Love does not take off for the holidays. Do you?


Queen of the Poor, help us help others.

christ-kind-and-queen-mother The Franciscans of Life have been helping poor families pay their rent.   These families have proven cases of elderly, disabled and chronically ill loved ones, and what assistance they get from the State does not cover utilities, rent, transportation, and some medications and healthcare services.  It’s a very small amount.

Even when one of the spouses works outside the home, the income falls short.  Often, the working spouse must take leave without pay to accompany the other spouse to a doctor’s appointment or to keep him or her company when the person is so ill that he can’t get out of bed.  This reduces the income for that month.

We need to reach our subsidy goal of $1,300.00 by November 28th

We’re short $400.00.

We assist these families and others who need food or have other material needs with money that we raise through teaching, our retirement pensions, and gifts from benefactors. We pay directly to the agent who provides the service or supplies that portion of the bill that they still owe.

Unfortunately, this month we had to pay $414.00 for home insurance.  It put a dent in our budget.

Through the intercession of Our Lady, Mother of the Poor, we pray that some of you will be able to help us this month.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas

advent wreath

For many people, Thanksgiving kicks off the “Christmas Season”.  Trees and lights go up.  People flood amazon.com with shopping lists.  Others plan family gatherings, trips and worry about what to give Uncle What’s His Name.

First, the Christmas Season DOES NOT begin on Black Friday.  The Christmas Season runs from December 25 to the Baptism of the Lord in January.

Between Thanks giving and Christmas, there are four weeks of preparation for the coming of the Messiah, known as Advent.  This year, November has an extra Sunday.  The first Sunday of Advent falls on the first Sunday of December.

As we know, Christ became incarnate once in the womb of the Virgin Mary, was born and was crucified for our redemption.  On the third day he walked out of the tomb.  Before he ascended to heaven, he promised that he would return for the final judgment.

During Advent, we remember that God became incarnate and shared our human condition.  We must always look back to move forward.  Therefore, we also anticipate and prepare for his return to judge humanity and to save those who have been faithful to him.  Those who have not be been faithful to Christ have already sentenced themselves to the fires of hell.

Advent is a period in the liturgical calendar that calls us to fidelity to Christ and his Church.  Those who are faithful, should help strengthen the faith of their family and friends.  The Church invites those who are less than faithful to God and Church, to return to fidelity, as did the Prodigal Son.  The return does not stop on December 25th.  The weeks of Advent are a time to remember that Christ became human and dwelt among us AND he will return to judge who are justified by faith, hope and charity.  Those who are not under the umbrella of faith, hope and charity need to get going, NOW.  We do not know the day nor the hour, just as Israel did not know the day nor the hour of the incarnation of the Messiah.

If you have no impediment go to confession, mass and Holy Communion

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

thanksgivingAs the Rev. Jeff McCormick reminded us las week, Catholics celebrate Thanksgiving at daily mass.  The mass is both a sacrifice of reparation and an offering in gratitude for God’s love and mercy.

If you have time, try to get to mass on Thanksgiving Day.  IT IS NOT A HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION.

Keep your Thanksgiving celebration simple.  One can eat delicious food that day without a boatload of people whom you hardly see during he year.  It’s difficult to reflect on the many blessings we have when there is so much preparation, noise, distraction and cleanup.  There is even less time to sit with spouses, parents and children just to enjoy each other’s company.

Put down the gadgets for an hour or two. They won’t go away.  Any important caller will leave a message or call back.  We rarely receive requests for immediate rescue via text.  What other legitimate reason is there to have a cell phone or an iPad in hand 24 hours a day.  One or two hours won’t kill anyone.

Personally, I will never forget the very last Thanksgiving that my children, wife and I sat at the table together.  We just talked and laughed.  Today, I remember that evening every Thanksgiving Day.  It brings to tears to my eyes, not only because some of them died prematurely the summer that followed, more importantly I can’t thank God enough that we made time to thank him and to thank each other on that final Thanksgiving Day.

If you’re driving, please give yourself enough time to get to your destination.  May the Immaculate protect everyone on the road this weekend.

From the Franciscans of Life to All of You . . .

Have a Blessed and Safe Thanksgiving holiday

 

 

 

The Power of Christian Parenting


Enlace en Español

grandchild

 I’m a dad, a grandfather…and the superior of the Franciscans of Life.  Like many founders before me, I had a family before becoming, Brother Jay.  The youngest member of our family is my delightful granddaughter and everyone’s little princess, Katherine.  Katherine celebrated her first birthday October 2017.  Before going further with Katherine, allow me to construct the context for my reflection.

Election day, 2017, the residents of the state in which my family lives elected a transgender person to the State Legislature.  Some people were very pleased, because we have made progress in inclusiveness.  Other people were very upset, because of the moral questions that arise when one mentions “transgender”.

I’m not going to address said moral concerns, nor the legal and political ones either.  I want to address something more important.  Raising our children in a world that is changing very quickly, a world where many changes conflict with our values, culture and identity as American men and women.  This does not mean that change is bad.  However, we must not fool ourselves into believing that change is always good.  When something works, we keep it.  We get rid of what no longer works and replace it with something else.  Sometimes, we simply live with the void left by that which we jettisoned.

This takes me back to Katherine.  When someone approached me suggesting that Katherine’s parents move to another state to avoid “the immorality” taking place where they live, the immorality being the election of a transgender politician, my immediate reaction was to say that there is no state in the United States, nor country where everyone lives according to the absolutes of natural law, much less guided by faith and morals.

That same week I read an article in one of the conservative Christian newspapers.  The author reported on a very special occasion, the baptism of an infant.  What caught my attention, more than the faith of the writer and the newly baptized child’s family was the author’s reference to the Catholic Church as the Titanic.  He clarified that he believes that the Church will not suffer the fate of the Titanic and sink, but that it’s taking on water and things are out of control.

These two events made me think about how we react to a new life among us.  There seem to be some people for whom the birth of a new person is a source of joy and anxiety.  We rejoice in the birth of our children, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.  We should always be aware the good and the bad in the world around us.  How else can be protect our children and teach them to protect themselves.  Ignorance is not bliss.  Those who talk too much about the bad, the ugly, the sinful, the tragedy and the disasters don’t enjoy the birth of a child to its fullest, because they are hypervigilant.  The author of the article that I read and the person who suggested that Katherine’s parents move to another state seem to be hypervigilant.  There is a danger here too.  While we should not ignore the evil in the world, we must always seek ways for our children to thrive despite the world around them.  This takes me to a third experience that I had this week.

parenting006My son-in-law, who is an internationally known photojournalist, always has a lens on hand to record Katherine’s milestones.  Just this week, he sent a photograph and a short video.  In the photograph, Katherine is on her mother’s lap, her eyes are glued on the page of a book that Mama is reading to her.  Katherine’s family: parents, uncles and aunts are avid readers.  From the first week home, everyone took a turn reading to her everything from Dr. Seuss to Cicero.  She seemed to respond to the rhythm of the reading and followed the reader with her eyes.

parenting005Recently she has started to walk.  She now picks up a book that’s interesting to her, takes it to her mother or father, climbs on the couch next to Mom or Dad and demands that they read to her.  Dad captured one of these moments with his “dadmera” (Dad’s Camera).  A few days later, came the short video.  Katherine picked up a book of her choosing, opened it, and started to read it.

Before we decide to send this baby to MENSA, let’s make it perfectly clear.  She was holding the book upside down and was making sounds as her little finger ran across the page, something that she probably sees her parents do when they read to her.

parenting001

Reading time with Uncle Julian!

Katherine never ceases to surprise us.  Her parents are devout Catholics.  Katherine has been attending mass starting the week after she was born.  For a long time, like most babies, she lay in her carrier and slept through the Holy Mass.  When she discovered her voice she also discovered the choir.  When the choir struck up a hymn, Katherine joined them with her melodic babbling.

One Sunday, they were at Holy Mass as usual.  Something interesting happened.  The priest invited called upon the congregation to pray together The Lord’s Prayer, which begins with the words, “Our Father . . .”   To her parents’ amazement, Katherine heard the word “father” and chimed in with her version in Babble.  We have no idea what goes on in the mind of a 12-month old child who sings at mass, joins in reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

parenting002My son-in-law deserves to be the “Fatherhood Poster Boy”.  He’s an excellent father.  He’s a black belt in Judo and has taught Katherine some of moves.  She squeals in delight when Dad engages with her. As we have said, Katherine has a very intimate relationship with both parents.  The bond of love expresses itself in reading, and squeals of delight doing Judo with Dad.   It’s too early to try to analyze Katherine’s thoughts.  We can only observe and report the interesting things that we see.

This takes me back to St. Peter’s “Titanic” and the election of the transgender politician.  Are parents like Katherine’s going to find a haven where their daughter will never hear or see anything objectionable.?  Probably not.  Can they stop the world around them from changing for the good and the bad?  Not so sure that’s possible either.  Nor can they bring down the price of housing, healthcare, gas, utilities and other necessities of life.  Like every parent, Katherine’s will have to deal with today’s moral roller coaster, the political hurricanes that come and go, and ideologies that can do serious harm to our minds and souls.

When we look at this little girl thriving, despite everything that’s going on around her, we must ask ourselves the question, “Is anything impossible for God?”

If Katherine’s mother and father continue the “road less traveled” and continue to provide spiritual, intellectual, physical, social and natural stimulation in an environment where she can reach beyond herself, as is the case in the worship of God every Sunday and holy day, Katherine may not grow up untouched by our weakened humanity.  But she will grow up with a taste and a hunger for those blessings that strengthen us for the journey.  Those are: prayer, books, worship, play, exercise, discipline, nutrition, love and good role models.

parenting004

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.

 

 

For Catholics and Non-Catholics — Gospel Cliff Notes — The Rosary


ROSARY

For Catholics, the month of October is the Month of the Holy Rosary.  Let’s clarify.  It’s not the only time of year when Catholics pray the Rosary.  October has become designated as the Month of the Holy Rosary, because on the 13th of October, Our Lady of the Rosary appeared for the last time at Fatima.  It was on this day that thousands of people gathered in Fatima, Portugal, saw what has been called The Miracle of Sun.  I’d like to leave the subject of the “Dancing Sun” to astronomers, philosophers and systematic theologians.  I am none of the above.  My formation is Spiritual Theology, once called Ascetic and Mystical Theology.

I’m writing this for the benefit of our non-Catholic friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors, many of whom believe that praying the Rosary is evil, because “one should not pray to saints, because only God is to be worshiped.”

Let’s clarify the first point.  When Catholics pray the Rosary we are not worshiping the Blessed Mother.  Those who are familiar with the Gospel of Luke should be able to recognize these words.

ANNUNCIATIONChapter one of Luke’s Gospel in the King James Version (KJV) of the bible tells us the following.

“And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”   (Lk 1:28) KJV

During the Rosary, we pray the Hail Mary 53 times.  Pay close attention to the opening lines of the prayer.

Hail Mary, full of Grace.  The Lord is with thee.. Blessed are thou amongst women

We’re speaking to Mary with the words of the Angel Gabriel.  Who would dare say that Gabriel’s words are blasphemy or idolatry?  Was Gabriel worshipping Mary?

Absolutely not.  He is greeting her and in the greeting he acknowledges that Mary has a special place in God’s mind.  Catholics refer to such as “grace”.  Instead of saying “favored of the Lord” we simply say, “full of grace”.  After all, can one be favored by the Lord God and be devoid of his life (grace)?

Let’s return to Luke.  The Angel informs Mary that her relative, Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy.  Mary sets out to the town where Elizabeth lived.  One can safely assume that it was to lend a hand, since Elizabeth was an older woman.  Luke tells us

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:  And she spoke out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. (Luke 1:41-42) KJV.

The Hail Mary continues with the words of Elizabeth  VISITATION

Blessed are thou amongst women, And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

At this point, we insert the Holy Name of Jesus, as a reminder that it is the Son of God who is the fruit of Mary’s womb.  We speak to the Virgin Mary using the words of Sacred Scripture.  Every Christian knows that the words of the bible are without error.  It is impossible for Luke to write something that Elizabeth did not say, much less something that is contrary to God’s revelation.

Elizabeth continues

 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Lk 1:43) KJV

Gabriel had said that Mary’s son

 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:  And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.  (Lk 1:32-33) KJV

Gabriel and Elizabeth refer to Jesus as God.  Elizabeth uses “the mother of my Lord”.   The Jewish people recognized only one Lord.  That was God.  Elizabeth address Mary as the Mother of God.  The Angel informs Mary that her son will reign forever and that he is the Son of the Highest.  Neither Gabriel nor Elizabeth are stating the Mary is the mother of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost).  She is the mother of the Son.  The question is simple.  Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God?  Do you acknowledge that Mary of Nazareth is Jesus’ mother?  Does this make her the mother of 1/3 of God? NO.  She is the mother of one of the three persons in God.  All three persons are the one God.  That’s why we can refer to her as “the Mother of God.”

And so, Catholics pray

Holy Mary, Mother of God Observe the closing statement in the Hail Mary.

Pray for us, sinners.  Now and at the hour of our death.

Is there anything wrong with asking another person to pray for us today and at the hour of our death?  Some may say that Mary cannot pray for us, because she is dead.  But didn’t Jesus promise eternal life to those who are faithful?   Observe this

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. … (Mt.17:3) KJV.

transfigurationMoses and Elias had been dead several hundred years.  Yet, they appear and speak with Jesus.  The disciples who are watching observe that they are real, not ghosts.  It’s not too difficult to believe that if Moses and Elias could be seen by the disciples, even though they had been dead for several centuries and that Jesus could converse with them, why should we not believe that Jesus’ mother is not granted the same or a higher privilege than Moses and Elias?  Jesus is the perfect son.  He would place his mother in stasis while allowing the prophets and patriarchs to live after death?  Jesus is not cruel.  We can safely conclude that Mary can pray for us, because she’s alive.

There is nothing wrong with asking someone to pray for us.  If I have an opportunity to ask the mother of praying togetherthe King to put in a good word with her son, on my behalf, I would be a fool not to take advantage the same.

To conclude, I’ll simply explain that we pray the Hail Mary’s in sets of 10.  Each recitation of the Rosary has five sets of ten.  The Psalms were originally divided into sets of ten.  Each set of psalms followed a theme.  So, it is with the rosary.  Five decades and each decade offers us a reflection on one of the mysteries in the life of Christ and his relationship to God the Father, the Holy Spirit and to his mother.  Christ would not leave her out of his circle of significant others.

The Father and the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost are the same God as Jesus.  It’s obvious that any event in Jesus’ life is going to involve the Father and the Holy Ghost, front stage or back stage.  But they are present.  Because Jesus is human, as well as divine, he has another significant person in his life, just like us.  That person is his mother.  She is not part of the Trinity.  She is not God.  But she is the Mother of one of the three persons in God.  We believe that Jesus is God.

Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. PANTOCRATOR(Jn 6:68-69) KJV.

Peter makes a public profession of faith.  He identifies Jesus as the Christ or the Anointed One who is both God and Son of God.

This Christ has a mother, who is not God.  She is very much a human being.  As she is the mother of the perfect son, it stands to reason that the Father would not select a icon_to_Jesus_through_Marysinful woman to carry His son in her womb to be contaminated by sin.  Remember, Jesus has a human nature.  God the Father creates the sinless woman to be the God Bearer.

The Rosary has five decades.  We recite the Hail Mary using the words found in the Bible.  Catholics did not make this up.  We are not worshiping Mary.  In the first half of the Hail Mary, we are praising her, just as Gabriel and Elizabeth praised her.  Who would accuse Gabriel or Elizabeth of worshiping Mary?

The second part of the rosary is a petition.  We ask Mary to pray for us.  Given a choice between my mother praying for me and Jesus’ mother praying for me, I’m sure that Jesus’ mother carries more weight.  Even though my mother was a wonderful woman.  The very fact that she was MY mother, tells it all.  She was far from sinless.  Just look at me.

The Rosary is composed of words taken directly from the Bible.  The Bible does not lie.  The problem is not the Rosary.  The problem that some people have is that they want to apply their logic to God’s mind.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.(Is 55:8) KJV

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on September 29, 2017 at 2:43 AM  Leave a Comment  

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


Dear friends and family:

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

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

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

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

Divine Physician

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brother Jay

Disasters are Opportunities to Relive the Incarnation of Christ


Para Español Señale Aqui

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, from Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life):

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

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

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

FRANCISCANS OF LIFE’S METHOD OF PRAYER


Para Español Señale Aqui

This morning I had a doctor’s appointment. I was sitting in the waiting area wearing my work habit. A very nice woman sat next to me and asked me about my clothes. I told her that  I was a consecrated layman. She didn’t understand that anyone who is not a deacon, priest or bishop is a layman. Though some distinction has been made between the universal laity and consecrated men and women. These constitute a very small, but special body within the larger body of lay people.

As the conversation continued, the nice lady asked me, “Do brothers pray?” To which I responded, with a smile, “I hope at least half of them do so.”

She proceeded to say that she didn’t know how to pray. That was my sign. I asked her if I could share a very simple method that the Franciscans of Life use. She became very interested and excited.

Our method can be used by anyone. I started to use it many years ago and some brothers learned it from me; but I don’t own it.

First: Begin by finding interior silence. If the environment around you is too noisy, find a quiet place. It need not always be a church or chapel if you can’t get to one. Once you get into the habit of prayer, you will be able to shut out the noise of the world, even if you’re at a soccer game between Rome and Brazil, the noisiest game to which I have ever been. I couldn’t hear a thing for two days.

Second: Say to yourself, “Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.” Even if it’s just you, all of us are always in the holy presence of God. This was something that St. John Baptist de La Salle, founder of the Christian Brothers taught them to say. Reminding myself that I am in the holy presence of God is like opening the front door of a house, looking outside and seeing beautiful green fields with flowers, butterflies and a gentle breeze. I refer to it as my “tiny taste of heaven.”

These words are going to trigger a different response from each person. The most important thing is the awareness of the OTHER. I deliberately wrote it in upper case. If we want to pray, we must be aware of the OTHERNESS of God. Acknowledging that there is someone bigger with us, is our first contact with God in prayer. There is nothing mystical here. You don’t see or hear anything. It’s an awareness of my presence before God’s infinite OTHERNESS.

Third: Just begin to speak as you speak to anyone else. St. Teresa of Avila taught us that prayer is speaking to a friend. She was famous for her short and very intimate chats with Christ. There was a time when she had a mishap and she turned her eyes upward and said, “Lord, it’s no wonder you don’t have many friends.” On another occasion things were not  going very well with a new foundation of a monastery. Again, she raised her eyes and said, “Why did you get me into this mess? I’m only an old woman.” She may have been in her late 40s or early 50s.

Fourth: Tell God about everything that’s going on, anything that has happened, or something that you anticipate, even good things, like visiting your family across the country. Of course, God knows these things. But there is a maternal side to God. Mothers often know the good and the bad in their children’s lives, before they’re told about it. But there is an experience of intimacy and love when the child tells Mom his story in his own words. God delights in hearing our words. The idea that God delights hearing me, stimulates me to tell him everything in detail, like a first-grader coming home from school.

Fifth: Like any other parent, God knows what we’ve done wrong, before we say anything. I remember walking into a room and getting THE LOOK from my mother, followed by, “What did you do?” You may have gotten away disguising the truth or withholding the truth from Mom, but you can’t do that with God. This is the time to talk about my faults, weaknesses, temptations and really tell God how I feel about these things. Sometimes, I do things that I feel are wrong, but I have no idea why I feel that way. Other times I do something that everyone says is wrong, and I don’t feel guilty. I talk to God about what I did, how I feel and I ask for his help to understand the truth of the matter. God does not expect us to have all the answers about good and evil, right and wrong, up and down. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have much need to talk to him at all. He would just wait until our final judgment to interact with us. But God knows us and loves us. He wants to help clear out the cobwebs in our heads.

Sixth: Ask God for the blessings that you and the world need. Don’t try to be God and pretend to know what everyone needs. “Please make my wife less angry,” or “Please get my father through surgery.“ We must believe that God knows what we and others need. If someone is going for surgery, pray for a good outcome. If someone is angry, pray that he may find interior peace. But never forget to ask God, “Give us whatever graces we need to do the right thing and to atone for any wrong that we have done.”

Seventh: Now it’s time to thank God and to tell him that we’ll be in touch later in the day. Notice that there are seven steps. Think of the Seven days of Creation, the Seven Joys of Mary, the Seven Last Words of Christ. Moments of grace seem to come in sevens.

 

THE WITNESS OF MAXIMILIAN KOLBE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saint Clare and the Monstrance


ST CLAREOne the 11th of August, the Church remembers St. Clare of Assisi, the first woman to follow Francis of Assisi.  We consider her the spiritual mother of the Franciscan family.

We picture St. Clare holding a monstrance.  The reason being that when Assisi was under siege, St. Clare protected her monastery from the invaders by holding up the ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament.  St. Clare never saw a monstrance.  The first monstrance does not appear until the 16th century.  Clare lived during the 13th century.

But this story tells us a great deal about this woman and about her strong Eucharistic Spirituality.  This event, her writings and her long hours of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from her sickbed, through a small window that allowed her to see the tabernacle in the monastery chapel, reveal a woman in love with Jesus Christ and to whom Christ was a real person physically present.

We’re often pensive about our favorite athlete, artist, actor, musician, political figure or even a friend or family member.  They are present in our mind, even if we never meet them.

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Digital Artist – Julian Rivera

For information on how to acquire a copy of this beautiful poster, contact us at franciscansoflife@gmail.com

Jesus, on the other hand, is often forgotten, even by Catholics who believe that he is physically, substantially and spiritually present in the Holy Eucharist.  The Apostles handed down to us what they received from Jesus himself, his body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine, but truly different from bread and wine in substance.  The substance of what we see is Christ, alive and physically present.  In every tabernacle around the world, Jesus Christ is physically and wholly present.  Clare knew this.

St. Francis of Assisi often said that he saw nothing of the physical presence of Christ, in this world, except in the Eucharist.  He reminded his sons and daughters to adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament francis and clareand to behave with grave reverence in the presence of a tabernacle.

We don’t know at what point in her life Clare’s faith in the true and proximate presence of Christ matured.  We know that she paid close attention to everything that Francis taught.  Francis’ admonitions regarding the awe that is due to the Blessed Sacrament and the unquestioning conviction that Christ is with us at all times and in all places, were not lost on Clare.

Many may ask, what did Clare achieve? Clare entered the Monastery of San Damiano at the age of 18 and never left it, not even upon her death.  Her body is still there.

Clare was not the foundress of great works of charity, education or a spiritual teacher as were Catherine, Teresa of Avila, Hildegard, and Therese.  However, she left us something that many Catholics overlook.

She left us an example of faith in the physical presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  She of one who, like the Virgin Mary, has no doubts about God’s promises.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live,  (Jn 14:18-19).

CHALICE 2

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

The life of Clare of Assisi challenges every Catholic to seek Christ in their lives, in the Holy Eucharist and everywhere.  When we can’t go to Christ, he comes to us.  We must make him the first love of our lives.

Everyone we love, we love because God loved us first.  Without Christ’s love, spouses wouldn’t love each other, parents and children would be simply housemates, and siblings may or may not be friends.   I can love because, Jesus Christ, who is Love made flesh, is closer than my deepest thoughts. His love for me pours out to others.

Clare understood this and shared it with the world.  It’s her legacy to the Church of her time and to the Church today.  In her letters to St. Agnes of Prague, a nun of her order, Clare wrote

Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in this world for Him.  And then, Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!  Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!  Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance.

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Today, it seems that taking life is easier and requires less moral reflection than bringing a life into the world.  We have forgotten the sanctity of life; but God never forgets.  His

divine nature co-exists with human nature in Jesus Christ, ever present among us.  Let us look upon him and place our desires and needs in his divine substance.

As we continue our mission to proclaim the Gospel of Life, we must always remember Jesus.  The Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity became human, died, rose from the dead and remains with us.   Like Clare, trust Him to defeat every form of evil.

 

Franciscans of Life in the Lord’s Garden


When a man who is discerning a vocation to consecrated life takes a close look at the Franciscans of Life, he may walk away thinking, “What do these guys do?”

Doing has become a trademark of modern society.  Everyone wants to see something happen.  We have  become an “Outcome Oriented Society”.  We fail to understand the need for and the importance of that which nurtures the intellect, the will, and the soul.  The tendency today is to behave as if we were “Transcendental Agnostics.”  Meaning, that we’re not firm believers in the existence of the transcendent, much less in its importance.

If you’re looking to learn what there is beyond doing and planning, you may want to take a closer look at the Franciscans of Life.

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Copyright: Franciscans of Life

Here, you will find men who pray the Liturgy of the Hours five times a day.  Each “hour” takes about 20 – 30 minutes.  The Liturgy of the Hours gives structure to the day and allows the brothers to pray with the Universal Church making use of the psalms, biblical canticles and readings from the Old Testament, New Testament and the Church Fathers. There are no more perfect words on Earth to praise God than the Word of God itself.

Do you feel called to do penance for your sins and those who don’t do penance?  We do that, too.  During the year, the Franciscans of Life abstain from meat every Wednesday and Friday.  We fast every Friday.

We also observe what St. Francis referred to as the “Three Lents”. From the Feast of the Archangels (Sep 29) to the Feast of St. Martin of Tours (Nov 11), we fast and abstain on Wednesdays and Fridays, again during Advent and again during the Great Lent.

When a man is received as a postulant, he receives a small notebook called “The Culpa”.  Every day he records his imperfections against the Holy Rule of St. Francis, the Constitutions of the Franciscans of Life, the wishes of the Superior, and any external fault against God and neighbor.

CROWN OF THORNS (2)

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

The Regular Brothers hold a Chapter of Faults on Friday night, at the beginning of Compline.  Each man kneels in the presence of his brothers and proclaims his faults.  The Superior offers him spiritual guidance and assigns him a light penance to do, so that he may grow in the perfection of love, as did Our Holy Father Francis.

CHALICE 2

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

Daily, each brother carves 30 minutes into his day for spiritual reading and silent prayer, or for Lectio Divina (prayer with the Scriptures).  Also, on their way home from an apostolate, the brother stops at the church on his route to spend time in contemplation with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  The celebration of the mass is the crowning point of the day.  Because of the different work schedules, the brothers attend an evening mass during the week.

But not everything is prayer.  The day has 24-hours.  We make sure that we spend at least an hour of our evening together, doing something fun, from playing a game to watching a video on a DVD.  We do not watch TV, read newspapers or magazines.  Nor do we read blogs on the Internet.  The Superior goes through the news and shares with the Fraternity that which everyone should know, world situations that need prayer and penance, and things that happen in the Church that filter down to our daily lives (not the gossip of the Vatican;  ee have enough gossip in Florida, should we be hungry for useless and often detrimental conversation).

Postulants, novices and junior brothers in temporary vows have frequent formation class in Franciscan history and spirituality, prayer, liturgy, Sacred Scripture, Canon Law, and the writings of the early fathers of the Church.  For higher levels of theology, the brothers may attend a graduate school of theology where the theology faculty has taken the Oath of Fidelity to Catholic Teaching and to the Magisterium as described in Ex Corde and commanded in Canon Law.

You may ask, do the brothers have time to do anything else?  Of course, we do and we do plenty.

APPLE

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

We teach poorer students at community colleges.  These are students who cannot afford the prohibitive cost of college education and are often thrown into community colleges that offer about the same academic rigor as a high school.  Our brothers bring academic excellence to those who can’t afford to pay for it.  While they’re at it, they take advantage of every opportunity to engage the students in thought-provoking discussions.  Not everything is memorization.  Some things in life require critical thinking and prudence.

SHADOWS

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

There are brothers who run Project Joseph, a parenting program for fathers in crisis pregnancies.  These are classes, counseling sessions, material assistance, and anything else that it takes to help a good man become a better and holier father.

We take the Holy Eucharist to the hospital and spend time with the patients and families.  It is not a delivery service.  It is a pastoral ministry.  We pray, talk, listen, console, and offer hope.  Sometimes, an opportunity to offer moral guidance to healthcare professionals presents itself.   We never let that pass.

Brothers also teach Sacred Scripture to middle school students.  So much of religious education today needs to be supported by good theology and Scripture.  Otherwise, the presentations that some books offer from the Old Testament are like what can be found in Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

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Copyright: Franciscans of Life

Very often, people write or call for assistance.  These are immigrants who are homeless, unemployed, or who have been abused.  The brothers serve as conduits to community resources.  But the relationship does not stop with a referral to an agency.  The brother engages the seeker into dialogue, eventually touching on matters of faith and morals.

We are gathering material and resources to open our first “learning room”.  The concept is based on the one-room school house.  With the help of volunteers, the brothers hope to provide employment skills to those who are seeking.  Hopefully, they will invite us into their homes and their lives, where we do the real work on the salvation of souls.

Did I mention that the Franciscans of Life own nothing individually or in common?  We live in rented houses, share two cars, and each brother has three outfits in his entire wardrobe.  No one owns computers, televisions, radios, cell phones, iPads, and other gadgets.  When necessary, we buy them for the use of all.  When they are no longer needed, they are stored until someone needs it.  We don’t even own the bed in which we sleep.  When we move, the bed stays behind.

Only the Immaculate knows where she wants us to be.  She is the Mistress of God’s Garden

MY GARDEN

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

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Note: the artwork above is copyrighted because it is being produced by one of the brothers for use in our website and other media. If you wish to re-use any of our artwork or wish to learn more about it, contact us.