Experiencing the Proximity of God


All too often we go looking for God only to experience frustration at not finding Him. Hence the temptation to think that “God has more important concerns than me” begins to grab hold of us. We begin to believe that the habitual sins that torture us will always be our masters, because “God does not care. God is angry at me or I’m a lost cause”.

The real problem is that we go looking for that which is right next to us.lighthouses-lighthouse-looking-wide-open-sea-horizon-cloud

Imagine the man who tells you that he has lost his mind. Have you ever considered how ridiculous this expression sounds if it’s taken literally? In order to make such a statement as “I’ve lost my mind” one must make use of the very thing that he believes has been lost.

The proximity of God is very similar.

Man cannot look for that of which he has no idea what it is and no experience. If we are looking for God, it’s because we have a sense of His existence. We can’t have a sense of His existence without knowledge. Finding God is not about feeling His presence. Sensual perceptions of God are gifts for a select few who can handle them. Finding God is about knowledge. Only the man who knows that God is closer to him than his own mind can find God, because he knows that God never lost sight of him.


Published in: on February 23, 2016 at 12:06 PM  Leave a Comment  

Disagreement ≠ Aggression

The Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form, Gregorian chant, the Holy Rosary, Benediction and Adoration, and many other devotions has been part of our Catholic tradition for centuries.  They should be allowed to live, encouraged and be made available when possible.  These are part of our Catholic patrimony, just as is the Mass of St. John Chrysostom, the Ambrosian Rite, the Maronite Rite and the Ordinary Form of the mass.   At some point in history, all of these were in their embryonic state.  As time passed, the traditions became more ingrained in the Catholic community and the rites and customs became more polished.  In other words, none of the older forms and rites was born as we know them today.  Truth and mystery don’t change, but structure and order do.  It is foolhardy to believe that the Ordinary Form of the Mass, the change in styles in how the papacy operates and the birth of newer devotions should be perfect and without need for adjustment here and there.

Imagine what would have happened if Pope St. Pius V had decided to throw out the different rites and forms of the mass of his time.  But he didn’t choose to do that.  On the contrary, he chose to take what was the best of the tradition, polish that which could be polished and jettison that which did not reflect the faith of the Church and the true nature of God.  All of this took time and painstaking labor.  Rumor has it that while St.  Pius V was in the process of consolidating the Tridentine form of the mass that we often refer to as the TLM or the Extraordinary Form (EF), he was not popular with everyone.  He faced some resistance.  Very often, those who resisted him sinned not because they disagreed with the reforms and ideas of St. Pius.  Their sin was worse.  It was the sin of detraction.  They didn’t simply disagree with Pope Pius; they tried to make him look like a fool.

Unfortunately the are elements in the Traditionalist Movement that don’t simply disagree with the Holy Father’s style, his projects, his manner of proceeding or even his way of life.  There are elements in the Movement that have taken it upon themselves to destroy a good man’s reputation.  If one reads some of the Traditionalist sites, one find sentences such as these.

On the Pope’s meeting with the Patriarch of Moscow

“Pope Francis needed the Moscow Patriarch to force him to say some obvious things”

 “An Orthodox Patriarch was needed to make the Church speak up on the family, Christian roots, abortion, and the persecution of Christians…, to make us Catholics say that leaves are green or that two plus two makes four.”

Reaction to the commissioning of the the Missionaries of Mercy by Pope Francis

“Missionaries of Mercy….Another Round of Stupidity from His Humbleness”

“The Missionaries of Mercy, Coming Soon to a Theater Near You”

 “Pope Francis is setting in motion an action which will result in a predictable reaction and he is using his masterful knowledge of psychology to manipulate poor simple minds who are convinced that the Pope is doing the world a favor.”

 On the Holy Father’s vision for the Church and his “ulterior” motives

“For Pope Bergoglio, the papacy is a vehicle for achieving what he dreams, what he wants, what he prefers, as opposed to what has been handed down to him for safekeeping. He intends to leave his personal stamp on the Church in a manner he hopes will be irreversible,”

On the Holy Father’s dignity

 “Then, under a cloud of mystery and bafflement, came Jorge Cardinal Mario Bergoglio . . . and this is what we saw: Francis on [the] logia”

 “It was a man dressed as a simple bishop, whose first words were a thudding banality: “Brothers and sisters, good evening!” A bishop dressed in white, waving to the crowd and telling them, strangely, that he had been elected “Bishop of Rome” for “the evangelization of this beautiful city,” for which he pointedly requested “the prayer of the people for their Bishop.” He was denuded of the traditional symbols of papal authority, later donning the papal stole only long enough to bestow the Apostolic Benediction, promptly removing it once the words were uttered. Even his dull metal pectoral cross was the same one he had worn in Buenos Aires.”

 “Bergoglio is such a loose cannon he’s careered right through the deck and smashed through the hull. A (bleep) from a (bleepin’) country.”

 “But Francis does not think like a Catholic. . . . his pronouncements appear so dated as to be almost deranged”


This not the way that a virtuous man disagrees with another man; the key to healthy disagreement is respect for the dignity and position of the other person.  These comments not only show a lack of respect for the Vicar of Christ, but they incite anger and even hatred.  These are not statements of disagreement.  These statements sound like deliberate attempts to disparage the reputation of none other than the Vicar of Jesus Christ.

One can place the points of disagreement on the table and proceed to present one’s objections to each point, without bringing down the person.  Our holy father St. Francis never allowed the brothers to speak against authority.  But he did allow them to disagree with anything they felt was dangerous to the soul.  He set the example for Christian debate.

I feel sad having to warn our brothers and our friends to be careful of the evil mindset that very often invades extremes, be they extreme liberalism or extreme conservatism.  There is nothing wrong with the traditional elements of our faith.  There is nothing wrong in preserving and making use of the richness of these elements, because they move thee soul closer to God.

Beware of the poisonous talk and accusations that often hide underneath the shroud of righteousness.  Do not be sucked in to such way of thinking, be it from the right or from the left.  Poison is poison, no matter what flavor it comes in.  Anything that detracts from the dignity of another person, calls into question his integrity without proof, and does damage to the reputation of one who is doing good for so many is evil.  Unfortunately, those who are posting these and similar comments all over the Internet do not realize that they are cooperating with evil, rather than defending the holy, which is what they really want to do.

There is nothing to prohibit the Franciscans of Life from participating in activities and services within the Traditionalist community.  These things are part of our Catholic heritage and they serve as channels of grace.  Franciscans of Life are never to participate in detraction of any kind and anyone, especially the Vicar of Jesus Christ, nor are they to associate with those who engage in such evil behavior.  They may disagree and engage in intellectual debates about points of disagreement, always speaking of and treating the person with the opposing point of view as a son or daughter of God and our brother whom we are sent to serve, not to judge.



Atonement or chocolate?

Lent is about to begin and many of us are thinking about what we want to give up. Here is the irony of it all. Some people give up chocolate. In fact, chocolate is the most common Lenten sacrifice, followed by dessert.

Let’s take this in baby steps. The whole idea of Lent is that it is a time of atonement. Now let’s get this straight. We sin against purity, honesty, loyalty, charity, faith, justice, detachment and many other things and virtues. Then we try to atone for all of this by giving up Hershey’s Kisses or ice-cream and apple pie? Sometimes we have to ask ourselves whether our Lenten sacrifices are somewhat presumptuous. We hope to atone for a multitude of sins with a few candy bars and some dessert; if we remember, we abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent.


“My merit is God’s mercy.” -St. Bernard

Fortunately for us, God’s mercy far exceeds our foolishness. We often forget that Lent is a time of penance. Penance means atonement and conversion of manners.

We can never atone for our sins on our own. For this reason Lent culminates in Passion week, when Christ enters Jerusalem to be executed for our sins. Only the perfect man can offer the perfect act of atonement.

Our Lenten sacrifices must be offered with the ultimate sacrifice that Christ offered. During Lent we must be able to answer several questions with honesty.

1. Whether I am giving up chocolate or something else that I like, am I aware that I must also give up a specific sin? The external sacrifice is only a reminder of what we have to change. It does little good to give up a goody that we like while continuing to fall into the same sin.

2. If I add extra prayer or an extra mass to my weekly schedule do I take the time to meditate on the sin that I am trying to atone? Or do I offer the mass and prayers without much thought to what I have to change? The purpose of the extra mass and prayers is to bring us closer to God and draw us farther away from sin.

3. Finally, do I remember that Lent is to the Church what novitiate is to religious formation? During Lent I take a closer look at what needs improvement in my life and I work toward a conversion of manners. That is, a change in how I live my life with God and neighbor.

One cannot enter Lent with heart and soul without acknowledging one’s sins and the Passion of Christ, which restored to man the necessary graces to change and become like Adam before the Fall. If we ignore sin and the fact that we are sinners, Lent becomes just another tradition that leads nowhere. If we recognize sin, the Cross, and our need for a conversion of manners, Lent becomes a season of extraordinary grace.


The Perfect Joy of Saint Francis

What happens to a man who enters the Franciscans of Life?

To answer the first question, NOTHING.  We stopped torturing people a long time ago.  Having said that, you may find that you go through a transformation that you never thought was possible.  “I can never do that.”  Many people say.

The first thing one learns is to share.  For us, this means living in very small spaces.  You thought that an airplane bathroom was small?  Check out our sleeping arrangements.

WP_20160201_009These are our sleeping quarters, also called cells.  No brother owns anything, not even a room of his own.  A large room is divided by curtains, as you would see in a hospital.  Behind each curtain there are two beds for two brothers, bunks.  There is an aisle along the length of the bed that is 18 inches wide and another curtain, behind which there is another cell with two more beds the same size.  The brothers always remember Jesus’ words, “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

WP_20160201_004Every brother is assigned a flat sheet and a single blanket.  We use only what we need, not what we like.  We don’t use comforters or fancy bedspreads.  The money that can be spent on those items can just as easily be put into our apostolate among the voiceless, even if it’s just paying for gas to get from point A to point B.  After a few days, one becomes so accustomed to this arrangement, that we no longer miss our old bedroom in our former home.  The community house becomes home and the cells become our bedrooms; but they are more than that.  It is here that we experience the intimacy and poverty of the fraternal life that St. Francis so loved.  Like Christ and his Apostles and like Francis and the early brothers who shared huts, the brothers practice charity and detachment.

The cells are in the enclosed part of the house where no outsiders may enter, male nor female, not even our moms.  While in the cells, we avoid unnecessary conversation so that in solitude and silence the soul may be more attentive to the voice of God speaking from within.  The cell and the enclosure are only external reminders of an internal attitude that every brother should have.  Each of us carries within him an interior cloister where only the soul and God interact.  This awareness is the summit of poverty, when you own nothing, not even your inner space . . . everything belongs to the Beloved.

WP_20160130_004In the sleeping area there is always a small oratory.  An oratory is not a chapel.  The Blessed Sacrament is not reserved there.  Oratory comes from the Latin word oratio, meaning to speak and to pray.  Oremus,”Let us pray.  Let us speak with God.”   The brothers last conversation before retiring is with Jesus and His Immaculate Mother.  His first conversation of the day is also with the beloved Mother and Son.  During the day, the brother sneaks into the oratory, like a lover sneaking along the hedges to have a quiet words with his sweetheart.  Christ and the Immaculate are our sweethearts.

TUNIC_SMOCKWe don’t have closets, since we don’t have many clothes.  We share a row of hooks where we hang up our formal and work habits.  We also have a pair of grey pants and a grey banded shirt.  Here you see a typical work habit for a postulant.  Novices and professed brothers wear it with a cord or without a cord, depending on the task at hand.  The work habit it short.  It does not reach the knees.  It’s our version of grunge clothing.  Nothing is ever wasted.  Our Constitution reminds us that like  St. Francis, we follow the poor and suffering Christ who walked to Calvary in  shredded clothes, except for his sacred seamless tunic.  When a garment is too damaged to wear, it is cut up and used to patch up other work habits.  It is not unusual to see our brothers wearing patches on their work habits or displaying grease stains from an engine.  These stains are tough to wash out.  But we manage.WP_20141209_001 (1)  We don’t have cooks or housekeepers.  Those are chores that we do ourselves.  The brothers take turns cooking, scrubbing and cleaning.  Those brothers who have never done it before or don’t know how are taught by more experienced brothers.  WP_20151212_004St. Francis said that we are to be “minors”.   During the Italian Middle Ages there was a social class known as the Minores.  It seems that these men and women were of the lower class of serfs and peasants.  Even among the peasants, there was social stratification.  Christ reminds us that we have been sent to serve, not to be served.  “Go out and do what I have done for you.”


It’s time to leave.  A brother may be going to class at the university, while another is going to the hospital or to hospice and another brother is on his way to do counseling or education with dads in crisis pregnancies or going to visit a newborn baby that was going to be aborted.  The brother is always there to say “Hi Little One”BABY M-2 (2)

Life calls out to life  We even have two pups.  The black and brown handsome fellow is Max, named after St. Maximilian Kolbe. max_and_tasha The little fawn cutie is Tasha, named after a character on Star Trek Generations.  Yes, we have former Trekkies among us.  The brothers may not watch television.  Start Trek is out of the question.  Besides, who has time.

No day is complete without prayer and the
Holy Eucharist.Archbishop Thomas Wenski celebrates Mass for Nascent Life

In between we manage to insert
an hour of private prayer at 5:30 AM, the Liturgy of the Hours: morning, midday, evening, night and midnight.  There is always time for the Holy Rosary.

profession of vows


Dancing Friar