A Love Story In Progress

I’ve been thinking about the Evangelical Counsels all morning. I didn’t know why until I reached the pregnancy center where I showed the director my pictures from my vacation. I noticed that I did not take any pictures of anyone or anything else other than The Catholic WP_20140819_001University of America (CUA) and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (the basilica). Those two are interconnected. To begin with, they are on the same grounds. You can’t attend school at Catholic University and ignore that basilica. Its presence is formidable.

While I was at CUA, I felt as if I had arrived home. I belonged there. The place was full of memories, good and bad, but they are mine. My daughter’s apartment is not mine and there is nothing of mine in it, except my daughter. I felt no connection there. CUA is definitely home. It was at CUA that I transitioned from adolescence to manhood. Eventually, I had to leave it behind and move along where God called me.
The last place in the world where I wanted to live was South Florida. I had visited here and did not like it for a stay any longer than a week. It’s a different culture. It’s hot and there are no seasons, just dry and rain. It’s in the south, but it is not southern. The dominant culture seems to be very northern. I’m not a water person.

God had other plans. He brought me to South Florida where the Church had a need that I could satisfy. I had the talent, experience, time, freedom and the support necessary to take on the mission. To walk away would have been to say “No” to the Lord.

Obedience is about saying yes to God who speaks through circumstances, the Church, and legitimate authority. Sometimes God asks for that which is hard to give. Just look at Jesus’ in the Garden of Gethsemane. I could not just turn my back on the Church of Miami. God had set everything up.

Poverty is about giving up ownership. We give up material possessions, but it does not stop there. We also give up our wills to God. We give up our opinions and begin to feel and think with the Church. We leave behind significant people in our lives, such as parents and siblings. Most importantly, we give up our home. A Franciscan becomes an itinerant man. Only heaven is home. Every place is on loan for a short time. To visit CUA, walk down memory lane and leave it knowing that I may never see it again was an act of obedience to the will of God and a willingness to freely give up my roots to follow Christ.

Here is where chastity enters the picture. To be chaste is to love with purity of intention, thought, word and deed according to one’s state in life. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another. Jesus taught us this with word and example. Leaving home again, experiencing the pain of separation one more time, feeling the WP_20140819_035excitement of being there and the sadness of leaving is all part of dying. Once again, I was being asked to love without asking for anything in return. That is chastity. Once again I’ve been asked to profess the Evangelical Counsels of obedience, poverty and chastity.

The profession of the evangelical counsels is not a once in a lifetime event. It’s a love story in progress.

Monastic Dad Without Mystic Coffee

This is my last full day of vacation at the home of my daughter and son-in-law. In one sense, I’m sad to be leaving, because I won’t be seeing IMG_3369them again until December. On the other hand, it will be nice to get home, back into my routine and not live out of a suitcase. I don’t see how these folks who travel a lot do it. Living out of a suitcase is not fun.

I’ve made some interesting discoveries during this vacation, discoveries that one does not make in the seminary or on retreat. There are some rules that one must follow if one is a Dad, father-in-law, sibling, theologian and religious superior.

  • If you debate with your family, you will lose every time. Your family does not use the methods of Augustine, Aquinas and Bonaventure and you haven’t used your family’s methods since you left the world; you’re a little rusty.
  • Humor can often be a mystery. You often find yourself wondering what they’re laughing about or you’ll laugh and they won’t understand. Sometimes you get the joke 20 minutes later.
  • If you have a relative who likes to play the Devil’s Advocate, just tell him or her that you accept that you’re as dumb as sheep and move on to pizza. Those of us who are monastic don’t know how to respond to the Devil’s Advocate, because St. John Paul II banned this kind of argumentation in 1983. It’s been a long time since some of us have had to deal with the Devil’s Advocate.
  • Obedience and authority have nothing to do with relationships. Monastic relationships are defined by a hierarchy. You never question a superior or a brother who is older than you are unless he commands you to violate the moral law. Relationships out here are built on respect, love, trust, friendship, cooperation, complementarity and common goals, just as in religious life. However, they are horizontal, not vertical as in a monastic community.
  • Forget structures and schedules. We are very used to following a horarium and doing things a certain way, speaking a certain way, saying some things and never saying other things, or simply doing things in a certain order. In this world, you have to be very flexible. Schedules are governed by work, domestic chores, social commitments and custom. In our world, schedules are governed by the superior, period. He makes up the schedule and the entire community follows along. It’s very easy.
  • As far as what you can or cannot say, the rule and constitutions take care of that. Out here, the rules are not written down. You have to observe. You may often have what I call “The Stupid Look” on your face, because you don’t have a road map for the day or for the conversation. You’re trying to figure out what’s what.

I believe that secular clergy have an advantage over religious men, especially monastic religious. The life of the secular clergy is closer to that of the typical family.  The secular clergyman has never renounced the world. He simply has a different place in the Church. He is a deacon, priest or bishop. But he is not required to distance himself from the secular world.

The life of the monastic is very different. Our first time with our family we may feel like one who is learning to ski. His feet are in two worlds at the same time and he has to keep them from colliding or he will fall.  He’ll feel that he is neither a good monastic nor a good family member.

As a monastic spending time with family, one goes through three stages.

1) You’re excited to see your family; nothing bothers you.

2) You realize that you’re in a different world and you feel anxious.

3) You throw your anxiety into God’s hands and you relax.

Many people think monastic is a place where there is an eight foot wall and you never leave. The truth is that monastic is a way of living and thinking. It can take place in a monastery or on the road. Each order is different. To be monastic is to build your life around prayer, silence, solitude, brotherhood, study, penance and out of that grows service. When you’re a dad and a monastic, your life is very different from that of your adult children, their spouses, and friends.  You have to detach from your old self to become the person Christ means for you to be today.

A Woman Ahead of Her Time

ST CLAREIt’s fascinating that many women in the Church are complaining about not having a voice and not having power, yet in the 13th century, Lady Clare Scifi, defied her parents at the age of 18, ran away from home in the middle of the night to meet with Francis and his friars. There, at San Damiano, she consecrated her life to God and became the mother of the Franciscan Order.

Clare was no lightweight. She was the first female religious superior to govern her community without being subordinate to an abbot or a bishop. She and Francis governed independently of each other. Francis and his successors never had a voice legal or advisory over the Clare and her successors.

When Francis returned from the Holy Land, where he had tried to convert the Sultan and his people, he was determined to enter a monastery. He felt that he had failed as a preacher. It was Clare who set him straight. She insisted that he remain in Europe and continue to preach, because Catholics needed to be converted to Christianity more than the Muslims. She understood that the Muslims did not know the Lord through no fault of their own, but Catholics had become tipid and careless in their practice of the faith.

The Pope decided that Franciscan poverty was too severe for women and he gave Clare and her sisters the Rule of St. Benedict to adapt to their Franciscan spirituality. The Rule of St. Benedict allowed the nuns to own property in common, which was anathema to Francis and Clare. Christ revealed to them that they were to own nothing individually or corporately.

For almost forty-years, Clare engaged in a dialogue with the Holy See, until two days before her death at the age of 59, she received the papal bull that granted her and her sisters the privilege of poverty. It’s important to notice here that Clare engaged in dialogue. She did not disobey, nor did she criticize the Holy See or the hierarchy for seeing things differently. The discussion between the young abbess and the Holy See continued, because the Holy See allowed it, not because Clare was belligerent or defiant.

In 1228, Pope Gregory IX arrived in Assisi for the canonization of St. Francis. At a meeting with Mother Clare he informed her that he was absolving her from her obligation to absolute poverty. Mother Clare chuckled and responded, “With all due respect Your Holiness, but I would much rather be absolved from all my sins than from my duty to God.”

Her obedience, honesty and fidelity won her the respect of popes, bishops, friars and the laity. He life of heroic virtue earned her one of the fastest canonizations in the history of the Church. She died August 11, 1253 and was canonized September 26, 1255 by Pope Alexander IV. The Pope insisted that there was no need for an investigation into Clare’s cause or a beatification, because he personally experienced her sanctity while she was alive. Therefore, he believed the many reports of miracles and stories of heroic virtue without investigating a single one.

How can we read the story of Clare and say that women have not had influence in areas of authority in the Church? Today, there are more than 20,000 daughters of St. Clare. Every house is autonomous. They are not governed by males nor by a mother general either. Each house and its daughter houses governs itself. They are bound to the same canons in the law that bind male religious, especially monastic religious.

St. Clare, pray for us that we may see the Church and all people with the clarity that you saw.

Published in: on August 11, 2014 at 1:06 PM  Leave a Comment  

Cast into the deep . . .

Christ said to Peter,

“Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a APOSTLES FISHINGcatch,” (Lk 5:4)

and when Peter did they had to call for help, because the nets were bursting with the weight of the fish.

When most of us think of Maximilian Kolbe we think of a holy Polish Franciscan friar who took the place of a man condemned to die at Auschwitz and whom the Catholic Church canonized as a martyr. But this is too simplistic a view. His journey to Auschwitz began when he was nine-years old. Speaking through his Immaculate Mother, Christ invited nine-year old Raymond Kolbe to “cast [himself] into the deep.” When the Immaculate appeared to the young boy she showed him two MAX AND MARYcrowns, one white and one red and told him to choose one. Raymond asked what they represented. She told him that the white was for purity and the red for martyrdom. Raymond chose both.

If we fast forward, Raymond eventually enters the Order of Friars Minor Conventual (Conventual Franciscan Friars) and becomes Friar Maximilian Maria. The friars did not use last names in those days. This is a later development when secularism invades religious life.

Maximilian Kolbe began his trek to martyrdom at age nine, accompanied by Mary. It is not coincidence that he achieves martyrdom on the eve of her Assumption into heaven. The relationship between Maximilian and Mary was much deeper than the Sea of Galilee. Together, they would catch many souls.

St. John Paul II, preaching at St. Maximilian’s canonization said, “In the mystery of the Immaculate Conception there revealed itself john paul and marybefore the eyes of [Maximilian’s] soul the marvelous and supernatural world of God’s grace offered to man.” Does not Peter say, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man”(Lk 5:8)? God never misses an opportunity to reveal his grace and to offer it to man.

To focus on Maximilian’s death and ignore his lifelong journey to Auschwitz, is to miss the movement of God through human history. Throughout his life, Maximilian would have much to teach us about intimacy with God through the Immaculate. We often wonder what exactly happened to John the Baptist while in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary arrived at their home. VISITATION Elizabeth said, “For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy,” (Lk 1:44). In presenting the relationship between the soul and Mary Maximilian wrote,

“Mary will enkindle hearts with the love of her Maternal Heart and inflame them with the fire of the charity that burns in the Divine Heart of Jesus.”

He also reminds us that without Mary, our battle against the forces of hell is a lost cause.

“The conflict with Hell cannot be maintained by man alone. The Immaculate has from God the promise of victory over Satan.”

To try to become saints and conquer sin by our own efforts, without the aid of the Mother of the Lord, is a futile cause. Many non-Catholics and non-Orthodox will argue that they know members of their community who have never had a devotion to Mary and have lived very holy lives. This may be true. But that is not to say that Mary is our-lady-crushes-serpent-2absent. Mary does not need our permission or even our friendship to intervene between our soul and hell. This was planned by God from the beginning of time. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; she shall bruise your head,” (Gn 3:15). We cannot handcuff Mary, because we cannot handcuff God, nor can we alter his plans for our redemption.

Mary is not divine. She is only human. She is not part of the Trinity. Yet, being the mother of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, she is inseparable from the Trinity, because the persons in the Trinity are inseparable from each other. She is daughter, spouse and mother.

Christ’s passion, death and resurrection involve the three divine persons of the Trinity and the human person who surrendered her Son to be executed for our redemption, in fulfillment of the Father’s plan. She is the first to cooperate fully with the Holy Spirit for the redemption of mankind. If we want to experience how much the Trinity loves us, we must draw close to Mary.

“The only human person who was as closely united to the Holy Trinity as is absolutely possible, and therefore, the highest reflectionMARY AND TRINITY of the love of the Holy Trinity; the most perfect human, living, visible, audible human being is the Blessed Virgin Mary,” (St. Maximilian Kolbe).

When he surrendered himself to the Mother of God, Maximilian sealed his fate. One cannot surrender to the Mother of God and expect to be spared her Son’s cross. At the same time, without the mother, the cross would not have happened and we would be lost. “His death makes Maximilian particularly like Christ — the Model of all Martyrs – who gives his own life on the Cross for his brethren,” (St. John Paul II)

Through Mary, Christ invited Maximilian to cast his life into the deep. Maximilian accepted the invitation with great joy and peace, because he believed that one should


“Place [himself] in Mary’s hand. She will provide for everything you need for soul and body. Therefore, [one can] be at peace with unlimited confidence in her,” (St. Maximilian Kolbe).

Our intimacy with Christ is proportionate to our intimacy with the Immaculate. Maximilian a modern model of this great truth in Christian Spirituality. However, this intimacy is not without risks. It requires that we cast ourselves, not our nets, into the deep — trusting that she will not allow us to drown in sin and hell.

Saint Maximilian Maria Pray for us

Saint Maximilian Maria
Pray for us

The fact that Friar Maximilian died on the eve of the Assumption is no coincidence. There are no coincidences where the Immaculate is involved.

Published in: on August 11, 2014 at 12:33 AM  Comments (4)  

How long have I waited . . .

During the last few fraternity meetings we have been discussing how God reaches out to us through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. Let’s pause for a moment and think about how we reach out to our brothers in this fraternity, to others in the communities where we live, in our families and to the voiceless.

What meaning does the name Christian have, if we do not become like the Master? Christ reaches out to all people at some point in their lives, to some it may be at the 11th hour, just before death. The truth is that no one can bypass Christ.

No one should be able to pass by a Catholic without experiencing something different. They should experience that you’re genuinely interested in them and those things that cause them concern, especially those things that frighten them.

People should experience that you recognize that you are a sinner and joyful, because you do penance knowing that God forgives. There is no sin that is too big for God to forgive. The only sin that He cannot forgive is despair, when we stop believing that he can forgive or we begin to believe that he is so angry with us that he won’t forgive us even if we asked.

If we make regular use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we don’t have to worry about being forgiven. We can walk through a crowd with serenity, because we know that even if everything else collapses around us, we will not collapse. We are held up by the grace of God that we receive in the sacraments. If that joy and serenity is lacking, we must question our faith in the sacraments, not question the sacrament. It is never God’s fault that we do not take full advantage of what He offers.

Your family and your fraternity must be the first to experience Christ in you. They must be the first to see that you are a son of the Church. What does that mean? It means to learn from Christ as Francis and other saints learned. Francis and the others are simply examples that it can be done, that human beings can become the reflection of perfect love.

Remember the words of St. Augustine. “How long have I waited my Lord.” It was not a question. It was a lamentation. Even though he went on to become one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church, he regretted that he had waited more than 30 years to believe and to live as one who believes, accepting from God and giving to neighbor, perfect love.

Published in: on August 7, 2014 at 7:50 PM  Leave a Comment  

Is There Faith Without History?

As I look through the internet, newspapers, blogs and forums, I see what people think Catholicism is and what they think the Church has said. Many have no clue what it really is and what the Church has actually said, because they can’t see or speak about the Church in historical and cultural context. In their mind, the separation between the Church and secularism is defined as a chasm between the Church and human history.

Many of self-proclaimed remnant Christians and Catholics blame the world’s demoralization on Vatican II and post Vatican II popes. World War II, the rise of the USA and USSR to super powers, and the empowerment of the young had nothing to do with contraception, abortion, promiscuity, schizophrenic political ideologies, “the death of God theory” and many more moral evils.

About 800 years ago, St. Bonaventure taught us that history is tangibly real and has to be approached with theological reflection and practical action. There is an inseparable connection between salvation history and Revelation. God discloses himself within human history, because

St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure

he’s speaking to human beings. However, the battle between good and evil also takes place within human history involving all of society, not just Catholics or any single religious tradition. Sin and salvation both involve everything that affects man, not just his religious practices. Sin and salvation influence history. History influences man’s understanding of the former and the latter and man’s choices. Influence is not the same a choice. Man’s freedom to choose is not the same as influence.

John Henry Newman demonstrated why Bonaventure was right in his great work Development of Doctrine. One cannot separate the Church from human history. Without that historical perspective Catholicism is nothing but a bunch of rituals, isms, and rules of deportment. Salvation history speaks through human history, it is both abstract Truth and lived experience. We receive truth from its source, which is God himself. He has spoken through prophets, scriptures, Sacred NEWMANTradition and the Magisterium. But we do not limit God’s self disclosure to those few words that we read in the Bible or on another piece of writing. On the contrary, throughout history we live through a series of experiences that lead us to conclusions about those words, conclusions that build on the one that came before it, that may compliment it, or that may use more modern language.

These conclusions do not contradict previous conclusions. However, new conclusions often pose a problem, because the more we think about a point, the more complex the system becomes. Nonetheless, it’s the same system. One could say that the present helps us explain Truth that was revealed from the beginning. At the same time, today’s explanations are not a concrete as the original words appeared to be.

We cannot separate history from God, nor the present from the past. We must look at the present and ask ourselves what does it tell us about what was handed down to us by the prophets and apostles. We must ask ourselves, what is it adding to what we already understand about sin and salvation.

All public revelation is complete; but we are still working on understanding. We need a hermeneutic of continuity. The present without the past makes no sense and the past without the present blocks the development of our understanding. For example, had not the early Church thought about what Christ had said that he and the Father were one, we would not have arrived at the hypostatic union. The hypostatic union was not understood until the fourth and fifth century. It was an explanation of what had been revealed by Christ himself. The conclusion was based on what Christ had revealed about himself and what the Church had experienced in her encounter with Christ. Both took place in time, not outside of time.

We cannot yank the Church out of time in order to stop her from moving forward. We cannot reverse the clock and you cannot push her forward in time with complete disregard for her past. The human element of the Church is an historical element. What the Church is and believes has to be looked at in light of what has been revealed by prophets, Christ and apostles. Our experiences throughout history help us draw conclusions about salvation history and Revelation.

Published in: on August 3, 2014 at 10:54 PM  Leave a Comment  

Rosary Crusade for Life

Please say special prayers for Muslims and Christians in Iraq. This situation is definitely one that should attract the attention of a fraternity like our own, one that is committed to the Gospel of Life. The situation in Iraq has deteriorated into a complete disregard for the dignity of the person and the sanctity of human life, not just the life of the unborn, but also the lives of those between birth and natural death.

While we’re speaking of prayer to increase respect for the sanctity of life, let us not forget the Israeli-Palestinian situation. This has escalated to a point where boarders, differences in faith, or economic resources don’t seem to be important. The situation is starting to appear more like simple hatred.

Let’s just think about Muslims and Christians. We know that there are Israeli Muslims and Christians. We also know that there are Palestinian Christians, most are Orthodox and a small minority are Eastern Catholics and Latin Catholics. Despite this, we have a situation where brother is killing brother as if wanting to exterminate each other.

There is no room for indifference in the Christian life. The sanctity of life is disregarded. Human dignity is violated. Those whom God holds most dear to his heart, the voiceless, are killed, driven from their homes and terrorized.

The Franciscans of Life invite all of our friends and readers to remember the voiceless, even those who are thousands of miles away. Just because we don’t see them does not mean that they don’t exist, don’t suffer and don’t need our prayers.

Our Lady of the Angels(August 15).I’m inviting everyone whom we know to engage in a Rosary Crusade from the moment that you read this to the Solemnity of the Assumption Let us call upon the Mother of Life itself to intervene and open new windows so that hearts and minds can see and try new approaches to peace and compassion.

Published in: on August 1, 2014 at 12:59 AM  Comments (1)