David and John


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

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

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

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NATHAN REBUKING DAVID FOR HIS SIN

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

 

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

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JOHN REBUKING HEROD ANTIPAS

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

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

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

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

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

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THE INEVITABLE THORN

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

 

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

You’re invited to a Lenten walk


san damianoIt feels as if we just took down the Christmas decorations, lights and trees.  Yet, Lent will be here in less than two weeks.

Lent is a time of penance.  For many people, the word “penance” is a negative word.  They choose to refer to Lent as a time of “conversion.”  The assumption being that every Catholic knows that the Church means conversion from sin to virtue; which has an a priori condition to it.  One must acknowledge one’s sins, ask for absolution in the Sacrament of Confession and have a firm resolve not to sin again.  Being human, we often fall into the same sinful hole from which we were just rescued by the Sacrament of Penance.  However, we keep trying.

Sorrow for our sins, confession, absolution and a firm resolution to avoid sin brings many graces.  The early Fathers of the Church taught us that the only way to overcome sin and not end up confessing the same sin time and time again was through concrete acts of penance, as we shall see below.

“Convert and believe in the Gospel” in plain English means, stop sinning and live per the Gospel.  The idea of believing in something with which we are unfamiliar and we don’t follow, is silly.

The Franciscans of Life suggest that you to try one or more of the following this Lent.  Don’t overwhelm yourself.  Usually that leads to failure, which leads to frustration and abandonment of our good intentions.  It’s like overfilling your plate at an “all you can eat buffet”.  You can only eat so much; the rest is thrown into the garbage.

We invite you and your friends to join the Franciscans of Life this Lent.   You can join us from your home.  If you you’re male and live in South Florida, you can join us on a Monday night family meeting.

First:  We’re going to begin with a good examination of conscience.  This means that we’re going to take inventory of the sins we have committed as well as the things that we should have done, but failed to do.  If you have poor memory, make a little list for yourself.  Make sure to dispose of it properly when you no longer need it.

Second:  We’re going to Confession as soon as we can get there.  As soon as we can get there means exactly that.  Go to confession as soon as there is a priest to absolve you.  Never put off what may never happen, if you get hit by a bus the day after tomorrow.  You had better go to confession tomorrow instead of postponing it until next week.

Third:  The Franciscans of Life invite you to join us in doing penance to atone for our sins.  The keyword here is ATONE.  We don’t do penance to feel good. We do penance, because we know that we have sinned and that we must make up for it.  If you steal from me, you must ask for forgiveness.  Justice demands that you return what you took or offer to pay for it.  The same is true with God and sin.  God forgives, but his justice demands that you make retribution for your sins.

Our first commitment this Lent is fasting and abstinence.  Every Wednesday and Friday, from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, the brothers observe a fast and do not eat any kind of meat or meat product.  This does not mean that we replace steak with crab, lobster or baked salmon.  You may as well have the steak.  It’s probably cheaper.  Tuna, eggs, or simply a nice soup with bread is enough.  It’s not as if we were going to do this forever.    Obviously, we use common sense.  People with certain health conditions or those who are too young or too old should not engage in a fast. Maybe they can abstain from something else, such as the Internet.

Fourth:  Try to get an extra mass in at least once during the week.  If your schedule does not coincide with your parish’s daily mass schedule, make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament at least once or twice a week.

Fifth:  Pray with your bible.  You can pray a psalm or two every day.  You can read a short passage from the scriptures and ask yourself how you would respond in a specific situation in the Bible.  Ask God for the grace to do so.  Storing up on grace for when we need it is the best savings plan around.

Sixth:  We’re going to be doing something concrete for those who are not as fortunate as we are.  We’re going to collect money to purchase soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes to those who have none.  We’re also going to be praying a weekly rosary for those who are being persecuted and those who are refugees and have no place to go.  We’re going to beg the Immaculate to help us help them.  If she wants to help them in her own way, that’s good too.  But we must never dump on God, Our Lady and the saints asking them to solve problems that we can help solve.  We start asking for the grace to find ways to reach out to our neighbor and we conclude by asking God to find another way, if He believes that it’s the better way to go.

You don’t have to live in our community house to join us.  If you care to join us in one or more of these penances during Lent, please let us know by writing to us at

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Please include your first name only, age (so that we can offer you appropriate support) and anything else that you want to tell us about yourself.

Always your brother and servant,

Brother Jay, FFV, Superior

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In a few weeks, we will be announcing the time and day for our evening of contemplation that we call Carceri (Prison) in honor of the Prisoner of Love.  Stay tuned in to this blog for that information.

 

 

 

Published in: on February 18, 2017 at 5:02 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Power of Words: Word Control


Nothing on earth does greater harm to the human community than the absence of “word control”.  Word control applies to the written word as well as the spoken word and thoughts.  Those who use social media to express their feelings and opinions can do just a much harm as those who speak recklessly.  We can’t examine every possible situation in life, but we can look at some of the more common misbehaviors and learn what the proper behavior should be.

So, you’re in a bad mood.

One can be in a bad mood for many reasons: fatigue, sleep deprivation, illness, worries, or the aftermath of a conflict.  Being in a bad mood for any of these situations or others is not out of the ordinary for any animal.  Even dogs and cats have good days and bad days.  Is it OK to snap at people, ignore others, command those whom we should not command or simply whine?  Would you allow your dog to snap at you, because he’s in a bad mood or your cat to dig his claws into you?

Alternative appropriate behavior:  The first appropriate behavior is silence. One must bite one’s tongue rather than use it as a sharp cutting edge.

The second appropriate behavior is to be reasonable.  Not everyone around us is our enemy.  Why push others away with our caustic remarks and behaviors?  Remember, everything gets old, even if it comes from people we love.  How long can a parent or a spouse tolerate such behavior?

Body language that sends very clear signals, “Beware of dog,” doesn’t delete our bad mood and certainly does nothing for others.  This can be an open window that allows divisive evil to enter the scene. Smiling at someone who has done no harm can be an act of heroic charity.

Spouses are neither our property nor our children.

There seems to be a mistaken notion, in some homes, that a spouse can be spoken to as if he or she were an indentured servant or a child.  A spouse who believes that he can rattle the other is setting a very poor example of social skills, justice, and charity.  No spouse has the right to command the other to do or not to do something.   Much less does any spouse have the right to lay a hand on the other.  It’s immoral.  It makes a bad situation worse.  Someone can get hurt.  In a home with children, it teaches children that the only way to win is to shout and strike.

Appropriate behavior when you disagree with your spouse:  The best thing to do is to say nothing, initially.  “Let me think about this,” is a perfectly respectful response.  Then you put some distance between you and the other person.  Avoid, if you can, leaving the house. Nothing is as offensive to a human being than to see a door closing between the person he loves and the self.  At this point, disagreement can feel like dismissiveness.  Taking the dog for a walk is OK; but let the other spouse know that you’re going to walk the dog.  You’re not running away from the disagreement.  Besides, disagreements don’t go away, because we leave.

Once you’re alone, you must be honest with yourself.  You must ask yourself what is that you find disagreeable and why?  Finding something disagreeable, because it’s not the way that I think things should be is not much of an argument.  On the other hand, if the way I think things should be is better for the good of the marriage and the household, then I need to communicate that.  It’s more effective than saying, “I don’t agree,”  “Nope!”

There is a big difference between commanding and bullying a spouse and requesting, suggesting, or simply disagreeing.

Gossiping with yourself

We do this more often than we care to count.  Spreading gossip, where one is telling the truth, exaggerating it or simply lying, is sinful.  It violates several moral laws, the first one being justice.  Everyone has a right to a good reputation.  Not everyone has the need to know about another person’s life.  If someone’s good reputation is damaged, let his actions speak for themselves.  They don’t need your help.

Back to gossiping with oneself. We engage in what I call loop talking.  Loop talking is when we repeat to ourselves every fault that we find in another person.  We repeat it so often that it becomes a loop.  We do it without pushing the play button.  The evil part here is that in time our souls becomes darker and darker with resentment.  When we cross a certain point, it’s very difficult to undo the program that we have installed in our minds.  We need help.

Alternative and appropriate behavior, rather than gossiping to yourself:  If there is someone whom you trust not to spread gossip, such as a confessor, spouse, superior or spiritual director, they may be a good place to “dump” your feelings.

If you find that you’re repeating the same negative thoughts about another person more than 24-hours, it’s time to have a talk with the other person, not a confrontation.  Sometimes, it’s difficult to talk to someone who does not listen or fails to understand.  An attempt to speak to such a person can lead to frustration, anger, hatred and even vindictiveness.  Best not to have that heart-to-heart talk, without a mediator, never alone.

Unless the other person is Satan himself, every human being has something positive that he or she brings to the table.  Very often, these persons have done something good for us.  Taking an inventory of the good that this person has contributed to the group or to my life can be a way of changing the recording.  I’m engaging in a more positive dialogue with myself.

I must always remember, none of us can change another person.  But all of us can do something to change what we think, what we say about others and how we deliver the message.

Everyone disagrees with authority figures at some point in one’s life.

This is not unusual.  When an authority figure asks for something against God’s law, one has no obligation to agree or obey that specific request or command.   People in positions of authority make mistakes.  One can even say that they often make foolish mistakes.

Appropriate response to authority:  We must make sure that the person has the right to command that which he or she commands.  Never forget that those who exercise authority legitimately, have the right to command what is within the scope of their role. This includes things that make no sense to us.  There is no rule that says that people in authority must always make sense.  We hope they do make sense.  But don’t expect that to be the case all the time.

Ask yourself, “Is this request a violation of God’s moral laws?”  You should also ask yourself, “Does this request undermine a command from a higher authority, a person higher in the hierarchy of authority?”

When this is the case, you have a moral duty to explain why you cannot comply.  But you do not have the right to use an aggressive tone of voice, vulgar words, raise your voice, or walk out before the person in authority has the final word.

Remember, your issue is with a very specific command that violates moral duty.  Your issue is not with the person giving the command and much less with the office that he or she occupies.  You must remain close to that person and that office.  Otherwise, you break communion with the person in authority.  What do you do now that you have severed your ties with the person at the top?

Bossy People

There are some people who have difficulty suggesting, requesting, asking for, and least of all persuading others.  They simply speak to others as if they were the authority and the other person the subordinate.

Appropriate behavior for bossy people:  The first suggestion is that if you can’t say it without commanding, being quiet may be a good idea.

Take careful note to whom it is that you’re speaking.  If the other person is the authority and you’re the subordinate, but you’re doing the commanding, you’re probably being rude and in violation of justice.

If you’re the person in authority, remember this.  The most effective person in a position of authority is not authoritarian.  Good leaders are frank, respectful, assertive, kind, and flexible.  They know how to listen and to how much they should listen.

The subordinate person would be wise to let the person in authority have the last word.  If you try to have the last word, you’re letting your pride do the driving.  Humility goes a lot further than arrogance.

Language must be used responsibly.  Language was given to man to express the wonders of life and to communicate Divine Truths.  The world was created when “God said”.  (Genesis).  “In the beginning was the Word”. (John)

Published in: on February 4, 2017 at 3:02 PM  Leave a Comment  

To Women of Faith


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Forefathers Have Been Betrayed


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Br. Jay, FFV

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Vita ad vitam vocat – Life calls out to life

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Often, removing Life-Support IS euthanasia.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can we ordinarily live without oxygen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vita ad vitam vocat – Life calls out to life.

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


 Br. Bernardo, FFV

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

They came from the east, west, north and south


Happy New Year to all our relatives, friends and benefactors.

2017_01_bros_virginiaChristmas week was a very active one for us.  On December 23rd, Brother Jay and Brother Bernardo flew into Virginia to spend Christmas with Katherine Marie Therese, Brother Jay’s brand new granddaughter.  It was her first Christmas.  But there was much more to it.  We’ll get to that shortly.

December 24th family came in from Pensacola, FL, Pembroke Pines, FL, and Bloomington, IL.  The house was filled with joy, conversation, a lot of picture taking and a fantastic dinner.

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Daniel, Brother Jay’s son-in-law, cooked the main course, a roast pork shoulder.  No one knew Daniel was such a great cook.  Our waistlines, the next day, proved that Daniel cooks very well. Let’s put it this way, on the trip home, Brother jay could not move once he opened the tray-table in front of him on the airplane.

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Anonymous well-rounded brother

To be perfectly transparent, if one can be transparent with such girth, the airline industry is determined to influence relationships between people who don’t know each other.  The seats are so close to each other that no one with a waist over 40” can get to the window seat.  There is no way to squeeze in between the three seats in your row and those in front of you, unless you breath and hold it as you navigate in a tight space.  If you try to do this after eating several holiday meals, you can forget it.  You may as well pay a little extra for a seat in the bulkhead section, preferably a loveseat.  But let’s get back to Christmas Eve.

Unfortunately, we were unable to attend Midnight Mass, because the local parish did not have one this year.  The closest Midnight Mass was about thirty minutes away, which is a rough trip for a two-month old little girl, in the middle of a cold December night.  Since we couldn’t travel that far, we sat around and talked, teased each other and I believe that one or two of us may have dozed off for a few minutes, after such a large and delicious meal.

cartujoEarlier that day, Daniel’s mother and Brother Jay engaged in a conversation about a liquor that the Carthusian hermits have been making for hundreds of years.  The more they talked about it, the more enthusiastic they became about finding it.  Thank God for Google.  The first problem was identifying the name of the liquor.  Brother Jay is a “master googler”.  We found the name of the liquor, Chartreux, named after the Charterhouse where the hermits have lived for about 1,000 years.

The next step was to find out where we could purchase a bottle of it to go with the Christmas meal.  Once again, Google came to the rescue and the liquor was found and purchased.  Did I mention that it smells and tastes like cou2016_01_24_quest.jpggh medicine?  Originally, the Carthusian hermits made this liquor for medicinal purposes.  It’s no surprise that it smells like cough medicine without the artificial cherry flavor.   Let’s put it this way.  The stuff smells and tastes so awful that an ounce is about all you can drink in one evening.  I don’t mean one sitting.  I mean a full evening.  The positive here is that you’re literally indulging in Catholic spirits that have been around for about 800 years.  If you’re looking to make contact with your Catholic roots and traditions, here is a drink that you can use as an aperitif or as a cure for any disease imaginable.

Opening the gifts under the Christmas tree was a beautiful experience.  You have picture some 15 people in a small living room with room for a sofa, a chair and a Christmas tree.  There is no more floor space.  The little floor space that used to be available is now occupied 2016_01_24_collage.jpgby baby Katherine’s play mat, chair and some other contraptions.  If you’re not careful, you can trip on a piece of infant equipment and find yourself sitting in an infant carrier.

In any case the gifts were distributed and opened.  The beauty of the event was that there were no “over the top” gifts, no electronic gadgets (other than a book light for Brother Jay) and there were many books given as gifts.  Each gift was purchased with the intention of enriching the life of the next person, as the infant in the manger enriched the lives of the shepherds and peasants in the surrounding pastures.

These are true Christmas gifts.  It’s not a show of opulence; nor is it an attempt to impress the recipient with one’s FANTASTIC present.  It was a sharing of gifts that have meaning that we share and that enrich the life of the recipient, because the giver has been enriched by it first.  You’re not just sharing a thing, you passing on a positive experience in your life.

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On December 25th, everyone met up at the local parish for Christmas Day mass.   It was a great experience.  We were all filled with the same awe as the shepherds in Bethlehem the morning of Our Lord’s birth. That’s one of the wonderful things that happens when you have a family where everyone is a practicing Catholic and well catechized.  The mystery of the Eucharist, especially on a solemnity such as Christmas, moves you as an individual and as a family.  In this way, the entire family travels down the path to redemption following Mary, the star that leads to Incarnate Son of the Father.2016_25_Christmas_mass.jpg

Then came December 27th.  This was the day that Baby Katherine was to be baptized, her godparents being her paternal uncle and auntie.  This time, family members came not only from the cities that we mentioned above, but more family arrived.  Some drove all the way from Miami.  Others took a five-hour bus ride to be there.  There were cousins who live in New York and other relatives from Virginia, and there were the brothers, the Franciscans of Life.  There were also childhood friends who are now married and parents themselves.  They took the time off from work to participate in the baptism.

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Three generations of family from her father’s side and three from her mother’s side, plus long-term friends, were present to welcome Katherine into the Church and to formally name her, Katherine Marie Therese.   She is now a Catholic along with her family and friends.  For this we are grateful to God.  Passing down the faith to the next generation is always a memorable event when those present are more than spectators.  They are men and women of faith opening the door for a loved one to enter into a deeper communion with the family and with Christ, through the waters of Baptism.2016_27_Baptism.jpg

It was finally time to go home.  But Brother Bernardo couldn’t find his wristwatch.  He decided to take a look behind the sleeper sofa, not knowing that the sofa is alive.  The bed started to close and swallow him up.

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Thankfully, the sofa spit him out and the brothers returned to the Motherhouse, exhausted, elated, enriched and in one piece.  It’s going to be a great year.  The best part is that it’s not an election year.  NO MORE CAMPAIGNS!!!!!  YEY!!!!!

Dancing Friar

Is A Peaceful Christmas Possible This Year?


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Peace begins in the family

Normally, I prefer not to comment on the politics around me.  I’m not indifferent to right and wrong.  I’m indifferent to people who like to argue instead of engaging in a dialogue that arrives at some constructive conclusion.  I’m afraid that this Christmas is being marred by so much hatred that it would be irresponsible for any Franciscan not to say something and continue to refer to himself as a man of peace.

On the national front, we have hate speech, conspiracy theories and a great deal of anger concerning the results of the elections.  The fact is that no matter who won the election, there is no way that we would not be facing an uphill battle against sin and oppression of the voiceless, be they the preborn person or the immigrant and many others.  We do not achieve peace by exacerbating conflict, by throwing fuel into the fire.

We achieve peace first and foremost through prayer.  A man or woman who prays cultivates interior silence.  He who cultivates interior silence opens an interior space where he can hear his brothers and sisters.  The soul has many chambers.  There is also another chamber where we find true Wisdom.  In there, as well, one must be silent to hear the Word.  It is the living Word that gives us the peace that the world cannot give, but that we can share with the world.

This is discernment through contemplation.  It leads to answers that are appropriate for today’s concerns.  Without proper discernment and contemplation, we run the risk of providing our own answers to the problems of today.  So far, our answers have not taken us very far along the road to peace, interior and social peace.

There are Catholics who believe that they must provoke the Pope and the bishops until they bend or explode.  Whether the Pope and the bishops bend to a certain point of view or they lash out in anger and frustration, the fact remains that the Church does not win.  I’m not referring to the Mystical Body.  The Mystical Body is holy.  The Bride of Christ cannot be seduced to compromise with culture or to erupt in anger after being insulted and pushed around.

Those of us who make up the Body of Christ have not risen above our mortal nature.  Shouting insults at the pope and bishops, calling the pope a heretic and a Communist leaves greater scars in the minds and hearts of the faithful who read the blogosphere and listen to the podcasterium of our time.  Others who are not Catholic are looking at us and wondering, why in the world would they believe that we have the fullness of Truth, when we fail to give witness to charity, respect and humility.  Where is the prize to be won by such aggressive behavior?

There are many serious questions on the table that we pray the Holy Father will address, for the sake of clarity.  I believe that he is not a heretic and that it is not his intention to mislead the faithful and distort the faith.  We hope and pray that he shed some light on the questions on the table.

It is equally important that the faithful: lay, clergy and religious, not take it upon ourselves to speak out as if we were a newly instituted magisterium.  That’s giving in to the devil’s temptation to sow the seeds that divide rather than unite.

With terrorism surrounding us and taking innocent lives, is it necessary for Catholics and Americans to raise the level of anxiety with so much rhetoric that solves nothing and provokes every sin against virtue?

Published in: on December 16, 2016 at 2:46 AM  Leave a Comment  

“In God We Trust” Really?


I’ve been trying to keep up with news and thoughts by and about Catholics on Facebook.  However, I’m starting to feel somewhat disappointed.  It is naive to believe
St_Setonthat one is going to find much that is worthwhile on Facebook; but occasionally one runs into another person who thinks with clarity and shares his or her thoughts in such a way that encourages us to rise to higher moral ground and to a more intense life of virtue and prayer.

Having said this, I must confess that it has been a great disappointment to find the many priests and consecrated religious who post on Facebook talk about every social and civil ill, encourage people to rise in protest, at times denounce those who do evil, but something is obviously lacking from their posts.  God, Jesus, the Immaculate, prayer, the perfection of charity and atonement for one’s sins and those who don’t do penance.  These are never mentioned.

A good example of this gap in “Catholic” posts is found in discussions on discrimination and racism.  Since the US elections several Catholic bloggers have taken to the Internet to denounce racial discrimination and other forms of discrimination, be due to religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender-dysphoria.   They have denounced politicians, Church hierarchy, business men and women, and other members of society for behaviors that are often cruel and unnecessary, or at times for failing to speak up for the voiceless.

Another important area of life in which we find protesting, finger pointing and even name calling is in religion.  We have politicized religion to such an extent that we now speak of fellow believers using popular political jargon:  liberals and conservatives or novus ordo and traditionalists.

Here too, the language is very often offensive.  At times, it offends because it is vulgar and sometimes it offends because words are used to assassinate someone’s character.  They don’t simply describe an immoral behavior or a statement that contradicts absolute truth.  These are words that encourage hatred.

It is important for all of us to be aware of injustices, abuses and disregard for God and man.  When priests and consecrated religious brothers or sisters write only about the evils and don’t mention what the Scriptures, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium have to say about these things, we fail our people.  People have a right to expect clergy and religious to refer to faith to enlighten human life.  We don’t become priests or religious to be social workers or activists.  Ordination and consecrated life are not essential to the work of an activist.  Conviction is what matters.

I encourage clergy and religious who post on Facebook and in blogs to remember that faith enlightens reason.  Reason enlightened by faith strengthens convictions.  Christ did not come into the world to lead men into a godless revolution.  His followers were to be guided by their faith.  Their faith shed light on the rightness and wrongness around them.  Then they denounced what was wrong and defended what was right.  But they always proclaimed the faith that enlightened them.  Many were martyred for doing so, but there were more converts than martyrs.

Let us look at the world, including the Church, through the eyes of faith.  Let faith help us see what is good and what is evil.  Let faith supply the courage to fight for good and against evil.  Most importantly, never forget to share the faith that drives us, lest others see us as simple social activists or worse.

We who are priests or consecrated men and women have committed our lives to living according to the faith.  The Church has charged us with the duty to proclaim the perfection of charity and the Kingdom of God.  The first step in serving God is to find Him.  The search for God is the search for truth.  We must begin by discerning what God has called each of us to do and how God wants us to go about it.  For priests and religious, the call is not a call to godless social work or godless political activism.

We must never give up and never surrender our awareness of God’s presence in human affairs.  Going into battle for purely human reasons or as some say, for the sake of justice alone, is not the Gospel.  Christ exemplifies true justice.  The exercise of evangelical justice leads man back to the Father.  Christian justice and renewal is built on faith and preached with courage.  There is nothing courageous in insulting another person or group of people.  There is no hope when God is not part of the discussion for justice.

SPARE ME THE LITURGICAL GEOMETRY LESSON


People have been trying to impress upon me and others too, that the “new” form of the mass is horizontal whereas the traditional Latin mass is vertical.  I’ve given this a great deal of thought.  From the perspective of language (not Latin, but words) the traditional Latin mass orients the person’s focus toward the transcendent.  There is no mistake about this.

But there is another mistake, which is to say that the current form of the mass fails to orient us toward the transcendent.

There are two ways to “touch” the transcendent.  One can reach up, or that which is transcendent can reach down to man.  Whether man reaches up or God reaches down, the vertical dimension of worship and Catholic spirituality has never been abrogated.  Rather, the action can be uplifting or incarnational.

I think that it would be fair to say that today’s form of the mass, if and when it’s celebrated as per the General Instructions for the Roman Missal (GIRM), has a very dynamic vertical dimension, because it places the focus on God breaking into human history:  the Incarnation.

Everything begins with man reaching out to God asking for forgiveness, during the penitential rite.  This rite is found in both extraordinary and ordinary forms of the Roman rite.  Next, we move to sacred Scripture.  In the ordinary form of the mass, the scriptures are proclaimed in the language of the people.  In the TLM, Latin is usual.  For those who understand Latin or have a missal with the translation, following the proclamation of the scriptures is not a hardship.

Here is where the weakness of both those who love the extraordinary form and those who love the ordinary form of the mass is most visible.  Unfortunately, catechesis in  the Latin Church has been very weak in the area of Sacred Scripture.  To say that many of the religious education books published in the United States could have just as well been produced by Disney Enterprises would not be much of an overstatement.  They fail to convey  the fact that God speaks and we must listen and then respond.

For many Catholics, traditionalists and other, the proclamation of the Sacred Scripture is like story time in elementary school.  Our priests and deacons add to the reduction of the proclamation, because they often fail to mention that what we are about to hear and what we have heard is God’s voice, not the lector’s or the clergyman’s.  Those people are conduits through which God wants to speak to His people.  The vertical quality of the Word of God is obscured by a lack of appreciation on the part of the congregation, poor delivery from those who read it, and very often sermons or homilies that sound more like motivational talks than Divine messages from God to man.

Those who see and hear the voice of God in the proclamation of the Scriptures are definitely praying, because prayer is simply lifting one’s mind and heart to God.  We don’t have to do more.  God does the rest.  During the proclamation of the Scriptures and the homily God calls out to man, as he called out to Adam in the garden, to Abraham, Samuel, and Moses, and to the apostles.  He communicates His love for man and repeats His promise to be save us.

But God also communicates the conditions necessary for salvation.  He reveals to man the moral law that we must observe to be saved.  He offers the means to reconcile, if we violate that law.  He also reveals the consequences for those who violate the moral law and do not repent.

It is during this message that says, “I AM your God and you are my people,” that the soul is intimately tuned in to the voice of God.  But the soul must have a springboard to make the leap from here, into the Word of God.   The springboard for the soul is not an object, but awareness.  We must be aware that it is God who is speaking and that we are commanded to listen carefully.  This is not story time, history class, catechism class or motivational speech to improve your fortune and acquire a younger and better looking wife.  This is the literal voice of God that becomes Incarnate in the Word.  This Word will be offered to the Father in an unbloody sacrifice under the appearance of bread and wine.  Then again, God responds by offering us the Word as spiritual nourishment in Holy Communion.

The horizontal dimension of faith plays an important part in the ordinary form of the mass.  We come to God as a people to fulfill the two Commandments that God gives us, “Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself.”   To understand that we relate to each other, not by how we interact at mass, but because of who we ARE, the People of God, and to convert our manners so that everything we do and say reflects God rather than us, adds the horizontal dimension necessary to complete the cross.  This is called ecclesial consciousness.

The ordinary form of the mass provides us with the means to touch and be touched by the Transcendent who speaks directly to us through the Scriptures.  The Word that is proclaimed in the Scripture points our attention to the sacrifice on the altar, which is the life of the Word Himself laid down for our Redemption.  But the Word does not remain in the grave.  It rises and reveals himself to us, glorious and triumphant at every elevation of the sacred host.  He invites us to eat and drink His body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine.  Such great wonder and mystery becomes visible to those who are familiar with the Sacred Scripture, who have an ecclesial consciousness and who attend mass  to present themselves to God, not to fulfill an obligation or to experience the warmth and friendliness of parish life.  Parish life that nurtures the soul is that life which begins with the acknowledgement that the Word has become flesh and is speaking to us.  This is not a replay or a reading of some historical event.  This is reality, more real than the pains of a woman in labor.

 

Br. Jay