25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

"Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God's own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget thatyou have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God's kingdom" (from a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope).

20 December 2011

Profession of Br Daniel Jimenez

Posted by Picasa

The Order's newest jurisdiction

Over the weekend of December 17-18, I participated in the inauguration of the Custody of Northern Mexico in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The General Minister, of course, presided at the ceremony, and Br Carlos Novoa, General Definitor for the Spanish-speaking jurisdictions of the Order, was also on hand. The ceremony was held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 17, in the chapel of P. Pio Friary in Monterrey, which serves as the post novitiate house of the jurisdiction, and will now become the headquarters of the new Custody, as well. Brs. Mauro and Carlos read the decree of establishment, and declared that David Beaumont will serve as the first Custos, assisted by first councilor Maximino Gonzalez and second councilor Bill Trauba.

This year, the Capuchins of the Western America Province celebrated the 25th year of their presence in northern Mexico. In 1998, the mission began accepting candidates to the Order and has since seen steady growth so there are now about twenty local vocations among the professed brothers of the Custody. Along with the four friars of the Western American Province ministering in the Custody, there are two friars from Goa, India, and three from Brazil. At various times in the past, friars from the Provinces of Mid-America and New Jersey have also collaborated in the mission.

On Sunday, Br Daniel Jimenez de Santiago professed perpetual vows into the hands of the General Minister during the 11:00 Eucharist. Both Daniel and I had the same novice director, Bill "Memo" Kraus, although a few years separate his novitiate and mine. In fact, I am the oldest surviving novice of Bill Kraus in the Order.

02 October 2011


Oh, there's the beef!By the feast of All Saints the General Curia fraternity will be located at the International College in Rome. Since October 1st was one of the last days in which the whole fraternity would be present, we celebrated the closure of the Via Piemonte site of the General Curia. Br Mauro presided at the Eucharist, and some of the "old-timers" shared some of their memories of the friary and of the brothers who lived here. Photographs of the liturgy can found on Br Carlos Novoa's blog.

The Chef and the SupervisorAfter the Mass, we had a festive lunch, prepared by our cook, Claudio, with the help of other staff members.

During the November Definitory meeting, we will celebrate the opening of our "new", temporary Generalate at the International College.

07 September 2011

Capuchin Meeting on Migration

Friars from all parts of America—North, Central and South—have gathered in Lima, Peru, this week to discuss what we as an Order can do to alleviate the plight of migrants in this part of the world. The North American-Pacific Capuchin Conference is well represented by its 11 participants (out of a total of 32). Also attending the meeting are Bernd Beerman, Director of the Order's JPE Office, who organized the meeting, Helmut Rakowski, Mission Secretary of the Order, and the three General Definitors for the area: Carlos Novoa, Jose Gislon and I. The General Minister was originally scheduled to participate in the meeting, but had to back out due to a scheduling conflict.

As Mauro pointed out in his message to the participants, the Capuchin presence in the Americas, "began with the desire of European jurisdictions to follow the emigrants and to assist them pastorally." In some ways, the situation of migrants today is very different than it was when Capuchins first arrived in the Americas, but the need for pastoral care is still there. The hope of the meeting's organizers is that the participants can identify those needs and organize a response to them within the various regions of the American continent, or even set up a project that involves collaboration among different regions of the continent. As Mauro put it in his letter: "Starting from our guiding values, we cannot remain indifferent, and though we may feel powerless in the presence of a phenomenon of such gigantic proportions, we want to do something to alleviate the sufferings of as many people as possible. Planning for it and working on it together will make our efforts more effective. It is important that we not shrink from the task given us by the migrant."

The first two days of the meeting had input from three people. Fr. Rafael Moreno Villa, SJ, gave an overview of migration in the Americas. Fr. Daniel Groody, CSC, presented a conceptual framework for understanding the complex issue of immigration, then laid the groundwork for a theological understanding of immigration. Finally, Br. José Angel Echeverria, a member of the Order's Historical Institute, presented an historical overview of the Capuchin response to immigration in the Americas.

Further information about the meeting can be found on the blog of the JPE Office. Some of the excellent material
presented by Fr. Daniel Groody can be found on his website.

18 August 2011

The Big Purge

JAB's clean officeAlthough we are still waiting for final approval of our project by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Environmental Conservation, we plan to completely vacate the General Curia by the end of October 2011 so that renovations can begin. Hope springs eternal! The delicate tasks of moving the library and the archives of the General Postulator and General Procurator are nearly complete. Many of the Curia's other offices have begun to move some materials to our temporary home at the International College.

One of the advantages of having to completely vacate the premises is that it gives everyone an opportunity to cull unnecessary or duplicate items from our offices. We have probably supplied enough recycled paper to save a few dozen trees. The furniture that is not needed for our rooms at the International College will be given to the Capuchin Poor Clares or organizations serving the poor. The old computers, printers and other electronic devices that have accumulated in storage over the past few decades will be disposed of in an environmentally-friendly manner. Ditto for the inks and chemicals remaining from the days when the Curia did its own printing. Saved from recycling, however, was the General Curia's first computer—an IBM PC-XT, purchased in 1985. I hope to convince the Capuchin Museum to add the computer to its collection.

Palettes waiting to be movedThe friars themselves will move to their new digs at the International College during October. Since I will be in Rome for less than two weeks during all of October, I have begun to move all non-essential items to the International College now. My desk has never been so clean. This must be what Capuchin austerity looks like! For the sake of clarity, I wish to point out that most of the boxes in the photograph to the right do not contain my personal belongings. In fact, just to move the complete set of the Analecta OFMCap. that came with the office required four boxes. I suppose I could give the set away, but I couldn't bring myself to part with it.

29 May 2011

Principles vs. Practice

The issue of being able to elect lay friars to serve as major superiors has been on my mind very often lately. It is an issue that has interested me from the time I joined the Order, but it has been brought to the front burner on several occasions this year. Every time I preside at a chapter – four times already this year, with at least another three to go – I am obliged to give “The Speech” about the futility of electing a non-ordained brother to the office of provincial minister or provincial vicar. This puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to defend a law of the Church, to which the Order belongs and to which we have professed obedience, which conflicts with our Order’s history and charism, not to mention common sense. At least in the NAPCC, the chapter delegates have been very diligent in charitably reminding me that they find the law to be unnecessary and unjustified. I know it and I get it!

Recently I have been asking myself which is more important, the principle or the practice? In other words, should we hold on to our position that “all brothers in final vows may be elected to all offices or positions except those which come because of ordination” (Const. 115,6) regardless of how long it takes, or should we accept a partial solution if it were offered to us tomorrow? A partial solution, for instance, might take the form of permission to have either a non-ordained provincial minister or provincial vicar as long as the other was an ordained brother; the general minister and general vicar, however, would always have to be ordained brothers. A few years ago, I would have considered this a rhetorical question, but not any longer. One reason this question has become real for me is that I have heard anecdotal evidence that some clerical institutes have been permitted to have just such an arrangement. If that is true, we could very possibly cut the same deal. The other reason this question has become real for me is that as the provinces in the West get smaller, it becomes more obvious that sometimes the best candidates for leadership positions have to be passed over because they are not ordained.

As the question has moved from rhetorical to real, I find my position shifting away from the principled to the practical solution. On principle, I would dislike having to restrict myself to voting for an ordained brother as provincial vicar merely because the chapter had elected a lay brother as provincial minister. Practically, however, I dislike it even more that I am not allowed to elect a lay friar as either provincial minister or vicar provincial, even when he is the best candidate. The problem with the practical solution is that accepting it might kill any hope we have of receiving what we really want. It is easy to believe that we could accept a partial solution in the short term while continuing to ask for permission to live our charism fully. In practice, however, having the ability to elect lay brothers as major superiors at the jurisdictional level would reduce the sense of urgency felt by the Order to ask for the full solution, as well as reduce the pressure on the Vatican (if, indeed, it feels any) to concede it. So the question really comes down to whether we as an Order are willing to go against our principles in order to receive some of what we want?

As this is an issue that affects all of us, I would appreciate hearing what you think about it.

23 April 2011

Good Friday homily

I am posting the link to the homily Br. Raniero Cantalamessa delivered during the Good Friday service in the Basilica of Saint Peter yesterday. As Preacher of the Pontifical Household, it is one of Raniero's duties to preach the Good Friday homily in Saint Peter's each year.

Not only is the homily worth reading, it also serves as a notice, to those who didn't know it already, that our brother Raniero has a website where one can find the homilies he preaches to the Pontifical Household each Friday during Lent and Advent. You can also find articles and news items about him on the site. Best of all, almost all of it has been translated into English. It could be a good resource if you need an idea for a homily or a talk, especially during Advent and Lent.

21 April 2011

Holy Week 2011

For several years now, the churches in our neighborhood of Rome have organized an ecumenical Via Crucis each year during Holy Week. This year's celebration was held on Wednesday of Holy Week, and about half a dozen friars of the Curia participated in it. The service even rates the participation of a bishop of Rome, although not the bishop of Rome. The Presider for Wednesday's service was Bishop Ernesto Mandara, Auxiliary Bishop of Rome.

The service started at the Church of Saint Camillus, just a few blocks down Via Piemonte from the Curia. For some reason, we were not able to use the church itself so we gathered in front of it for the first two stations of the cross. Reflections were given by Fr. Luigi Secchi, the Pastor of Saint Camillus, and by Fr. Iurie Hìncu, the Pastor of the Moldavian Orthodox Community of Rome.

From Saint Camillus we processed to the Church of Saint Patrick, which is staffed by Irish Augustinians. The Augustinian friars gave reflections on two more stations of the cross. Next we processed to the chapel in our own General Curia. Here, Br. Carlos Novoa, General Definitor from Argentina, gave a very insightful reflection on "Jesus is stripped of his garments". He called attention to the "nudity" that exists all around us—of the people who are stripped of their dignity in society by poverty, violence and abandonment. He also nicely tied in the idea of Francis who wanted "naked, wished to follow the naked Christ". The other reflection in our chapel was provided by a sister from a nearby convent (who unfortunately was not introduced).

Lastly, we processed to the nearby Lutheran Church, where the Reverend Dr. Martin Kruse, Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Community of Rome, gave one reflection, and the Assistant Pastor gave another. This church, by the way, was the first to be visited by a reigning Pope—Pope John Paul II went there in 1983.

As you may have noticed, there were only 8 stations in this Via Crucis; no doubt due to time limitations. Nonetheless, it was a very nice experience, and a good start to the heart of Holy Week.

14 January 2011

Beware of e-mail scams

Once every three months or so I get an e-mail from someone I know, usually a Capuchin, that reads something like this:
How are you doing ? I'm stuck in London, I got mugged at gun point last night, all cash,credit card and cell phone were stolen off me, Thank God i have my life and passport saved...I am having problem in settling the hotel bills i need you to loan me 1,350 Pounds to sort out the hotel bills and also take a cab to the airport, You can wire the money to me through western union all you need is Name on my passport and location below i will appreciate any amount you can wire to my info below....
Most of the time, the scenario presented is so implausible that it is easily recognizable as a scam. While almost everyone who uses e-mail has received advertisements for, um, male enhancement products that purport to be from someone we know, the scam above is much more insidious since the scammer has actually succeeded in taking over someone's e-mail account. Once in, the first thing the scammer does is to change the password on the account so that the real user can no longer access it. Then the scammer proceeds to send e-mails like the one above to everyone in the account's contact list. Most recipients of the message will recognize it for what it is and ignore it. Unfortunately, there are still a few kind-hearted, gullible people in the world who will fall for this scam.

Even if no one falls for the scam, the legitimate owner of the account usually loses all his stored messages and contact information. In order to regain access to the account, the owner has to prove to the service provider (Yahoo or Google, for instance) that he is the real owner, which can be nearly impossible. Meanwhile, the scammer waits for his money to show up at a Western Union location somewhere in the world. In the meantime, he (or she) will begin trying to break into all the other e-mail accounts contained in the latest victim's contact list. Online services such as Yahoo, Google and AOL seem to be the preferred targets.

What can you do to protect yourself? First of all, use a strong password on your e-mail account. The longer the password is, the more difficult it will be to guess. Use letters, numbers and at least one special symbols (such as, ! ^ # @ + *) in the password. Avoid using ordinary words; hackers can use "dictionary attacks" to discover these passwords. When you come up with a strong password, write it down and keep it in a safe place.

Secondly, update the security settings on your e-mail account. The most popular e-mail providers allow you to set up security questions and secondary e-mail addresses that will help you get your account back if someone does manage to take over your account. If you use Gmail, open www.google.com in your browser and click on "Settings" then "Google Account settings" in the upper right-hand corner. Under the section titled "Personal Settings", you will see a link to "Change password recovery options". After clicking on that link and confirming your gmail user name and password, you can set up an alternative e-mail address and a cell phone number where you will receive messages whenever the password on your account is changed. On that same page, you can set up a security question and answer that can be used to recover your account.

If you use Yahoo mail, go to www.yahoo.com and login. Click on the arrow to the right of your user name, then click on "Account info". After confirming your password, you will see a link titled "Update password-reset info" under the "Sign-in and Security" section. On the next page you can set your alternative e-mail address, cell phone number and two security questions and answers.

If you use a different e-mail provider, you may have to dig around a little to find the security settings.

Keeping your e-mail account secure will not only save you a lot of hassle and heartache, but will also keep the addresses of your friends and co-workers from falling into the hands of unscrupulous people. Help spread the word.