Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: March 23, 2020

I lived my formative life in seminary in Washington, DC. It was the loving and open friars at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land who first introduced me to Franciscan life. It was also there that 59-year-old John-Sebastian Laird-Hammond, the first known person with the COVID-19 virus in the District of Columbia, and a Franciscan friar, died after battling the disease for just under a week. None of us are immune.  All of us must make changes to afford life to everyone.

Saints Francis and Clare, the founders of the Franciscan tradition, acknowledged God as creator and all humankind as made in the divine image. This is sometimes troubling when we are faced with uncertainty. And, yet, we remain a people of hope. St. Paul reminds us that we only see ‘as through a glass dimly’ but one day, we shall see Him, our Creator, face-to-face. Until then, as Friar John-Sebastian now knows, we live our walk in faith alone.

Nourished by our lives of prayer and reflection we must focus on the example of Jesus. In this spirit, we are invited to be persons of diverse faith backgrounds but embracing and living a set of Franciscan values that include caring community, inclusive love of all people, a reverence for creation, and a desire for peace.

We must remember that our true Franciscan spirituality is always communal, emphasizing the “we” over the “I.” This is why we adhere to those demands placed on us by our government and healthcare leaders, because we do for us what we want for others communally. A Franciscan communalism has a calming insight whereby we can choose our friends, but we cannot choose our brothers and sisters. In the larger society, Franciscan communalism is always for others. We exist for them. We live because they live, too.

So, then, perhaps we change now for a better us tomorrow. So often, people complain that they don’t have enough time for family, lunch with friends, or the novelty of just chatting with another. This respite – forced as it may be – is an opportunity to catch up with how our children, our spouses, and family members are dealing with confinement, but more importantly to share our lives and our journey again. Then, after a bit of rest, prayer or meditation, we will return to work or chores, but until then, let us light a candle and meditate, ask for forgiveness, look inside the self and cleanse the soul. And if nothing else, let us all just ask God for mercy.

After all, it is still Lent, and we’re finally in a time of forced downtime that allows for ample reflection as we ask our God, who is never far away, for those things that only heaven can provide us.

Rest well, my brother. Rest well from a journey replete in hope and a life of service. May we all be so remembered.

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