Those who come in may see the Light — The eye is the lamp of your body


Dear friends and family:

For more than a year, I’ve been struggling with very low vision.  As many of you know, I’m a diabetic.  Diabetes has a very bad habit of targeting the eyes, heart and kidneys.

Aftfingerpointinger looking through a fog, I finally took and deep breadth and decided to take the risk with eye surgery.

The surgery was a success.  The cataract in my right eye is gone and an artificial lens has been implanted.  My vision improved from 20/60 with glasses and 20/400 without glasses to 20/25 without glasses.  I can drive again.

The problem for our community came when we were informed that our insurance covered only

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a portion.  We had to come up with $1,300 for surgery, $350 tests, and another $300 for new glasses.

We didn’t have that kind of money. So, we paid using Care Credit, which allows you to pay off the debt in 12 months without interest or so they say.  It’s the first time we use them.

In any case, like faithful sons of St. Francis, we’re working hard to earn some money to pay this bill; but we can use all the help we can get from friends and benefactors.  If you would like to donate $5 toward this medical expense, just use PayPal or check our website www.franciscansoflife.org for our mailing address.  Make check payable to Franciscans of Life Inc.

For those who don’t know, I have only one eye.  My left eye and ear never matured fully, as I was a 33-week premature runt.  Everyone in my family is over six feet tall.  I’m only 5’7”.   They can all see and hear fine.  One should accept what God gives and give what he requests of us.

We, the brothers, thank you in advance for your help.  If you can’t donate money, please donate prayers.  God will find us donors, if we ask him for some donors.

I have always been and will be,Your friend and brother,

Brother Jay

Disasters are Opportunities to Relive the Incarnation of Christ


Para Español Señale Aqui

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, from Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life):

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

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

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

THE WITNESS OF MAXIMILIAN KOLBE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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FREEDOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

CANTEMOS AL AMOR


Kazimierowski_original_image_English_subtitleHay un himno clásico que dice, “Cantemos al amor de los amores . . . .”  En los momentos más difíciles de nuestra historia mundial y nuestra historia individual, estas palabras siempre han sido para mí palabras de gran aliento y ánimo.  En mi vida he perdido a seres queridos.  Algunos han muerto en tragedias, otros por edad, otros por enfermedad, y algunos por negligencia humana.  También he sufrido pérdidas económicas.

En una ocasión me encontraba viviendo y trabajando en un país de Suramérica donde ocurrió un golpe de estado.  Los extranjeros teníamos que salir del país cuanto antes posible.  Yo tenía una casa bien amueblada, dinero en el banco, recuerdos de muchos años: fotos, libros clásicos, documentos importantes.  Nada de eso podía sacar del país. Solo se nos permitía una maleta y una mochila por persona.  Si hubiese estado solo, quizás me hubiese quedado unos días más a ver como resultaban las cosas.  Pero no podía arriesgarlo. Mi hija se encontraba en otro país estudiando en la universidad.  Conmigo estaba mi hijo menor, que tenía doce años.  Sabía que tenía que salir hacia cualquier lugar donde mi niño y yo estaríamos a salvo y donde hubiera esperanza de volver a reunirnos con mi hija.

Es en este momento fue que Dios actuó en forma inesperada.  Cuando fui al cajero automático a retirar dinero para comprar los boletos en el aeropuerto, encontré que los bancos habían sido “congelados”.  No se podía retirar plata.  Llamé a uno de mis parientes mas proximos a pedirle que me ayudara, comprándome los boletos desde Estados Unidos.  Me respondió, “Eso no es asunto mío,” y comenzó a insultarme por mi “estupidez.”  “¿Quién te manda a servir a los pordioseros en un país del tercer mundo, pudiendo estar en Estados Unidos ganando buena plata y sin problemas políticos?”  No queriendo entrar en una discusión con él, simplemente le di las gracias y colgué el teléfono.

En ese momento, el diablo me tentó a la soberbia.  Me recordé cuando esa misma persona salió de la universidad sin trabajo, sin dinero y sin lugar donde vivir.  Durante seis meses vivió en mi casa.  Llegó el invierno y como no tenía un abrigo para el frío ni dinero para comprarlo, le compré uno como regalo de navidad.  Luego le di mi auto para que pudiera salir a entrevistas de trabajo.  Cuando me vinieron todas estas memorias, me di cuenta que no venían de Dios.  Dios no lleva contabilidad de las bendiciones que nos da.  Además, las bendiciones que Dios nos da son para el bien del prójimo.  En aquel entonces, el prójimo era él.  No podía negarle lo que Dios me había concedido para dar a otro cuando llegara el momento oportuno.

Sin pensarlo mucho, llamé a otro pariente proximo para pedirle ayuda.  Es un hombre adinerado.  Cuando le conté la situación y que tenía que salir del país urgentemente, me respondió, “Déjame pensarlo y yo te llamo.  El dinero que yo guardo es para mis hijos, no para darlo a otro.”   Yo sabía que esa avenida estaba cerrada.

Entonces me recordé de una buena amiga de muchos años.  Una viuda con dos hijas, que todavía vive en una casa humilde.  Me moría de pena, pero no me quedaba otro remedio que mendigar para salir de un país peligroso y sacar a mi hijo, aunque tuviera que dejar atrás miles de dólares en el banco y en propiedad.  No bien le conté mi situación a dicha amiga que me respondió, “No hay problema.  Ahora mismo llamo a la línea aérea y pago por teléfono con mi tarjeta de crédito.”

Al día siguiente, me encontré en un vuelo con destino a Miami, con mi niño de doce años que dormía con su cabeza apoyado de mí.  Por curiosidad, abrí su mochila y encontré un oso que su primo le regaló cuando cumplió un año y unos juegos de video.  Simplemente me sonreí, pues la Virgen protegió la inocencia de su niñez apesar de todo lo que estaba sucediendo.

En ese momento, mirando a las nubes sobre las cuales volábamos, escuche con los oídos de corazón, “Cantemos al amor de los amores.  Dios está aquí.”

La historia no termina ahí.  Al llegar a Miami, me recibió un pariente que yo había llamado para que me dejara pasar unos días en su casa en lo que encontraba trabajo y vivienda.  Cuando llegamos a la casa, nos asignó a dormir en un balcón encerrado, sin aire acondicionado…y a dormir en un sofá con mi hijo.  Así vivimos durante seis meses.  Cada noche, antes de dormir, el himno venía a mi mente.  “Cantemos al amor de los amores.  Dios está aquí.  Bendecid al Señor.”

Durante ese intervalo recibí una llamada de mi hermano.  “Mamá murió hace dos días.”  Me quedé atónito.  Era lo menos que esperaba.  Me encontraba sin techo, con un niño de doce años, sin trabajo y sin dinero, y ahora con la sorpresa que mi mamá había muerto.  Yo no tenía un centavo para comprar un pasaje y llegar a sus exequias.

Recuerdo haber acariciado el Tau (cruz franciscana en forma de la letra T).  Contacte’ un amigo que me presto el dinero para viajar al funeral de mi madre.  Por todo el camino, lo único que pasaba por mi mente era “Dios está Aquí.  Bendecid al Señor.”

Al fin conseguí empleo como profesor de ciencias en una escuela estatal.  La educación primaria no es mi especialidad, pero conozco las ciencias, así que pude enseñar el curso hasta encontrar un trabajo en mi campo.  Alquilamos una casita, que luego compramos.  Por un mes dormimos en el sofá que nuestro pariente no regaló, hasta cobrar mi primer mes y comprar camas para mi hijo y para mi.

Comparto todas estas cosas, no para que me tengan pena.  Al contrario, es mi gran deseo compartir con todo el que lea este blog que los golpes de la vida son golpes que Dios permite para purificar el alma.

Mientras más sufrimos en este mundo, con agradecimiento y sin ira y rebeldía, menos sufriremos nosotros y nuestros seres queridos en el Purgatorio.  Cada sufrimiento sirve para limpiarnos y purificar a nuestros seres queridos que están en el Purgatorio y dependen de nuestros sacrificios.  Nuestra rebeldía no les ayuda en nada.

Creo que es por eso que, a pesar de todos los momentos difíciles que he experimentado, tanto los que comparto aquí como los que no tengo tiempo para compartir, creo firmemente que no fueron casualidades.  Fueron oportunidades que Dios me dio para purificarme y para ayudar a purificar a las almas en el purgatorio.

Cuando se presentan estas oportunidades, no las debemos desperdiciar con ira y rebeldía.  Durante estos momentos Cristo Crucificado está muy cerca, permitiendo el sufrimiento y sosteniéndonos.  Aunque nos sentimos que nuestro corazón está rompiendose en pequeños pedacitos, nuestra alma es intocable y es afectada o por el pecado de rebeldía o por la gracia de la presencia de Dios… él es el amor de nuestros amores, y su presencia es nuestra verdadera posesión, no lo que hemos perdido o dejado atrás.  Todo eso le pertenece a Dios!

Cantemos al Amor de los Amores

¡cantemos al Señor!

Dios está aquí, venid adoradores…

¡Adoremos a Cristo Redentor!

Greater than the Sum of the Parts


English     Castellano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Divine Mercy Sunday – Remember Me


As we approach the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, it is important that we understand what the Lord Jesus meant when he spoke about mercy, in the Scriptures and to Sister Faustina.

There are some very conservative Catholics within the Traditionalist community who do not trust Sister Faustina’s visions and dialogue with Jesus.  At the other extreme, many Catholics focus solely on the humanitarian dimension of the Gospel and on the hot button issues of today; these Catholics have watered down God’s Mercy.  They have interpreted God’s mercy to mean the same as “good works”.  Neither group leaves room for God to be God.  God must do and speak according to a script as they conceive it.  In the end, both groups deny God’s freedom.

The extreme conservative asks for a reason behind Mercy Sunday.  After all, we have the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.  The other extreme likes Divine Mercy Sunday, because it’s new and because it says what they want it to say about good works and it affirms their presumption of God’s forgiveness and mercy; so, they believe.

Original “Divine Mercy” painting prepared under the guidance of Sr. Faustina and her Spiritual Director

The truth is that God’s mercy is infinite and available to anyone who asks for it.  The infinity of God’s mercy should comfort us.  God’s mercy is infinitely greater than his creation.  Man is his crown jewel and we know that God is infinitely greater than man.  Sin is of man’s doing, not God’s doing.  Since it is man who sins, then man is superior to sin or greater than sin.  This greatness does not relieve him of his responsibility.  On the contrary, it points to man’s sinful will and his obligation to atone and ask for mercy.

God’s mercy is infinite.  Man is God’s creation.  God is infinitely greater than man.  Sin is man’s creation.  Man is greater than sin.  If God is infinitely greater than man, then he is infinitely greater than sin.  The only sin that God cannot forgive is the one that we believe surpasses God’s power to forgive.  Such a mindset places the supremacy of sin over the breadth and scope of God’s mercy.  Believing that this is the case, the sinner fails to confess his sin, express contrition and ask for forgiveness.

First painting of the Sacred Heart (1780, Batoni), disapproved by Congregation of Rites. The Sacred Heart was first depicted alone. The Congregation of Rites approved these for private devotion, but required the visible figure of the Heart represented externally on the breast of Our Lord for public exposition and veneration.

To benefit from God’s mercy, man must have something to offer in exchange.  He offers contrition and a resolve not to sin again. Some will say, “I know that I’m going to fall again.  I’m human,” or “I have an addiction to a certain sinful behavior.”  This is not the time to worry about this.  We must focus on the present moment and surrender ourselves to God as we are.  We are sinners.  We are contrite and willing to do penance.  We ask for absolution, particularly in the confessional.  From that moment, we are free of sin.

We must never live recklessly, but we must not live in fear of the “next time I sin.”  The more we worry about the next time, the more likely we are to fall sooner.  The enemy has a way of taking advantage of our fears and using them against us, to the point that what we believe to be moral caution is a temptation; because our minds are not free of a particular sin.  We must place ourselves in the hands of the Immaculate and go forward, doing whatever he asks us to do in the present moment.

Not only is God’s mercy infinite, but it is always available.  God never tires of forgiving us.  It is we who tire of begging for forgiveness.  Let us take the example of the “good thief”.  At the eleventh hour he said to Jesus, Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  The first two words say it all.  “Remember me”.  He believed in Christ’s mercy, even though he was about to die and no time to atone for his sins.

Painting of Christ and St. Dismas, the “Good Thief” – unknown author

Why does he request that Christ remember him?  Because deep in his heart he knows that Christ’s mercy is available for the asking, even when Christ himself was about to breathe his last dying breath.  Christ was on the cross to save the world, not to condemn it.  The Cross is the greatest sign of God’s mercy.

Only the perfect man can offer the perfect act of atonement for humanity’s sins.  Human parents could not conceive a perfect son.  However, God the Holy Spirit and Mary of Nazareth can and did do conceive such a perfect son.  He is Jesus Christ, the God-Man, the incarnation of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.  Out of mercy, God becomes man.  From his side, he poured blood and water, his humanity and his divinity, poured out of mercy for us.  It was not for his benefit.  Who in human history, besides the Immaculate Conception, has no need to appeal to God’s mercy?

Divine Mercy Sunday is neither a feel-good day for our acts of charity and compassion for our neighbor; nor is it a replacement for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.  Mercy Sunday reminds us that we can trust Jesus, because he poured himself on the cross out of mercy for us and to prove the veracity of his sacrifice, he rose on the third day.  On Mercy Sunday, it is Jesus who speaks the words of the good thief, “Remember me.”  To which we respond, “Jesus I trust you.”

Depiction of the Sacred Heart attributed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (c. 1685).

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

email

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