Called to intimacy with Mary and the Angels


On August 2 the Franciscan family celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels.  It is no coincidence that the second chapel and the cradle of the Franciscan Family should be named after Our Lady and under such an auspicious title.  This was really an act of Divine Providence.

The Lord saw fit to gather the sons of St. Francis around his mother, just as the angels gather around her.  Mary’s connection with angels goes back to her life at Nazareth.  Let us remember that it was through the message that Gabriel delivered that she becomes the Mother of God in the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.  From scripture, we see the intimacy between Mary and God’s angels, in this case Gabriel the Archangel.  From the earliest days of the Franciscan Family, there is a clear call to the brothers to live in the same intimacy as Mary, the angels and man lived in Sacred Scripture.  Let’s not get too far ahead of the story.  It’s always better to begin a book at the first chapter.

In Genesis 3:15 God tells Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  From the moment of creation, we see Mary’s role in the salvation of her people.  She will bear a son who will crush the serpent’s head.  There are two important details here.  First, this is a clear prophecy about the birth and mission of Christ and the Church.  Second, it is very clear that Mary will bring Life into the world.  Notice the upper case “L”.  Life is not only a biological phenomenon, but he is also a person, Jesus Christ.  If we are Brothers of Life, then we are brothers of Christ.  Like Mary, the Brothers of Life cooperate with grace so that Jesus can enter into the world and all will come to know him and love him.  Without Mary’s example and her prayers, this becomes a daunting task.  We would not know how to live as brothers to Christ or how to bring his life to others.  We look to Mary to teach us how to be brothers to her son.

Many Protestants would say that this is unnecessary, “We can go directly to Christ.”  The glitch here is that God has given Mary to the world to point to the Son.  “His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’,” (Jn 24:5).  Like Mary, the Brother calls the world to do whatever He tells us.  While it may be true that one can bypass Mary and deal directly with Christ, it plays out very differently in Scripture, the early Church and the Christian tradition.  Mary approaches Life on behalf of her friends who were hosting the wedding.  Then she directs them back to Life.

In Luke’s Gospel, the angel approaches Mary and then she leaves to serve her cousin Elizabeth.   We see Mary intimately involved in the lives of the faithful and the not so faithful, from Genesis to the Book of Revelation.

“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars,” (Rv 12:1).

We all know that there was a woman who came from one of the Abrahamic tribes, which happened to be twelve.  In addition, we know that there was a woman with the apostles who were twelve, reduced by one after Judas’ betrayal and back to twelve after the selection of Matthias.  That woman was Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of the Lord.  There is no doubt as to the intimate relationship between Mary, heaven and man.  As Brothers of Life, we aspire to this same intimacy with heaven and man.

Let’s look at one more passage in Rv. 12:6-7a.  “The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days.  Then a war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon.”  Again, the writer of Revelation establishes a link between Mary and the angels, this time with Michael.  This is not extrapolation.  The two verses were written together.  The author intended to place Mary, Michael and the other angels into the same frame.  In addition, stop and ask, “Who took care of the woman for twelve hundred and sixty days?”  Just before this passage, Revelation tells us that the woman gave birth to a son who was threatened by the dragon and rescued by the angels, (Rv 12:5).  We have two images at work here.  There is the threat to the life of the unborn by the dragon that stood before the woman about to give birth.  We have a clear reference to infanticide.  The dragon wanted the life of the child born to the woman.  However, the woman and the angels do not yield to the dragon.  Instead, the child is “caught up to God and his throne,” (Rev. 12:5).  Mary not only brings Life into the world, with the angels she also protects Life.  The man who is to be a brother must be like Mary.  He must protect Life and like Mary, he depends on Divine Assistance to do so.

Finally, we conclude with the passage from Gn 27:29  “May peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; be master of your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you.”  To whom do the Franciscan Brothers of Life bow? Is it not to Jesus Christ?  Who is his mother?  Is it not Mary of Nazareth?

Published in: on July 31, 2010 at 7:16 PM  Leave a Comment  

Imagine Yourself . . .


Have you thought of serving God as a brother, committed to living the Gospel in total obedience to Christ, without any property of your own and in chastity?  God may be calling you to walk in the sandals of St. Francis of Assisi as a Franciscan Brother of Life.  Think about it.  Pray over it.  The Lord is looking for men to stand in his place serving the unborn and their parents.  Can you see yourself waking up early to spend time in prayer, then moving along the rest of your day to a pregnancy center.  There you’ll meet men like you.  But unlike you, they are in a state of despair.  They have discovered that they are going to be fathers and they’re afraid.  Their fear is driving them to want to destroy their unborn child in the womb.  No one is there to help them sort it all out.  Won’t you be Christ’s mouth and hands?  Won’t you speak for the unborn child?  He too is our brother.  Won’t you be a brother to these fathers who are about to murder their unborn children?  Maybe you see yourself praying in front of an abortuary or praying by the bedside of someone who is sick and dying.

As a Brother of Life you will walk in the footsteps of Christ, as St. Francis did.  But you will do so among the most vulnerable:  the unborn, the sick and the elderly.  We all want them to be protected from the Culture of Death, but few men are stepping up to the plate.  If we truly believe in the Gospel of Life, then we should be willing to do as St. Francis did, to leave everything behind to follow Christ and to serve those whose lives are threatened by abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, war, infanticide and other horrors against human dignity and human life.

The Brothers of Life will not happen unless men like you step up to the plate and like Samuel say, “Here I am Lord.  I’ve come to do your will.”  You will have to sacrifice much.  This is true.  This is not an easy path to follow.  You will be asked to give up the most prized gift that a man has received from God, the right to marriage and a family.  But like Maximilian Kolbe, the patron of the Brothers, you will be laying down your life so that a father and his child will have life.  Remember, there is no greater honor and no greater love than to lay down your life for your brother.

The Brothers of Life are just emerging and we’re looking for men just like you who are interested in building something beautiful for God from the bottom up.  St. Francis began as a builder.

While praying in front of an icon of the crucified Christ in the Chapel of San Damiano in Assisi, he heard the voice of Christ say to him, “Francis, go repair my house.  Can’t you see that it has fallen into ruins?”  Christ is calling again.  His house is falling into ruins.  This time its greatest threat is the threat against human life.  The life of the unborn, the vulnerable, the sinner and the elderly are threatened every day as a matter of convenience for those who don’t see that God has a plan for all of us.  As Franciscans, we proclaim to the world that God can be trusted, that he has a plan and that plan is to give us life in abundance, here and in eternity.

If you’re interested in becoming a builder, won’t you come to the Franciscan Brothers of Life and help build this young community for Love of God, your brothers and sisters and of his entire Church?  Go to www.franciscansoflife.org and check it out.

Brother Jay, FFV

Published in: on July 19, 2010 at 7:36 AM  Leave a Comment  

Fathers, Sons and Brothers to All


God is to be found in many places and in many ways.  However, some of us are fortunate enough to be found by God.  This was the story of our Holy Father, Francis of Assisi.  Francis looked for God in the world around him, but could not see him.  It was when he allowed God to find him that he saw him everywhere.

Today, God calls men to open ourselves and allow Christ to find us.  He wants to find us, but we have to want to be found.  God will not violate our wishes.  He is a gentle God, a loving God, a respectful God.  When we place ourselves in his path, we find ourselves in Christ Jesus.  Christ becomes our Lord and our all, as our Holy Father Francis said.  Again, there are many ways to find God and many places where God can find us, for nothing is impossible for God.   God, who from all eternity has loved us, today calls men from every race and every land to meet him in the most vulnerable members of society, the unborn, the sick and elderly whose lives are reaching their sunset in this world to enter the eternal sunrise of the next.

Our call is not one to be social workers or political activists.  That is the proper role of the secular world.  God calls us to be totally his, totally immersed in him through a life of prayer, penance, and brotherhood with all people.  This is the image of Christ and the Church that we find in Francis of Assisi.  Brother Francis was not a peace activist, an environmentalist, a social worker for the poor and the sick.  In his poverty, he was richer than that.  Brother was just that, everyone’s brother.  He knew and understood that Christ our brother was to be found in relationship with all men as sons and daughters of God.  Therefore, peace is not an option, but a vocation.  When we discover our brotherhood with all people, we discover that we cannot live in any other relationship with them than in a relationship of peace and grace.

As Mother Teresa once said, “Abortion is the greatest threat to peace.”   God calls brothers, through the child in the womb, to live in peace with the world.  We must be like John the Baptist, who hears the cry of the Lord even in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth.  And like John, we must respond to Christ in the womb, not with anger and hostility, but with great love and joy.  As brothers we embrace Mary.  We desire to become like her.  Mary took Christ to John the Baptist, while both children were still in the womb.  The Brother of Life takes Christ to the unborn, by serving his mother and father, as Mary served Elizabeth and Zachariah.

God is placing a challenge on the table for today’s man.  He is challenging us to remember him and not forget Love.  When we, who are men, forget the most precious gift that God has given us, the capacity to be husbands and fathers, brothers and sons, something that no woman can ever become, we forfeit part of who we are.  We cease to be true.  No man can follow Christ and forget Truth.  Francis understood this.  One day, while struggling with temptation, he ran out into the snow and built three figures of snow.  He then turned to himself and said, “This is my family, my spouse, my son and my daughter.”  In his celibate state, our Holy Father Francis acknowledged that he was given a gift to give back to the Lord, his manhood.  Only a real man can live and love as a man.  Only a real man can hear the voice of Christ in the preborn child who today’s Pilate has sentenced to die.  The unborn child whose life is threatened needs a father.  The elderly person who believes that he has become a burden to his family needs a son.  The sick individual who has lost all hope needs a brother.  Only Christ can be father, son and brother.  That is why we follow Francis.  Francis takes on the image of Christ in his life.  He responds to Christ’s call to be perfect as he is perfect.  Francis begins the journey toward perfection.  Along that journey, he strives to be a holy father to all men, a gracious brother, and a faithful son.

Published in: on July 12, 2010 at 3:23 AM  Comments (1)  

Calling Catholic Men


Hey Guys

Published in: on July 10, 2010 at 4:50 PM  Leave a Comment  

Artificial Contraception Can Do Irreparable Damage to Human History


I could probably sit here and rewrite every encyclical and Church document on contraception, but you have probably heard about it, read it or are not interested in hearing it again.  So I won’t do that.  Instead, I’ll share some thoughts on contraception, parenting, and family from a very purely Franciscan perspective.

 I don’t know how many people know this, but Francis of Assisi was one of seven children.  We only know the name of one of his younger brothers, Angelo.  Since we don’t know the rest, nothing is ever mentioned of them except that they existed.  There is also a passing reference in one of the early letters of one of the friars to a certain Brother Giovanni who was Francis’ nephew.  It’s very interesting, because that was Francis’ birth name.  He was baptized Giovanni Bernadone.  He was born while his father was away on a trip to France.  When he returned, he found his first-born son and gave him the nickname, Francesco, Little Frenchman.  As far as we know, he was the first person in history to be named Francesco. 

What does this have to do with contraception?  Well, let’s pretend that Francis had never been born in 1182.  There would not be over one million Franciscan men and women in the world.  There would not be over 100 Franciscan saints and blessed.  We probably would have had to wait for the Christmas crib to be invented by someone else or it may not have been invented.   The world would not have had all of the ministries that the Franciscan order has provided for the Church during the last 800 years.  Catholicism would not have come to the Americas the way that it did.  Many people do not know that Christopher Columbus was a Secular Franciscan or that the first missionaries to the New World were Franciscan Friars.  The City of Los Angeles was named after Our Lady of the Angels or the Portiuncula, the first house of the Franciscan order.  Sacramento, California and Corpus Christi, Texas were named after the Blessed Sacrament, which devotion was spread through Europe by St. Francis of Assisi and his sons.  Let’s not forget San Francisco, California.

Teresa of Avila would not have read the writings of Francisco de Osuna, the Franciscan mystic who inspired her during her early years as a Carmelite nun or she would not have had the strong spiritual guidance and influence of Brother Peter of Alcantara, a Franciscan saint who was her spiritual friend and often her confessor.  He was also her greatest teacher on detachment.

Mother Teresa would have had to look in another direction for her inspiration when writing her constitutions.  The two saints upon whom she drew were St. Benedict for his guidance on the contemplative life and St. Francis of Assisi for his guidance on spiritual childhood and total obedience on the Will of God.

This brings us to the most important question of this blog entry.  Are we aware of the value of one life?  Are we aware of how one life can change history?  How different would history be without Francis and his sons and daughters?  What great holiness, intellectual and pastoral achievements have been made within the Church and in the world, because someone allowed the grace of God to work in their lives rather than interfere with the natural process of love and procreation.

Francis of Assisi was just one person, a single man born 800 years ago in a small mountain town in Italy.  Nevertheless, his influence is very much alive.  Had his parents chosen to follow the path of contraception, none of this would have happened.  Francis would not have been born.  Under his guidance and inspiration, millions of men and women from every continent on earth, for eight centuries, have been inspired to serve God and neighbor in ways that have changed the world.  One single life, one drop in the great ocean of humanity, has served as the means through which God has given so many gifts to the world and so many graces to the souls of men and women. 

It is easy to think that we can use artificial contraception once and it will not make much of a difference.  However, what if that one time had been the time when Francis of Assisi was to be conceived?  What if that one time had been the moment when you and I were to be conceived?  If you have children, imagine the world without them.  Had your parents chosen to use contraception and you had never been born, those children whom you so love would not be here.  One single moment of interference with God’s plan for humanity can be the most destructive act that any human being can commit.  It can change history.

Published in: on July 4, 2010 at 2:31 AM  Leave a Comment