Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 8, 2015

Yesterday, in the life of our wonderful parish, we celebrated with our young adults, as they made their Confirmation. Our bishop always reminds us at Baptisms and Confirmations that he takes them seriously; not from some rote understanding of ‘the law’, but rather out of our inherent obligation to uphold and to love and to teach. It is why he jokingly tells the sponsors and godparents that he will ‘hunt them down’ if they fail at their job to care for the teaching of these children! It is all of our responsibility to raise better Christians and to rear stronger and more loving Catholics in the world today.

You see, he knows, as we all should, that we cannot live or share our faith until we know what we believe. Those of us who were “born into the Catholic faith,” that is, baptized into the Catholic Church because our parents arranged it, when we were just a baby, probably had a pretty sound background in the tenets of the faith. In our younger years we may have attended CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) and learned the lessons of the Catholic faith designed for elementary and/or high school students. But if you are getting older, like myself, it is pretty hard to recall what I was taught so long ago!

That is why these moments, found in the rhythm of parish life, are so important; not just to those receiving the Sacrament, but also to those of us who are called to witness and support them in their journey. You see…we can use these precious moments to re-energize our own spirituality, deepen our own understanding of our faith, and encourage others to join us in our walk by spreading the joy we have gained together in community.

This week, be open to people who ask you to help, at least see what you can do. Be open to those moments of learning that may come. Dive deeply into one aspect of your faith in meditation, prayer, and study to allow yourself to be a better Christian!

Finally, do not neglect prayer! Pray about it, pray for the individuals who asked for assistance, or for the needs known to you. Pray for the world, too. It is up to us to make the world, and our lives, and those around us, a little bit better.

GO, and build My Church! (as Jesus told St. Francis to do!). As Franciscans, that is our job, too!

Now go!



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: June 1, 2015

The short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, is written by author Ursula K. Le Guin and portrays the city, Omelas  – a joyous place that contained numerous happy people to the point where it was too hard to believe a place as wonderful and cheerful existed. Guin then explained that the joy of the city relies on the entrapment of a child and in order for a place such as Omelas to exist, the child must remain trapped.

This story makes us all ask the hard questions: “Is a city of happiness and joy worth a child being utterly miserable and full of sadness”? How can something such as a wonderful city be built on such a horrible foundation?”

Now, we might just say that everyone should just walk away from Omelas, but some may argue that walking away doesn’t help the situation, including the child. Some may stay that people should stay and enjoy the wonderful city and make constructive changes from within to help the child, but what if one then discovers there is no remedy?

Many would assert that they could not enjoy or live with themselves knowing that all their happiness is because some innocent child is being trapped against his/her will. Would one not be completely disturbed, after visiting the child and witnessing the cry for help?

Perhaps the problem with the premise of the story and the resulting perplexing problem is this: we all live within communities that depend on the sacrifice of the one, or the few, to help the many. Our churches, our communities of care, our places of philanthropy all rely on someone sacrificing to give to those without. The main issue is that we often never see ‘the child trapped’ and so we go about our daily lives with nary a pause or concern. We fail to see how we are actually part of the problem and the solution.

Perhaps the reason why those who leave Omelas seem so sure of where they are going – although to some including the author – they are walking “into the darkness”, they themselves believe they are walking away from the darkness, which is represented as the city of Omelas. However, our duty is not to walk away, our duty is to stay in the darkness and bring the small light that will fail the darkness and bring joy to all!

Perhaps this week we might all sit and ponder as we ask ourselves: how many times do I just walk away? How many times do I give up on a community? How many times do I take the easy route and simply leave rather than make substantive and meaningful change to bring light to a world in need of the good, the honest, and the holy? In other words, how many times do we all fail each other and in being a true Christian?

St. Francis once said, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

You see, sometimes to bring about true change requires us to sacrifice a bit of ourselves and simply stay in the water…

 

 



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: May 25, 2015

It is said that at the moment of his death, Francis called out “Welcome, Sister Death!”

The death of St. Francis gives us all a model to follow in reflecting on death—our own, and that of loved ones. Faced with all that we have this past few weeks, I could not but wonder if St. Francis’ approach to death might help us; help me?

One version of Francis’ death was written by Francis’ first biographer, Thomas of Celano. Celano was an Italian friar of the Franciscans, a poet, and the author of three hagiographies about Saint Francis of Assisi. Thomas was from Celano in Abruzzo and he tells us that St. Francis, when he knew he was dying, “exhorted death—terrible and hateful to all—to praise God.”

I’ve always thought that phrase captured eloquently how most of us feel about death: It is “terrible and hateful.” Death ends—in one way at least—our day-to-day relationships. Having lost my father just a few months ago, several longtime parishioners, and now Monsignor Joe, I’ve experienced this many times in these past months. It’s truly “terrible and hateful” not to be able to visit with my dad, enjoy watching the ballgame on television with him (even if I did not know what it is was all about!), sharing a meal, taking him out for a drive, or just sitting and talking. I miss him so very much that it actually physically hurts at times.

But at the same time, with St. Francis, I strive to praise God that my father’s death was his passage to a new life with God. His long time of suffering is ended, I trust, in the joy of knowing God’s love fully. I have to thank my spiritual father, St. Francis, for the gift of a different way of looking at death—“Sister Death,” he called to her—and finding a way to praise God, as we welcomed her in his own time of transition.

I guess in the end, reflecting on death is just one more part of being a strong Christian, baptized into Jesus’ Resurrection. And, perhaps such reflections are also part of our life at Saint Miriam.

I am sure that after I can actually sit and reflect and not be so busy with all the planning and needed movement of late that I will miss my confidant, my brother priest, my friend, Joe. Maybe Monsignor Joe is giving us one more lesson? Perhaps he is telling me, and all of you, that all is well…

+Jim

 



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: May 18, 2015

You may consider the building in which we worship on Sundays to be the only sacred space available to you. Perhaps we need to broaden that thinking just a bit. American author and mythologist, Joseph Campbell defined it simply enough as, “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.”

When many read that wonderful and deeply moving line, they often think of home. Home should be a sacred space; a place where you can “find yourself again and again.” Homes are places surrounded by the art and artifacts of a lifetime — your lifetime. There are pictures of family, children, grandchildren, friends, and captured memories, the many wonderful places visited, and gifts given and received by those we love, some of whom are gone now, but kept alive by our precious moments of remembering.

While the whole house may resonate with the power of self, there’s a very special corner in a special room that can be used just for you and God. Used in meditation or reflection, this corner can feature elements that draw one inward: a beautiful statue of the Blessed Mother, Our Lord, simple scented candles, a rosary, prayer book, beautiful green houseplants, images of nature, or cosy cushions on the floor where one can sit comfortably and just be.

In The Power of Myth, Campbell makes a very strong case for having such a sacred space in your life:

“This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

How might you extend the gifts we receive every week, gathered in prayer and song, at the Eucharist at Saint Miriam, and bring it home? How might you begin to reflect longer on God than the bills in the drawer? Is it possible that by increasing our reflection on that which lasts eternally, we might find our lives temporally to be guided and happier?

St. Francis once said, “True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.” Let us move together to create holy places and silent spaces in our lives this week and remember to focus on all that lasts.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: May 11, 2015

So what are the Franciscans and how do we live out our Franciscan Spirituality at the parish level?

First, we must remember that Franciscans are a group of people living by vows of simplicity, purity, and fidelity, in communion with our Bishops to further God’s kingdom on earth through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. They are bound together by a common way of life patterned after St. Francis of Assisi and the Desert Fathers. Their life is founded on the Gospel and rests on the three great pillars of ancient Christian Monasticism: Prayer, Work, and Study.

Following in the footsteps of Christ Jesus, in the charisma of St. Francis of Assisi, we embrace the “lepers” of our day. In doing so, we minister to Christ as He presents Himself to us in the marginalized, discriminated against, outcast, forgotten, rejected, and devalued; men, women, children and the elderly, of every race and creed, national origin and orientation, all are our brothers and sisters, and all are in need of love and inclusion.

As a parish, we move ahead together as Franciscans, those professed and those secular – and all in between – as we look forward to celebrating the ‘Liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ’ and as we minister to the lost, lonely, and forgotten. The spirituality of solidarity that grounds the Christian faith and guides the Franciscan tradition guides us here, too!
 
Franciscan spirituality is intentionally not a well defined, or highly structured spirituality, as many that were constructed beginning with the Catholic Reformation of the 16th century.  St. Francis’ spirituality was a rather spontaneous response to God’s grace and personal revelation. It was a lived process until the very end of his life.
 
How will you allow St. Francis to bring about the rebuilding of a new Church that honors everyone, just like our Christ? How will you live out your faith with spontaneity and joy this week?

 



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: May 4, 2015

Yesterday, at the parish of Saint Miriam, we honored our Blessed Mother with her May Crowing and grand procession where the children (and a lot of adults!) joyfully followed her in parade with such joy as we sang her hymns and pinned money upon her flowing blue and white streamers! (You can thank our pastor for that one, stemming from his early days at an Italian-Catholic parish!) Now, we turn to our own mothers this coming week to honor them. It seems that ‘moms’ is the standard of the day for thought and refection!

In the Sanctuary of our beautiful parish, hangs an original oil painting, a gift to us by one of our dearest benefactors who died in 2012, Raymond Leight, Jr. The work of art is entitled, “Oy Vey!” (based on Luke 2:41) and features Mary standing outside the temple looking for Jesus. She was worried for days as she and her husband, Joseph, searched for their son, Jesus. In Ray’s depiction, she finds Him, preaching in the temple courts, and turns toward the crowd as she raises her hand and explains, “Oy Vey!” (A Yiddish phrase expressing dismay or exasperation.) Yes, in typical Jewish mother fashion!

Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, probably was just a typical mother to her family, and it is likely that Jesus continued to honor her in one way or another. We have adopted Jesus’ Mother as our own, and we love her also. And don’t forget Dad. It is sort of hard to love our Mother on Mother’s Day without acknowledging that oftentimes there was a Dad, too, who had a lot to do with the beginning of our life! It is fortunate that many families are “together” and that there is unity within the relationship. But, we must also acknowledge that there are many who can’t remember one of their family members, either Mom, Dad, or an offspring, because they weren’t  there, and that some are broken in their relationships still to this day. There are so many tragic stories of single-parent families. People trying to juggle two jobs and small kids to make a living. And some who have emotional problems with their relationships as children with their parents. But perhaps, turning to our Blessed Mother in Heaven, can allow us to rekindle the love that may be missing in our human brokenness to gain the fullness of the warmth of a mom that is desperately needed.

Mothers play a big role in our lives, and we must thank them for that, as we honor Mother’s Day this year. So don’t make mom prepare a meal today, rather take her out to someplace very special! Make the beds so she doesn’t have to do them, or clean the kitchen (or that oven!). Buy her some flowers; bring some cheer into the house, or go and hand pick them like you did when you were a child! And if she is, indeed, no longer with you, pray for others who need their mothers and do not have one. Try to remember some of the good advice she gave the world and share it with others. Then, say, thank you, Jesus, for my mom and for sharing Your mom with me!

On this coming Mother’s Day, let us all stop and pray to our Blessed Mother, and also pause to say, thank you dear Mother of God, for the hundreds or thousands of times you interceded for us with Jesus or with God our Father. May we call upon you again, especially when we are in great need?

Thank you, God, for the gift of mothers.

 



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 27, 2015

The month of May is traditionally dedicated to Mary in many cultures. May is considered the season of the beginning of new life!

Already in Greek culture, May was dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of fecundity. In Roman culture, May was dedicated to Flora, the goddess of bloom, of blossoms. The Romans celebrated ludi florales (literally: floral games) at the end of April, asking the intercession of Flora for all that blooms. This is also related to the medieval practice of expelling winter. May 1st was considered the beginning of growth. And, of course, devotion to the Holy Virgin Mary has always been a special characteristic of the sons and daughters of Saint Francis, like within our parish.

In fact, the entire Franciscan Order has been placed under the protection of Mary Immaculate! Our Little Sisters regard the Blessed Virgin as their mother and model and pray to her every day. Each week at Saint Miriam we meditate upon the mysteries of the lives of Jesus and Mary in the praying of the Rosary and at least once monthly we pray the Franciscan Crown, which is a rosary meditating on the Seven Joys of Mary!

There are also special devotions to Our Lady during the months of May and October like the upcoming celebration of the May Crowning of Our Blessed Mother with a Grand Procession this coming Sunday, May 3rd at the 10:30am Morning Mass! During the actual upcoming ceremony, we have a grand procession that EVERYONE takes part in, especially our children! During the beautiful procession decades of the rosary, interspersed with songs, are prayed and sung and streamers flow from our Blessed Mother as we process around the garden with her aloft a grand and decorated cart!

Yes, the crown may last only a day or two, but it will be beautiful and the memories will last a lifetime! The children will all have crowned Mary, and it will have been a joyful time for them and all of us as we honor our Mother in heaven. So how will you honor Mary this month? 

We leave you with St. Francis’ Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Hail, holy Lady, most holy Queen, Mary, Mother of God, ever Virgin; Chosen by the most holy Father in heaven, consecrated by Him, with His most holy beloved Son and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. On you descended and in you still remains all the fullness of grace and ever good.

Hail His Palace.
Hail His Tabernacle.
Hail His Robe.
Hail His Handmaid.
Hail His Mother.

And hail, all holy Virtues, who, by the grace and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are poured into the hearts of the faithful, so that, faithless no longer, they may be made faithful servants of God through you.  Amen.



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 20, 2015

St. Francis committed himself to the special ministry of “healing wounds, to uniting what was falling apart, and bringing home those who have lost their way.” At the core of Francis’ spirituality was the belief, “My God loves me.” And so he reduced his prayer to this simple version: “My God and my all.”  There is simplicity in his outlook, but it marries all of creation!

This past week, as a Franciscan parish, we saw what moving ‘first with our open hearts’ does to a community. We witnessed new life in the ordination of a priest, fellowship around a table of food that brought together a community, secular Franciscans sitting at the feet of their bishop and learning, and two brand new Christians being brought into the kingdom of God! We welcomed hundreds of visitors and guests to our home and to God’s Table! All of this because we love, first! Sadly, as you will read later in our pastor’s blog this week, you will also see what division can do to the fabric of a community, too. You see; it is all founded on intention.

Our intention at Saint Miriam is a radical inclusive love. One that is hospitable even to the stranger. We know that not even one’s own life is too precious to give for the sake of another who is in need. Self-giving and self-realization go together. Our faith requires self-discipline and self-giving compassion toward all creatures, if we are to honor the divine presence dwelling within created reality that “God may be all in all,” (1 Cor 15: 28)

Millard Fuller’s words ring true: “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.”
 
What will you do this week to further the love and inclusion of our Franciscan parish? How will you honor God this week in your radical love? How will you impact the least among us and show the world how open your heart is?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 13, 2015

Yesterday was Divine Mercy Sunday and the world seemed to focus on “Doubting Thomas”, but we chose to reflect also on what the promise of Easter is and how we, as a Church of the One we follow, might act in concert with our God of mercy? St. Francis once said that, “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.” And the famous prayer attributed to him begins with the words, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
 
St. Francis was only echoing the passionate desire of Jesus his Lord, “Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called children of God.” But what if we took this dream seriously? What if we actually acted as children of God? What if we made it our central focus of our life together within our parishes, and out in the world where we dwell the balance of every week? What if we sought inspiration from the great peacemakers like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Mandela, and others, rather than CNN and a recollection of the day’s violence and atrocities? What if we went beyond just the way of nonviolence, but actually committed ourselves to a way of healing and reconciliation to all around us? What if we learned to not only ‘put up with’ but to actually forgive?
 
Perhaps, deep down, we all have the capacity to develop some simple, ordinary ways of carrying a spirit of unity, peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation into all our relationships we tend to in our daily lives? As we continue in this Eastertide, let us pause long enough to sense the world’s longing for nonviolence, healing, and forgiveness, and let us become agents for all that is good and holy in our time? If so, we will become more aware of the power of our words, the depth of our action – or inaction – and the ability of our every movement to bring about blessings rather than curses, healing rather than hurt, forgiveness rather than the continuation of a grudge.
 
For it is always within the core of each human being – the dignity of the human person – where the sacred center of God resides.
 
With St. Francis of Assisi, it is true that “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: April 6, 2015

 

The Easter rush is done! Whether a religious or layperson, the preparation, the labor, the beautiful Masses and services of Easter, and the dinners are now done. Finally, perhaps, we can all take a breath on this Monday in the Octave of Easter and just sit quietly and reflect on what the days have meant to us, deeply.

If you don’t practice time alone and in quietude, having a time of stillness each day can be a wonderful experience. It can happen just by ‘unplugging’ for a few hours. Why not try and put down your ‘smart’ devices, turn off the television, allow that computer to enter into sleep mode, and find a corner to sit with yourself?

Rise early, if your day is so busy that you just can’t find the time to be alone and to have some needed stillness and silence; or stay after work, when all your coworkers depart and simply use the time alone to relish the quietness of your office space! Or, if you are a night owl, why not use the late nights, when everyone’s asleep, to find that peaceful place…just for you? Whenever you find the time, place, and space, begin in prayer, reduce mental clutter, and quiet your mind. Try not to fill it with random images and information or problem solve your day; just ‘be’ and let God come.

Our Franciscan spirituality is wise and peaceful. It espouses a wisdom that is knowledge wrapped with intuitive love bathed by divine illumination. And is why we advocate an active peace, which is always emanating outward – from your inner self – to transform a frequently violent world with peace and reconciliation. This always begins in a place of prayer and quiet.

In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… and enriching ourselves with the foundation found in a quiet time with our God. It allows hope to blossom in the wilderness of life.

Today…be still and know our Lord is Risen!