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Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: July 17, 2018

 

Often to move forward we need to let go. That is what I have learned in my life. Sometimes, we let go of things. Sometimes, it is people that we must let go of; those who have died, and the grief that buries us with them. And, sometimes it is places, or those who have buried us with their own baggage that keeps us from being whole and feeling well.

Recently, after much thought and deep refection, I have decided it is time to let go of a community I have been part of for several years. The atmosphere is different. The people are changed. Most importantly, the leadership is distant, preoccupied with something otherly, and the family I once knew, well no longer seems to know me. I have tried to remain, but deep inside I knew the truth: “It’s time to go, James. It is time.”

I think it’s important to let go after a time of discernment in order to remain healthy. One must first dedicate time for reflection as part of this process before making any major plans. Reflection plays an essential role in creating steps that feel aligned with your inner dreams. If you’ve been making choices that have not felt right, it’s time to pay attention.

Letting go is a gentle, simple practice of looking back on your day and life, but always without judgment or criticism, and then, making needed change. It is never easy; it isn’t meant to be, but the life on the other side will come and you will blossom again. In these times, always treat yourself with kindness and compassion and know that you wish no one harm, it is simply time. In the end, forgive yourself and others, say a prayer for them, and cultivate patience with yourself and those you once encountered, and those you will encounter anew!

St. Francis once famously stated, “Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” In my own circumstance, I am ready. I no longer doubt. I have no fear or anxiety. God is well, and in this change, I will breathe again.

Time is short, and life is so fleeting. Our actions today must be driven by the future outcomes we seek, not the past wounds where we so often dwell. If that means letting some things go to get the job done, then I say so be it.
 
What needs to change in your own life? How will you go about letting go in order to find renewed life and vigor? Who or what has been holding you back from finding your true self?
 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: July 09, 2018

 

My summer reading list includes a book by California Pastor Chris Sonksen. His book is entitled, “Quit Church: Because life would be better if you did.” I agree.

You see, we all need to rehabilitate our view and love of church, but also its efficacy in our lives. We have become all too casual and far too consumer orientated. Our love is literally dying and so is our ability to do good in a broken world. We place far too many things and people ahead of going to church and because of it, the world is hurting.

It may seem odd that at a time when church attendance is shrinking, a pastor would be encouraging people to quit church, but something has to change.In most churches, Saint Miriam included, 80 percent of the work is being carried out by less than 20 percent of the people. Over the last few years, we have become a church of spectatorsand the ministry staff is getting burned out.

Casual attendance and the belief that others will serve, give what is needed, and share the Gospel are tearing down churches across our country literally brick by brick. As believers, it’s time that we are either all in or we get out. The solution is simple: quit!

St. Francis spent his life rebuilding God’s holy Church. His mission was to be lived and relived over and over by others like us who share his dream. He once wrote, “Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these, they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve.

I wonder what if every believer exercised generosity? What if every Christian fought for loyalty in their local church? What if every believer actually showed up at Mass every Sunday? What if everyone served out their God-given purpose?

In other words, what would happen if we stopped simply believing and started belonging?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 25, 2018

 

This week I have decided that, on the heels of a very informative annual Town Hall at Saint Miriam last Sunday, I would spend a little time today – and also later in my Blog Post for the week – looking at how much we care (Or, how much we don’t care)!

As I stated during the opener to the Town Hall, we live in a throwaway society that doesn’t much like commitment, and certainly doesn’t like the hard work required that caring for the ground to produce lasting relationships entails. We toss away our friendships at first sign of trouble or disagreement, we believe that Facebook ‘friends’ are ‘real’ and we easily discard spouses, and even church relationships when the going gets tough, when our needs somehow become bigger than the God’s needs, and certainly even more easily when we want something, and the only way to get it is to stop caring for the needs of others so we can use more of our money to take care of ourselves; after all, isn’t that the real meaning of living?

To be in relationship – with anything or anyone – often requires that at times we become uncomfortable. It also requires that we not abandon those relationships when we don’t get our way and wait patiently to understand whywe are so uncomfortable in the first place. I have found in my life that it is when I am most uncomfortable that growth is about to happen. But, for that growth to occur, I must be willing to let go of my own ego, allow the presence of another human being to supplant my inner desire to leave, and wait, and pray, and see what God has in store for me in this particular lesson.

Recently a friend of mine sent me a book that he found  by Author Sara Knight entitled, The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving A F&*k. And therein my friends lies our biggest problem… When we don’t care, we only care for ourselves. When we only care for ourselves, we discard the biggest part of truly being alive. St. Francis once said, “For it is in giving that we receive…”

How have you discarded friendships for your own needs? How have you abandoned the care of others because you are uncomfortable? When was the last time you allowed God to make you uncomfortable enough to see your big house and large bank account will never make you truly happy?
 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 12, 2018

 

I was insulted this past week. Now, I am hopeful, and almost sure, that the person that did so did not actually mean to do it, but I was still very hurt. Then, as God often comes, He came to me in the strangest of ways…a Facebook post! I share it here:

“A man saw a snake being burned and decided to take it out of the fire, but when it did, the snake bit him. By the reaction of pain, the man released her, and the animal fell back into the fire and was burning again.

The man tried to pull it out again and again the snake bit him. Someone who was watching approached the man and said: Excuse me, sir, but you’re obviously stubborn! Don’t you understand that every time you try to get that snake out of the fire, the snake is going to bite you? The man replied: Yes, the nature of the snake is to bite, but that’s not going change mine, which is to always help. So, with the help of a piece of iron laying on the ground near the fire pit, the man took the snake out of the fire and saved its life.

The moral of the story is this: Do not change your nature even if someone does harm to you, and do not lose your essence; only take precautions. Some persecute happiness, others believe it. Worry more about your conscience than your reputation. Because your conscience is what you are, and your reputation is what the rest of the world thinks about you. And, in the end, what other people think is not your problem… it’s their problem.”

St. Francis once said, “We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather, we must be simple, humble and pure.”

How will you live into who you are, just as God wonderfully made you? How will you celebrate your differences? How will you learn this week to let go of what other people say, or do to you, and continue to honor God as God calls? Will you be humble and pure as others insult you?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 5, 2018

 

I will use my Devotion this week also as my blog post. Why? Because there is nothing more exciting for me to tell you than what is about to happen this Sunday! I would be remiss if I diverted your attention from the fact that we will make a new Franciscan.

Actually, the man who will make his Solemn Profession into Religious Life as a Franciscan has been in the making since birth. I believe that God chose him to be a Friar long before he knew even what one was. God new his heart and his heart was worthy.

Father John Francis has been with us for some time and has already endeared himself to the parish and our life as a Franciscan-led congregation. We embody the spirit of St Francis in all that we do here at Saint Miriam. Father John Francis does, too.

This Sunday, at the Family Mass, after he has knelt and professed his vows, he will receive a knotted cord as a symbol of his promise and then sign the Book of Life. One of the most moving parts of the day will be when the newly professed brother offers up intentions for those in attendance, for the sick and dying, and for spiritual guidance in his journey as a Franciscan. In this humble act, he will tell the world that he is not only unworthy, but in need of their love, support, and prayers. I pray you will attend.

Pope Francis has been dubbed by the press as the “The Franciscan Jesuit”! Pope Francis (the first Jesuit from the Americas to be made Pope) was once simply known as Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit. But, throughout his public life, Pope Francis has been noted for his humility, emphasis on God’s mercy, concern for thepoor and the marginalized.

Jesuits and Franciscans are both Catholic, but they do represent different forms of Catholic spirituality. In times past, the Jesuits and Franciscans have also had their share of disagreements over such matters as mission territory, over involvement in secular affairs, and over the finer points of theology. 

Jesuits are celebrated for their complexity; Franciscans are admired for their simplicity. Jesuit spirituality values discernment and deep decision-making, and a prayerful consideration of possibilities and choices. It is a way that emphasizes detachment from the passions. Franciscan spirituality, however, embraces an ethos of sharing, a sharing not just of possessions, but also of love and experience. It is a way recognizes our reliance on the mercy of God.

The founders of both orders, St. Ignatius and St. Francis, often received “the gift of tears.” This phrase has often referred to St. Ignatius’ spiritual diary, in which he describes having an overwhelming sense of the consolation of God. The saint often became tearful while celebrating Mass because he was overcome by the beauty of the worship and the profundity of God’s love. His tears arose from his relationship with God, which was deeply intimate.

Some people, I’m sure, consider becoming teary a sign of weakness but I think our faith tells us otherwise. Very often, tears are a sign of something else – empathy, compassion, and vulnerability.These are often attributes lacking in the world today, but I know that Father John Francis shares my love of God and is often moved to tears, just as I am, when we realize how broken we are, and yet how loved by a grace-filled God.

Author Matthew Schmalz noted in a written narrative on Pope Francis how many were moved to tears when Pope Francis recited the Our Father and the Hail Mary with an assembled crowd and then asked for their silent prayers. It was an act that combined simplicity with a powerful openness to divine and human love. It was a scene that was both Jesuit and Franciscan because it was so deeply Christian. It was a moment when Pope Francis reminded us how much we need Jesus, and also how much we need one another.

I pray that Father John Francis will do the same. I have little doubt about that…

How will you use this time of profession to make your own vows to God to become a better Christian? Will you sacrifice something to make the world – and your life – better?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: May 28, 2018

 

It’s been a tough few weeks. I’ve seen the underbelly of the Church again. It is always amazing to me that I forget what that place looks like, smells like, and how it makes you feel in your heart. It is always a nasty affair.

I have learned that when you get to such a place, you need to sit, ponder, and then celebrate. Yes, I said celebrate! First, you sit and reflect on your part in it all. How could I be healthier? How did my brokenness contribute, if at all, to the current mess? Then you take time in reflection to ponder how to become a better person, reflect Christ more in your daily interactions, and what of the mess is notyou at all and simply needs to be let go? Then, you celebrate! You celebrate that God brought you the mess in the first place, because it is often in these messy moments that we grow, become better Christians, and better human beings in a world that would rather threaten and harm you than sit and break bread to find common ground.

Recently, a parishioner sent me the book I used as the rarely posted image for these reflections. It is entitled, “It’s a Terrible Day…Thanks Be to God” by Father Michael J. Doyle. The author’s grandfather loved to plow the land in Ireland and he did it manually with a team of horses through sweat, rain, and all forms of weather. He was often the last one to leave the field at the end of a very long day, and with wetness dripping from his face he would say, “It’s a terrible day, Thanks be to God.”

This book is a cry to a people of good will to do what needs to be done, and what surely shouldbe done, to make the world a better place, especially his ailing city. He wrote these monthly letters over a period of years, beginning in 1984, not as the makings of a book, but as lifelines to many people, without whom Sacred Heart Church’s many ministries in Camden would not have survived. To him they are the music, both sad and glad, of some of the things that happen and have happened around Sacred Heart, and also around the green fields of his childhood in Ireland. Through shared words, wounds are healed, and people are uplifted. We learn that being broken is part of life and that bad days are often a gift, too.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself that is often the most broken among us that seek refuge in God’s holy Church. Sometimes, the brokenness of others impacts the healthier members. Sometimes, we need to accept that fact, and then help bring healing and growth through our generosity and patience. But, sometimes we have to let go and remember we did our best.

How will you look at your next bad day now? How often do you look at yourself? 
 


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?