Chaplain's Blog


June Message

Dear Brother Knights,

‘The Word’,  I have never heard the background to this name for the Council’s monthly newsletter, but it is a good one, especially as we are followers of Christ who is the living Word of God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So begins the Prologue to the Gospel of St. John. The word of God was the beginning of all things, but we find that there is also a word to end all things. The last two verses of the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, are, “The one who attests to these things says: I am indeed coming soon.

Amen; come, Lord Jesus. May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen! (So be it!)
We are used to ‘amen’ being the last word, especially in prayers and we probably don’t think much about it. Perhaps, it seems more like a spoken period at the end of a sentence. We’ve said what we had to say and there is no more. Amen.

However, ‘amen’ is really a statement that stands out at the end of a prayer or action and denotes our acceptance, our affirmation, our ‘yes’ that what was just said is truly so. To say “Amen” is to make a commitment. For example, we say “Amen” at the end of the Our Father which means that we are committed to what we said in the text of the prayer itself. It means this prayer is not just a prayer to be said and then forgotten. “Amen” means I meant what I said and I will follow through with the appropriate response. The Great Amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer means I accept and hold as true all that went before and the “Amen” when receiving the Body of Christ means I truly believe it to be so.

So, with this, my last message for The Word, I, in a way, am saying “Amen” So be it! It is time to accept the call to move to another place. Amen! It is time to be faithful to my ordination promise: “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?” Amen! It is time to give thanks for the seven years at St. Gerard’s and all the blessings and gifts that have come with that appointment. Amen!

‘Amen‘ is not a response of someone who has no choice. It is an emphatic “Yes! Let it be so! Amen!” May we always model our ‘yes’ on Mary’s response at the Annunciation and in so doing give life, as she did, to the Word of God. Amen!

Rev. Francis Hengen


May Message

Brother Knights,

I hope you are experiencing great joy in this wonderful and wonder-filled season of Easter! For this is, indeed, the time to revel in the Good News that Jesus is risen from the dead, and what that means for us as we continue our journey through this life. Some days we know our life seems out of focus. We may not be sure of what we should do, or how to handle a problem. We may feel anxious about the future or the way the world is going. News item after news item gives little hint of things getting any better.  But that is not what our celebration of Easter is all about.

When Jesus dwelt with us on earth and went about Judea and Galilee preaching Good News, it was not about restoring an earthly kingdom here for the Jews. It was not about getting rid of the Romans. It was not even about eliminating poverty and curing every disease.  It was about getting us to understand in a real way that the consequence of sin is death. Throughout our whole earthly history up to the point of Christ’s resurrection, death, unavoidable and unpleasant as it was, was also a ‘normal’ aspect of existence on this earth. The Pharisaical sect of Judaism had come to believe in a resurrection at the end of time, but it was not seen as a resurrection into the kingdom of God, and there was not a lot of talk about eternal life.

Jesus changed all of that. He entered into the reality of our earth life. He experienced the joys and hardships, the pain and frustrations of life here. However, in his life he also showed us that this life is only temporary and it shall pass away when the kingdom comes. He came to free us from the power death held over all of life. Yes, we would still die and leave this earthly life, but now we know what comes next. Jesus told his apostles, “You know the way to the place where I am going...I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.”

Yes, we do have to deal with life each day, but our Easter season gives us the focus of faith and the vision to see life as our God-given journey to the Kingdom. That is the real Good News. Our desert journey here does not end in death among the dunes. It brings us to the gates of the Eternal City. So rejoice clamorously, and if someone asks you why you are so happy just say, “Don’t you know? Christ has risen from the dead!!!”

Rev. Francis Hengen


April Message

Dear Brother Knights,

On March 1 we set out on our Lenten journey filled with enthusiasm and hope. We were on our way walking with Christ through the desert experience of the temptations, fasting from our own desires and willfulness, finding ways to reach out to those who are most in need of our assistance, and making a daily effort to maintain our close connection with Christ through a rich prayer life. But like a lot of journeys, we can get a little side tracked on the way. Something off to the side may seem more interesting, or there is a notion that perhaps we don’t have to be as serious about lent as we thought we did. Or we may simply feel we’ve done enough and just go back to what we thought was our normal life.

But this is not the time to quit. There are two weeks yet to go and these are the most intense and meaningful weeks of the whole Lenten season. First, you may notice a change in the church décor as there will be a lot more purple – coverings for the cross and statues. We put aside those images for the time being, so we are able to be fully present in the here and now. Where are we on our journey with Christ. Do we see ‘Jerusalem’ in the distance? Have we understood what Jesus meant when he spoke about death and resurrection? Have we come to understand that my Lenten journey is not just about Jesus’ walk to Jerusalem and his cross and death, but it also our own life journey to our own Jerusalem where, in the appropriate time, we shall have to face the reality of our own cross and death.

Holy Week, the final week of our journey, takes us into the very heart of the Paschal mystery. We are there when Christ institutes the Eucharist. We are there for his Passion, death and burial. If this was the end of the story, it would be a sad ending indeed, and we would wonder why we made the journey.

However, as we know, it is not the end of the story, but rather the beginning of the most wonderful story the world has ever known. On the third day Jesus did rise from the dead just as he had told the disciples he would. The good news is that then we, too, shall rise with him, for just as his cross and death led to resurrection, so, too, our cross and death lead to the same resurrection. Could anything be more glorious than that?

Brothers, if your enthusiasm for Lent has flagged a little, don’t worry. Take these last two weeks and give it your whole heart. Christ gave us His whole heart. Let us give ours in return.
Have a blessed Holy Week and a most glorious Easter.

Fr. Francis Hengen


March Message

Dear Brother Knights,

It is that time of year for us to once again give praise and thanks to God for the wonderful season of Lent that is such a gift to us as we prepare for the even more wonderful celebration of Easter and the glory of the resurrection.

Oh, we may not feel like praising and giving thanks for Lent when we first begin the season. After all, we are quite well conditioned to think of Lent as a time of penance and prayer, fasting and giving up things. It is true that these are, without a doubt, some of the characteristic activities of the season. However, need to look at a couple of examples of the Lenten experience that are given to us in scripture to see what it was originally about and how we can follow those examples and grow from the experience. Then as we see ourselves all the better for what we have received from Lent, we will indeed give praise and thanks to God, and our celebration of Easter will be all that much better because our Lent was so good.

The first real story of a Lenten experience is from the book of Exodus. In fact, almost all of that particular book is Lenten in a way – the desert experience, the time of test. It is in Exodus that we hear God declare, “I have brought them into the desert to test them to see if they will be faithful.” Most people don’t really care that much for a test. We fear failure. Yet when we have been put to the test and have succeeded, we rejoice because we have a new appreciation of who we are and what we are capable of doing.

The Israelites did not fare too well in the desert. Their unfaithfulness brought them many hardships.
But the desert experience isn’t just about ourselves and whether we can survive the test. It is also about God – a God who is with us all the way to be our strength and sustenance; the one to lift us up when we fall, the one to comfort us in our time of grief. God is the one who walks with us so that we never need to walk alone.
Jesus’ experience of the desert comes immediately after his baptism in the Jordan River. “He was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tested.” But the Spirit did not abandon him there. Jesus gave the true response to the temptations and showed us that we, too, can respond with strength – the strength of the word of God. He came out of the desert prepared for his mission of ministry, strong in the knowledge that his Father, who acknowledged him at his baptism, would continue to show his favour for his beloved Son and would not let death prevail over him.

So let us, then, enter into the season of Lent with enthusiasm, ready to grow and learn from the experience; ready to find those strengths in our inner being that are really the presence of the Holy Spirit in the temple of our bodies. Then we too will have the answers for and temptations that come our way. Lent is the training ground for those people who will go forth so joyfully at Easter to tell a skeptical world, “He has risen, indeed!”

Fr. Francis Hengen


February Message

Dear Brother Knights,

We are one month into the new year. For those of you who made a New Year’s resolution, or thought about making one, how well have you done with it? One survey showed that many resolutions don’t make it much past the first month. From my own experience of trying to quit smoking I found that to be true. In fact, I hardly made it through the first week. The problem with resolutions is that the issue becomes a matter of our will power. “I can do this!” But unless there is some ‘radical’ change to the situation we are in, we find ourselves struggling to maintain our resolution in the midst of a life that is the same as before we made the resolution, and all the ‘temptations’ are there to lure us back into the old habits. So, do we then not try to change things? Of course not. But we take a different approach; one that clearly puts God’s will front and centre in our lives. “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

Most of our resolutions have to do with a habit we would like to break, or a change in life style, but when we want to change we have to ask ourselves ‘Why?” Why do I do the things I do? If we are honest we will find that many habits are associated with our response to specific situations where our emotions have become involved, and especially in our relationships with other people. Frustration, anxiety, fear, anger, embarrassment, shame, failure and other feelings can play a big part in those actions we choose to do: eating, drinking, smoking, gambling, spending money. We want to do something that will satisfy us and give us peace of mind because our will has been thwarted. The important point being ‘our will’!

However, if we can stop for a moment and say a quick prayer like “Thy will, not mine, be done!” or “Father let me find in you and your will what I am trying to find in this habit.” there will be a change in our life because we have given up seeking control over people, places and things and have taken the stance of the good steward who listens attentively for his master’s voice and joyfully carries out what he asks of us. We will also know a freedom and serenity in our lives because our trust in God’s will for us assures us that we will have the best for ourselves and others because God’s plan for is to have life and have it to the full.

So let us give ourselves a break from resolutions and struggling with our will power. Keep it simple. In the morning ask God to show you what he wants of you that day, and in the evening thank him for all the opportunities you had to be of service.

Fr. Francis Hengen