Upon this “quarry” I will build my Church?

Since the closing of the extraordinary synod there has been a great deal of commentary on the blogosphere about the reception of Holy Communion by Catholics who are divorced and invalidly remarried.  The question is not so much as to whether the first marriage was valid and the second is not or the other way around.  The question on everyone’s mind seems to be whether or not Pope JPII W EUCHARISTFrancis is pushing for a relaxation of the law that currently exists, which says that people who are conscious of grave sin should not receive Holy Communion.  Living with someone as if he or she were your spouse when the person is not, would be one of those occasions when objectively one is culpable a grave sin.

I wouldn’t have written this article, if I thought that this is the only issue on the table.  After all, Pope Francis has not said anything that indicates that he is trying to persuade the bishops to change the law or keep the law.  What we seem to be hearing from the Holy Father is that he wants every voice to be heard.  Sometimes, when one opens the door to every voice one finds discordant voices.  Whether it’s prudent to open the door to every voice is an important question.  However, in the case of the extraordinary synod on the family, it’s a moot question, because the horse has already left the starting gate.

We have seen cardinals, bishops, theologians, religious and laymen speak on the synod and the documents that were published after.  The points that concern most people are whether or not these men and women in invalid marriages should bride & groombe allowed to receive Holy Communion; whether or not same-sex couples have something positive to contribute to the Church; and whether or not we can find any good in situations where people who are not spouses live as if they were.  I certainly can’t claim to have the answers to these questions, because they are above my paygrade.  Even if I thought I had the answer, the Holy See is not really interested in my opinion, because it’s not my place in the Church to speak as an authority of matters of faith and morals.  That authority is reserved for the local bishop.  I can only speak as an authority in my home and in my community with the Franciscans of Life.  Even there, I can only repeat what the Church teaches; I cannot teach anything that is outside of Church teaching as if it were the “official” Catholic position.

Here is precisely where we’re having problems today.  The blogosphere is overpopulated with voices that not only have something to say about these questions, but want to speak and be heard as if they had the BOOKS ON HEADauthority to make pronouncements to the rest of the Church.  When they speak they sound intelligent, because they can use big words, throw around some citations from previous popes, councils and older catechisms and there are times when their arguments have some logic.  To the average layman (not as in non-ordained, but as in newbie to Church politics) these voices can be very impressive and persuasive, to the point that these readers become talking boxes for the bloggers.  You hear them repeat, verbatim, what a blogger has written.  This is an interesting development, because the blogosphere seems to be giving birth to its own oral tradition within the Catholic Church and some people are beginning to take this tradition seriously.

At the risk of sounding like these voices, I have to state that bloggers are just that and no more.  St. Francis of Assisi held that a man is what he is before God, san francisconothing else.  This has been part of Franciscan tradition and culture for 800 years.  Why?  Because it works.  Why does it work?  Because it’s true.

When we read what someone puts out there, be he a cardinal, bishop, religious, concerned Catholic layman we must keep this person in his or her proper context.  He or she is what God sees, not how he presents himself.  When God looks at a cardinal, he sees a bishop who has a specific place in the Church, with a specific assignment, specific role and mission.  He does not see another Peter, because there can only be one Peter.  The Church is built upon the faith of one rock, not an entire quarry.

The same applies to lay writers, who are often very impressive.  Nonetheless, they are not Peter.  All of these people are commenting on what Peter has said, failed to say, should say, will never say and that’s fine and dandy.  They are commentators.  We have to take them as such.  I do not take the commentator at clerics playinga Super Bowl show and credit him with the same authority that I credit the referee.  At the end of the day, the person who makes the call whether the ball is in or out of bounds is the ref, not the guy at the microphone.  The guy at the microphone can call the shot anyway he likes it, but his call is not going to determine the outcome of the game.

Listening to and reading what every blogger in town has to say about divorce, remarriage, Holy Communion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, cohabitation, the family, sex, and many other topics that fall under the umbrella of “family” can be very interesting and very enlightening.  I certainly like knowing what other GOD IS HIDDEN WITHINpeople are thinking.  But I have to remind myself that what I’m reading are the talking points and opinions of others like the sportscaster at the Super Bowl.  These are not the officials who call the shots that shape the outcome of the game.  The only person who can call those shots is Peter.

So far, in this entire discussion on the family, Pope Francis has only said that a synod of bishops has no authority to make or change rules, much less dogma and that the pope calls a synod under his pope franciswatchful eye and under his authority.  Therefore, he and only he can decide what to keep or throw out from what comes from the synod.

Those people who are saying that the Church is going to do A, B, and C, because the synod fathers said something in favor of A, B, and C can be very mistaken.  The Church is going to do whatever Peter decides.  It may be A, B, and C or D, E, and F.

Do not take these bloggers too seriously, nor reporters for that matter or people doing interviews.  Remember St. Francis of Assisi.  A man is what he is before God, nothing else.  None of these men is Peter.  They have strong opinions and are often very rational.  Other times they have very strong opinions and are very illogical.  I don’t pledge my support to the former, because as logical as his opinion may be, he lacks the authority to speak for the Church.  I listen to his opinion and like Mary; I hold these in my heart.  On the flip side, I don’t pledge my allegiance to the latter either, because his opinions are illogical.

Saint Pius XUntil the Church tells me that what appears illogical to me must be obeyed and held, I have no duty to do so.  The key here is “to me”.  Just because something seems right or wrong to me, does not make it so.  Just because I think I understand what the Church has traditionally said on a specific subject does not mean that I do.

We are very proud of what we think, to the point that we throw our ideas out there as if they were revealed truths and we’re willing to insult, hurt, and ignore others who do not agree with our understanding of the faith, morality or Catholic tradition. Which leads me to ask whether at the end of the day, all of these interviews that people are giving, all of these opinions that people are posting on blogs concerning the Church, the family and the pope, and all of these sound bites are just another temptation to pride and disobedience.

How much of all that is said is about love of God and man and how much is about love of one’s opinion and one’s idea of what “is” means?

Listen attentively, not aggressively

bride & groomThe subject of the family is central to any discussion of the Gospel and society.  God has always chosen to reveal Himself through the family.  He created Adam and Eve as parents to the human family.  He called Abram and Sarai to become mother and father of many nations.  He brought Moses out of his biological family, grafting him to a royal Egyptian family so as to bring His Israelite family out of slavery.  He raised the royal family of David from which he would take human nature in the Holy Family at Bethlehem.  His told Mary “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee,” (Mt. 28:10).  Throughout salvation history, God has spoken to the world through family life and from within the family.

The Franciscans of Life, though we are a very small and young family, are not less or more Catholic than our other Catholic brothers and sisters.  Christ calls us to live the Gospel in the manner that St. Francis of Assisi lived it.  Building on the experiencelogo of St. Francis, we believe that Christ also calls us to remind the world that the Gospel is a gospel of life.

To proclaim the Gospel of Life, one must proclaim the Gospel of the Family.  It is in the family where Life calls out to life (Vita ad vitam vocat).  If we follow the Gospel, we must accept that human life begins within the context of family.  Every human being has a dignity that protects his right to be conceived, nurtured and born into a family.  He has a right to protection, formation, and to receive care from a family.  At the end of life, he has the right to die naturally in the arms of his family.

From within the natural family, God calls men and women to form new and younger families, as well as families of brothers and sisters who consecrate their lives to live francis and clareaccording to the Gospel.  Such a consecration can take different expressions, from monastic, religious order, society of apostolic life, secular institute, diocesan hermits to consecrated virgins.  To the degree that these associations reproduce the relationship between Christ and his apostles, whom he calls “my brothers”, these are real families. They foreshadow family life in the Kingdom of God beginning with the Trinitarian family.

These thoughts help us who are trying to follow the extraordinary synod on the family with great interest.  Our Catholic identity comes from feeling with the Church.  We’re not talking about feeling emotional.  We’re talking about loving God and man with the Church.  To do so, we must know what the Church is thinking.

Here is where we must draw an important line.  We, brothers, remind ourselves that a synod is a listening session for the Holy Father and from that session will come ideas that the Holy Father will consider for the ordinary synod in October 2015.  The Holy Father will exercise his authority once he has all of the information on hand.

Because the synod has no authority, it all rests with the pope.  The brothers are not alarmed by some of the statements that the media alleges that some bishops have made, nor are we alarmed by those that we know some bishops have made.  The Church cannot change revealed truth.

As stated above, to proclaim the Gospel of Life one must proclaim the Gospel of the Family.  However, it is not we who decide what the Gospel says or does not say.  It’s the teaching 1240044_302298416577020_831596592_nmagisterium of the pope that teaches us what the Gospel says.  It’s important to listen carefully to what the bishops are telling the pope about family; because when all of this discussion is over and done with, the pope will probably issue a post synod exhortation that will carry the weight of the Church’s teaching authority.  Listening carefully requires that we withhold reacting to what is being said until the pope speaks.

We don’t have to agree with every idea that the bishops put on the table.  The pope invited them to be honest and candid.  When you have that kind of openness, you’re going to have to put up with a degree of chaos and nonsense as well.  We cannot have open dialogue without crisis.  There is no such thing.  An open dialogue invites all parties to re-examine what we believe and give respectful thought to what we have never thought about before.  This includes those of us who are not in Vatican City right now.  Not only should synod participants be listening attentively, every Catholic must listen attentively and resist the temptation to judge, condemn, and bash anyone who says something that sounds wrong to us.

There are always some challenges.  These are what lead to crisis or struggle.  The speaker may be wrong.  The person may be quoted incorrectly.  The statement may be sloppy so that it does not accurately reflect what the person is really thinking.  The idea may need to be expressed using tighter language so that it avoids ambiguity.

The Franciscans of Life are listening, assessing what makes sense and what sounds outrageous.  Regarding that which sounds outrageous, we are not pointing fingers at any bishop or cardinal.  We are not labeling anyone a Modernist, conservative, liberal or traditionalist.  We are not sounding the alarm of apostasy among the bishops.  On the contrary, if it sounds outrageous to our ears, we try to understand why it sounds outrageous to us.  The statement may truly be outrageous or we may be hearing it incorrectly.

In the meantime, the Franciscans of Life continue to pray for the pope, the synod fathers, the family and the world.  We continue to hold on to what the Church has traditionally taught us NEWMANabout the family; but we are open to the fact that there are always new experiences that help us better understand what God is saying to us about Himself and our salvation.  These experiences should not be ignored.  Very often, new experiences contribute to our understanding of doctrine.  They don’t change the doctrine, but they can enhance our comprehension.

We invite other Catholics to listen attentively.  Be faithful to what the Church has always taught and be honest and humble enough to admit when we realize that we can still be taught more.  No one ever reaches a ceiling of understanding of God and his divine plan for the human family.  Let us avoid characterizations, name calling, judging people, and self-righteousness.  Let us embrace the truth that the Church has taught using whatever experience can help us better understand the truth.

At the end of the day, we’re looking for the truth that God has revealed to us about the family.  We want to understand whatever there is out there to be understood, not just pieces here and there.  If we ignore those whom we consider to be on theJesus and boy opposite side of the house, how would we know that we truly understand what God is revealing to us?  To understand we must listen, ask questions, separate the reasonable from the unreasonable, truth from falsehood, and Gospel from fashion.  Only then will we be on the right path toward achieving our ultimate goal, to know God, serve God and love Him with all of our heart, mind, body and soul, here and in eternity.

Let us listen attentively, not aggressively.



This afternoon I received an important challenge from one of our brothers.  October is an important month, because it’s Respect Life Month.  There are also other important events happening this month.

Today, the Extraordinary Synod on the Family began in the Eternal City of Rome.  On October 19th, Venerable Paul VI will be become Blessed Paul VI.  I don’t think that any of this is a coincidence.

Some people have narrowed down and boxed in pro-life ministry to fight against abortion.  There is probably no greater fight than the fight for human life, but we must not limit ourselves to life in the womb.  We must extend our concern to all people from conception to natural death.  We must protect life at all stages of development and in all conditions: Mc Carthy walk 4healthy, sick, poor, rich, male, female, old and young, with special attention to the voiceless.

But where does life flourish?  Where should life find its first home if not in the family?  Today’s family is under attack, maybe no more than families in the past, but certainly by different kinds of demons.  The enemy is resourceful, if nothing else.  He can find different ways of tearing apart the fabric of the family by war, poverty, disease, bigotry, politics, infidelity, heterodoxy, apostasy, atheism and secularism.  The key is not how creative the enemy can get.  The key is how smart we are.

Human life, outside of the context of family life, is very difficult to defend, much more difficult to protect.  To defend means to defend the dignity of human life.  Man has a dignity that is inherent to his roots, which are found in the hand of the Creator.  This dignity must be defended from those who would reduce man to an unexplained accident in the cosmos, making him expendable because he has no justification for his existence; therefore, no inherent value.

Any footbDON'T MESS WITH MEall player will tell you that the best defense is a good offense.  Translated into Gospel terms, human life must be protected from the culture of indifference which is a culture of death.  The best way to protect man and preserve him for the Kingdom is to push back against the economy of sin.  Sin can no longer be allowed to be the currency that rules our lives as individuals, families or nations.  When sin governs our lives, man despairs and the message of Christ is smothered by the cries of angst . . . . Man looking for gods, rather than GoPope Paul VId.

Pope Paul VI foresaw this coming and tried to warn us in his now famous encyclical Humanae Vitae, on the transmission of human life between husbands and wives in the intimacy of marriage and the shelter of the family.  It is probably the Holy Spirit who has inspired Pope Francis to beatify Pope Paul VI at the end of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.  Immediately following, on October 22nd is the first feast day of St. John Paul II, the author of Gospel of Life.

We besignslieve that this is a good month to do something together that is open to other members of the Catholic and pro-life community.  The Franciscans of Life encourage everyone who reads our blog to organize an activity for this special month on life and the family.  It can be something as simple as an evening rosary between several families, a night of praise and worship, a penitential service in atonement for those who destroy instead of build the human family.  You may want to organize a meal with several couples to celebrate traditional marriage and family.  The demon that afflicts human life and weakens the fabric of the family will only be evicted from our lives with prayer and fasting.  A family or community day of fasting and abstinence is alwaysSt. Max good option.

Please post your ideas in the comments below so that others who read this can take some ideas back to their families and their parishes.  Remember the words of Sacred Scripture.  “Do not be afraid.”  Through the prayers of the Immaculate Christ is slowly, but surely conquering the kingdom of darkness.  He will not leave us orphans.

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/us-bishops-invite-faithful-to-pray-for-family-synod-35304/ (more…)

“And you . . . who do you say I am?”

I don’t think this needs any explanation.

Thanks to Raul Carmine Camarca who produced, directed and was kind enough to allow the Franciscans of Life the honor of sharing this excellent meditation with our friends.

Published in: on July 3, 2014 at 11:39 AM  Leave a Comment  

Sometimes, the Circle of Life Can Be a Beautiful Wobbly Egg

When the pope speaks about the poor, human trafficking, peace, war, unity, hunger, abuses in the Church, he knows about people’s real lives. When he says that those who deliberately choose a childless Jeannie & Julian2marriage, suddenly he knows nothing about people’s real lives and is draconian.

Then comes the “infertile couple card”. No one said that an infertile couple must have biological children, nor did anyone say that they are not allowed to adopt. That sector of the population did not enter into this sermon.

Finally, Fido becomes a papal casualty. This was not true either. Replacing a child with a pet and being anti-pet are not the same thing. I should know. I raised two loving children who are now loving adults with a ratio of two pets per kid. Now, one kid is married and my ratio has increased to four pets per kid. OK, so my daughter traded in the four-legged pet for a two legged husband who just happens to have severe allergies.

The point is that there is no condemnation for those who take on the care and love of a pet. In fact, the Church has always demonstrated great care for nature and its creatures. Just look at monastic communities. One way to teach our children to be responsible stewards of nature is to raise them surrounded by other living species that are treated with respect, love and justice.

How did this author become our new moral magisterium? Because she’s being told that there are consequences when society eliminates children from the equation. She claims that the population is growing. She forgot to mention that in Europe, North America and some countries in the southern hemisphere, the population is also top heavy.

When Americans who paid thousands and thousands of dollars into FICA now have to pay a monthly Medicare premium out of a fixed Social Security check and put out over $150 a month in medications, because Medicare does not cover enough, it seems that we have a shortage of younger people to replace the funds that older people paid and are no longer available to us. She forget these little details. Let’s not forget to ask who’s going to care for the older person who has no family when he takes to a bed.

Read her “logic” and make up your own mind. I’m just glad that I have two beautiful adult children. Our relationship has never been picturebook perfect. We’re three very different people and we like it that way. It’s fun when we come together. You never know what the other is going to say. Sometimes he’ll make you laugh and at other times you just have to wonder about him or her. The Circle of Life is often like a wobbly egg. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

Read this author’s reaction to the Holy Father’s message.


Published in: on June 7, 2014 at 4:42 AM  Leave a Comment  

What’s a brother? Do we really need them?

Very often I’m asked, “What is a brother?”  Most Catholics don’t have a clue, because most Catholics have not been well educated on the religious life.   Most of our parishes and schools are staffed by diocesan priests (secular priests) and religious sisters.  Neither received a good formation on the religious life.  Both were trained to think in a rather narrow paradigm.  Men become priests and women become nuns, who are not really nuns, but sisters.  A nun is a cloistered woman religious.  Even there, most priests and sisters were not well formed on the different vocations.  How could they pass this knowledge on to the lay faithful?

I have a several good friends who are diocesan priests.  I cringe when they try to explain what a brother is.  They often explain us in terms of what we’re not.  They’ll say something like, “Brothers don’t say mass or hear confessions.”  Imagine a creature from another planet that does not speak our language and asks, “What’s a father?”  You answer, “Fathers don’t bear young?”  That bit of information was as useful as a GPA that doesn’t speak your language.

Then there are those who try to explain what a brother is by describing what brothers do.  That’s not quite helpful either.  You’ll often hear people say, “Brothers teach, nurse, do social work, cook, and open doors, run schools, serve priests, are monks, are friars, run soup kitchens, and so forth.” All of those enterprises can be done by anyone.  One need not be a consecrated religious to do these good works.  The difference is how the brother does these things, not that he does them.  A brother comes to every task with the same worldview as Christ and the Church.  His vision and mission are defined by the charism of his religious community.  A Franciscan brother and a De La Salle brother can both teach and do so very differently.  While they see their students as Christ sees them, there ends the similarity.  The Franciscan brother approaches his students guided by the vision of St. Francis and the De La Salle brother is guided by the vision of St. John Baptist de La Salle.  The same applies to every ministry.  A lay secretary and a brother secretary do the same work, but bring very different approaches to the task and do the same task for different reasons.

Vatican II and Canon Law define brothers in a decisive way.  A brother is one called to the state of religious life . . .  a state for the profession and perfection of the evangelical counsels (obedience, poverty and chastity), which is complete in itself (Decree Perfectae Caritatis, n. 10).  Commitment to the priestly ministry is not required by the consecration which is proper to the religious state, and therefore even without priestly ordination a religious may live his consecration to the FULL.

In other words, it is a different call that Christ’s makes to a man to live only for him by consecrating his life to him through the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.  He lives out this consecration through a life of prayer, penance, fraternity, work, silence, solitude, in imitation of Our Lady who always pointed all men to Jesus. Everything he does points to Christ who is the firstborn among many brothers. A brother is like John the Baptist who proclaims, “Behold him . . .

In looking at the historical development of consecrated life in the Church, a significant fact is clear: the members of the first religious communities were called “brothers” without distinction.  The most famous of them is St. Benedict.  The great majority of them did not receive priestly ordination. A priest could join these communities but could not claim privileges because of Holy Orders. When priests were needed, one of the “brothers” was ordained in order to meet the community’s sacramental needs.

The ideal of a consecrated life without the priesthood lives on in St. Francis of Assisi, who did not feel personally called to the priestly ministry. Francis can be considered an example of the holiness of religious life. His witness demonstrates the perfection that can be reached by this way of life.

This fall the Church will begin the Year of Consecrated Life.  She has asked that religious, bishops and the different dicastries in the Vatican put together information on the consecrated life, especially on brothers.   The Church acknowledges the decreased number of vocations to the brotherhood.   St. John Paul II said “a new effort must be made to foster these important and noble vocations so they may thrive anew: a fresh effort to promote vocations, with a new commitment to prayer. The possibility of a consecrated life (without ordination) must also be presented as a way of true religious perfection in both the old and new male institutes.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan once said, “The brotherhood is the forgotten vocation.  Brothers are those men whom most of us have disregarded as unimportant, because we do not understand that the consecrated life is essential to the Church’s Catholic identity.”

Published in: on May 2, 2014 at 1:17 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Our Holy Father’s Message of Peace


January 01, 2013
Vatican City

We may ask ourselves: what is the basis, the origin, the root of peace? How can we experience that peace within ourselves, in spite of problems, darkness and anxieties? The reply is given to us by the readings of today’s liturgy. The biblical texts, especially the one just read from the Gospel of Luke, ask us to contemplate the interior peace of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. During the days in which ‘she gave birth to her first-born son’, many unexpected things occurred: not only the birth of the Son but, even before, the tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, not finding room at the inn, the search for a chance place to stay for the night; then the song of the angels and the unexpected visit of the shepherds. In all this, however, Mary remains even tempered, she does not get agitated, she is not overcome by events greater than herself; in silence she considers what happens, keeping it in her mind and heart, and pondering it calmly and serenely. This is the interior peace which we ought to have amid the sometimes tumultuous and confusing events of history, events whose meaning we often do not grasp and which disconcert us.

… Here, dear brothers and sisters, is the foundation of our peace: the certainty of contemplating in Jesus Christ the splendour of the face of God the Father, of being sons and daughters in the Son, and thus of having, on life’s journey, the same security that a child feels in the arms of a loving and all-powerful Father. The splendour of the face of God, shining upon us and granting us peace, is the manifestation of his fatherhood: the Lord turns his face to us, he reveals himself as our Father and grants us peace. Here is the principle of that profound peace – ‘peace with God’ – which is firmly linked to faith and grace, as Saint Paul tells the Christians of Rome. Nothing can take this peace from believers, not even the difficulties and sufferings of life. Indeed, sufferings, trials and darkness do not undermine but build up our hope, a hope which does not deceive because ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us’.

May the Virgin Mary, whom today we venerate with the title of Mother of God, help us to contemplate the face of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. May she sustain us and accompany us in this New Year: and may she obtain for us and for the whole world the gift of peace. Amen!”