Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.


205=420

09-25-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

As soon as a child learns to crawl a parent puts up boundaries: gates, fences that lead to the stairs, the plugs in electrical outlets and the stops on kitchen cabinets where the cleaning supplies are kept. And on it goes up the ladder as the child grows. Boundaries, or as I like to call them walls, are erected to help a child learn the consequences of his or her behavior. The goal of course is for a child to eventually internalize why an action is good or bad, helpful or harmful. We pay pretty frantic attention to putting up walls for things that could harm a child physically but we are doing a poor job putting up walls that prevent harm to a child morally and spiritually.

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Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed

09-18-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Going to the candidates' debate
Laugh about it, Shout about it
When you've got to choose Every way you look at it you lose

“Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel

When it comes to this year’s Presidential election also known as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, whichever candidate wins, be it The Ego or Lady Macbeth every way I look at it we lose. Both are dangerous but not for the same reasons nor for reasons you might think.

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Sept 11: A Response to Terror: Bathtubs & Shopping

09-11-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

After 9/11 one of my thoughts was that we would become like Israel: a country on high alert at all time, small scale terrorist attacks here and there and security measures that permanently disrupt routine living. But my real fear was that we would become used to it. And so we have 15yrs post 9/11.

Whenever I hear of another terrorist attack whether at home or abroad my thoughts go out to the families of the potential victims. When 9/11 touched us here and when we learned that Gary Bird might have been in one of the towers a frantic search ensued to find out if he was one of the survivors or not. Calls to hospitals, law enforcement, looking at published lists of those either identified as killed or hospitalized turned up nothing. After a few days the obvious had to be considered and then painfully accepted. So when the Night Club in Orlando or the Office in San Bernardino or anywhere else was hit I immediately knew that sinking feeling of dread that the friends and family would have as they frantically tried to find out if their loved one was there and whether they were a survivor or a murdered victim.

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Words of Wisdom

09-04-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

On this day when Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is canonized we should remember some of the spiritual wisdom she taught us. So for this Sunday let us just pause and savor the joy of the moment and remember how much one person in the name of Christ can challenge the world and spread love on every continent. (Next week I’ll write about the political landscape but you’ll need to be buoyed by hope to hear my take on things. So memorize a few of these wonderful words from Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta!)

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Albanian Dwarf or Giant Saint?

08-28-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Was she a “lying, thieving, Albanian dwarf --less interested in helping the poor than in using them as an indefatigable source of wretchedness on which to fuel the expansion of her fundamentalist Roman Catholic beliefs" as Christopher Hitchens, not known as a great humanitarian, wrote in his book Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice? Or was it true that she had, as a group of Canadian Academics once opined: "her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts . . . and her overly dogmatic views regarding abortion, contraception, and divorce." Then there was always the criticism that the houses she set up in Calcutta for the sick and dying were subpar and the medical care was medieval. In that view I guess it was better for people to die on the streets of Calcutta than die in a house that didn't measure up to Western medical standards. And of course there was the accusation that she was in love with poverty and not the poor.

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Is the Past just the Past?

08-21-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

You might not be living in the past but the past might be living in you.

A current example of this is Germany. As much as Germany tries to not repeat the mistakes of its 20th century past by being hyper vigilant with anything that smacks of Aryan racism, anti-Semitism or xenophobia it also makes it difficult to deal with current refugee challenges. Case in point: Bavaria’s intelligence gathering agency, announced “ISIS ‘hit squads’ had entered Europe with the flood of migrants that came across the borders over the last year and a half and irrefutable evidence that there is an IS command structure in place that will likely launch a coordinated attack on Germany.” Even with such evidence the German Chancellor still insists, “We can make this work”. At all costs Chancellor Merkel does not want to be seen in anyway as racist or xenophobic. If it wasn't for her country’s past she might be more sensitive to the dangers that the tidal wave of refugees pose to her country.

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Why Lock the Door?

08-14-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

I imagine that at night before going to sleep most people lock their doors, some might even put an alarm on, or live in a gated community. But what is the motivation for locking your doors at nighttime? Is it because you hate the people outside? No I doubt that is the rationale. Rather you lock your doors at night not because you hate the people outside but because you love the people inside.

Most of us don't worry too much that our neighbors will come over at 3am to borrow a screwdriver or return the lawnmower. In fact the few people walking around the neighborhood at night are either walking the dog, coming home from the late shift or stayed too long at the casino. But still now and then there might be a person lurking around with bad intentions. So you take a simple measure like locking the door because you love your family.

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The Blood of the Martyr

08-07-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Over the last few weeks we have witnessed mass murder and murder at Mass. Both shock the conscience. But the latter I take very personally: Je suis Jacques Hamel. Fr. Jacques Hamel, priest in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy, France, in his 80’s and had been a priest over 50yrs, martyred while saying Mass. Fr. Hamel was not the first priest to be killed at the altar and probably not the last. We have been down this road before.

Consider a bit of history: 732 Charles Martel at Tours in France, 1571 Don Juan and Andrea Doria at the Battle of Lepanto, 1683 the Battle at the gates of Vienna and the long line of Spanish martyrs that preceded them as the West fought back a very aggressive form of Islam. It was because of the victory at Lepanto that St. Pius V gave us the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (formerly called the Feast of Our Lady of Victory). St. Pius had asked everyone to pray the rosary as the battle commenced and he attributed the unlikely victory to the Rosary.

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The Most Dangerous Drug

07-31-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

A lady that I know just came from Columbia,
She smiled because I did not understand.
Then she held out some marijuana, ha ha!
She said it was the best in all the land.

And I said,
"No, no, no, no, I don't smoke it no more,
I'm tired of waking up on the floor.
No, thank you, please, it only makes me sneeze,
And then it makes it hard to find the door."

— No, No Song by Ringo Starr

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God's Plan Redux

07-24-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

I keep telling you to trust in the plan of God, His timing and His ways. God has a way of making things happen when they need to and we just muck it up when we try to force the issue, exert our own will on events or try to control the outcome. If there's one thing the Bible demonstrates again and again or that the lives of the Saints teach us is that God gets His plan accomplished right on time. And for those who trust God, God has a way of arranging the circumstances of our lives to get us where we need to be, when we need to be there and at the right time.

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Justice For None

07-17-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

My years as a prison chaplain brought me into close contact with the criminal justice system and gave me a lot of firsthand knowledge of how the system works. Sadly I discovered that the justice system was often unjust. While the virtue of Justice is blind, human beings who administer that justice often are not. The system is often tilted in favor of the politically connected, economically advantaged, and educated. Probably the biggest corruption of our legal system is caused by the fact that it is so often politicized and reduced to serve partisan viewpoints. That is seconded by the imbalance of power that loads up prosecutors with unlimited resources and virtually no accountability for misconduct and political bias. No matter how fair on paper and how many safeguards are in place including ethical standards in our legal system, no average Joe, yet alone, a poor minority can really compete with the power that a Prosecutor, District Attorney or Attorney General has.

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A Bad Idea

07-10-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

In a democracy, or a republic such as ours elections, laws and polices are ideally a reasoned discussion on ideas. Each side presents its positions for or against and through a sometimes messy and cumbersome process the best idea wins. That's the ideal but we know that often the battle over ideas becomes very partisan, personal and divisive with each side accusing the other of nefarious or malicious motives like discrimination or trying to impose its values on the other. And sometimes as we have seen that debate is cut off by a Judge or Court that usurps the right of the people to debate ideas and allow them to percolate through our political system to form consensus or compromise and that usurpation in turn causes more divisiveness in a society.

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A Period of Great Difficulty

07-03-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

In Vietnam they often refer to the War years (1964-75 or so) as "the period of great difficulty". A very polite way of recalling a very painful time when the country was split between North and South and the people were pitted against one another. We are entering our own period of great difficulty. Not a war but a very divisive and likely chaotic time in our country.

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