21 January 2013
Second Week of Ordinary Time
St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, in Camden, NJ,
DeSales Service Works welcomes volunteers to join
in service, prayer, and learning in our struggling neighborhood.
- Service Word
- Last Week in Camden
- Upcoming Events
1. Service Word Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events
that have been fulfilled among us,
just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning
and ministers of the word have handed them down to us,
I too have decided,
after investigating everything accurately anew,
to write it down in an orderly sequence for you,
most excellent Theophilus,
so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings
you have received.
One recent morning Phil called to say he had lost his wallet. I have written about Phil before—he was homeless, addicted, then in jail, now doing great. One day at a time, he stays sober, and just last week, moved from a bed with 24 others in the dorm of a homeless shelter to a place of his own in a rooming house. —Small but real steps forward. He is a bright, good-hearted guy.
You could hear the frustration in his voice at loosing his wallet with his hard-won ID and debit card. I listened, and we planned to meet later that day to pick up some items he is storing with us—to distract his mind from the set-back. I also asked St. Anthony to help him find the wallet.
My natural response to any lost object is to pray to St. Anthony. My Mother handed that practice down to me. There have been times when I have wondered why I continue this. Sometimes I think the practice naturally calms some of the frustration or panic that arise looking for a lost wallet, or keys, or glasses, or important paper or email. Also I think if you look for something long enough, you are bound to find it; since there is a finite number of places any missing item could be. It is not accurate to say that any prayer “works.” Prayer is not a mechanical exchange—as if I do this or that pious or virtuous act, and God has to respond in kind. That would be magic; in contrast, prayer is based on relationship. God already and always loves us, so he encourages us to serve and to draw us closer to him and to the Church.
Prayer to St. Anthony does that in a small but practical way. Anthony of Padua is a kind, holy man, and was an amazing preacher; thousands would come to hear his orderly teachings of the Gospel. Isn’t it healthy to remember him and to continue to ask for his support, thinking of him as part of our 21st century Community?
Thinking about this topic, I notice there are a number of customs I have received: bowing my head when ever I say (or think) the name “Jesus,” reaching for holy water on the way into church (sometimes in theaters or museums also), wearing new clothes or shoes first to Mass before anywhere else, heading to Mass on Sunday. Customs like these intend to point us to larger gospel values: awareness of the real presence of the loving God, concern for our neighbors—particularly for those who are poor.
Some commentators have observed that Catholics are not handing on their faith to the next generations. I am not sure how widespread this is, but often in this neighborhood and in much more affluent settings, I encounter Catholic kids who don’t know how to make the Sign of the Cross, or say the Our Father or Hail Mary. I also meet kids who do have a sense of God’s presence and for whom service is a natural part of life. I wonder if it is accurate to observe that younger generations seem to live in a very generic, “God-absent” environment, where culture is generated by media and all the various electronic devices they are plugged into (not just “them” maybe all of us?)—more than being handed down by older generations.
Phil grew up in deep poverty and disorder. He says he cannot remember a time when drugs were not sold out of his house. His mom was an addict—and a breast cancer victim. His one support was his ancient Irish great-grandmother whose home up the street was a refuge for the young kids, who took him to church, and who supported the family with rent money, tuition, and groceries. Later that morning, Phil called to say he found his wallet; thank you, St. Anthony.
-Phil received many challenges with his upbringing. What negatives were handed on to you from yours? -What are some religious customs ingrained in you that point you to God’s presence and love—and maybe challenge you to care for neighbor? -Are there faith traditions you deliberately hand on to the next generation?
2. Last Week in Camden
Thursday a Salesianum homeroom served well here. Juan Santiago had a simple and beautiful funeral service for Dorothy in the Cathedral.
Saturday we had a full house. Oblate Joe Wisniewski brought kids from Father Judge and from his old parish in Newark Delaware; several from both groups had served here before multiple times. Two adults and 12 students from Cristo Rey served. And Holy Name Scholars also brought their generous service here. Special thanks to Tim Gallagher and Lourdes Gonzales who worked with the groups. We passed out flyers about winter a clothing give away, we worked in the park and in school. In the school chapel students painted a couple accent walls in a shade that picked up one of the colors of the stained glass windows. The Judge and Newark group walked to Rutgers University to view Oblate Mickey McGrath’s Camden paintings on view at an exhibition there.
3. Upcoming Events
Thursday is the feast of St. Francis de Sales; so this week I travel to Salesianum on Tuesday and Ireton on Thursday to join those communities for Mass.
Saturday Cristo Rey will be back with more generous students.
Oblate communication director and DSW supporter, Kevin Nadolski, has launched an e-mail publication entitled DeSales Weekly. He hopes it will connect Oblate friends, coworkers, our various communities, and ministries. He will send it to everyone on this mailing list within the next few Thursdays. We think readers of Service Matters will enjoy this new newsletter. Let us know what you think.
DSW supporter Paula Riley wrote a great article in the Chestnut Hill Philadelphia newpaper about connections with Camden and Norwood Fontbonne grade school in Chestnut Hill.
Note that the gospel reflection above looks to the coming Sunday’s readings rather than yesterday’s. We are making this change to sync with DeSales Weekly’s feature that also looks to the upcoming Sunday.
Check out an effort of the US Catholic bishops to promote Justice for Immigrants.
Have a good week,
Mike McCue, OSFS firstname.lastname@example.org