app_image_Franciscan

Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: December 14, 2015

 

Next Sunday, our parish will gather after the Morning Mass and ‘green’ – or decorate – for the Christmas Season! It is a wonderful time to be sure! We will place beautiful lights, inside and out, and enjoy evergreen trees and bright red poinsettia plants and so much more. We will then place our Nativity Scene and leave only the Christ Child out of the display until Christmas Eve Mass.

This is always of our most treasured Christmas traditions – the displaying the Nativity Crèche – during the holy season. It is a joyful remembrance of the events surrounding and leading up to the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is one of the reasons we love to hear the Gospel of Luke declare the story of His birth!

In fact, in every country where Christmas is celebrated, there are unique and wonderful representations of the Nativity. Perhaps the most famous is in Italy where the “Presepio” is cherished by the entire country. In their representation, figures of the townspeople are included in the Christmas scene as a sign of their devotion and love for the Christ Child. And, yes, it was St. Francis of Assisi helped popularize the devotion to the Christmas Crib in an Italian town called Greccio, the year was 1223.

St. Francis was returning from Rome where his Rule for his Brotherhood had been approved by Pope Honorius III. At midnight, the Mass was celebrated commemorating the birth of our Savior and St. Francis preached with words tender and loving. The people in attendance were spellbound by his words and the warm tears of humility that ran down his cheeks. According to Brother Celano, St. Francis’ biographer, Francis “sighed deeply, and seemed to be brimming over with wonderful joy.”  Then, Francis picked up the Christ Child figurine and the Infant appeared to come to life! St. Francis and caressed his cheeks and through his words and the power of his love, Francis had seemingly brought to life the Child God so that all present could share in the gift of His love.

The place became known as the “Miracle at Greccio” and it was consecrated and later became a church. Above the actual cave (or grotto) an altar was placed in honor of St. Francis. Today Greccio is still a popular pilgrimage and during the Christmas season it is a scene of great devotion.

St. Francis popularized the tradition of the Christmas Manger, or Nativity Scene.  It is a great testimony to a saint whose heart burned with love, hope and renewed faith at the great gift of love which is Christ. I wonder if this year we might reflect more deeply upon how we might impact the lives of others this season of joy? Perhaps, in keeping with the season, we might begin with ourselves and actually look to define an interior nativity where we dare pause to consider the Christmas gift which will enrich every aspect of our lives on a very deep and profound level?

Find a quiet place in the house. Relax in the presence of the Lord by giving to Jesus any worrisome thoughts of the past or the future. Then behold the greatest gift ever given…then, share it with someone you meet!
 
Blessed coming Nativity!
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: December 07, 2015

 

When Francis designed a simple tunic with a hood and wrapped a rope around his waist, he was alone. He did not live within a religious community when he embraced poverty and the Gospel of Christ. He was all alone. The community came later. The Holy Rule of the Order came later. Instead, Francis wrote the rule to reflect the manner of life he lived in solitude as a secular man, but one that honored God first. This was the only garment that he kept as his own. Francis never possessed a closet full of clothing that he never wore. He never matched a handbag with a top, or a suit to his shoes. The only garments he had were what he needed for his daily life and work. One tunic; that’s all he had. Ever.

This Advent season is one that falls at a time during the year when we are the most frantic: from holiday parties to shopping to children’s activities and events to buying that one perfect gift. We have greeting cards to get out and dinners to plan and food to buy. But what of God? A God who deigned to come to earth that we might have the greatest gift of all: eternal life.

When the first men and women asked to be admitted to the Order, Francis gave them the Rule of Penance. These men and women have stood out through the centuries by their lives of poverty and their generosity toward their families and those of the poorest among us. They have stood out for their simplicity in entertainment, dress, living conditions, and habits. The many Franciscans brothers and sisters who became saints were committed to poverty as Christ taught it in the Gospel. Their fidelity to this commitment, led them down the road to peace, joy, and a much deeper relationship with God, just as it did for St. Francis.

While we may not embrace poverty, do our spending choices this time of year produce that very same effect unintentionally in our pocket books, and does that poverty then show up in our relationship with God and his Church?

How might we eliminate one such distraction and turn that into something that ushers in a living Christ by giving to a world in need, rather than buying one more gift that may produce momentary joy, but not lasting peace?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 30, 2015

 

We are once again in the season of Advent – the time of waiting for Christ to come. What does this waiting mean? What are we waiting for?  As a society in contemporary America, we do not wait well! However, patience and gratification need not be opposite ends of a spectrum; but yes, we must learn to wait, to sit, to dwell, to be quiet, to hear the voice of God.

There is only one place in Scripture where God is said to speak in a “still small voice,” and it was to Elijah after his dramatic victory over the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings (18:20-19:2). God instructed him to stand on the mountain in His presence. Then the Lord sent a mighty wind which broke the rocks in pieces; then He sent an earthquake and a fire, but His voice was in none of them. After all that, the Lord spoke to Elijah in the still small voice, or “gentle whisper.”

The point of God speaking in the still small voice was to show Elijah – and us here today – that the work of God need not always be accompanied by dramatic revelation or manifestations. Divine silence does not necessarily mean divine inactivity.

Advent is such a time; God waiting for us to empty ourselves of all that hinders God’s dwelling in us. God needs a place to call home in this world. God needs a heart open to love without any demands or expectations. 

How will you use this holy time of Advent to empty yourself enough to make room for the eternal manifestation of a loving God? Will you allow God to work in and through you?

Will you use this time to its fullest and honor God more deeply?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 23, 2015

 

Being a Franciscan is more than being kind to animals, wearing a strange medieval brown habit, and being poor, but sadly that is what most people think of when they hear the name St. Francis. As friars, we continue this emphasis on work and social justice, and are known to engage in any number of careers. While other religious orders have a charism to a particular ministry, say, education or missionary work, the friars have never had this, instead, we use the gifts that God has given us to spread the Gospel and to care for the poor, whatever those gifts may be and hsoever they may be used to help make the world a little more friendly to those especially on the margins.

For many friars, that means being a parish priest and helping to guide the faithful, but not all of our work is sacramental. That means for some friars work in the world doing any number of things like being an artist, going into farming, caring for the sick, cooking, cleaning, teaching, campus ministry, hospital chaplains, spiritual direction, or even writing; yes, there are many ways to live and spread the Gospel! We are also called to beg and ask the world to support the work of the greater Church in the world. We are living reminders of a life of being good stewards and honoring God.

So, in many ways, we are just like the rest of the world in that we work to make a ‘ends meet’, but unlike the rest of the world, we work not to amass wealth, but because it is our vocation. The majority of the money that we make is shared with other friars, our parish, and the poor. It is a calling and so it goes beyond what the world says is wise. It is a sacrificial relationship between us and God, lived within the holy Church.

How will you live the gospel this coming holy season of Advent? Will you change your life or will this coming season be like any other, one that finds you the same coming out as you went in…tied to the world and where your life has little impact on those who need you?

Why not commit to making a life change, promising to engage at your parish and in the world with a deeper commitment to God…do so now as we prepare for Christmas, the celebration of God’s great act of humility?

 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 16, 2015

 

At Saint Miriam, we try to avoid what is often called ‘birdbath Franciscanism’. You know, the sweet, sappy stuff of a man leaving his wealthy family and abandoning not only his fancy clothes and status, but the world, too, to live in a harmless brown habit and make friends with the animals in some idyllic countryside setting. It is a story line that draws many into read more, but alas, one that is often untrue and lacks the substance of what it it is to be a true follower of the saint we know as Francis.

St. Francis is often idealized and made into an almost cartoonish character made ripe for hippies and those who seek a carefree life away from a complex world. But the vignette that has become Francis is far from what is it is live out his ideals; it is unreal at its deepest self. It is not easy to be what Francis was, nor is it easy to follow him today…truly follow him.

Francis lived in two worlds: he looked always toward heaven, but his feet were firmly planted on the earth where his work was needed. He was grounded where the Church did what it did, but he knew there was something more and so he reached always toward God with a thirst that few could contain. He lived out the gospel life; one that was hard and dusty and often unsure of its destination in this life, but was solid in where it would lead in the next. One that changed the world, but was not the stuff of fairy tales or for the weak hearted or those who wished to simply play with Franciscanism. Francis knew that the even Church needed to change and return to a path closer to the true road of gospel of his Christ.

Christian Wiman once said that “Faith itself sometimes needs to be stripped of its social and historical encrustations and returned to its first, churchless incarnation in the human heart.”  This is what Francis strived for: the core values of a gospel-centered life, an honest experience of the life of Jesus lived out in the world in a way that would change it for the better. He knew what we all must learn: one must die every day into your own life in order to truly find a way to live. You must love your life enough to lose it, and then, after having found the reality of joyfully losing it, one finds the heart of the gospel life…one that changes the world and recognizes that all of life is one continuous movement that begins and ends with the creator.

As we approach the holy season of Advent, how might you change what needs changed in order to learn how to truly begin to live? Can you die to self to live more fully?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 9, 2015

 

The Thanksgiving Holiday is almost upon us! Yes, it seems to have come again so quickly! Last Friday, during our First Friday Mass, I asked the children about the holiday and what it meant to them and almost by majority voice, they all stated it was about family and turkey! Well, it is that, of course, but it is also about something more…something greater.

Thanksgiving is a great lasting American festival that is universal and meaningful, and all folks, even those who do not consider themselves to be particularly religious, pause to enjoy it. Together, for one day, as a nation and a people of God, we can feel proud to be Americans and that throughout our history, we built a day around gratitude

Yes, sadly like most things lately, the holiday has been commercialized with non-stop football games and the beginning of the great shopping frenzy for the Christmas holidays! And yet, even all those things somehow bring us together in ways unique to each of our families. It is a day when families, and extended families and friends, gather and pause to verbalize their gratitude for God’s blessings in their life as they share a delicious home cooked meal, watch football, or the parades, and savor the simple pleasures of life. 

It is also a day when many prepare meals for the poor or homeless in their community (like we will the Tuesday before as we gather to share a meal with the children and families – and those invited who would otherwise now have a dinner – all under our parish roof).

Overall, it seems that deep down we may just have retained the deepest meaning of this day better than most other holidays: giving thanks to a wondrous God with recognition of the internal peace and joy that life brings and how important – how truly important – family and friends are to us.  It is not about things; it is about something greater.

I invite you to move more deeply this year into the coming season. I invite to begin today to list the things that truly important to you, the things that bring lasting joy and real meaning to your life.

How will you show those around you the true meaning of the coming season?
 
How will you show God your gratitude?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 2, 2015

Today is All Souls Day, or what we formally know as The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. Today, our holy Church has encouraged prayer for the dead from the earliest times as an act of Christian charity. “If we had no care for the dead,” St. Augustine once said, “we would not be in the habit of praying for them.” It is an act of corporal mercy.

But today should be more than just our time to pray for the dead, it should be a time for us to pray for that which is dead in us. How do we honor God in our weekly or daily lives? Do we allow God to come, sit, and act in us, and through us? Or, are we dead to Him and alive to the secular world and all that is fleeting and temporary?

We should recognize that God wants to share in our lives, he is constantly beckoning us to enter into communion with Him. Our loving God is not just here for those few Sundays we honor Him by actually showing up to Mass. God is present to us for every day, for every time, for every season all throughout our lives…. If we only seek God

If we pause long enough to ask Him to come and be part of our lives, and in the lives of our family and those around us, God comes and will be present. Our lives will become better! Even when our lives are busy, there are short periods of time where we have ‘time to make time’, to bring God closer to us and ask God to enter our lives in a brand new way.
 
Today is such a day… invite God in, pray for the dead, heal the living, and watch as your life changes, too. 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 26, 2015

 

We are old, yet very young. We have an over 2000+ year history of faithfulness, a rich tradition of beautiful liturgy and deeply moving prayer, and oh ya, we have Jesus! The problem for me is not what we’ve got, the problem is that we don’t take what we got seriously enough to spread the word more. In fact, if we approached our work life or business endeavors with such casualness, as we do with our parish life, we would be out of business in a mere few months! Thank God there are a few who see the world differently, who dedicate themselves to the work of building, who are ‘all in’ even when the world thinks they have lost their minds!

Yesterday I wore my habit as we gathered together with the Secular Franciscan Group at the parish after the Morning Mass. We prayed, and talked, shared, and honored the legacy of Francis. We traded St. Francis quotes (oh, come on, you know it’s better than playing cards!) We spoke of our Franciscan ethos and ideals at Saint Miriam. We remembered how God is good and how – we reflected – as we committed more to God, God has given us so much more back; more than we could ever have dreamed. We ended our gathering on a beautiful Sunday afternoon speaking of how to bring this to others – this joy that surpasses the values of the world. This joy that surpasses all understanding.

One of my favorite of these quotes shared is, “Pure holy simplicity confounds all the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of the flesh.” Yes, it will do that…confuse a world that sees such as folly, rather than wisdom. But, it has always been so…

Each time I dress in my habit, I am reminded of the cross I am to bear. The fabric, cut in the shape of the cross, is designed to do just that…allow us, as Friars, to die to the world so that we might help it actually live. But yesterday, at 6 o’clock in the morning, when I was making my way across the cemetery to the parish, it was those sandals that made me realize why I love being a Franciscan! It was damp, wet, and cool. As I prayed, I remembered, I was moved…

There is a unique aesthetic to what we wear as Franciscans, it is very true. I get looks and stopped all the time when I am wearing my habit. But there is much more. Every time I don my sandals, too, I am reminded to be humble, they are the footwear of the commoner, not the rich, the royal, or the powerful. I am reminded that I a vulnerable in so many ways; the elements, the heat, cold, weather, rain, dampness, and the trodding of other human beings, too. They help me to remember what the poor feel like and how we must all do more to help those less fortunate. And, I guess finally, my sandals remind me that they are light, simple, and gentle. They are not heavy combat boots for war, extreme footwear for ice climbing, or even fancy, urban statement shoes for a good show! They walk gently on God’s planet, sharing the environment with all of creation, and never once take advantage of any of it. 

I pray we will take our 2,000+ year legacy and bring it to where God would have us go. I pray we are ready, willing, and able to do, to gather, to give, to pray, and to be more than the world thinks wise…
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 19, 2015

Gautama Buddha once said it best, “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

What are you grateful for today? Do you stop ever long enough to ponder this question, or do you do what most folks do and run right into another day before even thinking about how wonderful yesterday was? If you are feeling the strain, even a bit of exhaustion from it all, take a deep breath, pause and know that you are not alone. Then, take a few minutes to see the goodness, the grace, the blessings in your life. What are you thankful for? What gives you joy right now? Who brings life to your life?

Yesterday at our beautiful parish we were filled to capacity at two of our four Masses! We honored our youth with the annual 2015 Youth Mass at 9:00am Family Mass, and then welcomed six new Christians at the 11:00am Morning Mass (Yes, I said six!). We also prayed for, and assisted others, in their own discernment with Vocations Sunday to God’s holy Church! It was a spectacular day! New folks were visiting, regular members were attending, many were checking out the new parish campus, buying pumpkins on our annual pumpkin farm to support our Zion Preschool at Saint Miriam (the best place on earth to learn, by the way!), and many enjoyed some seasonal homemade goodness in the Saint Miriam Café!

And yet, I overheard one person say, “I cannot believe how cold it is already, I hate the cold weather!” And still another, “That Mass was too long, why do we have to watch people get baptized!” And, another, “I like a quick ‘McMass’, just like fast food! I really don’t have time to stay here today…too much going on!” And yet, these very same people are some who call upon me and tell me how sad, or broken, or in need, or unhappy they are…

Yesterday, I was the Celebrant at the 7:30am Early Mass. I awoke at 5:00am, readied myself, drove over 309 through Montgomeryville, and arrived on our new campus about 6:25am. As I rounded the curve on 309 to enter the thruway proper, I gazed upward and caught a glimpse of the sun rising in the Eastern sky! It was simply spectacular. I pulled over and wept for a moment as I thought of my father and how much I missed him, but mostly of his love for me, I thought of God and all that I have to joyful for, I remembered all of you in my heartfelt prayer, and then I gave thanks and asked God to bless all of us with a wonderful day

Yesterday, it was a wonderful day… God is indeed good. Should we not all pause and be thankful, and before we ask God for another single thing…think of that which we already have been so generously given by our Creator and feel the deep joy already in our life?

…’so, let us all be thankful.’
 


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?