About Friar Musings

Franciscan friar and Catholic priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Tampa, FL.

Vineyard Workers: context

1 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  2 After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard….

In the Matthean narrative we are firmly ensconced in the midst of Jesus’ instructions, not of the crowds, but of the disciples, preparing them for not only his death and resurrection, but also for their mission to world. In other words Jesus is preparing them to be disciples – and preparing them to serve the new People of God being formed. Continue reading


What equals 9?

An accelerated bulletin schedule due to Hurricane Irma, a deadline moved up, and busy about hurricane prep, left me without a fresh idea for this week’s pastor column. But some recent events made me recall this previous column which I again offer for your consideration.

One of the interesting things about “blogging” is what happens off-line. WordPress has a feature for “comments” and it is a controllable feature. You can allow all comments and then remove inappropriate ones as you see fit. But then that means you have to monitor it constantly. Sometimes manners and charity are not hallmarks of text and comments left behind. It takes time. Not willing to dedicate time to the supervising task? The blog administrator cannot allow any comments at all. That takes no additional time to oversee. There is at least one “middle way.” You can allow comments but require that all comments be approved before they are posted on one’s blog. That takes some time, but you have the luxury of getting to such things when you have time. Continue reading

Forgiving: the debt

24 When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.25 Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.26 At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’27 Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. Continue reading

Forgiving: the parable

Parable of the Debtors in context. 23 That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. The parable which makes up most of the rest of the discourse underlines the principle of unrestricted forgiveness which Jesus has just enunciated. Most of Matthew’s parables are introduced as illustrations of “the kingdom of heaven” (13:11, 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52; 20:1; 22:2; 25:1). Here that formula is especially appropriate, since the parable concerns a king and his subjects:  this then is how God rules. That application of the story will be made explicit in v. 35: the king’s action represents how “my heavenly Father” will deal with you. Continue reading

Forgiving: how much

The verses leading up to our passage (vv.15-20) outline the manner in which the individual and the faith community are to deal with the incorrigible members caught in the life of sin. Our gospel follows upon that “last resort” in dealing with this individual, which the earlier approaches have been designed to avoid.  To “tell the church” in the first centuries was often a public statement when the community is gathered, something inevitable if the problem is not solved in conversation. The object of the gathering is not to pronounce judgment but to strengthen the pastoral appeal, in the hope that the offender may yet “listen” (akouo). Continue reading

Forgiving: context

21 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”22 Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.23 That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.24 When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.25 Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.26 At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’27 Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.28 When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’29 Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’30 But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.31 Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.32 His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.33 Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’34 Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. 35 So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Matthew 18:21–35) Continue reading

A Prayer for Safety from the Storm

O Good and Loving God, you so loved the world you sent your only Son to live among us and to experience the fullness of humanity in all things except sin. As we wait for the approaching storm, we experience the full range of human emotion, sure and certain, that Jesus our Savior knows our anxiety, our fear, and our trepidations. And so we pray:

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.
Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken
and mountains quake to the depths of the sea,
Though waters rage and foam and mountains totter at its surging
God will help at the break of day (Psalm 46)

In the days and hours to come, O heavenly Father, as you have revealed yourself to us in your Son, be near to us now in this time of pending harm. Save us from the tempests and waves, draw us ever closer to you as we confidently seek your protection from the destructive force of this storm.

May the Lord bless us and keep us;
May He show His face to us and have mercy.
May He turn His countenance to us and give us peace.


Words spoken in Love

Words have meaning, power, and consequences. The words today are pouring in from friends and folks across the nation, via text and email, letting us know that we are in their prayers as Irma bears down on the region. Those words of prayer are powerful indeed.

I should especially mention one email we received from the pastor at Beau Sejour, our sister parish in Haiti – wishing us well and that the whole community there was praying for our safety.

It is time such as these when people’s faith and expressions of faith rise to the fore. Maybe it is the very public nature of the crisis that brings their faith to the public forum. For I am often curious about people’s attitude towards faith and religion.  I will ask them if their faith is a personal matter – and almost always the answer is “yes, of course.”  Then I will ask if their faith is a private matter… and you can see in the hesitation, you can see it in their eyes – “Didn’t he just ask me that?”  Too easily we in the West equate the “personal” with those things that are private.  But that is not Christianity.  Christianity is a faith that is quite personal – “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son.” It is very personal, because it is about Jesus who loved us, each one of us, personally, individually, and held nothing back from us – not even his very life.  It’s very personal.  But it is hardly private – it communal, it is in the open, it is commanded to go the ends of the earth and “teach them all that I have commanded you.”  To get face-to-face and share the good news. Continue reading

Sacred Heart and Hurricane Irma

As the whole State of Florida prepares for Hurricane Irma’s approach and landfall, we ask you all to keep the people of the Sunshine State in your prayers. The southwest coast of Florida seems to be in for the worst of it. Tampa and Tampa Bay region will also feel the full brunt of the storm. May God watch over us all and keep us safe.

For local followers of this blog, you can keep posted on parish events via our website.

Water in Florida – part two

Last week we introduced you to the wonderfully-made complexity of Florida’s water. The ecosystem of aquifer, rain water, surface water and more that we enjoy for recreation and use for homes, agriculture, and industry. We hope you took a moment to watch the first six minutes of “Troubled Waters: Consequences and Connections”  which clearly explained how nature works to supply the city of Tampa with drinking water.

From the Green Swamp to headwaters of the Hillsborough River, to our water processing facilities to a faucet in your home – it is marvelous and mysterious and, sadly, we never give it a second thought. At least not until something horrific happens

Just several months ago, a massive sinkhole opened underneath a processed-gypsum retention pond at a Mosaic phosphate plant in Mulberry. It is estimated to have dumped at least 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Floridian Aquifer. The water was highly acidic and laced with sulfate and sodium; an unknown amount of gypsum, a fertilizer byproduct with low levels of radiation also was dumped into our aquifer.

The big disasters get our attention, but stress on the ecosystem of our water is a daily occurrence. Who is to blame? Everyone who uses water is contributing to the problem. According to the High Springs Institute, Floridian aquifer levels have fallen below what is necessary to maintain a healthy aquifer-spring system. A 10- to 20-foot reduction in aquifer levels is enough to stop a spring from flowing. The water flowrate from Silver Springs near Ocala already is reduced 60 percent. Some urban areas have recorded 30- to 90-foot drops. According to the United States Geological Survey, groundwater in the Tampa–St. Petersburg area has been pumped to the point that saltwater has entered the supply, a series of sinkholes have formed and surface water has been depleted.

The lack of flow to the springs can be devastating on both an environmental level and an economic level because so many tourists and residents come to the springs for recreational purposes. Water flow is the lifeblood of the springs, so when you reduce their flow, more algae forms reducing water clarity and resulting in the stagnant, brackish water that repels both people and wildlife. If the spring goes dry, it can turn those vibrant natural resources into waterless holes in the ground – and cause downstream problems.

Here in the Tampa Bay area we are familiar with the red tide algae blooms in the Gulf, but we also need to be attentive to the green algae blooms in the springs, rivers, and swamp areas. An overabundance of nutrients and nitrogen from agriculture (9.5 million acres of farmland/ fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides), septic tanks (did you know there are 2.7 million septic tanks in Florida?), construction-site runoff, licensed industrial waste, illegal dumping, and other sources are endemic in Florida. And all of this only will increase as development continues, adding more contaminants and using more water.

Just to the northeast of us in Osceola County, major changes are under way. The County Commissioners have adopted a plan that would transform 133,000 acres of ranchland (Deseret Ranch) into a major new urban area of 500,000 people. When it all comes to pass, one of the least populated areas of Florida (straddling Osceola, Orange and Brevard counties) would blossom into a megalopolis larger than Orlando, Kissimmee, Apopka and Winter Park combined. Think about the amount of ground that will be covered in concrete, no longer able to absorb rain water. Also consider where the 500,000 new residents will get drinking water. While this affects the St. Johns River system, the effects echo through the aquifer to us.

“…we come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us, knowing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast. In union with all creatures, we journey through this land seeking God, for ‘if the world has a beginning and if it has been created, we must inquire who gave it this beginning, and who was its Creator.’ Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.” [Laudato si, 244]