Meditation

Jesus makes us brave men and women
by Friar John Curran

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 22, 2017

Is 45:1, 4-6; Ps 96:1, 3-5, 7-10; 1 Thes 1:1-51; Mt 22:15-21.

On July 31, James McCloughan, a retired high school teacher and football coach from South Haven, Michigan, was honored at the White House by President Trump with the Medal of Honor. Jim is a hero from the Vietnam War, and in 1969 he risked his life and was wounded while saving the lives of 10 fellow soldiers.

Jim is now 71, and he has never forgotten what his father taught him, "My father told me if I had a job to do, don't do it halfway, and make sure you do it until the end, until it's completed.

At football games we stand to honor men like Jim McCloughan. America is the “Land of the free and the home of the brave.” Christians are brave men and women. We honor them when we stand for the Profession of Faith at Sunday mass.

Thousands of saints showed exceptional bravery when they were put to the test for their faith in Christ. Paul described his life in the following way: "...with my many more labors and imprisonments, with far worse beatings and frequent brushes with death. Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes less one; three times I was beaten with rods; I was stoned once, shipwrecked three times; I passed a day and a night on the sea. I traveled continually, endangered by floods, robbers, my own people, the Gentiles; imperiled in the city, in the desert, at sea, by false brothers; enduring labor, hardship, many sleepless nights; in hunger and thirst and frequent fastings, in cold and nakedness " (2 Cor 11:23-28).

Christians are loyal citizens. Jesus taught us that we “render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and to God, the things that belong to God.” Mt 22, 20-22. Christians know that all things belong to God. We express our loyalty to God, when we serve our country. Paul wrote about our primary loyalty in these words, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” Phil 3, 20.

“We can do all things in Christ who gives us the strength.” Phil 4, 13. When Jim McCloughan carried a wounded fellow soldier on his back, he was probably surprised that he could do it. We are surprised that we can do many things that seemed impossible. God gives us courage, that we did not know that we had.

In the second reading Paul shows us the attitude that we should have. He had a very hard life, but it made him better rather than bitter, because he belonged “to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Thes 1, 1. Because he loved Jesus, he loved life and people. Live life to the full, and be lovers, even if your life is hard.

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

by Friar John Curran

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 2, 2017
2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14, 16; Ps 89:2-3, 16-19; Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Mt 10:37-42.

“Entresto” is a prescription medication for adults with certain types of long-lasting (chronic) Heart Failure. In a TV commercial a man is singing in the shower, “The sun will come up tomorrow.” (from the musical “Annie,” 1977). And then a voice tells us, “For persons with chronic heart failure, tomorrow is not a given. But “Entresto” makes more tomorrows possible.”

God has promised to give us “tomorrows and tomorrows” for all eternity. Jesus assured us, “So don't worry about tomorrow.” (Mt 6,:34.) And he said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51.)

Our baptism fills us with the life of Jesus. When we were baptized, we were baptized into Christ (Rom 6:3).
The same things that happened in Jesus’ life will happen to us. We share in his death and resurrection. The sorrows and hurts in our lives are like “little deaths.” The joys in our lives are like “little resurrections.”

Because of our baptism Jesus lives again in us. We are re-born for eternity. Jesus makes everything new. (Rev. 21:5.) When the moment of our first birth arrived, we saw light for the first time. We were delivered from darkness. We must be baptized in order to be born into the eternal light of a new day. (Jn 3:4.) We are redeemed, forgiven, and chosen (Eph 1, 7, 11). Jesus walks, talks, thinks, feels, works, prays, hears, sees, and loves in us. We have some of the same privileges that belong to Jesus. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” (1 Pt 2:9.)

When my days on earth have run their course, the moment will arrive when I will close my eyes. Then I will enter again the darkness that I knew when I was in my mother’s womb. I will hear a joyful voice singing, “The sun will come up tomorrow.” Then a cry, “It’s a new day!” Finally I’ll behold the blinding light of the Eternal Sun, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday of Holy Week
Absolute Joy
by Friar Tom Smith

I Saw a reflection by a woman named Caryll Houselander from her book The Risen Christ . I wrote my version in my journal and would like to share it with you.
“Christ in his humanness wanted joy. He chose to suffer completely to the end, but he also wanted absolute joy. He wanted to receive it, and to give it. He changed the water into wine to prevent embarrassment for the wedding host, and to extend their joy.

 

Majestic sunset in the mountains landscape. Dramatic sky and colorful stones. Carpathians, Ukraine, Europe
Majestic sunset in the mountains landscape. Dramatic sky and colorful stones. Carpathians, Ukraine, Europe

It is part of our Christ life to increase joy in the world—first in our own lives and then in the lives of others. We cannot increase joy unless we “put on” Christ’s personality and our joy is actually his. We can increase joy through our compassion. We shall radiate his light for he is the light which shines in the darkness, which darkness cannot overcome.”


Love brings me joy and helps me to share joy with others. Let us love one another, drawing from the love of Christ, and bring compassionate care to those who live in darkness. Our love sustains us that we might have the ability to extend our hearts and bring light and joy into the lives of others, which thereby increases our joy as well!

 

Read Isaiah 49:1-6, John 13:21-33, 36-38

How have we progressed?
by Friar Howard Hansen

The Gospel from St. John chosen to be read at our Liturgy today tells the story of the anointing of Jesus by Mary at her home in Bethany where Jesus was visiting. Mary anointed Jesus with precious oil as an act of love and devotion as well as a preparation for his burial. Judas, the keeper of the apostolic pocketbook, disagreed with this using of expensive oil in the anointing of Jesus and suggested that the money spent would be better used for the poor.Mary anointing feet of Jesus

Unfortunately, it was not really the poor that Judas was concerned about. He is concerned with himself and his blind desire to turn Jesus over to the civil powers. Despite all that he has learned and all that he has seen, Judas just doesn’t get it. He continues in his ignorance to feed the dark intentions in his heart.

Let us ask ourselves how this quickly passing season of Lent has affected us. Are we still hanging in there with our apparent defects, our self-satisfying desires, or has there been some change, at least the beginning of a U turn of repentance? How have we progressed during this Lenten time?

Read John 12:1-11

Fr. Howard (1930-2011) was a beloved Friar. His last assignment was at the Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center in Prior Lake, Minnesota, where he began to write daily homilies until his death. You can view all his homilies at www.franciscan retreats.net

How well do you know Jesus?
by Friar John Curran

Peter knew Jesus better than any other apostle. Peter is mentioned practically whenever Jesus did anything. (see Mt 16:17; Mt 14:29; Mt 17:1; Mk 5:37; Mt 26:37). He knew Jesus as the Messiah, the Teacher, the Deliverer, the Raiser of the dead; and the Master speaker in crowds. On Good Friday Peter spoke shocking words, when he saw Jesus held as a prisoner. “He shouted, “I do not even know the Man!” (Mt 26:74)

Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem, by James Tissot. (Getty Images)
Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem, by James Tissot. (Getty Images)

Paul, on the other hand, knew Jesus in a different way. The Risen Jesus spoke to him on the road to Damascus (See Acts 8:4-5; 18:9-10; 9:16; 2 Cor 12:1-4.) And Paul wanted everyone to know Christ. He prayed, “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.” (Phil 3:19)

How well do you know Jesus? Maybe when you pass through dark moments in life (death of a loved one, sickness, divorce, failure in school or finances), you might come to know him as the Suffering Servant.

“He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, knowing pain, like one from whom you turn your face, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured. We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.” (Is 53:3-4)

Personal suffering will teach you who Jesus is. Holy Week is the best time to get to know Jesus personally. Jesus wants us to know him and love him. “Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear.” Is 50, 4. At the moment when Peter denied Jesus, he looked at him with love. (Lk 22:61)

As we follow the way of Jesus’ passion, we let Jesus look into our eyes, and our life will never be the same.

Fifth Saturday of Lent

He is always willing to forgive us.

Pope Francis, from a homily on the Transfiguration of Jesus

imagesIn this Gospel passage (cf. Mt 17:1-9), reference is made twice to the beauty of Jesus, of Jesus-God, of luminous Jesus, of Jesus full of joy and life. First, in the vision: “And he was transfigured”. He was transfigured before them, his disciples: “his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light”. And Jesus is transformed; he is transfigured. The second time, as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to speak of this vision before He had Risen from the dead, meaning the Resurrection Jesus was to have — did have, but at that moment he had not yet risen — the same bright, shining face will be like this! But what did he mean? That between this Transfiguration so beautiful, and that Resurrection, there will be another face of Jesus: there will be a face not so beautiful, disfigured, tortured, despised, bloodied by the crown of thorns.... Jesus’ whole body will be just as something to be discarded. Two Transfigurations, and between them Jesus Crucified, the Cross. We must really look at the Cross! It is Jesus-God — “this is my Son”, “this is my beloved Son!” — Jesus, Son of God, God himself, with whom the Father is well pleased: He is completely destroyed in order to save us! To use too strong a word, too strong, perhaps one of the strongest words of the New Testament, a word which Paul uses: He made him to be sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21). Sin is the most terrible thing; sin is an offense to God, a slap in the face to God, it is saying to God: “You do not matter to me; I prefer this...”. So Jesus became sin, he annihilated himself, he debased himself to that point.... And in order to prepare the disciples not to be scandalized to see him like this, on the cross, he appeared Transfigured.

We are accustomed to speaking about sins: when we confess “I did this sin; I did that sin...”; and also in Confession, when we are forgiven, we feel that we are forgiven because He took this sin upon himself in the Passion: He became sin. We are used to speaking about the sins of others. It is a bad thing.... Instead of speaking about others’ sins, I am not saying to make ourselves sin, because we cannot, but to look at our own sins and at the One who became sin.

This is the journey toward Easter, toward the Resurrection: with the certainty of this Transfiguration, to go forward; to see this face so bright, so beautiful, which will be the same one in the Resurrection and the same that we will find in Heaven, and also to see this other face, which is made sin, which paid in this way, for all of us. Jesus is made sin, he becomes the curse of God, for us: the blessed Son, in the Passion, became the accursed because he took our sins upon himself (cf. Gal 3:10-14). Let us think about this. How much love! What love! And let us also think about the beauty of the transfigured face of Jesus that we will meet in Heaven.

May this contemplation of the two faces of Jesus — the one transfigured and the one made to be sin, made a curse — encourage us to go forward on the journey of life, on the journey of Christian life. May it encourage us to ask forgiveness for our sins, not to sin so much.... May it encourage us above all to have faith, because if He was made to be sin it is because He took ours upon himself. And He is always willing to forgive us. We need only to ask for it.

Read the Gospel of St. Matthew 17:1-9 and St. Paul's Letter to the Corinthians 5

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Fifth Friday of Lent

When the Holy Spirit abides in our hearts, it is he who makes us understand that the Lord is near and takes care of us.
(Pope Francis on Twitter, April 2, 2017)

San Damiano Crucifix
San Damiano Crucifix

The Prayer Before the Crucifix
by St. Francis of Assisi

Most High,
glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me
true faith,
certain hope,
and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
Lord,
that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.

Readings for today Psalm 18, John 10:31-42
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.

Fifth Thursday of Lent
Give Us the Strength
by +Friar Howard Hansen

+Fr. Howard Hansen (1930-2011)
+Fr. Howard Hansen (1930-2011)

“If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me.” The word “glory, glorify” has many different nuances of meaning in the Scriptures. The word occurs some 170 times in the New Testament. It can mean wealth, power, prestige, honor. God is said to give glory to Christ in the sense of glory meaning the privileged state of a heavenly intimate relationship with God in Christ. Jesus turns his will and life over to the Father and because of this the Father gives Christ’s human nature the privileged state of an intimate relationship with the Father. And, amazingly enough, so it also is with us. This only stands to reason; if we turn our will and life over to God a certain intimacy will certainly be the result. One of the ways we become intimate with God is through communication with him and what could possibly be a better form of communication than turning our will and lives over to his care? 

Father, you show us the privileged life we will have if we identify with you and your way, truth, and life. Give us the strength, please, to be able to accomplish this.

Fr. Howard (1930-2011) was a beloved Friar. His last assignment was at the Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center in Prior Lake, Minnesota, where he began to write daily homilies until his death. You can view all his homilies at www.franciscan retreats.net

Fifth Wednesday of Lent
Letting Go of Lent
by Friar Martin Day

Three quarters of this year’s Lenten season has already passed us by. Where are we at this point in our Lenten journey? It could be an occasion for us to “buckle down” and give a final push to our Lenten resolutions. Perhaps we can still make it! Or we might be at the point of thinking that we were a bit too ambitious when Lent began and, at this point in the penitential season, we might be confronted with the reality that what we said we were going to do has become a mathematical impossibility. This latter case might apply, for example, if we thought that, somehow, our Lenten fasting would lead to a reduction in waist size.letting go of lent

I would like to suggest another option: Perhaps it is best if we “let go” of Lent. Lent is designed to prepare our hearts to celebrate the feast of our salvation. The first step in the process is to come to a deeper realization that the salvation being celebrated actually applies to us! Lent helps us get past the notion that we can save ourselves—if we are good enough then God will have to let us into heaven. The most successful Lent could be the one where we come face to face with our inability to measure up on our own to the demands of the Gospel.

At this point in the season, however, the focus shifts. Whatever has happened, or not happened during this Lenten season now has to give way to the actual celebration of salvation. We have now to relinquish the center stage, which we had previously occupied with attentiveness to our prayer life, our almsgiving, our fasting and abstinence, to the work that Christ has done through his sacrifice on the cross, and the work that is continuing through the power of the Holy Spirit still at work in the world. These realities will always be the main event, even if we feel much more in touch with our response to them, however lacking it may be.

To let go of Lent means to forget ourselves for a moment and revel in the simple fact that God has seen fit to save us, without there being any other reason to do so other than the fact that he loves us, and wants us to fulfill the purpose for which we were made—to rejoice in the life prepared for us from the foundation of the world. Would that it were true that we were worthy of so great a gift. But the good news of salvation is that the gift is ours even though we are not worthy of it. We can only be in awe of that. And in our awe Lenten resolutions fall away. There is much more important work at hand—to celebrate the mystery of God’s redeeming love.

Fifth Tuesday of Lent
Finding the Face of Jesus

imagesOne important challenge is to show that solutions will never be found in fleeing from a personal and committed relationship with God which at the same time commits us to serving others. This happens frequently nowadays, as believers seek to hide or keep apart from others, or quietly flit from one place to another or from one task to another, without creating deep and stable bonds. “Imaginatio locorum et mutatio multos fefellit”. This is a false remedy which cripples the heart and at times the body as well. We need to help others to realize that the only way is to learn how to encounter others with the right attitude, which is to accept and esteem them as companions along the way, without interior resistance. Better yet, it means learning to find Jesus in the faces of others, in their voices, in their pleas. And learning to suffer in the embrace of the crucified Jesus whenever we are unjustly attacked or meet with ingratitude, never tiring of our decision to live in fraternity.

There indeed we find true healing, since the way to relate to others which truly heals instead of debilitating us, is a mystical fraternity, a contemplative fraternity. It is a fraternal love capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbour, of finding God in every human being, of tolerating the nuisances of life in common by clinging to the love of God, of opening the heart to divine love and seeking the happiness of others just as their heavenly Father does. Here and now, especially where we are a “little flock” (Lk 12:32), the Lord’s disciples are called to live as a community which is the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt 5:13-16). We are called to bear witness to a constantly new way of living together in fidelity to the Gospel. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of community!

The Joy of the Gospel, paragraphs 91-92

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Fifth Monday of Lent
Meditation Prayer of St. Francis

My God and my All!

Read Psalm 23, John 3:1-11  - Pray and read again

St. Francis of Assisi

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Fifth Sunday of Lent

Let's Prepare for Our Resurrection
by Friar John Curran

Fr. John Curran, OFM Conv.
Fr. John Curran, OFM Conv.

My friends laughed at me when I said that I was starting my ten-year wellness program. On May 2 I will turn 76, and my friends have their doubts that I will live to be 86.

And you? Do you believe that you will live to be 86 or older?

No one knows when death will come, but we know that death is simply part of the human story. St. Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226) called it “Sister Death.” Human life is eternal. Nobody knows when the idea of our life came into the Mind of God. But Paul tells us that God thought of us before he made the universe. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Eph 1:4.

When we were little tots, adults used to comment on our personality. When we were about two, we had already started to become the person that we are today. We are unique persons, one of a kind masterpieces. No one in the universe has our face or our finger prints, or our DNA. You and I will never stop existing. By dying life is changed, not ended.

San Damiano Crucifix
San Damiano Crucifix

We are both physical and spiritual. These two parts are matched. Our spirit cannot be matched with someone else’s body. Our spirit and our physical body are exclusively our own. They will never be completely separated, even by physical death. Paul writes, “There is a natural body and a spiritual body.” 1 Cor 15:44. When we die, our natural body corrupts, but our new resurrected spiritual body continues to live with our original personality.

“Jesus will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into

St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi

glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” Phil 3:21. In our second reading today Paul writes, “He who raised Christ from the dead will bring your mortal bodies to life, through his Spirit dwelling in you.” Rom 8:11. God loves us so much that he gave us his Son Jesus in order to die and to be resurrected. Jn 3:16; Phil 2:6-11.

They are the reason why he came to earth. Death and resurrection are the pattern of Jesus’ life. And they are the pattern of our life. When Jesus experienced his Agony in the Garden, the night before he died, he died a little. (Mt 26:36-46; Lk 22:39-46; Mk 14:32-42; See also Jn 12:27-33.)

When we experience dark moments (the death of a loved one, sickness, divorce, failure in school or business), we die a little. When we confront injustice or help others in need with selfless charity, we experience resurrection.

Our time here on earth is a series of deaths and resurrections with Christ. We experience partial resurrections even now, by carrying our cross with Jesus, by dying and rising with him daily.

We prepare for our resurrection by living the virtuous life. As Thomas Merton wrote, “to be ordinary is not a choice.” “I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?” Ps 121: 1. For the next ten years I have my plan. I’m not preparing for my death. I’m preparing for my resurrection!

Fourth Saturday of Lent

Be Bold
by Friar Ian Bremar

“Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.” – St. Augustine of Hippo

How much as a family do we talk about Jesus?

Painting by Antonio Rodriguez (1636-1691)
Painting by Antonio Rodriguez (1636-1691)

For the Samaritan woman, Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the one who gave her life-giving water, and she couldn’t wait to tell others about him. Ask yourselves, “Who is Jesus to me?” And then ask your parents, or children, or spouse, “What does Jesus mean to you? What do think about Jesus?” Sometimes we are afraid to talk about Jesus because we think we have to be serious or certain in what we say. A real encounter with Jesus, though, simply begins by being honest.

This Lenten Season is a great time to encounter and re-discover who Jesus is. Perhaps make it a family goal this week to attend the Stations of the Cross on Friday. Or take a walk at the Shrine Park and look at the statues and stations along the way. (Ed. Note: Friar Ian ministers at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio. Substitute a walk in your neighborhood - simply get outside and be inspired by nature.) What do they make you think and feel? Be bold, like the Samaritan woman, and don’t be afraid to talk about Jesus.

FOURTH FRIDAY OF LENT

A Prayer from St. Francis

Taken from his Letter to the Entire Order:

Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God,

grant us in our misery the grace

to do for You alone

what we know You want us to do

and always

to desire what pleases You.

Thus,

inwardly cleansed,

interiorly enlightened,

and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit,

may we be able to follow

in the footprints of Your beloved Son,

our Lord Jesus Christ.

And,

by Your grace alone,

may we make our way to You,

Most High,

Who live and rule

in perfect Trinity and simple Unity,

and are glorified,

God all-powerful,

forever and ever.

Amen.

images

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Fourth Thursday of Lent

Lent is a Path
taken from a homily by Pope Francis

Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children. Lent is the road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to joy, from death to life. The mark of the ashes with which we set out reminds us of our origin: we were taken from the earth, we are made of dust.  True, yet we are dust in the loving hands of God, who has breathed his spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so. He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts. The breath of God’s life saves us from this asphyxia that dampens our faith, cools our charity and strangles every hope. To experience Lent is to yearn for this breath of life that our Father unceasingly offers us amid the mire of our history.

imagesThe breath of God’s life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice, or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt. We think it is normal because we have grown so accustomed to breathing air in which hope has dissipated, the air of glumness and resignation, the stifling air of panic and hostility.

Lent is the time for saying no. No to the spiritual asphyxia born of the pollution caused by indifference, by thinking that other people’s lives are not my concern, and by every attempt to trivialize life, especially the lives of those whose flesh is burdened by so much superficiality. Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters: in a word, all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion.

Lent is a time for remembering. It is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us. What would we be without his mercy that never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew? Lent is the time to ask ourselves where we would be without the help of so many people who in a thousand quiet ways have stretched out their hands and in very concrete ways given us hope and enabled us to make a new beginning?

Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity. It is not the time to rend our garments before the evil all around us, but instead to make room in our life for all the good we are able to do. It is a time to set aside everything that isolates us, encloses us and paralyzes us. Lent is a time of compassion, when, with the Psalmist, we can say: “Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit”, so that by our lives we may declare your praise (cf. Ps 51:12.15), and our dust – by the power of your breath of life - may become a “dust of love”.

Read Psalm 51 and the Gospel of John 5:31-47

Fourth Wednesday of Lent

Do Small Things With Great Love
by Friar Ian Bremar

In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love. – Mother Teresa

We can show great love to one another in little ways!

Mother Teresa (1910-1997) was canonized in 2016.
Mother Teresa (1910-1997) was canonized in 2016.

Parents, take time with your children. Help them with their homework. Go to the park with them on a beautiful day. Ask them how their day was at school, and be sure to listen when they tell you.

Kids, be sure to talk with your parents and actually tell them how your day was when they ask. Help around the house without being told. Thank your parents for all of the things they do for you.

Families, when you have a meal together this week, include a prayer of thanksgiving for each member of your family. And never tire of telling your children or parents that you love them. Remember, God loved Adam and Eve just as they were. They thought they could make themselves into something greater, but there is nothing greater than the love of God.

Read Psalm 145: 8-9, 13CD-14, 17-18, John 5:17-30

Fourth Tuesday of Lent

Listen
by Friar Ian Bremar

There’s a lot of difference between hearing and listening – G.K. Chesterton

 

G. K. Chesteron (1874-1936) was an English journalist, art critic, poet, dramatist, and theologian.
G. K. Chesteron (1874-1936) was an English
journalist, art critic, poet, dramatist, and theologian.

Listening to one another is sometimes as challenging as listening to God. In our own families we can be like Peter, speaking without understanding. Do we listen to our parents when they ask us to do something? Do we listen to our teachers so that we can do our best in school?

Do we listen to our wife or husband when they are trying to tell us how they feel – or to our children, especially when their ideas and interests differ from our own?

Spend some quality time with the members of your family this week. It can be together, perhaps around the dinner table. Or you might seek to spend one-on-one time with each person. Put away the cell phones; turn off the television. Find ways to talk with each other, listen to one another, and try to understand your parents, your children, or your spouse better and without bias. Perhaps we will then be more prepared to listen to God when God speaks to us.

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Fourth Monday of Lent

No One is More Patient than God Our Father

Today, Pope Francis encourages us to spend some time with God in reading the Scriptures, especially to meet Jesus in the Gospels:

imgresIn the presence of God, during a recollected reading of the text, it is good to ask, for example: "Lord, what does this text say to me? What is it about my life that you want to change by this text? What troubles me about this text? Why am I not interested in this?" Or perhaps: "What do I find pleasant in this text? What is it about this word that moves me? What attracts me? Why does it attract me?" When we make an effort to listen to the Lord, temptations usually arise. One of them is simply to feel troubled or burdened, and to turn away. Another common temptation is to think about what the text means for other people, and so avoid applying it to our own lives. It can also happen that we look for excuses to water down the clear meaning of the text. Or we can wonder if God is demanding too much of us, asking for a decision that we are not yet prepared to make. This leads many people to stop taking pleasure in the encounter with God's Word; but this would mean forgetting that no one is more patient than God our Father, that no one is more understanding and willing to wait. He always invites us to take a step forward, but does not demand a full response if we are not yet ready. He simply asks that we sincerely look at our lives and present ourselves honestly before Him, and that we be willing to continue to grow, asking from him what we ourselves cannot, as yet, achieve.

The Joy of the Gospel, Paragraph 153

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Fourth Sunday of Lent
Do Not Be Afraid!
by Friar Ken Bartsch

We recorded this reflection by Fr. Ken in 2012 but it is as timely today as then. Please take time to listen to this important message and Do Not Be Afraid.

 

Read Psalm 23, John 8:12, John 9:1-41

Third Friday of Lent

Don’t be a sourpuss. Trust in the Lord!

Today we have advice from Pope Francis on living a good Lent and a full life.

One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, “sourpusses.” Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to St. Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism is brother to the temptation to separate, before its time, the wheat from the weeds; it is the fruit of an anxious and self-centered lack of trust.

Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, Paragraph 85

Read again the Gospel for Ash Wednesday, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

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Third Friday of Lent

As we find ourselves nearly halfway through Lent, it is time to listen more closely to the words of Jesus Himself, echoing the words given to the prophets generations before. Those words are given new life by Christ's journey with us, His Passion, and His Resurrection.

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,

Fr. John Pozhathuparambil, OFM Conv., played the role of Jesus at St. Paul's in Louisville, KY.
Fr. John Pozhathuparambil, OFM Conv., played the role of Jesus in a dramatization of the Passion during Holy Week a few years ago at St. Paul's Church in Louisville, KY.

"Which is the first of all the commandments?"
Jesus replied, "The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.

The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Please read today's Gospel, and spend a few moments letting those words of Jesus penetrate your hearts and minds.

Read Mark 12:28-34

Third Thursday of Lent

We Don't Always Get What We Want
Friar Phil Ley

During the first week of lent we read in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus, speaking to his disciples, says, which one of you would give your son or daughter a stone if they ask for bread, or a snake if they ask for a fish? He goes on to state “if you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”

I have never asked my parents for bread or a fish and gotten a stone or snake instead. But I do remember asking them for cotton candy and being told no. Of course it wasn’t until years later that I understood why.

Archbishop Oscar Romero (1917 - 1980) at home in San Salvador, 20th November 1979. Known locally as Monsenor Romero, Archbishop Romero was assassinated by a gunman whilst celebrating mass on 24th March 1980. His death provoked an international outcry for human rights reform in El Salvador. (Photo by Alex Bowie/Getty Images)
Archbishop Oscar Romero (1917 - 1980) at home in San Salvador, 20th November 1979. Known locally as Monsenor Romero, Archbishop Romero was assassinated by a gunman whilst celebrating mass on 24th March 1980. His death provoked an international outcry for human rights reform in El Salvador. (Photo by Alex Bowie/Getty Images)

When we read this gospel we have to understand that God is not a Santa Claus, even though there are those who preach a gospel of prosperity. But the gospel

Dorothy Day (1897-1980) converted to Catholicism. She worked closely with fellow activist Peter Maurin to establish the Catholic Worker Movement. She was arrested several times for civil disobedience while advocating for the poor via nonviolent protest.
Dorothy Day (1897-1980) converted to Catholicism. She worked closely with fellow activist Peter Maurin to establish the Catholic Worker Movement. She was arrested several times for civil disobedience while advocating for the poor via nonviolent protest.

Jesus proclaims is one of intimacy. Jesus exhorts us to be in union with him. To do so does not guarantee a life of ease and pleasure. The idea is to enter into relationship with God, to participate in God’s love. We won’t get everything we want; John the Baptist didn’t get out of jail, Jesus didn’t come flying down off the cross, Monseñor Romero’s life wasn’t spared, Dorothy Day suffered persecution by the city and ecclesial authorities. We don’t always get what we want. But if we accept Jesus’ invitation to follow him, we will begin to see things as he does.

Read Joel 2:12-13, Luke 11:14-23

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Third Wednesday of Lent

Life Giving Water
Friar Jim Kent

The holy water font in the Chapel at Holy Cross Retreat Center.
The holy water font in the Chapel at Holy Cross Retreat Center.

When one enters the new chapel at the Province's‎ retreat center in high desert of New Mexico, she is met by a solitary rock, nearly four feet tall, with water bubbling out of its center. It not only serves as the holy water font but also reminds us of the encounter Moses had in the desert when he was instructed by God to strike the rock and water flowed. We hear during Lent Scriptures about "life giving water" and this past Sunday "the water I shall give will become.... a spring of water welling up to eternal life."  As we journey through our Lenten desert to Easter, we recall our own baptism and our need to continually recommit ourselves to a life in Christ. This is often not easy but we move forward knowing Jesus walks with us as we walk with Him.

Read Psalms 147:12-13, 15-16, Matthew 5:17-19

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Third Tuesday of Lent

God's Loving Embrace
Friar Mario Serrano

3 white camels on the camel market in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
3 white camels on the camel market in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

I remember once being told a joke, more of a story, that really had me ponder more than laugh. It was about two camels: One camel was the mother and the other one was her son. And as with any story they were able to have a conversation. Their conversation went something like this:

A mother and baby camel were talking one day when the baby camel ask his mother: "Mom, why have I got these huge three-toed feet?"

The mother replies, "Well son, when we trek across the desert, your toes will help you to stay on top of the soft sand."

“Oh OK,” said the son.

A few minutes later the son asks, "Mommy, why have I got these great long eyelashes?"

“Well son, they are there to keep the sand out of your eyes as we make our long trips through the desert."

“That’s neat! Thanks Mom!”

After a short while, the son stretches himself out and looks up to ask:

“Mom, why have I got these great big humps on my back?"

The mother, like any mother does at times, is now a little impatient with her boy, but still replies to her curious inquiring son.

“OK son, this is the last question for the day. We have these great big humps to help us store water for our long treks across the desert, so we can go without drinking for long periods."

"That's great Mom! Wow! So, we have huge feet to stop us sinking, these long eyelashes to keep sand out of our eyes and these humps to store water, but Mom..."

"Yes, son?" "Why the heck are we in the Chicago Zoo!?”

Friar Deacon Nicholas Wolfa
Friar Deacon Nicholas Wolfa

We as humans tend to put ourselves and others in places we don’t belong. Lent is a time where we can make a 40-day journey and be reminded that God doesn’t want to put us in a place we don’t belong. On the other hand, God empowers us with the Spirit so that we can move towards becoming the reflection and image of God. To become the person we were created to be!

As you journey through Lent, allow the Spirit of Love, the Spirit of Mercy to lead you into relationships, relationships with God and others, so that you can live out your faith, without sinking into the pettiness that at times surrounds us.

Reflect on how you can fix your eyes on God’s loving way and offer forgiveness and God’s love and mercy to others. For through the waters of baptism we are given the gift of the Spirit, with us always as we make our long trek through our own desert, our journey of faith, towards God’s loving embrace.

Read Joel 2:12-13, Matthew 18:21-35

Third Monday of Lent

The Feast of St. Joseph
Friar Jim Kent

In celebrating the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Mother, we not only honor the significant role Joseph played in the lives of Mary and Jesus, but also the role model he is for us. Joseph willingly listened and trusted in God, even when it seemed against the norms. He was a man of great humility and faithfulness, and was attentive enough to allow God to speak to him through his dreams. Humility, faithfulness and attentiveness is a proper and perhaps ideal stance for all of us. It allows God to permeate the deepest parts of ourselves and then leads us to become a quiet witness to others. Just like Joseph.

Read Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24, Luke 2:41-51

Painting by Gerard Van Honthorst (1592-1696)

Third Sunday of Lent

The Samaritan Woman at the Well
Friar John Bamman

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:13-15)

The living water, the gift of the Holy Spirit, can only be given by the Lord Jesus whom the Father sent into the world to give to all men and women eternal life, that is, never-ending happiness. We all desire the happiness of our heart, and like the woman at the well we come daily with parched throats only to remain thirsty again. Jesus has the generative gift of eternal waters to slake our thirst, our wants, our desires and our needs.

St. Francis saw through the hollowness of created goods and invested all his life energy into the highest goods originating from God.
St. Francis saw through the hollowness of created goods and invested all his life energy into the highest goods originating from God.

St Francis of Assisi shared in this eternal happiness when he discovered his mission: “This is what I want, this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart.” St. Francis saw though the hollowness of created goods and invested all his life energy into the highest goods originating from God.

Jesus wants to heal, restore, and lead us toward whom we are called to be, our vocation that drives our restless heart toward those unlimited springs of eternal waters. St. Augustine knew this well by observing how each person is uniquely wired for God. We are thirsty for the one who gives these life-giving waters.

At times we can distract ourselves with errant desires through which we try to satisfy the deepest hungers with the human-created goods of wealth, power, pleasure, and status symbols. These lead to frustrations and addictions and inevitably place us in a desert, foraging in a waste of malnutrition of body and spirit.

The woman at the well came with a fervent desire to seek God, and her thirst was quenched. Where have you found the waters of new life, new purpose, new direction, drinking from the everlasting well?

Read Romans 5:1-2, 5-8, John 4:42, 15

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Second Saturday of Lent
The woman at the well and parallels found in Franciscan life
Friar Don Bassana

Our novitiate experience and our Franciscan life in general have some similarities to that of the woman at the well. For starters just as Jesus is at the well first, so Jesus was at the novitiate awaiting our arrival, and this is true wherever we journey too. We do not show up and wait on Jesus; he is there first inviting us to be with Him always wherever we may be called to minister in our Franciscan life.

Next, just as the woman encountered Jesus at a public place (the well), so too we have the opportunity to encounter Him in public in the lives of those we minister to, and more frequently in those we met as we go about our day. During this Lenten season let us elevate our awareness and acknowledgement of Christ in those we meet and integrate this practice beyond Lent as a continuous way of life.

By acknowledging Christ in our brothers and sisters, we have an opportunity to create and nurture an intimate encounter and potentially transform their lives and ours if we choose to allow it. Consider how different our life would be if we saw the Risen Christ multiple times a day. The Kingdom of God would truly be at hand.

Third, notice how the woman left her jar she had been carrying everyday, this jar was her means of providing water for herself and others who may have relied on her. After her encounter with Christ she leaves her jar behind symbolically surrendering her own means of surviving, and now relying on Christ for the living water. We too can choose to surrender the worldly things we have accumulated and views we have formulated and rely more heavily on Christ to provide.

Fourth, in the Old Testament the well is synonymous with marriage. Just as Jesus talks to the woman and offers himself to her spiritually, so too do we receive an invitation from Christ at the conclusion of our novitiate. The invitation to live a vowed life can be seen as a type of marriage proposal and if we except we “tie the knot” in the cord we wear around our waist, and begin our three-year engagement to Christ as we move toward our Solemn Vows.

Lastly, the woman goes out and shares this glorious encounter with others and draws them to Christ, just as we are called to do not only in our ministries but also in how we live our daily lives. Physically, when our Habits are worn in public people know immediately that we have vowed our hearts and lives to the Lord. We become a prophetic witness of an eschatological state of glory promised to all baptized. Our habit is a gravitational force for many of today’s youth and fulfills the words of John 7:4 – “No one works in secret if he wants to be known publicly. If you do these things, manifest yourself to the world.”

This manifesting ourselves to the world as Friars is not for the vainglory of our little lives, but to evince the future glory God wants so desperately for humanity to desire and attain. As we journey through this Lenten season let us quiet our minds and hearts and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit so that we may rely on and be guided and nourished by the living water.

Read John 4:5-42

Second Friday of Lent
But There is Hope
Friar Nicholas Wolfla

Hope is in God’s name, and we live in hope by opening ourselves to His love and recognizing the God-given grace and dignity that we all possess. Jesus Christ restored and sanctified the human condition; he became one of us, and in doing so blessed us. And because of this, it is the call of every believer to stand against evil and strive to enlighten the world with what we believe, instead of darken it with the hate of what we dislike.

Lazarus and the Rich Man (woodcarving by Gustave Dore)
Lazarus and the Rich Man (woodcarving by Gustave Dore)

These days society is burdened with fear, anger, and hopelessness, because we have turned inward instead of outward. We who profess to believe must put on the yoke that Christ gives us and till the human field, providing hope to those who have no hope, mercy to those who are on the margins, a smile to those in pain, healing for those who are ill.

We are called to take on this yoke, and do the work of mercy the best we know how and our skills allow.

Not all of us possess the same skills -- some are pastors, some are lawyers, some nurses, some serve the community through prayer and love....and the list goes on. But we all have taken on the responsibility of serving God and standing against those who would lessen God’s creation.

We are living servants of God. Flawed? Sure. But we are servants who get up every morning with confidence in God’s forgiveness and the strength to give it one more try, to stand against the evil that tries to lessen humankind. We do it because we have answered that call.

We do it together, not apart.

We stand together in God’s name and are called, and we respond.

Happy New Year

Read John 3:16, Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

Second Thursday of Lent
Going Up With Jesus
Friar Jim Kent

During the season of Lent we hear in Scripture of Jesus and his disciples headed "up to Jerusalem." They are in fact moving "up" from the lowlands to high ground, Mt. Zion, where the holy city of Jerusalem is located. On the second Sunday of Lent we hear the account of Jesus taking Peter, James, and John up Mt.Tabor where He is transfigured before their eyes: His face is like the sun and His clothes dazzling white. The Apostles are given a hint of what Jesus's destiny is after the Resurrection.

photo 1-4Between Mt. Tabor and the mount from which He ascends to his heavenly Father, Jesus has two other mountains to climb. The first is Mt. Olivet, where He endures the agony in the garden. Then He will be taken to Mt. Calvary, where He is brutally executed and dies.  We are called to journey with Jesus up these peaks, and through that experience delve more deeply into who Christ is and whom He calls us to be.  This trek may not transfigure us, but can transform us to more fully understand and embrace the Resurrection.

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Second Wednesday of Lent
A Challenge for Lent
Friar Mario Serrano

Friar Mario Serrano with some of the students he works with as a campus minister in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Friar Mario Serrano with some of the students he works with as a campus minister in Terre Haute, Indiana.

As a university minister, I have the privilege to journey with the faith-filled young adult and witness their strong desires to become holy - who God has created them to be.

As we journey through Lent, however, I challenged them to step back and look more closely at what “we give up for Lent.” Lent after all comes from the latin word lente, which means to slow down. Lento in Spanish means to slow down, unfortunately that is not the word we use in Spanish to describe Lent, Cuaresma (40 days). However, Lent is meant to be just that, days of reflecting, and bringing up questions on how we can go through life at times without feeling some sense of solidarity with all of our brothers and sisters.

If we give up healthy pleasures, we might then realize we are very privileged to have not only clean water, but soda and all kinds of different drinks we enjoy. Our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world don’t have the gift of clean water, much less a soda with 23 flavors!

Prayer, fasting, and, almsgiving are usually what we focus on during Lent. We increase our prayer ritual with more prayers or attending Mass during the week. We give up our favorite dessert or eat less with the hope of not only enduring this sacrifice, but entering the Easter season looking a bit more healthy and weighing less or we simply put our spare change into a jar.

How about this Lent we challenge ourselves and look at prayer, fasting, and almsgiving through a different lens?Challenges ahead sign

Prayer:   Have a conversation with a person you usually ignore and run past at school or at work. Better yet, how about writing a hand written letter to a loved one or a person in prison. Prayer after all is having a conversation. Take time to listen to God and God’s people.

Fasting: Let’s take Pope Francis’ suggestion and fast from gossip. We are living in a world where so many dangerous and false words are being spoken. Next time you feel like joining in on the gossip game speak the goodness you see in another person, offer kind words of truth and love.

Almsgiving: Give forgiveness to the person you have held a grudge towards for far too long. Really enter into the Easter season a bit lighter and with fewer burdens.

I pray that you can join us in our challenge to make this Lenten Season become more than an inspiration. Allow it to become a transformation, a transformation from death to new life, a new way of living!

Read Matthew 20:17-28

Second Tuesday of Lent
The Call of the Ashes
Friar Nick Wolfla

God’s Grace is abundant and always present, but God allows us the great gift of free will as to our actions and our willingness to open our souls to that grace.

God throughout our lives will time and again challenge us to open ourselves to Him, to join with Him and become not an individual, but in communion with the Divine. This opening and willingness to open our souls is essentially a journey of the life and the soul, a journey of faith in which we mature, and in that maturation often come to wrong conclusions, or make our personal self, or personal priorities more important than the journey to perfection God has called us to. In His Incarnation God has called us to that perfection and gives us the tools necessary to tread this road of conversion from individual to union, from pride to love, and imperfect to perfect.

Fr. Maurus Hauer receives ashes from Fr. Charles McCarthy (Ash Wednesday 2014.)
Fr. Maurus Hauer receives ashes from Fr. Charles McCarthy (Ash Wednesday 2014.)

This conversion is not accomplished in a day, a week, a season, or a life. This conversion to perfection is completed or accomplished only with God’s help, and when we say the ultimate yes to God when we see Him. And when that time comes, it is not going to be necessarily the failures that are judged but what we did with the opportunities to grow in His love, learn from those failures, and continually and forcefully take up the challenge for conforming our lives to the will of God.

This is the call of lent, this is the call of the ashes, to remind us that at some point in our lives we will  be held accountable for what we have done with all God’s great gifts and to God’s great call. Lent is not a time of giving up, or erasing those things that are troublesome, (although sometimes the act of conversion does require this) it is a time of re-animation, a re-connection to the Divine, a re-ordering of life to conform with the perfect human being God intends each of us to be.

What a great gift.

Read Ezekiel 18:31, Matthew 23:1-12

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Second Monday of Lent

pope francis with fr marcoPope Francis
The Joy of the Gospel

 

 

Concern for the Vulnerable

   Small yet strong in the love of God, like St. Francis of Assisi, all of us, as Christians, are called to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live, and all its peoples.

Statue of St. Francis at Mount St. Francis, IN

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Second Sunday of Lent

We Need a Mountain Top Experience
Friar John Curran, OFM Conv.

Majestic sunset in the mountains landscape. Dramatic sky and colorful stones. Carpathians, Ukraine, Europe
Majestic sunset in the mountains landscape. Dramatic sky and colorful stones. Carpathians, Ukraine, Europe

Before he began his passion, Jesus wanted to give encouragement to his disciples. He took three of them, Peter, James, and John, to the top of a mountain. And his appearance was transfigured. His face and clothes were radiant with light. And he spoke with two prophets, Elijah and Moses.

The disciples needed to share in this heavenly experience, because soon their master would be condemned to death and crucified. They needed re-assurance that Jesus is the true Messiah, and they were filled with joy. Soon their hearts would be filled with sorrow, however, because of Jesus’ coming condemnation and execution. They would be tempted to abandon him, and to renounce the mission that he had given them.

Like these Apostles, we need a “mountain top” experience to encourage us when life gets very hard. This experience comes in various forms. It could be a retreat (such as the ACTS retreat). It could be an experience of having been saved from an accident or an illness. It could be an experience of falling in love. It could be giving birth to a child.

Praying at dawn in the desert
Praying at dawn in the desert at Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla Park, New Mexico

Paul wrote that we have been called to be witnesses and to suffer for Christ. God has called us from all eternity to carry our cross. Paul wrote, “He has saved us according to his own purpose and grace, before the ages of time,” 2 Tim 1:9. And our calling will be very difficult. “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God “ 2 Tim 1:8. Paul suffered more than any of us ever will for the sake of this Gospel -prison, floggings, beatings with rods, stoning, shipwreck, hunger, thirst, and cold. 2 Cor 1:23-33.

However, Paul was consoled by the memory of a kind of “mountain top” experience of God that sustained him in times of intense 
suffering. He wrote, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13.

It was his vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus. “He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Acts 9:4. This vision, like the “mountain top vision” of Peter, James, and John, changed his life forever.

We Christians carry our cross every day. It has two sides. One side is ugly wood, and the other side is made of gold and diamonds. We live sometimes in sorrow, and sometimes in joy. We need a “mountain top” experience from time to time to enable us to endure sorrow. But we believe that someday we will enjoy pure joy on Jesus’ mountain.

When life gets very hard, we never give up.

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Saturday of the First Week of Lent

A New Kind of Fasting
Friar John Bamman, OFM Conv.

During the season of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving, we are invited to the Lenten practice of self-emptying. That’s not an easy thing to do.

In fasting we open ourselves to a hunger for God. The growling belly can be the sounding alarm that reminds us of our deepest hunger. Some private Lenten practices will sacrifice favorite foods from our diet, purifying the body of cravings we desire to eat. People will offer up the desire to consume their favorite beverage, snack, dessert, or restaurant meal. In doing so this creates a longing for God, and allows for a space within us to be filled by God.

Chair on Dock at Alice Lake in Late AfternoonWe can also fast from other things we hunger for, like social media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and all the digital social circles can keep up thoroughly distracted and oblivious to those around us. One friend is setting her phone alarm to sound off when it is time to check social media, only once per day. The rest of the day the phone is placed on “airplane mode”, no alerts, no notifications, and no distractions taking away from God who is calling. God calls to us each day, and wouldn’t it be tragic if we were too busy to notice.

In short, our being will increase in the measure we give it away. So give yourself away to a new kind of fasting. And keep up the great effort this Lent to self-emptying and cleansing your spirit, because in doing so we make space for God to come rushing in!

Read Ezekiel 18:21-28, Matthew 5:20-26

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Friday of the First Week of Lent

A Reflection for LENT
Friar John Pozhathuparambil, OFM Conv.

Read Ezekiel 18:21-28, Matthew 5:20-26

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Thursday of the First Week of Lent

Slow Down and Re-evaluate
Friar Nicholas Wolfla, OFM Conv.

Lent is a reminder that we need to slow down. We need to re-evaluate our daily lives in comparison to what is truly important to God.

Sometimes, this time of year is a reminder that we need to slow down. Ashes are remnants of fuel that has burned to the point where there is no other energy remaining. Interestingly enough, ashes also can act as an excellent fertilizer, providing strength to new growth. What that means for us is that at times we might be burnt out, we may have exhausted our energies, and because of that we have lost the one thing that supplies us with fuel, i.e. our Loving and Living God. Ashes remind us of what is important, and in many cases with so many of us living extraordinarily busy lives, to slow down and re-evaluate our daily lives in comparison to what is truly important: God. How to do this? Look to the Gospels.

Remember, this life does end, and we are responsible for what and how we have lived our lives.
Remember, this life does end, and we are responsible for what and how we have lived our lives.

Remember, this life does end, and we are responsible for what and how we have lived our lives. We are going to be judged, not on what we have, how much money we ended up with, not how much we loved only those we think deserve our love (families, etc.), but how we used God’s gifts to us to take care of ourselves and those He has put into our lives, those whom we don’t know but share the same parent, God. We are going to be judged on our respect and reasonable use of the natural resources of creation, respect and good use of all of God’s gifts to us: talents, wealth, family, and whatever we are blessed with.

In short, God is going to judge us in how we loved, how we cared, how we stood up for those who were being beaten down, and who we overlooked because of race, creed, orientation, etc., rather than seeing the beloved Son or Daughter of God standing in front of us.

Every time we selfishly choose ourselves, we move ourselves further and further from God. Every time we choose to do good and choose love, we walk closer and closer to the One who loves us. We have a path that has been plotted for us – it is in the Holy Gospels. Why don’t we all read it and pray with it this Lent, and learn once again how to love.

Read Matthew 7:7-12

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Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Jonah preaching to the Ninevites, wood engraving by Gustave Doré (1832-1883)
Jonah preaching to the Ninevites, wood engraving by Gustave Doré (1832-1883)

This is the fasting I wish.  Release those bound unjustly.  Untie the yoke of burden.  Share your bread with the hungry.  Shelter the oppressed and the homeless.  Then your wound shall be healed.  

This was expressed by the prophet Isaiah (Is 58).  His voice still cries out to ears and hearts more than 2700 years later.

Read Jonah 3:1-10, Psalms 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19, and Luke 11:29-32

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
Embracing the Moment of Grace
by Friar David Lenz

Fr. Phil Schneider with a pilgrim at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, OH
Fr. Phil Schneider with a pilgrim at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, OH

Through the words of the prophet Joel, the Lord pleads, “Come back to me with all your heart.”

During Lent, Franciscans are reminded of our holy founder, Francis of Assisi, his conversion, and his process of return to his heavenly Father. In many ways, it all began for Francis at the small rundown church in Assisi where he heard the invitation of the Lord; “Francis, rebuild my church, which is crumbling.” Thus began a process, which would eventually include embracing a frightening diseased leper, a moment when he encountered Christ. Francis’ conversion was a process, not a one-time event.

For us, too, Lent can be seen and experienced as a process to return to our heavenly Father.

The sacrament of Reconciliation may be for us a part of the Lenten process of return to our heavenly Father. Let us not fear this encounter, but joyfully experience the tender embrace of reconciliation. Our heavenly Father waits and desires our return! Lent is our time! It is our blessed moment to return and be reconciled. May we joyfully seize this opportunity and invitation!

May God grant us peace, comfort and freedom from anxiety as we continue our process of reunion!

Read Psalms 34:4-7, Matthew 6:7-15

Monday of the First Week of Lent

Another steep uphill climb
Lent is not passive. Continue on your journey - Praying, fasting, and alms giving.

Lent puts things in focus.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  From the desert to paradise.  From dying and death to the glory of eternal life with God.

Lent is not passive, it's not something we let happen. It's active and leads us to work harder at our life with God, shedding bad habits and cultivating good ones.

Read Matthew 25:31-46

(To read the previous reflections visit Meditations on the bottom of the front page or click here.)

First Sunday of Lent

Pope Francis
Excerpt from LAUDATO SI’
The Wisdom of the Biblical Accounts

The harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of the rupture of sin.
The harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of the rupture of sin.

The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). As a result, the originally harmonious relationship between human beings and nature became conflictual (cf. Gen 3:17-19). It is significant that the harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of that rupture. Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence. This is a far cry from our situation today, where sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.

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Saturday After Ash Wednesday

Read Psalms 86:1-6

Tomorrow please visit for a reflection by Pope Francis on creation, sin, and St. Francis.

(Yesterday's reflection is available under Meditations at the bottom of the front page.)

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Friday After Ash Wednesday

Prayer.  Spend 15 minutes--even 5 minutes--in silent prayer. Feel the Presence, and see where it leads. cropped mary and bird

Fast. Take an hour a day and disconnect from social media, your phone and all electronic devices. Seek the presence of God in that sacred space. smaller image of no electronics

Alms giving.  Give some time to a person who is isolated, lonely, shut in.  ‎Listen.  Feel the Spirit's presence.

Fr. Christian Moore visits with guests at the Franciscan Kitchen in Louisville, KY.
Fr. Christian Moore visits with guests at the Franciscan Kitchen in Louisville, KY.

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Thursday After Ash Wednesday

Life is Joyful
by Friar Nick Wolfla

Simply because it’s Lent does NOT mean that we are stuck living a hard, bland, useless, and boring life. A Christian learns through life that there is more to life than the newest car, the latest I-phone. We learn that jokes at the expense of others are hurtful, and yet can laugh with the best at something truly funny. During Lent we can dance, joke, play games, talk, sing, and find joy in all aspects of life. Not the fluffy happiness that people seem to think is joy, but a deep sense of joy that expresses itself by how we live our lives, and is reflected by how much we love one another.

Like Jesus told us, when you are fasting do not walk around in sack cloth and ashes, so that people can see you’re fasting, because then you are getting your reward on this earth, but wash your face, put on new clothes and live as you know you should. That way no one knows you’re fasting but you and God. Remember life with God is a banquet and many who don’t understand that are starving to death. Live at the banquet!

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Is there anyone that you hate? 

Fr. John Curran, OFM Conv.
Fr. John Curran, OFM Conv.

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time 
February 19, 2017

Reflection by Fr. John Curran, OFM Conv.

     Saturday we had a shooting in the Lower Valley. A man and a woman had an argument Saturday in a house at Santa María Rd. and Yarbrough Rd., very near Bel Air High School. The woman shot the man several times. He ran out the door and collapsed in the yard. When police arrived, the woman stood in front of them with her gun raised. When they told her to drop it, she shot herself.
This is hatred!
Another example of hatred took place Friday when hundreds of thousands of Iranian demonstrators gathered in Tehran, and chanted, “Death to America!”

God commands us to love our neighbor. Lev 19, 18.
Jesus said that we must love our neighbor, and he prohibited hating, taking revenge, and holding grudges. Do you want to get back at someone? We have to forgive from the heart everyone for everything. Mt 18, 35.

To get rid of grudges, we have to live in the present, not in the past. If someone offends me today, I should not think of this offense tomorrow. One day at a time. We cannot change anyone, but we can change ourselves. If someone insults us, we should not try to insult him or her back. We should express our feelings without temper. We can say, “What you just told me really hurts me, but I don’t want to say anything that will hurt you.”

If this discussion is with a spouse, son or daughter, or other member of your family, you can add, “I respect you, and I love you.” Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Rom 12, 18.

What about persons who hate us? Jesus said, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Mt 5, 44.

The Gospel of Matthew in chapter 22 teaches us the “Two Great Commandments.” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” Mt 22: 34-40.

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Christmas 2017
Homily by Fr. Jim Kent, OFM Conv.

The Advent Embrace
by Fr. David Lenz, OFM Conv.

Traditionally, we begin our “Advent count-down” to celebrate Christmas with the lighting of the purple candles on the advent wreath. We wait with expectation and excited hope to complete our candle-lit wreath, so as to celebrate the arrival of the Savior into our fractured world. This Advent we might reflect as well on another return and the ‘waiting’ as told in a story by Jesus: The return of the Prodigal Son, and the waiting of a loving father. As Jesus told the story, when the father sees his burdened and hungry son approaching home, he runs to greet him with outstretched arms, embracing his way-ward son! What great joy for the father – that he hosts an elaborate banquet and feast for all! The happiness of the father knows no bounds for his son has returned – the one he thought might be lost. But now that he returns, and admits his sinfulness, the father celebrates with unrestricted jubilation.

Might we not consider this Advent season as an opportunity to place ourselves in the arms of our heavenly father and experience His lavish love, in the sacrament of reconciliation?

Many of our parishes will hold “reconciliation services” this Advent as a preparation for the Christmas feast. Let us not delay, but prepare for the Christmas feast by immersing ourselves in His reconciling arms!

Come Lord Jesus! Your Franciscan Friars continue to be the ‘ambassadors of reconciliation’ in parishes, shrines, and retreat centers: – welcoming home, with unbound love and compassion to celebrate the love of the Father, who waits with hope and love our return. Do not delay – as he is waiting, with only a few more purple candles to be lit!

May this time of Advent-waiting be a ‘watershed’ of grace and reconciliation for you this December. And the best news is His outstretched arms always await us in the sacrament of reconciliation.

May you enjoy and celebrate often this grace and love in the days ahead. Eagerly, He waits to embrace us once again!

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Pentecost 2016
by Friar Nick Wolfla, OFM Conv.

Friar Nicholas Wolfla is a canon lawyer and serves currently as Secretary for the Province. He was ordained to the Diaconate on January 18, 2016.
Friar Nicholas Wolfla is a canon lawyer and serves currently as Secretary for the Province. He was ordained to the Diaconate on January 18, 2016.

The other day I read where a middle school kid, a typical overachiever plotted using the star calendar of the Mayans and mathematics where a missing ancient city likely was. This possibility was confirmed by a satellite image of the area that showed all the earmarks of a possible archeological find, the same size of a city. When I was his age I was digging fox holes in the woods and hanging from trees. Some people are just overachievers.

But when you think about it achieving is a very real part of our lives as human beings. We work hard for our achievements and sometimes we might work too hard and forget what we should really be achieving, how we should be using the gifts God has given us in life. Where many people spend time being good lawyers, plumbers, or whatever, spending God knows how much time at work, and not at home, sometimes we squander the talents we have as parents, siblings, in short families, we focus upon the external achievements, how the world sees us as opposed to turning to God’s gifts of love and family, until it is too late and the body is in the coffin, taps is being played, and we toss the first of the grave dirt on our loved one.

The Apostles were the same way. They lived with Jesus, walked with him, talked with him, saw what he did, saw him risen, talked to him after he rose, and yet they still didn’t get it. They didn’t recognize him on the road to Emmaus, Thomas, denied his resurrection until he was able to put his hands in the wounds and the list goes one as Jesus had to reveal himself time and again to them. None of them got it, and didn’t understand that he was meant to move on, to take up his place with the Father, and when he did they simply took up their lives where they left off, being good Jews, not understanding what happened and certainly not living out the potential that Jesus’ Passion , his life death and resurrection, was to have.

They continued life, and like every Jew, gathered for the Jewish celebration of Pentecost. (a harvest feast and major gathering in Jerusalem at the time). Like any other family, they gathered together during the holiday, when it all exploded. I believe and have said time and again, that God knows his audience. He knows what it is that will speak to people at any given time and he uses that which would be recognized and understood by those who have the ability to see, and the wisdom to listen, as the old testament will tell us he lets the young men dream dreams and the old men see visions.

The question is what did the wise see and hear that day? They heard and saw the elements alive, they heard and felt the wind, the saw what looked like tongues of fire, elements that to them and us, can mean two things, either utter destruction or life. Think about it for a moment, the very image of the Spirit coming to the Apostles in what seemed to be or resembled flame. My first response personally would be to try to put it out, someone is one fire and about to be burnt to death. Fire is feared, we take out insurance for our homes fearing that it might burn down, we have departments to put fires out, we hear of brush fires in California and other places and the destruction that they mean, and we even have a bear named Smokey to tell us all that only we can prevent forest fires.
We fear fire, we fear dying by fire, we fear losing our possessions to fire, we fear losing crops to fire, and yet we use fire every day. The same was true for the ancients Hebrews, the apostles, they knew fire for good and ill, they knew that fire meant destruction, but they also knew it meant light, new life, and home and hearth. They knew that through its destructive power, there was an exchange of good and bad inherent to nature.

Have you ever seen a wildfire? In their own way they are beautiful we would get them on the mountains of El Paso, and in the evening we would see the beauty of light and play of light against the night sky. But more importantly it was the burning off of the old dead scrub that littered the mountain, in time and in order that the dead would be transferred to new life, feeding new growth, by allowing the new life to take root and with the rains bloom.

The Apostles and those who were alive at that time were a bit closer to nature and the effects of nature than we are. They could recognize nature for what it was, both the destructive and reconstructive power and accept it. They understood when God used this sign, that they were being given a choice, a choice to finally understand and bring into themselves the fullness of the Gospel they have lived through, or to reject it and they knew that if they said yes and allowed that Spirit of God into their lives, it would be transformative. Scripture tells us not only was it transformative but after living with Jesus, they finally understood, they finally were able to put aside that selfishness that causes Peter to deny Jesus, and Thomas to deny the resurrection, they were able to put aside the fear that plagued them from the time they entered Jerusalem with Jesus that caused them to want to blend in with the rest of the crowd.

This was the beginning of the life of the Church, and it was also the beginning of the death and murder of those who would spread the faith, and as the faith spread each and every martyr each and every believer had to face a moment of truth, be it at the hands of the authority, or at their own hands, as to if they truly allowed the Spirit into their lives. Today is the day that they chose to live up to their potential, to grasp the possibilities and probabilities that are part of our profession of faith, to achieve that which is most expected of us, to be disciples, to be followers not of ourselves, but of Jesus Christ, to look to Christ and to allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts minds and souls.
Peter died through Nero crucified upside down for teaching the Gospel in Rome, around 33-34 AD and not professing the divinity of the emperor.
James, was put to death by the Judean King, Herod Agrippa around 44 AD for preaching the Gospel , for proclaiming Jesus
John around 89 AD or so. But did so in such a way that his life reflected his being Christian and evangelizing those around him.
Andrew, preached the Gospel in Greece, and was martyred there by crucifixion.
Philip died preaching and evangelizing and spreading the Holy Spirit in Greece.
Bartholomew, unknown, but presumed to have ministered in Jerusalem
Matthew, spread the Gospel to Persia , Greece and Ethiopia where there is still a vibrant Church, and was martyred there.
Thomas the doubter; evangelized to the East, to Persia and India, again where an ancient Catholic tradition lives to this day, and where he was martyred by a lance.
The other James, was stoned to death with his brains beaten out of him by a club.
Simon the Canaanite; unknown but presumed ministered in Jerusalem
Jude, Evangelized in Armenia, Syria, Persia and died in Persia, buried which is now Iran, which has a strong faith presence, reflected today in how the faithful have been martyred and become refuges for their faith.
This isn’t counting those who died during the various persecutions of the Church by Rome, Scotland, Ireland, Japan, England, Germany, Norway, France, China, Vietnam, Slovakia, Russia and other various nations at various times in history, each because they said yes, because they believed. Even here in the United States Catholics were persecuted in the colonies, even to the point that anti-Catholicism albeit quiet is still alive and well in certain parts of the United States. And yet, the faith survived.

And yet, societies today scoff at those very principals the Church gave its life for, feeding the poor, healing the sick, visiting the prisoner, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty, burying the dead. Which are the 7 works of mercy. We have a tendency in society to not even being civil to each other, to let disagreements become personal, and like the Apostles so want to blend in with the status quo that we ignore our own history. We look the other way when passing someone on the street, we don’t neighbor anymore for any number of reasons, and sometimes we just aren’t nice.

What’s wrong with smiling at someone, or making sure the shut in has company, or inviting another to join you at Church? What’s wrong with teaching our children the faith, and to respect others? What’s wrong with agreeing to disagree not taking things personally, yet showing what it is to be a Christian, to be a Catholic by how we act? What’s wrong with embracing the faith of the Apostles, and like them allowing the Holy Spirit transform our lives?

So I guess my question to us all, including myself, is are we achieving, over achieving, or underachieving are we living up to our Christian potential? I know I’m not, but I do try, and hope to get it together some day, not to fear what might be asked, if only for the moment it is most needed.

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“ONE OF THESE DAYS I AM GOING TO DIE. BUT IT WON’T BE TODAY!”
Sixth Sunday of Easter May 1, 2016.
(a reflection from Fr. John Curran, OFM Conv. - Fr. John is living currently in El Paso, Texas, and is an Associate Pastor at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish.)

Fr. John Curran, OFM Conv.
Fr. John Curran, OFM Conv.

On May 8, 1948 St. Anthony Church in Louisville, Kentucky, was filled with hundreds of people. It was First Holy Communion Day for 60 second-graders. The girls walked in procession, followed by the boys. The girls wore pretty white dresses and veils, white gloves, white socks, and white shoes. The boys wore white shirts with white ties, white trousers and white shoes and socks. Each child carried a prayer book and a rosary, white for the girls and black for the boys. Printed in gold letters on the front cover of the prayer book were the words, “WELCOME JESUS.” That day was the beginning of my amazing friendship with Jesus.

Jesus is my amazing friend. One day Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Mt 16, 13-20. Who is Jesus for you? One day I was wearing a crucifix around my neck as I passed through the check-out counter at Kay Mart. The check-out lady said, “That cross is beautiful!” I responded, “That is Jesus on the Cross.” She said, “Oh, yes. He was a great man!” The amazing truth about Jesus is that he is both man and God.

He is really human, and he is really divine. Try to picture the man Jesus in various real-life situations. The little baby in the stable in Bethlehem. Jesus as a boy in Joseph’s carpenter shop. Jesus sitting among the teachers in the Temple when he was 12. Jesus walking away as a crowd of people tried to throw him off a cliff at Nazareth. Jesus kicking up his heels in a line-dance at the wedding feast of Cana. Jesus laughing as he helped Peter pull in the net filled with fish. Jesus standing before Pilate. Jesus suffering and dying on the Cross.

Try to picture Jesus, when he showed his divine power. Jesus calming the storm. Jesus driving out demons. Jesus multiplying the bread and the fish. Jesus healing the blind and the crippled. Jesus raising the dead.

The Presence of Jesus in our hearts is a three-in-one gift. “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” Jn 14, 23. children accepting the first Holy Communion

In today’s Gospel (Jn 14, 23-29) Jesus mentions his Father five times, and he promises to send us the Holy Spirit to teach us everything. v. 26. First the Holy Spirit teaches us to love in the way that Jesus loves us. He teaches husbands and wives to love each other. He teaches parents what they need to know. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit teach me EVERYTHING (including Spanish, French, Micro-soft Word, the piano, the guitar, etc.).

Everything that Jesus taught his disciples is true. His main theme is “life.” “I have come that you may have life in abundance.” Jn 10, 10. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jn 14, 6. “Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will never die.” Jn 6, 54. “I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me.” Jn 6, 57.

God really is real! As I awake from sleep each morning, I feel Jesus present inside me. I say to myself and to Jesus, “One of these days I am going to die. But it won’t be today!” (Jn 10, 10).

First Holy Communion Day in our parish is a happy day for me. It reminds me of my own journey through life, with my amazing friend Jesus at my side.

 

It's Lent already?

by Fr. Jim Kent, OFM Conv.

Crucifix at Holy Cross Retreat Center, Mesilla Park, New Mexico
Crucifix at Holy Cross Retreat Center, Mesilla Park, New Mexico

This a familiar lament and a reminder how this penitential season seems to sneak up on us, especially when it comes early.  While we seek ways to fast, pray and give alms, these actions should lead us to constant—even daily—conversion. Scripture speaks of the need for the "daily," whether it's to daily take up our cross or give us our daily bread. Conversion often comes through consistent practices that lead us deeper into the life of discipleship.

Through the cycle of readings as we follow Jesus to Jerusalem, Lent is also a time to reflect upon our own journey of life, death and that ultimate meeting with God.  One way to give us the perspective for such an encounter is to ponder that certainty in solitude.  Such quiet time allows us to unplug and breathe deep the Spirit of God. In busy lives it can be a challenge to even take 15 minutes a day to do this. But how insightful and rewarding it can be.  And as I've heard it said to me: if you're too busy to take these 15 minutes, then you really need to take 30!

May God bless us all in this special season that leads to the Paschal Mystery.

AshWed

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A Reflection on the Assumption of Mary

by Fr. Steve McMichael, OFM Conv.

As we reflect upon the Assumption of Mary in preparation for the Feast on August 15th, some insights from the world of the medieval ages might be helpful to us. Medieval theologians and preachers held that Mary was totally involved in the life of Jesus from the Incarnation to his resurrection. In regard to the Incarnation, they focused their attention on the flesh of Mary because in the Incarnation they believed that Mary gave Jesus her flesh (and his soul was given to him by God the Father through the agency of the Holy Spirit). Although the scriptures are silent about Jesus’ appearance to Mary in his risen state, it was commonly held that she was the first one that Jesus appeared to even before the women at the tomb and the Apostles. She was seen, therefore, in the late middle ages as the primary resurrection witness.

What was at stake in the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary was confirmation of other Marian truths implicit in this mystery, such as Mary’s queenship, her mediation and heavenly intercession, and her role as paradigm of the heavenly Church, with regard to the earthly Church.

The doctrine of the Assumption guaranteed not only that Jesus had been raised, and she was the primary witness, but also that Christian believers would be raised. They understood that Mary had fully entered into the Glory of God, thus experiencing the fullest meaning of the resurrection of her Son. With her we can experience that meaning when we ourselves are  transformed, body and soul, into glorious resurrected life! Our souls will experience the beatific vision that is the reward for living out the theological virtues here on earth. Our bodies will be rewarded with the four dotes (gifts) of agility, clarity, impassibility and subtlety after having lived out the cardinal virtues. Mary experienced this complete transformation in the Assumption so she is our model of our own transformation into the glory of resurrected life.

Because of her sufferings and sorrow in experiencing Jesus’ passion and death, Mary was able to draw Christians to herself in their own sufferings and sorrow. As she was relieved of her own suffering in the Assumption, so also will Christians be relieved of their suffering in their own resurrection from the dead. Mary’s Assumption was therefore considered the model of the anticipated resurrection of all believers into the glory of resurrected life. As the concluding prayer of the Feast states: “Having received the Sacrament of salvation, we ask you to grant, O Lord, that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom you assumed into heaven, we may be brought to the glory of the resurrection.”

A Meditation for May

Reflections in the Garden
by Br. Don Bassana, OFM Conv.

This weekend Jaime and I joined the San Francescani Society in doing garden work for the Discalced Carmelite Nuns here in San Antonio, Texas, as part of the Society’s Lenten community projects. When we entered the gates at the Carmelite Monastery, it was obvious this garden had gone a number of years without much attention and this was going to be a major project.image013

The San Francescani Society members with Br. Don (in the back row far left) and Jaime (sitting in the front)
The San Francescani Society members with Br. Don (in the back row far left) and Jaime (sitting in the front)

As I pulled weeds I began to ponder how this garden and work could be seen as a reflection of my life. Having now removed myself from the cares of the world and looking back on my life through the lens of my Franciscan lifestyle, I can see the life I led as points of beauty surrounded by weeds; just as this garden had beautiful rose bushes surrounded by weeds.

The garden of my soul was in desperate need of weeding and the Franciscan lifestyle provided a most conducive place to do such work. I wondered as I was on my knees pulling the weeds, if my life ended now would I be placed among the wheat or the chaff? Have I cleaned and tilled the soil of my soul sufficiently to be considered fertile ground for the seeds of God’s instructions? What other influences am I letting seep into the soil of my soul? Is the music I listen to helping move my life toward living God’s Will more fully? What about the movies or TV programs I watch? Are they nurturing the good seeds or allowing the weeds to flourish?

When we finished the work in the garden, the transformation was amazing. What appeared initially a nearly lost cause was now a thing of beauty for the eyes to behold. I pondered how the Master Gardener works with our soul, how His project is never complete in this world, and how perhaps when we are born into Eternal Life our soul will be One in the self-sustaining garden of Love.

Pace e bene. Br. Don

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A Meditation on Thanksgiving

By Fr. David Lenz, OFM Conv.fr. david mass

The following story was told to me by Fr. Richard Kaley, OFM Conv., pastor at St. Bonaventure Parish in Bloomington, Minnesota.

A farmer living in northern Minnesota came into town one cold November day to visit the local diner to get a bite to eat. After entering the restaurant this elderly man found a table next to one occupied by a small group of teenage boys slurping their soft drinks and enjoying some burgers and fries.

He placed an order for coffee and a sandwich and after a short time the waitress brought him the food. He quietly bowed his head, made the sign of the cross and gave thanks to God for the nourishment. The boys eyed him as he was praying. After finishing his prayer he again signed himself. One of the teenagers said, “Hey old man, does everyone do that where you come from?”

The elder replied, looking into the young man’s eyes, “No son, the pigs don’t.”

As we approach our Thanksgiving holiday it would be well for us to reflect a bit about how we will give thanks to God for our many blessings received over the past year.

May God continue to bless us and let us always be grateful, not ashamed or reticent, about acknowledging where all our good gifts originate.

Blessings to all of our Franciscan friends!

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Transitus Reflection 
by Friar Don Bassana

On the evening of October 3rd we celebrated the Transitus; the returning of our Seraphic’s Father’s body to Mother Earth, as did other friends and followers of Francis around the World.  One aspect brought to my attention is the unity St. Francis is able to create even today over 780 plus years after his passing. Our celebration was blessed with the presence of Franciscan Sisters, Third Order Regular, Secular Franciscans, OFM Observants and OFM Conventuals united in celebrating our founder. Experiencing this Franciscan family unity is something that is expected on such an occasion; what was unexpected is this unifying presence expanding beyond our family that I found quite inspiring.FullSizeRender

Those without any formal Franciscan ties that were not only present but also participated in the celebration were Diocesan seminarians, as well as the Order of Preachers founded in 1216 and The Order of the Most Holy Trinity founded in 1198.   Having all three of these Orders present with each Order originating in the middle ages and still alive today, is a testament to the power of the persevering blessings and grace bestowed on each of the founders whose vision we endeavor to live out in our modern world.

Francis even after passing from this world continues to follow in the Spiritual footsteps of Our Risen Lord and Savior by striving to bring to fruition the vision of all humanity united by the power of the Holy Spirit to Our Heavenly Father’s will.

Pace e bene. Br. Don Bassana

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Mary, Undoer of Knots

by Fr. David Lenz, OFM Conv.

Fr. David Lenz, OFM Conv.
Fr. David Lenz, OFM Conv.

Traditionally, the month of May has been dedicated in our Church to Mary the Mother of Jesus. Like his predecessors, our new Pope Francis has exhibited early on in his pontificate a devotion and love of our blessed Mother. He had been pope for less than 24 hours when he traveled to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, the first church in the West dedicated to the Mother of God.

Pope Francis has expressed a particular devotion to “Our Lady of Luján: the Undoer of Knots.” This devotion originated in Germany. The story is said to begin in 1915, when a couple on the verge of divorce went to visit a Jesuit priest for spiritual assistance. They brought with them their “wedding ribbon,” which was used during their wedding Mass when the couple’s hands were tied together as a sign of unity. The priest prayed and took the ribbon and held it up to an image of Our Lady, and then untied the knots. As the last ribbon knot was undone, the ribbon glowed whiter. The priest took it as a sign of Our Lady’s favor.

The couple stayed together.

12_8_Mary Untier Of KnotsIn the aftermath, a painting was created of Mary as the Undoer of Knots. When Pope Francis was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, he asked that copies of the painting be displayed in all churches of the Archdiocese.

On October 12, 2013, Pope Francis said: “We know one thing: nothing is impossible for God’s mercy. Even the most tangled knots are loosened by His grace. If there are knots in your life, suffering difficulties, go to Mary. Ask her to untie your knots. “

May God grant you peace and comfort and do not worry; worry is useless.

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Letting Go of Lent
by Fr. Martin Day, OFM Conv.

martin dayThree quarters of this year’s Lenten season has already passed us by. Where are we at this point in our Lenten journey? It could be an occasion for us to “buckle down” and give a final push to our Lenten resolutions. Perhaps we can still make it! Or we might be at the point of thinking that we were a bit too ambitious when Lent began and, at this point in the penitential season, we might be confronted with the reality that what we said we were going to do has become a mathematical impossibility. This latter case might apply, for example, if we thought that, somehow, our Lenten fasting would lead to a reduction in waist size.

I would like to suggest another option: Perhaps it is best if we “let go” of Lent.

Lent is designed to prepare our hearts to celebrate the feast of our salvation. The first step in the process is to come to a deeper realization that the salvation being celebrated actually applies to us! Lent helps us get past the notion that we can save ourselves—if we are good enough then God will have to let us into heaven.

The most successful Lent could be the one where we come face to face with our inability to measure up on our own to the demands of the Gospel.

At this point in the season, however, the focus shifts. Whatever has happened, or not happened during this Lenten season now has to give way to the actual celebration of salvation. We have now to relinquish the center stage, which we had previously occupied with attentiveness to our prayer life, our almsgiving, our fasting and abstinence, to the work that Christ has done through his sacrifice on the cross, and the work that is continuing through the power of the Holy Spirit still at work in the world.crucifix triduum

These realities will always be the main event, even if we feel much more in touch with our response to them, however lacking it may be.

To let go of Lent means to forget ourselves for a moment and revel in the simple fact that God has seen fit to save us, without there being any other reason to do so other than the fact that he loves us, and wants us to fulfill the purpose for which we were made—to rejoice in the life prepared for us from the foundation of the world.

Would that it were true that we were worthy of so great a gift. But the good news of salvation is that the gift is ours even though we are not worthy of it. We can only be in awe of that. And in our awe Lenten resolutions fall away. There is much more important work at hand—to celebrate the mystery of God’s redeeming love.

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The Woman at the Well
A Reflection on the Novitiate
by Br. Don Bassana, OFM Conv.

Friar Don in middle, Fr. Jim Kent on right
Friar Don in middle, Fr. Jim Kent on right

Friar Don professed his Simple Vows July 25, 2013. By professing his Simple Vows into the hands of Minister Provincial, Fr. Jim Kent, Friar Don is dedicating himself to live a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a Conventual Franciscan Friar for a period of up to three years. During this time he continues to learn about the Order and grow to understand his vocation from God more deeply. 

I was blessed with the good fortune to bring in the New Year on a retreat at “Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel” in Christoval, Texas and enjoyed meeting the founder Fr. Fabian Maria,O Carm. This secluded and peaceful place allowed me to spend some introspective time and reflect on the past year’s experience, in particular the novitiate as a parallel experience to the woman at the well.  The inspiration for this particular Scripture passage was a talk given by Fr. Jude Winkler.

Reflecting on our novitiate experience my mind seemed to be drawn to the similarities to the woman at the well. For starters Jesus is there first.  We do not show up and wait on Jesus; he is there first inviting us to be with Him always and not just at the novitiate but also whatever port we are called to set sail to throughout our Franciscan life.

Next we encounter Jesus at a public place (the novitiate), and yet, somehow alone with Him just as the woman was at a community well but alone with Jesus.  We have an opportunity to nurture this intimate encounter and potentially transform our lives if we choose to allow it.  In the novitiate we meet Jesus in the Eucharist, in the Word, and in our brothers.

Third, just as the woman left her jar she had been carrying everyday, we can choose to “lighten” our load and separate ourselves from the worldly things we have accumulated and views formulated.

Fourth, in the Old Testament the well is synonymous with marriage; just as Jesus talks to the woman and offers himself to her spiritually, so too do we receive an invitation at the conclusion of our novitiate. This invitation can be seen as a type of marriage proposal and if we accept we “tie the knot” in our cords and begin our three year engagement to Christ.

Finally, the woman leaves the well and goes out to share this glorious encounter with others and draw them to Christ, just as we will be called to do as our ships set sail from the Novitiate to the wide open waters of the world.

Pace E Bene.   Br. Don OFM Conv.

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In Mary God Rewrote the History of Our Salvation
by Fr. John Curran, OFM Conv. 

             The history of our Salvation was rewritten when God created a new “Mother of the Living” to replace Eve, who had sinned with Adam.  God had created our first parents without sin, but they fell, through their pride and disobedience. God expelled them from Paradise. (Gen 3, 1-14) 

By God’s sovereign will he decided to re-create the world, making all things new (2 Cor 5,17).  Before he made the planets, he pre-destined Mary to become the “new Eve.” And indeed he chose all of us. We read, “even before he made the world. . .he loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” (Eph 1, 4-5). Through the Holy Child that she would give us, we can find our hope of salvation.

A painting of Mary by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)
A painting of Mary by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)

In St. John’s gospel we read, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3,16).  And at the mass on New Year’s Day, we will hear, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.  God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.(Gal 4,4-7). 

The story of Mary is really the story about the power of the Holy Spirit. God prevented her from inheriting the infection of Original Sin, in view of the divine plan to make her the immaculate mother of the immaculate Savior.  Mary acknowledged in her beautiful Magnificat that, as a child of the first Eve, “subject to the law,” she, like the whole world,  needed the Savior.  She sang, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”  (Lk 1,47).  Mary would give birth, by the power of God, to Jesus who is both her Son and her Savior. The angel Gabriel prophesied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Lk 1,35).

Dr. John MacArthur, a prominent Christian Evangelical pastor and theologian, has written, “Out of all the women He could have chosen—queens, princesses, or daughters of the wealthy and influential-He chose an unknown, unassuming young woman from an obscure village.” (John MacArthur, God’s Gift of Christmas, Nashville: J. Countryman, 2006, p.48.)

In his book about Christmas, he gives Mary high praise for her faith and her innocence; but, as a Protestant, he can’t bring himself to recognize her “Immaculate Conception.”  Here are his words: “As good and godly as she was, Mary was still a sinner in need of God’s grace, just like you and me, and God freely gave her his favor and blessing.” (MacArthur,  p. 49).

Dr. MacArthur follows the traditions of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564). Today’s Protestants feel compelled to call her “a sinner like the rest of us.” They base their opinion on these words of St. Paul: “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” (Rom 5,12). Many of Paul’s words are difficult to interpret, and we need the God-given authority of the Church to do this.

Every time Catholics pray the Ave Maria, we recognize that God filled Mary with his grace (“Hail Mary, full of grace. . .” Lk 1,28), and we remember the words of the angel Gabriel: “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!” (Lk 1,30) The Catholic Church has not changed her teaching that Mary was sinless from the moment of her conception and throughout her life. This was not her doing, but it was possible only by God’s free gift of grace.  And she cooperated with God’s grace perfectly.

Mary sang these words: “For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.” (Lk 1,49).  The “mighty thing” that Jesus did for her was her salvation. He “saved” her and “justified” her, even before she was born.

If our critics today would only fix their sight on the Image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, they would be speechless! Her face is not the face of a sinner, but the face of the spotless Immaculate Virgin, Mother of our Savior.

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe

Her cousin Elizabeth said it well,  “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. . . You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” (Lk 1,42 & 45).

Catholics should not worship Mary as a goddess.  We should honor her because of her Son Jesus. We should not bow down before her in adoration, but we should try to imitate her saving faith “that the Lord will do what he said.”

During these days of Advent we should meditate on the angel Gabriel’s words to Mary: “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Lk 1,37).

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What Grew in Your Garden This Year?

by Friar Charles McCarthy, OFM Conv.

(Friar Charles McCarthy is a member of the community at St. Bonaventure’s Friary in Bloomington, MN. He serves the neighboring diocesan parish, Church of the Assumption. Assumption parish is a multi-ethnic community and has a large immigrant population. Parishes with immigrants often have difficulty finding common ground. Without common ground it is difficult to build unity in the diversity. But that is the mission of Assumption, and the commitment of friar Charles. How is that done?)

In May 2013, Assumption Church, through its Social Outreach office, La Misión, established a community garden. The garden was a collaboration between Fairview Hospital Systems, Bloomington and Richfield Public Health and La Misión. The goal of the Community Garden is to educate apartment dwellers of the importance of healthy food choices to improve their health.

The garden was met with excitement and ire in the parish. The excitement for some was to finally have a place to raise the veggies and herbs they were used to in their home country. For others the excitement was to have fingers in the earth again after having moved from their own homes. The ire was, “Why do we have to provide that for people in apartments?” “It will surely be an eyesore, because they don’t know what they’re doing!” What amazement happened over the summer! Oddly enough the planting boxes were half subscribed to by immigrant families and half by long term Richfield/Bloomington residents.

One of the biggest opponents to the project was all over it from the outset until now that we’ve had our freeze and the crops are dead. Hank opposed it because it was going to be an eye-sore and will certainly not be well kept.20130716_191941

Oddly enough, Hank was one of the people who was there to help put the earth in the 36 3’ x 3’ boxes. Hank was there to help sow the seeds and to show the kids in the Karate club (who had 4 of the boxes) how to thin radishes and carrots. Hank also marveled to see the naïve kids replanting the thinned carrots and radishes. He didn’t say anything like, “Don’t you know that won’t work?!?” And he was amazed the following week that the kids’ “faith” and naiveté actually bore fruit, literally. The replanted thinnings had rooted!

Little by little, Hank became more committed to the garden project by his interaction with the other gardeners learning from them about what can grow together and can’t while sharing his own cultivation experience. In August, while explaining to the kids how to figure out when to pick tomatoes or cucumbers or something, one of the littler kids sideled up to him, hand grasping into a wad Hank’s pant leg, looked up to him and said, “Grandpa! How do you know…?”

What grew in our garden this summer? Veggies and health awareness for sure! But even more important, community and bridges between people unknown to one another in the Spring. Language was a bit of an issue at the beginning, but the language of shoulder to shoulder labor and hands on determination of ripeness built bridges. One kid even plucked a grandpa! And Hank ran to the other octogenarian men in the parish inviting them to come sow grandpa relationships with kids who often don’t have that in their life. Help sow community where you live!

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Thoughts on our life and return to Heaven

by Friar Don Bassana, OFM Conv.

November the 2nd I attended a Remembrance Mass for my dad who passed away May of this year, let me again thank each and everyone of you for your kind words, thoughts, many prayers, cards and the masses said for him. My true gratitude is poorly expressed in these words but as best as I can, thank you for your brotherly love.Don with Father

Reflecting on this experience as you can imagine brought up a multitude of emotions and thoughts. On the morning he died I recall during our invitatory prayer the words that I have prayed many times before seemed to have a new clarity of meaning as though a different light was shined upon them and they were heard as if for the first time. I felt like the veil between the physical world we live in and the one my dad now knew was somehow closer, more intimate and in union with one another. Regretfully this feeling left almost as soon as it came, but the presence it gave was powerful and awe inspiring.

Each time I told someone my dad passed away a flood of emotions cascaded upon me and confounded me with sadness but thankfully never any anger or any other negative emotions. Slowly as I began to accept his passing it opened up a new space for the Love and Light of the Holy Spirit to dwell. At his funeral service I once again had a glimpse of this union of what I had perceived as two separate worlds, that of the physical and the spiritual.  At mass it felt as though a door had opened and I was giving praise directly to God in heaven. I was overwhelmed with emotions and prayed in earnest when the day came that my soul saw the face of God in His True Light, I would never be subjected to the torment of separation from Him.

At his gravesite after the twenty-one guns salute while taps was being played, I contemplated some of my Franciscan experiences and teachings. I saw life in this world as concerned with money, prestige and how people may remember dad as an accountant, marine, or one of the dads who helped out at the pancake breakfast.  How, now at his final moment physically among us it is all taken away by Sister death, nothing accumulated will journey with him. What we create ourselves to be in this life is not who we truly are in essence. “We are what we are before God and nothing else.”  Our Franciscan journey essentially strives to bring the values of the Kingdom to our present time. We give up the material things and live sine propio. We dress ourselves in the garments of salvation, and live in a community of brotherhood with our fellow Franciscans with the desire to draw all people to the true Light and life of a disciple of Jesus.  This is our life.

May the presence of the Holy Spirit our Advocate and Guide be ever aware to our souls that we may live in perfect union with God’s Will and lead us and many other souls to dwell in the Eternal Kingdom.  Pace E Bene. Br. Don

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Devotion to St. Anthony of Padua
By Fr. David Lenz, OFM Conv.

He wasn’t originally from Padua. He wasn’t even originally a Franciscan.

St. Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal, at the end of the 12th century. He began his religious life as an Augustinian. But shortly after ordination to the priesthood, he met some Franciscan Friars who were returning from missionary work in northern Africa. Inspired by their zeal and courage, he transferred to the Franciscans to devote himself to preaching and spreading the faith among African peoples.

Those plans were thwarted; some might say by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He went instead to Italy, where he met St. Francis, and was discovered to have a superior talent for preaching and teaching. He became the first Friar to teach theology to the new members of the Franciscan order.

But it is as a missionary of God’s Word that he is most renowned. His sermons are memorable for their gentleness. But the strength of his preaching and the deep love of God they pronounced – Anthony’s love of God, and God’s overflowing, abiding love for each of us – turned around the lives of those who heard him.

Fr. David touches the foreheads of people with a relic of St. Anthony.

In 1231 Anthony died in Padua, Italy. Devotion to him began shortly thereafter, as he was acknowledged as one of the spiritual giants of his age. Soon numbers of pilgrims came to visit his tomb in Padua. As they entered the basilica where he was buried, they went to the altar, where St. Anthony’s tomb lay underneath. They would place their hands, and then their foreheads on the tomb. Thus began the devotion of touching the forehead to a relic of St. Anthony, a practice that continues to our present day.

Anthony is a splendid example of “God drawing straight through crooked lines.” His life reminds us not to worry and to let God be God in our lives. God will make straight the crooked paths of our life, leading us to union and happiness with our eternal Father. 

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Living in the hope of our resurrection
by Fr. John Curran, OFM Conv. 

My second grade teacher, Ursuline Sister Thérèse, taught us children to pray for a happy death.  I heard about an old woman who probably followed this advice all her life. When she learned that she had only a few months to live, because of her advanced case of cancer; she called in her family to discuss her funeral arrangements. After instructing them about her wishes for the mass and the rites at the cemetery, she added, "There's one thing more that's very important: I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."

Fr. John Curran, OFM Conv.

Her children didn’t understand. Her oldest son said, “Mamá," "what are you talking about?" The woman began to explain, "I remember eating with my family when I was a young girl." "Each of us would help clear away the dishes. Sometimes your abuelita would tell us, 'Save your fork!' We children knew what that meant. It meant that she had prepared some flan or pastel tres leches, or some other delicious dessert. When she said, 'Save your fork!' that meant that the best was yet to come.  “So I want to be buried with a fork in my hand, because the best is yet to come!” she repeated.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Christians believe that “the best is yet  to come.” St. Paul has written, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the  heart of man  the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Cor 2,9.

We Christians live in the hope of our resurrection.  This hope is based on our participation in the life of Jesus Christ. With him we share everything.  That is, the things that the Head of the Body experienced in the past, the members of the Body experience now in faith. And in the future life that we anticipate, we will share with him in the fullest measure possible for us who are not divine.

The liturgical year gives expression to this sharing in the life of Christ. For 90 days, from Ash Wednesday until Pentecost, we let Christ live again in us.  In Lent (40 days) we are inserted into our Redeemer’s sufferings and death. During the Easter Season (50 days), we share in his Resurrection, his Ascension, and Pentecost (the giving of his Holy Spirit). Our Christian life has milestones:  We suffer and die with Christ; we rise with him; we ascend with him, and we live in the power of his  Holy Spirit.

     Our suffering and death.  By faith we are united to Jesus, and we live and die in him daily.  St. Paul tells us,  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me.”  Gal 2,20.  When we experience sorrows, in our “Garden of Gethsemane;” like Jesus, we cry out for help in our pain.

 “I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord
 ‘Lord, save me!’”  Ps 116,3-4.  

     Like Jesus, we find acceptance when we say, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” And with this acceptance, we find courage. Like him, we say, “Get up!  Let’s go!” Mt 26,39.

     Our resurrection.  At funerals we pray that “on the last day,” our loved ones will be raised.  Although our resurrection will come with glorious fullness on the last day,  already we begin to experience our resurrection now,  as we grow into the fullness of life. From moment to moment, from day to day, we face our challenges with courage.  Jesus pours his resurrection power into our hearts.  St. Paul writes, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Cor. 12,10.  And he writes,  “I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me.” Phil 4,13. 

      Our ascension.  Because Jesus assumed our human nature, he is forever our brother.  And we share both his human nature and his divine nature. 2 Pt 1.4.  Jesus carried us with him into heaven on Ascension Day. St. Paul writes, “God has raised us up together with Christ  and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Eph 2,6.  And Christians should feel a “holy boldness” because of what Christ has done for us.  Eph 3,12. 

Our Pentecost (Acts 2,1-13). The Holy Spirit is our “spiritual oxygen.” He is the “giver of life” (Profession of Faith). As Jesus died on the cross he said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Jn 19,30.  Now we “breathe” the spirit of Jesus. We experience Pentecost daily as we live “the fruit of the spirit.” Gal 5,22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We know when we are living in the Holy Spirit by these signs:

1. The innocent heart that is free of any bad motives.
2. The heart that is joyful and pure.
3. The broken heart that has learned to forgive and to be at peace.
4. The courageous heart that puts another person ahead of himself
5. The heart that burns with love and compassion for suffering persons.
6. The heart that seeks  a Word from the Bible that will come alive with new meaning.
7. The heart that opens dialog and cooperation between persons of different races and cultures.

This stain-glass image depicts St. Francis receiving the sacred Stigmata, the wounds of Christ on the hands, feet and side. Francis was drawn so intimately into the suffering and cross of Christ he was the first person to be given the gift of the Stigmata.

As Sister Thérèse taught me, we should pray for a “happy death.” But what does this mean?  For me it means that at the hour of my death, if God permits, I will show my loved ones how a Christian dies. We have St. Francis and many other saints as beautiful examples of how to welcome Sister Death.

To have a “happy death,” we must live a happy life, even as we carry our crosses. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jn 10,10. From day to day, I am not preparing for my death, but for my resurrection. I live in the hope that my life will bear fruit; according to Jesus’ words at his Last Supper, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Jn 15,8.

Christ lives again in us through faith: Every day we celebrate by the way we live “the memorial of Jesus’ Passion, his wondrous Resurrection, and his Ascension into heaven. We look forward to his Second Coming.” (Eucharistic Prayer III)

BE HAPPY!  THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

 

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Fr. David Lenz, OFM Conv., accompanied by Dr. Tim Glasscock, Chair of the Music Department at Bellarmine University lead us into the season of Lent.

Mary and Jesus teach us the “Little Way” of humility
By: Fr. John Curran, OFM Conv.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mt 10:15)

As we prepare for Christmas, we reflect on God’s plan to rescue humanity from the corruption of sin. From heaven God saw our broken lives, our bondage to sin, and our spiritual blindness. God left his heavenly throne in order to enter this fallen world as a poor and helpless infant (Phil 2, 6-11). Every Sunday we say these words in the Creed, “For our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” (Nicene Creed) The baby in the Christmas Crib reminds us of the humility of God.

God’s chosen plan was to become weak. The needy, the sick, the broken, the forgotten, and the oppressed flocked to Jesus. But the strong and the proud were shocked that he came in this humble condition. They expected a conquering king, not a simple carpenter born in a stable. The religious leaders despised him and plotted his death. It was too much for them to accept the fact that God had chosen to save us by this “little way.”

A painting of Mary by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937)

Mary and Jesus teach us the “little way” of humility. Mary’s humble obedience is evident in the mystery of the Annunciation. Mary was very young (13-16 years old) when the Angel Gabriel came to her. She found it hard to believe that God would choose a little girl like her. “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.’” (Lk 1:30)

Like Mary, Jesus showed his humble obedience, when, at the age of 12, he left the Temple and “went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them and grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Lk 2:31-32)

In Jesus’ first sermon he told us that to belong to his kingdom we must follow the “little way.” He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Mt 5: 5) In another sermon he told us to be like children. “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of heaven like a little child will never enter it.” (Mt 10:15)

When his disciples James and John began to discuss the exalted places that they hoped to be given in Jesus’ kingdom, Jesus set them straight. He told them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:42-45)

Jesus rejected violence, and made himself defenseless. He was well aware of the plots to kill him, but he freely consented to his unjust condemnation and his sufferings. St. Paul wrote, “He humbled himself and became obedient to death.” Phil 2,8. Standing in chains before the Roman procurator, he listened calmly as Pontius Pilate asked him if he were a king. Jesus answered him, “You are right in saying I am a king. My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.” (Jn 18:36-37)

We ask Mary to intercede for us, because we recognize her hidden power. Mary has great influence with her Son. In the Memorare prayer we say, “Never has it been known that anyone who fled to thy protection was left unaided.” She has the key to unlock Jesus’ heart. At the Marriage Feast of Cana, she told Jesus, “They have no wine.” Then she told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:3-5) None of us can say “no” to our mothers, and Jesus is no exception.

Mary is Jesus’ mother in two ways, physical and spiritual. First, she will always be his mother according to the flesh, because of the Incarnation. And second, she will always be his mother according to the spirit, because of her humble obedience to the heavenly Father. Jesus told a crowd, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mt 12:50)

Jesus gave Mary to us as our spiritual mother. As he was dying on the cross, he told John, “Here is your mother…From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” (Jn 19:27) Like John we can say that Mary is our “little mother,” and she lives with us.

St. Francis of Assisi showed his appreciation for the “littleness” of God. For him the sun and the moon, and the elements of earth, air, fire and water were “little brothers and sisters.” (“Canticle of the Sun”) The community of religious men that he founded are called the Friars Minor, i.e., the “little brothers.”

His love for the Crib and the Cross shows St. Francis’ love of Christ incarnate in the defenseless, the forgotten, the poor and the oppressed members of society. For Francis Jesus is alive in the faces of a multitude of “little brothers and little sisters.” He took to heart Jesus’ words, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:40)

You and I need to help the Church rediscover love for the “little way.” We need to seek first the Kingdom of God, not power and influence, or the other passing things of this world. (Mt. 6:33) The Church must follow the “little way” of humility and be the servant Church. (Mk 10:43)

Mary and Jesus show us the “little way” of humility. They show us that “God has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” (Lk 1:52) The baby in the Christmas Crib proclaims that God loved the world so much that he sent his Son to save us all. (Jn 3:16) He came as our “little brother,” but now and for eternity he is exalted in glory; and “every tongue will proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Phil 2:11)

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The Advent Embrace
by Fr. David Lenz, OFM Conv.

Traditionally, we begin our “Advent count-down” to celebrate Christmas with the lighting of the purple candles on the advent wreath. We wait with expectation and excited hope to complete our candle-lit wreath, so as to celebrate the arrival of the Savior into our fractured world. This Advent we might reflect as well on another return and the ‘waiting’ as told in a story by Jesus: The return of the Prodigal Son, and the waiting of a loving father. As Jesus told the story, when the father sees his burdened and hungry son approaching home, he runs to greet him with outstretched arms, embracing his way-ward son! What great joy for the father – that he hosts an elaborate banquet and feast for all! The happiness of the father knows no bounds for his son has returned – the one he thought might be lost. But now that he returns, and admits his sinfulness, the father celebrates with unrestricted jubilation.

Might we not consider this Advent season as an opportunity to place ourselves in the arms of our heavenly father and experience His lavish love, in the sacrament of reconciliation?

Many of our parishes will hold “reconciliation services” this Advent as a preparation for the Christmas feast. Let us not delay, but prepare for the Christmas feast by immersing ourselves in His reconciling arms!

Come Lord Jesus! Your Franciscan Friars continue to be the ‘ambassadors of reconciliation’ in parishes, shrines, and retreat centers: – welcoming home, with unbound love and compassion to celebrate the love of the Father, who waits with hope and love our return. Do not delay – as he is waiting, with only a few more purple candles to be lit!

May this time of Advent-waiting be a ‘watershed’ of grace and reconciliation for you this December. And the best news is His outstretched arms always await us in the sacrament of reconciliation.

May you enjoy and celebrate often this grace and love in the days ahead. Eagerly, He waits to embrace us once again!

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Behold the Lamb of God--
Experiencing God in the Mass
by: Friar John Curran, OFM Conv. 

Pope Benedict XVI in his Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. II, tells us that “Jesus died at the hour when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple.”  (p. 112).

The True Lamb of God.  The Lamb of God is a perfect symbol for Jesus Christ, although his first disciples probably failed to comprehend the significance of the words of St. John the Baptist, as he introduced him as the “Lamb of God.” (Jn 1, 29.)

This symbol is central to the New Covenant, which Jesus established when he shed his blood on the Cross.  The ancient chant, “Lamb of God,” embodies the essence of the Mystery of Jesus’ Sacrifice that is re-presented in every Mass.

The Supper of the Lamb.  At the Supper of the Lamb, made present in the Mass, Jesus gives us himself as the true Lamb of God. Catholics believe that the Mass makes present today what the Book of Revelation foresees as future heavenly bliss.  And the priest’s invitation to receive the Body and Blood of Christ is an echo of these prophetic words, “Behold the Lamb of God… Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.” (Rev 19, 9.)

Jesus’ Sacrifice of Obedience.  Before he offered his body and blood on Mt. Calvary, Jesus offered his human will to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed, “Abba, Father…Not what I will, but what you will.” (Mk 14, 36.)  Jesus will not shed his blood ever again. (Heb 7, 27.)  However, the sacrifice of his obedience, the offering of his human will, is never-ending. And in the Mass we should offer our wills to the Father with Jesus.

Our Sacrifice of Obedience. The Mass is all about doing the Father’s will. Before Holy Communion we pray together, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  (Mt 6, 10.)   And for the correct attitude about our participation in the Mass, we look to St. Paul’s words, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Rom 12, 1.)

Go forth, the Mass is ended. During the Mass Jesus brings us into the holiest place in the universe, God’s throne room. (Heb 10, 19.)  Here we encounter the Living God. Like St. Peter on the Mountain of Transfiguration, we might want to stay, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” (Mt 17, 4.)  But as the Mass concludes, Jesus challenges us to come down from the mountain and to go forth into our everyday world, to become other “Lambs of God…living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.”

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The Feast Day of Our Lady of Consolation
by: Friar Jeffrey Hines, OFM Conv. 

The morning dawned on May 26, 1875, filled with rain, great winds and lightning. Inside the little brick church of Saint Nicholas in Berwick, Ohio, a rather large crowd of the faithful had gathered. They were there to form a religious procession to carry a recently acquired statue of the Blessed Mother Mary from this church to a new mission church in the village of Carey, Ohio, about seven miles outside of Berwick.

The statue of Our Lady of Consolation in 1875.

The statue was a faithful copy of the miraculous statue of Our Lady, Consoler of the Afflicted, enshrined the Cathedral of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The Pastor of Saint Nichols Church, Father Joseph Gloden, while a student in the Seminary in Luxembourg, was miraculously cured of Diphtheria, when he turned to her in prayer. Ever since that time, Father Gloden had a great devotion to Our Lady under the title of Consoler of the Afflicted.

Everyone present in the church of Saint Nicholas thought the procession would have to be cancelled because of the rain. Father Gloden, a man of deep faith, asked that the statue be taken to the doors of the church. Once the doors were opened, everyone saw the great and blessed surprise! Though the rain was falling all around those gathered, no rain was falling on the road that lead to Carey! As the procession continued the same scene continued for the complete distance to Carey.

As the procession with the statue neared the newly constructed chapel in Carey, a Catholic immigrant from Belgium, Leo Belogue by name, had been awaiting the arrival of the statue. He had a daughter, Eugenie, about 12 years old who had been desperately ill for some four weeks. As the statue passed in front of Leo he fell to his knees and begged Our Lady to cure his daughter. On his return to his home later in the day, Leo found his daughter completely cured, taking the first food she had in several weeks.

It has long been believed that on this one rainy day, May 26, 1875, Our Lady had indicated she wanted to be honored in Carey in a special way. Further on this day she made real to everyone her title as Consoler of the Afflicted. The feast of Our Lady of Consolation is celebrated on May 25 because there is a major Franciscan feast on May 26.

Ever since that special day, Mary known now as Our Lady of Consolation, has been present in Carey. Here in her shrine basilica, her presence is felt as she continues to lead all who come here closer to her Son Jesus, and touches heals with her motherly heart, so many who turn to her.

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Resuscitó? I Don’t Think So!
by Friar Martin Day, OFM Conv.

There’s a popular hymn in Spanish that gets a lot of use during the Easter season.  It’s entitled  Resuscitó! and I asked one of the friars, who speaks Spanish much better than I do, what a good translation of that word into English would be.  “He is risen!” was the answer.  So far so good.  Of course, the word has a cognate in English—resuscitated—that is much more problematic when thinking about the resurrection of Jesus.  Our Christian tradition makes it quite clear that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was not a resuscitation, but something altogether new.  One could say that Jesus’ friend Lazarus was raised from the dead, but in that case it does appear that the term ‘resuscitated’ would apply.  Tradition would have it that Lazarus would, at some point, go through the process of dying again and even though he might have been changed by the experience of three days in the tomb, it did not qualify as a new birth into eternal life.  That honor was reserved for Jesus, “the first-born from the dead” and then, after him, for all who believe in him.

An image of the resurrection from a monastery outside the wall in Istanbul

This may all seem like old news for many, and yet there does seem to be a fair amount of “resuscitó”, in the sense of going back to what was before, going on during the Easter season.  We take upon ourselves certain Lenten disciplines and are glad when the forty days are over so that we can get back to “business as usual:” drinking coffee again, or eating chocolate, or snacking between meals.  In such a case the Easter season can become a kind of ordinary time:  we go back to being our normal selves.  Some might view what happened in the life of Jesus in a similar way.  Adam sinned, God saw that something needed to be done about that and so, in the fullness of time, he sent His Son as our redeemer to rescue us from death and the pains of hell.  Then, in this way of thinking, once the Son had completed his work here on earth, he rose from the dead to go back to the Father and to his “normal” life of sitting at God’s right hand.

As much as we take heart by Christ’s work of redemption that holds the place of honor in this view, there is a larger scene in which Christ’s work of redemption takes place.  That perspective is portrayed, for example, in the Christological hymn in Colossians 1:15-20

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions, or principalities or powers;
all were created through him and for him.
He is before all things, an in him all things hold together.
He is head of the body, the church;
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace through the blood of his cross,
whether those on earth or those in heaven.

This “primacy of Christ” Christology led the preeminent Franciscan theologian of the 14th century, Blessed John Duns Scotus, to come to the conclusion that, even if Adam had not sinned, God still would have sent his Son to become human.  What possible reason could God have had to do such a thing?  Well, the new thing that happens in the resurrection, the new, and not merely restored life we celebrate at Easter, is that with Jesus rising from the tomb as the first-born of all creation, humanity is brought into the very life and communion of the triune God.  The Son retains His humanity even after the resurrection and, in fact, exemplifies that humanity in its perfection.  And as first-born of all creation, He opens up for the rest of us the possibility of sharing in God’s divine life in a way that did not exist for us before, not even before the Fall.

The Feast of Easter cannot be about restoring us to some pristine human condition that once existed in the Garden of Eden.  It’s not about “getting ourselves back to the garden” to quote a famous lyric from Joan Baez. That would not be the new life we celebrate at Easter.  Easter goes beyond that.  There is a restoration, to be sure.  Sin has been defeated.  But even more awesomely, God’s original intent, the one from all eternity, the one which predates even Adam’s Fall, has been put into effect:  That God would join humanity with Himself and invite us into His own reality.  There’s no going back!  Only forward!  With that in mind the Easter season is an excellent time, not so much for taking up again the things we did without during Lent, but to try on for size those characteristics we know are part of the reign of God, even on earth:  peace, reconciliation, fullness of life for all, harmony in the created world, literally a new heaven and a new earth!

Happy Easter!

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Holy Week Meditations
by +Fr. Howard Hansen, OFM Conv.

Please click here. 

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Lent:  a Focus on Conversion

By: Friar Jim Kent, OFM Conv.

This stain-glass image depicts St. Francis receiving the sacred Stigmata, the wounds of Christ on the hands, feet and side. Francis was drawn so intimately into the suffering and cross of Christ he was the first person to be given the gift of the Stigmata.

Lent is a season where we as individuals and as community--as a church--prepare for the mysteries of Easter.  We do this through fasting, prayer and the giving of alms.   The Sunday Scriptures take us from Jesus's fasting 40 days in the desert and being tempted by the devil, to the Transfiguration, to his promise to destroy the temple and raise it up in three days, and all the way to the Passion of the Lord recounted on Palm Sunday.  We follow Jesus on the road to Jerusalem as we too make our Lenten journey of conversion.

St. Francis encouraged his followers to live lives of conversion.  These might be major steps in our life with God or smaller every-day steps that slowly draw us to our eternal destiny.  Lent allows us time to focus on the need for conversion, constant conversion.  We may have had defining moments in our life of faith but need to augment these with the many lesser moments that keep us on the proper path.  Fasting and abstaining from meat can remind us of the need to depend on God, as well as connect us to those who daily go without these basic necessities.  Giving our time, treasure and talent to someone--especially the poor--expands our world to all God's people and helps us better love God and others.  Spending extra time in prayer makes the Lenten experience quite personal and draws us ever deeper into our life with God.

One of the Lenten practices the Franciscans nurtured and helped make common throughout all the church is the Stations of the Cross.  Not many people could afford to go to Jerusalem to walk the way of the cross Jesus did, but everyone can do so in their local church.  These stations recall quite vividly and viscerally what Jesus endured for our salvation.  They recall the people he met along that journey, the good, the bad, the indifferent, and the ritual invites us to enter more fully into His suffering and death to aid our own conversion.

Lent is an opportunity for growth by going without, by giving to others, by spending more time in prayer, so that we might better realize the effects of Easter and our journey towards the New Jerusalem.

The Prayer Before the Crucifix
by St. Francis of Assisi

Most High,
glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me
true faith,
certain hope,
and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
Lord,
that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.