Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 30, 2020

“It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open the doors of hope.” – Pope Benedict XVI

And so, it has begun! We are in Advent, despite also being in the midst of a growing pandemic. God comes to remind us of the value of that small Child that will soon grace our manger.

Brother Sean’s sister is a physician and resides in Florida with her family and two dogs, Ru and Angel. A few weeks ago, Ru was tragically killed in her own driveway as a delivery driver never saw her approach the van. It has been a tragedy, and as you can imagine, emotions are full. Yesterday, Sean’s mother told him how every day since Ru’s death, Angel goes to the corner of the property, almost a half a mile away, down the long driveway to where the ‘invisible fence’ begins to keep her safe, and there she sits. All day for over 12 hours; she sits waiting for Ru to come home.

I often feel that God is much like Angel. He embraces us when we leave this earth and return to Him, like Ru, but He also waits at ‘the end of that long driveway’ for us to return to Him; to feel His presence and respond.

At Saint Miriam, we honor this fundamental tenet that no life is beyond God and every life is precious to God. That is why we honor every liturgical season in a variety of ways to add significance and to bring its glory fully into our parish life together. In the Season of Advent, we place a beautiful rendition of our Blessed Mother while with Child by artist Richard Roy at our entrance. This serves as a reminder that we are now fully in the preparation stage for joy yet to come!

We also have a beautiful Advent Wreath and each year we change out the candles and invite the Assembly to participate in its lighting each week. These efforts are  a beautiful way to represent, and to exercise, the priesthood of all believers. The Advent Wreath becomes a central focus of liturgy this year. This year we have also incorporated the sorrow and fear we are experiencing with the current world health emergency. The beauty of our wreath has always been very symbolic, and perhaps this year, even more so.

You see, our wreath may seem like many others. First, it is circular. Circles have no beginning and no end; the circular shape of the Advent Wreath is used to symbolize God the Father and eternal life. Our wreath, too, like many others, holds four candles, which are lit over the four weeks of Advent. The light of these flame is a visual reminder that Christ is “The Light of the World” (ref. John 8:12). But, at Saint Miriam, we also directly make the needed and often lost connection between Advent and Lent with a circular form that is replete with thorns. After all, there is no joy without salvation and that comes with Christ’s greatest gift: God’s willingness to save us from ourselves. The link between the hardwood of the cradle and hardwood of the cross leads us, beckons us, to come and be still.

Perhaps it is there where we will find the greatest gift of this holy season: being more still. Allowing God to move and us remaining patient and caring of others. Advent comes from the Latin word ‘adventus’ meaning ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’.

This Advent season will be very different from all the others we’ve experienced. Those familiar Advent themes of longing for God and waiting in hope take on a special meaning for us in the midst of the storm that surrounds us. As always, God is perhaps giving us a special opportunity this year to grow deeper in hope and stronger in the embrace of God’s love. The question we need to ask is, ‘are we willing to be still’ long enough as to not miss it?

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam @ Saint Miriam: October 26, 2020

Today is the anniversary of my becoming a deacon. I have been thinking a lot of what I tell those who come to seeking ordination, especially those who seek a higher office. I remind them what I was once told by my mentor, Father Kyder:  No matter what office God brings you to, you must always be a good deacon.

He was right. The servant heart is the heart of every deacon, every priest, and every bishop. When it becomes about the title or the robes or the fancy trims or the titles and the regalia, or the length of their phylacteries, everyone loses. We lose. God loses. And, most sadly, the people who need us, they lose, too.

There isn’t much in the world left where people look out for the outsider, the downtrodden, the marginalized before they look after themselves. It is fast becoming a me-me-only-and-first world. No, servant hearts are few and far between. The streets are littered with the helpless, the hapless, and the homeless while so many of us residing places high enough to only see the tops of their heads, as we look down our noses upon them and blame them for their own lot in life. We won’t welcome them. We won’t open our homes to them or even our churches. We proclaim so easily that we are a place for the sick, but the truly ill are turned away. We won’t even give from our plenty to programs of outreach and at least support those who are willing to go out to the streets and live the gospel. No, we hoard for ourselves and let others – no matter how needy – seek their own way.

How, then, can we find a servant heart, especially among those who wear their pressed, starch-white collar so tightly around their neck, but fail to live the message they agreed to at ordination? How do we teach a servant heart is the true heart of the living gospel and that every Christian must live it, or lose the title they say so covet?

Father Ricard Rohr, noted American author, spiritual writer, and Franciscan friar based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says that “What other power do we have now? All else is tearing us apart, inside and out (no matter who wins the US election, or who takes a seat on the Supreme Court). We cannot abide in such a place for any length of time or it will become our prison. This place, this world, is not our home. We must remember that…

God cannot abide with us in a place of fear.
God cannot abide with us in a place of ill will or hatred.
God cannot abide with us inside a nonstop volley of claim and counterclaim.
God cannot abide with us in an endless flow of online punditry and analysis.
God cannot speak inside of so much angry noise and conscious deceit.
God cannot be found when all sides are so far from “the Falconer.”
God cannot be born except in a womb of Love.
So offer God that womb.

Are you willing to offer that womb? Can you let go of fear and hatred and instead be a servant and find a heart for others? Can you let go of at least one part of this ugly world, to find the beauty in someone lesser? St. Francis once said, Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love. Do we? Can we? How?

Once there was a boy so meek and so modest he was awarded the Most Humble badge. The next day, it was taken away because he wore it. So endth the lesson.

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 12, 2020

It has been the hardest part of the pandemic for me. Seeing how we at first couldn’t gather for Mass, but then how we refused to come back when we could. The pandemic has robbed us of so much; now it is talking away the desire for God, too.

My wife shared a meme from Facebook. A conversation between parent and child. Child: “Mom, why don’t we go to church anymore?” Mom: “Well, because we had to be safe during the pandemic.” “Child: “I guess we can go to Target every week, but not to church?” Yes, we prioritize differently now. Some of that reprioritizing has been good, but some…

A triptych is a hinged painting of three panels that illuminates, through visual art and storytelling, an altar of encounter in a sacred space. When I was in seminary, the parish I was assigned to in Foggy Bottom has a glorious one based on Psalm 73, a lyrical “triptych,” if you will.

In the first half of the Psalm – the left panel of the triptych – a pained Asaph gets deeply honest with God. Even the opening words can be heard as coming from a pained heart and an aching mind. “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.”

Asaph goes on to express what seems to be an unchecked envy for the prosperity of the wicked – their freedom from common human burdens and their never-ending, always confounding, wealth driven, carefree life. When reading this left panel of the Psalm, the lyrics seem destined to affirm the utter uselessness of devoted living and purity of heart.

But then, it happens. A single verse that forms the center panel of our triptych, and holds the two halves of the Psalm together, emerges. “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood…”

What is truly understood by Asaph is after his sanctuary experience. A moment spent in a space of worship – be it physical or musical or liturgical or prayerful – completely turns Asaph’s attitude to one of adoration and praise! He was as if made new!

The final right pane of our Psalm triptych unfolds and completes the picture that Asaph’s opening grief might have left unfinished. The Spirit of the Lord, moving in and through worship, can turn mourning into dancing. The moment of worship becomes a moment of healing, of reorientation, of focus, of clarity, and of intimacy.

St. Francis once remarked, “I am the herald of the Great King. Can you be if you never worship the Creator?

When your picture begins in grief, find the sanctuary of God that most helps you, renews you, and strengthens you. And, don’t ever stop returning. God waits.

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 5, 2020

Today, once again like so many days this year, the world seems to be upside down. What used to be rock solid is soft and squishy. What used to be able to be counted on are less so. The hallmarks we so often used as life’s touchstones are all but gone. Yes, today, once again like so many days this year, the world seems to be upside down.

I have watched in great dismay as our own government implodes by acts of pure recklessness. I have witnessed family members and longtime friends turn against one another as one party tries to defend the indefensible. I have sat with those dismayed to the point of malfunction and depression. I, too, have become disillusioned and often want ‘off this ride’.

Then, today, I again visited the doctor to try and heal a sinus surgery that also has gone awry. I sat there, again, in his office and pleaded with the Lord that today – this day – it would finally be to a place of healing. As I was about to leave the parking lot my phone rang. It was Einstein Medical Center. I knew what they wanted, and I almost pressed the red button to deny the call. ‘I am sick, after all’, I said under my breath to no one in the car but me; but God spoke in that instant and I answered. The charge nurse began with “Thank God you answered, Monsignor. We can’t get any priest to answer today.” She then quickly regaled the details of a man name ‘Frank’ alone, scared, dying. No one allowed to be with him in his ICU bed. Would I please come.  

I did help. I heard his cries and his pain. I granted him the highest gift of my office as a priest: absolution. The loving embrace of a God who until that moment seemed so far away; so distant, but now is close again. I gave him peace, but in our brief exchange, as he gasped for air, I witnessed something come to me, too. Frank gave me peace. You see, he wasn’t concerned with the President or the Supreme Court or the fights playing out live on air. He just wanted peace. He wanted the things that last beyond what we think are so important. Frank wanted God. So do I. St. Francis ounce 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.’  By this holy standard, perhaps there is hope even for the likes of me.

Yes, once again – unexpectedly – God came, but God wasn’t done! No, as I sat back in my car to think and pray on Frank and our encounter, a friend sent me a poem she had written years ago. She saw my Facebook posts about my illness and wanted to support me in some small way. But, just like Frank, in her simple way, she gave me life. I end with sharing the beautiful words of my friend, Janet, to prayerfully bring you lasting peace; a peace the world can never hope to bring, or know, at least not here…


– Janet K. Hartzell  2013


It’s so hard Lord,

To let go of things,

Ideas, disappointments 

Of hurts.


It is so hard Lord to let go.

But as I look at the leaves on

The trees of autumn…..

First one leaf drops,

Then another, and another

Some not quite so sure they are ready

To yet let go of the past season,

      only in its own time 

                      when ready to let go

     And the time is right.


Perhaps they are hanging on just to

Reflect on what has been

                Or ……….what might have been

Until they are free of the past,

          And then, letting go and falling on the soft cushion 

Of the glorious colors of the already

            fallen leaves……..

                 of autumn,

     until  the tree is standing naked 

before Almighty God.


Have you ever looked at a tree in the winter 

     When it is free at last of its leaves?

How beautiful a winter tree is with all 

         Its bumps and imperfections…………..,

                 and years 

                       on display.

Free of the past years 


Unashamedly before the Almighty

        Free of the accumulation of the past season…….

                       The past lives.


Life is like that if we are able

            To really let go and trust that the |

Almighty God will catch us when

        We fall .

Then we will be able to come to the evening

              Of our lives with dignity and beauty

Knowing that through all the autumns

                Of our lives we have been blessed.

Then, being stripped bare,

            We will emerge into the newness of another

Spring in all its magical and majestic glory into

              The blessedness of a resurrected life.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 10, 2020

A couple of days ago, Regina, one of our longtime parishioners posted these words on her Facebook page following the great storm that caused so much damage and flooding, including at my own home, “There’s something about the light after a storm. Makes me think of rebirth.”

It immediately reminded me of the words of the psalmist, “Clouds and thick darkness surround him…Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles.”  — Psalm 97

We’ve all seen it in a dark, stormy sky, and no matter how many times it makes an appearance, we are usually filled with some degree of amazement. The darkness comes, then the rainbow, but in between are intense and creative flashes, the discharge of potent electrical force we call lightening. These strikes can crack a tree, bring fire to a building, or simply appear like Grace, as a spectacle for the dazzled eye.

If we endure these storms, we, too will see the rainbow and what Regina called, “rebirth”.  If, however, we give up too soon, or retreat in fear, we are only left with the strikes that cripple us and leave us alone to our own human weakness.

This is why worship is so critical to us. In worship, the actual very real and present Spirit of God, distributes God’s great love and will for the human heart to each of us gathered as She moves through the room. When a human heart opens itself to an encounter, the spirit of a person becomes the second front in the sacred sky and the rainbow follows no matter how deep the darkness or fear that once was there.

All that can happen because worship created a unique space, a holy place, for the front of God’s Spirit and our own to meet. Worship is like a storm front; lead from the lightning to God’s bright safe sky again where God lights up the world!

St. Francis once said that it “is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.”  Perhaps we should all remember how good God feels after the darkness is gone and that rainbow finally appears.

As Pastor Dan Wilt said so well, ‘Give us eyes to see what You are doing, oh God, in our community and in our lives as we worship, and let our own hearts be a storm front today as we do. In Jesus’ awesome, sky-lighting Name.’ 
Amen.  May it be so.

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: July 24, 2020

I waited and waited and waited for God.

    At last he looked; finally he listened.

He lifted me out of the ditch,

    pulled me from deep mud.

He stood me up on a solid rock

    to make sure I wouldn’t slip.

He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,

    a praise-song to our God.

More and more people are seeing this:

    they enter the mystery,

    abandoning themselves to God.  

  • Psalm 40:1-3 (The Message)


Learning the soul art of patience is a deep work that takes a lifetime, especially I have found for me, but I am sure for all of us. Something within us, from birth, believes we should have the power to trigger action from others, from God, and even from ourselves, simply by exerting our will. We try this through various means like in prayer, in conversation, and in self-talk, and sometimes (as we have watched in horror lately) by force.

But I have learned, as hard as we will, as hard as we wish something into being, (spoiler alert!) we simply do not always get what we want! If we do get what we want, what we want almost never comes when or how we wanted it, or in the package we want it in, and it is almost always different and better when it finally does make its appearance! Unless we learn to “wait patiently,” we are continually mixing the recipe for lifelong disappointment in the face of such constant desire-delays and many missed opportunities we will simply never see. Patience, according to the Scriptures, is the antidote to continual disappointment. And patience – like hope – is a virtue that must be practiced.

Today, there is probably something you want to happen so badly you can taste it, but despite the fantasies your mind has created, there is a high probability that thing won’t happen today; Or, even tomorrow. Or this year, and often maybe never. I’m sorry, but it is the truth and I am in the truth business.

Saint Miriam today is nothing like I ever imagined, dreamed or willed. It is of God’s own making and I have found it to be the moist giving and loving and the most selfish and arrogant, too. We are the best and the worst and somehow, we love and live within something we waited patiently for. Now, it is up to us to see the gift or squander it.

I find that what we have could never have been built by us, just as it could never have been dreamed up by us. And, the things we have because of Saint Miriam are not the things of selfishness or the world. Some will lose the gift in their eagerness for the material that will always disappoint and will always pass away. 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.”

In the battle for patience, remember Psalm 40 above; pray it, say it, sing it! Sing it over and over and over again until the yearning, the longing in your heart, transforms into the virtue of patient trust and you find what you always had all along.

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 29, 2020

We opened our parish doors yesterday. Differently, but so wonderfully. They were open wide and welcoming, as usual, but cautious, disinfected and deliberate. It reminded me that this is the way our prayer life should be. Not reactionary but measured and with intent.

That is why when I received a beautiful reminder yesterday from one of our parishioners, I knew what my heart would write today. I share it here: Mahatma Gandhi reminded us that “Prayer is not asking…it is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness…And so, it is  better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

When we come to God in prayer, it matters not the number of words, the lexicon used, or the frequency, but rather the coming at all. When we come to one another the same should be true. Just come. And, to those who someone comes, just be there. Listen. Really listen.

St. Francis once reminded us, too, with these words, “Lord, help me to live this day, quietly, easily. To lean upon Thy great strength, trustfully, restfully. To wait for the unfolding of Thy will, patiently, serenely. To meet others, peacefully, joyously. To face tomorrow, confidently, courageously.”

I have been so busy lately; I didn’t post my devotion last week. I felt so badly, but then I realized I have never stopped praying. God has been here all along.

How will you pray today? How do you recognize you need prayer? When was the last time you were the gift of prayer – or prayers answered – to someone else?


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 16, 2020

Well, I did it. I took a few days off and visited my family then made my way to our brand-new retreat center in Starlight. It’s true! There is something that happens when you are away from your regular home, allow God to settle inside you, and the Spirit to move and breathe again. Away from the hustle and bustle of my normal life, away from the pandemic and the worries of infection, away from the stress of making good and wise decisions that literally now impact lives of parishioners, students, and staff alike, I found respite and peace. I left as I came in, but there was still something different about me. In my retreat, I found calmness and hope.

Why are retreats important? A retreat refreshes and revitalizes, and it provides the opportunity for more time spent in prayer and contemplation and allows for a rekindling and deepening of one’s relationship with God. I have long forgotten that if you take these rare opportunities to more clearly hear God’s call and to seek God’s healing grace, you attain a degree of spiritual renewal that impacts your normal living.

I guess for some, the purpose of a retreat can often be as an addition to daily spiritual activities; it is a way to temporarily leave behind the usual distractions we all face for a time long enough to allow relaxation and for an inner change to occur: the ongoing conversion of heart that is critical to deepening faith. Retreat comes from the Latin verb “to pull back”,  and  I think for me it was in the ‘pulling back’ that I found God again. So, perhaps that is the image of a retreat I will leave you with: a place where you pull back from the world.

As a continuing way of helping you, our parishioners in your spiritual journey, we will soon begin to offer you the very same opportunity to step out of your structured scheduled day-to-day and step into the beauty of space and time with God so you can breathe life into your life, like I found by sitting with God by the side a waterfall. You will be able to visit our Falls Retreat Center of Saint Miriam and pay only a fraction of what we will request of non-members. You will have the opportunity to join us annually for a “Saint Miriam Day” Retreat and you will have a beautiful place to deepen your relationship with God.

St. Francis once wisely reminded us, “We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather, we must be simple, humble and pure.”  Now you have a place to find your true life in the beauty of God’s creation.
How will I take advantage of another way to connect with God? How will I support a parish that gives me and my family so much? How will I come back from this time of pandemic and not lose sight of what is really important? 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 9, 2020

I hurt my back yesterday. It was after a doctor’s appointment and I was worried, so I left my car without thinking, turned wrong to pet the dogs at my door and out it went. It always happens that way, right? At least for me! As a CrossFit athlete I lift heavy weights, perform functional fitness moves, jump over boxes and under low bars and rarely get hurt. It is always when I am not thinking or planning correctly or when I am distracted that I hurt myself and others, too.

It is that way in life, too. As such an avid CrossFitter, I can tell you that is what happened to founder and CEO of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, who controversially tweeted “It’s Floyd-19” in response to a tweet about racism being a public health issue. (At least we hope that it was just carelessness.) But no matter what, hundreds of CrossFit Boxes have disaffiliated, and major sponsors are history. Even Reebok ended its exclusive ten-year deal as the main CrossFit sponsor and licensee of CrossFit apparel. Professional CrossFit athlete Rich Froning, too, who has won the CrossFit Games four times, criticized Glassman’s comments to his 1.4 million Instagram followers, saying the last few days made it “impossible to stay loyal to leadership who make callous statements that alienate and divide in a time when unity is needed.” That is how someone hurts another, especially when they don’t think.

Even Katelyn and I are going to find a place to work out that isn’t affiliated with Glassman. The hurt is too deep and the pain too much for friends who fight every day for the same rights we enjoy, all because their skin color is a shade or two darker. It is unbelievable. We may be inconvenienced, but at least we are alive. We can walk, jog, and go places and never think about our safety. Many cannot. Glassman made that worse.

Today, as I work from my desk, some pastors are trying to buy new million dollar jets, others want to be ordained for a new big hat,  and others are worrying about their titles and money and what they will buy next all while people die; all the while they lose focus or are blind to think what Jesus would want them to do.

Before Glassman’s tweet, CrossFit overall had stayed noticeably silent on the Black Lives Matter movement as a host of companies publicly took a stand on anti-racism following Floyd’s death. While CrossFit previously pledged public support for the LGBT community, as well as dedicating its “Hero” workouts to fallen soldiers, somehow the lives of those threatened since 1619 seems to be of little value. But not us! We peached and welcomed and stood up. We always will.

St. Francis once said, “No one is to be called an enemy, all are your benefactors, and no one does you harm. You have no enemy except yourselves.”  I am not so sure many believe that; at least we sure don’t preach it much.

My back is hurting today. My heart is worse. I will survive. As to those who are not in the majority…I am not so sure I can guarantee the same, but I can say that at Saint Miriam we won’t stop working toward that goal. We are all careless from time to time, but this time our carelessness might just cost someone their life.


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: May 18, 2020

We announced some pretty amazing news today! Not only are we planning to reopen safely over the next two months in stages, we also are in the midst of renovating our sanctuary and adding a new restroom for the school. And, of that weren’t enough, we now own a Retreat Center, too! Yes, we now welcome The Fall Retreat Center to the Saint Miriam family! And, perhaps, with a weekly Franciscan Devotion, we should pause for a mini retreat on what I believe that we have learned lately!

I have found five important lessons learned as we have adjusted our lives as a parish family to Quarantine and anticipated Post-Quarantine planning.

First, God is with us, He always has been and will always ever be. I know we know that theoretically, but it helps to slow down to listen to it, too! Looking back, the first few weeks of quarantine felt manic and confusing. It’s been essential to remember that God is with us and we need to put our devices away and take time to “be still and know”—even when the “be still” part is hard! This is why our earnest planning has brought a sense of calm, and our virtual offerings has continued our life together! Plus, even in the midst of some loss, God has brought us such amazing gifts and opportunities! Are we willing to listen now? To care for God and the church that has proven to be a solid anchor in the winds of this pandemic?

Secondly, we have learned the importance of checking in a lot. As a parish, we’ve tried to share with you from our hearts in word and video. It’s because, as many of you have learned, we need to see and hear from those we love and trust. This is why I call my mom every day! And, judging from how often we see you sharing our posts and words of encouragement from your living rooms and porches, you’ve been doing the same thing!

Thirdly, we can do new things and worship in new ways, even if they’re hard. Like you, our strength has mostly been in being an in-person gathering organization, built around face-to-face worship and gatherings. But, we’ve had to reinvent and create new opportunities virtually and online. We’ve been reminded that we are blessed in being flexible and inventive! Now we have a whole new skill set for guiding and loving and worshipping and learning into the future! God continues to breathe in new ways and old.

Fourthly, we have been practical. I have had to learn it is ok to slow down, not to work out every day, sand some days, to simply do nothing! We have all had to learn to modify work-life, school-life, and even grocery shopping with a constantly shifting focus and changing rules! We’ve all done our best to solve the problems immediately in front of all of us. But it is also time to start thinking deeply about big-pictures issues that will come in time, and how we will allow the good parts of this time to remain. That is the BIG Fifth Lesson! You know the ones: what is now important? The family time, the less stressful and slowing down time, the connecting with others time. The changing in what is truly important time. It doesn’t need to be right now, but we should all begin to rethink what is valuable. I know Saint Miriam will be on your list; it is surely on mine!

We’re all new expressions of the one holy Church now. For 12 years now, Saint Miriam has been guiding people to reimagine how they live and what they value. We have done that by listening, loving and serving, and building community. Now it is more important than ever for us to be committed to something greater.

St. Francis once said, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Thanks for being a part of our impossible journey at Saint Miriam.