same! “Religions is Friendship” was proved each time. The famous quote, “Out of the mouth of babes” comes to mind here, but it is true, going back to basics brings simplicity and clarity. If we want to change the world, we have to go back and figure out how to be friends with each other. We have to get to know each other, learn to like each other, learn to hang out with each other and then, yes, learn to love each other. Not just those who are beautiful, or who are rich, or who look like us, or pray like us, or love the type of people we love, who are as “smart” as us, or as “whole” as us, or any of the other attributes that we think make us better or at least different than others, but all of those we encounter. Love and friendship are the first things we ever learned in life, and they are still the most important things in our lives, and we have to do a better “job” of making these a priority again. As Jesus said, in John 15:15-20, (and I paraphrase), “I have called you friends. … you did not choose me, but I chose you .. this is my command, love one another.” Our lives depend on it, our world depends on it, and it is the only way to get to where we want to be, living in the peace of God, reveling in the beauty and sanctity of all of God’s creation.

I’ll leave us today with this thought from one of my favorite authors, Fr. Richard Rohr, and ask you to consider his words about how he sees the plan God has for us:

“God is not bound by our commonly held presumption that humans are the center of everything. … Strangely, many Christians today limit God’s providential care to humans, and very few of them at that. How different we are from Jesus, who extended divine generosity to sparrows, lilies, ravens, donkeys, the grasses of the fields (Luke 12:24, 27–28), and even “the hairs of the head” (Matthew 10:30). No stingy God here! … But what stinginess on our side made us limit God’s concern … to just ourselves and our group? And how can we imagine God as caring about us if God does not care about everything else too? If God chooses and doles out care, we are always insecure and unsure whether we are among the lucky recipients. Yet once we become aware of the generous, creative Presence that exists in all things by their very nature, we can honor the Indwelling Spirit as the Inner Source of all dignity and worthiness. Dignity is not doled out to the supposedly worthy. It grounds the inherent worthiness of things in their very nature and existence.

The true and essential work of all religion is to help us recognize and recover the divine image in everything. It is to mirror things correctly, deeply, and fully until all things know who they are. A mirror by its nature reflects impartially, equally, effortlessly, spontaneously, and endlessly. It does not produce the image, nor does it filter the image according to its perceptions or preferences. Authentic mirroring can only call forth what is already there.”

May we always believe that whatever we see when we look around us, whatever we see when we look at others, and whatever we see when we look in a mirror, is all from the same place, God’s love!

Let’s go make some friends!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

April 12, 2021

Hello Everyone,

As we continue to work our way through this Spring Semester still slowed by the Covid 19 positive test cases but heartened by our campus response and our ability to work through the chaos, get things done, and still enjoy the early Spring weather, let us be thankful for our ability to live and study in this beautiful place and share this experience with each other.  Our ability to stay strong, keep our focus, and stay joyful in all of this is a mark of our resiliency and our ability to face adversity head on, still thrive, and come out of it all the better for the experience.  We are truly blessed!

As we go about our faith life and work through the seasons of the Church, most of us come to Lent ready to do our part.  As Catholics, we wholeheartedly work our way through these days and slowly build ourselves up for the highs and lows of Holy Week, with its joyous culmination on Easter Sunday.  We are more prayerful, more apt to check in on and do things for each other and become more aware of our frailties and our sinfulness.  When we arrive at Easter morning, we celebrate with our Church community, and then with family and friends, over a nice meal, a few chocolate bunnies, (maybe some peeps and some caramel filled chocolate eggs, mmm, Cadbury!), and we think about a job well done during a few weeks of putting our best effort forward and coming out a little more introspective afterward.  For most of us, Easter Sunday is the “end” of that phase and we get to go back to our normal, everyday existence.  (pepperoni on our pizza on Friday, yay!!)  But wait, there’s more!!  As most of us know, Easter Sunday is just the beginning of the Easter Season, a glorious time in our Church year that leads us to Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday, and to the rest of our “Ordinary Time” Church calendar.  It is a time of joy, a time of prayerful consideration, and a time to be filled with gratitude for all we have been given in our lives.  This is that time, and this is the place where we get to be joyfully thankful!!

One of the things that my prayer seems to lead me to during these “high” Church seasons is my inability to consistently live my faith day in and day out.  I pray, I participate in all the Church celebrations, feasts, and services.  I try to be good to those I encounter, I try to act as a witness to my faith, and at the end of each day I try to look at what I did that day, where I was faithful, where I failed.  Unfortunately, I usually come up short of what I desire to be.  What is it about wanting to do the right thing and falling short that is so frustrating?  I think there are many out there in the same boat as me, but I also think there are many out there who never even think about it, who just go on about their business and let things fall where they may, and they are probably doing just as well as I am in getting it right.  At least it seems that way.  I know there are some who are using all of their abilities to take whatever they want and to do harm, but I believe most people want to at least do right by others if they can.  When I think this through, leave it with God in prayer,  I am often drawn to the Apostle Thomas and the insights from yesterday’s Gospel from John on the 2nd Sunday of Easter, the famous “Doubting Thomas” story.  You’d have to think that Thomas, as someone who travelled with Jesus during his public ministry, who was there to hear all of what Jesus did and taught, and was there to watch it all fall apart, and to watch his teacher and friend suffer so much cruelty and die such a painful death, would be one who gets it right.  Yet here he is getting it so wrong.  He is so invested in all of it, so close to getting it all, intentionally putting himself out there as a witness to the truth, and whiff, he misses the whole thing, and in one moment seems to throw it all away with his flippant comments and inability to trust what his friends were telling him, asking for proof, not trusting what he thought he believed to its end result. How many times have my words come back to haunt me after speaking to quickly and letting my pride or my arrogance take hold?  How many times have I regretted words I’ve spoken after I have found out the truth of the situation?  As the story goes, a few days later Thomas has it all thrown in his face, his words coming back to haunt him as Jesus, almost taunting him says, “do you want to touch my wounds, stick your finger in my side, prove to yourself this is real?” But here lies the triumph of who we are if we truly believe we are children of God, because instead of crawling away defeated and disgraced Thomas, realizing his lack of humility and lack of faith, stands tall and declares what he knows to be true, what he should have trusted all along, exclaiming to Jesus in front of all present “My Lord and My God!”  This is where I need to come when I fail, when I fall short, when I don’t trust in God’s plan and am called on it or realize it for myself.  I always come back to what I know is true; God created me,  God loves me, God wants me to love all that God has created, and if I keep coming back to God, God will get me there one day.  This is what it’s all about, this is what our faith is, this is what our life has to be.  Thomas found the truth and Jesus used that truth to show all of us the power of faithful endurance and the power of forgiveness.  We don’t have to be perfect, but we have to keep working at it and keep coming back to God.

In these days of the Easter Season, in these days of the Spring Semester, in these days of busyness, work, playful exuberance, and joy of things to come let us always trust in the promise that God loves us, and that if we keep coming back, God will be there waiting to set us back on course.

Happy Easter!!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

Easter Monday
April 5, 2021 

Hello Everyone,

Happy Easter!!  He is Risen, He is Risen!!  Alleluia, Alleluia!!  What a glorious morning to wake up and look around, knowing that God, who created us, chose us, loves us, and wants a relationship with us, has conquered all of our human frailties and shown us the ultimate love in Jesus the Christ rising from the dead and bringing us to new life.  As we walk our own Paschal Mystery, (dying to self and rising to new life), each day, let us always look to this victory as our victory, and know that this is what God has planned for us as well, and all we have to do is trust it, and live it!  

What I love most about Easter is its optimism and its permanence. (yes, all the chocolate is great too! 🙂)  Imagine waking up every morning and enthusiastically saying, “I am risen, Alleluia!”  Well, your roommate might think you a bit strange, but you wouldn’t be far from the truth.  Each day we do “rise again” and are open to a new day, new life, a new way of being, if we choose.  The permanence involves our knowing that God is walking with us, and that we are walking with each other, and that all of the “sufferings” and “deaths” we encounter everyday are destined to end in new life; that is where our humanity, as creations of God, leads us if we take up “our cross” and live as children of God. 

I sometimes wonder how people who don’t live in the optimism of the Resurrection miss the point.  (yes, I probably should say Christians here, but I think that all of God’s creation lives in the hope of the Paschal Mystery)  There are those out there, (and now I will say Christians), that live in the mindset of the Crucifixion, aware only of sin and human weakness, and focusing on Jesus as “sacrifice” for our sins and spending most of their energy trying to make sure we remember how sinful we are and how much God demands our fidelity to “earn” God’s love.  Do some think that Friday was the end of the story?  Do they think that Jesus rising to new life was less important than the Passion, that the Passion was God’s main point?  To say that the focus of the Easter Season is that God sent his only Son into the world to suffer and die would be like saying that the reason you are at Trinity College is to study.  Yes, you have to study to get to your ultimate goal, to Graduate with your chosen degree and leave here to live a fuller life in the world around you.  Yes, Jesus suffered and died to get to the ultimate goal, conquering sin and death, rising to new life so all of us can move forward and live a fuller life in the world around us.  God loves us and showing us a new way to live is the point.  For us to die to our old selves, live in the way Jesus taught us, and rise to new life loving God and each other, is the point.  That’s who we are, that’s where God wants us to be.  Now it is up to each of us to live in that truth.

Easter 2021 brings with it so much to take stock of, so much to mourn, but so much to be thankful for.  As we look at all that we have “died to” over these past months, all that we have given up, lost, or changed, let us leave that with Jesus on Good Friday.  As we look in hope to what lies ahead, what we have learned from all of this, and what we will do with it, let us rise to the new life that calls us to be our best selves, our true selves, as sisters and brothers to all of God’s creation!  This is the time; this is the place.  We are risen, Alleluia!!

Happy Easter!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

March 29, 2021

Hello Everyone,

As we enter Holy Week, the week that changed the course of human history forever, we are called to contemplate the death of a man, a Jewish Prophet, named Jesus, and the deepest tenet of our faith, that on the third day after, he walked out of his tomb as our Risen Christ. There is so much that surrounds this belief, so much that makes up this story, and we sometimes brush aside most of its depth to concentrate on the miraculous part, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the death and resurrection. As I start to write this week’s MMC I have just finished my morning prayer on Thursday, March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation, and I am filled with the notion that the story of Jesus the Christ, which some call the “Greatest Story Ever Told”, begins in its human form with the most under told story of our faith and that without this event, this great Annunciation, none of the rest would be part of our story of faith, and the story of Salvation History.

Mary was a young girl who was to marry a man named Joseph. The Church teaches that Mary was born without “Original Sin” and lived her whole life without sin. She was a good and righteous person whom God chose to bear the Child who would become our Saviour. In the Gospel accounts, Matthew begins with the Genealogy of Jesus, from Abraham, through David, to Joseph and goes right to the story of an Angel appearing to Joseph to console and inspire him to action after Mary was found with child. Mark begins his account with John the Baptist and the Baptism of Jesus. John begins his with his famous Prologue, “In the beginning was the Word…”, which leads into the Baptism of Jesus. Only in Luke’s Account do we hear the story of Mary and her encounter with the Angel Gabriel. Luke begins with a short explanation as to why he is writing this story of Jesus, then tells the story of an angel appearing to Zechariah announcing that his wife Elizabeth was with child and that child would be John the Baptist. Luke next tells the story of “the Announcement of the Birth of Jesus”, starting with “in the sixth month” (of Elizabeth’s pregnancy). Not exactly the way you would think the main character of “the greatest story ever told” would be introduced, sort of as an “oh, and by the way, this happened too…”. Luke continues on to tell one of the most inspirational stories ever told, a foundational part of “the greatest story ever told”, and one that sets all of us up for a way to pray, to listen to God, to truly hear God’s word, to know God’s Will, and to heed, to act in a way that continues God’s plan and builds God’s Kingdom.

The Feast Day is called the Annunciation because it focuses on the message from God that the Angel shares with Mary, but I have always thought the Feast Day should be called the Response, because it is in Mary’s response that the world changes forever. You can imagine the fear and anxiety that Mary felt when she saw this Angel and heard the message proclaimed. What would the consequences be for a young woman of her time to be pregnant and unmarried? Talk about cancel culture! This action would have devastating consequences for both her and Joseph. Yet her response, and then the way she lived that response for the rest of her life, made all the rest possible, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done unto me according to thy word.” This great response set Mary up for a life of uncertainty, but in that uncertainty, she lived in the trust and hope that God’s Word gives, and she never looked back, and stayed the course until the end. Without Mary’s great “YES!”, we have a very different “greatest story ever told”, and one less great model to imitate as we walk in our faith every day.

As we pray this week and contemplate what all of this means in how we live our lives, let us remember where our story started. Let us think about how many “yeses” brought us to where we are today. We often get caught up in our day-to-day world, stuck in a “Groundhog Day” type loop of sameness, of trying to achieve something that really isn’t in God’s plan for us. When we take that extra time, focus on the big picture, and look closely at who did the things that needed to be done to bring us to who we are today, we can break out of that loop and see more clearly what our lives are all about. As we pray our way through Holy Week, let’s start that prayer at Mary’s response, then pray our way thru Jesus’ Ministry, His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, (Palm Sunday), the Lat Supper, with its institution of the Eucharist, (Holy Thursday), His passion and death, (Good Friday), and His Resurrection and appearance to the Apostles on Easter Sunday. This week is about so much, our lives are about so much, yet it has taken so many small, but equally great gestures and actions to get to this place. Let our prayer focus on how our day-to-day decisions can be more about God’s Will for our lives and how we can walk the path God leads us on every day. In the popular Christmas song, “Mary Did You Know?”, the songwriter leaves this question out there for all to contemplate. If Mary knew from the start where her “Yes” would lead Jesus would she still have agreed? I don’t know, but the life she lived in doing her best to serve God in that decision allowed her to be ready for all that happened during this glorious week, all that happened to her Son, and all that means for all of creation. May our trust in God be like Mary’s, and may we allow that trust to lead us to the places God wants us to be. We may not know now where this will lead, but we do know that we will be walking with God to get there!

Happy Holy Week!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

March 22, 2021

Hello Everyone,

In John’s Gospel, Chapter 11, he tells the story of the raising of Lazarus, and twice in the telling John writes that Jesus was “perturbed”.  (presumably by the lack of Faith in him by those he preached to).  Webster defines “perturbed” as “troubled in mind: feeling or showing agitation: bothered, upset.” Well, this week I have been perturbed at how people are treating “others” in our world.  (mostly because of how they are misinterpreting God’s word).

It continues to amaze and pain me just how myopic and deluded some people are when it comes to living in a diverse society.  It seems that some people think that everything that happens in our world is either for them or against them, and always about them.  Their perspective is so narrow, and so self-centered that they think if anyone thinks any differently than they do it is a personal affront, and they must react to it.  I know that there is a degree of mental illness in our world, people who are legitimately suffering from psychosis, PTSD, paranoia, those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, clinically depressed, or other diseases that affect the way they see the world.  I also know that there is evil in our world, and that some people are just plain judgmental, mean, and violent, with no regard for the rights, personal freedoms, or safety of others.  This has always been and always will be.  We can hold as many rallies, marches, candlelight vigils and days of reflection as we wish, and yes, they help some of us to reflect and change, but to those who are so entrenched in their own bitterness, these hold no influence.  The thing is, as a society, we know better.  We know through science, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and spirituality and religion, what the human condition is, who we all are as equal beings in the eyes of science and in the eyes of God, yet there are still those who won’t listen, won’t see it, truly won’t believe it.  They are better, they are right, they are chosen.  They use false narratives of science, false narratives of religion, and yes, false narratives of God to paint a picture of a false reality in their own minds and in the minds of anyone who listens to and believes them.  What is worse is when it is State sponsored and when our leaders and those who are meant to serve and protect us buy into and promote these false narratives.  When truth is up for grabs, or worse, up for sale, we fall into a realm of not just self-delusion, but communal delusion, and when this happens the weaker, the marginalized, the “other”, become targets.  What also happens is that the “good” people are lulled into a sense of disbelief that these kinds of philosophies can start to resonate in a broader population, that other “good” people can buy into some of this nonsense, and by the time the realization hits that these ideas are taking hold, it is too late, they have, and now action has to be taken.  But how, where, when, and at what cost?  People who just want to live a life they have chosen, in freedom, in truth, with love and security are now in a battle for what they hold dear.  People being attacked, hurt, their rights being stripped away, and their dignity being questioned by others who by so doing are giving their own dignity away.  How did we get here, again?  Where does it end?  How do we help the “other” who are under attack? (because when the “other” are, we all are!)  How do we change the hearts and minds of those who wish to demean, diminish, and marginalize those who they see as not like them?  How do we achieve and celebrate diversity and put an end to the selfishness and ignorance, (and self-loathing?), of those who perpetuate these injustices in our world?  The events in our world over the past few months, the political rhetoric on all sides and from all over the world, the pettiness of people toward each other and toward the sufferings of the hundreds of thousands who are in pain is astonishing, and points to a loss of reality in who we are as human beings, of life and death, and of the ability to allow others the same freedoms and opportunities as those who, well, are free and have opportunities.  If institutions like the Government, the Police, the Press, or the Church cannot be trusted to protect the truth, or the rights of all people where do we turn?

The first place we turn is to ourselves, and once again, we go back to basics.  Who do we say that we are, and who are we really?  Do we live up to our own self-image?  Are we putting in the time, thought, and action to live the truth in all that we do?  As the acts of violence toward our Asian Communities, toward our LQBTQ+ communities, and toward other communities that have been pointed to as the reason for what ills our world, has shown us is that words, rhetoric, and political gamesmanship has consequences.  People who aren’t able to filter through what is real and what is true react in incomprehensible ways when they buy into these theories.  We must all do our best to think before we speak, to know the facts before we react, to let our actions witness to the truth of the world.  No more can we sit back and let others get away with their petty thoughts and behaviors, their passive aggressive ramblings, and their unwitting acceptance of these harmful behaviors.  We all need to stand up and call out those who are standing on the sideline and watching all this occur and ask them to join in standing up for truth and for justice, not only as citizens of this country, but as children of God, and messengers of God’s love in this world.

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers is a leader in the Episcopal Church, who writes about God’s inclusive and expansive love.  Her thoughts are:  “Looking closely at the witness of Scripture, we see a God who not only seeks relationship and union with the creation but who reaches out intentionally for everyone, and in particular for the outcast. Regardless of how unclean, unworthy, insignificant, or marginalized we may feel, or others may claim we are, the God of grace and welcome shatters every barrier to embrace us and draw us home.  God has made it clear: if you love me you will work for liberation with the oppressed and marginalized in your midst, and you will share your home and food with those who have none. You will not hide from the brothers and sisters I have placed near you. Rather, you will actively go out to meet them and draw them to yourself, even if it is risky, even if you feel uncomfortable.”  

Today, we stand with all people and all communities that are being targeted by others who are using their misguided understanding of God, of Government, of “Rights”, and of the meaning of the word “freedom”, to foment hate, injustice, and inequity.  May we stand tall, many, and together to witness to the truth that is the diverse tapestry of our world.  Yes, it is uncomfortable, yes, it is risky, yet yes, it is necessary, to bring all people into their rightful place, the dignity of being a child of God.  Once we stand with those who are under duress and show the world they are not alone, then we turn to changing the hearts and minds of those who are wrongfully abusing others and through our own actions show them their dignity in the eyes of God and their place in building the Kingdom of God.  May we continue to do our best to be “lights in the darkness”, and stand up for, and stand with, the “other”.  

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

 

March 15, 2021

Hello Everyone,

Well, we Sprang ahead yesterday! Yes, we all “lost” an hour of sleep but gained an hour of sunshine in the evenings, a fair trade in my book. Now we look to next weekend and the first day of Spring, and doesn’t it just seem like things are getting better every day? The College community is in full swing, we are gathering again for worship in all of our faith communities, our Newman Club had a small, outdoor lunch conversation last week that will, hopefully, meet weekly, and there is talk of a gathered Commencement Ceremony in May. No, we are not in the clear yet, and we still have work to do as we begin to heal, as witnessed by our community holding an evening of remembrance this past week for all of those we lost during this year. We will never forget, because we will all be changed forever. But, as we continue to mourn and to look around at all that has changed in our world this year, that sense of hope keeps getting stronger, and our resilience, our sense of purpose, and dare I say our joy in living this life as children of God, is taking hold, again.

As we have celebrated Black History Month in February and continue to celebrate Women’s History Month throughout March, we come this week to the “unofficial” celebrations of my heritage, a heritage I share with millions of Americans, and for me as a Catholic I am proud that they revolve around two Saints of our Church, St. Patrick’s Day, for my Irish Campbell’s and Barrett’s, and St. Joseph’s Day for my Italian Campenella’s and Inglese’s. Three of my four Grandparents were born in Europe and came over as immigrants, and my Italian Grandmother was the first of her family to be born in America. Now most Americans view these days as celebrations to drink beer, wear green or red, eat Zeppoles, and become Irish or Italian for the day, but for those of us who view these Feast Days as celebrations of our heritage and our faith, we celebrate in the spirit of gratitude for all that our ancestors have struggled through and accomplished in bringing these next generations to the places we are today. (and, of course, have a beer or two, wear the green and/or red, and certainly eat a Zeppole or two!) We enjoy sharing our feast days with everyone else, love that we are the center of attention, and hopefully, understand that who we are in living the legacy of these great cultures is part of a wonderful tapestry made up of other great cultures that bring us all together as the human race. What we are really celebrating, as we are with Black History Month, or Women’s History Month, or the celebration of any culture or any grouping of people, is our unique contribution to the whole, a whole that is filled with love and understanding when taken as such, and that is truly damaged and diminished when any member of this whole is discriminated against or put down. What we are really celebrating is our place in the Kingdom of God, not superior, not inferior, not better or worse, but all together and equal in the eyes of God.

As we continue to “March” on through these last weeks of Lent, to Holy Week, where this great hope of the Kingdom of God through Jesus seems lost and forsaken by the events of Good Friday only to be truly Resurrected on that glorious Easter morning, may we continue to carry the hope of a world resurrected from hate, intolerance, from subtle indifference, and from division from our creator, and live in the unity, diversity, and love that God wishes for all of us. As St. John writes in the Gospel from yesterday’s Mass, the 4th Sunday in Lent, his famous words, (JN 3:16, 21) “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life… for whoever lives in the truth comes to the light, so that their works may be clearly seen as done in God.” Let us celebrate each other well this week and know in our hearts that when we live in this truth, we live in God, and God lives in us.

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

March 8, 2021

Hello Everyone,

March is Women’s History Month and today, March 8th is International Women’s Day, with the theme of #ChooseToChallenge: “A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So, let’s all choose to challenge. How will we help forge a gender equal world? Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.” As we read these inspiring words, it brings to my mind the core of who we are as Catholic Christians in today’s world, agents of change. When we think about why God would choose to become flesh and blood like all of us, we realize that it was all about change. Changing the mindset of the culture, changing the paradigm of power, changing the way God’s creation was viewed by, well, God’s creation. Jesus was all about changing the way we viewed the world around us, and we today, as followers of Jesus, are also about changing the way we relate to each other, to the world around us, and all that entails. If we learn anything from perspectives like Women’s History Month, Black History Month or any celebration, remembrance, or effort to lift up those being held down by power structures, it is that we are all in this together and that if we aren’t standing up for, or standing with the other, we are part of those who are doing the holding down.

The Bible has wonderful examples of Women who are the driving force in the change that God is trying to propel us too, (Think Ruth, Rebecca, Rachel, Sara, Deborah, and many others that we would all do well to learn more about as we celebrate women who have changed the world). The Gospel’s too have shown us women of faith and fortitude, and the Church, in its lifting up of holy people to Sainthood, has highlighted women who have been “forces for change” throughout our times. We think of Mary, whose powerful “Yes”, to God, and her continued ability to look beyond herself to the big picture of how her Son was tweaking the powers that be, and preaching a “Kingdom of God”, a set of behaviors to live by that was so different than the prevailing mores of the day, and trust in her son’s wisdom. Her powerful example of stepping into the unknown and staying the course, through pain and heartbreak, helped steer this movement we call Christianity thru its early stages. We look to women like St. Clare of Assisi, who with St. Francis turned the Church and society upside down, St. Elizabeth Anne Seton, Founder of the Daughters of Charity, St. Maria Goretti, who was martyred as a teenager, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American Girl, who stood up to the powers of her time and was martyred for her faith, and of course Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who helped raise up the poor and destitute one person at a time, just to name a few, who have inspired us by their lives of courage, faith, and speaking truth to power. (again, read their life stories to see how amazing they all are!) What is truly remarkable is that all of these Holy Women are just a small number of the throng of women who in their day-to-day lives are leading by their example and changing the world around us.

As we see so many women, from all walks of life, who do the little things, that turn into bigger things, that bring the inequities toward the “other” to the forefront and seek to change the attitudes of our society, we may think “good for them, they are fighting the good fight”, that we are finally getting somewhere, and that their efforts are starting to change the narrative. The efforts of the few certainly do inspire the efforts of the many, but the bigger question is, are we just going to stand by and cheer them on and watch the sacrifice and the risks people take to keep change in the forefront? Will we just pat them on the back, or are we willing to stand with them? Not only in what we say, or what we write, or what sounds like good, empathetic musings, but in our day-to-day actions. Are we willing to stand alert and challenge those who seem to resist equality for all and fight for the change that needs to come? As we stand with the “other” we must ask why we continue to look at people as “segments” of a population, as skin color, or sexual orientation, or nationality, or physical appearance, or social status? Haven’t we learned anything in all this time? God created all of us. God has chosen all of us. God loves all of us. God wants all of us to love all of us! To do this, some of us have to stand up and remind others of us what God has already shown all of us. No more mincing words, or nuanced explanations about the nature of things. We all know that once we start dissecting our differences, explaining why there are hierarchies, and using God to divide us instead of unite us, we start down that slippery slope of deception, where truth is in the eyes of the beholder and not in the wisdom of God. If we live in God’s truth, we live in God’s love, and God’s love is what unites us, tells us that we are all interconnected, and allows us to live in the dignity of being children of God. As we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, let us ponder where we have fallen short and be alert to our failings, let us pray that we can accept the challenge to change our attitudes and our ways of interacting, and that we can choose behaviors and actions that help each of us know all the possibilities in front of us as sisters and brothers, as children of God.

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

March 1, 2021

Hello Everyone,
Here we are, March 1st, which for me is always a day of paradigm shift, always a day of a sigh of relief and a “thanks be to God” that we made it through January and February, Winter in my book, and the knowledge that better days, or at least warmer, brighter days, are coming.  Psychologically, physically, and spiritually, my mind, body, and soul, always feel a little lighter, like a burden has been lifted, and the thought of Spring brings a smile, and the sense of new possibilities, new horizons.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those winter haters, who curse the cold, the snow, the early sunsets, and dream of Island living, Florida beaches, or Arizona golf courses.  No, I actually like the slower pace of winter, sitting in front of the fire, watching the beauty of a snowfall, enjoying a nice meal, a good book, and my family and friends in the warmth and safety of my home.  But something visceral happens when March comes around, that quick bit of excitement you feel in your stomach when you anticipate a good time is coming.  March 1st always brings me to this hope.
I am also looking a little closer this year at that feeling of “thanks be to God”, we made it through.  Did we really?  I know I lost someone very dear to me to Covid–19, and I am sure some of you reading this have your own stories of loss and grief.  It has been a hard Winter for many, and the sting of these losses will remain with us as we gather ourselves up and move forward toward the promise of Spring.  I want to acknowledge all those who have gone on ahead of us, and the void their absence leaves in all of our lives.  “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of those faithful to the Lord. ” (PS 116:15) My prayer today is for God’s comforting arms to wrap themselves around us and let us know that we still have plenty left to do and that our loved ones who have gone will always be there to inspire us to live the life God wants us to live.  May they rest in peace, and may we always honor them by opening our hearts to those around us.  “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” (PS 116:9)
 “Hope springs eternal” is the lore that inspires us to keep going, to reach for new experiences, that brings most of us that happy feeling this time of year.  We are back on campus, our quarantine behind us, ready to gather in small numbers for class, meals, club meetings, and other activities that make up the life of a College.  Some of us “older” members of the community are eligible for the Covid vaccine and will be taking the opportunity to protect ourselves and those around us from this insidious virus.  Spring training baseball games have begun and the sights and sounds of our national pastime, with the requisite sunshine and blue skies, are there for our enjoyment.  Yes, blessings seem to be all around us, yes, we still have to remain diligent, yes, we have to keep focused, but yes, things are looking up.  As we look around today it feels a little like Peter felt in the Gospel from Yesterday’s Mass, the 2nd Sunday of Lent, when he said, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!” (MK 9:5) Yes, it does feel good to be here, doesn’t it?
The beauty of being a person of faith is that we always live in the hope of good things still to come.  That’s what we always get to when we pray, study, and live a life that serves God and those around us.  We always get to hope.  St. Paul sums it up nicely in yesterday’s second reading, “If God is for us, who can be against us?  God, who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for all of us, how will God not also give us everything else along with him?” (Romans 8:31-32) We know this to be true, always have, but sometimes it is just hard to trust it.  As we dream of Spring and all its promises, let us spend this time that the season of Lent provides us, to pray for a strengthening of our trust in the promise that God gives us in Christ Jesus, and the hope that the best is yet to come.  Pray it, believe it, and live it.  We are all right where we are supposed to be, wrapped in God’s loving arms, walking with each other in the Springtime of our lives, in the hope of God’s promise.
March on!
Your Monday Morning Chaplain

February 22, 2021

Hello Everyone,

It’s funny how Ash Wednesday just seemed to sneak up on us this past week. Most of you had just started Spring Semester classes remotely, were preparing to pack up, and move back to campus after a school-imposed at home quarantine to get ready, and now a 7-10 day “stick to your res hall” commitment so everyone is ready to gather in class, in Mather, on the Quad, or wherever, on March 1st. Who knew Lent was going to be thrown into the mix? On that note, what do we need Lent for this year anyway? Haven’t we given up enough in this pandemic? Haven’t we gone the extra mile for others enough in this pandemic? It seems like piling on, doesn’t it? Someone asked me what I was giving up for Lent this year and I told them, “going to restaurants and visiting my friends.” It seems like we have been in a prolonged Lent since last March. No wonder this holy season of the Church just kind of appeared out of nowhere and why most of us are unprepared to pay it its due.

When people ask me what Lent is I usually tell them it’s “a time to give up things that we hold onto too tightly, and a time to pick up things we usually take for granted.” Maybe we were able to let some things go that we needed to during this pandemic, and maybe we were able start up or rekindle some things we needed to as well. Maybe this prolonged Lent has been a meaningful time for some of us. In times that lead us to change, there is always an emotional element, a physical element, and a spiritual element. Where has this “pandemic time” left us in these areas of our lives? Are we anxious, fearful, dejected, or are we hopeful, grateful, joyful, or do we go back and forth among these places, letting circumstance dictate where our heart is, where our spirit resides? Are we rooted in hope, or has fear taken hold? As we arrive back on campus let’s stop, take a moment to do some inventory, and take a look at where we are, physically, emotionally, and spiritually as we begin to encounter each other in the meaningful quest that is a college semester.

As I start to ponder all of this and look at where my motivation is, I think maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe the start of Lent is more important than ever during this pandemic and just what we need to bring us where we need to go. We have been so taken aback by all that has happened, all that has changed in our world, all the things we have had to leave behind, and we haven’t had time to process all of it through the lens of who we are as children of God. As is usual though, life supplies us with opportunities to get it right, and now we have a reason to look through that lens, because Lent leads us right there, gives us the space, the tools, the behaviors, and the permission to stop and use our faith to process what this pandemic has done to us and what God has asked of us each day during it, and how we have responded. Yes, we have had to think differently, look at the world and each other more intensely, react to life with more caution, and have certainly had to slow down and re-examine our place in the world. Now, we are in the Church season where this is what we are supposed to be doing, and maybe, just maybe it will bring us some insights into how we have evolved in our faith through it all.

So, I think we should embrace this Lenten Season like none before. But to do this, let’s look past the fasting, the giving things up, the penitential aspect of it, and look at the heart of what God wants us to see, wants us to do, wants us to be. As the Prophet Isaiah writes, (and there is a Lenten task that you might take on, reading the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. It will rock your world!), about what God really wants from us, (Is 58: 4-7, 9-11) “When you fast you make yourselves suffer; you bow your heads and spread-out sack clothe and ashes to lie on. Is that what you call fasting? Do you think I will be pleased with that? The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own family…. If you put an end to oppression, to every gesture of contempt, and to every evil word: if you give food to the hungry and satisfy those in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon. And I will always guide you and satisfy you with good things.”

You see, no matter what, in good times or bad, during high spirited, life giving times or during a pandemic, God is always leading us to act compassionately with each other. This is what God always wants from us, to act with love, charity, justice, and hope, the hope of salvation in Jesus his Son! As Fr. Matt said in yesterday’s Homily, “let’s be Lenty”, let us take this time to think, pray, act, and live “Lenty” ideas and actions. Let us frame our world in a “Lenty” attitude, and look at ourselves in this time, in this place, and look at those around us through the lens that God wants us to always use, the lens of gratitude, and the determination to take care of all God’s creation. If we can use this Lent to bring us to these behaviors, these attitudes, this spirit to live by, then after all we have been through this year, God will have us right where God wants us to be, building the Kingdom and living the life we were meant to live.

Happy Lent!!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

February 15, 2021

Hello Everyone,

We continue this week with our celebration of Black History Month and our second of two installments featuring people and events that have shaped the Black Catholic experience in America. Last week we noted Black Americans who are on the road to Sainthood in our Church. This week we will focus on an organization and a movement that celebrate the contributions of Black Catholics in the work of building the Kingdom of God, and on where we stand as Church in America today.

Between 1889 and 1894 the National Black Catholic Congress was born with four Congresses being held in that 5-year time frame. The goal of these meetings was to “establish an agenda for the evangelization of African Americans.” Daniel A. Rudd is a name to add to those we discussed last week. It was his inspiration that led to the establishment of these events, and as interest in Black History is reaching new heights here, today, his story is being told to more and more people. Rudd advocated for justice, education for all black children, the elimination of racism and prejudice in the Church, and the increase of the role of women in Parishes and Dioceses. After a 103-year absence Congress VI was held May 21-24, 1987 and there has been one every 5-years since. (the next is scheduled for Summer 2022). To learn more about this wonderful Organization visit their website www.nbccongress.org.

At a meeting in New York in 1990 the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States voted to designate November as Black Catholic History Month. November was chosen because of the number of important dates to Catholics of “African descent” that fell within this month. Along with All Saints, and All Souls Day celebrations, the Feast of St. Martin de Porres, and the birth of St. Augustine also occurs in November. Since 1990 we as a Church have tried to lift up the presence of Black Americans in all phases of Church participation during this annual celebration. For more information about observances in your area go to www.usccb.org.

As we look forward to Lent, (yes, Ash Wednesday is this week, February 17th! Please check Trin Today for information about a virtual, Ecumenical prayer service Wednesday at 8:00 pm), and all that we do during this season to reflect on who we are and how we are doing as individual Catholics, let us also spend some time and reflect on how we are doing as a Church here in America. The thought that we need separate organizations or ministries to advocate for different racial or social groups within our Church, while obviously necessary, is a discouragement of the Spirit. To think that this movement that Jesus began, to bring all people together, to love the God that created all things, and to love all things that God created, has to form groups to make sure we pay attention to all things, is a bit mystifying. Yet here we are in the year 2021 and we still are not able to simply gather together as the “People of God”, without projecting our differences, our prejudices, and our sinfulness upon each other. As we reflect on our Church during our Lenten prayers, let us begin to see the depth of work we need to do as individuals, as a Church, as a Country, and as a World, to live up to the hope of Jesus Christ risen. As Dr. William Lofton, President of the Black Catholic Congress in 1894 reflected in the closing Address of the 1894 Congress, “We hope to hail the day, …, when the American people, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and the laity shall rise up in their might and stamp out the prejudice which is today destroying the life’s blood of the country.” Unfortunately, these words still ring true today, 127 years later. During this Lenten season let us open our hearts, and confess our sin, the sin that haunts us all, the sin of not recognizing that all creation is from God, and that when we deny what God created, we deny ourselves. Let us ask the Lord, as the Leper from Mark’s Gospel, MK 1:40-45, from yesterday’s Mass, the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, asked, “If you wish, Lord, you can make me clean.” If we present ourselves to God, open, honest, and willing to change our lives, God will always answer as Jesus did here, “I do will it, be made clean.” May we all be filled with the hope of Salvation in the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus our brother, the Christ.

I leave you with the tale of St. Valentine of Terni, who was imprisoned and sentenced to death for performing wedding ceremonies, (which had been banned by the Emperor because he thought unmarried men made better soldiers), and healing sick children, (which made him a Christian hero which was a bad image for the Emperor). Before his death he wrote a “love” letter to the people of Terni, exhorting them to carry on faithfully and live lives filled with love for one another. He signed it simply, “Your Valentine”. This simple gesture was the start of our modern celebration of Valentine’s Day. The word “your” seems to make all the difference here, because it imparts a deeper love in the meaning of the words written in the letter. I point this out because of the way I have been closing this weekly MMC exhortation since we started on June 1st, 2020, and how I will close it until we end it. Please know, like St. Valentine, I write to you always, with love!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

February 8, 2021

Hello Everyone,

As February continues, (and the snow keeps falling), and we celebrate Black History Month here in our country, I am thinking today about how my faith has been formed and all the ways I have been influenced by those around me. My community has helped me grow in so many ways, and I frankly don’t know who I’d be or where I’d be today if it wasn’t for the people of faith I have encountered over the years. In so doing, I am also thinking about how faith can sustain a community through the toughest of times, and how the Catholic faith was able to take hold in the Black Community in America, and how it helps sustain this community through, what still are, tough times. I especially am thinking about those Black Catholic Leaders who risked everything to stand up and stand out in speaking truth to power as they ministered in their community. We all know of Christian leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Rep. John Lewis who took such a lead during the civil rights protests in the 1960’s, and other religious leaders who made impacts on the American people. There are also a number of Black Catholic Leaders who have stood out throughout the history of our country and who are on the path to Sainthood. I’d like to tell you about a few of them and hope to spark your curiosity so that you will look closer at their work, their ministry, their witness to their faith and to the truth. As we continue to pray to those in our “Communion of Saints”, to intercede to God on our behalf, maybe we can add these wonderful examples of patient endurance during the trials of their lives, to the list of those we bring up in our prayers. As always, I urge you to find your way to prayer, whatever form it takes, and to be humbly consistent in presenting your open heart to the Lord.

Three names stand out to me, (though this is not meant to diminish the lives or efforts of others who have served so well), all who have left their mark on the communities they served and the Catholic Church in America. Hopefully, you have heard these names before, but if not let me introduce them to you today.

Pierre Toussaint, (1766-1853)

A Haitian American slave, he was brought to New York City at the age of 21 where he was freed after the death of his “owner”. He took the name Toussaint in honor of Francois-Dominique Toussaint who led the Haitian Revolution. As a freeperson, he and his wife (also a freed slave) opened up their home as an orphanage, and a refuge for travelers. He was a hairdresser for the upper crust families in New York and was paid well. He used his contacts to become a great fundraiser for Catholic Charities, especially those that helped Black Catholics. He also opened the first Black Catholic school in New York City, and he helped serve the sick and dying during the Yellow fever outbreak. He is buried in the crypt below the main altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Ave and was declared “Venerable” (the 2nd step toward Sainthood), in 1996 by Pope John Paul II.

Agustus Tolton, (1854-1897)

Born in Missouri and raised Catholic he was the first acknowledged Black Roman Catholic Priest in the United States. A former slave who escaped with his family, he attended Catholic school due to the intervention of a generous benefactor, (a Priest who was known to help those in need), went to college, and then studied for the Priesthood in Rome, where he was ordained in 1886, because no American Seminary would admit him because of his race. He wanted to go as a missionary to Africa but was sent back to America to the Diocese of Alton, (now Springfield, IL). He was not welcomed by many of the clergy or lay people of that Diocese and was moved to Chicago where he helped develop and build St. Monica’s Catholic Parish as a Black National Church. He was declared “Venerable” by Pope Francis in 2019

Thea Bowman, (1937-1990)

She was a Religious Sister, teacher, and scholar who contributed greatly to Black Catholics throughout our country. She was a Speaker who was popular in Catholic circles, a singer, a great spiritualist, and even helped write a Black Catholic Hymnal. Her Father was a Doctor, and her Mother was a Teacher, and she was raised Methodist until asking to become Catholic at the age of nine years old. Her dedication to transforming the “sad legacy of segregation and racism in the Church was transforming and she inspired millions through her singing and her message of love.” She famously told Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes”, “Sometimes people think they have to do big things in order to make change. But if each person would light a candle, we’d have tremendous light.” A cause for canonization has been opened and she has been designated a “Servant of God.” (the first step toward Sainthood.)

Other prominent Black Catholics include, Julia Greeley, (19th Century), Henriette Delille, (1812-1862), and Mary Elizabeth Lange, (1784-1882), whose anniversary of death was celebrated on February 3rd. These wonderful fellow Catholics, along with Cardinal Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., the first Black American Cardinal, are truly examples of piety, prayerfulness, and holiness, that can inspire all of us to greater service to those we encounter in our day-to-day lives. Their prayers and the prayers of all the Saints can help us learn just what it is that God wants us to do with our lives. I hope you can take some time throughout this Month and pray with them in mind.

I leave you with the deathbed prayer of Penny Jessye, spoken to her granddaughter the groundbreaking Black American Women Conductor and Spiritualist, Eva Jessye, (1895-1992). Grandma Jessye believed that we, along with the Angels, are messengers of God’s word in our world. She knew she was about to die, and she wanted God to know she was coming.

“Good Lord in that Heaven, Good Lord in that Heaven, Good Lord in that Heaven, I know I got a home at last! Go Angel, and tell the news, Go Sister, and tell the news, Go Elder, and tell the news, I know I got a home at last!”

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

February 1, 2021

Hello Everyone,

Last week I mentioned that we have had a snowless January in Connecticut, and as soon as I did, we had a small “dusting” of snow the next day, and today, February 1st, we are getting hit with our first Nor’easter of the year.  (who knew that I, a humble Chaplain, could influence the weather! 🙂)  It looks like the more we think our world is changing and things will never be the same, (like snowy winters, and Tom Brady in the Super Bowl), we turn around and look!, here comes the snow, and well, here comes the Super Bowl and guess who is in it!  As we set our sights on coming back to campus, starting classes for the Spring Semester, gathering for Mass and other activities on campus, (maybe even lunch in Mather or Newman Club dinner in the Charleston House?), or just seeing old friends and catching up, let’s not so much dwell on what we are missing, or what has changed, but on how much we still have that motivates us to reach for new beginnings, new challenges, and new achievements.  As we live in the change that is always around us, let us move closer and hold on tighter to the things that got us here, and look for that next big step that God wants us to take in our lives.  You’ll be surprised at what God has in store!

In the Gospel from yesterday’s Mass, the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time,  (MK 1:21-28), Jesus heals someone of an “unclean spirit”, but before being cast out, the “unclean spirit” asks Jesus a very pertinent question, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”  In the Gospel from today’s Mass, (MK 5:1-20), Jesus encounters someone else with an “unclean spirit” named Legion, and Legion asks Jesus the same question.  (these “unclean spirits” are an inquisitive bunch)  Maybe it’s something we should look into to?  It seems to me that most of us have probably asked that question in reverse, some form of, “what are we to do with you Jesus?  This story of the Messiah, this “word made flesh”, this Son of God; how does this life mission, this building the Kingdom of God, fit in with all the things I have going on, all the other things I need to accomplish, all the places I want to go in my life?  So, not what does Jesus want from me, but what do I want from Jesus, how can Jesus help me live a better life?”  You see, most of us live in a way that leaves Jesus as the object of our need; our belief hinging on what he can do for us, especially when we are in trouble, stressed, frightened, or in despair.  It’s a relationship based on “what’s in it for me”, and certainly doesn’t get to the crux of the depth of what really is happening in our heart and in our mind as we think about who Jesus is.  These “unclean spirits” have truly challenged us with this question to Jesus, and I hope we can come up with an answer that makes sense to us in today’s world.

A good friend of mine is having a tough go of it.  I won’t get into all the details, but it has been a rough few month, with numerous calamities and catastrophes, and it is starting to resemble the fate of Job in the Old Testament.  Texts and phone conversations between us have lent him some support, but I am at a loss at how to be of any real help to him.  So, as I ponder this question of “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”, I am thinking of my friend and wondering if he is asking a similar question, “WHERE ARE YOU GOD, and what are you doing to me?”  It’s funny, because as I was pondering this, he called me to talk about football. (and Tom Brady never came up in the conversation!)  We were just chatting away, giving each other our insights, then segued to stories from the past that made us laugh, and then brought it back to some of the insights he has gained from this woeful year in his life.  We talked for a while, said our goodbyes, and I now have an answer to our question.  Jesus just wants to be here with us, be there for us, present in our lives, walking with us through it all.  Nothing fancy, nothing dramatic, just that we know he is there, know that he cares, and most importantly know that God loves us and wants good things for us.  And you know how he does that?  Through us.  We are Jesus in the world today if we accept that challenge, study, pray, and act in God’s Will, and stay present with those we need to be present to.  If we let people know that we are there, know that we care, know that we love them, they will know that God is with them.  That is building the Kingdom of God, that is living our best life, and that will make all the difference in the lives of those around us.  Maybe when Jesus encountered the “unclean spirits” it wasn’t to show those present his power over evil, maybe it was to unleash that question, and have all of us ponder what the Lord wants from each and every one of us.  The answer to that is so clear, it’s the “Golden Rule”, the Lord wants us to “do to others as you would like other people to do for you!” (Luke 6:31)  Just like the Prophet Micah answers after he asks the same question to those he encounters in his ministry: “What does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).  Justice, Mercy, and Humility, hmm, he just might be onto something here.  And, if we live this way, we will be sure to find out just what God has in store for each of us!

I leave you this morning, on the Feast of St. Bridget of Ireland, with her prayer of a Generous Spirit:  “I would like the angels of Heaven to be among us.  I would like the abundance of peace.  I would like full vessels of charity.  I would like rich treasures of mercy.  I would like cheerfulness to preside over all.  I would like the friends of Heaven to be gathered around us from all parts.”  Amen!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

January 25, 2021

Hello Everyone,

As we enter this last week of a snowless January in Connecticut, with the hope of Spring in the air, and a new day dawning, our campus in a state of calm before the onslaught of students, faculty, and staff, in the glow of a Presidential Inauguration Ceremony filled with images of unity and reconciliation, my heart is full, and my mind is on “things to come”.

If you listened closely to the speech President Biden gave on Wednesday, (and if you didn’t it’s available in its entirety on YouTube), you heard someone filled with a sense of responsibility, with trust in a God he knows and believes in, the humility of a servant leader, and someone who has the courage to stand up and proclaim the truth. I don’t know how President Biden will navigate all there is to know and do, I don’t know if he will be able to get the things done that need to be done, but I do know that he will lead this nation as someone determined to see civility, equality, and economic justice for all become closer to reality in our country, and in our world. Once again, as I have written and spoken of many times, our ability to be a people steeped in love, that God has asked us to be, begins in our own hearts, in our own minds, and in our own actions, and it is all of us who need to do the work to make this a reality.

“Things to come” is a loaded term because there is no guarantee of what this means. You know the old joke that if you want to make God laugh, tell God your plans. Well, “things to come” seems to fit here. As I reflect on the readings from Mass yesterday, the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, I don’t know if the Ninevites, or the Corinthian “Brothers and Sisters” that St. Paul was writing to, or Peter, Andrew, John and James whom Jesus called to “follow me”, had an idea of what the “things to come” were on the horizon for them, but I don’t think they really had an inkling about the depth and magnitude of the plan God had for all of them. You see, the Ninevites only had 40-days to repent, or they were toast, (literally!), the Corinthians were reading a letter from someone whose teaching is the foundation of most of what our modern world believes about Jesus and who the Christ is, and the 4 young men who Jesus called had no idea what great adventure they were about to embark on. All of them had their own idea of what was to come in their lives, none of them could have ever imagined what reality would bring. And so, it is with all of us. We don’t know, it’s not up to us, and we have less control than we think, but we can be open, be ready, if we put our trust in God, do our best to know the truth, and work our hardest to make sure all around us have the same opportunities as we do. Nineveh came together after Jonah’s warning and was saved, the Corinthians believed Paul and helped start this movement that echoes throughout the world today, and well, those 4 young men became part of the 12 Apostles and changed the world forever. They acted when they were confronted with the truth, and it made all the difference. Are we ready to act on the truth? Right now, today?

We all met a beautiful young woman from Los Angeles on Wednesday, who rocked our world and set our minds to things of harmony and of hope. Amanda Gorman showed us the power of words well crafted, well spoken, and well meaning, and the power of a young “voice from the wilderness” possibly preparing the way for a new awakening of hearts and souls in each one of us. If you didn’t hear it, or haven’t read it, go find it. (it’s on YouTube) Her simple style, and words of wisdom, will make you stop and think. She speaks truth. Will we stop, listen, and act? Right now, today?

She spoke: “And so, we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know, to put our future first we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony to all.”

As we celebrate today the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul and the words God spoke to him on that day, “For you will be God’s witness before all to what you have seen and heard. NOW, why delay?” (Acts 22:15), and we continue on our own journey of conversion, let us look at the world around us, all that God has created, see our place, find our place, take our place, and make our place a haven for all who need one. Right NOW, today! (why delay?)

She spoke: “When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

January 18, 2021

Hello Everyone,

There is so much going on today, it’s hard to find a place to start.  (but you know I’ll find one!)  What a week we have coming up!  We start with a beautiful January Sunday in New England, a day to worship in the morning, take a long walk in the woods in the early afternoon, and come home to a nice meal with family, a fire in the fire place , and football on the TV.  I know I am blessed, and I know not everyone can have a Sunday like this.  It’s not my “right”, I don’t “deserve” it, I didn’t “earn” it, and I am not being arrogant by telling you all about it so you can see how good my life is.  I am just letting you know how thankful I am, and how much my ability to enjoy a day like today, a day rooted in God, filled with hope, enjoying creation in all its glory, and filled with the peace of knowing that I am loved,  helps me realize how much more obligated I am to make sure others can have the kind of Sunday they would like to have.  My peace is only real when those around me are at peace as well.  My “rights” must be rooted in responsibility, flourish with fulfilling my obligations to the world around me, and bloom with justice for all.  This is where my week is starting, this is where my heart is today.

But wait, there’s more!  Today is the celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, whose ministry and witness showed so many of us the true meaning of responsibility and obligation to those around us.  Dr. King gave his life for his belief in peace, justice, and love, as he talked the talk and walked the walk of seeking equal rights for ALL Americans.  He knew the equation of rights= responsibility + obligation.  We also know that rights without responsibility and obligation equal selfishness, and this is where we get in trouble as a society.  Yes, we have rights, though not in a vacuum, but in a world where we have to consider the rights of each other as well.  What a different world we would have if we put the care of others first and foremost in our day-to-day actions.  As Dr. King said, “Everyone must decide whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”  Let us ponder Dr. King’s words and legacy, and let us pray that our hearts be open to justice and peace.

But wait, there’s still more!  On Wednesday we will swear in a new President and Vice-President.  A time of transition, a time of hope, a time for new beginnings, and a time for reconciliation.  Let us pray that our new leadership will cast off the yoke of division for the sake of power and financial gain for the few, (as they say, “follow the money”, and you’ll see what I am referring too), and take on the mantle of equal opportunity and economic justice for all.  May God Bless this transition, send healing Grace upon all of us, and lead us to peace in our hearts and minds.

But wait, one more thing!  As I listened to the readings from yesterday’s Mass, (the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time), I keyed in on three beautiful concepts to pray on this week.  The first one is in the first reading from 1 Samuel 3, God calls Samuel three times and Samuel misses that it is God calling each time!  He keeps going to his mentor Eli and asking what he wants, and Eli sends him back to bed the first two times, but after the third call, Eli realizes what is going on and tells Samuel again to go back to bed, but this time listen more closely and “when you hear the call you will know it’s God that is calling you.”  Eli’s words to Samuel are what we can pray on this week, “if you are called again reply, “speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”  Think about how many times God has called us to respond to bigotry with justice, racism with equality, pain and suffering with compassion and hope, and how many times we have missed this call.  It is time for all of us to take up the call, and ask God again to show us his Will and for us to say, ok, “I am Listening”, finally, and I will act!   The next two are from the Gospel, John 1:25-42, when Jesus is followed by two disciples of John the Baptist after John points to Jesus and says, “There is the Lamb of God.”  When Jesus notices them following him, he turns and looks at them.  (imagine your reaction if Jesus turned and looked directly at you and asked you a question!)  His simple question, “What are you looking for?”, is our second point of prayer.  What are we looking for in this life?  is it to have our needs, our desires, what we “deserve”, our “rights”, taken care of at all costs or are we about peace, justice, and building the Kingdom of God?  Not just in thought or philosophy, but in the actions and witness of how we live our lives.  And finally, when they answered Jesus by asking where he is staying, Jesus asked them to “Come and See.”  What an invitation from our Lord!  Do you want to know a world where peace, justice, gratitude, forgiveness, hope, and love can flourish?  Do you want to know what your life will be like if you participate in the struggle to bring equality to all of us, to protect all of God’s creation, and be co-creators in a world of love?  No, it won’t be easy, there will be pain, but there will also be the promise of eternal life.

Really, Come and see.

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

January 11, 2021

Hello Everyone,

Happy New Year!  We are back and better than ever here in this 2nd week of 2021.  What a start to a new year!  If we thought 2020 was an anomaly, we may have to take another look.  The pandemic is still raging and, though we have vaccines that are approved, getting doses into people’s arms has been a challenge.  The infection and death rates continue to climb and some places are unable to handle the stress it has put on their infrastructure.  Beyond this, we have a sitting President who refuses to concede an election, who has called on his “followers” to fight the outcome, and who inspired an invasion of the Capital during the Congressional vote to certify the election results.  The good news is that peace has been restored, the election is certified, and our new President and Vice-President will be Inaugurated next week.  Is there light at the end of the tunnel?  I always think there is.  Will there be an easy path to get there? There usually isn’t.  How do we wrap our minds around what is happening, and how do we get some control of where this is all leading us?  The first step is in paying attention, reading, thinking, discussing, praying, and acting.  Learn the truth, proclaim the truth, and live in the truth.  Don’t live on the surface, or in someone else’s reality.  Always find your way by doing the extra work needed to see what the reality is in every situation.  The final test is always love.  If it feels like it is about love, fits into loves constraints, and leads us closer to where God resides, we are usually living in the truth, God’s truth!

As I think and pray more about what is happening around us, I am drawn to thoughts of the imagination.  Most of us have been raised with and taught that a good imagination is healthy.  We all have read great fantasy novels, (think Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Game of Thrones), been read fairy tales and nursery rhymes, fantasized about scoring the winning goal, or getting the perfect job after graduation, or meeting a “soulmate”, and most of us, (and this is apropos this week), have thought about how we would spend our millions once we win the Powerball or Mega Millions.  This is something that actually helps us to see possibilities, strive for newness or things once thought beyond our reach, or just bring ourselves peace in a hectic world.  Though we love the thought of being in control of our own destiny that our imagination gives us, we do, ultimately, know that these things are not reality, they are diversions that, hopefully, help us to face reality refreshed and renewed, because, after all, there is a reality, there is a truth, and we do have to live in that reality, live in that truth, in order to live among others.

The events of last week showed us that when we forsake reality, (remember some of the costumes the rioters were wearing as they stormed the Capital? Really?), when we don’t seek truth and we live in the land of fantasy, the land of imagination, the land of conspiracy theories and untruths, we live in a dangerous place that can lead us to do things that go against our core values and beliefs and that hurt those around us.  This, again, is where our faith must come in.  Think of the Creed we profess every Sunday; “I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, I believe in the Holy Spirit.”  When we start in that truth with each and every decision we have to make, we start in God’s truth.  When we start in the realm of, I believe in the President, or I believe in the Democrats, or I believe in the Republicans, or I believe in anything else, we start from a place where we can be deceived, which can lead us to untrue beliefs, which will lead us to suspect actions.  We cannot live our lives in the illusion of doing only the things that are good for us, that only help us, or that diminish others so that we can become more.  This doesn’t work, it’s not truth, and it leads to scenes like last week.  Yes, we can and should blame our leaders for proclaiming these falsehoods and inciting people to act on them, but each and every one of us need to look into our own hearts and ask ourselves, are we doing enough, are we preparing ourselves to live in God’s truth.  If we see that there is more work that we need to do, then we need to do it, and do it now!

One last thing, the thought that what we saw last week was wrapped in Christian symbols and led by self-proclaimed Christian people is appalling to me.  That the life and message of Jesus can be so turned upside down that it is used for this type of behavior should be a wake-up call for us all.  We have to change that narrative and show others what Christianity is by living our lives in gospel values and in loving God and serving each other.  They will know we are Christians by our love!  And if we need to find the courage to live in this love, say this prayer, believe this prayer, live this prayer, from Isaiah 12:2, “God indeed is my Saviour, I am confident and unafraid.  My strength and my courage is the Lord, and the Lord has been my Saviour.”

May God continue to bless you and your families.

I leave you with a link to yesterday’s Mass and Homily from the St. Thomas More Catholic Center at Yale, our old friend Fr. Ryan Lerner presiding,  Fr. Ryan is our former Chaplain, (and a Trinity Alum), and was here just before our current Chaplain, the fabulous Fr. Matt.  This homily is so powerful and will help put into perspective something we Christians should be thinking about after the events in our nation’s Capital this past Wednesday.  Thank you, Fr. Ryan for this gift of guidance.  Let’s pray on these words tonight.  (Click on link below, click start arrow, click on 10:00am Mass for January 11, Fast Forward to the 14:30 mark for the Homily)

 https://stm.yale.edu/streamspot-livestream
Streamspot Livestream Mass – Yale University
The Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University streams video programming on its website.

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

Special New Year’s Day 2021 Edition
Hello Everyone,

“May the Lord Bless you and take care of you!  May the Lord be kind and gracious to you!  May the Lord look on you with favor and give you peace!” Numbers 6:24-26

As we begin this new year, let us look to God to steer us to do what he has asked all of us to do, love God and love each other.  So simple in thought, so hard in action.

My hope for all of us this year is that we can dedicate time every day to look deeply at who we are and what we see in the world around us, to pray, asking God to help us do His Will, and to action, living our faith in the world, using the gifts God has given us to build a world filled with peace, justice, hope, and love.  My hope, as always, is in all of you!

Here’s to a wonderful 2021 for all of us!  Let your light shine!

“Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love, and the future to God’s hope.”  St. Augustine of Hippo

Your Monday Morning Chaplain, (on a Friday!)

December 21, 2020

Hello Everyone,

As we come to the close of Advent, let me take a moment to wish all of you a very special, happy, and safe Christmas Season.  This year has put tremendous pressure on all of us, yet we have arrived at these special days, ready for the peace and warmth they promise.  Our path here has not been smooth, but it has been a path that has been filled with so much Grace and so many blessings.  Let us take time over the coming days and weeks to quiet ourselves amidst the excitement and joy and remember that the subject of these stories we are hearing, the Incarnation of our God as human, and all those family members and strangers that made his birth so memorable, were living under tremendous pressure as well.  The patience, trust, and hope that they showed through it all can be an example to all of us.  Let us think deeply about what these people went through, the emotion of having to give birth to a child in a barn, the fear of having to flee to another country with a newborn baby to escape persecution, (makes us appreciate a little more the plight of the people at the Mexican-American Border, doesn’t it?), and the idea that so many people are saying strange, wonderous things about this child, things you can’t grasp, things that won’t be revealed for years to come.  How did Mary and Joseph get through all of that?  Just like we have through this pandemic, with perseverance, by accepting help from others, by reaching out to lighten another’s load, and by trusting in the God who guides us all.  We can learn a lot from theses Christmas stories, these Christmas miracles, and we can turn them into beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes that will lead us to a happy, fulfilled life.  Pay attention, this is the good stuff!

As I write this on a snowy, Sunday afternoon, a fire roaring in the fireplace, the football game on tv in the next room, my wife organizing gifts, with the memory of a wonderful Saturday, yesterday, with my kids and their significant others, celebrating an early Christmas, opening gifts, eating a fine meal, playing games, and just enjoying each other’s company, my heart is full.  I know that God is alive in the world and I am so happy to be able to share this news with each of you.  I also know that most of you already know this, but I want to remind you just how real it is, and just how much we need to appreciate all that we have and all that we are.  So, don’t hold back, tell each other, tell your parents and your siblings, your grandparents and your cousins, your friends and neighbors; tell the world!  Jesus is born to us, God made human, and it makes all the difference.  Trust it, hope in it, and have confidence that no matter what, you have the dignity of a child of God, just like Jesus, and so does everyone else around you.  This is the message of Christmas, that God, by becoming human, tells us that all of us have the dignity of a child of God.  Live in that dignity, own it, put it on display, but make sure you see it in others and treat them with the respect and dignity of a child of God.  Not just those who look like us, speak like us, and live like us, but everyone; yes everyone!

There’s your Christmas miracle, and now there’s something to celebrate!

“Like the sun in the morning sky, the Savior of the world will dawn; like rain on the meadows, he will descend to rest in the womb of the Virgin, alleluia.” Antiphon from December 19, Morning Prayer

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

December 14, 2020

Hello Everyone,

It is always with great pleasure that I share my thoughts with all of you in the MMC column. It gives me a chance to think more deeply about what our faith is asking of us each and every day. It also allows me to contemplate things that the busyness of life would not allow me time to do unless I made contemplating and writing the thing I was busy about. Most importantly though, during the somewhat loneliness of this pandemic, the pleasure seems to be more and more the opportunity to think of you, and the hope that the words we share here will help you see just how much you matter in the scheme of things, just how much you are loved in this world, and just how important your action in the world around us change people’s lives. As we move through this season of Advent, this time of waiting and preparing, may you always know that God has already prepared a place for you and is so happy and proud to know that you are in this world living your fullest life.

Fullness of life is quite a thought isn’t it? Most of us, especially during these college years, want to fit in as much as possible, experience a multitude of ideas, behaviors, and people. We want to see the world, hear and read about all the great thinkers and doers all around us, and live in a way that keeps us busy and moving forward toward new heights. This pandemic has slowed us down in some regards, but it has also given us an opportunity to grow, to expand into a fullness of thought and deed that we would not have seen or noticed without the slowing down of the world around us. Think about all you have accomplished over the past nine-months, the things you have noticed, the ways you have evolved, adapted, succeeded, and grown. There has been quite a change in all of us, and for some it has led to new insights, whether positive or negative. Some of us have noticed just how resilient we are and how much this time has given us the insight to know that we are capable of great things, and some of us have noticed that we have gotten a little off track, and that we need to make some adjustments, but that yes, we can, and we will, and we are going to find a new way of looking at the world. For all of us there has been change, and for all of us a readjustment of priorities, but I hope for all of us that goal of fullness of life remains.

That brings us to what we believe fullness really is. Are we full because we have a lot of stuff, or know a lot of things, or have an abundance of talent, or a large group of friends? Or, are we full because we know who we are, are comfortable in our own skin, happy to be in the place where we are, and willing to share all that we have with those around us? Fullness comes in many shapes and sizes, but fullness of life comes with the ability to make a positive difference in the world. Just think of the example of Mary. (yes, that Mary) A young girl, going about her day-to-day life suddenly has a vision of an Angel telling her that she will become pregnant and bear a child that will be destined to change the world in the most profound way. She is engaged to be married and this will cause scandal in her community, rock the foundation of all her relationships, and set her on a journey with dire consequences. Did Mary have a dream of fullness of life before the Angels visit? For her to be married, have children, raise them well, and be a good contributing member of her community, would be a full, wonderful life. She was on that path, yet God asked her for more, because God knew what true fullness of life meant for Mary, and apparently Mary was ready for God’s vision, because her answer to the Angels message says it all, “behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done unto me according to Thy word.” Mary couldn’t be sure at that time where the true fullness of her life would be found, but she chose the best course to find out, doing God’s Will. Today, as we approach this Christmas Season all of us are reminded just how full Mary’s life was, and just how full ours can be. As we continue to search for the fullness of our own lives, let us always be reminded that fullness comes by doing God’s Will, and knowing God’s Will comes from opening ourselves, in prayer, in contemplation, and in action to the world around us. In this time when we await the birth of a child, let us remember that it was the choice of a young girl to respond positively to God’s Will in her life, and that choice made all the difference.

“Hail Mary, FULL of grace…”

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

December 7, 2020,

(Don’t forget that tomorrow, December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Saturday, December 12th is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Hello Everyone,

Even with all that is going on around us, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving in our house.  Yes, it was just my wife and I, (well, we were dog sitting with Lucy and Zipper spending the week at our house), and there was way too much food, but we had a fire in the fireplace, football on the tv, music from the IPOD, and Zooming with family and friends to keep us occupied.  All in all, we missed everyone, but the gratitude still flowed and we realize all the blessings we have in our life.  God is good! (all the time!)  As we continue to live our lives under these very different circumstances, in a holiday season like no other in our life time, let us focus on our blessings, reach out to those who may be hurting, and share the good news of God’s love, maybe by words, but certainly by actions, and fill this season with love and joy!

We have entered the great season of Advent, a time of waiting, a time of preparing, a time for laying low and looking for something that will change our lives, change the world.  Most of us are back home with family and friends.  Most of us are laying low, not in celebration of Advent, but because we are doing the best we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones from this Covid 19 epidemic.  It seems like we have been in waiting for about nine months now, and what we are preparing for is a resumption of some kind of a “normal” life.  Maybe this Advent will be more special than all the others we have lived, because maybe now we understand a little better about what is involved in waiting and preparing for our world to change.  All of us have had to develop actions and behaviors to help us cope with this new reality, and most of us are not really sure what it will look like, but we are hopeful that it will be good, and that we will be able to thrive.  As much as we have wanted what we think of as our freedom back, we have had to look deep inside ourselves just to find the place where our freedom really lies.  Fortunately, we can take a hint from the Prophet Isiah, as we read his words from the first reading in yesterday’s Mass from the Second Sunday of Advent.  “Comfort, give comfort to my people says your God.  A voice cries out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made plain, the rough country a broad valley.  Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.” IS 40:1-5, 9-11.  Where do we find the wasteland that we battle in our lives every day?  Where is the highway of injustice and greed that runs through our world?   Where are the valleys of tears and anger that we fight to raise ourselves up from?  Where are those mountain top highs of arrogance and power that we need to humble ourselves from?  What are those rough edges of racism, sexism, consumerism and hard opinions of hate and despair that we must tone down?  When will we find that place where our freedom truly lies?  Advent is a time to stop and take a look.  What am I doing with my life, how am I acting toward those around me, what is truly my motivation in the world?  If we can’t find all of these in the love of God, then we can’t find the place where our freedom truly lies.

Our hope is in the new birth of a child, the rebirth of the Christ, alive in our world.  Not only the physical being of a child raised by human parents to become a man who changed the history of the world, but a new birth, a rebirth of that spirit in our lives as well.  The place where our true freedom lies is in knowing that we are created, chosen, and loved by a God who wants us to thrive in building a world where justice, peace, love, gratitude, fortitude, hope, forgiveness, and joy prevail.  Advent is a season to pray about this, think this through, and act upon it.  Let us take the time this year, slowed and humbled by the events of the world, to look deep and find our true freedom.  It will change our lives, and hopefully, that will change the world.

“Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss.  Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.” Psalm 85:11-12

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

November 23, 2020, Thanksgiving Edition

Hello Everyone,

Hopefully everyone is home safe and greeted joyfully and warmly by family and friends alike. A homecoming is always a time to rejoice, and all of you are worthy of being rejoiced over! In this cautious time in our world, where most of us are holding back a little, tempering our enthusiasm, and watching our actions a bit more closely, let’s not forget the joy that the love and safety of home can bring to our hearts and to our psyche, and let us embrace its warmth. We need all the positive affirmation we can get right now, so bask in the comfort of home, and know that the feeling of security home brings is the true starting point for all that you can and will accomplish in your life.

Thanksgiving is a perfectly clear name for a Holiday. If Christmas was called “Birth of our Savior”, or Good Friday “Cross”, or Easter “Resurrection”, there would be the same, stark, clarity. Thanksgiving is about, well, giving thanks! It is perfect in its simplicity, so obvious in its intention, and yet so necessary for us to dedicate a day to this so we can all stop to simply and profoundly give thanks. How do we seem to gloss over this sentiment in our day to day lives, yet immediately drop everything when the calendar points to us and tells us we must? I believe most of us are thankful in our hearts every day for most of what we have and who we are, but I often wonder why we are so shy, or slow, or adverse to showing each other just how thankful and how grateful we really are. It’s almost like it is assumed that each of us should know how those in our lives feel about us and we about them, that there is no need to point it out because it is so obvious, or so engrained in our relationships that words are not needed to express it. Yet, isn’t it what most of us crave to hear, and to feel; to be thanked, to be complimented, to know that we are thought of in a positive way, that we are appreciated for who we are and what we do in the world, and what we do for those in our lives? Why the disconnect, and why the seeming indifference about something that brings us so much joy, and helps us know our value to those around us? Are we afraid that by telling others how much we appreciate them it makes us vulnerable, or diminishes our own role in self-determination? Do we really think we can do this alone? Ahh, there is the catch, we have been taught most of our lives that we are in charge of our own destiny, and that if we work hard enough, and do things the right way we can accomplish anything we put our minds to, all by ourselves. I think most of us know, deep down inside, that this is not really true. Most of us are where we are today because of the support systems we have in our lives, led by family, friends, teachers, coaches, counselors, peers, bosses, and ministers. Yes, we work hard, but it is the love and support of those around us that bring us to where we need to go. The gratitude we feel in our hearts is real, and we needn’t be shy about spreading it around, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but every time we feel it, every chance we get. Every day is a day to give thanks for all of our blessings, and every day is a day to be a blessing to someone else!

Oh, and don’t forget to look ahead. What comes after the Thanksgiving Holiday? Advent! The time of “preparing the way of the Lord”. And what better way to prepare for God coming into our world as a person just like us, but gratitude, simple thankfulness, for all God has given us and all the gifts we have at our disposal to love God and to love one another. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving Day in whatever way we can this year, just remember it is one day in time, and that gratitude is a lifelong pursuit. Also, don’t forget the one who we need to be truly grateful to and for, the God who created us, chose us, loves us, and wants only good things for us. Let us continue to pray for God’s Will to become clear in our lives, the wisdom to understand it, and the courage to live it out, in our world, today.

I leave you with words from the great Christian Hymn, “Give Thanks”, (Don Moen)

“Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son. And now let the weak say, I am strong, let the poor say, I am rich, because of what the Lord has done for us. Give thanks with a grateful heart.”

May God continue to Bless you and your families with health and happiness!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

November 16, 2020

Hello Everyone,

Classes have ended for the 10-week semester, and most of you will be taking exams, writing papers, saying in person good-byes to your suite mates, floor mates, and other friends on campus, and getting ready to head home on Friday or Saturday. I hope the reunion with your family is joyous and filled with love, and hope. I pray that all of us remain healthy, happy, and filled with the love of God during this Holiday season. I know that there is fear in the air, and rightfully so; we need to be very careful in the next few weeks, especially back home where our Parents, Grandparents, and other family members will depend on us to look out for them in our actions and behaviors. Yes, we have to respect this virus and take all of the precautions that the experts ask us to, but we also have to live in the hope and joy that these moments at home during the wonderful days of Thanksgiving, Advent, and the Christmas Season bring us. (And all other religious holidays that our friends are celebrating as well.) In these troubling times, let us not ignore or diminish what we are celebrating during these days. Our families and our faith are the core of who we are, and these Holiday’s focus so much on how blessed we are and how filled with gratitude we should be. Celebrate safely, but celebrate well, and remember why and what we are celebrating. It could change the way you are thinking about the world today, and keep you hopeful for the future and its unlimited potential.

For years I have been praying a particular prayer as one of my mainstays during my morning prayer time. I spend time each morning praying some prayers of the Church like the Angelus, and the prayers in the Breviary, (download the CatholicMega App from your App Store, and you can pray them too!), but I also pray for intercession to my Guardian Angel and to the Archangels. St. Raphael is the “healing” Angel, and I have prayed to him daily for this favor: “Patience, Hope, Endurance, and Joy in trial, transition, and day-to-day life.” This prayer is a daily mantra and it has helped me to deal with the stresses that come my way. I have always had a problem with patience and I have had to work very hard to become the calm, cool, and collected man I am today! (say what?) You see, daily prayer serves the purpose of not only sharing with and listening to God, but also of learning about our own strengths and weaknesses, presenting them before God and asking for help in being the best people we can. During this Holiday season we may make the mistake of wanting things to be just like “they have always been”, and may put ourselves and the people around us at risk by doing so. This is where seeing the big picture, God’s plan for us, will be crucial and we get a great glimpse of that plan when we spend time in prayer each day. This year in particular has certainly been a trial for most of us, and the ability to Hope in a future we know not yet, and live in the patient waiting that we are called to as is the theme of the Advent Season, waiting for the birth of the Lord, will keep us focused on the truth of God’s love for us. The trick is to not lose focus after Thanksgiving, but to have a prayerful Advent that will lead us into a Christmas Season where we see the birth of a new day, a new reality, our God alive in the world! This is why we do the things we do as people of faith, to keep God alive in our world today. We are Christ to each other as we live our day-to-day lives, and if we can continue, in prayer, in the spirit of patient endurance, keeping all that we know we are in focus, this will be a blessed time for all of us. Once we wrap our heads around where we are in time and place, and what we have to do, the key to it all is to do it Joyfully! If we walk around grumbling because the Holidays aren’t as fun or exciting as usual, we are missing the point. When we know we are walking with God in our actions, joy is the obvious outcome. So, pray about it, think about it, talk about it, sing about it; watch a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special or a Hallmark Christmas movie, (yes, they are playing non-stop on about 4 different Hallmark Channels; who knew there were so many?), or listen to an Adam Sandler Holiday song. Find your joy and share it with those around you. This is why we do all the “chores” and difficult things in our lives, to get to the good stuff of family, friends, faith, and all the love and joy they bring. Go home, embrace and love your family, in the joy and hope of the life that God has given us to live!

Let’s leave this week with the gang from Peanuts! Stay safe, celebrate well, and be kind to each other. As always, you all remain in my prayers. God Bless!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

November 9, 2020

Hello Everyone,

We made it! After four days of counting, stressing, and many claims and counter claims, it looks like we have elected a new President and Vice President of the United States. Congratulations to President -Elect Biden and Vice-President Elect Harris! We have a long road ahead in healing the wounds and divisions in our country, and the hope is that this new leadership can start us down that road. I was very heartened when I heard Mr. Biden speak about his faith on Saturday evening when he said: “Folks, in the last days of the campaign, I began thinking about a hymn that means a lot to me and my family, …it captures the faith that sustains me and which I believe sustains America…”And I will raise you up on Eagles Wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, and make you to rise like the sun and hold you in the palm of his hand”; and so now together on eagles wings we embark on the work that God and history have called us to do with full hearts and steady hands, with faith in America and in each other, with love of country, and a thirst for justice… let us be the nation that we know we can be. A nation united, a nation strengthened, a nation healed.” If this is our new starting point, in prayer and with humility, the road won’t be easy but the journey will be worth taking.

Those of you who have kept up with this weekly Monday Morning Chaplain e-mail/post know how much I write about the importance of having a relationship with God and how much a consistent prayer life can lead us there. The idea that we can be “great” as a Country depends on the quality of us who make up this Country. As long as we continue to act as divided people, in our families, in our schools, in our communities, and in our conversations and communications on social media, we can never get to where God wants us to be. Now is a time for all of us to look deep inside ourselves and find out who we really are and what we really believe. The thought that we are fighting the good fight by shouting back when shouted at, and insulting back when insulted is wrongheaded. Yes, we need to stand up for what we believe is right, (in accordance with our well-formed conscience), and fight for all those who cannot fight for themselves, but our starting place must always be in love and unity and not in hate and division. We must make “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34) the foundation of national respect, the standard of our national discernment, the bedrock of both our personal relationships and a civilized society. —Sr. Joan Chittister O.S.B.. This is where we begin to heal, in personal relationships, listening, sharing, forgiving, all in a spirit of gratitude, coming out of love. If we are to begin anew, let’s do it with God as our guide, and begin with love. But love is not always easy, especially God’s love, as Jesus asks us to love, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say unto you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” —Matthew 5:43–45. This goes against all of our sensibilities and all that we have been taught by the world around us. Stand up for yourself, don’t back down, defend your rights, take what is yours to take, get more, more, and more! This is some people’s story of what makes America great, what makes us free. But Jesus is telling a different story, a story of love of the other, of reaching out to the other, of sharing all that we have with the other, and of making sure the other has the same rights, the same opportunities, and the same advantages as we do. This is always what made America great, not our prosperity, or military power, not even our “rights” as “free” people, no we are great when we are compassionate, when there is justice for all, and when no one is left behind, and we are looking out for each other. That is greatness, and that is God’s love!

And speaking of love, my buddy Bill passed away last week on his wife’s 62 Birthday, 3 days before his 62nd Birthday. Bill was a great family man, a loyal friend, a great story teller, and like me loved the Yankees and the Giants. Please say a prayer for Bill and his family. It’s people like Bill that the world needs more of, and people like him that give us a glimpse of God’s love, alive in the world. RIP old friend.

And so, I’ll leave you with this, enjoy the music and may God continue to bless us.

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

October 26, 2020​

Hello Everyone,

Here we are in the last week of October, (I know, that went fast didn’t it?), and the weather is finally starting to cool off, the colors of the leaves are vibrant, and we are full into Fall. It may not seem it sometimes, especially with all of the Covid 19 restrictions, but we are so lucky to be in a place as beautiful as New England in the Fall, and especially this gorgeous Trinity College Campus. Know that God always gives us beauty as a back drop to all we do in our lives, to inspire us to new heights, or to encourage us even in our worst times, and it is up to us to find it, glimpse it, and appreciate it as a gift from God. Take some time this week to notice the gift of nature, the crispness of the air, and the beauty that is all of Creation. As we lift up our prayers this week, take a moment to thank God for the beauty of the world around us.

As we move from October into November and the clocks “fall back” an hour, we know, as Game of Thrones reminded us, that “Winter is Coming”. For most of us this year will be a Winter of staying close to home, socially distancing, (won’t we all be happy when we see that phrase disappear from our everyday life), and trying to be safe, while learning a little, laughing a little, and spending as much time as we can with the people we love. What I have been reminded of lately is how many people out there don’t have the support systems they need to help them through their day-to-day lives, and how much people like you and me can help them. My good friend, who is unemployed, (laid off because of a Covid 19 downturn in his job), has recently reconnected with some old friends, one of whom has a brother, a Vietnam Vet, who is having a tough time of it. My friend asked his friend if there was anything he could do to help. His friend asked if he could give his brother a ride once in a while, to Doctors appointments, to the Pharmacy, grocery shopping, etc., and of course my friend said yes. Well, they have now struck up a good friendship, and both of them are reaping the rewards. You see, my friend was feeling lonely and a little down with so much time on his hands and not a lot of prospects for work, and his friends’ brother really needed someone he could rely on for all his errands. Now my friend is feeling fulfilled, his friends’ brother no longer worries about how he will get things done, and they each have someone to spend time with, bounce things off of, and share a laugh or two. Even in this time of “social distancing”, these two found a way to connect, and it has been a God send for both. The thing is, my friend really didn’t over think it; he saw a need and reacted to it, and it made all the difference. God puts many opportunities in front of us, and sometimes we jump right in, while other times we think about it and think about it and the opportunity is gone. As we continue to pray for guidance, let us keep open the possibility that “social distance” doesn’t have to mean isolation or keeping ourselves away from helping those who God leads us to.

Which brings us to the Gospel in yesterday’s Mass. It is a message that I have been sharing often since we began MMC and one that I feel is the most important message of the Catholic Faith. In Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus is questioned, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Jesus is very clear that this is how we should view the world and live our lives and yet most of us fail to understand what is really being asked of us and how to put it into action. As a society we continue to ignore this basic premise, that what God wants us to do, before anything else, is to love. First, we must love the Creator, with all that we have; emotionally, in our heart; spiritually, in our soul; and rationally, in our mind. To do this we must look for and appreciate the ways that God loves us, then we must learn as much as we can about God and share with God our prayer and listen for God’s response, and then spend time thinking about, and putting into action God’s Will, or plan, in our lives. Once we do this, (and, it isn’t easy, and it takes a lot of trial and error, so we must be patient with ourselves), we can then do what is “just like it” and that is to love those people God puts in our life. Yes, Jesus is telling us that loving our neighbor is the same as loving God, and you can’t do one without the other. Don’t let anyone fool you, you can’t claim to love God, love Jesus, be a “good Christian”, or a “good Catholic”, and ignore, take advantage of, abuse, discriminate against, or economically deny access to healthcare, education, food, housing, the vote, and other essential services to those around you. Yet we continue to claim to be Christian people as we deny others their basic rights. Shame on those who can’t see what Jesus has put right out in front of us and act on it! When each of us does our share, looking to take the love that we know God has for us, and turning it around to others, and using our gifts to make sure all of us can reap the bounty of God’s creation, then we are loving our neighbor, and in so doing we are loving our God. As my friend reaching out to his friends’ brother proves, when we do as God has asked us it usually means good things will come of it, and these small steps can start to change our world.

In this last week of October, leading into a week that will change the course of who we are as a Country, let us lean on God’s love for us, our love for God, and the thing that is “just like it”, our love for all of each other!

“Why are you cast down, my soul, why groan within me? Hope in God; I will praise him still, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

October 19, 2020​

Hello Everyone,

We are now past the halfway point of this shortened, 10-week, Fall Semester and things are probably as most of us thought they would be. We are still contending with Covid 19 cases on Campus, we are still not back at Level Green, but the number of cases is decreasing and most of us are doing fine, getting our work done and at least having somewhat of a social life. It is not the optimum, certainly not as adventurous or fun as most of us would like, yet we are hanging in there. It helps to surround ourselves with good vibes; good music, good food, good people, good thoughts, and good sleep! If we keep this positive state of mind alive, we will all be fine, and I hope that prayer is a part of that positiveness, and that it is helping to sustain you.

Some very good friends of mine have just retired and are moving from our little town at the Connecticut shoreline to a little town in central New Hampshire. We have been friends for close to 20 years, (our kids hung out in middle school, and though they are not still close, we parents have remained great friends), and it is going to be sad to see them go and a big adjustment to our social life. We helped them fill a UHAUL with their furniture on Thursday afternoon, (yes, I have been doing a lot of furniture moving this month!), and there were some laughs and some tears as we worked. You see, when you surround yourself with good people, people who tell you the truth, people that you can confide in, people whom you can trust, your life is in a much happier place then if you don’t. How blessed we are to have had this close friendship, and hopefully, we will remain “long distance friends” for the rest of our lives.

It helps to know that in God’s plan for our lives this is what God wants for us, to be surrounded by good people who build us up and help us to navigate our world to a positive outcome. God gives us so many “hints” about how to live a good life, and the more we read the word of God and the more we pray and meditate on it, and the more it becomes part of who we are, the more we will make better decisions and be happier for it. One of the places where God is particularly clear in sharing these “hints” with us are the Psalms. There are 150 Psalms in total, and it is so important to God that we hear this message of surrounding ourselves with the right kind of people that God tells us right away, in the very 1st Psalm. “Blessed are they who walk not in the counsel of the wicked nor stand with sinners or sit with scoffers, but delight in the ways of the Lord and meditate on them day and night. They are like a tree planted by a stream that yields good fruit in season… and in all that they do they prosper.” Sound familiar? How much time have we spent in our lives following the wrong advice, or thinking that some people were “cool”, or that their way was the right way to go? I love that the Psalmist uses the word scoffers. How many times have we been caught in someone’s negative narrative of other people or the world around us and how many times have we been dragged down by it? The saying “you are what you eat”, translated to “you are who you let influence you the most”, makes a lot of sense here. If we surround ourselves with negative, disruptive, or angry people, some of that, or a lot of that, will rub off on us and we will find ourselves caught up in that false narrative. Yes, we will always encounter these people, and yes, they will need people with a more positive frame of reference to help them out of their “scoffulness”, but in order for us to be able to be that positive influence that God has asked us to be, we need to break away from their influence and focus on the life giving word of God, where in all we do we will prosper, and so will all of those around us.

I thought about all of this as I listened to the message Jesus gave us in yesterday’s Gospel and how true it rings today and how it teaches us one more lesson in how to view the world around us. When the Pharisees ask him about paying taxes, Jesus simply says, “pay to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s, but give to God what is God’s.” Jesus knows that we must engage in the world around us, and to do that we must sometimes do things we don’t like, don’t agree with, or that may be unjust or, at least against what our hearts are telling us. The key is to not lose ourselves in the world, but to always keep God first and to use the dissonance and awareness of the difference to foster real action for peace and justice in the world around us. Yes, we need to give to the scoffers what belongs to the scoffers, but in all things keep the Grace of God foremost in all we do and say.

May God Bless and keep us always close to the truth. May we be able to see the word and the work of God at play in our world. May we choose the Will of God over the will of those who would steer us wrong. May we prosper in peace and love in our lives. May we know great friendships and trust the love they bring. May we be that good friend and always share our best. May we walk hand-in-hand with mercy and justice and show the world their fruits. May we always be held in the Palm of Gods Hand!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

October 12, 2020​

Hello Everyone,

We were this close to gathering for Mass this week, but with the uptick of positive Covid 19 cases on campus, (0-45 in 1-week, makes you sit up and take notice), we have once again had to pray Virtually on Sunday. I hope you joined us last evening and were able to pray with us, and I hope it starts your week off on the right track. Let’s continue to pray for all those on campus who are sick, all those who are suffering from anxiety, loneliness, or sadness, and all who need the comforting hand of God to touch them in any way this week. May we always turn to prayer when we are in need, and may we always try to be that comforting hand of God for each other.

October is always a month of joy in my house because we have many birthdays to celebrate, but this year we also had a house warming. My youngest bought her first house and we have spent the past week, hauling, shoving, tugging, lifting, dropping, and lugging furniture, boxes and all sorts of sports equipment and tchotchke. In between the truck and car loads, we have had birthday dinners, toasts, presents, and all that surrounds these events, and of course there is this job I have that keeps me busy as well. It has been a whirlwind, and it is finally starting to settle down, but through it all we have kept ourselves safe, suffered no major injuries or breakages, and have come out of it still smiling. In this Covid 19 new reality, that is saying something. What struck me the most this week, was that I was still able to start each day in prayer, and keep my routine of sharing my morning with God and all of you who I pray for. It helped keep me on a mostly even keel, and keep the big picture of my life in the fore front. It’s a great thing to start the day in prayer and I highly recommend it to all of you. I’m going to recommend a great App that will give you all you need to pray, it’s called Catholic Mega, it’s free, and you can download it from the App store. It has all sorts of prayers, the daily readings from each days Mass, Saint of the Day, and much, much more. You can also pray the Rosary, the Angelus, Morning or Evening prayer, read the Bible, and there is even a Confession App! Check it out, it won’t let you down.

The other big news this week is the Beatification, (the start of his road to Sainthood), of Carlo Acutis, a 15-year-old Italian Tech Wiz, nicknamed the “Influencer for God”, who, once Canonized, (become a Saint), will probably become the Patron Saint of the Internet. Carlo died of Leukemia in 2006, but there have been several miracles attributed to people’s prayers to him for intercession that have turned people from ill health to good health. Carlo was always pointing people toward the Church, and toward Jesus, including his parents who he convinced to go back to Church. He also warned people his age about being careful on the internet and of not losing their unique, personal identities, to the will of social media. His famous quote is, “We are all born original, but many die as photocopies.” During this time of Covid 19 with many of us spending more time on line than in the past, using Zoom and Facebook to live stream events and meetings, Carlo’s exhortations seem more profound. As we approach 3-weeks before the election, we know that social media will be ripe with opinions, news, fake-news, negative ads, arguments, and much venom between those who disagree. Once again, this is where our Catholic Christian Faith can shine. Yes, we must stand up for the truth; yes, we must stand up for the weak, the ill, the marginalized, the bullied, the abused; yes, we must continue to share our faith and our beliefs with those around us; but through it all we must not lose our sense of who we are as children of God. As St. Paul says in his Letter to the Romans, (12:16-17): “Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never repay insult for insult. See that your conduct is honorable in the eyes of all. If possible, live peaceably with everyone.” Paul’s wisdom is even more applicable today, and he never had the Internet to contend with! If in doubt over the next few weeks, pray to Carlo Acutis to intercede for you, and ask God to help by giving you the patience, courage, and fortitude, to present God’s truth in all interactions on social media and in personal conversation. You will be a lot more peaceful and probably sleep a lot better!

Let us continue to pray that in all we do, we allow God to lead us to be the best person we can be, the person God created us to be, the person that is destined to change the world around us for the better. Let us show the world the joy that God has put in our hearts, and let us share it with all whom we meet.

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

October 5, 2020​

Hello Everyone,

There is a lot going on this week and I hope you are all doing well and getting your work done, but also having a little fun. The campus seems to be doing okay with managing the Covid 19 virus, things are slowly opening up, (we should be able to gather for Mass for the first time on Sunday, October 11th!), and if we all remain diligent, we may be able to have a little more “normal” rest of our Fall semester. Let’s continue to pray for good outcomes and keep a positive attitude as we live our day-to-day lives here on campus.

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of St. Francis, who is close to my heart, and as many of you know is renowned for embracing poverty and love for all of creation. As Saints go, he is widely known, and there has been much written about him. There are many quotes that are attributed to him, some rightfully and others that were probably not said by him but match his personality so have been linked to him. One famous quote that is probably not his but people attribute to him is, “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” It says all there is to say about who we are as people of God. If our actions do not by themselves show the world around us that we are Catholic Christians, then we aren’t doing it correctly. If words are necessary to proclaim Jesus alive in the world it’s because either people are not paying attention to all the good around them, or we are not creating enough good around us for anyone to notice. What made Francis able to have only his actions show the world the Kingdom of God was his trust; trust in God to provide all that he needed and to lead him on the path that God wanted him to walk. Francis gave himself in prayer, and in all his actions, to the Will of God each and every day. Alas, we are not Saints like Francis, and that trust thing, especially to the Will of God, isn’t very easy to do, and for most of us we are happy to just get a few things done each day, and make it to bed before we mess it all up. That’s why this quote, rightly attributed to Francis, makes a lot more sense for most of us. “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” As we navigate our way through this Covid Fall semester, the hope is that we are doing what we need to do to stay healthy, get our work done, because that is necessary. Then, we can possibly join a club, make a new friend, hang out with our old friends, help a classmate; reach out from ourselves to witness to the joy in our life. Then, we are doing what most people said was impossible, we are having a good semester and thriving during trial and tribulation. If that is our attitude, patient, joyful endurance, and we witness that to those around us, we won’t need to use words to let people know we are all right, they will see it by our demeanor and our actions!

Which brings us to the second reading from yesterday’s Mass, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 4:6-9. Paul gives us great advice in how to form our attitude so we can, as Francis said, do the necessary, the possible, and the impossible. Read Paul’s words slowly and take to heart the attitude he is asking of us and what he wants us to pay attention to. Paul writes, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen… Then the God of peace will be with you.” With all the negativity we see every day in our world that can take over our thoughts and seem to weigh heavy on our hearts and minds, Paul is asking us to shift our attention and to not let that define us. If our thoughts turn to the goodness of life, the things that bring us joy, and we can concentrate on these things and witness that to the world we will find peace. If we can find hope in all that is good around us and live in a spirit of gratitude for all we have been given by a God who loves us and only wants good things for us, we will light up the world around us. What a great message and guide to live by it is that Paul gives us, one that I know I need to hear, and one that I hope helps you along your way.

Happy St. Francis Day! Let joy fill your heart and allow you to spread it everywhere you go, and if you have to, by all means, use words!

​Your Monday Morning Chaplain

September 28, 2020

Hello Everyone,

September has flown by us and we are quickly heading into October, my favorite month of the year. You see I was born in October, as was my Dad, as were many of my close friends. I guess we Libras stick together, and as the even keeled, wonderful souls that we are, it is always fun to hang out with each other. Yes, I have friends and family who were born in other months that I guess are okay, 🙂, but us Fall babies are just a little mellower, a little more soulful, and well, just plain nice people. I know, it’s unfair to blame people for when they were born, (yea, blame their parents!), and anyway, I really do find that most people I meet, no matter when they were born, are all right in my book.

Speaking of fair and unfair, I was intrigued by the opening line of the First Reading in yesterday’s Mass, from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, “Thus says the lord: you say, “The Lord’s ways are unfair!” Hear now , house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?” It is funny to hear God talking about how we humans perceive fairness. As a child, fairness seemed to be a much bigger deal than it does now as an adult. Growing up we were always saying to our siblings, or our friends, or our parents, “oh, hey, that’s not fair”, or “you’re not playing fair”. Fairness was important to us because we didn’t have a lot control over the things that were happening in our lives. Our world was mostly made up of family and people we considered friends, and it was a small, exclusive group, and we really did expect or even demand that people be fair with us, and were always outraged and called people out when they weren’t fair with us or, at least, when we perceived they weren’t fair with us. As adults, with what seems like more control over our lives, more choice over who we allow to affect us, fairness became less important because by surrounding ourselves with people we chose, we could avoid those who were unfair or treated us badly, and that worked most of the time. Yes, there were occasions that we got burned, but mostly we could navigate our way through the unfairness and find our level and reclaim our happiness by choosing to find things and people that were good for us. Doesn’t it seem today that we have lost some of that control?

As the pandemic roles on, the Presidential election gets closer, and our Country seems to be getting more divided every day, this concept of fairness seems to be becoming a big deal again. People are saying it’s not fair that we have to wear a mask in public, it’s not fair we can’t gather in large groups with our friends, (or for Mass on campus 🙁), it’s not fair that the President is nominating a new Supreme Court Justice so close to the election, it’s not fair the Democrats in Congress are fighting everything the President is trying to do, it’s not fair that racism is causing people to be systematically treated unfairly in this country, it’s not fair that “Karen’s” are out there disrupting people’s daily routines; it’s not fair, it’s just not fair!! I am hearing this lament out of the mouths of adults a whole lot more these days, as much as I used to hear it as a kid from other kids, and I’m sorry to say, but it simply sounds selfish and childish. As Ezekiel points out, fair and unfair isn’t a God given concept, it is 100% human. If we want to find fairness in our world the first place we have to look is within our own hearts, our own minds, and yes, our own communities, and when we look, we should be looking for the presence of God. When we find God, it won’t be fairness we will see, it will be love, and love will show us what is fair and unfair, and love will show us how to make all things fair and just, and love will set us free. You see, when as a child we sought fairness as our highest goal, as adults we know that love is the only attribute that will bring us to the truth.

Re-examine and take to heart the well-known words of St. Paul from his First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now, we see only a reflection in the mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these things remain, Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.”

Things may be confusing, off kilter, or even downright difficult right now. We may be anxious, sad, hurt, or uncomfortable. We may feel that life is being unfair to us in many ways, holding us back, or keeping us from our “freedom”, (another story for another day), but it really isn’t unfairness, it is simply the reality of our world right now. When we use our adult ways to look in that mirror and see past our own reflection to see the face of God, we shall see fully the truth, and know what we need to do. God has given us the strength and the tools to work through all of this, with patience and humility at the forefront as the sentiment of the day. And, as always, we must put our trust in God, who can love us back from anything and lead us confidently to anything. God is waiting for us to give us all that we need for whatever we are going through; all we have to do is reach out. Sound fair to you?

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

September 21, 2020

Hello Everyone,

As we glide into these cooler September days, the Trinity College Campus is starting to awaken to the vibrancy we who have been here awhile are accustomed to. Students, faculty, and staff are out and about, enjoying our beautiful campus, sharing a meal, a conversation, a laugh, all, at least from what I have observed, in keeping with the Covid 19 protocols of the day. (I have heard that behind closed doors or in other parts of campus that I have not observed, this may not always be the case 🙁). It is good to see people trying to do the best that they can in facing this 2020 new normal with zeal, hopefulness, and dignity, looking out for themselves and each other and, following the credo that fans of the TV show “The Handmaids Tale” will recognize, (the Latin), “Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum”, (the English) “Don’t let the Bastards get you down”, (pardon my French!). It would be so easy to succumb to the negative, the divisive, and the just plain false and cruel rhetoric of the day, but I see most of us staying positive, holding our heads high, doing what we are asked to do, and doing it with the fortitude and joy that behooves us as Spiritual beings. I for one am bolstered by the courage I have seen on campus and I hope that we can keep up this effort to keep each other safe while living the best life we can in this thriving College community.

Speaking of courage, I was saddened to hear of the death on Friday of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, (RBG), one of the most courageous women we have ever had to serve our country in the way she has. As a Supreme Court Justice, her responsibility to shape the laws of our nation were informed by not only her experience of being a woman in a male dominated profession, but also by her Jewish faith. In 2018 she was interviewed by Jane Eisner of the Jewish Daily Forward, who observed that, “She saw being a Jew as having a place in society in which you’re always reminded that you are an outsider, even when she, as a Supreme Court Justice, was the ultimate insider.” And as RBG said during the interview, “It makes me more empathetic to other people who are not insiders, who are outsiders.” This notion that who she was in the eyes of God, and in the eyes of the world, were two very different things, did not side track her because she had the courage, and the confidence in God, to believe that she was who God saw her to be and not what the world wanted her to believe her role was. “In God all things are possible”, (MT 19:26), and this is what RBG believed and with the courage of her conviction, how she lived her life. We can all take a moment to think about how much we can accomplish if we just had the courage to see ourselves as God sees us and wants us to live.

As we celebrate with our Jewish sisters and brothers the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, may we use this sacred period of introspection and reflection to look deep into our hearts and souls and listen for the voice of God. May we ask God to forgive us for all the times we have doubted ourselves, because doubting ourselves is really doubting God’s love and desire in having created us to be builders of his Kingdom. May the Atonement we seek be that of serving God, and serving each other with the same courage and confidence that Justice Ginsberg served our country. May we continue to “Seek the Lord while he may be found”, (IS 55:6), and trust that we are all created to succeed in doing God’s Will in our world, today.

Shanah Tovah!

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

September 14, 2020

Hello Everyone,

Well that was easy! One week down and 9 more to go until the end of this shortened 10-week Semester. How did you all do? I hope you managed everything well, made some new friends, had a couple of laughs, ate some good food, (hey, don’t push it Chaplain), and got some school work done. It probably feels great to be out and about and surrounded by your peers, and I hope everyone is staying safe, and taking care of themselves and each other.

I was able to spend some time with my daughters this weekend, (with a five-dog circus to keep us occupied!), and as always, it all went too fast. But we ate well, laughed a lot, and truly enjoyed each other’s company. It wasn’t always like that, there have been some rough patches, yet now, mostly, we get along great and treat each other with the love that has always been there but that sometimes couldn’t find its way through all the emotion, and some of the behaviors that were blocking its force. We have worked hard as a family to take care of each other and it has paid off well. We are in a good place as family, (the girls are 31, and soon to be 30), and I can look back to where we were and look now at where we are, and see that we are in that good place now because of forgiveness. We simply all chose to forgive the (mostly stupid, though a few not so stupid) transgressions and slights and bad words and sometimes self-centered behaviors, and simply love each other. What a joy it is to forgive, and to be forgiven, and it has made all the difference in our family!

I was thinking of all of this when I was listening to the Readings yesterday afternoon during our Live Stream Mass from The Chapel. (I hope you were able to be with us. If not, it’s still up on Facebook, just click on “Trinity College Newman Club”) Those stark, but so true words from Sirach in the first reading, “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice: then when you pray your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?”, hit close to home for all. Yet most of us are angry with someone and judge their behavior, while thinking of our own selves as doing “the best we can”. It is when we can look at what someone else has done and, with empathy, give them the benefit of the doubt, and say, “maybe they are doing the best they can”, that we not only free them from judgement, but free ourselves to find forgiveness for ourselves. When in yesterday’s Gospel from Matthew the debtor asks, “Be patient with me”, isn’t that what all of us want from each other? If all of us were just a little more patient, a little less judgmental, and a lot more forgiving I think we would find that we like other people much better, and that we also like ourselves much better. You see, for most of us, the person we have to be patient with the most, the person we have to judge less, and the person we have to forgive the most is ourself.

So, as we go through week 2 of this crazy Fall Semester, let’s give each other a break and let’s give ourselves a break. As long as we are doing “the best that we can”, we are doing all right.

Stay safe, and I’ll see you around Campus.

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

September 7, 2020

Hello Everyone!

For the first-year students who are receiving this Monday Morning Chaplain e-mail for the first time, welcome, and for those of you who received it all Summer, here we are in the first week of Fall Semester, welcome back! I received such good feedback from this summer series that I have decided to continue it through at least this semester. It will appear every Monday morning and the hope is that it will be pertinent, topical, and uplifting. I guess you’ll be the judge of that. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

As I walked around campus last week it was very quiet and as I ran into a few people I knew it was good to stop and catch up for a moment or two. I was able to take my Covid test, (in and out in 4 minutes), and wander around in a very serene atmosphere. As you read this on this first day of classes I think the scene is a little different because everybody is back. Yes, all 2,000 or so students, (including around 600 first years!), are here, along with Staff, Faculty, and Administration. The hope is we have a safe, vibrant, and healthy time of it, but as we all know there is some fear, anxiety, trepidation, or at least wariness among all of us. As I have been writing all summer, this is when our Faith kicks in, and this is when we reach deep into our reserves, the foundational elements of who we are and what we believe, and let our light shine in the world around us. This will not be easy, and we must fall back on the things that got us here, hard work, an optimistic world view, reaching out to those we trust for advice and encouragement, and of course, Prayer. This is a time when eating right, getting enough rest, and prayer are essential. If we are able to take good care of ourselves, then we will be better equipped to handle most things that come our way, and to help others through this experience as well.

In the Gospel of John, toward the end, after Peter denies Jesus 3 times, and Jesus dies, and Jesus rises from the dead, Jesus appears to the Apostles in the “upper room” on several occasions, but after a while, the Apostles get their courage back, (maybe something to do with the Holy Spirit?), and go back to their homes and jobs as fisherman. One day Jesus is there waiting for them on shore, cooking fish over a fire, and he gives Peter the chance to make amends for his denials. John 21:15-17, “When they were finished eating Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes Lord,” he said, “you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again, Jesus said, “Simon son of John do you love me? “Peter answered, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “take care of my sheep.” The third time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time do you love me. He said “Lord you know all things you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.””

If you notice Jesus gives Peter 3 chances to say “I love you” to him, to make up for the 3 times he said “I don’t know him” during his arrest; but this is not all Jesus is up to, there is more here. Jesus is teaching his disciples what loving him truly means. Notice when Jesus hears Peter say “I love you”, he doesn’t say, okay, show me, get down on your knees and worship me, or pray more often and more fervently, or make sure you go to Mass every Sunday, or receive the Sacraments more often, and follow all my Commandments and then that will prove that you love me. You see, we do all of these things in our lives to give us the strength, the power, and the fortitude to do what Jesus asked Peter to do to show that he loves him, and what he asks us to do as well, take care of each other!

We will be commemorating the 19th Annivesary of the 9/11 tragedies on Friday, and this is always a day when we think about those who looked out for their neighbor, tried to take care of the other and lost their lives because of it. This was a day when people’s faith stood out, and they were able to find the courage to give their all to help in any way they could. 19 years later we find ourselves in the midst of another tragic time, the Covid 19 pandemic, and there have been many others who have summoned the courage to give their lives for the other. May we never forget those who have served so well, and may we never forget that God calls each of us to do the best we can, the most we can to take care of each other. Let these examples show us a way to live our lives to the fullest.

And so, if we want to be true witnesses of our faith, and to reflect the love that Jesus shows us into the world today, the best way to do it is to take care of each other here on this campus, at this time, and the best way to do that is to first, take care of ourselves. If we do this, we will put our best foot forward and give ourselves the best chance to have a wonderful Fall semester here at Trinity. Know that I and many others are here for you to help make this happen. We are rooting for you, we are praying for you, and we are walking with you.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, and don’t be afraid to reach out to help. Stay safe, stay well, and I’ll see you on campus.

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

August 31, 2020

Hello Everyone,

And so comes to a close the Summer of 2020, and oh what a Summer it has been! We started the Monday Morning Chaplain on Monday June 1st as a way to keep in touch over this Summer, and so as I write to you today, this last day of August, it seems that we have completed the cycle. In these strange and ever changing times I have tried to stay upbeat, topical, hoping to comfort yet motivate, and always pointing to the God that loves us to be our source for all that we need in our lives. I hope you have enjoyed reading these posts each week as much as I have enjoyed writing them, and I know I learned a lot about myself, and about what can be accomplished when there is time to listen to all sides of things, reflect on them, and then write about them in a way that hopes to inform and inspire the reader. I hope I have accomplished what I set out to do, and I hope it helped make your Summer a little brighter. As I think about it, with all the uncertainty that lies ahead of us this Fall Semester, I”m going to keep MMC going a little longer, at least through November, just to stay in touch and to keep the positive flow moving in our Catholic Ministry. I hope you’ll keep reading, and I hope we get off to a great start next week. Speaking of which …

In 1986, Robert Fulghum, published his epic, #1 Bestseller, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”, (Ivy Books). I recommend it highly to all of you. It is filled with snapshot stories of simple reminders that, at least most of us, make life way more complicated then it should be. By helping us to look at life through the lens of simple, foundational principles that we all learned early in life, Fulghum is calling us to simplify our approach to the things we always seem to complicate, and to look at the solutions we learned when we were young, the ones that worked, the ones we used to create order and happiness in our world, to help us get back on track. It sounds a lot like what Jesus did when he was asked to sum up all the Commandments, all the Prophets, and all of Jewish Law. He said simply, “Love God with all your Heart and all your Soul and all your Mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself.” MT 22:37-39 When we break things down to their simplest form, and use these tenets to look at our lives, we tend to slow things down and gain a sense of comfort or relief, knowing we are listening to an inner voice that has been with us our whole life, one that we trust. It seems sometimes that the more we know about, the further away we get from the truths that make us happy, and so to keep these simple virtues close at hand, and go back to them often, can be a real help. As we begin this uncertain Fall Semester at Trinity it might serve us all well to meditate on Jesus’ words in Matthews Gospel and take them to heart. It may also help, in a little different way, to contemplate Fughums’ take on the simple solutions to our day to day complexities. He writes:

“All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but was there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything; Play fair
Don’t hit people; Put things back where you found them
Clean up your own mess; Don’t take things that aren’t yours
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody
Wash your hands before you eat; Flush
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you
Live a balanced life, learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday.
Take a nap every afternoon
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together
Be aware of wonder…

Everything you need to know is there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living. Take any one of these behaviors and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” RF

If you look closely at everything Fulghum writes here, doesn’t it fit exactly into what Jesus asks us? Everything we learned in Kindergarten really is, “Love God, and Love one another.” It fits, it works, and it’s all inclusive! Just add to it pray often, laugh a lot with your friends, call your parents and talk to them because they know you best, always remember that God has given you all the gifts and talent you need to succeed right here, right now, and trust in the Lord, trust in each other, and trust in your best self, and you will be all right.

Oh, and if none of this works, know that I’m always around to help if you need me, just don’t wake me from my afternoon nap, but I’m happy to share my milk and cookies. 🙂

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

August 24, 2020

Hello Everyone,

On Friday I went for my first Trinity College Covid 19 test. It was in the Field House and it was very hot and there were these big, loud fans trying to blow some fresh air into that large, open space. There were some long tables set up and people from the Athletic Department were checking us in and then we went down to the next row of tables and were given our swabs to self administer the test. Three twirls of the swab in each nostril and into the tube to be processed, my immediate future at Trinity now on its way to the lab. It took about 5 minutes, and though it should not have been, was totally frustrating to me. Why was it frustrating? I didn’t really know, but as I walked out I felt like I had lost some control in my life. I walked back across campus, back to my Chapel Office, closed things up, got in my car and started for home. As I was driving I was trying to understand where this frustration was coming from and why I was feeling this loss of control. It took awhile, (actually, there was a good song on the radio, so I was singing along, which probably helped me figure it out), but I think I know why I felt so off about it, because it was a reminder that all is not well in our world. As someone who always tries to stay positive, (my wife might argue with me here), this was a negative experience for me, (and oh, BTW, it was also a negative test for me, thank God), because I let my anxiety win. Yes, I was nice and polite with the people who were there, I told a few corny jokes and thanked all of them for being there and helping us out, but as I walked away, I let fear win. Once back in my car, windows down, music blasting, all of that fear went away, all anxiety was gone, and life was good again. It made me know that I have to readjust again, like I did in March, and have been doing all Summer, and continue to stay on top of my emotional state as we continue through these strange times. It also made me wonder how everyone else is doing.

Some of you are heading back to Campus this week, others next week, and all of us will be back by September 7th. I know we are all excited to see each other and start to rekindle relationships, continue our quest toward a Diploma, and have a little fun in the process. There will be plenty of reminiscing to do, and there will be many conversations with many people about all we have gone through and all we have been doing since March. Some of it will be exciting and upbeat, good, funny stories, filled with love, tears, and a sense of accomplishment, some of it will be sad, disheartening, filled with struggles, grief, and anxiety, and some of it will be down right negative, filled with bitterness, mistrust, blame, and hopelessness. We have to be ready for all of it, and we have to be able to react accordingly to the way people interact with us. As I have been writing for the past few weeks, this is where our Faith come in, and this is where we turn to God to guide us through these interactions. Our first job is to check ourselves, how are we doing, what is our tone in our conversations with others, are we managing ourselves and our emotions, taking care, and doing the things we need to do to stay on a positive track. If not, stop immediately and talk to someone who can help. I am here, and so are many others at home, or when you get back to school who can help us get to where we want to be emotionally. Think joy, think hope, think gratitude. What is it that usually gets you out of a funk? For me it was getting in my car, rolling down the windows and listening to loud, good, music, but for you it might be telling someone a funny story or a good joke, rereading a passage in your favorite book, a song, an old letter from a friend, a picture or video from someone you love, watching an old episode of the “Office”, or “Sponge Bob Squarepants”, or sitting in solitude, praying for Hope to fill your heart and soul. We will be of no help to ourselves or anyone else if we are not taking care of ourselves. We must eat well, sleep enough, and take time to readjust as we settle in at Trin.

St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Ephesians:18, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the Hope to which God has called you, and the riches of God’s glorious inheritance for his holy people.” So, our first notion of our return to school is hopeful, and if we combine that hope with a spirit of gratitude, we are now headed down the right path. How grateful are we that we are coming back to school, hopefully healthy, enthusiastic, and prepared to take on the challenge of what this Semester will bring. What an opportunity we have in front of us to “shine like the stars in the sky”, (Philippians 2), and make this our finest hour! Let’s be grateful for all of the gifts God has given us and use them to spread his joy to all those we encounter as we return.

Yes, let’s return to campus with a Spirit of Joy! Let’s turn this moment around and face it with the joy that has always made our lives what we want them to be. All of us are at our best when we are joyful and by living in that spirit we can help others be their best as well. Let us use our God given abundance of joy to help alleviate the anxiety that some of our peers will be feeling. Can you imagine what a group of Hope filled students, fueled by Gratitude and steeped in Joy can do on a college campus? I can, and I know it will make all the difference in the world.

So, I will see you all back at school soon. Hopefully I will take my own advice, and my readjustment will bring me to where I want to be. Maybe I will be able to help one of you have a more positive transition back, or maybe one of you will help me stay on course. Either way, if we “clothe ourselves in the love of Christ”, and “set our sights on the prize”, we can make our return to school a sacred moment, and change the world around us.

“May the God of Hope fill us with all Joy and Peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in Hope.” Romans 15:13

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

 

August 17, 2020

Hello Everyone!

My girls came by on Friday to drop off their dogs, go out to dinner with us, stay over night, and get up “early” and go camping for a few days. It was good to see them, we had a great time, (I won at Yahtzee!!), but early was not on the agenda for Saturday. Oh well, sometimes good times at night means sleeping late the next day! I like spending time with the girls now that they are adults. I look at them and listen to them in a different way than I used to and I am proud of how they have grown up and how they are living their lives. It took some time, some growth, and some hard work, but they are doing well, and I think they like that they are doing well. As always I love it when they arrive, but I also love it when they leave, because really, that’s where they belong, out there, living their lives, creating new opportunities to be happy and sharing their world with others. There is a persistence in how they keep on moving through their lives, happy to be who they are, yet still looking to see what else they can become.

Persistence might be a good idea to consider these days. Since March most of us have been persistent in keeping to the protocols that we have been asked to follow; social distancing, wearing a facemask in public, staying home more often, and washing our hands unceasingly! Soon we will be coming back to Campus at Trinity, and we will have to readjust our behaviors and direct them in new directions. Yes, it has been a good discipline to keep these protocols and it will certainly behoove us all to continue in this spirit. Think about it, we are now going to be with hundreds of other people, outside of our family and close friend “pods”, interacting socially while working our butts off to get our schoolwork done and stay involved in as many extra curricular things as possible, while still sticking to all the Covid 19 protocols. If this doesn’t take persistence I don’t know what will!

As we learned to live our new way of life during this pandemic, we adapted new strategies and new behaviors to help us thrive, (or at least survive), in our day to day life. Now we are going to have to readjust again, with the same persistence we used this Spring. For most of us the mindset for changing our behavior in March was simple, we didn’t want to get sick and we didn’t want to get others sick. With that goal in mind we set out to change our behavior so that we had the best chance of staying safe and keeping others safe, and throughout these past five months we have kept our focus on that same goal, and most of us have succeeded. We need to take this same attitude back to campus with us if we hope to succeed there as well. Whatever we see as our reason for being at Trinity, (and for most of us it is getting our work done and moving toward Graduation as we continue to discover who we are in this world), should stay in the forefront of our minds throughout this Fall Semester and we should stay persistent in having our behaviors lead us to that goal. How can we make sure we stay on track? We need to remember what got us here in the first place, our ability to work hard, adapt, be creative, and to be there for others, and ask others to be there for us. As Catholics we believe in the power and goodness that helping others brings, and we are grounded in behaviors like patience, endurance, humility, forgiveness, empathy, peace, justice, gratitude, and love. These are not mere words to us, these are values and behaviors that inform all of our decisions and spark all of our creative endeavors. We are marked with a sign of faith that includes all of these attributes and by calling them forward and wrapping ourselves in there guidance we can put our best self forward and be persistent in our resolve to continue to be happy in who we are as we strive to look to what we may yet become. As the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 98, “Let the favor of the Lord be upon us: give success to the work of our hands.” If we look to each other in friendship and to God in prayer, to walk with us and share our burdens, struggles, successes, and joys, and if we take to heart Paul’s words in his Letter to the Romans 12:12: “Rejoice in Hope, be Patient in difficult times, and be constant in Prayer”, we can make this one of the great times of our lives.

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

August 10, 2020
 
Hello Everyone!
Well, 2020 has really been a fun year.  With all else that is going on in the world and in this country, did we really need a tropical storm to knock power out for several days?  I mean, really!  What’s next?  Wait, I better not ask for fear that I might not like the answer.  To think that 78 hours without power, (and we have well water, so no electricity means no water), cell service, or internet would seem so hard to take.  I guess we are spoiled a little bit because on those hot afternoons we did miss the A/C and the ability to reach into the freezer for some ice cubes.  All in all though we survived quite well, filling coolers with food from the fridge and freezer, and bags of ice, cooking on the grill, and sitting outside at the table with a battery powered light and radio, playing Yahtzee, or just hanging out.  I did a few puzzles, some Sudoku, and read a little bit.  What was nice was the quiet, (except for the noise from my neighbors generator), and the peaceful moments knowing there was nothing to do and no place to go.  No cell service meant no social media, news, or texts and phone calls, and that helped quiet my mind and soul.  There were no irritating posts to read, no arguments about whose lives matter, or discussions about politics or the economy.  Even Covid 19 took a back seat for a couple of days as our thoughts shifted to a mantra of “power, power, power!”  Through it all it gave me a chance to think a little deeper, pray a little longer, and contemplate where I am, and where we are as People of God.
Yesterday I went to Mass, at a Church, for the second straight Sunday.  (I’d been attending on Facebook Live every Sunday since March 15.)  Being socially distanced at a Catholic Mass seems like a contradiction to me but strange times lead to strange ways of behaving.   It was good to see some familiar faces though, and I love the “smiling eyes” that I get to encounter.  (Face masks make our smile present to others in a whole new way now, and I kind of like it. 🙂)  The first reading was from The Book of Kings and it stopped me in my tracks and brought my contemplation to fruition.  It seems that the Prophet Elijah was sheltering in a cave and God asked him to go outside and stand because God was going to pass by.  Then, “a strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.” 1 Kings 19:11-12.  Sounds a lot like the year 2020, lot’s of odd, life changing occurrences, and haven’t we, like Elijah, looked for God in all that is happening to us this year?  Where is God in the Covid 19 pandemic and all the sickness, death, economic destruction, and closing of most of what we are used to doing?  Where is God in George Floyd’s death and all the back and forth about Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, and no justice no peace?  Where is God in the stories we read in @trinsurvivors and @blackattrin?  Where is God in the wind and rain and power outages and damage to homes and other property caused by this recent tropical storm?  Why are we always looking for God when it is loudest, or hardest, or the most dangerous, or the most humiliating, or the most humbling, or when we are most frightened, confused, anxious, or distraught?  Yes God is there, but all these conditions and emotions I have mentioned impair our ability to truly focus on what’s most important, and makes it hard for us to recognize God in all these situations.  What we need to realize, and where we need to focus, is where Elijah finally found God.  “After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.  When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.” 1 Kings  19:13.  Yes, in the quiet, and the softest places in our lives is where we meet God, with our full awareness, our full attention, our mind uncluttered, our emotions at an even keel, our intellect awake and ready, and our bodies at ease.  In these times of solitude, these times of openness, God come to us and gives us all we need to make it through all the storms, all the troubles in our lives.  God heals us, and shows us how to heal each other, when we listen to God in the quiet of our heart, mind, and soul.  As I contemplate where I am, where we are, as the People of God, I come to a place that says I need healing, we need healing, from all that is happening around us, and the first pace to start, the best place to start, is the healing power of God, through Jesus, the great healer, and by being a healer to others through our words, our actions, and the witness of our lives.
As we continue to walk with each other through this crazy year, toward our coming back to school, toward all that is ahead of us, let us take the time to be still, be quiet, and be open, and find God and allow God to heal us, and give us the strength to heal each other.
“Praise be God, …, the God of all consolation!  God comforts us in all our afflictions and thus enables us to comfort those who are in trouble, with the same consolation we received from God.  As we have shared so much in the suffering of Christ, so through Christ do we share abundantly in his consolation.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Your Monday Morning Chaplain
August 3, 2020
Hello Everyone,
I’m back from a weeks hiatus spent with family and friends and happy to be writing to you again.  I hope all of you are well and enjoying this slow moving, hot, very interesting Summer.
I continue to watch with dismay all that is happening in our country around the BLM protests, the Federal Governments intervention in some of our big cities to “protect” federal property, the continued rise of Covid 19 positive tests and deaths in the south and west, the awful partisan rhetoric around quarantine, mask wearing, social distancing and the denial of science, and the intentional spread of misinformation on social media.  I have also seen the uptick in arguments between friends and family members on social media and in person and the fracturing of relationships this is causing.  Having witnessed this in my own social groups and family, I am concerned about what people label as opinion or “just politics”, which in reality is bigotry, racism, sexism, classism, and sinful.  It seems people have become stubborn about listening to things that don’t agree with their world view and that facts, science, and morality are taking a back seat to false conspiracy theories, peoples “comfort” and selfishness, and stereotypical beliefs uttered after the disclaimer, “I’m not racist, but…”.  It seems that the clearer things seem to get for some, the more some people seem to look away and back at old ways of thinking.  How can anyone hear the phrase, “Black Lives Matter” and not answer, simply, yes they do?  When people answer that phrase with “All Lives Matter”, or “Blue Lives Matter” I answer, yes they do, and Black Lives Matter.  It’s not like anyone is saying “only” Black Lives Matter, or Black Lives Matter more than all other lives, the phrase is simply “Black Lives Matter”.  What is the problem?  It seems people are lumping that statement with the BLM Movement, (protests, blocking roadways, signs, etc.), and the organization Black Lives Matter into one entity.  If people don’t like the protests, I may or may not agree, but I’ll listen to their concerns, if people think the BLM organization is not on the level, or has hidden agendas, I may or may not agree, but I’ll listen to their concerns.  But if people can’t utter the words, or listen to the sentiment “Black Lives Matter” without freaking out I have concerns about the true nature of their beliefs.  This is no longer politics, or fear of civil unrest, or distrust of special interest groups, this is the inability to see the other as equal, due the dignity of a child of God.
It’s important for me to realize just how quickly I can be sucked into these arguments, how quickly I can become stubborn about my position, and how quickly I can want to block, walk away from, or dismiss everything that I believe is false, or kooky, or sinful.  I can become ill tempered, wanting to prove those with different points of view wrong, think of them as “stupid”, or out of touch with reality, or worse, think of ending my relationship with them.  Yes, I have unfriended some people on Facebook and Instagram, but I don’t consider that an end to a relationship, it’s just I am am tired of reading the “nonsense” they post online.  I don’t want to be that person who only reads like minded social media posts, or articles or blogs, and always dismisses things I don’t agree with.  I don’t want to be set in my ways, set in my thoughts where I am not open to new ideas, yet I find some of these opinions so off the wall, or so unreasonable, that I can’t seem to consider them anymore.  It has come to the point where I almost want to erupt and get personal, but I fight that instinct with all of my heart.  How can some people that I know and love think these things?  How can I look at them the same way after some of the things they say or post?  Is there anyway I can help them see “the light”?

In my Graduate studies I was introduced to a Vietnamese, Buddhist writer named Thich Nhat Hanh.  (Fr. Richard Rohr has a daily blog I read and he quoted Hanh this week and that started me looking at some of his thoughts again)   He talks about how each of us has the ability to be the calm in the storm for others:This capacity of waking up, of being aware of what is going on in your feelings, in your body, in your perceptions, in the world, is called Buddha nature, the capacity of understanding and loving. . . . It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace.  Many of us worry about the world situation. …  We feel that we are on the edge of time. As individuals, we feel helpless, despairing. The situation is so dangerous, injustice is so widespread, the danger is so close. In this kind of situation, if we panic, things will only become worse. We need to remain calm, to see clearly. Meditation is to be aware, and to try to help.

I like to use the example of a small boat crossing the Gulf of Siam. In Vietnam, there are many people, called boat people, who leave the country in small boats. Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats can sink. But if even one person aboard can remain calm, lucid, knowing what to do and what not to do, he or she can help the boat survive. His or her expression—face, voice—communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will listen to what he or she says. One such person can save the lives of many.  Our world is something like a small boat. Compared with the cosmos, our planet is a very small boat. We are about to panic because our situation is no better than the situation of the small boat in the sea. . . .  We need people who can sit still and be able to smile, who can walk peacefully. We need people like that in order to save us. Mahayana Buddhism says that you are that person. . . .

The root-word “budh” means to wake up, to know, to understand. A person who wakes up and understands is called a Buddha. It is as simple as that. The capacity to wake up, to understand, and to love is called Buddha nature.

 [Christians would call this Christ nature, the Christ self, or the mind of Christ.] . . .(R. Rohr)

When you understand, you cannot help but love. . . . To develop understanding, you have to practice looking at all living beings with the eyes of compassion. When you understand, you love. And when you love, you naturally act in a way that can relieve the suffering of people.  ​(TNH)

When we get to the point when we think we have to lash out, that is when we turn to our faith and say no.  We have to stay awake, stay diligent, continue to, in a peaceful way, move the conversation to Justice, Mercy, Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Peace, but we have to do it from a place of peace in our own lives.  There will be no legitimate change in our world, in the hearts of our friends and family, or in our own hearts, unless we start with love, and a dialogue grounded in Gods word, solidarity with those who are put down, and the desire to bring a meaningful, positive change to the world around us.  If we can stay steady, keep our chins up, our eyes focused on the truth, others will see us and it will help them see the light.  Our light will illuminate those around us, and it can make all the difference in the world!

“But when anything is exposed to the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.  Therefore it says, “Awake, O Sleeper and arise from your hiding, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:13-14

Your Monday Morning Chaplain 

July 20, 2020

Hello Everyone,

It was a busy week for me for the middle of July. I was in meetings on Zoom, on phone calls, emails, texts, etc. with students and fellow staff from the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, OSRL. These were conversations about how we are going to respond to all the issues that are facing us as a community. How will we respond to reopening with Covid 19 still an issue? How will we socially distance during religious services and Student Group gatherings? Where will we hold these events? How will we respond as an office and as student leaders to the injustices we have read about @blackattrin and @trinsurvivors Instagram posts? How can we best support each other as we look to all of the changes we will see? How can we put our faith front and center as we do all of this? I have heard that students have picked classes for Fall Semester, and most of you know where you will be living. I have listened to you talk about the anxiety, but also the excitement, of returning to campus tinged with the uncertainty of how this is all going to come together. All of this with the always present pressure of going to class, working, socializing, and trying to move forward in our lives and do the best we can as college students. Yes, it is a lot. Yes, it is going to be very different, and very tricky. Yes, we aren’t sure just how we are going to pull it off. Yes, we need help to make it work.

This is when we find our faith to be the most important part of our lives. Through all the questions, all the turmoil, all the fear, and all the anxiety, we have an answer to turn to. As Christians we believe that we are created, chosen, and loved by God. We believe that God wants to have a relationship with us, and that God wants us to be happy and fulfilled, doing God’s Will in our world. We believe that Jesus was God Incarnate and that his example of how to live life as a child of God is one we should copy. We believe that God sent the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us through it all. We believe in Peace, Justice, Forgiveness, Mercy, and Gratitude. We believe we need to take care of each other and to allow others to help us when we need it the most. And we believe that if we live our lives with this spirit and this attitude we will live a life that God wants us to. We are about 6 weeks out from returning to Campus, and we need to start to get ready. This is not the time to just “be brave and suck it up”. No, this is the time to look to each other, put out a helping hand, or reach out and ask for help. Maybe start calling classmates, friends from school, reaching out to staff or favorite faculty members. Just ask “how are you doing?”, or tell them how you are feeling about coming back to school. Start talking about it with your parents and friends back home. Have a plan, and help others get ready as well. We are all in this together and it is time to use the tenants of our faith to stand up for ourselves and each other and make good choices to move our lives forward. Now is the time to vow everyday, pray everyday, and believe everyday that if we live our lives as God has asked us to, we will be all right. That is faith, that is hope, and that is love. And that is the best offer we have ever had. Let’s accept that offer and live the life we are destined to live.

“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love Mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

July 13, 2020

Hello Everyone,

This is the week I used to go on a Mission Trip. Every July for 23 years, (1993-2015), I accompanied a group to Harlan County, KY to work with people who lived in that community. (I still get that travelling jones every year at this time). They were mostly unemployed, or sick former coal miners and their families who needed help. We would pick 5 homes to work on during the week with a crew of about 7 people per house, and we would do repairs. We would also send a van full of people around the community with food, clothing and other essentials to provide for their needs. We would also host a Vacation Bible School at the local Catholic Church for the children of the community. We were a group of about 85-90 folks, teenagers, young adults, and adults, living, working, and praying in community. I was the work group leader and I led the large group theological reflection after dinner each night. It was my favorite week of the year and I always thought that I was my best self when I was there. To be able to experience this coming of age for most of the group, and be a big part in leading them to profound revelations about who they are and what it means to help others live a better life, was such a high for me and it simply brought out the best in me. It also changed the way I lived my everyday life. No, I wasn’t my best self 24/7, but that experience every year took some of my rough edge off, and helped round me into a better person. I spend a lot of time reminiscing about how these experiences have shaped me, and I truly believe that putting myself in that frame of mind for that week every year has helped me be a better man. It also got me thinking that if I have a best self, I must have a worst self. When does that rear its ugly head?

I think I am my worst self when I am impatient, (this is evident if you have ever driven with me and you have witnessed my attitude toward other drivers!), insecure, or scared, and I become a different person, brusque, negative, sometimes angry or downright hostile. I can be critical of others, judgmental, loud, abrasive, and even cruel. I am definitely not fun to be around and I always regret my behavior afterward and am lesser for my troubles. I hope these behaviors have occurred less and less over the years, and I hope my better self prevails most of the time. The truth is, we don’t exist in our best selves or our worst selves most of the time. Where we land is a hybrid of goodness, care, humility, happiness, and love with a mix of edginess, impatience, boredom, regret, sadness, and self consciousness. Most of us are mostly good people who try hard to be that, and we do okay in our social interactions. The more we lean toward our best selves, the better we feel, and the more we succumb to our worst selves, the worse we feel. And life goes on…

I am thinking about all of this in light of the stories I have been reading on Instagram @trinsurvivors and @blackattrin and about the behavior of the people in the stories. To say that I am shocked, appalled, angry, saddened, and brokenhearted by what I have been reading doesn’t really approach my feelings. How can we be doing this to each other? How is it possible that young adults in a similar stage of life, trying to experience all the awesome, unique possibilities of college life can turn on each other and commit these heinous acts? How can the prospect of a good time and a night out turn into such a nightmare for some students at the hands of other students? How do some students find it acceptable to judge others and make their life harder because of the color of their skin, or their nation of origin, or their religion, or their sexual orientation? How can people who have already accomplished so much in their young lives, who have been able to go to a school like Trinity, act in such a way toward each other? If you talk to the parents, friends , mentors, siblings, and other people in their home community about these students you will hear about their best self, or their normal self, and will hear stories of hard work, loving compassion, helping of neighbor, strong leader, loving child or big brother/sister and think wow, how lucky we all are to be together in this wonderful college community. Then we read these accounts of rape, and molestation, and drugging, and racist actions, demeaning attitudes, and harassment, while all everyone is trying to do is get an education, interact with like minded peers, and gain some positive life experience to move them forward into the rest of their lives. What changes in these people that allows this worst part of themselves to come out? What gives them the permission to act this way? All under the very nose of well educated, well trained, and well intentioned Administration, Staff, Faculty, and other professionals, (and I am one of these), who seem to not know what is going on, or do not no how to deal with what is going on, or who even in their best efforts can’t change what is going on. How do people allow their best selves, or normal selves to so easily go over to their worst selves and do the kinds of things described in these narratives? Better yet, how do we stop this?

Most people who are looking to see change occur on the Trinity Campus expect it to start with the Administration. I have read the letters from President Berger-Sweeney, from the Board of Trustees, from other offices on campus, and I have read the demands from the student groups on how they see change occurring. It seems like there is plenty of agreement, but also plenty of room for work to be done. What I haven’t seen is the call for the Trinity College Community, all of us, to commit to taking personal responsibility for our own actions, and promising to put our best selves forward, to stop these horrible behaviors and promise to start to take care of other as we live our day to day lives on campus. It may sound simplistic, or even naive, (Hey, I’m 60 years old, and I’ll listen to the critique of simplistic, but I believe I’m well past naive), but each of us has to be able to look at the rest of the community and say “no more” to this behavior. We have to take a stand, own up to our failures, and take a vow that says, “I promise that wherever I am, you will be safe”.

With all the demands and all the promises, and all the resources out there we have been asked to read that talk about how to overcome these problems in our community, to me the best solution is still the simplest, the old standard Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. That great commandment that Jesus told his disciples can make all the difference in the world.

“You shall love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and you shall love one another as you love yourself”. Lk 10:25-28

All else is redundant. If we all can just do this, we will always be our best selves, and we will never do each other harm.

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

July 6, 2020

Well, the 4th of July Weekend has come and gone and I hope you all stayed safe, and had a joy filled time with friends, family, and loved ones. It’s a great thing, getting together with those we love, (especially during this time of Covid 19 where we’ve had to keep our social distance), and its even better when there is something to celebrate, and in our case we have something very special we celebrate on the 4th, yes our Freedom! As all of us have been taught since we were kids, that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are a free country, a Democracy, where all of us are allowed the access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These ideas are ingrained in our collective psyche and have influenced the way all of us dream our dreams, envision our future, and live our lives. Being reminded of this every year in July is usually cause to take stock in the freedoms all around us and to joyfully give thanks and celebrate the choices all of us have in our lives. We can look around and give each other that proverbial “pat on the back” for a job well done in fighting for and maintaining the freedom that gives all of us the ability to move beyond our current place in the world to new heights. We can look proudly at the freedom that all of us have “earned” since the time of our Founding Fathers. It sounds like a day that would motivate all of us to see more clearly that the only reason we have this freedom is because of each other, and that it will only continue if we stay diligent and protect freedom for all of us; except that some of us have a problem with the definition of “all of us”.

The Book of Genesis is clear and says it succinctly; Jesus was very clear in his public ministry; the Gospel writers are very clear in their Gospels; St. Paul is very clear in his Epistles and Exhortations, the Church is very clear in its teachings, especially in recent Encyclicals by Pope Francis; and Saints, Theologians, and most of the Faithful can tell us that, “God created both Male and Female in God’s own image”, GN 1, and “All are one in Christ Jesus”, Gal 3, “For you were called to freedom brothers and sisters.” Gal 5. Clearly our faith is telling us that all of us are equal in the eyes of God and equally free to do God’s Will, and live in God’s joy. Not some of us, All of us. The Pledge of Allegiance, which all of us have recited many, many times in our lives, is clear, “with Liberty and Justice for All.” The Declaration of Independence states clearly that, “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Not some of us, All of us. Something so clearly stated should be easy for all of us to grasp and to put into action in the world around us. All of us are equal in the eyes of God and the eyes of the Law of this land! But somewhere, and if we look very closely, right from the beginning of this great experiment called America, there was a problem. These “great” men, our Forefathers who so eloquently wrote about freedom for all, owned slaves, took land from indigenous people, kept women in their place, and built their fortunes on the backs of the unfree. They didn’t really mean “all of us”, did they?

To paraphrase the great Philosopher Forrest Gump, “freedom is as freedom does”. We live in a Country where freedom is a concept not applied equally to all of us There is a state of mind that some of us have, and it is getting more profound these days, that our individual freedom trumps, (no pun intended), the collective freedom of “all of us”. How can that be? The only way we have freedom is if all of us have access to it. Our freedom depends on the freedom of all of us, or it is not really freedom, it is a construct of ideas that allow some to succeed at the expense of others being held down. If our freedom comes from the burden of others then our freedom is too expensive. If our freedom comes from the inability of others to have access to all that we have, than our freedom becomes a burden, to those who are left out, and to ourselves. Our freedom becomes sinful when it is achieved through the workings of a sinful system that gives advantages to some and heavy burdens to others. The freedom that we celebrate this 4th of July is a farce unless all of us are included.

And so today let us call on each other to do as Jesus asked us to do, and “Lay our burdens down”. Let us lay down the burden of inequality, the burden of compromised freedom, the burden of prejudice, racism, sexism, judgement, and all hatred, the burden of a sinful system that rewards some and punishes other for the color of their skin, or the country of their origin, the burden of privilege, of denial, of silence, and of fear, the burden of holding on to old ideas, wrong thinking, and hurtful stereotypes, the burden of actions that we have taken that are wrong, discriminatory, self-serving, and sinful, the burden of not thinking, acting on, and believing that “all of us” deserve to live free. How heavy this burden has become, not only for our Country to bear, but for all of us to bear ourselves. This burden is wrecking our Country, depriving us of peace, and turning our freedom into something that binds us. Aren’t we tired of this? Aren’t we worn down by holding onto all of this? Let’s let it go, lay it down, and pick up the mantle of Peace, Justice, and Freedom for “all of us”!

Jesus said, (MT 11:28-30), “Come to me all who labor with a heavy burden, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you’ll find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Isn’t it just time to give it all a rest?

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

June 29, 2020

Ephesians 4:31-32: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger…be put away from you, … Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Hello Everyone,

This week I have forgiveness on my mind. Now, I don’t have any real enemies, I don’t look at life that way, but there are a couple of people who have done things to me that I hold against them. I found out last month that a Ministry that is very close to my heart, that I have been involved with for the past 27 years, but whose Director I have recently had a falling out with, is about to merge with another Ministry, and their whole staff is being let go and their Ministry Campus is being sold. This is sad news for all of us who love the Ministry. One of the things they did so well is their Mission Trips, and I helped lead these efforts for 23 years. As our groups of 80 plus people would do our work and spread our infectious, (yes, infectious can be a good thing), joy year after year, we would also pray for each other. Each person would be given a random person from our group to pray for, do little extra’s for, and basically look after for the week. This was done anonymously, and at the end of the week your “prayer partner” would write you a letter telling you what they did for you and how they observed your wonderful work during the week. The letter was presented during a prayer service on our last night together, and was always one of the emotional high points of the week. Well, the Assistant Director of this Ministry decided that as a final, prayerful farewell to this great program, it would be nice to invite members of the community to be given prayer partners to pray for and present letters to each others during the transition. Whoever wanted to participate could just send their name and address to her and she would put them all in a shoe box and randomly pick out a name to be your prayer partner. I was happy to jump in. Well, God does work in mysterious ways. I’ll give you two guesses, (and the first one doesn’t count), on who was randomly picked to be my prayer partner; yes, the Director of the Ministry whom I had the falling out with!

Holding a grudge is an interesting mind set. Someone once said, “Holding a grudge is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” The longer we dwell on the “bad” things people say about us or do to us, the longer their power over us keeps hold. Looking from the outside, this seems so logical and so easy to understand and act on, but when it comes from the inside, the deepest well of our insecurities and self worth, all logic disappears, and we begin a cycle of remembering, stewing over it, cementing our more positive take on the situation, and building up resentment for the other. Then repeat, and repeat, and repeat. Soon, it dwells within us and chips away at the core of our self esteem and changes the way we look at the world. All because we can’t let it go, we can’t forgive.

So, I have been praying for my old friend/new adversary this past week, and I wrote him a letter. It wasn’t all lovey dovey, or all God loves you and so do I. I told him how much his efforts meant to that Ministry, and how much good he has done; I told him how much I’ve seen him hurt others by his managerial style, and how sad I was that when I saw it happen to others I didn’t step in to Advocate for them; I told him that I knew my turn would come someday, but when it did it still surprised and hurt me; I told him that it didn’t have to be that way, that he was a better man than that; I told him I forgived him; then I wept. I don’t know where it came from, it just welled up inside of me, like a weight lifted off of my shoulders. As soon as I wrote the words, “I forgive you”, I was transformed into my old relationship with him, a colleague, an equal, someone who could speak truth to him and with him. I wasn’t a victim anymore, I was someone speaking truth to injustice. The funny thing is, that I also felt forgiven, that by holding that grudge I was sinning against him and needed to change my mind set. When I did, I felt relief and joy! I finished the letter by asking him to consider reaching out to others he had wronged, to forgive those who had wronged him, to continue to use his gifts of ministry to build God’s Kingdom, and that my hope is that peace would fill his heart and that God would continue to hold him in the palm of his hand. God is Good!

I have also been thinking hard about my reaction to forgiving. The thought that I was a victim never occurred to me, but that was how I was acting. As the victim, I gave the other all the power, and it controlled how I reacted to the situation. Once the Spirit of Forgiveness prevailed I became an equal again and am able to speak candidly and openly about my feelings to the person who hurt me. As I think about that, I think about the conversations we are having all around the country about race, power, authority, equality, justice, and peace. I don’t see or hear a lot of talk about forgiveness. Not a passive, oh don’t worry about it kind of forgiveness, not a forgive and forget kind of forgiveness, but a forgiveness that takes away the victim/abuser dynamic and puts everyone on equal ground. As a good friend tells me, “forgiveness is something we give and not something we can ever demand from another”, but If we start this conversation in the Spirit of Forgiveness, as equal participants speaking truth to injustice, we start in a place that gives room for listening, for considering, for sifting new ideas through old paradigms, and for change to happen. If we look eye to eye with those who have hurt us, or those whom we have hurt, dropping the grudge, or the sense of superiority, and picking up the mantle of justice, we can put our best foot forward to help make the changes we need in our world, today.

I leave you this week with the words of Don Henley from his song “Heart of the Matter”:

And the more I know, the less I understand, all the things I thought I’d figured out I have to learn again.
I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter
But everything changes and my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness,
Forgiveness

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

June 22, 2020

Hello Everyone,

What a great Father’s Day Weekend it was at my house! I hope all of you were able to celebrate with all the different Fathers in your life. May God continue to bless all of our families!

There are times in our lives when it is hard to see things in their true context. Something happens, we process it through our acquired (learned) world view, we form an opinion, we react based on this formed opinion, and we start in motion a set of behaviors that let others know where we stand. Sometimes that behavior is to do nothing, to sit back, and wait and see which way the wind is blowing. Other times we jump right out there, let it all hang out and proclaim to the world what we are thinking. In today’s world with social media there to let anyone tell everyone anything they want, it is an easy process to get our thoughts out there quickly and broadly. Sometimes that’s a great gift, and sometimes it is the worst case scenario. I was a Communications Major in College, (my wife always scratches her head when I say this, thinking, “I guess you didn’t pay too close attention to your Professors”. 🙂), and the first thing they teach is the basic communication model: Sender sends message based on their world view into a void filled with noise and surrounding stimuli, to a Receiver who receives the message based on their world view and all their noise and surrounding stimuli, who immediately sends feedback to the Sender. (sometimes verbal, sometimes non-verbal) Ah, the great equalizer, feedback! So, as we jump quickly into the fray with our well-intentioned opinion, others just as quickly jump back at us with their opinion. Some agree with our opinion and that makes us feel good, smart, and in tune with the universe, yay me!! But some do not agree with us. Sometimes it makes us wish we did stay quiet and sometimes we get angry at some of the more vicious replies disagreeing with us, but sometimes the more nuanced replies make us think, and maybe reconsider, or even change a bit, the way we think about what happened. You know what they say opinions are like, ahem, and everybody has one. So that brings us back to how we form opinions, and how we send and receive messages; through our acquired world view. As we find ourselves trying to communicate our true beliefs to those around us, maybe we need to look at how we acquired our world view.

In times like these when we are asked to take a stand, to declare whether we are with or against, it’s good to know all sides of the issue, and what it is, deep down, that we truly believe. This is where the work starts, where the baggage might start to feel a little heavy. First and foremost, and for better or for worse, our families have formed us, and are the foundation of our belief system, but the influence of our peers, our schools, our interactions with others, and our Faith, have formed us as well. As we process everything through this acquired (formed) world view, we need to keep evaluating the building blocks of this formation. Are there attitudes and belief systems that exist in our families and communities that we are not proud of? (are we stuck in a cycle of revisiting the “sins of the past”) Have we been formed in a way that skews the truth toward our own benefit? (most certainly yes for all of us) Have we been formed in a way that gives us blind spots to systematic ways of inequality? (most certainly yes for all of us) Have we been formed in ways that need a periodic re-adjustment to help us see the hidden agendas in the way we were formed? (most certainly yes for all of us) As we take a closer look at our selves, and some of our building blocks start to crumble, we may see that the world view we use to form our opinions, which lead to our actions, has not always been based on truth, and we can subtly, (or not so subtly), start to change. We may start to see with different eyes, hear through different ears, and speak from a different place.

In times like these, we all need to re-evaluate where we started, where we grew from, what we learned from, how we got here, and what we are going to do about it. Our ability to see the truth and change accordingly is the foundation of God’s great Commandment to “Love one Another”. As we begin to change, as we start to voice our new opinion, as we stand tall in solidarity with those who were formally the “other”, we will again feel that great, yay me!!, but we will still, and maybe even with more venom, feel that negative feedback. This time it will be from family members, close friends, colleagues, peers. They will wonder where we went, why we changed sides, (really, are there sides?), and will hurl all sorts of insults at us, call us weak, a “snowflake”, or worse. This is when we remember the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil, because of me”, and stand with our newly, well formed, world view. As St. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “For when I am weak, then I am strong”. Our strength lies in standing up for God’s truth.

In times like these, if we do the hard work of introspection, and the hard work of learning about the issues at hand, we will be in the proper state on mind for when we are asked to take a stand. Then we can stand tall, and take whatever comes our way, knowing that we can change the world around us, because we will be standing together with those who live in God’s truth!

I leave you today with the great Steve Earle, and his newly penned ode to the times, “Times Like These”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLITH6ZsDdw.

Enjoy, and stay safe.

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

 

June 15, 2020
Hello Everyone,
I’ve been in a lot of conversations over the past few days about the things that are going on in the world around us.  Some of it has been about the Covid 19 Pandemic, about the re-opening of many businesses in our area, about people at the beaches, in the parks, and about should we or should we not start going to restaurants, or to socialize in small, but maybe a little bit bigger, groups as we move forward.  (I was at an outdoor party last weekend with 11 people at it, and it was a weird experience)  I’ve also been in many conversations about racism, Black Lives Matters, George Floyd, protesting, rioting, anarchists, good cops, bad cops, defunding the police, federal intervention in a State or City that doesn’t want it, Antifa, Republicans, Democrats, language, actions, gerrymandering, voter suppression, truth, lies, and everything in between.  At Trinity, we are writing Statements of Solidarity and purpose, planning Gatherings to stand against racism, (and what a great and emotional evening it was yesterday, a wonderful experience of an outpouring of a community!), and looking at who we are as a religious entity and how others see us.  I am thinking about our Catholic Community at Trinity, and I am thinking about myself.  Am I part of the problem?  Am I contributing to the solution?  Lots and lots of talk, and lots and lots of listening.  Dialogue is a great thing, and we learn a lot from it, but when it’s done, dialogue must be processed, and sifted through the philosophies of our upbringing. The ways and things we have learned throughout our lives, the things we’ve done and the things we’ve wanted to do but haven’t, and certainly our present world view, the place where we have gotten through all our learning and growing effect how we make sense and make decisions about where this dialogue takes us.  Does it change us, or does it harden our already entrenched opinions?  It’s a hard sifting, but a necessary one, and certainly an over do one, and it should be a constant one.
I saw on line a picture of a sign from one of the protests that read, “Sorry I’m Late, I had a lot to learn before I got here”.  It fits right where some of us are today.  Trying to push and cajole others that we know are having trouble with all of this, while checking ourselves for bias is not an easy path.  We may get frustrated at those around us who just can’t see the light, or maybe we get frustrated at ourselves.  I have read many people on social media or heard them in conversation state that they are ending friendships, not over politics, but over moral issues.  I can’t disagree with the distinction, but I can with the action.  Yes, if a real friend, (or a social media friend), is overtly racist, arrogant, or provocative, they leave us little choice but to walk away for now, but for most who are being slow to get on board maybe we need to keep the conversation going, the lines of dialogue open, so that maybe we can be the one to help them change, help them open their hearts, help them to move to a new place in their world view.
In Matthew 7:3, Jesus asks those gathered, “Why do you look at the speck in your friends eye, but not consider the plank in your own eye?”  People come from all different places, experiences, and upbringings.  If we are truly looking to change this epidemic of racism in our world we have to be able to look at each other, sit with each other, dialogue with each other, and not start with where we differ, but start with where we have common ground.  This will take an ability to be knowledgeable about what is really going on out there, (facts, not conspiracy theories), an enormous amount of fortitude to stand and take whatever is thrown back at us, patience to continue to step up and enter the fray, forgiveness for the hurtful things people will say that come from a deep well of their own pain and weakness, and love to let others know that giving up is not an option, that this change must occur in this moment.  Especially be patient with older people, your grandparents, or other friends and relatives.  You love them and know that they are good people, but sometimes the things they say about certain people or situations is unconscionable.  They can learn from you as well.
There are many ways to change the world.  For some it is protesting, taking to the streets, demanding reforms, resignations, repudiations, and all means of reshaping society.  For others it is the written word, the spoken word, reaching out to small groups, or individuals, to friends, acquaintances, and beyond, using our ability to persuade to change peoples hearts.  For others the power of prayer is their best tool.  Whatever you can do, do it, and do it well.  (see Romans 12:3-8)  We can not ask others to change without first looking deep within ourselves and modeling the change we seek.  Only then, and by using all the gifts that God has given us, can we reach out to those who don’t understand the meaning of God’s love, and help them see it in all those around them.
Sorry I’m late, but I just got here, and I’m here to stay, and I’m not going quietly…
Stay safe out there.
Your Monday Morning Chaplain 
June 8, 2020
Hello Everyone,
Well, 2020 continues to be a year that has made all of us stop in our tracks and look at the world around us through new lenses.  The Covid 19 Pandemic has changed all of our lives in so many unique ways and has put us all on edge.  Now, just when we can see some hope and a bit of the edge being relieved, we are stopped again and faced with something that is not unique, not a new threat, but one we have had among us for as long as we have been a Country, and one that effects all of us.  This epidemic of hatred of the “Other” is in our collective hearts, in our collective minds, and in our collective soul.  We, as a nation, as a people, as a human race, can’t seem to understand the concept that we are all one, all created, loved, and chosen by the same God who wants nothing more from us than to follow this Commandment, “You must Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength, and you must love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no Commandment greater than this.” MK 12:30-31.  Why is this so hard for us to grasp?  Why do we continue to hate, put down, admonish, discriminate against, and yes, injure and kill, those we see as different, who we don’t understand?  Where does this fear of the “Other” come from, why does this idea gain momentum in the hearts of individuals, in the psyche of groups of people, and how does it escalate into these negative acts we see in our society?
“We are in this together” is a slogan I have seen used to talk about our response to Covid 19.  It makes sense.  We have very little control over this virus and so the only way to fight it is to stand together, take the necessary  steps, (social distancing, masks, small groups, stay home, etc.), and hope to ride this out.  We have been inundated with daily briefings, strategies, 24/7 news coverage, tips on how to stay safe and beat this thing, and even though this has only been around for a few months, it looks like this response is working.  Yet here we are, after Decades, even Centuries, of acts of violence toward the “Other”, and we are no closer to a response to change this that works.  Every few years there is a high profile case of violence against a person of color, or in the LGBTQ community, or another community of “Others”, usually by the police or a small group of “vigilantes”, (see Matthew Shepard, or recent violence against Mosques and Synagogues), and we have an explosion of protests, awareness is high, the news covers it, and then it goes away, and then it happens again, and again, and we are still all in this together.
Here is the point in this piece where I’m supposed to give you the solution.  Well, I don’t have it.  I wish I did.  This ability for people to hate, and hurt each other is deep seeded.  All I can do is look inside myself and pray that I am not part of the problem.  I may see that I have some work to do there, and I must do that work.  If I can honestly do that, maybe then I can step up and reach out, speak out to those in my life, who need to hear the message of love, not hate, and encourage them to do the work they need to do to change their mindset.  If I can honestly do that, maybe then I can reach beyond the people in my life, to those I encounter in the world around me, to those who, seeing me stand up, may take a glance and say, hey, what is he doing, what is he talking about?  Maybe that will make someone take another look at what they think and what they do and how they can work to change and help build a culture of love.
As Christians we are Beatitude people, (Matthew 5:1-12), and in this day, at this time, we all need to share this attitude with all those around us.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gave us a new way to think about, act on, and address the “Other”.  He didn’t call them different, or the problem, or the enemy, or treat them with scorn, and try to keep them down, or kill them; no, he called the “Other” BLESSED.
Blessed is the Other, for to look at the Other is to look into a Mirror, and when we look into a Mirror, we see the Face of God.
Your Monday Morning Chaplain

June 1, 2020

Hello Everyone!

Well it’s June, and here is the first installment of my Summertime series, “Monday Morning Chaplain”. I hope it fits.

As things start to open up a little from the “stay safe and stay home” requests in response to this pandemic, we are all hearing a lot about “normal” these days. People want things to get back to normal, back to the routines that kept our lives in order over these past years. Others are looking for a “new normal”, a way to get some routine going in this age of social distancing, wearing masks in public, and being careful about what we touch and who we get close to. Didn’t it used to be normal to want to change the things around us, to get out of our normal everyday activities and places, take a break, maybe a weekend away, a week at the beach, anything to get out of the normal routine? At least it was normal to complain about our normal lives, our jobs, and all the things we had to do on the weekends because we were so busy during the week. We had to clean our houses, run errands, be around our families, all those same old friends doing the same old things. We were tired of being tied down to all those things we HAD to do in our normal everyday existence.

Now it seems to be normal to want to have back all of the things we were tired of in the past. We want to be busy at work, would love to be able to run errands freely, whenever we want, not worried about standing 6 feet apart, or about the person who is not wearing a mask invading our safe zone, or people who are essential, or people for who it is essential to stay home. Please, there is too much to worry about, get us back to our normal, care free existence!!

But, If we really think about it, normal is a strange concept. Do you remember 2 Summers ago? Was it the same as last summer? How about Christmas 2018, was it the same as 2019? Or most of your weekends the past few months before Covid 19, were they all the same? Is there a normal weekend, a normal school year, a normal work week, a normal way we live our lives? I think we’d be hard pressed to find anything “normal” about our day-to-day lives. Change and variety have always been the normal of our lives.

To find answers to questions like these I try to go to the core of who I am, of what guides me in reacting to the things around me. I hope, in most cases, it is my faith that informs my decisions. As people of Faith, as Spiritual beings, we have certain things that we are made up of. We love people and we care about how others are doing. We want to help people when we can. We want people to be safe, and fed, and happy, and to feel secure and respected. We go out of our way to be kind and merciful. We forgive others when they wrong us, are happy for them when they are happy, and cry with them when they are sad. We get angry when we see racism, (as we are today with what just happened to George Floyd in Minnesota and the protests we are seeing all over the country), bullying, crimes against people because of what they believe or because they live their lives differently than others. We are empathetic people and we want all of God’s creation to be free to achieve what God has planned. This is who we are, this is how we look at life as Children of God. As long as we keep doing these things, standing up for and with those being wronged, we are being our true selves, same as we always have been.

Maybe things are more normal than we think…

Your Monday Morning Chaplain

May 28, 2020

Hello Everyone,
I hope all of you are finally starting to relax a little after this very strange Spring Semester and that you are finding a good rhythm to your day-to-day activities.  I am finishing up some end of Semester work and am starting to look forward to the Summer lull, (which may not be much of a lull this year!).  I want to let you know that I will be starting a Summer weekly  e-mail series called “The Monday Morning Chaplain” ,  which will be an e-mail to this group and a post to our Trinity College Newman Club Facebook Page. (if you haven’t joined yet please do!)  I am letting you know  this so you will be excited to check this email or our Facebook Page every Monday by noon to see what exciting and perceptive insights I may have about the goings on in the world around us. (yeah, right)  I am also letting you know that if you want to opt out and not receive these weekly gems, (ahem), this would be the time to do it.  Just reply to this message and I will remove you from this list.  (Really, I won’t be offended.  Well maybe a little. 🙂)  I hope this effort will help a little in keeping us all connected as we pass the Summer months and lead back into a, hopefully, gathered on campus, Fall Semester.
So, check back Monday and get ready to be wowed! (or put to sleep on a cloudy Monday…)
Stay well and God Bless!
Your Monday Morning Chaplain