About Friar Rick

Director, FrancisCorps

My Transitus Homily

Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi
October 3, 2012

FrancisCorps is a one year young-adult Franciscan volunteer service experience in Syracuse, NY and Costa Rica. The experience of FrancisCorps begins with an Orientation retreat in August. During the retreat the directors of the program read the account of the last supper from the Gospel of John and then proceed to wash the volunteers’ feet. It’s a surprise for the volunteers and quite humbling for them.

One of the curious things about this washing of feet is what’s left in the water after the footwashing – sock lint, dirt from the floor, grass from the fields.* It’s all in there. The water is dirty.

The dirty water at FrancisCorps is similar to that which was found in the upper room at the Last Supper. The water Jesus found in the basin tells the story of where he and the disciples had been; the dirt from the roads, the sweat from anxious moments confronting religious officials, the bits of callouses from the long hours waiting for Jesus while he was feeding and healing and teaching. This dirty water is the water of all of us who are disciples.

In the dirty water we find the story of our journey.
In the dirty water we remember how we got here.
In the dirty water we embrace our humanity.

In the washing of the feet, Jesus pauses and ackowledges and embraces the humanity of his disciples and then he invites them into the intimacy of the Eucharist, the passion of the Cross and the Glory of the Resurrection.
This transition, this pause, this Transitus, is what we do tonight as well. We pause this evening to embrace the humanity of Francis. We pause to remember his dirty feet. We pause to celebrate how he embraced all of his humanity, including Sister Death. It is only then that he could pass from this life to the next.

As we prepare to smear the walls with fat, line tables with hors d’oeuvres and our glasses with wine for the feast tomorrow it’s good for us as well to pause and wash our feet and look into the water.

How has this year been for us as we have followed in the footsteps of the poor man of Assisi?
Whose traces do we find in the dirty water of our life?
Who has touched us? Changed us? Frustrated us? Angered us? Comforted us? Healed us?
Does the water show signs of having gone “off road” to take a risk or dream, or does the water tell the tale of a life lived safely along a clean and easy path?

Whatever story the dirty water may tell; it is ours and it is the past. Let us embrace it and begin tomorrow with a feast, celebrating our brother Francis and our renewed committment to live the Franciscan journey.

*Based on an original idea by Friar Tom Purcell, OFM Conv.


Funniest line ever heard at a rest stop shop:

Lady: “How do you say bagel in English?”
Cashier: ” Bagel”
Lady: “Oh, because it’s also bagel in Hebrew. “

Love the interactions at these rest stops.

BTW I love the healthy selections that the OnRoute Markets provide. My usually are either Turkey sandwich on multigrain with low fat mayo and cheese or two hard boiled eggs. Easy for the car.

Something strange is happening!


This morning I was awakened by a text message on my phone that read: Something Strange is happening! Immediately I knew who sent the message; it was from my friend Michael. Ever since we were friars together in formation we would relish the Liturgy of the Hours of Easter Saturday morning which includes a powerful ancient homily about Christ’s descent into Hell to free Adam. It is so powerful and poignant. I hope you enjoy it.

Christ the Saviour of Chora

The Risen Christ liberates Adam and Eve from Hell - Church of the Saviour, Chora, near Istanbul, Turkey.

      Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

  He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

  I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

  See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

  I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

  Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

B16: No to fossilization of traditions!

Life at the friary here in Syracuse does have some interesting perks. One of these perks is getting the New York Times every day. A few days ago I was reading the Time’s coverage of the Pope’s Chrism Mass homily (April 5, 2012). It presented the homily as a shockingly direct rebuke to some priests in Austria who were daring to challenge the authority and teaching of the Church. Here is how the NYT characterized B16’s homily:

Striking a characteristically inquisitive yet uncompromising stance, he asked whether such moves were aimed at “true renewal,” or “do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?”

I have to admit that if I was one of the priests who had started this movement and heard the Pope directly speak about me at the Chrism Mass I would probably be soiling my pants about now. And yes, it was a rather direct message. If you’ve never actually read any of B16’s (or Joseph Ratzinger’s) writings you would not know that he often does write in a very simple and direct fashion. He can be quite surprising in his questioning and reflection.

But the problem I have is this. I did not only read the NYT that day. As is my custom, I begin every day with an online review of much of the news: Reuters, CBC, CTV, LaPresse, Toronto Star, Twitter, New.va, Whispers in the Loggia,  and I had already read the Pope’s entire homily online.  I was shocked by how biased a presentation the news reports were making of the homily.  Yes B16 was quite direct about the intentions of people challenging the Church.  Here’s the main passage about this:

Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this?

BUT… that’s not all he said. Read some of the rest:

But let us not oversimplify matters. Surely Christ himself corrected human traditions which threatened to stifle the word and the will of God? Indeed he did, so as to rekindle obedience to the true will of God, to his ever enduring word. His concern was for true obedience, as opposed to human caprice.

Let us ask again: do not such reflections serve simply to defend inertia, the fossilization of traditions? No. Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. And if we look at the people from whom these fresh currents of life burst forth and continue to burst forth, then we see that this new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love.


The Church is not about inertia or the fossilization of traditions! Wow. Really, Pope Benedict said that? Yes, he’s a much more complicated person than most imagine and not easily stuffed into a neat little box. He makes me nuts when he wears his fiddle-back vestments and lace of the Tridentine liturgy but he equally makes the extreme traditionalist crazy by refusing to turn back the clock on the vision of Vatican II.

So, a word of caution. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers. Read many sources and find out the truth for yourself!

Reboot Day 2

Ok this was not the most pleasant of days. I was hungry and tired. Didn’t even try my morning walk.
I’m sick of this juice already. My mother called to warn me about all the sugar I was drinking especially from the beets. Hmmm. True enough. Anyways, I almost lost it last night when one of the friars was cooking Dahl. The fragrance filled the house. Tonight our friary cook, whose cooking seems to improve with every day if this fast, made a amazing looking meat loaf and rice balls.
Anyways. I held fast. Tomorrow is supposed to bring energy. We will see.
Vamos a ver!

Reboot Day 1

So it’s been an interesting first day of the reboot. At breakfast and lunch the three of us made out own concoctions. I had a real funky mix in the am and then something with two beets and very RED!
For the evening meal we worked together to prepare our drinks. Besides the health benefits that may or may not come from this experience, the most fun is laughing with friars about it all.

Juice Fast

Last night at the friary we watched the film “Sick, Fat and Nearly dead”. It’s about a guy who decides to eat just fruit and vegetable juice for 60 days in order to “reboot” his body.

Well three of us decided to give it a try. We had our farewell to meat tonight (wings!) and then got our juicer ready and bought a huge load of vegetables. We tested a recipe of apples, carrots, celery and ginger. It tasted really good.

Tomorrow we start doing this for 4 or 5 days. Wish us luck!!!!