Increasing in more ways than one


Our little family seems to be going into a growth spurt.  The first shot . . .

JEANNIE 31 WEEKS PREGNANTBrother Jay’s granddaughter is inside.  NO . . . not in the box.  🙂

IVERSON HOLMBERG ASPIRANTSNext . . . meet the new aspirants.

Right:  Thomas Holmberg

Left:  Andrew Phillip Iverson

Tom has entered as an aspirant for the Extern Brothers.  He is a husband, a dad and a grandfather.  Welcome to our family, Tom.  Our prayers are always with you.

Andrew is an aspirant for our Regular Brothers.  He will live in community, make private profession of obedience, poverty, chastity and fidelity to the Gospel of Life.  We’re happy to have you among us, Andrew.

Observe the difference in the aspirants’ uniform.  The Extern Aspirant wears a white Habanera shirt with a TAU pin on his left lapel, while the Regular aspirant wears a white button-down shirt (short or long sleeve) with a TAU pin on his left lapel.

The aspirant phase is an optional step before a man requests to be admittedIVERSON INTERROGATIONd as a postulant.  The usual duration is no more than three months.  The aspirant and the formation team discern when it’s time to take the next step.

Each candidate is publicly interrogated by the superior.  He must swear that he understands what he’s doing and that he’s doing so freely.

ASPIRANCY ALTAR

On the altar are the TAU pins, symbol of the Franciscan family, the breviary for the Regular aspirant and the register that each aspirant and the superior must sign, witnessed by at least one brother.

Tom kneelsHOLMBER SIGNING in front of the superior to sign the register of admission.

The  new aspirant is received in a private ceremony that takes place during Vespers.  Only Franciscans of Life attend this ceremony.  Profession of vows takes place with a few invited guests, such as relatives friends and clergy.

Because the Regular Brothers are bound to pray the entire Divine Office, the Regular aspirant is given a breviary.  During this phase he becomes familiar with the Divine Office and begins to pray Lauds and Vespers.  Eventually he will pray Matins Lauds, Sext, Vespers and Compline.RECEPTION OF BREVIARY 1

The Regular aspirant places his hands on the breviary before receiving it from the superior who says to him, “Believe what you pray and pray as you believe.”

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Brother Bernardo D’Carmine was the sponsor and witness for both aspirants.

We must give special thanks to the Latin Mass Community of Miami for Brother Bernardo and Aspirant Andrew Phillip.  The community cultivated both vocations.  This is an example of the “oneness” of our Church.

The Franciscans of Life do not bear the label, “Traditionalist” nor are we part of the Ecclesia Dei Community, those institutes committed to the Extraordinary Form of the mass and to the Divine Office as it was prayed in 1962.  Nonetheless, Franciscans of Life is traditional in a very different sense.

Our Constitution mandates that we recover and imitate the life of the first generation Franciscans.

If you aspire to go forward, you must first look back.

 

 

Published in: on August 25, 2016 at 10:06 AM  Leave a Comment  

Following Mary’s GPS


On August 14, we celebrate the feast of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, patron of the Franciscans of Life, and the 75th anniversary of his martyrdom.  The next day, August 15th, is the solemnity of the Assumption, also known as the Feast of the Dormition of Mary in the Eastern Churches.  For the moment, let’s put the Assumption on the side.  By the end of this article, we’ll see how it all fits together.  Let’s begin with Maximilian Kolbe.

 

  1. Todeszelle_Pater_Maximilian_Kolbes,_KZ_Auschwitz_I,_Block_11We must get past the end of the story in order to understand any saint and his or her journey into the mind of God. All too often we look at the finished product, who the person was at the time of death or in the later years of their life, completely missing a life journey that should inspire us to do better.  Such is the case with St. Maximilian Kolbe.  When you mention his name, everyone remembers him as the priest who traded places with a condemned man Auschwitz and whom the Nazis starved and killed by lethal injection.  This heroic act of faith and charity did not spring up on the spur of the moment.  There was a lifetime that led to Maximilian’s ultimate sacrifice where he unites his life and death to that of the Crucified Christ to give man a chance at new life.
  1. MAX AND MARYAccording to his parents’ and brother’s memories, Maximilian was typical pre-adolescent who had the ability to get under people’s skin like most kids in that age group. His mother often cried out in despair, “What’s to become of you Raymond?  Note:  He was born Raymond Kolbe.  But there was something special about this apparent little magnet for trouble.  His parents had taught him to pray.  As a child, he knelt before Our Lady and asked her, “What is to become of me?”  Our Lady gave him a choice between a crown of martyrdom and a crown of purity.  Raymond chose both.

Here is a learning moment for those who are parents.  As important as it is to reign in your restless children and protect them from getting into trouble, as seemed to be Mrs Kolbe’s daily task with Raymond, it is imperative that we never forget that even those little mischievous creatures that we love and call children were given to us to form so that they can return to God.  The school that any child must attend is the school of prayer.

256px-Luxembourgers_in_England-_Evacuees_in_Surrey,_1942_D11110Raymond, despite the grief that he caused his mother, learned to go to prayer when he didn’t know where else to turn.  This is not something that comes built into a child.  This is the work of actual grace given by God to the parent, which the parent passes on to the child as he promised at the child’s baptism.  In other words, Raymond prayed because his parents had fulfilled the covenant they made when they baptized him, “to bring him up in the faith.”  A child who is brought up in the faith may be derailed, but can find his way back more easily than those who have not grown up in the Catholic faith.  We should pay special attention to those parents who raise saints.  Often, they serve as good models for parenting.

  1. At the age of 15, Raymond decided to join the Franciscans. He enters that branch of the Franciscans known as the Friars Minor Conventual or simply the Conventual Franciscans. Upon entering the novitiate, he is invested in the Franciscan habit and given the name Maximilian Maria.  From that point until his death he will be known as Friar or Brother Maximilian Maria. There is much to be learned here.

Jesus and boyFirst for youth – St. John Paul told the youth of the world, “Do not be afraid of Jesus Christ.” When Our Lady offered Raymond a choice between martyrdom and purity, he chose both.  We think of this story and we swoon over this wonderful little boy who was so pious and so holy.  We completely miss what God wants to teach us.  Those who struggle, as did Raymond, are also called to a life of virtue and sacrifice.  Prefabricated saints don’t need to practice heroic virtue or make heroic sacrifices.  Sinners do.

Raymond admitted that he was a sinner.  He also trusted Christ.  He was not afraid of Him.  If Christ used his Immaculate Mother to guide Raymond to Himself, Raymond was willing to take that step into the unknown and follow her lead.  He didn’t become a Franciscan Friar because this was what he wanted to do.  He may have wished to be a friar.  But he examined his attraction to the Franciscan life in light of the call that Christ made to him through the Immaculate.  Raymond entered the Franciscans because the Immaculate said to him, “Do whatever he tells you.”  She promised to be by his side along the journey.  There was no reason to fear Christ, no reason to fear embracing a life of uncertainty, sacrifice, long days and short nights, penances and many humiliations.  Maximilian teaches us that Christ calls us down paths that he has paved specially for each of us.  Christ never calls you where you cannot walk.

The question for the young person should be, “What is to become of me, Lord?”  This was Raymond Kolbe’s question and the Immaculate responded, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Life is not about what I want to do, but about God’s plan for me.

ST MAX AUSCHWITZ

Second for parents:  The Kolbe parents were committed to raising their children in the Catholic faith, as they had promised at their baptism.  They were also conscious that their children were not their special project, but they were a temporary gift from God that they would have to return when God asked.  However, they had no idea what God would ask of their children, when or how.  They st josephremained open to the God of surprises rather than planning out their children’s lives in advance and trying to steer them into careers and marriages without consulting God’s plan for them.  They educated their children in the faith, provided the academic education available to them and offered them guidance along the way.  But they never owned their children.  Their children belonged to God.  When Christ called Raymond to become Brother Maximilian, it may have not been what Mr and Mrs Kolbe expected or planned, but they trusted.  If this was truly the voice of God calling their son, he would be safe and they could offer him no better assurance of his happiness and salvation.  If it was simply an illusion of youth, God would open their son’s eyes to the folly of his choice in life.  Again, they trusted.

Madonna001The lesson to be learned is that even when we are unsure what God wants  from our children, if the choice is not a sinful one or a danger to to self or others, we can stand back and let the Immaculate guide.  She can only guide our children to her Son.  Her GPS is locked on Christ as the compass is locked on the North Pole.  There is nothing to fear and much to be gained.

This year, during the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, let us focus less on the end product, the martyr and more on the boy, the man and his parents.  Let us learn to follow the guidance of the Immaculate and to trust her Son as they did.  When we commit to following the guidance of the Immaculate, which leads to her son, then the Assumption needs very little if any explanation.  She who leads others to her Son was also called to follow Him in body and soul and will lead all men to the same end.

Shrine to the Immaculate Conception and St. Maximilian Kolbe at the FFV Motherhouse.

Pesky Flies Don’t Rant


Have you ever listened to someone when they are angry and ranting? If you have never had such an experience, you’re either deaf or you live under a rock. Rants are part of the human condition. I would say that rants are part of human communication. They allow the listener a peek into the heart and soul of the other, the person who is ranting.

ranting

You see, when people rant, they are only partially in control. Very often the emotions move faster than the rules that govern social discourse; the result is that you reveal yourself in not so politically correct ways, but probably in the most humble way possible. Humility is the exercise of truth governed by trust. You trust that the person who sees and hears you as you truly are also loves you as you are, not as he or she imagines or desires you to be.

Having been at the receiving end of rants many times in my life, rants by family members, colleagues, superiors, and even brothers in my own community I have learned to appreciate them rather than build a wall between the frustrated ‘ranter’ and me.

OK, I confess. I just made up a word: ranter. Now get past your linguistic indignation and stay with me.

While I’m sitting there listening to my brother rant on about something, it can be the flavor of ice cream, I’m aware that rants don’t have to be rational. But while I’m apparently listening to the rant, the truth is that I’ve learned to close my ears off to the rant. I open my eyes to other things and listen to those instead. It has often been a humbling experience. Allow me to explain.

My brother is ranting because something is bothering him. Why else rant? This does not mean that his annoyance is justified. Sometimes our annoyance is either irrational or exaggerated. But that’s not important and this is where we go wrong. We begin to look for the rationality in the other person’s discourse and being unable to find it, we return rant with rant.

Ignore the steam and focus on the heart...

Ignore the steam and focus on the heart…

On the other hand, observing Jesus in the Gospels and St. Francis of Assisi in his dealings with the first generation Franciscans, I noticed that they look at the heart of the ranter and listen to his inner voice.

Christ, very often, tells the Pharisees that they are closed minded, hard-hearted, proud and ignorant. But he never tells them that they are irrational, exaggerating, rude, or obnoxious. That’s not to say that they were not. It just means that Christ finds the truth about a man in his heart, not in his emotional outbursts. When he looked into the hearts of some of the Pharisees, he saw some serious character flaws.

At the same time, when he looked into the heart of some other ranters and whiners, he saw an innocence, ignorance, or uncertainty that kept him coming back to them and inspired him to call his apostles, “Friends”.

I noticed the same behavior in our holy father St. Francis when dealing with the early brothers. While one group ranted about the rule being too impractical and another group ranted about the first group being too liberal, Francis never returned a rant with a rant. He never lost his cool. He never told them to go away. He politely listened and said what he felt needed to be said and went on his way.

Through the years I’ve contemplated how Jesus and Francis responded to rants. I’ve integrated these observations along my parents’ style of communication; I’ve come to the conclusion that a rant can be like heart surgery . . . usually a great discomfort, but lifesaving.

Recently, one of my brothers was ranting at me (the reason is irrelevant and no, I did not kill the cat…). As he went on and on, I heard what he was not saying. He was hurt by something. I had failed to respond in the manner that he felt I should. Therefore, he was hurt by my behavior, because I came across as indifferent to something important to him. While we all claim that we are not concerned with what the world thinks, we all know this is not true. We care very much, especially those people with him we share the world the closest. As I thought of this, I realized that had it been someone else who ignored that which was important to the brother, it may have annoyed him or even made him angry, but it would not have hurt. What I was listening to was not a rant. The rant is the noise made by pain.

Before we go on to think that we must yield to everyone who rants, out of pity for their pain, let’s clarify something. Some people are in pain because their expectations are unreasonable or even irrational. Others are in pain because they never bothered to share their expectations, concerns, fears and loves with the other person. Suddenly, something goes wrong and they explode, leaving the other person feeling confused or even angry in return.

The point is that when someone rants at you, try to see his heart and listen to his pain. Then you can decide for yourself whether he is being reasonable or not.

In my particular case, during my last encounter with a rant, what I saw was a wounded heart, because I had failed to do something that would have validated my brother. As he ranted, I examined my conscience and realized that I had failed in spiritual friendship. I know this mean intimately. I should have responded to a sensibility of which I am well aware. I also heard, “I love you,” under his rant. “If I didn’t love you, I could care less how you respond to my feelings.” To me, there is nothing more humbling than being loved.

The next time that someone rants at you, try to SEE what’s in the heart and HEAR the emotion communicated by the soul. You may find that the person ranting at you is your best friend, not a pesky fly.

friend_the_fly

Br. Jay

No Bikes Allowed In Heaven


I realize that it’s a little late to write Mother’s Day messages.  In my case, it may be a little late to write a eulogy for my mom who died 15 years ago.  Nonetheless, there is something that I would like to share with all of you who are parents and those who will be parents.

When a parent approaches the Lord for the final judgement, the most important question that he must face is whether or not he fulfilled his duty as a Christian and passed on the faith to his children.

Passing on the faith is more involved than sending kids to weekly CCD and putting them through the drills for First Confession, First Holy Communion and Confirmation.  The sacraments are not graduation ceremonies.  The sacraments are part of a journey.  This is where my mother comes into my spiritual picture.FLAMES

Whatever her faults, were many things that my mom did well.  But the one thing that she did with outstanding fidelity, love, courage and concern was to hand down the faith.  From the moment we were born we were incorporated into the faith community.  I say incorporated to mean that we didn’t just get dragged down to the church to be baptized or the temple to be blessed and “Goodbye”.  There was much more.  Faith was part of our domestic culture.

I remember that the first picture book that I ever read was the story of Moses.  From there, I read every other story in the bible.  Faith was part of our recreation, because bedtime reading was a ritual and a fun time for me.

Religious symbols were present in every room in our house.  I was taught to pay attention to them.  I remember my mother insisting that I bow my head each time I passed a crucifix that was in the entry foyer.  Bowing to the crucifix and altar in church were not new to me.

Morning, evening and night prayers were part of our family schedule.  We prayed before going to school.  When I was older, I prayed the Holy Rosary with my mom every day at 7PM.  I have no idea why it had to be at 7PM.  I can tell you this.  I have no idea what wasrosary on TV at 7PM.  That was time for evening prayer.  Then there were night prayers that were said at bedtime.  The very first prayer that I learned to say was the Lord’s Prayer.  Because I grew up in a bilingual home, my mother made sure that I could pray it in two languages.  After that, other prayers were added, including prayers at the table.

My mother taught us Judeo-Christian morality without proselytizing and without nagging.  I would come home and tell her about something I saw at school or on the street.  My mother would stop to listen.  If the action was good, she explained how I should imitate it, because it pleased God.  If the action was bad, she explained the importance of avoiding it, because it was a sin and sin could land you in hell.  My mom was not afraid of words like “sin” and “hell”.  Despite her use of those terms, I don’t suffer from PTSD.  If anything, I suffer from a guilty conscience when I mess up.

Not to drag this on too long, which I already have, when I was about 11 we had a fire that destroyed a good portion of our home.  It took several months to rebuild, paint and do whatever else they do when they rescue a house.  How would I know?  I was only 11.

I’ll never forget standing outside at 3:00 AM on a very cold March morning, in my PJs and a blanket, watching flames come out of one of the upstairs windows.  When the fire was finally out, I asked my mother, “What are we going to do?”  My mom was very quiet for a moment.  Then she said, “I have no idea.  Let’s not worry about that now.  Let’s find a warm place to sleep.  God always has a plan and he will tell us what to do when the time is right.”  This was a belief that she instilled in us from childhood.  “God has a plan.”  And “Only God knows.”  We were always assured that Providence was taking care of us.

Like any good Judeo-Christian, we worshipped every weekend and on holy days as well.  There was  no such thing as sleeping in and not going to Church until you were old enough to pay your own bills.

The best thing that I learned from my mother was love of God and love of neighbor.  I saw my mom take in kids whose parents could not care for them and they would live with us until the parents were ready to take them home.  One child lived with us about three months.  I saw my mother stop inside the church on her way home to visit the Blessed Sacrament.

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I was not asked if I wanted to come in.  I just naturally followed and knelt in front of the tabernacle.  There was no doubt that Christ lived in that little box.  There was no excuse for driving or walking by the church and not stopping to say hello to its sovereign resident.

Remembering these things, I believe that at the moment of her death, whatever faults my mother had were outshined by her perseveration when it came to handing down the faith to her children.  This is the first and most important vocation of parenting.

The roof over the head, the food on the table, the school tuition, and medical bills were all covered.  But as my mother once said, “Giving your kids the material things they need won’t get them to heaven.  No bikes allowed in heaven.  You have to give more.”

Three Peas in a Pod we’re not – Scott Eric Alt, Robert Spaemann and I – Maybe two


To better understand this comment, I would refer you to the excellent post by Scott Eric Alt on Interacting With the Spaemann Interview on Amoris Laetitia ,

three peasNow my two cents.

I’m having a problem with the Professor Spaemann’s answers and those of others of the same way of thinking.  It is not impossible for anyone to disagree with something in an Apostolic Exhortation.  This much is true.  They are written to offer some guidance, not to teach.  One can always disagree with the guidance that is offered.  Before I continue, allow me to say that we can and often do teach through the guidance that we offer.  Anyone who’s a parent knows exactly what I mean, but back to the professor.

I never trust these reports.  It is often the case that the gaps between what the subject said and the reporter wrote are as numerous as the craters on the moon.  For the sake of this discussion, let’s give the interviewer the benefit of the doubt and accept that he is reporting without too much editing.

It is my opinion that the Professor’s responses are not helpful on two fronts.

First:  They present a dark side of the exhortation, but the speaker fails to give you observable results from past experiences that prove the existence of such a dark side.  Philosophy works with and based on systems.  I could not find that system that the professor uses to arrive at his conclusions.  Therefore, I can only assume that the systems are not reported, which does not allow those of us who know some philosophy to question the methodology leading to his conclusions.  The other possibility is that he is not using systematic thinking, but it projecting his predictions based on subjectivity (gut feeling).

Second:  I caution people to be careful with those who claim to love the Church and to have been a consultant to this pope and a friend to that one.  This can be and probably is true.  Sometimes, these relationships can obscure one’s sense of duty.  Even though the Professor was an advisor to St. John Paul II and a friend to Benedict XVI, as a faithful Catholic philosopher, his first allegiance is to the Church, not the individual popes.  Therefore, I would expect him to use his skills and his intimate experience with these two giants to help his audience see the points of contact and continuity between AL and tradition.  In no way does this detract from his right to use his intellect to say, “This can be said more clearly,” or “This raises this question that we need to submit to someone in authority to respond.” 

In doing so, one is faithful to the Church, does not throw the current pope under the bus, is not sucked into the typical Church politics of “conservative vs liberals”, and helps people see the good in the exhortation while encouraging them to ask questions respectfully and with trust in the integrity of the person answering.

The Joy of Love and the Burden of Anger – Amoris Laetitia and Onus Irae


How-The-Human-Nervous-System-WorksI have to share this, because I must be missing something.  I’m more than half-way through Amoris Laetitia.  I just finished the “infamous” Chapter Eight.

As I read through this document, I can see some statements that need further clarification or better wording, simply because most people do not think in Spanish and write in Latin or Italian.  That’s an unusual cross-over.  As one who speaks Spanish and Italian, I reread those expressions that sounded odd to my Anglophone ear, repeating them to myself in Spanish and realized, “Oh, this is the way an Argentine would say X; whereas a European or an American would say it this other way.”

Contrary to what the Blogisterium is saying, I did find where the Holy Father makes some very precise points.  Marriage is indissoluble.  A relationship between homosexual persons can in no way be elevated to the level of marriage.  We cannot disregard the rules, just because time changes. And the exception is not the rule.

I can appreciate the fact that he describes what is happening in marriage and family life in First World countries and even in South American middle class society.  His description is quite accurate.  I can testify to this as one who has lived on three continents and four countries.  It’s not a pretty picture, but it is what it is and we, Catholics and non-Catholics, have to begin to help heal the wounded, where they’re at, while at the same time teach the younger generation what they need to know before marriage, to avoid more casualties in the future.  I believe this is the tone of this exhortation.  We have to fight to secularist perception of love and commitment.

I don’t get the impression that the Holy Father is trying to change rules, disciplines, traditions, moral laws or doctrines.  He means to paint a portrait of what love, marriage and family should be and what it is in many parts of our society.  We don’t like the picture, but it won’t go away because we don’t like it.  We have to attack the problem with a double barrel, palliative and preventative.

In short, I can’t find anything that is heretical or new, other than the pastoral approach that the Holy Father suggests.  I use that word, because he is suggesting, not demanding.

In addition, I don’t agree with the manner in which some people speak about the Holy Father and the exhortation.  There are many things that people in positions of authority do and say that may upset us.  That does not give us the right to call the Vicar of Christ a heretic, Modernist, agent of the devil, or any other such labels.

If there is one thing that our holy Father Saint Francis taught not only his brothers and sisters, but also the people of his day, was to speak and think about the pope, bishops and other clergy with reverence and humility.  He had no problems seeing weaknesses, nor did he have problems defending what he believed to be true.  But he had a very serious problem with any Franciscan or lay person who spoke disrespectfully about the pope or the rest of the clergy.

The argument, “I’m not a Franciscan,” doesn’t apply here; because Francis’ example of holiness, humility, charity, respect and submission was for the benefit of the entire Church, not just for those in his religious family.

When reading the exhortation, do not be afraid to disagree or to ask for clarification; but run away from the temptation to malign the good name of anyone, especially the Vicar of Christ.  He does not have to be perfect to command our respect.  This was made very clear by the Council of Trent and Vatican II.

Humble people who ask questions, offer suggestions, and show respect get further ahead than those who are hostile. Hostility creates distance between people.  It does not build bridges of communication and reflection.

Published in: on April 14, 2016 at 12:11 PM  Leave a Comment  

AMORIS LAETITIA: Advice for Mature Catholics


FRANCIS COAT OF ARMSI’ve been reading some commentaries on the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia”. I’d like to point out some errors that we have to avoid.

First — we need to read the document very carefully, pray over it, and read it again before we comment on it.

Second — let us remember that an apostolic exhortaion is not a catechism. Do not expect an apostolic exhortation to repeat what is already stated in every catechism of every generation. I use the admonitions of St. Francis of Assisi as an example. If you read them, you’ll not find anything in his admonitions that is already stated in the Rule and Constitutions. The admonitions are reflections that flow from the study and observance of the Gospel. The same principle applies to an apostolic exhortation.

Third — Do not let others determine what you should like or not like about the exhortation. Nor should you allow others to tell you that something is great or something is bad without giving you a specific example.

Fourth — If there is something that you find problematic, quote it when you share it. Dissect it so that others know what you find to be a problem. Leave an opening for others to agree or disagree with you. Dialogue is essential in understanding these writings.

Fifth — Because something is not mentioned in the apostolic exhortation, it does not mean that the Church has neglected a particular point or doctrine. Apostolic exhortations, like any other writing, must flow. Sometimes a specific statement or subject makes the writing sound awkward and does not add to what the Holy Father is saying.

Sixth — Remember, extreme reactions, to the left or to the right, are equally misguided. Extremes are circular. Eventually, the extreme left meets the extreme right at some point on the other side of the circle.

Seventh — Pay close attention to the citations that the exhortation includes from the writings of Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II and other Church documents. This is an attempt to connect the present with the past. To understand the connections, one needs to read carefully.

Eighth — Notice that the exhortation makes three kinds of statements: admonitions, doctrine, and pastoral recommendations. We are used to apostolic exhortations being admonitions, pastoral or dogmatic. This particular exhortation blends the three.

Ninth — Remember respect. One is allowed to disagree with the pope. Saints and other theologians have done so in the past. However, none of them have ever been disrespectful in expressing their disagreements. We don’t hear them calling popes: Modernists, eretics, diabolical, dumb, mentally ill, or apostates. Name calling is never appropriate, especially when it applies to our parents, spouses, children and popes. Who of us would dare apply any of these labels to a loved one, because we believe him or her to be in error? Usually, we try to point out the error. This may lead to heated discussions, but the conversation limits itself to the subject on the table, not the character of the participants. We owe the Holy Father reverence, obedience and respect.

Tenth — Let us be humble and keep in mind that our opinions are not absolute truth, even when we quote truth. That which we quote may be true, but our understanding and application of said truth may be mistaken. We must be open to hearing opinions of those who do not think as we do. We must discuss our concerns with those who are knowledgeable in theology and who are authorized to teach it: parish priests, religious educators, Catholic theologians, Catholic theology teachers, many religious brothers and sisters who are trained in theology and Christian Spirituality.

I hope these points will help you as you navigate through this or any other papal writing.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia.html

First time in Miami: Respect Life Hispanic Conference


flyer

On Saturday, November 7, the Franciscans of Life attended the Second Statewide Respect Life Hispanic Conference. This is the first Hispanic pro-life conference to take place in the Archdiocese of Miami. The location – Immaculate Conception Catholic Church – was no coincidence: Hialeah is the city with the highest number of abortions in the State of Florida, and the Catholic pro-life efforts in its territory are still limited.

Featuring an impressive panel of speakers, the Conference covered topics such as: “Christian Matrimony: God’s master plan”, “The truth on abortion”, “Recovery after abortion”, “The ethical care of human life from conception to natural death”, “Moral medical methods for the treatment of infertility”, “Spiritual and practical support for couples suffering infertility”, and “Plan of action for the family”.

Hispanic_Conference_talkOne of the talks was titled: “Project Joseph – for fathers”. This was the first time that we presented in Spanish the work carried out in Project Joseph – a joint effort between the Franciscans of Life and Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami to serve fathers in unexpected pregnancies.

The talk was delivered by our Father Superior, Br. Jay, who founded the program 6 years ago and currently directs it. He was accompanied by Br. Bernardo, Project Joseph mentor at the North Dade Pregnancy Help Center.

The talk – which we will feature in an upcoming article – began by describing how Project Joseph is relevant to the Ibero-American culture, in which too often women, and particularly mothers, are treated as if they were servants or nannies, rather than with the respect they deserve. This leads to the development of dysfunctional environments. As a consequence, there are many situations in which few rights are recognized to the women but many burdens are imposed on her if she becomes a mother, while the father on the other hand retains many rights and few responsibilities. On this note, the origin of Project Joseph were described.

(c) Ana Rodriguez-Soto | FC

(c) Ana Rodriguez-Soto | FC

“Don’t let me catch you talking badly about my Project Joseph dads!”, admonished Br. Jay. “These men are good people. Project Joseph offers them the opportunity to mature and grow as men and as fathers.”  Over 200 fathers have participated and become mature men, responsible and prepared to face the challenges of life.

Br. Jay mentioned that the success of the Project is due to the intercession of St. Joseph, patron of all fathers. His role in the Holy Family, described in a few examples, shows why it is so important to help these men walk in the footsteps of St. Joseph.  The Franciscan charism is also behind the success of Project Joseph, a charism that originates in the Seraphic Father and finds worthy example in the martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe, patron of the pro-life movement.

It was a beautiful, well organized, well attended event. We were glad to be there and have a table set aside for us to raise awareness of the work carried out by the FFV.

Hispanic_Conference_tableOur apostolate to the preborn children and their parents has developed significantly through Project Joseph, and we are particularly interested in recruiting Hispanic or bi-lingual mentors, since many of our dads speak Spanish as their primary language. However, we also serve the chronically and terminally ill and their families and caregivers, as well as the immigrant poor – populations that are very much in need of attention as we look to “The Family in light of God”.

The Conference came to a closing with Holy Mass celebrated by H.E. Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami. During his homily, he underscored the important role of St. Joseph in God’s plan for the family. Here is our translation:

“The theme of this conference has been “The family in light of God.” Here, in Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus, that is, in the holy family, we see reflected God’s plan for the family when there is no stain of sin.

May the prayers and example of the Jesus’ parents strengthen today’s parents in their efforts to raise their children according to God’s will. In thefulfillment of His plan of salvation for mankind, God did not need the participation of Joseph to create the child Jesus. Nevertheless, God decided that the help of Joseph was indeed necessary in raising the holy child. Joseph, as chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, played an indispensable role in the life of Jesus as his foster father. He was not an absent or indifferent father. In fact, to him was entrusted the safety and well-being of Mary and of Jesus. We see this in the episode of the flight to Egypt. We perceive this in the narration of the child lost and found in the temple of Jerusalem. We can deduce that Joseph played a crucial role in the life of Jesus before he began his public life by the fact that his fellow citizens knew him as “the son of the carpenter”.

God wanted the best for his Son, and thus made it possible for Mary to marry Joseph, for only matrimony ensures the commitment between the parents and for the children. The children are raised better when the effort is carried out by a father and a mother. Thus was then and thus is now: every child needs a father, every child deserves a father – a father like Joseph. For this reason, the Church proposes the family of Nazareth as a model; and if for some reason our earthly family does not count with the presence of a mother or father, the Church invites us to count on Mary and Joseph. They will not disappoint us.”

The event was featured on the Archdiocesan News. Click here to read the article, which features the Project Joseph talk.

If you wish to see some more pictures, courtesy of Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami, follow this link 🙂

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to us! We will be glad to help you explore and discern if the Lord is inviting you to proclaim the Gospel of life with us.

Moral Reasoning Through the Complexity of Homosexuality


This is a very complex issue. It’s not as simple as people on both sides of the aisle want to make it. There are some basic principles that do help us understand what is right and wrong. Many people are not educated in these principles.

First: God reveals himself. He discloses himself to man through Sacred Scripture, also through sacred tradition, the baseball_throwingMagisterium of the Church, natural law, and logic.

We can’t just throw a bible verse at something and pretend we have it all figured out. All of these pieces must work together. They are all good, because they all come from the same divine origin.

Second: Faith enlightens reason. We must reason through these questions and let our faith inform us whether or not our reasoning is consistent with what God has revealed about his nature and the nature of man.

Third: People have to distinguish between the action and the person. They are not the same. When a five-year old kills his little brother with his father’s gun during a game of “cops and comicrobbers,” the action is contrary to the commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” However, the five-year old is not a murderer, because he neither intended to actually kill his sibling, nor is he knowledgeable of the commandment. The action remains evil; but the child is not culpable. We can condemn behaviors, but we have to be very careful not to judge people. That would be playing God.

Fourth: Juangel_appears_to_st_josephdging another person involves walking through his or her mind and conscience. One’s thoughts on any issue and one’s moral conscience are part of what is known as the “internal forum”. This is an area of human existence that no human being may trespass or attempt to read without an invitation from the individual who is the lawful guardian of his mind and conscience. We can explain why a certain action or behavior is wrong, but we may not pass judgment on the individual’s moral reasoning unless that person invites us to examine it with him, thus inviting us into the internal forum.


Fifth: There is a big difference between homosexual acts and homosexuality. A person with same sex attraction does not wake up one morning and decide to be gay. As he develops and goes through different life experiences, he becomes aware of his feelings in this area. On the other hand, people freely choose to engage in sexual behavior with a person of the same sex. Choosing to be attracted to the same sex is very rare. That which man does not choose can be neither a sin nor a virtue.

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Sixth: Homosexual acts, like heterosexual acts, are freely chosen by the parties involved (except in cases of violent force). The person(s) must use reason to determine whether an act is right or wrong. If the person is a man or woman of faith, that faith should confirm the correctness of his conclusion or point to its moral error.

right and wrongSeventh: Acting on faith and basing our actions on what God has disclosed to us about him, about us and about the relationship between the divine and the human is not the same as playing God. It is using that which makes us in the image and likeness of God to make right choices, that being knowledge of right and wrong.

Eighth: Standing in judgment of an action does not constitute godliness. It’s part of human reason and part of living in society. On the other hand, standing in judgment of the person involved in the action that we reject, IS playing God. No one has the right to judge the conscience of another human being, unless the other person opens up his heart and shares what is on his conscience.

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MEN AND WOMEN, LOVE AND SEX, GOD AND FREEDOM


I read a page on Facebook, of all places, that actually drew my attention to something wrong and something good.  I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject.  The subject is pornography.

The page on Facebook correctly said that porn kills love.  It becomes an addiction that can destroy human relationships.  This is true.  To this must be added what this “new drug” does to our spiritual life.

cross_window_brick_wallAnything that becomes an obsession, porn, gambling, drinking or other disordered forms of pleasure and “recreation,” will create a wall between God and us.  It is not God who builds the wall.  On the contrary – God wants nothing more than to save us.  He has spent eternity tearing down the walls that man builds to keep Him out.

We believe that God made us in His image and likeness.  However, the porn industry tells us that we are created to take pleasure from each other.  Nowhere in the industry do we find the word, love.  Sex is completely divorced from love.  It is for pleasure and for profit.

Because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are made to love.  God brought us into existence, not because he needs us, but because he loves us.  Out of love, he gives us knowledge, free will, the capacity to love, the ability to transcend from our world into eternity, and an immortal soul.  These are attributes that God shares with us.  Hence we are truly created in His image and likeness.

upset_coupleWhen someone caves in to porn or any other addictive and disturbing behavior, he or she starts down the path of slavery, because this becomes an obsession.  Gradually, our brain’s hardwiring is altered to the point that we no longer make a free choice regarding love, sex and interpersonal relationships.  We are driven by a hunger for something else; in this case it’s porn.

Here is the problem.  When man becomes driven by his obsessions, this drive erodes his free will to the point that the obsession becomes an addiction and that gift of free will that God gave us is forgotten.  We no longer choose to love.  On the contrary, in the case of this type of addiction, one is trapped in mythological love.  Myth is not real.  Therefore, what we see on the screen is not real love, but fantasy.  Since it is not real, it never fully satisfies our need to give and receive love.  When one’s need is not satisfied, one tends to seek a higher dosage and more frequent dosage of whatever drug one believes will “fix us”, hence the term, “a fix”.

Not all is lost.  On the contrary, there is hope and salvation from our addictions and disordered sexual drives.  The most powerful medicines are found in the sacraments.  Eucharist and confession are not magical solutions to life’s problems.  God is not a magician.  Eucharist and confession are acts of love.  Christ shares his life with us.  He restores us to health because he loves us.

Having said this, God builds on nature.  He does not change it.  There are some things that we have to do and that we can do to overcome our addictions and sexual obsessions.  We begin by examining how we view men and women.  A heterosexual male may see women as subordinate to men and see other men as antagonists.  021001-N-3228G-008He has to compete with other males or he has to refrain from seeing the good and the beautiful in other males, because it’s not the “manly” thing to do.  He has to prove to women that he is powerful. None of this is helpful thinking.

We must recover God’s vision of men and women.  We must remind ourselves tbride & groomhat men and women are our brothers and sisters.  They are equally beautiful and equally worth our attention and love.  Both sexes have much to offer through friendship, marriage, camaraderie, collegiality and other healthy relationships.

This must be followed by concrete action.  One must decide to change one’s behavior.  One of the best programs for people with addictions is the 12-Step program.  It works one day at a time.  Just as no one gets addicted to porn in 30 seconds or less, no one gets off it in 30 seconds or less either.  It’s a daily task.  The good thing is that God does not ask us to live more than one day at a time.  For all we know, today may be our last day on earth.  We must plan for today and as Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow.”  When tomorrow becomes today, we plan for that day.  Each day, we plan to live that day free of our addiction.

We must not forget the importance and the power of prayer.  Contrary to what some may believe, prayers are answered.  We may not always like the answer, but we receive an answer nonetheless.  The most powerful advocate and mentor in our struggle to live free of addictions and obsessions is the Immaculate.  She can stand as a barrier between us and that which can hurt us.  She soothes bruises that are often the product of our behavior.  Mary is the mother who reminds us that if we “do whatever he tells you” everything will be alright.

prayer_Our_Lady

I’d like to add the importance of community.  One need not join a community such as the Franciscans of Life to experience the common life.  But every man and woman must engage in relationships with other men and women.  These relationships must be productive; meaning that the relationship does well for the other person and for us.  We have to take the risk of friendship, real love, and openness to others.

It is true that human relationships are risky, because we can get hurt.  However, the hurt that we may experience in a human relationship is much easier to overcome than an addiction.  This hurt is the product of love.  We hurt because we first loved.  Had we not loved, we would not hurt.  Addiction is not the product of love, nor does it lead to love.  It’s not even self-serving.

When we remember that Christ is the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, we begin to heal as we view men and women through the eyes of Christ . . . as family, not prepackaged satisfaction.

B. Jay

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