January 6th, 2019.
Epiphany comes from the Greek and means “manifestation.” Today, the Church celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the world. On this feast, we especially remember the Magi who traveled from the East to find “he who has been born king of the Jews.” Whenever I consider the Three Wise Men, I always reflect on how arduous their journey must have been. Even if they were knowledgable astronomers, it can’t have been easy to have a star as your GPS. Their journey would have taken many weeks as they traversed hundreds of miles in search of a newborn king. They also risked political peril as foreigners traveling through the territory of the Roman Empire. It is quite inspiring to consider all that these three men risked to follow the star.
Matthew’s Gospel offers this simple yet profound description of the Wise Men:
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
It has always struck me that the Wise Men had to travel home by another way. Another way?? How did they determine this other way? They had no celestial guide to follow on the return trip. It would probably have been difficult enough just to backtrack hundreds of miles of difficult terrain. Now they needed to find an alternate route? Departing by another way may have presented challenges to them, but they faithfully followed the directives of their dream. Their response gave the Holy Family more time to seek safety from Herod’s wrath. By finding another way, the Wise Men helped to save the Christ Child they had adored in the manger.
The Wise Men are usually depicted as regal men of humility, dignity and reverence. Let us not forget that they were also heroic men of courage, trust and resiliency. They found another way.
January 6th, 2002.
Seventeen years ago, the Spotlight team of The Boston Globe published their first story on the clerical abuse scandal within the Archdiocese of Boston.
Five intrepid investigative journalists uncovered widespread sexual abuse by scores of priests within the Boston region. The victims’ stories were equally gut and heart wrenching. But the Spotlight team also revealed another atrocious reality: the cover-up of this abuse and the relocating of abusive priests to different parishes. These incredible, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigations set off shockwaves throughout the country. Ultimately, many priests were criminally prosecuted, vast numbers of victims came forward, and Cardinal Law eventually fled to Rome in disgrace. U.S. Catholics were in disbelief as the issue of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy emerged as a matter of national awareness.
The Spotlight articles marked the beginning of a challenging chapter in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. At the time, many Catholics thought the scandal was essentially a problem in the Archdiocese of Boston. Sure, there might be isolated cases here and there, but nothing on the scale of Boston. How very wrong we were.
Beginning in 2002, Catholics in the United States have been faced with the challenge of looking at our Church in another way. We have had to acknowledge that some of our priests were capable of heinous crimes against children and adults alike. We have been forced to reckon with the reality that the leaders of our Church have often been involved in covering up these crimes and protecting the abusers. It is painful to see our Church in a new, harsh light and to view her not with blind faith but in another way. It is necessary to face this reality, but it is extremely painful.
January 6th, 2010.
Nine years ago today, I came home to Buffalo after spending six months with the Nashville Dominicans at their Motherhouse in Tennessee. My postulant class of 23 – pictured above on a rosary walk – was the largest group of sisters-in-training in the United States at the time. My time at the Motherhouse was filled with truth, goodness and beauty. It was a period of joy, challenge, self-knowledge and closer union with Christ. It was a great privilege to spend half a year with such spirited, faithful Sisters. I will always be grateful for my days at their lovely Motherhouse.
During my first several months there, my cell (monastic term for the living quarters of a religious) overlooked the Motherhouse cemetery, which is pictured above. Situated on a small hill, it was a particularly picturesque graveyard. I remember looking out at the cemetery every morning and thinking, “I wonder where I’ll end up out there!” I had every intention of living and dying as a teaching Dominican Sister.
It was very difficult to accept that God had another way for me. Entering the convent was an intense and challenging experience, but exiting it was even more difficult. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to discern another way to know, love and serve God. I thought my discernment days were over! It was hard to trust God that He would help me find another way.
January 6, 2019.
Once again, I find myself asking God what He wants of me and how He wants me to best know, love and serve Him. Several years ago, I thought that would be accomplished through serving my bishop and my diocese by working at the Chancery. Obviously the Lord had another way in mind. Now I am not sure of the way He intends for me. I find myself turning to this candid prayer by Thomas Merton:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.
If you are seeking another way of any kind, know that God is with you and will never abandon you. He was with the Wise Men. He will always remain with His beloved albeit beleaguered Church. He is with each of us through the vagaries of our individual journeys. Thank you, Lord, for being with us all the way.