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Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 9, 2015

 

“No Prophet is accepted in his own hometown…”

A gentle reminder from Saint Luke today, huh? How true it is. For those of us who are priests, we feel this each and every time we go back home to the places we ventured and wandered in our youth. We are devoid of title and prestige there because everyone knew us when we were rebellious, young, and thoughtless! They see us as if we have never changed, no matter the passage of time. We are, in essence, frozen in time.

Everyone in the village of Assisi knew Francis. He was the rebellious young son of the wealthy merchant. He was the leader of a band of those who wreaked havoc. He was obviously ‘ill’ or ‘possessed’ or would never have done what he did! His own father was grieved by the very sight of him and even cursed Francis. Yes, those who know us best, especially those in our own hometown, often find it difficult to grow with us in our maturity of faith. Redemption is often as foreign as the lands we came from…

I wonder how many true prophets we dismiss out of hand simply because we know them, or think we do? How many do we turn away from because they are different or outspoken or push us to accept the parts of us we do not like to admit we own? How often do we simply call them crackpots because they make us see the world differently, or place a call to action within our souls?

Lent reminds us that we are all called to be prophets and to listen for them from wherever they might come. Lent reminds us that we should not dismiss simply because someone deals with mental illness, is too young, or suffers a handicap. Lent reminds us that God comes and often uses the least likely among us to usher in a change of heart, a change of season, a change of attitude to bring about the Kingdom of God.

I wonder if meditating upon the life of St. Francis today, and the manner in which those around him so easily dismissed his voice, we might be able to better see, and to listen, as he did? Perhaps Francis will give us the courage to pause long enough to hear the still small of voices of God all around us, even in those we dismiss out of hand?



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 2, 2015

 
There are two things that all humans have viscerally in common, as if part of their DNA: prayer and storytelling.
 
Prayer is the messy, unpredictable, living laboratory of the Christian life. It is sort of give-and-take collaboration with our God whose character is always sure, but certainly whose path is rarely predictable! Prayer is never the abstraction of a lecture, but always the experimentation of a workshop. Not safely watching others dance, but the awkwardness of learning to dance yourself. Prayer is involvement with a living God and our place in the dynamics of God’s kingdom. Prayer is always an ongoing conversation with the inter-personal mystery of the Triune God; the One we worship and adore week in and week out. But, remember that the deeper one moves into prayer, the more challenging it can become.
Storytelling has been a part of human societies for ages and many of the stories from our own culture or faith deal specifically with resilience. Think back to some stories from your childhood, or name a few of your favorite movie titles. Chances are really good that at least one of your all-time best movies or books has to do with someone facing adversity and through resilience not only surviving, but thriving. This is the story of our Christian faith. It is even found in the pages our sacred scriptures, which, too, began in oral form, transmitted from human to human, believer to believer, faith to faith. It is our story, too, as individuals, for we thrive when we pray and tell our stories….
 
How will you spread your faith this week? How will you deepen your prayer life? Perhaps, this week, as part of your Lenten discipline, you might consider telling your own story? Why not share a written prayer to someone, or for the world you see around you? Why not write to tell someone about Saint Miriam and the love and friendship and the warm parish she is to you and others around you? Why not write to invite someone to attend with you a Mass or Stations of the Cross this week?

 

Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing, once penned, “And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.”  

This Lent, let us pause once again to act on our faith as we remember how we began this holy season….

 
“Remember that thou art dust and unto dust that shalt return”….


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: February 23, 2015

During these forty-six days (six Sundays, too!) leading up to Easter, we practice abstinence, we repent and discipline our desires, we abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays, as a way to remind ourselves that we are fallible, fragile – broken in so many ways – and in desperate need of the grace of the One we adore. We try pushing away from the table a little hungry, examining our conscience, and making strong and worthy confessions and doing our penance.
 
At the same, we recognize that Lent eventually yields up its deep shadows to the brightness of the Easter sunrise. So we sit, ponder, work, wait, and pray.
 
During this time, we like, Francis may find that our journey brings a seemingly strong increase in temptation. Our temptations are not likely to come from the Devil in the Desert like Jesus in our gospel from The First Sunday of Lent, but rather from basic human urges, emotions, and desires. St. Francis revealed his own struggles and temptations many times in his own journey. It reminds us that saints are not extraordinary people, but rather ordinary people who do extraordinary things through trial, effort, failure, and re-effort.
 
Lent reminds us that we are to repent, but also focus on the good news! If we fail at one, or focus too much on the other, we lose our balance, and surrender our way to that which leads to utter destruction. However, if we stay focused and acknowledge our human frailty and weaknesses, but believe in our strength to overcome them, then we, too, are on our way to sainthood.
 
Let us ask the Father in Heaven to journey with us. Let us make an appointment with our favorite and trusted priest and make a good confession in these coming weeks. It may just yield to happier day, a brighter Easter, and a more radiant life!


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: February 16, 2015

“Let us begin again, for until now we have done nothing.”

These were the ominous, prophetic, and yet somehow encouraging words spoken by St. Francis at the time of his death around 1226 in Assisi. Francis wanted those who followed him to be encouraged to adhere to the rule of life they had worked so hard to build together. He wanted them to remain without a strong ego in order that they might lead a life of service to others. He also recognizing the dangers of what would happen if the order, and their rule, became too institutionalized.

This is what happens in many parishes and even within the greater Church itself. Rules dominate and old visions became ingrained without merit. Many do not know why they follow, they just do so blindly, and when questioned, they become arrogant or defensive. Sometimes even mean. In other words, they lose the Gospel.

Perhaps that is why Francis is such a popular saint, he remained true to the Gospel, true to the vision, true to the rule, and close to Jesus through it all, even at his own peril. Francis lived out the teachings of Christ and so inspired many who follow in his steps thousands of years later. It was more than just charisma; it was about authenticity and simplicity. Francis was the ultimate, incarnate, symbol of letting go of everything that might distract one from finding God.

One of the commonly heard words this coming Ash Wednesday will be, “Remember that thou art dust, and unto dust that shalt return.” But there is another permitted sentence, it states, “Turn away form sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

How will you spend your Lent this year? Will you continue to invest in all that will die and turn to dust, or will you commit to build that which lasts into the life yet to come, and follow the Gospel?
 
Francis’ conversion to a life of prayer did not happen overnight. God had waited on Francis for over 20 years. How long will God wait for you?


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: February 09, 2015

Soon it will be Lent. It almost unimaginable since the holy season of Lent is so much earlier this year. But, as followers of St. Francis, we can rely on his life and inspiration to follow the pattern of the Gospel more closely. It will lead us more deeply into the coming Lenten season and perhaps allow us to let go of the troubles of the world, as we try and find a closer relationship with Christ.

The world is full of trouble, pain, conflict, and war. Just turn on the news today and we may witness a plethora of the world’s troubles and in some very horrific ways. Even our own lives can seem tense and troubled, too, at times. Debts can be high, income low, and relationships strained. Our days run into weeks and the clock often controls them. Few of us find ways to simply stop, get off the proverbial merry-go-round, and find a place of peace and refuge, if only for a few moments to commune and gain strength from God. But, we must, or we shall perish like the wheat that falls to the earth.

It is worth noting that Francis was fully human. He relished his own brokenness and his own humanness. He allowed his life to be a singular focus to God. While Francis lived within a primarily Catholic culture, and most likely could not have imagined our world today: one replete with pluralistic religious belief (and even no belief at all) there were troubles all around him, too. The world was full of poverty and infighting. There were doctrinal disputes within the Church and even the papacy was endangered by claims and counter claims of authority. Too, there were the Crusades, political struggles, and war. Yes, the world was less global and less media-intensive, but it was still very troubled. Yet, still, Francis was able to harness his energy, steer clear of becoming fixated on the troubles, and find rest in the wings of God.

How will you dedicate your Lenten focus to God? Will you promise to attend Mass regularly? Give more of time, talent, and treasure? Will you pray more? Give more of yourself, rather than ‘giving up’ chocolates or some worldly good? How will you focus your life more on that which lasts, rather than that which fades with the passage of time?

“God will cover you with his feathers, and under God’s wings you may trust.” (Psalm 91:4)

Do you really trust God?



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: Februay 02, 2015

Well, it’s official! Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most beloved seasonal prognosticator, saw his shadow this morning portending six more weeks of winter. (Amazing that he could see a shadow with such overcast skies, but nonetheless, the prediction is uncovered.) But perhaps the most important piece of information learned today was that this year, the forecast suggests this winter will be remembered for its duration more than its intensity. We have to wonder…what will we be remembered for in terms of our faith and commitment? Our intensity, our duration, or something less flattering?

One day, while praying before a crucifix in the dilapidated chapel of San Damiano, Francis heard a voice speak to him that said, “Francis, repair my church, which has fallen into disrepair, as you can see.” At first Francis was inclined to take this assignment literally, and he began to physically restore the ruined building. Only later did he understand his real mission in a wider, more spiritual sense. His vocation was to recall the church to the radical simplicity of the gospel, to the spirit of poverty, and to the image of Christ in the poor.

Before long a dozen other young men had joined him in this effort. They became the nucleus of his new order, the Friars Minor. Clare of Assisi would soon follow, slipping through the city walls in the middle of the night to join the waiting brothers. The little community continued to grow and still does to this day, despite the ridicule of a world beset on material things and transitory happiness.

Francis’ life took shape around an utterly new agenda, contrary to the values of his family, his friends, and the world around him. Francis encouraged his followers to welcome ridicule and persecution as a means of conforming to the folly of the cross. He taught that unmerited suffering borne patiently for love of Christ was the path to “perfect joy.”

As we inch now ever closer to the holy season of Lent, where does your perfect true joy come from? What in your life needs reevaluated? Do you help build God’s holy church, or are you simply a bystander?



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: January 26, 2015

St. Francis of Assisi desired to follow Jesus Christ and he wanted to always live according to the Gospel. One of the most profound ways that St. Francis came to know and follow Jesus was through the pages of Sacred Scripture. The writings of St. Francis often quoted scripture and alluded to them with great ease. The words of the Bible were so deeply woven within St. Francis; it was almost as if they became a part of him! He embraced God’s Word and lived by them! (St. Francis even insisted that when the friars saw scraps of paper they should pick them up, just in case the Word of God was written on them!)

The ideals of scripture were expressed through St. Francis’ love of God and his neighbor, especially the poor and marginalized. These ideals are found within Saint Miriam and her willingness to welcome everyone. St. Francis looked at the Bible as a guideline to living life in a way that is morally good in the eyes of God. But he also recognized that knowing and doing were incomplete with the other. Therefore, St. Francis labored for those ideals expressed in the pages of scripture. In other words, he sowed what he read and helped to bring about a better world about through his own poverty, effort, and willingness to love unconditionally, even those the world hated.

As we approach the coming  “month of love”, let us pause to pray as we ask ourselves, do we love deeply enough? If we died today would those people and places that made our lives meaningful and more complete know that we loved them? If someone looked at our lives would they readily see that which we truly loved, or, would we be embarrassed in how we spend our time and money?



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: January 19, 2015

Soon it will be Lent. I know, I know…I am thinking the very same thing as I pen this devotion! Lent? Already?! Yes. Lent begins this year on Wednesday, February 18th with the arrival of Ash Wednesday. And many parishes, including Saint Miriam, will begin to offer the beautiful tradition of a rendition of the Stations of the Cross. A way to deepen our Lenten devotion and enhance the remembrances of Lent in our holy Church.

At Saint Miriam, these devotions happen every Thursday, following the mid-week Mass at 6:00pm. We gather for Mass at 6:00pm and then pray the stations at 6;30pm as a community of faith. This year, we have a brand new way to make this “journey of the stations” even more meaningful! Therefore, by way of having us all turn our attention, even briefly, toward this coming Lenten season, perhaps a reminder of what these stations are will help in today’s devotion and assist us to pray more deeply.

Each Station recalls a moment of when Jesus ‘stopped along the journey toward his death.” The word, ‘station’ means a place of stopping, just as many do with our local SEPTA railway stations! Jesus stops to talk to people, to show compassion, to fall in his exhaustion, to carry his own cross, and to receive help from Simon, and yes, to fall again and yet again. Yes, each of the fourteen stations is a stopping point in the journey of Jesus to Golgotha. It is as if we become living witnesses to Jesus’ journey as we pray these stations together, but we should also be mindful of our own stations, our own places of stopping…

Where are we halted by illness, injury, grief, or hardship? Where have we been stopped in life by our own psychological burdens, our insecurities, or addictions? Where have we been stationed far too long because of our unwillingness to forgive or let go?

Perhaps this week, we can begin to stop and seek the help from the ‘Simons’ in our life? Perhaps we might even ask Jesus to help us carry our burdens, too?



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: January 12, 2015

Our Franciscan spirituality is communal, emphasizing the “we” over the “I.”  We always remind one another that in our parish, and in our work in the world, we must always focus on ‘the other’ – all the others around us. This is not an easy task, but we are called to care for each other in a way that world has forgotten. While each human is a separate and distinct, each grows and flourishes within community. Franciscan spirituality is based on this recognition of the ‘whole community’ and has the calming insight that we can choose our friends, but never our brothers and sisters! In the larger context, Franciscan spirituality and thought is always lived out in a manner that renders all people as ‘chosen’ in the eyes of God, created in God’s image, and thereby replaces class warfare with class cooperation, respect, and love. Franciscans always care for others.

Franciscan spirituality, then, is lesser, humble, and poor. Hence why we are Friars Minor! It acknowledges that all is a gift from the God that we adore, including our talents, our finances, and our unique abilities. Since Franciscans recognize that they truly never own nothing, they wear greatness well and so are  true and faithful stewards of God’s creation.

Franciscan spirituality is also very practical; not fasting beyond what the Church requires, or overeating of what is set before one, preaching without words, and feeding those who are hungry, caring for those hurting, or in grief. Simply being with the others we meet.
 
This week, take a few moments and reflect on the ideals of our shared Franciscan heritage. Seek to find your place in the application, “If we are not lesser than those we care for, than we cannot ever truly be ministers of those in need.” 
 
How will you be of service this week? Will you set aside your own needs to serve others and thereby become richer for the effort?