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.


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


[How to Help]

“Life calls out to life”

A couple of months ago we mentioned that there would be some upcoming articles focusing on Project Joseph and on our family, the Franciscans of Life. The former we addressed in April. Today we continue this “mini series” by answering the question…

Who Are The Franciscans Of Life?


   The Franciscans of Life is a private association of Catholic laymen who are celibate, singler, or married.  It is the hope of the society to become a public association of the faithful someday, maybe an institute of mixed life, where regular and secular meet.

   We exist with the permission and blessing of the Archbishop of Miami, the Most Reverend Thomas Wenski. Men from six countries, four language groups and three generations make up the fraternity.

   We attempt to replicate that brotherhood that grew up around Saint Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century, where there were friars, nuns, married men and women, diocesan priests, widows and single people who followed the Gospel according to the Rule of Penance written by Saint Francis.  Today, our fraternity is comprised of men only.  There are “regular” brothers who live the evangelical counsels in private vows and “extern” brothers who live the evangelical counsels as single or married men.

Our Way of Life


The Franciscans of Life make a covenant to live the Gospel according to the Rule of Penance and the constitutions of the society.  Every brother, celibate, single, or married is a full member of the fraternity.  Therefore, each one binds himself to observe obedience to the Church and the superior of the fraternity, to live a life of detachment from material things and temporal honors, and to persevere in chastity in the celibate, single, or married life.

While all of the brothers in Franciscans of Life are lay and secular, we use the term “extern” to identify those brothers who are married or single and hoping to marry, and the term “regular” to identify those brothers who live in community, are in private vows and are celibate.

 Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, private prayer, fasting and abstinence are the guiding lights for the brothers.  Fraternity is a hallmark of Franciscan tradition.  Therefore, the brothers look to Christ and the apostles and endeavor to follow that model of fraternal life and service.

Common prayer, sharing, openness to each other, our families, and support for each other along the journey toward the perfection of charity are the means by which the brothers sanctify their lives and the lives of those they touch.  The brothers are faithful and obedient to the Catholic Church as she speaks to us through the successor of Peter and the local bishop.

Our Mission


The mission of the fraternity is to proclaim the Gospel of Life through service to the voiceless, in particular the preborn child and his family, the terminally ill and the elderly, the immigrant poor who feels hopeless, and the person living with disabilities.

The brothers engage in a variety of apostolic activities in the Archdiocese of Miami. These include catechesis, campus ministry, Respect Life, prayer vigils at abortion mills, and serving fathers in crisis pregnancies through Project Joseph. Other apostolates are hospice and linking immigrant poor with community resources.

The invisible dimension of the brothers’ mission is a life of atonement for those who embrace the culture of death.

Extern Brothers



The extern brothers live in the secular world, but are not of the world.  They are husbands, fathers, and single men.  The fraternity is also open to deacons and diocesan priests who have the permission of their bishop to join.

   These brothers hold typical jobs in the world and belong to different parishes in the Archdiocese.  However, they come together with each other and the regular brothers at the weekly family meeting, liturgical functions, prayer, and apostolic activities.

   Those who are husbands and fathers include their spouses and children in as many of the fraternal activities as possible.  In this way, the Franciscan spirit is carried into the family and the family is embraced by the fraternity.

   The extern brothers and their families engage in the proclamation of the Gospel of Life through participation in activities that promote the sanctity of life.

Regular Brothers



These brothers live in community under the leadership of a superior.  They make private vows of obedience, poverty and chastity and are celibate for life.

None of the brothers owns anything individually or in common.  They rent their home, share their material resources, and work to provide for their material needs as prescribed by Saint Francis in his Testament.  When the income is not enough, the brothers beg as did the early Franciscans.

The daily life of these brothers is comprised of prayer, apostolic service to the voiceless, study, and labor that generates enough income to support the brothers and their work for the poor.

Under the guidance and encouragement of a superior also known as a guardian, the brothers strive to live as a family where brother serves brother as Christ served the apostles when he washed their feet at the Last Supper.  These brothers spend a great deal of time together at prayer, work, ministry, study, recreation and rest.





Like Saint Francis and the first generation Franciscans, the Franciscans of Life look to the Trinity for guidance and example in community, intimacy, love, unity and holiness.





Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Saint John Paul II are the patrons of the Franciscans of Life.  From these saints we learn to live under the mantle  of the Immaculate and to protect the sanctity of life from conception to death.

Vita ad vitam vocat…”

Prayerfully consider whether the Lord is inviting you to walk the way with us. In doing so, bear in mind the sayings of our patron saints: “Do not be afraid…forget not love!”

We look forward to hearing from you!

[How to Help]

Upon this “quarry” I will build my Church?

Since the closing of the extraordinary synod there has been a great deal of commentary on the blogosphere about the reception of Holy Communion by Catholics who are divorced and invalidly remarried.  The question is not so much as to whether the first marriage was valid and the second is not or the other way around.  The question on everyone’s mind seems to be whether or not Pope JPII W EUCHARISTFrancis is pushing for a relaxation of the law that currently exists, which says that people who are conscious of grave sin should not receive Holy Communion.  Living with someone as if he or she were your spouse when the person is not, would be one of those occasions when objectively one is culpable a grave sin.

I wouldn’t have written this article, if I thought that this is the only issue on the table.  After all, Pope Francis has not said anything that indicates that he is trying to persuade the bishops to change the law or keep the law.  What we seem to be hearing from the Holy Father is that he wants every voice to be heard.  Sometimes, when one opens the door to every voice one finds discordant voices.  Whether it’s prudent to open the door to every voice is an important question.  However, in the case of the extraordinary synod on the family, it’s a moot question, because the horse has already left the starting gate.

We have seen cardinals, bishops, theologians, religious and laymen speak on the synod and the documents that were published after.  The points that concern most people are whether or not these men and women in invalid marriages should bride & groombe allowed to receive Holy Communion; whether or not same-sex couples have something positive to contribute to the Church; and whether or not we can find any good in situations where people who are not spouses live as if they were.  I certainly can’t claim to have the answers to these questions, because they are above my paygrade.  Even if I thought I had the answer, the Holy See is not really interested in my opinion, because it’s not my place in the Church to speak as an authority of matters of faith and morals.  That authority is reserved for the local bishop.  I can only speak as an authority in my home and in my community with the Franciscans of Life.  Even there, I can only repeat what the Church teaches; I cannot teach anything that is outside of Church teaching as if it were the “official” Catholic position.

Here is precisely where we’re having problems today.  The blogosphere is overpopulated with voices that not only have something to say about these questions, but want to speak and be heard as if they had the BOOKS ON HEADauthority to make pronouncements to the rest of the Church.  When they speak they sound intelligent, because they can use big words, throw around some citations from previous popes, councils and older catechisms and there are times when their arguments have some logic.  To the average layman (not as in non-ordained, but as in newbie to Church politics) these voices can be very impressive and persuasive, to the point that these readers become talking boxes for the bloggers.  You hear them repeat, verbatim, what a blogger has written.  This is an interesting development, because the blogosphere seems to be giving birth to its own oral tradition within the Catholic Church and some people are beginning to take this tradition seriously.

At the risk of sounding like these voices, I have to state that bloggers are just that and no more.  St. Francis of Assisi held that a man is what he is before God, san francisconothing else.  This has been part of Franciscan tradition and culture for 800 years.  Why?  Because it works.  Why does it work?  Because it’s true.

When we read what someone puts out there, be he a cardinal, bishop, religious, concerned Catholic layman we must keep this person in his or her proper context.  He or she is what God sees, not how he presents himself.  When God looks at a cardinal, he sees a bishop who has a specific place in the Church, with a specific assignment, specific role and mission.  He does not see another Peter, because there can only be one Peter.  The Church is built upon the faith of one rock, not an entire quarry.

The same applies to lay writers, who are often very impressive.  Nonetheless, they are not Peter.  All of these people are commenting on what Peter has said, failed to say, should say, will never say and that’s fine and dandy.  They are commentators.  We have to take them as such.  I do not take the commentator at clerics playinga Super Bowl show and credit him with the same authority that I credit the referee.  At the end of the day, the person who makes the call whether the ball is in or out of bounds is the ref, not the guy at the microphone.  The guy at the microphone can call the shot anyway he likes it, but his call is not going to determine the outcome of the game.

Listening to and reading what every blogger in town has to say about divorce, remarriage, Holy Communion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, cohabitation, the family, sex, and many other topics that fall under the umbrella of “family” can be very interesting and very enlightening.  I certainly like knowing what other GOD IS HIDDEN WITHINpeople are thinking.  But I have to remind myself that what I’m reading are the talking points and opinions of others like the sportscaster at the Super Bowl.  These are not the officials who call the shots that shape the outcome of the game.  The only person who can call those shots is Peter.

So far, in this entire discussion on the family, Pope Francis has only said that a synod of bishops has no authority to make or change rules, much less dogma and that the pope calls a synod under his pope franciswatchful eye and under his authority.  Therefore, he and only he can decide what to keep or throw out from what comes from the synod.

Those people who are saying that the Church is going to do A, B, and C, because the synod fathers said something in favor of A, B, and C can be very mistaken.  The Church is going to do whatever Peter decides.  It may be A, B, and C or D, E, and F.

Do not take these bloggers too seriously, nor reporters for that matter or people doing interviews.  Remember St. Francis of Assisi.  A man is what he is before God, nothing else.  None of these men is Peter.  They have strong opinions and are often very rational.  Other times they have very strong opinions and are very illogical.  I don’t pledge my support to the former, because as logical as his opinion may be, he lacks the authority to speak for the Church.  I listen to his opinion and like Mary; I hold these in my heart.  On the flip side, I don’t pledge my allegiance to the latter either, because his opinions are illogical.

Saint Pius XUntil the Church tells me that what appears illogical to me must be obeyed and held, I have no duty to do so.  The key here is “to me”.  Just because something seems right or wrong to me, does not make it so.  Just because I think I understand what the Church has traditionally said on a specific subject does not mean that I do.

We are very proud of what we think, to the point that we throw our ideas out there as if they were revealed truths and we’re willing to insult, hurt, and ignore others who do not agree with our understanding of the faith, morality or Catholic tradition. Which leads me to ask whether at the end of the day, all of these interviews that people are giving, all of these opinions that people are posting on blogs concerning the Church, the family and the pope, and all of these sound bites are just another temptation to pride and disobedience.

How much of all that is said is about love of God and man and how much is about love of one’s opinion and one’s idea of what “is” means?

Parents and God: friends or foes?

This week, I’ve had the privilege of working with many parents and their children.  When you work in the field of evangelization, you get to meet many families.  I consider it pretty special.  I always walk away feeling that I have exchanged gifts.  It can be an individual member of a family or an entire family who gives me a gift and to whom I give a gift.

For the sake of privacy and because it would be silly to give so many details, I’m going to combine all of my families into three groups.


I received a letter from someone whom I do not know.  I have never met this person or any member of her family.  It was a lovely letter.

Brother JR, I just wanted to thank you – you were so instrumental in our family’s conversion five years ago. I spent many long hours reading your articles, which were always gentle and full of the beauty of the faith. For that, for helping us know the beauty of the Catholic Church, I am forever grateful.

God bless you, and please know you’re in my prayers.

This letter moved me a great deal.  The Holy Spirit can use anything and anyone to save.  The key is to be aware of that one is an instrument, not the solution to a problem and certainly not God.  Messages like this help us.

My articles are not written with children in mind.  They’re written for adults.  This means that an adult in the family read the articles and shared it with spouse and children.  This is a parent who has found a means to evangelize the family, a means that works for that family.  This is the duty of parents, to bring their families to the faith.


The other case is also a letter representative of how other parents think.  I have the honor of helping some men and women discern their vocation.  I like to think of it as walking alongside them.  At the end of the day, God does the calling and they respond.  I’m just there to make sure that the person is paying attention.

In vocation discernment, I not only walk with the inquirer, but I often walk with the parents, if they allow it.

During the walk, I have received many positive and holy reactions from parents, especially those parents who have given God a hearing.  I call it a hearing, because they have sought me out or invited me to their home so as to understand what it is that God is asking of them and their sons.  I’m not God and I’m not the son.  I’m the middleman.  I get the opportunity to have some wonderful conversations with parents about consecrated life, marriage, Holy Orders, and parenting.   I received a letter from a parent that really speaks for the several parents with whom I’ve spoken and edited it for privacy and brevity.

Dear Br. Jay,

God’s greatest gifts to a couple are their children.  It is with great joy and love for God that we support our son’s aspiration to become a religious brother or any other vocation he chooses.  Our son . . . and our family are blessed to have you in our lives.  May our God of love and peace keep you healthy to continue to serve Him.

With much love and admiration,

I had to share this message, because I’ve heard this from other parents.  They understand that their children are a gift.  They understand that giving their son or daughter license to respond to God’s plan for his or her life is an act of love for God and the child.  They understand that having a guide is a blessing that God gives to the family, to the son or daughter and to the guide.  We’re all blessed that God has called us to cooperate with Him in His plan for the salvation of this soul.  They have understood the most important part of all.  God has a plan for every human being who is conceived.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  Jer 1:5

One’s vocation in life has already been written in God’s heart before one ever existed.  All one has to do is follow what God puts before you in the present moment.  He takes care of the rest.


I also have had experience with a third group of families who struggle with the idea of a vocation to the priesthood and to the consecrated life.  The reasons for their struggles can be many.  I believe that the bottom line is that they are worried about their children’s happiness.  But here is where faith should enter the picture.

One’s happiness is not dependent on the parent.  A man’s happiness is dependent on the choices he makes.  If he chooses to cooperate with God’s plan for his life, he will be happy.  If he chooses some other plan (no matter how noble), he may as well sign his own death sentence.  There is no happiness outside of God’s plan for you.

In these families, parents want to take charge and direct the son or daughter in whatever direction they believes is best for the adult child.  There can be validity to this.  If my son or daughter were dating someone with a criminal background and were talking marriage, I have a duty to warn my child.  At the end of the day, it is my child who consents to the marriage or not.  It is not I who consent.  My duty before God and child is to guide.  Guidance is not the same as control, manipulation, placing temptations before our children to get them to change their minds (See Thomas Aquinas), nor is it the same as commanding, threatening or using guilt.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that children living at home have to submit to their parents, meaning to their rules, because it’s the parents’ home.  They do not have to submit to that which is not beneficial to their soul.

As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them. This respect has its roots in the fear of God, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2217).

Our faith also tells us that

“Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God’s law,(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2222)

And finally, our faith tells us,

“Parents should respect and encourage their children’s vocations. They should remember and teach that the first calling of the Christian is to follow Jesus (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2253).

Occasionally, the adult child is up against a parent that seems to have forgotten this.  If I could send a message to parents it would be very simple.

Man was created to cooperate with God, not compete with Him.  To compete with God is to place oneself and one’s child on a slippery slope.  Don’t do it.  You may regret it.  You never know the long-term damage that you may do to your child’s soul.

Some important points to remember.

First, for the parent, competing with God is contrary to the vocation of parenting.  It raises the question, where is God in this picture?

Therefore, life must be treated with the greatest reverence.  Creating obstacles that interfere with the development of a person’s life according to God’s plan runs the risk of violating the sanctity of that person’s life.

I encourage all parents on this slope to step back.  We don’t have to agree with our children’s choices of a vocation.  Our daughter can bring home the last man on earth whom we would pick for her husband; but if there is no moral impediment and he makes her happy, I have to trust that God loves me and loves my child.

Second, for the child, one may never yield to the will of another, when that will is in conflict with God’s plan.  

This includes other people as well, not just parents.  It’s not a license to rebel against parents and follow others down the wrong path.

God makes His plans pretty clear through people, prayer, scripture, sacraments, and events in our lives.  Love of parents is binding until death; but love of God is the first and greatest commandment and it does not end at death.  We are called to love God for eternity.

We too must trust that even if our vocational choice causes our parents some grief, God loves our parents more than we do.  He will give them what they need.  We can never give our parents what God can give them.  We need to move on and give to God what He asks and take what He gives.  Sometimes, the grief is part of God’s plan.  There is such a thing as redemptive suffering.

Father Mitch Pacwa tells the story of how his father swore that he would never speak to him again and would disown him if he joined the Jesuits.  Mother Angelica told the story of how she had to run away from home to join the Poor Clares, because her mother would not hear of it.  I know that Mother Angelica’s mother eventually softened and actually entered the community.  I don’t know if Mr. Pacwa ever made peace with his son.  These two people are examples of a man and a woman who would not stand on the slippery slope with their parents, no matter how much they loved them.  Regardless of how much or how little they understood God’s plan for their lives, they knew that they had to follow the lead that God was giving them.  God would unwrap the rest with time.

If you keep another person company on a slippery slope, because it will make them happy, you may want to ask yourself the question that Christ asked St. Francis.  “Is it better to serve the Master or the servant?”

We must love and assist our parents in every way we can.  But we must always serve the Master first.  When we do, He will give us the means to honor our father and mother.  Was Mary abandoned by Christ?  Yet Christ said,

“Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt 12:49-50)

God is both merciful and just.  He will have mercy on those who live according to His plan.  Beware of God’s justice.  It is not God who punishes.  God’s justice is an act of love.  He allows us to live and die with the consequences of our choices.

Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. (Mark 10:29-30)

God created families, parents and children.  When he did so, he had a plan for each member of the family.  None of us can presume to love our parents, spouses, or children more than God loves them.  All of us must see our families as a gift that is part a plan in the mind of God.  We have to allow God to unfold that plan little by little.  As He unfolds it, He also gives us the resources to love each family member even more than we do  now.  In the meantime, we follow the lead that he places before us.  If parents and children make an honest mistake, God will help us find our way.

St. John XXIII said, “Follow the signs of the times.”


Listen attentively, not aggressively

bride & groomThe subject of the family is central to any discussion of the Gospel and society.  God has always chosen to reveal Himself through the family.  He created Adam and Eve as parents to the human family.  He called Abram and Sarai to become mother and father of many nations.  He brought Moses out of his biological family, grafting him to a royal Egyptian family so as to bring His Israelite family out of slavery.  He raised the royal family of David from which he would take human nature in the Holy Family at Bethlehem.  His told Mary “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee,” (Mt. 28:10).  Throughout salvation history, God has spoken to the world through family life and from within the family.

The Franciscans of Life, though we are a very small and young family, are not less or more Catholic than our other Catholic brothers and sisters.  Christ calls us to live the Gospel in the manner that St. Francis of Assisi lived it.  Building on the experiencelogo of St. Francis, we believe that Christ also calls us to remind the world that the Gospel is a gospel of life.

To proclaim the Gospel of Life, one must proclaim the Gospel of the Family.  It is in the family where Life calls out to life (Vita ad vitam vocat).  If we follow the Gospel, we must accept that human life begins within the context of family.  Every human being has a dignity that protects his right to be conceived, nurtured and born into a family.  He has a right to protection, formation, and to receive care from a family.  At the end of life, he has the right to die naturally in the arms of his family.

From within the natural family, God calls men and women to form new and younger families, as well as families of brothers and sisters who consecrate their lives to live francis and clareaccording to the Gospel.  Such a consecration can take different expressions, from monastic, religious order, society of apostolic life, secular institute, diocesan hermits to consecrated virgins.  To the degree that these associations reproduce the relationship between Christ and his apostles, whom he calls “my brothers”, these are real families. They foreshadow family life in the Kingdom of God beginning with the Trinitarian family.

These thoughts help us who are trying to follow the extraordinary synod on the family with great interest.  Our Catholic identity comes from feeling with the Church.  We’re not talking about feeling emotional.  We’re talking about loving God and man with the Church.  To do so, we must know what the Church is thinking.

Here is where we must draw an important line.  We, brothers, remind ourselves that a synod is a listening session for the Holy Father and from that session will come ideas that the Holy Father will consider for the ordinary synod in October 2015.  The Holy Father will exercise his authority once he has all of the information on hand.

Because the synod has no authority, it all rests with the pope.  The brothers are not alarmed by some of the statements that the media alleges that some bishops have made, nor are we alarmed by those that we know some bishops have made.  The Church cannot change revealed truth.

As stated above, to proclaim the Gospel of Life one must proclaim the Gospel of the Family.  However, it is not we who decide what the Gospel says or does not say.  It’s the teaching 1240044_302298416577020_831596592_nmagisterium of the pope that teaches us what the Gospel says.  It’s important to listen carefully to what the bishops are telling the pope about family; because when all of this discussion is over and done with, the pope will probably issue a post synod exhortation that will carry the weight of the Church’s teaching authority.  Listening carefully requires that we withhold reacting to what is being said until the pope speaks.

We don’t have to agree with every idea that the bishops put on the table.  The pope invited them to be honest and candid.  When you have that kind of openness, you’re going to have to put up with a degree of chaos and nonsense as well.  We cannot have open dialogue without crisis.  There is no such thing.  An open dialogue invites all parties to re-examine what we believe and give respectful thought to what we have never thought about before.  This includes those of us who are not in Vatican City right now.  Not only should synod participants be listening attentively, every Catholic must listen attentively and resist the temptation to judge, condemn, and bash anyone who says something that sounds wrong to us.

There are always some challenges.  These are what lead to crisis or struggle.  The speaker may be wrong.  The person may be quoted incorrectly.  The statement may be sloppy so that it does not accurately reflect what the person is really thinking.  The idea may need to be expressed using tighter language so that it avoids ambiguity.

The Franciscans of Life are listening, assessing what makes sense and what sounds outrageous.  Regarding that which sounds outrageous, we are not pointing fingers at any bishop or cardinal.  We are not labeling anyone a Modernist, conservative, liberal or traditionalist.  We are not sounding the alarm of apostasy among the bishops.  On the contrary, if it sounds outrageous to our ears, we try to understand why it sounds outrageous to us.  The statement may truly be outrageous or we may be hearing it incorrectly.

In the meantime, the Franciscans of Life continue to pray for the pope, the synod fathers, the family and the world.  We continue to hold on to what the Church has traditionally taught us NEWMANabout the family; but we are open to the fact that there are always new experiences that help us better understand what God is saying to us about Himself and our salvation.  These experiences should not be ignored.  Very often, new experiences contribute to our understanding of doctrine.  They don’t change the doctrine, but they can enhance our comprehension.

We invite other Catholics to listen attentively.  Be faithful to what the Church has always taught and be honest and humble enough to admit when we realize that we can still be taught more.  No one ever reaches a ceiling of understanding of God and his divine plan for the human family.  Let us avoid characterizations, name calling, judging people, and self-righteousness.  Let us embrace the truth that the Church has taught using whatever experience can help us better understand the truth.

At the end of the day, we’re looking for the truth that God has revealed to us about the family.  We want to understand whatever there is out there to be understood, not just pieces here and there.  If we ignore those whom we consider to be on theJesus and boy opposite side of the house, how would we know that we truly understand what God is revealing to us?  To understand we must listen, ask questions, separate the reasonable from the unreasonable, truth from falsehood, and Gospel from fashion.  Only then will we be on the right path toward achieving our ultimate goal, to know God, serve God and love Him with all of our heart, mind, body and soul, here and in eternity.

Let us listen attentively, not aggressively.


“Honey! I’m home.”

Divine PhysicianOK, so Brother Jay is back in the hospital, excuse me, it’s his timeshare. 🙂

He was rushed in by ambulance on Tuesday morning, not doing well at all.  Most of the day was spent in restlessness.  On Tuesday night, Brother Christopher Thomas visited and Brother Jay brightened up.  They had a great visit together with lots of comments and laughter.  In the meantime, the nurse was keeping a

Br. Christopher Thomas, FFV

Br. Christopher Thomas, FFV

close eye on things, which neither brother observed.

On Wednesday, the calls, text messages, and emails from the other brothers kept pouring in.  Wednesday evening Aspirant Bernardo visited Brother.  Every time Brother Jay heard

Br. Jay, FFV & Aspirant Raul, FFV

Br. Jay, FFV & Aspirant Bernardo, FFV

from one of his brothers, he smiled.  There was a warm feeling inside that is difficult to explain.  However, as I have always said, “If you experience peace and joy in a particular space, call out like Ricky Ricardo, ‘Honey! I’m home’.”  This space need not be an actual physical place.  It can also be a relationship.  Brotherhood is definitely a relationship that happens in many spaces.

Real brotherhood does not need explanations.  Remember the saying.  “Preach always, when necessary use words.”  Your relationship with your brothers should speak of the relationship within the Trinity, the relationship between Christ and his apostles, your relationship with Christ and with his people.

While Bernardo and Chris were visiting, nurses and therapists were entering and leaving the room.  But the charge nurse was the same for both nights.  She had observed Brother Jay every time he was in contact with a brother, personally or by way of technology.

As Bernardo was leaving, she could no longer hold back her question.  She asked the two brothers (Bernardo and Jay) “Are you guys always this happy when you’re together?”  To which they both answered, “Yes.”  Brother Jay quickly added, he’s my little brother.  Everyone chuckled as Bernardo and the nurse left.   But now follows the good part.

Brothers keep their superior company as he catches his breadth.

Brothers keep their superior company as he catches his breadth.

The nurse was watching.  No sooner had Bernardo turned the corner, she quickly snuck into Brother’s room and asked again.  “You guys seem to really enjoy each other’s company.  I noticed it last night too.  Is the other gentleman related to you?”  The other gentleman is Brother Chris.

“Yes, he’s another brother,” said Brother Jay.

“I hate to be nosy, but I noticed that you talked to some people on the telephone and received some texts while I’ve been in here and you light up.  The medicine must be working.”  How’s that for subtle?

Brother responded, “Well, I think that the medication is working, but the most important part of the therapy is not the chemical, but the human element.  You see those two chaps whom you’ve met?”


“And the texts and telephone calls?”


“Those are all my brothers.  There are seven of us.  We’re not biological brothers.  The bond is tighter than that.  We were not coincidently born into the same family.  God called us and we freely responded.  We belong to a very small family.”   He then went on to explain Franciscans to a curious person who is Protestant and who believed that Catholics never use the bible.  When she heard the Franciscan brotherhood is built upon revealed truth, starting with Sacred Scripture, she was in awe.

This led to questions about celibacy vs marriage.  Brother quickly dispelled this myth.

CelibaimagesCA84KBW0cy and marriage are not in competition.  They are ways of life.  The best way of life is the one where you find peace and joy.  Sometimes, we get so fixated on one way of life, usually marriage, that we never hear God’s proposal to a marriage between His Son and our soul. Very often, God will throw a monkey wrench into our plans to remind us that he has a plan of his own.  However, God does not impose, he proposes, like an insistent lover.  At the end of the day, we choose celibacy or marriage.

Brother then explained that the brothers come in two wrappers, married and celibate.  Brotherhood is not defined by the way you live out God’s invitation to holiness.

Brotherhood is defined by joy, a sense of belonging, mutual respect, tolerance for each other’s weaknesses and eccentricities, and intimacy (allowing the other brother to walk through the corridors of your heart).    If you find peace and joy in this experience then you have arrived where you belong right now.

We’re sharing this with you because Brother Chris made a prophetic statement.  When Brother Jay told him that he may have a longer visit to the hospital, Chris said “Maybe God wants you to do some hospital ministry.”  Every time Jay is in the hospital, something draws in some of the staff and questions begin.  Up to that point, nothing had happened. Chris was referring to these past experiences. In a few hours, this wonderful dialogue with the nurse took place.

It all began and ended with “being rather than doing”Being joyful brothers rather than busy brothers, is the greatest witness to the Gospel and the greatest sign that one has arrived home.

francis and leo


This afternoon I received an important challenge from one of our brothers.  October is an important month, because it’s Respect Life Month.  There are also other important events happening this month.

Today, the Extraordinary Synod on the Family began in the Eternal City of Rome.  On October 19th, Venerable Paul VI will be become Blessed Paul VI.  I don’t think that any of this is a coincidence.

Some people have narrowed down and boxed in pro-life ministry to fight against abortion.  There is probably no greater fight than the fight for human life, but we must not limit ourselves to life in the womb.  We must extend our concern to all people from conception to natural death.  We must protect life at all stages of development and in all conditions: Mc Carthy walk 4healthy, sick, poor, rich, male, female, old and young, with special attention to the voiceless.

But where does life flourish?  Where should life find its first home if not in the family?  Today’s family is under attack, maybe no more than families in the past, but certainly by different kinds of demons.  The enemy is resourceful, if nothing else.  He can find different ways of tearing apart the fabric of the family by war, poverty, disease, bigotry, politics, infidelity, heterodoxy, apostasy, atheism and secularism.  The key is not how creative the enemy can get.  The key is how smart we are.

Human life, outside of the context of family life, is very difficult to defend, much more difficult to protect.  To defend means to defend the dignity of human life.  Man has a dignity that is inherent to his roots, which are found in the hand of the Creator.  This dignity must be defended from those who would reduce man to an unexplained accident in the cosmos, making him expendable because he has no justification for his existence; therefore, no inherent value.

Any footbDON'T MESS WITH MEall player will tell you that the best defense is a good offense.  Translated into Gospel terms, human life must be protected from the culture of indifference which is a culture of death.  The best way to protect man and preserve him for the Kingdom is to push back against the economy of sin.  Sin can no longer be allowed to be the currency that rules our lives as individuals, families or nations.  When sin governs our lives, man despairs and the message of Christ is smothered by the cries of angst . . . . Man looking for gods, rather than GoPope Paul VId.

Pope Paul VI foresaw this coming and tried to warn us in his now famous encyclical Humanae Vitae, on the transmission of human life between husbands and wives in the intimacy of marriage and the shelter of the family.  It is probably the Holy Spirit who has inspired Pope Francis to beatify Pope Paul VI at the end of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.  Immediately following, on October 22nd is the first feast day of St. John Paul II, the author of Gospel of Life.

We besignslieve that this is a good month to do something together that is open to other members of the Catholic and pro-life community.  The Franciscans of Life encourage everyone who reads our blog to organize an activity for this special month on life and the family.  It can be something as simple as an evening rosary between several families, a night of praise and worship, a penitential service in atonement for those who destroy instead of build the human family.  You may want to organize a meal with several couples to celebrate traditional marriage and family.  The demon that afflicts human life and weakens the fabric of the family will only be evicted from our lives with prayer and fasting.  A family or community day of fasting and abstinence is alwaysSt. Max good option.

Please post your ideas in the comments below so that others who read this can take some ideas back to their families and their parishes.  Remember the words of Sacred Scripture.  “Do not be afraid.”  Through the prayers of the Immaculate Christ is slowly, but surely conquering the kingdom of darkness.  He will not leave us orphans. (more…)

Sometimes, the Circle of Life Can Be a Beautiful Wobbly Egg

When the pope speaks about the poor, human trafficking, peace, war, unity, hunger, abuses in the Church, he knows about people’s real lives. When he says that those who deliberately choose a childless Jeannie & Julian2marriage, suddenly he knows nothing about people’s real lives and is draconian.

Then comes the “infertile couple card”. No one said that an infertile couple must have biological children, nor did anyone say that they are not allowed to adopt. That sector of the population did not enter into this sermon.

Finally, Fido becomes a papal casualty. This was not true either. Replacing a child with a pet and being anti-pet are not the same thing. I should know. I raised two loving children who are now loving adults with a ratio of two pets per kid. Now, one kid is married and my ratio has increased to four pets per kid. OK, so my daughter traded in the four-legged pet for a two legged husband who just happens to have severe allergies.

The point is that there is no condemnation for those who take on the care and love of a pet. In fact, the Church has always demonstrated great care for nature and its creatures. Just look at monastic communities. One way to teach our children to be responsible stewards of nature is to raise them surrounded by other living species that are treated with respect, love and justice.

How did this author become our new moral magisterium? Because she’s being told that there are consequences when society eliminates children from the equation. She claims that the population is growing. She forgot to mention that in Europe, North America and some countries in the southern hemisphere, the population is also top heavy.

When Americans who paid thousands and thousands of dollars into FICA now have to pay a monthly Medicare premium out of a fixed Social Security check and put out over $150 a month in medications, because Medicare does not cover enough, it seems that we have a shortage of younger people to replace the funds that older people paid and are no longer available to us. She forget these little details. Let’s not forget to ask who’s going to care for the older person who has no family when he takes to a bed.

Read her “logic” and make up your own mind. I’m just glad that I have two beautiful adult children. Our relationship has never been picturebook perfect. We’re three very different people and we like it that way. It’s fun when we come together. You never know what the other is going to say. Sometimes he’ll make you laugh and at other times you just have to wonder about him or her. The Circle of Life is often like a wobbly egg. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

Read this author’s reaction to the Holy Father’s message.

Published in: on June 7, 2014 at 4:42 AM  Leave a Comment  

On Being A Franciscan, husband and dad

Brother Thomas More, FFV

Postulant ChrisSt. Francis conformed himself closely to Christ.  His deep prayer life, fidelity to the Church and detachment from the secular culture serves as an inspiring example for my own vocation as a husband and father.  As a husband, I am called to love my spouse unconditionally.  In doing this, I model Christ’s love and desire for the salvation of my wife’s soul as well as my own.  My Franciscan vocation deepens my commitment to this salvific mission of love by establishing a prayer life that is centered on communing with God Himself.  With a vibrant prayer life, God’s love and Spirit can blow across my everyday life as it is lived out along side of my wife.

I am blessed with four children, each reflecting the beauty and love of God.  Guarding my children’s spiritual and physical development requires the protective and providential embrace of a father.  Saint Francis became the spiritual father of many brothers and sisters by caring for their souls.  By embracing a poverty of spirit and a detachment from material possessions, Saint Francis serves as a constant reminder on how to detach from our own secular culture and to focus on providing for the spiritualcord life of our families.  My Franciscan journey, with its spirit of poverty that reaches upward and outward, mediates God’s grace and peace.  In letting go and emptying myself from selfish preoccupations and secular concerns, I’m discovering how to spread the joy and peace that St. Francis so beautifully exemplified as a spiritual father to the sons and daughters of the Church.

Charged with the Franciscan spirit, I hear a call to reach outward and to embrace the faith and mission of the Church.  The faith of the Church has helped me grow in holy attentiveness to God’s plan for me, my family and the wider community of God’s people.