Wednesday, November 21, 2007

All Saints of the Augustinian Order

This month we remember and celebrate the important Catholic Dogma of the Communion of Saints. This dogma reminds us that we are all saints in God's reign by our baptism. The Church is a continuing communion of people here now and those who have gone before us. We are all Graced as God's children. All called to continue to share the love that God has given us in a life of Grace.

As Augustinian we remember that some of us now and in history have been called to deepen their baptism by following the Rule of Our Holy Father Augustine. We stop this month to remember, and give thanks and praise for the gift that we all are to one another in community here on earth and from heaven above.

I would like to remember and give thanks to all our saints here and now in the AIHM.

Bishop Timothy for his gift of humility in service to leadership and his trust in me and our Order and providing an ecclesiastical home for us in which to minister and worship. Like Augustine said, "for you I am bishop, with you I am Christian." Tim, I think you and Augustine will make great pals in heaven someday.

Brother John Bartholomew for his gift of keeping us all grounded. There is no pretense in him. He is the real deal and keeps us all honest in the face of reality. He has a real mystic soul, too.

Our Oblate brother Casey for his gentle spirit. He has shown us all that love is quiet but strong. He is a gift of real joy. Joy shows the true presence of God in our midst. ( And his partner David for his gift of support to us all. David, you are more Augustinian than you may realize and a vital part of our fraternity.)

Sister Sharie Marie, who reminds me of many of the gifts that Monica must have given to her son. You have a depth of wisdom that comes from the special vocation of motherhood. Your support of your brothers and sisters is very important to me.

Sister Lyngine Dominique-Marie, who also brings a great joy and laughter to our communio. She has a smile that can wipe away all the fears and anxieties of daily life and reminds us that God's love really can conquer anything. The support and understanding you bring have become a real bedrock this past year.

Father Christopher Ambrose who has chosen his patron name well. Like Ambrose you have a theological mind that is keen but not beyond the understanding of those to whom you minister. You make your reflections pastorally relevant. Your gift of spiritual and theological reflection blend well into the history of Augustinian theological thought and serve us all well.

May Our Holy Father Augustine and Mother Monica and all our brother and sister friars share their gift of prayer with us as we continue the journey they once trod until we meet them in the New Jerusalem. Amen

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Today, October 13, is the commemoration of all deceased benefactors of the Order. As Augustinians we are especially mindful that we walk this journey together with others. Our charity, poverty, and obedience, as Augustinians, is linked to the charity that we show others in our community and our ministry. Augustine taught that love covers a multitude of sins.

Our love for our family, friends, and those who were good to our community does not stop when our journey on this earth ends, for it continues into God's Kingdom. Some of the benefactors whom we remember today include:

1. Dorothy Menna, my mother, who was a great emotional and financial supporter of our community in its early days.

2. Michael Dunn, a dear friend to our community who God called home much to early, but we now have his help in heaven.

3. Fr. Kevin, a Roman priest who was a great financial benefactor for many years in the beginning of our journey.

Our benefactors list includes all of the deceased relatives of our Oblates and Friars as well. As Augustinians we are mindful that we are products from where we come and are always grateful for the emotional and spiritual support of our family and friends who made it possible for us to say yes to God on our day of promises, reception, or profession.

I remember one day during my novitiate with the OSA when my mother was visiting. My novice Master told my mother, after she questioned something that he was doing with us, that I belonged to them now. A true Italian mother, she reminded HIM that if it were not for her, I would not be with them, that I was her son and ALWAYS would be "hers." Mom, help me never to forget those words of wisdom with our own members!

As our Mother Monica taught us, remember these souls at the altar of God!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Belated thoughts on the Solemnity of Augustine

It has taken me a week or so to reflect and comprehend all that happened on our Annual Chapter two weekends ago. Besides the wonderful celebration of new life: a new professed friar and three new novice friars, something more important happened.

One of our novices shared this thought with me that is so at the heart of the Augustinian gift to the Church:

"the retreat really made a huge difference in how I pray---changing it from duty to relationship. That isn't something I've experienced. So, thank you for that gift."

It causes me to pause and to be grateful for our AIHM Order and know that our form of common life and living of the Rule is making a difference, however small in the life of the Body of Christ.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Solemnity of the Dormition and Assumption of the BVM

HAPPY FOUNDER'S DAY to the AIHM Community!

August 15th, the Solemnity of the Assumption is the Birthday of the Order of Augustinians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This year we celebrate our fourteenth anniversary.

The Feast of the Dormition and Assumption of Our Blessed Mother is a celebration for all of humanity. It shows to all generations that God is faithful to the covenant. Mary lived her life trusting in God's mercy and love from her childhood to the events of the Annunciation, to Cana, Calvary, the Upper Room, and finally her dormition (falling asleep). She trusted that God would be faithful.

God was faithful. God did not spare her pain, trial, disappointment. But was with her through it all as well as in the joy and tribulation. Mary was very aware that God was present in her life of quiet prayer and quiet leadership in the early community of believers. And God was faithful granting her the gift as the NEW EVE. Assumed into heaven, she goes to prepare a place of welcome for us with her Son who has opened the gates of eternity.

The lesson for us: persevere in faith, hope, and love. Fourteen years ago two simple young men formed this "new community" of Augustinians. Told it would never work, told it was not a fit, fourteen years later we prepare to welcome a new professed friar and three new novice friars: men, women, gay, straight, white, brown. After fourteen years and some times of dormition, we too, as AIHM brothers and sisters are having a share in the assumption promise of our God!

"Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!"

*On a personal note, I want to offer God thanks especially through the prayers of Mary, Our Mother of Grace, St. Joseph, St. Rita, and my own saintly deceased mom and dad for the gift of a new job and career. Today, on the great Vigil, I was offered a position on a Middle School math faculty for a very good public school district in Delaware. The compensation and benefits are making me very happy and grateful. The past two years of struggle with Master's degree study, state certification, and personal loss have yielded great rewards. God is faithful and marvelous are God's works!!!!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Solemnity of Peter and Paul, Apostles

Our Holy Father Augustine wrote, "Now, if the line of bishops who succeed one another is to be considered, with how much certainty and advantage do we begin with Peter? He was the figure of the whole Church, and our Lord said to him, 'Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail over it.' " letter 53 2-3

What is this rock of Peter? A man who denied Jesus, hid in fear, and was obstinate in opening the community to the uncircumcised. And, a man whose love for his God led him to chains and the cross in imitation of his Lord.

Upon what do we place our hearts, our lives? A one Godhead Trinity of Persons bound in love, manifesting that love incarnate in Jesus, God made human, a love that reached into our greatest fear-death, conquering with new life, and continuing to grow and invite into the Trinity of love, through the Spirit, all persons until the end of the ages. That is the legacy of Peter and Paul. They were the first ambassadors of this invitation. They showed us the ultimate answer to the challenge of this love.

God builds upon the imperfect and fallible nature of our humanity with the virtues of the gifts of faith, hope, and love. It is the gift of God's loving life in us that the gates of hell can not overcome. The love of God is infallible and perfect. Our participation and growth in that love is what defines the Church, and our Order's part in it.

Peter and Paul did not always agree on the particulars of how the faith was to grow and spread, or even who and how should initiation be offered, but they both put their lives up for the love and growth of the community to which they ministered, and we honor them BOTH for this. As Christians, may we focus more on what we hold in common rather than what separates us, acknowledge God's supremacy of love and mercy, and respect our differences and diversity of gifts.

I echo the prayer of St. Augustine for my bishop and all bishops, " Lord, teach me what to teach, and teach me what I should hold fast."

Friday, June 8, 2007

"...In All Things, Charity"

The title above is from a famous quote of Our Holy Father, St. Augustine, "In essentials, unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity."

Recently, Father Ragheed, pastor of the Chaldean Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, Iraq, was murdered with three sub-deacons after celebrating together Holy Mass, the sacrament of LOVE. Martyred by religious intolerants bent on hate after years of persecution in a land that seems to thrive on intolerance and hatred.

But, the deeper truth of our God is revealed in the following letter and deseves, no...NEEDS to be heard:

Here is a translation of a letter written posthumously to Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni by a Muslim friend of his who is a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Father Ragheed and three deacons were shot and killed in Mosul, Iraq, on Sunday after Mass.

* * *

In the name of the compassionate and merciful God,

Ragheed, my brother,

I ask your forgiveness for not being with you when those criminals opened fire against you and your brothers. The bullets that have gone through your pure and innocent body have also gone through my heart and soul.

You were one of the first people I met when I arrived to Rome. We met in the halls of the Angelicum and we would drink our cappuccino in the university's cafeteria. You impressed me with your innocence, joy, your pure and tender smile that never left you.

I always picture you smiling, joyful and full of zest for life. Ragheed is to me innocence personified; a wise innocence that carries in its heart the sorrows of his unhappy people. I remember the time, in the university's dining room, when Iraq was under embargo and you told me that the price of a single cappuccino would have satisfied the needs of an Iraqi family for a whole day.

You told me this as if you were feeling guilty for being far away from your persecuted people and unable to share in their sufferings …

In fact, you returned to Iraq, not only to share the suffering and destiny of your people but also to join your blood to the blood of thousands of Iraqis killed each day. I will never forget the day of your ordination [Oct. 13, 2001] in the [Pontifical] Urbanian University … with tears in your eyes, you told me: "Today, I have died to self" … a hard thing to say.

I didn't understand it right away, or maybe I didn't take it as seriously as I should have. … But today, through your martyrdom, I have understood that phrase. … You have died in your soul and body to be raised up in your beloved, in your teacher, and so that Christ would be raised up in you, despite the sufferings, sorrows, despite the chaos and madness.

In the name of what god of death have they killed you? In the name of which paganism have they crucified you? Did they truly know what they were doing?

O God, we don't ask you for revenge or retaliation. We ask you for victory, a victory of justice over falsehood, life over death, innocence over treachery, blood over the sword. … Your blood will not have been shed in vain, dear Ragheed, because with it you have blessed the soil of your country. And from heaven, your tender smile will continue to light the darkness of our nights and announce to us a better tomorrow.

I ask your forgiveness, brother, for when the living get together they think they have all the time in the world to talk, visit, and share feelings and thoughts. You had invited me to Iraq … I dreamed of that visit, of visiting your house, your parents, your office. … It never occurred to me that it would be your tomb that one day I would visit or that it would be verses from my Quran that I would recite for the repose of your soul …

One day, before your first trip to Iraq after a prolonged absence, I went with you to buy souvenirs and presents for your family. You spoke with me of your future work: "I would like to preside over the people on the base of charity before justice" -- you said.

It was difficult for me to imagine you a "canonical judge" … And today your blood and your martyrdom have spoken for you, a verdict of fidelity and patience, of hope against all suffering, of survival, in spite of death, in spite of everything.

Brother, your blood hasn't been shed in vain, and your church's altar wasn't a masquerade. … You assumed your role with deep seriousness until the end, with a smile that would never be extinguished … ever.

Your loving brother,

Adnam Mokrani
Rome, June 4, 2007
Professor of Islamic Studies in the Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture,
Pontifical Gregorian University

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

We Were Wrong...Looking forward to the Feast of Our Lady of Grace, June1

The Augustinian Feast of Our Lady of Grace is Friday, June 1. This Lady of Grace day is a day when our postulants and novices make their petitions to advance in formation with the Order, praying with Our Mother of Grace for the gift of the Holy Spirit to trust God and say yes to God's will in their lives.

This feast day I will also pray for a special grace for our country. The theme of forgiveness and the asking to be forgiven one's wrongs is central to an Augustinian spirituality of religious life. (Rule, Ch. 6) Our country needs to be able to say that we were wrong and ask forgiveness.

We were wrong about Sadam as a real and immediate threat to our security. We were wrong about WMDs. We were wrong about terrorist connections. We were wrong in thinking we could provide a better way of life. We were wrong to have replaced Sadam's torture camps with our own.

Perhaps why part of the outcry against the war is lacking luster is because it is hard for Americans to admit that we can be wrong. Our men and women in uniform have, for the very most part, served with courage and honor, but we were wrong in asking them to fight this war. There is no lack of support for the troops in wanting them home now!

Vietnam taught us that America will not always win, and Iraq might be teaching us that America will not always be right. We were wrong. We need to ask forgiveness, try to make amends to the Iraqi people and our own military, and learn from our failure, forgive ourselves, and move on.

Our Lady of Grace, help us see the value of true contrition and use the gifts of the Spirit of Wisdom and Right Judgement. Amen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

St. Rita of Cascia: Patience in Trial-A Mark of Love

Today is the Augustinian feast of St. Rita of Cascia. My last entry was a little about her life. I have spent the last nine days offering a novena of masses in honor of St. Rita to the Glory of God. And, I had a number of intentions both personally and for the Order and Church, but whether or not these are answered, more importantly, I learned something.

One of the hardest things for me is to be patient, to wait, to gather more information, and to see a hopeful solution in the midst of trial. I am a rather strong "J" on the Myers-Briggs. That is both a gift and a curse-to be a Judger. Circumstances in my life the past few years have really challenged me to grow beyond that gift to learn patience, to see the journey as being even more important that the destination.

St. Rita wanted to be a nun, but her life took a different direction. She was a wife and mother first. She fulfilled an important role as wife and mother to help bring about peace to her village. She waited over thrity years and many challenges before realizing her dream to be a nun at the Augustinian convent in Cascia.

Our AIHM Order is about to turn 14 years old. This August, God willing, we will have our first profession of vows apart from any of the founding memebers. Fourteen years! Everything is possible only by the journey that led to hear and now, the trials, the pain.

The tradition holds that Rita will send the rose but also the thorn regarding a petition and answer to prayer. That notion always scared me. I have enough thorns in my life. LOL But, I remember a poem I wrote in high school: In order to admire and apprciate the beaty of the rose, you must risk, even endure the thorns.

Thank you St. Rita for your example and prayers. Glory be to you God in your angels and saints!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jerry Falwell and St. Rita?

Yesterday was the first day of the Novena to our Augustinian sister, St. Rita of Cascia. She was a wife, mother, widow, and nun. Her husband was killed in a local feud and she worked tirelessly to bring peace to the two families after his death, rather than seek revenge.

Yesterday alos marked the death of Jerrry Falwell. His preaching and political activism was divisive and hurtful to many people, especially in the LGBT community. My first thought was, "thank God he's dead, but was about 20 years too late." I knew that judgemental thought did not deserve to amke it to vocal speech, but I did think it.

God gave me an answer and challenge durring my celebration of Mass for the opening of the Novena to St. Rita. From the preface of the Eucharist for the propers of the Mass of St. Rita:

"...ever living God...In the person of St. Rita you show us a wonderful example. She teaches us how to love you, Father and...all your children."

From the readings, first Paul says:

"Never repay injury with not avenge yourselves; leave that to God...conquer evil with good."

So my prayer at Mass was for God's mercy and forgiveness upon Rev Falwell. The love and mercy and forgiveness that I myself will need at my hour of death.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Christians and Hate Crimes?

Once again, Congress has taken up legislation to expand Hate Crimes to include matters of sexual orientation and gender identity. The matter this week passed the House of Representatives, but not without a significant effort and only by about 60 % of the affirmative.

It is the religious right, once again, mostly fundamentalist and pentecostal American Christians pressing against this legislation, and President Bush, that self proclaimed Godly Christian, has threatened to veto it. They site concerns over first amendment free speech issues. And, perhaps they should be concerned, concerned not about their free speech, but about the morality of their speech. These Christians use scripture, not just to proclaim a moral stance, but to truly incite hate. When you declare that you know someone is going to hell, you stand in ultimate judgement. If someone is going to hell, then certainly they have no rights left here on earth? Or so it is easy to make that leap of thought. And from that easy leap of thought to a leap of hateful action.

Augustine, in one of his sermons commenting on the understanding of scripture said:

"When you understand anything in the scriptures, it is love that is manifesting itself to you; when you fail to understand, it is love that is hiding itself from you." (Sermon 350)

If a Christian's understanding of scripture leads them to condemn another, or leads others to consider acts of violence, then they are not really understanding the scriptures.

Free speech is a fundamental and sacred right, but the speech of religious leaders is not political speech, not the speech that is protected in the constitution. The speech of religious pastors commenting on scripture is not political, but ultimate religious teaching that is used to justify actions on moral grounds. This type of speech goes beyond protection; it goes to responsible usage and discretion.

Pastors, preachers, listen to Augustine's warning on the fruit of your scriptural understanding. Jesus himself said, you will know them by the fruit they bear.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Equality Forum: A Rainbow of Prayer

Today begins Equality Forum Week in Philadelphia. This is a week long cultural, political, and social festival to celebrate, honor, and continue the struggles of the LGBT community for equal rights under the law and in society. It's organizers over a decade ago placed this celebration in Philadelphia because Philadelphia was the site of the first public and organized march/protest by LGBT persons and supporters nearly two years before the more famous Stonewall incident in New York City.

The Rainbow flag was adopted by the LGBT community. The Alyson Almanac: A Treasury of Information for the Gay and Lesbian Community describes Rainbow Flag as follows:
In 1978, Gilbert Baker of San Francisco designed and made a flag with six stripes representing the six colors of the rainbow as a symbol of gay and lesbian community pride. Slowly the flag took hold, offering a colorful and optimistic alternative to the more common pink triangle symbol. Today it is recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers, and is flown in lesbian and gay pride marches worldwide. In 1989, the rainbow flag received nationwide attention after John Stout successfully sued his landlords in West Hollywood, when they prohibited him from displaying the flag from his apartment balcony. Meanwhile, Baker is still in San Francisco, and still making more flags. (

Yesterday, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County dedicated their new rainbow flag as a welcoming and affirming community. The local MCC and our own St. Mary of Grace Church, with our Bishop Timothy, were part of the celebration. I was honored to give the benediction. Part of the benediction is reprinted here for your consideration and reflection:

"O Light within us and beyond us, you consist and call forth the magnificent colors of the rainbow-

RED-the color of the blood shed by so many before us for being who they were
ORANGE-the color of a sun rise announcing the a new day of hope
YELLOW-the color of warming love of all who stand with us and our partnerships
GREEN-the color of the creative energies that mark our community
BLUE-the color of the oceans' depths; sign of our integrity
PURPLE-the color of sorrow for we are not yet where we should or belong to be.

May the color we each contribute from our person hood: gay, straight, male, female, transgendered, blend in community and common struggle and active love to create a light to dispel the darkness of fear and hate."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Remember Me at the Altar

Today, I offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the eternal rest and memory of Loretta Gatto, my best friend Keith's mother. Thursday was her fifth anniversary of birth to life eternal. Our Holy Mother, St. Monica upon her own impending death after her and Augustine shared their mystical vision at Ostia, said "care not where you rest this body, just remember me at the altar of God."

I always remember that when I have the sacred opportunity and obligation to offer Mass for the dead. There is perhaps nothing greater that we can do but to gather at the altar, the eternal banquet of love, and celebrate the life of our loved ones and unite that celebration and life with the eternal memory of the love and life of Christ.

Augustine also taught, though, a sobering fact that our remembering of the dead and all our prayerful good wishes are more meant for us who are left behind than those who have gone before. We need to care and watch for each other here who are left behind to make the reality of the love of the altar real and meaningful NOW for each other gathered and also those who are still scattered.

Loretta, remember us as you journey beyond with Christ in the love of the Trinity. May we left behind who remember you remember each other still here with loving kindness while we have the time!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Our Mother of Good Counsel, Guide us!

This blog is dedicated on the Augustinian feast of Our Mother of Good Counsel, April 26, 2007. I pray that the deposit of wisdom, the house of the Word, show and example to me how to house and nurture the Wisdom of God in the Word in this blogging ministry.

I pray that our leaders find the wisdom to help build a world of communal values rather than individual interests. The very survival of our planet may depend on it. I hope that by reflecting on Augustinian values of Gospel living our small part of the Body of Christ may be of service to others.