No, God has not abandoned us

Reflection for Palm Sunday of the Passion by FAN Executive Director, Stephen Schneck

This reflection was originally posted in our March 30th newsletter


A month ago, we might all have imagined a very different Palm Sunday. Here in Washington, the hosannas often rang out on an early, warm spring day. For my family a typical Palm Sunday saw us cleaning the rusty Weber, inviting a few friends, and marking the day by grilling the first steaks of the year – with local asparagus and buttery new potatoes.

We won’t be celebrating around the table with friends this year. Steaks and asparagus are pretty rare in nearby groceries. The virus has changed our lives in ways large and small.

The philosopher Albert Camus in his 1947 novel, The Plague, noted how against the backdrop of disease everyday things and actions take on a luminous quality. We see around us now that luminosity. Friendships seem more intense. In a hug from someone you love you now perceive the glow of grace that you should always have known was there. We’re utterly grateful this year for canned and frozen foods. Grateful for toilet paper. Grateful to see friends on a Zoom call. A hymn during a live streamed Mass from a nearby parish can bring us to tears.

Indeed, reading the Passion for this Palm Sunday seems overwhelmingly poignant.

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”

No, God has not abandoned us. We see the presence of the divine more clearly than ever in the FaceTime faces of our grandchildren whom we cannot visit. We see it in the heroism of the grocery store clerks and the folks who pick up our trash and deliver our mail, in the cops, the nurses, and doctors. We see it in the social worker reaching out to the homeless to warn them of the danger. We see it in the neighbor who stands on her porch each evening and plays guitar for us. We see it down the street when another neighbor leaves a casserole on the stoop of an EMT who’s been working long overtime shifts because so many of her colleagues have been quarantined for exposure.

Let’s all of us realize this Holy Week that God is extraordinarily present for us in this moment. Let’s say a quiet hosanna of praise that grace shines brightly in the little ways that we human beings are there for each other. Let’s let that grace move us, too. Let grace move us to join in Franciscan solidarity to do our little things for the sick, the scared, the lonely, the sad, the impoverished and all those who are least able to fend for themselves and their loved ones in this time of crisis.

Stephen Schneck
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on March 31, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

“See how he loved him”

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our March 23rd newsletter


“When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” (Jn 11:33-36)

How deeply does God love you? How deeply does God love me? And how do we deeply love each other? We believe that each of us is created in the image of God–loved and beloved–called as God’s children. God becomes fully human through Jesus, and as Jesus weeps for Lazarus and for the community who is grieving Lazarus’ death, it is God who is weeping the loss of a child.

The miracle of this story may not only be in Lazarus’ resurrection, but in the love and care of the community. Martha and Mary are persistent in wanting to save their brother. The community surrounds them in their hope and in their grief. Jesus is overwhelmed by his own love for Lazarus and by the love that is shown by the community.

As we move through this period of Lent, we must remember that some in our beloved community may be forced to leave us. The Supreme Court will decide between now and the end of June the fate of the DACA program. These young people are beloved members of our community, striving to make their mark and make their communities better. Their leadership has provided light in a path that often seems dark. Earlier in the Gospel passage, Jesus talks about how we must walk in the way of the light. It is our responsibility to lament, to confess, and to work for transformation that brings justice to these members and others under threat of immigration enforcement policies. It is our responsibility to stand as community members, and weep and then call out the powerful to make changes. The leaders of undocumented and DACA-mented youth and young adults need our accompaniment, our voices, and our bodies to show love, support, and protection. This is how we deeply love each other.

So, united with the Christian community we love, we cry out with the words of the Psalmist, “Out of the depths we cry to you O Lord, Lord hear our voices” because the ones we love need your help. We trust the Spirit that is already in us and ready to witness that as Lazarus came out of the tomb so will those who call on God’s name.
(Adapted from IIC Holy Days and Holidays devotions)

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on March 24, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Esprit De Corps

The following prayer was sent to us by Timothy J. Flanagan of Connecticut.


Etched Esprit, is faded on my ring
Even though I didn’t wear it for years,
I knew what esprit de corps meant,
Except, I really didn’t
At our baccalaureate Mass in 1977,
Monsignor Joseph P. Moore gave homily
He said the Holy Spirit was in us, all of us
He said the Holy Spirit was about us, all of us
He said the Holy Spirit was us, all of us
He intoned enlivened a spirit, an esprit, an esprit de corps as liveliness, as wit, as comradeship, as a core belief, as sheer love
That was passed to us
It was with us: in Jody’s, in sound offs, in our cheer, at reveille, at taps,
In our creed, in our blood
I felt it, I heard it, I saw it
It was in my soldiers, in my friends, in my lover, in my children, and grandchildren
Over the years, seen in others, even enemies
From the best of verse, the height of song, the depth of example
It hides, then sneaks out, biting us in the rear
It reads in posts, blogs, emails, maybe a random thought
More in action, as when a stranger, a classmate, a friend calls out to an ailing brother
Or sends a note, a thought, a joke, a card
Esprit de Corps doesn’t fade
It only gets bolder,
Like a grip, a bump, by elbow, by foot, the gritty sparkle in an eye
Only brighter,
Only stronger,
Only Esprit, in Esprit de Corps,
As a Holy Spirit!

Timothy J. Flanagan runs a large recycling operation in Southeastern Massachusetts. He is one of 9 children raised in West Point, NY, by his parents, Luis J. And Kathryn Coady Flanagan, both buried at West Point, where his father was on staff. Tim graduated from West Point and served 10 years in the Army. He lives in Roxbury, CT.

Published in: on March 21, 2020 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

We are all in this together!

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


“The worst is, yes, ahead of us,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

No morally healthy person likes bad news. But to ignore dangerous bad news because it’s unpleasant to hear and may necessitate getting out of one’s comfort zone, is truly foolish and irresponsible.

With well over 200,000 confirmed cases and 9,000 plus deaths, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is on a sickening and deadly march around the globe.

And in the U.S., the coronavirus is quickly picking up steam with cases surpassing 10,000 with over 150 deaths.

Due to the very slow response to this growing pandemic, the Trump administration has come under intense criticism for wasting valuable time before starting to take this crisis seriously. And Congress, which could have passed a large emergency spending bill over a month ago, did not (see: https://bit.ly/39U3gFX and https://bit.ly/2Wo8Lst).

With coronavirus test kits, other related medical supplies, and beds quickly running out, emergency ramped-up production is needed now!

With a growing number of workplaces shutdown, how will countless people make ends meet?

The laws now finally beginning to take shape need to insure that every single person – including the undocumented – who is sick will get the medical treatment they need, totally paid for by the federal government, and that ongoing sufficient help is given to everyone to keep food on their table and a roof over their heads throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

In light of all the problems we are facing during this pandemic, especially the shameful fact that more than 25 million Americans have no medical insurance and millions more are underinsured, how much clearer can it be that the U.S. needs to join the rest of the world’s economically developed nations and pass comprehensive universal health care (see: https://bit.ly/2wavi1v)!

Unlike the tremendous amount of cash Congress gave to numerous large corporations, and to Wall Street – whose unethical financial behavior largely caused the 2008 Great Recession – this time the president and Congress must fully come to the aid of Main Street, where people of far more modest means are struggling to make ends meet.

And let those of us who profess Christianity, dare not forget to press the government on behalf of the more than 500,000 homeless human beings in America – who struggle daily to survive under bridges, in tents, huddled in doorways and cramped over sidewalk heating vents – to adequately meet their dire needs both now, and in the long run.

And instead of turning our backs on desperate refugees and asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, we should strive to provide the same concern and care for them as for ourselves, thus faithfully living Jesus’ second great commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (see: https://bit.ly/2Uh8ODU).

We urgently need to be pulling together – locally, nationally and globally.

On the PBS NewsHour U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (also a physician) said, “The Chinese physicians have been outstanding in sharing medical information with the rest of the world. … Speaking now as a physician, the international collegiality among healthcare workers has been fantastic.”

And this same fantastic collegiality is inspiringly occurring all over the world, from Italian opera singers performing on their apartment balconies, to folks just like you and me reaching out – using recommended health precautions – to help our neighbors (see: https://bit.ly/33A1DuH and https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-art-can-soothe-us-during-times-of-crisis).

And most of all let’s remember that the Lord Jesus is with us!

So, during necessary church closures, here’s the next best way to participate in the holy Eucharist. Visit “Word on Fire” and celebrate daily Mass (see: www.wordonfire.org/daily-mass/).
Friends, stay well!

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.

Published in: on March 20, 2020 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pandemic Poem Transforms Thinking

This reflection, sent to us by Sister Judith Davies, OSF from the Diocese of Joliet, IL invites us to think of this time as sacred.


Sr. Judith Davies, OSF

Fear, anxiety, trepidation, dread. Even though we are women of faith, being constantly bombarded with news about the spread of corona virus can strike emotions in us. We wonder, who will be the next victim? Will that person survive? Am I going to catch the virus?

In Sunday’s Chicago Tribune, was reprinted a poem written by Lynn Unger. Ms. Unger asks us to look at what’s happening in today’s world with a different perspective. She suggests that we might think of how our Jewish brothers and sisters view the Sabbath with its many restrictions. We are invited to think of this time as sacred. We are called to sing, pray, and extend our hearts to one another. We are urged to reach out to each other with compassion. The poem reminds us that we are all connected, and, very importantly, that “our lives are in each other’s hands.”

Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay

How true that a change in view can certainly make a world of difference! What could otherwise be extremely difficult is suddenly transformed. Instead of touching with our hands, we now touch with our hearts. Our connectivity with others has deepened even though we may not be physically present to them. Now more than ever before, we depend on each other to observe the steps for maintaining good health. We count on each person to be conscious of the fact that the actions of one, do have a bearing on everyone else.

In the depths of our hearts, we know and believe that our lives are in the hands of the Lord, no matter what happens. What else could bring us such strength? How else could we be filled with courage? The hand of the Shepherd is lovingly on us. For that reason, we are filled with peace. For that reason, we can be filled with joy.

Sister Judith Davies

Published in: on March 18, 2020 at 10:21 am  Leave a Comment  

I have come…so that the blind shall see

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent by FAN Board Member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our March 16th newsletter


It’s very hard for you and I, or anyone of this time and age, to accept a Miracle. We all love to hear about a Miracle but when it comes down to it, we are more like “doubting Thomas” then we are someone like Blessed Solanus Casey (a Capuchin) who not only relied on a Miracle but expected one. Our power of logic and reason tilts us toward the need to provide proof. In fact even the Church has rules that rely on proof of an act of God (Miracles) before the Church says it was a Miracle.

Please, I am not saying that trying to prove God’s intervention or action is bad. It just seems to be part of our nature to look at everything else before we accept that God has done a great thing. But at the same time, I have to admit that it tends to be part of our nature to blame bad things on God not doing something. I am speaking to our questioning why would God allow something or cause something that is horrible.

The Miracle in this week’s Gospel echoes these beliefs. Many thought the blind man was faking it so that he could eat and live without working for what he needs daily. Why does this part of the story sound so much like some of our discussions when it comes to helping others with food, or programs to assist them onto a level playing field?

Solanus Casey on the other hand encourages us all to expect God to work and move in our lives. In fact his life challenged us to thank God ahead of time! To expect God to answer our needs and our prayers.

So, today we are challenged and are given a choice.

Will we be like the Pharisees of old and let the letter of the law rule and use that to not embrace, to pray and not take action, to not feed the hungry, to not work for justice? Or will we be like Blessed Solanus Casey, thanking God for His work in our midst by what we do personally to those who are on the margins of our society?

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on March 17, 2020 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Water and Living Water

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent by FAN Board Member, Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our March 9th newsletter


Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

The scripture for this Sunday talks about the importance of water, acceptance, and forgiveness.

In the First Reading and in the Gospel, water is a need but becomes so much more. When the Israelites arrive at Rephidim, they find there is no water. They complain to Moses that they will perish without water and again on this journey they express that they are sorry they left Jerusalem. Not to complain would have been an opportunity to express their faith in God whose goodness they had experienced over and over again on this passage out of Egypt. Once again God responded to their complaint. Moses struck the rock with his staff and water flowed generously. Are we faced with situations that give us an opportunity to express faith in God?

In the Gospel Jesus is sitting near Jacob’s well when a Samaritan woman comes along to get water. Jesus asks her to “Give him a drink”. She was shocked, for Jews did not speak to Samaritans. She was shocked again when Jesus knew of her several marriages. Jesus tells her that he is the living water and slowly she begins to understand who Jesus really is. In addressing Jesus, she moves from “Sir” to “Prophet” to “Messiah”. She leaves her water jar and goes to her village to tell the others about this man who gives living water. They believe her and return with her to listen to Jesus. They ask him to stay with them and even though they are Samaritans, he does not hesitate. Jesus responds to people as he encounters them and shows no prejudice or judgments.

Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on March 10, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

God’s Lenten message: ‘Let’s try that again’

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


Quite some years ago, I was working as director of Christian formation at a Catholic high school, I remember that on Ash Wednesday while assisting in signing students with blessed ashes, instead of saying “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel,” to one of the students I heard myself starting to say, “Turn away from the Gospel” … and at that point I immediately stopped, and with a smile said to her: “Let’s try that again.”

It was a teachable moment for me. One that helped me better appreciate God’s delightful sense of humor, and the easy going down-to-earth incarnational way he usually relates to us.

And even more importantly, I more deeply realized that out of our mistakes, shortcomings and even sins, the Spirit of God is continuously inspiring us to not get discouraged when we fall short of the mark. Instead, encouragingly the Spirit always says to us, “Let’s try that again.”

Lent is indeed the perfect time for each of us to ask ourself what thoughts, feelings, words and actions in our life do we need to admit are not good for us and others? And what good thoughts, feelings, words and actions are we failing to nurture for ourself and for others – both near and far?

Once we have honestly done this healthy examination of conscience, with a sorrowful heart and a firm amendment to sin no more, we will hear the Spirit of the Lord peacefully say to us, “Let’s try that again.”

As it has been well noted, our good and merciful Lord is the God of second chances – and third, fourth, fifth and even infinite chances! But for this bountiful gift to take effect in our lives we need to have the humility – the foundational virtue of all the other virtues – to acknowledge our shortcomings, and especially what is sinful in our lives, seek God’s forgiveness – especially by regularly availing ourselves to the wonderful sacrament of reconciliation – and concentrate on growing in virtue ever more so.

Now what is true for us as individuals is also true for us collectively as the church – the “People of God.”

In light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, what shortcomings and sins of commission and omission do we need to humbly own up to, and seek pardon for? Perhaps it’s a sense of clericalism which Pope Francis has condemned among some clerics. Perhaps it’s a rather lackluster, somewhat inattentive participation at what is supposed to be the “celebration” of the Eucharist. Or maybe it’s mere token gestures toward the poor, unborn, war-torn and the earth. What else do you think we as church need to repent of?

And what is true for us as individuals and as church, is also true for us as a nation. So, likewise, let us ask ourselves what is our government, corporate structures, culture and society saying and doing that is harmful and sinful to the nation, and the nation’s inhabitants, as well as to the world’s inhabitants and the earth itself?

And what are the many good things our nation is failing to do, things that really could be done – like ending abortion, poverty, hunger, homelessness, war and environmental degradation – to make our nation and world a far more just and loving place?

This Lent, let us wholeheartedly admit our sins to God and resolve as individuals, church and nation to avoid evil and to do good.

For as the proverb wisely teaches: “Confession is good for the soul.”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.

Published in: on March 7, 2020 at 10:59 am  Leave a Comment  

The Challenge to Come Down from the Mountain

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent by FAN Board Member Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our March 2nd newsletter


Many, many years ago, before I entered religious life, I volunteered for a few years at a Franciscan Retreat House assisting with a program for high school seniors called Search. These weekend retreats were for me a transformational experience in that it awakened within me a new and deeper understanding of the religion that was so strong in my family upbringing and in my years of Catholic school training. This shift was for me a growing awareness and a movement from religious teachings and doctrines to begin to walk attentively on the path and journey of faith. Jesus, for me, was no longer simply a historical figure, the Son of God, rather he became someone who was alive, a friend, a brother who could be encountered through personal prayer, reflection and especially in relationships with others. This was truly my entry into Franciscan life!

For me and for many of the seniors on these retreats the greatest challenge was having to “come down from the mountain” after a truly uplifting and inspirational weekend. “Coming down from the mountain” meant having to bring what was experienced on retreat to the ordinary, often challenging and mundane experiences of everyday life in high school, in the neighborhood and in family life. Would we, could we continue to walk in faith or would we fall back into the more comfortable patterns of “pray, pay and obey”?

Whenever I hear the readings for this Second Sunday of Lent and especially the gospel of Jesus’ Transfiguration, I’m brought back to the memories of Search retreats and having to “come down from the mountain”. Too often we, like the disciples want to stay up on the mountain, to experience the mystical, the transformational, the good times of prayer, Eucharistic celebrations or simply to stay in the quiet experiences of God’s love, compassion and goodness. However, as Jesus himself said as he led the apostles down the mountain, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” He knew there was more to accomplish, more to be preached, more justice and mercy to be imparted upon those who were poor and marginalized by the Roman government, by society and the religious leaders of that time. He also knew the pain and suffering to come.

Our Franciscan life calls us to deep prayer, contemplative reflection and a striving for union with God in Christ. Our call is also to move and bring the experience of our prayer into the streets, into the marketplaces, and onto the margins and places to engage with others in messy, suffering and painful places of life. The Secular Franciscan Rule, Chapter II, calls for the “careful reading of the gospel, going from the gospel to life and life to the gospel.” Clare of Assisi wrote in her letter to Agnes of Prague, “Gaze upon [Christ], consider [Christ], contemplate [Christ], as you desire to imitate [Christ].”

Let us hear the call and grow in our desire to come down the mountain, to go forth from the familiar lands of our own people, so as to recognize and deeply know our sisters and brothers. May we bring our faith, our prayer and our hope so others may see in us and in themselves the goodness, the love and compassion of Christ. May we be the transformation and transfiguration of God’s love for others. Let us come down from our mountains!

Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on March 3, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Who decides what is good and what is evil?

Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent by FAN Board Member, David Seitz, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our February 24th newsletter


Our first reading this week comes to us from Genesis Chapter 3. After God created Adam and Eve, He tells them that all of creation is theirs to enjoy except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We know the story, Satan, who lies with the truth, convinces Eve that she will not die, as God foretold, if she partakes of the fruit from this tree. Satan, of course, was speaking of physical death and the death our first parents experienced was spiritual. Eve convinces Adam to do the same and the result is lost innocence. Immediately we see how sin, which is the turning away from God, affects our relationship with each other and our relationship with God. Eve points the finger at Satan; Adam points the finger at Eve; each began to exercise what we might refer to today as “plausible deniability.” Realizing they were naked, they sewed fig leaves together and made loin cloths. That is where the reading ends, however, if we continue to read just one verse further we hear, “When they heard the sound of the Lord God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

In John’s Gospel 14:15, Jesus tells us “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Adam and Eve disobeyed, which is a betrayal of God’s love. When God, the jilted lover, enters the Garden they hide out of shame. Don’t we often do the same, not only hiding from God but from each other? How often do we hide ourselves among the trees of the garden? Those trees represent all the good things of God’s creation. What trees are we hiding behind? Pursuit of wealth? Pursuit of personal pleasure at the expense of others? Pursuit of our own ego, turning inward to the self instead of outward towards God and neighbor? Maybe I am hiding behind the tree of alcohol, drugs or pornography. When we use the good gifts of creation for our self-gratification instead of for the glory of God, we can turn good into evil. Deciding for ourselves what is good or evil often leads to not-so-good results. Not everything that appears good is for our benefit. A good, over-indulged, becomes an idol.

The Gospel is from Matthew’s account of the temptation of Jesus. The final temptation is one of wealth and power.

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written:
The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.”

During this season of Lent, God has blessed me with the opportunity to present several parish missions. The focus centers on the fact that we are Temples of God and the Holy Spirit of God dwells in us. (1 Cor 3:16). Session two of the mission is a reflection on the account of Jesus cleansing the temple. What gods have we set up in the temple of our hearts squeezing out the Holy Spirit? All this I will give to you if you prostrate yourself and worship me. What is it you worship? Have you carved idols out of the trees in the garden and installed them in your temple? During Lent, we are called to a renewed sense of conversion, a turning towards God. This is a lifelong, daily, not a one-time only, aspect of our spiritual journey. The account of Jesus cleansing the temple is violent. He makes a whip, flails it at the merchants, turns over tables and expresses anger. Sisters and brothers, cleansing the temple of our hearts can inflict violence on our souls, or even physically in our bodies. Cleansing our temples from addiction hurts. Cleansing our temples from holding on to old grudges hurts our ego and our soul. Cleansing our temples from unhealthy habits is hard, ask any smoker.

So let us turn during Lent towards God in a spirit of repentance.

“Everything is possible for one who has faith.” (Mark 9:23) “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” (Luke 18:27)

David Seitz, OFS
FAN Board Member

Published in: on February 25, 2020 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment