Audio Available!

Audio Available!
Be sure to check out in each blog post the links to the audio recordings of my homilies. They are at the beginning of each post! Also, look to the right for links to Audio from other good resources!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Getting our homes (hearts) ready


This beautiful season of Advent begins with a Gospel reading that sounds like it could have come last week, when we celebrated the kingship of Christ Jesus who will return to establish His kingdom at the end of time.  In fact, this reading was the last Gospel the church reads every year, the last Saturday of the last week of Ordinary Time, this year November 28th.  The reason this is read again during the Year C cycle of readings which we begin today, focusing on Luke's Gospel, is to highlight that in the Season of Advent we prepare ourselves for two comings at once.  In a seamless tying of the mysteries of our faith, the Church weaves together Christ's final coming into his first coming as man, the Incarnation, that we will celebrate in just under 4 weeks.
During Advent, we do lots of things to prepare for Christmas: putting up lights, getting out decorations, buying and wrapping gifts, writing cards, preparing and attending celebrations, perhaps caroling as my family would join in with other parishioners.  All of these could be very good things, but they could also become distractions if we do not spend time every day preparing for the true reason of Christmas Day, the coming of the Lord Jesus as a child-savior, as well as His coming at the end of time or the end of our time, whichever comes first.
This is no ordinary visitor.  If your family & friends are like mine, then perhaps you know this rule of thumb: the more close you are and the more comfortable people are with you, the less effort will probably go into making things special and perfect for you.  Not once have I ever gone home to find a bedroom with new paint, freshly vacuumed carpet, immaculate bedding and a mint and bottle of water on the nightstand.  Nor do I expect my family to do that for me.  I would feel weird if the red carpet came out for me or any of my siblings - maybe even angry!  But when it is someone else, someone special: we do our best to make the home nice.  If the governor, or the bishop, or a movie star, or even just a neighbor were coming over to your house, you would do what you could to make the house presentable, perhaps even going to great lengths of work to make it as nice as possible.  Well, Jesus is more important than all of those visitors.  He is God, and like Zacchaeus, he wants to come into your homes and into your lives.  So, during Advent, what are you going to do to get ready for Christmas?
I like to think of the image of manger, the creche, the nativity scene, or whatever you want to call.  Think of Mary and Joseph and what they had to do to get ready for Jesus.  What are you going to do to get your hearts ready for Him?  Mary and Joseph would have gotten all the messes out of the stable as much as possible.  Animals are not clean and that would have taken some serious effort.  We also have to clean out the mess of our sins: by placing ourselves before the Lord's Mercy in the sacrament of Confession.  I would encourage coming to Confession: whenever there is a morning Mass, you can come to confession from 7-7:30am.  Saturdays have confessions as well.  Also, as I mentioned in the bulletin, come to the Divine Mercy play titled Faustina.  I will be hearing Confessions afterwards with many other priests.  You can enjoy a beautiful drama that deeply fosters your faith, and as a bonus, go to Confession to a random priest you will never see again!  If your lucky, he may even be losing his hearing!
Mary and Joseph also would have filled the stable with what they could have: a warm fire, hay for comfort, clothes for warmth, among other things.  We ourselves prepare for Jesus' coming with the good works we offer toward others: love and kindness in the home and workplace are exactly the gifts that Jesus wants.  Acts of charity to the weak and poor are like the gifts of the wise men.  prayer is the fire of love that the Holy Spirit places within us and like Mary and Joseph, is the the most important thing we can offer Jesus is ourselves and our time and attention: we can pray regularly and look at the face of Our Lord of Love.
Don't let Advent disappear in the chaos of secular activities.  Pray and prepare for Jesus' coming at Christmas and at the end of our days.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Homily - Christ the King of the Universe

Audio: click here

Although it has been a part of our faith from the earliest times that Jesus Christ, who as we say in our creed "sits at the right hand of the father" and "will come to judge the living and the dead," today's Solemnity of Christ as King of the Universe is very new: only 90 years ago did Pius XI establish this feast.

Nor is this solemnity something on the fringe of our faith: in fact, every time we pray the Our Father, we pray that the Kingdom of God will come.  Indeed this should be our prayer every moment of our lives: Lord, Your kingdom come!

But what is the Kingdom of Christ like?  Jesus tells many parables about the Kingdom of God.  He says it is like a treasure buried in a field and a pearl of great price, worth any and every sacrifice it costs us to gain it.  He says it is like the mustard seed that grows from the smallest thing into the greatest.  It is like the yeast that when kneaded into dough makes the whole loaf rise.

In the Preface that I will pray after the gifts are brought up, right before we enter into the Eucharistic Prayer, the Kingdom of Christ is described as "a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace."  If only all kingdoms were of this kind!  In the midst of such tragedy that our world sees, is this not the greatest news we could wish for?

Today Jesus speaks to Pilate about His kingdom with the following words: "My Kingdom is not of this world".  Is this not perhaps the great tragedy and sorrow of human history?  Isn't that precisely the problem of our world, the cause of our woes, and the result of our continued resistance to conversion?  It seems this is something we know too well: His kingdom "is not of this world," this world of selfishness, of pride, of seizing power and abusing power.

And yet, in the darkness of our world, we have seen glimpses of the light: we have seen the saints, we have seen the simple and pure acts of love, within our mother the Church and even at times outside of her.  We see in the hearts of the Christians that the Kingdom of Christ, though it is not of this world, is even so still breaking into this world!  In families that live for Christ, in marriages that witness to his love to the point of dying, in the martyrs who refuse to let the evil of terrorism or bigotry conquer, in the charity and communion in spite of differences, we have seen the Kingdom of Christ break through into our world.  Thank you Lord Jesus, for your Kingdom.  Father, may your kingdom come.  May our hearts be totally yours.  On the throne that all of our hearts bears within, may you sit and reign as a king.  May we throw aside our earthly crowns and take up your crown of thorns, the sign of your merciful love and our need for a savior.  Live, Jesus in our hearts, now and forever.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Grandpa's funeral homily - William Stephen Coonan II

I have had difficulty with preparing this homily.  What do I call this man?  Many of you knew him as Mr. Coonan, or Coach Terry.  Some of you were lucky enough to call him dad, or like me, grandpa.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone call him William Stephen, but rather always Terry.  So I think I’ll call him grandpa for the sake of simplicity, but you all know who I’m talking about.
Another reason this is difficult is because, of course, grandpa is family, and in fact, I’ve never done this before.  And while I’m not here to canonize this man, because like all of us, he had his imperfections and sins and needs our prayers, I would still like to use this homily to spread around some of the good that he has poured into the hearts of so many.  I want to look at his life in terms of legacy: what good has he left behind?  How is the world a better place because of the way he chose to live day after day?
Before I get into those points though, we have to say that Grandpa’s legacy can only be understood in the context of his wife of almost 62 years.  He and grandma Dolly were a witness to what marriage can do, to how it can purify us, and how if we embrace the challenges of it and lay ourselves down, we reap great benefits.  I can think of a few things:
1.    I chose this Gospel reading because I think it is ultimately one of the most important aspects of grandpa’s life.  The final test, Jesus tells us today, is summed up in what Mother Teresa called the “five-finger” Gospel: “You did it to me.”  I am sure that with 50 years of service in the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, coach saw Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor and marginalized.  For 50 years, he and Dolly tried their best to love Jesus right in their community.  I can only imagine what the welcome will be like for them when so many people on the other side come up to them and say “thank you for giving to us.”
2.    And that leads to the next part of the legacy.  He gave an example of the true meaning of life: giving of ourselves to others, sincerely, and faithfully.
a.     His Wife.  Nothing shapes a married man more than his wife and his ability to love her with his whole heart.  Dolly made grandpa complete, and it was so evident that since Holy Thursday 2015, half of his heart was in another place.  Over the years, they learned the depths of love together, and they loved to the very end.
b.    His children.  Whether it was in family dinners, celebrating birthdays, going on vacations to national parks or the lake, or just playing out in the yard, he clearly invested in his children.  And even if his life was more of a public one, with time spent away, nothing was more important to him than coming home.  I think it is easy to see that grandpa and grandma were proud of their kids – every one of you.  I’m sure that every day they prayed for you and they thanked God for you.
c.     His students and athletes.  We all hear stories all the time of the lives he influenced.  Last night was full of them.  Coach gave and gave.  He cared about his players and showed it by how he treated them and built them up.  They grew because of him.
3.    Parable of the Sower.  We don’t see all that we sow, and we don’t always get to share in all the benefits.  We plant, but often the hard work goes to someone else.

So there is his legacy.  It is people.  It is the love that he sowed quietly in the hearts of all of us here and hundreds who are not here.  As we pray for God to receive grandpa in his mercy, we also give thanks for the love that God has poured into our hearts from grandpa’s hands.  Lord, thank you for your son William Stephen, Coach Terry, dad, grandpa. Help us commit our lives to sowing the same love in our world and hear you say at the end of our days: “Come blessed of my Father…for whatever you did to the least of these, you did it to me.”

Saturday, November 14, 2015


audio: click here

Have you ever had a really weird dream? I am guessing we all have. And I don't know whether it's because I was away from my own bed, or because of all the foods I was eating, or perhaps just because of the jet lag, but I've had some really short but vivid dreams lately, and some of them have been pretty mysterious. The prophet Daniel today experiences visions that were very vivid, somewhat strange, and full of meaning. In fact, they weren't just dreams, they were angelic messages that Daniel was supposed to record for God's people at a time when everything was falling apart for them. After the temple was destroyed and those who were still alive were taken as slaves to Babylon, the only thought was: can things get any worse? Have you ever asked that question? I think we can look at our world, especially in light of what has happened in Paris on Friday, and ask that same question: can things get any worse? I wish I could say Friday was just a dream, or September 11th 2001 was just a dream, but unfortunately it is all to real.
One of the most important points of Daniel's visions is this: what we see with our eyes is only part of the story. The battles on this earth are only glimpses of the supernatural battle for souns that is happening in our world. Saint Paul says it clearly as well: we aren't fighting people as much as principalities and powers, real spiritual evil that has effect in our world. But the other point of Daniel is just as important: God is in control and he will not lose. Even as we clearly see the waste of human life in tragedies like this, or in the more commonly-experienced evils of our world that are just as horrific, we must never forget the promise of Resurrection that we hear today foretold by Daniel: “those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”
Daniel names the prince of God's Army today: the Archangel Michael. We visited a shrine to Saint Michael that has been visited by Christians for about 1500 years. The people of Italy go to that mountain cave and ask this angel to protect their families and communities. I would like us to pray the traditional prayer to Saint Michael as the conclusion to today's homily. It used to be prayed immediately after every single Mass before the 1965 changes of Vatican II. I know this prayer has a rich history and a great amount of power for us in the battle of good and evil that we fight in our hearts and that has consequences for the world we live in. There's a song lyric that's stuck in my head right now that says: “Is this the world you want? Your making it, every day your alive.” Let us ask Saint Michael to help us to change the world for the better. Let us pray...

Prayer to Saint Michael

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pope Francis and the Vatican!

Yesterday we got up early to go to Saint Peter's Square for the weekly Wednesday audience that the Pope gives whenever he is in town. I've been to three audiences, but this will be the first time I meet Pope Francis, and the first time it will be held outside, since the others are in the winter.  First he circled the crowd to say hello to everyone. We were quite close as you can see.
Pope Francis actually came back to this same spot a second time to hold a child (below) that he clearly missed because the driver didn't stop. So we lucked out by the miscommunication!
Then we prayed a Hail Mary and listened to a short reading from Acts of the Apostles before "Papa Francesco" spoke to us (in Italian) about the importance of the family being together for quality time, especially around the dinner table. He even acted out how we often get sucked into technology and don't really look at each other and truly share our day.
Then a summary of the lecture was given in about 7 other languages, and we finished by singing the Our Father in Latin and received the Apostolic Blessing, which included all our family back home! :)
We had a couple hours afterward to "roam" around Rome (*wink*) and get lunch / shop before the Vatican Museums tour.  These museums are absolutely stunning in both their unbelievable quality and incomprehensible vastness.  Nothing can prepare you for the Sistine Chapel or Saint Peter's Basilica. You just have to go there and see it for yourself.  Proportion is executed so perfectly, everything fits together so nicely, that it is almost impossible for pictures to show the size of this church. 
There are over 100 popes buried here.
And of course th phenomenal sculpture of Michaelangelo, the Pietà, which he executed at merely 24 years of age, from a single block of marble!!!
Needless to say, the day was packed to the brim! We almost couldn't take anymore of the awesome beauty, but we did. Later we went to the Pantheon and church of Saint Louis ("Luigi"!) king of France to see three breathtaking paintings by Caravaggio. 
The one on the left, the calling of Matthew, is the most famous.  Ask me about it sometime. :)
Then we had dinner with the seminarians of our diocese who are studying in Rome. We finished with a view of St. Peter's at night and slept exhausted!!

Headed back to Rome

 Today was quite a long day - surprise? Not!

I woke up at 5:45 to get ready for a nice morning run. By 6:30 I was on the road heading for the Benedictine monastery that we visited yesterday.  My phone promised me it was just under two miles away.  However, it felt much longer as it was almost entirely uphill the whole time. 
I went down to the creek and started running the hiking trail up the other mountain.  I came up to a Roman water fountain - the faucet is a modern adaptation. :)

After breakfast we headed to the shrine of our lady of the rosary (Madonna del Rosario). We had Mass for just the group Ina nice side chapel. The church was phenomenal and all because of the witness of one man who converted from a very sinful life and ultimately found his peace in praying the rosary daily, and spent himself helping children from up well despite their difficult life circumstances.

 Then we went to Pompei just down the road to see the ancient Roman ruins of the town where Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79AD and people died due to smoke and the whole town was then covered in lava for about 1700 years. Much of it still waits for excavation. I would guess that it is currently the size of about 10-20 city blocks. 
Then we went to another Benedictine monastery, Monte Cassino. It was founded by St. Benedict himself, and holds the remains of this great founder of Wester monasticism as well as his sister, St. Scholastica.

 The monastery was totally destroyed during WWII by the Allies since the Germans used it as a stronghold and lookout (the drive up the mountain was treacherous!) and the Allies lost many lives trying three times to take it with troops.  Bombs were the last resort. Since the war, it had been beautifully rebuilt! Sadly, few monks now inhabit it.

Then we went to Rome. Here we had the evening free. I led my parents and three others to a mini tour of Saint Augustine basilica and a few special places before eating dinner. We ate too much, but still had room for gelato as we walked to the cab! :)
We had a great time.

Tomorrow we start early to see the Pope!!!! :)

Monday, November 9, 2015

A full Sunday!!

There was a lot of great stuff today at two locations.
We first went to a very ancient shrine dedicated to Saint Michael the archangel.  Known as Monte San Angelo, the shrine began around the year 500. Wow!! It was first an ancient cave on this huge mountain where the angel appeared to a man and then the bishop (twice).  It is a very popular shrine to the people of Italy. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in the shrine (like Loreto yesterday). 

The town is also beautiful. We visited a few churches through it, but being Sunday, didn't pray much or take photos because of Masses in progress. We loved looking out at the Adriatic Sea!

Then after lunch we came back to San Giivanni Rotondo for the Padre Pio shrine. We took the bus up the hill and had Mass at the small church where this Saint said Mass and heard thousands of confessions. Here's a pic from the choir loft.
After a video we talked to another Frwnciscan priest who knew Saint Padre Pio at the end of his life and allowed us to be blessed by a glove that he wore!  Then we went and prayed at the tomb of the Saint and also saw his cell.
 The newest church at the shrine can seat 6,000 people!!!! I'm going to bed exhausted but very happy!!

Another great day

Today we left Padre Pio's shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo for the western coast of Italy once again. The morning was therefore spent by travel on the bus.  As we entered into Campagna, the region of Italy most densely populated as well as with lots of abundant fields, there were some great views. We even saw a lot of wind turbines for electric energy!

 We stopped for lunch at a surprise place that our guide, Carol, had arranged for us: the coastal town of Salerno.  After viewing their amazing cathedral with the remains of Saint Matthew (buried in crypt, second photo), we went to look at the beach and then find lunch.
We didn't have much more to go before we arrived at Cava de' Tirenni, which I think means "quarry of the Mediterranean".  Our goal was an ancient Benedictine monastery dedicated to the Holy Trinity and founded on a hermit's special experience in, you guessed it, another cave. That man is now a saint and monks have prayed here without stop for 1000 years!! It was founded with a bang by a visit from the Pope, Urban II. We had Mass at the main altar with a professional organist playing for us! I wish I had some video because it was just breathtaking to combine the heavenly sounds with the gorgeous architecture.
We had an excellent tour of the lower levels of the monastery that go back centuries. 
Then off to the next hotel for free time (I bought new running shoes after losing mine in Assisi), dinner, and bed! Tomorrow I'll go for a run around the mountainous area! :) love and prayers, - Fr. Terry

P.S. (Latin for "post scripta") please pray for my family. My fragile grandfather was found passed away at home last Thursday, almost 96 years old. It has been very hard to be away but it is good that Mom, Dad, and I are together to support each other. We know God had blessed him abundantly, and He has a plan for this timing, so we are trying to pray for him especially while on pilgrimage. Sometimes we don't know what to pray for, but now we definitely know. God help our family to give back to you this wonderful man, and help us to live so as to see him again!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

What we did Saturday

Saturday we woke up and left Assisi after breakfast. We had a long drive in two parts, broken up by an important stop at the famous Marian shrine of Loreto, where is kept the "Holy House" (inside the huge church) of the blessed mother, transferred there in the mid to late Middle Ages.  This house is actually where Mart received the annunciation. 

We had Mass in a gorgeous chapel decorated with beautiful frescoes on the ceiling and the walls lines with "ex voto" gifts which were small "thank you's" to Mary for answered prayers.  After some time for personal prayers, we continued to the eastern coast of Italy, where there is a big bump on the "lower calf" of the boot-shaped country, to a town called San Giovanni Rotondo. This town is much bigger then it used to be 60-70 years ago thanks to the popularity of a saint named "Padre Pio" who was a Franciscan whose life was spent particularly hearing lots of Confessions and manifested many miraculous signs, including the stigmata which he kept covered with gloves all his life after receiving them.
We got there late and stayed for dinner and finally got to sleep in!! :)


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Turbo tour of Assisi

We just finished dinner after an exhausting day in Assisi ("uh-SEE-zee"). We left Rome at 8:15 in the morning. Before the day started for everyone else, I went for a run from 6:00-7:00am and saw many of the awesome sights of Rome.  Including (below) the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, Ponte degli Angeli ("Bridge of the Angels"), and of course Saint Peter's after you cross the bridge. 

The run was totally worth any of the pain that ensued in my calf muscles for the rest of the day! :-)
Assisi is the home of two very powerful saints of the early 13th century: St. Francis and Saint Claire. I just learned today that Claire was about 12 years younger than Francis, a fact that was not clear to me in the past. This would mean that when she decided to become a follower of Francis for herself, she was in some ways much younger and less prepared for the amazing life that God was calling her to. I find this even more moving and impressive of such a courageous saint.
Some very important items from their lives are still present in the city: the small church that Francis rebuilt, the San Damiano cross that spoke to him, some vestments and other writings from both saints, as well as many gorgeous paintings that fill both basilicas.
After praying at the tombs of both of these two saints, we also were given an opportunity to tour the small ancient medieval town ourselves, as well as do a little shopping.

By then, we were totally exhausted and ready to go back to the hotel, arriving around 6:30.
Then we got some devastating news: my grandfather, Coach Coonan, passed away and went to God to be reunited with his wife Dolly of almost 62 years who passed away a year and a half ago. Beautiful few facts I have been told to us out here in Italy, most importantly, that grandpa died probably quite peacefully, after visiting with his grandson Thomas. I am so grateful that my little brother was able to spend these last moments with our beloved grandpa.  I will really miss this man that was so loved and so lovable. He lifted up everyone he met, and showed me how to be a man of faith. I love you, grandpa. See you in the Mass - which you attended with such devotion!
Please continue to pray for the Coonan family, and all of the many lives that coach touched especially through sports and education. 
No I am off for another short night, because tomorrow at 7:15 in the morning we leave for Florence!
May God bless you all.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


We have made it to Rome on Wednesday afternoon! Here is a picture from my hotel room, nextdoor to my parents. We went to the store and picked up a bottle of wine and some cheese to enjoy as we sit on the balcony under the open air.  Saint Peter's basilica is straight ahead!  Soon we will have a nice dinner as a group (27 of us total).
I am pleased that I didn't lose anyone on the first leg of the trip! I am grateful for our safety and looking forward to our visit to Assisi in the morning.
Please keep us in your prayers as we try to hear what God wants to teach us!
In Christ,
- Fr. Terry