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Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: May 18, 2015

You may consider the building in which we worship on Sundays to be the only sacred space available to you. Perhaps we need to broaden that thinking just a bit. American author and mythologist, Joseph Campbell defined it simply enough as, “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.”

When many read that wonderful and deeply moving line, they often think of home. Home should be a sacred space; a place where you can “find yourself again and again.” Homes are places surrounded by the art and artifacts of a lifetime — your lifetime. There are pictures of family, children, grandchildren, friends, and captured memories, the many wonderful places visited, and gifts given and received by those we love, some of whom are gone now, but kept alive by our precious moments of remembering.

While the whole house may resonate with the power of self, there’s a very special corner in a special room that can be used just for you and God. Used in meditation or reflection, this corner can feature elements that draw one inward: a beautiful statue of the Blessed Mother, Our Lord, simple scented candles, a rosary, prayer book, beautiful green houseplants, images of nature, or cosy cushions on the floor where one can sit comfortably and just be.

In The Power of Myth, Campbell makes a very strong case for having such a sacred space in your life:

“This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

How might you extend the gifts we receive every week, gathered in prayer and song, at the Eucharist at Saint Miriam, and bring it home? How might you begin to reflect longer on God than the bills in the drawer? Is it possible that by increasing our reflection on that which lasts eternally, we might find our lives temporally to be guided and happier?

St. Francis once said, “True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.” Let us move together to create holy places and silent spaces in our lives this week and remember to focus on all that lasts.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: May 11, 2015

So what are the Franciscans and how do we live out our Franciscan Spirituality at the parish level?

First, we must remember that Franciscans are a group of people living by vows of simplicity, purity, and fidelity, in communion with our Bishops to further God’s kingdom on earth through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. They are bound together by a common way of life patterned after St. Francis of Assisi and the Desert Fathers. Their life is founded on the Gospel and rests on the three great pillars of ancient Christian Monasticism: Prayer, Work, and Study.

Following in the footsteps of Christ Jesus, in the charisma of St. Francis of Assisi, we embrace the “lepers” of our day. In doing so, we minister to Christ as He presents Himself to us in the marginalized, discriminated against, outcast, forgotten, rejected, and devalued; men, women, children and the elderly, of every race and creed, national origin and orientation, all are our brothers and sisters, and all are in need of love and inclusion.

As a parish, we move ahead together as Franciscans, those professed and those secular – and all in between – as we look forward to celebrating the ‘Liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ’ and as we minister to the lost, lonely, and forgotten. The spirituality of solidarity that grounds the Christian faith and guides the Franciscan tradition guides us here, too!
 
Franciscan spirituality is intentionally not a well defined, or highly structured spirituality, as many that were constructed beginning with the Catholic Reformation of the 16th century.  St. Francis’ spirituality was a rather spontaneous response to God’s grace and personal revelation. It was a lived process until the very end of his life.
 
How will you allow St. Francis to bring about the rebuilding of a new Church that honors everyone, just like our Christ? How will you live out your faith with spontaneity and joy this week?

 



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: May 4, 2015

Yesterday, at the parish of Saint Miriam, we honored our Blessed Mother with her May Crowing and grand procession where the children (and a lot of adults!) joyfully followed her in parade with such joy as we sang her hymns and pinned money upon her flowing blue and white streamers! (You can thank our pastor for that one, stemming from his early days at an Italian-Catholic parish!) Now, we turn to our own mothers this coming week to honor them. It seems that ‘moms’ is the standard of the day for thought and refection!

In the Sanctuary of our beautiful parish, hangs an original oil painting, a gift to us by one of our dearest benefactors who died in 2012, Raymond Leight, Jr. The work of art is entitled, “Oy Vey!” (based on Luke 2:41) and features Mary standing outside the temple looking for Jesus. She was worried for days as she and her husband, Joseph, searched for their son, Jesus. In Ray’s depiction, she finds Him, preaching in the temple courts, and turns toward the crowd as she raises her hand and explains, “Oy Vey!” (A Yiddish phrase expressing dismay or exasperation.) Yes, in typical Jewish mother fashion!

Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, probably was just a typical mother to her family, and it is likely that Jesus continued to honor her in one way or another. We have adopted Jesus’ Mother as our own, and we love her also. And don’t forget Dad. It is sort of hard to love our Mother on Mother’s Day without acknowledging that oftentimes there was a Dad, too, who had a lot to do with the beginning of our life! It is fortunate that many families are “together” and that there is unity within the relationship. But, we must also acknowledge that there are many who can’t remember one of their family members, either Mom, Dad, or an offspring, because they weren’t  there, and that some are broken in their relationships still to this day. There are so many tragic stories of single-parent families. People trying to juggle two jobs and small kids to make a living. And some who have emotional problems with their relationships as children with their parents. But perhaps, turning to our Blessed Mother in Heaven, can allow us to rekindle the love that may be missing in our human brokenness to gain the fullness of the warmth of a mom that is desperately needed.

Mothers play a big role in our lives, and we must thank them for that, as we honor Mother’s Day this year. So don’t make mom prepare a meal today, rather take her out to someplace very special! Make the beds so she doesn’t have to do them, or clean the kitchen (or that oven!). Buy her some flowers; bring some cheer into the house, or go and hand pick them like you did when you were a child! And if she is, indeed, no longer with you, pray for others who need their mothers and do not have one. Try to remember some of the good advice she gave the world and share it with others. Then, say, thank you, Jesus, for my mom and for sharing Your mom with me!

On this coming Mother’s Day, let us all stop and pray to our Blessed Mother, and also pause to say, thank you dear Mother of God, for the hundreds or thousands of times you interceded for us with Jesus or with God our Father. May we call upon you again, especially when we are in great need?

Thank you, God, for the gift of mothers.

 



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 27, 2015

The month of May is traditionally dedicated to Mary in many cultures. May is considered the season of the beginning of new life!

Already in Greek culture, May was dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of fecundity. In Roman culture, May was dedicated to Flora, the goddess of bloom, of blossoms. The Romans celebrated ludi florales (literally: floral games) at the end of April, asking the intercession of Flora for all that blooms. This is also related to the medieval practice of expelling winter. May 1st was considered the beginning of growth. And, of course, devotion to the Holy Virgin Mary has always been a special characteristic of the sons and daughters of Saint Francis, like within our parish.

In fact, the entire Franciscan Order has been placed under the protection of Mary Immaculate! Our Little Sisters regard the Blessed Virgin as their mother and model and pray to her every day. Each week at Saint Miriam we meditate upon the mysteries of the lives of Jesus and Mary in the praying of the Rosary and at least once monthly we pray the Franciscan Crown, which is a rosary meditating on the Seven Joys of Mary!

There are also special devotions to Our Lady during the months of May and October like the upcoming celebration of the May Crowning of Our Blessed Mother with a Grand Procession this coming Sunday, May 3rd at the 10:30am Morning Mass! During the actual upcoming ceremony, we have a grand procession that EVERYONE takes part in, especially our children! During the beautiful procession decades of the rosary, interspersed with songs, are prayed and sung and streamers flow from our Blessed Mother as we process around the garden with her aloft a grand and decorated cart!

Yes, the crown may last only a day or two, but it will be beautiful and the memories will last a lifetime! The children will all have crowned Mary, and it will have been a joyful time for them and all of us as we honor our Mother in heaven. So how will you honor Mary this month? 

We leave you with St. Francis’ Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Hail, holy Lady, most holy Queen, Mary, Mother of God, ever Virgin; Chosen by the most holy Father in heaven, consecrated by Him, with His most holy beloved Son and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. On you descended and in you still remains all the fullness of grace and ever good.

Hail His Palace.
Hail His Tabernacle.
Hail His Robe.
Hail His Handmaid.
Hail His Mother.

And hail, all holy Virtues, who, by the grace and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are poured into the hearts of the faithful, so that, faithless no longer, they may be made faithful servants of God through you.  Amen.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 20, 2015

St. Francis committed himself to the special ministry of “healing wounds, to uniting what was falling apart, and bringing home those who have lost their way.” At the core of Francis’ spirituality was the belief, “My God loves me.” And so he reduced his prayer to this simple version: “My God and my all.”  There is simplicity in his outlook, but it marries all of creation!

This past week, as a Franciscan parish, we saw what moving ‘first with our open hearts’ does to a community. We witnessed new life in the ordination of a priest, fellowship around a table of food that brought together a community, secular Franciscans sitting at the feet of their bishop and learning, and two brand new Christians being brought into the kingdom of God! We welcomed hundreds of visitors and guests to our home and to God’s Table! All of this because we love, first! Sadly, as you will read later in our pastor’s blog this week, you will also see what division can do to the fabric of a community, too. You see; it is all founded on intention.

Our intention at Saint Miriam is a radical inclusive love. One that is hospitable even to the stranger. We know that not even one’s own life is too precious to give for the sake of another who is in need. Self-giving and self-realization go together. Our faith requires self-discipline and self-giving compassion toward all creatures, if we are to honor the divine presence dwelling within created reality that “God may be all in all,” (1 Cor 15: 28)

Millard Fuller’s words ring true: “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.”
 
What will you do this week to further the love and inclusion of our Franciscan parish? How will you honor God this week in your radical love? How will you impact the least among us and show the world how open your heart is?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 13, 2015

Yesterday was Divine Mercy Sunday and the world seemed to focus on “Doubting Thomas”, but we chose to reflect also on what the promise of Easter is and how we, as a Church of the One we follow, might act in concert with our God of mercy? St. Francis once said that, “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.” And the famous prayer attributed to him begins with the words, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
 
St. Francis was only echoing the passionate desire of Jesus his Lord, “Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God.” But what if we took this dream seriously? What if we actually acted as children of God? What if we made it our central focus of our life together within our parishes, and out in the world where we dwell the balance of every week? What if we sought inspiration from the great peacemakers like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Mandela, and others, rather than CNN and a recollection of the day’s violence and atrocities? What if we went beyond just the way of nonviolence, but actually committed ourselves to a way of healing and reconciliation to all around us? What if we learned to not only ‘put up with’ but to actually forgive?
 
Perhaps, deep down, we all have the capacity to develop some simple, ordinary ways of carrying a spirit of unity, peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation into all our relationships we tend to in our daily lives? As we continue in this Eastertide, let us pause long enough to sense the world’s longing for nonviolence, healing, and forgiveness, and let us become agents for all that is good and holy in our time? If so, we will become more aware of the power of our words, the depth of our action – or inaction – and the ability of our every movement to bring about blessings rather than curses, healing rather than hurt, forgiveness rather than the continuation of a grudge.
 
For it is always within the core of each human being – the dignity of the human person – where the sacred center of God resides.
 
With St. Francis of Assisi, it is true that “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 6, 2015

 

The Easter rush is done! Whether a religious or layperson, the preparation, the labor, the beautiful Masses and services of Easter, and the dinners are now done. Finally, perhaps, we can all take a breath on this Monday in the Octave of Easter and just sit quietly and reflect on what the days have meant to us, deeply.

If you don’t practice time alone and in quietude, having a time of stillness each day can be a wonderful experience. It can happen just by ‘unplugging’ for a few hours. Why not try and put down your ‘smart’ devices, turn off the television, allow that computer to enter into sleep mode, and find a corner to sit with yourself?

Rise early, if your day is so busy that you just can’t find the time to be alone and to have some needed stillness and silence; or stay after work, when all your coworkers depart and simply use the time alone to relish the quietness of your office space! Or, if you are a night owl, why not use the late nights, when everyone’s asleep, to find that peaceful place…just for you? Whenever you find the time, place, and space, begin in prayer, reduce mental clutter, and quiet your mind. Try not to fill it with random images and information or problem solve your day; just ‘be’ and let God come.

Our Franciscan spirituality is wise and peaceful. It espouses a wisdom that is knowledge wrapped with intuitive love bathed by divine illumination. And is why we advocate an active peace, which is always emanating outward – from your inner self – to transform a frequently violent world with peace and reconciliation. This always begins in a place of prayer and quiet.

In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… and enriching ourselves with the foundation found in a quiet time with our God. It allows hope to blossom in the wilderness of life.

Today…be still and know our Lord is Risen!



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 30, 2015

As we approach the coming Easter day, but must first dwell in the journey of Holy Week, shall we love like Francis did? Unconditionally, enthusiastically, with utter abandon toward all those lives around us? Shall we commit to love more deeply and honor that which is most important and life changing?

Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ’s redemptive grace and by living holy lives. The Word became flesh and redeemed us – even with our imperfections – by His holy life and holy death. This week, especially, let us accept redemption by loving more deeply, living more gratefully, honoring more faithfully, spending time more prayerfully, by being more generous, and just living more thoughtful and holy lives. Let us resolve to make this week more deeply holy by reading and meditating upon God’s Scripture and by gathering for the Masses of Holy Week.

Let us recoil before the atrocities of war, gang crime, domestic violence, and catastrophic illness. Let us sing, “Lord, have mercy,” and “Hosanna” and mean it! Let us break bread together, with our family, our friends, our church communities, and actually enjoy it and not be hurried.

This week, let us relive the holy and redemptive mystery and let us do it in memory of Jesus by acknowledging His real Presence upon our altars and within our lives.

St Francis once said, “Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”  Can we overcome our intrinsic need to be selfish by becoming selfless this week?

Shall we love more deeply this week?

Let us resolve to make this week holy by living truly holy lives.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 23, 2015

Cross 1024 x 768In many Franciscan parishes and monasteries, as well as here at the Saint Miriam, you can see the great Franciscan icon, the Cross of San Damiano. The original version of this crucifix is preserved in Assisi, Italy. Many know the story of how St. Francis heard God speaking to him from this cross, “Go, and rebuild my house.”

The cross itself is a story — the story of the Passion of Jesus, as told in the Gospel of John. Symbols, colors, and especially painted figures around the crucified Jesus help to tell us that story. As an icon, it is a glorified symbol of Jesus’ dying and rising. It is a reminder that the Cross of Christ is indeed the way to glory.

But it’s also true that the cross in Jesus’ time was an instrument of torture and execution. The death of Jesus was one of the most painful ways a person could die. Such a death also makes the cross a reminder of the sufferings and obstacles of human life which are present on the way to glory.

Soon, we come together and walk the way. We will join Jesus in the journey to the cross. Together we will commemorate the holiest days of the Christian year: Holy Week. From the earliest days of Christianity the passion, death, and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ have been observed as the greatest and most solemn feast of the year. In these last two weeks, the readings and prayers of our liturgy focus us on the Passion of Our Lord. The word “passion”, in the Christian sense, does not mean an intense emotion; rather it refers to the historical events of Jesus’ suffering and death. We remember that Christ became, for our sake, obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.

This year, as a reminder of our Franciscan ethos, we will use the Cross of San Damiano at the Chapel of Reservation that will include a period for devotion and adoration the night of Holy Thursday after the altar is stripped, and the parish is laid bare, and our Lord is entombed.

Yes, together, we walk the Way of the Cross, and lift high the cross on the coming Good Friday.

May we be bold enough not only to attend, but to discover, in our own personal walk here with Jesus, the way to glory and true life.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 16, 2015

The Sight of burning votive candles is common in most Catholic Churches. The lighting of candles has been observed since the early the time of the early martyrs. At Saint Miriam, we, too, have a beautiful ‘Burning Bush” Votive Candle Stand where many light candles of hope, prayer, need, but also thanksgiving. The practice of lighting candles in order to obtain some favor probably has its origins in the custom of burning lights at the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs. The lights burned as a sign of solidarity with Christians still on earth. Because the lights continually burned as a silent vigil, they became known as vigil lights.

Vigil Lights (from the Latin vigilia, which means “waiting” or “watching”) are traditionally accompanied by prayers of attention or waiting. Another common type of candle offering is the votive light. Such an offering is indicative of seeking some favor from the Lord or the saint before which the votive is placed. Lighting a candle is a simply and powerful way of extending one’s prayer and showing solidarity with the person on whose behalf the prayer is offered.

We are always watching for signs and grasping at all kinds of indica­tors to help us decide what to do, what to buy, how to re­spond, or how to get rich quick. Our faces are buried in tablet, television, smart phone, and video screens of all shapes and sizes, looking for that sign that could mean wealth, suc­cess, or some form of victory.

These final days Lent challenge us to look up from our our screens and to pay attention to the signs of God all around us: the community of faith that gathers in our parish weekly without fail, the folks who have decided to put God first in their giving, and in their lives; the unconditional love of our closest family and friends, the unwarranted and unexpected kindness that comes from a stranger, or the goodness we are able to extend to others when we pay more attention to ‘them’, as we place ‘ourselves’ aside….next to that video screen…to heal and to mend.

Go to Mass this week, or stop by your parish at an unexpected hour and take a moment to light a candle and then pause and remember (and truly live) the words of Our Christ: “I am the Light of the World.” In burning one small candle, our prayers rise up to Heaven day and night. Our prayers join the saint’s intercessions because of their friendship with God in Heaven.

In the simple act of lighting a candle, we not only pray, but our prayers become smaller symbols of the One Light of Christ and we receive a sign of faith, hope, and charity for us, and more importantly, for the world for which we pray…

Saints are powerful intercessors. So are we.