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Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 12, 2015

 

I see a hunger in today’s world, a hunger for something more than life readily gives. I see a thirst, a thirst for the values of Francis of Assisi, as the world seems to run of its proverbial rails. People everywhere are seeking something more and some are responding to the clarity found within St. Francis’s message; to his courage as a peacemaker, to his depth of compassion for all people, and all of creation, and to his special concern for the poor, the forgotten, and marginalized. These are all expressions of his profound love for Christ and Christ’s love for us. This is what the world needs today: the good, the honest, the holy, the worker.

Next Sunday is Vocations Sunday and we seek those willing to make a life change, to actually find that something they are seeking and that which the world desperately needs. Are you willing to stop long enough to hear God’s voice?  Are you called to something more? During this important time of journeying, we stand ready to help guide in the path of discernment. One must realize that you can never be too open, too understanding, or too loving. If we’re to embrace this time of renewal in our Church, we must also renew our own lives and our focus.

St. Francis of Assisi tried to live his life as a joyful penitent, always aware of God’s love for him, even as a sinner. As many of us are firmly aware, Francis’s greeting was usually “Pax et Bonum” (peace and all good), a greeting that was filled with great joy and love of neighbor.

I believe the world is hungry for the Franciscan message of a Gospel-centered compassion and love. Now is the time for us as Franciscans – and those called to work in the vineyard – to make a real difference. Now is the time for to consider a vocation and ask the question: Is God calling you to be something more? Are you called to a vocation? Are you called to be a Franciscan Friar?
 
We seek not the perfect, we seek not the sinless, we seek the real person – broken and searching and willing to be something more. Is it you that we seek? Is it you that God’s seeks?
 

The Psalmist remind us, “My flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Is it you? Are you filled with that depth of love, and are you willing to seek something more?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 5, 2015

 
Sheep are interesting creatures. Born without horns, claws, strength, speed, or really any way of defending themselves, the only thing sheep have is each other: when frightened, they clump together as a giant flock protecting each other through a strength-in-numbers technique. Their instinct to look to one another for safety is the very thing that keeps them safe; unfortunately, and quite ironically, it’s also their greatest danger. Sheep are natural followers, having no instinct whatsoever to lead. When clumped together, any movement from the heard is interpreted as a sign of leadership and the rest blindly follow along. It’s no wonder, then, how sheep have been known as entire flocks to walk right off a cliff. They often act without thinking, are often lost or confused, and go with the crowd because they’re afraid to be different.
You wouldn’t happen to know of any other animals like this, would you?
 
Have you ever intended to do one thing and ended up doing another; got distracted with what you were doing, went with the crowd, and ended up somewhere you never wanted to be; have you ever been tempted to do things that were not good for yourself or others, led astray by something or someone that didn’t care about you? We can be just like the sheep sometimes, as we wander through life looking for help in all the wrong places.
 
We are a people in need of a Good Shepherd, someone to guide us and protect us. We need vocations. We need religious.
Where do we find Jesus? In our brothers and sisters. In communities of faith. Jesus may be the Good Shepherd, but we are His hands and feet. From Him, through us, and to the whole world Jesus loves His sheep. It is through you and me, the humble and lowly, the lost and confused, the unworthy and the broken; through us Jesus brings strength, guidance, and love to the whole world. Because of this, we prove that God’s light shines brightest through our cracks.
 
We are in need of good shepherds, people to do Christ’s work here on earth. Are you willing to open yourself up to the possibility that God might be calling you to a vocation and life of service? See your priest today. Meet a Friar. It may just change your life.
 
And the world…
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 28, 2015

 

Pope Francis made his way through jubilant crowds on his recent trip – his first ever – to the United Stated! And, lucky us, his last stop was the symbolic birthplace of our nation, Philadelphia, where he challenged the country as a whole to renew the promise of its past, and then joined a gala nighttime celebration of the family.

Shouts of “Viva, Papa!” attended the Pontiff everywhere he went and he boldly spent a considerable amount of time not just waving to crowds and interacting with the faithful, but challenging us all to be better Christians. He attended to the poor, the lame, the child, and the sinner. He came to show the world that it is not in power, but meekness where true life is found.

The pope arrived to our deeply Catholic area of the country with a message of hope and renewal, but also of change. He sought to energize the faithful and reengage those who have fallen away from the church. He stated, “We know that the future of the church in a rapidly changing society will call, and even now calls, for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity.” Then he concluded with, “One of the great challenges facing the church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the church’s mission.”

Like St. Francis, the Pope is one whom both Catholics and non-Catholics have united in honoring. It is because Francis lived out his faith boldly, even at his own sacrifice and comfort. Where and how do we live out faith responsibly?

I have witnessed a lot of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts from many who call themselves Catholics. I have seen many who call our parish home do the same. I have witnessed many become elated with the arrival of someone who lives out his faith with a passion that attracts. But will it change anything for us? Will we be better for it?

So let us ask ourselves today after the Pope made his way back to Rome…Will we actually attend Mass more, teach our children better, and allow the church to help the world by our giving of our time, our talent, and our treasure? Or, will the visit of this Pontiff fade as our willingness to carry and support the banner of Christianity does, too?

Will we be able to maintain this strength to make any meaningful change?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 21, 2015

Pope Francis will arrive in our area this week. We have been praying for him for over a year now and we wish him well in his travels. This pontiff has been a breath of fresh air, tackling issues ranging from poverty to immigration to clericalism to homosexuality, gay marriage, divorce, abortion, contraception, and many other issues in a church that has often been seen as unyielding on such issues of inclusion.

Many, myself admittedly included, are quick to note that in his remarkably brief time as pontiff, Pope Francis has not changed any theology or doctrine: this has thus far been a papacy of style over substance. And yet, he is liked deeply.

I think that the love of this man, dubbed recently as ‘the people’s pope’ is not the actual change, but the hope that change can come. At the heart of what Pope Francis is teaching, I believe, is that the core of being a follower of Christ isn’t contained in the long list of Canon law or the rules of the Catholic Catechism, it is contained in our hearts; it isn’t expressed in dogma, nor creeds, it is expressed in what we say, in what we do, and how we treat one another. Therefore, we need to treat one another with tenderness, empathy, compassion, care, and love – like family.  And that starts when we actually see each other as true brothers and sisters, all united in love, and not divided by denomination or creed.

So, then, is our communal, united job, not just those in leadership within the global church. We can love, we can accept, we can be brothers and sisters, we can encourage, we can walk together, we can welcome, we can laugh, and we can learn to follow the gospel of the One we follow…together.  We can be kind with one another and forgiving of one another; we can be merciful and gracious. I guess, we can be Christian.

In the end, I guess, true and meaningful change must come from hearts of inclusion, not from a book or a theology rooted in exclusion. How might we all act to love one another better this week?

Blessed journey, Pope Francis. A hope springs anew for life within the church.
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 14, 2015

 

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

This is the famous prayer now attributed to St. Francis. While we are not sure it is actually his, we pray it often with his spirit close to our minds ad hearts. Few prayers are more popular around the world and better loved than the “Peace Prayer of St. Francis.”

Brother Schroeder shared that in her book, The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective, author and Franciscan sister, Ilia Delio, OSF, wrote to following:

“Francis went about the world following the footprints of Christ, not so he could look like Christ, but because they were the footprints of divine humility. He discovered that God descends in love to meet us where we are and he found God in the most unexpected forms: the disfigured flesh of a leper, the complaints of a brother, the radiance of the sun, in short, the cloister of the universe.”

Peace was a concept near to the heart of St. Francis of Assisi. “Pax et bonum”. Put a verb alongside “peace,” and many people come up with “peace-making.” Yet I wonder what would happen if we understood that none of us can make peace, but rather at the instant of God’s creation, peace was made. Instead of making peace, perhaps we are asked, as Christians, to enter into “peace-keeping.”

As we enter this coming and fast-approaching autumn, as we begin to settle back into the normalcy of life’s rhythm with work and school and church, as we begin to slow down and remain at home more and find our balance again from the winding down of a busy summertime, how might we be instruments of peace and light? How might we join our God – in gratefulness for all we have – as co-creators of peace? How might we further the Kingdom by our work and giving through his holy Church?
 
Are we truly focusing on the things that last?
 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 7, 2015

Each Labor Day marks the end of summer for many of us, but rightly it should be much more than a last grasp at a final beach journey, or family picnic, before returning to a regular work or school routine. We must remember those who truly labor. After all, Christ Himself took up the tools of a carpenter, working with human hands for most of His life on earth. I am reminded at this time of my grandfather, who emigrated from Sicily at the age of 16, and my parents, too, who worked tirelessly to provide for my sister and me. They all worked long hours; they were determined people. They sent money back to Italy to help relatives in need. Their work made a difference to people thousands of miles away. They molded my sister and me into fine and reflective people. My sister works now to teach and help young people whom others often reject with special needs, and I serve God as a priest. It all began with the labor of others.

Over the past few weeks I have labored hard at our new parish, getting it ready for our occupancy and stewardship that began this past week, I was often very messy! I could be found sweeping the sidewalks, pruning hedges, painting walls, cleaning windows and floors, or simply laboring to haul lots of old materials to the large dumpster we employed to make room for all of our storage. I was in an old t-shirt, covered with paint stains and dirt and a similar pair of shorts; I even ruined a new pair of athletic shoes in the process! What I noticed most was how people treated me: they barely noted my existence. Once day, a man told me to ‘move out of his way’ and to then ‘hold the door for him’. On another occasion a worker we hired to help move us into the new space instructed me to ‘stay at the top of the stairs and tell him where everything will be going. He further lamented, “I don’t have the time to be bothered chasing you down, as it wastes our time.” I did as I was told and perched myself at the top of the stairs in the narthex and directed every box. About an hour later, someone came in from the electrical contractor and called out to me, “Good afternoon Monsignor!” I replied with a ‘hello’ in return and then the mover looked at me and said, “Oh Father, I am sorry, I didn’t realize it was you!”

What difference did it make who I was? A priest, a carpenter, an electrician, a mover, or a day laborer…did I not deserve the same respect?

Our Church teaching rightly remind us of the value of work: among other things, work enhances our human dignity, it is needed in order to form and maintain a family, and it contributes to the common good of our local, national and global communities. We would all do well to pause and remember the worker – the employed, the unemployed, the searching, the immigrant, the alien among us – all deserve our love and respect. All deserve the hope my ancestors had when they came to this nation.

This Labor Day, let us reflect on the value of work – and the worker – and on how we recognize and respect the dignity of all workers, including those who have immigrated to our local area. Undoubtedly we can all do more.

Undoubtedly the gospel message is at stake.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 24, 2015

Yesterday we heard the famous scripture from the Book of Joshua, ” …Choose today whom you will serve, … As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15) and I spoke to how when growing up in our neighborhood a woman had this emblazoned across her doorpost, but yet inside her home, it was incongruent with this scripture. On the lintel of her door was holy scripture, inside her home was chaos, threats of violence spanking of her children with wooden spoons and paddles, and constant emotional upheaval and unrest. The result: her son, my friend, became an addict.

In this scripture, Joshua is addressing all of Israel. Joshua has decided its time to “get down to brass tacks” as they say. The time had come for Israel, who had gone a bit astray from God, busy worshiping idols, to get back to a solid center, focused on their God. They had gone off the path; a path set before them by God Himself. It seems they needed a little reminder of all the things God had done for them.

I think we all need that reminder from time to time. Here we are about to move into a new parish campus, replete with wooded acreage, an historic cemetery, and a fully operational preschool, yet alone the parish building itself,  some 200+ years old, on two levels and made of beautiful hand-hewn stone and donations have all but dried up. Like the Israelites, many are too busy worshiping idols: summer breaks, shore homes and cabins in the mountains, last grasps at vacations away, and shopping, movies, and dinners out, leaving the work of the church to others…we allow others to sacrifice, to labor, to plan, to give all the while we simply rest and play. We worship idols. They worship God.

Life and faith are about choices. We need to make the hard choices, and make those hard choices in line with the faith we hold. You can no longer afford to say that you did not know.

If you are a Catholic, then you need to learn your faith, and stand on the truths that the church holds. It’s as simple as that.

Who will you choose today? How will your children grow? Will they love God, or vacations more? How will others see your choice? Will your life be as incongruent as the women from my youth with the wrongly worded lintel post, or will your faith shine and your work and life be rewarded? What is your legacy?

Choose today whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 17, 2015

It is true that often what we wear on the outside, we believe on the inside. Just take a moment and walk into a Phillies games with a Yankee T-shirt and you will see what I mean! As human beings, we do not show one thing on our outside, and do another on the inside. No, we are more than dualists; we are whole creations of a loving God. So our clothing, our attitude, our lifestyle, and where we place our beliefs and support, all say something about what we are at our core.

As a Franciscan Friar, I wear a habit, but I did not always do so. I waited until I was given the authority to do so and that came from my Order when they saw on the outside that I was ready on the inside! The early monk’s habit, and Francis’ as well, were distinct garbs symbolizing a religious commitment recognized by our holy Church. It was meant to be what it is: a very simple and poor garment, cut from the shape of a cross, and was recognized as a sign of solidarity with the poor. It is not simply the garb of the poor, nor is it a liturgical type vestment for Church functions. It is the ordinary clothing of an ordinary person consecrated to a life of solidarity with Jesus.

In the formative years, so long ago now, monastic communities and yes, even the leper also wore such clothing. I am proud to wear it, because I am proud to live my life in union with Francis and all my brother friars who give of their lives to help the world become a better place. Our goal is to wear them in a way that builds up, and encourages the people of God, and avoids self-righteousness or pride on the wearer’s part.

When worn in this way, the habit becomes a silent witness to a particular way of life in response to the call of Christ. It reminds the wearer, and those who see it, of a call from God beyond the normal parish way of following Christ in the Church and the world.

How do your ‘habits’ show the world you are a follower of Christ?



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 10, 2015

I received an email last evening from a parishioner who wrote a check to help support our building fund at Saint Miriam in order that we might be able to safely move in just a few weeks. She commented how she had been reluctant to do so because of their dire financial situation at home. But, in the end, as she sat there at Mass on Sunday and witnessed the sacrifices of others, she decided to write a check and pray it all worked out.

She writes, “This afternoon, I got a call from a relative, she has the money that she has owed me since October (and I did not remind her about it).  She is coming through with a check.  I am shocked and grateful.  And it is true, anything you give from your basic needs (and not your surplus) will be returned to you, and then some.”

St. Francis was said, “If we can enter the church day and night and implore God to hear our prayers, how careful we should be to hear and grant the petitions of our neighbors in need.”

Why do we find it so hard to truly trust God? Why do we hold on with such a tight grip to that which is so fleeting? Why do we not support the work of the Kingdom and enjoy true happiness, one that only comes from doing such good on behalf of the One who has given us so much…so freely?



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 3, 2015

St. Francis of Assisi lived with open hands. For Francis, open hands symbolized openness to the divine presence in his life and openness to others. Now, to be clear, Francis lived in difficult times and he even struggled personally with his own demons and past hurts, greed, and hypocrisy. Too, he dwelled in a land that was in the midst of a war-torn world. In the end, Francis’ life conversion resulted from living intentionally with open-hands. He was open to what he felt God was initiating through him and he gave of his life generously to all whom he encountered in his journey. It was not always easy, but look at the good he did in the world… 

I have found in my life that giving is all about choice. It is something internal and visceral that happens every time we are met with a decision to give to someone, or to offer support to an organization that does good in the world. It happens every time we meet the beggar on the street, or the struggling mother in line at a grocery store without enough money to check out; do we turn away briefly to assuage our guilt, as we pretend not to notice her removing items to lower her total…or do we offer what she is lacking?

Open hands are the opposite of closed fists: holding on tenaciously to what we have whether it be money, gifts, ideas, time, understanding, happiness, joy, etc. Greed is the same thing as closed fists. Greed results from our insecurity and a scarcity mentality: ‘if I share with others, I will not have enough for myself.’ That attitude brings us farther away from what we are trying to seek: happiness and joy and security. No matter how much we amass, we will never be happy.

In Scripture, Jesus talks about greed. “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”  Share what you have, Jesus says. Even though Jesus’ words remind of us of the expression, “You can’t take it with you”, Jesus is saying much more than that for true happiness and real contentment are only found through generosity of heart and hand. 

Happiness is not just found in the next life, but is found here, too, if we make wise choices. Happiness is found in the midst of generosity and open-handedness rather than through greed and closed fists.

Where in my life am I greedy?