Service Matters – 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

10 September 2012

St. Nicholas of Tolentino

23rd Week in Ordinary Time


A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, in Camden, NJ,

DeSales Service Works welcomes volunteers to join

in service, prayer, and learning in our struggling neighborhood.



  •  Service Word
  •  Last Week in Camden
  •  Upcoming Events
  •  Links



1. Service Word    Mark 7:31-37

And people brought to [the Lord] a deaf man who had a speech impediment

and begged him to lay his hand on him.

He took him off by himself away from the crowd.

He put his finger into the man’s ears

and, spitting, touched his tongue;

then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,

“Ephphatha!”– that is, “Be opened!” —

And immediately the man’s ears were opened,

his speech impediment was removed,

and he spoke plainly.


Camden has been in the news the last few weeks because of two killings of small children: tragic, senseless, shocking.    Both times “wet,” pot flavored with PCP or some other equally toxic additives, fueled the violence.  You read about these deaths and have to join Jesus looking up to heaven and groaning in pain and sorry, in prayer, that this happens to anyone, anywhere.

Saturday I went to the funeral of one of the victims, a little boy, Dominick, six years old.  The Mass was crushingly sad: the young mother inconsolable and loud in her wailing, keening over the loss.   It had power as well: the music,the community, the ritual, the homily.   Camden priest, Mike Mannion, preached, bringing the image of Jesus laying down his life to young Dominick’s dying, defending his sister.   The homily did not back off from challenging everyone to do something different so violence and dysfunction diminish.


In Mark’s Gospel, the Lord heals immediately.   Perhaps we may send groaning prayers to heaven looking for that same immediate fix in a dramatic, significant moment.    That does not happen, usually.   And even after a life-changing, miraculous encounter with Jesus, like all of us, the deaf man has to learn how to use his gift of hearing and plain speech—for the good.   Words can build up, give life, entertain, enlighten, encourage, engage.   Or they can bring things down, diminish, distract, destroy, disparage, discourage.


We might wish for quick healing and putting things right, but most often goodness and justice involve process: choices and actions, moment by moment, day by day, year by year.  The unforgettable Washington, Jesuit, Horace McKenna, called this reality  “slow miracles.”   Our vocation is to show up, stick with it, hold the candle in the darkness, plant seeds in trust.


At Mass Dominick’s brothers, little cousins, and friends presented posters and cards they made for him expressing their affection, sorrow, and faith.   Adults in their lives took time from their own pain to tend the feelings of the little boy’s peers.   Such thoughtful and simple actions will not arrest the seeming endless supply and demand cycle of the drug world.   But they provide a small but real opening to the good that joins with other efforts for good.


-Are there situations or life events make your prayer like that of Jesus in the gospel, groaning?

-Can you see any “slow miracles” at work around you?

-What power do your words have?  Others’ words toward you?



2. Last Week in Camden

We recruited at Rutgers University, our neighborhood campus, to connect students to near-by service opportunities in North Camden and at the Cathedral.


Kenny cleaned carpets and readied rooms at the DSW House for upcoming service retreats.



3. Upcoming Events

The first two of some twenty-six homeroom service retreat days for Salesianum School take place this week.   Past years Sallies 11th graders came in religion class groupings.   Now they will work and reflect in Camden with all the kids in their their homeroom, grades 9-12, along with the homeroom teacher.


A group from Bishop Ireton HS will arrive Thursday afternoon for their three days here.



4. Links

Here is the most sensible quote I read all weekend, and perhaps the most level-headed ever regarding the “war on terror,” “The best weapon against terror is refusing to be terrorized.”   It is from an article in Sunday, 9 September 2012, New York Times by Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt.

Check out past Camden reflections at the archives of Service Matters  on our website.   You can also see how the service retreat calendar is shaping up for 2012-2013.

Have a great week,

Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS

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