Tonight I’ll be joining our family in Buffalo, New York for the St. Bonaventure University vs Canisius College basketball game. This will be the second or maybe third time I have gone to a game at the Koessler Athletic Center where the Golden Griffins play their basketball games. It will be the first time I have attended with our entire family. Forty-one years ago I asked this lovely young woman to attend a St. Bonaventure vs Duquesne game and little did I realize where that date would lead. After a courtship of about eighteen months we were married and eventually had two children who accompanied us to Bonaventure games. Now the children are grown, married and have families of their own. Tonight we will be joined at the game by our daughter, her husband (Canisius graduate) and our grandson Edison. Our son Devin and grandson Myles will be there too. We’ll also be with our two newest grandchildren who are currently in utero. We don’t know if there are two boys, two girls or a boy and a girl but they’re going to be introduced to a “Little Three” rivalry which spans many years. We’re a basketball loving family and grateful to be together tonight.
Many years ago a pastor friend of mine delivered a sermon titled, “You can’t out give God.” I never forgot it and it’s animated my life ever since. There are many scriptural references around the theme of giving but this one from Malachi 3:10 has stayed with me.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
Just got an email from Alice Miller Nation who is the Director of the Warming House which is the oldest student run soup kitchen in the United States. In 2019 The Warming House served 5922 meals for the entire year. This year to date The Warming House has served 5378 in 7 months. That’s an average of 897 meals per month. At that rate The Warming House will serve nearly 11,000 meals this year. You can help put this bread on the table of Olean Area residents by sending a donation to:
The Warming House
Franciscan Center for Social Concern
St. Bonaventure University
PO Box AR
3621 West State Road
St. Bonaventure, NY 14778
When I joined the United States Naval Reserve in June of 1972 I could never have imagined how that would change my life. I was a draftee who was looking for a better option than going in the Army and possibly going to Vietnam. I had just finished my first year of college and being drafted was at once frightening and also a disruption to my plans. I remember well the day of my enlistment. My grandmother accompanied me to the Naval Reserve Center in Jamestown, New York. My decision to become a Navy Hospital Corpsman could well have sent me to Vietnam but that was not my fate. Instead I served at a dispensary at Naval Air Station Albany GA and later at the Naval Submarine Medical Center New London which was actually in Groton CT.
I did well on active duty and in less than two years time I became a Petty Officer 3rd Class after having started out as an E-1. I learned a lot about labor and delivery and neonatal care in the newborn nursery. In New London I worked in the surgery clinic and assisted with minor surgery. Leaving active duty in early 1975 I returned to civilian life and eventually married and later finished college. I was never active in the American Legion and was very low key about my involvement with the military. Then a couple of years ago i got the chance to go to Rome and Assisi as part of the Franciscan Pilgrimages Program for veterans. On the pilgrimage I met other veterans. Some older, some younger but we all had one thing in common, we had served our country in time of war. After returning from the first pilgrimage I was determined to help other veterans have this pilgrimage experience. I contacted Francisco Morales who is the Director of Veterans Services at St. Bonaventure University and expressed my willingness to help. Frank who is a retired US Army combat veteran accepted my offer and gave me some swag to take home.
St. Bonaventure University’s Office of Veterans Services has teamed up with the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Program on the Food4Vets program. I’ve been a volunteer in that program. The past couple of weeks Frank has invited me to have a free meal and today I couldn’t say no. I joined another veteran volunteer at one of the local restaurants involved with the program. We each received a fish fry with the trimmings. Shortly after we put our food in the car Frank arrived to present each of us with a “Military Aligned Service Award” from St. Bonaventure University. I was very moved by the experience. Frank had personally designed the medallions that include an image of St. Francis astride a horse as he returns from battle. In the background of the medallion you can see the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi as it appears and then the back of a contemporary soldier.
Today I posted a picture of my rosary on Instagram and posed a rhetorical question about the effectiveness of that ancient prayer. The only way I learn is by experience and asking questions. That led one of my followers to respond that my family was healthy which indeed they are. I’m grateful for that. This month Pope Francis has asked us to pray the rosary everyday and pray that Mary intercede for us with the pandemic. I’m inclined to be a skeptic of rote prayers and particularly the rosary but I’ve been praying the rosary everyday since early March. It’s been part of a larger effort to seek and do God’s will. I usually recite the rosary when I’m walking. It’s a walking meditation for me but being a curious guy I wonder does it really accomplish anything. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Mary. After all I was born on a Marian feast and blue is my favorite color. I believe that doubt is integral to faith. They’re two sides of the same coin.
As Jesus was dying on the cross he is supposed to have said, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” If the son of God can express doubt then isn’t that a sign of spiritual health. I hope so. Is everything so certain in your walk of faith that you don’t question the effectiveness of your prayer life? My life has been a series of conversion experiences. Dark nights and soul searching followed by metanoia.
This beautiful reflection is from Sister Margaret Carney, OSF who is one of my favorite people. She’s also the past president of St. Bonaventure University.
“These countless COVID-19 victims were not alone. In that final hour, the veil fell away and they moved forward surrounded by ancestors of their family and of their faith. God has wiped away their tears. Can this faith also help to dry ours?”
— Margaret Carney, OSF
Those who have died from COVID-19 did not die alone.
— Read on blog.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit/clare-covid-19-and-the-communion-of-saints
This year is very different from any in my memory. For most of the last twenty years I have celebrated the Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper at Mount Irenaeus along with several dozen or more people who came for dinner and stayed for the liturgy. However different tonight’s liturgy was, it is still one of my favorites of the church year. Fr. Peter Schneible, OFM and Dr. Paula Scraba, OFS provided us with the best remote liturgy we could expect during this unusual time of quarantine. I appreciated how the liturgy ended with Tantum Ergo Sacramentum which announces the period of veneration of the Eucharist that follows the Eucharistic celebration on this special night of the church year. Thank you to University Ministries at St. Bonaventure for providing a live stream of the liturgy tonight. You can watch the entire liturgy on their YouTube channel.
Today my alma mater, St. Bonaventure University live streamed Palm Sunday Services. In the midst of this pandemic Fr. Ross Chamberland, OFM and Alice Miller Nation of University Ministries provide us with the liturgy.
There is not a February 8th that goes by that I don’t remember graduating from the US Navy Hospital Corps School in Great Lakes. With that on my mind earlier today I drove to St. Bonaventure University with a load of groceries in the rear of my car. I was joining a group of Franciscans and other members of the St. Bonaventure University community to assemble food packages to be sent to the Arizona-Mexico border.
On my way to the campus my car started making some scary noises and lights appeared on the console to let me know that something was seriously wrong. I slowed down and drove along the shoulder of the road and arrived at the campus of St. Bonaventure and unloaded my groceries. Br. Joe Kotula, OFM drove me to a local repair shop where mechanics quickly determined that my car needed a new wheel bearing. Joe drove us back to the campus and when we arrived we were joined by dozens of volunteers who took hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars worth of energy bars, meat sticks, and other snacks and placed them in large plastic bags along with a greeting in Spanish and English. Each note was signed by a volunteer who packed the bags. In all three-hundred-fifty-two plastic bags were filled with snacks and other goodies. They filled 15 shipping boxes and were shipped to Elfrida, AZ. There these care packages will be taken to the US – Mexican border and given to migrants who need some love and care.
This wonderful venture was inspired by Br. Joe who recently returned from three weeks that he spent with the Franciscan Intentional Community in Elfrida who make regular trips to the border to help migrants and recent immigrants on both sides of the border. Before we started packing and after we were through Br. Joe shared his personal journey to the border along with great photographs of the people he met, the conditions he observed and the thirty foot high border wall which is being constructed along our southern border to keep immigrants out. In some places the border wall is topped with concertina wire designed to seriously injure anyone who would attempt to scale and climb over the wall. Joe’s voice was choked with emotion as he described the experiences he had on both sides of the border and of the horrific plight that these migrants face and the reasons that they are gathering at our border.
As I helped pack bags and worked in assembly line fashion with the dozens of volunteers my eyes filled with tears and I knew that we were truly doing God’s work. Immigration is a serious problem. That’s for sure but there must be a more humane way to deal with it. One of the stories that Br. Joe shared was of an migrant boy who threw stones over the wall and how one of the border guards killed the boy with his weapon. The guard shot through the wall into Mexico and after killing the boy refilled his weapon and shot the dead person some more. What motivates a person to do that? The boy was wrong. He should not have thrown stones over the wall, but does it justify murder in cold blood?
For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever. — Jeremiah 7:5-7
I hope that our efforts with BonaResponds today helped to atone for the way we are currently treating the aliens in our midst.
Tonight I’ll be joining my wife, son and grandson at the Roc City Hoops Classic. The matchup features the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. The Bonnies have been hot lately winning 10 of their last eleven games. We are season ticket holders and longtime St. Bonaventure fans. As I look forward to tonight’s game I thought of a night nearly thirty-nine years ago when I accompanied this lovely young lady to our first date which was a St. Bonaventure vs. Duquesne game. Now almost four decades later we’re going to be joining our son and grandson at the game.
It’s a new year and a new decade filled with lots of promise. While the outcome is far from certain there is one thing for sure and that is gratitude for this amazing journey of life. Bonaventure literally means “The Good Journey,” and our lives have certainly been that. The names change from year to year but the men in brown and white still exemplify the spirit of this small Franciscan University on the banks of the Allegany River that continues to draw a crowd at larger venues like Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.
Yesterday I received word that Fr. Robert Struzynski, OFM had been greeted by Sister Death at 5:00 am. I knew it was a matter of time since Fr. Bob had been taken off life support because he had suffered a brain hemorrhage and was unresponsive. Nonetheless, even when it is expected the departure of a friend is marked by sadness. As I thought of Fr. Bob during the days leading up to his death I remembered our first meeting on the “Peace Path” at Mt. Irenaeus. We were both taking a meditative walk in the woods and though we didn’t speak there was a silent greeting that passed between us. Later at lunch we met more formally and shared a meal together. The next time we met when I was a guest at St. Patrick’s Friary in Buffalo, New York. Then in 2005 Fr. Bob came to Mt. Irenaeus and it was from that point until now that our friendship grew. One of my many memories of him was at a Sunday brunch following one of his homilies. I told him how meaningful his message was to me that day. I don’t remember the exact content nor context but I do remember the quote from Karl Rahner that he shared, “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.” That quote continues to resonate with me.
In 2006 I became minister of the St. Irenaeus Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order and Fr. Bob shared his vision that involved a more active involvement between Secular Franciscans and the students of St. Bonaventure University. We continued our conversation on this topic and we both thought of how this could be effected. In the spring of 2009 when I was on my way up the hill to Mass at Holy Peace Chapel I told Fr. Bob that I was thinking of retiring. He told me, “The provincial said I can’t retire until I’m seventy-five.” That brief statement invited me to rethink my decision. Then in August 2009 I became a St. Bonaventure University graduate student. We continued to discuss many other topics including Fr. Bob’s very active involvement with the Cephas Ministry and how he was sharing that ministry with St. Bonaventure University students.
In May 2011 I graduated from St. Bonaventure University and as I entered and processed through the Reilly Center I was greeted by Fr. Bob and the other professors each in their doctoral robes. That was a very moving experience. We had many occasions to share in the time that followed. After the Easter Vigil service this year while we were sharing coffee and treats at the House of Peace at Mt. Irenaeus Fr. Bob told me how much he enjoyed what I shared and that he was leaving Mt. Irenaeus. He was going to St. Anthony’s Friary in Butler, New Jersey. I thanked him and told him that I would miss him very much. He sent me a card with his address and asked that we remain in touch and then he left in early June. Nearly four months elapsed and finally in mid-October I wrote him. I told him that I had retired but that I was spending my time volunteering at a number of places including the Warming House. He wrote back and I’m very grateful that I saved the letter. It’s priceless now! Rest in peace Fr. Bob! Your spirit lives on within us all.