Clelian Clip #6: On Reparation and Charity

Here’s another Clelian Clip. This time focusing on Ven. Clelia’s understanding of reparation and charity.

Here’s the quote:

Now just as in the human body, when one member suffers all other members suffer. If the foot is wounded, the arm reaches out to it, the knee bends, the eye quickly looks at the foot to see it and the other members mobilize to help it. So, too, true charity gives us a tender and compassionate heart toward all those who suffer.

Book 7, Chapter 17

Here’s my reflection:

“If it weren’t for Christ, I could do nothing…”

Here’s a homily I gave in Connecticut to the a gathering of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and their families. It was the Sunday after the first profession and renewal of vows for some of the younger sisters, who were all present along with their families.

On June 28, 2012, I packed everything I thought I could possibly need for the summer into two backpacks, one on my belly and one big on my back, got a cab and headed to the airport in Rome. I was excited for the adventure of a lifetime.  A few hours later when we landed in Tirana, Albania we had to take one of those buses to the terminal and I’ll never forget that moment when I stepped out of the plane at the top of the steps. I looked at the advertisement on the side of the bus and I hit me hard, I didn’t know what those words meant. I didn’t speak the language. Those of you that know me know how much I love languages and talking, so this was really stressful. But it wasn’t just the words that had me doing my best Dorothy impression, “Toto, we’re not in Missouri anymore.” I suddenly felt somewhat nervous, concerned about the uncertainties, the total lack of knowledge as to what would take place during my mission.

A few minutes later having passed through customs I collected my bags and walked out into the main hall where I immediately spotted Sr. Flora, who I only recognized by the habit, as I’d never met her before. She then took me to the Apostles community in Dajç, where I was welcomed with open arms for lunch. As soon as I got there, all of my worries and concerns were gone. Why? I had never met these four women whose house, table and food I was now sharing. But in a deeper sense, it was if I had already met them, because I had already met all of you. There we were, within a few minutes laughing and having a good time as if we’d known each other a long time. Why? It wasn’t just because they dressed the same as you all, but because the habit is an external sign of an internal reality, a charism, a certain zeal and love of Christ which was instantly recognizable. So to Sr. Elizabeth, Mahilia and Christina, in the words of our reading from St. Paul today, you have put on not just some new clothes, but a new self, you now belong in a deeper way to the this lovely group of sisters who surround and support you here in Hamden, across the US and all over the world.

Yesterday we all gathered together, what a joyous gathering it was, to celebrate first vows and renewal of vows. This putting on of the new self. For the rest of us, such celebrations can provide the opportunity for us contemplate how it is that we are called to do the same, so whether we made vows just yesterday, or many years ago, ordained some number of years ago or just 5 weeks, newlywed or married a long time, we should all be inspired, and strengthened by the example and witness of these 8 young holy women. A reminder that we too are to put on this new self in Christ, through our joy we are renewed in our zeal and love for God.

But what does this new self look like? It’s not like we can just flip through a catalogue to pick out what a new self looks like? You won’t see it in any of the back to school ads? There’s no app for that.

To get that answer we need only turn to today’s Gospel reading in which our Lord reminds us, “Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” This same food which, “comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Which gives LIFE to the world.

So as Fr. Bob mentioned, this new self is not to be mopey, crabby and miserable, we are to be full of LIFE, but how? what’s the source, let it be because we have been nourished by the Eucharist. Thus the Eucharist, that which gives us life must impact our entire being and all our doing. Let it become the Caritas Christi that Urgets nos. And we’re not just alive when we are singing so beautifully in the chapel, but in all that we do, everywhere we go, everyone we meet, Christ’s presence may be recognized in us.

Some of you may have heard Mother Clare telling some of my stories from Albania, and I shared some of them with you all as well. When I worked in the Health Clinic in Dajç, I help the sisters in the clinic and sometimes, when there are really bad cases, we go out to their homes, in which we encounter incredible amounts of suffering, for things that we take for granted here. Like diabetes, many of us either are, or know someone affected by this for us, controllable disease. We see advertisements for the little strips on tv. In Albania there are no strips, no shots. So inevitably people lose circulation in their feet, lose the ability to walk and then eventually call the sisters to come cure their wounds as they lie on their deathbed. One night after a long day, after having seen terrible things, I was visiting with Sr. Loreci, and i asked her, “sister, how do you do it? I’m only here for a little while but you do this day in and day out, how do you handle so much suffering?”

She looked up at me and said, “If it weren’t for Christ, I could do nothing, If I couldn’t receive him in the Eucharist, I could do nothing”

What’s even crazier, and some of you might have heard this story because I know Mother Clare found out while she was here on her visit to the US province, this same sister, the day before my most recent visit to Albania, had suffered a great tragedy. Back home in Brazil two men broke into her sister’s home and killed her brother in law, in cold blood, in front of his children, her nieces and nephews. Now I don’t know about all of you, but if that was me, I’d be pretty angry and would want come back and at least comfort my sister if not go after the guys who did it. But what did sister do, she got up in the morning, prayed morning prayer, went to Mass, and then off to the homes, to imitate Christ, washing the feet of diabetics and healing the sick.

That sisters and brothers, is what it means to be one who lives, “Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” That is the recognition that this bread from Heaven, “gives life to the world.”

May this Eucharist we celebrate, amongst the many joyous celebrations of this weekend, be that which gives us life, not just here and now, but in every aspect of our lives so that we who have put on a new self in Christ, and especially for those newly professed, may your lives always be a witness and living expression of Caritas Christi Urget Nos.

A Mizzou Homecoming in August

On August 30th I returned to Mizzou to celebrate the student Mass at the Newman Center. Here’s the homily I prepared for that special occasion.

Sr. Sarah Graves

Mark Mackey

(Br.) Benjamin Keller

JP Regan

Dan Everson

(Br. ) Joseph Albin

(Sr.) Elizabeth Doyle

(Deacon) Josh Duncan

Ashley Viola – Sr. Caterina

Fr. Geoffrey Brooke

For those of you who, like me, aren’t math majors, that was 10. 10 names I read. 10 young men and women who have entered religious life or the seminary in the last 6 years. Which one of you is next? I know most of you are saying, it can’t be me, I’m nothing like those people. You know what all of those people have in common, we all went to Mizzou. Oh yeah, but father, Mizzou is really big, there’s lots of students and those students were never in my situation. Oh yeah. Here’s something else you have in common with those 10 people, you’re sitting in their same seats. I sat over there, Sr. Elizabeth over there, JP over there, Sarah over there, Br. Joseph over here, Deacon Josh, where did you sit?

Not only did we sit in the same physical seats as you all, we too went through the same experiences that have had and will have during your time at Mizzou. From the joys of living on campus with a stranger you’ve never met, er, I mean, roommate. the difficulty of making new friendships and finding your way in a seeming sea of students with so many activities and things to choose from, for me, outside of the Newman Center, I was on the Mizzou BBQ team, I bet you a bunch of you didn’t even know we have a BBQ team. The difficulty and frustrations with school work. Tailgating and going to sporting events, homecoming, the list goes on and on. College is a busy and exciting time when you’re being pulled in many directions, that was true for all of us 10 as well.

Maybe you’re still thinking, ok father, so maybe you’re right, you all did go through the same stuff as us, but, I’m not worthy, I’m not good enough, I’ve got too many problems, to many faults. There’s no way God could be calling me. Guess what? You’re right! None of the 10 of us were or are or ever will be “worthy.” It’s God who makes us worthy. He gives us the strength and grace to be able to respond and do whatever we have to do as priests and nuns. So get over yourself and your weaknesses. Let God take control.

So ok fine, you’ll accept that God can make you worthy, but how do you know? The only way for you to know is if you are willing to cultivate a relationship with Christ. That’s where you are very lucky here at Mizzou, because you already have a whole host of people here at the Newman center who want to help you grow in your relationship with Christ. Meet Angelle and JoAnn, as well as the interns focus missionaries and the Dominican Priests. They work tirelessly to organize many events and programs throughout the year all to help you grow in that relationship with Christ, which will help you to learn if you are called to the priesthood or religious life.

Let me tell you about one of those activities that had a major impact on my vocation. Raise your hands if you’ve heard about the small group bible studies? Ok great. Now I want you all to raise your hands because you’ve all heard about them now.

Well you see when I was here as a student, and I’m not that old, remember it was just 6 years ago that I was in those seats. There weren’t small group bible studies, there was just small group bible study. My first year I was the pretty much the lone freshman along with a bunch of upperclassmen. A group by the way which included Sarah Graves, who just entered the Religious Sisters of Alma Michigan last month, and Br. Joseph Albin a member of the Dominicans. So my second year, Angelle asked me to take on leadership of the group. The first month or so we had a small group, but for whatever reason, scheduling etc., that group suddenly dwindled down to two, myself, a sophomore and a freshman girl.

Then one day she walked in and said, “Geoff, Geoff, I’ve got something to tell you, last night I had this experience during Mass, and I think I might be called to be a nun!” I was in shock, because two weeks prior, I had my own experience in prayer which led me to think about the priesthood, and so I replied to her, “well to be honest this morning I just asked for the seminary application.” So then, while the bible study continued the rest of the year, few people ever came, but the two of us would get together and support each other in our process of discernment. Fast forward to this summer, on June 27th I was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, and just 5 weeks later on August 1st, Sr. Elizabeth professed her first vows with the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Ok yeah, get the awws out, because as awesome as that story is, it’s not why I share it with you tonight. You see, think about it, Angelle and JoAnn, they could have seen that bible study as a flop, only 2 of us going, one sophomore, one freshman. They could have easily decided to cancel that bible study, decide to come up with something different. Instead they saw the bigger picture, and let the bible study continue that year and beyond, the bigger picture is 200 students participating in small group bible studies last year! Think about that, from 2 to 200.So when I said that Angelle, JoAnn, and the whole staff here will support you in getting to grow in a relationship with Christ, I mean it! How many will sign up this year? 250? 300? These small groups will help you to grow in your relationship with Christ and to discern your vocation. No, I’m not saying that if you sign up for bible study you will become a priest or a nun, although 2 for 2 was pretty good that year. What I am saying is that the small groups will help you grow in your relationship with Christ.

There’s another reason I tell you about my small group bible study. Remember when I said how blessed you were to be at Mizzou because you have this great staff that’s so willing to help you grow in a relationship with Christ. Now I want you to look at the person next to you, in front of you and behind you. You all have your fellow students to help you grow in your relationship with Christ. In the small groups you will be able to help support each other and build a strong sense of community.

Recognizing Christ in the Eucharist

Over the past weekend I was also able to preach during a holy hour with some of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was my first time doing exposition and benediction. It was a beautiful evening. The mother superior asked me to preach a few words during the holy hour, of course I obliged. I must say it was a little different than preaching during the Mass. Below is a rough text of what I’m pretty sure I said, I gave the homily without a prepared text and in Italian, however, later that evening I typed it out in English to send to one of the sisters in the USA. I think the text if faithful to what I actually said, I’m certain it’s faithful to some of the sentiments I wanted to convey. While it is geared towards a very specific (and wonderful) congregation of women religious, I believe some of the sentiments found therein have a universal application.

Text:

As many of you already know after my first year in Rome I could not go back to the United States. So I went off to Albania to go on mission with the Apostles. However, when I arrived, as I stepped off the airport to go down the steps to bus, as I looked at the bus with an Albanian advertisement on the side, I realized something. I was in a country where I didn’t speak the language, a country even further from home, where i knew no one, didn’t know the culture. I suddenly felt quite alone, quite lost, I started to question myself, what was I doing here? Did I make a mistake? What’s going on? Etc.

Then when I walked into the house of the Apostles, something changed. No, I didn’t know those individual sisters themselves or even their names yet, but it was as if I already knew them, because I already knew all of you, and all of your sisters in the United States. I was able to immediately recognize them, not just by the habit, but rather by their faith, their joy, the way they lived out their vocation. The same way I see it in all of you and your sisters in the United States. By the end of lunch it was as if I had known them for years. All of my worries, confusion, and doubts had been taken way because I was able to recognize these sisters right away.

This is how it is when we enter the chapel anywhere in the world. In the Eucharist, we recognize the presence of Christ. We we are far from home, when we feel confused, when we have doubts, concerns, problems, when we feel alone. We come to the chapel and recognize Christ in the Eucharist, for it is he who can take away all of these burdens. When we recognize him and he takes away everything, we can be at peace, we never have to feel alone again.

First Homily

After posting my homily from this past Saturday, I’ve received some requests for my first homily after my diaconate ordination. The Mass was celebrated by my Bishop at the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. The Church is very important in Rome because it houses the relics brought back to Rome by St. Helena, mother of Constantine. Given that I had family and friends present from eight different countries, I decided to preach in both English, Spanish and Italian. I didn’t want anyone to be left out!

First the text as prepared in the different languages, then a translation with the full text in English. While homilies are meant to be delivered, I hope reading the text provides for fruitful reflection as well.

Continue reading “First Homily”

Diaconate Ordination

Praised be Jesus Christ! Yesterday I was finally ordained to the Order of Deacons along with 42 of my classmates in the Papal Basilica of St. Peter. We were blessed to have Donald Cardinal Wuerl as the ordaining prelate.

While I’ll have more thoughts and reflections in the coming days, for now I know many people have been asking for photos. This is a very preliminary and initial collection of photos taken over the past few days. There will be more to come as I receive them from everybody else, so be sure to check back for more!

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