January 21, 2019: St Agnes Feast and visit to Orthopedic Surgeon
When I attended St Agnes Grade School in the 1940's-1950's, in Chicago Heights IL, we used to have a free day from school on this day in honor of St Agnes. Always a special day for all of us. When I served mass at St Agnes, I would gaze up at the painting about the tabernacle (we were facing the altar with tabernacle in those days with our backs to the people of God). It was a painting of St Agnes walking with other in the glory of heaven. "Some day I will walk with St Agnes in heaven" - I would tell myself.
Today I will drive to Northwestern Memorial Hospital to get a second opinion about surgery for L4-5 in my lower back or..... I will meet with Dr Hsu whom I met briefly in June 2018. He said then: "Surgery is the last thing we do." With many month of Physical Therapy behind me and not much difference, maybe time for surgery. I will know something by 3:00 this afternoon. Meanwhile, all is on hold.
Hope you are enjoying a great day filled with God's blessings!
January 19, 2019: Winter is here!
We woke up this morning with the ground covered with several inches of snow and the winds were blowing. Finally, Winter is here to stay for awhile. There was a meeting of the Chicago area Friars at St Peter's in the Loop this morning at 9:30. Four us voted not to drive to the Loop but to stay home, safe and warm. On Friar left much earlier and took the train. He will bring us up to date what was talked about. The 30 Friars who live at St Peter's simply took the elevator from the Friary above the church down to the auditorium for the two hour meeting. Ah! When Friars talk, share, discern and vote - mighty things can happen. Like stay at home and not drive 20 miles through snow and wind.
I am preparing for Monday, January 21, the day I drive to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for a second opinion from another orthopedic surgeon about my severe stenosis and arthritis in my L4-5. I met with the surgeon in June. He said: Surgery is the last thing we do. So I did months of Physical Therapy and exercises and two steroid injections in my lower spine. I became very capable of using a cane and a walker. So, on Monday we shall see. I met with a Dr Singh of Rush two weeks ago. There I found out that as of January 1, 2019, he no longer accepts Medicare. The surgery with his discount would cost only $19,000. Moving on..... I will me with Dr Hsu at Northwestern who does accept Medicare. Ever onward. Will let you know.....
January 3, 2019: Happy New Year
I hope your Christmas and New Year's Celebrations were love-filled with God and your families and friends. The Celebration of Christmas celebrates God's unmeasurable love for us and all creation. "Joy to the World" on Christmas and all through the year.
I spent Christmas Eve and the following five days with my sister Mary in Chicago Heights. Mary lives in the home that my parents bought in 1950 and where the five of us children grew up together. We have buried our parents and three of our siblings. The home is Mary's now where I have my own bedroom whenever I can visit.
During these days, the pains in my back and legs continued. And still continue today. At times I need the cane and/or walker to move about. I have no pain while I sit or am horizontal in bed. Pain comes only when I walk and stand. This started in March 2018 while I was leading six pilgrimages - four in the Holy Land, then Spain and Italy. I returned home on May 19. The Doctor's X-ray showed severe stenosis and arthritis in L5-S1. Months of Physical Therapy at Athletico and Shirley Ryan Ability Lab changed nothing. An MRI confirmed the Stenosis and Arthritis. So.....
Yesterday I made the decision to stop leading of Pilgrimages even with three Pilgrimages organized for March - May 2019, to the Holy Land and Greece. So with the New Year some new decisions. No more Pilgrimages. 44 times to the Holy Land and each pilgrimage to the Land was precious and holy and moving and like the first time.
I have lead groups to Russia, China, Australia, throughout Europe many times..... All good things come to and end so something new can begin.
I have appointments with two surgeons, may be a third, to look at my MRI and to discuss possibilities. Here's hoping. -- Be well and blessed today!
December 23, 2018: Finally catching up
Sorry that I have not been keeping up with What's Happening. But here we are - and I still have 50 Christmas Cards to write and send. Liturgically, the Christmas Season last for three weeks until the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. More will be arriving all next week. So I will be sending cards all week. If you did not receive my Christmas Card, let's say "it's in the mail." Merry Christmas! Be well and abundantly blessed all through 2019.
Since March, I have been dealing with back and leg pain due to severe stenosis and arthritis in L5 and S1. I have followed the surgeon's direction - Dr Hsu at Northwestern: Surgery is the last thing we do. First Physical Therapy. Two months of Therapy at Athletico. No change. Then an MRI showed more specific problems so two steroid injections at L5 followed by a month of Physical Therapy at Shirley Ryan Ability Lab near Northwestern Hospital and in Burr Ridge. A little less pain. So I have phoned a Hinsdale Doctor at Hinsdale Surgical Center - Dr Goodman for a Dec 31 conversation. Also I will check with Dr Hsu at Northwestern. Do I live with the pain and often use of a cane or is there something that can be done to lessen or get rid of the stenosis and arthritic. At the same time, I realize gratefully that this is the only problem. I will be 78 years old January 30. The old grey stallion ain't what he used to be. Ever onward!
I will spend Christmas and this coming week with my sister Mary in Chicago Heights. Enjoy family and friends these days of Christmas as we celebrate God's love enfleshed in Jesus. Let's go to the crib often these few week to gaze and look with wonder Mary and Joseph and Jesus. Be a Shepherd near the Crib. Let's let our hearts be overwhelmed by how much God loves us and know again and deeper than ever God's mercy!
Merry Christmas! Buon Natale! (Italian) Feliz Navidad! (Spanish)
Froeliche Weihnachten! (German)
Mele Kalikimaka! (Hawaiian) Feliz Natal (Portuguese) Nollaig Shona! (Irish)
Nollaig chridheil agus bliadhna mhath ur! (Scottish) Joyeux Noel! (French)
Sretan Bozic! (Croatian) Kala Xristouyevva! (Greek) Vesel Bozic! (Slovinian)
il-Milied it-tajjeb! (Maltese) Merry Christmas to all the World!
October 2, 2018: Secular Franciscan Meeting at Mayslake Village in Oak Brook
September 29-30, 2018: Visit the retired Friars in Manitowoc WI
Carol Baum of La Grange, IL and I drove together to Manitowoc. Carol visited a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity in Manitowoc while I visited our 20 retired Friars at the Franciscan Village. My classmate, Fr Fred Radtke OFM, began Hospice Care the hour we arrived. Fred and I talked several times while I was there. He has about two weeks to live and then his Transitus, his passing on to Glory!
September 12-28, 2018: No change in degree of pain so another injection.
During these two weeks, there was no change in the pain in my legs. The Doctor had said that said at my check up on Sept 28, that a second set of injections on L4 & S1. Meanwhile, I go to Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Burr Ridge IL - five minuet drive from my Friary in Countryside IL. Since there is no improvement in the degree of pain in bothy of my legs, Dr Maria Reese said I need another steroid injection on October 9th.
September 9, 2018: Steroid Injections
Today I received two steroid injections in my lower spine L4-5. Here's hoping. Dr Maria Reese guided the procedure done at Shirley Ryan Ability Lab on East Erie, Chicago. The procedure took an hour - half hour on each side of the spine. Many people who had this procedure shared with me the great success they have had, namely, lessening of pain in the back and legs. Here's hoping!
August 2018: Meetings with Doctors
The pain in my legs continues - some days much worse than other days. I experience no pain while I am seated or horizontal in bed. That is a blessing! I have been using a cane and lately a walker - great invention. I used to be able, now I am caned. August 27 &29 I met at Northwestern Memorial in Chicago with Dr Hsu an orthopedic surgeon and Dr Maria Reese. Dr Hsu said that surgery is the last option. Steroid injections and Physical Therapy with experts of the spine are first. Tomorrow Sept 4, I will meet Dr Reese at Shirley Ryan Ability Lab a block east of Northwestern Memorial. Dr Reese will inject two shots of steroids into my spine. Here is hoping that I can get rid of my pain and cane. Several friends have told me about their success with steroid shots. So.....
July 30, 2018: MRI & a CT Scan at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago
Today I left the Friary in Countryside at 6:30 AM to drive for an hour to the north side of Chicago to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for an MRI on my spine and a CT Scan on my lung. Beginning February while in Israel and continuing while in Spain and Italy, my legs were filled with pain. Through these four months of leading six groups of pilgrims it become more difficult to walk. But "the show must go on." My Doctor, Dr Koo of Northwestern, order X-rays of my spine. These showed arthritis of the spine. So I faithfully, three times a week for a month drove to La Grange - 15 minutes - for Physical Therapy at an Athletico. In between sessions, I did the exercises at home. No improvement. So Dr Koo ordered the MRI of my spine for today and a CT Scan for my lung - he noticed a spot, perhaps something from the pneumonia I had a few years ago.
No results yet today. I will post the results when I hear from Dr Koo. I posted the info on Facebook this morning and so many people sent prayers and positive energy and lots of love. I feel so blessed so I can say: "I am too blessed to be stressed!"
July 22-26, 2018: In New Orleans with Amos of AMI Travel
On July 22, Amos Mazur from Tel Aviv, Israel, and I fly together to New Orleans, LA to be part of the 50th Celebration of the Restoration of the Permanent Diaconate. 3000 Deacons and their Wives were in attendance from Hawaii to New York. Cardinals and Bishops presided at the daily Masses and preached and gave talks. Much joy and energy was felt each day. Amos founded with his brother Yair Mazur the AMI Travel. I have worked with them in taking Pilgrims to the Holy Land since 1990. Yair is our Guide and Amos runs the office and often travels with us from Nazareth to Jerusalem. They are both and their families very good friends of mine.
So Amos and I stood at the AMI Travel Table in the Exhibit Hall with another 35 exhibitors. We invited the Deacons to come to the Holy Land for a ten day pilgrimage. Here's hoping many will join us. There were three other companies selling their Pilgrimages to the Holy Land too. Enough pilgrims for all Travel Agencies. How the experience of walking where Jesus walked makes the Scripture Stories come alive and Jesus becomes so very real.
I have been there 44 times with pilgrims. I am planning two more pilgrimages in April and March of 2019 - the March trip with Marge at Viking Travel in Westmont and the April trip with AMI Travel - for more info call AMI travel on north Cicero Ave in Chicago at 773-777-4900 or contact me at 773-844-1267. The last day of my pilgrimage will be on Palm Sunday with departure early Monday morning. We will join many Christians from around the world for the Procession from Bethage, up the through Bethany to the top of the Mount of Olives and then down the Mount of Olives around Gethsemane over the Kidron Valley and up to Jerusalem. All singing Hosanna and waving large palms.
What a way to conclude the Pilgrimage and to being Holy Week!
Next Year in Jerusalem!
July 3-6, 2018: Chuck Faso to Chicago Heights
I drove to Chicago Heights to visit my sister Mary and stay at her home that Dad bought in 1950 and where the five of us siblings grew up. Mary has the home now. I am here to celebrate July 4th and Mary's birthday on July 6th. Always a joy and blessing to be in the home that holds so many memories of our family life.
June 18-26, 2018: Chuck Faso hosts Fr Nathaniyelu from India
Chuck Faso hosted Fr Nathaniyelu a diocesan priest from the diocese of Elurupadu India and how has spent the last six years studying Canon Law in Venice Italy. Chuck met him through Fr. Gorre from the same diocese in India. Fr Nathaniyelu arrived at O'Hare from Venice , spent one night at St Gratian Friary, then Chuck Faso drove him to Grand Rapids Michigan to attend an international conference. Chuck drove 35 miles to Douglas MI to spend the week with a friend since 1966, Fr Pat Collins, a retired priest from Peoria IL Diocese. On Saturday June 26, Chuck picked up Fr Nathaniyelu and they drove to Countryside IL. Chuck Faso showed Fr around Chicago until his plan on Tuesday for the flight back to Venice.
June 6-16, 2018: San Antonio, Texas - Celebration of Fr Chuck Gunti's 50th
I have spent these last ten days in San Antonio Texas with my classmate since we met September 8, 1954, first day of High School at the Seminary in Westmont IL - our Franciscan Seminary. Chuck is originally from Memphis TN. After his years in parishes and his 24 years as a Chaplain in the army, he retired from the Army as a full Colonel and then he moved to San Antonio. We have been good friends all these many years. His parents and my parents knew each other all through the years. Chuck and I both traveled to be present for our parents' funerals - in Memphis and in Chicago Heights - I flew to Memphis from New York for his Dad's funeral and Chuck flew from Germany for Dad's funeral. Chuck also preached at my sister Polly's funeral. So of course, I would travel to Texas to be with Chuck for his 50th Anniversary of Ordination - Chuck waited a year to be ordained. So I celebrated my 50th last year in 2017 and Chuck celebrated his this year. We shared lots of stories and laughter during these 10 days.
During these 15 years in Texas, Chuck helped with 8 Cursillos each year in Austin Diocese and helped out at Holy Family Parish in Copperas Cove, Texas north of Austin. So on June 8, we drove for three hours from San Antonio to Copperas Cove. The people of Austin Diocese and friends from distance prepared the Mass, the luncheon for 200 people after Mass, and an evening Texas Barbecue for 80 people. It was joy for me to see how so many people love Chuck so very much. We drove back on Sunday June 10 to Chuck's home in San Antonio for a week of rest, write our envelopes for Thank You notes, dined at Hotel Emma, visited the Friars at San Jose Mission. A grand week. This evening's Southwest flight will bring me back to Chicago at 8:30 PM.
On June 13th, the feast of St Anthony of Padua, my 51st Anniversary of Ordination, Chuck and I participated in the Mass at the Cathedral of St Ferdinand in downtown San Antonio. That day also marked the 300th Anniversary of the Founding of the city of San Antonio. Archbishop Gustavo Silla presided and preached beautifully. Before coming to San Antonio, the Bishop was our Auxiliary Bishop in Chicago. Was too to see him and talk with him before Mass. The Cathedral was packed with priests, deacons and God's Holy People. A Grand Celebration!
April 25-May 11, 2018
The pilgrims arrived at the Lisbon Airport and off we went to the Franciscan Church built over the home of St Anthony's birth and youth, across the street from the Cathedral. Masses in Fatima and Lourdes, in Loyola in the room where St Ignatius spent a year recovering from a battle wound, in Avila where St Teresa was born. After a visit to Toulouse, France where the head of St Thomas is buried in the former Dominican church, we traveled to Barcelona to stand in awe in Gaudi's Sagrada Famiglia magnificent church. We celebrated Mass in the Crypt only a few feet from the grave of the architect Antoni Gaudi. The next day we visited the Great Shrine of the Black Madonna at the Benedictine church at Montserrat. Each and every place we visited gave us a blessing the will last. People often ask me what is the most beautiful and moving place I have ever been. My answer is: The place that I am in at that moment. No place is like any another place. See the world before you leave it. And so I am trying to do just that.
Then I went to Rome to meet the sixth group from Chicago for a visits to Rome, to Bari in the heel of Italy where St Nicholas is buried and to Alberobello to see the stone roofed home, and then to Naples, city of St Januarius/Genaro. The visit to the grand palace in Caserta, north of Naples was the crowning event. All was moving and beautiful. The Glory of God manifested through the beauty created by artists and architects, musicians and theologians. And I so look forward to going home!
April 15, 2018: Today - from Tel Aviv to Lisbon, Portugal
The group of 12 pilgrims with whom I traveled the Land for these last 10 days returned last night to Kansas City, Kansas. I spent the night in Tel Aviv at Amos' home. Today Amos and I fly for five and half hours to Lisbon, Portugal to meet the next group of pilgrims from Chicago for our pilgrimage to Fatima, Lourdes, Toulouse, Salamanca, Avila, Burgos, and Barcelona. Ever onward! A final blessing on you from the Land called Holy! Shalom! Salam! Peace!
April 5-14, 2018: Fourth Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Tomorrow this group of 12 pilgrims from Kansas City, Kansas will return home - they are all friends who pray together, share their lives together, have worked together. So this was quite a different experience. Most groups know only a few people in the group. Over the years I had met them all while visiting friends in KC. They too said what other pilgrims to this Land called Holy always say: The Bible becomes three dimensional and Jesus because so wonderfully human and real. And this is why I keep leading groups of pilgrims to Israel and Palestine. Each group is such a blessing to me as they express and share their faith. In 2019, I hope to lead at least two more groups here in March.
On Sunday, April 15, I will fly from Tel Aviv to Lisbon, Portugal, to lead a group from Chicago on a pilgrimage to Fatima, Lourdes, Toulous, and to many cities in Spain. Following that experience, I fly to Rome to lead a group from Rome south to Bari, etc.
Plans are for my arrival back home on May 11, 2018 after three months on the road.
St Francis said 800 years ago that our Cloister is the world! Ever onward!
Blessings from Jerusalem on you and your families! Alleluia! Alleluia!
March 27, 2018: Three of the the Four Holy Land Pilgrimages are completed
The third group of pilgrims returned home to Chicago yesterday, March 26. All went home with spirits lifted high, overwhelmed with all we say and experienced together. We celebrated masses in Nazareth, on Mt Tabor, in the house of St Peter in Caphernaum on the Sea of Galilee, in Bethlehem, in the Tomb of Jesus, in the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the Cenacle to celebrate Pentecost. Of the many highlights that the 43 pilgrims shared during the Farewell Dinner in Bethlehem was the experience of processing down the Mt of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane, on Palm Sunday with thousands of Christians from all over the world. Singing Hosanna will never be the same after that experience. I plan to repeat that experience next year in 2019. The group of pilgrims flew from Tel Aviv through Vienna to Chicago with lots of photos, stories, and experiences that will continue to change their lives.
I am now resting up this week - sleep 10 hours last night. I am staying with Jewish friends - my guide Yair and his wife - who live in Ra'Annana, ten miles north of Tel Aviv. We will celebrate Passover (Pesach) in Tel Aviv at Yair's brother's home - 35 people are invited. Shall be quite an event of celebrating God's deliverance of his people from Egypt. The same day as Good Friday when Jesus delivered us from sin and death as he died on the cross for us all. Deliverance from and for - for freedom in God's love.
Blessings on your Holy Week Journey to Easter!
Prayers for you from the Land called Holy!
February 19 - April 15, 2018: In the Holy Land
I am leading four groups of pilgrims from Chicago area and Kansas City MO. The first group has returned home and the second group of 36 Pilgrims arrive today with Marge Santo of Viking Travel in Westmont. This is my 42nd pilgrimage here in the Land called Holy. My first visit to this Land was in 1980 with Fr Mario DiCicco and his group. We will begin with a visit to Jaffa, a port city on the Mediterranean Sea, where Jonah departed and where St Peter raised a girl to life and dreamed that led him to preach and baptize the first Gentile, Cornelius and his household. Then we will drive for two hours to our hotel for three nights in Nazareth. From there we will visit the Sea of Galilee (a lake 8 miles by 13 miles), the only body of fresh water in Israel. Also the Mount of Beatitudes, the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish, and the Primacy Chapel where Jesus asked Peter three times Do you love me? The married couples will renew their marriage vows in Cana of Galilee. Mass on Mt Tabor will celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus when Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, appeared with Jesus. We will drive along the Jordan Valley for two hours to Jericho, the Dead Sea, and Masada. We had to change hotels for one night. We will be at a Spa Hotel on the Dead Sea south of Masada - a first for me. No room in the inn in Jerusalem for that night. The Grand Court Hotel in Jerusalem owns the Spa Hotel and offered it to us at the same price as the hotel in Jerusalem. Such a deal! Spa Hotel is so much more expensive. We will be able to enjoy the floating experience not only in the Dead Sea but also in a pool that the Hotel has containing the Dead Sea multi-mineral rich water. On to Jerusalem and Bethlehem for five days. Two days of rest and then the third of the four groups arrives. Ever Onward! Blessings and prayers for you all from the Land called Holy. Be well and blessed!
February 14, 2018: “Ash Wednesday and St Valentine’s Day”
February 14, 2018, is both St Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. A day our hearts are open to love and friendship with others and with God. It may be a box of chocolate candy or red roses or a greeting card that expresses our feelings for someone. On this day, we will hear how God feels toward us, through those sacred words from the Book of Genesis: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) The other phrase that may be used as ashes are crossed on our foreheads is: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15) Loving words of invitation to change our minds and our hearts so we long only for God. With so much going on in our lives, we can forget what is really important and necessary to be free and be able to love. So God, lovingly, says to us on Ash Wednesday: “Remember who you are and how precious you are. You are dust, Stardust!”
How do we take care of our dust? We wash it, cream it, exercise it, massage it, clothe it, color it, sun it, feed it.
The three disciplines of Lent provide a sure strengthening of our “dust” - Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. The daily Scriptures for the Lenten Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours guide us like a GPS from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The Scriptures are the plan God offers us for these Forty Days. Ash Wednesday calls us to take a look at ourselves and ask the question: What needs to change in my life so that when I arrive at the Holy Saturday Vigil Service I am ready and willing to renew my Baptismal Vows and to say Yes fully to God. Those six questions that are asked at Holy Saturday Vigil Service and repeated during each Easter Sunday Mass sum up the purpose of Lent. What do you reject? What do you believe?
The question for Lent was: What are you giving up for Lent? Candy, Ice Cream, Movies, Desserts,…..? Or maybe we need to give up and fast from gossiping and feast on kindness, fast from prejudice & racism and feast on seeing everyone as our Brother and Sisters, fast from laziness and feast on choosing one action to do every day that will be a blessing for others. What do we need to fast from and feast on? These Forty Days invite us to walk with the Catechumens who will be baptized at the Vigil Service. We journey with them in prayer
January 23, 2018: Tooth pulled
Last Friday I went to my dentist for a simple closing of a large space between to back teeth. When my dentist of many years saw a small "bag" next to my #19 tooth on the lower left side, he said that I needed a root canal. So I walked one block west of my dentist's office which is at 30 N Michigan Ave in the Loop of Chicago. After several x-rays of my mouth, the Root Canal Doctor said that a root canal could help my tooth because there was a crack through my tooth and through the root of the tooth. That dead tooth must come out. So today, Dr Domanico in the same building as my dentist did the honors and relieve my mouth of that tooth. A few yanks and twists and I was minus one tooth. So now for aftercare - on pain killer pill every four to six hours, three antibiotics a day, ice pack on my left jaw for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off,, and gauze in my empty socket where the tooth was to absorb the blood. So far, no pain and no bleeding. I am going to bed now. If the pain wakes me, I will swallow another pain pill. Or sleep on through. So my anxiety this morning disappeared. This evening my Oral Surgeon phone me to see how I was doing. So far so good. I will see him on Monday January 29 for a check up. I prayed to St Apollonia, patroness of Dentists. She was listening. And my dentist knew who St Apollonia was. I am so glad that this happened now and not after February 19 when I will be in the Holy Land for two months. Good night!
December 29, 2017-January 5, 2018: Cruise to/around Cuba
I spent eight days on a cruise with my 51 yr old nephew John and 400 other people around the island of Cuba. Wonderful! We flew from Chicago to Montego Bay, Jamaica and then immediately boarded the ship - a Greek Ship - to cruise around Cuba and return to Montego Bay. We stopped in three port cities - Santiago de Cuba, Havana, and Cienfuegos. We were 15 in our group with Viking Travel of Westmont. Great food, lively entertainment, great weather. The ship holds 950 people - we were 400. We were "on the person to person" tour of Cuba. In each city we had both bus and walking tours. We learned so much from the cities we visited and from the lectures give on the ship on the revolution, history of Cuba, etc. Getting off the ship in Havana, we crossed the street to see a very large Catholic Church named St. Francis of Assisi and outside in front of the church was a 20 foot stature of St Junipero Serra, OFM, who's stoped in Havana in his journey from Majorca to Mexico City. And there are many 1950 American cars used as taxis and tours. Friendly people! Calm and easy. All was going. I would like to return.
December 24, 2017: Played the Organ at St Cletus Church, La Grange IL
I was invited by the Music Director to played the three manual, Rodgers organ for the Christmas Eve 10:30 PM Mass - Mass During the Night (Midnight Mass). I have not played the organ for Mass in 45 years. All went well. Like old times. I did practice several times and had a great time playing the Rodgers - the same make and style of organ that I played when I was in Music School in the 60's for seven summers at Manhattanville College, St Pius X School of Liturgical Music. At 76 years old I did what I did 50 years ago. Ah! the journey of life goes and then returns to the place we began. What a gift for me on Christmas Eve!
December 14, 2017: Opera at Lyric Opera in Chicago
Another first today: I was one of ten people who enjoyed a tour of the backstage of the Lyric Opera House in Chicago - through the orchestra pit, on the stage, costume room, backstage where singers dress and have private rooms or large change/gathering rooms for the chorus, up to the sixth floor cat-walk about the stage, saw the 12 floors of space to hang backdrops for the opera, etc. This was at 10:oo AM. I enjoyed lunch with the Friars two blocks away at St Peter's Franciscan Church where I lived and ministered for 20 years and was pastor for 8 years. At 2:00 PM, I returned to the Opera House to enjoy the performance of Puccini's Turandot. I first enjoyed this opera in October 1959 when I was a Sophomore in College in the Seminary in Westmont. Fr Tarsicius our music professor prepared us for the opera and then arranged for us to attend this magnificent Opera that contains the famous Tenor Aria "Nesun Dorma" (No one sleeps). I experience this opera a second time in Rome, performed outside in front of the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla. This was Puccini's last opera, in fact he died before finishing the last scene. A student and close collaborator completed the opera according to the theme sketches left by Puccini. A delightful afternoon.
After the opera, I met three priest friends of mine for a delicious dinner at the Eden restaurant on 1748 W Lake Street. A great experience of fresh, creative tastes. I encourage to treat yourself and go to the Eden: "Creative New American fare with Mediterranean influences pairs with craft cocktails in a chic space." 5 Stars: *****
October 15-20, 2017: Iceland
After two weeks of 95 degree weather in the Amazon Valley of Brazil, I needed to cool off, so I joined a group of 25 people for five days in 45 degree Iceland. I traveled with Viking Travel of Westmont IL and lead by Marge Santo. Another first as we flew from Chicago to Reykjavik, Iceland the Capital in the south west corner of this country of 323,000 people. Lutherans make up 70%; Catholics are 3% of population. We saw geysers, volcanoes, many water falls, pounding waves, delicious foods, but no Northern Lights. We boarded our bus one night at 9:30 PM in the search for the Aurora Borealis, but to no available. We drove for an hour and a half out of the city, parked and waited. There are Apps on the phones for the least amount of clouds and the most magnetic energy. We drove on for a half hour and looked and hoped......nothing. Next time.
One highlight was the two hours we spent in the Blue Lagoon. This large geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavik on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwestern Iceland. The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis. The water temperature averages 99-102 F. The lagoon is man-made lagoon which is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi and is renewed every two days. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal water heating system. The the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bath in.
I also visited the one and only Catholic Cathedral in Iceland. Statistics show as of 2016, there are 12,414 Catholic in Iceland with 6 diocesan priests and 9 religious order priests, and 38 Sisters in different religious orders. The Diocese of Reykjavik covers the whole of Iceland. An Irish priests from Dublin Ireland opened the rectory door and was most gracious. He was ministered in Iceland for 32 years. There is only one Icelandic Priest, the others are from Ireland, Poland, Slovakia. The Bishop is one of the three Capuchin Franciscan Friars from Slovakia who arrived on the eastern coast of Iceland in 2010. Two years ago Pope Francis appointed Fr Paul, one of the Slovak Capuchin Friars to be the Bishop of all of Iceland. (Iceland is c. 16,000 square miles smaller than the state of Illinois.) I visited with Bishop David for an hour - he has learned English and Polish during the past seven years in Iceland. He is simple, joy-full, spirit filled, open to me coming to minister in Iceland. He said it would depend on whether I would be able to live through two Iceland winter nights - one "night" last for four to five months with three hours of light each day. Maybe the Lord is calling me to Hawaii. We will see.
I look forward to returning to Iceland to see the rest of the wild, rough land that Mother Nature has shaped. The people I met were warm and hospitable. There are many people from the EU continent who work and live in Iceland. Glad I cooled off in Iceland.
September 27-October 12, 2017: Amazon Valley, Brazil
For two weeks, I traveled 900 miles along the Amazon River from Manaus in the west to Belem at the mouth of the Amazon. I stopped at Santarem, took a boat for two hours and then a car drive for one hour to visit Monte Alegre. I was visiting Franciscan Friars who minister in those cities. In 1943, four Franciscan Friars from my Province of the Sacred Heart in the midwest were missioned to preach in Santarem. At one time, there were 60 American Friars building the Kingdom of God in the villages along the Amazon and the Tapajos River, a tributary of the Amazon that is longer than the Mississippi. Today, there are seven American Friars in the Amazon Valley and 40 Brazilian Friars.
I was involved in two spirit-filled processions: on the Feast of St Francis, a procession carrying a statue of St Francis for an hour through the streets of Monte Alegre with hundreds of people praying the rosary and singing hymns to Mary and Francis. The second procession was a million people in Belem in honor of Our Lady of Nazareth. Two days of celebrating, of a parade of boats, of two processions with the 12 inch statue of Mary, carnivals, street celebrations.... Belem's population is 1.3 million people. During these days of the great Cirio (Procession), the population of Belem goes up to 2.3 million, people from all over Brazil come for this feast. Amazing!
I have heard of these cities on the Amazon since 1954, my first year in the seminary in Westmont. What a blessing to meet all the Friars ministering to God's people!
September 17-22, 2017: Memphis TN - Workshop on Psalms to Poor Clares
Twenty years ago, I preached a retreat to these Poor Clare Cloistered Sisters. Today there are six Sisters: one is in a Nursing Home, another was taken to the hospital early in the week, another spends the day at the nursing home with the Sisters who is there. So at time, twice there were four Sisters present, other times three and several times only two Sisters in me. But I carried on as if there were thirty Sisters present. I had a handout prepared for each session - two sessions each day for five days. I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours with the Sisters and celebrated Mass with them.
I have been offering retreats and workshops on the Psalms for the last six years because I wanted to learn more about the psalms. The old saying is still true: "If you want to learn something, teach it." And so I have been learning much about the "Poems to be sung" - the Greek meaning of the word Psalm or the Hebrew word use to described the Book of Psalms: "Tehilim" - Praises. The Psalms give us words to express our nitty-gritty feelings and experiences. The Psalms free us to stand before God as we are - honestly and freely.
August 28-September 13, 2017: Rome
Two plus weeks in Rome by myself with no group, no schedule, no plan, no bus to catch, no guide to meet and listen to. Just a leisure Roman Holiday. I stayed at the Hotel Il Cantico that is owned by the Franciscan Order and is located at the foot of the hill down from the General Curia of the OFM, Franciscan Order. I had stayed at Il Cantico twice before with groups. This new, modern hotel is a ten minute walk from St Peter's at the Vatican. Each day I would discover new places in Rome, revisit well known places and in each church, piazza, museum, fountain, monument I would spend from 15 min to five hours. I had in my hand two books of the history and description of each place. What a wonderful five hours I spent in Piazza Navona. Yes, of course I enjoyed the famous ice cream treat called Tartufo. A small string and piano orchestra was about to play I Quattro Stagione/The Four Seasons by Vivaldi. I bought a ticket and enjoyed this concert offered in the sacristy of Santa Agnese in Agone. One morning I walked to St Peter's to celebrate Mass at one of the "side" altars that are larger than most church altars. On one Sunday I concelebrated at the Sung Mass at St Peter's - one Cardinal, a few Bishops, several Monsignori, 40 priests, some 400 laity, full organ and men's choir --- Ah! "Just a little bit of heaven fell from out the sky one day." I returned that same afternoon for Solemn Vespers. Wow! I saw Pope Francis twice, always a blessing.
The food in Italy is so fresh and delicious. Il Cantico suggested
July 22-29, 2017: Preached retreat to Franciscan Sisters in Syracuse NY
For seven days, I preached 10 conferences and 7 homilies, celebrated mass each day and celebrated the Sacrament of Penance plus lots of individual conferences. 56 Franciscan Sisters were on retreat. A grand experience for me to preach and celebrate Liturgy - two of my great loves that I have been doing for 50 years. This could well be my last retreat to preach. "The old grey stallion ain't what he used to be." I flew home to Chicago Saturday evening and surrendered to the sheets for 10 1/2 hours. When I begin preaching for a week, the adrenaline starts flowing and does not stop until the last Amen of the last conference. Then the switch turns the adrenaline off completely. Tired? Beyond tired and exhausted. More like numb. But after a couple nights of good and long sleep in my old bed- ah! it feels so good to feel good again. The hospitality was warm and caring, loving and tender - Franciscan style. This is the community that gave us St Marianne Cope of Molokai - she left Syracuse in the 1870's to help St Damien of Molokai care for the lepers - the people with Hansen's Disease. St Marianne was canonized in 2012, a few years after St Damien. So one afternoon Sr Francis James drove me from the Franciscan Villa for 20 minutes to downtown Syracuse to visit the St Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum. So well done! Many professionally set up displays of her history and of the work she did on Molokai at Kalaupapa, caring for a thousand lepers. I had had the honor of standing at her grave in Kalaupapa, Molokai - Hawaii, two times when I celebrated Mass in St Francis of Assisi Church for the people with Hansen's Disease. So I left feeling blessed in so many ways. And a few pounds heavier from all that good Franciscan cooking.
June 26-July 6, 2017: Spain - 5 Art Museums and Footsteps of St Ignatius
June 18-23, Provincial Chapter in St Louis MO
June 4-9, 2017: Preached Retreat to Franciscan Sisters in Wheaton IL
May 22-26, 2017: Guest at St John Baptist Provincial Chapter
For the first time, five of the Province of OFM Franciscans in the USA held Provincial Chapters. Three Friars from the other five chapters could attend each of the other Chapters. So I took the opportunity to have the experience of "getting to know you, getting to know all about you." I was there for five days at St Meinrad's Archabbey Benedictine Abbey in southern Indiana. Wonderful experience of Brotherhood. I knew several of the Friars and got to meet many more. I even played the pipe organ for the last Mass. Each of our Provinces has its own history, spirit, cultural background...and we are all Friars with the same Rule of Life and Constitutions. We are all much older, fewer and have very few new vocations. So let's unite in ministry and in sharing life. Next May will be another meeting in each of the six Provinces. Then we will see. We can each decide to stay our own Province and leave the table of discussion about a shared future or vote to continue in the conversation and planning.
God help us all through this decision process. The who process will take another seven to nine years. How many of us will still be alive and well by then.
April 17-26: Poor Clares in Omaha NE
I flew on Southwest Airlines for the hour flight from Chicago to Omaha. I will be teaching and preaching to seven Poor Clare Nuns. The morning conference will be on the Liturgy (Mass, Sacraments, Hours) and the afternoon conference will be on singing - new chant tones, hymns, etc. I am in paradise - Liturgy and Music. My life! I preached a retreat to them all six years ago. Since several have died. Of the seven nuns here now, two are from Tanzania and one from Mexico. They are hoping for three new ladies who may be coming soon. Hope so!
My first time to Omaha was in 1955 - I was between freshman and sophomore year in High School. I accompanied Fr Tarsicius to Boys Town for a two week liturgical workshop. 62 years later I return to give my own workshop on liturgical music.
I may find time to visit the Priests' Section of the Catholic Cemetery in Omaha to find the grave of Msgr. Joseph Faso, who was from Caccamo, Sicily, ordained in Sicily, and ministered to the Sicilians and many others in Omaha. So another Faso in Omaha. I will check the phone book for any other living Faso's here. You never know!
Continue celebrating Easter for 50 days from yesterday, Easter, to Pentecost!
March 5-25: In the Holy Land with two different groups of pilgrims
Three weeks in the Holy Land with 20 pilgrims in the first group from Chicago and 44 pilgrims in the second group from Orlando, Florida to San Francisco, CA.
In between groups, I stayed with Amos and Nili Mazur in Tel Aviv - time to rest and do laundry in preparation for the next group. Great experience for everyone. That is the reason I continue to offer this pilgrimage to the Holy Land and this was my 39th and 40th pilgrimage. The reason is what happens to the pilgrims: their understanding and experience of the Bible, of Jesus, of the Biblical Stories all come to life and become real and three dimensional. Beside the religious and spiritual experiences, there is the understanding of the lived experience there today between Israel and Palestine. What a blessing for everyone, me too!
How can you share the experience of
Thoughts for Ash Wednesday from Fr. Chuck Faso OFM – March 1, 2017
March 1: Ash Wednesday & the beginning of Lent
Lent: a time for Fasting and Feasting!
Lent: Anglo-Saxon word that means Springtime!
March 1 begins the journey to Easter for the whole Church.
First of all, Lent is the final and intense preparation for Catechumens as they prepare to enter the Church at the Vigil Service on Holy Saturday night through the Sacraments of Initiation of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. We who are baptized make this journey with the Catechumens as we support them with our prayer and example of conversion.
Secondly, these Forty Days invite us who are Baptized to greater conversion to the Gospel by means of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.
At the Easter Vigil Service and at all the Masses on Easter Sunday, all Catholics will be invited to renew our Baptismal vows – those six questions which ask us what we reject and what we believe. And our answer to each question is the resounding “I do!” Our Lenten practice of prayer and fasting and reaching out to others in charity will prepare us to let our “I do!” response come up from a deep place within our hearts.
Remember THE question in the past for Lent was “What are you giving up for Lent? Candy, TV, movies, desserts, fighting with my siblings,…?”
Perhaps we need to ask another question:
What I am going to Fast from and Feast on during Lent? Perhaps:
-Fast from prejudice and Feast on understanding
-Fast from gossip and Feast of kindness
-Fast from impatience with others and Feast on Compassion
-Fast from words and Feast on Silence
-Fast from judging and Feast on Words that Build Up Others
-Fast from discontentment and Feast on Gratitude
-Fast from anger and Feast on patience
-Fast from pessimism and Feast on Optimism
-Fast from worry and Feast on God’s Providence
-Fast from complaining and Feast on Appreciation
-Fast from discouragement and Feast on Hope
-Fast from suspicion and Feast on Truth
Pick one of these Fasting and Feasting actions for each day during Lent. Add your own Fasting and Feasting actions to this list. Nature abhors a vacuum. So don’t just Fast, but also Feast. Don’t just give up. Also do something.
Fill up the hole from giving up with some “delicious” virtue and value. What a Lent this will be! What an Easter celebration of new life this Easter of 2017 will be – this Lent and Easter that never happened before and will never happen again.
Let’s pray for each other on this Lenten Journey.
What a glorious new Gospel “outfit” we will be wearing on Easter.
Happy Lent-ing all the way to Easter!
February 1-20, 2017: Chile, Argentina and Brazil
Thirty-four of us flew on United from Houston Non-Stop to Santiago, Chile. Our travels during this next three weeks took us to Argentina to see the Iguazu Falls and then to beautiful Buenos Aires - I thought I was in Paris. Two plane rides took us through Brasilia and on to Salvador then to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
January 30, 2017: Another Birthday - #76, somehow, all of a sudden!
January 15-21, 2017: Retreat in Little Falls MN
I flew from Midway Airport to Minneapolis on Jan 15, then using the rented car that the Sisters arranged for me, I drove the two and a half hours further north to Little Falls. The Franciscan Sisters invited me to preach a retreat on the Psalms. I began preaching on the Psalms about four years ago because I wanted to know more about the Psalms myself. We pray the Psalms everyday in the Liturgy of the Hours, during Mass, and in the Sacraments. So, let's learn more about them. For example, the 150 Psalms in the Bible are divided into five books each book ending with a Doxology - a shout of praise. The word Psalm is a Greek word that means "a poem to be sung." The Psalms are a collection of songs, prayers, poems written over 400 years to express both individual and community needs, hopes, joys and sorrows. More later.
Forty Sisters participated in the retreat. I was truly blessed by being with the Sisters and praying with them at Mass and Liturgy of the Hours. The Sisters reminded me that I preached a retreat in their Motherhouse ten years ago. Was good to be back.
December 25, 2016: Christmas
December 11-17, 2016: Workshop on Psalms for Poor Clares in New Orleans
December 9-11, 2016: My Godson's Wedding in New Orleans
November 24, 2016: Thanksgiving Day
Much to be thankful for including all of you. I will spend the day with my sister Mary and friends in Chicago Heights. Mary lives in the same home our Father bought in 1950, where we all grew up, where we gathered to celebrate life and laugh and to cry about our losses of loved ones. Every room has tons of memories of Mother and Dad, of John, Joe, Mary, Polly and me. In one of the bedroom, in 1974, I was alone with my Grandmother as she breathed her last and died. Yes, "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God." May memories of your life stir deep and wide, joyous and uplifting gratitude in your hearts this Thanksgiving Day. Happy Thanksgiving!
November 10-14, 2016 - Visiting Friends in Kansas City MO
This morning Fr Charles Payne ofm with whom I live in Countryside drove me to Midway Airport to fly on Southwest Airlines for 59 minutes to Kansas City. Joe Ungashick picked me up and we drove to Q39 for a delicious Kansas City Barbecue lunch and then on to his home. Joe and I met in 1975 - Joe was a Sophomore at University of Notre Dame in South Bend IN and I was studying Liturgy. We have stayed in touch all these 41 years. Two months ago Joe stayed with me for a few nights with Buzz, Joe's classmate at ND and lives now in California. Friendship over the decades is a precious gift that one needs to hold and love and nourish. Thanks for this gift, O God, Giver of all good gifts.
October 26-30, 2016 - Visiting Friends in Teutopolis IL
I studied Theology in Teutopolis IL 1964-1968. During those exciting years of Vatican II Council in Rome, I was out and about Teutopolis and other towns in the area and thus got to know many families. In 1974, I officiated at the wedding of Karen and Bruce, baptized some of their eighty children and grandchildren. So every now and then I need to return to T-Town and Effingham Country to be face to face with these people who touched me so then and during the years. God bless T-Town!
September 14 - October 7, 2016 - Sicily & Rome/Assisi with groups
Two wonderful weeks in Sicily with 33 people and then two more weeks in Rome and Assisi with another 22 people who arrived from Chicago to Rome after the first group returned to Chicago. I stayed for three days with the Friars at the Antonianum which allowed me to do laundry from the Sicily Trip. All was good and beautiful and delicious and delightful. In Italy, we visited a city that I had never been to before: Bagno Regio (Bath of the King) where St Bonaventure, Friar and called the Seraphic Doctor, was born c. 1224. My 75 year old body was very tired/exhausted after these two weeks of busses and mountains,.... My spirit was elevated and blessed by it all!
August 22-26, 2016 - In Maine with Fr Bob Hutmacher OFM
Bob Hutmacher OFM and I have been spending wonderful days in Kennebunkport and Kennebunk, Maine. No talks, no schedule, no places we have to see. Vacation! We have stayed at the Franciscan Monastery in Kennebunk - from here we drove to Lewiston, Augusta, Portland, Saco and places in-between always coming back each evening to Kennebunk. Yesterday we enjoyed a bounding boat ride on the Atlantic Ocean and watched the crew pull up three lobster traps holding several lobsters. Learned much about the long life of lobsters unless they enter a trap. I enjoyed eating Lobster each day in many different forms. We return home today - drive for an hour to Boston Logan Airport and fly home - 2 hours and 15 minute flight. A most delightful and relaxing vacation!
August 21, 2016
Today was the third Sunday of the Month which means I drive 50 miles to Crystal Lake IL to participate in the Secular Franciscan Fraternity Gathering - we prayer, eat, learn about our common Franciscan Vocation - me as a Friary Priest of the 1st Order and the twenty Lay people who live the Gospel life in the world as married or single, working or retired, etc. My role is that of the Spiritual Assistant. Formerly called the Chaplain. I participate in the all the discussions and prayers and share in our discussions of Gospel Life. The Twenty people are committed and joyful in their spiritual journey. Today, we enjoyed our annual Mass and Picnic. We met at Laura's home in Union IL - west of Woodstock. Laura and her husband have seven acres. Laura invited friends and several children joined us too. A beautiful sunny August day!
From there, I drove to visit dear friends in North Barrington - I officiated at their wedding, baptized three of their children and am Godfather for of their three sons. A blessing to be with them and to catch up on their summer activities of a week of mission service in Guatemala and a family vacation on Shelter Island NY. Tomorrow two of them are off to school - Junior in HS and seventh grade. Another begins his second year at Catholic University of America while the second oldest begins his first year at St Louis University (Jesuits) in nursing. How good to see them growing in grace, age and wisdom.
August 1-14, 2016
These first two weeks of August had me traveling to Ft Myers Beach, Florida,
to Mishawaka IN, and to Valparaiso IN. Florida: as I did for a week in April, I taught seven Poor Clare Cloistered Nuns music and Liturgy. Mishawaka IN: to visit the Sisters of St Francis of Perpetual Adoration, my teachers at St Agnes Grace School from 1946-1954. Valparaiso IN: to visit my niece and three great nieces. Ever onward!
Two Prayers of St. Ignatius of Loyola on July 31st - his Feast Day
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will.
July 30-August 5, 2016: Teaching Poor Clares in Ft Myers Beach FL
On July 30, my alarm rang loudly at 3:00 AM, the American Taxi arrived at our Friary of St Gratian in Countryside IL at 3:30 AM (Great time to take a taxi to Midway Airport - not another car on the streets), in line by 3:50 AM with hundreds of other travelers (Why weren't they in bed at the hour?), by 4: 30 AM I was at Gate B7 with a plane full of tired looking fellow passengers. Departure on time at 5:30 AM. By 9:45 AM we were landing in Ft Myers FL International airport. Pick up my suitcase, rented a car, and was at the Monastery by 10:45 AM. I spent a week at San Damiano Monastery of Poor Clares in March. So, I was coming "home." Got settled, unpacked, ate some lunch, slept for in hour and was ready for the first music session with the seven Poor Clare Sisters at 2:00. The Sisters sing mostly chant, in English. Their chant music is from two Monasteries in England. In the 1960's, I studied Gregorian Chant and Liturgical Music for seven summers and then finished a degree in Music Education at DePaul University in Chicago. It is good to be "doing" music again.
The Sisters are delightful - from 98 years old to the 40's. Sr Paschal who is the 98 yr old Sisters with still and always a lovely Irish accent. Four of the Sisters are from the Philippines. Two from New England. They buy thousands of communion hosts from a company in Pennsylvania, then bag them for the different parishes in the Venice, FL diocese. The people of the Island are very generous to the Sisters with all kinds of food - meat, vegetables, fruits. The Sisters invite me to enjoy 5:00 PM supper with them each evening. We laugh and tell stories and even get serious - for a few moments. Cloistered Poor Clare Sisters are full of faith, joy and love. My Sisters in St Francis. For the last 30 years or so, we Friars never mention the name of St Francis without also saying the name of St Clare - two souls filled with one love for Christ Jesus - in the Crib, on the Cross, and on the Altar in the Eucharist. The Primacy of Christ - human and divine - is at the center of our Franciscan Spirituality. What a blessing for me to be here this week - and hour and a half talk and music practice in the morning and an hour of talks on the Liturgy in the afternoon. Thank you, God.
June 30-July 1, 2016: Secular Franciscan National Convention in St Louis MO
I drove from Countryside IL to the Renaissance Hotel at the St Louis Mo Airport. 650 Secular Franciscans arrived from New York to Guam in the Pacific, from Puerto Rico and Florida to Oregan & California.
June 20-22, 2016
These days were difficult and holy. I did vigil at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital when our Brother Leon Beranek, OFM, lay dying. Sister Death gently came on June 22 at 5:53 PM and led Leon to the embrace of God's mercy and love. Leon had lived here at St Gratian for c. 20 years, ever since the Province bought this house. At 81 years old, Leon had difficulty with balance. In March, he moved to Westchester Rehabilitation Center only 4 miles from St Gratian Friary where six of us Friars have been living; I have been here only three years. Leon was born in Chicago, the youngest of eights children. The day before he died, his older sister (94 yrs old) Marianna sat at his bedside in ICU and held his hand while looking loving at her youngest sibling. Marianna's four daughters and and several grandchildren spent much of the day in Leon's room.
Leon was in the army in Korea. He joined the Friars worked as electrician, in the Business Office of the Franciscan Outreach, and many other ministries. Leon sat next to be when we prayed. I spent nine hours with him during the last two days of his life. I prayed and sang and chanted the hymns. I do not know if he heard a word or a note. I needed to be with him, to accompany him on his last hours before his Passover to the next chapter of his life. We miss him, his humor, his faith, his fraternally concern and support for what we all were doing.
Fly on, Leon, to the embrace of God's mercy and love! Pray for us, your brothers!
May 19 - June 2, 2016: Aston PA
On May 19, the American Taxi was at my home in Countryside IL to pick up me and my bags for the 15 minute drive to Midway Airport. I had to stand in line for the security check for only 25 minutes. The full Southwest plane left on time. One hour and fifty minutes later we landed in Philadelphia. Two of the Sisters from the Franciscan Spirituality Center met me and drove the 30 minutes to the Center which is the former Novitiate wing. For 20 years, this wing has served thousands of men and women, religious and laity with hospitality for retreats, recollection, meetings. I have been here many times since I first was here 40 years ago. The Sister who began and still runs the Center and I were graduates at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN, together in 1976. So here I am again on this beautiful property. (Photos are on my FaceBook page. I am still learning how to add photos on this GoDaddy website. Perhaps this week.) Enjoy these days of May!
May 14, 2016: Joliet - Preached to Secular Franciscans "On Mercy"
May 8-13, 2016: Preached a Retreat to OFM Friars in Burlington WI
May 5-8, 2016: St Cloud MN to attend a wedding.
April 10-16, 2016: With the Poor Clares in Ft Myers Beach FL
In February when I was visiting Dan Dolesh here in Ft Myers Beach FL, I saw the sign on a building on the property of the Catholic Parish - the sign read San Damiano Monastery of St Clare. I visited the Sisters. The Abbess remembered meeting me in 1966 in New York at Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart in Purchase New York where I was studying Liturgical Music at the St Pius X School of Liturgical Music. The Abbess was there on Campus for a Poor Clare Conference. Mother Mary Frances said that I was sent from God for the Sisters had been praying for someone to come to them to help them with their singing Chant in English and to help three of the Sisters with their organ playing.
What a wonderful week it has been! I prayed with the Liturgy of the Hours with the seven Sisters, celebrated the 6:45 AM Mass for/with the Sisters, had singing/chanting/liturgy class with them for two hours in the morning and an hour of organ lessons in the afternoon with three of the Sisters. Suddenly the week is ended and I return to Chicago tomorrow. The Sisters keep saying: Now when you return next time,....... So Return I shall. What a joy-filled, loving community of women living the Rule of St Clare of Assisi (1253) and praying to God for hours each day for the the Church, the world, and for all the many intentions they receive on the phone, in letters, in emails. In 1987, the first Bishop of Venice FL asked the Poor Clares to come from Delray Beach FL Monastery to his diocese to pray for the priests of the Venice Diocese. And so the Sisters have done for several
During this week, I drove twenty miles south to Naples to visit the Primavera family who were originally from Chicago Heights - my home town. I officiated at their weddings, baptisms, etc. They all live in Naples now. Another family from Chicago who live here are the DeFrancesca's. Again I have officiated at the Liturgical moments in their family's history. One of the joys of getting older is the number of friends and memories and blessings that you experience through the decades. Thanks be to God for the Primavera's and the DeFrancesca's!
March 24-April 3, 2016: To Italy with the La Valle Family
A few months ago, the La Valle Family invited me as their guest to join the seven of them on a trip to Venice, Florence, Assisi, and Rome. So I of course said yes. Off we went for eleven days of great fun and excitement. We stayed at the Gritti Palace Hotel on the Grand Canal in Venice - we departed Holy Thursday night and arrived in Venice on Good Friday. I was able to participate in the 3:00 PM Stations of the Cross in St Mark's Basilica. Awesome. Holy Saturday evening, I concelebrated with the Archbishop of Venice, many priests and a Cathedral full of People. This four hour celebrated included the Blessings of the Fire, the Exsultet sung perfectly in the Latin Chant, all nine Scripture Readings, ten people were Baptized and Confirmed and then they received their first Communion - those great Sacraments of Initiation. Mass continued with glorious music that rolled around this 1000 year old Cathedral. The ceiling and upper walls are covered with gold mosaic of sciences from the Scriptures.
Then to Florence with a stop at the Ferrari Museum. In Florence, we stayed on the Arno River at the Piazza Ognisanti (All Saints). The Church in the piazza was our Franciscan Church - old and beautiful - where Amerigo Vespucci is buried - he drew on of the first maps of America, so called because of his name. We visited the Uffici Museum, awed the Michelangelo's David, stood at his tomb and the tomb of Galelio, Rossini, etc. in the great Church of Santa Croce (Holy Cross) served by the Conventual Franciscan Friars. We visited the Piti Palace and the church of San Mineato, both across the Arno River.
On our drive to Rome we visited Assisi for several hours. We walked from St Clare's Church through the center of town down to the Basilica of St Francis. Our visit ended with a delicious meal at Da Cecco restaurant within the wall of Assisi. Da Cecco means at Frankie's - Cecco is a nickname of Francesco. Rome awaited us. Our two vans and drivers stayed with us from Florence to Rome and drove to the front door of our hotel, the Hassler, at the top of the Spanish Stairs. Rome is always overwhelming and magnificent. An new adventure for me in Rome was the three hour ride on the back of a Vespa - eight Vespas, eight drivers, and the eight of us holding on for dear life and enjoying every curve and tight traffic situation. We stopped at several places for an explanation of what we were riding around - the Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla, the Aventino and the Gianicolo Hills, the Appia Way, etc. Wow!
After a ride thirty miles south of Rome, we enjoyed the Gardens and Fountains of Tivoli. There is a Franciscan Parish Church in Tivoli where four Friars serve the people. Of course, such a day ends with a magnificent meal, outside under a vine of blossoming flowers and wine from the region.
Our non-stop flight on American Airlines from Rome to Chicago was smooth with lots of movies to watch between sleeping. Ah! Great Memories with the La Valle Family whom I have known for twenty-five years - wedding and baptisms, etc.
God bless the La Valle Family with Peace and Everything Good!
March 5-14, 2016: Vacation in Cape Coral, Florida
I flew on Southwest from Chicago to Ft Myers FL, rented a car at Budget/Avis and drove for 40 minutes to Cape Coral to spend a week with my sister Mary and with her friend Pat. Three days later my only nephew arrived for a week stay with Aunt Mary. Lots of relaxation in this beautiful home that Mary and Pat rented for a month. I become good walking friend to Pat's dog Frankie - a Labrodoodle - 85 pounds and friendly, sweet, obedient and patient. I would walk Frankie or he would take me for a walk. We would meet old and young including 85 yrs old Moshe born during Nazi times in Lithuania and Russia, a few years in the army in Israel and then to New York. We meet grandmas and grandchildren. We stop to visit younger people working in their front yards, like Angela and Bradley. One day we drove south 25 miles to visit Ft Myers Beach and the Poor Clares whom I will return to teach in April. Another day we drove west to visit Pine Island with its many colored shops and restaurants. I enjoyed hours in the house's pool and on the dock next to the Canal. Did you know that Cape Coral has more canals than any other city in the world. Or so they say. I was supposed to fly home Sunday 6:00 PM. Southwest canceled all their flights into and out of Chicago. It has been a wonderful week with my sister Mary and Pat and John.
February 23-March 2, 2016: Washington DC to Preach, Teach, Visit
I spent a week at the Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington DC - 1400 Quincy St NE. I preached a two day retreat to the 17 Franciscan Friars who live and work at this great 100 year old Shrine that has shrines remembering the Holy Places in the Holy Land - Shrines that look like what a pilgrim sees in Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem. In the lower level, you walk through a replica of the Catacombs of Rome. Many other Shrines to Mary, Joseph, St Francis, St Anthony, etc. A wonderful place of pilgrimage. Then I visited new monuments for me: Martin Luther King, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson - all around the Tidal Basin. I also spent three hours touring the campus of Catholic University of American with a Paul, a freshman whom I baptized when he was an infant. I officiated at his parents' wedding at St Peter's c. 30 years ago. I also enjoyed a wonderful evening meal with a couple who live in Virginia and whose wedding I officiated at in Hinsdale IL. On the road again....and still!
March 5-13, 2015: Cape Coral, Florida
I am spending a week of vacation with my sister Mary and her friend Pat. They rented a home in Cape Coral, FL for a month. Supposed to be in the 80's & sunny all week. Here's hoping! Hope to visit some friends in Naples.
February 4-10, 2016: In Ft Myers Beach, Florida
For one week, three of us who were freshmen in the minor seminary high school in Westmont IL in 1954, yes, 62 years ago, laughed as we told stories of our youth and our growing up experiences. Dan Dolesh, Chuck Gunti and I were three of 76 freshmen at St Joseph Seminary - 13 years old and away from home. Dan was from Cleveland. Chuck, now Fr Chuck Gunti, OFM and a retired army Chaplain Colonel was from Memphis, and I was from Chicago Heights. We were classmates for 13 years. Dan left the seminary before Ordination and pursued a Doctorate in Theology at Catholic University in Washington DC, married, fathered and raised five children, taught theology in several colleges/universities, and now is a counselor/therapist in Cleveland. We stayed at his beautiful home in Ft Myers Beach. Fr Chuck Gunti - the other Fr Chuck - worked in parishes then joined the army and traveled from Korea to Europe as a Chaplain - and how he loved that ministry. He lives in San Antonio now with the Friars at San Jose Mission and celebrates mass for the various armed services in San Antonio.
We enjoyed a four hour boat ride in Dan's boat on the first day in 82 degree weather. For the rest of week, the temperature was between 40 and 60 degrees. An unusual cold spell. But no problem - we still walked the beach, told our stories, shared our insights and experiences of these last 62 years. We are all now 75 yrs old. I am the youngest in the class. On January 30, I joined the rest of the class in being 75 - all of a sudden as it were.
Within a mile, is the local Catholic Parish. We attended Mass there on Sunday. Before Mass, I entered the building on the property of the Church that is a Poor Clare Monastery. I met and talked with the seven Poor Clare Sister three times while I was there. They asked me come back to them and teach them Gregorian Chant in English and to give organ lessons to three of the Sisters. So, of course, for my Franciscan Sisters I will return to Ft Myers Beach from April 11 to the 15. Always good to say hello to folks.
Because I posted on FaceBook a Selfie of me standing on Dan's deck with palm trees and water behind me, I received a phone call from a couple whose wedding I officiated at 28 years ago in Ohio and who now live in Colorado. They were staying a block away on the Gulf side at a condo where the Ohio family has used for years. So I visited them twice. Small world. Great invention those Selfies.
The three of us traveled to the Ft Myers Airport on February 10 and said a grateful good-by as we went our separate ways and promised to do this Florida time together again, sooner than later. We are getting too old not to get together. During the week we FaceTimed and talked with three other classmates. The group will be larger next time, so many more laughs, stories, hope and dreams!
January 30, 2016: My 75th Birthday
I cannot believe that I am 75 years old, or I do not want to believe this fact. But the many Birthday cards, calls, emails, and gifts all point clearly to this fact. And I am so grateful for the gift of life and for these 75 years of living life as a Catholic, a Faso/Helsel, a Franciscan. What a great trip it has been and continues to be. Thank you to all of you who remembered the day and sent me greetings. Much appreciated! And now the question: How do I want to live out these remaining years whether two or twenty more years. I would like to live to be a hundred years old, but I want to know that I am a hundred years old. You know who wants to live to be a hundred? Someone who is 99 yrs old. I figure, we will be in Heaven forever, why rush it! Ever onward with life. And I am so blessed to have so many of you in my life, each a blessing indeed! Let's go into the future with hope and joy, with love and a generous spirit, with mercy flowing into us from God's love, and flowing out of us to everyone!
January 3-10, 2016 - Last Week of Christmas Season
Since the Christmas Season in the Church lasts from December 25 to January 10, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, it is now time for me to continue sending out my Christmas Cards with a page of eight photos of my travels in 2015 and a photo of the eight Friars with whom I share my life here at St Gratian Friary in Countryside. Two of the Friars live with 5 miles of our Friary. Six of us live here - we pray together the Liturgy of the Hours twice a day, share a full meal prepared by a wonderful cook on Tuesday evening, celebrate Mass together on Thursday afternoon before going out together for a meal. Br Clarence our Guardian is on his 37th month-long retreat in Texas and Fr Dennis flew this morning to Las Cruces NM for the USA Friars Retreat for about 40 Friars. Be well and blessed all through 2016! Now - to those cards.
December 25, 2015 - Beginning of the 12 Days of Christmas
December 16, 2015 - Vera Dolan died, 101 Years Old
In 1980, I met a lady at St Peter's and we were friends every since. Her name was Veronica Dolan who lived in Beverley area of Chicago, around the corner from her parish St Barnabas on 101st and Longwood Dr. Vera asked me to be her POA since she had no family, never married. She worked for 35 yrs in the Loop as Office Manager, etc, for four different Doctors. And she loved her work, her doctors, the patients. During those years, she would frequent St Peter's Church in the Loop, four blocks from her work. Vera traveled to Europe with groups that I led - to France, Malta, Germany. Vera loved to dine out and attend concerts and musicals - when I could drive her. In October 2014, Vera fell in her home. This last year of her life was spent at Smith Village retirement home on 113th Pl and Western Ave in Chicago. She never walked after that fall at home. Vera was in Skilled Care - wonderful care - on the 3rd floor. I would visit her weekly as did two friends, Mary Ellen and Maureen.
Vera always was always very grateful for anything and everything. Her great love was
Fanny Mae chocolate candy, and anything else made from or with chocolate. Her 100th Birthday was on May 6, 2014 with a dinner party for 20 friends. Her 101st Birthday was celebrated in a private dining room at Smith Village with 10 friends. Vera regularly asked about what we were going to do to celebrate her 102nd birthday.
This quiet and gracious lady died very peacefully while in transit to the dining room.
Onward to the Banquet in Heaven. Those of us who knew her - her positive spirit of gratitude, generosity and gentleness - will miss her greatly. Now Vera is reunited with her parents and her beloved sister Dolly who died in 1986 and with her friend Virginia who died 2014 - they were friends since first grade in 1920. May Vera rejoice in the presence of the Lord with all the angels and saints, now and forever. The funeral will be at St Barnabas on Dec 22, 2015: Visitation at 10:00, Mass at 11:00, Burial at St Mary Cemetery in Evergreen Park, lunch at Fox's on Cicero. A party with white wine and chocolates for sure - her favorites.
November 26, 2015 - Thanksgiving
I hope your Thanksgiving Day surrounded you with much love and gratitude, hope and lots of good food. After Morning Prayers with my Fraternity at St Gratian Friary, I joined my sister Mary at our friend's home in Palos Heights. Mary and Pat prepared a feast. Mary Ellen joined us with four most delicious cheeses from Mariano's. After enjoying the turkey and trimmings, we enjoyed watching the Chicago Bears beat the Green Bay Packers. Ah! how sweet it is for the home team to win! May we all be grateful every day for everything in life.
November 3-13, 2015 - Pilgrimage in the Holy Land for 25 pilgrims
The weather has been great - warm and sunny. I am trying to absorb sun rays - good old Vitamin D - to last me through the approaching winter. Looking forward to spending three weeks in Israel - first to preach a retreat on Mount Tabor in Galilee to English Speaking Friars who live and minister in the Holy Land Custody. Of course, the retreat is always on mind - what topics, what will move them, what do they need to hear, etc. These Friars are from Canada, USA, Australia, India, many countries in Africa. There is more that I do not know about them than what I do know. This will be my 37th pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In many ways, each trip is like my first. The group I lead will be experiencing the Holy Land for the first time so I see it through their eyes and wonderment. And at the same time, I feel like I am going home - I know my way around Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Nazareth and Cana, etc. I will fly by myself from Chicago through Istanbul and then on to Israel. I will have five days in Jerusalem to prepare for the Retreat. After the retreat, I will return to Jerusalem as I wait for the arrival of 26 pilgrims on November 4th. My joy is seeing their joy and excitement, their
"I can't believe that I am here!" walking where Jesus walked. I will continue to lead pilgrims on pilgrimages as long as I can. And then I hope that I will be able to remember that I used to do such things. Ever onward!
September 24, 2015: Pope Francis in DC
Pope Francis’s Visit to Washington DC – September 2015
Pope Francis continues to be the Good News for the poor and for those on the peripheries, for the forgotten and for those with no hope, for Catholics and for all people of Good Will, in his presentation to the Congress and everywhere!
I have been glued to the TV coverage of Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to all of us in the USA. Smiles and tears come easily in watching and listening to this humble Pope from Argentina, the son of immigrant parents from northern Italy.
A highlight for us Franciscans was the Canonization of the Franciscan Friar
Junipero Serra – a Philosophy teacher from Majorica off the coast of Spain who felt called to be a missionary in the New World of Mexico. His missionary heart to evangelize the peoples of California led him from the classroom to the coasts of Lower California and further north to Carmel where he died and was buried in the Mission of San Carlos (St Charles). This Friar founded nine Missions – centers for Faith and education – as he walked hundreds of miles up and down the coast while suffering greatly from an injured leg. Ever onward!
Our General Minister from Rome, Fr Michael Perry OFM, concelebrated the Mass 0f Canonization on the steps of the east side of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. Other Friars were present including the Friar who has been working in California and in Rome for the Canonization. He presented the formal petition to Pope Francis there at the Mass in DC. The Pope responded yes and declared Junipero Serra a Saint of the Catholic Church.
Did you notice the Statue of St Junipero Serra in the Capitol Building in DC – in his Franciscan habit/robe, holding high the cross in his right hand and holding a model of Mission Santa Barbara in his left? In the front office to the left of the lobby at St Peter’s in Loop, there has been a large, bigger than life statue of Junipero Serra. At the bottom front of the statue is his name but with a blank spot of five inches – space for his new title – SAINT.
The example of Pope Francis’ and Junipero Serra’s lives can model for us and challenge us to reach out to the forgotten, people on the periphery, people who are different from us in color of skin, with an accent that is not ours.
May we see and treat all persons as our brothers and sisters as St Francis and St Junipero Serra did in their lives! Saint Junipero Serra, pray for us!
August 31-September 5, 2015 - A very Busy Week
This week I celebrated 13 Masses in different places, one Bible Study, anointed a grade school friend at the Community Hospital in Munster IN, buried the ashes of my Uncle Shorty, etc. And I was tired. I have to start acting my age - whatever that means. At 74 yrs old,...what? Can't be! But it is for sure! Glad I made it this far and that I know that I am here. Ever onward! "God of mystery and light, we pray that you lead us from today's unknowing to tomorrow's amazing possibilities! Amen!" May I follow with trust!
Pilgrimage to the Holy Land for November 3 - 28 Pilgrims signed up
August 2-7, 2015 - Retreat for Srs of St Joseph of the Third Order of St Francis in Bartlett
I participated at St Raymond Cathedral in Joliet for the 150th Jubilee Mass of the Joliet Franciscan Sisters - this ended a year long celebration. A beautiful mass with Bishop Conlon presiding. After Mass, I drove for an hour to Bartlett to Clare Oaks to begin preaching the retreat for the twenty-four Franciscan Sisters. All went well. On Wednesday AM, I felt dizzy and not all right. I checked with their doctor at Clare Oaks. He checked me out and said to drink more water and check with him on Friday. Friday AM I woke with 10 minutes of Vertigo and then dizziness and feeling weak. I packed up since I had to vacate the room by noon and celebrated Mass quietly for the Sisters. I checked with the Doctor after mass. He called for an Ambulance and there I was enjoying my first ride in an Ambulance. I was taken to St Alexus Hospital in Hoffman Estates. After two days of MRI, CAT Scan, Echo Cardiogram, etc.....the doctors found nothing. Negative! Good news! However, my heart rate was down to 43. Saturday 6:00 PM I was leaving the Hospital with my heart rate up to 60. I owe the Sisters at Bartlett two talks and confessions. Sr Barbara said that we can make that up in September.
July 2015 - Suddenly the month of July is gone and August begins tomorrow. Finally, these last two week, it feels like summer - hot, humid weather. I learned from my mother to enjoy the hot summer and soak it in, after all there is nothing like Vitamin D from the bright sun. I ended the month by spending three days in Joliet with the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate. Each summer they gather from Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, Florida, Oregon, etc., both Sisters and Associates. I am an Associate of this group of Sisters whom I have known since 1954. These days were informative, prayerful, fun, with lots of sharing. I was challenged to live my OFM life with greater commitment and to expand my service to others.
May 30, 2015 - Finally, after two months of pneumonia, it finally feels so good to feel good again. April 1-5, as I returned from two weeks in Israel and Jordan, I was feeling very tired. April 6-10, I began coughing deeply all day and night. April 10, I drove to La Grange Hospital to the Emergency Room. Within three hours, I was diagnosed having pneumonia and was in a private room. Four days of receiving antibiotics and breathing treatments with two medicines. my blood count was normal. The doctor said I could go home. So I did. Then began two more weeks of coughing that finally cleared out the stuff in the lungs. Almost back to normal. These four days in the hospital were the first time I was ever a patient in a hospital. I learned lots and have become more compassionate and understanding of people who have/had pneumonia or spent time in a hospital. Good to be on the other side of pneumonia!