CAN WE SAVE US FROM OURSELVES?


This week, many people have written about the social justice cause represented by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It’s good to remember the importance, and the need that we still have, to conquer hatred and different forms of prejudice.  Also, there are pro-life marches, speeches and demonstrations around the country, despite the freezing temperatures in some cities.  Don’t think that God does not notice such a sacrifice.  These sacrifices are more meaningful to him than “burnt offerings.”

As we progress forward, it’s important to look back.  One who does not look back to see where he’s been and the progress he has made, has no sense of how far to go and how much more he must do.  The pro-life issue is one of those that must be examined within the context of an established tradition of human rights.

This week is not a political protest against abortion, against racism, against euthanasia or any other violation.  If we narrow down our language, our activity, and limit all our resources to overthrow abortion and euthanasia laws, there is a possibility that such laws will be with us for a long time and may affect many more lives.

We must educate others.  There are those who make racism, abortion, euthanasia, human trafficking and other heinous crimes “Catholic Culture Wars” or “Black Culture Wars” or any other culture war that we can imagine.

Our primary moral duty is to help men and women of every age, every faith, every ethnic group, every walk of life and any sexual preference embrace the RIGHT TO LIFE, not create more divisions and more wars.  The Right to Life begins with the right to be born.  But we must not get comfortable because the number of abortion is decreasing while the number of older, sick and disabled people being euthanized is rising.

We can’t get too comfortable with the idea that People of Color, Caucasians, and people of diverse cultures can coexist in any community.  That’s just wishful thinking.  Man comes into the world to do more than coexist with other men.  Man comes into the world to live.  We are the result of a basic natural principle called, “generativity”, from the term “genesis”.  When we interfere with birth, life and death, instead of following the laws built into nature, we find ourselves doing the unnatural.  To deny someone the right to be born and to grant someone the right to take another person’s life or help another take his or her life, is an irrational attempt on the part of humanity to dominate nature.

While it’s true that we’re not beasts of the fields who live and hunt on instinct, we are creatures of the Earth.  If that were not the case, then we would not be so consumed by anxiety over the environment and the future of the eco-system.  These are important to us.  Why?  Consciously or unconsciously, we recognize that we are part of the natural world and that the natural world is necessary for individual and communal growth.

At some level, we know that we are natural beings; so, we fight to preserve the environment that we need to prosper.  To deny a human being the right to be born, the right to care and support until that person dies without us pushing them over a cliff, is to assume that we are masters over the very nature of which we are part.  Either we are part of humanity or we are masters of humanity.  The hand has no right to dismiss the lung.  Nor does the ear have a right to dismiss the foot.  Each is part of a whole.  The man or woman who authorizes the killing of the preborn child, the sick, the elderly and the disabled or who carries out such an act, that person has placed himself or herself above humanity.

A man or woman who expends energy on the “right to terminate life” in the womb or years after birth, such a person no longer shares in human nature.  That person has deceived himself and others.  Everyone now believes that a person who can terminate a life or sabotage a birth is a person of power.  The truth is very different.  Such a person is filled with fear, fear of humanity.  It is in their best interested to have some control over who is born, who lives and when others die.

The combined efforts of Dr. King and the Pro-life movement have one goal and one goal only, to save us from ourselves.

The Holy Family: “Plan A”


This Sunday, which is also New Year’s Eve, we celebrate the Holy Family.

In the eyes of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus we find a family that experiences an intense relationship with God while at the same time deeply involved in the everyday struggles of daily life – yes, even Our Lord, who “in every respect was tempted like us yet did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Pious modern considerations aside, we must bear in mind that the Holy Family is not the result of lack of planning. The Incarnation and Nativity of the Savior may have been surprising, but not unplanned. The Holy Family is the very mirror of the Holy Trinity, a mirror thought by the Almighty before the beginning of time and manifested only in the “fullness of time”.

Joseph of Bethlehem, of the line of King David, was not living at Nazareth by coincidence. He did not meet Our Lady by coincidence. They were soulmates. He is the good, faithful, and discrete servant of God, of whom the Church says: “He made him the lord of his household, and prince over all his possessions” (Litany of St. Joseph, 1909). He is the model of fatherhood for the divine Child.

Mary of Nazareth, of the line of King David, was not just any woman. As the ancient Little Breviary says, “In the beginning, before the centuries, I was created, and for eternity I shall remain. In the holy place I ministered before Him” (Eccl. 24) She is the Woman of whom Genesis spoke. She is that virgin handmaiden that would be found with child, a child to be named “God is with us” (Isaiah 7:14). She is the “Spouse of the Holy Spirit”.

And what shall we say of the Infant, the Child, the Man Jesus, born in Bethlehem, called from Egypt, known as the Nazarene? He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He is our Lord and our God. He is the Just One that rains down from above, the King of Glory who comes, the Hope of the Nations. He is “the Living One, who was dead, and now is alive forever and ever” (Rev 1:18). “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).

The Almighty for whom nothing is impossible has brought forth in the Holy Family the mirror of the domestic Church. As the Holy Father reminds us, the Holy Family is united in pilgrimage, and in doing so it teaches us, and our families, to journey together in a life that is a series of small and big pilgrimages.

This relationship of faith, peace, joy, and deep charity is never isolated and exclusive, but rather always open and welcoming towards the other, the neighbor, even the stranger. Do we not see Our Lady and the preborn Christ undertake a difficult journey and a long stay to visit Elizabeth, mother of the Baptizer? Do we not see relatives of the Lord traveling with, and even dedicating their lives to, our Lord? We hear of “his brothers and sisters”, and of James “the brother of the Lord”, and exegesis teaches us that they were not children of Joseph or Mary, but relatives. Does not the Lord after the Resurrection tell the holy women to go back to the apostles with a message that begins: “Tell my brothers…”? And did He not say, surrounded by the crowd, “he who does the wil of my Father is my brother and sister”? Did Mary not welcome John as her son, and John take Mary as his mother? Has she not called upon us time and again as “her children”?

The Lord came “that we may have life, and have it to the fullness”. The Holy Family proclaims the value and inviolability of human life from the first instant of conception to the very last moment of our life on earth, when we experience natural death as willed by God. In this we have the experience of St. Joseph, patron of a holy death, the first of the Holy Family to end the earthly pilgrimage.

Thousands of years – in fact, millions of years, according to the most widely accepted scientific theories – have passed in the life of humankind. “Grow and multiply” was the commandment given to Adam and Eve, and one of the unfortunate effects of Original Sin (welcomed by some confused scientists as a “survival skill”) was the disordered, unregulated search of a mate not merely for reproduction but also for mutual pleasure, often without any stable bonds. We see this even in some of the early parts of the history of the Chosen People of God, to whom the Lord commands not to commit adultery and not to desire the neighbor’s spouse. We witness it in the astonishment of the crowd when Christ says: “He who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart…what God has united no man can divide”.

God’s perfect plan for the human family, like all things in the economy of salvation, developed over time (our time, since God transcends such limitations). Wisdom and knowledge were given to mankind to bring forth order, stability, and holiness in society and in the world.

However, the same Culture of Death that led to the slaughter of the Innocents and to the unspeakable depravity of the pagan nations has slowly regained its grip upon the world at large, thanks to a slow but steady process of secularization that has broken the divine bond between faith and science and relegated religion to the sphere of the few while building altar upon altar to the Idol of Science, the golden calf of modern mankind, from whose udders all seek to drink a life-giving milk that cannot be and will not be. Nihilism and two world wars have brought disillusionment and despair in the hearts of men. A distorted rebound has led to narcissism, hedonism, and the hyper-sexualization of entire sectors of society.

It was only a matter of time before man’s idolatry brought forth artificial means to regulate birth and, when impossible, to terminate preborn life before, as someone once said, “the pregnancy becomes established”, or even afterwards, for no atrocity of old ages can compare to the sanitized surgical procedures employed in “early termination of pregnancy”, or rather, extermination of the unborn through abortion.

Now we have stores, pharmacies, places once honored as houses of healing, not merely selling means of contraception but in fact “joyfully” promoting abortifacient drugs such as Levonorgestrel, popularly known as “Plan B” or “Take Action”, marketed with the absurd misnomer “emergency contraceptive” based on brand-new definitions of “conception” and “pregnancy”.

From a Facebook pharmacy group

And we see some pharmacists and pharmacy staff react with amusement and even joy at the spike of sales of such products during the Holidays – especially during Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas!

The Curse of Babel still weighing heavily upon us, men have become better at verbal engineering than they have at chemical and genetic engineering. Therefore while the methods to tamper with God’s perfect plan for human reproduction are still rather primitive, the Culture of Death has developed beautiful, polished words to define and re-define concepts, with the ultimate goal of rationalize its own selfishness and then, in total delusion, establish it as the superlative of its very essence, speaking of “reproductive healthcare” to describe drugs and surgeries that alter, cut, destroy, and kill. And to all those involved in healthcare, we ask the question – whatever happened of the enlightened ethical principle of Hippocrates, upon whom the medical profession was once bound by oath, which begins with the imperative “Primum, Non Nocere”, “First, Do No Harm”?

The manufacturers of “Plan B” state that their product “is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization. In addition, it may inhibit implantation by altering the endometrium.” In other words, “Plan B” may cause a newly-conceived embryo to die (and be expelled) because it cannot implant itself in the lining of the womb.

“May” is a vague word. Can it be quantified? Yes, to some degree. Dr. Donna Harrison has written extensively on how when “Plan B” is administered one to two days before the egg is due to be released, then egg release is not reliably prevented and breakthrough ovulation occur 71% of the time. Furthermore, most of those ovulations show luteal-phase defect, namely the ovary does not produce enough progesterone to allow the embryo to survive. So, the embryo formed would not survive long enough to produce a positive pregnancy test.

Can we quantify even further?

Dr Chris Kahlenborn writes that Plan B “has a high potential to work as an abortifacient” and “taken on the day of ovulation or later…it appears to be useless and may actually increase a woman’s risk of becoming pregnant” – a fact verified by pro-Plan B scholars (Trussel, Davidoff). Furthermore, women with a BMI over 30 who take Plan B have a 400% higher failure rate (confirmed by Dr. Anna Glasier).

DOJ recommends Plan B for raped women, but most emergency rooms rarely if ever test women’s ovulatory status (luteinizing hormone and progesterone levels), actually increasing their risk of pregnancy. Dr. Kahlenborn also points out that there is theoretical evidence that Plan B — like other progestins — may cause slowing of tubal transport of the embryo, which increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy (generally fatal for the embryo with or without emergency surgery).

Finally Dr. Kahlenborn mentions that soon we will be able to better quantify the abortifacient effect of “Plan B” through advanced testing – still experimental – that can often detect the presence of pregnancy within 48 hours of fertilization.

But those who state such facts are bound to become pariahs of the academic and research ivory towers, and to be labeled in the public square either with political misnomers or with the good old slogans of “railing against women’s rights”, particularly the “right to choose what to do with her own body” – although it is a fact that the result of a sperm fertilizing an egg is, at best, a new human being and, at worst, a parasite, but in any case an independent being, not part in any way of the mother’s body. And for those who insist on pushing the idea that the fruit of conception “holds the mother hostage for 35-40 weeks”, we must remind you that the mother-preborn relationship is not symbiotic but mutually protective, as countless scientific papers have shown.

In the past Centuy, St. John XXIII and Blessed Paul VI worked arduously in examining views and opinions concerning married life, and especially the correct regulation of births. The result was the groundbreaking, magisterial document “Humanae Vitae”, in which Paul VI, against a worldly tide that sought to strike God’s plan for the family with a “new plan”, declared infallibly that “Marriage…far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces…is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator… that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives… Married love is total…faithful…exclusive…fecund…ordained toward the procreation and education of children”.

While calling upon married couples to embrace responsible parenthood with regards to both biological processes and innate drives and emotions, Paul VI reminded us that there are precepts of natural law, expounded by the magisterium of the Church…established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break. Among these shines forth the fact that “an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life” and therefore such an act is not just wrong for Catholics, but is in fact “equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman”.

It is a truth of the faith and a part of natural law that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded, as is direct sterilization and any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation.

While the world and the Culture of Death recoiled in horror at the “atrocious” and “merciless” statement of the Church, lifting up the banners of “overpopulation” and “sexually-transmitted diseases”, and the politically powerful banners of “empowerment of women”, the Holy Father declared in Christ that “though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it…consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.”

Humanae Vitae was prophetic in understanding the consequences that this mindset would have on mankind: “marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards…man may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires…the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law…the responsibility of procreating life…left to the arbitrary decision of men”.

St. John Paul II reinforced this theme in Evangelium Vitae, discussing all new threats to human life. Specifically mentioning contraception and of the more dangerous “contraceptive mentality”, the Holy Father declared that often contraception and abortion are “fruits of the same tree” and that, even when “practised under the pressure of real- life difficulties”, are a great evil, to be avoided at all costs.

In a very concrete, level-headed stance, the Holy Father also reminds us that “in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception.”

The issue at hand is not the use of this product or that chemical, but what St. John Paul called “an objective “conspiracy against life”, involving even international Institutions, engaged in encouraging and carrying out actual campaigns to make contraception, sterilization and abortion widely available [and presenting them] as a mark of progress and a victory of freedom”.

St. John Paul points out that, in partial fulfillment of what Paul VI had written, various declarations of human rights show a remarkable contradiction, namely “the mentality which carries the concept of subjectivity to an extreme and even distorts it, and recognizes as a subject of rights only the person who enjoys full or at least incipient autonomy and who emerges from a state of total dependence on others”. In other words, this is a Hobbesian “state of war agaist all” in which “man is a wolf to man” and only the fit deserve to survive. Yet “the theory of human rights is based precisely on the affirmation that the human person, unlike animals and things, cannot be subjected to domination by others”!

Furthermore, St. John Paul points out that this distorted, self-centered, and delusional notion of freedom “marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion”, “exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them”. Reaching the heights of contradiction, then, in the Culture of Death “freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others”.

Furthermore, at a biological and psychological level “the body is no longer perceived as a properly personal reality, a sign and place of relations with others, with God and with the world. It is reduced to pure materiality: it is simply a complex of organs, functions and energies to be used according to the sole criteria of pleasure and efficiency. Consequently, sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited”.

“Thus the original import of human sexuality is distorted and falsified, and the two meanings, unitive and procreative, inherent in the very nature of the conjugal act, are artificially separated: in this way the marriage union is betrayed and its fruitfulness is subjected to the caprice of the couple. Procreation then becomes the “enemy” to be avoided in sexual activity: if it is welcomed, this is only because it expresses a desire, not because it signifies the complete acceptance of the other and therefore an openness to the richness of life which the child represents.”

Pope Francis emphasized in “Laudato Si” that this mindset extends indeed beyond the care for self and brings a deterioration of the care we have for our common home:

” How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away””.

Pope Francis, living one century later, teaches that the world has gone beyond doctrinal relativism and has embraced “a misguided anthropocentrism, a practical relativism [where human beings] give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative…irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests”. This indeed has given birth to a new idol, this time a true “abomination of desolation”, namely “the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power”, in an inseparable, contradictory spiral of mutual enslaving and annihilation.

In “Amoris Laetitia”, the Holy Father points out yet another very modern issue, namely how “consumerism may deter people from having children, simply so that they can maintain a certain freedom and life-style”. This is certainly not a difficulty in the face of “forced State intervention in favor of contraception, sterilization, and even abortion”, which “the Church strongly rejects”. He further points out that today’s growing trend to either enter marriage in a hasty way or cohabitate without marriage is “selfish, calculating, and petty…[failing] to recognize the rights of another person and to present him or her to society as someone worthy of unconditional love”.

What are we to conclude?

The mindset that seeks to control beyond all natural and moral law ultimately tampers with the very nature of human beings. It is foolish at best, insane at worst, to tamper with something impressive and delicate like the reproductive system, with consequences that transcend the biological and span into psychology, social development, and human ecology.

Our stance on life, parenting, birth control, contraception, and abortion fundamentally alters and determines our relationship with self, other members of our species, our environment, and other species.

Ultimately, the rationale for contracepting is rooted in very simplistic and hedonistic reasons, backed up by cheap science, industry-funded academia, and politically backed organizational policies.

The Culture of Death to whom so many subscribe has developed all sorts of more-or-less-veritable stories (overpopulation, reducing STDs, reducing world hunger, women’s healthcare, reproductive rights) to justify a simple fact, that stands alone in all its base, brainstem-cerebellum (primitive) selfishness: human want to fornicate with as many mates as possible, no commitments, no matter the consequences, based on external consideration and pheromonal drive. Faith-based and religious considerations aside, from a purely evolutionary standpoint one may even go as far as to argue that such an attitude made sense… 2 million years ago! However, today it is nothing but primitive and irresponsible.

Yet in the first world, it is the foundation of “reproductive healthcare” and is being imposed on its citizens, misused for population control of the pariah of society, and exported to third-world countries whose natural resources are more important than their human resources! How can we open our hearts to migrants, if we are involved in a collective effort to reduce their population in their home countries? How can we become welcoming towards the stranger that unjustly has nothing and out of mercy needs everything, when we are hostile towards the very fruit of the womb, who in justice has nothing and deserves everything?

May the contemplation of the Holy Family, so important and dear to St. Francis, lead us back on the Way, that we may understand or at least humbly and wisely submit to God’s perfect plan for humankind.

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?


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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


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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.

 

 

You Were Born on Labor Day


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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.

Community Spring Activities


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

Trip to Virginia

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

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

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

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

 

Project Joseph Workshop

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

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

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

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

 

“New Skills for Adults Room”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Prayer Days for Life and Jericho Walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Coming Soon – Steps Forward in Formation

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

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

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

CANTEMOS AL AMOR


Kazimierowski_original_image_English_subtitleHay un himno clásico que dice, “Cantemos al amor de los amores . . . .”  En los momentos más difíciles de nuestra historia mundial y nuestra historia individual, estas palabras siempre han sido para mí palabras de gran aliento y ánimo.  En mi vida he perdido a seres queridos.  Algunos han muerto en tragedias, otros por edad, otros por enfermedad, y algunos por negligencia humana.  También he sufrido pérdidas económicas.

En una ocasión me encontraba viviendo y trabajando en un país de Suramérica donde ocurrió un golpe de estado.  Los extranjeros teníamos que salir del país cuanto antes posible.  Yo tenía una casa bien amueblada, dinero en el banco, recuerdos de muchos años: fotos, libros clásicos, documentos importantes.  Nada de eso podía sacar del país. Solo se nos permitía una maleta y una mochila por persona.  Si hubiese estado solo, quizás me hubiese quedado unos días más a ver como resultaban las cosas.  Pero no podía arriesgarlo. Mi hija se encontraba en otro país estudiando en la universidad.  Conmigo estaba mi hijo menor, que tenía doce años.  Sabía que tenía que salir hacia cualquier lugar donde mi niño y yo estaríamos a salvo y donde hubiera esperanza de volver a reunirnos con mi hija.

Es en este momento fue que Dios actuó en forma inesperada.  Cuando fui al cajero automático a retirar dinero para comprar los boletos en el aeropuerto, encontré que los bancos habían sido “congelados”.  No se podía retirar plata.  Llamé a uno de mis parientes mas proximos a pedirle que me ayudara, comprándome los boletos desde Estados Unidos.  Me respondió, “Eso no es asunto mío,” y comenzó a insultarme por mi “estupidez.”  “¿Quién te manda a servir a los pordioseros en un país del tercer mundo, pudiendo estar en Estados Unidos ganando buena plata y sin problemas políticos?”  No queriendo entrar en una discusión con él, simplemente le di las gracias y colgué el teléfono.

En ese momento, el diablo me tentó a la soberbia.  Me recordé cuando esa misma persona salió de la universidad sin trabajo, sin dinero y sin lugar donde vivir.  Durante seis meses vivió en mi casa.  Llegó el invierno y como no tenía un abrigo para el frío ni dinero para comprarlo, le compré uno como regalo de navidad.  Luego le di mi auto para que pudiera salir a entrevistas de trabajo.  Cuando me vinieron todas estas memorias, me di cuenta que no venían de Dios.  Dios no lleva contabilidad de las bendiciones que nos da.  Además, las bendiciones que Dios nos da son para el bien del prójimo.  En aquel entonces, el prójimo era él.  No podía negarle lo que Dios me había concedido para dar a otro cuando llegara el momento oportuno.

Sin pensarlo mucho, llamé a otro pariente proximo para pedirle ayuda.  Es un hombre adinerado.  Cuando le conté la situación y que tenía que salir del país urgentemente, me respondió, “Déjame pensarlo y yo te llamo.  El dinero que yo guardo es para mis hijos, no para darlo a otro.”   Yo sabía que esa avenida estaba cerrada.

Entonces me recordé de una buena amiga de muchos años.  Una viuda con dos hijas, que todavía vive en una casa humilde.  Me moría de pena, pero no me quedaba otro remedio que mendigar para salir de un país peligroso y sacar a mi hijo, aunque tuviera que dejar atrás miles de dólares en el banco y en propiedad.  No bien le conté mi situación a dicha amiga que me respondió, “No hay problema.  Ahora mismo llamo a la línea aérea y pago por teléfono con mi tarjeta de crédito.”

Al día siguiente, me encontré en un vuelo con destino a Miami, con mi niño de doce años que dormía con su cabeza apoyado de mí.  Por curiosidad, abrí su mochila y encontré un oso que su primo le regaló cuando cumplió un año y unos juegos de video.  Simplemente me sonreí, pues la Virgen protegió la inocencia de su niñez apesar de todo lo que estaba sucediendo.

En ese momento, mirando a las nubes sobre las cuales volábamos, escuche con los oídos de corazón, “Cantemos al amor de los amores.  Dios está aquí.”

La historia no termina ahí.  Al llegar a Miami, me recibió un pariente que yo había llamado para que me dejara pasar unos días en su casa en lo que encontraba trabajo y vivienda.  Cuando llegamos a la casa, nos asignó a dormir en un balcón encerrado, sin aire acondicionado…y a dormir en un sofá con mi hijo.  Así vivimos durante seis meses.  Cada noche, antes de dormir, el himno venía a mi mente.  “Cantemos al amor de los amores.  Dios está aquí.  Bendecid al Señor.”

Durante ese intervalo recibí una llamada de mi hermano.  “Mamá murió hace dos días.”  Me quedé atónito.  Era lo menos que esperaba.  Me encontraba sin techo, con un niño de doce años, sin trabajo y sin dinero, y ahora con la sorpresa que mi mamá había muerto.  Yo no tenía un centavo para comprar un pasaje y llegar a sus exequias.

Recuerdo haber acariciado el Tau (cruz franciscana en forma de la letra T).  Contacte’ un amigo que me presto el dinero para viajar al funeral de mi madre.  Por todo el camino, lo único que pasaba por mi mente era “Dios está Aquí.  Bendecid al Señor.”

Al fin conseguí empleo como profesor de ciencias en una escuela estatal.  La educación primaria no es mi especialidad, pero conozco las ciencias, así que pude enseñar el curso hasta encontrar un trabajo en mi campo.  Alquilamos una casita, que luego compramos.  Por un mes dormimos en el sofá que nuestro pariente no regaló, hasta cobrar mi primer mes y comprar camas para mi hijo y para mi.

Comparto todas estas cosas, no para que me tengan pena.  Al contrario, es mi gran deseo compartir con todo el que lea este blog que los golpes de la vida son golpes que Dios permite para purificar el alma.

Mientras más sufrimos en este mundo, con agradecimiento y sin ira y rebeldía, menos sufriremos nosotros y nuestros seres queridos en el Purgatorio.  Cada sufrimiento sirve para limpiarnos y purificar a nuestros seres queridos que están en el Purgatorio y dependen de nuestros sacrificios.  Nuestra rebeldía no les ayuda en nada.

Creo que es por eso que, a pesar de todos los momentos difíciles que he experimentado, tanto los que comparto aquí como los que no tengo tiempo para compartir, creo firmemente que no fueron casualidades.  Fueron oportunidades que Dios me dio para purificarme y para ayudar a purificar a las almas en el purgatorio.

Cuando se presentan estas oportunidades, no las debemos desperdiciar con ira y rebeldía.  Durante estos momentos Cristo Crucificado está muy cerca, permitiendo el sufrimiento y sosteniéndonos.  Aunque nos sentimos que nuestro corazón está rompiendose en pequeños pedacitos, nuestra alma es intocable y es afectada o por el pecado de rebeldía o por la gracia de la presencia de Dios… él es el amor de nuestros amores, y su presencia es nuestra verdadera posesión, no lo que hemos perdido o dejado atrás.  Todo eso le pertenece a Dios!

Cantemos al Amor de los Amores

¡cantemos al Señor!

Dios está aquí, venid adoradores…

¡Adoremos a Cristo Redentor!