Vatican II Changes Everything


The above video situates Vatican II in the world of 1962: the political climate, the social upheavals and scientific ideas. John F. Kennedy was challenging the United States to go to the moon. We had just come out of World War II, a war started in Europe, or the Christian world. It was a great time to be alive and to be Catholic.

One idea coming out of Vatican II concerned the role of the laity in the church:

“The Council pointed out that the laity can ‘also be called in various ways to a more direct cooperation in the apostolate of the Hierarchy’ and that ‘they have the capacity to assume from the Hierarchy certain ecclesiastical functions’ (33), but it is quite clear that the Council did not intend that these extraordinary forms of ‘cooperation in the apostolate of the Hierarchy’ (such as the liturgical functions of lector and Eucharistic minister) should cause the laity to be cast as miniature clergy instead of being encouraged to engage in their own proper apostolate, which is the transformation of the social order in Christ.” (


“Which is the tranformation of the social order in Christ.” Wow! What a mission. I could really get into that as a 19 and 20 year old and still can today. I did, with the Passionists, starting with Fr. Joe Van Leuuwen, C.P. inviting me to teach CCD at the Parish, and continuing on to this day with all sorts of exciting challenges and assignments that different Passionists offered me and I accepted.


In the above quote we also read:  Lay Associates or Partners in our case, are not intended to be miniature Professed but should “engage in our own proper apostolate”. I accomplish this in my world by taking the great gifts the Passionists have given me and adapting them as best I can, to the real world in which I live, move and have my being, i.e. Teaching, Life Insurance Sales and the volunteer work I do as a retired person. In his book A Monk in the World, Wayne Teasdale presents the challenge I believe is the challenge for us The Passionist Partners of today:


“ Without doubt, there is great value in spirituality that emphasizes and supports withdrawal from society. But in our time, with its special needs, we require a spirituality of intense involvement and radical engagement with the world. It is in the real world that people live their busy lives, and it is in the real world that the wisdom of the monks must be made accessible. It is in the real world that their awakening and development need to occur, not off in remote solitude.” (p xxi)


Finally, the Passionists from the time of St. Paul of the Cross have always committed their lives to the above ideal of bringing the wisdom of the monks to the world. They did this by spending six months a year in strict monastic observance and six months in active ministry. With the crumbling of the monastery walls in our world today, I hope we Partners can continue this ideal in new forms that are not yet fully realized.


Next week: An even more seismic event than Vatican II, in my mind is the Internet. How does the Internet change our way of being together and the forms of Passionist ministry.

Identifying with the Poor


St. Paul of the Cross told us to identify with the poor. Pope Francis is telling us today to identify with the poor. In today’s TED talk Stephen Ritz demonstrates how that identification with the poor can lead to new life. New life not just in the spirit (that’s important) but in the pocket book and the real world as well.


Today, our Community of Passionist Partners is…


It’s up to us in each of our communities to complete the above paragraph. I wonder if we couldn’t learn something from Mr. Ritz and move to the deserts around our communities to bring them to life by identifying with the poor, the marginalized. Of course that means going out to the desert where the poor live, getting to know them as people and working with them to spread the Good News. Maybe one little step like moving our meetings from the comfort of our well-established homes or retreat centers to the desert and when we get there inviting those who live there to join us. I suspect that would lead to many new members of all ages and all sorts of new life. Most importantly we’d be a witness that the desert (suffering) is fertile ground for new life.


Under the cities lies, a heart made of ground,

But the humans will give no love. 
(lyrics from America’s “A Horse with No Name”)

Shai Reshef on the University of the People


A professor friend of mine at a local university left administration last year, because he loves and wants to teach. Today he shared with me that he spent the day in a faculty meeting where he was told that it was his responsibility to populate his classes and if he didn’t he should expect to lose his position. He teaches at a private university where they estimate tuition for a four year program to be $80,000.


In contrast to this Shai Reshef founded a way to make higher education accessible to millions more people through his University of the People. He has here, I think, the answer to today’s problem of the ever-increasing cost of higher education. He presents a model I believe, we as Passionist Partners should pursue in our attempt to open the gates to every one who wants to learn and share what it means to be a compassionate person. Using UoPeople’s methods, we could establish an accredited course of studies in an area that is badly needed today and totally in line with the Passionists’ Charism, i.e. living a compassionate life.


Click here to see another short video on How U of People works.

Need for Rite of Passage


I really enjoyed Richard Rohr’s Sunday, April 27th meditation on the need for rites of initiation. It started me thinking that maybe we, as Passionist Partners need a new rite of initiation. Among other things, Rohr describes the rite used by the Japanese with their warriors returning from the war after World War II. You can read the whole reflection here.


The Passionist Partners like most communities have a rite of passage. It’s spelled out in Appendix A of the Passionist Partners’ Handbook that can be found on the Passionists of Holy Cross Province Website. We in the Chicago Community have been looking for ways to attract younger members. I share this with you today in hopes of involving you in this search. Your community may already be successful at this. I know Ken of Nashville Community is a pro at this. Ken meets someone he thinks might be good and simply invites them to a meeting. I’ve seen him do it. It couldn’t be simpler or more direct, and for sure we can all do this even if we are not comfortable with this way at first. We can take the risk of being turned down.


Not downplaying this method, I wonder if there isn’t another type of invitation that would give us all the courage to do what Ken does? I wonder if we couldn’t find a ritual for doing this, a sort of rite of initiation that we incorporate into our regular meetings.


Of course good programming, picking topics of interest to our target audience and responsibly addressing them, is a ritual that is fundamental. We assure this of happening through our own continuing personal prayer, study and working together. If we do this consistently, I believe it should be easier to do as Ken does especially, if we have something we think would be of interest to our invitees. (Personally, I think topics that address where we see the living out of Jesus’ Passion today are particularly apropos, i.e. the types of things I have been presenting in this column).


And now, to the point of this column today: once our invitee accepts and comes to a meeting, we need something to get him/her to return and to keep coming back, something to hook her. The story of Jesus’ Passion of course is what we’re all about. I’m wondering if we couldn’t incorporate some rite that speaks to us as well as to those we invite that clearly addresses our mission, the proclamation of Christ Crucified: something in the way we pray: something in the way we conduct our meeting. Maybe something as simple as having a crucifix at the center of our meeting, maybe with a candle or two and a particular prayer that we recite together, i.e. “May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts.”


So these thoughts are simply meant to begin a discussion, not to say in any way: “This is what we need to do.” I hope you will feel safe to share your thoughts and reflections.


Austin Shares His Reflections


In today’s video Austin Rasche shares his reflections upon returning from his Indian excursion. You may remember, Austin. He is a member of the Nashville Community. He shared his experience here in an earlier blog. His reflections remind me how much the teacher, ambassador or worker for justice is really the beneficiary of such endeavors, many times learning much more than they could ever teach or share.


Thanks again Austin. You are an inspiration to me.



Austin Ends His Indian Adventure

2014-02-27 07.34.34

by Austin Rasche  February 28, 2014

I ended my trip to India with Fr. Joe Van Leeuwen and the Passionist community of Thoppumpady, Cochin.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here with the Passionists, where I had the opportunity to get to know the Fathers and students fairly well, as they are so welcoming and outgoing. I’ve spent time playing table tennis with the students, as well as a little guitar for them.

One of the first things I did was attend a couple’s 61st wedding anniversary. It also happened to be the groom’s 93rd birthday. Wow,talk about two great accomplishments!

Fr. Joe took the time to show me around. We first took a stroll down the coast of Fort Kochi, where a beautiful view of the water and Cochin’s International Shipping Expo  serve as a background for the many little shops and stalls there. Then another night we attended the International Folk Fest in Fort Kochi, that consisted of many styles of dances, music, and acrobatics from different parts of India and the surrounding areas.

Fr. Joe and Austin
Fr. Joe and Austin

After showing me around downtown Cochin one evening, Fr. Joe and I took a boat ride around the islands. I learned that not too long ago each island had it’s own palace and king. Today some of those palaces are tourists’ resorts.

I really enjoyed visiting the island of Vypeen. There I attended an outdoor Mass and visited a new grotto. On a later occasion I went to visit the Passionist Parish and Priests in Palliport. The two Fathers there were just as fun and welcoming as those in Thoppumpady. There I also got to visit the beach, where I made some new friends from up North.

Tonight we will celebrate the Feast of St. Gabriel. In preparation we’ve been putting up decorations all week. I look forward to attending and making even more memories. I will leave for home on Monday morning (weather-permitting in Chicago, of course). I hate leaving already, but I look forward to coming back one day and revisiting with my new friends, as well as keeping in touch with them via email in the meantime. What an adventure it has been!

“Are you a King?”


by James Paulin

Kings are expected to continue the line of succession to the throne. Queens were permitted in a minority of monarchies. Some royal families believed they were put in place by Divine providence and would keep their authority as long as the linage continued. A few of them did away with wives who could not produce a son and remarried until they were successful or resigned themselves to lack of an heir. When a prince was born the whole kingdom rejoiced. Church bells rang, there was dancing in the streets and much festivity. Today, a royal family has become cosmetic for the most part and wields little or no power yet world attention still is given to the few monarchies that still hold forth.

When kingdoms come to mind there is a certain amount of trappings that is usually associated with our thoughts. Palaces, robes, crowns of gold, coats of arms, perhaps an army are normally associated. Great amounts of real estate and subjects come with a kingdoms domain and along with these, territorial wars. Transfer of power from king to a prince when death occurred usually included a ceremonial coronation or crowning so the world would take notice and even pay homage. Music was composed; pomp and circumstance would rule the display. Lineage and succession are carefully adhered to.

Although it seems odd now, with the political advances in the world allowing more popular representation generally, God is often viewed as a deified king. A modern notion is far more encompassing and abstract. It is useful to think in terms of a spiritual kingdom as something we are associated with or not. Jesus had quite a lot to say about this kingdom of God and how to be in or out of it. He taught that it was desirable at all costs, difficult for the rich to enter, invisible, moral, and required a change of heart or true repentance to join. Indeed, to become a child of God is necessary to enjoy the peace and joyful spirit available. He even said one must believe with the openness of a little child to enter.

What did Jesus say about his place in the kingdom of God? He obviously was an authority on its most intimate details and endorsed it unequivocally. The answer to that question comes in an almost counterintuitive set of events. In an understated way, Jesus acknowledged he was the Son of God and the promised savior of the world. For his procession to royalty he was mounted on a donkey and hailed with waves of simple palm branches. The next day, he was accused of being a charlatan, duping the masses with lies and blasphemes. When asked if he was a king he claimed a kingdom not of this world but that he was, in fact, a king. Those who refused to see God’s might through the power of love instead of secular domination tried to eliminate him by torturing his body and crucifying it. What a pitiful attempt to usurp God’s will but, God allowed it to be to permit man’s redemption and sanctification by the one acceptable sacrifice. Then Jesus rose from the dead to sit at the right hand of the Father as choruses of angels sing “Alleluia, Alleluia, King of Kings and Lord of Lords and He shall reign forever and ever”.

Success and Happiness?

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

There was a recent reflection printed in the N.Y. Times about happiness.  The gist of this article was that there are three components of happiness: genes, events and work.  That is, the genetic component of some people accounts for their being happy people (they were born happy).  The second factor was “luck”, being at the right place at the right time.  The third was work, doing what I enjoy doing.    Religion didn’t feature very prominently in this lineup, likely a major omission.

But overlooking this, we might want to ask about another element in happiness, the success factor, i.e., achieving what I set out to do with my life.  Does being contented with myself even though others wonder why, or always winding up in the line or the lane that moves along quickly, or enjoying my job even though it is a dead end, exhaust what it takes to be happy?  What about success?

Some may think that success is not all that important, perhaps because there are different ways of computing success.  In baseball lore, there were three players in the 1940s who were considered stars and successes because of their hitting prowess: Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees, Ted Williams of the Red Sox and Stan Musial of the Cardinals.  Their success was calculated in terms of the hits they made at the plate that helped their teams to win games.  But there was a fourth player who was a contemporary of these three, Luke Appling of the White Sox.  He never achieved success in the way that DiMaggio, Williams or Musial did.  But he did succeed at the plate in another way: by hitting foul balls, an endless series of foul balls.   He seldom drove teammates around the bases by his hitting ability.  But he did wear down opposing pitchers by his uncanny ability at the plate to hit one foul ball after another, to the point where even the star pitchers facing eventually him had to be taken out of the game and replaced.  And that was a success—wearing down a pitcher whom his teammates could not hit, to be replaced by another pitcher whom they could hit.

So Luke had his own way of winning games.  He exhausted opposing pitchers, and exasperated their fans.   He was a success, with a plug of chewing tobacco in his mouth for interminable periods of time at bat, dirtying the plate in a disgusting way, all calculated to win the game.  He seemed to be happy in this less than admirable way, enjoying little esteem on the process.  If the comparison is not out of order, his formula for success was comparable to that of a skunk, which enjoys no esteem comparable to that of the noble lion, tiger or elephant, but nonetheless gets its way.

So being happy consists not only of genes, events or work.  It can also occur through success, achieving what one sets to do: winning a game, or driving away threatening animals.  Being good at what one does elicits admiration from others, even if there is no envy at one’s genetic endowments, or jealous at the success one achieves or desirous of work comparable to it.  Being successful at what one does is another formula for happiness as efficacious as genes, events or work, even if scorned for being like another foul ball.

How to Move Ideation to Creation

It’s so easy to look at the problems of the world around us and become cynical, old (nothing to do with age) people who bemoan life and see no hope. Mohamed Ali (not the boxer), a young person himself, presents another scenario on how to change the paralysis of “Waithood” into beautiful, flowering, hopeful cities.  He is not a Passionist, but he truly is a Passionist Partner, I believe.

What do you think?