Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

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?  



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: July 27, 2015

“Humility is fire, poured out, it gives light and shape to things.”

Like sand that is transformed in a furnace to become glass, humility is transformed by love to become a simple transparent bottle that holds the wine of virtues. It receives and it pours out — molten steel of the kingdom of God. I think that is how we should view our journey and our mission here while on earth. It is what has made our ability to build a new parish possible, too!

One of my favorite things that I enjoy about being a Franciscan is our view of God, which intentionally focuses on the Incarnation. To fully understand it, one must approach it, as we should all things, with an inner sense of calm and humility. In today’s world, many people have trouble connecting with God because their focus is on anything BUT God. However, our Franciscan focus, on what it means for God to take on human flesh in the person of Jesus, can help us to live for God in our everyday lives. One can live for God just as Jesus lived with humility, poverty, and love and be rich in so many areas!

This direct focus on the Incarnation was not something that was only expressed by St. Francis; his followers continued to develop and apply this value to their everyday lives as the Order developed and grew into its mission down through the centuries. It is stated that the third “characteristic” of the Incarnation is love, and we have an abundance of love at Saint Miriam!

The Franciscan poet, Jacopone Da Todi, once wrote of how God had to be crazy to leave the wonders of heaven for the crudity of earth; the only explanation for this was His exuberant love for us. And, the great Franciscan theologian, Blessed John Duns Scotus, went even further by proposing that God was originally going to descend to Earth even without coming as a Redeemer because of Adam and Eve’s first sin. In his eyes, the Incarnation could not have been an event that God just made up after the first sin to redeem us, but rather was an idea God had even before the first sin, as an act of great love to show us what it means to be fully human.

The idea of being fully human is what inspires and challenges me. I am broken and yet I serve, too? Yes, I’m called to live the way Jesus had lived, but it is not easy. So, I have learned that for me, that doesn’t mean trying to live in the exact same way, or trying to be sinless or perfect, but instead to try to have the same attitude of a God who became incarnate and lived with humility, poverty, and love.  This means one does not have to be dirt poor, but one can live simply and be grateful for what one has. One should be humble and thankful to God for gifts and talents. One should express that love of God by giving generously to His work and Church and being kind and accepting of all that God has created.

Finally, as is the mission of our parish and friary here at Saint Miriam… that love should be embracing of everyone. So, let us reflect this week on this question: If God can love us so much as to send His only begotten Son to die just so we can share life with Him, then do we not owe it to God to love all and give more than what we have been giving to further the work of the Kingdom?

Humility, poverty, and love: If we do these three things then we feel fully human and fully in touch with the God of the Universe who gave us the capacity of truly love. I can attest personally, there is no happiness greater, and that’s why this is important to me, because it gives me all the guidelines to be fully human.
 
“Humility is fire, poured out, it gives light and shape to things…”

 



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: July 20, 2015

St. Paul instructs us to “pray always.” In prayer we speak to God and listen to what He says in return. That’s what the Venerable John Henry Newman meant by his motto, “Heart speaks to heart.” Within every Franciscan parish and friar, prayer animates daily life, so our very life encourages prayer.

Nestled in a grove of trees in Milton, Delaware, I sit here in the early morning on my first day of vacation. It is needed and welcomed. Finally, I am free. I actually watched the sun peak over the hill today; I cannot tell you the last time I witnessed such majesty. I love what I do, but with the position comes awesome responsibility and immense pressure to care for so many details. And, with the many major projects at hand, that pressure has been even more intense so today, I rest.

This morning, as I rose to my Morning Office, it was as if God was finally calling me to “come and spend an hour with the Lord” in prayer. It was not, at least today, a ‘chore’ or a ‘mandate’ that comes with my priesthood. No, today it was a gentle calling, a pleasure.

Our hillside campground, tree-lined and secluded from the hum of the busy city, draws its spiritual life from the many respite activities and features many quiet places to stop and pray. Today, it helped me to center on God and the blessings I have received. There are many.

Yesterday, as I closed out another busy week at a very busy day at the parish, filled with our Masses and many added meetings as I tried to ‘tie down loose ends’ to make way for my departure this week, I noted how may miserable people came up to me. How many were foo focused on the ‘earthy things that draw them away’ from God. They missed the joy of being in a parish of love, and they certainly missed the joy of being together for worship. Instead, they focused on the problems, the illness, and the issues: leaking roofs, pain in their side, and allergies that won’t cease, and even grumbled about the heat of summer. Yes, they missed the joy that God had given. They missed their gifts!

The Spirit moves all of us to prayer when and where God wills, at all hours of the day and night, in any and all places. Sometimes this means a deep compulsion to visit Our Lord midday, sometimes late at night, and some at the harkening of the daylight. To be sure, God calls us everyday to be with Him in a moment of solitude, so that He can tell us how loved we are…for indeed we are.

How will you allow some quiet time with God today? Do you recognize that your life has meaning and that God loves you beyond all measure?



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: July 13, 2015

There is an ancient principle that I believe still holds true: Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi –  as we worship, so we believe, so we live.

The holy Church has long understood that part of her role as mother and teacher is to watch over worship, for the sake of the faithful and in obedience to the God whom she serves. How we worship, then, not only reveals and guards what we believe but guides us in how we live our Christian faith and fulfill our Christian mission in the world by manifesting the continuing presence of the Risen Jesus Christ. 

The liturgical worship that we gather for week in and week out is not an “add on” for a Catholic Christian. It is the foundation of our Catholic identity; expressing our highest purpose. Worship reveals what we truly believe and how we view ourselves in relationship to God, one another and the world into which we are sent to carry forward the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ.

Our parish is on the verge of building a new church to the highest good: for the glory of our God! Some have asked me if it is worth it. I can barely utter a response! Is it worth it? What does that say about what we believe and why we worship if we are unwilling to build God’s church, literally? How the Church worships is a prophetic witness to the truth of what she professes, but so is our good works and our generous hearts.

Good worship becomes a dynamic means of drawing the entire human community into the fullness of life in Jesus Christ. And our joyful giving shows the world that God comes first.

How might we show our love of God this week? How does our joyful giving attract others? How does a gift to our capital campaign scare us and why? Are we afraid to give generously to God in all ways?

We must remember that there is reciprocity between worship and life; between giving and receiving in abundance.
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: July 6, 2015

They say that one of the most significant and formative experiences in the life of a parish Community is the process of building or renovating a church. Saint Miriam is in such a process and it is very exciting!

However, as part of that process, all parish members are called upon to study the Church’s teaching and liturgical theology and to reflect upon their personal pieties, their individual tastes, and the parish history. By bringing together these personal and ecclesiastical elements in faith and in charity, parishioners help to build a new structure and to renew their parish community.

You see, we must begin with the simple belief that God created the universe so that all might have a part in the divine life and be joined in communion with God. Thus did God called forth light from darkness, beauty from chaos, and life from the formless void (see: Gn 1:1-23). When all was in readiness, God fashioned Adam and Eve in the divine image and breathed life into them in order to gather all men and women into the great and eternal hymn of praise, which is the Church. This is why Christians, from the earliest centuries, could believe that “the world was created for the sake of the Church”, but most importantly, could visually see that they are living stones that build each church, each parish, each diocese!

I will, in my Blog post later this week, expand this thought, but for now let us pause and reflect on this simple, but powerful ideal of our life together: We are living stones to be used to build a new parish.

How might we exercise this belief and life? How might we be called – at this particular time – to sacrifice in order to give to this project and thus enable to be accomplished what many in the world never do: the building of a brand new parish for God to be worshiped and adored?

Every church building is a gathering place for the assembly, a resting place, a place of encounter with God, as well as a point of departure on the Church’s unfinished journey toward the reign of God Christ, taking on human flesh, reveals the Father.  Are you prayerfully willing and ready to step up and help God build such a place?

If so, Click Here and let us do what St. Francis was told, “Go, rebuild my church!”



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 29, 2015

So, my journey has begun! I moved from 1,376 square feet to less than 360 square feet! Why? To give the equity from my home to the capital campaign to build a new house of God at Saint Miriam!

I have lived and worked hard with my family to build a home together. We bought the condominium in Philadelphia some six years ago and we did a lot of work to make it beautiful. It was ours and we loved and enjoyed it very much! We were – and are – very proud of the home we created. So, when the time came to raise money to build the new parish and friary, the decision that came was unexpected and frightening, we decided to sell the home and give it all to the church.

The process, admittedly, has been ripe with fear, tears, and anxiety, but this past weekend it was all but done. The furniture went to auction last week, the home was slowly emptied and cleaned, our storage closet was reduced by a large volume, and we DE-cluttered and simplified once again to make it all fit into our new ‘tiny home. I actually sit in my ‘new dining room area’ of 5’ x 5’ as I write this reflection to you today! However, the saving grace found throughout this process has been three-fold, (1) We are not pack rats so we did not have all that much to throw, or give away, (2) Our friends and family have been there to give us constant guidance and support, (3) God has blessed us with an inner spirit of comfort; ‘all is well’, we hear over and over again.

The cord I wear as a Franciscan bears three knots, symbolizing the three religious vows of Poverty, Charity, and Obedience. Our order uses the traditional Conventual Habit, in brown fabric, to distinguish itself from other orders. I have found that in order to live a simple Franciscan life, we often have to “de-clutter” both what we are thinking about, as well as how we live in our houses. Simplicity is just enough furniture and no excess. Simplicity is living below your means. Simplicity is having an abundance in friends, love, and hope – not material possessions. Simplicity is giving to God first, and knowing that you will get so much more…back. Simplicity is recognizing that true wealth is so much more! Simplicity is a radical model of living, like 800+ years ago, when friars simply didn’t have much. They became satisfied with so little.

Being a Franciscan is in part about living frugally, but it really means something else. It means that we have reduced the distractions around us to allow a deeper reflection of God and on our inner person.

What is you disposition about prayer and about having that special, familial, relationship with the Lord? Can you live a life totally dedicated to Christ, without pretense, or the clutter that so often comes with this life, in total abandonment to Him – He who has given us so much?

St. Francis once said, “if God can work through me, he can work through anyone.”

I am living proof.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 22, 2015

Today, says the calendar, begins the first official week of summer! I could not help but wonder if it a mere coincidence that storms wove together the readings from yesterday and then trumpeted their way through our area late into the night, too! Perhaps it was God reminding us that He is still here, still relevant, still needed…

In every season, stormy weather can overcome our Christian optimism and cast a very wet blanket on the best of summer intentions. The sweltering heat, the oppressive humidity, the tragic news of Charleston, and so much more can take the proverbial wind from our sails. But today we rise to a new reading that reminds us that we are God’s chosen people. We are faithful to Him and He is faithful to us. We are blessed!

The Apostle Matthew also comes and reminds us, however, that we need to stop judging and take care of our own lives and issues. Perhaps we should hit the pause button as summer is now is officially upon us and create intentional quiet places for God to be with us in our journey? Perhaps we should also dedicate Sundays to God and worship again and remember to honor those important to us. Let summer be a time of families and joy and great adventures, but let us not leave God until the autumn winds come again.

This summer is one about deepening my faith. So, I’m placing myself — summer storms and humidity and all that comes — in the boat with Jesus. My summer prayer is simple:

“Dear God, be good to me – the sea is so wide and my boat is so small.”
 
How about you?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 15, 2015

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

If you ever read the Book of Job you might walk away with the though, “Ya, right, Job, are you crazy!? How can you trust a God who did all of that with you, and all against the backdrop of a bet with the Devil!?”

But perhaps our focus is wrong. After all, these are probably the greatest words of faith ever uttered. These words were spoken by Job during his time of trials. With everything stripped away – his land, wife, children, wealth, and even his own health – and with all of his friends turning into condemning critics, in his heart of grief, Job declares his complete trust in God, even if it should take him to his grave.

You see, everyone trusts God while things are going well! It’s easy to walk with God down a smooth path, but true faith emerges when it is tried. Job is not alone in the testing of his faith. Hezekiah was a faithful king and was known for upholding the word of the Lord and walking in obedience. Yet the Bible makes this interesting statement about Hezekiah, “God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that he might know everything in his heart.”

Perhaps, then, true faith isn’t truly known until it has been tried and proven; when we feel God is distant, until we grow in our strength and faith. The greatest promises of God are given after we have been proven faithful. Solid ad true faith places our lives in God’s hands – regardless of the circumstances and regardless of the outcome. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” is a declaration of faith, believing that even in tragedy God has a purpose and works to our good.

Yesterday, our parish set forth on a great journey of faith. We are legion – side-by-side – believing on the promises of God. But if you should doubt, hear this:  We chose the date to launch our campaign to build based on our calendar of events and did not look ahead at the Scriptures appointed for the day found within our Lectionary. When we did, here is what we found:

From Ezekiel:

I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain…

I, the LORD,
bring low the high tree,
lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree,
and make the withered tree bloom.

From our Psalm:

They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
They shall bear fruit even in old age;
vigorous and sturdy shall they be,

From Mark’s Gospel:

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.

Yes, we know not how we did it, but by faith alone we grew, and by faith alone we shall grow a brand new church, too!

How will you turn your doubt this week into faith? How will you help God build a new church?



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 8, 2015

Yesterday, in the life of our wonderful parish, we celebrated with our young adults, as they made their Confirmation. Our bishop always reminds us at Baptisms and Confirmations that he takes them seriously; not from some rote understanding of ‘the law’, but rather out of our inherent obligation to uphold and to love and to teach. It is why he jokingly tells the sponsors and godparents that he will ‘hunt them down’ if they fail at their job to care for the teaching of these children! It is all of our responsibility to raise better Christians and to rear stronger and more loving Catholics in the world today.

You see, he knows, as we all should, that we cannot live or share our faith until we know what we believe. Those of us who were “born into the Catholic faith,” that is, baptized into the Catholic Church because our parents arranged it, when we were just a baby, probably had a pretty sound background in the tenets of the faith. In our younger years we may have attended CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) and learned the lessons of the Catholic faith designed for elementary and/or high school students. But if you are getting older, like myself, it is pretty hard to recall what I was taught so long ago!

That is why these moments, found in the rhythm of parish life, are so important; not just to those receiving the Sacrament, but also to those of us who are called to witness and support them in their journey. You see…we can use these precious moments to re-energize our own spirituality, deepen our own understanding of our faith, and encourage others to join us in our walk by spreading the joy we have gained together in community.

This week, be open to people who ask you to help, at least see what you can do. Be open to those moments of learning that may come. Dive deeply into one aspect of your faith in meditation, prayer, and study to allow yourself to be a better Christian!

Finally, do not neglect prayer! Pray about it, pray for the individuals who asked for assistance, or for the needs known to you. Pray for the world, too. It is up to us to make the world, and our lives, and those around us, a little bit better.

GO, and build My Church! (as Jesus told St. Francis to do!). As Franciscans, that is our job, too!

Now go!



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 1, 2015

The short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, is written by author Ursula K. Le Guin and portrays the city, Omelas  – a joyous place that contained numerous happy people to the point where it was too hard to believe a place as wonderful and cheerful existed. Guin then explained that the joy of the city relies on the entrapment of a child and in order for a place such as Omelas to exist, the child must remain trapped.

This story makes us all ask the hard questions: “Is a city of happiness and joy worth a child being utterly miserable and full of sadness”? How can something such as a wonderful city be built on such a horrible foundation?”

Now, we might just say that everyone should just walk away from Omelas, but some may argue that walking away doesn’t help the situation, including the child. Some may stay that people should stay and enjoy the wonderful city and make constructive changes from within to help the child, but what if one then discovers there is no remedy?

Many would assert that they could not enjoy or live with themselves knowing that all their happiness is because some innocent child is being trapped against his/her will. Would one not be completely disturbed, after visiting the child and witnessing the cry for help?

Perhaps the problem with the premise of the story and the resulting perplexing problem is this: we all live within communities that depend on the sacrifice of the one, or the few, to help the many. Our churches, our communities of care, our places of philanthropy all rely on someone sacrificing to give to those without. The main issue is that we often never see ‘the child trapped’ and so we go about our daily lives with nary a pause or concern. We fail to see how we are actually part of the problem and the solution.

Perhaps the reason why those who leave Omelas seem so sure of where they are going – although to some including the author – they are walking “into the darkness”, they themselves believe they are walking away from the darkness, which is represented as the city of Omelas. However, our duty is not to walk away, our duty is to stay in the darkness and bring the small light that will fail the darkness and bring joy to all!

Perhaps this week we might all sit and ponder as we ask ourselves: how many times do I just walk away? How many times do I give up on a community? How many times do I take the easy route and simply leave rather than make substantive and meaningful change to bring light to a world in need of the good, the honest, and the holy? In other words, how many times do we all fail each other and in being a true Christian?

St. Francis once said, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

You see, sometimes to bring about true change requires us to sacrifice a bit of ourselves and simply stay in the water…