Service Matters – 31th Week in Ordinary Time

1 November 2010

All Saints Day

31th 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
  • Salesian Peace and Justice Blog

I apologize for my error sending last week’s Service Matters a second time.   I am learning how to use a new newsletter program.


1. Service Word Luke 19:1-10

At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.   Now a man named Zacchaeus, who was chief tax collector and a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature.   So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.   When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay in your house.”  And he came down quickly and received him with joy.   When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay in the house of a sinner.”


Much of life depends on the perspective we take.   The gospel picture of Zaccheaus up in a sycamore tree provides an icon of the benefit of taking on a new point of view, and specifically of seeing things as God does.   As a tax collector, it is safe to agree with what the crowd says in its grumbling, that this man was really a sinner, someone used to cutting corners, using intimidation and bullying to get his job done.   And as a rich man, we can imagine he is well dressed and is the last person you would expect to see excitedly, unselfconsciously running ahead and climbing a tree—for any reason.   But he climbs the tree to see Jesus and he gets a new view.   Seeing him, up there exposed and unconcerned about his image, Jesus does not pretend the man has done nothing wrong, but he makes it clear that this man is also “a son of Abraham,” who ought to view himself with real dignity.


Salesian spirituality promotes practices that intend to help us to see as the Lord does.   Francis puts it so well,

“First thing in the morning, prepare your heart to be at peace; then take care throughout the day to call it back to that peace frequently, and, as it were, to take again your heart in your hand.   If you happen to do something you regret, be neither astonished nor upset, but having acknowledged your failing, humble yourself quietly before God and try to regain you composure.  Say to yourself: ‘There, we have made a mistake, but let us go on now and be more careful.’  Every time you fall, do the same.”


I don’t think St. Francis is being pessimistic including advice about what to do “when,” rather than “if,” we lose perspective.   Maybe you’ll agree that we have moments of peace and clarity —the long view from “up in the sycamore,” or the clear call of the Lord.  But like Zacchaeus, we have to climb down to where perspective easily gets clouded. We might wonder if, in some ways, he was not just as happy to observe life from a safe distance, rather than to come down to earth where things get complicated.  Down on the ground there are so many things that can block clear vision: mood, depression, infatuation, necessary busy-ness, unnecessary busy-ness, energy level, wishful thinking.    But down on the ground is where life takes place.


Has Francis de Sales’ advice, “acknowledge your failing and regain your gentle composure,” been helpful in your life?

What typically disrupts your peace and perspective?

What helps you keep or regain perspective?


2. Last Week in Camden

Last Tuesday Mount St. Mary’s University welcomed DSW to its service fair.   This was a great opportunity to talk to students and to meet members of the campus ministry and service staff of the school.


The first of the DSW volunteers’ four retreats began Friday with a stop at Salesianum in Wilmington to see that school and to pick up clothing donations.   We continued to DC with the first stop at Visitation Academy in Georgetown where we shared lunch with faculty, met students and staff who have served in Camden, and began the weekend’s reflection at the 200 year old Salesian campus.   That evening, Oblates Don Heet and John Crossin welcomed us for dinner and conversation on the topic of Salesian approaches to education. We were able to make several classic DC things part of this reflective get away: touring the city at night, attending a rally on the Mall, taking in the view from the Hotel Washington.  Kevin Nadolski led the retreat reflection Sunday, highlighting thoughtful journal questions, and offering Mass and an outstanding homily at a Sunday night Liturgy for young professionals.  Overall the time away gave an opportunity to review goals and to evaluate how the program is going as we finish its first quarter.  We are grateful for the hospitality of all we met in Washington, in particular our hosts at De Sales Hall.


A new video by Bishop Ireton High School librarian Lindagale Dube is posted on the DSW section of the Oblate website.  Linda is a great friend and has visited Camden with service groups.   The film features Camden images with reflections by members of the Ireton community who have served here.  Check it out.


3. Upcoming Events.

Father Judge Freshmen will be here Thursday for a service retreat.


Saturday night the volunteers will join other Oblate friends and supporters in Wilmington, Delaware for a regional fundraiser.   We are very grateful for all the benefactors to the Oblates and to this worthwhile project of our Province.   We remember you in our prayers.


4. Peace and Justice Blog

Finally, later this week I will submit my blog reflection on the power of little virtues that I have promised for the last three weeks.   It asks how gentleness, patience, kindness, etc., work in the “real world” and how their power compares and interfaces with other ways of getting things accomplished.   If you get a chance, please read it.   I really welcome comment about my conclusions and about others’ experience.


 Thanks, Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS

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