Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Landing back in the Land this week, an intention is alive in my heart for brotherhood. One reason for this is that each time I'm in touch with the Church in the States, the sexual abuse cases come up. This often reminds me of how a choice I made 17 years ago was an attempt to respond to the issue.
The abuse saga first came to light in 2002, just as I was discerning leaving diocesan seminary in favor of a priestly path rooted in brotherhood and communal prayer. All the talk about the problem in seminary reinforced my discernment of the Community of the Beatitudes.
Entering the Beatitudes reoriented my priorities and lifestyle. Today I am so thankful to come home to deep relationships of brotherhood, sonship, and friendship. I want to mention these, to share with you several brotherly moments of this past month, and then to look ahead at the seeds of brotherhood our ministry is sowing.
Brothers at Emmaus
I come home, first of all, to two unique brothers, pictured top right in the photo. Fr. Franz, a German, has spent almost the entirety of his priesthood at Emmaus. He's our superior and gardener who has made this an oasis of peace and beauty! Br. Anton, an Estonian-born Israeli, is in charge of the Holy Site of Emmaus and is the motor of its intellectual and practical development of this "new" site.
In a Land stricken by wounds, fears, and diffidence, these two brothers help make Emmaus a place where people so different feel welcomed into the house of the Lord, and where they often encounter the "other" in a deep way. They minister to pilgrims, but also offer personal faith formation and visits to homes, hospitals, and prisons to care for Russian Christians, Jewish friends, and to many Germans and French who happen to be spending a time in Israel.
Brothers in Jerusalem
Several other men here are dear to me, and I'll mention the three that I saw yesterday, upon my arrival. I bused and skated to the Old City to meet with Fr. Fergus, an Irishman, my joyful and challenging spiritual director. He's one of the Franciscans guarding the Holy Sepulchre, and he plays the organ there for morning Mass. On my way, I caught Shmuel on his lunch break. So many of you have been welcomed into his family and heard his amazing music, live or on the CDs I love to distribute. He grows to be more and more a friend, a "peer", that I relate with and share in a personal and mutual way.
On my way home from the Sepulchre, I walked with another Orthodox Jewish family man, Udi, to pick up 3-year-old Har-El at pre-school. He's a more recent friend. He and his wife Shira have been such an inspiration to our young people. As we walked to his apartment, Shira called to say she'd gone into labor! Today, I attended the Shabbat Torah service during which baby Hadar received her name.
Most of the Brothers Branch of the Community of the Beatitudes gathered last February for a retreat and meeting. The spirit of joy, of trust, of freedom, and of mission filled the air. What a gift, as well, to have superiors and leaders whom I relate to so well. I've made it a point to sit down with them or skype with them, when possible, to share with them my life and ministry, to receive their wisdom and encouragement.
A new generation of brothers in formation is growing. Below is the Superior of our Brothers, Canadian cyclist Fr. Benoît-Joseph, admitting student brothers (our word for seminarians) as lectors.
Back in Denver, we welcomed several young men into the rectory. Four of us brothers were present: Fr. Nilson, the new local superior and pastor, Fr. Luc-Marie, in charge of our Hispanic ministry and snowshoe expeditions, Fr. Jacques Philippe, and yours truly. Here's a pic of Fr. Jacques' talk at our parish in Denver. The translator in the photo is Maria Masterson, lay member and two-time Beatitudes Missions pilgrim.
Nic, pictured below, was one of the guys joining us for the his winter break. This young Wisconsinite, below, had come for one of his regular visits as a candidate (official year of discernment).
Steve and Zach also joined us for a couple weeks. These are two young men who are taking time for spirituality and service in Israel and in France. We welcomed several other young men among us for brief stays during their interview retreats, as they discern coming on one of our formation trips, as Steve mentions below. I'll pass him the mic for the remainder of the blog.
We need your Help!
Before giving Steve the floor, an appeal for you, our sponsors. Our biggest challenge, now that I'm spending most of the year abroad, is recruiting. Please put us in touch with young people, particularly guys, especially those who might be interested in our 4-month Fall Immersion. And of course we would love to have donations to help sponsor Steve, Zach, and so many more students and recent grads who want to give "Time for God" this year. We also will be helping Emmaus raise the $28,000 it will cost to repair a 100-year-old wall that fell down behind our house in December. Click here for ways to give! Paypal monthly giving is easy, and every monthly gift of $10 or $25 goes such a long way!
STEVE HEINE: Since Israel (which completely blew me away), I've stayed involved with the Community of the Beatitudes. After 6 days at home for a belated Christmas with the family, I caught a ride to SEEK. This year there were 18,000 students in attendance. At the conference, we reached out to students, giving Fr. Jacques Philippe‘s books out to students and offering them a witness about Israel, community, and prayer. We prayed Morning and Evening prayer, invited students to join us for meals, and led Jewish folk dances in between talks!
From SEEK, Fr. Anthony and I drove to Denver. Along the way, we stopped for a night with my parents and five younger siblings near St. Louis to break up the 16-hour drive. Finally arriving in Denver, we led two weekend interview retreats. The retreats served as a prayerful introduction to all things Beatitudes and as a way for Fr. Anthony to interview potential pilgrims for trips.
We snowshoed up to the retreat cabin, Jesus our Hope! Each weekend was a success, all of the retreatants were great and we are happy with those who came out interested in seriously discerning a pilgrimage more.
While Fr. Anthony headed to Texas for some missions, Zach and I caught some days of rest and began studying French in preparation for our three months of service and prayer back overseas. Our brotherhood grew as we lived, hiked, and prayed together with the Liturgy of the Hours. Below is Zach on the Guanella Mountain Pass just behind Georgetown! Thank you for all the prayers. All of us involved with Beatitudes Missions are always praying for all of you supporters back home!