Friday, November 6, 2020

OUR ISLAND-HOPPING MISSIONARY FRIEND - FATHER BONIFACE


FATHER BONIFACE OGONNA
a volunteer Nigerian missionary priest in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
pastor of the Catholic parishes on the islands of Union and Mayreau



Before you complain the next time you to go to Mass, watch the two videos below. This is how Father Boniface has to do it, each way, every time he has Mass or a parish function. 

Our organization, Catholic Second Wind Guild, has helped both parishes is several ways. (1) A new roof on Saint Joseph House on Union (2) a new boat motor to get the priest back and forth between his two islands (3) a new fence around the church on Mayreau to protect the vegetable garden, shrubs and plants from roaming island goats (4) Christmas gifts and Easter baskets for the kids (5) first-aid kits for the fishermen's boats (6) school supplies for the kids. We are now working on ceiling fans for both churches because of the intense heat in that area of the Caribbean. (7) We hope to sponsor a safe, social-distancing Christmas "goody bag" distribution for the kids this year.  
 
PLEASE WATCH BOTH VIDEOS FOR A FULL APPRECIATION






 





Wednesday, November 4, 2020

SOME SECRETS FROM MY "PLAN B" MINISTRY

         


           

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

           Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

           

                        

WHAT DO YOU DO NOW?

                                           EPIKEIA                                            (reasonableness)

"Epikeia" is an interpretation of law in instances not provided by the letter of the law. It presupposes sincerity in wanting to observe the law, and interprets the mind of the lawgiver in supplying his presumed intent to include a situation that is not covered by the law. It favors the liberty of the interpreter without contradicting the express will of the lawgiver.. 

I forgot who it was, but one of the monks who taught us in the seminary asked us to present some "pastoral situations" for class discussion - maybe a wedding, funeral or counseling situation. He asked us to write up the "ideal" way we might handle the situation once we were ordained.

After we had all written up our "ideal" approaches to the situations we described, he collected the papers and stood there in the front of class and ripped them up into small pieces and threw them in the garbage. After that we said to us, "Sometimes you will never get to do the "ideal," so let's talk about some alternative approaches." Man, has that insight ever come in handy over the last 50 years! In almost every one of my assignments as a priest, I have been in a situation where the "ideal" way to proceed was, for all intents and purposes, an impossibility. What is called "a pastoral decision" had to be made. In those cases, a solution in some cases is just simply not in the rule books. Forcing the rules in those cases could actually do more damage to people. 

In the last few years, I have been called to the hospital to pray with those who were dying. That was not new, but what was new was being with the sick and their families as they made the decision to "turn off the machines" and let their loved ones die. I have been there on three different occasions for that painful moment. Unable to give them communion, I have started the practice of laying the pyx with the host on their chests, over their hearts, as they leave this world. It's not in any of the books, but it is something that I have found helpful to the families so I may continue to do it in similar situations. 

During this pandemic, I got my first request for an online confession. It is not approved of in any of the books, but in that case I did it believing that it was better to do that than refuse her the opportunity for absolution when there was no way for her to receive this Sacrament otherwise. I would never make it a routine practice, but in this situation, it was the best I could offer her. 

Several years ago, I got a request to do the baptism of two adopted bi-racial twins by a gay couple (men). Should I? Shouldn't I? I decided to baptize the children. I could not stand the thought of these two innocent children going through life being victims of prejudice, ostracized by the community and excluded by the Church. I could not stand the thought that these two young men would be punished by the Church for adopting two bi-racial orphans. I didn't ask anyone in that case, knowing that it is often easier to get forgiveness than permission.  

When I was a seminarian, I rented an apartment on Eastern Parkway from a childless couple who ended up becoming like surrogate parents to me.  After that first summer of renting their basement apartment, I would actually stay with them in their house over holidays. They introduced me for years as their "son." I practically lived with them and celebrated most holidays with them. Neither were Catholic. She had a Lutheran background in Germany. He was unbaptized with a Baptist background. Toward the end of his life, he really wanted to be baptized and he wanted me to do it. They attended Mass on my special occasions, he went to a Baptist church growing up, he attended a United Church of Christ near his house periodically, but he never wanted to join any of them. He was adamant that he wanted to be baptized before he died and he insisted that I do it. Being raised around Baptists, he wanted full immersion. How could I refuse? I gave him some basic instructions in the Christian faith, cleaned and filled a hot tub with fresh water and baptized him a few months before he died, with his wife looking on! 

When I was serving in the home missions of our diocese, I remember one Ash Wednesday realizing that I had no palm to burn, no time to make a quick run to Tonini's and no time to borrow ashes from a neighboring parish. I remember burning a cigarette in an ashtray and using those ashes for the Ash Wednesday service. I was not trying to be frivolous. I was in a pinch and I was not about to cancel Ash Wednesday services because I had no palm ashes.  I knew palm was a plant. I knew tobacco was a plant. I knew there was not much left I could do so I, without telling anyone till now, used the ashes I had!  In the missions, you always had to "make do" in various situations. 

I remember my very first ecumenical service as a newly ordained priest. I entered the Methodist Church where we were holding the service. I walked down the long aisle and genuflected out of habit. I could hear the muffled laughing around me as people realized what was happening. Not about to admit my mistake, I proceeded to cross myself, kneel on the floor for a few minutes even without a kneeler and cross myself again before sitting down. As a Catholic in that town, I was a minority. As a minority, I was not about to feel ashamed of my Catholic rituals. 

When I left Saint Meinrad to be ordained, one of my monk classmates from another abbey was packing his stuff to leave at the same time. As a professed monk, he had a kukula (a flowing outer black robe made of yards and yards of pleated black material). He had planned to leave that monastery and become a diocesan priest and he had no room for his kakula. He gave it to me to dispose of. I carried it with me to the home missions thinking I could use the material for something - a banner maybe. I ended up giving it to my Presbyterian minister friend who had a nice black Presbyterian minister's robe made from it! He wore it every Sunday, at wedding and funerals, for all the years I knew him. 

I believe in obeying rules. I believe they are created for the common good, but I do not believe that even good rules can cover every possible situation. For instance, I believe that we should all stop on red before going on green when we come to a stop light. I get angry when people callously run red lights.  However, if I had a bleeding person in the back seat of my car, or a pregnant woman in labor, and I needed to get to the hospital as fast as I can, I would cautiously and carefully run all the red lights between me and the hospital, even knowing that I might be stopped by an overzealous policeman if I am caught. 

Looking back, I would probably do most of the things I mentioned above over again if necessary and even if the Church authorities called me in for punishment. After fifty years of pastoral experience, I have come to believe that over-zealously applying a good law in some situations is not the most loving thing to do! 

Besides, I am 76 now and retired. What can they do? Fire me? 


 



Monday, November 2, 2020

FOR THOSE WHO HAVE DIED......


 


....A MOVING MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO THOSE WHO HAVE DIED DURING THE PANDEMIC




 

 




 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

HAPPY "ALL SAINTS DAY" TO ALL YOU FELLOW SAINTS IN PROCESS


MY FAVORITE ALL SAINTS DEPICTION


The tapestries created by artist John Nava for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles are the largest collection hanging in a Catholic place of worship in the United States. Throughout the ages, large scale pictorial wall cycles have served as one of the most effective forms of literary expression, vividly telling the stories of the Greeks, Romans, Medieval and Renaissance periods, especially to a largely illiterate population. 

The tapestries are part of this heritage and link the very contemporary Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels to this long tradition. In modern times, as in the past, tapestries have served as an art form that can combine great size with intricacy of detail, and in the Cathedral serve to soften the tonal quality and enhance the acoustics. 

Of the three tapestry groups, the most prominent is the Communion of Saints along the south and north walls of the nave. Twenty-five fresco-like tapestries depict 135 saints and blesseds from around the world, including holy men and women of North America canonized by the Church. Twelve untitled figures, including children of all ages, represent the many anonymous holy people in our midst. All the figures direct our eyes to the light of the great Cross-window above the Altar where the Eucharist is celebrated.