Saturday, October 24, 2009
Oct. 25, 2009
Mark 10: 46-52
Christian Brothers, Iona College
“On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, Bartimaeus began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, son of David, have pity on me’” (Mark 10: 47).
Jesus has come to the last 15 miles of his journey up to Jerusalem, passing thru Jericho and starting the ascent toward the holy city. He’s a pilgrim going up for Passover. He’s the Son of David en route to David’s city. He’s the Son of Man “on the way” to his destiny (10:38,45,52).
The blind man, the son of Timaeus, interrupts his begging for alms from the crowds of pilgrims following this age-old road to beg for something better than alms. Evidently he knows Jesus is a healer. No pressure from the people around him—including the disciples, probably—will deter him from calling out to Jesus to have pity on him, to be allowed to come close to Jesus and be saved.
When Jesus has summoned Bartimaeus, he asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (10:51). This is exactly the same question that he asked the sons of Zebedee in the immediately preceding passage (10:36), which was our gospel last Sunday. Mark starkly contrasts the 2 favored disciples and this stranger, this beggar. James and John also are convinced that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah, and see him as a means to personal power and glory. The blind beggar sees Jesus as a teacher and personal savior: “Master”—Mark uses the Aramaic emphatic form of “rabbi,” rabbouni, meaning “my teacher”—“My teacher, I want to see” (10:51).
In calling Jesus the Son of David, Bartimaeus implicitly sees him as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah that was our 1st reading: “The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. I will gather…the blind and the lame in their midst. I will console them and guide them. I am a father to Israel.” (31:7-9) The Son of David will restore Israel in joy, will gather the lost, will care for the weak, the ill, the helpless. Leadership and salvation aren’t about power but about service: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45). As we saw last week, James and John haven’t grasped that yet; none of the apostles have.
This isn’t to say that Bartimaeus has grasped it. But his ambition is noble: “Master, I want to see.” In Mark’s gospel there’s a lot of blindness—very little of the physical kind, mostly of the spiritual kind. James and John and the rest of the 12 are blind. Jesus’ own family are blind (3:20-21). The Pharisees, the scribes, and the Sanhedrin are blind. The soldiers who will arrest Jesus and torture him, and Pontius Pilate, who will try him, are blind. The only ones who see are people like the woman with the hemorrhage, maybe (5:25-34), the Syro-Phoenician woman (7:24-30), the woman who anoints Jesus with “costly genuine spikenard” at Bethany (14:3-9), and most obviously the centurion at the crucifixion (15:39). All of these, incidentally, are outsiders, pariahs, as far as the chosen people, the elite, and the disciples are concerned. Mark is telling us something thereby. Asking to be able to see means knowing that Jesus enables us to see the created world and our relationships with other people in their true light. Asking to be able to see means seeing our own need, our own helplessness (“For human beings salvation is impossible, but all things are possible for God”—10:27). Asking to be able to see is akin to the prayer of the man who wanted Jesus to cure his possessed son: “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (9:24), having enuf faith to know that we still need a lot of healing, a lot of help on our way to salvation. Bartimaeus wants to see whatever this master, this teacher, has to show him.
You’ll recall that 2 weeks ago, linked to the gospel of the rich man who couldn’t part with possessions and follow Jesus—part of this same 10th chapter of Mark (vv. 17-22)—Peter said to Jesus, “We’ve given up everything and followed you” (10:28). It’s evident of course from the disciples’ earthly ambitions and their fears that they haven’t given up everything to follow Jesus. The blind man, however, does give up the last remnant he has as he responds to Jesus’ invitation to come to him: “He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus” (10:50). He comes to Jesus with nothing, in utter need, even in desperation.
When Jesus summons the son of Timaeus to him, the people in the crowd tell the blind man, “Take courage. Get up; Jesus is calling you” (10:49). That sounds like what John Paul II used to tell us so often, doesn’t it? “Take courage” or “Do not be afraid” to answer the call of Jesus—the call to be his follower, even the call of a vocation to consecrated life. It takes courage to follow Jesus, to be sure, but what could be more encouraging than knowing that we are going to him, are going to be with him?—whether as a Christian disciple of this rabbouni or as a person totally consecrated to him by vow or ordination.
The insight that Bartimaeus has gained does something for him, again implied by our reading of Mark’s words. When Jesus came along, the beggar was sitting “by the road” (10:46). He’s not part of the disciples gathered around Jesus “on the road, on the way” but is apart from them. Once given his sight, tho “immediately he followed Jesus on the way” (10:52). Note this: Jesus told him, “Go your way” (10:52), he followed Jesus. He made the way of Jesus his own way. Bartimaeus willingly and with courage follows Jesus on this road.
The true disciples of Jesus, unlike the 12, know what following him on the way to Jerusalem means; they know what it means to be the Son of David who has pity upon all the wretched of the earth: not power and glory but death and resurrection. Now it’s up to us to have similar courage, to come to Jesus as he summons us, and to follow him to Jerusalem: the place of earthly passion and death, also the city of resurrection and eternal splendor (Rev 21:2).
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Leads Day of Recollection for SDBs, FMAs
Last Saturday, October 17, Cardinal Joseph Zen, SDB, the retired bishop of Hong Kong, offered a day of recollection at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., for all the Salesian priests, brothers, sisters, novices, and candidates (aspirants) in the New York area. Almost 90 came (most of them are in the photo above) from the communities of Newton, Haledon, North Haledon, Kenilworth, Elizabeth, Orange, Port Chester, and New Rochelle.
At Fr. Tym's funeral in Ramsey on the 20th, Fr. Tim Ploch offered these reflections (sent from San Francisco):
In my life I have lost three fathers. My biological father, Ed Ploch, passed away in 1986. Long before that, I had a first encounter with a Salesian “father,” Bernard Justen, my “father” director in the four years of my high school aspirantate. Then at the other end of my initial formation, just before being ordained a priest, I was blessed with another example of a father like Don Bosco, Joseph Tyminski. Now all three are gone.
If I love the priesthood, and I do, it’s because Fr. Tym instilled in me a deep and profound respect for this inestimable gift. He would cut right through the hypothetical arguments we used to have about whether being a Salesian or being a priest was the more fundamental part of our vocation. He taught me that being a priest is not an accident or a part time job. Salesian Priest is who I was to be. Salesian Priest is who I try to be. If Don Bosco always signed his letters with “John Bosco, Priest,” Joe Tyminski signed the letter of his life that way. No accident that he dies in the Year of the Priest. When I myself became director of those preparing for Salesian priesthood in Columbus, I took him consciously as my model, not very successfully, to imitate.
If I love the liturgy, and I do, it’s because of Joe Tyminski. Unlike some of my companions, I never got a hand slap at the altar for trying to be too trendy and thereby forgetting that the Mass is not about me the presider but about Christ the High Priest. I did however receive a few less-than-discreet liturgical coughs.
I wrote my Master’s thesis on how the act of liturgical preaching produced its effect in the congregation in a way analogous to the way the sacraments worked. He inspired me to write it, and to live it.
When I was asked to take on the role of provincial in our Eastern Province, he was one of the first ones I informed. He encouraged me all along, and corrected me often, saying, “Dear Father, I’ve been to three chapters. Now listen to me.” I know I was the benefit of his experience, wisdom, spirituality, and culinary skills on the provincial council in those years. And I know that the whole province was too.
Father Joe Tyminski was for me a walking example of Don Bosco’s advice to Michael Rua, and through him, to all of us: Make yourself loved. He could be fierce in his opinions, but he made you, he made me, love him. If we asked him to go out for a drink or something at night in Columbus, he would bark: “Stay home and read a spiritual book.” But still he had that something that Don Bosco tells us all: it’s not enough to love. They must know they are loved. Fr. Joe made us know that he loved us.
Rest in peace, dear Father. There in the heavenly liturgy, there are no more liturgical coughs, no more arrogant theology students, only the Jesus whom you served as his priest for more than 60 years. There you are with Don Bosco, whom you imitated as a Salesian for more than 70 years. Pray for us there. Pray especially that both U.S. provinces be gifted with sterling Salesian vocations like yours. Thank you for everything. To your face we never called you “the Polish prince.” But now we say, “Rest in peace, sweet Prince, dear Father.”
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I've been blessed with several true spiritual fathers in 46 years with the Salesians. I lost one of them this morning, Fr. Joe Tyminski.
Fr. Tym became director of the Salesian community in Columbus in 1974, shortly before my class of a dozen young SDB clerics arrived to start our theological studies at the Josephinum. Over the next four years he guided us spiritually, theologically, liturgically, pastorally, and in assorted other ways that had nothing to do with the book learning we were getting in our classrooms up the highway at the Joss in Worthington.
You can't describe the impact that he had on most of us--not just my class but all the classes of SDB priests that he helped form for six years at the Salesian Center, and on the brothers who were there too as part of the staff of the Boys Club or as students at Ohio Dominican or Franklin U. That impact continues--in me, certainly, as I exercise the priesthood of Jesus more than 30 years later, and, I think, also in most of my confreres who shared the experience.
Here's a version of what I wrote on this beloved priest-father (I have tears in my eyes right now) in my "official" capacity as the province's communications coordinator, and sent out to various Church and secular media:
Fr. Joseph Tyminski passed away quietly on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009, at 5:25 a.m. at Bon Secours-Maria Manor Nursing Care Center in St. Petersburg, Fla. He was three weeks short of his 90th birthday.
Throughout the province of New Rochelle, Fr. Tyminski was known simply as “Fr. Tym.” In Columbus he picked up another nickname among the seminarians, “the Silver Fox,” on account of his distinguished head of grayish-white hair—a name stolen, if you will, from the Cincinnati Reds’ manager of the time, Sparky Anderson.
Fr. Tym was born Nov. 3, 1919, in Orange, N.J. After graduating from Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., in June 1937, Joe Tyminski went to Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J., in September as a Son of Mary (“late vocation”). He was admitted to St. Joseph’s Novitiate, also at Newton, a year later.
Bro. Tyminski made his first profession of vows on Sept. 8, 1939, and graduated from the college in June 1942 with a B.A. in philosophy. His practical training was carried out at St. Michael’s School in Goshen, N.Y. (1942-1944), and Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey (1944-1945).
Bro. Tyminski began theological studies at Don Bosco College in Newton in 1945 and completed them at the Salesian seminary in Aptos, Calif. in 1949. He was ordained a priest on June 29, 1949, in the chapel of Don Bosco College.
Fr. Tym’s first priestly assignment was at Salesian High School in New Rochelle, N.Y., from 1949 to 1954, first as a teacher, then as "catechist” (campus minister), and finally as prefect of studies. Since the school was both a day and a boarding school, it entailed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week of academic, social, and spiritual
In 1954 he moved to Don Bosco Technical High School in Paterson, N.J., as the catechist. The school and community included day students, boarding students, aspirants to the Salesian brotherhood, and young Salesian brothers in their postnovitiate formation period. Five years later he was appointed director in Paterson, serving a single three-year term.
Fr. Tym became director of his alma mater, Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, in 1962. During seven years in that office he oversaw the school’s expansion, including the building of DeSales Hall, a classroom and administrative building which includes also science labs and a large auditorium.
A change in Fr. Tym’s ministry came in 1969 with his appointment as assistant pastor at Corpus Christi Church in Port Chester, N.Y., where he labored alongside the parish’s beloved pastor, Fr. Peter Rinaldi, for five years.
The six years from 1974 to 1980 probably were the highlight of Fr. Tym’s Salesian “career.” He brought his combined pastoral experience in schools and parish to the Salesian Center in Columbus, Ohio, to serve as director. The Center included a Boys Club (no girl members at the time) and the residence of the Salesian seminarians attending theological courses at the Pontifical College Josephinum and a few coadjutor brothers studying at other local colleges—all told, a community of some 50 confreres each year, a youth apostolate reaching several hundred children and staff, and an extensive apostolic program in parishes, hospitals, and the Juvenile Detention Center of Franklin County. The director’s qualities of fatherliness, experience, wisdom, availability, straightforwardness, and love for the liturgy, the priesthood, and the Church—not to mention his skill in the community’s kitchen—earned him the affection of virtually all the confreres, affection that he returned.
The high respect in which the entire province held Fr. Tyminski was reflected in his being elected as the province’s delegate to three general chapters of the Salesian Society: the 19th in 1965, 20th in 1971-1972, and 21st in 1978.
Fr. Tym joined the retreat house staff at Haverstraw, N.Y., for the year 1980-1981, after which he served for one year as dean of students for the candidates to Salesian life (“Sons of Mary”) at Don Bosco College in Newton before being named director of the entire college community (1982-1985), which also included the novices, young professed Salesians, and staff. He came to the provincial residence in New Rochelle in 1985 as director for a three-year term, which was followed by a three-year stint as pastor of Corpus Christi Church. He returned to the provincial house in 1991 for a year.
In 1992 he returned to New Jersey as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Mahwah. After seven years of dedicated ministry, he stayed a year with the candidates to Salesian life in South Orange, N.J. (1999-2000), then did another stint at Corpus Christi in Port Chester as an assistant pastor for two years.
Fr. Tym finally went into a quasi-retirement in 2002 at the Salesian Center in Columbus until the community closed in 2008. He moved to St. Philip the Apostle Residence, the Salesian retirement home in Tampa, briefly before poor health required him to move into Bon Secours-Maria Manor early in 2009.
Someone who Fr. Tym long before I did wrote in this afternoon: "Although he was never my director, I will always remember him from my two years as an aspirant in Paterson. He was a friendly, loving priest and a fine gentleman."
Requiescat in pace!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
October 11, 2009
Mark 10: 17-30
Willow Towers, New Rochelle
Wood Badge Scouters, Alpine (N.J.) Scout Camp
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10: 17).
When I was a kid growing up in Florida, we were well aware that Ponce de Leon had discovered Florida in 1513 while searching for the mythical fountain of youth—which of course he didn’t find; not only that, but he found an early grave.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade presented us with a derring-do tale of quest for the Holy Grail, which turns out to be the key to immortality. But the quest also proved fatal to many seekers who, in one of the movie’s famous lines, “did not choose wisely.”
Choice! There’s our day’s prototypical American mantra. We’re a free people, and we want, we demand, to make decisions for ourselves and not be dictated to by Church or State. (Ironically, many of us—especially young people—want to do what we choose, as long as it’s what everyone else is doing!)
The freedom that Jesus Christ offers us is the freedom to choose wisely, to choose well; to choose the good and the true; to choose the way that leads to eternal life. Jesus promises his disciples, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32), and he teaches them that he is that truth; he is the way; he is life (John 14:6).
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” In his answer, Jesus doesn’t say, “Keep the commandments.” He only reminds the man of them (10:19). When the man replies that he has observed all the commandments “from my youth” (10:20), Jesus tells him he’s still lacking something, i.e., he hasn’t earned eternal life just by keeping the commandments. More is required!
How can it be that keeping the commandments is insufficient for inheriting eternal life? What is the man, whom Jesus already loves (10:21), lacking? Complete attachment to Jesus. Jesus tells him to detach himself from his possessions, give to the poor, implicitly giving to God —“you will have treasure in heaven” (10:21)—and attach himself to Jesus: “follow me” (10:21). There’s a certain parallel here to the parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus, which we find in Luke’s Gospel (16:19-31), wherein the rich man is condemned not for anything to do with the Ten Commandments—they aren’t even mentioned—but solely because he ignored the beggar at his doorstep. Our gospel today, however, takes that attentiveness to the poor one step further by adding, “Then come, follow me.”
Lazarus and Dives, illumination from the Codex Aureus of Echternach
Cut back to Indiana Jones: the Holy Grail is the cup of Jesus, the cup that he used at the Last Supper, the cup of the new covenant in his blood. To seek the Grail is to seek Jesus—Jesus who sacrificed himself for others. It’s a cup of self-emptying, of detachment. And, in the movie, it was the very simplest cup among all those on array— if memory serves me, it was a wooden one—bespeaking utter poverty. Indiana Jones chooses wisely by choosing this cup. Detachment from riches is related to attachment to Jesus.
Jesus loves this man, but he fails to respond to that love and give himself to Jesus. He has a choice to make, and he chooses his possessions, chooses a consumer lifestyle. The author of our 1st reading, from the Book of Wisdom (7:7-11), would say this man is a fool, for he chooses riches rather than wisdom. It would be the same, in Wisdom’s eyes, had he chosen power, prestige, beauty, or health (or eternal youth) (7:8,10). By our gospel reckoning, he chooses riches rather than truth and goodness (remember, he begins by addressing Jesus as “good teacher,” and he ends by walking away from goodness and wisdom). He prefers his possessions to the path of eternal life.
The man leaves Jesus sad (10:22). Perhaps he realizes in his heart that he’s choosing a path that doesn’t lead to eternal life, choosing instead that path which Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, calls a broad road leading to ruin (Matt 7:13). Mark doesn’t say that Jesus, too, is sad. But how could he not be when someone spurns his love—“Jesus, looking at him, loved him”—and deliberately walks away from truth, goodness, and life?
Jesus comments that the rich will have a hard time entering the kingdom of God (10:23). He follows that shocker with a still broader pronouncement that doesn’t mention the rich: “How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!” (10:24). The disciples are astonished (10:24); they’re used to viewing wealth as a blessing from God. They know that most people want money and the comforts and security money can provide. If we all crave wealth, “Then who can be saved?” (10:26). Aren’t we all in trouble, all on that broad highway toward eternal ruin?
The short answer is: yes. We’re all in trouble, and no one can be saved. “For human beings it’s impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God” (10:27). God can save even the rich who are in love with their wealth, their comfort, their security, themselves, and not their fellow human beings, not God. God can save even us sinners who so often are selfish and self-centered, mindless of Jesus and the friends of Jesus (the poor, the abandoned, the outcast, the despised of society).
This brings us back to the rich man’s opening question: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” None of us can do anything to inherit or earn salvation. It’s a gift from God thru Jesus Christ. As you know, you can’t earn a gift.
Or, if you will, what we can do is to make a choice for Jesus, follow him, listen to him, attach ourselves to him—then, he promises, we will receive home and family galore—a different form of wealth, the wealth of God’s household—along with persecution; and finally, the gift of eternal life (10:29-30).
Friday, October 9, 2009
Last week, I think it was on Wednesday (Sept. 30), Fr. Jim suggested we go hiking and camping on Friday and Saturday; he had his last class before lunch on Friday, and we could leave around 12:45, thus being pretty sure of getting one of the dozen hikers' shelters in Harriman State Park.
Each of us having secured the requisite permission from our superior, and I having arranged with someone to celebrate a Mass for the Ursulines on Saturday morning, we got our gear together and indeed were parked on Rte. 106 where the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail crosses that road just west of Little Long Pond.
We passed a half dozen other cars closer to Rte. 17, but they weren't of much concern. There was one car parked where we parked, and Fr. Jim, at least, got nervous that our intended shelter, atop Tom Jones Mt., would be taken already. I figured (1) it's a small car, and thus only one or two hikers, and they'll likely be willing to share the shelter; (2) he/they could just as easily have gone north on the R-D as south. Fr. Jim added that he/they could just be day hiking. In any event, we never encountered anyone.
This weekend the fall colors are starting to come out nicely, but they haven't peaked yet. Last weekend there was very little color showing.
Here's Fr. Jim ascending Tom Jones Mt., southward on the R-D. At this point the worst of our climbing's done, and we're pretty near the top of the ridge. The ground shrubbery is colored, but not the trees, as you see.
A hike of 45 minutes or so brought us to the Tom Jones shelter, built around 1930 and well maintained. Except that this Friday afternoon, Oct. 9, it looked more like a pig sty. There was lots of trash (Fr. Jim and I hauled out a couple of grocery bags of beer cans), and someone had ripped off the boards at the front of the sleeping platform (see below), probably to use as firewood.
We'd done our work of gathering wood. There's no water near Tom Jones shelter, so we'd brought in what we needed. After we'd prayed Evening Prayer, we had supper. Fr. Jim had brought soup, a sandwich, and cheese, and he shared the cheese with me. I had a can of beef stew, heated on a propane backpacking stove, and an apple. We drank Crystal Lite.
Then, with the wind up and the sun going down, it was getting a bit chilly. So it was campfire time. One reason for choosing the Tom Jones shelter as our destination was that it has an interior fireplace (two actually); with rain forecast, we didn't want only an outside firepit (which TJ has also).
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Last Sunday, Sept. 27, the Eastern Province of the Salesians celebrated 970 years of vowed religious life--spread out among 20 priests and brothers who during 2009 had reached 25, 40, 50, 60, 65, 70, and even 75 years as SDBs.
Also honored in the celebration were 7 priests with anniversaries (25, 40, 60, 65) totaling 300 years.
On Sunday, September 27, the New Rochelle Province celebrated the profession and ordination jubilees of 25 confreres, 5 from Canada and 20 from the Eastern U.S. These were for major anniversaries that occurred in 2009.
Although most of the anniversaries of profession fall in August and September, and most of the ordination anniversaries occur in the spring, the province customarily holds one large celebration for everyone in the fall at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw-Stony Point. The celebration is timed with fall pastoral meetings to encourage broad participation.
This was the first year when the weekend for all of that was scheduled in September. In years past it has been placed on the Columbus Day weekend; but that’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, which would cause problems for our Canadian confreres, who have been part of our province since July 1, to attend either the meetings for the jubilee festivities.
The jubilarians included 5 brothers and 20 priests who come originally from Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Wisconsin, Italy, Korea, Poland, Scotland, and Slovenia. They have served in schools, parishes, youth centers, formation communities, and provincial administration.
Two of the jubilarians were celebrating anniversaries of both profession and ordination. The senior member of the group, Fr. Emil Fardellone, age 92, has been professed 75 years and ordained 65 years. He traveled unaccompanied (apart from dozens of fellow air travelers) from Louisiana to New York for the festivities. In his homily, Fr. Tom Dunne noted that Fr. Emil has been a Salesian for more than half of the Congregation’s almost 150 years.
Fifteen of the jubilarians were present for the celebration, the others being prevented by distance, illness, or pastoral responsibilities.
After Mass, the jubilarians present pose with Fr. Dunne (provincial), Fr. Steve Dumais (vice provincial), and Fr. John Puntino (director of the Marian Shrine).
Fr. Dunne presided over the four o’clock Mass at the shrine chapel, in which about 200 members of the Salesian Family and of the jubilarians’ families took part. Preaching on the gospel reading of the day (Mark 9:38-48), Fr. Dunne contrasted the attitude of the apostles, who “were accustomed to thinking of life in terms of advancement, influence, and power,” with the attitude of the jubilarians, who have experienced their own helplessness apart from Jesus and have come instead “to trust in the divine presence,” who therefore have understood the importance of serving “the most needy among their brothers and sisters.”
Fr. Dunne said that he thought the lesson of Jesus in the day’s gospel “would strike a chord with most of our jubilarians today. In our Constitutions, we are called ‘to be signs and bearers of the love of God for young people, especially those who are poor’ (art. 2). In this article we are called to be what Jesus directed the apostles to be in today’s gospel: animators rather than those who do it all their own.”
Unlike John, who was upset about someone from outside the group driving out demons in Jesus’ name, said Fr. Dunne, we “share our ministry more completely with lay colleagues and members of the Salesian Family. We appreciate those who do good for the young in Christ’s name but who are not among our [SDB] members. We have begun to look at the Church and society around us with an eye to calling together a vast movement of people interested in carrying on Don Bosco’s care for the young and the poor. This expanded vision of ‘give me souls’ sums up our passion for serving the young most at risk today.”