About Friar Musings

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

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]


Irma Comes A Calling

Sacred Heart is a traditionally beautiful church – not too far off the path of Hurricane Irma. We are located in Tampa, right there in the middle of the “cone of uncertainty.”

As you might imagine, we celebrate lots of weddings. We had four scheduled for this weekend. Then Irma came a calling. Bridal party reservations for receptions were being cancelled, hotels were closing, wedding guests asked to evacuate, and it was just becoming a bride worst nightmare on the most special day of their lives.

If we are anything, we are adaptable. Thanks to the great staff here at the parish, we moved everything to Friday – all four weddings. As I write we have celebrated two of them and have two more to go. Here was the gospel the couple had picked for the next wedding. Rather appropriate don’t you think?

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” (Mt 7:26-28)

By tonight the newly married couples and their guests will start evacuating to other places. I am glad we could help them celebrate.  May God bless them and the staff of Sacred Heart.


Sinning against you: first 10 words

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.” (Matthew 18:15-17) Continue reading

Sinning against you: church

If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

We now come to the last resort, which the earlier approaches have been designed to avoid. To “tell the church” must presumably require a public statement when the community is gathered (rather than a whispering campaign). Such publicity must be avoided where possible, but may prove to be inevitable if the problem is to be solved. 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). The offender, faced by the disapproval of the whole local disciple community, ought surely to recognize that this was not just a personal grievance on the part of the initiator. Anyone who is not willing to accept such united testimony may then properly be regarded as no longer a fit member of the community. “You” (singular, referring to the individual who raised the issue, not, at least explicitly, to the community as a whole) should then treat them as “a Gentile and a tax-collector.” Continue reading

Sinning against you: listening

Sin, of whatever form, is not to be tolerated within the disciple community, but is to be dealt with when it is noticed. But what is at stake is winning over the brother or sisters. The pastoral purpose of the approach is underlined by the verb “win,” which shows that the concern is not mainly with the safety and/or reputation of the whole community but with the spiritual welfare of the individual. “Win” suggests that the person was in danger of being lost, and has now been regained; it reflects the preceding image of the shepherd’s delight in getting his sheep back (v.12). Continue reading

Sinning against you: restore

15 “If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.19 Again, (amen,) I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Continue reading