Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: November 2, 2015

Today is All Souls Day, or what we formally know as The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. Today, our holy Church has encouraged prayer for the dead from the earliest times as an act of Christian charity. “If we had no care for the dead,” St. Augustine once said, “we would not be in the habit of praying for them.” It is an act of corporal mercy.

But today should be more than just our time to pray for the dead, it should be a time for us to pray for that which is dead in us. How do we honor God in our weekly or daily lives? Do we allow God to come, sit, and act in us, and through us? Or, are we dead to Him and alive to the secular world and all that is fleeting and temporary?

We should recognize that God wants to share in our lives, he is constantly beckoning us to enter into communion with Him. Our loving God is not just here for those few Sundays we honor Him by actually showing up to Mass. God is present to us for every day, for every time, for every season all throughout our lives…. If we only seek God

If we pause long enough to ask Him to come and be part of our lives, and in the lives of our family and those around us, God comes and will be present. Our lives will become better! Even when our lives are busy, there are short periods of time where we have ‘time to make time’, to bring God closer to us and ask God to enter our lives in a brand new way.
 
Today is such a day… invite God in, pray for the dead, heal the living, and watch as your life changes, too. 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 26, 2015

 

We are old, yet very young. We have an over 2000+ year history of faithfulness, a rich tradition of beautiful liturgy and deeply moving prayer, and oh ya, we have Jesus! The problem for me is not what we’ve got, the problem is that we don’t take what we got seriously enough to spread the word more. In fact, if we approached our work life or business endeavors with such casualness, as we do with our parish life, we would be out of business in a mere few months! Thank God there are a few who see the world differently, who dedicate themselves to the work of building, who are ‘all in’ even when the world thinks they have lost their minds!

Yesterday I wore my habit as we gathered together with the Secular Franciscan Group at the parish after the Morning Mass. We prayed, and talked, shared, and honored the legacy of Francis. We traded St. Francis quotes (oh, come on, you know it’s better than playing cards!) We spoke of our Franciscan ethos and ideals at Saint Miriam. We remembered how God is good and how – we reflected – as we committed more to God, God has given us so much more back; more than we could ever have dreamed. We ended our gathering on a beautiful Sunday afternoon speaking of how to bring this to others – this joy that surpasses the values of the world. This joy that surpasses all understanding.

One of my favorite of these quotes shared is, “Pure holy simplicity confounds all the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of the flesh.” Yes, it will do that…confuse a world that sees such as folly, rather than wisdom. But, it has always been so…

Each time I dress in my habit, I am reminded of the cross I am to bear. The fabric, cut in the shape of the cross, is designed to do just that…allow us, as Friars, to die to the world so that we might help it actually live. But yesterday, at 6 o’clock in the morning, when I was making my way across the cemetery to the parish, it was those sandals that made me realize why I love being a Franciscan! It was damp, wet, and cool. As I prayed, I remembered, I was moved…

There is a unique aesthetic to what we wear as Franciscans, it is very true. I get looks and stopped all the time when I am wearing my habit. But there is much more. Every time I don my sandals, too, I am reminded to be humble, they are the footwear of the commoner, not the rich, the royal, or the powerful. I am reminded that I a vulnerable in so many ways; the elements, the heat, cold, weather, rain, dampness, and the trodding of other human beings, too. They help me to remember what the poor feel like and how we must all do more to help those less fortunate. And, I guess finally, my sandals remind me that they are light, simple, and gentle. They are not heavy combat boots for war, extreme footwear for ice climbing, or even fancy, urban statement shoes for a good show! They walk gently on God’s planet, sharing the environment with all of creation, and never once take advantage of any of it. 

I pray we will take our 2,000+ year legacy and bring it to where God would have us go. I pray we are ready, willing, and able to do, to gather, to give, to pray, and to be more than the world thinks wise…
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 19, 2015

Gautama Buddha once said it best, “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

What are you grateful for today? Do you stop ever long enough to ponder this question, or do you do what most folks do and run right into another day before even thinking about how wonderful yesterday was? If you are feeling the strain, even a bit of exhaustion from it all, take a deep breath, pause and know that you are not alone. Then, take a few minutes to see the goodness, the grace, the blessings in your life. What are you thankful for? What gives you joy right now? Who brings life to your life?

Yesterday at our beautiful parish we were filled to capacity at two of our four Masses! We honored our youth with the annual 2015 Youth Mass at 9:00am Family Mass, and then welcomed six new Christians at the 11:00am Morning Mass (Yes, I said six!). We also prayed for, and assisted others, in their own discernment with Vocations Sunday to God’s holy Church! It was a spectacular day! New folks were visiting, regular members were attending, many were checking out the new parish campus, buying pumpkins on our annual pumpkin farm to support our Zion Preschool at Saint Miriam (the best place on earth to learn, by the way!), and many enjoyed some seasonal homemade goodness in the Saint Miriam Café!

And yet, I overheard one person say, “I cannot believe how cold it is already, I hate the cold weather!” And still another, “That Mass was too long, why do we have to watch people get baptized!” And, another, “I like a quick ‘McMass’, just like fast food! I really don’t have time to stay here today…too much going on!” And yet, these very same people are some who call upon me and tell me how sad, or broken, or in need, or unhappy they are…

Yesterday, I was the Celebrant at the 7:30am Early Mass. I awoke at 5:00am, readied myself, drove over 309 through Montgomeryville, and arrived on our new campus about 6:25am. As I rounded the curve on 309 to enter the thruway proper, I gazed upward and caught a glimpse of the sun rising in the Eastern sky! It was simply spectacular. I pulled over and wept for a moment as I thought of my father and how much I missed him, but mostly of his love for me, I thought of God and all that I have to joyful for, I remembered all of you in my heartfelt prayer, and then I gave thanks and asked God to bless all of us with a wonderful day

Yesterday, it was a wonderful day… God is indeed good. Should we not all pause and be thankful, and before we ask God for another single thing…think of that which we already have been so generously given by our Creator and feel the deep joy already in our life?

…’so, let us all be thankful.’
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 12, 2015

 

I see a hunger in today’s world, a hunger for something more than life readily gives. I see a thirst, a thirst for the values of Francis of Assisi, as the world seems to run of its proverbial rails. People everywhere are seeking something more and some are responding to the clarity found within St. Francis’s message; to his courage as a peacemaker, to his depth of compassion for all people, and all of creation, and to his special concern for the poor, the forgotten, and marginalized. These are all expressions of his profound love for Christ and Christ’s love for us. This is what the world needs today: the good, the honest, the holy, the worker.

Next Sunday is Vocations Sunday and we seek those willing to make a life change, to actually find that something they are seeking and that which the world desperately needs. Are you willing to stop long enough to hear God’s voice?  Are you called to something more? During this important time of journeying, we stand ready to help guide in the path of discernment. One must realize that you can never be too open, too understanding, or too loving. If we’re to embrace this time of renewal in our Church, we must also renew our own lives and our focus.

St. Francis of Assisi tried to live his life as a joyful penitent, always aware of God’s love for him, even as a sinner. As many of us are firmly aware, Francis’s greeting was usually “Pax et Bonum” (peace and all good), a greeting that was filled with great joy and love of neighbor.

I believe the world is hungry for the Franciscan message of a Gospel-centered compassion and love. Now is the time for us as Franciscans – and those called to work in the vineyard – to make a real difference. Now is the time for to consider a vocation and ask the question: Is God calling you to be something more? Are you called to a vocation? Are you called to be a Franciscan Friar?
 
We seek not the perfect, we seek not the sinless, we seek the real person – broken and searching and willing to be something more. Is it you that we seek? Is it you that God’s seeks?
 

The Psalmist remind us, “My flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Is it you? Are you filled with that depth of love, and are you willing to seek something more?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: October 5, 2015

 
Sheep are interesting creatures. Born without horns, claws, strength, speed, or really any way of defending themselves, the only thing sheep have is each other: when frightened, they clump together as a giant flock protecting each other through a strength-in-numbers technique. Their instinct to look to one another for safety is the very thing that keeps them safe; unfortunately, and quite ironically, it’s also their greatest danger. Sheep are natural followers, having no instinct whatsoever to lead. When clumped together, any movement from the heard is interpreted as a sign of leadership and the rest blindly follow along. It’s no wonder, then, how sheep have been known as entire flocks to walk right off a cliff. They often act without thinking, are often lost or confused, and go with the crowd because they’re afraid to be different.
You wouldn’t happen to know of any other animals like this, would you?
 
Have you ever intended to do one thing and ended up doing another; got distracted with what you were doing, went with the crowd, and ended up somewhere you never wanted to be; have you ever been tempted to do things that were not good for yourself or others, led astray by something or someone that didn’t care about you? We can be just like the sheep sometimes, as we wander through life looking for help in all the wrong places.
 
We are a people in need of a Good Shepherd, someone to guide us and protect us. We need vocations. We need religious.
Where do we find Jesus? In our brothers and sisters. In communities of faith. Jesus may be the Good Shepherd, but we are His hands and feet. From Him, through us, and to the whole world Jesus loves His sheep. It is through you and me, the humble and lowly, the lost and confused, the unworthy and the broken; through us Jesus brings strength, guidance, and love to the whole world. Because of this, we prove that God’s light shines brightest through our cracks.
 
We are in need of good shepherds, people to do Christ’s work here on earth. Are you willing to open yourself up to the possibility that God might be calling you to a vocation and life of service? See your priest today. Meet a Friar. It may just change your life.
 
And the world…
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 28, 2015

 

Pope Francis made his way through jubilant crowds on his recent trip – his first ever – to the United Stated! And, lucky us, his last stop was the symbolic birthplace of our nation, Philadelphia, where he challenged the country as a whole to renew the promise of its past, and then joined a gala nighttime celebration of the family.

Shouts of “Viva, Papa!” attended the Pontiff everywhere he went and he boldly spent a considerable amount of time not just waving to crowds and interacting with the faithful, but challenging us all to be better Christians. He attended to the poor, the lame, the child, and the sinner. He came to show the world that it is not in power, but meekness where true life is found.

The pope arrived to our deeply Catholic area of the country with a message of hope and renewal, but also of change. He sought to energize the faithful and reengage those who have fallen away from the church. He stated, “We know that the future of the church in a rapidly changing society will call, and even now calls, for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity.” Then he concluded with, “One of the great challenges facing the church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the church’s mission.”

Like St. Francis, the Pope is one whom both Catholics and non-Catholics have united in honoring. It is because Francis lived out his faith boldly, even at his own sacrifice and comfort. Where and how do we live out faith responsibly?

I have witnessed a lot of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts from many who call themselves Catholics. I have seen many who call our parish home do the same. I have witnessed many become elated with the arrival of someone who lives out his faith with a passion that attracts. But will it change anything for us? Will we be better for it?

So let us ask ourselves today after the Pope made his way back to Rome…Will we actually attend Mass more, teach our children better, and allow the church to help the world by our giving of our time, our talent, and our treasure? Or, will the visit of this Pontiff fade as our willingness to carry and support the banner of Christianity does, too?

Will we be able to maintain this strength to make any meaningful change?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 21, 2015

Pope Francis will arrive in our area this week. We have been praying for him for over a year now and we wish him well in his travels. This pontiff has been a breath of fresh air, tackling issues ranging from poverty to immigration to clericalism to homosexuality, gay marriage, divorce, abortion, contraception, and many other issues in a church that has often been seen as unyielding on such issues of inclusion.

Many, myself admittedly included, are quick to note that in his remarkably brief time as pontiff, Pope Francis has not changed any theology or doctrine: this has thus far been a papacy of style over substance. And yet, he is liked deeply.

I think that the love of this man, dubbed recently as ‘the people’s pope’ is not the actual change, but the hope that change can come. At the heart of what Pope Francis is teaching, I believe, is that the core of being a follower of Christ isn’t contained in the long list of Canon law or the rules of the Catholic Catechism, it is contained in our hearts; it isn’t expressed in dogma, nor creeds, it is expressed in what we say, in what we do, and how we treat one another. Therefore, we need to treat one another with tenderness, empathy, compassion, care, and love – like family.  And that starts when we actually see each other as true brothers and sisters, all united in love, and not divided by denomination or creed.

So, then, is our communal, united job, not just those in leadership within the global church. We can love, we can accept, we can be brothers and sisters, we can encourage, we can walk together, we can welcome, we can laugh, and we can learn to follow the gospel of the One we follow…together.  We can be kind with one another and forgiving of one another; we can be merciful and gracious. I guess, we can be Christian.

In the end, I guess, true and meaningful change must come from hearts of inclusion, not from a book or a theology rooted in exclusion. How might we all act to love one another better this week?

Blessed journey, Pope Francis. A hope springs anew for life within the church.
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 14, 2015

 

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

This is the famous prayer now attributed to St. Francis. While we are not sure it is actually his, we pray it often with his spirit close to our minds ad hearts. Few prayers are more popular around the world and better loved than the “Peace Prayer of St. Francis.”

Brother Schroeder shared that in her book, The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective, author and Franciscan sister, Ilia Delio, OSF, wrote to following:

“Francis went about the world following the footprints of Christ, not so he could look like Christ, but because they were the footprints of divine humility. He discovered that God descends in love to meet us where we are and he found God in the most unexpected forms: the disfigured flesh of a leper, the complaints of a brother, the radiance of the sun, in short, the cloister of the universe.”

Peace was a concept near to the heart of St. Francis of Assisi. “Pax et bonum”. Put a verb alongside “peace,” and many people come up with “peace-making.” Yet I wonder what would happen if we understood that none of us can make peace, but rather at the instant of God’s creation, peace was made. Instead of making peace, perhaps we are asked, as Christians, to enter into “peace-keeping.”

As we enter this coming and fast-approaching autumn, as we begin to settle back into the normalcy of life’s rhythm with work and school and church, as we begin to slow down and remain at home more and find our balance again from the winding down of a busy summertime, how might we be instruments of peace and light? How might we join our God – in gratefulness for all we have – as co-creators of peace? How might we further the Kingdom by our work and giving through his holy Church?
 
Are we truly focusing on the things that last?
 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: September 7, 2015

Each Labor Day marks the end of summer for many of us, but rightly it should be much more than a last grasp at a final beach journey, or family picnic, before returning to a regular work or school routine. We must remember those who truly labor. After all, Christ Himself took up the tools of a carpenter, working with human hands for most of His life on earth. I am reminded at this time of my grandfather, who emigrated from Sicily at the age of 16, and my parents, too, who worked tirelessly to provide for my sister and me. They all worked long hours; they were determined people. They sent money back to Italy to help relatives in need. Their work made a difference to people thousands of miles away. They molded my sister and me into fine and reflective people. My sister works now to teach and help young people whom others often reject with special needs, and I serve God as a priest. It all began with the labor of others.

Over the past few weeks I have labored hard at our new parish, getting it ready for our occupancy and stewardship that began this past week, I was often very messy! I could be found sweeping the sidewalks, pruning hedges, painting walls, cleaning windows and floors, or simply laboring to haul lots of old materials to the large dumpster we employed to make room for all of our storage. I was in an old t-shirt, covered with paint stains and dirt and a similar pair of shorts; I even ruined a new pair of athletic shoes in the process! What I noticed most was how people treated me: they barely noted my existence. Once day, a man told me to ‘move out of his way’ and to then ‘hold the door for him’. On another occasion a worker we hired to help move us into the new space instructed me to ‘stay at the top of the stairs and tell him where everything will be going. He further lamented, “I don’t have the time to be bothered chasing you down, as it wastes our time.” I did as I was told and perched myself at the top of the stairs in the narthex and directed every box. About an hour later, someone came in from the electrical contractor and called out to me, “Good afternoon Monsignor!” I replied with a ‘hello’ in return and then the mover looked at me and said, “Oh Father, I am sorry, I didn’t realize it was you!”

What difference did it make who I was? A priest, a carpenter, an electrician, a mover, or a day laborer…did I not deserve the same respect?

Our Church teaching rightly remind us of the value of work: among other things, work enhances our human dignity, it is needed in order to form and maintain a family, and it contributes to the common good of our local, national and global communities. We would all do well to pause and remember the worker – the employed, the unemployed, the searching, the immigrant, the alien among us – all deserve our love and respect. All deserve the hope my ancestors had when they came to this nation.

This Labor Day, let us reflect on the value of work – and the worker – and on how we recognize and respect the dignity of all workers, including those who have immigrated to our local area. Undoubtedly we can all do more.

Undoubtedly the gospel message is at stake.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: August 24, 2015

Yesterday we heard the famous scripture from the Book of Joshua, ” …Choose today whom you will serve, … As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15) and I spoke to how when growing up in our neighborhood a woman had this emblazoned across her doorpost, but yet inside her home, it was incongruent with this scripture. On the lintel of her door was holy scripture, inside her home was chaos, threats of violence spanking of her children with wooden spoons and paddles, and constant emotional upheaval and unrest. The result: her son, my friend, became an addict.

In this scripture, Joshua is addressing all of Israel. Joshua has decided its time to “get down to brass tacks” as they say. The time had come for Israel, who had gone a bit astray from God, busy worshiping idols, to get back to a solid center, focused on their God. They had gone off the path; a path set before them by God Himself. It seems they needed a little reminder of all the things God had done for them.

I think we all need that reminder from time to time. Here we are about to move into a new parish campus, replete with wooded acreage, an historic cemetery, and a fully operational preschool, yet alone the parish building itself,  some 200+ years old, on two levels and made of beautiful hand-hewn stone and donations have all but dried up. Like the Israelites, many are too busy worshiping idols: summer breaks, shore homes and cabins in the mountains, last grasps at vacations away, and shopping, movies, and dinners out, leaving the work of the church to others…we allow others to sacrifice, to labor, to plan, to give all the while we simply rest and play. We worship idols. They worship God.

Life and faith are about choices. We need to make the hard choices, and make those hard choices in line with the faith we hold. You can no longer afford to say that you did not know.

If you are a Catholic, then you need to learn your faith, and stand on the truths that the church holds. It’s as simple as that.

Who will you choose today? How will your children grow? Will they love God, or vacations more? How will others see your choice? Will your life be as incongruent as the women from my youth with the wrongly worded lintel post, or will your faith shine and your work and life be rewarded? What is your legacy?

Choose today whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.