Monday, September 28, 2009

Web Video About The Secular Franciscan Order

The Franciscan Family has been celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the approval of the Rule of the Order of Friars Minor. From that beginning came the Poor Clares, the Second Order; and the Secular Franciscan Order, the Third Order. Thousands of lay men and women have been members of the SFO, many continue to join, seeking to "observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi..." (Art. 4, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order). Recently, a web video has been posted, of an interview with J. Patrick Mendes, SFO, National Minister of the United States SFO Fraternity. In it, he gives some background on the Order, and the formation process. Please check it out!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Letter to World Leaders From St. Francis

With the leaders of the world meeting at the United Nations, and the G-20 summit being held in Pittsburgh, PA, it seemed appropriate to read this letter St. Francis of Assisi wrote to the world leaders of his time:

Letter to the Rulers of the Peoples

To all mayors and consuls, magistrates and rulers throughout the world, and to everyone who may receive these letters: Brother Francis, your little and despicable servant in the Lord God, sends his wishes of health and peace to all of you. Pause and reflect, for the day of death is approaching. 1 beg you, therefore, with all possible respect, not to forget the Lord or turn away from His commandments by reason of the cares and preoccupations of this world, for all those who are oblivious of Him and turn away from His commands are cursed and will be totally forgotten by Him. And when the day of death does come, everything which they think they have will be taken from them. And the wiser and more powerful they may have been in this world, so much greater will be the punishments they will endure in hell.

Therefore, I firmly advise you, my lords, to put aside all care and preoccupation and receive with joy the most holy Body and the most holy Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in holy remembrance of Him.

And you should manifest such honor to the Lord among the people entrusted to you that every evening an announcement be made by a town crier or some other signal that praise and thanks may be given by all people to the all-powerful Lord God. And if you do not do this, know that you must render an account before the Lord your God, Jesus Christ, on the day of judgment.

Let those who keep this writing with them and observe it know that they will be blessed by the Lord God.

You can find this letter and more information at the Franciscan Friars, TOR website

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hard Times

“So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or "What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” (Matt. 6: 31-34a, NAB)

Sometime life can get very difficult, especially when financial times are hard. The pressures of getting bills paid; making sure there is food on the table, can wear a person down. It can affect one’s relationship with one’s family and friends. Tempers get short; one gets impatient with even the littlest mix-ups of daily life. Anxiety can rob one of peace of mind, blood pressure rises, and ulcers start.

So when we read the above passage, it would be natural to say, “Right!” In hard times, faith can be challenged; our prayer will either be angry, or non-existent. But there is truth in what Jesus is saying. To get through the hard times, we need to keep turning to the Father, keep opening our hearts to his love, and trust he will give us the peace we need to get through the hard times.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Feed My Sheep."

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He then said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him a third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21: 15-17, NAB)

I have been reading a book lately by Sara Miles, entitled, “Take This Bread.” It is a spiritual memoir about a woman who was raised as an atheist, discovered faith when she received communion at an Episcopal church in San Francisco. I am still in the middle of the book, but one segment caught my attention, or perhaps the Holy Spirit grabbed me and had me focus on this story. Ms. Miles recounts her reflecting on the above passage from the Gospel of John. It results with her starting a food pantry in her church.

Most Catholics reading this passage would see it as Jesus turning the care of his Church over to Peter, and his successors. But what if we were to apply Christ’s command, “Feed my sheep,” to us? We see in one of the other gospels, that to enter the Kingdom of God, one has to give drink to the thirsty, to feed the hungry, for when we do this for the poor, we are doing it for Christ.

So this is the challenge to us, to me, to feed those who are hungry. And we only have to read the papers, or watch the news to see how desperate the need is in our country, in our communities, because of today’s economy. But it is because of this bad economy, that I am saying, “I am living paycheck to paycheck, I just have enough to keep food on my table!” Jesus comes right back at me with the story of the widow’s mite. He praised the widow for giving only two copper coins to support the Temple, for she gave out of her want, while others gave from their surplus. So I, and all of us, am being challenged to give from our want, to help those who are in even greater need.

So now I am committing myself to bringing at least a few cans of food to a food pantry being run by the Franciscans at St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, MA. And I am going to try to be open to every opportunity to serve the hungry, to answer Christ’s command, “Feed my sheep.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Final Resting Place for a Cardinal

The Boston Globe, in its Friday edition, reported that the Archdiocese of Boston and Boston College is petitioning a Massachusetts Probate Court for permission to relocate the remains of the late William Cardinal O’Connell, second Archbishop of Boston. He is currently buried in a chapel on a hill on the grounds of St. John’s Seminary, which the Archdiocese sold to Boston College in 2004. They wish to rebury him on the grounds of St. Sebastian School in Needham, MA, which Cardinal O’Connell helped found. Michael Paulson, the Globe’s religion reporter, wrote the story.

Reading this story brought back memories of my days at St. John’s Seminary. You could see Cardinal O’Connell’s tomb up there on the hill, the legend was that he wanted to be buried there so he could keep an eye on the Seminary. Behind the tomb was an open field, which at one time was the cemetery of the Sulpician priests who originally ran the Seminary. When O’Connell took it over, he had the Sulpicians pack up and leave and this included their dead.

Later in my life, when I was a Franciscan novice, the novitiate was located in a small mansion in Brookline, MA, that once was a residence for Cardinal O’Connell. My room was in the former carriage house. O’Connell was reputed to definitely live as a “Prince of the Church.” He represented the Church “Militant,” and wielded power both in the Church and outside the Church with a heavy hand.

Cardinal O’Connell died in 1944, and was succeeded by the third Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cushing, who had very different leadership style, who would pursue ecumenical and interfaith relations, who had an influence on the Second Vatican Council, and guided the Archdiocese during those turbulent times.

Wherever Cardinal O’Connell is finally interred, may he rest in peace.

Wikipedia has a very informative entry on William Cardinal O’Connell.
UPDATE: Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe has reported on his blog that Paul Kirk, who was appointed interim Senator for Massachusetts on Sept. 24th, is related to Cardinal O'Connell. You cannot make this stuff up!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Civility or the Lack Thereof

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,” will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” (Matthew 5: 21-23)

On the National Public Radio, BBC, some of the broadcast channels, there has been discussions about civility in society, or the lack thereof. We have seen examples of this lack of civility in the halls of Congress, on the tennis court in Flushing Meadows, NY, and on stage. And what we have seen on the streets and in town halls concerning the subject of health care reform is not a debate, but a yelling match between two sides with no respect for the other. I have not seen such discord, such anger, such name calling, since the days of the Vietnam protests.

This is why I am quoting again from the Gospel of Matthew. We all need to be reminded again what our Lord Jesus Christ preached. We need to be reminded that Jesus commanded us to love another. Not just those who are lovable, but even those we may think of as “jerks.” We are called to love all, to be respectful of all, to be courteous to all.

So we should turn to God, open ourselves to him, in prayer, and ask him to remove our stony hearts, so prone to outbursts and insults; and replace them with hearts full of love. Let us, by our words and actions, be a balm of peace on the world. Let us show the world how truly to love and not how to insult.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September Column for Fraternity Newsletter

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matt 25: 34-40)

“Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively.” (Art. 14a, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

“Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.” (Art. 15, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order)

The above verse from the Gospel of Matthew was part of the Gospel reading proclaimed at the funeral of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. And listening to it caused me to reflect on how times have changed. When I was growing up, it was generally assumed that when it came to feeding the poor, caring for the sick, clothing the naked, etc.; that was the responsibility of the clergy and the religious. Our role was to kick in a few bucks to help support the work. But since the Second Vatican Council, we, the laity, have discovered that the parable Jesus taught about the last judgment, was directed towards all of us. Each one of us has a responsibility to be active in our communities, to see to it that the poor are taken care of, to be a voice for those who have no voice in our society. Wherever and whenever the opportunity may arise, we are to proclaim the compassionate power of the Gospel by our daily lives.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Remembrance and Reflection

September 11th, 9/11, 911; this is a date that will live in our memories, like December 7th lives in the memories of my father’s generation. On that day, I was in my company’s office, listening to my radio when I heard the report of a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center Towers. I assumed that it was a small plane, as the morning wore on and the stories came in more frequently, we all realized that something worse was happening. I remember looking out of our office window down at a building that had flat screen televisions, showing the news. People were gathered in front, watching the story unfold, so many people that they spilled into the street. When I left my office later that day, the streets of Boston were almost empty. The following morning, waiting at the commuter train station, I looked up at the sky, and saw the thin contrails of fighter jets on patrol.

Other images I remember was the videos of the jets crashing into the Twin Towers. The images of people trapped in the flaming Towers, which soon collapsed. I remember the pictures of the skeletal remains of the Towers, still smoking, dust still in the air. The image of firefighters, police, and EMT’s carrying the lifeless body of Father Mychal Judge, OFM, from the wreckage. The image of a cross, made from the remains of the steel girders.

The United States changed that day, many of its citizens showing great courage. But also a dark side came out, Arab, Muslim citizens attacked verbally and physically. Arab emigrants detained. The country has entered unchartered waters, and the course some of our leaders has set, I fear will lead to further darkness. A country that decried the use of brutal interrogation methods and mistreatment of prisoners in the past has revealed using techniques that could only be called torture. And the majority of its citizens support this, as long as they are kept safe. The courage and valor of our soldiers and marines are inspiring, but we have been at war longer than at anytime in our history. The cost in blood, broken bodies and broken minds continues to grow.

On September 11th, 2009, I will go to St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, MA. There, in one of their chapels, the names of those who lost their lives on 9/11 will be read and remembered. In that chapel, I will pray for those who died on that terrible day; pray for those who lost a loved one that terrible day; pray for our country and the world, that peace will win out, and that light will beat back the darkness.

Mindful that they (Secular Franciscans) are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.” (Art. 19a, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Writer's Block

You hear about it. You read about it, but you never expect it to happen to you! Hopefully, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will make a breakthrough soon!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Cardinal and His Critics

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,” will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” (Matthew 5: 21-23)

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6: 37)

“Nothing should upset the servant of God except sin. And no matter how another person may sin, if the servant of God lets himself become angry and disturbed because of this, [and] not because of love, he stores up guilt for himself (cf. Rm2:5). That servant of God who does not become angry or upset at anything lives justly and without anything of his own. And he is blessed who does not keep anything for himself, rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (Mt 22:21).” Admonition XI, - St. Francis of Assisi.

The Catholic blogosphere has been alive with comments about the funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and the participation of Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston, at that funeral. The Cardinal has taken a lot of heat for being in attendance, and for leading the final prayers. Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe gives some of the details of this story. His Eminence has also commented on his own position concerning giving a Catholic funeral to the Senator, and what all this harsh rhetoric and comments is doing to the Church and the pro-life movement.

The Church is at its best when it shows compassion and mercy even to those who disagree with it, who may have taken positions against Church teaching. Yes, the Church has a prophetic role to play in the world and it must speak truth to power, but it must do so in such a way that does not violate Christ command to love one another. And when Jesus says love one another, he is not just talking about our friends, he is also talking about those who oppose us, who harm us. It is a spiritual work of mercy to admonish the sinner, but not with words of fire, brimstone, and damnation, but with words of concern, courtesy and respect for a fellow child of God.

Finally, it is a corporal work of mercy to bury the dead. And the Church in Boston was showing mercy to Ted Kennedy and his family, when it gave the Senator a Catholic funeral, trusting in the Father’s love and wisdom.

Photo from Boston Herald

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Setting a New Course

Everyone goes through life thinking they know what course they are setting, what road they are taking, and what the ultimate destination will be. Then life comes along, and you find yourself facing a fork in the road, a detour, a storm on the horizon. Now you are not so sure where you are going or how this journey is going to end.

I find myself in uncharted waters, the journey I had mapped out I have to scrape and toss away. It is moments like this when you find out how much you depend on the Lord, for his guidance, for his strength; to get through this unexpected moments. I found the following prayer on, and I would like to share it with everyone:

Steer the ship of my life, good Lord, to your quiet harbour, where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict. Show me the course I should take. Renew in me the gift of discernment, so that I can always see the right direction in which I should go. And give me the strength and the courage to choose the right course, even when the sea is rough and the waves are high, knowing that through enduring hardship and danger in your name we shall find comfort and peace.
- Basil of Caesarea (c. 329-379)