Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pulling the Plug...

Because of other obligations, I have decided to stop trying to post Advent reflections for this year.

Come, Lord Jesus--and the sooner, the better.

Peace and every good,

Fr. John, OFM

Please visit the Franciscans at:

Franciscan Charities

Monday, December 12, 2016

Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12-12-16

Today's Readings

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.
Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day,
and they shall be his people,
and he will dwell among you,
and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.

When the Spanish invaders landed in Mexico in 1519, their skin color and facial features were obviously different from those of the native population.  When the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego in 1531, she appeared as a mestiza, that is, a woman of mixed race.  That led to the Virgin of Guadalupe being referred to as "La Morenita"--the Brown Lady.  (If you go online, you'll find that many Mexican businesses are named "La Morenita.")

The language used by the Lady as she spoke to Juan Diego was not Spanish but Nuhuatl--the language of the people.  The image imprinted on the tilma of Juan Diego clearly shows the maternity band, signifying that the woman is pregnant.

Prior to the apparition at the hill of Tepeyac, the Catholic Church was able to convert only a few of the natives.  Within seven years of the apparition, there were over 8 million converts. 

It's pretty obvious why this reading from Zechariah was chosen for this feast: "Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day, and they shall be his people, and he will dwell among you, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you."

Holy cards printed in the US typically show Jesus as having fair hair and white  skin.  I have known Catholics in the US who get upset when other cultures show Jesus as being African or Asian or Native American--little realizing that their own images of Jesus have been culturally formed.

During Advent, we celebrate the fact that Jesus came "as one like us."  As the Church continues to spread that Good News, it is important that we help people see that Jesus is not a foreigner--He comes to dwell among them and to share their lives.

Please visit the friars at:

Franciscan Charities

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday, 2nd Week of Advent, 2016

Today's Readings

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said,
‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’

We've all run into people (and, perhaps, at times have been people) who seem to live by the motto: "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts."  The lack of civil discourse during and the contentious discord following the recent presidential election may have roots in such at attitude.

Jesus recognized this attitude in the religious leaders of his time.  They were convinced that their view of religion was the correct one, and so they were able to write off the lifestyle and preaching of John the Baptist as the rantings of a religious lunatic.  When Jesus arrived with a more moderate lifestyle, he was written off as a glutton and drunkard.  Their minds were made up.  No wonder that Jesus would chide them for being stiff-necked and hard of heart.

Going back to the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, we pray that we "may not so much seek to be understood as to understand."  One project we could undertake today is to listen with open minds to the voices of the people we encounter.  We ought not compromise the truth as we see it, but let's be open to the possibility that we may be wrong.  Or, as one bumper sticker warns: "Don't believe everything you think."

Please visit the Franciscans at:

Franciscan Charities

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Immaculate Conception, 12-8-16

Today’s Readings:

            While I was in the car the other day, I heard the Beatles’ song “Let It Be.”  It made me think of today’s feast.  If you are a Boomer like me, you probably remember that the song starts: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking works of wisdom, ‘Let it be.’”
       Music historians are clear that Paul McCartney did not write this as a religious song.  It is about his deceased mother (Mary) who came to him in a dream while he was dealing with personal turmoil.  She advised him not to worry because everything would work out well.
   Be that as it may, the song echoes the docility of Mary who acquiesces to the mysterious will of God.  Could she foresee all the ramifications of her “yes.”  I doubt it.  Yet her faith led her to exclaim, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”
I don’t know if archangels ever retire, but it would be helpful to us if Gabriel were a little more active.  If he or another angel were to tell us “this is God’s will for you”; I would like to think that most of us would respond, “let it be done.”  The problem for us is that we are not always able to discern which situations are God-ordained and which situations are, in a favorite phrase of one of our friars, “not of God.”  That makes it difficult for us to know whether we should accept or resist.
   As we daily pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” let us pray also for the gift of discernment, that, as St. Paul said, we might “discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)  Then: “Let it be done!”

Please visit the Franciscans at:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wednesday, 2nd Week of Advent, 2016

Today’s Readings:

Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a fairly recent diagnosis.  CFS is a condition, once thought to be psychosomatic, whose underlying cause seems to be still a mystery to experts.  The syndrome is characterized by an inability to successfully perform daily tasks.  Physical and mental activity can increase the effects of CFS; rest does not ameliorate the symptoms.

In the spiritual realm, the counterpart to CFS is known as “acedia.”  Though some texts equate acedia with the sin of sloth, it seems that many monastics preferred to refer to it as the “noonday demon.”  Acedia is a spiritual listlessness that makes it difficult for a person to engage in his/her daily tasks.

Maybe the readers have experienced acedia.  I know I have.  There were times I felt that I should be busy about something; but I couldn’t bring myself to read, write, pray, practice music, or undertake any kind of manual labor.  Acedia creates an uncomfortable feeling of being spiritually disconnected.

Isaiah’s words may or may not be a way to cope with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but I think they are a very positive way to deal with acedia.  “They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength.”  Or as Paul would say in his letter to the Philippians, “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. (4:13)  In times when we are dry, listless, and lifeless, we turn to the Living Water of Jesus Christ to find renewed energy and strength.

Please visit the Franciscans at:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tuesday, 2nd Week of Advent, 12-6-16

Today’s Readings:

A voice says, “Cry out!”
I answer, “What shall I cry out?”

Preaching is a tricky business.  There are times when homilies or sermons seem to almost write themselves as the Word of God is read.  But then there are times—and sometimes this can happen several weeks in a row—when there is no inspiration or any sign of infused wisdom.  Sometimes a homilist feels that he has crafted a masterpiece only to find that the result sounds flat, even to himself.  But that is somewhat balanced by those times when the preacher feels he has failed in his duty only to have someone say after Mass, “Father, you said exactly what I needed to hear; I thought you were talking directly to me.”

“What shall I cry out?”  That’s not just Isaiah’s question; it should be the question of everyone who presumes to speak in the name of God.  Please pray that God will guide all those who have been called to the ministry of preaching.

Please visit us at:

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday, 2nd Week of Advent, 12-5-16

Today's Readings

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

I happened to notice that "The A-Team" is in reruns on the TV these days.  I was never a big fan, but I did take a certain delight in Hannibal Smith's signature statement: "I love it when a plan comes together."

I have a soft heart for plans that come together--like songs or movies that turn out just the way I think they should.

God has a plan for humankind.  We see that plan expressed during Advent through the words of the prophet Isaiah and, today, in the words of Psalm 85.  No movie or book comes to its happy ending without some adversity along the way.  The violence that humans perpetrate against each other might make us wonder when--or even if--the Kingdom of God will ever come to fruition.  Will there ever be "peace on earth, good will toward men"?

At one point in the gospels, Jesus tells his disciples that they are blessed because they see and hear what the ancients hoped for but never saw or heard.  In the same way, we may never see in our lifetime the fulfillment of Scripture's promise. 

But God has a plan--a plan of kindness truth, justice, and peace.  It has been promised, and I believe it will happen.  And I love it when a plan comes together.

Visit Us at Franciscan Charities

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday, Advent Week 1, 2016

Today's Readings

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness. 

The official name of the our Franciscan order is the Order of Friars Minor--or as we often refer to ourselves: "Lesser Brothers."  The implication is that we are called to associate with the lowly and, in humility, to not seek  power over other people.  In reality, though, it doesn't always work that way.  When I was a principal, my role gave me a certain level of authority over the teachers.  As a pastor, I shared in the authority of the bishop.  Now that I am the Director of Development for the Sacred Heart Province, I have authority over my staff and can make decisions that affect our daily operations.

It is sometimes uncomfortable to have a position of authority and to cope with the responsibility that comes with such a position.  Still, I am somewhat envious of the Twelve who were given "authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness."

I think of my family members who are battling serious medical conditions.  I know people who are chronically depressed.  A former parishioner/student has been struggling with neuroblastoma for over a year.  More and more of our friars are being diagnosed with cancer.  The members of my CUSA group all have chronic conditions.  It would be great if I had the words and the power to make them all whole.

But I don't.  That authority has not been given to me.  And so, like many people, I feel helpless to do anything else but pray and to offer support.  Until such a time as I am given authority over unclean spirits and disease (and, really, that seems unlikely at this point), I turn daily to the Divine Physician and ask Him to do what I cannot do--to speak words of healing over those who are not whole.

[I apologize for missing several days.  Recent travels have thrown me off schedule, and I have been trying to get caught up both in the office and at home.]

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday, 2nd Week of Advent, 11-29-16

Today’s readings:

On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Lighthouse, Ashland, WI
As children growing up on the shore of Chequamegon Bay in Ashland, WI, we would occasionally hear the deep bellow of the fog horn sounding from the lighthouse.   Lake Superior is dotted with lighthouses whose purpose was to alert ships about possible dangers while guiding them safely to their destinations.  Though modern navigational technology has rendered the lighthouses obsolete, many continue to stand as monuments to the dedication of so many “keepers of the light.”

One longstanding Advent tradition is the creation of a “Jesse Tree.”  Typical representations would show Jesse sleeping with a tree growing from his side.  The branches of the tree would show the ancestors of Christ—with Jesus himself displayed at the very top of the tree.

Certainly Christians think of Jesus as that “root of Jesse” who is “set up as a signal for the nations.”  It would be a pretty easy step from there for believers to think of Jesus as a lighthouse who guides us through the treacherous waters of life and brings us safely to heaven.  “"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (Jn. 8:12)

Here’s a link to an appropriate song:

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday, First Week of Advent, 11-28-16

Today’s Readings:

“Lord, I am not worthy….”

            Some social scientists may decry the fact that we are living in the “Age of Entitlement.”  There are certain elements of US society—often the  young, often the rich, but others as well—who believe that certain benefits are owed to them simply because of who they are.

            A number of television commercials play to this type of thinking by telling the viewers that “you deserve” this beer or hair care product or car.  To which I find myself thinking, “And just what have I done to deserve it?” 


            Perhaps it’s a matter of semantics that some would consider trivial, but when I use the word “deserve,” it implies some reciprocity for a good deed or a good job done.  So while I believe that people in Ethiopia have a fundamental right to adequate food and safe drinking water, I probably wouldn’t agree, as some promoters might say, that they “deserve” those things.  I hope I’m making myself clear.  Some people should receive assistance not because they “deserve” it but because they have a basic right to it.

            The centurion in today’s gospel would have been entitled to certain privileges because of the rank he had attained.  By rights, he probably could have made certain demands on Jesus.  But this Roman official had two laudable insights: 1) he knew how authority worked and 2) he recognized that Jesus could exercise that authority over disease even from a distance.  Though we have never known his name, his faith and humility are etched in the annals of Church history as we echo his words at every Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof….”  Lord, I do not deserve a soul-healing; I am not entitled to it; but I hope your mercy will provide it.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

First Sunday of Advent, 11-27-16

In days to come,
the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”

As I have in the past, I will try to offer some reflections on the daily readings for Advent.

This morning I was able to attend one of the Spanish Masses at St. John the Baptist Church in Joliet, IL.  For the Responsorial Psalm, the choir sang one of my favorite songs.  It begins Qué alegría cuando me dijeron: "Vamos a la casa del Señor.”  Or in English: “I rejoiced when I heard them say, let us go to God’s house.”  (Psalm 122) 

Having been involved in parish ministry for nearly 40 years, I sometimes wondered how many people in the congregation rejoiced to come to God’s house.  Or were they there simply out of habit or a sense of obligation?

“Zeal” is a word we don’t hear much any more—perhaps because in modern times it has picked up overtones of being inflexible and lacking in compassion.  But essentially zeal is the eagerness to do God’s will and to enter into God’s Presence.

Zeal is an eagerness to “climb the Lord’s mountain…that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”  It is the grace that allows us to rejoice in the opportunity to enter into

God’s house.

Beyond the preparation for the coming feast of Christmas, Advent calls us to ready ourselves for the Lord’s Second Coming.  If we are zealous in entering into the Presence of the Lord on earth, the Second Coming should hold no fear for us.  Rather, we will transition gently from earthly Presence to eternal Presence.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

More Celebrations

This past Sunday, June 5, I was in Chicago for Mass at Corpus Christi Church.  The parish was honoring Sr. Marilyn Freking and Sr. Ann Rubly who have decided to retire and move to the motherhouse in Dubuque, IA.  Sr. Ann has served at Corpus Christi for 44 years; Sr. Marilyn for 53.

The Mass was well-attended by parishioners, former students, and the Dubuque Franciscans.

To honor the Franciscan Sisters as well as the friars of Sacred Heart Province, the pastor dedicated the courtyard in the name of the Franciscans.

On Monday, June 6, at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville, IL, Bishop Edward Braxton presided at a Mass to honor the priests celebrating milestone jubilees of ordination.  One of the honorees (or some might say "orneries" in this case) was Fr. Christian Reuter who is celebrating his 50th jubilee of ordination.  Chris worked for years at Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago and followed me as pastor at Corpus Christi.

O God, please call more women and men to generously serve the Church as sisters, brothers, and priests!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Litany

Today, June 3, is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus--the patron of our Franciscan Province.  May the wounded Heart of Christ inspire the friars and all Christians to be more generous in their love and in their willingness to sacrifice for others.

Here is part of the Litany of the Sacred Heart that is found in our Province's Franciscans at Prayer.

God our Father in heaven  (Have mercy on us...)

God the Son, Redeemer of the world

God the Holy Spirit

Holy Trinity, one God

Heart of Jesus, Son of the eternal Father

Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother

Heart of Jesus, one with the eternal Word

Heart of Jesus, infinite in majesty

Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God

Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High

Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven

Heart of Jesus, aflame with love for us

Heart of Jesus, source of justice and love

Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love

Heart of Jesus, well-spring of all virtue

Heart of Jesus, worthy of all praise

Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts

Heart of Jesus, treasure-house of wisdom and knowledge

Heart of Jesus, in whom there dwells the fullness of God

Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father is well pleased

Heart of Jesus, from whose fullness we have all received

Heart of Jesus, desire of the eternal hills

Heart of Jesus, patient and full of mercy

Heart of Jesus, generous to all who turn to you

Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness

Heart of Jesus, atonement for our sins

Heart of Jesus, overwhelmed with insults

Heart of Jesus, broken for our sins

Heart of Jesus, obedient even to death

Heart of Jesus, pierced by a lance

Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation

Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection

Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation have mercy on us

Heart of Jesus, victim of our sins

Heart of Jesus, salvation of all who trust in you

Heart of Jesus, hope of all who die in you

Heart of Jesus, delight of all the saints

Father, we rejoice in the gifts of love we have received from the heart of Jesus, your Son.  Open our hearts to share his life and continue to bless us with his love.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lord.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hospital Sisters of St. Francis: Springfield, IL

On Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I got an opportunity to visit with the Franciscan friars in Springfield, IL.  The friary is on the grounds of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis.  This is where the sisters have their motherhouse, retirement center, and the Chiara Center, a retreat facility that is much-appreciated by those who have been there.  Here are a few photos:

The statue in the cemetery reminds me of an experience
 in Assisi back in  1995.  I was looking for a statue of
Francis with the wolf of Gubbio for one of my sisters, and the
owner of the store showed me a small statue similar to this one
and then tried to convince me that the animal was really a wolf--
it just looked like a sheep.

There were several cemetery areas.  It made me think about all
the sisters who had dedicated their lives to caring for the sick.  How
many people living today are descendants of ancestors whose
lives were saved through the ministrations of the sisters?

Entrance to the Chiara Center

Entrance to the main church

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Advice from St. Clare (2nd Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague)

Here are words of advice offered by Clare to Agnes.  The centuries have not weakened the power of that advice:

What you hold, may you continue to hold, 
what you do, may you keep doing and not stop,  
but with swift pace, nimble step, and feet that do not stumble 
so that even your walking does not raise any dust, 
may you go forward tranquilly, joyfully, briskly, and cautiously 
along the path of happiness,  
trusting in no one and agreeing with no one 
insofar as he might want to dissuade you 
from pursuing your founding purpose 
or might place a stumbling block in your way, 
preventing you, in that perfection 
with which the Spirit of the Lord has called you, 
from fulfilling your vows to the Most High.

Disqus for Fr. John Eaton, OFM