Thursday, December 31, 2009

Student Franciscan Pilgrimage: Day Four

Today the pilgrims spend time with the popes. They begin the day with Eucharist at the Vatican. I remember this being one of the highlights of my pilgrimage. Afterwards they will have a historical tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. I remember the columns that held up the dome. Each column was wider than my house! The building material was beautiful, shinny and looked as if it was built yesterday.

St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome, Italy

Everywhere they will see the markers indicating where saints and popes are buried. Art of all types are everywhere. They will learn where all the bishops were seated for Vatican I and II. Hopefully they will visit the Vatican Gardens or view the Swiss Guard..

I hope they have time to visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. They will be visiting more site than I did so I do not know if they will have time for the museum.

The Sistine Chapel

After lunch they will visit St. John Lateran. This was the Vatican of Francis. This is where he walked to, from Assisi, to ask for the pope’s blessing on his order.The students will have dinner on their own, in the city. They will then take a walking tour of the city. This will include the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Piazza Navonna.

I hope they enjoy the river, the lights, and the activity of the city. When they return to CTN there will be prayers and reflections and time to say goodbye to Rome. Tomorrow they head for Assisi!

A city tour in Rome

Student Franciscan Pilgrimage: Day Three

This would be the students first full day in Rome with some normal rest. They would need it. After breakfast (Colzione) they would have a historical lecture to prepare them for their visit to St. Paul Outside the Wall. I never got to this church and everyone I know who visited it reports being deeply moved. The Basilica is one of four major Basilicas in Rome. The basilica was founded by Emperor Constantine who had the church built over the remains of St. Paul. The church was them modified and built on by subsequent emperors and popes. The result is a stunning Basilica and grounds. A place that requires you to pause and ponder the life and martyrdom of Paul

St. Paul Outside the Walls a tour

The pilgrims would then move on to the Coliseum. This is perhaps the easiest place to imagine the power and might and abuse of Ancient Rome. I am sure they will have memories of Hollywood Rome as well as memories of what happened to early Christians at this site.

Europe - summer 2006 - Rome - Ancient Ruins

After lunch the pilgrims would then tour the catacombs. They would have a better appreciation of what it meant to be a Christian during the first centuries. They would also celebrate Eucharist in the catacomb of St. Sebastian.

Rome Pilgrimage Day Two-Catacombs

I never visited the catacombs and yet I will feel connected to our pilgrims. I was a mentor at Catholic Collegium this past summer at St. John’s University. We celebrated Eucharist in the presence of the relics of St. Saint Peregrine the Martyr. St. Peregrine was a 12 year old boy in Rome during the reign of the Emperor Commodus. This is the same Emperor we have all seen in the movie The Gladiator. In the year 192 the Emperor demanded his subjects worship him as the demigod Hercules. Peregrine was one of four young men who refused to worship the Emperor. Young Peregrine was tortured. He was thrown in the dungeon. He was placed on the rack, he was whipped. Finally he was flogged to death with leaded whips. The young martyr’s relics have been venerated ever since.

So, as my daughter and the other pilgrims visit Ancient Rome and the Coliseum I will remember St. John ’s University and the young saint and feel connected to our pilgrims.

I am sure the pilgrims had much to reflect upon today. I am also sure they had time to enjoy their new and growing friendships.

Student Franciscan Pilgrimage: Day One and Two

Pilgrimage is not a tour or a vacation. It is moving to a holy place both externally and internally. That means that the pilgrimage begins before a single item of clothing is even packed away in the luggage. It requires preparation, study and prayer. At our school this occurred under the nurturing guidance of Sister Anita Holzmer.

Having said that I suspect our students would have described December 27, their day of travel, as their first day of pilgrimage. Our students flew from Fort Wayne to Atlanta and then on to Rome. They gathered with other Midwest students in Atlanta. Another plane left from New York. Either way strangers were quickly getting to know one another. They were also getting use to a life that danced between structured time and time of quiet reflection.

The second day was their first real day “on” pilgrimage. They arrived in Rome and transferred to Casa Tra Ni. CTN is only a few blocks from St. Peter’s Basilica. The residents are clergy and religious and other pilgrims from all over the world.

The pilgrims would have had a brief orientation and then lunch (Pranzo). Afterwards they would go to their rooms for some much needed rest. They would then gather for their first of many liturgies. This would be followed by a walking tour of Ancient Rome. I remember how amazed I was at how extensive the ruins were. It was the capital of the largest empire in the world, why was I surprised?

Europe - summer 2006 - Rome - Ancient Ruins

They would then return to CTN for supper (Cena). Afterwards there would be an optional walk to St. Peter’s Square.

So in their first day they had liturgy in a building housing pilgrims from around the world. They walked among the ruins of emperors, senators, poets and martyrs. They spent time in prayer and reflection and they made new friends. Not a bad beginning!

I remember how busy the city was. How fashionable the people were. How everywhere there was a mixture of ancient, medieval and modern buildings, art and fountains. I remember the Tiber River and the many beautiful bridges, each different form the others. I remember the beggars and the black-market. Most of all I remember waling into St. Peter’s Square and seeing the pope’s office light one.

From our travel to rome-the Tiber River 27/11/09

I suspect some of the students will not be from large cities. Some will not appreciate the noise and the fast pace of the city. However, all will be aware they are in the presence of the land of Peter, Paul and so many, many martyrs. I am sure they had a memorable first day in Rome.

Student Franciscan Pilgrimage

During the next two weeks three students from the University of Saint Francis Fort Wayne will be joining students from other AFCU schools (Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities) in a pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi, Greccio and Mount La Verna. The students have different backgrounds educationally and denominationally. However, they are united in wanting to have a closer relationship with the early church and with Francis and Clare. I started this blog one year after my pilgrimage. I used the occasion to support the faculty/staff pilgrimage of May 2007 by remembering my pilgrimage. It was a way of feeling connected.

Well, this pilgrimage is also important to me. I feel connected to our peer ministers in Campus Ministry. I am always excited when another person grows in their understanding and appreciation of the lives of Francis, Clare and the early Franciscan. Besides, my daughter is one of the pilgrims.

So, in a way to feel connected, in memory and prayer I will discuss their agendas and what they may be experiencing. I will not be living vicariously through their experiences because their pilgrimage is not my pilgrimage. They started in Rome, we started in Assisi. We traveled in the hot green month of May. They are there to mark the New Year. They will see sites I never went to. However, we will be united in experiencing the impact of one man who answered a call and decided to do the difficult thing, to live a Gospel life. I know these students will have a life changing experience.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Faith, Global Warming and the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

Hope for Creation - The Archbishop's Advent Message 2009

I watch in amazement as Catholics and other Christians argue that global warming is bad science, that it is a myth. I don’t get it. How can one ignore science that repeatedly comes to the same conclusion, the planet is warming up and it will have catastrophic consequences if it continues.

Now I get people who argue this based on political considerations. I get it when radio and “news” people argue this. It is in their interest, they get more viewers and that means more money. I don’t get it when people who love the Creator don’t care about the creation.

Let’s assume we are in the middle of climate change and not global warming meaning it is not the result of human behavior. So what, do something about it. So what, deserts are still expanding, glaciers are still melting, island nations are still in danger of disappearing. The military establishments of nations are preparing for a world marked by increased fighting for limited resources, especially water and crops. Animals and plants are still becoming extinct at an alarming rate.

So I sit in wonder as I hear of people of faith who are only critical of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. The Vatican has not been remotely neutral about the conference. They have delegates attending. The Vatican is on record for planning to be the first carbon-neutral nation on earth. That requires planting trees in Hungary to compensate for the large carbon out-put of this tiny nation.

Now the Vatican is not without recommendations or clarifications. The Vatican spokesperson, Rev. Federico Lombardi, states that the solution cannot come only from nations, restoring the planet’s health will require behavioral changes from all individuals. Additionally, he voiced the Vatican concern that negotiated limitation on emissions must take into consideration the effects it will have on the poor of the world.

The Vatican has consistently been an advocate for the care of creation. Pope Benedict XVI has been referred to as “the Green Pope”. He has been seen as a strong ally to a number of environmental groups. This is a response to the Vatican striving to be carbon-neutral, to the Vatican installing roof top solar panels and the pope calling for Catholics to be “better stewards of God’s creation.”

There are too many important faith leaders calling for active changes in behavior to counter global warming for people of faith to ignore either them or the scientist. My favorite is Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. I first noticed his advocacy for stewardship when he attended a climate change prayer meeting and conference in Greenland. Just this fall he blessed the Mississippi River. He has called for a 40% drop in CO2 by the year 2020. He is a relentless prophet of caring for creation and as a Franciscan I could not be more impressed.

Christians of many denominations in Europe are calling for change. Church bells are peeling in support of the conference. Denominations are together celebrating a “Christingle’ services. How many times will the bells peel? 350 times! That number refers to the 350 parts per million which is the safe upper limit for CO2. Now that is support, that is a teaching moment.

I don’t know what the correct solution is. I know that whatever it is will call for sacrifice from all of us. It will also demand more from some than others. It will require our rethinking our use of coal. It will require we revisit an economy based on rampant consumerism. But then Christians are not called upon to get the most toys before we die, we are called upon to be witness to a generous Creator and the Incarnation that took place on this planet. So for those who fight the conference without offering a realistic counter offer please be aware that without change animals and planets will disappear, forever. People will starve and die. Nations and armies will compete for basic resources. Whatever your definition of Pro-Life is, it cannot be this.

Vatican prepares for Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nour Eddine and the Vatican Alma Mater

Well, it is almost here. The new CD, Vatican Alma Mater is almost out. I have talked about two of the composers, the British agnostic Simon Boswell and the Italian, Roman Catholic Stefano Mainetti. Now I want to talk about the third composer that makes this project so exciting. That is Moroccan, Muslim composer Nour Eddine.

Benedict XVI recorded an album in honour of the Virgin

Eddine is an unlikely choice for a project that includes the Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London. He is an unusual choice for a CD that includes Gregorian chants and the voice of Pope Benedict XVI. This Moslem composer is an unusual choice for a CD recorded in part at St. Peter’s Basilica. But he is a great choice!

Eddine is known for composing traditional Arab or North African music. He also writes world-music. The traditional, Sacred Western music is new to him. He was surprised at how well traditional Arab music and Gregorian chants blended together.

Nour is better known for music that highlights Berber and Andulusian traditions. Eddine is a composer who plays many instruments, he writes music, he sings and he choreographs. His talents are welcomed for such a unique project as the Vatican Alma Mater.


In North Africa and the Mediterranean he is know for album Zri-Zrat. The album is inspired by his family history growing up in a small Berber village. It captures the sounds, instruments, songs and voices of Morocco. He later founded a dance group that highlighted traditional culture.

GNAWA CULTURE - Nour Eddine Group - darsena live music

Nour Eddine has performed around North Africa but it is not surprising that he is a composer on this project. He has also worked in Italy and is well known to movie-makers and composer of fusion music.

So, in a matter of days The Vatican Alma Mater will be released. Many will listen to it as a curiosity. However, many more will use it as a foundation for prayer and meditation. They will listen to music that blends modern and traditional sounds, Western and African rhythms and voices and musicians that span multiple countries. They will listen and they will smile.

The Vatican Alma Mater

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November: Homeless Youth Awareness Month

Well, November is a lot of things. It is Native American Pride Month. That is a time for folks of First Nations ancestry to take pride in their history, their culture and to honor their ancestors.

Honoring ancestors, that is a big part of November. We have All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Mexican-Americans have Day of the Dead.

It is a month in which the harvest is completed and Americans gather to mark a Day of Thanksgiving.

However, November heralds winter and it marks a sadder occasion. November is also Homeless Youth Awareness Month. The temperature is dropping and across the nation over a million young people are trying to find a safe place, a dry place, a warm place to sleep, just for tonight. They did the same thing last night and they will have the same struggle tomorrow evening.

As I write this I can feel the cold come in through my window. But hey, I got a window, a room just for writing, family and pets. I can turn up the heat or put on a sweater. The cold is not a threat to me, neither is the night.

I interact with our homeless almost daily. I talk to them in the park. I work with folks who are active at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen. I talk with Carlton from the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission. I work with people active at Ave Maria House. However, it was not until I was in Chicago with Emmaus Ministries and I interacted with homeless youth (that was not our mission but we were not going to ignore them) that I was touched by the pain and anxiety that marks the life of homeless teen.

The largest organization serving homeless youth in America

Luckily, a lot of people are trying to ease this problem, one youth at a time. So Covenant House does what is always does, shelter and care for homeless youth. However, as the temperature drops there is an added urgency to this mission. Virgin Mobile USA is teaming up with Help USA to address the problem To that end Virgin Mobile USA is a sponsor of a Public Enemy #1 Concert to aid homeless youth.

We all have our favorite charities. We are all strapped for money in an uncertain and freighting economy. However, as we get ready to gather with our families and give thanks for what we have let us not forget those who for whatever reasons, are forgotten and in the cold. Give what you can. And if you can’t give or even if you can, pray for the youth and pray for their families.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Year of Africa and of Peace and Justice

The Vatican has declared this past year The Year of Africa. It was a good idea. Africa is vast, it is the second largest continent on the planet. It is a land rich in minerals. It has a diverse topography including rivers, mountains, deserts, rainforests and plains. It is a land of animals. It is a land of peoples. Cairo is the most populated city on the continent with over 9 million citizens. Nigeria is the most populated nation with over 113 million citizens. It is a land rich in languages, cultures and faiths.

It is also land cursed with disease. 3000 children die each day from malaria. 90% of the malaria cases in the world are in Africa. Over 17 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have died of AIDS. The World Health Organization states that while Africa accounts for 12% of the world’s population it accounts for 60% of the AIDS cases in the world. Add to this the rising cases of T.B., river blindness, leprosy , polio, and measles and you begin to see some of the harsh challenges the peoples of Africa face.

None of this even addresses decades of civil and ethnic wars, brutal dictatorships and human rights violations. To be sure this does not reflect all countries in Africa. There are governments that were democratically elected. There are countries that contribute to stability in the region and the world.

Faces of the Coptic Church

So this past year focused on issues unique to Africa. This is the continent where Islam and Christianity compete along side each other for new converts. This is the continent where many of the Christian communities have colonial connections. This is also a continent that has ancient Christian communities. The Coptic Church along with its pope is one of the original Christian communities. The Ethiopian Church (Tewhado) has ties to the Coptic Church of the 4th Century, including contact with bishop Athanasius of Alexandria. The church had contact with the Syrian Church in the 5th century and was involved with the Coptic Church for 16 centuries!

Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Christmas Song TTEOTV 3-4

So this year the African bishops met in Rome. They had a synod in the Vatican. They met with the pope. They prayed and they planned to make their homes more peaceful, less corrupt, and fairer in the distribution of resources.

Along with this the pope named Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana to head the Vatican's justice and peace office. This is an important and high profile position. The cardinal will address issues of war, torture and human rights violation. He will be a busy man. The bishop was appointed cardinal by Pope John Paul II. He participated in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. He is viewed as a dynamic, compassionate and intelligent church leader. He speaks six languages and understands Latin and Greek. This skill will serve him well.

Cardinal Peter Turkson named president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

The bishops have been busy. They have also recommended dialogue with followers of Islam and African traditional religions. They recommended that each bishop appoint an exorcist to deal with witchcraft which is part of many cultures in Africa. The bishops spoke out against abortion and finally they called for a day for reconciliation every year.

In a land where the faith is vibrant, the challenges staggering and the hope eternal the pope and the bishops have called for Christians to live like Christians. They have called for faith to trump despair and for love to defeat greed. As members of the Universal Church this is not their problem, it is our problem. So let us pray and give what support we can. If we truly believe we are one family than we are in this together.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Kazakhstan, the Vatican, Turkey and Dots, Lots of Dots

Connecting the dots, connecting lots and lots of dots, that is what I did this weekend. I read that the pope met with the President of Kazakhstan. This is a big deal. The Kazakh President will soon serve as the president of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Kazakhstan is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation. However, I have other reasons for being interested. Remember, I said I was connecting dots!

Pope Receives Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev

We have a former student who joined the Peace Corps after she graduated. Megan is serving in Kazakhstan. She keeps in touch with us through Facebook, blogs and e-mail. Her photos are wonderful. After reading about the pope I got an e-mail from Megan.

Megan sent photos of her recent visit to Turkey and Istanbul. More dots, today I also received an e-mail from my brother-in-law who lives in Germany. He and his wife just returned from a three week visit in Turkey. It is a very small world.

Megan has helped me appreciate just how vast and diverse Kazakhstan is. It borders Russia, Uzbekistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea. That is big. Megan has lived in a major city, traveled desert country and lives in Siberia. She has lived with U.S. volunteers, international volunteers and with Kazakhs of various ethnicities.

So when the pope mentions the achievement of different religious groups getting along in Kazakhstan this is not little matter. It is a nation that is 60% Muslim, 40% Christian, mainly Orthodox. It is a nation of 15 million citizens of which 250,000 are Catholic. In a era in which people are killing one another over religious differences this is a success story.

Megan has seen a lot and learned a lot. She speaks some Russian and Kazakh. She visited Russia during a family vacation. She also visited Istanbul. Her pictures are wonderful. This is a person who values diversity and could savor the beauty of the Hagia Sophia as well as all of the mosques. My brother-in-law had a different experience. He was in a smaller city but spoke of the beauty of the nation.

I hope to one day visit Turkey. I don’t know if I will ever get to Central Asia or Russia. However, if that never happens I certainly learned a lot from Megan. She helped me connect some dots.

Kazakhstan REAL COMMERCIAL against Borat

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stefano Mainetti and the Vatican Alma Mater

The last week of November, just in time for Christmas shopping, an unusual collection of music will hit the record stores. The Vatican Alma Mater will be a collection of traditional, Gregorian chants, North African rhythms, modern music and orchestral and choral accompaniment. Accompanying who? Pope Benedict XVI!

The composers will include Brit Simon Boswell, Moroccan world-music composer Nour Eddine and Italian composer Stefano Mainetti. I am excited about all three choices. Today I want to focus on Mainetti.

Silent Trigger - The Algonquin Goodbye

Mainetti is a conductor and composer. He is a classical guitarist. He has won numerous international awards. He studied in Italy and the U.S. His training, exposure to different cultures and professional experiences make him a perfect selection for this unique collection of music.

Stefano Mainetti - Elvio Monti

Stefano has written music for television. He has won awards for soundtrack for documentaries. However, he has also composed music for popular films as well. Many in the U.S. are familiar with the soundtrack for the popular movie Tale of the Mummy. He has composed music for 27 films and 64 documentaries.

Stefano, alone among the three conductors, is a Catholic. He, like his partners, is respectful of other musical traditions. He was also humbled to be chosen for this unusual project. He saw his goal as choosing the right music to match and highlight the wishes of the Holy Father. The Pope wanted a composition that ignored racial and national boundaries. Stefano accomplished this by choosing music that was multi ethnic.

Orgoglio - Il sapore della terra – OST

I can not wait to have my hands on this C.D. This is music for prayer, to meditate to, to have playing in the background while reading, to relax to. This is world music made to help the listener connect to his or her brothers and sisters around the world and throughout time.

Vatican Alma Mater

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bobbie Gottschalk and Seeds of Peace at USF

Well this has been a frustrating week and an inspiring week. This week our school played host to a very special guest, Barbara “Bobbie” Gottschalk. She is one of the founding members of Seeds for Peace. The inspiring part is simply her life and impact. The frustrating part was that I never got to meet her, our schedules simply did not allow for it. However, I talked to colleagues who had her speak in their classes, who went out to dinner with her or attended her public talks. I spoke with students who were inspired by her. I did show video about her and the project in two of my classes.

So, while it was a personal frustration for me I am so happy that she was our guest for a week.

"Bobbie Gottschalk & Seeds of Peace"

Bobbie’s story is not the least bit ordinary other than she is a regular person, not a head of state, a writer or rock star who is changing the world by her determination. She is changing the world the only way she knows how, person-to-person. As Bobbie says, “Treaties are made by nations, peace is made by people.”

In 1993 she was approached by her friend, a journalist named John Wallach about joining him in a radical project. He had seen to much violence and sorrow while covering the conflicts of the Middle East. He wanted to create a program that taught young people from the Israeli- Palestinian Conflict to resolve conflict peacefully. From this Seeds of Peace was born.

From the conversation grew a dream that has affected thousands of lives. Seeds of Peace has a summer camp in Maine that brings Palestinians and Israelis together. They learn to work and cooperate together. They learn to see one another as people, they learn to value one another. The success has also meant that programs that help them fit back into their societies had to be created.

Because the programs have been effective more people requested assistance. The result is that Seeds of Peace have participants from the U.S., Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Turkey and Cyprus. The program involves educators, journalist, anyone who wants to actively work for peace can find a way to contribute to Seeds for Peace.

Seeds of Peace has become a role model of NGO conflict resolution. Its advisory board reflects its growing international reputation. The board includes, former American Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, Shimon Peres of Israel and Palestinian Dr. Sa'eb Erekat .

Many people on campus felt a connection with Bobbie. The members of JustPeace were greatly inspired. Members of the Franciscan Family saw Ms Gottschalk doing the work peace-makers are called to do. Many of us in the behavioral sciences were proud to see she started out as a clinical social worker and school counselor. It was however difficult to listen to her and not feel called to personally do more in the cause of peace-making. So, to Dr. Matt Smith and all of those responsible for bringing this real life hero to the University of St. Francis, thank you.

The Path to Peace and Change

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Vatican Alma Mater and Simon Boswell

I am increasingly excited to eventually hear the Vatican Alma Mater CD. The blending of North African rhythms, Gregorian chants, orchestral backgrounds and the Pope praying sounds amazing. There is nothing average or ordinary about this C.D. I am particularly excited that the British composer Simon Boswell is a part of this endeavor. Simon adds many dimensions to this project. He is a Cambridge educated man. He is agnostic and he is creative, oh is he creative.

Santa Sangre (1989) – Triste

Boswell has been making albums since 1976. His musical career is eclectic to say the least. He toured with Blondie in the 70s. He began producing records in the 80s. It was not long before he was making connection in the international music industry. In the beginning of this career he wrote music for Italian movies. That however changed in the 1990s.

Simon Boswell - Hot Ice Soundtrack: A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)

Simon got his big break when he wrote the music for Hardware. After that he became noticed and started writing music for big budget films. The most current and probably most familiar project was the music for the mini series Tin Man. The series was a reinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz. The music was haunting and almost served as an additional character in the story.

Central City - Tin Man Soundtrack

He has also worked on other projects. This includes working with the Vatican to set the words of Pope John Paul II to music.

So it should come as no surprise that Simon Boswell is involved in Vatican Alma Mater. He has the Italian roots, the experience in collaborating with other forms of music and working with folks from other countries. Finally, the Vatican knows the quality of his work. Yep, I can’t wait for the C.D. to be released at the end of November.

Benedict XVI Recorded an Album in Honour of the Virgin

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rome and the Year of Africa

Rome is focused this year on Africa. Africa is a continent of vast potential and resources, of varied cultures and peoples. However, sadly, it is also a continent of civil war, disease, poverty and human rights abuses. To be sure there are few areas of the world that do not suffer war, disease or brutal regimes. The nations of Europe and North America are involved in those wars. However, the focus on Africa is appropriate.

There are few places on the planet were Christianity is growing at such an impressive rate. There are few places on the planet where right next to Christian communities Muslim communities are growing at an equally impressive rate. These peoples, often fellow citizens have a choice to make. They can either learn to respect one another, value each others unique dignity or they can ignore the teachings of their faiths and attack one another. The stakes are high, for them and the world.

Catholic Church Singing

So this year Rome has focused on Africa, the mother of nations. In March the Pope visited Angola and Cameroon. Just this past September the bishops of Africa and Madagascar meet in Rome for their episcopal conference. Currently the bishops are attending the Synod of Africa in Rome.

The suffering of the continent is great. The United Nations estimates that over 400 million Africans are living on less than a dollar a day. An additional 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger.

Operation Rice Bowl in Ghana

The Church is assessing what it can do to alleviate suffering and what it has failed to do. This includes an honest assessment by Church leadership about its silence prior to the Kenya election and resultant turmoil. The Church is also loudly calling out for reform and democracy. However, many of the bishops are calling for more basic changes. This includes valuing the traditional family. This includes a call for the end of oppression of women in the forms of prostitution, pornography and rape.

Additional threats to the well-being of Africans include the HIV/AIDS epidemic, armed conflicts, rampant corruption and multinational corporations exploiting natural resources. In the weeks ahead I will discuss the struggles Africans and the Church face if they are to find ways to grow, prosper and live in peace with their neighbors. However, I will also be talking about the celebration of faith that is the Catholic Church in Africa.

Kenyan Catholic Music

Saturday, October 17, 2009

World Music, Sacred Music and the Pope

I find myself drawn to world-music. It is a term that is way too broad to be useful. In my case I simply mean music that is a fusion. I have preferences, I like music fused with African and Caribbean rhythms, I like folksy music and I especially like to be surprised. Well, a new addition is being added to the collection of world music at the end of November 2009.

Geffen Universal is releasing a new and interesting CD album. It is a collection of eight new songs. The collection is titled Music from the Vatican- Alma Mater. The most unlikely performer is Pope Benedict XVI. He will be heard singing and praying.

What makes this a type of world music or fusion? Everything. One composer, Simon Boswell (of Tin Man fame) is a British agnostic. Another, Stefano Mainetti, is an Italian Catholic. The third, known for North African folk music and world music is Nour Eddine. Mr. Eddine is a Moroccan Muslim. The composers wrote eight new songs that combine modern sacred music, prayers and Gregorian chanting. The music blends the sounds and rhythms of North Africa with the musical traditions of the West.

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI can be heard singing and chanting in Italian, French, English, German, Portuguese and Latin. His Holiness is accompanied by the Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome which was conducted by Monsignor Pablo Colino. The Monsignor is the Maestro Emeritus of St. Peter's Basilica. Additionally, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performs on each track and they were recorded at Abbey Road studios in London. Face it, this qualifies for world music!

So, in the coming weeks I will be writing about this cultural and spiritual event. I will talk about the composers, the process and the history of modern sacred music. However, I will be writing as a novice to the subject, someone who just knows what he likes. I will not be writing as a serious student of the sacred music. This is music to pray by, to chant by, and to listen to in rooms lit with candles. It is music that restores smiles after long days and it is music that reminds us to hope. However, most importantly, it is music that reminds us that we are all connected to one another.

The Vatican Alma Mater

Friday, October 16, 2009

Holy Family Fraternity in LaGrange Indiana

On September 26th our Secular Franciscan fraternity, the Holy Family Fraternity did something a little different. Instead of having our regular meeting at the Campus Ministry building at the University of Saint Francis we had a road trip, well, sort of. We met at St. Joseph Parish Church in LaGrange Indiana.

LaGrange is a great little town. It has a beautiful Courthouse Square, a pretty main street business section and it has murals. However, we were there for worship and fellowship.

So, in this town in Amish country, in a town where the Protestant Churches are considerably larger, we had our Franciscan meeting. That of course was appropriate because the priest at the church is Father Mark Weaver or Friar Mark of the Conventual Franciscans.

Holy Family Fraternity Secular Franciscans Getting Ready to Break Bread

First we had Mass. It was nice to participate with the Parish members. The church was simple but nice. It had a warm, welcoming feel to it. It had great sprawling greens outside the window and yet it was in town. Friar Mark introduced us to his congregation.

The church will be celebrating its 75th anniversary and the bishop will help them kick off the event. Now LaGrange is a small town, just under 3000 people. That does not stop this town from having some big events. That includes the Vatican Exhibition of the Eucharistic Miracles of the World. This will include a display 126 Eucharistic miracles from around the world and throughout the ages. Not too shabby for a small town in a rural county!

St. Joseph Parish LaGrange Indiana

After Mass our fraternity went to the social room. We had a pot luck meal. Friar Mark blessed our meal and blessed us with his company. Afterward he served as our formation leader. He told us about St. Joseph of Cupertino. He is the patron saint of pilots and students. He is the patron saint of students simply because he was not the brightest candle in the room and yet became a priest by shear persistence.

St. Joseph of Cupertino

After fellowship and formation we planned for Transitus and the Feast of Saint Francis. It was a nice day in the country. I liked the church and the town but it was the warmth and humor of Friar Mark that I really enjoyed. We hope to have him in Fort Wayne as a guest of our fraternity in January.

Holy Family Fraternity Just Taking Our Leave

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Franciscan Weekend

Last weekend was a wonderful weekend. Saturday night marked Transitus. That is the time of the Year (Oct. 3rd) which we commemorate the passing of Francis from this life to the next. It could be a sad occasion but that would indicate we don’t get it!

I joined some of my Secular Franciscans at the chapel at the University of Saint Francis. This is a small, simple chapel. I was in for a surprise. It was lit with 36 candles. The music was up-lifting. “Brother Leo” was there to guide us through the service. Afterwards we all had refreshments with the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Blessing of the Animals at USF

The next day was the Feast of Saint Francis. First our Seculars met. Sister Anita lead them in their formation readings. I then talked about my experience at Emmaus Ministries and how that fit in with our call to come to the aid of lepers. It was well received.

Blessing of the Animals II

After that we all went to Mass. Father John was eloquent. Immediately after the service we went outside to the statue of St. Francis by Sufi. There Father John blessed the animals of the neighborhood. People brought dogs, cats and chickens. Yep, it was a great weekend.


Prayer of Saint Francis in Front of Saint Francis

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Matt Maher's Litany of Saints

Letanía de los Santos - Matt Maher's Litany of Saints

Matt Maher at the University of Saint Francis Fort Wayne

So, yesterday was bag pipes, reggae and Mexican hip hop. Today is Matt Maher. That is quite the cornucopia of music!

Matt Maher is one of the most famous and popular Catholic musicians around. He travels the world performing, with his group and with others. In Toronto, during World Youth 2002 he sang for the pope. Even more impressive, his song, “Litany of the Saints” served as the official Papal Evening Prayer. Matt was joined in singing by a crowd of 700,000.

He has been performing around the world ever since. However, he works at keeping perspective, of not becoming a celebrity. That includes missing awards and recognition when the events clash with his parish responsibilities. I cannot imagine that but then I suspect he is a lot more consistent in his faith than I am.

So how did he end up at the University of Saint Francis? Two of our students, peer ministers, heard him in concert last year. They then went up to him and asked if he would consider playing at USF and he said “yes!” They then contacted Jan Patterson, the Director of Campus Ministry, who has worked at arranging the concert.

The concert was well-attended. Besides students, faculty, and staff, the sisters came down from the mother house. Students from high schools and parish schools joined us. It was covered by Christian radio stations, Protestant and Catholic.

Matt Maher at USF: "I'm Alive Again"

With the first song it was clear the concert was a success. Students began clapping, singing and dancing. It was also clear that this was not a rock concert but a worship service with rock music.

Matt Maher at USF: "Your Grace is Enough"

With each new song the students became more involved and participatory. The energy was powerful. High schoolers, college students and older adults were rocking and praising. In between songs Matt talked about his faith in a way that was celebratory and full of thanksgiving. He was not preachy, just passionate.

Auditions for "Sister Act III?"

The sisters came down from the mother house. They got into the spirit of the concert. I tried to video them but the lighting was too dark. I have only the briefest of clips, dark and not in focus. However, it captures their enthusiasm and joy. Matt described the sisters in the back row as “beautiful” and he was right.

Matt Maher at USF and Everybody Jumps!

By the end of the concert everybody was up, everybody was dancing and jumping. The clip reflects the enthusiasm of the audience. It also captures the guitarist breaking a string and the drummer and bass player realizing they had to fill in a little. Watch the end of the clip, the audience is really into Matt and the music and they are clearly happy to be there.

Finally, after the concert Matt and the band spent time with the audience. Matt then graciously agreed to be interviewed. He spoke of his musical gifts, his faith and the influence of Saint Francis in his life. It was a great night and I look forward to Matt visiting our campus in the future.

Matt Maher at USF Talking About Music, Faith and Francis

So, that was my weekend. It was so stimulating, so full of surprises and joy. I know small cities can be boring, lucky for me, I live in Fort Wayne!

My Fort Wayne: Viva Fort Wayne Fiesta

Viva Fort Wayne Fiesta: A Little Music and Dance

After a day of fife and drums, bag pipes and African and Caribbean rhythms there was only one more thing to experience, Mexican music! Downtown at Headwaters Park the local Mexican-American community, along with communities in Michigan, Ohio and Chicago were celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. This was the Viva Fort Wayne Fiesta. The food was great. Dancing was everywhere and not all ametures. Dance troups included: The Andino dancers from Ecuador, Ballet Amaneceres de México, and the Indianapolis Ballet Folklorico. The music got people up off there feet. I had never head Mexican hip-hop before.

Probably the most unusual part of the day was the Chihuahua races. They were not taken seriously. The races were an excuse, along with the Jalapeño Eating Contests, to make money. And that money, well 100% of it, went to Jorge Gonzales, a 16 year old in need of a kidney transplant. 16 different agencies, communities around the Midwest, all united to help this young man. It is clear, I have every reason to love my city!

So that was my Saturday. Three different festivals, different music, different food, and all were welcoming. Tomorrow…the Matt Maher concert at USF. THIS is a great weekend.

Viva Fort Wayne Fiesta: And Some More Dance

My Fort Wayne: The African/African American Museum

I took a tour of the African/African American Museum. It was a perfect day. People were happy and the sounds of music permeated the building. The museum is ten years old. It is beautiful, powerful and growing.

The first floor begins with a poster of our President, there is no question that people here are proud of President Obama. The next room is the African Room. It has artifacts from West Africa. The room connects to the Passage From Africa Room. Here there are artifacts of the slave ships. From the ceiling hang models of slave ships. It is a sobering room. Behind this room is a gift shop and then two rooms with paintings from local artists.

African-African American Museum: Passage to America

The second floor has a number of exhibits. This includes a room of Fort Wayne African Americans who have changed the city. There is a room dedicated to athletes. There is one dedicated to Audubon. The paintings for birds are replicates done by a local artist.

African-African-American Museum: The African Room

I had questions and volunteers were happy to answer my questions. However, when they could not answer my questions they referred me to one person, Hana L. Stith, the curator and founder of the museum. She is a fixture in the city culture. She is a mover and a shaker, she is a blessing.

Hana was nice enough to grant me an interview. I did not know she was a graduate of the University of Saint Francis, or as it was known then, the College of Saint Francis. She attended the college when it admitted its first male student, times have changed.

Curator Stith takes a great deal of pride in the museum and she should. It is an anchor in the cultural corridor of Fort Wayne. It is visited by many students from northeast Indiana. It is gathering artifacts from the areas underground railroad. It discovers local talent and highlights that talent.

An Interview with Ms Hana L. Stith: Curator

This was the second stop on my cultural tour of Fort Wayne. Two down, one more to go!

My Fort Wayne: A Breath of Afrika Festival

After spending the morning and early afternoon at the Johnny Appleseed Festival it was time to go the Breath of Afrika Cultural Arts Festival.This was the first year of this event. As soon as you parked your car you were greeted by the sounds of African drums, Caribbean beats and the smell of BBQ. More importantly, you were greeted with laughter and hospitality.

Breath of Afrika: A little Bit of Dancing

The festival celebrates the contributions of Afrikans and Afrikan Americans to the larger American culture. The festival showcases the East Central neighborhood. The neighborhood felt like, well, a neighborhood. Children ran around playing, adults met in small groups and laughed and talked. When you looked north-west you saw the buildings of downtown, the cathedral and the lights to Parkview Field. When you looked east you saw the African/Afrikan American Museum. All this while folks were dressed in African clothes, children beat drums, people sold art and food and people danced. The festival had poetry readings, Stan Champion and Roots Rock Society, and an Afro-Caribbean group called Timbalaye. The festival was sponsored by the museum and Three Rivers Institute of Afrikan Art and Culture (TRIAAC). TRIAAC is the home of the Three Rivers Jenbé Ensemble. This is a local youth group that uses Afrikan drumming and dance to learn about culture and responsibility. They are great and their performances were well received.

Breath of Afrika: A Little More Dancing

There were tours of the museum. There were also tours of the building behind the stage, the Kachmann Mind Body Institute. It was clearly a great day, with friendly folks at a neighborhood festival.