Category Archives: News

Fr. Lawrence’s homily for 3/24/19 – Tragedy and Compassion

So, the takeaway from today’s Gospel is this: If you find yourself knee-deep in manure, don’t worry, it’s just God fertilizing you. It’s true, though, that life is full of trouble. This has been said many times by many people. It’s even in the Bible. Psalm 90 says, “Our years are 70 or 80 for those who are strong / and most of these are emptiness and pain.” Shakespeare has Macbeth say, “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / creeps in this petty pace from day to day / to the last syllable of recorded time; / and all our yesterdays have lighted fools / the way to dusty death.” And we’ve all heard somebody say at some point, “There are only two sure things in this life, death and taxes.” According to this way of thinking, life is quite simply full of trouble, and we have to accept it.

And this may be, at least on the surface. We usually don’t choose the sort of trouble and sorrow that comes our way. One thing is certain, though, aside from taxes and death, we usually receive just about all the trouble and sorrow we can handle. All of us have experienced major tragedies in our lives. Those we have loved and have depended on have died. Friends and family have suffered debilitating illness through no fault of their own. We ourselves might be facing pain and chronic illness. And when we look around the world we see suffering on a scale that blinds us. People are gunned down in their places of worship. War destroys peoples’ lives and homes. Every day, children die of hunger and preventable disease. Life is certainly full of trouble and sorrow.

And we will do almost anything to avoid it. In our first reading today, Moses is curious about a strange sight he sees in the desert. He says, “I must go over and look at this remarkable sight.” He almost immediately regrets his curiosity. God has chosen him, and that’s not good news to Moses. He knows that he is in for a heaping share of trouble and sorrow, and so, in another passage, tries to convince God that he’s not the guy for the job. God doesn’t agree, and guess who gets his way.

In the Gospel today, Jesus mentions two tragedies that were in the news. One should be immediately familiar to us – a group of people were killed while attending worship services. And we have certainly heard of incidents like the second – a building collapses and kills those inside. The crowd are wondering what these people did to deserve such tragedy. Jesus says – they didn’t deserve it. Deserving has nothing to do with it.

But how desperately we want to believe that it does. Bad things happen to people who deserve it. Which means that they can’t happen to us. Someone who smoked for 50 years gets lung cancer. We feel bad for the person, but at some level we think, “Well, they should have known better.” Or at least, there’s a reason why they are suffering, a reason we can point to and feel secure in knowing that because we don’t smoke, the same thing is not liable to happen to us. If someone gets in a car wreck because they were driving too fast, or talking on a cell phone, we can think that we are insulated from car accidents because we obey the speed limit, more or less, and know the dangers of talking on cell phones while driving. This reasoning can extend to a kind of magical thinking. I have a friend who was outraged when she was diagnosed with diabetes as a young, fit woman. It wasn’t because she was otherwise healthy that she was mad, though, it was because for most of her life she had been a hypochondriac. She felt that by worrying so much about getting sick that she was inoculating herself from actually getting sick. Most of us make bargains like this. It can be as simple as a superstition – if I break a mirror, I will have seven years of bad luck. Outwardly we scoff at such nonsense, but still, we probably avoid breaking mirrors, or if we accidentally do break one, we might think, “Uh oh,” if only for a minute. For the most part, such thinking boils down to the idea that if I am good, if I follow the rules, even sometimes self-imposed rules, then nothing bad will happen to me. It’s as if we try to pile up credits in some sort of spiritual bank account as a protection against tragedy. Even Lent can be twisted in this way. We may think that by giving up chocolate, or coffee, or meat on Fridays, by accepting some small burden or trouble now, we are building a wall against future, more serious burdens and troubles.

Jesus tells us that this isn’t so. We can’t protect ourselves from tragedy, from sorrow, from hardship by magically depending on our good deeds. Paul adds, in his first letter to the Corinthians, “whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” That’s not to say that good deeds are worthless. By no means! It just means that they won’t help us to stand secure in the belief that we will avoid the tragedies that life consistently brings to us. But Jesus adds something significant. He says that we must repent.

We usually think of repentance as feeling bad for something we’ve done, and it certainly does mean that. We feel guilt, remorse, regret, over something we’ve done or said which has harmed someone else, or ourselves. And this is not a bad thing. In the original Greek, the word behind the English “repentance” has the connotation of a change of heart, or a turning from one thing to another. So repentance, in its most positive sense is a recognition of our true nature, that we are broken in some fundamental way, and that we can’t repair ourselves, that we need to turn from ourselves to God for help. This is the change of heart, the change in perspective, that Jesus is calling us toward. Jesus says in the Gospel reading that if we do not repent, we “will all perish as they did,” that is, those in the tower or at the worship service. But how did they perish, what does Jesus mean? They perished unprepared. The Rule of Benedict asks us to keep death before our eyes every day. This may sound morbid, always thinking that we might die today, but it’s not. Think of this for a minute. If we truly believe that this might be our last day on earth, we will probably live it with extraordinary consciousness and attention. We’ll appreciate the gift of life, the beauty of nature, the love of our families and friends. We’ll be kind to others, we’ll try to do the right thing, not because of some future reward, but because it no longer seems important to think mostly of our own advantage. When tragedy does come, if it happens to us, we can accept it, with God’s help. If it happens to others, we can be really compassionate because we are not trying to protect ourselves from some future hypothetical sorrow and pain, as if tragedy were infectious. This is the repentance that Jesus is asking of us. Elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea, saying, in God’s words, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” This is where true repentance leads us, to mercy, to compassion, to love. And in this we can truly stand secure, since we are becoming like God – because God is love.

Homily for 3/3/19 by Fr. Michael Casagram — From the Fullness of the Heart the Mouth Speaks


There is a lot of polarization going on in our society today and it seems to me that our gospel does a wonderful job of addressing just this thing. It is so easy for us to see the splinter in our brother’s or sister’s eye and not be aware of the beam in our own eye. We can even begin to define ourselves or others by what we find fault with them rather than by all the good that is in them.

The wooden beam in one’s own eye is the way we look for and condemn the faults in another rather than be honest about the effects, the fruits of our own words or actions. If we are truly loving, truly Christian and appreciative of our wives or husbands and children, or monks of their brothers, then we draw the very best out of them, we create a loving climate around them where they can truly become themselves as children of God.

When we fail to deal with the wooden beam in our own eye, then we create an atmosphere of fear and tension. When we spend time finding fault with others rather than see the good in them, we block their potential for living as children of God.

A good person, Jesus tells us, out of the store of goodness in his or her heart, produces good. And our mouths are what reveal what’s really going on deep down in our hearts. If we want to really know what’s going on inside us, we have only to be aware of what comes out of our mouths. As monks have learned to grow in a lot of self-knowledge if we are attentive to our speech.

If our corruptible nature is to clothe itself with incorruptibility, if we are to be fully devoted to the work of the Lord as St Paul invites us in the 2nd reading, then we must allow Christ life to live in us.

Of ourselves, the wooden beam blinds us to the work of God all around us and in our own hearts but as we allow Christ to live in us, our eyes are opened and we carry on God’s saving work in our families, in our communities, in every aspect of society or world we live in.

Homily of Dom Timothy Kelly for the funeral of Br. Patrick Hart


Homily for Funeral Mass of Br. Patrick Hart

February 28, 2019

[Wis 3:1-9; Rev 21:1-5a, 6b-7; Jn 19:17-18, 25-30]

A Life of Service for Others

We have gathered this afternoon to remember Brother Patrick Hart. It is the appropriate thing to do because we know that Brother Patrick would remember each of us. Brother was always a most thoughtful and considerate person – looking for ways to make connections, to bring persons together, to develop a project to complete the publishing of Merton’s works; or just to have persons share interests and push their horizons.

The Gospel reading is very appropriate. Brother Patrick had begun his spiritual quest with the Brothers of the Holy Cross at Notre Dame. In that context, through Merton’s autobiography, “Seven Storey Mountain”, Brother Patrick’s heart was opened to the monastic way of living the Gospel. He entered the Choir Monk’s novitiate here at Gethsemani and transferred to the Lay Brothers a year later.

It is the last section of our Gospel which seems to touch Brother Patrick’s way of following the Gospel. The violence of Jesus’ solitary death for our salvation as presented in the first lines of the Gospel and is balanced, not softened, by the reality of the women and probably St. John and Nicodimus who were at the foot of the cross; who remained with Jesus; who wanted to care for him in his last hour. These persons were faithful to the one in whom they believed.

When I remember Brother Patrick it is in the context of serving others who were not necessarily deserving of such service. Brother Patrick was my secretary for twenty-seven years and so had many opportunities to practise patience and bear with the incompetence of his Abbot. After the example of the faithful followers at the foot of the Cross, Brother Patrick was always in the background doing what was necessary, making-up for the omissions of others.

I remember an incident when Brother Patrick was at the Generalate in Rome and there were six student-monks of Gethsemani resident at the Generalate. The seven of us would get together after the noon meal on occasion. After complaining about the meal and the Father Master of the Students the topic turned to the common source of our anxiety, our Abbot. On this particular occasion as we exchanged episodes that sounded a little like a game of “Can you top this?”, Brother Patrick abruptly left the group. Later I asked him about his sudden departure from the gathering. With a certain passion he pointed out the selfishness and the lack of respect in the conversation of the group. He acknowledged his gratitude not only for what the Abbot, Dom James Fox, had done for him but also the service of the Abbot to the Order and in particular the opportunity that he provided to each of us, the students. Brother Patrick did not think it possible for him to confront the students as a group but shared his position with us individually.

This is the Gospel witness-gift that Brother Patrick offers each of us – faithfulness to the person who had encouraged him; service to his Brothers in teaching by example and support of others just because they are Brothers and Sisters in following Jesus.

It was almost a mission that Brother Patrick took upon himself when Abbot Flavian entrusted him with the responsibility of the Merton Legacy and to work in collaboration with the Trust that Merton had established for his literary work, and with the archives housed at what is now Bellarmine University. This responsibility did have its perks since it meant working with Mrs. Tommie O’Callaghan and sharing her dynamism and culinary creativity.

Brother Patrick was untiring in locating new Merton material for publication, bringing scholars together on various aspects of Merton’s work. Brother even took responsibility for doing some editing of the Letters and Journals while he searched for competent persons to continue the work. Perhaps the most comprehensive and somewhat controversial work was the publication of the Merton Journals and Letters. There was a great deal of anguish about the amount of editing that should be done to these texts. The final decision was to publish them as they were written.

Granted, that in the midst of the worries and concerns there were opportunities that Brother Patrick relished; meeting with friends and colleagues of Merton’s and forging friendships that would support the Merton legacy and Merton’s message of Christian Peace and Justice for our world, and the call that each person live from the depths of the true self that is the foundation of contemplative prayer.

We are here this evening to express our appreciation for our Brother Patrick and his life of service for others. Be it to editors and publishers; University Presidents and archivists; a student with an initial interest in Merton and needing encouragement – serving in the monks’ refectory or cleaning the wash room or correcting an Abbot’s blunders. We remember our Brother who always remembered us.

We remember our Brother Patrick as we celebrate the Eucharist, the mystery of Jesus giving his life that we might live in eternity. We realize like Brother Patrick, who lived from the example of Jesus, that it is only in giving our life for others that we will have life.