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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Llamado a la comunidad hispana


spain-653008_640Los Franciscanos por la Vida saludan a la comunidad hispana.  Durante estos días después de las elecciones, hemos visto muchas protestas en el noticiero y muchos comentarios de parte de personas hispanas y de otros grupos minoritarios.  Todo se debe al temor que aumente la discriminación contra los grupos minoritarios y otras personas indefensas.

Los hermanos comprendemos la preocupación que sienten muchas personas ya que el tenor de esta última campaña para la presidencia de EEUU fue un escándalo debido a palabras y gestos que ofendieron a muchas personas y otras palabras que le niegan la protección de la ley a un niño en el vientre, pero protege la redefinición de “matrimonio” para acomodar uniones de personas del mismo sexo.  También se propuso utilizar dinero del pueblo para subsidiar al movimiento más abortivo y cruel de nuestra época, Planned Parenthood.

Al final de cuentas, ganara quien ganara las elecciones, personas inocentes corren el riesgo do ser ignorados y oprimidos.  Otros corren el riesgo de que se le niegue el derecho a nacer y las parejas casadas se encuentran con el  oprobio que les dice que su matrimonio y el de dos personas del mismo sexo, son la misma cosa.

La pregunta es ¿Cómo deben responder los hispanos al resultado de las elecciones, ya que se ve, desde un avión, que ganara quien ganara, la moral y los inocentes serían atacados?

Creemos tener algunos consejos que pueden ayudar a proteger al pueblo y animar a gobierno que cumpla con la constitución.

  1. Protestar por las calles no va a cambiar el resultado de las elecciones. Al contrario, la ira solo sirve para fertilizar el odio.  Por lo tanto, muchas de las protestas que se ven en las calles refuerzan el desprecio pecaminoso que poseen ciertas personas sin conciencia moral.
  1. Es importante identificar, con mucha especificad, lo que el pueblo espera de la nueva administración. Pero no basta con hacer una lista de avideces. Es necesario vivir activamente como ciudadano del entorno promoviendo lo bueno y rechazando lo malo.
  1. Si solo mencionamos lo malo y nunca mencionamos lo bueno, se corre el riesgo que las autoridades ignoren lo bueno ya que la ciudadanía ha dado la impresión que aquellos ideales y leyes que responden a la dignidad del hombre según la voluntad de Dios, no son de gran importancia para los constituyentes de esta sociedad.   Hay que identificar lo bueno poner el oído a la tierra y la mirada hacia arriba para asegurarnos que se cumpla con el bien, sobre todo con la ley moral.
  1. Hacer comentarios candentes en el Internet, sobre todo en Facebook, no lleva a nada bueno. Quizás usted siente alivio porque se descarga, pero la persona que lee sus comentarios solo siente miedo, fastidio, y muchas veces ira que no sentía antes.  El ser humano es como la esponja.  La esponja absorbe agua, pero también recoge desperdicio y basura dentro de una olla o sobre una mesa.  De la misma manera, la mente humana absorbe lo negativo con mucha más facilidad que lo positivo.
  1. Por último, después de tener un listado concreto del bien que queremos que nuestro gobierno logre y los males que debe intentar de resolver, animemos a nuestros hermanos hispanos a propagar el mensaje hasta que todo ciudadano hispano norteamericano oiga y comprenda la misión que se le debe encargar al gobierno, no obstante el partido o el candidato. Lo bueno es bueno aquí y en el Japón.  Lo malos es malo en Miami y en el infierno.  Las demostraciones y el ruido por las calles, sin un temario concreto, son restos de la vida que muchos hispanos dejaron atrás cuando salieron de Latinoamérica donde las revoluciones y demostraciones sin especificad solo expulsan un gobierno malo y lo reemplazan con otro igual o peor.
  1. Por último, no olvidar que para Dios nada es imposible. El poder de la oración es inmensurable.  El Espíritu Santo puede convertir un corazón de piedra en un corazón de amor.  También puede dar fuerzas y resistencia para sobrevivir cualquier noche oscura.  Si no comprende lo que digo con la noche oscura, lea la vida de cualquier santo.  Le recomiendo Santa Rita, San Juan Bosco, San Felipe Neri, y Santa Gianna Molla.

Mantengamos la paz interior para promover la paz en nuestro entorno familiar y nacional.  Tengamos siempre presente que el pecado no puede contra Dios, es un estorbo y a veces un reto, pero nunca triunfa sobre la caridad hacia Dios y hacia el prójimo.  Colaboremos con Dios.  No somos un cuerpo sin cabeza.  Que cada gesto y cada palabra que exponemos en público, salga de la cabeza, que es Cristo.christ-kind-and-queen-mother

Published in: on November 21, 2016 at 12:14 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Quiet Amidst the Storm – Part 2


In our previous article on Hurricane Matthew, we closed discussing the attitude of anxiety that can contaminate others during such events, and we mentioned that our Holy Father St. Francis taught us instead to always go through the world filled with the Lord’s peace and joy.

In this article we wish to share a bit more alongside some practical “hints” on how to achieve and maintain inner peace during difficult times.

Transitus at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish

Transitus at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish

On his deathbed, afflicted by physical suffering and by the struggles of the newborn Franciscan family, St. Francis was able to compose his beautiful Canticle, of which we quote only some strophes:

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures…

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather …

 Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water…

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire…

Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation…

Blessed are those who endure in peace…

Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death…

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy willl…

This is the commitment that the brothers take upon themselves when they profess to follow the life of St. Francis, when they commit to become mirrors of perfection.

Such was the inspiration that our Father gave us, that he would inspire other great saints to imitate this model. St. Teresa of Avila would write: “Let nothing disturb you”. St. Ignatius of Loyola would speak of “holy indifference” as “not preferring health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to humiliation, long life to a short one[; instead] wish only for those conditions that will aid our pursuit of the goal for which we have been created”.(Spiritual Exercises) There are many other examples, but  ultimately, they all refer back to the ultimate source of Peace and Joy, the good Lord who once said: “Do not worry about your lives…do not worry about tomorrow!” (Mt 6:25,34).

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Furthermore, as Franciscans of Life, we bear the additional commitment of witnessing to the power and majesty of Life, eternal and all-powerful. “I have come that you may have life, and have it fully” (Jn 10:10). Church Father St. Irenaeus once commented:

“The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation already brings life to all living beings on the earth, how much more will the manifestation of the Father by the Word bring life to those who see God.”

In a practical way, we know that “nobody has seen the Father except the one He sent” and that “he who has seen the Son has seen the Father”, as our Lord reminds us of this and St Francis wishes us to imitate this. Therefore the Franciscan of Life, when seeking to proclaim the Gospel of Life, looks at the person of our Lord within his earthly life, particularly at times when He was surrounded by great agitation and nervousness. How did He act? What did He say?

Thus walking unhurriedly amidst a hurried crowd, being polite at a tired stored employee, smiling at an upset customer, helping a frustrated stranger who is looking for batteries, all of these take a different meaning as they proclaim the Light that shines in the darkness.

A friend of our community mentioned to us during a recent conversation that she felt “ashamed” as she, too, was guilty of having rushed through several stores and having been glued before the TV screen following the alert updates. We do not wish you to misunderstand us… as we said, we too went through the necessary preparations, as prudence is a great virtue. There are, however, certain elements that everyone – even those who have not been through years of formation in Franciscan spirituality – can apply in their daily life to find more of that interior silence that helps us maintain the quiet through the storm.

For example, we avoid following the secular news – including weather updates. The Superior, a man who has mastered interior silence, is tasked with following the development of the event – whatever the event may be – and sharing what he considers necessary for the brothers to know.

To build on a metaphor by Thomas Merton, it seems that the media in this day and age has sadly become a sort of “digital acupuncture” designed to stimulate every possible nerve in the human body, to keep us “on the edge”. “Fortunately”, though, our first-world stores come to the rescue with every sort of product that will reinforce our sense of safety by reinforcing our sense of “having” – even when we purchase those items on credit cards and therefore we are increasing our degree of “not having” (that is, if we assume for the sake of the argument that money is something one can “have”, that is, if we assume that money “is” something).

To make things worse, the media – even those with the best intentions – often miss the elephants in the room. Mother Teresa, recently canonized to the great joy of us all and of so many around the world, reminds us that we need not look far in order to find our neighbor in need. Even before we look at Haiti and the Caribbean, we ought to ask ourselves what we can do to help the homeless men and women on the streets of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and many other cities of Miami-Dade and Broward who may not even know that there is a deadly hurricane coming their way. Some of them may not have the means to reach a shelter, others may lack an ID that will allow them access into a shelter. Could we find it in our heart to welcome them into our homes for the length of the emergency?

To turn off the “excitement” of the media and to turn from “self” towards the “other” – here are two very useful ways to maintain inner silence, peace, and joy.

The last suggestion I would like to make comes from the spiritual director of St. Teresa of the Andes, a young Carmelite mystic to whom the Lord revealed that she would die within the month. Upon mentioning this to her spiritual director and asking how to go about the remainder of the month, she was told: “Live as usual, as if you were not going to die“. For, in the words of St. Francis, “blessed are those whom the Lord will find doing His holy will“. Then even dreadful, ugly, scary Death becomes no longer our enemy, but our sister.

Francis_blessing

Prophets and Prophecies


St. Francis of Assisi died on the evening of October 3, 1226; that is, 790 years ago.  Nonetheless, he remains very much alive in the Church and the world today.

This little man from a small town in the Umbrian region of Italy achieved what Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, Bonaparte, and George Washington never achieved.  On the day of his death, he left behind a family of men and women, today known as Franciscans.  On that memorable evening of October 3rd 1226, there were more than 5,000 friars, 200 cloistered nuns, and more than 1,000 secular men and women who formed the family of St. Francis or the Franciscan Family.

WP_20140825_081Today, we are about one million around the world.  No one really knows how many groups of Franciscans there are in the world.  The family grew so much that it was impossible to keep it under one superior general and to govern everyone with the same expectations.  Diversity in cultures, languages, political conditions and even geography made it necessary to breakdown into smaller communities that could be more easily governed and who were more cohesive.

This does not mean that the mind and rule of St. Francis were abandoned in order to accommodate to time and place.  It means that the mind, rule and heart of Francis emulated the mind, commandments and heart of Jesus, making room for men and women from every part of the world.  So, his little family of 11 Italian brothers from Umbria grew into an international family that has survived 800 years of changes,st maximilian kolbepolitical persecutions, Church politics, poverty, wars, disease, misunderstanding, rejection, martyrdom, even heresy.

This should make us think about the Church.  Christ promised Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against him.  He promised to be with us until the end of time, through thick and thin.  Yet, many catastrophic minds believe that the Church is falling apart, the great tribulation is coming and the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

In every age God sends us prophets and prophecies foreshadowing his redemptive work for mankind. The Franciscan family has survived and prospered, despite many setbacks.  By the standards of some of these extremists’ minds, Franciscans contemplationshould have been wiped out during the Protestant Reformation, maybe the Reign of Terror, Nazism, Communism, or the Americanist Heresy.  The fact is that the Franciscan family is alive and growing.

Like every family, it grows old and tired in some places and dies out, only to sprout with vigorous new shoots in other cities and countries.  The gates of hell have never prevailed against the Franciscan family.

Maybe, October 4th, as we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Holy Father Saint Francis, we would do well to meditate on prophecy.  St. Francis and his WP_20140819_035descendants are not just another group in the Church.  We are a prophetic statement for believers and unbelievers alike.  We foreshadow the triumph of Christ the King over all the odds and a new springtime for the Church.

The Franciscans of Life wish all of our friends, a Blessed Feast of St. Francis.

caravaggio_st_francis_in_ecstasy

Can you help us find help?


When I was a kid my mother would always tell me to “cut to the chase.”  So, I will.  We need ongoing financial backing from friends and friends of friends.

The Franciscans of Life have a steady income of $2,610.00 a month.  We live in a very modest home where four brothers share one bedroom that we divided into individual cells using curtains as you would see in a hospital room.

Having said this, here is a chart our monthly expenses.

Rent $700.00
Electricity $185.00
Telephone $220.00
Internet $100.00
Gas $125.00
Metro $40.00
Medications $250.00
Auto Insurance $320.00
Groceries $200.00
Charity $1,300.00
Total $2,840.00

The Immaculate has always come through for us by way of our friends.  We hope that she will continue to do so.  The brothers need to continue their education to better serve the voiceless.  Our brothers participate in the apostolate while they attend school full-time.

We proclaim the Gospel of Life at no cost to the Archdiocese, parishes, schools or individuals.  All expenses are assumed by the community, including travel.

We serve in the following apostolates:

Respect Life Archdiocese of Miami – our brothers run Project Joseph, a mentoring, counseling and education program for fathers in crisis pregnancies.

Hospital ministry to the sick and dying – our brothers take Holy Communion to the sick, provide spiritual support for the patient and the family.  Often, the brother is asked to clarify a question of morality on an end of life issue.  If the brother can answer, he does so.  If he cannot, he finds a deacon or priest who can help; but the patient and family are never abandoned.  The brothers also provide a limited amount of education on the Gospel of Life to healthcare personnel, when they approach us.

Religious educationthere are not many consecrated men teaching the Gospel of Life in our religious education classes.  Franciscans of Life are one example of the few who are.  We teach not through hate speech or morbid graphics.  On the contrary, we guide our students through the Old and New Testament where they discover the dogmas of the Catholic faith, the sacraments, the liturgy, and the moral lessons contained in Sacred Scripture.  Thus the students are exposed to the Gospel of Life.  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you,”  (Jeremiah 1:5)      

Immigrant poor – our brothers provide guidance to any immigrant who asks for it.  Sometimes an immigrant will email us asking for information on inexpensive housing, free medical care, leads on employment.  One of our brothers is charged with keeping a database on our website with the most current services available not only to the immigrant poor, but to all who are poor.

In addition, our brothers supplement rent for disabled immigrants who don’t have access to government assistance.  They also provide small material support such as bus tickets so that individuals can go to a job interview or to see a doctor.  They may buy lunch for someone who’s hungry.

One day, it was raining very heavily.  One of our brothers spotted a homeless person who was barefooted.  Brother stopped the car, took off his sandals and gave them to the barefooted man.  Obviously, brother arrived barefoot at the motherhouse and the sandals had to be replaced.  They were replaced, with an old pair of patched sandals that had been cast aside.  Brother is still putting mileage on them.

Right now we have two brothers in school.  Our Adopt a Brother program has raised about $2500.00 of the needed $5000.00.  Fortunately, tuition is paid in increments, not in one lump sum.  But it still has to be paid.

Every regular brother must complete a degree in Spiritual Theology, which prepares him to provide spiritual care, guidance, support, and encouragement to those who are far from Christ.  In addition, the brother must also complete a secular degree in education, technology, nursing, counseling, social work, or some other specialized area.  The brother who is not academically oriented must complete a technical training program such as automotive maintenance, electricity, carpentry, cooking, pluming, tailoring, or any other technical area that will support the apostolate and our service to the voiceless.

Please help us find help.

 a one-time gift or a monthly gift using PayPal, maybe a check made out to Franciscans of Life sent to the address below.

If the donation is for the Adopt a Brother program, please indicate this on the memo line.  We keep those donations in a separate column in our ledger.

Thank you for helping us find ongoing support.

You can also pray that we find benefactors.  Prayers count too.

May the Immaculate drape you in her mantle, protect you from all evil and lead you to her Son, Jesus Christ.

Franciscans of Life

9461 Palm Circle South

Pembroke Pines, FL 33025

 

Increasing in more ways than one


Our little family seems to be going into a growth spurt.  The first shot . . .

JEANNIE 31 WEEKS PREGNANTBrother Jay’s granddaughter is inside.  NO . . . not in the box.  🙂

IVERSON HOLMBERG ASPIRANTSNext . . . meet the new aspirants.

Right:  Thomas Holmberg

Left:  Andrew Phillip Iverson

Tom has entered as an aspirant for the Extern Brothers.  He is a husband, a dad and a grandfather.  Welcome to our family, Tom.  Our prayers are always with you.

Andrew is an aspirant for our Regular Brothers.  He will live in community, make private profession of obedience, poverty, chastity and fidelity to the Gospel of Life.  We’re happy to have you among us, Andrew.

Observe the difference in the aspirants’ uniform.  The Extern Aspirant wears a white Habanera shirt with a TAU pin on his left lapel, while the Regular aspirant wears a white button-down shirt (short or long sleeve) with a TAU pin on his left lapel.

The aspirant phase is an optional step before a man requests to be admittedIVERSON INTERROGATIONd as a postulant.  The usual duration is no more than three months.  The aspirant and the formation team discern when it’s time to take the next step.

Each candidate is publicly interrogated by the superior.  He must swear that he understands what he’s doing and that he’s doing so freely.

ASPIRANCY ALTAR

On the altar are the TAU pins, symbol of the Franciscan family, the breviary for the Regular aspirant and the register that each aspirant and the superior must sign, witnessed by at least one brother.

Tom kneelsHOLMBER SIGNING in front of the superior to sign the register of admission.

The  new aspirant is received in a private ceremony that takes place during Vespers.  Only Franciscans of Life attend this ceremony.  Profession of vows takes place with a few invited guests, such as relatives friends and clergy.

Because the Regular Brothers are bound to pray the entire Divine Office, the Regular aspirant is given a breviary.  During this phase he becomes familiar with the Divine Office and begins to pray Lauds and Vespers.  Eventually he will pray Matins Lauds, Sext, Vespers and Compline.RECEPTION OF BREVIARY 1

The Regular aspirant places his hands on the breviary before receiving it from the superior who says to him, “Believe what you pray and pray as you believe.”

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Brother Bernardo D’Carmine was the sponsor and witness for both aspirants.

We must give special thanks to the Latin Mass Community of Miami for Brother Bernardo and Aspirant Andrew Phillip.  The community cultivated both vocations.  This is an example of the “oneness” of our Church.

The Franciscans of Life do not bear the label, “Traditionalist” nor are we part of the Ecclesia Dei Community, those institutes committed to the Extraordinary Form of the mass and to the Divine Office as it was prayed in 1962.  Nonetheless, Franciscans of Life is traditional in a very different sense.

Our Constitution mandates that we recover and imitate the life of the first generation Franciscans.

If you aspire to go forward, you must first look back.

 

 

Published in: on August 25, 2016 at 10:06 AM  Leave a Comment