Monday 6/19 – Evening of Prayer for Dads


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The Project Joseph team and the Franciscans of Life are inviting you to come pray for dads the Monday after Father’s Day.

We are meeting on Monday, June 19, from 7:45 PM to 9:00 PM, at the chapel of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church (701 N. Hiatus Road, Pembroke Pines, FL 33026).

Special intentions include praying for fathers who do not want their pre-born children or have cooperated in the abortion of their children.

Please share & RSVP via email to director@projectjoseph.org or on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/events/433827243658352/ )

Project Joseph is a joint venture between Franciscans of Life and Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami.

Published in: on June 17, 2017 at 3:13 AM  Leave a Comment  

Community Spring Activities


Spring has been a busy season for the Franciscans of Life! Care to join us for a quick overview of some of our more outstanding activities?

Trip to Virginia

During Holy Week two of our brothers traveled up north to visit relatives whose child, baby Katherine Marie Therese, was turning 6 months. We posted a blog article mentioning the trip. The highlight was participating in the Holy Sacrament of Baptism for the new member of the Church and of our little family (since in our family-oriented Franciscan tradition the parents and relatives of one brother are the parents and relatives of all the brothers).

However, it was also a formation trip.One of the travelers is a student-brother, in his second year of temporary vows. He is also a Project Joseph mentor. To be welcomed by a new, young, Catholic family and witness firsthand the joys and (good) struggles involved in caring for an infant is a very good formation experience for a young Regular brother.

He witnessed examples of good Catholic parents, gentle but firm, welcoming advice from their parents but tracing a clear line around “their” new family, working hard but still making time to foster the parent-child and parent-parent relationships, and also adjusting to a newly-bought home. During the whole time, the parents never argued (in fact, they were always either smiling or making an effort to be very kind despite being tired), they worked like a great team, shared night shifts, and, above all, they made it clear that the first relationship in the hierarchy is with the Church, then with each other, and finally, with their newborn child – a lesson that is very difficult and at times heroic in our highly secularized “first world”.

Since this brother is also an only son, it was also a deeply personal experience as he could witness the joy that it is to have a “little sister”. She would smile and even laugh every time brother walked within sight range, so he was very happy to be her “court jester”.

 

Project Joseph Workshop

On April 29, the Franciscans of Life offered a workshop for men who want to become mentors of Project Joseph, the program for fathers facing an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy that we run in joint venture with Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami. We usually offer two such workshops a year.

This year we received much support. A number of parishes included notices in their bulletins (some even an entire bulletin page), the Archdiocese included the announcement on the Florida Catholic and on the Pastoral Bulletin, and the Knights of Columbus promoted it through the three Counties. In fact, we even had a Knight from St. Petersburg who heard about it and decided to come learn more about the idea of reaching out to men in crisis pregnancies and help them become better men, better fathers.

The 4-hour workshop was attended by the Project Joseph mentors and a number of other interested people, and it included an overview by the program founder and current director, our superior Br. Jay, as well as a review of the procedures and documentation involved for each client offered by Br. Bernardo. Br. Chris assisted in assembling the folders with the material for the participants and also in the making of a video recording of the workshop (currently in post-production). Br. Leo welcomed in the participants, many of whom were visiting for the first time the new South Broward (Hollywood) Pregnancy Help Center, which kindly hosted the workshop.

One of the attendants, Ed Suazo, a Knight of Columbus who has been a long-time supporter of Respect Life Ministry, is in the process of starting Project Joseph at the new South Dade Pregnancy Help Center, some 10 blocks south of the main campus of the ever-expanding FIU. We are very happy to have him on board as Project Joseph mentor!

 

“New Skills for Adults Room”

Towards the end of May, CollegeDirect, a tutoring center for which one of our brothers was working part-time, announced that it was closing its doors. The brother involved was discussing the matter with his superior while washing dishes after the morning meal when, suddenly, he was struck by an idea. He asked his Superior permission to discuss an inspiration he had suddenly received.

Our community has always been involved in education at several levels, both in the apostolate and in the secular sphere. Could this expertise be put at the service of the immigrant poor, with the intercession of the Immaculate and the support of a kind benefactor?

Our Superior addressed a letter to the Director of CollegeDirect, whose name happens to be Lourdes. In it, he described the concept of the “New Skills for Adults Room”, a very small project that the Franciscans of Life and some volunteers would run free of charge, to serve adults who are struggling with basic English, Math, and computer literacy. Upon completion of the program, they would have the basic skills needed to prepare a résumé, be ready for a job interview, and re-launch themselves in the workplace. We know from our daily interaction with the population of Miami-Dade and Broward as well as with the newly-arrived immigrants from Haiti, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eurasia, that there is a great need for such a service.

We were hoping that CollegeDirect would donate a small part of their materials and assets towards the furnishing and startup of the “Room” (for it is our hope that the Immaculate will provide just one large room for us to run the program).

It turned out that Ms. Lourdes and the other parties involved in running CollegeDirect responded with the utmost kindness and generosity, providing us with a large donation of educational materials, a whiteboard, bookshelves, even some laptops and chairs, and they would have kindly donated more furniture except that we do not have the physical space to store the items!

As one of our brother continues to itemize everything we received from our kind benefactor and another brother prepares the Education Plan, we are very grateful to the Lord for the ushering of this wonderful little project and we now patiently await for the Immaculate to provide, whenever it be God’s will, the “Room” where our program will be able to help the immigrant poor and the refugee to “learn how to fish” in the vast ocean of a new country.

 

Prayer Days for Life and Jericho Walk

During the season of Lent, the Franciscans of Life individually prayed in front of abortuaries (places where abortion is performed). While in Broward a large number of vigils takes place before the Planned Parenthood abortuary in Pembroke Pines (also due to political reasons), the 40 Days for Life campaign focused on the abortuary in Hollywood, some 15 blocks east of the South Broward Respect Life Center, and the brothers focused on the relatively unknown abortuary of Miramar, “conveniently” located next to three fast-food stores, only some 10 blocks north-west of Saint Stephen parish. They also go to the other locations, but they focus on proclaiming the sanctity of life, offering support, and passing out literature of human development in the womb.

On one such occasion, one of our brothers noticed that the Center had locked its doors and was not letting clients in. The brother, who was holding a hand-made poster inviting people to reach out to him for support, took advantage of this window of opportunity to invite the clients standing by to go visit the nearby Respect Life Pregnancy Help Center. While some people ignored him and others called him a liar when he said we could help, brother kept making the point that they could always come back to the abortuary and they had nothing to lose in visiting the Pregnancy Help Center first.

The brother was about 100 feet away from the place, behind a railing, at the risk of falling into the canal running behind him, because the usual prayer spot is so far removed from the place that it offers virtually no chance of interacting with the clients. It turns out the brother was still too close… The abortuary, perhaps intimidated by brother’s imposing stature of 5 feet 5” and by his home-made poster board boldly stating in blue marker “WE CAN HELP YOU”, decided to lock down the center and call the police. Brother thought that as long as he kept behind the railing, he was not invading private property, but he was wrong. Two very kind officers approached brother and explained to him, with the help of digital imagery, that the lawful private property actually ended half-way inside the canal. That clarified why the prayer vigils were held on the other side of the canal! Brother apologized for his mistake and he was let go without any questioning, as he slowly tried not to embarrass himself by falling into the canal at the last moment. He is known to be clumsy.

After that, he moved to another abortion mill prayer spot where he could stand legitimately on the sidewalk about 15 feet from the entrance of the abortuary. He would offer fliers to the cars that stopped at the red light and to the people walking by. He even had a chance to interact with one of the staff members on lunch break. Brother, aware of the program run by pro-life advocate Abby Johnson to help clinic workers leave the abortion industry, spent the few seconds at his disposal to mention the program (abortionworker.com) and also to mention that he volunteers at a nearby pregnancy help center and distributes literature about human development in the womb. The worker was very kind and told brother: “I work there, but I wish more people would listen to you…”.

On another occasion, one of the brothers decided to simply read out loud the Letters of St. John and St. Paul in front of another abortion mill (relatively similar lawful distance). This time brother had a major surprise, as he interacted with a fellow pro-lifer who had come there with a sign as part as the 40 Days for Life campaign. During the short conversation, brother mentioned that he knew most people would ignore him, but that the Word of God is a seed planted, that gives fruit in due time, and that nobody knows if one of the clients of the abortion mill may, some thirty years down the road, realize the enormity of the evil of abortion and bitterly repent of her action carried out perhaps in the foolishness of youth and under the pressure of peers, parents, or partner. The fellow pro-lifer broke down in tears and “confessed” to brother that he was actually describing her – she had an abortion as a teenager and only decades later did she come to full knowledge of the Gospel of Life, repent of what she had done, and become a faithful Catholic and a dedicated supporter of the pro-life cause. Brother did not know what to say, other than to praise the Lord for His mercy and encourage her to continue on the journey of love and reparation that the Lord had led her on, in the certainty that He would bring to completion what He had begun.

After Lent, the brothers were involved in a number of other projects, but on June 11 they were invited to attend the “Jericho Walk”, a Eucharistic Procession sponsored by Respect Life Ministry and Nativity Catholic Church that involved walking seven times around the abortuary, peacefully and orderly, praying the Rosary while following the Most Blessed Sacrament and a statue of Our Lady.

Our superior Br. Jay insisted in attending the event, even though he has chronic pulmonary and cardiac conditions and has only left the wheelchair for a cane a few months ago. Pressured by the insistence of the brothers, he agreed to take a walker rather than the cane. He walked 30 blocks in total, without portable oxygen (nobody thought of picking up a portable tank on the way out of the motherhouse), and kindly refused a ride back from the abortuary to the Respect Life Center. The other brother that was with him was able to do a few more rounds and even to carry the wooden cross that followed behind the Blessed Sacrament and the statue of Our Lady.

Over a hundred people attended the march, which was very well organized, full of piety and reverence, rather than a crusade of self-appointed “warriors for life”. It seemed also that the political signs were absent, in favor of good old home-made signs that exalted the beauty of life and the help that was there for those who were in the often excruciating struggle of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. One sign, carried by a child ahead of the Most Blessed Sacrament, stole the brothers’ heart.

Other Events

You would think that three months would not be enough for more than what we have described, considering that the brothers spend most of their time in prayer and fraternity, and that they also work part-time as per the Testament or Last Will of Saint Francis. Yet, as one of the brothers always says, God made the time for more.

One of our pets, our little sister Tasha the Puggle, developed a worrisome cough and had to be taken to the vet and later tricked daily to take her medication (she is very smart and absolutely refused to take it unless it was wrapped in bread, cheese, pizza crust, or some other type of food, and she could not be easily fooled more than twice). Fortunately she is now fully recovered.

A video was produced for the short series “Musings of a Franciscan of Life” which offers a small window into the life of the brothers.

One of the brothers completed the Life in the Spirit seminar and was “baptized in the Holy Spirit”, as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal refers to the prayer service in which they pray that the Holy Spirit, received at Baptism and whose gifts were infused at Confirmation, would deign to stir the love of God in the heart of the participants and “renew their life” for the service of the Church.

Br. Leo continues in his tireless work of prayer (he is our “prayer warrior”) while occasionally supporting the families of the hospice where he used to work. When Br. Bernardo’s father passed away, he came to serve at the funeral mass as cross-bearer even though the night before he had broken one of his toes and could only walk with great pain. He is an example of meekness and humility to the brothers.

The Extern brothers also kept busy, especially Br. Luis who recently welcomed his 10th child, Annamarie and has been supporting one of his daughters to start a pro-life group at her school, and Br. Chris, who besides all we mentioned above has also been helping in the training of a new Project Joseph mentor and other activities inherent to his role as Community Vicar. Our latest newcomer, Tom, worked hard on his formation as aspirant after a long period of discernment with the fraternity, and asked to be admitted as a Postulant. He is a kind, generous soul and, as Br. Bernardo loves to say, has a smile that lights up the room.

 

Coming Soon – Steps Forward in Formation

We would love to tell you all about Br. Tom and the others who are renewing their Solemn Promise or their Temporary Profession in May and June, but… we won’t 🙂 At least, not yet.

More on this, and on upcoming events, in a follow-up article: Steps Forward in Formation. Follow us on our blog (check the redesigned home page for the “Subscribe” button on the right-hand column), our Youtube channel, and our Facebook group!

Please keep us in your prayers to the Immaculate (would you say a Hail Mary for us every day?) and if you can, please see our latest post in which, in the tradition of St. Francis, realizing we could not make ends meet we are begging you for anything you can spare so we can keep going. We do not ask for much, as we do not need much. May the Lord reward you abundantly for your love.

POTPOURRI OF ALL THINGS POSSIBLE


Baptism In The Spirit

Last evening, I was privileged to attend the ritual called “Baptism In The Spirit” at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Pembroke Pines, Florida.  It was an amazing experience.

There are those who don’t know much about the Charismatic Movement and others who thinking they know denounce it as being “Protestant” or “pure drama.”  What I witnessed was far from Protestant, even High Protestant, and was very Catholic.  There was no charlatanry here.

The evening began with quiet prayer time while we listened to Gregorian Chant in the background.  The mood was “somber”, but not macabre.  Without a pause, the Holy Rosary followed the quiet prayer time.

Then came the clergy, the pastor and two deacons, wearing albs and stoles.  The pastor, Rev. Jeff McCormick, opened with prayer and reflection.  A reading from Luke’s account of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, followed.

I didn’t see any hysteria, shouting, rolling on the floor or levitation.  I saw more than 100 Catholic men and women, most of whom I have personally known for 15-years, quietly praying. 

The leaders placed a large basin of water and fresh towels at the front of the Church (not in the sanctuary). Rev. Mr. Scott Joiner, explained to the congregation that they were not receiving the sacraments of Baptism or Confirmation.  These they had already received, through which they received the Holy Spirit.  The purpose of reverently walking up to the front and placing one’s hands in the basin of water was a moment of recollection and thanksgiving for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, effected in the Sacrament of Confirmation, which brings to fulfillment the journey of initiation into the Catholic Church that began at Baptism.

The congregation was encouraged to remain in prayer and to ask God to help each individual become aware of the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, aware of the gifts that we receive from the Holy Spirit and to ask God to help each person tap into whatever gift the Holy Spirit wants him or her to put at the service of the Church.

Rev. Mr. Scott Joiner

Rev. Mr. Pierre Douyon

Those who were to be “baptized in the Holy Spirit” were invited to come forward where the Rev. Mr. Scott Joiner and Rev. Mr. Pierre Douyon, signed them with the sign of the Holy Cross, reminding them of their Baptism and Confirmation, where they were welcomed into the Church and sealed with the Holy Spirit.  Now, they were being challenged to pray for the grace to tap into the gifts of the Holy Spirit and use whichever gift God wants to accentuate for the salvation of the individual’s soul and the good of the Church.

Finally, stations were set up in different parts of the Church.  Each candidate voluntarily approached a team who prayed with him and over him.  Some team members held the candidates hands, others place a hand on the candidate, and others simply prayed.  Any and all physical contact between the candidate and the team respected the candidate’s comfort level.  It was at this point where the Lord was asked to open the heart and mind of each candidate and to help him cast into the deep for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit already present in the soul through the sacraments.

Praying over Br. Bernardo

I saw flowing tears, bright smiles, faces that seemed relaxed and relieved of heavy burdens and other faces deep in silent contemplation.

A hymn and prayer followed the “Baptism”.  The evening concluded with everyone praising and thanking God for his love and mercy which endures forever.  Father Jeff gave the final blessing, which was followed by another song and lots of happy hugs and wishes for a goodnight.

Not only was I impressed by the depth of prayer that I witnessed, also how fully Catholic was the event.  I have never been to a prayer service at a Protestant community with Gregorian Chant, the Holy Rosary, and three validly ordained clerics, with a final blessing by a priest.

After the experience, one of our brothers, who had attended the six-week formation seminar that led to this beautiful and prayerful turning of the page, to begin a new chapter in the Christian journey, treated ourselves to a fish sandwich at McDonald’s while Brother explained his thoughts and experience.

While in prayer the Lord pointed out the areas in his life that need attention, confession, more prayer and thanksgiving for God’s many blessings.  St. Benedict would describe what Brother experienced as a plan for the “conversion of manners.”  Just to be clear, St. Benedict was not talking about Emily Post and etiquette, but the manner in which we live out our vocation.

I am grateful to God and the local Charismatic community.  I had been through “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” 23-years ago.  Last night reawakened my awareness of God’s proximity and the gifts that he places in our hearts, minds, and hands for the sanctification of the Body.

Symbol for St. John the Evangelist -- The Soaring Eagle

St. John the Evangelist — The Soaring Eagle

As John said in the last chapter of his Gospel, It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true,” (Chap 21:24).

For whom are you looking?

Brother makes profession of vows in the hands of the superior

If you’re a man between the ages of 18 and 50, single, without dependent minors and feel that your life is missing something, maybe what you’re missing is COMMITMENT TO THE SACRED.

The Franciscans of Life have consecrated men who make vows of obedience, poverty and celibate chastity.  We live in a COVENANT RELATIONSHIP with the Voiceless Christ, in the manner prescribed by the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi.  All the brothers consecrate themselves to the Immaculate using the formula developed by our brother and patron, St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, OFM Conv.

Cell

Our life is simple.  We own nothing.  We live in a borrowed home, share an old van, each brother has three sets of clothes, one pair of sandals and a pair of shoes.  No one has a private room.  We sleep in one room divided into cells by curtains.

Our Oratory

Each day the brothers pray five hours of the Divine Office, three of which they pray in community.  We have a period of silent prayer, spiritual reading, time to journal, and apostolic work with fathers in crisis pregnancies, the sick in the hospital, religious education, evangelization through the Internet, the terminally ill in hospice, and the immigrant poor.

Adoration of the Eucharist

The Sacrifice of the Mass is the highlight of our life of prayer and adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist.

We attend mass in both, the ordinary form of the Latin Rite and the Traditional Latin Mass.  Occasionally, we attend mass in one of the Eastern Catholic rites, in imitation of our Holy Father St. Francis, a truly Catholic man who embraced the entire Church.

Our life in fraternity is dear to us.  We are aware that St. Francis did not set out to found a religious order.  He entered into a covenant relationship where he was the lover and Christ the beloved.  Other men saw him and liking what they saw, they joined him.  Slowly, they formed a family, known today as the Franciscan Family, with more than 100 independent orders and congregations all living the Gospel according to the Rule of St. Francis, but with some differences according to the apostolic needs of time and place and the gifts that each Franciscan brings to the table.

If this sounds like a way of life for you, write to franciscansoflife@gmail.com or call 786-495-3426 and visit our web page, http:/franciscansoflife.org.

Help Needed

Single or married men (age 18 – 60) to open “a room” to provide educational services to the immigrant poor.  These services include, but are not limited to:

  • English,
  • using the computer,
  • mathematics for daily life,
  • resume writing and job application,
  • interviewing skills,
  • policies and procedures in community healthcare for low income individuals,
  • policies and procedures for enrollment of immigrant children in public schools,
  • and evangelization.

Spiritual Works of Mercy To Instruct and to counsel

This is not a school, and formal education program, nor a tutoring center.  It’s simply a space in the local community that we call “The Room”.  The Room is a special place where immigrant poor can go when they need to learn something important for their survival and integration.

It’s a God-given opportunity to share our Catholic faith with those who ask.

To help us create The Room, please write to us at franciscansoflife@gmail.com or call us a 786-495-3426.

If you own a large space (house or business) that is accessible by bus and would like to lend it to us, for free, the Immaculate will mediate many graces for you and your loved ones, especially a deceased relative or friend.

All things are possible, if you do whatever my Son tells you.

In Your Kindness, Remember…


We wish to inform our benefactors and friends of the passing of Dr. Franco Camarca, the father of our Brother Bernardo D’Carmine.

Dr. Camarca went to the Home of Our Heavenly Father on Saturday evening, after receiving the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church.  He passed away very peacefully in the presence of his loved ones.

He leaves behind his wife, his only son Brother Bernardo, and the Franciscan Brothers of Life. St. Francis of Assisi always taught us that the parents of one brother were the parents of all.

We were all blessed to have had Dr. Camarca in our lives.  Please keep him and us in your prayers.  Ask Dr. Camarca to pray for us as well.  Don’t forget, the souls in Purgatory can intercede for us.

Here is a biographical note written by Br. Bernardo and an essay on St. Francis written in 2011 by Dr. Camarca.

If you wish to send a spiritual gift, please follow this link.

You can also write to Br. Bernardo and his family via email or to this address:

Franciscans of Life

9461 Palm Cir S

Pembroke Pines, FL 33025

The funeral is being arranged through the courtesy and generosity of many friends and benefactors, in particular the Archdiocese of Miami, the Knights of Columbus, the deacons and priests at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church, Msgr. Oscar Castañeda, Chaplain at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Scarano Funeral Homes, Respect Life Ministry, and Franciscans of Life. To them the Camarca family wishes to offer their gratitude and appreciation.

 

 

 

 

The Franciscans of Life

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”

Easter Wishes from the Brothers


The Franciscans of Life wish all our family, friends, and benefactors all the blessings that the Easter Season brings.  May the mother of the Risen Lord walk with us and increase in us the desire to atone for our sins and those who do not do penance and may she guide us to greater virtue so that we live with the Risen Christ through eternity.

Brother Bernardo’s Pizza Rush

 

MosDSCN0076t of the brothers remained in Florida for Holy Week.  Brother Bernardo and I flew to Virginia where we spend time with my daughter, son-in-law and my granddaughter, Katherine Marie Therese, who turned six-months during Holy Week.  We also had a fantastic opportunity to surprise Brother Bernardo, whose birthday it was on April 13, Holy Thursday. pizza_icon

Because it was the beginning of the Paschal Triduum, we kept the celebration simple and quiet.  Brother Bernardo’s favorite food is pizza.  Brother Jay’s daughter made sure that he was not disappointed.  She served him about nine bagel pizzas for breakfast, which he devoured.  For lunch, it was an individual DiGiorno pizza with rising crust.  In the evening, he was treated to not one, but two large pizzas with his favorite toppings and a musical card from Brother Jay’s family.

Brother Bernardo haCARAVAN 1s voluntarily stepped up to serve as Brother Superior’s caretaker and health monitor.  He can tell when Brother Superior’s diabetes is too low or too high by looking at him and quickly dispenses the correct amount of insulin.  He installed a railing on Father Superior’s bed after the superior fell twice during the night.  Brother Superior’s vision is failing and everyday his legs grow weaker.  He moves from a wheelchair, to a walker that Brother Bernardo purchased at a White Elephant Sale, to a cane with a cuff around the forearm.   When Brother Jay must go anywhere, Brother Bernardo drives him and his medical equipment in the community’s van.  This allows Brother Jay to run Project Joseph at the Archdiocesan level, give talks, teach religious education and work on his book.

None of this love and support has gone unnoticed by Brother Jay’s family.  Because Brother Bernardo has no nieces or nephews and has never been married, he does not have frequent interactions with infants.  Brother Jay’s granddaughter, who just turned six-months on the 15th of April, love Brother Bernardo.  katherine at easterShe breaks into a smile and reaches out to him as he approaches.  We won’t mention that Brother Bernardo is quite attached to Katherine.  He holds her, feeds her, rocks her to sleep and has even taken her on a short walk in her stroller.

Virginia_babyWe have many good reasons for being forever grateful to Brother Bernardo.  The least we could do was fly him to visit his beloved Katherine, feed him pizza for an entire day and formally incorporate him into the family.  Brother Jay’s family has adopted him.

We pray for Brother Bernardo, who is still in formation.  We ask the Immaculate, if it is her Son’s will, to walk with him to the end of his formation period, when he will make perpetual vows of obedience, poverty, chastity and fidelity to the Gospel of Life.

Prayers for Brother Leo

Our brother Leo has had health problems during most of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017.  He was unable to participate in the community’s Easter meal, because he is too ill to walk.  He’s under the care of

Br_Leo_nurse_san excellent physician and is properly cared for at home.  We pray that he will be up and running soon.  Brother Leo is one of those special souls who has a natural gift to bring peace, comfort and hope to the terminally ill and their families.  He has served in hospice ministry for more than a decade.  It’s an emotionally draining ministry.

Brother is a registered nurse and is also trained in Christian spirituality.  He brings medical and spiritual support to the bedside.  His greatest gift is listening.  Brother is always willing to listen to the concerns, fears and hope of the dying and their families.  His quiet and gentle manner communicates the Lord’s peace to people in terminal situations.  He also provides guidance when moral questions such as euthanasia, assisted suicide, and extraordinary means of life support arise.

Please join our prayer to the Immaculate that she will intercede for her son and our brother, Brother Leo, so that he can return to bring Christ’s comfort to those who are dying, their families and their healthcare providers.  Losing a patient is never easy for a doctor or nurse who is truly committed to preserving and respecting life from conception to natural death.

Project Joseph, Up and Running

On the 29th of April, we will have a workshop for all who volunteer to mentor our dads in crisis pregnancies.  We will also welcome and begin training new volunteers who wish to serve fathers who are struggling with unexpected and often unwanted pregnancies.  The brother bring light where there is darkness.  They provide education to help the dads become better dads.

BROS FORMATION

They also provide material assistance to poor moms and dads who come to our pregnancy centers.  This material assistance goes from things as simple, but important, as disposable diapers to cribs, stroller and every other contraption that modern parents need to keep their babies safe and occupied.  Don’t ask me what those contraptions are called, because I don’t know.  Lately, I have begun to feel very old when a five-year old helps me open a childproof bottle of pills.  CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?  It’s supposed to be childproof but it takes a first-grader to help a 65-year old with several graduate degrees open a vial of pills.  Ugh, I’m aging faster than I thought!

Detachment

The Franciscans of Life don’t do much marketing for vocations, but I think it’s time that we invite men between 18 and 50 years of age to think about a life detached from the material cares of the world, totally dependent on God’s Divine Providence to support you and guide you, and a life attached to the Immaculate who always leads us to Christ in the Sacred Host for spiritual nutrition and contemplation.  The brotherhood is poor.  Every brother engages in some kind of part-time job over and beyond our apostolic commitments to eat and pay utilities, rent, food, healthcare.  We own nothing.  Like our father, St. Francis, we share all things in common and some things we simply don’t need; therefore, we don’t have them.

Our life of prayer is very rich.  The brothers engage in the ancient monastic tradition of praying the WP_20160130_004Divine Office five-times a day, quiet prayer and adoration, spiritual reading, mass, and service to the voiceless.

I promise you that we are very tired, but very happy building something beautiful for the Immaculate.  Like St. Maximilian Kolbe, we hope to present Christ a holy city where men, women and children live, work, study, play and sing confident that Christ is alive and very close.  This is not a physical city, but a spiritual city of people open to God’s embrace.

Single men between 18 and 50 are invited to come and discern if this is where they can best serve Christ, living and being one with, the voiceless and doing penance for those who have not entrusted themselves to God’s forgiveness and mercy.

 

Do you dare to “Entrust your life”


Many people look at St. Francis of Assisi as someone to be admired, but too difficult to follow.  We often hear, “St. Francis was a saint; I’m not.”  That’s the point.  St. Francis was not born a saint.  He grew physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.  He became a saint through his efforts and the help of Grace.

Today, the Franciscans of Life seek only one thing.  As the psalmist said, “One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the Lord’s beauty, to visit his temple,” (Psalm 27:4).

We’re a brotherhood of married (Extern Brothers) and celibate men (Regular Brothers) that seeks to recover the original way of life of the early Franciscan family, both the friars and the secular penitents. 

Regular Brothers vow obedience, poverty, and chastity.  We live in a community house.  We are profession-of-vowsconsecrated to the Immaculate and we make a fourth vow, to proclaim the Gospel of Life.  Regular Brothers comes from the Latin “regula,” those who live in brotherhood guided by a rule of life.

We consecrate ourselves to live in the “house of the Lord” all the days of our lives.  Every brother crucifies himself next to Christ calling out to his Redeemer, “Remember me . . . “(Luke 23:42). 

Ancient rabbis taught that, after the coming of the Messiah, all sacrifices would cease except the Todah (the perfect sacrifice of thanksgiving), which would never cease to be offered throughout all eternity.  The sacrifice of the cross is the Todah.  Christ’s blood can roll backwards to the first sinner and forward to the last.

Christ_and_Francis“You cannot glory; that, however, in which we may glory is in our infirmities, and in bearing daily the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Admonitions V, St. Francis of Assisi).

Like the “Good Thief”, St. Dismas, every Regular Brother entrusts his eternal life to the perfect sacrifice offered by Christ yesterday, today and tomorrow.  The brother consecrates himself to live the Gospel living the Rule that St. Francis gave the Brothers and Sisters of Penance as our Constitutions explain it for us.

We strive to live the Gospel in an intense life of prayer, penancelogo_of_the_ffv, and poverty. We freely exercise our ministry to the voiceless, paying special attention to the preborn child and his family, the chronically and terminally ill and their families and caregivers, and the immigrant poor. (Constitutions, Part II, Chap one, Parr 1).   http://www.franciscansoflife.org/Constitutiones.pdf  

The Regular Brothers day has a fluid structure, not unlike that of a Benedictine day, but in a smaller family unit which is by its very nature very informal.  The vows are a means to an end.  We vow to strive, with the help of Grace, to live the virtues of obedience, poverty and chastity in the manner that St. Francis lived.

Our effort is sustained by the common recitation of the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours), Lectio Archbishop Thomas Wenski celebrates Mass for Nascent LifeDivina, spiritual reading, silent prayer in solitude, keeping a log of our faults (the Culpa) and keeping a journal of God’s activity in our lives.  Community worship, prayer, Eucharistic adoration, meals, recreation and apostolate are essential to the primitive Franciscan life. 

Discipline is an essential element of our life.  Every night, we proclaim our faults before our brothers and open our hearts and minds to hear and heed whatever correction they may offer in charity. 

Blessed is the servant who bears discipline, accusation, and blame from others as patiently as if they came from himself. Blessed is the servant who, when reproved, mildly submits, modestly obeys, humbly confesses, and willingly satisfies. Blessed is the servant who is not prompt to excuse himself and who humbly bears shame and reproof for sin when he is without fault, (Admonition 23)clock

We make proper use of the time that God has given us, with full knowledge that only God is the Lord of Time, not man.  Therefore, time is not man’s property to waste. 

St. Francis taught the first-generation Franciscans that silence is a necessary part of our way of life.  While we do not observe a strict silence as do Cistercians, we do observe exterior silence to achieve interior silence.

“Blessed is that servant who does not speak through hope of reward and who does not manifest everything and is not ‘hasty to speak,’ but who wisely foresees what he ought to say and answer,” (Admonition 22).wp_20150118_016

Finally, fasting and abstinence on Wednesdays and Fridays are essential to the way that we live and to the discipline in which we need strength to grow in virtue. 

“Living this Rule transforms us in, with, and for, the Love of God so that we, in humble ways, begin to transform our world by serving as the voice of the voiceless and offering penance for those who do homeless mothernot do penance. A penitential life resounds a constant invitation to prayer and self-mastery

 Prayer, fasting, abstinence, temperance, and a solid, family based Christian response to others drive all our daily activities in the home, fraternity and the world,” (Constitutions, Part II, Chap Six, Parr 49).

 As Jesus said to the first disciples, “Come and see.”  http://franciscansoflife.org/

An installment of the life of the Extern Franciscan of Life will soon be available.  Check in with us as often as possible so that you don’t miss it.

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Help us extend our apostolate.  Visit our  home page to donate through PayPal.  God Bless you!

 

Published in: on March 8, 2017 at 3:34 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Power of Words: Word Control


Nothing on earth does greater harm to the human community than the absence of “word control”.  Word control applies to the written word as well as the spoken word and thoughts.  Those who use social media to express their feelings and opinions can do just a much harm as those who speak recklessly.  We can’t examine every possible situation in life, but we can look at some of the more common misbehaviors and learn what the proper behavior should be.

So, you’re in a bad mood.

One can be in a bad mood for many reasons: fatigue, sleep deprivation, illness, worries, or the aftermath of a conflict.  Being in a bad mood for any of these situations or others is not out of the ordinary for any animal.  Even dogs and cats have good days and bad days.  Is it OK to snap at people, ignore others, command those whom we should not command or simply whine?  Would you allow your dog to snap at you, because he’s in a bad mood or your cat to dig his claws into you?

Alternative appropriate behavior:  The first appropriate behavior is silence. One must bite one’s tongue rather than use it as a sharp cutting edge.

The second appropriate behavior is to be reasonable.  Not everyone around us is our enemy.  Why push others away with our caustic remarks and behaviors?  Remember, everything gets old, even if it comes from people we love.  How long can a parent or a spouse tolerate such behavior?

Body language that sends very clear signals, “Beware of dog,” doesn’t delete our bad mood and certainly does nothing for others.  This can be an open window that allows divisive evil to enter the scene. Smiling at someone who has done no harm can be an act of heroic charity.

Spouses are neither our property nor our children.

There seems to be a mistaken notion, in some homes, that a spouse can be spoken to as if he or she were an indentured servant or a child.  A spouse who believes that he can rattle the other is setting a very poor example of social skills, justice, and charity.  No spouse has the right to command the other to do or not to do something.   Much less does any spouse have the right to lay a hand on the other.  It’s immoral.  It makes a bad situation worse.  Someone can get hurt.  In a home with children, it teaches children that the only way to win is to shout and strike.

Appropriate behavior when you disagree with your spouse:  The best thing to do is to say nothing, initially.  “Let me think about this,” is a perfectly respectful response.  Then you put some distance between you and the other person.  Avoid, if you can, leaving the house. Nothing is as offensive to a human being than to see a door closing between the person he loves and the self.  At this point, disagreement can feel like dismissiveness.  Taking the dog for a walk is OK; but let the other spouse know that you’re going to walk the dog.  You’re not running away from the disagreement.  Besides, disagreements don’t go away, because we leave.

Once you’re alone, you must be honest with yourself.  You must ask yourself what is that you find disagreeable and why?  Finding something disagreeable, because it’s not the way that I think things should be is not much of an argument.  On the other hand, if the way I think things should be is better for the good of the marriage and the household, then I need to communicate that.  It’s more effective than saying, “I don’t agree,”  “Nope!”

There is a big difference between commanding and bullying a spouse and requesting, suggesting, or simply disagreeing.

Gossiping with yourself

We do this more often than we care to count.  Spreading gossip, where one is telling the truth, exaggerating it or simply lying, is sinful.  It violates several moral laws, the first one being justice.  Everyone has a right to a good reputation.  Not everyone has the need to know about another person’s life.  If someone’s good reputation is damaged, let his actions speak for themselves.  They don’t need your help.

Back to gossiping with oneself. We engage in what I call loop talking.  Loop talking is when we repeat to ourselves every fault that we find in another person.  We repeat it so often that it becomes a loop.  We do it without pushing the play button.  The evil part here is that in time our souls becomes darker and darker with resentment.  When we cross a certain point, it’s very difficult to undo the program that we have installed in our minds.  We need help.

Alternative and appropriate behavior, rather than gossiping to yourself:  If there is someone whom you trust not to spread gossip, such as a confessor, spouse, superior or spiritual director, they may be a good place to “dump” your feelings.

If you find that you’re repeating the same negative thoughts about another person more than 24-hours, it’s time to have a talk with the other person, not a confrontation.  Sometimes, it’s difficult to talk to someone who does not listen or fails to understand.  An attempt to speak to such a person can lead to frustration, anger, hatred and even vindictiveness.  Best not to have that heart-to-heart talk, without a mediator, never alone.

Unless the other person is Satan himself, every human being has something positive that he or she brings to the table.  Very often, these persons have done something good for us.  Taking an inventory of the good that this person has contributed to the group or to my life can be a way of changing the recording.  I’m engaging in a more positive dialogue with myself.

I must always remember, none of us can change another person.  But all of us can do something to change what we think, what we say about others and how we deliver the message.

Everyone disagrees with authority figures at some point in one’s life.

This is not unusual.  When an authority figure asks for something against God’s law, one has no obligation to agree or obey that specific request or command.   People in positions of authority make mistakes.  One can even say that they often make foolish mistakes.

Appropriate response to authority:  We must make sure that the person has the right to command that which he or she commands.  Never forget that those who exercise authority legitimately, have the right to command what is within the scope of their role. This includes things that make no sense to us.  There is no rule that says that people in authority must always make sense.  We hope they do make sense.  But don’t expect that to be the case all the time.

Ask yourself, “Is this request a violation of God’s moral laws?”  You should also ask yourself, “Does this request undermine a command from a higher authority, a person higher in the hierarchy of authority?”

When this is the case, you have a moral duty to explain why you cannot comply.  But you do not have the right to use an aggressive tone of voice, vulgar words, raise your voice, or walk out before the person in authority has the final word.

Remember, your issue is with a very specific command that violates moral duty.  Your issue is not with the person giving the command and much less with the office that he or she occupies.  You must remain close to that person and that office.  Otherwise, you break communion with the person in authority.  What do you do now that you have severed your ties with the person at the top?

Bossy People

There are some people who have difficulty suggesting, requesting, asking for, and least of all persuading others.  They simply speak to others as if they were the authority and the other person the subordinate.

Appropriate behavior for bossy people:  The first suggestion is that if you can’t say it without commanding, being quiet may be a good idea.

Take careful note to whom it is that you’re speaking.  If the other person is the authority and you’re the subordinate, but you’re doing the commanding, you’re probably being rude and in violation of justice.

If you’re the person in authority, remember this.  The most effective person in a position of authority is not authoritarian.  Good leaders are frank, respectful, assertive, kind, and flexible.  They know how to listen and to how much they should listen.

The subordinate person would be wise to let the person in authority have the last word.  If you try to have the last word, you’re letting your pride do the driving.  Humility goes a lot further than arrogance.

Language must be used responsibly.  Language was given to man to express the wonders of life and to communicate Divine Truths.  The world was created when “God said”.  (Genesis).  “In the beginning was the Word”. (John)

Published in: on February 4, 2017 at 3:02 PM  Leave a Comment  

Often, removing Life-Support IS euthanasia.


The Franciscans of Life have as part of their foundational charism “paying special attention to…the chronically and terminally ill and their families and caregivers”.

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In particular, we are called to”bring Christ’s compassion to the sick, especially those whose lives are threatened by the culture of death. We believe that death with true dignity occurs when man dies at the time and in the manner determined by Providence, not by man. To accelerate death in the name of dignity is a distortion of the meaning of dignity. It takes away from man what God has given him, the capacity to share in redemptive love. […] To help families and healthcare providers choose life, the brothers will work for the creation of education programs on end of life issues that proclaim the moral law and teach that the sick and elderly are not a problem to be solved, but brothers and sisters to be loved.”

Yet, “Recognizing that we are simple men, we do not aspire to do great things, but to be faithful in the small things”, with the Church and in submission to the Local Ordinary and the Magisterium of the Holy Father. This of course implies that we collaborate closely with other groups. First and foremost, of course, with Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of  Miami.

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But we are also in fruitful exchange with other national and international groups that tackle the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

One of our friends, indeed one of the most outspoken and reputable groups against assisted suicide, is the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, headquartered in Canada. Their documentary “The Euthanasia Deception” is an eye-opener.

One of the traits of the Franciscan charism is the emphasis on “preaching and using words only when necessary” (a phrase attributed to St. Francis, but actually coming from the writings of Brother Thomas of Celano, his biographer). In general, Franciscans do not argue. Argument leads to division. Yet, instructing and correcting are some of the works of mercy that our Lord entrusted to his followers. Therefore the brothers’ formation includes an academic aspect, “without extinguishing the spirit of prayer”, as St. Francis wrote to St. Anthony of Padua. This formation implies that although the brothers may be men of silence, they are not rocks. And we know that sometimes it becomes necessary for rocks to cry out (cif. Luke 19:40).

Far be it for us to enter into a dispute with our esteemed friends of the EPC, or to argue with one of the world’s foremost critics of assisted suicide and utilitarian bioethics, Wesley Smith JD. Yet, this time we have to rise to the occasion for the sake of clarity and for the benefit of the voiceless.

Earlier this month, EPC featured an article from Dr. Smith titled “Removing life support is NOT euthanasia“. We must humbly observe that both the article and its title are incomplete and, unfortunately, problematic under several aspects.

First and foremost, the author zeroes in on a patient who wants to remove his ventilator and die for the sake of organ donation…thus falling into the fallacy of doing an evil to accomplish a good.

As the Catechism reminds us, “a good intention does not make intrinsically disordered behavior good. The end does not justify the means. A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself. It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

Beyond this point (which we will address again later), the fundamental premise of the article is flawed, namely that “we all have the right to refuse medical interventions even if it is likely to lead to death“. On the contrary, we know that there are certain medical interventions that we are morally obliged to seek and provide! To do otherwise would constitute euthanasia.

The author pointedly mentions that the patient’s wish to remove his ventilator and die “is his right”. We respectfully disagree: there is no such a”right to die”.

As one renowned pro-life apologist states on Catholic Answers, “a right is a moral claim, and we have no claim on death — death has a claim on us. Some people see the “right to die” as a parallel to the right to life, but this is based on faulty reasoning. The right to life is based on life being a gift we can neither destroy nor discard, whereas the “right to die” is based on the idea that life is a thing we possess and may discard when it no longer meets our satisfaction.The culture of death, which chants, “My body, my life, my choice” also chants—by the same logic—”My body, my death, my choice.”

By skipping over some critical issues regarding end-of-life care and life-support, the article fails to grasp the fact that removing life support is too often the most common (and most hidden!) form of euthanasia, even though it may happen in plain light and with the full support of “the law”, as in the well-known case of Terri Schiavo and the less-known (but much closer to us) case of the sister of our Founder and Superior (see here, and follow-up article here).

But let us go back to the issue at hand: the removal of life support.

Too often, life support measures such as feeding tube, water, and oxygen are defined in the medical paperwork as “extraordinary means to prolong life” (or, worse, “to prolong the natural dying process”). When their removal causes death, it is a form of euthanasia. One quite common in Florida.

Ask yourself the following question: can we ordinarily live without food and water?

Yet, patients (especially elderly patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices) are often asked if they want to “die a natural death” or “prolong the dying process through extraordinary means” (where food and water are defined as “extraordinary means to prolong life”!). The former (“die a natural death) appears to be the way to go, even for a well-formed Catholic…except that it actually gives the caretaker the ability to pull out your feeding tube and hydration. There is nothing natural in death by starvation and dehydration!

As St. John Paul II reminded us, Catholic bioethics and morality states that Artificial Nutrition and Hydration (ANH) “always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act”. This applies also and especially to persons in persistent vegetative state (PVS). The CDF clarified that the only three moral exceptions are “(1) when ANH would be impossible to provide; (2) when a patient may be unable to assimilate food and liquids; and (3) when ANH may be excessively burdensome for the patient or may cause significant physical discomfort”.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center reminds us that “We should provide food and water, even by [alternative] means, to all who are in need of them and can physiologically benefit from them. There are various means of providing nutrition and hydration, some of which are more invasive than others. The least invasive means of providing food and water should be used. The more burdensome to the patient a particular intervention, the less likely it is to be morally obligatory. In principle, the provision of nutrition and hydration by artificial means does not differ in its moral dimension from the provision of food and water by fork and cup. Both constitute ordinary means of preserving life. The fact that someone is in a state of unconsciousness and is not expected to recover [does not justify] depriving that person of food and water. If the provision of food and water proves to be useless (if they are not being assimilated by the body) or if it causes serious complications (aspiration pneumonia, infections, etc.), it can be stopped. ”

In short: “Whenever a recommendation is made not to provide food and water, one question to ask is “What will be the cause of death?” If the answer is dehydration and starvation, and artificial nutrition and hydration can be easily supplied and assimilated, then not supplying them is a form of euthanasia.”

The Catholic Medical Association also agrees that “discontinuing nutrition and hydration for a patient who is not imminently dying violates in its intention the distinction between ‘causing death’ and ‘allowing death.’”

Now let’s go back to the ventilator issue addressed in the article. A ventilator is a machine for artificial respiration.

Can we ordinarily live without oxygen?

Neuroscientist Fr. Pacholczyk, Ph.D. (National Catholic Bioethics Center) explains that “ordinarily, a ventilator offers a reasonable hope of benefit for the patient that can be obtained and used without excessive pain, expense, or other significant burden. Ordinary implies a moral obligation.”

However “if the patient’s condition is worsening with the nearly certain outcome that he will die in a few hours or days, then ventilation would be “extraordinary”, assuming all end-of-life matters have been taken care of. It may be decided that the use of a ventilator becomes extraordinary or disproportionate because it no longer achieves its perceived outcome. Withdrawing the ventilator would not be an act of euthanasia, because the patient would be dying due to the underlying condition. Yet, occasionally, ventilators may end up being part of a long-term solution.”

It is unclear from Dr. Smith’s article whether the patient who generously wishes to donate his organs is in a position to request in good conscience the removal of his ventilator. We are only told that the patient is “dying of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)”, which can have multiple interpretations. One of the question on the table (and our friends at the National Catholic Bioethics Center are much more qualified to answer it) is whether, upon removal of the ventilator, the patient would die as a result of the ALS (allowing death) or as a result of suffocation (causing death). Another question is whether the ventilator is excessively burdensome on the patient. In any case, the bottom line is the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary means of supporting life. Sorry, it is not as simple as “it’s his right” to remove the ventilator; nobody has an a priori right to die.

We could address DNR, dialysis, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, invasive surgery, heart-lung resuscitation, and antibiotics, and when they may be judged morally extraordinary or disproportionate. But this is beyond the scope of this article.

We do hope that we have clarified the main topic: more often than not, removing life support IS euthanasia, when we look carefully at the whole picture. Only then we realize that most of the time such life support is ordinary, beneficial…and morally binding.

For those who wish to learn more, the Franciscans of Life are always available to provide more information. You can touch base with us here. You may also want to learn more about Living Will and Advanced Medical Directives that can protect you and your loved ones from the dangers of “hidden euthanasia”. The page of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FLACCB) provides them in English and Spanish. Again, we are here to point you in the right direction, whether you are a patient, a family member, an inquirer, or a healthcare practitioner, physician, or nurse.

Vita ad vitam vocat – Life calls out to life.

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Please note: the contents of this article do not constitute medical or legal advice. When it comes to end-of-life decisions,  you should consult with your pro-life physician, spiritual director, confessor, chaplain, or another highly qualified authority such as the experts of the National Catholic Bioethics Center by calling their 24/7 hotline (215) 877-2660 (select Option 4 if urgent) or by submitting an online request.


 Br. Bernardo, FFV

Published in: on January 8, 2017 at 11:39 PM  Leave a Comment  

They came from the east, west, north and south


Happy New Year to all our relatives, friends and benefactors.

2017_01_bros_virginiaChristmas week was a very active one for us.  On December 23rd, Brother Jay and Brother Bernardo flew into Virginia to spend Christmas with Katherine Marie Therese, Brother Jay’s brand new granddaughter.  It was her first Christmas.  But there was much more to it.  We’ll get to that shortly.

December 24th family came in from Pensacola, FL, Pembroke Pines, FL, and Bloomington, IL.  The house was filled with joy, conversation, a lot of picture taking and a fantastic dinner.

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Daniel, Brother Jay’s son-in-law, cooked the main course, a roast pork shoulder.  No one knew Daniel was such a great cook.  Our waistlines, the next day, proved that Daniel cooks very well. Let’s put it this way, on the trip home, Brother jay could not move once he opened the tray-table in front of him on the airplane.

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Anonymous well-rounded brother

To be perfectly transparent, if one can be transparent with such girth, the airline industry is determined to influence relationships between people who don’t know each other.  The seats are so close to each other that no one with a waist over 40” can get to the window seat.  There is no way to squeeze in between the three seats in your row and those in front of you, unless you breath and hold it as you navigate in a tight space.  If you try to do this after eating several holiday meals, you can forget it.  You may as well pay a little extra for a seat in the bulkhead section, preferably a loveseat.  But let’s get back to Christmas Eve.

Unfortunately, we were unable to attend Midnight Mass, because the local parish did not have one this year.  The closest Midnight Mass was about thirty minutes away, which is a rough trip for a two-month old little girl, in the middle of a cold December night.  Since we couldn’t travel that far, we sat around and talked, teased each other and I believe that one or two of us may have dozed off for a few minutes, after such a large and delicious meal.

cartujoEarlier that day, Daniel’s mother and Brother Jay engaged in a conversation about a liquor that the Carthusian hermits have been making for hundreds of years.  The more they talked about it, the more enthusiastic they became about finding it.  Thank God for Google.  The first problem was identifying the name of the liquor.  Brother Jay is a “master googler”.  We found the name of the liquor, Chartreux, named after the Charterhouse where the hermits have lived for about 1,000 years.

The next step was to find out where we could purchase a bottle of it to go with the Christmas meal.  Once again, Google came to the rescue and the liquor was found and purchased.  Did I mention that it smells and tastes like cou2016_01_24_quest.jpggh medicine?  Originally, the Carthusian hermits made this liquor for medicinal purposes.  It’s no surprise that it smells like cough medicine without the artificial cherry flavor.   Let’s put it this way.  The stuff smells and tastes so awful that an ounce is about all you can drink in one evening.  I don’t mean one sitting.  I mean a full evening.  The positive here is that you’re literally indulging in Catholic spirits that have been around for about 800 years.  If you’re looking to make contact with your Catholic roots and traditions, here is a drink that you can use as an aperitif or as a cure for any disease imaginable.

Opening the gifts under the Christmas tree was a beautiful experience.  You have picture some 15 people in a small living room with room for a sofa, a chair and a Christmas tree.  There is no more floor space.  The little floor space that used to be available is now occupied 2016_01_24_collage.jpgby baby Katherine’s play mat, chair and some other contraptions.  If you’re not careful, you can trip on a piece of infant equipment and find yourself sitting in an infant carrier.

In any case the gifts were distributed and opened.  The beauty of the event was that there were no “over the top” gifts, no electronic gadgets (other than a book light for Brother Jay) and there were many books given as gifts.  Each gift was purchased with the intention of enriching the life of the next person, as the infant in the manger enriched the lives of the shepherds and peasants in the surrounding pastures.

These are true Christmas gifts.  It’s not a show of opulence; nor is it an attempt to impress the recipient with one’s FANTASTIC present.  It was a sharing of gifts that have meaning that we share and that enrich the life of the recipient, because the giver has been enriched by it first.  You’re not just sharing a thing, you passing on a positive experience in your life.

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On December 25th, everyone met up at the local parish for Christmas Day mass.   It was a great experience.  We were all filled with the same awe as the shepherds in Bethlehem the morning of Our Lord’s birth. That’s one of the wonderful things that happens when you have a family where everyone is a practicing Catholic and well catechized.  The mystery of the Eucharist, especially on a solemnity such as Christmas, moves you as an individual and as a family.  In this way, the entire family travels down the path to redemption following Mary, the star that leads to Incarnate Son of the Father.2016_25_Christmas_mass.jpg

Then came December 27th.  This was the day that Baby Katherine was to be baptized, her godparents being her paternal uncle and auntie.  This time, family members came not only from the cities that we mentioned above, but more family arrived.  Some drove all the way from Miami.  Others took a five-hour bus ride to be there.  There were cousins who live in New York and other relatives from Virginia, and there were the brothers, the Franciscans of Life.  There were also childhood friends who are now married and parents themselves.  They took the time off from work to participate in the baptism.

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Three generations of family from her father’s side and three from her mother’s side, plus long-term friends, were present to welcome Katherine into the Church and to formally name her, Katherine Marie Therese.   She is now a Catholic along with her family and friends.  For this we are grateful to God.  Passing down the faith to the next generation is always a memorable event when those present are more than spectators.  They are men and women of faith opening the door for a loved one to enter into a deeper communion with the family and with Christ, through the waters of Baptism.2016_27_Baptism.jpg

It was finally time to go home.  But Brother Bernardo couldn’t find his wristwatch.  He decided to take a look behind the sleeper sofa, not knowing that the sofa is alive.  The bed started to close and swallow him up.

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Thankfully, the sofa spit him out and the brothers returned to the Motherhouse, exhausted, elated, enriched and in one piece.  It’s going to be a great year.  The best part is that it’s not an election year.  NO MORE CAMPAIGNS!!!!!  YEY!!!!!

Dancing Friar

Christmas in a Galaxy Not So Far Away


Earlier, one of our younger brothers asked me if I had an article to publish for the blog, because he noticed that I wrote several articles this week.  I told him that none of my current articles were Christmas material, to which the young brother asked me for permission to read my articles and determine for himself if any were good Christmas material.  Just a few minutes ago, he approached me and said, “You’re right, none of these articles is Christmas material.”

I was very touched by his interest in publishing a Christmas article written by me, given the fact that he is a much better writer than I am and a lot smarter, he can probably write a better article.

Suddenly, the thought hit me, “There is a dimension of Christmas that is rarely mentioned.”  During the Christmas season, we write beautiful cards and letters wishing our loved ones a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, whatever the custom in your family may be.  We inject adrenaline into the household with shopping, travel plans or preparations to welcome friends and loved ones for the holidays.

When we go to Church, be it Midnight Mass or on Christmas Day, we hear beautiful sermons about the birth of Jesus, God’s love for humanity and how Christmas sets the stage for the Cross.  Let’s not forget that Jesus was a child born with a price on his head.  The Holy Family did not travel to Egypt to visit the great pyramids.  The Egyptians and the Canaanites were not the best of neighbors.

Mary and Joseph pick up and go to Egypt out of love for their son.  They wanted to protect him from Herod’s insecurities, which would have concluded in murdering the child along with the rest of the innocents at the time.

The more that I thought about these points and the fact that the young brother was so interested in publishing one of my articles, rather than using a piece of his own exemplary writing, spoke to me about the undercurrent of Christmas.  It is the undercurrent of Christmas that truly counts.  That undercurrent is love.

Just as an undercurrent draws in everything that gets close, so too does the love that is born at Christmas.   Brother wanted to publish one of my articles, not because I’m the best writer in the world.  We all know that’s not true.  He wanted to publish one of my articles because of love.  He loves his superior and his brother.  He rejoices when others learn from his superior’s writings and when they praise what they read.

In a simple request, Brother taught me that the Christmas spirit is truly the Love of God breaking into human history and radiating through every century, every culture and every human being to this day.  Christmas is not simply a happy holiday, it’s a celebration of generous love.  We keep Christmas alive not only when we give gifts, welcome guests or visit others.  Those are just starters.  Once the gifts are unwrapped and the greetings are over, what’s there besides food?

There is the love of God that has broken into our lives and is here to stay.  God’s love is not a feeling, but a living being whom the Father calls “Son.”  The Son of God wants to show all men that they are loved, not just give them a warm Christmas hug and a gift.  He wants to gaze into the eyes of our neighbor, through our eyes and say, “There is something special about you that I believe must be shared with the rest of the world.”

This faith in the giftedness of the brother is the highest expression of love on this side of Heaven.  It makes the birth of Christ closer to home, not as a story of long long ago in another galaxy far far away, as they say in Star Wars.  No, the birth of Christ is God saying to man, “You are special and I will prove it, by sharing in your humanity and lifting you up to my divinity.”

Brother’s request for an article was a subtle message that told me, “You’re special to me.”  This is the true message that the eternal Word of God says to mankind on Christmas morning.

Br. Jay

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