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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Disasters are Opportunities to Relive the Incarnation of Christ


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, from Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life):

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

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

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

You Were Born on Labor Day


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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.

FRANCISCANS OF LIFE’S METHOD OF PRAYER


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This morning I had a doctor’s appointment. I was sitting in the waiting area wearing my work habit. A very nice woman sat next to me and asked me about my clothes. I told her that  I was a consecrated layman. She didn’t understand that anyone who is not a deacon, priest or bishop is a layman. Though some distinction has been made between the universal laity and consecrated men and women. These constitute a very small, but special body within the larger body of lay people.

As the conversation continued, the nice lady asked me, “Do brothers pray?” To which I responded, with a smile, “I hope at least half of them do so.”

She proceeded to say that she didn’t know how to pray. That was my sign. I asked her if I could share a very simple method that the Franciscans of Life use. She became very interested and excited.

Our method can be used by anyone. I started to use it many years ago and some brothers learned it from me; but I don’t own it.

First: Begin by finding interior silence. If the environment around you is too noisy, find a quiet place. It need not always be a church or chapel if you can’t get to one. Once you get into the habit of prayer, you will be able to shut out the noise of the world, even if you’re at a soccer game between Rome and Brazil, the noisiest game to which I have ever been. I couldn’t hear a thing for two days.

Second: Say to yourself, “Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.” Even if it’s just you, all of us are always in the holy presence of God. This was something that St. John Baptist de La Salle, founder of the Christian Brothers taught them to say. Reminding myself that I am in the holy presence of God is like opening the front door of a house, looking outside and seeing beautiful green fields with flowers, butterflies and a gentle breeze. I refer to it as my “tiny taste of heaven.”

These words are going to trigger a different response from each person. The most important thing is the awareness of the OTHER. I deliberately wrote it in upper case. If we want to pray, we must be aware of the OTHERNESS of God. Acknowledging that there is someone bigger with us, is our first contact with God in prayer. There is nothing mystical here. You don’t see or hear anything. It’s an awareness of my presence before God’s infinite OTHERNESS.

Third: Just begin to speak as you speak to anyone else. St. Teresa of Avila taught us that prayer is speaking to a friend. She was famous for her short and very intimate chats with Christ. There was a time when she had a mishap and she turned her eyes upward and said, “Lord, it’s no wonder you don’t have many friends.” On another occasion things were not  going very well with a new foundation of a monastery. Again, she raised her eyes and said, “Why did you get me into this mess? I’m only an old woman.” She may have been in her late 40s or early 50s.

Fourth: Tell God about everything that’s going on, anything that has happened, or something that you anticipate, even good things, like visiting your family across the country. Of course, God knows these things. But there is a maternal side to God. Mothers often know the good and the bad in their children’s lives, before they’re told about it. But there is an experience of intimacy and love when the child tells Mom his story in his own words. God delights in hearing our words. The idea that God delights hearing me, stimulates me to tell him everything in detail, like a first-grader coming home from school.

Fifth: Like any other parent, God knows what we’ve done wrong, before we say anything. I remember walking into a room and getting THE LOOK from my mother, followed by, “What did you do?” You may have gotten away disguising the truth or withholding the truth from Mom, but you can’t do that with God. This is the time to talk about my faults, weaknesses, temptations and really tell God how I feel about these things. Sometimes, I do things that I feel are wrong, but I have no idea why I feel that way. Other times I do something that everyone says is wrong, and I don’t feel guilty. I talk to God about what I did, how I feel and I ask for his help to understand the truth of the matter. God does not expect us to have all the answers about good and evil, right and wrong, up and down. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have much need to talk to him at all. He would just wait until our final judgment to interact with us. But God knows us and loves us. He wants to help clear out the cobwebs in our heads.

Sixth: Ask God for the blessings that you and the world need. Don’t try to be God and pretend to know what everyone needs. “Please make my wife less angry,” or “Please get my father through surgery.“ We must believe that God knows what we and others need. If someone is going for surgery, pray for a good outcome. If someone is angry, pray that he may find interior peace. But never forget to ask God, “Give us whatever graces we need to do the right thing and to atone for any wrong that we have done.”

Seventh: Now it’s time to thank God and to tell him that we’ll be in touch later in the day. Notice that there are seven steps. Think of the Seven days of Creation, the Seven Joys of Mary, the Seven Last Words of Christ. Moments of grace seem to come in sevens.

 

THE WITNESS OF MAXIMILIAN KOLBE


Statue at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish, sculpted by Sr. Margaret Beaudette, S.C. – (c) Jim Davis, Florida Catholic

Those who have heard the name Maximilian Kolbe, immediately remember the friar who gave his life in Auschwitz.  He took the place of an innocent man whom the Nazis wanted to execute as an “example” to others of what happens when prisoners escape.  Nazi logic is as dull as the edge of a butter knife.

They believed that a prisoner had escaped, because they could not find him.  They decided to make an example to discourage escaping; but their victim was an innocent man who had not attempted escape.

Maximilian contemplated this insane scenario.  Insane, because there was no logic to the proposed execution. This irrational sentencing to death of an innocent man was unlikely to discourage any further attempts to escape.  On the contrary, it had the potential to encourage more attempts.  Those present understood that their chances of survival were probably greater if they tried to escape.  If they did get caught and killed by the guards, their death had some meaning.  To be executed to deter further attempts to escape, when one had never attempted to do so, was irrational.

The man whom they chose to execute was a husband and a father.  He cried, not for his life, but for that of his family.  An intact family would soon be deprived of its father, because a group of men with no moral conscience, no sensitivity and no respect for human life were about “console” their wounded pride, because they failed to capture the escaped convict.  The execution of this innocent man was really a ruthless act to appease their disturbed pride.

“Jesus stepped forward… ‘I am he…let these go’ ” (Jn 18)

God had graced Maximilian with intelligence, a conscience, courage, love for all men, a spirit of detachment from all things of this world, and an unwavering trust in the Immaculate.  The Holy Spirit energized the graces that the Father had poured into Maximilian through the cross of His son.  There was no need for time to consider the consequences. Maximilian stepped forward and volunteered to replace the innocent husband and father.

This is God’s moment of glory in the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, for all to see.  In an instant that required no time and no consideration of the facts, the power of grace, as strong as the wind of a hurricane and burning like flairs from the sun jolted Maximilian.  The rest was up to his will.  He could choose to ignore grace or surrender to the supremacy and wonder of God, knowing that his earthly life was about to come to a cruel and unjustifiable end; but a new life was about to begin.

Maximilian freely chose martyrdom.  But martyrdom is not the choice of a godless man.  God offers martyrdom to those who have lived their lives in His grace and are spiritually solid enough to tolerate martyrdom. They love as they have been loved.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1) – Foto (c) ANSA

We honor Maximilian Kolbe and we look to him as a model, not as a hero who gave his life for another man.  Such heroism happens more often than we think.  But Maximilian’s choice was much more than an impulse to protect a life.  Maximilian’s choice was free cooperation with the Love who had loved him first.

Unless we are aware of the presence of the Beloved in our lives and return love for love, we will never have the courage to freely lay down our lives for pure love.

Such courage comes from grace that is not merited by man, but freely offered by God to some souls.  The soul becomes aware of the rule of grace. At the right moment in time, that soul freely and lovingly places itself under the shield of grace and accepts martyrdom.  For this, man must live in the presence of Christ.  Always linked to him through the Immaculate.

“The conflict with hell cannot be engaged by men…the Immaculate alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan. Assumed into Heaven, the Mother of God now requires our cooperation. She seeks souls who will consecrate themselves entirely to her, wh o will become in her hands effective instruments for the defeat of Satan and the spreading of the Kingdom of God upon Earth.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe. [drawing (c) Franciscans of Life]

4TH OF JULY SPEAKS ABOUT GOD’S DESIRE FOR HUMANITY


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FREEDOM

This is the time of year that we celebrate the Fourth of July.  Considering that July 4th comes around only once a year it makes sense to celebrate it at this time.

The Franciscans of Life would like to challenge all of our readers to stop, think about history and ask themselves, “What are we supposed to be celebrating?

On July 4, 1776, the English citizens who lived in what would later become the United States, sent a scathing letter to King George.  No one knows for sure if the man was already mentally unstable or if the loss of these particular English colonies drove him to a breakdown.  The point is that he did breakdown.

This is what we want to reflect on.  The king broke down because he was confronted with some eternal truths that he had never considered or refused to consider.  Here are a few things that Jefferson wrote. 

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The direction in which the Divine Creator, whom we know as God, enlightened the writer and signers of this letter.  God entitles men to live “separately”, meaning independent and “equal” to others.  God does not sentence some men to prosperity and others to hunger, abuse, oppression and at times the denial of the right to live.  Had they believed this, they would have settled for the relationship that the 13 Colonies had with England.

Many Americans seem to forget this concept.  The struggle for independence was based on an absolute truth, not an idea that grew in the minds of the American colonists.  That absolute truth says that man has a divine right to be independent and that each human being is equal to those around him, those who came before him and those who will follow.

There is not historical justification for a culture of death in the United States.  Euthanasia, abortion, and assisted suicide have no place in a society that was founded on the absolute truth that man has been created to live according to the laws of nature. (See above).

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

No power on earth, religious, secular, or political has the authority to deny that all men are equal; therefore, all men have to right to seek life, liberty and happiness.  The degrees to which we achieve these lofty goals are going to differ, but the right to pursue them is exactly the same for men and women, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others.

As Franciscans whom God has sent into the world to proclaim the Gospel of Life, . . . we, the Franciscans of Life, announce and proclaim that Independence Day is about much more than a revolution against wp_20150118_016the British crown.  The Declaration of Independence and what followed was a struggle to to recover and protect man’s God-given right to live, to to be free, to be equal to others, and to pursue happiness.

No where did the founders say that these rights are for Americans alone or that they can and should be pursued at the expense of the most vulnerable.  Nor did Mr. Jefferson write that either the State or an individual has the right to determine who should be born and who should live until they die natural deaths.

The men gathered in Philadelphia to vote on and sign the Declaration of Independence were logical and thoughtful men, even those who were not devout believers.  They understood that the right to life presumed the right to be born.  There was no need to spell it out.  The also understood that the right to pursue happiness was for the living.  Those who are euthanized and others whom society helps to commit suicide no longer have the right to pursue happiness.  When there is no right to happiness, what is the purpose of struggling to live, even if it’s for a few weeks or years.  The dead cannot pursue happiness, because there is no future outside of space and time.  Therefore, you can’t pursue what is not ahead.  There exists only an eternal present.

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If the Founding Fathers were correct and these rights are of divine origin, not human, it begs the question.  Do human beings have the authority to surrender or deny natural rights?

The final question for today is similar.  Is Independence Day a parochial celebration of American independence from King George and “nasty” England or is it a memorial of an awakening that took place in 1776, when these men became aware and convinced of the truth that all men are created to be independent from tyranny, poverty, war, discrimination, terrorism, hunger and other evils.

Independence does not come wrapped in the American flag.  Independence is built into nature by its Creator who is Himself eternally independent.

The Fourth of July must be a proclamation to all men that we are created to be free, to be equal, to live without threats and to pursue happiness in this life and in the next.

 

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Published in: on July 3, 2017 at 3:42 PM  Leave a Comment  

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!

Greater than the Sum of the Parts


English     Castellano

The most commonly used weapon today is probably the most harmful to the user as well as the victim.  The weapon is “negativity.”

Modern man seems to have mastered the art of criticizing, insulting, and belittling, which is different from critique and constructive criticism.  He finds fault in whatever he does not like.  Truth be told, not everything that we dislike is flawed.  I hate asparagus; but that does not mean that there is something wrong with this vegetable or with its consumption.  I simply do not like its taste and texture.

In simple English, we need to tone it down when we disapprove of something.  To be pro-life is to be pro-person.  Every person is part of the whole, with his virtues and faults.

We who find fault in everything we dislike can land on a slippery moral slope and we don’t realize it.  We begin to sound like self-appointed judges, jury and executioners.  This is that last thing that any man or woman of faith should be.  Jesus said, “Let him who has no sin throw the first stone.”

Granted, criticizing another person’s pet, house, or dinner party is not on the same scale as passing judgment on one who may have committed adultery.  But the matter is serious, though not as serious as adultery.  There are two moral issues here:  justice and charity.  They are the opposite sides of the same coin and they are to be taken very seriously, because Jesus did so.

When we criticize, insult or offend without reason, we are violating justice. When we say something about a person, group, event, organization or even the State, without full knowledge, we violate justice and charity.  Paul reminds the Ephesians, “No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear, (4:29).

We tend to claim that life is flawed when things don’t go our way.  Even when the situation is not tragic or the situation is natural, like raining on a car that has just been washed.

Criticism becomes more serious when the person doing the criticizing lowers himself to using vulgarity and blasphemy.  Christ says it very clearly, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them,” (Matt 15:11).  We fall into this behavior very frequently.  When confronted about it, our immediate defense is to justify ourselves by punting the blame, “he made me do it,” or “she got me angry.”

Some people need to see and hear themselves on a DVD to know how they look and sound.  Most would be horrified.  Most human beings are decent people.  Many of these decent people have reckless tongues.  Thankfully, blasphemers and vulgar people do not make up much of any society.

A very reliable source once explained to me that in certain cultures, blasphemy is tolerated among adolescents as a sign of “manliness” or of approaching adulthood.  They take the name of the Lord in vain, they say vulgar things about the Holy Eucharist and the Virgin Mother of God.  Most of the time, these teens have no idea of the gravity involved here.  It does not change the fact that objectively they are committing mortal sin and that the adults around them have a moral duty to educated them on the Commandment, “You shall not invoke the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.  For the Lord will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain,” (Ex 20:7).

We can’t go around speaking about God and other holy things as if God and neighbor were deaf.  Our neighbor may be deaf or daft, but God is neither.  Among the great religions of the world:  Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the name of God is sacred and some other names and titles are to be spoken with veneration, not anger, criticism, mockery or used to posture.  This begs the question.  Do we tolerate such inappropriate behavior because we fail to understand that culture should enhance human communication and respect for God and neighbor or is culture just about what’s “in” today?

Some of us have a nasty habit that needs to be controlled.  For some, it’s impossible to go a day without finding something wrong every hour on the hour for 24-hours.  Putting it mildly, we criticize, complain, insult, or curse something because we’re irritated.  Often, our irritation does not involve the target of our criticism or the target does not merit our criticism.

Some of us use negative comments to hide our feelings of inadequacy or to exalt ourselves.  Reckless criticism can be a very destructive form of pride.  It is so destructive that it pollutes the social environment in which we live and work.  If offends some and pushes away loved ones.

There are people who claim that they care not if others are offended.  This is a grave moral claim. St. Paul reminds the people of Corinth, Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it,” (1Cor 12:27).  One must wonder if the person who cares very little about offending another is deflecting fault or truly does not care.  If he does not care, how does such a person explain being part of Christ’s body?

We must never forget that we are part of the body we criticize, that we condemn, that we curse, we disfigure with pride and judgment, that we humiliate with actions and words.  We must remember that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  The whole is Christ himself.