Our Fundamental Oneness – Alex Lerangis

Check any news outlet these days, whether in print or digital, on your phone or on your TV, and the top articles are bound to be divisive and in many cases critical of someone, some group, or some idea. The narrative that ‘nice’ or ‘positive’ stories don’t sell is a well-known trope at this point – but nonetheless sadly seems to remain true. With election season nearing full swing, the storylines and media surrounding us are only bound to increase in emphasizing the differences in one another, whether ideological, political, economic, demographic, or otherwise.

By way of a brief introduction, my name is Alex Lerangis and since joining St. Charles last year I have been a member of our parish’s Young Professionals Ministry. During a number of our monthly meetings this summer our discussion has focused on the social issues prominent in our community and how we can rely on our faith and the scripture to direct our actions. Despite the difficulty and uncomfortableness that these topics pose, our conversations to date have been respectful and enlightening, but more importantly, comforting and hopeful. Continue reading “Our Fundamental Oneness – Alex Lerangis”

Retreat Yourself! – Antonia Fusco

My name is Antonia and I’ve been a parishioner at St. Charles since my Confirmation in 2017. The last time I wrote here, I shared how the parish community helped raise me Catholic. Let me edit that last phrase: how the parish community is helping raise me Catholic. The formation process, I’ve discovered, is ongoing for all of us. For people who like to know what’s what (and you know who you are!!), it’s a bit of a challenge sometimes to accept the Mystery that is at the heart of our faith. Yet there’s a profound beauty and comfort in that, too, because it is through the Sacraments, Mass, Scripture, and Prayer that our Trinitarian God reveals Himself to us slowly, lovingly, surprisingly, if only partially. It’s an ever-evolving relationship. And when it comes right down to it, isn’t that true of all intimate relationships?

Anyone who’s in or has been in a long-term relationship, however, knows that you can fall into a rut or a period of stagnation. One solution is to go on vacation or do something together you haven’t done before; basically, becoming vulnerable and open. A silent, spiritual retreat with God, I’ve found, is similar. It’s an opportunity to step away from all that you’re attached to, including your attachment to yourself, so you can hear His knock and open the door to Him. Your spiritual director will help you invite Him in and encourage you to let Him restore the interior of your house. Like all renovations, though, it’s intense, messy, and filled with unanticipated challenges and delays—caused by your not fully retreating and allowing Him to renew you. It’s not easy surrendering—from holding on to be being held, from giving to receiving. At least that was my experience last month when I went to St. Edmund’s Retreat House on Enders Island. It’s a slow process, this letting-go, but every step of the way you begin to see everything as a gift, as a form of great love:

Continue reading “Retreat Yourself! – Antonia Fusco”

Weedy But Trying to be Wheaty – Beth Liou

Hello to everyone in the St. Charles community. My name is Beth Liou, and I have been a parishioner here since August 2002, when I moved to Brooklyn with my husband Eric and newborn son Frank. Eighteen years later, that son is headed off to college (assuming, of course, that conditions allow) and we will only have our younger son Paul at home for his last two years of high school. It’s a bittersweet moment and a time to reflect.

When we moved to Brooklyn, we weren’t sure how things would shake out – where would our home church be? Where would the kid(s) go to school? What would the daily fabric of our life be like, etc.? Over the intervening years, as we’ve navigated the answers to those questions, we’ve established strong roots in the neighborhood. This includes at St. Charles, where I have served as a catechist, lector and parish outreach volunteer, and where both boys were inculcated with a strong sense of faith and community. Even my husband, who is not a Catholic, has felt welcome and supported.

Continue reading “Weedy But Trying to be Wheaty – Beth Liou”

Watering the Seeds God Has Sown – David Austin

David Austin in Bhutan where he helped to set up that country’s first law school.

This Sunday’s reading from the Gospel (Matthew 13:1-23) emphasizes the important role that our surroundings play with respect to the ability to develop our God-given potential. The parable of the sower is one that has occupied my thoughts repeatedly over the past year, during which time I had the privilege of living in Brooklyn Heights, teaching at Brooklyn Law School, and attending St. Charles Borromeo parish. As I started my new job, settled into my new community, and introduced myself to Father Bill, I couldn’t help but wonder about the quality of the soil in my new surroundings. Would I grow in my faith and would that faith bear fruit? Or would it wither away, suffocated by worldly anxiety and the potential damage that comes from repotting a plant with fragile roots?

As a gay man, I cannot take for granted that every community will be welcoming and inclusive. Even within our Church, unfortunately, there have been many examples of intolerance towards members of the LGBT community. In Illinois, for example, the Bishop of Springfield instructed priests in his diocese to refuse Communion and funeral rites to persons in a same-sex marriage. I belong to that group: my husband and I have been in a committed relationship for a quarter of a century and were civilly married in Illinois as soon as it became legal to do so. Continue reading “Watering the Seeds God Has Sown – David Austin”

Walking Before We Fly, Part IV – Joe Genova

Part II covered the spiritual belief shared by St. Francis and Pope Francis of the unity of everything in our universe, an undeniable truth because God created it all, from galaxies, to humans, to bugs and dirt under our feet.  A summary of the five-chapter, 115-page guts of Laudato Si’ was the auspicious goal of Part III.  In Chapter 6, “Ecological Education and Spirituality,” the gloves come off.

Pope Francis calls upon us to change ourselves and our lifestyle.  “The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own, and consume.” “Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle … can only lead to violence and mutual destruction.”  In Chapter 2, Pope Francis quoted the bishops of New Zealand, who put this pointedly in 2006 by asking “What does ‘Thou shall not kill’ mean when ‘twenty percent of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs poor nations and future nations of what they need to survive.’”  My friends, few of us are not are in the 20%. “In the end,” Pope Francis says, “a world of exacerbated consumption is … a world which mistreats life in all its forms.”  He then consoles, “all is not lost” because, with thought and caring and inspired by meditative prayer, we can act in a way that treats all of God’s creation fairly. Continue reading “Walking Before We Fly, Part IV – Joe Genova”

Walking Before We Fly, (Pt. III) – Joe Genova

In Part II, I covered the introduction to Laudato Si’ with emphasis on its spiritual roots in Pope Francis’ relationship with St. Francis of Assisi. Today, I will give an overview of the first five Chapters, necessarily not comprehensive and necessarily from “30,000-feet.”

Chapter One describes our Earth’s woes. We are familiar with some: climate change and threats to water (including increasing scarcity), air, soil and biodiversity, for example. We may be less familiar with how these things bring about a decline in the quality of human life, and we may not realize that the burden of environmental degradation is born disproportionately by the most vulnerable. The Pope urges us to search for the right path between two wrong views; one view says we need do nothing because the earth will heal itself with the application of new technology and without the need for any ethical considerations or deep change; the other says that the only solution is to reduce the human population and all forms of intervention in nature. Continue reading “Walking Before We Fly, (Pt. III) – Joe Genova”

Called to Act – Lauren Lee Pettiette Schewel

Next week, I will be able to wish my Daddy a “Happy Father’s Day.”  At the same time, in Minneapolis, a young six-year-old girl named Gianna will not.  Gianna’s father was George Floyd, the Black man cruelly, callously murdered by white cops just a few weeks ago.  I have been struck by the action that has risen in the wake of his death—the discussions, the protests, the riots, the call for change.  As Gianna observed, her “Daddy changed the world.”  And we should all pray that her observation rings true.

When I watched the video of George Floyd’s death, I saw the humanity taken away from him.  He called out for “Mama”; he called out for “water”; he called out for breath.  He called out for the gifts that God grants us as His people—but still, George Floyd died from the oppressive power of the law in this country.  I pray to God every time I see the video replay that He will bless George with a different outcome—that this father will be able to get up and see his children.  Instead, Gianna and her siblings—and all of us—must relive what happened for the rest of our lives.  We are forced to see what white complacency, fragility, supremacy, and inaction do to Black people. Continue reading “Called to Act – Lauren Lee Pettiette Schewel”