Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: January 11, 2016

 

I don’t always get along with my brother Friars. I know, I know. You are stunned! But, alas, it is true. While the love of Jesus and God’s holy Church, and our mission as Franciscans certainly bind us together when we are in a room, physically or proverbially as bothers, sometimes very little else does!

When we gather in person, as we will in August this year, it is hard to miss how diverse we are at times when it comes to country of origin, culture, political leaning, vision for the Church, definition of friar life, ideal lifestyle, and personality. The old adage, “When you meet one Franciscan, you meet one Franciscan” rings so true in living color! It is hard to also miss how we don’t get along all the time. And, yes, we are very human, so it is not that hard, dare I say, to also see how certain guys actually don’t like each other. Gasp!  I know, but it is true. Yes, we are fully human…

While some in the world would point to conflict and division as signs of weakness, we see it as one of the strongest points of our continuing witness that we have to offer the world. Here we are, gathering together day in and day out, broken and fallible human beings, bearing differing personalities, egos, illnesses, hurts, issues, et al, and yet we’re still willing to come together for something greater rather than giving up on the people and things that annoy us. We pray through our prejudice, disagreements, and yes, even hatreds. Do we do it perfectly? Absolutely not. But, at least we are willing to try to follow Jesus in His mission to help bring about the kingdom.

In two weeks, as we always do n the fourth Sunday of the month, our Secular Franciscan Group will meet at Saint Miriam. We, too, do not always get along. We, too, are broken and hurting to varied degrees. We, too, do not always like to even come together! But, we do, every month, accepting each other, loving each other – warts, baggage, and halos alike – not because we want to, but because Jesus did it first.

There is a moral here to our life together as a parish, too…
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: January 04, 2016

 

I wonder if we ever stop to consider that our life is almost always about the intersection between story and journey? I wonder if we ever really stop!  As we begin a new year, perhaps we should pause and reflect on how we might more intentionally divest ourselves of selfishness and self-centeredness to actually see how our lives impact, intersect, or perhaps unintentionally transgress with the ‘others’ around us;  and, how we might make the most of these sacred happenings to bring about a better world and a deeper faith in ourselves. After all, we are all missionaries if we are truly Christians.

Francis’ vision of mission included the very strong idea of leaving one’s own “camp” and crossing over to another “camp.”  In Francis’ time these “camps” were both Christian and non-believers alike! Francis fully possessed his Christ, Jesus, as a central defining guide to this life and the next. In other words, to be truly a follower of Francis is to be missionary across boundaries in whatever form we might encounter them, even the boundaries of self, prejudice, bias, and selfishness. This idea of “crossing over” to another side is at the core of a modern understanding of mission, but its roots are as old as Sacred Scripture because it is a holy act.

How might we use this new opportunity called 2016 to become better people? What have we done in the past, or continue to do, that harms the fabric of community, friendship, church, or friendship? How might we more intentionally repair the world, as Francis was called to repair the church? Is there something that needs to begin with us?

“Let there be peace on earth, And let it begin with me.”



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: December 28, 2015

 
Life is all about change and the transitions we experience as we adjust to them from year to year.  And one of the biggest ones is almost here! New Year’s Day!
 
As we enter each new year, many people make big plans, sometimes grand and audacious plans, with huge goals and big ideas! They make seemingly impossible new year’s resolutions that almost always get broken, as real life settles back in as the norm. But, this time of transition should mean new changes deeper within us; the kind that will make us better people.
 

Think back before you move forward and ponder with me! What new resolutions do you plan to make this time around?  How did they hold up last time we flipped the calendar into a brand new year?  Consider for a moment why you made this or that resolution or goal last year at this time, and then ask: Are you making something better, or are you the only one selfishly getting something out of it?  Will you be truly happy for doing it? Are you a better person, better Christian, better Catholic? Will others benefit from this intended change? If you are going to make changes in your life, major or minor, there should be some balanced approach to making that decision and the world around you should become a little better, a little brighter!

St. Bernadette Soubirous once said, “From this moment on, anything concerning me is no longer of any interest to me. I must belong entirely to God and God alone. Never to myself.”

That will be my resolution effort this year: to lessen the focus on ‘me’ and to continue an intentional focus on the needs of others, the church, my parish, and my God. I yearn for a deeper relationship with God.  Why? Because I have learned that I am truly happy when I give to others and find God in the small things.

Let us approach our lives as a true gift, as good stewards and caretakers of the many blessings we have been given. This new year, let us become what we want the world to be.

May God give you the gift of His peace!
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: December 21, 2015

 

Evil. Enemies. Hatred. Poverty. Need. Terrorism.

Those are words we don’t hear often this time of year. Usually we hear other words  like joy, merry, greetings, happiness, santa, gifts, and hope. Advent is indeed a season of hope. A season of joy and anticipation. But, it is also to be a time of watching and waiting.
 
Then again, it might be appropriate for us to pause and to ask ourselves:  For what?  For what do we hope? For what are we joyful? For what are we waiting? Our modern Christmas season seems to have swallowed Advent whole and spit it out with nary a whisper of our true anticipation, our true needs, our deepest desires.
 
While many American children (and some adults, too) are waiting for the latest gadget, the best deals on fancy things, there are many faithful Christians around the world who are simply waiting for something quite different. They are waiting for justice. They are waiting for peace. They are waiting for freedom. They are waiting for the God, promised in sacred scripture in Second Samuel, who will give them rest from all their enemies, as we will hear in the first reading given us for Christmas Eve.
 
This season is about proclaiming the good news of the coming Christ Child, but there are many who know not of that kind of peace, nor the depth of that kind of love. Our desire, as Christians, should be to change that. It really is that simple.
 
Every morning in the Daily Office, we recite the Canticle of Zechariah. This year, we will hear it proclaimed on the Eve of Christmas, as our Gospel, at the Mass of the Day. As you read these partial words now, how might they change your focus for this coming Christmas? There is still time to focus on the things that truly will last.
 

“You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,

for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,

to give his people knowledge of salvation

by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God

the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,

and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: December 14, 2015

 

Next Sunday, our parish will gather after the Morning Mass and ‘green’ – or decorate – for the Christmas Season! It is a wonderful time to be sure! We will place beautiful lights, inside and out, and enjoy evergreen trees and bright red poinsettia plants and so much more. We will then place our Nativity Scene and leave only the Christ Child out of the display until Christmas Eve Mass.

This is always of our most treasured Christmas traditions – the displaying the Nativity Crèche – during the holy season. It is a joyful remembrance of the events surrounding and leading up to the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is one of the reasons we love to hear the Gospel of Luke declare the story of His birth!

In fact, in every country where Christmas is celebrated, there are unique and wonderful representations of the Nativity. Perhaps the most famous is in Italy where the “Presepio” is cherished by the entire country. In their representation, figures of the townspeople are included in the Christmas scene as a sign of their devotion and love for the Christ Child. And, yes, it was St. Francis of Assisi helped popularize the devotion to the Christmas Crib in an Italian town called Greccio, the year was 1223.

St. Francis was returning from Rome where his Rule for his Brotherhood had been approved by Pope Honorius III. At midnight, the Mass was celebrated commemorating the birth of our Savior and St. Francis preached with words tender and loving. The people in attendance were spellbound by his words and the warm tears of humility that ran down his cheeks. According to Brother Celano, St. Francis’ biographer, Francis “sighed deeply, and seemed to be brimming over with wonderful joy.”  Then, Francis picked up the Christ Child figurine and the Infant appeared to come to life! St. Francis and caressed his cheeks and through his words and the power of his love, Francis had seemingly brought to life the Child God so that all present could share in the gift of His love.

The place became known as the “Miracle at Greccio” and it was consecrated and later became a church. Above the actual cave (or grotto) an altar was placed in honor of St. Francis. Today Greccio is still a popular pilgrimage and during the Christmas season it is a scene of great devotion.

St. Francis popularized the tradition of the Christmas Manger, or Nativity Scene.  It is a great testimony to a saint whose heart burned with love, hope and renewed faith at the great gift of love which is Christ. I wonder if this year we might reflect more deeply upon how we might impact the lives of others this season of joy? Perhaps, in keeping with the season, we might begin with ourselves and actually look to define an interior nativity where we dare pause to consider the Christmas gift which will enrich every aspect of our lives on a very deep and profound level?

Find a quiet place in the house. Relax in the presence of the Lord by giving to Jesus any worrisome thoughts of the past or the future. Then behold the greatest gift ever given…then, share it with someone you meet!
 
Blessed coming Nativity!
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: December 07, 2015

 

When Francis designed a simple tunic with a hood and wrapped a rope around his waist, he was alone. He did not live within a religious community when he embraced poverty and the Gospel of Christ. He was all alone. The community came later. The Holy Rule of the Order came later. Instead, Francis wrote the rule to reflect the manner of life he lived in solitude as a secular man, but one that honored God first. This was the only garment that he kept as his own. Francis never possessed a closet full of clothing that he never wore. He never matched a handbag with a top, or a suit to his shoes. The only garments he had were what he needed for his daily life and work. One tunic; that’s all he had. Ever.

This Advent season is one that falls at a time during the year when we are the most frantic: from holiday parties to shopping to children’s activities and events to buying that one perfect gift. We have greeting cards to get out and dinners to plan and food to buy. But what of God? A God who deigned to come to earth that we might have the greatest gift of all: eternal life.

When the first men and women asked to be admitted to the Order, Francis gave them the Rule of Penance. These men and women have stood out through the centuries by their lives of poverty and their generosity toward their families and those of the poorest among us. They have stood out for their simplicity in entertainment, dress, living conditions, and habits. The many Franciscans brothers and sisters who became saints were committed to poverty as Christ taught it in the Gospel. Their fidelity to this commitment, led them down the road to peace, joy, and a much deeper relationship with God, just as it did for St. Francis.

While we may not embrace poverty, do our spending choices this time of year produce that very same effect unintentionally in our pocket books, and does that poverty then show up in our relationship with God and his Church?

How might we eliminate one such distraction and turn that into something that ushers in a living Christ by giving to a world in need, rather than buying one more gift that may produce momentary joy, but not lasting peace?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 30, 2015

 

We are once again in the season of Advent – the time of waiting for Christ to come. What does this waiting mean? What are we waiting for?  As a society in contemporary America, we do not wait well! However, patience and gratification need not be opposite ends of a spectrum; but yes, we must learn to wait, to sit, to dwell, to be quiet, to hear the voice of God.

There is only one place in Scripture where God is said to speak in a “still small voice,” and it was to Elijah after his dramatic victory over the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings (18:20-19:2). God instructed him to stand on the mountain in His presence. Then the Lord sent a mighty wind which broke the rocks in pieces; then He sent an earthquake and a fire, but His voice was in none of them. After all that, the Lord spoke to Elijah in the still small voice, or “gentle whisper.”

The point of God speaking in the still small voice was to show Elijah – and us here today – that the work of God need not always be accompanied by dramatic revelation or manifestations. Divine silence does not necessarily mean divine inactivity.

Advent is such a time; God waiting for us to empty ourselves of all that hinders God’s dwelling in us. God needs a place to call home in this world. God needs a heart open to love without any demands or expectations. 

How will you use this holy time of Advent to empty yourself enough to make room for the eternal manifestation of a loving God? Will you allow God to work in and through you?

Will you use this time to its fullest and honor God more deeply?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 23, 2015

 

Being a Franciscan is more than being kind to animals, wearing a strange medieval brown habit, and being poor, but sadly that is what most people think of when they hear the name St. Francis. As friars, we continue this emphasis on work and social justice, and are known to engage in any number of careers. While other religious orders have a charism to a particular ministry, say, education or missionary work, the friars have never had this, instead, we use the gifts that God has given us to spread the Gospel and to care for the poor, whatever those gifts may be and hsoever they may be used to help make the world a little more friendly to those especially on the margins.

For many friars, that means being a parish priest and helping to guide the faithful, but not all of our work is sacramental. That means for some friars work in the world doing any number of things like being an artist, going into farming, caring for the sick, cooking, cleaning, teaching, campus ministry, hospital chaplains, spiritual direction, or even writing; yes, there are many ways to live and spread the Gospel! We are also called to beg and ask the world to support the work of the greater Church in the world. We are living reminders of a life of being good stewards and honoring God.

So, in many ways, we are just like the rest of the world in that we work to make a ‘ends meet’, but unlike the rest of the world, we work not to amass wealth, but because it is our vocation. The majority of the money that we make is shared with other friars, our parish, and the poor. It is a calling and so it goes beyond what the world says is wise. It is a sacrificial relationship between us and God, lived within the holy Church.

How will you live the gospel this coming holy season of Advent? Will you change your life or will this coming season be like any other, one that finds you the same coming out as you went in…tied to the world and where your life has little impact on those who need you?

Why not commit to making a life change, promising to engage at your parish and in the world with a deeper commitment to God…do so now as we prepare for Christmas, the celebration of God’s great act of humility?

 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 16, 2015

 

At Saint Miriam, we try to avoid what is often called ‘birdbath Franciscanism’. You know, the sweet, sappy stuff of a man leaving his wealthy family and abandoning not only his fancy clothes and status, but the world, too, to live in a harmless brown habit and make friends with the animals in some idyllic countryside setting. It is a story line that draws many into read more, but alas, one that is often untrue and lacks the substance of what it it is to be a true follower of the saint we know as Francis.

St. Francis is often idealized and made into an almost cartoonish character made ripe for hippies and those who seek a carefree life away from a complex world. But the vignette that has become Francis is far from what is it is live out his ideals; it is unreal at its deepest self. It is not easy to be what Francis was, nor is it easy to follow him today…truly follow him.

Francis lived in two worlds: he looked always toward heaven, but his feet were firmly planted on the earth where his work was needed. He was grounded where the Church did what it did, but he knew there was something more and so he reached always toward God with a thirst that few could contain. He lived out the gospel life; one that was hard and dusty and often unsure of its destination in this life, but was solid in where it would lead in the next. One that changed the world, but was not the stuff of fairy tales or for the weak hearted or those who wished to simply play with Franciscanism. Francis knew that the even Church needed to change and return to a path closer to the true road of gospel of his Christ.

Christian Wiman once said that “Faith itself sometimes needs to be stripped of its social and historical encrustations and returned to its first, churchless incarnation in the human heart.”  This is what Francis strived for: the core values of a gospel-centered life, an honest experience of the life of Jesus lived out in the world in a way that would change it for the better. He knew what we all must learn: one must die every day into your own life in order to truly find a way to live. You must love your life enough to lose it, and then, after having found the reality of joyfully losing it, one finds the heart of the gospel life…one that changes the world and recognizes that all of life is one continuous movement that begins and ends with the creator.

As we approach the holy season of Advent, how might you change what needs changed in order to learn how to truly begin to live? Can you die to self to live more fully?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 9, 2015

 

The Thanksgiving Holiday is almost upon us! Yes, it seems to have come again so quickly! Last Friday, during our First Friday Mass, I asked the children about the holiday and what it meant to them and almost by majority voice, they all stated it was about family and turkey! Well, it is that, of course, but it is also about something more…something greater.

Thanksgiving is a great lasting American festival that is universal and meaningful, and all folks, even those who do not consider themselves to be particularly religious, pause to enjoy it. Together, for one day, as a nation and a people of God, we can feel proud to be Americans and that throughout our history, we built a day around gratitude

Yes, sadly like most things lately, the holiday has been commercialized with non-stop football games and the beginning of the great shopping frenzy for the Christmas holidays! And yet, even all those things somehow bring us together in ways unique to each of our families. It is a day when families, and extended families and friends, gather and pause to verbalize their gratitude for God’s blessings in their life as they share a delicious home cooked meal, watch football, or the parades, and savor the simple pleasures of life. 

It is also a day when many prepare meals for the poor or homeless in their community (like we will the Tuesday before as we gather to share a meal with the children and families – and those invited who would otherwise now have a dinner – all under our parish roof).

Overall, it seems that deep down we may just have retained the deepest meaning of this day better than most other holidays: giving thanks to a wondrous God with recognition of the internal peace and joy that life brings and how important – how truly important – family and friends are to us.  It is not about things; it is about something greater.

I invite you to move more deeply this year into the coming season. I invite to begin today to list the things that truly important to you, the things that bring lasting joy and real meaning to your life.

How will you show those around you the true meaning of the coming season?
 
How will you show God your gratitude?