About Friar Musings

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

Epiphany: more than three Kings

January 6th is the day we typically call “Three Kings Day,” more formally known as The Epiphany. Epiphany is derived from a Greek word ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, meaning “manifestation,” and refers, generally, to Jesus being manifested to the gentile visitors from the East. But in truth it is more complicated than that. What is striking is that there are a variety of liturgical celebrations and dates that are all part of our rich Catholic tradition surrounding “Epiphany.” Continue reading


As we are…

Last century (literally) I was researching for my master’s thesis on early Franciscan Missions. One of the really interesting aspects of the early Franciscan missions was the one to China. The friars arrived in China in 1292 and John of Montecorvino was the first bishop of Beijing. But all that is besides the point. In the course of my research I ran across The Travels of Marco Polo in which he describes his travels in the far east. I was scanning the text to see if he had any mention of contact with the friars or the Christian monasteries that dotted the silk road in those days.While he had no mention of either – he did recount a most interesting rendition of the account of the Three Magi. Marco Polo wrote that he encountered this version in Persia (modern-day Iran). In that account there are three magi – but they are not traveling together. Each is on his own journey following the star to Bethlehem. Melchior is an older man, Balthazar is an adult in his middle years, and Gaspar is a young man just reaching adulthood. Continue reading

Resolutions: one at a time

CalvinUnless you happen to be like my muse, Calvin, in the comic strip, I suspect you are about to make some New Year’s resolutions. How did you do on last year’s resolutions? About the same as the rest of us? One ad hominem wisdom saying defines “insanity” this way: to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. Perhaps 2018 is a time to consider changing the way resolutions are considered, made, and hopefully, kept. Continue reading

Being Simeon

In today gospel account, it is now forty days after Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph are performing their duty as pious Jewish parents by coming to the Temple to fulfill the requirements of Exodus 13. It is a ritual that reminds the parents that this child is now a member of the family that God redeemed from the slavery in Egypt. And so, they come to offer a simple sacrifice as they dedicate their first-born child to the Lord and to the larger, holy covenant family of God. Continue reading

Living the Dream

King David – living the dream! I mean who could have imagined?  The Lord God had sent his prophet Samuel out to anoint the one who would be king – and the young shepherd David was selected among all of Jesse’s sons – the one to be king of Israel and all of God’s chosen people.  And the Lord had been with David on the battlefield as he stood before the giant warrior Goliath.  The Lord had stayed with David when he was a wanted man on the run from the murderous hand of King Saul. The Lord had guided David as be took on the mantle of leadership and had united the 12 tribes of Jacob into one nation. And now David was king. Continue reading

From Advent to Christmas…

We are doing something special this year – single bulletin for the holidays! One issue to cover the fourth Sunday of Advent, Christmas, and the Feast of the Holy Family—and crossing into the New Year! I thought it was a good idea and a time saver for the staff who produce the bulletin—seemed like a great thing. And then I figured out I might have to write a column that spoke to the whole period. Hmmmm? Continue reading

Annunciation: how can this be?

TheAnnunciationIn response to this angelic announcement, Mary asks a question reminiscent of Zechariah’s query, “How can this be?” She had not had sexual relations with a man. Ultimately, the purpose of Mary’s question (v.34)—which leads to Gabriel’s answer (v.35) and the giving of a sign (v.36) and word of reassurance (v.37)—is to emphasize that all of this is God’s doing.

Gabriel’s response emphasizes that the baby would be born by the power of God. Like the presence of God in the cloud at the transfiguration (9:34), the Holy Spirit would come upon her and overshadow her. The child, therefore, would be God’s child, and he would be called the Son of God. As with all the annunciations in Scripture and in ancient biographical accounts, the purpose of the annunciation is to declare something vital about the identity of the child. The Lukan account repeatedly affirms that Mary’s son would be called “Son of the Most High” (v. 32a), son of David (v. 32b), and finally the title by which he would be most widely recognized, “Son of God” (v. 35). Continue reading

Annunciation: favored and troubled

TheAnnunciationConfluence. Luke’s narrative style is on display as he deftly moves from the “annunciation” concerning John the Baptist to the one concerning the salvation of all humanity. There is a confluence of temporal and chronological markers, and the reappearance of Gabriel. The “sixth month” recalls v.24, and seems to imply that Elizabeth has only now come out of seclusion. This prepares for the sharing of the news of her pregnancy in v.36 and her subsequent welcome of Mary (vv.39–45). Yet geographically and socio-religiously we move away from the center (Jerusalem and the Temple) to the margins of the nations (Nazareth in Galilee). Gabriel, God’s messenger, is the connector, pointing to the God’s Word active in the world. Continue reading