Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 15, 2018

This Wednesday evening, at 6:30pm, we will gather together for our first Sacred Meal Dinner of the fall season! A small group of us will break bread and sit together, pray together, and remember that first meal that Jesus had where he instituted what we now call the Mass. By doing something so seemingly small, we will pray for the world and humble ourselves as Christian Catholics.
Ironically, this event happens to fall on the day we also remember Saint Ignatius of Antioch. Saint Ignatius may not be well known, but he converted to Christianity after being born in Syria and eventually became bishop of Antioch. Emperor Trajan visited Antioch and forced the Christians there to choose between death and apostasy. Ignatius would not deny Christ and thus was condemned to be put to death in Rome.

Ignatius is most known for the seven letters he wrote on his long journey from Antioch to Rome, where he would meet his own death bravely met the lions in the Circus Maximus. Five of his letters were to churches in Asia Minor wherein he urged the Christians there to remain faithful to God and to obey their superiors. His sixth letter was to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was also later martyred for the faith. And his final letter begs the Christians in Rome not to try to stop his martyrdom. He stated, “The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the libation of my blood to God. I am the wheat of the Lord; may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ.”

Ignatius’ main concern was for the greater Church, not himself. Even greater was his willingness to suffer martyrdom rather than deny Jesus as his Christ. Ignatius did not draw attention to his own suffering, but to the love of God which strengthened him.

St Francis once said, “Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these, they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve.”

Ignatius knew this to be true, even as he journeyed to his own certain death.

How might we die ‘small deaths’ daily so that the church and God’s work might be better accomplished? Is there something we can give up that will make another’s life better? Can we die to the world in some small way, giving up something we might find to be insignificant, but to another might bring life itself?


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 1, 2018


Ite ad Evangelium Domini annuntiandum” that is, ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord’!

The essence of our directive as practicing Catholic Christians is summed up here in these rather simple words with a deeper meaning. In other words, ‘Be like Jesus, do like Jesus.’ From our entry into the parish walls with the touching of the holy water to our foreheads, to our exiting following the words of the deacon, we are what we say and what we believe, but more so, we are the liturgy that we love. Well, at least that we used to love.

Things were different not so long ago. When I was a child, I loved the majesty of the Catholic Mass. I couldn’t get enough! I would go every day if they let me. I loved the feel, the smells, the bells, the majestic word play, the meaning, and the artistry of that which we so often – as Catholics – now take for granted. Bishop Robert Barron said it best with,“Catholic life is about joy, it’s about the attitude, it’s about how to become happy, and happiness comes from self-giving.” That, for me, is the Mass.

That is why beginning this Advent, we will gather for four sessions and try and allow ourselves to become a people in love with the Mass again! I pray you will join me as we become transformed by our encounter with the Christ we love so much. Perhaps we will finally allow Heaven to fall upon us on a weekly basis as we gather for the experience that will one day bring us to eternal life.

The word is used during the conclusion of the celebration, when the priest or deacon says in Latin is ‘Ite, missa est’. The literal translation of this phrase is, “Go, it has been sent.”  In these humble words, there’s less of that business about enduring wretched misery in our world in anticipation of reward in the next every time the priest, in the place of Christ, sends forth his parishioners into the world so that they may be beacons of light, set on a hill for all to see.

St. Francis once said, “Let the entire man be seized with fear; let the whole world tremble; let heaven exult when Christ, the Son of the Living God, is on the altar in the hands of the priest. O admirable height and stupendous condescension! O humble sublimity! O sublime humility! that the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that for our salvation He hides Himself under a morsel of bread.”
Will you join me and become a beacon of light, too, as we witness the Miracle found within each morsel of mere bread changed just for us? 

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 24, 2018


To our modern minds, sitting in a chapel staring at a large host of bread between glass may seem almost absurd. Adoration does not seem particularly useful to our business of life and endless task lists. Cloistered monks seem to be doing nothing useful and this to us seems far more akin to that, than doing anything useful. After all, we have thingsto do; far more important things to do than to sit with God. But that is exactly what we do when we come to Adoration. We sit and ponder and receive the love of God. In Adoration, we put aside doing and replace it for a brief time with attentiveness. We attend to the Lord.

In our modern world, the concepts that serve us well in Adoration, and more deeply in our relationship with God, seem foreign and difficult. However, it is these very strengths that will lead us to everlasting life.

So, what does one do during Adoration?We first begin in that which we need most: silence. We come in humble silence and wait on God to speak to us from within our very spirit. Secondly, Adoration requires attentiveness. We remain vigilant to hear God come and warm us and delight our thoughts. And thirdly, Adoration needs receptivity. We love God and God loves us. In our silent attentiveness during Adoration, we receive God in ways unexplainable, and unimaginable to our smart devices.

When I visited Sedona this past July, Katelyn and I went for a jeep tour in the desert. It was 104 degrees, but the ‘real feel’ temperature was 120 degrees. Our tour guide impressed upon us the need to drink water before we feel the need for it. In other words, she instructed us that once you knew you needed water, you were so dehydrated you could be close to death. In a similar vein, Fr. Leon Pereira, reminds us of English poet and author, J.R.R Tolkien, who once said he did not return to fidelity to the Lord by being chased by Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven, but through his endless hunger for the Blessed Sacrament, as one starving for love. We are all starving for love, we just don’t know it, and by waiting until we know we need God, we may be already dead.

St. John Mary Vianney referred to a parishioner who said that during Adoration, “I look at Him. And He looks at me.” In the end, Adoration is nothing more than two people in love with each other – a creature and the creation’s God. The deeper our hunger, the more God gives us.

St. Francis of Assisi believed that Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. 

Adoration is the heart of our parish here at Saint Miriam, as He must be in every parish. And, yes, Adoration may seem useless, but we desperately need it. Come to Adoration this week, and, as Father Pereira says so well, ‘let Heaven fall upon you’ and bring you peace and strength.
Will you adore your Christ this week? How might God come to you if you never seem to find the time to go to God?

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 17, 2018


Recently we had a visit from a priest in the church from another part of the country. He had never been to Saint Miriam, but left with a wonderful feeling. Later, upon his return to his home diocese, it was reported back to me that he spoke about me, as pastor, with profound respect, and he had much praise for my vision, but loved the people of the parish. In the end, he viewed Saint Miriam as one of the leading Old Catholic parishes in the country. I was humbled.

I’ve thought a lot about his words, and what he witnessed firsthand. Oftentimes, even I take this place for granted. Truth-be-told, we all do in some respects. We have such a vibrant and growing parish, a wonderful and dedicated school, and we care for the dead with our stewardship of an historic cemetery. We even have a pet memorial garden, because – after all – we are Franciscans! And, all of this, has been done with dedication and sacrifice to make sure we grow, care, and outreach beyond our doors, and we do it all without ever once forsaking our mission of a ‘radical welcome’, and by keeping our children and parishioners safe, too.

I think at that is at the heart of our heart: we love beyond what the world thinks is wise, and we welcome because we know what it is like to feel rejected, and we do it all with a joy that is rarely found in churches today! This place of love has been built on the love of Jesus and that is worth celebrating, remembering, and caring for.

St. Francis once said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.”  We sure live up to that vision, and perhaps, that is the feeling Father left with after his visit. May it always be so.

How will you care for a place that brings joy to a world often dark? How will you spread the joy found here in your daily loves to others? Do you use the foundation of unconditional love and welcome at your parish, to welcome unconditionally all those you meet in your daily walk? Do you recognize how blessed we are…together?

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 10, 2018


Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. For those of us who suffer from depression, and especially those of us who have actually planned our own ending, we need the world to know that mental health awareness is needed now more than ever, as we are now witnessing some of the highest numbers of depression, suicide, and other mental health issues. I actually wrote on the issues surrounding pastors and suicide this past week with the tragic loss of Andrew Stoecklein of Inland Hills Church in Chino, California. (You can read it here, if you missed it.)  And, while it may vary from person to person, any serious shift in one’s mood, actions, or thoughts, warrants talking about; we should all ask and not assume when it comes to our friends and family. Mood swings, sleep disturbances, suicidal thoughts or speech, are all signs that someone may be experiencing a difficult time and harboring these thoughts in their mind. Many of us also experience anxiety or panic attacks.

So, what do we do with such an uncomfortable topic? Act! Stop and think for a moment about how our actions or inactions might cause the death of someone we love or know. How will you feel if you were too uncomfortable to ask a simple question and wake up tomorrow to find that person gone? The first thing to do I simple: listen with an open mind to what they have to say and show them you are there to care, not judge. Once you have established a comfortable space for communication to take place, help them seek professional help. Go with them, hold their hand, show them you care. Your simple actions can actually save a real life.  Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among those 15–29 years old. Each day a person dies every 40 seconds by suicide, and up to 25 times as many again make a suicide attempt, and over 800,000 people every year are gone by their own hand.

There is still so much taboo around this topic. That false taboo leads to death. It is time to stop it. We still read that a person has ‘committed suicide’, suggesting suicide is either a sin or a crime; it is neither and we need to see these acts and overtures as a person who needs support and not condemnation.

This past week, even after knowing how much I struggle with depression – and how much they helped me at one of the worst times in my life to want to live again – a community that I cared about abandoned me for no reason. A place where I sought fitness, friendship, and community simply unfriended me, unfollowed me, moved on, and left me alone for no reason other than I moved to another gym. They decided my friendship was not worth their time anymore, even though I had done nothing and tried to remain in concert with our friendship built on over three years of showing up almost every day and becoming a better person. It hurt; it is painful. I wept for a time, but now I realize that they missed the fundamental truth of all truths: God will never ask you to abandon one covenant for another. In doing so, thorough their ‘social-meaness’ they caused me to think again about the value of my life. What if I were more fragile again? 

Luckily, I have someone who loved me through my pain. Who listened to me and allowed me to move on inside myself where often the pain sits – unnoticed to others – but with no end in sight. That person, saves me because of her willingness to ask, listen, and love unconditionally and without judgement. How about you?

St. Francis once said that “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”  Are you a candle in someone’s darkness?

On our parish website, we have a list of outreaches to help support anyone in crisis. We pray that our small acts of caring help others, like me, to want to live again in a world that God so lovingly gave to us to enjoy.

How have you helped another? How many times have you noticed someone in pain and did nothing out of your own fear or uncomfortableness? How have your actions caused someone to question their value? What will you do today to change and become a better human being? Will you shed light in a world so dark to some?

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 27, 2018


Whatever the reason was that brought me to join the Franciscans, I am grateful to discover that I think God led me here. I recall my first visit with an old steel worker in the hospital intensive care unit in Leigh Valley following an acute and severe heart attack. All of a sudden, while talking about his illness and what it meant to him and his livelihood, we somehow managed to divert into a discussion about the loss of his wife who died several years earlier of cancer, an estranged son whom he deeply missed, and all the feelings of guilt he held onto so deep beneath his leather-faced, hard exterior. Then, without almost any warning, this older man, a virtual stranger, started weeping and held tightly to my hand.

Thinking back, I couldn’t imagine this guy feeling secure and comfortable enough to cry in front of another man, except here I am as a simple priest in a simple brown habit. That was an important moment for me in my ministry. There was such a power in that room that I really needed to honor and use it in a good way; I knew it wasn’t me, it was the One who called me. I don’t think I will ever forget how God used me that day to do so much that the world will never know, except one hard-nosed man who needed me that day beyond anything else.

I truly believe that my vocation came about by the grace of God, but I became a Friar because I resonated so deeply with the founder, St. Francis, and the friars I visited that first time in Washington, DC were always down to earth, and they seemed to enjoy life. Yes, God came, I listened, and one day when I was broken and ready enough, I finally said, ‘yes.”

I wonder what the world would be like if more of us listened and responded, even when fearful about changing directions? I wonder what it would be like if more of us said, ’yes’ to the Lord who needs us to help, grow, mend, and create in a world so filled with hate and doubt and loss? I wonder, is God calling you and have you not heard Him or simply rejected that call out of fear?

 Maybe today is the day when your life might just change, and in doing so, you might just change another who is in need of the one who bears your name?


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 20, 2018


As I prepared for Mass early this past Sunday morning, I wondered to myself, “Would anyone really show up?” Oh, I know, we are not the church that harmed children, at least not this time. I am sure we have in the past, and I even more sure that somewhere there is a priest that still does or is thinking of doing the unthinkable. It is a hard thought to escape, and perhaps we should not escape it again. Maybe, just maybe, we all should stop and dwell on this fact a little longer before we dismiss the terrible, horrific, details of the Pennsylvania Attorney General Report from this past week. Maybe, just maybe, we all should sit and ponder – as I did early Sunday morning past – and ask ourselves, ‘why am I still a catholic?’

The week had brought to us revelations of horrors inflicted by some in the Catholic clergy, and of the church hierarchy’s complicity in actually covering up their actions and making it all seems so normal. It wasn’t. It was terrible. And that is why I began my homily at the Early Mass on Sunday with the opening salvo, “If I were not a priest, and pastor of this parish, I would probably not be here today.”

The past week stirred a new, darker set of doubts for many of us who have maintained our catholicity despite years of abuse and knowing what men are capable of, even as they wear a collar, or a habit like me. “What am I doing with my life? What am I doing as a priest in this church? Why do I still stay and serve when so many do such harm?”

It was almost an irony, or perhaps Divine engagement, that St. Paul admonished the Ephesians this Sunday with the Epistle, “Brothers and sisters: Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.”  Yes, Paul, they are, but never would I have imagined that the evil would come at the hands of a brother priest. But, it has. No, there is no escaping that fact anymore.

But then, just as I was falling into despair, God came again as I read on to the Gospel passage appointed for Sunday! Read from the book of John, Jesus made the most fundamental of His promises, the one that Catholics accept each and every time we receive the holy Eucharist: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.” And there it was! God was still here, just as God always has been. And while it must pain God beyond our mortal imaginations to see what has happened, I know, too, that someday we will understand more. Until then, we should not avoid the discussion, but rather engage, protect, defend, and become strongholds for the church; something the hierarchy has failed to do so dismally, and yes, at the expense of the smallest and most vulnerable. Today I can say, no more, never again. Can you?

I once heard it said that for all the problems that we experience, there is still the presence of God in this place. I find solace in that reflection. I pray you do, too.

How will you ensure the safety of all who come to God’s church? How will you engage your deepest fears, as I have mine this past week, and still remain a catholic?  How will you make this church a beacon of hope, light, and safe harbor?  How will you support this place that has made the safest place possible for all who come?

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 13, 2018


My cousin works for the National Security Administration, better known as the NSA. They help defend the nation through surveillance and processing of information and data of foreign intelligence; the majority of their techniques are clandestine.

One day, my cousin and I were talking about the national threats and he made a looming comment. He stated, almost too matter-of-factly, “You really don’t want to know what I know; you wouldn’t sleep tonight.” I believe him. I also trust him.

Being a Pastor, and a Friar, often makes me stop and ponder longer in making decisions. I often say that I think more like a woman, ‘globally’, as opposed to how most men think which is more linear. I must think of the whole, rather than just the one. This is why sometimes we let parishioners go, and why often, too, staff must be let go, or at least permitted their own leave, because the whole is always greater than the one.

Franciscan spirituality, then, at its heart is always communal, emphasizing the “we” over the “I.” While each human bears inherent dignity and grace, each human also grows and flourishes withincommunity. Franciscan communalism has the calming insight that we can choose our friends, but we cannot – and perhaps must not– ever choose our brothers and sisters. In the larger society, as Father O’Connell once stated, Franciscan communalism democratizes aristocracy and renders all people as royalty, replacing class warfare with a strong sense of cooperation. Franciscan communalism is always about the ‘others’.

Franciscan spirituality is lesser, humble, poor. This is why we sacrifice so much of ‘self’ in order to offer our life to the greater good. Since Franciscans own very little, or nothing at all, we wear greatness well, and are the true and faithful stewards, always asserting that we have done nothing, and that He who gives us life, deserves all the glory.

In the end, Franciscan spirituality is practical; not fasting more beyond what the Church requires for all, eating of what is set before us, preaching without words, but in actions like feeding hundreds of homeless by noon tomorrow. And, as a pastor, charged with the care of so many, I often, too, need to reflect that even in the midst of storms, I am to remain calm and make steady decisions that enhance the community, not at the sacrifice of them, but sometimes, of the one that must go.

I wonder if, when a decision is made, or someone is let go, or decides to leave, if anyone stops and considers the very real possibility that you really don’t want to know what I know. In other words, the decision that was often made is always for you, and the community at large.

How will we react the next time a decision is made that we disagree with?  Do we ever give credence to the fact that our pastors are called to that office by a God who ordained them to discern for us?  Do we ever say to ourselves, ‘I may not agree, but I also hold no facts to change the choice”  Or, “I trust my pastor for all he has given and so far, in the light of truth, his decisions have been right for us as a whole.”

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 6, 2018


Recently I saw a bumper sticker that read, “There is No Planet B”. This sticker, an obvious reference to the fact that we care very little for Planet Earth and, without our taking serious environmental initiative and conservation steps, we will surely – one day – cause its very demise. But…what about us?

I spoke on Sunday in my homily about the fact that we all seem to grumble. We are never happy and there always seems to be something better out there for us. When we are given so much, we still wake every day unsatisfied, ill satiated, and wanting the illusive dream that may never actually come. In doing so, we negate the very real gifts we already have! No, it seems the more we have, the more we miss.

In my younger years, when I thought of God’s will, it seemed dark and gloomy to me. I always seemed to identify God’s will as a whole system of laws and commandments that I was obligated to follow if I wanted to please God and avoid damnation. In those years, when I prayed “Thy will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer, I thought of it mainly in terms of responsibility and not love. God was often a gloomy God, or worse, that just wanted so much that somehow, I failed to give. No, God did not love me, God wanted a soldier.

Today, when I think of God’s will, it is something very different. The idea nearly glows with light now! I see God’s will today more as Saint Francis saw it, namely, as God’s desire to love us unconditionally and to lead us to abundant life. As Saint Irenaeus so aptly put it, “God’s glory is the human person fully alive!”

So now, when I pray the Lord’s Prayer and reach the inevitable, “Thy will be done,” part, it has a joyful because God’s will is to bring total healing and happiness to everyone God loves, and I now relish every person, every gift, every touch, every day! God has become a friend and what God gives to me, I accept and seek not much more. In doing so, my life is more abundant and filled with joy. And, it is a joy that surpasses anything I ever dreamed possible when I was far too young to appreciate it. I am blessed…how about you?

How do you focus on the ‘wants’ and miss the ‘gifts’ right in front of you? How often have you noticed the sunshine in the morning, rather than condemn the fact that a new work day is upon you? In the evening, do you thank God for all that was given to you that day, or do you curse the overcooked food on your plate and miss, too, the love that made it for you in the first place?

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: July 17, 2018


Often to move forward we need to let go. That is what I have learned in my life. Sometimes, we let go of things. Sometimes, it is people that we must let go of; those who have died, and the grief that buries us with them. And, sometimes it is places, or those who have buried us with their own baggage that keeps us from being whole and feeling well.

Recently, after much thought and deep refection, I have decided it is time to let go of a community I have been part of for several years. The atmosphere is different. The people are changed. Most importantly, the leadership is distant, preoccupied with something otherly, and the family I once knew, well no longer seems to know me. I have tried to remain, but deep inside I knew the truth: “It’s time to go, James. It is time.”

I think it’s important to let go after a time of discernment in order to remain healthy. One must first dedicate time for reflection as part of this process before making any major plans. Reflection plays an essential role in creating steps that feel aligned with your inner dreams. If you’ve been making choices that have not felt right, it’s time to pay attention.

Letting go is a gentle, simple practice of looking back on your day and life, but always without judgment or criticism, and then, making needed change. It is never easy; it isn’t meant to be, but the life on the other side will come and you will blossom again. In these times, always treat yourself with kindness and compassion and know that you wish no one harm, it is simply time. In the end, forgive yourself and others, say a prayer for them, and cultivate patience with yourself and those you once encountered, and those you will encounter anew!

St. Francis once famously stated, “Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” In my own circumstance, I am ready. I no longer doubt. I have no fear or anxiety. God is well, and in this change, I will breathe again.

Time is short, and life is so fleeting. Our actions today must be driven by the future outcomes we seek, not the past wounds where we so often dwell. If that means letting some things go to get the job done, then I say so be it.
What needs to change in your own life? How will you go about letting go in order to find renewed life and vigor? Who or what has been holding you back from finding your true self?