Consider signing this…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Ben Achour stated:

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

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

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

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

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

Br. Bernardo, FFV

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


Queen of the Poor, help us help others.

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

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

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

We’re short $400.00.

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

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

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

From Thanksgiving to Christmas

advent wreath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a Blessed and Safe Thanksgiving holiday

 

 

 

Are we Minions?


Enlace en Español

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of Christian Parenting


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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


Para Español Señale Aqui

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(C) New York City Dept. of Sanitation

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Grand-parenting can be exhausting!

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Easter Wishes from the Brothers


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

Brother Bernardo’s Pizza Rush

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayers for Brother Leo

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

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

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

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

Project Joseph, Up and Running

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

BROS FORMATION

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

Detachment

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

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

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

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

 

At the Foot of the Cross with Our Mother


If we believe what we pray and we pray according to our belief, is it reasonable to imagine that at the hour of our death, or that of a loved one, Mary will remain silent?  Is it reasonable to think that she will not intercede for every soul as it leaves the body?  Is it even imaginable to think that she is far away from any of us?

Holy Mary,

Mother of God,

Pray for us, sinners,

NOW,

And at the hour of our death.

Amen!

The idea that the Mother of God would ignore our prayer for the soul of a loved one and for our own is irrational.

It is reasonable to feel the pain of loss that Mary felt watching her son die on the cross.  Who can watch a son or daughter die and not feel as if the heart is being ripped out of her?  “Many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul” (Luke 2:35).

The Immaculate Mother of God was not spared the pain of loss.  However, she chose to hurt and trust at the same time.“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word,” (Luke 1:38).

The Sacred Scripture never says that the Blessed Virgin Mary didn’t suffer.

And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold your father and I have sought you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48).

Feeling concern and anxiety for a loved one does not have to conflict with the Faith.  Suffering, for oneself or a loved one, is the most noble sign of our humanity.  Only the man who reaching his full stature as a human being can suffer for another and trust that Christ will always respond to his mother’s intercession.

“Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them (Luke 2:51).

 “When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’

 His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’   Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’

 And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So, they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew),” (John 2:3-9).

With a single sentence, the Immaculate convinces her compassionate Son.

It is important to remember that the “reception” at a Jewish wedding lasted an entire week.  Mary intercedes when they have run out of wine.  They had been drinking for a while, maybe more than a day.

If the Immaculate can open the door to her son’s heart for people who were drinking, having fun, and probably not paying much attention to Him, we can rest in the certainty that she has the key to the Sacred Heart of Christ.  No one who asks her to “pray for us sinners” will be denied her intercession.  Our Lord Jesus Christ will always hear his mother’s prayers and do whatever is for the greater glory of his Father and the salvation of souls.

Those who have not spoken to the Immaculate in a very long time (or never) can always begin today.  She is the mother with the Immaculate Heart.  She forgives!  She understands human weakness.  She has seen man’s lack of faith for centuries.  And she has been a witness to man’s greatest acts of cruelty and injustice.  Despite this, Mary allows us to take her into our very human homes, as sinful as they may be.

She needed only the word from her Son to crush the head of the Serpent that haunts us all. From that moment forward, she remains in our home as Mother.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home”(John 19:26-27).

The Immaculate Mother whom we contemplate at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday, is our Sorrowful Mother.  Her sorrow is caused by the sins that her Son must carry on his back and the penance that he must do purely out of love, not because he was guilty of any fault of his own.

There is a difference between a sorrowful mother and a pitiful mother.  The latter is one for whom we feel sorrow because she’s an imperfect and perhaps a mother who has not owned her maternity. Mary, on the other hand, is the mother who feels the pain of sin inflicted on her innocent Son.  She feels the weight of man’s sinfulness.  She experiences great sorrow, not for herself, but for the sinner redeemed by the suffering servant that she brought into the world.

There is no room in her Immaculate Heart for anything else than love, crushed by sorrow but never extinguished.  This makes it possible for her to enter our homes as Mother and mediate for us the graces that her Son earned through His most sorrowful Passion, till we reach that perfection of charity which is the perfect fulfillment of Our Lady’s one and only commandment: “Do whatever He tells you”. Let us make this our meditation as the Holy Week begins.


O Mary, conceived without sin,

pray for us that have recourse to you,

and for all those who do not have recourse to you,

especially the enemies of holy Church

and those recommended to you“.

-Prayer of the Knights of the Immaculate