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Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 26, 2016

 

In The Little Flowers of St. Francis, Brother Masseo once inquired of St. Francis, “Why do people run after you? You are not handsome; you are also not deeply learned; you are not of noble birth! So why?!” Francis replied, “Do you wish to know? I know the answer from a God whose eyes see the good and the bad all over the earth. And those most holy eyes have nowhere seen a greater, more miserable, poorer sinner than I, and yet he has chosen me, the most wretched, to do his wonderful work so that all will know his power and virtue comes from him.”

Yes, Francis never took credit for what he accomplished. He was always less than everything around him and always acknowledged the God who did it all, gave him all, and was his all. Humility was literally sewn into the fabric of the Friars. Even the name given,

Friars Minor, means ‘lesser brothers’. We are the same today, as some 800 years ago, the little, unknown, ‘lessers’ of the world who find nobility only in their goodness and desire to help others. We still follow that simple rule, composed by Francis himself, for those first eleven friar followers, the Regula primitive, or “Primitive Rule”, which came from verses in the Bible. The rule was simple and direct: “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps.” So we give our all, literally, to the world created by a God of love who called us to service and to love. Pride is alluring, but almost always sinful because it gets in the way of others.

How about you? Where do you place the glory for a day’s work well done? Do you remember God when you stand at the precipice of good fortune, as often as you do kneeling when your world is falling apart? If you have twice the talent of others in any skill such as music or art or accounting, etc., what does God expect of you to do with it?
 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 19, 2016

 
A sort of malaise is in effect. Folks just don’t think they need God anymore. They think they can do it all on their own; everything. And what’s worse is that they are teaching the youngest among us to believe the same. Weekends are about fun, not God. Church attendance is down, involvement in CCD and religious educational pursuits is at an all-time low, and belonging to a parish means very little anymore. The famously haunting words of Nietzsche come true, “God is dead.”
 
What Nietzsche was concerned about in relating the above is that God is dead in the hearts and minds of his own generation of modern men; killed by an indifference that was itself directly related to a pronounced cultural shift away from faith and towards rationalism and science. The fruits bear out still to this day. We don’t pray to God when we get good things, but God is first when we are in need or an illness comes or death happens to finds its way into our family, or terrorism strikes our city.

St. Francis once said that in a picture of our Lord or the Blessed Virgin Mary painted on wood, our Lord or the Blessed Virgin Mary are honored, and yet the wood and the painting, nor the painter, ascribe anything to themselves. So the servant of God ought to attribute nothing to himself, for indeed without God he is nothing.

How about you? Are you more powerful than God? Where were you yesterday? At Mass worshipping God, or at a movie, or picnic, or simply traipsing through some wooded area oblivious that it was even Sunday at all?

Maybe take some time this week to reevaluate your life and give credit to God for all that you have, and prepare for all that will come your way, then worship Him before you find it’s too late.

“Of myself I can do nothing”  I praise You, my creator, for what You choose to do in and through me. Amen.

 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 12, 2016

 

We began this past week offering beautiful custom-made rosaries at the parish. We have always offered many beautiful rosaries made from glass beads, but this week we also have them in beautiful authentic stone in both Franciscan Crown and standard rosary designs. I decided it was time for a new rosary for myself and I chose a ‘Skull Rosary’ because I have a skull on my Franciscan Habit Rosary and now my personal rosary will tie in to my habit life.

It might surprise you to know that skulls on rosaries have been used for hundreds of years, and it spans several different religions and is not anti-Christian! In fact, there are many old paintings of Saints with skulls. Some crucifixes depict a skull at the bottom, to signify Christ’s victory over death. Many Nun rosaries feature a skull bead to serve as a “Memento Mori,” or a reminder that one’s life is not infinite.

The Latin phrase, Memento mori, means, “Remember that you must die.”  It is a reminder both of our mortality and of the judgment that will follow our death. Memento mori is also the name given to paintings or sculptures that illustrate the theme of the phrase. Usually featuring a skull, or at least bones, such sculptures were a common feature of tombs in churches in Europe during the late Middle Ages and early modern age. Skull rosaries, then, or a rosary with a skull on it, remind the user that life is not infinite, and is to serve as a reminder that everyone dies in this life and to this life. Therefore, you should live your life with the knowledge that your life will not go on forever. So every time I look at the rosary, I am reminded of those famous words on Ash Wednesday, “Remember that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” 

Why? Well because I follow St. Francis and he saw poverty and humility as twins of sorts. You see, we are absolutely dependent on God and we find God when we are most humble, undistracted, not dependent on the things of the world, and want not nothing but God. As created ones, we stand humble and poor before God; there is nothing we can offer God, but in our nothingness apart from God is where we find that God gave us all! God loves us so much that in Him we have true life.

So for me, the Skull Rosary allows me to be mindful that nothing can exist apart from God. My heart will not beat one more beat without Him, my next breath will not take place without His blessing, the very blood inside my veins will stop its course without God. I am but mortal, but being more and more fully reliant upon the Creator, I find God brings me true and exhilarating life! I am only truly alive when I live for God and God lives in me.

How will you remind yourself and the world around you this week that God is alive in your world and that all that we have comes from Him? How will you be more humble and more secure in Him, not things?
 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 5, 2016

 
 

Today is the 19th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, but this past Sunday, Mother Teresa, the diminutive Albanian nun whose work to feed the hungry and comfort the dying in India became the foundation of a new religious order, and who earned the Nobel Peace Prize as a result, is now Saint Teresa of Calcutta, canonized by Pope Francis.

In a statement announcing the canonization, the Vatican called her a “metaphor for selfless devotion and holiness.” Perhaps it is here where we find the why for her sainthood. It was not in the miracles attributed to her, but rather in the manner in which she lived her entire life: for the poorest of the poor.

Did you know that one of Mother Teresa’s favorite prayers is the Prayer of St. Francis, sometimes referred to as the “Peace Prayer.” The sisters of her Missionaries of Charity prayed this wonderful prayer every day at her direction after they received Holy Communion. And, although this prayer truly embodies the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi and the way he lived, scholars have determined he may not actually have written it, but it lives on attributed to those highest ideals to which he ascribed the manner of his life.

St. Francis like St. Teresa now, wanted to imitate the poverty of Christ, but poverty – at least as made real by those of us who are Franciscans – is neither good or bad, as determined by the world. It is rather the sense of ‘nonpossession’ of those things that can and do distract us from our mission of living the Gospel.  Like St. Paul, it is our focus to become ‘empty’ in order to become full for the Lord we serve. By doing so, we are better able to enjoy all that is around us, as a gift of God. We actually are able to see creation and gradually we understand more fully the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor.”

St. Francis and St. Teresa wrote no deep philosophical or theological works to explain their positions. They were not apologists for the Church, nor were they attributed any scholarly works of great significance or amassed volumes of ‘how to’ books on becoming more spiritual, they simply lived it; imitating the One they followed so closely and in that imitation true life came.

In the end, then, poverty is not just the mere absence of things, it is our ability and willingness to share what we have gained for the good of others. It is possible for a wealthy person to be unattached and giving, just as it is possible for a person of poorer means to be stingy. The question is not in the abundance, but the spirit of the mystery of Christ that lives in us. How about us?

Saint Teresa carried with her a small reproduction of an old painting of St. Francis in which the weeping saint holds a cloth to his eyes. “He’s wiping his tears,” she says, showing the picture to the Franciscans around her. “I think he’s crying after receiving the Stigmata.”

Are we really willing, too, to actually live being a Christian and carry the gospel message to the margins even when afraid, or unwilling, or difficult? Do we recognize that all that we have never really belonged to us in the first place, but rather is a gift from God? Are we willing to deliberately share more this week with the church, with our parish, with others, with those who need us to do just that,…

…or will we simply grasp all the harder to hold onto the things that will never fulfill or complete us?

 

 



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 29, 2016

 
 

“God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.”  So begins Genesis and the story of creation.  But did you know that St. Francis was named the patron saint of ecology in 1989? In fact, the Rule that we follow as Franciscans says that we should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which ‘bear the imprint of the Most High.’

So, Francis saw the imprint of God in all of creation and treasured all that God had given to us on this earth – from the high and lofty mountains that anchored the skyline to the thinnest of worms found nestled along the side of a dirt road. All was good and worthy of admiration as it was ‘very, very, good’.

In St. Francis’ famous “Canticle of the Sun”, he praises God for all creation, “the sun and moon, the stars and the heavens, the wind and air, the water and fire, flowers and fruit and herbs, too. It is said that Francis saw the world with the eyes of God and had an overwhelming gratitude for all of God’s gifts to us.

Think for a moment of your most treasured possession and ask yourself, ‘how do you care for it?’ I would imagine you hold it, coddle it at times, thank the giver often as you consider its meaning to you, you care for it with reverence and respect, you remember it often and you choose not to destroy it. So we must do for all that God has so freely given unto us though His generosity and love.

Later this afternoon, I will stand at the tiny grave of one of the smallest of God’s created in our new Angels of Assis Pet Memorial Section. I will lay to rest one small creature, not known to many, but held in high esteem by those few who did, and I am sure by God, too.

Why? Why did we invest to open such a section within our hallowed grounds? Why did we invest our time and energy in planning such a burial of one so small? Because the Franciscan Rule calls us to be in kinship with all God creation. That says we are related to each other. What is inflicted by way of harm to the earth and God’s creatures, inflicts and harms me, and what is held with esteem and care and tenderness, does likewise to me, too.

The Irish poet Oscar Wilde once penned, “Where there is sorrow there is holy ground.”  This week, there will be such on two occasions because we love and honor.

O Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Blessed be all creation and blessed be God; Father, Son, and Hoy Ghost.
 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 22, 2016

 
In the days when St. Francis began to reform the church, many clergy were not worthy of the name. The Church badly needed reform and clergy were one of the leading causes with their abuse and hypocrisy. Francis knew that if he was to reform the Church, he needed to begin with the clergy within the structure of the Church itself. 
 
You see, St. Francis saw the mystery of the Church! He saw the divine life, the moving Spirit of God, the healing and the dedication of so many that truly loved her and cared for her. But he also saw the weak, the selfish, those who acted like a priest, but deep within their hearts they served no one but themselves. They were the cholesterol that clogged the arteries of the Church and bought arthritis to her hands. They hampered the vision of her eyes and caused pain and grief through their lack of true love, true depth, true dedication. Perhaps they were deceiving themselves and the world, but not God.
 
The faults of the Church are evident here with us even today. I have witnessed firsthand the deception, the lack of participation, and the failure of many who once stated very clearly they would serve and serve well. I have seen those who have been deceived and follow, all the while leaving destruction in their wake. In the end, they serve themselves while God’s Church – and her people – suffer. This is deception, at its best. It is mortal sin at its worst.
 
What we need is a constant reminder of what the world could be, if only we all dedicated ourselves to truth, honesty, and a life of true service. If only we would put aside ourselves and put others and their needs first. We need clergy and secular Franciscans, and strong lay leadership willing to truly serve – not themselves and their need for admiration and titles – but within their hearts, to allow the divine glory from within to shine and to heal and to restore and to build.
 
To be a Franciscan is to willingly follow Francis in trying to lead the Gospel life where Francis lived it at its fullest: with the holy Church, that inefficient, broken, ridiculously awkward and often ineffective means to the Cross of Christ. How? By finding those good priests who are willing to give up themselves – even lay down their own lives – for you and God’s Church.
 
Do you know a priest that is serving only himself? Pray for him that God will enlighten and change his heart before real damage is done. Do you know a good priest? Pray for him today. He needs you most, as he serves within a spiritual realm, too, where slings and arrows deplete him.
 

Though your prayers today, for those who serve us well, you will help Francis rebuild  God’s Church.

 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 15, 2016

 

When we speak of charism, we speak of that which gives a particular view its theology of God; how does God act in the world and in our lives? The catechism of the church says that, Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of mankind, and to the needs of the world.” And so there are many charisms that edify and build up!

The charism of St. Francis has developed over centuries, but is always based on a love of the Gospel. When we speak of the varied spiritualties of the greater holy Church, we find that many are based on the personalities of their founders. Franciscans are no different. For instance, when we speak of the Dominicans, we find a group of inspired souls with a deeply monastic vision and a determination to preach like St. Dominic. Pope Pius once described the Franciscans as, “…a doctrine in accordance with which God is holy, is great, and above all, is good indeed the supreme Good. God is love. He lives by love, creates for love, becomes flesh and redeems, that is He saves and make holy, for love…. the Franciscan way of contemplating Jesus in His human love…” So, then, the Franciscan emphasis is always on love: the love of God, the way we love one another and serve one another, but always in love; a selfless love. A giving love. A redeeming love.

You might say that all Christians believe this, or at least should believe this, but to live as Francis did we must believe and actually participate in the Gospel! We must be willing to live out the Gospel in communion with the poor and the marginalized, in deeper communion with God, in a concurrent communion with the greater mission of God’s Church, in a transforming communion with a life of deep prayer and personal spirituality, in a way that brings us closer to communion with all of creation, even the least among us, and yes, the animals of God’s created world, too! By focusing on these disciplines on being on in communion with a God of love, we cannot help but become instruments of God’s peace. The world loses its tarnish and we behold a brand new joy!

“Teacher,” asked someone who came to Jesus, “What good must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus replied, “There is only one good.”

What good will you do in communion with God this week? How will you let go of something that is binding you to this earth to all God to change you and the world?
 
 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 8, 2016

 

Bernard of Quintavalle, Italy was pretending to be asleep. In secret he was actually watching Francis. Francis, not knowing he was being observed, did what he normally did: caring for the poor, those normally rejected, praying in earnest on his knees to God above. In the morning, Bernard told Francis of his desire to renounce all of his material possessions and his great wealth, and give his life and work for the glory of God. Francis was stunned.

Francis would never have dreamed that such a wealthy man would see in him what he hoped the world would one day see: a man of God, completely in love with Jesus, and willing to go and do what God needed, even at the expense of his own wealth to rebuild God’s holy Church. In Bernard, Francis found a companion in poverty and a friend in pursuit of the same dream. He found a brother.

For many, it is this very fraternity that attracts people to our way of life, the oneness that we share in life as brothers. What many don’t realize, though, is that just because we’re in this life together with similar values and professions doesn’t mean that fraternity will naturally come. It is not something that can be taken for granted. It requires humility. It takes work. It cannot exist without love and commitment to one another, knowing without a doubt that you are willing to sacrifice for the other and that they are willing to do the same for you.

When Bernard said he was ready to commit, Francis would not let him do so until he went to see the bishop, said Mass together, prayed, and read the Book of the Gospels three more times! Then, and only then, would Bernard be ready to follow Christ. “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions, and give to the poor…then come and follow me.”

In our overall very comfortable lifestyles in the United States, in our potentially institutional and separate lives with our separate spaces and separate time and separate jobs and separate money, this fraternal life – or desire to support the work of God, is not always felt so strongly. True charity is foreign deep down. The thought of living and working together, of becoming intimate and inter-dependent, of actually committing to someone – or something greater – like Bernard and Francis, makes one feel vulnerable. It should. It is only here where God dwells and changes hearts and worlds, too.

How will God use you this week? Are you willing to let go to follow? Would the world see in you a servant and follower of the One true Christ?

 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 1, 2016

 

“A way of life” is more than just a trite saying, it is rather a set of values, a spirit that affects the way we live and every decision made, an attitude that enters into every emotion we experience, every thought we think, every way we feel, what we say to every living person and thing, how we act, even when we are alone with ourselves, and each action we take.

Being a Christian, and a practicing Catholic, is a way of life as much as my being a Franciscan is! Our belief is clear: since Christ so graciously gave us eternal life by the ultimate sacrifice and grace, we, therefore, should also maintain a deep conviction to follow the radical document called the Gospel of our Lord, as our rule of life; our way of life.  In other words, we should live in the world but do so with the mind and eye of Christ Jesus.
 
Think of this the next time you go to post on Facebook, or walk by the stranger in need at the side of the road, or fail to support the work of your parish. Think of this when you simply ‘tip’ God with your offering from what’s left in your pocket or purse, or fail to support your pastor and those who sacrifice to keep your communities alive and well. Think of this the next time you put a movie over attending Mass, going to a party instead of a visiting someone in the hospital, or using the phrase most in our world do, “I’ll get to them after I do what I need to do first.”
 
Franciscan life is a high calling and it is never easy; few things worth it in life are. But God is here to help us. The Holy Spirit is always present to help us to endure, to carry the crosses confronted, to live out our vocations – our way of life – with grace and a Christlikeness that the world will often miss, but that God sees always and forever.
 

How will you live your day today generously as our Lord?  What Good News will your spread to others in your journey this week?

 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: July 25, 2016

 

Two vignettes.  One time, Jesus was standing near a lake called Gennesaret and the crowd was so intent on hearing Him speak that it almost becoming overwhelming. In the distance, He saw two boats and He got into the one owned by Simon. He told Simon to push out to sea, away from the shore just a little, and it was from here that our Lord spoke and taught the crowds that had gathered along the shore that day.

Another. After a brief time of rest, Francis slowly lifted his head from the cold, stone floor and looked intently at the crucifix that hung above him; this time, the cross has sudden depth, and a renewed warmth and purpose. The whole face of the Christ seemed to move and follow along with Francis’ own eyes. And, yes, if truth be told, Francis was afraid. Then a clear voice came to him, “Francis, go now and repair my church, which as you see, is falling down.”

I just returned from a week away. It may not seem like much to many, but to me it was as if I had pushed away from shore and saw Christ again with a renewed sense of purpose and intent. My perspective has changed and I am renewed. No, the time away was not expensive. In fact, thanks to being a little frugal in the planning, eating in from provisions brought, along with a visit to a few friends who cared for me with love and joy, the entire time away cost less than $800. But, what it did for me was allow me to heal, to think, to pray, to rest, to become transfixed again on my Lord.

It never occurred to St. Francis that Christ was calling him to something more than the repair of that small church in San Damiano. In fact, Francis began in earnest by putting together a large collocation of stones to rebuild her crumbling walls. He began at rest, then with San Damiano, and then with a renewed vision and purpose, the whole of God’s Church, which continues through us to this very day. A single vision that came from a brief time of rest allowed for a radical revisioning of the gospel of Christ.

How might you begin with your own time of respite – at the shore, in the mountains, or city center – and return, not to the world as most will, but to God in order to allow your life to have deeper meaning and depth and beauty?

Lord, you promise to make all things new; please begin with me…