Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Franciscans in the Marketplace

What made St. Francis of Assisi, and the early Franciscan friars different from the other religious orders of their day, was that unlike the monks who remained in their monasteries, Francis, and his friars were walking the streets and marketplaces.

Recently, the Catholic News Service website posted a story about two Conventual Franciscan friars (Black robes), who are carrying on the tradition.  During the summer days in Rome, along the shore of the River Tiber, during the annual Summer Festival, they set up an information stall, amongst the other stalls, restaurants, and shops.  There, they pass out information about the Franciscans missions and services, to the residents, and tourists who come for the festival.  Amidst all hustle and bustle of the festival, they bring a touch of Franciscan joy to all they come in contact with.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sad News for Pope Francis

The BBC World News has been reporting that a nephew of Pope Francis, was involved in a car accident in Argentina.  Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, son of the Pope's late brother, was critically injured in the accident.  Tragically, his wife and his two young sons, who were passengers in the car, died in the crash.  Pope Francis is asking for prayers for his nephew; and for the souls of his great nephews and their mother.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Feast of St. Clare of Assisi - 2014

“Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in the world for Him.  Your spouse, though more beautiful than the children of men (Ps 44:3), became, for your salvation, the lowest of men, despised, struck, scourged untold times throughout His whole body, and then died amid the sufferings of the Cross.  O most noble Queen, gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him.”   (St. Clare of Assisi, The Second Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague)

Sometime ago I attended a workshop, presented by Sherry A. Weddell, author of the book “Forming Intentional Disciples, The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus.”  In her presentation, she shared the story of interviewing a Catholic woman, who was very active in her parish, and was asked to describe her lived relationship with God.  The woman responded by saying that she did not have a relationship with God.  This shocking response from someone who was doing the works of charity, who was an important contributor to the life of her parish, shocked Ms. Weddell.  And it shocked me when I heard it, and saddens me.  It makes me wonder many others are in a similar situation with their faith life.

When people look at Franciscans, they see friars and sisters actively serving the poor, the outcasts; comforting the sorrowful, the grieving.  And sometimes, this active face of Franciscanism is all people see.  However, it is when the Feast day for St. Clare of Assisi comes around, that we are made aware of another aspect of the Franciscan way of life.  And that is, like Francis and Clare, we are called to enter into an intimate relationship with the God who loves us.  Through a life of prayer, and contemplation, we become more aware of the Presence of the Lord, within us, within all those we meet, within all of God’s Creation. 

Clare and her Poor Ladies served, and continues to serve as a reminder to the rest of the Franciscan Family, that without a personal relationship with our Triune God, our good works will eventually dry up, unless we remain connected to the source of all Love, through Jesus Christ.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Nineteeneth Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2014. A Reflection on the Gospel Reading

1 Kings 19: 9a, 11-13a
Romans 9: 1-5
Matthew 14: 22-33

“Meanwhile, the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.  During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea.” (Matt 14)

A long time ago, when I was a very, very young child; my father and uncle took one of my brothers, and I, ocean fishing.  Our craft was a mid-size wooden boat with an outboard engine, which to us looked like a small yacht.  We sailed into the ocean off of Lynn, MA, and fished most of the morning.  Suddenly, a squall came upon us, with heavy rains and wind.  The sea, that had been very calm, now was full of huge waves.  The adults immediately started the engine and steered the boat towards land, my brother and I holding onto a wooden seat near the stern.  Suddenly, the boat hit a wave that launched it into the air, and it landed onto the ocean hard.  It landed so hard, that the stern bench we were sitting on broke, and we wound up in bottom of the boat.  It was the most terrifying experience I had ever had. 

We eventually made it safely to Nahant harbor, and a dock.  My father and uncle had to call my mother and aunt to come fetch us, and to bring the boat trailer.  By the time they got there, the sun was out; the skies were blue, and the ocean serene.

Because of that experience, I can better appreciate the fear that Christ’s disciples must have experienced as they tried to sail their boat through the stormy Sea of Galilee.  I wish I had the courage that St. Peter showed initially, getting out of that boat and attempting to walk on the water towards Jesus.  Though, as we read further in that Gospel account, that courage quickly disappeared when Peter was faced with the wind and the waves. 

However, before we start smirking at Peter’s predicament, let us recall our moments when we may have had “little faith.”  I feel that almost everyday, Jesus Christ is calling all of us to do something wonderful, something spectacular, something that makes us go beyond what we think we are capable of doing, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  Yet, we let the obstacles, the storms that life may throw in our way; cause us to doubt our calling.  However, Jesus is there with us, saying to us:  “O you of little faith, why do you doubt?”  And he will help us through the storms.  He will help us overcome the obstacles.  By his grace, we will receive what we need, not only to live the Gospel, but proclaim it throughout the entire world; to all peoples, and all places.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Franciscan Artist

Chapter 5. The manner of working

The friars to whom God has given the grace of working should work in a
spirit of faith and devotion and avoid idleness, which is the enemy of
the soul, without however extinguishing the spirit of prayer and
devotion, to which every temporal consideration must be subordinate.  As
wages for their labour they may accept anything necessary for their
temporal needs, for themselves or their brethren, except money in any
form.  And they should accept it humbly as is expected of those who
serve God and strive after the highest poverty. (Rule of 1223, OFM)

Quite a few years ago, I was discerning if I had a vocation, a calling to become a Franciscan Friar.  I joined the formation program of the Friars of Holy Name Province, OFM.  One of my fellow postulants was David Haack; a very nice fellow, and a very talented artist.  Half way through our novitiate year, I felt that the Holy Spirit was calling me elsewhere, and I left the formation program.  David went on to become a professed Brother in the Order.

Up until recently he was involved in art education at St. Bonaventure University.  He has since retired, but as reported in Holy Name Province's e-newsletter, he found retirement somewhat boring.  So he founded Haack Studiolo, a place where he can create and sell works of art; often with a Franciscan theme.  May his efforts be successful and fulfilling!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

An Interview With The CEO Of Canada's Salt & Light Network

The Jesuit magazine, America, has a very interesting interview posted on their website, with Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, who among other responsibilities is the CEO of the Canadian Catholic television network, Salt & Light..  The network has become something of a media power house, with some of it's programming appearing not only in Canada, but in other countries as well.

Several points I took away firm the interview was that for the New Evangelization to succeed, Catholic communications has to play a role in it.  Dioceses need to invest more in their media outlets, not reduce.  That the Church needs to be smarter in using social media, making it way to connect people with substantive content; which will engage their audience both in the head and the heart.  It is a very thought provoking interview.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Syrian Civil War Strikes Franciscan Friary

Vatican Radio News has reported that a Franciscan monastery in a Syrian village near the Turkish border was struck by a missile.  The building, which belongs to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, was severely damaged.  Fortunately, the friar occupying the building was only slightly injured.  The report goes on to mention other experiences of the Franciscan friars in the Syrian war zone. 

Sadly, the war tragedies experienced by Middle Eastern Christians, especially in Syria and Iraq, appear to be under reported by the major news agencies.  These stories have been crowded out by the series of fresh tragedies that have been occurring in our sad, wounded world.  We, who call ourselves Franciscans, must not forget our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ; keep them in our prayers, and come to their aid.