“I want to send you all to Heaven!”


“[A] lovely, subdued melody floated through the forest above the solitary and forsaken little chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, just when a shepherd was passing by with his sheep. The shepherd turned pale and looked up at the fallen-in roof, but there was nothing to be seen. “Have they got an organ now?” he wondered. He pushed the little door open. All was dark and still within. Overhead the music was becoming more and more heavenly, as a hundred golden voices seemed to mingle in counterpoint. “Lord, how beautiful! It’s enough to make one want to die, it’s so beautiful!” he thought, for he was so moved that he could not utter a word. His heart told him what was happening…” 

From “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”, Timmermans

August 2nd is coming along, and with it, two happy occasions – the “Great Pardon” (as the Portiuncula Indulgence is known in some places) and the “flocking” of the Franciscans of Life (regulars and externs) to the Motherhouse after a bit of a hiatus from community gatherings.

There will be a note of sadness, as our dearest brother Leo will not be with us for the first time…since his passing on May 26th of 2020. Four hundred years earlier, St. Philip Neri passed away on the very same day. Let’s pray for the repose of our dear brother Leo, and ask in a special way for the intercession of St. Philip, “Pippo Buono” as the Romans called him due to his kind and gentle disposition… All who knew our Brother Leo knew of his natural gentleness and kindness, which is what, perhaps, inspired our Superior to name him Leo at Novitiate, in honor of that first brother Leo, a gentle soul whom St. Francis used to call “ you little lamb of God”.

But this article – which from its prolixity you will most likely know is authored by brother Bernardo – is not so much about our community as it is about the Portiuncula Indulgence! We will go over the Porziuncola, “Santa Maria degli Angeli”, and then we will dig a bit more into the matter of indulgences – a matter of heavenly and motherly love – and its relationship to the wonderful Sacrament of Confession – so, please, stay with us!

On Saint Mary of the Angels, called Porziuncola (“little portion“)

 1704 illustration from “Collis Paradisi Amœnitas, seu Sacri Conventus Assisiensis Historiæ“, as found on p.107 of “The Story of Assisi” by Lina Duff Gordon

If we dig a bit, we find a nice summary by Pope Benedict XV on the salient points regarding this very special place, which we summarize below:

  • It is taught that in the days of Pope Liberius (IV century) pilgrims from Palestine brought here a fragment of the sepulcher of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that is to say, the place of the Assumption, and thus was the place named Saint Mary of the Angels.
  • Here St. Francis wrote the rule approved by Pope Innocent III (“admonished by divine vision”, writes Benedict XV).
  • Here Clare, the noble virgin of Assisi, having forsaken the world, was clothed in the poor Franciscan habit, and instituted the second Order.
  • Here also originated the Third Franciscan Order [note of clarification: that of the Penitents, whose ancient rule we follow].
  • By this place were the first Chapters of the Franciscan order, including the famous “Chapter of Matts” of Pentecost.
  • Here St. Francis, after refusing six times, finally agreed that he and the brothers would share a meal with St. Clare and the sisters. It is recounted that their souls glared so brightly that the people from the surrounding areas thought the forest was ablaze.
  • Here St. Francis had a vision of the Lord and Our Lady, and went to Perugia to implore Pope Honorius III in 1216 for a most extraordinary and unusual favor: “that anyone who comes [to the Portiuncola] confessed and penitent be absolved from the punishment and guilt from the day of baptism to the day and hour of entrance in said church”. Such an indulgence was unheard of in those days! Yet, three times did the Supreme Pontiff give his assent. Upon the Saint rejoicing and departing his presence, came the Pope’s affectionate remark and the Saint’s moving reply:
    • You simpleton, where are you going? What proof do you carry?
    • Your word suffices to me! I seek no further instrument, other than the Virgin Mary be the parchment, Christ the notary, and the Angels the witnesses!”.
      • There is a pious story coming from the nephew of one of the early brothers, who accompanied Francis back from Perugia to Assisi. They stopped to rest a while and, upon awakening, St. Francis said: “Brother Masseo,I tell you from God that the Indulgence that the Supreme Pontiff gave me is confirmed in heaven!
  • Here Francis stood by the entrance after returning from Perugia and, stretching his fatherly arms, said to all:

“I want to send you all to heaven!

I announce to you an Indulgence

which I obtained from the mouth of the Supreme Pontiff…”

St. Francis at the Portiuncola, 1226
  • Here Francis implored his Guardian and his brothers to take him to die. 
    • “No, no! To Our Lady of the Angels! – Francis begged – I want to die where I began!” (from “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”, by Timmermans)
  • Here that he dictated his wondrous Testament: https://ofm.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Testament.pdf
  • Finally, here he died, naked on the floor (ref. Job 1:21), a broken, small 43-year-old man, marked with the Stigmata of the Lord he so loved, surrounded by his brothers who so loved him, under the loud warbling of hundreds of larks soaring heavenward…St. Francis of Assisi, whom Holy Church would call the Seraphic Father, the Alter Christus, but who, in his letters, introduced himself as little brother Francis….the little one….your servant…a worthless and weak man.

On the Great Pardon, or the Portiuncula Indulgence

One scholar wrote: 

“it seems incredible that a perpetual plenary indulgence with no attached condition of almsgiving or personal sacrifice should have been granted in favor of an obscure chapel in Umbria. Yet we have six sworn statements of contemporaries, regulations of the General Chapters of the Order, and 53 pontifical acts of the XIVth century either confirming it or defending it”.  

The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Jan., 1939), p. 466

This is just as St. Francis had told Pope Honorius: “If it is the work of God, He will make it manifest” – and this He has done – through His Church – through the centuries!

Of this plenary indulgence can benefit the faithful – for themselves or for a deceased as suffrage

(a) either by directly visiting Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Porziuncola shrine it contains (in Assisi)

or (b) by visiting, within the US (to our understanding) a minor basilica, a cathedral, or a parish church.

The conditions, to our understanding, are as follows:

  • Receive absolution in sacramental Confession
    • (in the time period including the 8 days before and the 8 days after the visit of the church)
  • Attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion within the same time period
    • (although it is convenient that this occur on the day the work is performed)
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Visit the church
    • …where they will renew the profession of faith through the recitation of the Credo (which, to our understanding, can be either the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed…).
    • …and they will recite a Pater (Our Father) to reaffirm their dignity as children of God received in Baptism
    • …and they will pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, condition which is satisfied by reciting one Pater and one Ave, although one may also recite any other prayer if recited for this intention. This would also be fittingly performed on the same day.

On Indulgences in general, and Plenary Indulgences in particular – or, how to gain one

To benefit from an indulgence, the person must be baptized, must not be excommunicated, and hopefully in the state of grace. Furthermore, one must have the general intention of gaining the indulgence, and of course carry out the works mentioned above.

Most importantly, however, for the indulgence to be plenary and not partial, it requires the exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin

This has been historically considered the most complex of the conditions: no man, however holy, can call himself free of sin, but many can honestly call themselves free of affection towards sin, to the best of their knowledge!

In 2004, the Apostolic Penitentiary used the following language:

…as long as they are totally free from any desire to relapse into sin…

https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/tribunals/apost_penit/documents/rc_trib_appen_doc_20041225_miraculorum-maximum_en.html

On SpiritualDirection.com (an apostolate of the Avila Institute by our kind friend Dan Burke) , Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC writes (we paraphrase!):

“The requirement is not “freedom from all sin“, rather, that “there is no sin which the soul is unwilling to renounce”.

A person should know if he’s in compliance, because an attachment implies a refusal to fix a situation – as when sometimes, deep down, we don’t want to let go of certain sins, even if “small”.

This is quite different from weakness, or habitual sin that is being battled…to souls in these situations, the Church is ready to aid!”

Confession, Reparation…and Indulgences – or, how they are closely related!

Pray to the good Lord to take away any desire, albeit small or hidden, for sins both grave and venial, and go as far as to bring forth in your heart a salutary hatred of sin, remembering that God is all-good and all-loving and that even the smallest sin displeases him. 

After all, what is an indulgence if not but a “continuation” of the Sacrament of Penance? That is to say, “a remission before God of temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is already forgiven”? 

We know that the matter of sacramental Confession is the acts of the penitent: contrition, confession and satisfaction.

say NO to sin!

We should strive to a perfect contrition (CCC 1452) and perfect contrition builds more and more on detachment from sin, first from the “great” sins and then from the “small” ones! A devout soul, then, should not find much difficulty in complying with the requirement to be detached from all sin. The rest of us should simply keep working our way there, knowing that it is entirely up to us to not want to sin, while it is entirely a gift of God to bless us with the grace needed to overcome sin. “Without me – says the Lord – you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5), but He also says, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), and later, to St. Paul, “my grace is enough for you” (2Cor 12:9).

In the form of the Sacrament, “I absolve you, assuming the penitent did not put any obstacles, such as willfully lying or withholding, or later failing to do any satisfaction, but rather that the penitent had a sincere sorrow for their sins and a firm resolution to avoid them in the future, all their sins from the very moment of Baptism (or from their last Absolution) till that moment are forgiven and remitted through the power of the Keys – even sins that you may have forgotten to mention!

The pains of Purgatory in a painting by Fontebasso

Yet, such forgiveness and remission of sin does not imply the forgiveness of the temporal punishment due to every sin.

Sin carries both a stain and a punishment. When the stain is cleansed from the soul by sacramental absolution, the temporal punishment is not always remitted, except through the remedy of satisfaction, by avoiding near occasions of sin, resolving to sin no more, and doing works of penance. Such satisfaction also atones to our Mother the Church, whom we often forget is injured by our sins, and it also deters others from sin by way of example.

Last but not least, temporal punishment is the reason for Purgatory…the ecclesia dolens… Someone reported that St. Padre Pio once said: “let us do our Purgatory here on earthby accepting everything from God’s hand“. (ref. Job 1:21…again…)

Interiorly, satisfaction heals the wound caused by sin. St. Bernard taught that “the stain is removed from the soul by God’s mercy, while the wound is healed through the remedy of penance…and even then, some scar remains”.

In this we see the great love and care of Holy Mother Church, Bride of Christ and as such minister of Redemption, custodian of that great treasury of expiatory works of Christ and the Saints! By granting an Indulgence, our Mother the Church is coming to our help in ridding us of the temporal punishment we have accumulated by our sins – or, when we apply the indulgence to a faithful departed, to help us help one another!

St. John Paul II summarized this wonderfully in 1999:

“[indulgence] is a sensitive subject, which has suffered historical misunderstandings […]

The starting-point for understanding indulgences is the abundance of God’s mercy revealed in the Cross of Christ. The crucified Jesus is the great “indulgence” that the Father has offered humanity through the forgiveness of sins […]   in the logic of the covenant, which is the heart of the whole economy of salvation, this gift does not reach us without our acceptance and response. […] 

[I]t is not difficult to understand how reconciliation with God, although based on a free and abundant offer of mercy, at the same time implies an arduous process which involves the individual’s personal effort and the Church’s sacramental work.

For the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism, this process is centered on the sacrament of Penance, but it continues after the sacramental celebration. The person must be gradually “healed” of the negative effects which sin has caused in him (what the theological tradition calls the “punishments” […] Precisely for the sake of complete healing, the sinner is called to undertake a journey of conversion towards the fullness of love.

The temporal punishment itself serves as “medicine” to the extent that the person allows it to challenge him to undertake his own profound conversion. This is the meaning of the “satisfaction” required in the sacrament of Penance.

The meaning of indulgences must be seen against this background of man’s total renewal by the grace of Christ the Redeemer through the Church’s ministry.

The Church has a treasury, then, which is “dispensed” as it were through indulgences. This “distribution” should not be understood as a sort of automatic transfer, as if we were speaking of “things”. It is instead the expression of the Church’s full confidence of being heard by the Father when – in view of Christ’s merits and, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints – she asks Him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace. In the unfathomable mystery of divine wisdom, this gift of intercession can also benefit the faithful departed […]

We can see, then, how indulgences, far from being a sort of “discount” on the duty of conversion, are instead an aid to its prompt, generous and radical fulfilment. This is required to such an extent that the spiritual condition for receiving a plenary indulgence is the exclusion “of all attachment to sin, even venial sin” […]

Therefore, it would be a mistake to think that we can receive this gift by simply performing certain outward acts. On the contrary, they are required as the expression and support of our progress in conversion. They particularly show our faith in God’s mercy and in the marvellous reality of communion, which Christ has achieved by indissolubly uniting the Church to himself as his Body and Bride.”

St. John Paul II, PP – General Audience – 29 Sep 1999
“Virgo Ecclesia Facta” – the Church is our loving Mother

My Sins and The Nails that Pierced Christ


Holy Week is an invitation by Christ and the Church to meditate not only on the suffering of Christ on the cross, but especially on the cause of Christ’s Passion.  For centuries, we Christians have proclaimed that Christ died on the cross to redeem us.  But very rarely do we say It is my sins that led Christ to be executed by the cruelest form of capital punishment of the time.

Today we hear many sermons and read many spiritual books on God’s love for us and our obligation to love God and others.  These points are true.  However, we rarely hear Your sins contributed to the cruel passion of Christ.  It has become unfashionable to speak to people directly about personal sin.  The excuse that we most frequently hear is It is not for me to judge.  It is true that it is not for us to judge the state of another person’s soul.  But we certainly have a duty to reflect on the state of our soul.  

It is not enough to say I have always been a good person, or I have always tried to do the best that I could in any given situation.  These statements are like the clouds that block the light of the sun from reaching us on a dreary day.  I am a good person is often cloud cover.

When mediating on the suffering of Christ and His Blessed Mother we must ask ourselves some very important questions, such as:

  1. Do I tell myself that God is a loving god who, in the end, will pardon my sins and welcome me to heaven?

That is presuming God’s mercy while not considering his justice.  The mercy of God is an absolute truth. So is His justice.  We must pay for our sins.  Otherwise, we are guilty of the sin of presumption.

  1. Have I ever believed myself or my community to be superior to others?

Looking down at others is a sin of arrogance.  It may be true that I live a more virtuous life than the person next door.  But we can only see external acts, we do not see what God sees.  He sees the whole person.  He does not measure a person’s value by their race, culture, achievements, sexual orientation, parentage, or religion.  God knows about all these things and what He blesses and what He condemns.  However, Christ tells us, “do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt 7:1).

  1. Do I truly believe doctrine and moral law that the Church teaches, or do I create my own doctrine and my own moral law?  

Maybe I question the Church’s teaching on same sex marriage, abortion, birth control, marriage of divorcees, sex outside of marriage celibacy. 

Maybe I believe that Christ is in the host, but not that the host is the real body and blood of Christ.  However, the host is not an outer shell within which hides the Lord Jesus Christ…the consecrate host is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Christ makes this very clear when He told his followers, Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life . . . “(Jn 6:54).

  1. Do I look down on non-Catholics or maybe I do not ever think about non-Catholics?

Catholics are often indifferent to other religions, believe that all religions are the same, or are hostile toward non-Catholics.  When we are indifferent about the existence of other religions, we are indifferent about our own Catholic religion.  We fail to see the need to bring others into the fulness of the Gospel which subsists only in the Catholic Church. 

To subscribe to the idea that all religions are the same is as intelligent as believing that all cultures are the same.  They are not the same.  Other religions have some beliefs that are the same as Catholic beliefs, and some beliefs that are completely mistaken because they ignore or distort Truth. 

Hostility toward people of other faiths contradicts what Jesus has taught us.

Jesus was asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” “

Do this and you will live.” (Lk 10:25-28)

I must never stay silent in the face of error for the sake of political correctness.  To do so is to give consent to the error.  But I must never consider myself above others.  Truth comes from Christ, not from man.

If I consider myself above non-Catholics, then I am as wrong as they are.  Because my Catholic faith is not of my creation, but a gift from God.  I must share this gift whenever the situation presents itself, with respect and kindness.  Never with aggression or condescension. 

In conclusion, let us not think only those sins which are observable: adultery, impurity, injustice, slander, rudeness, vulgarity, passing up an opportunity to practice charity…  We are guilty of many sins that are not easily observable and which we believe can be swept under the rugs.  Yet, no sin in hidden from the sight of God. The nails that pierced the hands and feet of Christ are my sins along with those of others.

REMEMBER THAT UNTO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN


Today we are seeing people dying in the hundred thousand from COVID-19.  Just as we are celebrating that vaccines are created by several pharmaceutical companies, along come variations and mutations of the original virus. There are still areas in the United States and countries with fewer resources where the vaccine has not reached and there is no set date for its arrival.

In the United States millions of people are living in arctic conditions, thousands without electricity.  No electricity means no heating.  Already, people have died from complications caused by frigid temperatures.  People are leaving their homes to shelter in facilities that have electricity, such as enclosed stadiums.  Let us not forget the thousands of people who are stranded in airports because the weather has caused more than 3,000 flight cancellations and hundreds of delays.  Driving home is not always possible.  The safest place to protect oneself and one’s family is the airport.

Around the world, people die from hunger, violence, wars, and natural disasters.  The point is that we are probably more aware of death today than we were twenty years ago.  Death is knocking at doors that are too close to home for comfort.

Ash Wednesday, being the first day of Lent in the Christian world, calls us to forty days of reflection and sacrifice.  The number 40 is not random.  We remember Noah in the ark for 40 days, Jewish slaves fleeing Egypt through the desert for 40 years. Christ retreated into the desert for 40 days. Finally, the risen Lord remained 40 days with His apostles before His Ascension.  Forty were periods of suffering, atonement, penance, and the journey to glory.

With the number of deaths around us, the Church invites us to remember that Christ carried the cross up Mount Calvary.  On the pinnacle of Mount Calvary, He died and redeemed all of humanity.  Redemption is not to be mistaken with forgiveness.  Redemption is a moment in time that makes forgiveness possible for all who are willing to carry the cross.

For some people, the cross may be living through COVID-19 patiently, trusting that God will do what is best for our salvation.  It is a time of suffering and an opportunity to place our trust in God.

The Arctic conditions that millions of people are experiencing, perhaps without electricity to heat their homes, can be offered as a cross that, if carried with faith in God and charity toward our neighbor, can be the best Lenten sacrifice.  If one does not suffer from COVID-19 or Arctic weather, we can remember to make a daily sacrifice for the benefit of those who are suffering and remember them in our daily prayer.

Lent is a time for conversion, change.  We carry our crosses with patience and trust that God knows what is best for us.  In times of crisis, we reach out to our neighbor to offer our help or to ask for help.  Sometimes, asking for help is more difficult than helping.

Why do we take up our cross during these 40 days?  At the end of his life, Christ died for all men.  Three days later he rose from the dead no more to die. “He who wishes to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.”  Christ does not invite us to carry our cross for the sake of imitation.  He invites us to carry our cross so that we may never forget that we are not omnipotent and will leave this world on a given day and time.  Those who have carried their cross with the same love as Christ, will also rise to eternal life in Paradise.

“Was crucified, died, and was buried…On the third day, He rose again. “

Light In The Darkness


My mother always said, “Darkness can never conquer light.”  Looking at the world today things look dark if we don’t seek out the light.

Covid-19 has done more than making some people sick and kill others.  It has thrown families into crisis.  Some mourn a loved one.  Others wonder about an elderly relative in a nursing home where visitors are not allowed.  Spouses spend hours sitting, praying, and wondering if their partner is ever coming off the ventilator.  Patients struggle to breathe.  Their bodies ache.  They have lost all sense of taste and even of smell.  The endless coughing does not allow them a peaceful night’s sleep.

We must also consider how this virus has impacted the lives of healthcare professionals. They do not lose their humanity.  Many have loved ones, including spouses, parents, children.  Upon entering nursing school or medical school, they never dreamed that their lives would be on the line.  Those things happened to people in the armed forces, not to healthcare professionals.  

Long days on your feet were to be expected, but caring for more than ten patients was not a common occurrence among nurses.  There was little fear of taking home a virus that could literally kill one of your children or elderly loved ones. As the number of nurses, doctors, medical technicians, and others contracted the virus, the workload became heavier.  Instead of 12-hour shifts, some people were putting in 18-hour shifts.  Yet, these people have spouses, children, parents, and even pets at home, waiting for them.   

When your loved one is a patient in a hospital, a resident in a lockdown nursing home, a nurse, physician, or technicians, one doesn’t always enjoy a good night’s rest, wondering, worrying.

Also, the loss of income to many workers has stretched their resources beyond their means.  When businesses are locked down, real people are home paying bills and buying groceries, with no idea when they will go back to work and bring home a paycheck.   People who have worked hard all their lives to open a small retail store are now paying bills with no income.

Then there is also violence, looting, and confrontations on our streets.  This has been one of the most active hurricane seasons in decades.  Wildfires have left thousands of people homeless.  Terrorism and military posturing have not taken vacations.

People wonder: “where is God in all of this?  If God is so loving and merciful, why are so many people suffering?  Does prayer really produce results?”  Some are angry at God.  They feel abandoned.

Given the picture of the world today, it is very natural to question one’s faith.  God does not get angry because we doubt, or because we are angry at Him.

We find answers to our questions of faith when we reflect on the lives of men and women of faith such as: Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe who died in a concentration camp to save the life a family man; Saint Teresa of Calcutta who left home at the age of 18 to become a missionary in one of the poorest countries in the world. 

Then there are spouses and parents such as Saint Gianna Beretta Molla who chose to give her life rather than abort her preborn child.  She delivered this child and died shortly after. 

Speaking of people with strong faith, I can never forget what the Blessed Mother said to Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, as she lay, dying of very painful bone disease, at the age of 35: 

I cannot promise you happiness in this life, only in the next.

Christ never promised us that life in this world was going to be painless.  As we enter the Christmas Season, we must meditate on the fact that the Son of God was born with a price on His head.  Herod was looking to kill the little boy.  His parents had to flee with Him into Egypt.  Despite the threat of infanticide and later execution on a cross, God chose to be born into a world that offered Him no exemption from suffering and loss.

God chose to be born into a world filled with suffering and loss of many kinds.  He navigated through this world always remembering that nothing is impossible for the Father.  Let us never forget that God brought light into the world at a stable in Bethlehem and later at the resurrection from the dead. 

Christmas is a commemoration of the time when God broke into the darkness of humanity to bring the light of faith, hope and charity.  It is also a time of anticipation.  Christ promised that He would return to judge the living and the dead.  He will return to shed light on our sins and our acts of love.

Christ said the greatest act of love man can do is to lay down his life for his neighbor.

The chaos, fear, conflicts, and confusion that we’re experiencing can be moments of light if we reach out to those who suffer.  We don’t have to give them anything. The shepherds who went to the manger to see the divine infant didn’t come bearing gifts.  They were poor themselves.  But they brought the greatest gift of all: support, love, and companionship to a young family in trouble.

New World, Old Problems


32,941 Global Conflict Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images

Few people will deny that we are living during a critical time in human history. Americans are facing a presidential election. Europeans are approaching the final act separating the United Kingdom from the European Union, with many important questions that need a response very soon. Military conflicts in the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe erupt when one least expects it. Moreover, the world community is under attack by COVID-19

The question “How can Christians face these situations always keeping Christ at the center?”

St. Patrick's Cathedral - The Skyscraper Center
The secular world overwhelms and overtakes the faithful…finding God becomes harder…

There is no easy answer to this question. The most important reason why there is not a Christ-like response to these situations is that Christ has been pushed to the sidelines, even by people who profess to be Christian.

Everyone wants a solution to these problems, but no one wants help. We want to redeem the world ourselves on our terms, a task that is humanly impossible. We lack the knowledge, unity, resources, and a shared worldview.

The challenge to leadership is not new to humanity. From the time that man has walked the earth, he has challenged leadership. As time moved forward the challenges often took sinister executions. Just look at the Romans. They poisoned their parents, siblings, and children for the sole purpose of power.

Fast forward to the Middle Ages. The rise of the mercantile class posed a threat to the control and power exercised by the nobility. And we move forward to the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the power struggles in Asia.

15 most famous and terrifying Russian military paintings - Russia Beyond

Conflict for power is not new to humanity. It only seems catastrophic because we are in the middle of the conflict. In 500 years, there will probably be other forms of seeking power, rather than elections.

In the past, few societies allowed themselves to be guided by the Gospel when searching for leaders and rulers. Today, it seems that Christ has become an abstract about which we think about in church, but we leave him and his teachings behind when we walk out the door.

No country is going to thrive unless it has a government that is guided by absolute moral norms, attention to the voice of Christ, and the desire of citizens to look at the needs of the whole, not just a few.

Elections have been simplified. Today they are about embracing one ideology over another, be it in Europe, Asia, South America, or the United States.

Democracy Depends on Digital Security - Nextgov

We cast our votes for the person who speaks the best, who represents my interests, at the expense of others, and who in the end has no direct influence in my life with my family, community, and place of employment.

The influence of government is always remote, especially in nations that are too populous to be governed by one person. Even a dictatorship cannot exist without a support system. What citizens live with or without are those legislations that trickle down to them through a complex system of government.

Jesus Makes Perfect (part 12) - Kenneth Cope
Seek the things above…”

If Christians want to see real and lasting social reform, it is incumbent upon every individual to search his or her conscience and individual understanding of the proposals on the table.

As true Christians, we must always choose the greater good. Very often that is going to benefit more people besides me or instead of me.

The Gospel of Matthew says it very clearly, “As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.” If we choose the greater good, the least of our brethren will benefit, in this life or in the next.

To know the Greater Good, we must know Jesus Christ and his values, his worldview, his commandments, and his moral example. Left to our own devices, we will be unable to identify the Greater Good.

Not all human beings think alike, and each sees that which benefits them as the greater good. We need a single point of reference. That point is Jesus Christ, not the hundreds of politicians peddling their wares.

When we vote, we must focus on that which is the greater good for the greatest amount of people, born or in the womb.

Beware of Interior Demons


When will it be enough?  To protest injustice is the obligation of all just men and women.  There is a moment when protest can lose its sense of reason.  We become irrational and do things that we would not normally condone. 

Examples of this demise in reason become obvious when those who begin a protest for a just cause raise it a few notches where they are destroying private property of people who need said property to support their families. 

When people are injured, even killed, a protest ceases to be a protest and turns into chaos.  Often, innocent children are the victims, as are those who have no guns and panic to find shelter. 

Taking a life does not restore the life of a victim.  When protest evolves into destruction, we must understand that we have crossed a moral threshold that should never be crossed. Killing in defense of the self, family and other innocent people is a proportionate response to a threat.  However, killing out of anger and destroying private property is uncontrolled rage.   

Rage does not see the difference between righteous anger and violence.  The Apostle St. Paul warned us about this almost 2,000 years ago:

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27) 

Anger such as that fails to think first, before acting.  We allow ourselves to lose control.  We lose our ability to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, anger and rage.  We lose a piece of our humanity: the ability to discriminate between right and wrong and to choose that which is right.  The Apostle St. Peter warned us about this more than 2,000 years ago:

“Beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability” (2 Peter 3:17b)

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,” (1 Peter 4:31) 

Our expression of anger must always be justified by absolute moral rules that dictate what is right and guide us away from what is wrong.  Let us be careful not to become the demon we are trying to slay.   

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Him, Lord


Br. Leo, FFVWE COMMEND HIS SOUL TO THE MERCY OF THE RISEN CHRIST AND WE THANK ALMIGHTY GOD FOR HIS LIFE AMONG US

The Franciscans of Life announce the death of Brother Leo Gerard Belanger, FFV.

Brother Leo Gerard Belanger, FFV, age 66, of Pickerington, Ohio, formerly of Palm Beach Gardens, FL, passed away Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at his residence. Born February 19, 1954 in Fall River, MA to the late Armand and Corinne (St. Germain) Belanger.

He worked as a nurse for 36 years, the last 15 years in hospice care. He was a very compassionate person who loved taking care of his patients. Leo joined the Franciscans of Life in 2014.  He was one of the earliest brothers in vows.  He touched the hearts of many, especially his Franciscan Brothers of Life, and he will be greatly missed.

Interment will be at Sacred Heart Cemetery in New Bedford, MA.
Friends who wish to do so, may contribute to the Church of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, 5225 Refugee Rd., Columbus, Ohio 43232 in his memory.

God’s Justice and Mercy Are Within Our Reach


At the end of the Roman Empire, Romans blamed Christians for the fall of the Roman State.  Saint Augustine’s response was true then and is still true today.  The pagan gods did not save Rome because they were nothing more than statues and myths.  If Roman and Greek literature were to be believed, the gods loved themselves, not each other…and much less humanity.

But Augustine also taught a great truth: our God is merciful and just.  The difficulties that men experience are the product of Original Sin.  It is just that man should make reparation for the sins of our first parents and our own that followed.  However, God’s merciful arm is longer than His arm of justice.  While He allows Mankind to experience suffering, He is also present to save us from tragedy, if it’s good for our salvation and that of others.  He gives us an opportunity to offer our sufferings in reparation for our sins.  It is not God’s wish that any of us be lost.  Those souls who lose Heaven do so because they did not take advantage of the opportunity to reconcile with Christ by offering up their sufferings.

But God does not only allow suffering consequently for sin.  Suffering is also a great opportunity for us to engage in the corporal works of mercy.

  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matt 25:34-36).

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did it for me…as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ (Matt: 25:40,45).

 

Today it seems as if the world is falling apart.  There are wildfires, floods, hurricanes, blizzards, melting ice caps, crime, wars, and now a virus that could kill us without warning.  In justice. God allows these things as a consequence for our sins:  greed, bigotry, lying, pride, pornography, sex for recreation not for love, adultery, child abuse, neglect of the older members of society, wanting for more than we need, while others do not have satisfaction for their basic necessities, and there is much more that we can add to this list; but I believe that this gives us something to think about.

Saint Francis of Assisi became one of the best known and beloved saints because of his poverty.  But poverty was detachment from anything and everyone that led him away from God, including his father.  Francis fell in love with the Crucified Christ.  He wanted to share in Christ’s sufferings for two reasons.

First: he felt remorse for his sinfulness.  He could see how his sins contributed to the suffering of Christ on the cross.  His entire life was dedicated to making reparation by doing simple things such as fasting and abstinence – and extraordinary things, such as throwing himself naked into snow and later thorny bush when he felt tempted to sin against purity.

          Second: Francis saw Christ crucified in those who suffered leprosy, poverty, injustice, hunger, abuse of any kind.  When one of these sinful events took place within his reach, he protected the suffering, corrected the offender, and counseled those who were on the wrong path.

Francis never saw natural or human disasters as something to be wished for, or to be cursed.  He certainly did not wish for the atrocities committed against Christians in the Holy Land.  He set out to convert the sultan and offer his life in martyrdom.  He was unsuccessful in both.  The sultan grew to respect him and admire him, but Francis did not convert him, nor did the sultan execute Francis for being a Christian intruder.  He admired his courage and his faith – even though he believed that Francis was in error.  But the sultan learned a great lesson in love.  Francis arrived with a few friars, not with a company of Crusaders.  He was there to speak the truth, not for revenge or hatred of Islam.  He pointed out the errors of Islam to the sultan and his court, without intimidation and without argumentation.

         Leprosy was out of control during the Middle Ages, as COVID-19 is today.  St. Francis referred to the lepers as his “Christian brothers”.  He did whatever he could to make them more comfortable and to remind them that they were human, therefore part of humanity and worthy of love.  Francis exposed himself to leprosy, in part because he didn’t know any other way to care for the lepers than to bathe and feed them.  But he also remembered what Scripture said, “[Jesus Christ] laid down his life for us. And likewise we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1John 3:16).

There are many ways of offering one’s life for one’s brother.  We don’t have to walk into a minefield to do so.  Every cross that we must bear can be offered for those who suffer as much as – or more than – we do.  In doing so, with faith and without complaining, we earn grace toward our salvation and that of others.

Tragedy can be an experience of God’s justice and an opportunity to ask for His mercy, which He wants to give more than we desire it.

Our Catholic Faith


Our Catholic Faith is a gift of the Father given to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit. We often forget that it is thanks to the blood of the martyrs that the Faith was strengthened.

The Faith is built on the blood of the martyrs. For centuries, Catholic men, women, and children have chosen death rather than deny Christ. Yet, how easy it is for us, in our politically correct world and our inclusive society, to hide our Faith or misrepresent it.

It is not that we are opposed to inclusion and to social graces. But there is a right way and a wrong way to welcome those who believe differently from us.

Political correctness and inclusion must never deny or hide the truth. Christ demands that we treat everyone with respect. Even in the case of a non-believer there exists a hunger for the transcendent. The transcendent points to God, even when people profess to deny the existence of God. That little light that seeks to understand a God who is denied, that little light is actual grace that God gives to humanity so that we may seek and find Him.

Justice demands that we speak up for Christ and the Catholic faith when societal norms and politeness try to impose upon us that which is contrary to God’s plan for humanity. It is not within our ability to question God, much less to re-design truth so as to include everyone. Inclusion and political correctness must be built on justice and fidelity to God.

The Seraphic Father binds us to the True Faith

Advent: time to Remember and Prepare


Most of us enter the Advent season looking forward to the Christmas holiday.  We’re planning meals, making guest list, shopping for gifts or planning to travel.  As we spiral into Christmas, we sail through Advent without taking note of its true meaning.

From our Jewish roots in the Old Testament God invites us to remember.  He supplies the flood and Noah’s ark with the rainbow as a remembrance of His promise never to destroy the earth by water again.

When men tried to reach for Heaven building a tower, God brought it down with His mighty power.  The failure of the tower of Babel reminds us that man cannot reach God by human means, only by the means that God has given us through the Patriarchs:  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Moses.   He speaks to us through the prophets, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezequiel.  Each contact with man was a reminder of who is God and who is man.  Then there were the kings, beginning with Saul, David, Solomon, and others.  Through each new era, using different human beings, God continues to remind us that only He is God and we are His people.

Faithful Jews carefully remembered and protected the memory of these events.  When Gabriel appears to Zechariah, he struck him mute to remind him of God’s power and free will.  Whereas when he appears to the Virgin Mary to announce the conception and birth of the Son of God, he does not need to remind Mary of all the signs that God had given in the past to remind us that He was God.  Mary knew exactly what Gabriel was talking about.  She was a faithful daughter of Israel who remembered the Lord’s great signs in the past and the prophecies that promised a redeemer.  She does not ask Gabriel for proof. She raises only one question, “How is this to be, since I do not know man?”

The encounter between Mary and Gabriel is the beginning of the first Advent in history.  God goes beyond communicating His expectations and plans for humanity.  Through Mary, he throws Israel into the future, into things to come that the prophets and patriarchs had foretold.    God doesn’t deny humanity knowledge of His power and providence: “Nothing is impossible for God.”

Instead of giving Mary more laws and more guidance, He announces His break into human history.  The Incarnation is a historical event that reminds us of God’s great love for humanity, especially Israel.  The Incarnation is also the singular event that sets in motion anticipation for Him who is to come.  To believe that God can and is going to break into human history, we must remember the past.The memories of what God communicated in the past explain the reason for the birth of Christ. This was a period of reflection and anticipation of what was coming.  It was the words spoken through God’s chosen instruments and events in the past that clarified who was to come and why He was coming.  From the moment of the Incarnation to the day of Christ’s birth, those who remembered God’s operation the past understood that God’s activity did not end with the last prophet.  On the contrary, God’s activity was about to be personalized.

The Second Person of the Holy Trinity was coming to redeem us from sin and save us from our indifference, lust for power and pleasure, our search for comfort in worldly things while forgetting that which comes beyond our life on earth. He planned to enter the world to redeem humanity from its sin, to save us from ourselves. God’s plan for redemption was not going to be influenced by the sins, beliefs, and practices of Israel.  Man could do nothing to prevent the Creator of human history to enter human history.

Advent did not end with the birth of Christ.  Nor did it end with His Passion and Resurrection.  Jesus left us with much to remember, the Beatitudes, the corporal works of mercy, moral teachings, and most importantly, Himself present in the consecrated host that we receive and that we adore.

He promised to return.  But this time, not to redeem humanity.  He has already done this.  He promised to return to judge the living and the dead.  Those who remembered everything that God has revealed through human history and lived accordingly, will be saved.  Those who choose not to remember cannot possibly prepare for the advent of Christ as judge.

Most of us are comfortable with ourselves, because we never examine our thoughts, actions, and beliefs using the everything that God has revealed and promised.  We fail to live according to God’s plan.  Like the builders of the Tower of Babel, we dream and work on our achievements, not knowing if they’ll ever become reality.  The only reality of which we can be sure is that Christ does not lie.  He promised to come as a judge and king, he will not digress from this plan.

We can continue to ignore what God has told us to remember, ignore what Christ did, ignore what the Apostles handed down to us, and live our lives according to our plan not knowing if our plan conforms to God’s plan.

Or, we can choose to examine our plans, thoughts, desires, and actions against the background of Revelation, and to turn away from everything that distances us from God, everything that condemns us to eternal damnation.

Advent is a time to reflect on what God has taught and done for us to prepare for His second coming.