Your Fuse is Longer Than You Know


DSC_0020There are some people out there who strongly criticize what they call “The Church of Nice.”  Unfortunately, their meaning has been incorrectly applied.  They are referring to a community of believers that gives everyone and every fault a pass to avoid conflict or hurting someone’s feelings.  Let’s get this straight.

Deliberately hurting another person, emotionally, spiritually or physically is never an option.  One may understand self-defense.  Even self-defense must be proportionate to the offense.  On the other hand, while we do not have the right to deliberately hurt others, we have a moral obligation to atone on those occasions when we do so.

It is very easy to go to confession and say, “Father, I accuse myself of being uncharitable.”  It is much more honest to say, “Father, I accuse myself of hurting someone because I wanted to do so.  I got satisfaction from seeing the other person hurt.”

Then comes repentance.  Going to confession without repentance is of little value.  The priest can pronounce the words of absolution, but if you walk out of the confessional with no intention of correcting how you treat others and being more conscious of their feelings, it begs the question; what is your plan for your conversion?  Do you plan to atone?  Do you plan to avoid this sin by being more attentive to howPopeFrancisConfession you say and do things?  If you cannot answer these questions positively, then one must ask you, why did you go to confession?  The confessional is not a washing machine where you throw in a pair of dirty socks and the machine cleans them whether the socks want to be cleaned or not.  We are far superior to a pair of sox.  We should know the conditions for forgiveness and we should have at least the resolve to sin no more.  This is not a guarantee that we will never sin again.  It’s a covenant between the individual, God and the Church to avoid hurting others deliberately.

Let’s address the subject of hurting others, now that we have discussed what should happen before and after you go to confession for this violation of charity and justice.

There are many people who claim to have “a short fuse”.  Their parents, their teachers, their friends, their spouses and their children have reinforced this idea.  When a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes a reality for those who lie.  It is much easier to reinforce negative behavior than it is to reinforce positive rantingbehavior.  You may have grown up in a home where the adults shouted at each other, bullied each other (verbally and physically).  As you were growing up you experimented by saying hurtful things to your parents, instead of a severe consequence, your parents simply shouted back and the battle went on until someone ran out of ammunition.

Then there is a kid who comes home bullied in the schoolyard and tells his parents.  The advice he gets from Mom and Dad is to defend himself from abuse by returning abuse for abuse.  This is the pre-Christian rule, “an eye for an eye.”  What have we taught our children?

We have not taught them that words hurt or that actions can scar others.  What we have taught them is how to get even.  Detent is not the same as resolution.  Frightening another person into “niceness” is not the same as being models of justice and charity.

Here we face another problem.  There are many people of faith who have argued with me, “But Brother, that’s not the real world.  In the real-world people are tough and if you don’t push back, they’ll keep you down and even destroy your life.”

The second half of this statement is true.  Evil does exist in the world.  People do evil to others as a means of exploiting them, controlling them, punishing them or threatening them.  The fact remains that it’s still evil.

The Christian may never choose evil in response to a situation.  He may use proportionate self-defense to protect himself and his family.  But he may not choose evil to get his way.

This means that no one has the right to offend another person, because it serves his wants or his needs.

Making mean comments, using profanity, raising your voice, being dismissive of another, accusing another of something that is not true, are sins against justice.  Before we consider charity, we must consider justice.  Every man, woman and child has a right to expect you to speak to him with reverence.  Your target listener has been made in the image and likeness of God.  When you forget this and you grow lax in the reverent treatment of another human being, you cheapen the life that God has given us.  You little_babyoffend God’s creative power.  Your offense sends a message to God and others.  The message says, “I don’t care if this person is the image and likeness of God.  God’s image and likeness are beneath me.  I am free to offend and walk away calmly.”

The next time that you want to violate “niceness”, remember that you are essentially telling God that the person he created is worthless.  Therefore, you’re concluding that God can and does create worthless lives.  But the Gospels tell us differently.  “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that all my have life and have it in abundance.”

Have you tried to show a grain of love for others or is being polite, kind, meek and “nice” beneath you or not in your vocabulary at all?

Try patience, kindness, niceness or whatever you want to call it.  Don’t fall for the lie that you have a short fuse.  God has given you a fuse much longer than you know.

 

 

You Were Born on Labor Day


Para Español Señale Aqui

Labor Day is here.  In most countries, this holiday is an unknown.   To add to my unorthodox way of thinking, I believe that Labor Day and Mother’s Day should be celebrated together.  Make the first Monday of May, Labor Day and the second Sunday of May, Mother’s Day.  I can’t imagine a more tender experience and a greater work of love than giving birth.

Having said this, I would like to share with you how the Franciscans of Life are taught to think of Labor Day.

First:  The day should begin with a reading of the Story of Creation from the Book of Genesis.

It must be read the way that the writers intended to share it with their descendants.  It’s not a scientific or even a historical account of creation.  It is bigger than that.  It is a Revealed Account of Creation.  God revealed Himself as the origin of all that exists. He reveals Himself as a generous Father who gives his children everything they need.  Until the fall of Adam, nothing was missing from man’s life.  He reveals that everything in Creation, even those pesky little insects that annoy us are good.

Observe that each stage of Creation ends with, “and God saw that it was good.”  If man respects the goodness of the natural order and the goodness of all created things and beings, the world would truly be a Garden of Eden.  This message is very clear in Genesis.  The Garden of Eden is a place where all things and beings co-exist in harmony, each respecting the domain of the other and everything fulfilling its role in God’s plan for our salvation.

Second:  When I was a missionary in South America, people often asked me why Americans didn’t work on Labor Day.  They found this to be a contradiction.  I always explained that it is a day that we set aside to honor workers and human enterprise.

The question is, do we in America truly think about all workers, not just those who sit behind desks?

Do we appreciate the fact that were it not for those who work for the Department of Sanitation, we would be living in the Middle Ages, where rats and insects fed off the garbage that people threw into the streets and that children often played with these little critters, were bitten and died?  Thanks to sanitation workers, American children don’t have to feel threatened by infected rodents and insects.  They can play in relative safety in their back yard or a park.

(C) New York City Dept. of Sanitation

Holidays come and go.  Mornings come and go.  Who remembers that the sanitation worker, the teacher, the lawyer, the doctor and every working man and woman in the world has a life beyond outside of their work place?  Sometimes, they face great difficulties in their lives outside work.  For some, work is a respite from family problems, the illness of an elderly parent, an abusive marriage and more sadness.  If we don’t pray for these people during the year, can we at least remember them in prayer on Labor Day?

Third:  I was not kidding about mothers.  Giving birth is an act of real love.

For 40 weeks, a woman gets ready to meet her little one.  But as the weeks go by, the discomforts increase.  There are back aches.  There are issues with gestational diabetes and intra-uterine blood pressure.

Then there are all those things that people keep telling us can happen to our babies: blindness, intellectual disabilities, brain damage, and more.  The truth is that the number of children born with these conditions is a very low percentage and today we have the means and the knowledge to provide for them.

The day finally arrives.  It’s “Labor Day”.  The promise made by God to Eve in the Book of Genesis is fulfilled.  A mother experiences great pain and anxiety for hours between the onset of labor and the actual birth of her child.  However, when she sees and counts those 10 little fingers and 10 little toes, all that pain and anxiety is forgotten.

Dads have been standing by trying to be as supportive of Mom as possible, often feeling helpless.   Some men feel guilty when they see the pain of labor and delivery.  They feel that somehow, they have contributed to the suffering of the woman they love.  Those feelings disappear when they get to hold their child and glance into that tiny face covered with a knitted cap and wrapped in a white receiving blanket (with blue and pink stripes, just in case).

  Grand-parenting can be exhausting!

Do we pray for parents on Labor Day?  Do we remember those who find themselves in unexpected pregnancies and are struggling with the question, “Should we go forward with this pregnancy or get an abortion?” How many parents pray for their sons and daughters that when their time comes to be parents, they will choose labor, not death.

This Labor Day, let us remember to thank God for the Work of Creation.  Let us commit to co-exist responsibly, using what we need and preserving what we don’t need so that others may reap some of the benefits of creation.

Remember that every person has a life beyond the job that he or she does.  They need our kindness, our respect, our patience, and our prayers.

Please do not forget your parents and the labor of love that brought you into the world and the work that they have done or are still doing to help you grow and live happily.

Finally, remember those couples and those pre-born children who may be in crisis this Labor Day.

Community Spring Activities


Spring has been a busy season for the Franciscans of Life! Care to join us for a quick overview of some of our more outstanding activities?

Trip to Virginia

During Holy Week two of our brothers traveled up north to visit relatives whose child, baby Katherine Marie Therese, was turning 6 months. We posted a blog article mentioning the trip. The highlight was participating in the Holy Sacrament of Baptism for the new member of the Church and of our little family (since in our family-oriented Franciscan tradition the parents and relatives of one brother are the parents and relatives of all the brothers).

However, it was also a formation trip.One of the travelers is a student-brother, in his second year of temporary vows. He is also a Project Joseph mentor. To be welcomed by a new, young, Catholic family and witness firsthand the joys and (good) struggles involved in caring for an infant is a very good formation experience for a young Regular brother.

He witnessed examples of good Catholic parents, gentle but firm, welcoming advice from their parents but tracing a clear line around “their” new family, working hard but still making time to foster the parent-child and parent-parent relationships, and also adjusting to a newly-bought home. During the whole time, the parents never argued (in fact, they were always either smiling or making an effort to be very kind despite being tired), they worked like a great team, shared night shifts, and, above all, they made it clear that the first relationship in the hierarchy is with the Church, then with each other, and finally, with their newborn child – a lesson that is very difficult and at times heroic in our highly secularized “first world”.

Since this brother is also an only son, it was also a deeply personal experience as he could witness the joy that it is to have a “little sister”. She would smile and even laugh every time brother walked within sight range, so he was very happy to be her “court jester”.

 

Project Joseph Workshop

On April 29, the Franciscans of Life offered a workshop for men who want to become mentors of Project Joseph, the program for fathers facing an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy that we run in joint venture with Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami. We usually offer two such workshops a year.

This year we received much support. A number of parishes included notices in their bulletins (some even an entire bulletin page), the Archdiocese included the announcement on the Florida Catholic and on the Pastoral Bulletin, and the Knights of Columbus promoted it through the three Counties. In fact, we even had a Knight from St. Petersburg who heard about it and decided to come learn more about the idea of reaching out to men in crisis pregnancies and help them become better men, better fathers.

The 4-hour workshop was attended by the Project Joseph mentors and a number of other interested people, and it included an overview by the program founder and current director, our superior Br. Jay, as well as a review of the procedures and documentation involved for each client offered by Br. Bernardo. Br. Chris assisted in assembling the folders with the material for the participants and also in the making of a video recording of the workshop (currently in post-production). Br. Leo welcomed in the participants, many of whom were visiting for the first time the new South Broward (Hollywood) Pregnancy Help Center, which kindly hosted the workshop.

One of the attendants, Ed Suazo, a Knight of Columbus who has been a long-time supporter of Respect Life Ministry, is in the process of starting Project Joseph at the new South Dade Pregnancy Help Center, some 10 blocks south of the main campus of the ever-expanding FIU. We are very happy to have him on board as Project Joseph mentor!

 

“New Skills for Adults Room”

Towards the end of May, CollegeDirect, a tutoring center for which one of our brothers was working part-time, announced that it was closing its doors. The brother involved was discussing the matter with his superior while washing dishes after the morning meal when, suddenly, he was struck by an idea. He asked his Superior permission to discuss an inspiration he had suddenly received.

Our community has always been involved in education at several levels, both in the apostolate and in the secular sphere. Could this expertise be put at the service of the immigrant poor, with the intercession of the Immaculate and the support of a kind benefactor?

Our Superior addressed a letter to the Director of CollegeDirect, whose name happens to be Lourdes. In it, he described the concept of the “New Skills for Adults Room”, a very small project that the Franciscans of Life and some volunteers would run free of charge, to serve adults who are struggling with basic English, Math, and computer literacy. Upon completion of the program, they would have the basic skills needed to prepare a résumé, be ready for a job interview, and re-launch themselves in the workplace. We know from our daily interaction with the population of Miami-Dade and Broward as well as with the newly-arrived immigrants from Haiti, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eurasia, that there is a great need for such a service.

We were hoping that CollegeDirect would donate a small part of their materials and assets towards the furnishing and startup of the “Room” (for it is our hope that the Immaculate will provide just one large room for us to run the program).

It turned out that Ms. Lourdes and the other parties involved in running CollegeDirect responded with the utmost kindness and generosity, providing us with a large donation of educational materials, a whiteboard, bookshelves, even some laptops and chairs, and they would have kindly donated more furniture except that we do not have the physical space to store the items!

As one of our brother continues to itemize everything we received from our kind benefactor and another brother prepares the Education Plan, we are very grateful to the Lord for the ushering of this wonderful little project and we now patiently await for the Immaculate to provide, whenever it be God’s will, the “Room” where our program will be able to help the immigrant poor and the refugee to “learn how to fish” in the vast ocean of a new country.

 

Prayer Days for Life and Jericho Walk

During the season of Lent, the Franciscans of Life individually prayed in front of abortuaries (places where abortion is performed). While in Broward a large number of vigils takes place before the Planned Parenthood abortuary in Pembroke Pines (also due to political reasons), the 40 Days for Life campaign focused on the abortuary in Hollywood, some 15 blocks east of the South Broward Respect Life Center, and the brothers focused on the relatively unknown abortuary of Miramar, “conveniently” located next to three fast-food stores, only some 10 blocks north-west of Saint Stephen parish. They also go to the other locations, but they focus on proclaiming the sanctity of life, offering support, and passing out literature of human development in the womb.

On one such occasion, one of our brothers noticed that the Center had locked its doors and was not letting clients in. The brother, who was holding a hand-made poster inviting people to reach out to him for support, took advantage of this window of opportunity to invite the clients standing by to go visit the nearby Respect Life Pregnancy Help Center. While some people ignored him and others called him a liar when he said we could help, brother kept making the point that they could always come back to the abortuary and they had nothing to lose in visiting the Pregnancy Help Center first.

The brother was about 100 feet away from the place, behind a railing, at the risk of falling into the canal running behind him, because the usual prayer spot is so far removed from the place that it offers virtually no chance of interacting with the clients. It turns out the brother was still too close… The abortuary, perhaps intimidated by brother’s imposing stature of 5 feet 5” and by his home-made poster board boldly stating in blue marker “WE CAN HELP YOU”, decided to lock down the center and call the police. Brother thought that as long as he kept behind the railing, he was not invading private property, but he was wrong. Two very kind officers approached brother and explained to him, with the help of digital imagery, that the lawful private property actually ended half-way inside the canal. That clarified why the prayer vigils were held on the other side of the canal! Brother apologized for his mistake and he was let go without any questioning, as he slowly tried not to embarrass himself by falling into the canal at the last moment. He is known to be clumsy.

After that, he moved to another abortion mill prayer spot where he could stand legitimately on the sidewalk about 15 feet from the entrance of the abortuary. He would offer fliers to the cars that stopped at the red light and to the people walking by. He even had a chance to interact with one of the staff members on lunch break. Brother, aware of the program run by pro-life advocate Abby Johnson to help clinic workers leave the abortion industry, spent the few seconds at his disposal to mention the program (abortionworker.com) and also to mention that he volunteers at a nearby pregnancy help center and distributes literature about human development in the womb. The worker was very kind and told brother: “I work there, but I wish more people would listen to you…”.

On another occasion, one of the brothers decided to simply read out loud the Letters of St. John and St. Paul in front of another abortion mill (relatively similar lawful distance). This time brother had a major surprise, as he interacted with a fellow pro-lifer who had come there with a sign as part as the 40 Days for Life campaign. During the short conversation, brother mentioned that he knew most people would ignore him, but that the Word of God is a seed planted, that gives fruit in due time, and that nobody knows if one of the clients of the abortion mill may, some thirty years down the road, realize the enormity of the evil of abortion and bitterly repent of her action carried out perhaps in the foolishness of youth and under the pressure of peers, parents, or partner. The fellow pro-lifer broke down in tears and “confessed” to brother that he was actually describing her – she had an abortion as a teenager and only decades later did she come to full knowledge of the Gospel of Life, repent of what she had done, and become a faithful Catholic and a dedicated supporter of the pro-life cause. Brother did not know what to say, other than to praise the Lord for His mercy and encourage her to continue on the journey of love and reparation that the Lord had led her on, in the certainty that He would bring to completion what He had begun.

After Lent, the brothers were involved in a number of other projects, but on June 11 they were invited to attend the “Jericho Walk”, a Eucharistic Procession sponsored by Respect Life Ministry and Nativity Catholic Church that involved walking seven times around the abortuary, peacefully and orderly, praying the Rosary while following the Most Blessed Sacrament and a statue of Our Lady.

Our superior Br. Jay insisted in attending the event, even though he has chronic pulmonary and cardiac conditions and has only left the wheelchair for a cane a few months ago. Pressured by the insistence of the brothers, he agreed to take a walker rather than the cane. He walked 30 blocks in total, without portable oxygen (nobody thought of picking up a portable tank on the way out of the motherhouse), and kindly refused a ride back from the abortuary to the Respect Life Center. The other brother that was with him was able to do a few more rounds and even to carry the wooden cross that followed behind the Blessed Sacrament and the statue of Our Lady.

Over a hundred people attended the march, which was very well organized, full of piety and reverence, rather than a crusade of self-appointed “warriors for life”. It seemed also that the political signs were absent, in favor of good old home-made signs that exalted the beauty of life and the help that was there for those who were in the often excruciating struggle of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. One sign, carried by a child ahead of the Most Blessed Sacrament, stole the brothers’ heart.

Other Events

You would think that three months would not be enough for more than what we have described, considering that the brothers spend most of their time in prayer and fraternity, and that they also work part-time as per the Testament or Last Will of Saint Francis. Yet, as one of the brothers always says, God made the time for more.

One of our pets, our little sister Tasha the Puggle, developed a worrisome cough and had to be taken to the vet and later tricked daily to take her medication (she is very smart and absolutely refused to take it unless it was wrapped in bread, cheese, pizza crust, or some other type of food, and she could not be easily fooled more than twice). Fortunately she is now fully recovered.

A video was produced for the short series “Musings of a Franciscan of Life” which offers a small window into the life of the brothers.

One of the brothers completed the Life in the Spirit seminar and was “baptized in the Holy Spirit”, as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal refers to the prayer service in which they pray that the Holy Spirit, received at Baptism and whose gifts were infused at Confirmation, would deign to stir the love of God in the heart of the participants and “renew their life” for the service of the Church.

Br. Leo continues in his tireless work of prayer (he is our “prayer warrior”) while occasionally supporting the families of the hospice where he used to work. When Br. Bernardo’s father passed away, he came to serve at the funeral mass as cross-bearer even though the night before he had broken one of his toes and could only walk with great pain. He is an example of meekness and humility to the brothers.

The Extern brothers also kept busy, especially Br. Luis who recently welcomed his 10th child, Annamarie and has been supporting one of his daughters to start a pro-life group at her school, and Br. Chris, who besides all we mentioned above has also been helping in the training of a new Project Joseph mentor and other activities inherent to his role as Community Vicar. Our latest newcomer, Tom, worked hard on his formation as aspirant after a long period of discernment with the fraternity, and asked to be admitted as a Postulant. He is a kind, generous soul and, as Br. Bernardo loves to say, has a smile that lights up the room.

 

Coming Soon – Steps Forward in Formation

We would love to tell you all about Br. Tom and the others who are renewing their Solemn Promise or their Temporary Profession in May and June, but… we won’t 🙂 At least, not yet.

More on this, and on upcoming events, in a follow-up article: Steps Forward in Formation. Follow us on our blog (check the redesigned home page for the “Subscribe” button on the right-hand column), our Youtube channel, and our Facebook group!

Please keep us in your prayers to the Immaculate (would you say a Hail Mary for us every day?) and if you can, please see our latest post in which, in the tradition of St. Francis, realizing we could not make ends meet we are begging you for anything you can spare so we can keep going. We do not ask for much, as we do not need much. May the Lord reward you abundantly for your love.

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.

 

 

At the Foot of the Cross with Our Mother


If we believe what we pray and we pray according to our belief, is it reasonable to imagine that at the hour of our death, or that of a loved one, Mary will remain silent?  Is it reasonable to think that she will not intercede for every soul as it leaves the body?  Is it even imaginable to think that she is far away from any of us?

Holy Mary,

Mother of God,

Pray for us, sinners,

NOW,

And at the hour of our death.

Amen!

The idea that the Mother of God would ignore our prayer for the soul of a loved one and for our own is irrational.

It is reasonable to feel the pain of loss that Mary felt watching her son die on the cross.  Who can watch a son or daughter die and not feel as if the heart is being ripped out of her?  “Many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul” (Luke 2:35).

The Immaculate Mother of God was not spared the pain of loss.  However, she chose to hurt and trust at the same time.“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word,” (Luke 1:38).

The Sacred Scripture never says that the Blessed Virgin Mary didn’t suffer.

And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold your father and I have sought you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48).

Feeling concern and anxiety for a loved one does not have to conflict with the Faith.  Suffering, for oneself or a loved one, is the most noble sign of our humanity.  Only the man who reaching his full stature as a human being can suffer for another and trust that Christ will always respond to his mother’s intercession.

“Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them (Luke 2:51).

 “When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’

 His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’   Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’

 And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So, they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew),” (John 2:3-9).

With a single sentence, the Immaculate convinces her compassionate Son.

It is important to remember that the “reception” at a Jewish wedding lasted an entire week.  Mary intercedes when they have run out of wine.  They had been drinking for a while, maybe more than a day.

If the Immaculate can open the door to her son’s heart for people who were drinking, having fun, and probably not paying much attention to Him, we can rest in the certainty that she has the key to the Sacred Heart of Christ.  No one who asks her to “pray for us sinners” will be denied her intercession.  Our Lord Jesus Christ will always hear his mother’s prayers and do whatever is for the greater glory of his Father and the salvation of souls.

Those who have not spoken to the Immaculate in a very long time (or never) can always begin today.  She is the mother with the Immaculate Heart.  She forgives!  She understands human weakness.  She has seen man’s lack of faith for centuries.  And she has been a witness to man’s greatest acts of cruelty and injustice.  Despite this, Mary allows us to take her into our very human homes, as sinful as they may be.

She needed only the word from her Son to crush the head of the Serpent that haunts us all. From that moment forward, she remains in our home as Mother.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home”(John 19:26-27).

The Immaculate Mother whom we contemplate at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday, is our Sorrowful Mother.  Her sorrow is caused by the sins that her Son must carry on his back and the penance that he must do purely out of love, not because he was guilty of any fault of his own.

There is a difference between a sorrowful mother and a pitiful mother.  The latter is one for whom we feel sorrow because she’s an imperfect and perhaps a mother who has not owned her maternity. Mary, on the other hand, is the mother who feels the pain of sin inflicted on her innocent Son.  She feels the weight of man’s sinfulness.  She experiences great sorrow, not for herself, but for the sinner redeemed by the suffering servant that she brought into the world.

There is no room in her Immaculate Heart for anything else than love, crushed by sorrow but never extinguished.  This makes it possible for her to enter our homes as Mother and mediate for us the graces that her Son earned through His most sorrowful Passion, till we reach that perfection of charity which is the perfect fulfillment of Our Lady’s one and only commandment: “Do whatever He tells you”. Let us make this our meditation as the Holy Week begins.


O Mary, conceived without sin,

pray for us that have recourse to you,

and for all those who do not have recourse to you,

especially the enemies of holy Church

and those recommended to you“.

-Prayer of the Knights of the Immaculate

Our Forefathers Have Been Betrayed


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Br. Jay, FFV

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

Watch full-screen!

See and hear baby’s heartbeat, watch the 1-inch baby wiggle,
and see description for link to video of 1st year birthday.

Vita ad vitam vocat – Life calls out to life

Learn More

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.

2016_01_24_dinner

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.

2017_01_the_belly.jpg

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.

2017_01_25_Christmas_baby.jpg

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.

2017_01_baby_holds_finger
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.

sofa_eats_brother.gif

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

Following Mary’s GPS


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ST MAX AUSCHWITZ

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

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

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

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

Pesky Flies Don’t Rant


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

ranting

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

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

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

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

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

Ignore the steam and focus on the heart...

Ignore the steam and focus on the heart…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

friend_the_fly

Br. Jay