This Advent, Let Us #ShareJourney


The Franciscans of Life #sharejourney with other Christian brothers and sisters praying for migrant and refugee families throughout the world.

This is part of a global campaign in support of immigrants and refugees launched by the Holy Father in September 2017 and embraced by the Archdiocese of Miami. In the words of H.E. Archbishop Thomas Wenski:

“The ‘Share the Journey’ campaign — which began with Pope Francis showing support and solidarity to the migrant with a simple gesture — will last till September 2019 and aims to shape conversations and actions to answer the Gospel call to love one’s neighbor: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.'”

On the afternoon of “gaudete Sunday”, December 17, the Franciscans of Life attended a beautiful prayer service, in English and Spanish, organized by the Teresian Association of Miami, PaxChristi Miami, and the Archdiocese of Miami Office of the Mission. Rooted on the Taize’ spirituality, the service included chants, readings from Sacred Scripture, moments of silence and meditation, and prayers of intercession.

The hosts were very gracious to the attendees, offering them a peaceful prayer environment as well as snacks and beverages (the event lasted from 2 PM to 5 PM and was followed by light refreshment) and the good Lord gave us a wonderful afternoon, neither too warm nor too cold, for those who wished to step into the garden for their prayers and meditations.

We learned of the event through the social media, specifically a post on the Facebook page of the Archdiocese. In this, we are grateful to St. Maximilian Kolbe, our patron saint, who inspires our brothers to be somewhat “non-traditional” in making use of Facebook and every possible means of technology to spread the Gospel and bring all closer to Christ and the Church – of course, under the discipline of our Constitutions and the direction of our Superior.

What can otherwise be a means of dissipation becomes instead a powerful instrument in the hands of the Immaculate. And Our Lady was central in today’s prayer service: a beautiful icon of the “Theotokos” was prominently displayed, and we had occasion to reflect on her very own journey in the Holy Family, first to Bethlehem and then as far as the land of Egypt, as foreigners.

One of the less visible apostolates of our emerging community is our service to the immigrant who is poor and hopeless. This is part of our foundational charism. Most of the work in this area is carried out – again – through technology:

– we have a webpage (http://www.franciscansoflife.org/inmigracion.html) listing resources in Miami-Dade and Broward, which receives hundreds of visits every month.

– we are also contacted via email or contact form by migrants who seek assistance, even in other areas of the U.S. We are always glad to walk with them and point them in what we hope is the right direction.

We also support the immigrant and refugee in other ways:

– first and foremost by prayer and penance;

– second, by attempting to make life easier for them in their country of origin, for instance by supporting relief efforts after natural disasters, offering to collect goods and relay them to Churches or shipping centers from which they will be sent directly to the needy in the affected foreign country;

– third, by fostering tolerance and mutual understanding;

– fourth, by setting aside resources and raising awareness in order to open a “New Skills for Adults Room” for the immigrant poor; find out more about this project and how to help us bring it to life by contacting us via email, form, or on social media – and by reading here and here.

– Fifth, but not last, by supporting many immigrant and refugee fathers with parenting education and material assistance through Project Joseph, our joint venture with Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami – for in the end, the most vulnerable member of every population is always the preborn child.

– used with permission –

Here is an excerpt from our Constitutions that summarizes our call to serve the immigrant poor:

“The brothers shall take an active part in any activity sanctioned by the Church for the protection of life.

We offer to serve the immigrant poor, regardless of his or her status.

While we encourage men and women of conscience to find a moral answers to the urgent questions surrounding immigration, our mission goes beyond the temporal and political.

When the crowd realized that they could not get the paralytic to Jesus using ordinary means, they cut an opening into the roof and lowered him into the presence of Christ, an unconventional way of entering a house. However, Jesus did not ask him how he got there or why they had violated the roof. Instead, Jesus ministered to his spiritual and physical needs. He forgave his sins and healed his disability. Like Jesus, we must render unto Caesar what is his and unto God what is God’s.

Like St. Francis, we want to be disciples by imitating the Master. The Master never turned people away. Instead, he turned their lives around.

We pray and hope to bring life into the existence of the immigrant poor who feels that he is a stranger, welcoming and serving him as we would any other member of our family. Jesus comes to us disguised as an immigrant in search of a new life. “I was a stranger and you invited me in,” (Mt. 25:35).

In keeping with the simplicity and universal spirit of fraternity of our Holy Father St. Francis, the brothers are to avoid all forms of partisan politics. They are bound to observe the rules of responsible citizenship as ordained by the Church and the Conference of Bishops, giving witness to the fact that faith enlightens citizenship.

Especially in situations of political conflict, national and international, the brothers shall bear witness to the fact that all life is sacred. They shall engage in works that promote peace among peoples of all nations and shall promote respect and love for every man. Let them take example from St. Maximilian Kolbe, who at the appointed hour gave his life for a man whom he did not know and of a different faith.”

This Sunday and this whole week, when the liturgy of the Church calls us to rejoice for the coming of the Savior, let us remember that, in awaiting that awesome, ultimate Parousia in which Christ will come to us “in a cloud with power and great glory…as lightning that flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other” (Lk 21, 17),  we must also strive to find him daily in our brothers and sisters, for truly He said:

“I am with you always, until the end of the age”

– Mt 28

Published in: on December 17, 2017 at 10:16 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Gospel of Life is About God’s Work Among Us


 

Jesus and young manSuperior’s Reflection on  A Brother’s Witness   

We assigned Brother to Broward, because the student population is composed of individuals whose lives have been very challenging.  They need more than academic education.  They need to see someone live the Good News (Gospel) that Life is worth every effort that we make each morning when we get out of bed.

Brother Bernardo is a student brother who holds advanced degrees in science and engineering.  He is a member of the Order of Engineers, a brotherhood of engineers committed to serving the community, instead of working for six-figure salaries, which monitors best practices and ethical practices in every field of engineering.  Brother is also working on two Licentiates, one Spiritual Theology and another Adult Education.  He is a few credits short of finishing the Education Licentiate.  For those who may not know, Brother is only 28 years old, born in Havana, to a Cuban mother and an Italian father.  He left Cuba when he was a preschooler and grew up in the Province of Rome with his parents and other Italian relatives.  Brother Bernardo speaks five languages fluently.  He published two scholarly works before his 18th birthday.

In 2006, at the age of 17, he published a book in Spanish, “Desde Numeros a La Computadora” (From numbers to computers) a research project in cognitive relationship between mathematical intelligence and technology.  In 2007, at the age of 18, he published an anthropology book in Italian, “Arkeopolis Numero 0.”  In 2008, at the age of 19, he published his third book, “A Student’s Notes About Programming, in English.”  He shares his notes in programming, with a focus on security and safety.  Finally, in 2016, he wrote the draft for a new book by Brother Jay, “A Franciscan Approach to the Gospel of Life”, a collection of 1,000+ articles and essays written and published by Brother Jay in the United States, Europe, and South America.  It is written in Spanish and English.  Brothers Jay and Bernardo hope to complete this important work by the end of 2018.  If time allows, a Creole translation may follow.

Franciscans of Life are neither deacons nor priests.  We are an emerging community of simple men who vow to live according to the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi.  Our highest goal is to follow the guidance that the Immaculate gave the waiters at the Wedding at Cana, to do whatever he tells us.  Obedience is a way of life for us.  We vow poverty and own nothing as individuals.  As a community, we own only what is needed for healthy living and ministry.  The Regular brothers vow to live in celibate chastity until death and to Proclaim the Gospel of Life by means of words, education and service to those whom the world often forgets.  We live our entire lives in small community houses among the working class, as did the early Franciscans who lived and worked in the fields alongside the peasants of the time.

We do not run high schools or colleges.  Nor do we run hospitals.  Our involvement in parish ministry is limited to religious education of children and adults.   We do not accept administrative posts in parishes and other ecclesiastical organizations.  Our vocation is to be one of the least always trying to do the most that we can for the salvation of souls.

Currently, there are seven brothers.  Two are working in Project Joseph with Respect Life Miami, a formation program for expectant fathers.  The superior of the community is also the Archdiocesan Director of Project Joseph.  Another of our brothers is a Registered Nurse who has served in hospice, caring for patients and providing spiritual support to their relatives and friends.  He has also spent more than five-years providing support services to a young man with severe neurological disabilities, including spending the night with him in the hospital so that his mother could get a few hours of sleep.

My conclusion?  We don’t need to be a big religious order or run large parishes, schools, colleges or hospitals to do preach the Gospel of Life that became incarnate in the womb of the Immaculate.

 

 

 

Consider signing this…


When I was in 7th grade, in Italy, one of the students in my classroom had Down’s Syndrome.

This was the first time I encountered a child with special needs. We had a very interesting relationship. He was very friendly and, in many ways, he had that simplicity and innocence that many of us had already lost by then, due to the corrupting influence of the world and a certain family detachment from the Catholic life.

We had many good times and also a few incidents. Some students enjoyed teasing him, due to his simplicity and even, at times, naivete. Also there were certain things that upset him, such as seeing someone picking up trash from the trash can. It was common for some of his peers, every so often, to tease him in more or less innocent ways. Sometimes he took it for a game and laughed, other times however he would get upset.

Yes, I was among those who loved teasing him. Perhaps because it “broke the ice” and in a sense we felt he was really “one of us”. We all teased each other in many different ways, we even got annoyed at each other, so we did not feel (or did not have the maturity to notice) that some of those things would be upsetting or hurtful to our new friend. And we did not always keep in mind that he was physically very strong and could lose his temper if his patience ran out. On one occasion, he “slapped” me on the head while we were watching a movie in the classroom. I do not remember what I may have done earlier to him to upset him, but I am sure I deserved it. It was not a bully’s hit (I was accustomed to those) but the tap of an elder brother correcting a misbehaving youngster.

When his classroom assistant scolded him, he cried. I did not know he could cry. From that day on, perhaps we did not stop teasing him, but we were much more attentive and our relationship improved. We had reached a sort of understanding. We knew each other better. He learned that there are physical boundaries, and we learned that there are emotional boundaries.

Outside of the classroom, I remember once meeting his parents and younger sister. She also had Down’s Syndrome, and she looked very joyful. He was a bit hesitant, perhaps because he was not used to encounter his classmates outside of the usual, safe classroom environment, but we “warmed up” to each other while my parents greeted his. My dad was then a psychologist that worked at a center for children with Down’s Syndrome, so it is possible he knew him and his parents already. I also remember once, during the winter, walking down the coast with my mom, and meeting him and his mom. I was in High School by then. I waved to him, and he looked at me puzzled but then he mentioned my last name. I was happy he had not forgotten me. I hope he remembers the good times more than my distasteful practical jokes.

This was over 16 years ago, but I still remember him as if it was yesterday. In fact, he may be one of the people about whom I have thought the most during the years. I always loved him like a friend, even like a brother. There was something about him, that I missed when I moved on. I never had the joy of sharing the classroom with another child with special needs.

Without knowing anything about Down’s Syndrome, I immediately knew that he was as human as all of us – in fact, inside he was better than many of us. He was, in many ways, protected from the corruption of the world. I am not trying to canonize him, as I know very little about his daily life. I am speaking from the experience of the three years that I shared a classroom daily with him.

I also remember that, as part of my dad’s work, his center and a local newspaper ran a campaign against infanticide. In Italy, the abandonment of a newborn on the streets or in a trash can was much more common than abortion. We had these flyers that people could sign. Our class participated in signing the flyers and in distributing them to other students and their parents when school was over. We all felt it was so sad that parents would abandon their newborn to die, especially if they felt compelled to do so by poverty or by the terror of not knowing how to raise a child, particularly if he had a disability. We all felt that others needed to step up and help those parents so that those children would live. Nobody tried to justify infanticide. Nobody thought of the parents as murderers, because they felt they must have been in a very terrible state of mind to do something so tragic and haunting as forsaking their newborn.

Back then, I did not know what abortion was. I would learn about it many years later. At first, like the non-practicing lukewarm Catholic I was, I thought it was not a big deal. After all, I knew human development in the womb since elementary school (I was an early learner) and I knew that it was not like killing a child, since at its earliest stages it didn’t quite look like one. Then, as I experienced a “conversion” or “call” from the Lord and drew closer to the Church, I became more acquainted with abortion and saw actual images of human development, which complemented my conceptual knowledge and filled me with awe and horror: awe at the beauty of the preborn child, and horror at the thought that I used to think it was “no big deal” to violently and forcefully end the life of that human being who like all human beings was to some degree dependent on others and to some degree developing his own independence. And I did not yet know, not until I entered postulancy in my community, about the most tragic forms of abortion during the second and third trimester. That is something traumatizing to a degree, and I would recommend that people ease in and learn these things by degrees. This is also why I, along with my brothers, firmly oppose the use of graphic signs that may “show the truth of abortion” but in fact are, prima facie, traumatizing and revolting to our innermost humanity. But this is an argument for another article.

Earlier this year, I had the blessing, through the generosity of a benefactor, of attending the annual Statewide Respect Life Conference in Weston (FL) and see the Marian Center Bell Choir perform. This is a choir of children and young adults with Down’s Syndrome. I also learned more than I had ever known about the Servant of God Dr. Jerome Lejeune, the discoverer of the genetic cause of Down’s Syndrome, and had the joy of meeting his widow and Mr. David Lejeune, president of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation.

I could not hold my tears when I heard how those who vowed to pursue knowledge, or scientia as the Romans called it, had used Dr. Lejeune’s discovery not to help find a way to make life easier for, or at least ease the sufferings, of our brothers and sisters with Down’s Syndrome (some of whom have additional, concomitant needs) but rather as a way to “detect the problem and terminate the pregnancy” – in other words, as a way to kill the child before he had a chance to complete his development in utero and continue his development in the world, like the rest of us. I came to love Dr. Lejeune, the man who embraced these children with the embrace of Christ who “came that we may have life, and have it to the fullness”.

I have always believed, as part of our way of life and as part of our Catholic faith, that the life issues and that the proclamation of the Gospel of life extend far beyond the one tragic issue of abortion, and that unless the pro-life movement raises the bar above and beyond that one issue, and learns to embrace both men and women in its ministry, it will remain in the minds of the vast majority a group of narrow-minded dogmatic people that don’t understand the needs of women and simply try to force their religious beliefs on others. That has never diminished the gravity of abortion in my mind and heart. I have simply learned that there is a bigger picture and a different way to approach it. And this, too, is for another article.

Why then am I sharing all of this with you? Well, a few days ago we received an email from our friends at the Jerome Lejeune Foundation, who are working hard to establish a beautiful structure in Virginia dedicated to providing healthcare to children with Down’s Syndrome. Mr. David Lejeune was bringing to our attention something that has been stated at such a high level that the word “indignation” does not suffice to describe what we experienced.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, already notorious for embarrassing itself through its membership policy and flawed recommendations, is working on an official interpretation of the “right to life”. One of its members, Dr. Yadh Ben Achour, stated something outrageous, despite his great education and experience and despite the fact that his grandfather was considered one of the great Islamic scholars of the 20th century (who, adhering to the most enlightened interpretation, taught that prevention of abortion is equivalent to the protection of human souls – see “Ibn Ashur: Treatise on Maqasid Al-Shariah”, p.122, 2006 ISBN 9781565644229).

Dr. Ben Achour stated:

“If you tell a woman ‘Your child has Dow…what is it called? Down syndrome, dawn syndrome – if you tell her that, or that he may have a handicap forever, for the rest of his life, you should make this woman… [pause…] it should be possible for her to resort to abortion to avoid the handicap as a preventive measure. […] We must do everything we can to avoid disabilities“.

The fact that this is not a mere individual opinion, but part of a discussion of an international committee whose very purpose is to protect the rights of all humans, has led the Jerome Lejeune Foundation to demand an apology and reversal of statements, on behalf of the countless voiceless preborn children who die because of similar mindsets and will most certainly die if such a misguided, unfounded idea becomes part of the international definition of the “right to life”.

The Franciscans of Life are joining the JLF in inviting you to sign this request. You can do so easily by following this link: http://opusf.co/2A67Lev

If my story has taught me anything, it is that my life would have been very different if I had not met my friend with Donw’s Syndrome. Perhaps I would not be were I am, writing this article. At this time we are not asking you to consider dedicating your life to this cause, or to offer us financial support. We are only asking you to add your name to the list of those who believe that abortion is not the answer, and that those of us who have a disability – whether it is Down’s Syndrome or something else – are still human beings with an inherent right to life from the very first moment of conception until the day of our natural death.

Thank you for reading this article and pondering on these matters. Again, here is the link: http://opusf.co/2A67Lev

Br. Bernardo, FFV

Love does not take off for the holidays. Do you?


Queen of the Poor, help us help others.

christ-kind-and-queen-mother The Franciscans of Life have been helping poor families pay their rent.   These families have proven cases of elderly, disabled and chronically ill loved ones, and what assistance they get from the State does not cover utilities, rent, transportation, and some medications and healthcare services.  It’s a very small amount.

Even when one of the spouses works outside the home, the income falls short.  Often, the working spouse must take leave without pay to accompany the other spouse to a doctor’s appointment or to keep him or her company when the person is so ill that he can’t get out of bed.  This reduces the income for that month.

We need to reach our subsidy goal of $1,300.00 by November 28th

We’re short $400.00.

We assist these families and others who need food or have other material needs with money that we raise through teaching, our retirement pensions, and gifts from benefactors. We pay directly to the agent who provides the service or supplies that portion of the bill that they still owe.

Unfortunately, this month we had to pay $414.00 for home insurance.  It put a dent in our budget.

Through the intercession of Our Lady, Mother of the Poor, we pray that some of you will be able to help us this month.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas

advent wreath

For many people, Thanksgiving kicks off the “Christmas Season”.  Trees and lights go up.  People flood amazon.com with shopping lists.  Others plan family gatherings, trips and worry about what to give Uncle What’s His Name.

First, the Christmas Season DOES NOT begin on Black Friday.  The Christmas Season runs from December 25 to the Baptism of the Lord in January.

Between Thanks giving and Christmas, there are four weeks of preparation for the coming of the Messiah, known as Advent.  This year, November has an extra Sunday.  The first Sunday of Advent falls on the first Sunday of December.

As we know, Christ became incarnate once in the womb of the Virgin Mary, was born and was crucified for our redemption.  On the third day he walked out of the tomb.  Before he ascended to heaven, he promised that he would return for the final judgment.

During Advent, we remember that God became incarnate and shared our human condition.  We must always look back to move forward.  Therefore, we also anticipate and prepare for his return to judge humanity and to save those who have been faithful to him.  Those who have not be been faithful to Christ have already sentenced themselves to the fires of hell.

Advent is a period in the liturgical calendar that calls us to fidelity to Christ and his Church.  Those who are faithful, should help strengthen the faith of their family and friends.  The Church invites those who are less than faithful to God and Church, to return to fidelity, as did the Prodigal Son.  The return does not stop on December 25th.  The weeks of Advent are a time to remember that Christ became human and dwelt among us AND he will return to judge who are justified by faith, hope and charity.  Those who are not under the umbrella of faith, hope and charity need to get going, NOW.  We do not know the day nor the hour, just as Israel did not know the day nor the hour of the incarnation of the Messiah.

If you have no impediment go to confession, mass and Holy Communion

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

thanksgivingAs the Rev. Jeff McCormick reminded us las week, Catholics celebrate Thanksgiving at daily mass.  The mass is both a sacrifice of reparation and an offering in gratitude for God’s love and mercy.

If you have time, try to get to mass on Thanksgiving Day.  IT IS NOT A HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION.

Keep your Thanksgiving celebration simple.  One can eat delicious food that day without a boatload of people whom you hardly see during he year.  It’s difficult to reflect on the many blessings we have when there is so much preparation, noise, distraction and cleanup.  There is even less time to sit with spouses, parents and children just to enjoy each other’s company.

Put down the gadgets for an hour or two. They won’t go away.  Any important caller will leave a message or call back.  We rarely receive requests for immediate rescue via text.  What other legitimate reason is there to have a cell phone or an iPad in hand 24 hours a day.  One or two hours won’t kill anyone.

Personally, I will never forget the very last Thanksgiving that my children, wife and I sat at the table together.  We just talked and laughed.  Today, I remember that evening every Thanksgiving Day.  It brings to tears to my eyes, not only because some of them died prematurely the summer that followed, more importantly I can’t thank God enough that we made time to thank him and to thank each other on that final Thanksgiving Day.

If you’re driving, please give yourself enough time to get to your destination.  May the Immaculate protect everyone on the road this weekend.

From the Franciscans of Life to All of You . . .

Have a Blessed and Safe Thanksgiving holiday

 

 

 

Are we Minions?


Enlace en Español

About two years ago, Brother Bernardo convinced me to see one of the Minions films. For those who have seen the movies, I refer to the first, titled “Despicable Me,” in English. I have no idea what it’s called in Spanish. In any case, the film seemed nice, but nothing special.

Last week, Brother Bernardo exposed me to the third film of the Minions, which gives you some of the history behind the yellow creatures with the big lenses.

I noted that Minions is not so much a cartoon movie for children, but for grown-ups. This time I enjoyed it much more than before. I do not know if it was the intention of the author of the script. I found that the Minions bring us face to face with the human condition, not as it should be; but as it is today, with its weaknesses and its pursuit of something better than ever that never seems to come.

Also, we realize that the Minions have a transcendental sense of their existence. They are in search of a supreme being who offers them protection and gives meaning to their lives. They cling to the dinosaur, then to the wild bear, then the caveman, to the Egyptians, followed by Napoleon Bonaparte and other figures with great power, but bad intentions. The Minions’ attachment lacks good judgment. They perceive as supreme the strongest, the most astute, not seeing the weak moral character of their new leader.

Has this not been our human reality since God created Adam and Eve?  Man always seeks beyond himself. Our nature is transcendental, going beyond our person. All too often, we make the mistake of following the most perfidious (one whose cunning is malicious). Of course, things never end well. We must start over in search of another supreme being to serve and protect us. That is the great pursuit of the Minions. One who does not understand that the only supreme being who can satisfy one’s need to serve and to be loved and protected is God, is a Minion.

 During a part of the film, the Minions place their trust in the commercial, urban, technical and organizational development of their environment. They build a great society with countless wonders. When they consider their work, they are empty. Technology, science, politics, economics, and no form of material development satisfies his thirst for God. Unfortunately, the name of God is never mentioned in any segment of the series, although in the first movie the three young orphan girls are seen praying before going to sleep.

St. Augustine said, “Our hearts will not rest until they rest in you Lord.”  Augustine is a respectable example of a human Minion. He sought to find the haven of Truth ubiquitously.

When he did not find her, he concentrated on himself, on the pleasures of the flesh and mind, on the satisfaction of his passions. But nothing filled him; because what his soul sought was not in the possessions and forces of this world.

The Minions, despite having their bosses and their great scientifically advanced society, were dying.  They were failing to become what they were meant to be.   Finally, three go out in search of a new foreman, convinced that their lives would be saved if they found the strongest and most astute chief. With a foreman to protect them and give them direction, they would find happiness.  So, they believed. They find other sinister characters and believe they have found their health and safety, just as men do. We cling to those present us with powerful, technology, and ideologies. We seize the job and its “reward” and attach ourselves to shaded individuals. At the end, nothing satisfies the hunger of the heart.

As we follow the series of the Minions, we realize that the satisfaction of the Minions and their foreman lies not in what this world offers, even when they are good things. Their happiness genuine in the measure that they detach from the immoral, the unnecessary and of the supposed security that gives us power. Their true happiness and purpose of their life, is perceived to the extent that the protagonists identify and surrender to the force of love. Even when such love is not seen, its presence is felt.

The experience of the Minions reflects that of many men and women. Conversion does not occur overnight. Change is possible to the extent to which they love and accept being loved.

I cannot tell you when and how the total conversion happens. First because the series is still developing. Second, I believe that the realization of the human being is achieved only in the encounter with the Perfection of Love. For most of us, this encounter occurs at the precise moment when the soul about to be freed from the body. We come face to face with Whom we have always sought. We must pass a judgment to determine if we are worthy to gaze into the eyes of Love for all eternity.

The series of Minions can go on forever, if it stays faithful to the human condition. Even if the producers give a conclusion to the search of the Minions, we know that the end of our earthly life is merely the first page of the next chapter.

The Power of Christian Parenting


Enlace en Español

grandchild

 I’m a dad, a grandfather…and the superior of the Franciscans of Life.  Like many founders before me, I had a family before becoming, Brother Jay.  The youngest member of our family is my delightful granddaughter and everyone’s little princess, Katherine.  Katherine celebrated her first birthday October 2017.  Before going further with Katherine, allow me to construct the context for my reflection.

Election day, 2017, the residents of the state in which my family lives elected a transgender person to the State Legislature.  Some people were very pleased, because we have made progress in inclusiveness.  Other people were very upset, because of the moral questions that arise when one mentions “transgender”.

I’m not going to address said moral concerns, nor the legal and political ones either.  I want to address something more important.  Raising our children in a world that is changing very quickly, a world where many changes conflict with our values, culture and identity as American men and women.  This does not mean that change is bad.  However, we must not fool ourselves into believing that change is always good.  When something works, we keep it.  We get rid of what no longer works and replace it with something else.  Sometimes, we simply live with the void left by that which we jettisoned.

This takes me back to Katherine.  When someone approached me suggesting that Katherine’s parents move to another state to avoid “the immorality” taking place where they live, the immorality being the election of a transgender politician, my immediate reaction was to say that there is no state in the United States, nor country where everyone lives according to the absolutes of natural law, much less guided by faith and morals.

That same week I read an article in one of the conservative Christian newspapers.  The author reported on a very special occasion, the baptism of an infant.  What caught my attention, more than the faith of the writer and the newly baptized child’s family was the author’s reference to the Catholic Church as the Titanic.  He clarified that he believes that the Church will not suffer the fate of the Titanic and sink, but that it’s taking on water and things are out of control.

These two events made me think about how we react to a new life among us.  There seem to be some people for whom the birth of a new person is a source of joy and anxiety.  We rejoice in the birth of our children, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.  We should always be aware the good and the bad in the world around us.  How else can be protect our children and teach them to protect themselves.  Ignorance is not bliss.  Those who talk too much about the bad, the ugly, the sinful, the tragedy and the disasters don’t enjoy the birth of a child to its fullest, because they are hypervigilant.  The author of the article that I read and the person who suggested that Katherine’s parents move to another state seem to be hypervigilant.  There is a danger here too.  While we should not ignore the evil in the world, we must always seek ways for our children to thrive despite the world around them.  This takes me to a third experience that I had this week.

parenting006My son-in-law, who is an internationally known photojournalist, always has a lens on hand to record Katherine’s milestones.  Just this week, he sent a photograph and a short video.  In the photograph, Katherine is on her mother’s lap, her eyes are glued on the page of a book that Mama is reading to her.  Katherine’s family: parents, uncles and aunts are avid readers.  From the first week home, everyone took a turn reading to her everything from Dr. Seuss to Cicero.  She seemed to respond to the rhythm of the reading and followed the reader with her eyes.

parenting005Recently she has started to walk.  She now picks up a book that’s interesting to her, takes it to her mother or father, climbs on the couch next to Mom or Dad and demands that they read to her.  Dad captured one of these moments with his “dadmera” (Dad’s Camera).  A few days later, came the short video.  Katherine picked up a book of her choosing, opened it, and started to read it.

Before we decide to send this baby to MENSA, let’s make it perfectly clear.  She was holding the book upside down and was making sounds as her little finger ran across the page, something that she probably sees her parents do when they read to her.

parenting001

Reading time with Uncle Julian!

Katherine never ceases to surprise us.  Her parents are devout Catholics.  Katherine has been attending mass starting the week after she was born.  For a long time, like most babies, she lay in her carrier and slept through the Holy Mass.  When she discovered her voice she also discovered the choir.  When the choir struck up a hymn, Katherine joined them with her melodic babbling.

One Sunday, they were at Holy Mass as usual.  Something interesting happened.  The priest invited called upon the congregation to pray together The Lord’s Prayer, which begins with the words, “Our Father . . .”   To her parents’ amazement, Katherine heard the word “father” and chimed in with her version in Babble.  We have no idea what goes on in the mind of a 12-month old child who sings at mass, joins in reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

parenting002My son-in-law deserves to be the “Fatherhood Poster Boy”.  He’s an excellent father.  He’s a black belt in Judo and has taught Katherine some of moves.  She squeals in delight when Dad engages with her. As we have said, Katherine has a very intimate relationship with both parents.  The bond of love expresses itself in reading, and squeals of delight doing Judo with Dad.   It’s too early to try to analyze Katherine’s thoughts.  We can only observe and report the interesting things that we see.

This takes me back to St. Peter’s “Titanic” and the election of the transgender politician.  Are parents like Katherine’s going to find a haven where their daughter will never hear or see anything objectionable.?  Probably not.  Can they stop the world around them from changing for the good and the bad?  Not so sure that’s possible either.  Nor can they bring down the price of housing, healthcare, gas, utilities and other necessities of life.  Like every parent, Katherine’s will have to deal with today’s moral roller coaster, the political hurricanes that come and go, and ideologies that can do serious harm to our minds and souls.

When we look at this little girl thriving, despite everything that’s going on around her, we must ask ourselves the question, “Is anything impossible for God?”

If Katherine’s mother and father continue the “road less traveled” and continue to provide spiritual, intellectual, physical, social and natural stimulation in an environment where she can reach beyond herself, as is the case in the worship of God every Sunday and holy day, Katherine may not grow up untouched by our weakened humanity.  But she will grow up with a taste and a hunger for those blessings that strengthen us for the journey.  Those are: prayer, books, worship, play, exercise, discipline, nutrition, love and good role models.

parenting004

Your Fuse is Longer Than You Know


DSC_0020There are some people out there who strongly criticize what they call “The Church of Nice.”  Unfortunately, their meaning has been incorrectly applied.  They are referring to a community of believers that gives everyone and every fault a pass to avoid conflict or hurting someone’s feelings.  Let’s get this straight.

Deliberately hurting another person, emotionally, spiritually or physically is never an option.  One may understand self-defense.  Even self-defense must be proportionate to the offense.  On the other hand, while we do not have the right to deliberately hurt others, we have a moral obligation to atone on those occasions when we do so.

It is very easy to go to confession and say, “Father, I accuse myself of being uncharitable.”  It is much more honest to say, “Father, I accuse myself of hurting someone because I wanted to do so.  I got satisfaction from seeing the other person hurt.”

Then comes repentance.  Going to confession without repentance is of little value.  The priest can pronounce the words of absolution, but if you walk out of the confessional with no intention of correcting how you treat others and being more conscious of their feelings, it begs the question; what is your plan for your conversion?  Do you plan to atone?  Do you plan to avoid this sin by being more attentive to howPopeFrancisConfession you say and do things?  If you cannot answer these questions positively, then one must ask you, why did you go to confession?  The confessional is not a washing machine where you throw in a pair of dirty socks and the machine cleans them whether the socks want to be cleaned or not.  We are far superior to a pair of sox.  We should know the conditions for forgiveness and we should have at least the resolve to sin no more.  This is not a guarantee that we will never sin again.  It’s a covenant between the individual, God and the Church to avoid hurting others deliberately.

Let’s address the subject of hurting others, now that we have discussed what should happen before and after you go to confession for this violation of charity and justice.

There are many people who claim to have “a short fuse”.  Their parents, their teachers, their friends, their spouses and their children have reinforced this idea.  When a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes a reality for those who lie.  It is much easier to reinforce negative behavior than it is to reinforce positive rantingbehavior.  You may have grown up in a home where the adults shouted at each other, bullied each other (verbally and physically).  As you were growing up you experimented by saying hurtful things to your parents, instead of a severe consequence, your parents simply shouted back and the battle went on until someone ran out of ammunition.

Then there is a kid who comes home bullied in the schoolyard and tells his parents.  The advice he gets from Mom and Dad is to defend himself from abuse by returning abuse for abuse.  This is the pre-Christian rule, “an eye for an eye.”  What have we taught our children?

We have not taught them that words hurt or that actions can scar others.  What we have taught them is how to get even.  Detent is not the same as resolution.  Frightening another person into “niceness” is not the same as being models of justice and charity.

Here we face another problem.  There are many people of faith who have argued with me, “But Brother, that’s not the real world.  In the real-world people are tough and if you don’t push back, they’ll keep you down and even destroy your life.”

The second half of this statement is true.  Evil does exist in the world.  People do evil to others as a means of exploiting them, controlling them, punishing them or threatening them.  The fact remains that it’s still evil.

The Christian may never choose evil in response to a situation.  He may use proportionate self-defense to protect himself and his family.  But he may not choose evil to get his way.

This means that no one has the right to offend another person, because it serves his wants or his needs.

Making mean comments, using profanity, raising your voice, being dismissive of another, accusing another of something that is not true, are sins against justice.  Before we consider charity, we must consider justice.  Every man, woman and child has a right to expect you to speak to him with reverence.  Your target listener has been made in the image and likeness of God.  When you forget this and you grow lax in the reverent treatment of another human being, you cheapen the life that God has given us.  You little_babyoffend God’s creative power.  Your offense sends a message to God and others.  The message says, “I don’t care if this person is the image and likeness of God.  God’s image and likeness are beneath me.  I am free to offend and walk away calmly.”

The next time that you want to violate “niceness”, remember that you are essentially telling God that the person he created is worthless.  Therefore, you’re concluding that God can and does create worthless lives.  But the Gospels tell us differently.  “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that all my have life and have it in abundance.”

Have you tried to show a grain of love for others or is being polite, kind, meek and “nice” beneath you or not in your vocabulary at all?

Try patience, kindness, niceness or whatever you want to call it.  Don’t fall for the lie that you have a short fuse.  God has given you a fuse much longer than you know.

 

 

Those who come in may see the Light — The eye is the lamp of your body


Dear friends and family:

For more than a year, I’ve been struggling with very low vision.  As many of you know, I’m a diabetic.  Diabetes has a very bad habit of targeting the eyes, heart and kidneys.

Aftfingerpointinger looking through a fog, I finally took and deep breadth and decided to take the risk with eye surgery.

The surgery was a success.  The cataract in my right eye is gone and an artificial lens has been implanted.  My vision improved from 20/60 with glasses and 20/400 without glasses to 20/25 without glasses.  I can drive again.

The problem for our community came when we were informed that our insurance covered only

Divine Physician

a portion.  We had to come up with $1,300 for surgery, $350 tests, and another $300 for new glasses.

We didn’t have that kind of money. So, we paid using Care Credit, which allows you to pay off the debt in 12 months without interest or so they say.  It’s the first time we use them.

In any case, like faithful sons of St. Francis, we’re working hard to earn some money to pay this bill; but we can use all the help we can get from friends and benefactors.  If you would like to donate $5 toward this medical expense, just use PayPal or check our website www.franciscansoflife.org for our mailing address.  Make check payable to Franciscans of Life Inc.

For those who don’t know, I have only one eye.  My left eye and ear never matured fully, as I was a 33-week premature runt.  Everyone in my family is over six feet tall.  I’m only 5’7”.   They can all see and hear fine.  One should accept what God gives and give what he requests of us.

We, the brothers, thank you in advance for your help.  If you can’t donate money, please donate prayers.  God will find us donors, if we ask him for some donors.

I have always been and will be,Your friend and brother,

Brother Jay

Disasters are Opportunities to Relive the Incarnation of Christ


Para Español Señale Aqui

When Hurricane Irma began to approach South Florida, as superior of the Franciscans of Life, I gave the brothers permission to leave Florida, seek shelter in a safer location, or remain at our community house.

For my part, I remained at our community house, also known as our “motherhouse”.  This is not a matter of being brave or a hero.  It’s our way to become one with the poor.  Our house is in a low-income community.  The people here don’t have enough money to go too far.  Their choices were to go to one of the local public school to seek shelter or to fortify their homes as best as possible and hunker down.

Pope Francis frequently speaks about going to the peripheries.  He’s also been known to use some “colorful” expressions such as “smelling like the sheep.”  Contrary to what many people may think, these ideas are not new.

In the Old Testament, we see Moses, who was brought up like a prince as an adopted son of the princess.  He goes out to the Jewish slaves, responding to God’s command to lead His people out of slavery.  God told Moses to lead His people out of slavery, but He did not take away his freedom.  Moses could have walked back into his comfort zone and let God find someone else to go out to the peripheries and deal with the uncouth, probably poor and sometimes unfaithful Jewish slaves.  In other words, the Jews in captivity were on the peripheries for many reasons.  They were slaves, foreigners, monotheistic, not as sophisticated as the Egyptians, and often very unfaithful to the faith.  But Moses went to them.  He took them out of Egypt and he died among them.

In the New Testament, Jesus goes out to the tax collectors, prostitutes, less than religious Samaritans, and to those rejected by society due to handicap or leprosy.  He becomes one with them.  In becoming one with them, He becomes the unblemished victim of human sinfulness, which was raised on a cross and offered for the many.

Finally, I want to mention St. Francis of Assisi.  Francis lived and served among the lepers.  He begged for his food like a common peasant, despite that he was the son of a wealthy merchant.  He and his brothers lived in very small and primitive shelters.  Often, they had no shelter.  They cuddled up under the awning of an entrance to avoid getting too wet by the rain.  There they spent the night.

When a man makes vows as a Franciscan of Life, the one thing that he knows coming in is that his life will never be the same.

He will leave behind everything that he thought was “normal” and “right”.  He embraces a life that can appear to be against nature.  Ours is a life lived in fraternity with the voiceless.  We vow to become one with them.  Our poverty is not imposed on us by man’s sins.  Our poverty is a gift from God.  We embrace it as the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity embraced our humanity.

Homeless man seeks shelter at a bus stop during Hurricane Irma.

It is important that people of all faith pray for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and soon, Hurricane Jose.  It is also important that those of us who have the means to do so, reach out to those who are the victims of these natural disasters.

All too often, some people sit on the chair of judgment as an “Apocalyptic Theologian”, making broad statements that “God is angry” or that “this is the great tribulation that John described in the Book of Revelation” or that “Our Lady of Fatima warned about this”.

The truth is that no one has intimate insight into the mind of God to know how God feels about anything that He has not disclosed through Revelation or the Church.  Nor does anyone have access to God’s plans for the purification of humanity.

To claim that Harvey, Irma, Jose, North Korea, and an earthquake in Mexico is God’s retribution, is arrogance.  Man is claiming to know the mind of God in a very specific situation.  Scripture tells us that no one knows the mind of God.  “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” (Mt 24:36).

Let us not presume to know the mind of God and why God allows these things to happen!  Let us also remember that natural disasters have been part of the earth’s history for as long as it has existed.  To point to those of today as the great punishment from God and the sign of the end times, is presumptuous.

One the other hand, it is never presumptuous to walk with those who suffer in these situations.  There are many ways to do this.  We can lend a hand to our neighbor preparing for a natural event or lost and confused after the tragedy.  We can invite others to pray that God will give each victim what he or she needs, not what we think the victims need.  We must avoid the temptation to dictate to God what He should give and withhold from others, as if we were His managers.

We are His servants.  We approach God.  We ask Him to hear us.  We offer our prayers of petition that God may provide for those in need what is best for them.  Along with this, we ask God to give us the grace, courage and generosity to reach out to those who have been hurt by these events.  God often wants us to reach out.  We see this in Matthew.  “As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren.  You did it for me.”

Finally, from Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life):

“Some threats [to life] come from nature itself, but they are made worse by the culpable indifference and negligence of those who could in some cases remedy them,” (EV 10).

Let us never forget that we “were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [our] fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pt 1:18-19).

We cannot just sit around trying to read God’s mind.  These events happen for the benefit of all.  The blood of Christ, while it reveals the grandeur of the Father’s love, shows how precious man is in God’s eyes and how priceless the value of his life.  If we see life as God sees it, then we don’t sit and prophesy Doomsday.  We do what God did.  We become incarnate among those who suffer, as Christ became incarnate and we suffer with and for them.

You Were Born on Labor Day


Para Español Señale Aqui

Labor Day is here.  In most countries, this holiday is an unknown.   To add to my unorthodox way of thinking, I believe that Labor Day and Mother’s Day should be celebrated together.  Make the first Monday of May, Labor Day and the second Sunday of May, Mother’s Day.  I can’t imagine a more tender experience and a greater work of love than giving birth.

Having said this, I would like to share with you how the Franciscans of Life are taught to think of Labor Day.

First:  The day should begin with a reading of the Story of Creation from the Book of Genesis.

It must be read the way that the writers intended to share it with their descendants.  It’s not a scientific or even a historical account of creation.  It is bigger than that.  It is a Revealed Account of Creation.  God revealed Himself as the origin of all that exists. He reveals Himself as a generous Father who gives his children everything they need.  Until the fall of Adam, nothing was missing from man’s life.  He reveals that everything in Creation, even those pesky little insects that annoy us are good.

Observe that each stage of Creation ends with, “and God saw that it was good.”  If man respects the goodness of the natural order and the goodness of all created things and beings, the world would truly be a Garden of Eden.  This message is very clear in Genesis.  The Garden of Eden is a place where all things and beings co-exist in harmony, each respecting the domain of the other and everything fulfilling its role in God’s plan for our salvation.

Second:  When I was a missionary in South America, people often asked me why Americans didn’t work on Labor Day.  They found this to be a contradiction.  I always explained that it is a day that we set aside to honor workers and human enterprise.

The question is, do we in America truly think about all workers, not just those who sit behind desks?

Do we appreciate the fact that were it not for those who work for the Department of Sanitation, we would be living in the Middle Ages, where rats and insects fed off the garbage that people threw into the streets and that children often played with these little critters, were bitten and died?  Thanks to sanitation workers, American children don’t have to feel threatened by infected rodents and insects.  They can play in relative safety in their back yard or a park.

(C) New York City Dept. of Sanitation

Holidays come and go.  Mornings come and go.  Who remembers that the sanitation worker, the teacher, the lawyer, the doctor and every working man and woman in the world has a life beyond outside of their work place?  Sometimes, they face great difficulties in their lives outside work.  For some, work is a respite from family problems, the illness of an elderly parent, an abusive marriage and more sadness.  If we don’t pray for these people during the year, can we at least remember them in prayer on Labor Day?

Third:  I was not kidding about mothers.  Giving birth is an act of real love.

For 40 weeks, a woman gets ready to meet her little one.  But as the weeks go by, the discomforts increase.  There are back aches.  There are issues with gestational diabetes and intra-uterine blood pressure.

Then there are all those things that people keep telling us can happen to our babies: blindness, intellectual disabilities, brain damage, and more.  The truth is that the number of children born with these conditions is a very low percentage and today we have the means and the knowledge to provide for them.

The day finally arrives.  It’s “Labor Day”.  The promise made by God to Eve in the Book of Genesis is fulfilled.  A mother experiences great pain and anxiety for hours between the onset of labor and the actual birth of her child.  However, when she sees and counts those 10 little fingers and 10 little toes, all that pain and anxiety is forgotten.

Dads have been standing by trying to be as supportive of Mom as possible, often feeling helpless.   Some men feel guilty when they see the pain of labor and delivery.  They feel that somehow, they have contributed to the suffering of the woman they love.  Those feelings disappear when they get to hold their child and glance into that tiny face covered with a knitted cap and wrapped in a white receiving blanket (with blue and pink stripes, just in case).

  Grand-parenting can be exhausting!

Do we pray for parents on Labor Day?  Do we remember those who find themselves in unexpected pregnancies and are struggling with the question, “Should we go forward with this pregnancy or get an abortion?” How many parents pray for their sons and daughters that when their time comes to be parents, they will choose labor, not death.

This Labor Day, let us remember to thank God for the Work of Creation.  Let us commit to co-exist responsibly, using what we need and preserving what we don’t need so that others may reap some of the benefits of creation.

Remember that every person has a life beyond the job that he or she does.  They need our kindness, our respect, our patience, and our prayers.

Please do not forget your parents and the labor of love that brought you into the world and the work that they have done or are still doing to help you grow and live happily.

Finally, remember those couples and those pre-born children who may be in crisis this Labor Day.