Ask whatever you will

As some of you may already know, I’m back in the hospital. I’ve been here almost two weeks and there is no discharge on the horizon. My major body systems are not cooperating with each other. You fix one and the others go into distress (kidneys, lungs, pancreas, heart, and circulation).

It is a very challenging week in our fraternity. First, I became ill. Then Brother Leo’s sister died this weekend. Please keep him and his family in prayer. He had to fly to Boston. We miss him dearly.

As if that were not enough, Brother Bernardo was left alone to care for me since Leo is in New England. The challenge . . .? Brother Bernardo has come down with his own case of tonsillitis and has final examinations this week. The poor man is trying to recover, to help me and to prepare for finals. Pray that God will reward him with peace and trust.

On the positive side, patients, staff and guests at the hospital are very curious about Franciscans of Life. They don’t get to see much of us, because we don’t do traditional parish work. Our day is broken down into segments of prayer, teaching and preaching the Gospel of Life through a variety of apostolates, atonement for the culture of death, and fraternal life among us, like that of the early Franciscans.

People are fascinated when we explain that we’re looking back to go forward. I believe this has caused some Catholics to look back as well. We get many people who suddenly remember being influenced by a Franciscan here and there. If these memories transport people into the presence of God, then it must be the good spirit’s leading. One never knows the extent and power of redemptive suffering.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:7-13).

Our other concern is finances. God has plenty of money but the service providers want the money from us. Flying to funerals, going to doctors’ visits, paying for meds and paying for co-insurance for my inpatient is a toll.

Saint Paul reminds us that we can do everything in Him who strengthens us. Jesus reminds us that with him all things are possible. As a fraternity, we are willing and able to weather this storm. But we have to be together again in South Florida. All of us over the map does not lend itself to presence. To be together to pay bills and have enough to share with voiceless. We need to be together to preserve the Trinitarian Communion that is essential to our way of life.

Pray for Brother Leo and his family that God will give them peace and bring him home soon. Pray for Brother Bernardo that God will give him spiritual and physical strength to follow His lead and that his condition improves so that he can do well on his final examination, this week.

As for me, pray that as superior I may lead by the example of the Suffering Servant.
God bless you.


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Empowering or redefining women?

These days there are many discussions inside and outside of Church circles that boil down to sex.  When we speak of empowering women in the Church, what exactly are we looking for if not Holy Orders.?  In the mind of many people the only way to empower women is to assign them roles that are reserved for males, such as deacons, priests and bishops.

“Go tell my brothers that I will meet them in Galilee.”

This example begs the question.  Do we really understand the difference between empowering and commissioning?  There is a difference between someone having the power to consecrate the Eucharist and being sent to do so.  When you ordain a class of ten males, they receive certain sacramental powers that they can exercise only with the authority from the bishop, not only because they are males. From here comes the term “to grant faculties.”  Only a bishop can grant you a license to legally celebrate the Eucharist. You have the sacramental powers, but you lack the legal authority to use those powers.   Without the bishop’s permission, you cannot exercise those faculties be you male or female.

Let’s look at the exercise of authority.  “Go tell my brothers to go up to Galilee where they will see me.”  But to whom does Jesus commend this great message?

Who else was in the garden on that first morning of the week:  the angel, Peter, John and three Mary’s. However it is Mary is commissioned to deliver the message “The tomb is empty and I have seen the Master.”

We have all known our fair share of deacons, priests and bishop unable to deliver message as  did Mary, with the power that comes only from Truth. 

Published in: on April 21, 2015 at 9:43 PM  Leave a Comment  

Project Joseph – Better Men, Better Dads


The Story behind Project Joseph

   In 2009 Brother Jay Rivera, founder of the Franciscans of Life, was volunteering at Respect Life’s Pregnancy Care Center in Hollywood, Florida when he began to notice that the fathers of the infants in danger of being aborted were not being served by Respect Life Ministry.

   It was not that the Archdiocese had anything against the dads.  Simply . . . no one noticed. Men dropped off the expectant mother at the center, be it for class, counseling or material assistance, and sat in their cars, drove away or waited in the waiting area.  The volunteers who served at the center would eagerly jump to the assistance of the expectant mother, but would have little or no interaction with the father.     As Brother Jay watched, the thought hit him.  “This is very much like Planned Parenthood and other ‘pro-choice’ organizations.  Pregnancy is a woman’s issue.”

    Like many other Franciscan fraternities, the Franciscans of Life place themselves under the protection of the Immaculate.  Brother began to pray to the Immaculate for guidance.  He also spoke to Joan Crown, Archdiocesan Director of Respect Life Ministry for the Archdiocese of Miami.

     He laid out before them his concern that the fathers of the preborn babies were out of the loop.  They didn’t know what to do or what was expected of them.  Many of them were frightened by the sudden news of a pregnancy, wanted to walk away from the situation in the hopes that it would go away or offered to pay for an abortion as one would pay someone compensation for damages in an accident.  The mothers were holding on to their preborn babies, but uncertain whether to go forward with the pregnancy.

    Thanks to the support from the volunteer counselors and teachers at Respect Life, most of the mothers were determined to give the pregnancy a chance.  However, giving your preborn child a chance is not the same as eagerly awaiting his birth.  That chance can be revoked at any time.

    Brother began walking up to the dads in the parked cars and invited them to come into the center.  The men seemed friendly enough, but not too sure what to do about this invitation.  They were hesitant.  Of course, Brother Jay had no idea what he was going to do with the men either.  He knew that he had to offer them something.

     Finally one father, whom we shall call David, came inside.  He was not too eager to be there, but he seemed curious to find out what this older gentleman who looked like a monk wanted.  The first time that he entered the center they spoke for about 45 minutes about anything that came up.

    That night, Brother again knelt in prayer asking for guidance.  He prayed to St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan family, to the Immaculate, patroness of the Franciscans, and to St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan saint who is the patron of pro-life workers.       Simply put, he called a team meeting and placed the situation on the table.

We have preborn children who are at risk for abandonment and death, if both father and mother don’t step up to the plate.  But they don’t know what to do and I don’t know what to teach them, because there is so much information out there and such little time here.” 

    While at prayer he felt someone saying, Give it to St. Joseph.”

    The next day would be the first Sunday of the month, the day that the Secular and Regular Franciscans have their local community gathering.  Brother went to bed and dreamed.  He was in a small room that was illumined, but there were no signs of electricity, no flames, or windows.  The room just glowed.  In the room stood a friar with his back to the door.  Brother Jay recognized this friar as Brother Francis of Assisi.      Brother Jay saw the grey sleeve of Francis’ habit rise as he raised his arm pointing to something in front of them.  When he looked, Brother Jay saw a wooden statue of St. Joseph, about 10 inches tall, holding the child Jesus in one arm and something green in the other hand.

    The next day, he attended the fraternity meeting and shared his concern with his Franciscan brothers and sisters.  He mentioned the dream as well.  A Franciscan sister who was at the meeting got up and left the room.

    She came back with a white box. As she handed the white box to Brother Jay, she said:

Someone gave this to me about 12 years ago.  I have another, so I put it in my closet waiting to find someone to whom I could give it.  This morning, as I was getting ready to come to the gathering, something told me to put this in my car.  I think it’s for you.

    When Brother opened the box, there was the wooden statue that he had seen in his dream.  It was 10 inches tall.  St. Joseph was holding the child Jesus in one arm and something green in the other hand.  They were lilies.

    This was the confirmation.  Saint Joseph had accepted the challenge.  He would walk with Brother Jay and the expectant dads in crisis pregnancies.

Where Is Project Joseph Today?


Today, Project Joseph has evolved into an archdiocesan network of formation and service for men who are in crisis pregnancies.

The program operates out of four of the five archdiocesan pregnancy help centers:  Hollywood, North Dade, South Dade and Fort Lauderdale.

At each center there is at least one trained mentor who provides small group education to fathers, counseling and material assistance.

Fathers may attend an entire program of 18 modules divided into three blocks of six:  Becoming a Better Man; Parenting; Future Planning.

After completing this set of modules, fathers are invited to continue in the program where they receive education and support in other areas of fatherhood such as:

  • community resources,
  • behavior management,
  • infant development,
  • chastity and human sexuality,
  • legal rights of fathers,
  • faith and parenting,
  • marriage and family,
  • and safeguarding children.

Dads are “paidParent Dollars for every session they attend.  They can cash in these parent dollars for anything from diapers to cribs and mattresses.  A father may join Project Joseph at any point from the moment of conception until the child is one-year old.  Project Joseph is always there to help if a father needs to return later.

There is no charge for the services that we provide, nor do we charge the Archdiocese of Miami for such services.  Project Joseph is financed through grants and donations.

Through the year, Project Joseph serves approximately 20 fathers per week, 50 weeks out of the year.  The only time the program is closed is during Holy Week and Christmas week.

It is run by men for men.  Our mentors are volunteers from the community. They are Catholics in good standing with the Church.

The Franciscans of Life provide initial and ongoing formation for the mentors.

Project Joseph is grounded in the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi.

Fathers and mentors are brothers who walk side by side on this journey, as did Saint Francis of Assisi and those whom he and his brothers served.  The mentors approach the fathers from the “bottom up”.  Like Saint Francis, they are here to serve, not to preach, teach, correct, discipline or be heard.   They preach the Gospel through their lives and through their unconditional love for every man whom they serve.  We train our mentors in the pastoral methods of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan Friar and patron of pro-life workers.

Like his spiritual father, Saint Francis, Saint Maximilian placed his trust in the Immaculate.  He planted the seed and allowed her to guide him and those with whom he walked.  Like Christ, he was willing to lay down his life for his brother, especially if that brother was the father of a family.  Our mentors are formed in the spirit of total detachment from self and confidence in the Immaculate and Divine Providence.  We do what we need to do for the dads and we get out of God’s way.

If you are a man in the Archdiocese of Miami, ask yourself if God is inviting you to help us proclaim the Gospel of Life by walking with your brothers. Do not worry about not knowing what to do. We in the apostolate will walk with you and our brothers. Contact us to find out more!

Below is a short video about Project Joseph:

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Holy Week: a time to choose

Palm Sunday

As Holy Week moves along,palm-sunday-crosses-6 the Franciscans of Life are also moving right along with the liturgy and the celebration of the paschal mysteries.  The week began with the liturgy of Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday).  The brothers attended  the liturgy as family.  It was a very moving day for us, especially for those brothers who had never seen the liturgy of Palm Sunday in the Ordinary Form.  The beauty and solemnity of the liturgical celebration removed any doubt that the Ordinary Form can raise the heart and  mind to God as much as the Extraordinary Form.  In both, Christ does his part.  It is up to us to do our part.  The young men and women from LifeTeen reenacted the Lord’s passion as the Gospel was read. We were impressed to see how prayerful the kids looked and how well they memorized the many lines in the Gospel reading.  Of course the priest and the deacon helped out during the reading.

Meet Our New Postulant

Monday night was a very special night for the fraternity.  We received a new postulant, Alberto Emilio Rodriguez.  Alberto joined us as an aspirant several months ago.  He is the product of a solid Catholic home and

Alberto está a punto de comenzar el discernimiento

Postulant Alberto Rodriguez, FFV

Catholic education.  We thank his parents and the Marist Brothers for their investment in Alberto.  Postulant Alberto is active in the community, especially in youth retreats.  As a student the only thing we can say is that he is brilliant.  He was accepted by three leading universities in the United States, all of which offered him full scholarships.

Lazaro Rodriguez (father), Postulant Alberto, Br. Jay and Br. Luis sign the registry after Alberto is received as a posulant

However, Alberto has decided to study in Miami and form with the Franciscans of Life.  He has responded to what Jesus said to his apostles at the Last Supper when he washed their feet:

14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:14-16).

As we have said, he is academically gifted, speaks two languages, is the class president at his school, has been a retreat speaker and altar server, is an excellent drummer and an aeronautics aficionado.  Most important, he is a man of great faith and a deep prayer life.

New Secular Franciscan of Life

We have also received a new brother as novice for the Secular Franciscans of Life, Brother Luis Charbel.


Br. Luis Charbel, FFV was received as a novice at St. Maximilian Kolbe Chapel.

Br. Bernardo di Carmine and his mother, Mrs. Angela Torres


Brother Bernardo Di Carmine delivered a beautiful reflection during solemn vespers when Luis was received.

Luis is originally from Colombia.  He and his wife have made Miami their home along with their beautiful eight children.  Luis came to us driven by the Holy Spirit.  He has always experienced an attraction to the spirit of St. Francis.  His children serve the poor in a Franciscan ministry.  However, Luis had never done anything about his craving for Francis of Assisi and his way of life until he saw an article about Project Joseph, which the Franciscans of Life operate for Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami.  Docile to the Holy Spirit, he responded to Christ’s challenge to the apostles during his Passover with them:

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these. (Jn 14:12).

"Louis-ix" by El Greco - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Sfan00_IMG using CommonsHelper.Author: Original uploader was Uri at en.wikipedia. 2003-07-01 (original upload date). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

St. Louis IX by El Greco

Like Alberto, Luis is also a man of profound faith and prayer.  His patron saints are Saint Louis King of France, the patron of the Third Order of St. Francis, and Saint Charbel Makhluf, Maronite monk and hermit, known for his intense life of prayer and asceticism.  Luis couldn’t have picked better patron saints.

Saint Louis IX was a contemporary of Saint Francis of Assisi and king of France.  He is one of the earliest secular brothers in the Franciscan family, a faithful husband and the father of eleven children.

Saint Charbel Makhlouf, O.L.M. The Wonder Worker

Saint Charbel was Maronite monk and hermit at the Monastery of Saint Maron where he lived a life of severe asceticism.  For those who may not understand the term asceticism, it has little to do with corporal penances and much to do with the practice of the virtues.  As an ascetic, Saint Charbel disciplined his mind and body to conform to the virtues of Christ and his Blessed Mother.

Like Saint Charbel, Luis has a very personal relationship with the Immaculate and recently completed his consecration to Mary in the Kolbe tradition.

Holy Week: time to reach out

John’s Gospel tells us that after Jesus had finished the Last Supper and had washed his disciples’ feet he said to them

“Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”  (Jn 15:12b-17).

Holy Week is the perfect time to reflect on our universal vocation:  the perfection of love. It’s a time to examine what we do and who we are, keeping in mind the precedence of being over doing.

Jesus calls us friends, for that is our universal vocation.  He has loved us enough to call us his friends.  Brothers Alberto and Luis have taken the leap of faith.  Christ chose and extended his hand from the cross in friendship.  Like Saint Francis of Assisi, they responded.

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