Sunday, September 29, 2013

Homily for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sept. 26, 2004
1 Tim 6: 11-16
Ursulines, Willow Drive, N.R.

Saturday nite I celebrated Mass for a group of Scouters taking the Woodbadge course at Camp Alpine in N.J., preaching on the parable of Dives and Lazarus from an outline.  So, once again, I post an "oldie."

“But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness” (1 Tim 6: 11).

Paul’s 2 letters to Timothy are, of course, directed to a specific individual, one of his disciples to whom he has entrusted pastoral care.  Hence they, and the similar letter to Titus, are called the Pastoral Epistles.  But these letters merit the attention of all of us, not only of bishops and presbyters, for their advice on discipleship.

Paul reminds Timothy of “the noble confession” he made publicly, “in the presence of many witnesses” (6:12), and he compares Timothy’s public testimony to that of “Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate” (6:13).  Jesus testified to the truth and to the priority of God’s rule before the Roman governor (Jn 18:36-37), as Timothy did when he accepted Baptism and professed faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul had just been speaking of various vices that Christ’s followers must avoid, especially contentiousness and avarice.  In contrast to those, Timothy is to act as a man of God—a prophet, in Old Testament usage of the term—and pursue virtue:  righteousness, love, gentleness, and so on.  Paul charges him “to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ” (6:14).  By “the commandment” he means total commitment to God, fidelity to his profession of faith without regard to personal cost in this world.

Instead of concern for the goods of this world, Timothy and we are to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.”  By righteousness, devotion, and faith we cement our relationship with God; by love, patience, and gentleness, with our sisters and brothers.  Obviously these virtues are valid and necessary for all Christ’s disciples and not just for presbyters and bishops.  For all of us they are our public testimony—before God, before the Church, before society—that we belong to Christ.

We believe that those virtues are the path to eternal life.  We were called to eternal life when Christ called us; and by living as he wishes us to live, we will “lay hold of eternal life” (6:12).  For Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).

Christ, furthermore, will return.  Crucifixion was not the end of Jesus of Nazareth or of his message.  The ascension of Jesus into heaven has not separated him forever from us.  “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” (Creed), to weigh all our thoughts, words, and deeds in the balance of divine justice, to bring to life all who belong to him and to send on their chosen path all who have rejected him.  What we do in this life, the choices we make, our fidelity to God’s plan has eternal consequences, as the rich man finds out in Jesus’ parable today (Luke 16:19-31).  So Paul charges Timothy and all of us to “keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ,” who will reveal to all man-kind “the King of kings and Lord of lords” (6:15), the eternal God, “who alone has immortality” (6:16) but who shares his immortal life with all who are in Christ.

Paul has pointed toward our goal, and he has marked the way for us.  The goal is eternal life, which is God’s gift, and the way to it is our union with Christ Jesus—union of commitment thru Baptism, sacramental union thru the Eucharist, union of testimony in lives that imitate his, union as our everlasting destiny, until we can say with St. Paul, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Homily for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sept. 22, 2013
Luke 16: 1-13
Christian Brothers, Iona College, N.R.

“A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property” (Luke 16: 1).

Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken
Our gospel this evening follows immediately after the parable of the lost sons, which was the last part of the long form of last Sunday’s gospel.  Luke may have placed this parable, usually called that of the dishonest or unjust steward, here because of a word link, the word squander.  In the preceding parable the younger son squandered his inheritance and became destitute.  In today’s parable, the steward has squandered his master’s property and is about to be dismissed from service.  In both cases the character’s faced with a crisis that demands a decision, a course of action.

What’s a steward?  These men appear several times in the gospels, in parables and at the wedding in Cana, for instance.  They “were officials who supervised the affairs of royal and wealthy households.”  They had broad authority over the servants, “ran the finances, supervised the preparation of the meals for the family, and in general served as a major-domo.”[1]

It seems that the master in this case is an absentee landowner, a common situation in 1st-century Palestine and one to which Jesus alludes in at least one other parable (Matt 21:33-46).  He’s not observing his steward in person but receives reports, eventually, about his management.

The steward isn’t accused of criminal behavior.  He’s not stealing from his employer, for example.  His reaction to his dismissal shows that he hasn’t stashed a fortune away in Switzerland; he doesn’t have anything set aside but must immediately figure out how he’s going to survive.

Rather, he’s accused of “squandering” his master’s property.  That could mean merely poor management, imprudence, bad decisions, waste, such as happens at times in the financial markets, the corporate world, and government.  Or it could mean that he’s been living the high life in the owner’s absence, feasting and partying overmuch, spending frivolously on landscaping and décor for the estate.

So he’s fired.  Now what?  He’s been in management and isn’t at all prepared to become a common laborer:  “I’m not strong enuf to dig.”  When they get laid off, Wall Street types don’t become construction or sanitation workers.  He could beg, which was very common in the ancient world; but in small-town life, like Mayberry, everyone knows everyone else and everyone else’s business, so this man’s being reduced to begging would be intensely embarrassing:  “I’m ashamed to beg” (16:3).

As we heard, he comes up with a plan that will ingratiate him with his master’s tenants—farmers who rent land from this rich landowner and pay their rent in the form of part of the crops they raise, wheat and olive oil.

The commentators don’t agree about the honesty of what the steward does, whether he’s reducing the landowner’s legitimate rental income, eliminating an indirect interest charge that could be considered usury and thus against the Law of Moses, or cutting his own legitimate commission for arranging the contracts in the first place.  While Jesus calls him “that dishonest steward” (16:8), implying some shady dealing, the landowner doesn’t seem to be upset, implying that he hasn’t been cheated by the new contractual arrangements.  It’s a puzzle that we probably can’t resolve definitively.

The word translated as “dishonest” in the present translation has also been rendered often as “unjust” and once as “knavish” (Knox).  St. Jerome’s Latin would translate it as “wicked.”  The Greek word, αδικίας, means literally, “lacking righteousness” or “lacking justice.”  Perhaps that’s to be understood in the light of the comparison offered in the following verse:  “the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation [their own kind of people]…” (16:9).  This man is a child of this world and not of the kingdom of God; he hasn’t been made just by repentance and discipleship; he’s a friend of “dishonest wealth” rather than of God—that’s why he’s αδικίας, and that’s why he acts the way he does with his employer’s property.  Each time “dishonest” comes up in Jesus’ commentary on his parable (16:9-13), the Greek word is either αδικίας or its relative άδικος.

So what’s the point the parable is making?  It doesn’t lie in the particular details that make it so true to 1st-century Palestinian life and thus so appealing to Jesus’ audience and somewhat mystifying to us, but in the overall situation and the steward’s action.

The steward is suddenly and perhaps unexpectedly thrust into a personal crisis.  His world is threatened.  He assesses the situation, contrives a plan, and acts decisively to deal with his crisis.  This is what the landowner commends:  decisive action to deal with crisis.  And it’s what Jesus observes:  “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”

For the child of light is supposed to perceive a crisis in his or her life too.  Jesus’ public ministry is introduced by the preaching of John the Baptist, denouncing wickedness, threatening hellfire, telling people to “produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance”; and people ask him, “What then should we do?” (Luke 3:7-10).  John announces a crisis, a time of decision, and places upon each person the duty of responding in such a way as to be saved from “the ax that even now lies at the root of the trees” (3:9).  Just a couple of weeks ago we heard Jesus warning his disciples that they must love him more than anyone else, even their families, and they must “calculate the cost to see” whether they have what it takes to be a citizen of God’s kingdom, even to the renunciation of “all their possessions” (Luke 14:25-33)—no friendship with “dishonest wealth allowed.” 
Like the characters in The Lord of the Rings, you must make up your mind whom you’ll stand with; like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, you must decide whether you’ll surrender to the Dark Side (or be a child of the light [16:8]).

If Jesus confronts us with a crisis—repent of your sins, turn from all your forms of αδικίας, and surrender yourself completely to the demands of God’s kingdom; or remain a child of this world and its values, its attitudes, its manner of behaving--then we can’t choose both:  “no servant can serve two masters” (16:13).  We have to choose whom we’ll serve, and act decisively, like the steward in the parable.

            [1] Walter Duckat, Beggar to King:  All the Occupations of Biblical Times (Garden City: Doubleday, 1968), pp. 244-245.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Homily for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sept. 15, 2013
Luke 15: 1-10
Ursulines, Willow Dr., N.R.

St. Paul writes today:  “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15).  The 1st reading offers us an example of God’s mercy from Israel’s history (Ex 32:7-14), and in our 3d reading Jesus tells 2 parables to illustrate God’s mercy; the long form of the gospel adds 3d parable, the Prodigal Son, which I’m sure you know and I didn’t have to read to you (15:11-32).

Jesus has been called “the new Moses” because he gives God’s people a new law and mediates a new covenant.  The 3 readings today show us Jesus as a new Moses because he intercedes for sinners, saves sinners from God’s justified wrath, as Moses did after the Hebrews forged and worshipped the golden calf.  In his ministry Jesus goes further, reaching out to sinners in God’s name (cf. Luke 15:1-2).  The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost sons (both are lost, tho not in the same ways) are Jesus’ apologia pro vita sua.

There’s a contrast hidden in the 1st 2 parables.  A sheep is a valuable piece of livestock, one that a shepherd would naturally do whatever he could to keep with the flock and protect.  Still, it’s one animal among a hundred; a man with 100 sheep would be a man of some wealth.  Would the loss of one matter so much to him?  If the shepherd is a hireling (cf. John 10:12-13), it’s unlikely that he’d risk losing the 99 to look for the one; Jesus tells us in John’s gospel that hired men don’t really care about the sheep.  Assuming this shepherd is alone—the parable seems to suppose so—no reasonable shepherd would leave 99 sheep to themselves while he went looking for one stray.  He’d be likely to return and find another 10 or 20 animals missing, either because sheep are notoriously dumb creatures and quite apt to wander, or because predators attacked the flock while he was away.  The one sheep isn’t worth saving at the risk of losing many others.

On the other hand, the woman who has lost a drachma has lost something precious.  The drachma was the equivalent of a denarius, the Roman coin which our NAB infelicitously renders as “the usual daily wage,” which is not a translation but a commentary.  That does, however, tell us what this woman has lost and why she turns the house upside down searching for it. 
We had a similar experience in our house on Tuesday when our receptionist, who’d been on vacation the previous week, discovered her office keys were missing from her desk.  She cleaned out one drawer, searched high and low in other drawers and various places, likely and unlikely, without success, and she left a note where all the confreres would see it.  Overnite the keys were returned to her desk with said note, and one confrere—dare I say “sheepishly”?—admitted to having used them and forgotten to put them back.  So on Wednesday there was rejoicing among the angels of the provincial house (cf. 15:9-10).

Two commentaries note that the search of the shepherd for his lost sheep, and by implication also the woman’s for her drachma, are like God’s “relentless pursuit of souls” in Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven.[1]  Another commentary makes the point that neither the sheep nor the coin is capable of being found and restored to its proper place by its own power; the intense, active search of the shepherd or of the housewife is essential to its being found: the 1st parable “illustrates God’s concern for men who lack ability to find him,” and the 2d “intensifies the picture of human helplessness and divine concern.”[2]

Taken together, the 2 parables show God’s concern for everyone, the least and the greatest, those counted as important and those of little worldly account.  Everyone is equally precious in God’s eyes and, as we’ll hear in next Sunday’s 2d reading, “God our savior wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).  Christ, in God’s name, has come for all sinners, none of whom are capable of finding their way back to God’s grace.  Rather, God’s grace must find them and restore them, and God has no greater joy than when a sinner repents and is restored to the flock, when something valued—the human person—is found and restored to its rightful owner.

Unlike a sheep or a drachma, more like the sinner so relentlessly pursued by the “hound of heaven,” we have a choice—not a choice in being pursued or being found, but in allowing ourselves to be rescued.  In that, we’re like the 2 sons in Jesus’ 3d parable so familiar to us.  The younger son allows himself to be welcomed home by his father; we don’t know whether the older son is open to grace.

In Luke 15 Jesus is challenging the Pharisees and scribes to be open to God’s grace in the sense of welcoming the repentance of “tax collectors and sinners” and of rejoicing, like “the angels of God” over their being saved.  Perhaps that’s not so much an issue for us.  Perhaps our issue lies in recognizing our need to be found by grace.

Whatever manner of sinner you and I may be, our heavenly Father is searching for us thru our Lord Jesus.  Can we hear his voice calling us to turn away from some fault, some moral failing, calling us to return to his flock and be safe?  Can we perceive his light probing into some dark corner of our heart, trying to find our deepest self and put us back into the divine purse?  In the Collect today, we prayed “that we may feel the working of your mercy” and “may serve you with all our heart.”  Surely there’s a prayer for conversion there, a prayer that we may be found and let ourselves be saved.

        [1] The Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition (NY: Paulist, 2008), at Luke 15.  Cf. Jerome Kodell, OSB, “Luke” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary: New Testament, ed. Robert J. Karris, OFM (Collegeville: Liturgical, 1992), p. 964.
        [2] The Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, ed. Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger (NY: Oxford, 1965), at Luke 15.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Homily for 23d Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
23d Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sept. 8, 2013
Luke 14: 25-33
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison, N.Y.

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Anyone who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14: 25, 33)
The Rich Man Led to Hell, by David Teniers
That sounds extreme, doesn’t it?  We have to remember that the way people spoke in Jesus’ time, and Semitic languages like Arabic even today, rely a lot on exaggeration to emphasize a point.  Even we—don’t a lot of parents say things like, “I’ve told you a million times to clean up your room”?

But Jesus does have a point to make, the point emphasized by the exaggerations of “hating” one’s parents and family, of “renouncing all” one’s possessions.

The point is that following Christ in his allegiance to the kingdom of God demands our absolute commitment.  To be “sort of” a disciple of Jesus, “kind of” a citizen of God’s kingdom, isn’t possible, any more than you can be “sort of” pregnant.  With Christ, you’re all in, or you’re out.  Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matt 12:30).

In the early ages of Christianity, including the time when St. Luke was writing his gospel, this total commitment to Jesus wasn’t theoretical.  Thousands and thousands of people had their property confiscated by the imperial authorities, were exiled, were condemned to death because they loved Christ and were willing to carry their share of his cross, more than they loved their possessions, their families, and even their lives.

When King Henry VIII imprisoned renowned scholar and statesman Sir Thomas More in 1534 and was trying to pressure him to accept his royal adultery and his rejection of the Pope’s authority over the Church, one of the King’s tactics was to use More’s family—his wife and children—to try to sway him, to get him to yield and swear the oath that Henry demanded of everyone.  It didn’t work.  Thomas More loved his wife and family dearly; he enjoyed his friends and his country estate.  But he died, as he said on the scaffold, “the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”  (If you haven’t ever seen the movie A Man for All Seasons, I highly recommend it to you.  I’ll also note that it won six Oscars, including “best picture,” in 1966.)

Sir Thomas More with his eldest daughter Margaret,
in the Tower of London (source unknown)
As you know, the Catholic Church, following the teaching of the NT, recognizes as lawful and moral only a marriage between a man and a woman.  Nevertheless, I’ve seen letters even in the Catholic press from people chastising the Pope and the bishops for teaching what the NT teaches, that homosexual behavior is gravely sinful, because these letter-writers or their children are homosexual.[1]  Such letters and the attitude behind them, it seems to me, reflect a love for one’s family (or oneself) ahead of a love for Christ.  Such letters, such an attitude, it seems to me, define morality by one’s own opinion and sentiments and human weaknesses rather than by the Word of God.  Where is our love?  Where do we place our allegiance?

In these days, as you know, our country is having a big debate about how to react to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its own civilian population.  In the face of the President’s wish to take military action “to send a message to Syria,” many Americans and other people are asking questions like, “What’s the plan?”, “Where is this going to take us?”, “How will other countries like Iran and terrorist groups like Hezbollah react to what we do?”, as well as, “What are the implications of not doing anything?” and “What options do we have short of military action?”

Considerations like those are like Jesus’ parable today of a king going to war (14:31-32).  Before you get into a war, you calculate your resources and your enemy’s, your will and your enemy’s, and other factors.  Jesus isn’t talking about politics and international relations, tho.  He’s talking about our commitment to the kingdom of God, about our willingness to follow him completely.  When we prepare to do battle with the enemy of God, do we know what that will cost us, and are we prepared for the cost?  The imperial authorities of the mass media and of our society’s anything-goes morality and sometimes even of the government will try to pry us away from God.  Our materialistic, consumer society will try to claim our allegiance.  Our own passions—the 7 deadly sins of anger, laziness, greed, envy, gluttony, lust, and pride—will try to lead us astray, and we must be ready to deny them.  That’s harder than renouncing possessions.  It’s really carrying our own cross and following Jesus.  It’s the way to the “true freedom and an everlasting inheritance” that our opening prayer today spoke of, the way of redemption and living forever with Jesus Christ our Lord.

                [1] E.g., America, May 27, 2013, pp. 29-30.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Five-Trail Solo Hike in Harriman

Five-Trail Solo Hike in Harriman

On Sunday-Monday of the Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-2, went hiking and camping in Harriman State Park. I asked 7 guys at different times whether they'd like to come along, but they either had prior commitments or didn't reply (and one had a funeral). I figured there'd be plenty of other hikers out, which turned out to be not entirely the case.

I got to the parking circle at the end of Johnsontown Rd. in Sloatsburg at 10 o'clock and was surprised there were only 2 cars there; all other times I've been there it's much busier. The other time I did the Blue Disc Trail (with Fr. Jim Mulloy almost exactly 4 years ago--see Blue Dot Special), the hike up Almost Perpendicular was pretty crowded, even with young families. Not so this Sunday morn. Totally deserted.

Maybe it was because of the weather, which was overcast, and in fact it started to rain 5 minutes into my hike; but that lasted only about 10 minutes. The sky remained overcast, tho, until late in the afternoon.

Toting my usual 35 pounds of backpack (gear), I took my time huffing and puffing my way up aptly named Almost Perpendicular (above), and at the top enjoyed the great views from southeast to southwest (below); munched on a breakfast bar and took some water.
The line running across the center of the landscape is Seven Lakes Drive;
Reeves Meadow visitors center and parking lot is just to the right of center.
The Blue Disc runs mostly along the ridge of Pound Mountain from there and is fairly easy hiking; there are a few nice camping spots but no water.

Two miles from Johnsontown Rd. you come to Claudius Smith Den and the crossing with the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy Trail. The Den is a big, big mass of rock, atop which there are some excellent views to the west and north, and it's a popular spot for hikers. (The name comes from an 18th-century outlaw whose lair was there. He was hanged at Goshen, the county seat, in 1779.)
Where the Blue Disc starts to ascend Claudius Smith Den--note trail blazes on the edge of the large rock in the foreground--a cairn also helps mark the upward trail.
Sure enuf, while I was there more than a dozen guys and gals passed thru, or showed up down below.  I scoped out my route and ate my lunch (tuna sandwich and orange with water) before enjoying the views, then did a little reading while I digested.
My lunch spot behind Claudius Smith; the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy Trail passes just to the right,
and the White Cross Trail begins about 100' up the TMI from here.

Looking north from Claudius Smith, toward Harriman and Woodbury
Below Claudius Smith, four and a half hikers--one guy's toting an infant in a carrier--have come up the TMI and seem to be debating their next move. As far as I could tell, they didn't ascend the rocks. One guy and I waved to each other.
The Blue Disc Trail is heavily trafficked, even if I didn't meet anyone this particular morning for the 2 miles from the road to Claudius Smith Den. Behind CSD I picked up the White Cross Trail, which starts (or ends) off the TMI a couple of hundred feet behind the BDT. That proved to be more lightly used and in a couple of places was hard to pick out. It descended into boggy ground around the edge of Black Ash Swamp--

and would have been nasty hiking had there been any water where, evidently, there very often is lots of water. The trail skirts around Blauvelt Mountain to cross the Victory Trail about a mile and a half from Claudius Smith.
A bit of the White Cross Trail between Black Ash Swamp on the left and Blauvelt Mt.
on the right as one hikes northward

I turned right onto the Victory, which is an old woods road, wide and easy. A half mile brought me to the Triangle Trail and Lake Skenonto--4 miles and 4 hours, more or less, from my start.

Previous trips to Lake Skenonto have usually found a good number of campers along both the western and the northeast shores of the lake. Not so this time; there was one couple on the northeast.
Looking north from my camp

Far south end of the lake, from my camp

I picked a secluded site near the south end that Fr. Jim and I have used a couple of times--flat and open with a fire ring and easy access to the lake for water. There I pitched my tent, explored the terrain briefly, finished reading the issue of America that I'd begun at lunch, prayed Evening Prayer, and also skimmed thru an issue of Columbia. The sun came out somewhat for a while, and I took a few photos.

A good number of hikers passed by, and a foursome off-trail appeared to have enjoyed the benefits of the lake. Whether any hikers detected my site is hard to say; the tent could be seen from one vantage point on the trail above if one looked in the right direction.

For supper I boiled lake water for my freeze-dried chicken and rice supper (not the tastiest, but acceptable and filling), which was followed by freeze-dried ice cream (OK), and I washed it all down with Crystal Lite.

As the sun lowered, I went up to the trail and met a couple of young ladies who told me they'd started from Bear Mt. Inn on Saturday and stopped overnite at (but not in) Brien Memorial Shelter; that's 8.35 miles of hiking on the Appalachian Trail, including 3 mountains, as I recall. Now they were making for the Dutch Doctor Shelter--already 10 miles on the trail this day if they followed the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail to the Triangle Trail, with another 1.2 miles to the DDS. They didn't seem to be suffering from all that hiking, God bless them! Nor did they seem to be carrying huge packs like me.

In the distance there was a lot of lightning and thunder, so I was afraid there would be rain overnite. At least there wasn't any wind. But as it happened, not only wasn't there any rain, but some stars even came out, late.

I rose at 7:00, the sky low and gray, not very promising.
This is at 8:12 a.m.
After washing my hands, I celebrated Mass, boiled water for oatmeal and coffee, and started breaking camp. The oatmeal and coffee were topped off with an orange. By now I'd used up almost all the 3 quarts of water I'd lugged in with me; like a good Boy Scout, I was prepared in case I didn't make it to the lake. There wasn't much water to be found at all along the trails, but I had sufficient water to camp anywhere if I was careful with it. As it was, I used my 3 quarts for either drinking or washing, saving about a pint for the 1.8-mile hike out and lightening my backpack considerably.

I intended to pray Readings and Morning Prayer while letting breakfast settle a little, but just as I was rolling up my tent it began to rain.  So I finished packing up, canvased the site (I didn't leave anything, and in fact I brought out a little more trash than I brought in), and headed down the Triangle Trail.

I made the mistake of leaving my map in a pocket in my pack, which was now ensconced, with me, under my poncho in the rain shower.  Had I stayed on the Triangle, that wouldn't have mattered.  But I saw a woods road that looked like it was going more directly toward the White Bar Trail and Dutch Doctor, so I got on it, mostly easy hiking, and my hunch proved to be correct. My downfall, however, came at the White Bar intersection.  I know full well that one can lose one's sense of direction in the woods, and I did. Instead of turning left, just .2 mile from Dutch Doctor, I turned right and hiked on--along a fine trail--for about half a mile before deciding I'd really better sling off the poncho (the rain had stopped quite a bit earlier), take off the pack, and look at the map. Oops!Obviously, whatever ground I'd saved by taking the woods road I'd lost on my wrong turn. 

So I backtracked, more hastily than I'd gone before, and in 20 minutes came to the shelter, which was occupied by a crowd of older teens, one of whom was showing some of the others how to sling a rope over an upper tree branch, presumably for a bear bag. I stopped near the shelter for a granola bar and water, then continued the remaining mile and a half along the White Bar Trail to the car; the trail follows an old road for the most part--probably the extension of Johnsontown Rd.--and is very easy going. I reached the circle about 10:45 and found 10 other cars this time; and I'd met some hikers coming in as I went out.

Thanks be to God for a safe, mostly dry, and pleasant trip (except for the mosquitoes).

Rector Major Joins Pope's Plea for Peace

September 4, 2013 – Salesian GHQ
Message to the Salesian Family for Peace

(ANS – Rome) – Welcoming and relaying Pope Francis’s call for prayer and fasting, the Rector Major has issued a letter in which he exhorts all the members of the Salesian Family to participate in the initiative.

Recalling Don Bosco’s devotion and unconditional obedience to the Holy Father, Fr. Chavez invites all the members of the Salesian Family in Rome or its vicinity to take part directly in the time of prayer planned for St. Peter’s Square on the evening of Saturday, September 7.

The Rector Major suggests that all others should participate with the same spirit of communion in the initiatives organized in local Churches.

Every community or educational setting is invited to arrange times of prayer, reflection, and sharing on peace. The Rector Major proposes three phases: prayer, education, and witness.
Here's the complete text of the Rector Major’s letter:

Via della Pisana 1111 - 00163 Roma
Il Rettor Maggiore

Message on Peace to the Salesian Family

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Salesian Family,

Special greetings to you all with the same affection that Don Bosco had for all his sons and daughters. 

The reason for this message of mine to all the Salesian Family is to bring to your attention what the Holy Father communicated at the Angelus last Sunday, September 1. He addressed the Church and the world in these words: “Today, dear brothers and sisters, I would like to interpret the cry rising up all over the earth, from every people, from everyone’s hearts, from the one great family that is humanity, and with growing anguish: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry that says so strongly: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, we want our society, riven as it is by divisions and conflict, to find peace; war never again! War never again! Peace is too precious a gift, and it has to be promoted and safeguarded.” 

As you can see, this is a heartfelt appeal referring first to the sorrowful situation in Syria which has long been caught up in civil war, and secondly it is an invitation not to forget the many other conflicts tormenting so many regions and populations on the different continents.

To sensitize the Church and all people of good will to this important topic of peace, Pope Francis ended his appeal by saying: “I have decided to proclaim, for the entire Church, September 7 as a day of fasting for peace in Syria and the world. From 7:00 p.m. until midnight let us gather in prayer and a spirit of penitence to call on God for this gift. Mankind needs to see gestures of peace. I ask all communities to organize some liturgical act according to this intention. I shall be awaiting you here next Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in St. Peter’s Square.” 

My dear brothers and sisters, led by the spirit of our Father Don Bosco, I warmly encourage you to welcome this wish of the Holy Father and see it as a command to be put into practice with conviction and love. We all believe that peace is an extraordinarily necessary good for the development and progress of national communities and the world community. It is nurtured through respect for basic rights which must be guaranteed for peoples and individuals, and at the same time is built up through observance of equally important duties born of these very same rights. 

So I wish to invite all groups of the Salesian Family to welcome the Holy Father’s encouragement in a concrete way and make September 7 a day of prayer, reflection, and fasting to witness to the world that we believe in the great value of peace and to call on this same gift from the “Prince of Peace,” the Risen Christ, the one who conquered death!

Concretely, as far as is possible if you live within reach of Rome, I invite you to be physically present in St. Peter’s Square on this great occasion of prayer and fasting. For those living elsewhere, I invite you to be an active part of the various initiatives that will certainly be promoted by individual local Churches.

Let each community and educational context, try as far as possible to provide leadership in three ways:
  • A time of prayer for peace, especially through Eucharistic adoration prefaced by fasting; the prayer can be nurtured with biblical passages or texts taken from the documents of the Church on peace.
  • A time for education to peace. Schools, youth centers, and other educational contexts can offer young people some gathering based on peace, proposing reflection based on news to do with the question of peace, making use of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in terris, other Church documents, and significant texts by lay authors.
Let us propose to help young people mature in their belief that peace is built on four fundamental values: truth, justice, love, and forgiveness.
  • A time for witness to peace. It may be possible to hold a community celebration of reconciliation, inviting lay people and the young, during which we ask God to forgive our divisions and conflicts, small and great. It may also be possible to invite lay people closely connected with us to a meeting of reflection and deeper understanding of the peace theme. We must all see that peace lies at the heart of every group and community in the Salesian Family.
Thank you, dear friends! I know that you will accept this invitation of mine generously and with a sense of involvement. I am certain I am expressing the Holy Father’s thanks and the thanks of our beloved father, Don Bosco!

Greetings to you all, then. May Mary, Queen of Peace and Help of Christians, accompany you along the way.

Rome, September 3, 2013

Fr. Pascual Chavez V., SDB
Rector Major