Sunday, February 28, 2010

Quake Causes Only Material Damages
to Salesian Houses of Chile
(ANS – February 28, 2010 -- Santiago) – In spite of the great force of the earthquake which struck the south-central part of Chile early on Saturday morning, Salesian centers suffered only material damage and no personal victims. Yesterday afternoon Fr. Leonardo Santibañez, the provincial, was able to confirm this.

The most serious damage was to the Salesian houses in the region of Maule, and particularly at Linares, where the shrine dedicated to Mary Help of Christians, which survived the earthquake of 1985, has collapsed. The church of Mary Help of Christians at Talca, in the same region, suffered some damage.

The epicenter of the earthquake was in the region of Bio Bio, where the first shock was recorded at 8.8 on the Richter scale. The Salesian house in that area, the Salesian school in Concepcion, had some broken windows and some other damage, but much less serious than that in other parts on the city, pictures of which show bridges, houses, and other buildings collapsed.
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There was no damage to Salesian houses in the north of the country. The Salesian house in Valparaiso suffered minor damage.

After traveling around the city on Saturday morning, the provincial, Fr. Leonardo Santibáñez; the province treasurer, Fr. Jorge Rivera; and the general councilor for the America Southern Cone Region, Fr. Natale Vitali, who is visiting Chile at this time, were able to confirm that the Salesian houses in Santiago are in good shape, with no structural damage other than some plaster fallen from ceilings and some cracks in some interior walls.

The Rector Major, Fr. Pascual Chavez, was about to leave for Ecuador to preach a retreat for the provincials of the two American regions; he expressed his solidarity with the province and the Salesian Family in Chile.
Homily
for the 2d Sunday of Lent
Feb. 28, 2010
Luke 9: 28-36
Gen 15: 5-12, 17-18
Ursulines, Willow Dr.

“‘O Lord God,’ Abram asked, ‘how am I to know that I shall possess this land?’” (Gen 15: 8).

On Feb. 19 a “Non Sequitur” cartoon in the Journal News, and also the Post, showed a graveside and tombstone. One of the bystanders was observing to another, “He was a devout agnostic.” Engraved on the tombstone was, “See you later…maybe.”

Uncertainty, skepticism, doubt—that famous Missouri attitude that demands, “Show me”—are part of life, and with good reason. No one wants to be taken in, fooled, suckered; and so we have a healthy skepticism of commercials, used cars, politicians, and lots of other people and “received knowledge.” A lot of science involves testing of “what everyone knows,” e.g., Galileo’s dropping objects of unequal weight from the tower of Pisa and disproving “common sense” because both objects fell at the same rate, regardless of weight.

Thus Abram—whose name God hasn’t changed yet to Abraham—asks the Lord for some sign, some evidence, some assurance that God really will give this land to him and to his descendants. God responds by making a covenant with him; for that’s what the solemn ritual of animal slaughter and the fire passing between the 2 rows of carcasses means. God gives his sacred, contractual word to carry out his promise.





The apostles’ vision of Jesus on Mt. Tabor doesn’t involve a covenant. But it does involve a divine commitment. Jesus has just made his 1st prediction of his passion, death, and resurrection to the disciples (Luke 9:22), and in this transfiguration scene the passion—Jesus’ “exodus” in Jerusalem—is the topic of conversation among Jesus, Moses, and Elijah (9:30-31). The disciples haven’t begun at all to grasp that the Messiah must suffer, die, and rise, and so they can hardly demand, “Show me!” Even after the fact it’ll have to be spelled out for them, OT verse by OT verse, as the Risen Lord does for Cleopas and his companion on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:27). But the Lord’s transfiguration is a showing, a promise that suffering and death will open the road to glory. How are Peter, James, and John to know that they shall posses the promised land, the kingdom of heaven? Because they have seen the Messiah in his glory. When the divine voice exclaims, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him” (9:35), it’s an implicit promise that listening to this chosen Son, following the path of Jesus, will bring them to this same heavenly glory.

St. Paul, likewise, saw the Lord in his glory. That was the basis for his conversion and for his total dedication to preaching Christ crucified and risen. It was why he could announce to his hearers and readers, “Our citizenship is in heaven” and “Our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body” (Phil 3:20-21).

In this Lenten season hundreds of thousands of catechumens around the world are preparing for Baptism, for entering a covenant with the Lord Jesus. We who are already baptized are recommitting ourselves to that covenant and will renew of baptismal promises on Easter Sunday. Going into the waters of Baptism, sacramentally dying and rising with Christ, is a bit like Abram’s trance and the “deep, terrifying darkness [that] enveloped him” (Gen 15:12). It’s a bit like being covered over by the cloud on Mt. Tabor. It’s a moment of promise, God’s promise, that he will fulfill his word; he will give us the promised land, he will lead us to eternal life.

Abram believed, and God kept the covenant. The apostles were commanded to listen to Jesus, and so they did; now they “sit on 12 thrones” at Jesus’ side (Luke 22:30). The covenant is made also with us. God’s promise is ours too. How are we to know that we shall possess this land? Because thru the apostles we have already seen Christ’s glory. Today’s patristic reading in the Divine Office comes from a sermon of St. Leo the Great. He tells us that in his transfiguration our Lord “was providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. The members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head.”* For us there’s no “maybe” about “See you later,” thanks be to God!



* Sermon 51 (LOH 2:149).

Friday, February 26, 2010

Outline of a Homily
for the 1st Sunday of Lent
Feb. 21, 2010
Luke 4: 1-13
Troop 40 and NYLT

Jesus filled with the HS
-- conceived by the HS (Lk 1)
-- HS descended on him at the Jordan
-- HS leads him into the desert (Lk 4)

Israel was led into the desert – this is the road to salvation (from Egypt). Israel = God’s son in frequent OT usage. Jesus recognized as God’s beloved Son as the HS came upon him.

In the desert Israel underwent numerous testings (temptations) and failed; isn’t faithful to God. Jesus is tempted in the desert but overcomes. He’s the faithful Son of God.

Jesus fasted 40 days (like Moses). Fasting disciplines the body, sharpens the mind and heart for God and for the poor/needy. It “creates an empty space for God to fill; expression of our desire to be converted from selfishness and remove the effects of sin in our lives.”

Jesus’ 3 temptations
-- bread: the senses, selfishness; cf. teens and sensuality (laziness, gluttony, drink, drugs, cigarettes, sex). These can separate us from God and from others
-- power, wealth, and glory of the world, constant human temptations (Faust, “Devil & Daniel Webster”); control of others, self-will—arrogance, war (Napoleon, Hitler, corrupt politicians, financial scandals, genocides). Devil is lord of this (fallen) world: v. 6
-- make a great (miraculous) scene—fame (Am. Idol, sports star); comes back to self again

Last temptation is set in Jerusalem; devil leaves him “for a time” (foreshadowing). In Jerusalem Jesus will meet most severe test after “the devil entered Judas.” Wicked men will unjustly torture and execute Jesus. He’ll be sorely tempted to quit his messianic role (the Garden), to deny who he is (on trial), to curse his persecutors and mockers, to take easy way and come off the cross, to abandon God who seems to have abandoned him. But he remains faithful to his Father and to his own mission, forgives his enemies, and defeats Satan once and for all.
Salesian Developments
in Port-au-Prince, Jan. 31-Feb. 9

At long last, I've been able to synthesize a slew of Haiti reports, tho this hardly brings us up-to-date. (I've been working almost entirely on the Salesian Bulletin in the last 3 weeks.)

Deaths of Religious Priests, Sisters, and Brothers
The Haitian Conference of Religious, reports through Fides, the news agency of the Pontifical Mission Societies, that 47 religious died in the earthquake.
Daughters of Mary: 13 nuns, including the provincial, and 3 employees
Montfort Missionaries: 11 priests and seminarians
Daughters of Wisdom: 6 sisters and 1 employee
Little Sisters of St. Teresa: 4 sisters, 7 teachers, 60 students
Little Brothers of St. Teresa: 2 brothers
Daughters of Mary Immaculate Queen: 2 sisters and 8 girls
Salesians: 3 brothers, uncounted teachers and students
Christian Brothers (FSC): 2 brothers
Holy Cross Fathers: 1 priest
Congregation of the Holy Spirit: 1 priest
Sisters of St. Anne: 1 nun
Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul: 1 nun

These orders and congregations and numerous others lost many, many buildings: residences, schools, orphanages, churches.
People praying at the mass grave of students and Bro. Hubert Sanon at ENAM.

According to 2004 statistics, the archdiocese of Port-au-Prince had some 2.5 million Catholics, which is 74% of the total population. Haiti's capital was served at that time by 277 priests, 387 men religious, and 1,200 women religious.

New Superior Takes the Reins
On Jan. 30 Fr. Ducange Sylvain was installed as Haiti’s new provincial. ANS, the SDB news service at GHQ in Rome, published the photo here.
Pétion-Ville, Haiti -­ January 30, 2010 – At a solemn ceremony in Pétion-Ville on the eve of the feast of St. John Bosco, Fr. Ducange Sylvain (to left of bishop, presumably) took over as superior of the vice province of Haiti. Among those present were Archbishop Louis Kebreau, SDB, of Cap-Haitien, Fr. Esteban Ortiz, general councilor for the InterAmerica Region (bishop’s right), Fr. Victor Pichardo, provincial of the Antilles Province, Fr. Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions in New Rochelle (behind Fr. Ortiz), many of the Haitian Salesians, and representatives of the other branches of the Salesian Family.

Fr. Ducange realizes the need to provide housing for expatriates and consultants supporting the relief and reconstruction effort. So the Haitian SDBs are looking to rent a house for that purpose. There will be an associated financial requirement for this. Several support vehicles will be needed as well.

On-the-Scene Visitors
Fr. Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions in New Rochelle, arrived in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 29 to do on-site coordination and iron out details pertaining to the emergency response and rehabilitation program. He has been there ever since, staying at the Salesian house in Pétion-Ville, which was relatively unscathed in the earthquake. He has been meeting regularly with the Haitian SDB leadership.

On Feb. 5 Fr. Mark went to the SDB provincial house (Drouillard), 10 miles from Pétion-Ville. It took over two hours on the road; each day traffic is getting worse and worse. Someone observed that such traffic means at least that gasoline is available again.

Fr. Mark wrote early in February to a Salesian in another part of the world: “A number of professional relief workers I have talked with have never seen such a disaster as here in Haiti. Let’s continue to pray and work for our suffering brothers and sisters here in Haiti.”

Fr. Esteban Ortiz, regional councilor for the SDB InterAmerica Region (North America, the Caribbean, and northwestern South America) also visited the Haitian capital for several days.

A four-day visit to Haiti (Feb. 12 to 15) by Fr. Pascual Chavez, SDB Rector Major, was announced on Feb. 5. Fr. Mark planned to remain in Port-au-Prince until after the RM’s visit.

Fr. Mark planned to accompany visitors Fr. Agustin Pacheco and Fr. Isaac Diez, the mission procurator from Madrid and the president of Jóvenes y Desarrollo (JyD), respectively, on their visits to Port-au-Prince on Feb. 10. JyD had completed a report providing basic information about Salesian works in Port-au-Prince. The report focuses on education and protection services offered by the SDBs to Haitian youth before and up to three weeks after the Jan. 12 earthquake. The report was to be part of the discussion by Frs. Pacheco and Diez with the Haitian SDB provincial council and Fr. Mark.

A four-member joint VIS-Salesian Missions Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Team (RRT) arrived in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 1. They started on Feb. 5 to visit and assess damages at the various SDB and FMA sites in and around Port-au-Prince, and to develop a list of needs and priorities that can be used to seek funding from external donors through development of discrete project proposals. Fr. Mark did a lot of brainstorming with them.

Based on such assessment as well as the ongoing provincial council meetings, Salesian Missions is developing an emergency relief and reconstruction database (see below) to help provide accountability of participating Salesian partners. Also, Salesian Missions will be contacting the Don Bosco Network and our GHQ in Rome to elicit comments and feedback in regard to compatibility and usefulness of this effort.
CNS had a two-man team, reporter Dennis Sadowski and photographer Bob Roller, in Port-au-Prince for a good week. They posted a lot of stories and photos at http://www.catholicnews.com/ and many of these presumably made it into the Catholic press.

Help from Europe & Elsewhere
Don Bosco Jugend Dritte Welt in Bonn was offered services for the children in Haiti by a major textbook publisher. They offered to print textbooks free of cost for the SDB schools in Haiti and ship them, also free, from Germany to Haiti. The SDBs declined the offer, believing it more cost-efficient to receive a cash donation for the same purpose and procure the books locally.

Fr. Sylvain accepted Bonn’s proposal to restore security walls at Salesian houses and works in Port-au-Prince. Security is urgent. Without walls, the SDBs can’t re-open production at ENAM’s bakery, which, if not for lack of security, could have been operating not long after the quake, which didn’t damage the bakery or the equipment for Fr. Bohnen’s mini-schools. The main kitchen remains intact, but after the security walls crumbled, all the gas tanks, stoves, pots, utensils, plates, food stores, etc., were stolen. So without security walls the kitchen can’t be put into production again. Also without the walls, the SDBs can’t re-commence educational programs in temporary classrooms, for the equipment, school supplies, and even the classroom tents would be vulnerable. Re-construction of all of our security walls is a must.

90,000 meters (=56 miles) of 6-feet high concrete-block wall with razor wire at the top of the walls is needed. (In N.R. it’s not clear whether this is only for the SDB sites in Port-au-Prince, or also for the FMA sites. There are 12 principal sites and various sub-stations.) The estimate to have this work done locally is $2.75 million.

Jugend Eine Welt-Austria sent a shipment of medicines thru Santo Domingo at the beginning of February.

OXFAM installed outdoor water spigots in Thorland to serve a displaced population of 12,000.

Following local custom in the Netherlands when there is a disaster in the world, a national collection was organized for Haiti, which netted 83,000,000 euros on Jan. 21, according to Bro. Gerard Schoorl, SDB, from Missieprocuur Don Bosco. Part of that was to be entrusted to Cordaid (http://www.cordaid.nl/English/About_Cordaid/Index.aspx?mId=10182). Bro. Gerard asked Cordaid to contact Salesian Missions (N.R.) directly for reconstruction project funding, using some of these resources.

Water purification equipment of several kinds has been donated by several donors thru Salesian NGOs in Germany and Austria. Personnel were sent to install the equipment in Thorland and Pétion-Ville and train local people to operate it.

Italy’s Associazione Missioni Don Bosco is searching for tents, and so is Salesian Missions N.R.; it is slow going because manufacturers are flooded with requests. Salesian Missions is looking to buy tents from China, but with the Chinese New Year there is a freeze until Feb. 28. Salesian Missions is also looking into other possibilities of more durable shelters from prefabricated materials.

Jesuit College in Malta sponsored a fund raising event for Haiti, 75% to to go to Salesian schools in Haiti, 25% to Jesuit Rufugee Services. The Civil Protection Dept. of the government of Malta has offered 10 tons of 1.5 liter bottles of mineral water, 12 tons of preserved food (tuna, beans, corned beef, etc.), and possibly some blankets. Grand-Halleux, Belgium - 31 January 2010 - The center for youth ministry at St.-Fernand Orban de Xivry in Grand Halleux celebrated the feast of Don Bosco in solidarity with Haiti. Thanks to a GSM link, the faithful heard from Angelika, a nurse, and Julien, a photo-journalist, both members of the association and for the past week with the Salesians in Pétion-Ville and Thorland. At the end of the Mass there were a charity sale and a magic and puppet show, an exhibition, a lottery, and a concert. All the proceeds were for the Salesians in Haiti. (ANS)

The Australia-Pacific Province has prepared an appeal leaflet to insert with their March Salesian Bulletin. They expect “a reasonably good response from it,” by which they means about US $20,000.

The Mexican Embassy in Port-au-Prince pledged to help the FMAs with 1,700 tons of food for the displaced populations at the FMA and SDB communities in Carrefour-Thorland.

Help from the U.S.A.
The Sandals Foundation offered $35,706 to assist the Haitian SDBs with the Relief and Reconstruction Program to cover the costs of food, water, loading, and transporting.

A container of rice-meals from Feed My Starving Children shipped to Port-au-Prince was transshipped to Puerto Rio Haina for delivery by Feb. 13.

The Holy Family Catholic Church of New Hampton, Iowa, contributed $3,897.38 to the SDB Haiti mission to the young and the poor. Other contributions: $175 from St. Boniface, Ionia, Ionia; $170 from Immaculate Conception, North Washington, Iowa -- for a total of $4,242.38 from Chickasaw County in the diocese of Dubuque. Fr. Zucchi Olibrice wrote to Msgr. Carl Schmitt of Holy Family on Feb. 6 to thank him and his parishioners and to give them a general assessment of the situation at ENAM:

“First of all, the situation is terrible and frustrating. People are sleeping in the streets or in big courtyards. Most of the parents and children have no tents, nor food. Every big area without constructions is a refugees camp. The Government is totally absent and give no instruction to the people. Fortunately some big NGO’s and some governmental institutions are present and look how to help. (Fr. Mark Hyde, the Director of Salesian Missions, New Rochelle, N.Y. is now in Haiti to help the Salesians, because most of our houses in Port-au-Prince collapsed).

“Secondly, there is an urgent need to take care of our teachers and employees and parents of the children, especially those who are not able to do anything, because they have lost their home and relatives.

“We have five important employees who died: the main and best secretary of the education sector, Myrtha Toussaint, a brilliant teacher of auto mechanic, Jean Wilson Brière and three good construction workers. We have also lost around 150 teachers of kindergarten when their building collapsed and about 60 young people of the vocational school on their way home. We have 62 injured people among the vocational school students, the kindergarten teachers and the vocational school teachers.

“Thirdly, lots of visitors and Media are coming to cover the situation and asking for information for hours.

“Fourthly we have to meet the personal, employees and the rested teachers to make plans of restarting. This is requiring a lot of time.

“We are making a census of the children who are available to restart their class, an evaluation of what is left and a new school program according to the context.

“So, 24 hours a day are not enough to accomplish all these tasks.

“We hope, with the help of you, we will be able to secure the schools by making new walls, by getting big tents of 40 people capacity in order to welcome the children and start schooling them. We hope we can continue to feed them and give them the entire assistant they need as it was in the past, before the earthquake.

“I take this opportunity to thank you in behalf of the children for your support and your encouragement. May God bless and reward St Boniface, IC and Holy Family churches for their generosity.”


Students at Salesian High School in New Rochelle raised $1,500 for Haiti by hosting a $3 dress-down day on Jan. 15. The school’s enrollment is about 500 boys.

Vinny Castaldi, a student at Salesian High School, spoke at The School of the Holy Child in Rye, N.Y., and asked them to raise money for the Salesian Missions. They raised $1,338!

Bringing Relief to Port-au-Prince
2 trucks for transporting food and other relief supplies were purchased in the D.R. for $11,664 each (pictured above), and 2 trucks for water at $6,189.

One truckload after another of food (rice, beans, sugar, salsa, pasta, oil, sardines, chocolate, flour, salami, and sausage), water, medical supplies, and other emergency materiel have been delivered to the SDBs of Haiti through the SDBs of the Antilles through the relief efforts of Salesian Missions N.R. One example: Salesian Missions itself shipped a container of fortified rice-meals (270,864 meals) to the D.R. Through Salesian Missions, Cross International has been delivering 200 containers of supplies from Miami. All these trucks have gone from LaVega or Jimani in the D.R. to Cité Soleil, Pétion-Ville, Carrefour-Thorland, and even Cap-Haitien, a large city on the northern coast of the island whither many people have fled. The Development Office in Santo Domingo requested that all in-kind donations going through the D.R. be consigned to “Sociedad Salesiana” and identified as “ayuda humanitaria para los Salesianos de Haiti.”
Recovery and Reconstruction
The Italian Navy committed to sending assistance to ENAM. 1st, they will remove the debris; 2nd, they will recover bodies buried in the rubble. They started work at ENAM on Feb. 8.

Large tents for 40 students each are urgently needed in order to rally the students and begin classes again.

Architectural & engineering professionals are very much needed at this stage. Offers for the construction of walls around Salesian houses are welcomed. Walls are badly needed to minimize the risk of looting. Proper fencing would make the storing of food safer; as noted above, the mini-schools administration has already been looted.

Haitian SDBs are pondering the future mission of the province and its works. This takes time; some works may be rebuilt in other locations yet to be determined.

Salesian Missions Cooperation
Salesian Missions N.R. has been compiling a database in order to develop and maintain a working emergency relief and reconstruction file that facilitates exchange of information and other communications and helps provide accountability among all Salesian partners associated with this effort. This is a great challenge as Salesians in Haiti address emergency relief and transition into the rehabilitation, reconstruction, and redevelopment phases.

With such a database, it will be easier to pair resources, both physical and financial. Equally important is the role that the database will fill in digital media exchange, information management, integration of Coordinated Assistance Network initiatives, and project accountability.

In designing the database, Salesian Missions sought input from the international Don Bosco Network, especially to various so that various information fields would be compatible.

News Coverage
Haiti must build a new society based on justice, says Haitian bishop: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1000475.htm

The country’s depends on access to education. See letter in Boston Globe, Feb. 5: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/letters/articles/2010/02/05/haitis_hope_lies_in_access_to_education/
The NYT on Feb. 7 had a long article entitled “Bleak Portrait of Haiti Orphanages Raises Fears”: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/07/world/americas/07trafficking.html?ref=todayspaper

The situation of the Catholic Church in Haiti, and to some extent also Protestant churches, was written up in the Miami Herald on Sunday, Feb. 7, in a story entitled “Churches rising out of the ruins,” and summarized: “Rebuilding the Roman Catholic church in Haiti--all but wiped out in the earthquake--will take years, but the process has already begun.” See http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/haiti/story/1467218.html

Fr. Joseph Maceus Simon & Timkatec
Fr. Gatine Joseph Maceus Simon, an 81-year-old Salesian, is the founder of Timkatec, a Salesian outreach to street children in Pétion-Ville. See: http://www.timkatec.org/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timkatec
About Timkatec Fr. Simon writes to Patrick O’Shea, who has been raising funds for this program:

“1. We have the list of the employees who should be helped at all costs. It is necessary that they have a little stability, well being, comfort to be able to deal with the children. Initially the repair of their houses…if the house belonged to them…or repair of the rented house after agreement with the owner. Then, hiring of that house for one year for the others. Lastly, purchase of essentials for these employees, who do not have anything, absolutely nothing. There are some who have had only one dress since the earthquake. It is necessary to give them some clothes in order to come to work. We focus our attention on 32 of these employees (of 52).

“2. Question of food, MCC has agreed to help me with food for 3 months, 110 at Timkatec [site] 1; 200 at Timkatec [site] 2; and 150 at Timkatec [site] 3. Thus each day meals for 460…plus employees for the kitchen, the office… More with the unexpected ones, children not envisaged!!!

“We are already started to repair Timkatec 1 and 2. It is not too serious. We think of starting again the classes in March if the professors are in form, repairs are finished, food is sufficient for 4 months.

“3. It appears that many people went to the provinces [i.e., other parts of Haiti], leaving what was the capital. From Monday one will know how many of our pupils left either for Santo Domingo or the provinces. But as with Port-au-Prince, when one gives especially food, the children will return gradually.

“4. What risks do people run?
- The rain will come to Haiti in March-April
- Skin diseases
- Diarrhea
- The bad smell of corpses still under the debris
- Not enough food
- How to turn over [return] and when to turn over to the completely destroyed capital? With 200,000 dead?
- No joy, no encouragement…a monotonous, sad life.

“The young people do not count any more on the future. Like animals, they seek their ‘daily bread’ to win it, to find…

“Each person that I knew brings me three or four more to save, to help in all ways. There are some who are sick, have lost an eye, an arm, a leg… others who have babies to nourish… who sleep in the open air and who are full of colds and flu.

“I hear those cries of misery. Thanks to God, there are the friends like you and others who enable us to help a little! But…the skin diseases threaten everyone with this dust, smoke, corpses not buried… The country had becomes like a leprosarium!

“Well… in any case, as from Monday, nearly 500 will know the joy of spending a few good moments to Timkatec while eating well… without being hustled, being pushed, being knocked to the ground.

“Thank again to you all.

“I will see whether the bank received something for me. It is with the account-drop, after hours of waiting, and then leaving the bank with the fear of being mugged. What a horror!"

Wanted
Tents have been produced and are in the warehouse. Further contacts in China are continuing to make sure the Salesian Missions order of 2,000 is complete.

The SDBs in Haiti need five more generators:
Three 60 kwa diesel generators (Thorland, Fort Liberté, ENAM)
One 40 kwa diesel generator (Pétion-Ville)
One 15 kwa diesel generator (Gressier)

Salesian Missions N.R. is currently looking for pre-fabricated classrooms for 40 students each.

Salesian Missions is seeking additional information on 10 units/temporary classroom material available from Stork Project. This type of shelter has been used in Africa and other parts of the world, and would be well suited for the relief and recovery efforts in Haiti. Previous experience related to projects using these housing systems includes activities in Mozambique, Liberia, Sudan, Mauritania, Malawi, and Madagascar, such as constructing schools and medical clinics for various UN agencies including UNICEF, World Food Program, and International Organization for Migration. The shelters are also used for housing families and centers for community gatherings.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Homily for the 6th Sunday
in Ordinary Time
Feb. 15, 2004
Jer 17: 5-8
1 Cor 15: 12, 16-20
Luke 6: 17, 20-26
Nativity, Brandon, Fla.
Epiphany, Tampa

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings…. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord…’” (Jer 17: 5, 7).

Once in a while a film with a positive moral message wins an Oscar: Schindler’s List, Gandhi, Chariots of Fire. In 1966 A Man for All Seasons, the story of one man’s struggle to be true to his conscience against political, religious, and family pressure, garnered best picture, best actor, best director, best screenplay adaptation, and best color cinematography. I’m sure many of you know that the man with the conscience was Sir Thomas More, who refused to condone the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and his remarriage to Anne Boleyn, and the King’s claim to be head of the Catholic Church in England. More’s refusal eventually cost him his life, but it won him eternal life, “like a tree planted beside the waters” (Jer 17:8). We honor him now as St. Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers (no snide remarks, please) and of politicians and statesmen.

In the play and the movie part of everyone’s exasperation with More is that he steadfastly refuses to tell anyone, even his wife, why he won’t swear the Oath of Supremacy; his silence was his legal defense against a charge of treason. After one of his grillings by a panel of Henry’s highest officials, the duke of Norfolk, a long-time friend of More’s, approaches him privately and asks why he can’t just go along with the rest of the political and religious establishment, whose consciences More says he respects. More says he must follow his own conscience, for God will judge him by that and not by anyone else’s. Norfolk pleads, Can’t he just come along for the sake of friendship? To that More replies with a question of his own: When you are admitted to heaven for following your conscience, and I am condemned to hell for not following mine, will you come along with me for the sake of friendship?

Such a stark contrast we find in our readings today: to trust in human beings, to go along with them—with society’s trends and movements, with public opinion polls, with what everyone else is doing and saying, with the mass media, university professors, “most scientists,” Hollywood’s elite; or to trust in the Lord, to put our hope in him.

In Luke’s version of the beatitudes, as in Matthew’s, Jesus pronounces blest those who suffer social stigma and penalties “on account of the Son of Man”—who put their trust in Jesus Christ (6:20-22). People who are faithful to Jesus even when it costs them will receive a great reward in heaven (6:23), like the genuine prophets whom Israel persecuted while they were alive and revered centuries later—Jeremiah being exhibit #1 of that.

On the other hand, those who are rich, sated, and content in life—but selfish or oppressive of their sisters and brothers, without regard for widows, orphans, and the aliens among them, as the biblical prophets so often put it—those whom a godless society praises and admires because they are rich, they are famous, they are beautiful, they are movers and shakers—these are destined for eternal woe, for eternal grief (6:24-26), for the weeping and gnashing of teeth, as Jesus puts it in some of his parables (e.g., Matt 13:42, etc.).

Church-goers are as prone to public pressure as anyone else. Of the 20 or so bishops in England in 1534, only one had the courage to stand up to Henry VIII and die a martyr: St. John Fisher. Who here isn’t tempted to use God’s name in vain when so many people around us do? Who isn’t tempted to speak ill, sometimes even falsehood, to spread rumors, about our coworkers or certain relatives? Who isn’t lured by society’s casual attitude about sex? Why are Catholics’ divorce rates, use of contraception, seeking of abortions about the same as the rest of society’s?
Last week’s lead science story: Who isn’t attracted by the idea of therapeutic cloning, of harvesting stem cells from human embryos for research into possible cures for Parkinson’s disease and a half-dozen other afflictions? It certainly takes someone convinced that God alone is the Lord of human life to say NO against the prevailing scientific, political, and social mores; to say that a human embryo is a person and not just an indifferent piece of bodily tissue; to say that human persons may not be harvested or mined like commercial property, no matter what social benefits may follow.

In A Man for All Seasons More is eventually convicted of speaking against the King’s supremacy on the perjury of Richard Rich, whom he had once employed. Following his condemnation, More notices that Rich is now wearing the neck chain and emblem of chancellor for Wales, and he says to him: Richard, the scripture asks us what it profits a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul. Richard—for Wales? If you had Parkinson’s or one of those other diseases that scientists think may be helped by embryonic stem cell research, would you “put your trust in human beings, seek your strength in flesh, turn your heart away from the Lord” (Jer 17:5), to gain a few more years on earth, even at the prospect of spending eternity “in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth” (17:8)?

(Note that there are other sources of stem cells, e.g., from placentas, that do not pose any moral problem for research.)

There are Christians who so put their trust in human beings, in the rationalism characteristic of European and American intellectuals since the 18th century, that they discount anything supernatural in the Bible. Even some Anglican bishops—the descendants of Henry VIII’s bishops—think this way. Anything seeming to be miraculous must have a rational, scientific explanation, or else it’s no more than a pious exaggeration or a fable. These folks believe in God, but he’s not a God much interested in us or involved with us. He certainly didn’t become man, so Jesus certainly wasn’t God—just a wonderful ethical teacher like the Buddha or Confucius. And so Jesus couldn’t have risen from the dead!

And so our 2d reading ties in with the 1st and 3d. “How can some among you”—Paul is addressing the Christians of Corinth—“say there is no resurrection of the dead?” (I, 15:12). That’s a purely human way of thinking, trusting in our own reasoning and experience rather than in God’s revelation, rather than in God’s love for us professed by and revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as in his constant delivery of the Hebrews in the Old Testament. “If the dead aren’t raised, neither has Christ been raised, and if Christ hasn’t been raised, your faith is vain” (15:16-17). Pack it in and go home. God hasn’t accepted Christ’s sacrificial death, hasn’t forgiven our sins. But that hardly matters because without resurrection there are no consequences to sin: no eternity, no heaven, no hell. “Those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished,” and the rest of us, like them, are fools for believing in Christ (15:18-19) and not living like there’s no tomorrow—looking out for #1, grabbing all the gusto we can. As a very cynical hit song in 1978 put it, we’re just dust in the wind—if we don’t trust in the Lord, if we don’t hope in the Lord, if we don’t believe “Christ has [indeed] been raised from the dead” and is just “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (15:20), the 1st portion of the God Almighty’s harvest for the Last Day, the day when all Christ’s faithful people will reap their eternal reward, and those who persecuted them, mocked them, or simply ignored the Gospel will grieve and weep (Luke 6:25).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Homily for the 5th Sunday
of Ordinary Time
Feb. 7, 2010
Isaiah 6: 1-8
Luke 5: 1-11
Christian Brothers, Iona College
Ursulines, Willow Dr., N.R.

“Here I am! Send me!” (Is 6: 8).

Last week Jeremiah’s call, which he tried to dodge (Jer 1:4-5,17-19); this week the call of Isaiah, eagerly accepted, and the call of the 1st disciples, accepted in awe.

Jeremiah was hesitant on account of his youth, frightened of the opposition that prophets almost inevitably meet. Isaiah and Simon Peter tremble before the awesome holiness of God; but they respond to invitations to enter that holiness in some fashion, if we may say that, to become associated with it; further, to be its messengers, to bring it to others.

Isaiah’s 1st reaction on encountering the thrice-holy God—the biblical way of saying the all-holy God, the incomparably holy God—is, “Woe is me; I am doomed!” (6:5). No sinner can approach God, much less look on him, and live. Recall the scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the Nazis are vaporized when they open the ark, and only Indiana Jones and his girl are saved because they look away.

But Isaiah isn’t vaporized. Instead, he’s cleansed: “Your wickedness is removed; your sin is purged” (6:7). God’s holiness doesn’t push his people away but makes them clean. Furthermore, God wants his cleansing power, his salvation, to be known and appreciated. So he wants a messenger to go and announce it—this same sinner whom he has cleansed: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” (6:8). Isaiah seems to be the only human present. The call is meant for him.

Something like that goes on with Simon, too. Seeing the power of God at work in Jesus—no doubt he’s already sensed it in Jesus’ preaching, for he addresses Jesus as Master and carries out his instructions (5:5)—but seeing that divine power perform a work unexplainable by all of Simon’s professional experience on the lake, Simon knows he’s unworthy to be near this awe-full power, this presence that inspires awe, fear and trembling. He falls prostrate before Jesus (5:8) and urges him to leave: Simon’s unworthy of Jesus’ presence; Simon’s sins will pollute Jesus. Part of the idea of holiness, of sacredness, is separation, being set apart from what is common, ordinary, tainted and unclean from everyday use if not by moral uncleanness. So Jesus should keep clear of Simon and his sort. In this, Simon seems to speak also for his crew and his partners: “for astonishment at the catch of fish…seized all those with him” (5:9).

Jesus’ reply to Simon is somewhat different from the reply Isaiah received. 1st, Simon’s urged not to be afraid. In Jesus Christ, God’s holiness isn’t to be feared. In Jesus God wants to come close to sinners. 2d, there’s no question about whom Jesus will send on mission. Instead, Simon’s told what his mission will be: “From now on you’ll catch men instead of fish” (5:10). Furthermore, the Greek word translated as “catch,” ζωγρών (zogrón), denotes “one who captures alive.” (It has the same root as zoology.) Simon will catch people for life, to keep them alive; he will be an instrument of God’s salvation.

The similarity between Isaiah and Simon is the readiness to accept the mission. Isaiah acclaimed, “Here I am! Send me!” Simon—and his partners—“left everything and followed” Jesus (5:11).

As an aside of sorts, note that all the dialog in the story has been between Jesus and Simon, and Jesus’ words, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you’ll catch men,” are addressed to Simon alone, in the singular. But in some sense Simon has been speaking also for his partners and perhaps some of his crew, and they take their lead from him. He’s already their leader and spokesman, as he will be for the Twelve and for the Christian community.

"Here I am! Send me!” has been the response of other Christian disciples, other missionaries. It was the famous reply of the young priest Francis de Sales when the bishop of Geneva called for a volunteer to go one a dangerous and not very promising mission into the Chablais region and try to convert the Calvinist population back to Catholicism. Francis had already dealt with terrible fear—fear of damnation—as a student in Paris, and had come to know God’s love and wish that everyone be saved—the antithesis of Calvinism. And over a 4-year period he was almost 100% successful in bringing that message of love to the Chablais and winning the people back.

In the last week I’ve been working with an essay submitted by an even younger missionary, a college student who has gone 2 or 3 times from Southern California to the Salesian youth centers in Tijuana. He was impelled to that, he writes, by a profound experience of God—not with seraphim and Holy Holy’s and flaming embers—but by reflection and conversation. “Our talk made me reflect on everything about my life,” this young man writes of a long conversation with a friend. “As I reflected, I realized God’s true greatness. I thanked Him for everything. I told Him I was ready to surrender my life, everything, over to him that morning. Shortly after this experience on my porch, a good friend invited me to go to Tijuana for a short missionary trip.” And off he went, and again on a longer stint, and he’s also recruited fellow students.

People who’ve met the Lord God, people who’ve experienced the Holy, people who’ve come to know that God loves them want to share all that, to “catch” others in that love, in salvation. Isn’t that why we became religious? Didn’t we answer the call “Whom shall I send?” In our rite of religious profession—I don’t know about yours—and in the rite of ordination, the candidate’s name is called, and he responds, “I am ready and willing”—“Here I am!” He (or she) accepts the invitation to follow Jesus and carry out his mission. May God keep us in love with him and keep us eager to answer, “Here I am! Send me!” and let us preach his word, spread his message, however we may at this point in our lives. May we really be his instruments of salvation for many souls.