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Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: May 21, 2018

 

There will be times in your life where you will be disappointed, sad, disillusioned, or angry. We are human and as such we will feel all kinds of emotions from time to time; some not so pleasant. The one thing I have learned in these past few weeks is that no matter what you do or say, always come from a place of love.Saint Miriam IS a place of love!

Now, to be clear, when I say that we should “always come from a place of love”,I’m not saying that we should neglect whatever feelings we have or negate questions to find a deeper understanding of what we may be thinking or feeling. Rather, what this really means is that when we respond to a situation, we should always wait until we are cooled off, have all the facts, and then, instead of coming from a place of anger or sadness, we turn our response to come from a place of peace.

This past week, I have to admit, there were a few times where it was very hard to do this even in my own life, but when you have a place of love like Saint Miriam, and the person that is hurting you is still important to you, then you take the needed time, process, feel, and react later. Yes, at the end of the day to be happy with the way you handled a situation, means being different than the world thinks is wise by taking the high road for as difficult that this may be.

So, take a moment when you are feeling anxious or mean or threatened, and treat yourself with love and kindness the way you would for your best friend; then, treat the object of your fear in the same manner and watch as peace come to you in a brand-new way! Yes, always coming from a place of love, for it is love what truly nurtures our soul and it’s essential to make it a goal to always add more love into your life.

St. Francis famously said, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

How will you sow love this day? How will you do the opposite of what the world demands and show pardon, love, understanding, and empathy to another?

 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: May 14, 2018

 

We live by a covenant. I mean, at Saint Miriam, ever since the very first day of our founding, now some ten years ago, we decided to be different. Different…like different from other churches, especially from other Catholic parishes. So how?  Well, we wanted to allow for growth through true caring and true love. We wanted a place where the collection of money wasn’t the focal point of the Mass. We wanted a place to worship God where everyone else could do the same and be welcomed and loved and stand side-by-side, shoulder to shoulder, with everyone else and receive the God who saved them. All of them, not just the ones that the Church deemed worthy, because at our heart, we are all so unworthy. In other words, we wanted to truly  follow Jesus.

Over the last few months, as so many of you know, my life has made a few dramatic changes. I lost some things, intentionally let go of others, healed some old wounds that were deeply painful, mended some broken relationships, and fell in love, too. None of these changes were planned, expected, or intentional. But, in the end, God is good and kind and came to me through so many who loved me unconditionally through them all, that I felt on the other side – or what I thought would be the other side – I would find a parish who would love me unconditionally, just like I have loved them through their own life changes and trials, unconditionally, too. What I found, instead, were many who did just that, but a few have decided to be morally superior, to condemn that which they know not, to make assumptions and innuendo about my personal life, and a few who told me directly that I am wrong and that they will not support me. They have failed to live by the covenant that made this place so open, so loving, so inclusive…so much like Jesus. I am hurt, and it now has caused me to ask God to help heal me, even if it means I must make major changes to leave those who reject me.

We live by a covenant. But, truth be told, we actually live by two: one covenant is with God, and one is with each other, and that second one is also supposed to include me. Why?  Because it makes for stronger community and stronger Christians and even better Catholics. I am no longer sure of the things I once was, and perhaps that is God’s way of healing and leading me. I will continue to pray and ask God for my direction, as I continue to pray for you. After all, who knows better the price of rejection that a savior who hung upon the cross, as the likes of you and me stood below yelling, “Crucify Him!”? That is why I lean so heavily on St. Francis. He is the same saint who reminds us, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

Now we must all ask ourselves, when did we become better than another? When did we fail to honor this life-giving covenant? When did our brokenness become less than that of another? And do we truly find ourselves sowing love, or has the divisiveness and hatred of the world made our moral superiority such that others are lying on the ground bleeding, as we walk away in our indifference?
Read the covenant, pray about it, think about Jesus, and then let us get back on track and become part of a place that is making it a reality, or let us watch it all fade away and Satan wins again.
 
How will I become a better person and allow Christ to shine this week to others in pain? 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: May 7, 2018

 

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Those are the words we read, and often pay little heed to, about how we should address our needs to the God who gave us all we have, and that one day will call us to be with Him in Heaven.

The inner essence of worship is the treasuring of God as infinitely more valuable above everything else. The outer and inner forms of worship are the acts that show how much we treasure God. Therefore, all of life – and that we do – is meant to be worship because of what God is and what God has given so freely to us, despite our not deserving anything.

So, the way we worship with our money and our possessions is to get them and use them and willingly lose them in a way that shows how much we actually treasure God — not money. That’s what this text is about; it’s about belief and trust in God! And so, it is really a text about worship. How we worship money over God has always been a problem. No, we are not inventing anything new, but we are also not moving humanity forward in its ultimate trust of God over human endeavors and treasures.

When we gather on Sundays, we show the world that we believe in a higher power, but what about the way we trust and worship God the balance of the week? Does how we spend our money or what we decide to spend our money on – or not spend it on – show others what we believe deep within us? After all, the essence of worship is the inner treasuring of God as infinitely far more valuable than anything else in the universe.

God commands us not to fear when it comes to money and things, but so often we do not trust, and in fact, we put God last on the list, but first when our world is crashing around us. Many folks stop their parish giving, or cut back on their needed stewardship, but still continue to eat out, take cruises, go to amusement parks, and get that latte from their favorite barista every morning, without ever thinking once of those who sacrifice every day, so they might have a place to worship on Sundays.

No, the way we worship money isn’t a problem just for the church; it is a problem for God and for eternal life…

Think just for a moment before you close out what might just be an uncomfortable devotion and ask yourself these questions:
 
If someone looked at how I spend my money, would they know I even believe in God? If I do not believe enough in God to support the work of His Church, how do I dare turn to Him in times of trouble? 
 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 30, 2018

 

God comes to us in a variety of ways every day. Some of them are ways we expect God to be present like the Eucharist at Mass, Rosary, Devotionals, and in our Prayers. But, sometimes God comes during our hours at work, or during playtime, or when we are silent long enough to hear God’s voice. Oftentimes, I have found that I am most in touch with God when I see Him in others; when I recognize the living Christ in some that the world might dismiss.

This past week I was told that I was not ‘a real priest’ and that I had no business saying that I was one! The person who said this was very direct that all priests must be recognized by the Pope in Rome and be celibate, too. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that there are many forms of being Catholic, that Pope Francis already stated we are a valid form of Catholicism, and that celibacy has only been around for a little over 400 years! She had made up her mind that I was not of God, not valid, and so she missed anything good that I had done or could ever say. I wasless than herand in doing that she may have missed something wholesome and life changing.

It reminded me of a story! There once was young woman named Pam, who worked in downtown Chicago. Every morning, she encountered a heavyset, middle‑aged woman in a shabby coat soliciting spare change in front of an old brick church. She greeted everyone with a smile and a pleasant “Good morning.” Pam always gave her something, even though she found her own ability to makes ends meet rather tough. After almost a year of this routine, the woman in the shabby coat one day just disappeared. Pam always wondered what had happened to her.

One beautiful day, the woman in the coat was in front of the church again, still wearing the same, shabby coat. As Pam reached into her purse for the usual donation, the woman stopped her. “Thank you for helping me all those days,” she said. “You won’t see me again because I’ve got a new job.” With that, she reached into a bag and handed Pam a wrapped package. She had been standing at her old spot waiting, not for a handout, but to greet the people she recognized that had helped her; she gave each of them a doughnut to show how thankful she was! As Pam walked away, she felt the goodness of God and was grateful that she never once failed to help another.

We must allow God to speak to us, and we must afford ourselves the chance to learn the language that God uses to communicate with us. Our ability to be in touch with the Creator will calm our anxieties and refresh our minds and give a freshness to our existence. Being a recipient of God’s voice will allow us a new birth and find joy in life and depth to the beauty around us. God comes, but when God comes – and how God chooses to come – may just surprise us if we are willing to listen! 

How will you find ways to allow God to speak to you? Are you open to God speaking to you from the least likely of people and places? Or, will you simply miss God again?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 23, 2018

 

This past weekend I took the day off and Katelyn and I went to Sight & Sound Theatres in Lancaster and saw the play, Jesus!

Jesus is a musical stage adventure about the most famous person ever to walk the earth and the everyday people whose lives He changed forever, and I must tell you that after witnessing the play, (I say witnessing because it was more than just watching a play) I am counted among those who were so moved! This show made me feel Jesus again!

With huge sets, live animals and the latest technology and special effects, the 2,000+ seat theater put on a massive musical production that brought these Bible stories to life! We sat just a few rows back from a 300-foot, panoramic stage that included live animals such as horses, dogs, pigs, goats, sheep, camels and alpacas! It was amazing!

In one dramatic scene, Peter’s boat, used during the storm scene, is operated by a computer and can rise 8 feet in the air and rock back and forth with the waves – all while holding Jesus and his disciples. You actually feel the wind and water! At the critical moment when the disciples see Jesus walking on the water, Peter exits the boat and begins his journey toward Jesus. But, suddenly, as so often in life, Peter begins to worry, and he takes his eyes of Jesus and flounders. Soon, Peter disappears below the water’s surface.  Jesus reaches down and pulls Peter out of the sea. Peter is saved. Jesus is disappointed.

Jesus tells His followers that He is the true vine – the one true real vine – and that they are the branches, whose task is to bear fruit and share in His life. “Abide in me.”  That is what Jesus says. In other words, if you abide in me, whatever you want, it will come to you. Apart from Me there is no true life and you can do nothing.

Peter learned that on an angry sea. I learned it once in a jail cell and when money became my only god. If Jesus is the vine, we must make our home in Him, and not in the world. Authentic Christian discipleship and life knows the Savior intimately and that includes our fellowship in His holy Church. For it is there where the great mystery dwells until we behold him, like Peter, face to face.

How will Jesus save you this week? What problems are you sinking from and where have you turned away from the One who can actually save you? How have you been faithful – or not so faithful – to attending Mass and what will you do to return and abide with Him this week?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 17, 2018

 

The Invisible Man is a novel by Ralph Ellison about an African-American man whose color renders him invisible, published in 1952. It addressed many of the social and intellectual issues facing African Americans early in the twentieth century and I found this passage speaks to me.

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; no am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible; understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded my mirrors of hard, distorted glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination – indeed, everything except me.”

I may never know what it feels like to be a person of color, disregarded as less than human. Even enshrined in our own Constitution, before we amended the document, was the defining of a black person as less thanothers. From my younger days when I transgressed the law and I dealt with issues of my own person – from sexuality to value to vocation – in almost every aspect of my life I have known what it is like to feel less than and to feel of no value; worthless. Even as a priest and after all that I helped build, I still grieve the value of what my self-worth is. I wonder what my life would have ‘felt’ like had anyone stopped to remind me of their love for me and the value of me being part of this world?

One of the hallmarks of being a Catholic is that we see the inherent dignity of every human being. To deny that every creation of God is good and of value, is to – at its depth – deny that which makes us all validly Catholic, validly Christian, validly human.

The basis for the theme of Human Dignity, the bedrock of Catholic Social Teaching, is that humans are created in the image and likeness of God. Regardless of any factors or reasons we can think of, individuals have an inherent and immeasurable worth and dignity; each human life is considered sacred.

In our society, human life is under direct attack and the value of human life is being threatened, but here at Saint Miriam we believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every decision must be that it enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

St. Francis once said, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

How will your walk and your talk this week help someone who feels less than, like me? How will you ensure that they know and feel and believe of their inherent value and worth?

 



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 9, 2018

 

This past Lent, a friend posted an image that asked people to pray for all priests against the Enemy. It spoke to the deep belief that during Lent, the holist season of our Christian year, the Great Demon is fighting for every priest to fall.

Now, normally I never post things like this, or share them on social media, but this one was different for me. It’s not because I do not believe in evil, but because I often try not to think that Satan is any more concerned with me, than with anyone else in the world. But for some reason, this image spoke to me deeply, as it went on to say that when we use language to criticize our priests and pastors, we join in fighting for their failure. I find that to be true more than this year than ever before.

Perhaps it is because I am more tired. Perhaps because we have survived so many attempts to close us down because of our radical and unconditional love found in few Catholic parishes. Perhaps it is because I am feeling more vulnerable, as my personal life changes. Whatever the reason, and whomever is plotting to harm me, I feel the evil ever present this year; more than in years past.

Last month, Pope Francis called for the wording of the Lord’s Prayer to be changed so that it blames the Devil, rather than God, for “leading us into temptation”. He said the prayer had been badly translated from the Greek used in the New Testament and the new version would better reflect its true meaning.

The Holy Father frequently refers to the Devil in his homilies. He uses various terms to refer to the ‘Prince of Darkness, including Satan, the Evil One, the Seducer, Beelzebub and the Great Dragon.’ A lot of people in today’s world are uncomfortable with the idea of evil being real, but anyone who knows the spirituality of many order priests will not be surprised. What may be surprising to some is that oftentimes we feel the presence of evil. We know people want us to fail. Every time we fail, Satan wins. Every victory for Satan brings chaos.

Whatever is to happen, I am reminded that I should not fear. That God is in control. If Saint Miriam is ever to fail, it will never be the work of someone, or their gossip, or harmful and selfish words, but the failure of good people to hold onto a gift from God.

The life of a Christian is a continual battle against evil, that is what the Pope has said. And St Francis reminded us all when he spoke on darkness that “A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.”Perhaps some of the evil I feel will win, but only if we fail to light the dark with our light.

How will you allow evil to win this week? Are you willing to simply be complacent and allow someone to destroy good? Do you pray for those who serve God every day?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 2, 2018

 

“Listen…”

I listen for a living. I hear from others all day, every day. I listen to their concerns, their problems, their personal issues. I listen to their confessions and desires and regrets. I listen to their hopes and dreams. I listen to ensure our parish is relevant to their lives, and in the lives of their children, and families. I listen to hear deep griefs unresolved, and nuance for insights into how we can help them to be more fulfilled. But, the one thing I find exhausting is listening to myself.

All professionals must continually grow in order to stay relevant. They do so by listening and reflecting on their “own stuff” to become better at their craft tomorrow; this is especially true of those in the helping professions. Personal reflection provides everyone with benefits, while focusing on individual experiences. Personal reflection enables all of us to process and make meaning of all of the great (and not so great) learning and working experiences we’ve had. Everyone stands to gain from engaging in some type of reflection.

Boud, Keough, & Walker, 1985, says that “Reflection” is a generic term for those intellectual and affective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences, in order to lead to a new understanding and appreciation. But I like the writer of Psalm 42 who actually preaches to his own soul in a moment of self-reflection, self-listening, and self-discovery. This is one of the most important lessons in life. Verse 5: “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” (So, he’s talking to his soul!) “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

I find that given the way I’m hardwired, much of my self-talk is very defeatist. I tell myself all kinds of bad news and I promise myself that I am never quite good enough. I can imagine my bad self, saying, “You’re supposed to be giving me good news. But all I’ve heard is the bad news.” And I team up often with my old self and say some more bad news. It’s no wonder I get discouraged and thought my life was to always be unhappy. Do you do that? 

Both St. Francis and Buddha were men of deep prayer. St. Francis had in common with the Buddhists the importance of nonviolent love and commitment to peace, in practice as well as in theory. That’s a crucial lesson here, learn to preach to yourself. Learn to listen to yourself. Learn to find hope within and change will come; happiness, too, but one must do so with a nonviolent love and commitment to peace to self first.

Are you listening to yourself, or talking? What do you do when no one else is watching? Who are you when you are alone?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 26, 2018

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  This is the famous line from John (John 12:21) and it is also the plaque that will be affixed, beginning Easter Sunday, to the pulpit at Saint Miriam. No, you will not be able to see it, unless of course you make your way to the ‘priest-side of the ambo! (Which, by the way, you are always welcome to do!) I have included an image of the engraved brass plaque that bears this line and that will soon make its way to a new home to remind me, and all who serve you what it means to be a priest, what it means to be a servant of others, and what our goal and ambition should always be.

We are not to be police officers, therapists, politicians, or egomaniacs; we should not bear down upon your life in such a way that makes you want to run away, and we should never use our position of authority to abuse you. We shall never, at least here at Saint Miriam for as long as I am pastor, use the furnishings to proclaim God’s love as a ‘bully pulpit’. No, we are to be bearers of the Christ to you and to the world. We are to be ministers and bring you Jesus every week. Together, we are to be bearers of light!

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Yes, what a remarkable passage to look toward Easter! “Some Greeks,” John writes, came to Jesus’ disciple Philip and said: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” When Philip told Jesus about this, he responded: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Let us all die to the things of this world in order that we might serve and glorify the One we worship and adore. And may we find ways to bring to life anew this wonderful line from scripture.

How will you use the coming Easter light to bear that light to others? Is Christ, the Light, within you? How would someone be able to tell? Are you willing to bring light to others?

 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 19, 2018

 

It is almost here! Passion Week, Holy Week! In a mere few days, we will gather for Palm Sunday and then launch into a week of remembering and growth as Christians! To do so, we must make it our every intention to attend services, reflect, and honor the fact that those very same people who passionately welcomed Christ with waving palm branches, were many of the very same people who demanded His execution just days later…

This three-day celebration (known as The Triduum) begins with the Holy Thursday Mass and continues on Good Friday with the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. At the end of this liturgy, we leave the church in silence, waiting to celebrate the glory of our Lord’s Resurrection. Then, on Saturday at sundown, it is finally here! The Church re-gathers to celebrate the final, and most grand moment of the Triduum: The Resurrection of our Lord!

On Holy Thursday, we experience the washing of feet. Humbling, awkward, displaying visible weakness, and yes, oh so needed in a day and age when these attributes are often replaced with power, stamina, and strength. It is a ritual of service that sends the message that the Eucharist is how we treat one another as it also reminds us of our call to treat others – all others – with respect, with dignity. It is, at its heart, far more than mere ritual, but an openness to recommit to be one with each other, and to recognize and support one another and to serve one another with our exception.

On Good Friday we gather to remember the Lord’s passion and death. It is always about the Cross of Christ. We gather and focus on the redemptive aspect of God’s suffering for our sins, but also on Jesus’ effort at reconciliation. You see, it was and remains Jesus, who willingly gave up by His life, through the Passion that shows us how hard it is to work toward reconciliation and unification. And yet, every year, we do just that as a Church of God, as we honor that Cross and humble ourselves to sit and dwell and relive that which gives us eternal life.

Then we arrive at the Great Easter Vigil! On Saturday, as night falls across the earth, we gather in vigil and hear the amazing news that Jesus is THE Christ, but also our companion, and our brother, Who is no longer dead, but is risen from the grave! We no longer have to fear the empty tomb. It is here where we gather in darkness to listen intently on the words of Salvific History and then, in a blink of an eye, candles, lights, and trumpets respond the splendor of the King! He is Risen! And with Him, we gather in joy to another Easter!

Our Jewish brothers and sisters have been celebrating Passover remembering the events leading to their release from slavery in Egypt and we, too, will gather these three days from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday to celebrate ‘our Passover’ from death to life in Christ! It is a time of remembering the triumph of God’s love over darkness and death. It can change our hearts deeply, but only if we allow it.

In the coming week, we gather to celebrate that God is present and always working in our lives. May we each experience the joy of new life in our own way this Easter Season, and may we begin with an intentional dedication to observing the Passion of the One Who loves us still…
 
 
Reflection questions for Holy Week:

 
What does the death of Jesus mean to me?
 How has God interceded in my life? 
Have I honored God in my life? Will I take a few hours out of my week and honor Christ? After hearing the Resurrection story, what events do I see in my own life that are in need of resurrection?
 How can I carry on the story of the resurrection to others this coming year?