Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Fathers' Day on Many Levels

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
“Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mark 4: 35-41)

Happy Father’s Day to you all!

It always amazes me that no matter what the readings that happen to fall on the third Sunday in June, that they are always applicable to the vocation of Fatherhood.

So many of us have found ourselves in stormy waters only to be calmed down by dad… I know I have.  It was after my first (and only) car wreck… I thought I was going to die and that my Dad was going to kill me.  As I was freaking out just like the apostles, after letting me freak out for a while, my Father came in and calmed me down, calming the storm and helping me see that I’ll be able to make it across the sea.

It is a particular role of Fathers to keep perspective for their families.  To be able to see beyond the storm of issues that the family faces at the moment and keep the motion toward the shore.  Most especially the heavenly shore. 

What was the danger that the apostles faced in the storm?  The wind? The tossing of the boat by the waves?  NO!  They had Christ with them and, if so, then no harm could come to them. The danger that threatened to overcome them was their lack of faith.  Fathers, this is the greatest danger to your families.  You have had your children baptized and, in doing so, Christ dwells in them and in your home just as He dwelt in the boat with the disciples.  However, if faith is not nourished and allowed to grow, then the dangers of the world can threaten them.  Only then does the Christian household become not only aware of but afraid of the world.  In other words, faith is a gift. Once the gift is given it is up to you to see that it is used well. So, Fathers, I hope that this Father’s Day you begin anew to cultivate faith in your homes.  For it is faith and only faith that can bring your families through the storms of life. And I offer three things for consideration as a path to becoming the Father God desires:

I hope you become models of prayer, and in so doing show your family an example of Christ.  

I hope that you treat your wives like the crown of creation and in so doing show your children the love of God the Father. 

And I hope that you never stop learning about the faith for in so doing you will become a witness to the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit.   


Fathers you have a tough job! Know of my prayers for you and my confidence that you are doing a good job especially by bringing your children to Mass. 

This Fathers’ Day weekend we also have the world looking not only at the blessing of fatherhood in general but also paying attention to our Holy Father as well.  And when the Holy Father speaks, we the Church should listen. Many of you have seen or at least have heard about the recent encyclical put out by Pope Francis about the environment,  “Laudato Si”  To preface, I’m just as much of a red-blooded American as the next Ft. Wayne native…so when someone says the words “climate change” or “environment” I normally cringe or roll my eyes.  But I have to say that this encyclical hit the nail on the head in many ways.   

The main theme running throughout the encyclical is the reality that we do not have two separate problems, one of an environmental nature and one of a societal nature.  Rather, our environmental problems stem from a societal problem.  We will never solve the problems of our environment by laws alone. We must change our cultures.  

I quote:  “We must regain the conviction that we need one another,  that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that lighthearted superficiality has done us no good. When the foundations of social life are corroded, what ensues are battles over conflicting interests, new forms of violence and brutality, and obstacles to the growth of a genuine culture of care for the environment.” You can access the full encyclical through the Vatican’s website: Vatican.va I urge you to read it.

Father’s Day… We heard in the Gospel today, “Who is this who even the seas and the wind obey?”  When the Creator speaks the creation listens.  When Dad talks, the children should listen.  What makes Dad happy?  When the children put into practice all that the Father has taught them. Our Holy Father has taught us what the Creator expects of His creation.  Let’s make Dad proud. 

Happy Father’s Day to you all!

--Father Jacob Meyer, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents

Monday, June 22, 2015

Life Pledge, Patrick Joseph Wheeler, CFP

The Confraternity of Penitents rejoices at the Life Pledge of Patrick Joseph Wheeler, June 20, 2015. CFP Visitor Father Jacob Meyer received Patrick's pledge to live the CFP Rule and Constitutions for Life. We reproduce Father Jacob's homily here along with photos of Patrick's pledging and celebration thereafter. Thanks be to God for the grace of Patrick's pledge.

Patrick Wheeler answers "present" at the beginning of the Pledging Ceremony

Therefore, that I might not become too elated,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-9)

R. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Fear the LORD, you his holy ones,
for nought is lacking to those who fear him.
The great grow poor and hungry;
but those who seek the LORD want for no good thing.
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Come, children, hear me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Which of you desires life,
and takes delight in prosperous days?
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. (PS 34:8-9, 10-11, 12-13)

Patrick making his pledge and Father Jacob receiving it. Witnesses Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP (left) and Lucy Fernandez, CFP (right)

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
R. Alleluia, alleluia. (2 Cor. 8:9)

Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Mt 6: 24-34)

The signing of Patrick's life pledge

My joy could not be more for you this day, Patrick, and not only for you and the Confraternity of Penitents but, indeed, for the Church. And is it not the providence of God that we have this beautiful ceremony on the day when we we have these glorious readings for Franciscans? I mean, really? Do I have to preach? 

The first reading is about the thorn in the side. And no, Franciscans are not the thorn in the side of the Church, although sometimes they might think they are. That thorn in the side is our desires, our inordinate passions, our concupiscence. This beautiful life of self-denial, this beautiful life of living the way of St. Francis, is the remedy to the thorn. When the Lord says “My grace is sufficient for you,” what does he mean? He means that through this beautiful life of sacrifice and of penance, the grace that you receive is the very remedy for the thorn. And it is the remedy for sin itself. For it is in denying yourself that the Lord gives you the grace to master yourself, to master your passions, and so become as God has created you to be. That is ultimately what this is about.

Patrick, this pledge that you make is a particular way of life that helps you become who God created you to be. You said, before we walked in here, that you really thought that God has been calling you to this, and we agree! We think God has been calling you to this because in this life, not only will you grow in holiness, but the Church will also resound because the more people who live this way of life, the more people who live the life of penance, the life of prayer, the life of sacrifice, the greater conduit they become for grace to flow into the Church so souls can be saved. Most especially yours, right? But then also, other souls of the Church. 

Madeline clothes Patrick in his crucifix pendant.

And then of course we come the Gospel verse, that beautiful verse in between the two alleluia’s. “Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich so that by his poverty, we might become rich.” In fact, that is the mystery of the Franciscan life. It is a giving up of everything the world supposedly has to offer that we gain more than the world could ever offer. Because it is just in giving up everything that the world offers that we gain the greatest experience of the Lord and Savior, this is how we gain trust in God and not only trust in God but also the ability to live out that life in freedom and to show the world what it is that Christ beckons them to. Out of the worldliness, out of the cares, so that we might live the Gospel, so that we might have no more worries. The world has so many worries. 

One thing that I love about the Confraternity of Penitents is the uniform. You know--the uniform! The dress restrictions, right? I just think they are a great idea! As someone who wears a uniform, I know what a blessing that is! When you wake up in the morning, there is no anxiety! What should I wear? Is this appropriate? Whatever it is, there is no question. For me it is even simpler. Black or black. That’s it. I know you have a couple of variations. But regardless, it is beautiful. When we get rid of the things of the world, we do not have to worry as the world worries. And that is my prayer for you, Patrick, that as you continue to deepen your life in this beautiful pledge, and this beautiful way of life of the Confraternity of Penitents, that the worries of the world pass away and the worries of God become your worries. That is the goal. Take on the worries of God.

And what is the worry of God? God thirst for souls. He thirsts for you and for every single person on this earth. He cares not for food or for drink or for clothing. He cares for the hearts of men. And my wish for you is that your hope might be his hope, hopefully through your sacrifices and offering those for the sake of the whole world, that many more hearts might be his, that many more hearts might come to know him, love him and serve him. For that is what truly satisfies the heart, the love of God. That is the only thing that will bring happiness to the heart. 

Patrick receives the cord of life pledging.

And so the readings could not be more perfect except for this, and this puts the cherry on top. Today is Saturday and today is a day dedicated to the Blessed Mother. And that makes today so perfect. Francis knew this charism of poverty so well, but Francis himself would say that he only falls in the shadow of the Blessed Mother, following after her. And though I ask you to follow after her on this day of the Blessed Mother, I ask you to do it every day. When I thought of this beautiful pledging ceremony, I thought of seven ways that the Blessed Mother can teach you what it is to live the Rule of the Confraternity. 

The first is something that you have already done. You have received the call. The Angel Gabriel came to her and she did not shy away or run away. She listened. I think that is the first thing that you can learn from the Blessed Mother. The angel of God will come to you in many different forms, many different disguises, but however he comes, you must listen. Continuously listen to the word of God especially in Holy Scripture. The tradition of the Church says that is what Our Lady was doing when the angel came to her. She was studying the word of God. And so I hope that you study the word of God often so you, like her, might be ready to receive the call to do whatever it is he asks of you in your life. 

The second thing is obedience to the Holy Spirit. The Blessed Mother is the spouse of the Spirit. When called upon by the Holy Spirit to take on this great task of bearing Christ to the world, she obeyed. I hope that you have that obedience as well, that you might bear Christ to the world and that her words might be yours, “Let it be done unto me according to Thy word.” May you not only meditate on the word of God but may you, more and more each day, seek to practice it, to bring the word of God into the world. 

Patrick receives an embrace of welcome from all life pledged members present at the pledging Mass.

Thirdly, you might not be surprised if I point this out, but her poverty of life. She left all. She left all. She embraced not only poverty in physical things but most especially poverty in those emotional things. She gave up her good name. She gave up her credibility in the eyes of the world. She gave up caring about what people might think of her, all for the sake of God. For when she received our Lord, she did so in a precarious situation. How many people do you think believed her? “I’m pregnant, but it’s by the Holy Spirit.” “Mmm hmm, Mary.” Do you think she was free from judging eyes, from gossiping lips? In this life, you will be judged as well. You will look different. You will act different. You will live different in because you have accepted Jesus Christ radically into your life. Poverty of life. Not just poverty from material things but poverty in the way you live, and your life is not your own. So live it well, knowing that if you bear Christ, you will have a beautiful relationship with Christ. Fear not. Trudge out into the world . No gossiping lips will harm you. No judgmental stares will distract you for Christ is in your midst.

Number four. The Blessed Mother teaches us to avoid all evil. When the Holy Family fled into Egypt, what were they fleeing? Herod, right? They were fleeing from persecution. They were fleeing from evil. They were fleeing in the sense that they wanted Christ to dwell in their life. Guard your life, Patrick, so that the Lord might grow. This day the Lord is going to come into your life in a very special way and so you must guard this life. You must make sure that you flee from the world, in a sense. Do not allow the allurements of the world or the dangers to come in and to tarnish this way of life. Pray to St. Joseph who protected the Holy Family. May he protect this beautiful life of a pledged member of the Confraternity. 

Patrick with his mother, brother, and Fr. Jacob following his life pledge.

Patrick cuts his cake as the celebration begins!

Number five. Intercede for those who are in danger. In this life you will encounter those who do not realize the beauty of your life and do not realize that they themselves need to live this life, and do not realize that they need to draw away from the world. And so intercede for them just like the Blessed Mother did at Cana. The bride and groom were most especially in need of joy  which wine symbolizes in the Gospel. Be like the Blessed Mother and go to Christ our Savior and intercede for the world. This pledge is not just for yourself. It is for the Church, for all of the people of the world. Intercede for them. Offer up your sacrifices so that the world might have joy, which consists in drawing away from the world towards Christ. 

Number six. Suffer for the sake of the world as Our Lady did at the base of the cross. How often you suffer in this life! You will suffer because of poverty. You will suffer because of want. You will suffer because of so many things, but in your recognition that God is more important, you take the sufferings and turn them into joy. May you offer those sufferings up so that the world might know the joy of the Gospel. 

At the Confraternity of Penitents Headquarters, Confraternity members and friends celebrate a breakfast brunch buffet with Patrick and his family.

And last. Remember that all of these events in the Blessed Mother’s life led to her coronation in heaven. Remember that this life that you lead ultimately has a promise. And the promise of eternal happiness with the Lord is for ever. St. Paul says, “So run the race so as to win the crown.” So follow after the Blessed Mother and long for a crown like hers, a crown of humility and majesty, a crown of sorrow but of joy, a crown that brings you closer to our Lord and Savior. May this day be a day of joy for us all. May Mary, the Mother of us all, intercede for you today, Patrick, as you take on this beautiful life for yourself and for the Church. 

--Father Jacob Meyer, Visitor, Confraternity of Penitents