We can’t breathe

It’s been my privilege for the past couple of weeks to be a student once again. I’m auditing a course at nearby Houghton College and thanks to this pandemic and social distancing we are using Zoom. Race and American Christianity is the title of the course and our professor is Julian Armand Cook. i love the course and following last Thursday’s lecture I took Dr. Cook’s invitation to visit his church. I couldn’t make it in person but again thanks to the miracle of YouTube I listened to the service for this Sunday. I decided to look around on the church’s YouTube channel and found Julian’s sermon for May 31, 2020 which followed the death of George Floyd. His preaching is powerful and I wanted to share it and invite us all prayer. We are at a pivotal point in time. Thanks Julian for your invitation and your passion. I invite you to listen to the sermon beginning at 40:25 minutes of this video.


Three years later

Three years ago I joined thousands of others at the Climate March in Washington DC. Our small group of Franciscans joined other groups. We had overnighted at Silver Spring, Maryland and rode the metro to near the Smithsonian Institute. Then we made our way to St. Dominic Church which is near the mall. We gathered with other Franciscan Friars from Holy Name Province and then had Mass. Then we gathered in front of the church with others who like us would join the thousands of marchers who had come from all over the country.

It was a great day of solidarity. I remember getting interviewed by a Catholic radio station. It was a very warm day. I remember perspiring profusely and being spiritually and emotionally drained at the end of our march. I remember joining a group of Houghton College students who were part of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action at the end of the march to rest on the ellipse.

We never imagined then that less than three years later we’d be quarantined and locked down in a global pandemic perhaps caused and certainly exacerbated by climate change.


Lately I have been so tired. I can’t seem to get excited about much either. I’ve been trying too hard. I think that I’m experiencing a let down following the successful completion of  the last semester. I have so much to be grateful for and I have felt little or no gratitude. Tonight I reflected on these feelings and decided that I needed to be more grateful and to accept the things I cannot change. The essence of my happiness lies in acceptance. Too often I reflect not on what I should be grateful for but instead dwell on what I ought to be doing next. Sometimes this restlessness is good and at other times it can be debilitating. Lately it has been the latter experience.

This past weekend was the beginning of a much needed rest. Tomorrow, my classrom is being visited by some pre-service teachers and I have no idea what to share with them. I hope that you will pray that I can show them something or that a visit to our classroom and the children will at least benefit the students in some small way. I am privileged to work with so many wonderful young people who buoy me by their presence in my life. Many of them have no idea how important they are to me.  Without them my life really lacks purpose and yet lately it has been a struggle to maintain the edge. I have felt that I have been really just treading water and it’s a sensation I am uncomfortable with. Whatever I do I like to do with all my heart and lately my heart has not been in all that I have done. I hope that your prayers and the Holy Spirit will animate me and us enough to provide something for these Houghton students who are visiting us tomorrow and on Wednesday. Peace be with you!

Allegany Harvest Market

I’m helping some friends and fellow cooperative market share holders do something good for the future of the Allegany Harvest Market which is a new cooperative market venture being started in Houghton, New York. I’m excited and I hope that this blog post helps them to gain more members. One of the principles that I learned long ago is that the best way to be successful is to help someone else succeed. It is in that spirit that I recommend that you seriously consider membership in the cooperative.

At the moment, our cooperative stands at 37 member-owners (m-o’s) – more than a third of the way to our June 1 goal of 100! – but we still need a lot more m-o’s. We have a group of us working hard to get the word out and recruit new m-o’s – you may have seen evidence of our work around in the form of posters and “blurbs” in various publications. We need your help, though. Each of you has invested interest and financial resources into this project and I know you’d all like to see it move forward. To that end, we need you to help us with recruitment. For added incentive and a bit of fun, we’ve decided to create a contest! Here are the basic details:

* If you convince 10 or more people to attend an informational meeting or an open house before June 1 (see details below) and they each sign in and list you as their referral, you will receive a free dozen eggs from one of our future vendors.
* If you convince 5 or more people to become m-o’s before June 1 and they each list you as their referral on their member-ownership application, you will receive a choice of several items from some of our future vendors (choices may include health and beauty products, meat, or other goodies).
* You will get an additional 1/2 credit for every new m-o referred by one of your recruits – this is a nice easy way to bump ahead in this competition!
* The m-o who refers the most new m-o’s before June 1 will receive a large collection of great items from some of our future vendors.
* There will be brochures available for you to pick up and distribute. Find them at Our Common Ground starting Wed. April 27 or email if you need other arrangements to pick them up.

Good luck!
Becky Webb
for the Member-Owner Outreach Team (MOO)

Here are the details of upcoming recruitment events:

Upcoming Informational Meetings

* Wed. April 27 @ 7pm
* Thurs. May 12 @ 7pm
* Tues. May 17 @ 7pm

Open House Events

* Sat. May 7 – Family fun open house from 1-3pm
* Sat. May 28 – Open house and booth at the Houghton Community Yard Sale

All events will take place at the future AHM space – next to Our Common Ground, in the old Citgo station in Houghton.

Good news

Today I wrapped up an internship and received good news that I had passed my comprehensive examinations at St. Bonaventure University. It’s late and I’m tired but I’m also very grateful. I want to thank all the people who prayed for me and for my wife for putting up with my worry. The last 21 months have been a journey of self-discovery and homecoming. It has been a metanoia and it is still unfolding. One of my younger co-workers said to me today, “Why don’t you retire?” How old are you anyway? I told him I was 58 years old and not ready to retire. He seemed incredulous. This young man is perhaps 35 at most and to him I seem moderately ancient, but to me it’s relative.

I got some good news too in the last couple days. One of the students for whom I have prayed a lot has received been selected to attend “Upward Bound” at Houghton College. I wrote a recommendation for him when no one else would. When his counselor told me he came into her office excited to be going I was thrilled and deeply moved. This young man and other young men and women like him are what keep me animated and moving forward. I’m tired tonight but grateful and I wanted to record these thoughts. Deo gratias!

The birds

This morning when I first arrived at Mt. Irenaeus I did not see any of my feathered friends and thought that perhaps since I was running a bit late that they had already made their way further up the trail toward the chapel. However, after stopping at the House of Peace to leave off my gift of eggs, orange juice and fresh cheese curd, I emerged from the house to see these little fellows in the bushes near the trail. I greeted them and held out my hand and soon one then another began to land in my hand spend a few seconds and then off to the bushes and trees again. They repeated this cycle for many minutes and had I not begun to walk towards the chapel I’m sure they would have blessed me with their presence even longer.

The chapel was full this morning. Ten students from nearby Houghton College were guests as were a small group of Secular Franciscans, the resident Friar community and some other visitors from the surrounding countryside. Today was one of those lovely sunny days that remind us that spring is coming. I’m grateful for the birds as they remind me that we are all one. We are all made by the same creator and he loves each of us and we are surrounded by his love and we need to share that love with each other.

Sunday thoughts

Today I made my weekly trip to Mt. Irenaeus. It was a lovely morning and when I first arrived I met Br. Kevin who is a good friend. He was walking toward the House of Peace and after dropping off some groceries for brunch I accompanied Kevin up the path toward the chapel. As we walked I could see overripe elderberries hanging from their bushes. Kevin and I talked about how he had prepared elderberry preserves last year, but not this year.

Once inside the chapel I spotted many familiar faces. Several present were members of our St. Irenaeus Secular Franciscan fraternity. Others were parents of St. Bonaventure alumni and others were Mountain regulars. Four of those present were students from nearby Houghton College. A Houghton alumni member who currently is on the faculty of Daemen College in Buffalo and me the spouse of a Houghton graduate. Amazingly there were more Houghton students than St. Bonaventure students.

Mass began and our celebrant, Fr. Lou McCormick, OFM led us in the opening song. The readings were very powerful for me today. Especially the second reading from James. A familiar quote of “faith without works,” was part of that reading and that got me paying attention a bit more. Fr. Lou’s homily on the readings and in particular the gospel caused me to see where I’d been in an error lately. I hadn’t been picking up my cross and following Christ. I’d been complaining a bit more than necessary about a situation where I believe I’d been wronged, but complaining no longer seems to work, at least in that situation so I have to pick up my cross and follow. The Serenity Prayer has a line about “wisdom to know the difference,” and today’s readings and homily helped me to see and know that difference.

After brunch and an extended visit with the Houghton students I wandered back up the hill toward the labyrinth and walked it very mindfully. I really tried to stay in the moment and be cognizant of what I was doing. After my contemplative walk I took a nap on one of the benches near the labyrinth. I had a sense of peace as I walked and later drove down from the Mountain. Merton’s prayer was with me as I walked and it continues to be with me at times. “My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead…” Yet, I continue to walk the road which much like the labyrinth continues to twist and turn.

Those are my thoughts this day and into the night. I’m looking forward to working with the students again this week. I’m surprised and challenged by their excitement. I’m challenged by the graduate classes I’m involved with at St. Bonaventure too. I cannot imagine a schedule that could be more full. I’m almost overwhelmed at times.

Abbey at sunset

Today began as I made my way to Mt. Irenaeus for Mass this morning. When I arrived there were a couple dozen young men there for a St. Bonaventure University men’s overnight. Men’s overnight’s are a part of the Friars outreach to the St. Bonaventure University Campus. It was great to see so many young men gathered and sharing in the chapel. Usually women outnumber men at Mass even at the Mountain which is home to five Franciscan Friars, but today was one of those exceptions when there were only a smattering of women and nearly three dozen men and many of them were University freshmen.

A handful of young ladies from nearby Houghton College arrived soon after the liturgy had started and I could tell that they were amazed and perhaps amused by the presence of all these Bonaventure men.  The theme of the overnight was “Wildmen, Warriors and Kings.”  It was great to see how these young guys connected with each other and with the Friars. Following Mass and a walk down to House of Peace for brunch I found myself soaking up the presence of Brother Sun whom we haven’t seen much of lately and enjoying the warmth he provided as the mercury moved above freezing. I decided to take a leisurely drive along Route 86 through the towns of Hornell, Arkport, and Dansville on my way to Abbey of the Genesee.

I arrived at the Abbey in time for Vespers. On Sunday’s vespers always includes a time of Eucharistic Adoration and I love the combination of the two. Two Sundays in a row I’ve been able to part take in adoration. Last Sunday at prior to our Secular Franciscan meeting and today at Abbey of the Genesee. After Vespers I stayed on in the chapel to soak up the silence. On leaving the chapel I stopped in the store to pick up a couple of Monks Brownies which are one of my favorite snacks and on my way to the car I took this photo of the Abbey Chapel silhouetted against the setting sun.  I thought often today of the words of Thomas Merton as he described solitude.

The more I am in it, the more I love it. One day it will possess me entirely and no man will ever see me again. ~Thomas Merton

Road to Emmaus

I found myself on the road once again to Mt. Irenaeus. I’ve been a regular at the Mountain for over eight years now. It’s as much my home as the one I live in most of the time and the friars are as much my brothers as anyone in my family. This morning was one of those lovely spring mornings. The sky was a deep blue and not a cloud to be seen. Brother Sun was brilliant and his rays were warming the air temperature to nearly fifty degrees at 10:45 am as I made my way along Route 275 and then onto Allegany County Route 1. There were a couple of drivers behind me who were in a bit more of a hurry than I. I pulled off on the shoulder and let them pass. I continued to poke along at a leisurely 45 mph and then turned onto Hydetown Road where I slowed even further. Continue reading “Road to Emmaus”