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

Project Joseph Training – April 29 2017


MEN 25+ IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF MIAMI: COME, LEARN ABOUT PROJECT JOSEPH AND HOW TO HELP MEN IN CRISIS PREGNANCY.

Official Event Link

To learn more visit www.projectjoseph.org

– You can also RSVP on Facebook –

UPDATES

A huge THANK YOU to the Archdiocese of Miami for including the announcement of the workshop in the Pastoral Bulletin of April, and to the Knights of Columbus of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Monroe County for promoting the workshop.

We look forward to prepare more men so that they be ready to mentor dads in the Archdiocese of Miami’s 5 Pregnancy Help Centers.

 

Published in: on March 20, 2017 at 2:31 PM  Leave a Comment  

DOES MAN HAVE MORAL RIGHTS OR COINCIDENTAL RIGHTS?


We have some major moral issues on the table that ethics cannot ignore.  We pose them here in question form to allow each reader to arrive at his or her own conclusions, always guided by a well-formed conscience rather than what’s simply comfortable.

1. Is it moral to strip 24 million people of affordable healthcare?

  • Are there alternatives that can help the economy without doing harm to the voiceless?

2. The speculation is that the current government will defund Planned Parenthood for one year.

  • Is this enough to protect the right to be born?  If not, what makes this a moral gesture?

3. There are individuals in government who are seriously considering defunding Meals on Wheels. If that were to happen, 2.4 million senior citizens would lose the one healthy meal they eat.

  • How can we morally justify taking a food resource away from those who cannot buy food?

4. In the Old Testament God delivered the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, and led them to a promised land where there were already people. In the New Testament, Jesus says, “I was a stranger and you took me in.”  In both situations, the moral option being presented is openness to those who are seeking sanctuary. 

  • Could the people of that time deny sanctuary to the Jews and justify themselves before God?
  • Can we offer God a strong moral reason for denying sanctuary to refugees?
  • Can we say, with certain honesty, that foreign refugees pose a greater threat to human life than those who sell and purchase guns illegally or those involved in drug trafficking and human trafficking?

5. Assisted suicide and direct euthanasia are legal in some countries and being considered in the United States. The argument is that persons whose quality of life fails to meet certain criteria are better off dead.  Even atheists must ask themselves how can one ethically and morally support the taking of a life that is not a direct threat to our safety or that of our family?

  • Who decides the criteria for euthanasia?
  • Are the criteria arbitrary?
  • In that case, is human life an arbitrary coincidence?
  • If man is an accident of nature, how can he claim natural and moral rights?

If I had to face God’s judgement today, can I justify my position and my silence on any of these issues? 

St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that he who sees sin and remains quiet is as guilty as the person committing the sinful act.

Published in: on March 17, 2017 at 12:32 PM  Leave a Comment  

David and John


How-The-Human-Nervous-System-WorksDuring Lent, many of us agonize over what we should sacrifice during this holy period in preparation for the celebration of Easter.  Chocolate seems to be the most common “expiatory lamb.”

I’ve always wondered how giving up chocolate is a real penance.  I realize that for some people, chocolate is addictive, as is smoking for others.  But is the idea of penance to make ourselves miserable for misery’s sake or is the idea of penance to offer God something in atonement for our sins?

If we look at the Old Testament, David dressed in sackcloth and ashes as a sign of atonement and

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NATHAN REBUKING DAVID FOR HIS SIN

was excoriated by Nathan.  But it was a sign.  His atonement included much more than making a fashion statement.  David fasted.  He dealt more justly with his people, especially those whom he had offended.  He offered the animal sacrifice prescribed in the law.  Above all, he prayed.  Many of the psalms are the product of David’s intense life of penitential prayer.  David has become the model penitential man for the Jewish and Christian people.

 

Another personality that jumps out at us as a model penitent is John the Baptist.  The New Testament tells us that he came dressed in animal skins and ate bugs.  Yuck!  He preached conversion from sin.  His fight against sin cost him his head when he pointed out that Herod was living in an adulterous relationship with his sister-in-law.  David and John are still relevant penitent models.

musc3a9e_de_lille_p-_f-_de_grebber

JOHN REBUKING HEROD ANTIPAS

David teaches us that atonement for sin goes beyond, “I’m sorry.”  There are consequences that the responsibly contrite person must assume.  This was the king who walked through his kingdom in sackcloth and ashes, dressed as a pauper instead of royal robes.  This was the king who humbled himself before his people admitting that he had sinned against God and against man.  He tried to do something to make it up to both God and man.  David understood and taught that true penance must cost us something and that it should offer a gift to God and man; but it had to be a gift that came from the penitent’s heart, not from his wallet.

John, on the other hand, had no sin for which to atone.  But he knew that many people around him needed to atone for sin.  He did penance for those who didn’t do penance for themselves.   Essential to a penitent life is to bear witness to the Truth.  John proclaims,

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“Behold the Lamb of God, and I must decrease so that he can increase.”  By decreasing, John, like David before him, surrenders the glory that comes from attention and admiration and directs it to God.

Our life should be an on-going Lent.  But during the Great Lent, 40 days before Easter, let us be truly sorry for our sins.  David and John are our models of penance.  We must present ourselves to the world, not in the best possible light, but as we really are, men and women who struggle with human weakness and sin, one hour at a time. True penance reaches out to those around us, especially those who are most in need of our compassion, the man and woman involved in abortion, the adolescent who is rebelling out of control, the neighbor who has lost a loved one, lost a job or is in deep financial crisis.  The person whom we fear is also worthy of our love and prayer, especially those who engage in acts of terrorism, those who molest children, or those who abuse their spouses.

In our family, there is always the one person who is the thorn in the side.  We must have the courage of

dscf1003

THE INEVITABLE THORN

John and denounce his or her sin.  But we must also have the humility of David and admit that we too are sinners. Finally, let us not forget to proclaim the Truth.  God forgives and embraces a humble man.  Humility is being who we are in the sight of God.  Nothing else.

 

Published in: on March 2, 2017 at 12:23 AM  Leave a Comment  

Sequel to a Canine Homily


After mass this morning, I left thinking about the deacon’s homily.  Before I go any further, this is not a criticism of the homily.  As a matter-of-fact, the homily triggered the grey matter between my ears.   The result is that I have found that I can build on the foundation that the deacon laid out this morning.

The Gospel has one line that struck me like Thor’s hammer, “your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.’ (Mt 5:13).  Today’s homily reminded us that the Christian vocation is to be a light for the world.

There are probably as many interpretations of the “light” imagery as there were people at mass.  For each of us our interpretation may meet our spiritual needs.  We must hang on to it.

However, we are not a Church of individuals.  We are a Community of Shared Meaning.  We believe in one set of absolute truths.

A light is that which illumines the darkness.  St. Ignatius of Loyola, one of the spiritual masters in Church history, teaches us that man is in a constant state of tension between two angels, the angel of light and the angel of darkness.  The angel of light leads us away from sin toward God.  The angel of darkness leads us in the opposite direction.

If we apply what St. Ignatius teaches us to what Matthew the Evangelist quotes from the mouth of Jesus, it becomes clear that we are called to be the light of the world.  But we can only be a light to the world when we choose to be led by the angel of light, not the angel of darkness.

The angel of light is the Angel of Truth.  While the angel of darkness, is the Angel of Sin.

To be a light in the world, we must be very aware of what sin is and the natural consequences for those who follow the Angel of Sin.  Sin is not a matter of personal feeling.  It’s not even a matter of personal belief.  I can’t say to God that I did this or that, because I believed it was the right thing to do, when God has clearly spoken through the scriptures, through the Fathers of the Church and Sacred Tradition and through the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church).  That will not fly with God.  We cannot justify ourselves because we disagree with God and believe that our opinion is better than His or that He always agrees with us.  The man who is a true light of the world is the man who knowingly chooses to follow the Angel of Truth, even when truth is hard to swallow.

The man of darkness, is he who follows the Angel of Sin, because he has decided that his personal belief about what’s right and wrong trumps the truth that God revealed about right and wrong.

This morning the deacon said that we can choose to “feed the good wolf or the bad wolf.”  For people who suffer from cynophobia (look it up), there is no such thing as a “good canine”.    So, let’s use St. Ignatius, who said the same thing using language from the great Catholic mystics.

If you choose to do and to support truth that has been revealed by God through the Church, the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, you are a powerful light to those who care to look.  People like St. Francis of Assisi were not small lights.  Their fidelity to God’s moral law and to the Truth taught to us by God through the Church and Scripture turned them into bright stars that continue to shed light hundreds of years after their death.

To be a light, there is only one choice.  Run away from sin.

Published in: on February 5, 2017 at 2:40 PM  Comments (1)  

To Women of Faith


This year we have heard much talk on women’s rights and women’s healthcare.

Unfortunately the natural and divine rights of women never form part of the discussion.

When God created woman using whatever method served the ultimate good of women, He instilled into natural law His divine plan for women. Believers and non-believers who are properly educated know of the existence of Natural Law. Human logic cannot deny the existence of Natural Law. Nothing that follows a fixed process is random. It submits to a series of laws that allow the process to repeat itself. These fixed processes are laws that exist independent of human will.

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The first and most significant process is conception. Without conception, a species becomes extinct. The conception of a human being secures the continuity of humanity. The child that is conceived has a purpose, to secure the future of the human race. To fulfill his or her mission, the child must emerge from the womb into the greater world of man. Therefore he follows the logic.

begin_beginning

A human being in the womb has a mission and a place in society. To fulfill that mission and fill in the place that only she can fill, because of her singularity, she must emerge from her mother’s womb. Therefore, we can logically conclude that a human being has the right to be born.

The right to be born is inseparable from a woman’s right to bear children. But a right that is a burden is not much of  a right, unless we understand pregnancy as a burden. If pregnancy were a natural burden, how can it also be nature’s way of securing the continuity of the human race? Can we honestly say that the preservation of humanity is a burden imposed on the female of the human race? Such a conclusion is absurd to the extreme. The conception and birth of a child, under any circumstance and with whatever abilities or disabilities, is not a burden placed or imposed on women.

2017_01_25_christmas_babyConception and pregnancy is one right and at the same time a duty belonging to mother and child. Women who conceive have a right to carry a child to term. They also have a duty to protect the child’s right to be born. A child comes into the world to fulfill a mission, to occupy a place in society that no one else can occupy, and to secure the generativity of the human race.

Therefore, women have a natural right to be mothers. To shame them or frighten them to avoid motherhood is a heinous violation of a natural law that is given only to women. It is a covert form of mind control.

familyThe right to motherhood must be protected by other rights: healthcare, education, safety, protection from abuse and exploitation, equal pay for equal work, and the right to extend herself to family, friends, public service, and to participate as an equal partner with men in business and governance.

For the sake of clarity, equal does not mean the same. A ten-year-old child has the same rights as her mother, but they are also very different. The ten-year-old only gets to exercise these rights when she has the physical, intellectual, and emotional ability to do so.

So too it is between men and women.. Each has the right to those life domains in the measure that he or she is able to do so. The measure of a woman’s ability to exercise other rights is never determined by her male counterpart. The measure to which a woman exercises her rights is dependent on her natural abilities. Neither women nor men can interfere with or deprive one of abilities endowed by nature and by nature’s Creator.

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Published in: on January 26, 2017 at 7:28 PM  Leave a Comment  

Our Forefathers Have Been Betrayed


As we approach the inauguration of a new presidency and the anniversary of Roe vs Wade, I assume that many of our friends expect the Franciscans of Life to say something wise and uplifting.  Try as I did, I was unable to come up with anything wise to say.  Perhaps is the fact that I fell today and lacerated my forehead.  Thank God that my cranium was not currently occupied.  In any case, I can’t come up with some wise and profound comment to make.  So, I’ll let my simple country logic do the talking.

Roe vs Wade must never be forgotten, not only because it made abortion a constitutional right in our country, but it did much more.  It stripped the preborn human being of the right to be born.  Roe vs Wade was one of the most selfish acts that the American people have ever perpetrated on its citizens.

Our Founding Fathers rebelled against a monarchy and parliament that was tyrannical, a king and government that had no respect for the basic human rights of its citizens on the western side of the Atlantic.  As far as the English crown was concerned, the colonists and their descendants were to be silenced when it came to matters that affected their lives, the lives of their families and the future of the kingdom.  We must say “kingdom”, because on July 3, 1776 there was no United States.  There was simply the American colonies and territories of the English Kingdom.

But our forefathers changed all that.  They fought and many gave their lives for the right to live, the right to have a voice about their lives, and the right to choose their future.

Hilary Clinton once said that the unborn CHILD has no constitutional rights.  The issue on the table is not whether the being in the womb is a person, human being, child or other.  The question has been settled.  The being in the womb is a CHILD.

The laws of nature dictate that the child of two human beings cannot be a chimpanzee.  He must be a human being, regardless of his parents’ faults and virtues.

Yet, this human being, who lives in our midst, is denied the right to be born.

We have dared to do the unimaginable.  We have dared betray the memory of those who fought for our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  We betrayed their dream of a nation where people were given the right to live according to the graces endowed by their Creator, as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently wrote.

We have misrepresented the mind of the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  In other words, we have hijacked the American dream.

Roe vs Wade limits the right to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness to those who have the power and cold-heartedness to terminate the life of one who is weaker and defenseless.

Br. Jay, FFV

Video by youtube user on ultrasound of their 8-week baby.

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Vita ad vitam vocat – Life calls out to life

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Often, removing Life-Support IS euthanasia.


The Franciscans of Life have as part of their foundational charism “paying special attention to…the chronically and terminally ill and their families and caregivers”.

mission

In particular, we are called to”bring Christ’s compassion to the sick, especially those whose lives are threatened by the culture of death. We believe that death with true dignity occurs when man dies at the time and in the manner determined by Providence, not by man. To accelerate death in the name of dignity is a distortion of the meaning of dignity. It takes away from man what God has given him, the capacity to share in redemptive love. […] To help families and healthcare providers choose life, the brothers will work for the creation of education programs on end of life issues that proclaim the moral law and teach that the sick and elderly are not a problem to be solved, but brothers and sisters to be loved.”

Yet, “Recognizing that we are simple men, we do not aspire to do great things, but to be faithful in the small things”, with the Church and in submission to the Local Ordinary and the Magisterium of the Holy Father. This of course implies that we collaborate closely with other groups. First and foremost, of course, with Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of  Miami.

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But we are also in fruitful exchange with other national and international groups that tackle the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

One of our friends, indeed one of the most outspoken and reputable groups against assisted suicide, is the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, headquartered in Canada. Their documentary “The Euthanasia Deception” is an eye-opener.

One of the traits of the Franciscan charism is the emphasis on “preaching and using words only when necessary” (a phrase attributed to St. Francis, but actually coming from the writings of Brother Thomas of Celano, his biographer). In general, Franciscans do not argue. Argument leads to division. Yet, instructing and correcting are some of the works of mercy that our Lord entrusted to his followers. Therefore the brothers’ formation includes an academic aspect, “without extinguishing the spirit of prayer”, as St. Francis wrote to St. Anthony of Padua. This formation implies that although the brothers may be men of silence, they are not rocks. And we know that sometimes it becomes necessary for rocks to cry out (cif. Luke 19:40).

Far be it for us to enter into a dispute with our esteemed friends of the EPC, or to argue with one of the world’s foremost critics of assisted suicide and utilitarian bioethics, Wesley Smith JD. Yet, this time we have to rise to the occasion for the sake of clarity and for the benefit of the voiceless.

Earlier this month, EPC featured an article from Dr. Smith titled “Removing life support is NOT euthanasia“. We must humbly observe that both the article and its title are incomplete and, unfortunately, problematic under several aspects.

First and foremost, the author zeroes in on a patient who wants to remove his ventilator and die for the sake of organ donation…thus falling into the fallacy of doing an evil to accomplish a good.

As the Catechism reminds us, “a good intention does not make intrinsically disordered behavior good. The end does not justify the means. A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself. It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

Beyond this point (which we will address again later), the fundamental premise of the article is flawed, namely that “we all have the right to refuse medical interventions even if it is likely to lead to death“. On the contrary, we know that there are certain medical interventions that we are morally obliged to seek and provide! To do otherwise would constitute euthanasia.

The author pointedly mentions that the patient’s wish to remove his ventilator and die “is his right”. We respectfully disagree: there is no such a”right to die”.

As one renowned pro-life apologist states on Catholic Answers, “a right is a moral claim, and we have no claim on death — death has a claim on us. Some people see the “right to die” as a parallel to the right to life, but this is based on faulty reasoning. The right to life is based on life being a gift we can neither destroy nor discard, whereas the “right to die” is based on the idea that life is a thing we possess and may discard when it no longer meets our satisfaction.The culture of death, which chants, “My body, my life, my choice” also chants—by the same logic—”My body, my death, my choice.”

By skipping over some critical issues regarding end-of-life care and life-support, the article fails to grasp the fact that removing life support is too often the most common (and most hidden!) form of euthanasia, even though it may happen in plain light and with the full support of “the law”, as in the well-known case of Terri Schiavo and the less-known (but much closer to us) case of the sister of our Founder and Superior (see here, and follow-up article here).

But let us go back to the issue at hand: the removal of life support.

Too often, life support measures such as feeding tube, water, and oxygen are defined in the medical paperwork as “extraordinary means to prolong life” (or, worse, “to prolong the natural dying process”). When their removal causes death, it is a form of euthanasia. One quite common in Florida.

Ask yourself the following question: can we ordinarily live without food and water?

Yet, patients (especially elderly patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices) are often asked if they want to “die a natural death” or “prolong the dying process through extraordinary means” (where food and water are defined as “extraordinary means to prolong life”!). The former (“die a natural death) appears to be the way to go, even for a well-formed Catholic…except that it actually gives the caretaker the ability to pull out your feeding tube and hydration. There is nothing natural in death by starvation and dehydration!

As St. John Paul II reminded us, Catholic bioethics and morality states that Artificial Nutrition and Hydration (ANH) “always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act”. This applies also and especially to persons in persistent vegetative state (PVS). The CDF clarified that the only three moral exceptions are “(1) when ANH would be impossible to provide; (2) when a patient may be unable to assimilate food and liquids; and (3) when ANH may be excessively burdensome for the patient or may cause significant physical discomfort”.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center reminds us that “We should provide food and water, even by [alternative] means, to all who are in need of them and can physiologically benefit from them. There are various means of providing nutrition and hydration, some of which are more invasive than others. The least invasive means of providing food and water should be used. The more burdensome to the patient a particular intervention, the less likely it is to be morally obligatory. In principle, the provision of nutrition and hydration by artificial means does not differ in its moral dimension from the provision of food and water by fork and cup. Both constitute ordinary means of preserving life. The fact that someone is in a state of unconsciousness and is not expected to recover [does not justify] depriving that person of food and water. If the provision of food and water proves to be useless (if they are not being assimilated by the body) or if it causes serious complications (aspiration pneumonia, infections, etc.), it can be stopped. ”

In short: “Whenever a recommendation is made not to provide food and water, one question to ask is “What will be the cause of death?” If the answer is dehydration and starvation, and artificial nutrition and hydration can be easily supplied and assimilated, then not supplying them is a form of euthanasia.”

The Catholic Medical Association also agrees that “discontinuing nutrition and hydration for a patient who is not imminently dying violates in its intention the distinction between ‘causing death’ and ‘allowing death.’”

Now let’s go back to the ventilator issue addressed in the article. A ventilator is a machine for artificial respiration.

Can we ordinarily live without oxygen?

Neuroscientist Fr. Pacholczyk, Ph.D. (National Catholic Bioethics Center) explains that “ordinarily, a ventilator offers a reasonable hope of benefit for the patient that can be obtained and used without excessive pain, expense, or other significant burden. Ordinary implies a moral obligation.”

However “if the patient’s condition is worsening with the nearly certain outcome that he will die in a few hours or days, then ventilation would be “extraordinary”, assuming all end-of-life matters have been taken care of. It may be decided that the use of a ventilator becomes extraordinary or disproportionate because it no longer achieves its perceived outcome. Withdrawing the ventilator would not be an act of euthanasia, because the patient would be dying due to the underlying condition. Yet, occasionally, ventilators may end up being part of a long-term solution.”

It is unclear from Dr. Smith’s article whether the patient who generously wishes to donate his organs is in a position to request in good conscience the removal of his ventilator. We are only told that the patient is “dying of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)”, which can have multiple interpretations. One of the question on the table (and our friends at the National Catholic Bioethics Center are much more qualified to answer it) is whether, upon removal of the ventilator, the patient would die as a result of the ALS (allowing death) or as a result of suffocation (causing death). Another question is whether the ventilator is excessively burdensome on the patient. In any case, the bottom line is the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary means of supporting life. Sorry, it is not as simple as “it’s his right” to remove the ventilator; nobody has an a priori right to die.

We could address DNR, dialysis, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, invasive surgery, heart-lung resuscitation, and antibiotics, and when they may be judged morally extraordinary or disproportionate. But this is beyond the scope of this article.

We do hope that we have clarified the main topic: more often than not, removing life support IS euthanasia, when we look carefully at the whole picture. Only then we realize that most of the time such life support is ordinary, beneficial…and morally binding.

For those who wish to learn more, the Franciscans of Life are always available to provide more information. You can touch base with us here. You may also want to learn more about Living Will and Advanced Medical Directives that can protect you and your loved ones from the dangers of “hidden euthanasia”. The page of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FLACCB) provides them in English and Spanish. Again, we are here to point you in the right direction, whether you are a patient, a family member, an inquirer, or a healthcare practitioner, physician, or nurse.

Vita ad vitam vocat – Life calls out to life.

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Please note: the contents of this article do not constitute medical or legal advice. When it comes to end-of-life decisions,  you should consult with your pro-life physician, spiritual director, confessor, chaplain, or another highly qualified authority such as the experts of the National Catholic Bioethics Center by calling their 24/7 hotline (215) 877-2660 (select Option 4 if urgent) or by submitting an online request.


 Br. Bernardo, FFV

Published in: on January 8, 2017 at 11:39 PM  Leave a Comment  

With Open Hands


Dear Friends and family:

Happy New Year!  I trust that everyone is reaping in the graces of the Christmas season.  It’s hard to believe that we just celebrated Christmas and New Year’s.  In my mind, it’s still summer.  I guess that’s what happens when you live in South Florida, there are no seasons.

Once more we must appeal to our friends for financial help.  We have a number of bills to pay and we’re short.  We have tuition due, rent, medical insurance premium, telephone and electric, as well as lots of medications.

We’re trying to help a few families of immigrants who have very low income and at least one person who is sick and disabled.  We do the best we can to get enough money together each month to help them.  When one family no longer needs us, we find another.  Part of our mission is to help the immigrant poor who do not have access to public funds.  This places them among the voiceless in our society.

Won’t you help us with whatever you can afford?  You can go to our website and use PayPal or throw a check in the mail to Franciscans of Life.  Our web page is http://franciscansoflife.org .

Franciscans of Life

9461 Palm Circle South

Pembroke Pines, FL 33025

Thank you for being there for us and the voiceless whom we serve.

Brother Jay, Superior

Published in: on January 4, 2017 at 2:10 AM  Leave a Comment