God’s Justice and Mercy Are Within Our Reach


At the end of the Roman Empire, Romans blamed Christians for the fall of the Roman State.  Saint Augustine’s response was true then and is still true today.  The pagan gods did not save Rome because they were nothing more than statues and myths.  If Roman and Greek literature were to be believed, the gods loved themselves, not each other…and much less humanity.

But Augustine also taught a great truth: our God is merciful and just.  The difficulties that men experience are the product of Original Sin.  It is just that man should make reparation for the sins of our first parents and our own that followed.  However, God’s merciful arm is longer than His arm of justice.  While He allows Mankind to experience suffering, He is also present to save us from tragedy, if it’s good for our salvation and that of others.  He gives us an opportunity to offer our sufferings in reparation for our sins.  It is not God’s wish that any of us be lost.  Those souls who lose Heaven do so because they did not take advantage of the opportunity to reconcile with Christ by offering up their sufferings.

But God does not only allow suffering consequently for sin.  Suffering is also a great opportunity for us to engage in the corporal works of mercy.

  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matt 25:34-36).

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did it for me…as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ (Matt: 25:40,45).

 

Today it seems as if the world is falling apart.  There are wildfires, floods, hurricanes, blizzards, melting ice caps, crime, wars, and now a virus that could kill us without warning.  In justice. God allows these things as a consequence for our sins:  greed, bigotry, lying, pride, pornography, sex for recreation not for love, adultery, child abuse, neglect of the older members of society, wanting for more than we need, while others do not have satisfaction for their basic necessities, and there is much more that we can add to this list; but I believe that this gives us something to think about.

Saint Francis of Assisi became one of the best known and beloved saints because of his poverty.  But poverty was detachment from anything and everyone that led him away from God, including his father.  Francis fell in love with the Crucified Christ.  He wanted to share in Christ’s sufferings for two reasons.

First: he felt remorse for his sinfulness.  He could see how his sins contributed to the suffering of Christ on the cross.  His entire life was dedicated to making reparation by doing simple things such as fasting and abstinence – and extraordinary things, such as throwing himself naked into snow and later thorny bush when he felt tempted to sin against purity.

          Second: Francis saw Christ crucified in those who suffered leprosy, poverty, injustice, hunger, abuse of any kind.  When one of these sinful events took place within his reach, he protected the suffering, corrected the offender, and counseled those who were on the wrong path.

Francis never saw natural or human disasters as something to be wished for, or to be cursed.  He certainly did not wish for the atrocities committed against Christians in the Holy Land.  He set out to convert the sultan and offer his life in martyrdom.  He was unsuccessful in both.  The sultan grew to respect him and admire him, but Francis did not convert him, nor did the sultan execute Francis for being a Christian intruder.  He admired his courage and his faith – even though he believed that Francis was in error.  But the sultan learned a great lesson in love.  Francis arrived with a few friars, not with a company of Crusaders.  He was there to speak the truth, not for revenge or hatred of Islam.  He pointed out the errors of Islam to the sultan and his court, without intimidation and without argumentation.

         Leprosy was out of control during the Middle Ages, as COVID-19 is today.  St. Francis referred to the lepers as his “Christian brothers”.  He did whatever he could to make them more comfortable and to remind them that they were human, therefore part of humanity and worthy of love.  Francis exposed himself to leprosy, in part because he didn’t know any other way to care for the lepers than to bathe and feed them.  But he also remembered what Scripture said, “[Jesus Christ] laid down his life for us. And likewise we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1John 3:16).

There are many ways of offering one’s life for one’s brother.  We don’t have to walk into a minefield to do so.  Every cross that we must bear can be offered for those who suffer as much as – or more than – we do.  In doing so, with faith and without complaining, we earn grace toward our salvation and that of others.

Tragedy can be an experience of God’s justice and an opportunity to ask for His mercy, which He wants to give more than we desire it.

Our Catholic Faith


Our Catholic Faith is a gift of the Father given to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit. We often forget that it is thanks to the blood of the martyrs that the Faith was strengthened.

The Faith is built on the blood of the martyrs. For centuries, Catholic men, women, and children have chosen death rather than deny Christ. Yet, how easy it is for us, in our politically correct world and our inclusive society, to hide our Faith or misrepresent it.

It is not that we are opposed to inclusion and to social graces. But there is a right way and a wrong way to welcome those who believe differently from us.

Political correctness and inclusion must never deny or hide the truth. Christ demands that we treat everyone with respect. Even in the case of a non-believer there exists a hunger for the transcendent. The transcendent points to God, even when people profess to deny the existence of God. That little light that seeks to understand a God who is denied, that little light is actual grace that God gives to humanity so that we may seek and find Him.

Justice demands that we speak up for Christ and the Catholic faith when societal norms and politeness try to impose upon us that which is contrary to God’s plan for humanity. It is not within our ability to question God, much less to re-design truth so as to include everyone. Inclusion and political correctness must be built on justice and fidelity to God.

The Seraphic Father binds us to the True Faith

The Pinnacle of Arrogance


Much has happened during the first half of 2019 to stir the human conscience.  While some legislators try to place restrictions on abortion, which would protect the life of the preborn child, others have legislated that abortion is permissible up to the end of the pregnancy.  In some cities, the government has declared that it would pay for abortions of its residents and of those who come from other places seeking such service.

The battle between good and evil has intensified.  While states regulate abortion, organizations, special interest groups and individuals are using every means available to block the enactment of such restrictive laws.  Certain legislators have publicly stated that those who restrict abortion “hate women”.  Another popular junior legislator has publicly denied the holocaust of abortion.  The saddest thing of all is that some religious leaders have preached the abortion is “a gift from God”.  To the best of my knowledge, no Catholic bishop has made such a statement.  But I don’t live in every Catholic diocese.  I neither condone nor condemn those whose position on this grave issue I don’t know.

We must examine certain important facts.  Unfortunately, this article can turn into a book if we were to discuss all the faults in the reasoning of those who are pro-abortion.

Let’s carefully examine the one myth,  “pro-life people hate women.”

First, accusing someone of hating another group, sex, or religious community must be proven using observable and measurable hateful acts that targets women or anyone else.

Those who make such statements must prove what they say.  The burden of proof is on them.  Anyone who takes their opinions as dogma, without any evidence, is not acting intelligently.  They’re drinking the Kool-Aide.

If someone said that all Black people are thugs, all Hispanics are drug dealers, or all wealthy people care only about themselves, aren’t those very broad generalizations?  Many of us would be outraged by such allegations and demand proof or condemn the speaker of hate speech.

However, when someone says those who vote for restrictions on abortion hate women, is that not hate speech?  Does that not pit one group against another, rather than inviting the other to a mature dialogue in search of Truth?

Such statements are dismissive and condescending.  It is dismissing the person who is prolife and the woman in a crisis pregnancy, offering her no support or empathy.  On the contrary, if offers a quick way out for politicians that can leave a lasting scar in the life of a woman.

But that risk is not taken into consideration, because it requires commitment from the greater community to be supportive of women in crisis pregnancies and to hold their partner responsible for his preborn child.  Many believe that challenges can be solved if we throw a few million dollars at them.  As if money can truly liberate us from our social and moral responsibility.

We need to help the world’s legislators see that throwing money at a problem does not make it go away.  Society has a duty to protect every human being’s right to life, especially those who are not guilty of any crime, whose only “crime” is to have come into existence.

If being born is an inconvenience or an evil, does that mean that our conception and birth was without any inconvenience to our parents?  Did our conception not demand of our parents a change of life and agenda?  That’s a very haughty position to take.  “I’m allowed to be here, because I was never a challenge or required my parents to change; but the conception of children today, presents a challenge to parents, is a burden to society and a crime against humanity.”

If these statements do not touch us, or our loved ones, then we can make them freely and sleep well at night.  Is this true social progress, or the height of arrogance?


Thinking about Lent and Penance


The Christmas Season ended a few weeks ago and we’re already for Lent.  Ash Wednesday is around the corner, the sixth March.

Birth of Jesus

It appears to us that the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary comes before his incarnation and birth at Christmas, at the end of the year.  But that’s not really the case at all.

The Church’s liturgical calendar begins with the first Sunday of Advent.  That is actually “New Years Day” on the liturgical calendar.  January 1st was adopted as the beginning of the New Year in 1752 when Pope Gregory XIII ratified the current calendar, which we call the Gregorian Calendar.

The first solemn Christocentric celebration occurs on December 25th when the Second Person the Most Holy Trinity breaks into human history as the child Jesus.  We celebrate Christmas with great joy and solemnity, because God has humbled himself to become human.

Lent follows the Christmas season on the liturgical calendar, beginning on Ash Wednesday.  It is a time of penitential preparation for the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday and a time of expectation as we celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Catholics have always sacrificed something during Lent.  Some people didn’t eat candy, others didn’t east dessert, many would not attend celebrations, carnivals and were not usually married during Lent. These things are good in the eyes of God.  God does not measure quantity, but the intent of the heart.

(c) Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

However, if we look around us at today’s world, we have a lot of reasons to do penance for ourselves and those who don’t do penance.  We have had horrific scandals in the Church’s human element, because its divine character comes from Christ, not from man.  Christ is perfectly sinless.

Our country is split over politics and policies.  Everyday the back stabbing gets worse.  Terrorism has spread to Europe and North America.  Once upon a time it was contained in the Middle East.  That’s no longer the case.

People must abandon their homes out of fear.  They fear that they will be dragged out and killed.  While adults may feel strong enough to combat criminals, those who have children find it very difficult to do so.  What happens to my kid if I were killed in a resistant uprising?

A trailer park. (c) Caren Mack Photography

Poverty also triggers migration.  In the United States, poverty in some of our southern states is never mentioned, but it’s there.  People live in conditions not fit for human beings.  The people migrate to the coasts where they hope to find work and housing in the big cities.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  The same is true for people of many countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.  Families must emigrate from their homes because they don’t earn salaries to support themselves.

This leads to all kinds of problems in the host countries, from a shortage of resources to violence.  The violence is usually rooted in frustration, distrust, or simply there are individuals among the immigrants who have criminal history.  This cannot be avoided.  Every country, every race, every ethnic group has its fair share of criminals and delinquents.

The Franciscans of Life are encouraging all our relatives and friends to offer this Lent for a peaceful resolution to conflict and dishonesty in the world.  Will it happen?  Gabriel said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible for God.”  But let’s sacrifice something that really hurts, without doing damage to our mind or body.

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

Some suggestions for Lenten sacrifice:

1. Turn off the television or restrict its use to a specific time of the day without exceptions.

2. Turn off the game systems and computers.  If you can’t live 40 days without Facebook, try at least three days a week in honor of the Blessed Trinity.

3.  Stop smoking or drinking alcohol.  How many people die because of smoking cessation or because they reduced the amount of alcohol they put in their bodies?

4. Children and adolescents may pick up an extra chore around the house.  If one’s job is to take out the garbage and the parents must remind the young person to do his duty, taking out the garbage is not a Lenten sacrifice.  Taking out the garbage is justice.  It’s your contribution to family life.  Taking on an extra chore from Mom or Dad, is a sacrifice, even if it’s two days a week.

5.  Man has become an extension of his cell phone.  The cell phone is no longer used just for communication when you can’t get to a landline or a payphone.  It’s where people watch movies, play video games, use as time pieces, or status pieces.  There are people who pay their monthly visit to parents or grandparents via Skype.  We can reduce the use of the cell phone and limit it to communication.  It doesn’t have to be our diary, calendar, notebook, or library.  Any or all those applications can be sacrificed and offered in atonement for our sins and those of people who don’t to penance. 

6. For many people, healthy living is a penance:  going to bed early and rising early, going on a diet, engaging in physical activity, or sitting with your family for dinner, even though you know that the kids are going to bicker, complain, play, and do many things that we adults can’t imagine.  Using dinner time as a learning experience can be a healthy sacrifice. 

You may ask, “Why do penance for those who don’t do penance?”  The answer is simple.  What would have happened to our immortal souls if Christ had not offered his life for humanity?

Look at these suggestions and see if you can try one of them or come up with a penance that is truly a challenge for you.

 

Published in: on February 23, 2019 at 7:49 PM  Comments (1)  

Proclaiming Good News to the Poor


In 2009, a solitary Franciscan set out to serve families and individuals who struggle with abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, infanticide and capital punishment.  Most important we work for the salvation of soul and body.

Today, there are six brothers.  Three are Regular Brothers and three are Extern Brothers.

The Regular Brothers make vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and a fourth vow, to proclaim the Gospel of Life.  The Extern brothers make a solemn promise, which they renew annually, to support pro life ministry, to live a life of prayer and penance, and to observe the Rule of Penitents, given to us by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1221.

The proclamation of the Gospel of Life demands that we appreciate every man, woman and child as a gift from God, in whom God resides.

The brothers run Project Joseph, for the Archdiocese of Miami Respect Life Ministry.  We are currently in four centers where we reach out to men who are considering abortion, who are too poor and are anxious about another mouth to feed, and men who are not aware that Christ loves every human being and will not leave us to struggle alone, though at times it may seem that way.

Our brothers teach the faith to children in religious education, where we present the Bible in the manner that St. Francis of Assisi taught it to his early brothers and friends.  One of our brothers is the community questor.  He teaches at a school for students whose needs cannot be met in the local public-school system.

His small stipend goes to paying rent, utilities, groceries, gasoline, car maintenance, medical bills and unexpected expenses.  The brothers try to be truly poor, not just appear to be poor.  Like St. Francis of Assisi, we leave behind family, jobs, careers, bank accounts, inheritance, friends and everything that draws us into the secular world, instead of drawing us closer to Christ.

To date, the Regular Brothers live in a room that is on loan to them by a family member.  The situation is crowded.  In return the brothers take care of housekeeping, cooking, laundry, and other household chores.  This allows them to pay a very small monthly rent of $325.00.

We pray that God will send us house where we can welcome new candidates who wish to serve the family, the terminally ill and the immigrant poor.  It would allow us to expand our ministry as the number of brothers grows.

We invite any Catholic man between 18 and 50 years of age to talk to us.  Maybe God is calling you to be one with the poor, as was Saint Francis and to proclaim the Gospel of Life through your works, teaching, community living and life of prayer.

“Life calls out to life.”

Contact us

franciscansoflife@gmail.com

 

Published in: on October 18, 2018 at 2:41 PM  Comments (1)  

Franciscans of Life in Defense of the Family


While driving down the road to Mass, I noticed a trailer park that I had not seen nor heard of before.  It sits in the center of a middle-class neighborhood.  It looked overcrowded with trailers.  There was no paved road leading into the development.  People lived in trailers, not mobile homes.  The trailers did not appear to be sturdy nor new.  They looked rather shabby.  For a moment, I saw a woman walking through the trailer park.  I did not have time to take a close look at her, which would probably have been rude.  Her clothes gave her away as a member of a low economic class.

A trailer park. (c) Caren Mack Photography

When we arrived at the church, I began to pray; but all I could think of was that trailer park and the woman. Questions began to surface in my mind.

  1. Why did people live in such a place? It’s not a safe place.  A hurricane can come through and destroy many of the old trailers in the park and hurt many more people like the woman whom I saw.
  2. Were the men and women who lived in this poverty the people who came to our emergency pregnancy centers looking for an abortion; which is contrary to what we do.
  3. How long had they lived in such a state that they had begun to take it as “normal”?

(c) Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

As a human community, a social body and as a Church, no effort should be spared to help these families safeguard family values, from respect to unborn life and senior citizens who often need assistance to accomplish the tasks of daily living.  The first and most important value is the family itself.  Any attempt to alter the natural definition of family contributes to the creation of such impoverished communities.  Until we acknowledge the dignity of the family brought together through matrimony and that no other type of relationship is analogous to this divine plan, there will not exist the indispensable human act, the recognition of the world’s obligation to protect the family not redefine it.

(c) Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The promotion of the family is the first step in the process of protection.  Protection is a process.  It is not a single isolated act, legislation or moral law.  To eliminate impoverished communities such as what I describe above, Catholics must cooperate with each other and organizations to protect the definition of the family, to identify what humanity needs to maintain families in healthy environments, and activate systems within the political, industrial and ecclesial world that recognizes that these are real families living in squalid conditions.

Until the world recognizes that natural society is founded on marriage and procreation, we will continue to focus on meeting the demands of those who lobby for marriages and family structures that are inconsistent with God’s plan for humanity.  One can say that the energy, time and money involved in redefining family and parenthood has been stolen from the poor.

Special interest groups do require our attention and services.  It would be a great injustice to ignore the dignity, needs and humanity of special interest groups.  However, our outreach must be rounded, like the flame of a camp fire.  You can sit on any side of the fire and feel its warmth and use the light that such a fire gives off.  If we redefine the properties of fire and force it to fit into our definitions, those who are in search natural fire are ignored.  Attention, protection and support is usually provided to those with deep pockets.  If there is anything left of the flame, we allow those who are poor to gather around a dying flame in search of a little light and warmth.

Catholics must pay close attention to Saint James when he says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.  Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”  We cannot just say that we believe in the family and its place in society.  Catholics must engage legislators, business people, and other members of the community to protect the social priority of the family.  When this happens, our eyes will be opened, and we will see those families who have been left out of the mainstream.

 

It does not take much: volunteering an hour or two a week, tutoring their children, educate the adults in the real meaning of family and provide them with some of the basic supplies needed to begin to work toward the expression of the family that was Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Our families must reflect the family of Nazareth, not through stories, paintings or statues; but by our everyday lives.

 


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Brother Jay Learns Meekness and Firmness from Caring Healthcare Professionals


OK!  So where has Brother Jay been since March?  I was on dialysis for three months.  But my kidney function improved.  It’s not perfect, but it works.  Doctor says I may need dialysis in the future, but not for now.

I miss the people in the dialysis center.  You get the same people scheduled at the same time, after a while you become family.  The patients were very nice.Male Doctor Holding Clipboard

What can I say about the staff?  Nurses, technicians, doctors and administration were the most delightfully people I Dialysis device with rotating pumps.have ever had the pleasure of meeting.  Best of all, they knew what they were doing, and everyone walked by and greeted you.  For me, it was an example of Christian service.

Let’s stop and think how often we lose our patience with a spouse, a child, an older parent, or a disabled family member.  Do we remember that Mary, the Mother of the Lord, did a charitable act going to Elizabeth, even though she was pregnant too?  Read the Magnificat in Luke’s Gospel.  Mary begins saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”  She doesn’t begin the conversation telling Elizabeth how tired she was.  Riding on camels and donkeys, up to the highlands of Palestine was not an easy trip.  Then there was always the fear of highway robbers.  We never hear Mary complain.  However, let us not confuse meekness with weakness.

Going back to the dialysis center, the staff was very meek and gentle, but when they had to be demanding with the patients, they could be very straightforward, without being rude or authoritarian.  They often gave the patient a choice between A and B, explaining the risks involved in both choices.  They stepped back and let you discern what you wanted to do.  Every choice had to be explained.  You couldn’t choose A because it sounded better than B.  You were expected to explain why you believed A was better than B for you.

Let’s go back to the Mother of the Lord.  When Jesus was 12-years old, he, Mary and Joseph made a family pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  On the third day of the return trip, Joseph and Mary realize that Jesus was not with them.  They retrace their travels back to Jerusalem, hoping to find him.  When they find him, something very interesting happened.

It is not Joseph who asks Jesus to explain himself, which would have been his right as the patriarch of the Holy Family.  It was his mother who spoke up.  This was at a time in Jewish history when women didn’t speak before their husbands.  They certainly could not walk freely around the temple.  Certain parts were off limits to women.

Mary does not concern herself with man-made laws.  She was a mother, concerned for her son.  When she finds him, her dialogue with him is not as poetic as her dialogue with Elizabeth.  She said, “Why have you done this to us?  Don’t you know that your father and I have been looking for you for three days?”

Mary is very firm with her son.  She wants an explanation; but she does not raise her voice or humiliate Jesus to release their anxiety or vent their anger.  She simply laid out the facts.  When Jesus responded, she didn’t quite understand his response.  “Don’t you know that I am about my Father’s work?”  Then he went and was obedient unto them.”

Granted, we’re not all are Mary and Joseph and not every child is Jesus, but the lesson remains applicable.  A truly caring person, whether it’s a parent or a nurse, knoRelated imagews the difference between being clear and firm, and being punitive and unwilling to listen to the other person.

In both scenarios, Mary models for us what I call “grace filled behavior.”  She doesn’t complain about her trip from Nazareth to Elizabeth’s.  She acknowledges that all the good that has surrounded her during her entire life, comes from God.  She doesn’t assault her son with questions and whining about the fear they experienced.  This would be very typical of us.  She asks him what she wants to know.  When he answers, she acknowledges that it’s a reasonable response and says nothing more.  She treasures these things in her heart.

The people that I met at the dialysis center, often reminded me of Mary.  I took every opportunity to let them know.  Most, even the Catholics, don’t connect the dots between the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and their lives today.  Humanity does not change as quickly as technology and fashions do.

When Mary plays a role in our lives, meaning that she’s not just a holy woman whom we crown every year in May and place her in a manger at Christmas, we experience how real she is in our lives.  She is alive in body and soul, always near us, hoping that we call on her to teach us meekness and firmness or strength, without the shouting, insults, complaining, and punishment that can often do incredible damage to a relationship between two people.

Related image

 

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