Category Archives: Homilies and Talks


Fr. Michael’s presention on Thomas Merton at Bellermine 10/20/18

+MERTON AS PROPHET FOR OUR TIME                                                       20 Oct. 2018

The reason for our gathering this weekend, let me suggest, is the way Merton still speaks to us, perhaps more clearly than ever. At the time of his death fifty years ago, he was articulating what was unfolding in Church and society in a way like few others of his time. As scripture scholars have long pointed out, the prophet is not so much a predictor of the future as one who sees clearly and disturbingly what is actually happening in the present. What I want to suggest to you during this presentation is how Merton is addressing human life and society today as much as he ever did. He had the courage to face himself, to own his false interests to a degree that not only opened his eyes to God’s presence within his life, but also, within the Church and the whole of society. Will we dare to go there?

In his book Raids on the Unspeakable, Merton writes: “prophecy is not to predict, but to seize upon reality in its moment of highest expectation and tension toward the new.”(repeat) Throughout his life, Merton became more and more grounded in the present moment in his own life and in all of life around him. He became intensely aware of where human society was moving. The reason he was able to do this, from my own experience of him, as I watched his life unfold, was because of his own inner transformation of consciousness. Through living the monastic life, he came to see how critical it was for him to move away from the false self so as to realize his true self. As he did so, his eyes were opened with an ever growing clarity. There grew within him a Christ consciousness, a growing ability to see all that was unfolding within and around him in the light of Christ, risen in glory. What happened especially the last ten years of his life was a building awareness of God’s loving presence in our world and along with this, of all that was resistant to this transformative love / power.

Merton is inviting us here this morning and each day of our lives to enter into this same inner transformation. He is challenging us now as much as he ever did during his life time. He continues to touch so many lives In the recent book, What I Am Living For, in the selection by James Martin, SJ, he tells of how he came to recognize his own false self through Merton’s writings. This completely changed his life. When we are in touch with the true self open to God, a new path is opened for us and we see God’s presence all around us.

In a brief essay called Hagia Sophia, Merton writes: “When the helpless one awakens strong at the voice of mercy, it is as if Life his Sister, as if the Blessed Virgin, (his own flesh, his own sister), as if Nature made wise by God’s Art and Incarnation were to stand over him and invite him with unutterable sweetness to be awake and to live. This is what it means to recognize Hagia Sophia.” Merton’s appreciation of the feminine dimension of human life and creation speaks loudly to our world today, whether we consider global warming, what happened during the recent Supreme Court selection or how women in general are treated. Merton invites us more than ever to question the misuse of power and to respect the divine presence in all of creation. To be free of our false selves is to become fully integrated, made in the very image and likeness of God.

My brother Paul Quenon recently reminded me of Merton’s article in Faith and Violenceabout “Events and Pseudo-Events.” We are exposed in the media Merton warns us to “countless pseudo-events, the come-ons, the releases, the statements, the surmises, the slanders, the quarrels, the insults and the interminable self-advertising of the image-makers.” He does not wish to deny for a moment that we need authentic news, reliable journalism. It’s just that is often hard to perceive the truth in what is written or said in the “news” unless we ourselves are on this journey of inner integrity, able to discern what is actually taking place all around us. Only the pure eye, the pure heart understands clearly.

Merton’s horizons were ever expanding as was his God consciousness. His awareness of the divisions within society gave him insight even then into polarization so prominent in our own time. The racism, the misuse of military power, political agendas are blinding us to the richness of human diversity. Even within the Church our way of using doctrine too often restricts our living of the gospel. Or as Fr George Kilcourse has pointed out to me, Merton knew “the Church is best when not focused on organization and structures.. but when her members are present among the poor, all those subjected to any form of injustice.” We have in Pope Francis one who shares a similar vision and moves the Church toward greater integrity.

Merton saw so clearly the tremendous value of bringing East and West together. He befriended outstanding members of Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Islamic background with a view of enriching all of humanity. How blessed we are amid our diversity!  God is at work amid all these religious traditions. Merton got us to look at all forms of violence, unmasking the self-hate that gives rise to them. He is continually inviting us to realize our true selves. I could go on and on but hopefully what I have shared will lead to some valuable sharing of your own. Thank You.

Homily – Fr. Seamus – 10/14/18 – “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

TWENTY-EIGHT SUNDAY: Cycle B 2018: + WIS 7:7-11; HEB 4:12-13; MK 10:17-30

When offered the choice between true knowledge or riches, Solomon prays for wisdom. When given the choice between following Jesus or remaining attached to his riches, the man chooses his possessions. God’s word challenges us to be attached to Jesus, and to him alone. Seems our readings are about choices.

Let’s take a closer look at today’s Gospel. A rich young man asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” In response, Jesus, after looking at him with love, says to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor.”

Selling what you own is a pretty radical thing to do. Just think what you own: a house, a bed, a car, … and that’s just the beginning …. there’s also a computer, a cell phone, a T.V. , etc. etc.

Early in Christian history, people who sold everything they owned set up religious orders so they could live together and share what they needed. ..e.g. St Francis. As a result, Jesus’ exhortation to sell what you have and give to the poor is usually interpreted as a call to the religious life. Understood in that way, Jesus’ advice to the rich young man is one of the evangelical counsels of perfection… poverty, chastity and obedience. It explains what we have to do to be perfect in this life.

But here’s a puzzle worth noticing: You don’t have to be perfect to go to heaven. You don’t have to be a member of a religious order to go to heaven. The rich young man was asking Jesus about going to heaven: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer Jesus gave him should have explained to him what you have to do to get to heaven. A counsel of perfection is by its nature not an answer to the rich young man’s question.

Or to put it another way. If selling all he has and giving it to the poor is what the rich young man needs to do to inherit eternal life, what about everybody else? Does everybody have to sell what he has in order to go to heaven? If we don’t sell everything we have, are we going to hell?

The answer to this puzzle is to think about Mark’s description of the young man asking Jesus the question: we don’t even know his name … (we know the name of the tax-collector whom Jesus called … “Matthew” … we know his name because he chose to follow Jesus immediately … and became one of the four Evangelists!) But all we know all about this young man is that he is richIn other words, his gift lies in his wealth!

But aren’t there many types of gifts? … each peson here has many gifts: gifts of education and learning, musical gifts ( Speaking of which, at LAUDS this morning I couldn’t help but notice that the music of the hymn we sang was composed by Fr Chrysogonous back in 1976. Fr Chrysogonous passed away in November, 2008, app 10 yrs ago, but the gift of music he shared with us is still being given to us in service to this community. Then there are also mechanical, electronic and computer gifts, … organizational and leadership skills, etc. But whatever a person’s gifts are, they are meant to be given back in service to the Lord. We cannot bury our gifts or our talents in the ground and hope to please the Lord.

So, here is what we need to do to inherit eternal life: we need to follow Jesus and use our gifts to the full by serving others when we do.

Or, if we don’t want to do that, like the rich, young man, we can go away sad.


Homilette for 10/9/18 by Fr. Michael Casagram

+Even though we have the scriptural readings for Ordinary time for this morning as we off Eucharist for vocations, they are especially appropriate for the day. We have the moving account of St Paul about his own vocation, of when God “who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles..” God can call us amid unexpected circumstances.

Each one of us gathered here by reason of his or her Baptism has been set apart, called by God to give daily witness to Christ by reason of our Baptism and all the more so if we have taken religious vows. We may not realize this as personally as Paul did but this does not mean our calling is any less real and significant for the Church, the whole people of God.

Like Martha and Mary, we too are to welcome Christ into our homes, into our hearts daily so that he may find rest for himself and enjoy our friendship. Christ may have to say to us as he did to Martha, “you are anxious and worried about many things,” but there is only one thing that is really important and this is to sit at my side, at my feet and to listen. The listening heart finds his or her true vocation as St Benedict reminds us, for then our hearts are one with Christ’s own love and service.

Gal. 1:13-24;  Luke 10:38-42

Homily for 10/7/18 by Fr Michael – If We Love One Another, God Remains In Us

+IF WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER, GOD REMAINS IN US                    27th Sunday, 2018

Our readings this morning speak to us of two profound truths of our faith, the sacredness of marriage and of Christ’s own marriage with the human family. At the heart of both is a loving relationship, of God with us and of husband with wife. As St John tells us in his first letter to the Church, if we love one another, God’s “love is brought to perfection in us.”

Never before has it been so important within the Church and in the society of our time, that loving relationship be fostered and encouraged. It is within the close relationship of family life, above all in the love between parents, that children’s lives are so carefully formed and lasting values imparted to them. These are especially life changing and fulfilling when they are grounded in an awareness of being a people deeply loved by God in Christ Jesus.

This holds to be true for monastic community life as well. When our relationships are imbued with a living sense of Christ’s presence in our lives, of his self-giving love, the bonds among us are both firm and lasting, enabling each one of us to make the best use of our gifts and talents. The great gift of living in community is that it constantly shows us how to channel our individual gifts away from self-interests into mutual up building.

Our Genesis narrative of how Eve was formed from a rib taken from the side of Adam is a beautiful reminder of how close the relationship between husband and wife really is. It is also a reminder of just how close our relationship with one another can be as members of the human family. When, in Jesus’ time it had become all too easy for a husband to divorce his wife, he reminded his disciples and all of us, of God’s intent from the beginning of creation. Belief in the sacredness of marriage leads to a profound transformation in each of the partners as they allow love to overcome their differences and free them from their self-centered inclinations.

This can only happen if their love for one another is grounded in Christ’s own love for the Church, God’s own love for the human family. Only if we see clearly “what God has joined together,” will we not attempt to separate. Again this brings us right back to the sacredness of all human relationships which Jesus is conscious of in all that unfolds during his mission. When children are brought to him and his very own disciples begin to object or rebuke the parents doing so, Jesus becomes indignant and upset. It is so easy to treat women and children in an undignified way and if we buy into society’s standards, great harm comes to both.

Jesus is reminding us constantly of the dignity and worth of every human being. This is the basis of authentic relationships, reminding us that unless we “accept the kingdom of God like a child,” we will not enter it. If God’s life is going to abide in us, is going to be brought to perfection in us, then our love for one another must be unfailing. Isn’t this what our participating in the Body and Blood of Christ at this altar is to bring about, learning to love even as he has loved us.     Amen


Gen. 2:18-24; Heb. 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16

Homily by Fr. James Conner for Sunday 9/30/18

26th Sunday of Year – B

The gospel today presents us with two different themes: the main one pertains to the fact that in Christ, we are all priests, prophets and kings. We have this as a result of our Baptism into Christ – the preeminent Priest, Prophet and King. Yet along side with this, Jesus realizes fully that the mystery of sin will remain among his followers. And hence he speaks in strong language of how important it is that we avoid all sin. It is better to enter the kingdom maimed and blind than to be cast into hell. In this way he highlights the fact that “whoever is not with us is against us. The gospel presents us with the theme of the threat given to those who cause one of these little ones to sin. This brings us to the theme of the sexual abuse of the young. This is certainly foremost in our awareness due to the scandals within the Church and also the current events in government with the issue of confirmation of one for the Supreme Court which has been brought to the fore this past week and will continue for at least another week.

In the mind of Christ, however, these two are closely related. Christ knows that sin will be present within his followers. And so he emphasizes the importance of making sure that we are with Christ in truth and in deed. If we are with Christ, then the gift of prophecy is active within us. The prophet brings an awareness of the nearness of the kingdom of God. He or she manifests the power of Christ over Satan and his enticements. The abuser and sinner brings only an awareness of the failure of truly living in Christ.

Both of these elements are present within each one of us. For this reason Moses said: “Would to God that all were prophets!” One who follows Jesus in his own path to Calvary will overcome the power of Satan within himself. And this is the struggle which is presented to each one of us today and every day. Am I truly with Christ or against Christ? Is society truly with Christ or against Christ? We are called to discern this on both levels – within our own heart and within society today. We claim to be with Christ – to be a Christian nation. But do our actions, our priorities, our aspirations show us as with or against Christ. It is not possible to be in the middle, even though each one of us vacillate between the two. Jesus presents it, however, as a determining factor as to whether we will find life in him or in eternal fire.

However if we draw on the gift of being prophets, then we will proclaim and strive to live out the message of the kingdom of heaven. Then we will truly be with Christ. But being with him is not an easy path. For him it led to rejection and to death on the cross. Hence if we are to be true prophets of the kingdom, then we also must face the possibility of being rejected by others, whether within Church or society. We are called to recognize that greatness in life does not consist in power and prestige, but in such a simple thing as giving a drink of cold water to one in need.

All too often today, however, it is a question of throwing water on the other rather than offering assistance to one in need. We are to recognize that the one we meet who is in need is actually Christ himself in need. This is why Jesus made the law of love so primary in his kingdom. And love means a willingness to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the other. This is what it means to be a true priest, prophet and king. Christ fulfilled all of these roles in his presence on the Cross, and he calls us to follow in his steps. It is only in this way that the Church can be a true minister of the kingdom of heaven and it is only in this way that society can present the image of Christ and provide true life, liberty and happiness to all. Perhaps we are fortunate in living in these days of such struggle and strife within the Church and within society. Because it throws light on what is means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, who came to glory only after suffering rejection, death but also resurrection. For now we truly realize that “whoever is not with us is against us.”

Reflection at Eucharist on 9/29/18 by Fr. Michael Casagram

+We live with a limited vision and awareness. Although the presence of the angels is all around us, it is so easy to be unaware and to ignore its impact on our lives, to feel their loving support.

We do have moments like Nathaniel does in our gospel, when we sense that we too are seen under the fig tree, special moments when we know we are part of a much larger world however hidden our own may be.

As we live in faith, our eyes are opened to see the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. As we live into faith, Christ’s own life is able to live more and more in our hearts. We begin to see God’s angels ever at work, through  unexpected persons and events that draw us ever deeper into divine love. They fill us with gratitude at the heart of the Sacrament we celebrate.

Reflection at Eucharist 8/24/18 by Fr. Michael Casagram

+[Rev.21:9b-14; Jn1:45-51 The encounter in today’s gospel between Jesus and Nathanael or as we know him, Bartholomew, gives us a beautiful key to holiness in our lives as it was in the lives of the first apostles. Jesus, telling Philip that Bartholomew is a true child of Israel, that there is no duplicity in him and then that he saw him under a fig tree even before Philip called him, showed him just how close God is to us, so that even our inmost thoughts are known.

If any one of us lets himself or herself to live in this kind of awareness, of our being continually in God’s presence, to where our inmost thoughts are open and clear in God’s sight, we will find ourselves living in the truth, see ourselves for who we really are. Not only is this revealing, it is liberating, for then we are living in Gods’ very own light.  We will become like the holy city coming down out of heaven, clear as crystal we heard about in the first reading from the book of Revelation. This is truly to live in the liberty of the children of God, and to have eyes opened to all that God is doing in the world around us even as Bartholomew was to experience when he saw the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

Homily 19th Week in Ordinary Time, August 12, 2018. Fr. Michael.

+THE BREAD THAT I WILL GIVE IS MY FLESH        19TH Sunday (B) , 2018

John’s gospel on the Bread of Life has a way of completely engaging our lives, calling us into the mystery of the Incarnation it so faithfully upholds. This is a great scandal to the people of his time as it is to ours. Unless our lives as Christians reflect the very life of Jesus, can we hold that we truly have the faith, that we believe in the person of Jesus Christ around whom the whole our Christian lives are centered?

From the very beginning of our gospel this morning we see the people of his own time scandalized by the person standing in front of them. Jesus, saying that he is the bread that came down from heaven and therefore is of God, is immediately questioned. They know who his father and mother are so how could he possibly claim to belong to God, to be God’s special messenger? Jesus goes so far as to say that: “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.. I am the bread of life.” Anyone, he tells them, who claims to have a real relationship to God comes to him.

There is something wonderfully earthly about Jesus being the bread of life. It resonates with our first reading from the book of Kings where Elijah is visited by an angel in his sleep and told twice to get up and eat. He’s told this, for his journey will be long, all of forty days and forty nights until he reaches Horeb and meets God. For us, Jesus is the “bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat of it and not die.. [Indeed] whoever eats this bread will live forever” for the bread that he gives “is his flesh for the life of the world.”

What does this mean for us, to eat this bread that has come down from heaven? St Paul helps us with this in the letter to the Ephesians. It is to become imitators of God as beloved children and live in love even as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God. To eat this bread, is to have our innermost being transformed into Christ, to let ourselves to become “kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven [us] in Christ.”

To eat this bread is not so much to transform it into our bodies but to allow it to transform our bodies into becoming his, free of all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling, free from all malice. As often as we do this, our very own lives become bread that is taken into Jesus own hands, broken and given to all in need. And don’t we experience this again and again in our own personal lives with loved ones, whether in family or community. If we look carefully at our lives, what is it that gives them the most meaning, makes us creative and initiating, leaving us with a lasting happiness. It is precisely our loving relationships, as often as we experience the selfless love of others, or care for them in a selfless and loving way.

Each one of us has been destined to share in the Trinitarian life of God, going out of ourselves as a selfless gift to the other. This is taking place as often as we eat this Bread from heaven, as often as we allow the Christ life that has been given us at Baptism, to grow and mature in our daily relationships with one another. To do this is to have our lives become one with the Bread of life consecrated at this altar, one with Him who is the Life of the world.  Amen 


Reflection at Eucharist, Fr. Michael Casagram 7/24/18

+(Micah 7:14-15, 18-20) At the heart of any of our Christian lives is our relationship to Christ Jesus. Our gospel shows us just how close Christ wants this relationship to be, one that makes each and all of us his very brother, sister or mother. The context of this episode in Christ’s life can give the impression that Mary is being turned away or looked down upon but it is really revealing what her true greatness is as one who not only gave him birth but one who gave her life entirely over to God.

As we truly seek to do the will of the Father in our own lives, we share in her very motherhood, become the very brothers and sisters of Christ, live in the closest communion with him. Dare we take his words seriously so as to realize the full potential of our lives?

We see how this happened in the life of St Sharbel,  whom we remember today in a special way. By simply living in his monastic community for 15 years and then as a hermit for 23 years his life he sought to do the Father’s will in everything. Many came to him in his solitude for spiritual direction and healing. After his death in 1898, thousands came to his tomb for healing of body and spirit, as many as 15,000 a day in 1950. Just so does Christ seek to become fully alive in each of our lives as we surrender to God’s will for us.

Homily by Deacon Lawrence for Sunday July 22

We live in a divided world. There seem to be two camps in just about everything, politics, religion, social media and so forth. Sometimes these are labelled, right and left, liberal and conservative, socialist and capitalist, idealist and fundamentalist. Few of us can avoid these categories; we may even wholeheartedly define ourselves by such labels. But mainly we use them to define and dismiss those who disagree with us. The word “liberal” in the mouth of a “conservative” is an insult, and vice versa. Nothing more needs to be said about a person. One word says it all. How can we overcome these divisions in our countries, in our communities and in our families? Only through the example of Jesus.

The divisions in the world reflect divisions within us. It seems to be the human condition that we are not entirely whole, that there are two sides or more to us. St. Paul tells us in Galatians [5:17] that the flesh is opposed to the spirit, so that we cannot do what we want to do. That does not mean that the body is bad and the soul is good, it just means that we often have contradictory impulses inside ourselves, and very little we do is done with a whole heart.

Ephesians tells us that Jesus reconciles those who are near and those who are far off. In a literal interpretation, this probably refers to the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus’ message is for both, and makes the two into one, one community of Christians. But we may also look at this passage as more personal. Jesus makes divisions between people into one but he also makes the divisions inside us into one. Our contradictory impulses are reconciled through him. He makes two into one, both in him and in us. How can he do this? Through his example.

In the Gospel, we see Jesus offering his disciples a respite from the work they have been doing, evangelizing and healing throughout the towns of Galilee. But when they arrive at what they expected to be a deserted place, it is already full of people. How might we react if we were in the place of Jesus or his disciples, expecting solitude and finding crowds of needy people instead? I can only speak for myself here, but you may recognize one or more of these reactions. There are at least three ways that I can think of.

First, we might simply be annoyed. We are trying to get away from these crowds and have a little well-earned peace and quiet. Jesus himself promised us. We deserve at least that much for all the good work we’ve been doing. Mark tells us that the disciples haven’t even had enough time to themselves to sit down and have a proper meal. They’ve been travelling around with no provisions at all, teaching and healing these people. Can’t they see we are tired? We may be tempted just to turn around and leave, or tell all these people to go home and stop bothering us for a day or two. We might be tired and annoyed.

There is a second way we could react. We might be flattered. So many people have come out just to see us. We have been doing a lot of good, and folks appreciate it. We must have been doing something right. In our old lives, very few people cared about us one way or another, and here great crowds are acclaiming us as miracle workers, and wanting to be near us. We might take their presence personally, as if we are now special people.

There is a third way, too. Although we are tired and really want some time for ourselves, we stay and tend to the people there. But secretly we hope that someone is paying attention, and noticing just how kind and generous we are. We don’t necessarily do these good things only to win approval, but if we do get other people’s good opinion as a kind of side effect, that’s fine. Our impulse is to do something good, but we also hope to gain something for ourselves at the same time. This doesn’t mean that we are bad people, it just means that we have contradictory impulses working in us at all times.

As I say, I can only speak for myself, but these are three ways I might react to such a situation. I know this because I actually have reacted in these ways to various circumstances in my own life. These reactions are at least partially grounded in my self-interest. I am tired. I am flattered. I want to be noticed for the good things I do. How can I overcome my internal divisions and self-absorption? Only through the example of Jesus.

Let’s look closely at how Jesus reacts. What example is he giving us to follow? You might have already guessed that he doesn’t react in any of the three ways above, with annoyance, feeling flattered, or for the good opinion of others. Instead he does something extraordinary. He sees these people. To him they are not there to bother him, or because of who he is or something he has done, or that he might do more good in order to gain more fame. They are not objects to him, they are people. He sees that they are there because they are lost. They are there because they are broken. They are there because they have a hunger in their hearts for love. He will not reject them or use them for his purposes. He has no need to do this. He is not divided inside, like us. He is whole. It says in the Gospel, “his heart was moved with pity.” The original Greek can be translated “pity,” but also as “compassion.” He was moved with compassion, right here, deep inside.

Jesus is truly moved by these people. He wants to understand them, he welcomes their problems and difficulties, their wounds and illnesses. He wants to care for them, to be their shepherd, all of them. He doesn’t ask what their political leanings are, he doesn’t ask if they are conservative or liberal Jews. He loves them all.

How can we overcome seemingly unbreachable divisions in our countries, in our communities, in our families and in our own hearts? Through Jesus’ example. Jesus does not judge on the basis of the labels we apply to ourselves and others. He is willing to listen to the true longings of each individual’s heart. He can see past our posturing, our squabbling, our self-absorption and reach and touch our true longing.

Real community means living with others who do not agree with us. We not only accept them, but honour their differences. We may argue, we may be short-tempered, we may even be dismissive at times, but deep down we understand that we don’t hold the exclusive rights to truth, that God alone is the final judge. In Christ, our divisions cease to matter so much. In Christ, labels fade to nonsense. In Christ, love triumphs over judgement. In Christ, we are shepherds of one another. In Christ, we are one person.