Holy Grace will Prevail

Reflection for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN board member Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our November 11th newsletter

The passages from the readings this Sunday have been described as the twin forces of holy terror and holy grace that are in a full-on scrimmage, competing for the souls of those hearing this messianic prediction. In the first reading, Malachi gives a doomsday message that the wicked will be purified as in thrown into a blazing fire. Their pride and arrogance will be reduced to ashes. But on the other hand, for those who serve God, there will be a different kind of heat. They will experience something like healing rays from the sun – lifting the human spirit and bringing everything to life.

In the second reading, Paul speaks to the Thessalonians of his concern not to be a burden or to be pampered, but instead work for the things they offer him. Paul has an expectation that his followers will follow his example and serve others in the community.

In the Gospel, the community is questioning if they are near the end of time. Jesus tells them that they should not be deceived by those claiming to know the day and hour as well as the event that will bring the final end to a climax. Yes we will have serious conflicts and natural disasters but they are not pointing to the end of time. Jesus tells us that we need to be confident and faithful through all tribulations because anyone who follows Jesus will continue to be objects of persecution by many. We are told not to worry at this time because he will give us the wisdom and strength that we need. What we suffer will all be a signal to the coming of the end of time. For now it is not the end of time, but one day at a time.

Thus as we walk this “journey into God”, we may always be juggling holy terror and holy grace but by walking with Jesus, and Jesus walking with us, holy grace will always prevail.

Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on November 12, 2019 at 10:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Gospel Endurance

Reflection for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Mr. David Seitz, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our November 4th newsletter

My parents live in the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan. It is a sparsely populated diocese and they have many priests from foreign countries. Their parish priest is from Zimbabwe. Recently, he took a trip back home and shared with the parish that when he travels there, he will not wear his roman collar; if he did, there is a good chance he would be killed for being a priest. He shared that the local bishop requires the priests in Zimbabwe to wear the collar, regardless. He knows many who have been killed.

I know a Franciscan friar who can’t be named because every few years, he goes to Saudi Arabia to minister to Catholics. Very secretive; if he is caught he will be executed along with those he is there to serve.

I know a Chaldean Catholic priest from Iraq who serves a local community here in my home state of Michigan. He told me the story of his sister who was shot and killed when she exited her Church in Iraq; Killed because she is Christian. He also knows of Christians who have been crucified in Iraq by ISIS.

When I was taking classes at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, I met a Chinese seminarian named Joseph. His bishop sent him to the United States for his seminary education because he could receive the formation and education without being harassed. He shared with us that it was almost certain that when he went back to China, he will be arrested as soon as he lands.

Sisters and brothers, the readings this Sunday from 2 Maccabees 7:1-14 are pretty gruesome. It is a detailed and graphic description of a mother and her sons being tortured to death for refusing to give up their faith and continue to adore the one true God. This story can be told today in our times and in many places in the world. Christians are being tortured and killed because of the name of Jesus. “You are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever…It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him.” The story says that even the king and his attendants marveled at the young men’s courage.

The Gospel story from Luke 20:27-38 tells of a challenge by the Sadducees regarding the resurrection of the dead at the end of times. The Sadducees only considered the books of Moses to be scripture and so would not give any weight to the story from Maccabees which teaches about the hope of the resurrection, or from the prophet Ezekiel who had a vision of flesh wrapping around bones with new life and taught that God would make us rise up from our graves. Jesus affirms the resurrection and offers his followers the hope of eternal life. (It is easy to remember the party at the time of Jesus that did not believe in resurrection, the Sadducees…it is Sad, you see, that they did not believe.)

There is a line from Psalm 17, “Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Don’t we all feel like hiding at times when the world ridicules us for professing our Christian faith; when the world mocks us for speaking the Gospel message? Many of us live our lives as Christians hiding in the shadow of God’s wings. We go to Church and leave our faith at the door when we leave on Sunday. We buy into the culture’s refrain that it is OK to practice your religion inside the walls of your Church, but don’t bring it out to the public square.

We are fortunate that for now, we can take the Gospel to the public square. You may be ridiculed but you will not be executed. I say ‘for now’ because history has shown that when the faithful are silent and complacent, rights and freedoms are taken away. We have to stop being a pious group of Christians who sit inside the walls of our Churches and meet with our pious prayer groups in the Church basement and instead, go out and be the “Visible Face of the Church.” When I made my profession as a Secular Franciscan I promised to “give witness to the Kingdom of God…to be a visible sign of the Church…to be the light of Christ in the world…a faithful witness and instrument of the Church’s mission among all people.” (taken from the Rite of Profession, Permanent Commitment to the Gospel Life, Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order)

Preaching the Gospel is always controversial. It has been for 2000 years. The Franciscan Action Network is often criticized for taking a stance in defense of the individual rights of persons created in the image of God. The dignity of the human person as an individual is the cornerstone and foundation for Catholic Social Teaching. Caring for the individual person transcends the social and political order. This is not just me talking; it comes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that was promulgated during St. John Paul II’s pontificate.

Paragraph 1930: Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority…It is the Church’s role to remind men of good will of these rights.

I’d like to end this reflection with the prayer in the 2nd reading this Sunday from 2 Thes 3: 3-5:

“But the Lord is faithful;
he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
We are confident of you in the Lord that what we instruct you,
you are doing and will continue to do.
May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God
and to the endurance of Christ.”

David Seitz, OFS
FAN Board Member

Published in: on November 5, 2019 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  

The Beatitudes: The path to sainthood!

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.

You are called by God to be a saint! And that all important calling from the Lord is not just to be seriously considered on All Saints Day – but every day!

It is no coincidence that the Catholic Church proclaims the Gospel passage of the Beatitudes on the Solemnity of All Saints. For in this most wonderful teaching from the Son of God, we are shown the way to holiness, to blessedness, to joyfulness.

Situated in St. Matthew’s Gospel within the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes chart a sure course on how to be “blessed,” that is, how to be joyful!

The deeply spiritual scientist and theologian Jesuit Father Teilhard de Chardin said, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”

In our hearts, you and I long for joy, that joy to the full that Jesus promises us, the joy that only he can give us. And the Beatitudes teach us the way!

And so it is that when we are “poor in spirit” – totally trusting and dependent on God; when we allow God to comfort us when we “mourn”; when we are “meek” – living with gentle strength; when we “hunger and thirst for righteousness” – striving to live in right relationship with God, all others and ourselves; when we are “merciful” to all; when we are “clean of heart” – thinking, feeling and acting with purity and honesty; when we are “peacemakers” – praying and working for peace within ourselves, within our families, within our nation and within our world; and when we are persecuted for faithfully living out these Beatitudes, let us “rejoice and be glad” for our reward will be great in heaven! (see: Matt. 5:1-12).

Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and be Glad) urges us to apply the Beatitudes to the life and death situations facing our world.

He writes, “Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.

“We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty” (see: https://bit.ly/2C2vSNP).

Daily I receive in my inbox the “Saint of the Day” from Franciscan Media. I always find the brief biography and refection interesting and inspiring. You can sign up at https://info.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-media-newsletter-sign-up.

Blessed are those who live the Beatitudes, for they are experiencing a wonderful taste of heaven right here on earth!

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

Published in: on November 1, 2019 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  

The Greatness of the Lord is Mercy on All

Reflection for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our October 28th newsletter

I cannot help but wonder what must have been in Zacchaeus’ heart to prod him to make a fool of himself, a grown man, to climb a tree in order to take a glance at Jesus passing by. Don’t we wish sometimes that we too may have the freshness of his enthusiasm for Jesus? Zacchaeus was on the way to conversion. He was moved by what he heard about Jesus and he wanted to see and hear for himself. He was not disappointed; Jesus invited himself to his house, to the utter confusion and disbelief of the people who thought they knew how to deal with a “sinner.”

The reading from the Book of Wisdom this week can help us once more to grasp how God deals with Zacchaeus, with us, and with the whole universe. “Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain from a balance, or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth. But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.” (Wis 11:22-23)

Pope Francis says, “I think — and I say it with humility — that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.” To help us reflect on mercy he designated 2016 as the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Mercy is the language that God speaks and Jesus showed it to us. We see it at work with Zacchaeus. Jesus sat at the table with him, and listened to him and the future plans he had for his life, letting salvation flow in him.

How do we deal with sisters and brothers sinners like us? Do we believe that, like for Zacchaeus, there is always a way to redemption, that it is always possible to start anew, to raise ourselves up?

We seem to live in a mean world, a selfish world, where thinking of myself and what I get out of a given situation for my own benefit and self-aggrandizement, look like the norm. There appears to be very little space for mercy, including in our incarceration and immigration systems.

Yet, if we want to live a life worthy to be called life, and live in the kind of nation we proclaim to be, we need to heed to the words of Psalm 145 and use them as our guide: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.”

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on October 29, 2019 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor. Do We?

Reflection for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our October 21st newsletter

It is always a good and important practice to sit, read and reflect on the readings for the upcoming Sunday celebration of Eucharist. In this way we are not hearing the readings for the first time as we gather for Mass, rather earlier in the week we create the space within us to ponder and allow the scriptures to dwell, to speak to our hearts and to call us to conversion. Our readings for this Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time are especially important as they call us to a deeper understanding of God’s justice.

Clearly, we hear the words of Sirach, “The Lord is a God of justice…who hears the cry of the oppressed.” After this first reading, many of us will join in singing the familiar and popular hymn, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor, blessed be the Lord.” In the gospel, none of us will likely identify ourselves with the Pharisee and his prayer, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity.’ We want to believe that we are on the right side of justice, living with a conscious care for those who are poor, for the dignity of all people and that we are working and advocating against environmental injustices and for the care and protection of our Sister, Mother Earth. But are we doing enough?

Have we attuned our ears and our hearts to hear the cries of the people most affected? Have we heard the cry of Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Climate Activist from Sweden, as she spoke during the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City? Greta’s cry for climate justice is clear!

We need to hear and be attentive to the cries and voices of those most affected. Recently, I read the book, Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future written by Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland. In this book she shares the stories of individuals from around the world who represent those people most affected by environmental pollution, greed and injustice and how they are working for change and creating hope for a sustainable future. I invite you to read and to hear these voices and their cries for justice for the poor and those most vulnerable and endangered in this climate crisis.

May God give us the strength and courage to be on the side of justice, mercy and love for all people and to work more diligently for the protection and care of our Common Home.

Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on October 22, 2019 at 9:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Our experiences at Teach-In 2019: Jornada por la Justicia in El Paso

These reflections and photos were sent to us by Terry and Lucretia Burton, who participated in the Teach in Jornada por la Justicia in San Antonio, prior to the Catholic Action for Immigrants on Oct. 12th. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of Franciscan Action Network

by Terry and Lucretia Burton from the Interfaith Welcome Coalition in San Antonio

Terry and Lucretia Burton

(In San Antonio, the Interfaith Welcome Coalition (IWC) has been serving asylum seekers since 2014 as they are released from nearby detention centers. These have been primarily family units who have been processed at the border and often held for extended periods in facilities in Dilley, Karnes, and Pearsall. When they have passed their credible fear interviews and found sponsors, they are bused to the Greyhound station or airport in San Antonio to begin their journeys across the states to their sponsor locations. IWC volunteers are at these locations to greet them, give each family a backpack with supplies for the trip, explain their tickets and primarily express warm welcomes which they often haven’t received before along the way.)

Seven individuals associated with IWC travelled by plane and car to attend the Teach-In 2019: Jornada por la Justicia co-presented by the Hope Border Institute and the Latinx Catholic Leadership Coalition. Our group arrived Friday, October 11 and quickly set up at a table to display information about IWC. Flyers for the Bold Border Action on October 26 in Laredo were placed in front along with pictures of immigrant kids who have died while being held by Customs and Border Patrol or ICE.

After a prayer and blessing we began a discussion of Our Communities Are Under Attack: Undermining White Supremacy Through Solidarity.

Msgr. Arturo Banuelos

Msgr. Arturo Bañuelos was the keynote speaker for the evening and spoke passionately about the El Paso mass shooting on August 3, 2019. He personalized the tragedy with stories of the individuals killed and those who survived. While the normal response was to speak of gun control or mental illness, Msgr. Bañuelos was clear about the cause being rooted in white supremacy and the hatred that is expressed for “others”, in this case those with brown skin. While talking about the gunman, he laid the blame to those who use statements against immigrants linking them to murderers and rapist. With the same brush all Hispanics are described as invaders who threaten the way of life for those white Americans. “The wall is a Monument to Hate.”

Msgr. Bañuelos called on all of us not to only express empathy and compassion for our immigrant neighbors but to relate our lives directly to theirs. We need to see them clearly as those who are only different from us by circumstance. The challenge to each of us is in how we change our lives to contribute less to the situations that have impoverished their lands. It is the use of resources to advance our economy that has contributed to inequities and environmental consequences felt around the globe. Our trade policies have again exploited cheap labor and goods from other countries who are coerced to buy our surpluses of agricultural and manufactured goods which compete unfairly with their existing ways of living. Our political goals are imposed on others often creating wars and struggles that really are just proxy wars for dominant global ideologies.

He concluded his call to action with the image of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who stood at the foot of the cross as her son was crucified. Her tears and anguish were a sharing in the pain felt by her son. As Jesus looked down on her, he turned to His disciple, John and said “John, here is your mother.” And then to his mother he said “Here is your son”. Jesus is asking each of us to see the mother who is forced to Remain in Mexico as our mother. To see her child as our child. When we take this position, we will act in love and true compassion to do what we can do to change this tragedy.

Saturday October 12, we began with a panel discussion on Latinx Theological Narratives y la Construcción del poder político. We had great speakers who spoke to the need for care for the fragility of life. The variety of experiences and backgrounds we all come from contributes to the message when we are unified.

Breakout workshops were offered during the day on various topics relating to Overcoming Racism, Know your Rights, Catholic Social Teaching, the history of Border Militarization, etc. Each in our group chose topics that interested them and we tried to absorb as much information as possible while making contacts along the way.

Around noon we listened to a panel discuss From the Margins to the Center: Latinx Power and Immigration Reform. Another round of workshops followed our quick lunch and after these we gathered again to prepare for the Actions that afternoon. Two Actions were offered. Those who were able and desired would cross over the bridge into Mexico and visit where the Remain in Mexico asylum seekers were camping along a narrow street. They would offer prayers and a blessing of the bridge as they returned. A second group who preferred to stay on the U.S. side of the border were invited to participate in a Jericho walk. They would start at the Sacred Heart church and walk the path outlined to prayerfully witness to the plight of asylum seekers.

My wife, Lucretia, was one of a small group who also went into Mexico to meet the asylum seekers but with a special mission in mind. She describes that here:

After a wonderful weekend of learning more about discrimination, racism and how to fight it, 150-200 people went across the border in El Paso to Juarez to visit with the Asylum seekers waiting on the other side of our border. We saw the tents that they sleep in along the buildings right over the bridge. They are made of tarps and garbage bags and blankets they have scrounged up or been given. They had smiles on their faces and greeted us warmly. I talked with a couple of them. One teenage boy said to me, “The Americans want us to come, but the Mexicans are keeping us on this side.” They want to believe in our goodness so much.

After the large group prayed with the immigrants and handed out some food, the majority of the people left to walk back across and bless the bridge. I was one of the privileged ones who was allowed to stay to walk with 15 Mexican Asylum Seekers to the border to ask for asylum. There were about 10 of us. We decided to wait about 30 minutes while an attorney explained to us and to the immigrants what would be happening at the border.

During that time, I was able to speak with a mother and father and two of their children. Their baby daughter was 11 months old. She smiled and enjoyed taking my finger. This family had tried to cross the night before, but had been turned back. Their seven-year-old son had several questions for me about money. He asked the amount of three quarters and what it would buy. His friend had the three quarters. He asked if the candy in the United States tasted good. He said that he liked chocolate. He smiled a lot and was anxious to cross. The family also had an 11-year old that I didn’t get to speak with because he was with his friends.

On the way across the bridge, I walked with a mother and her son, about 12-years old. I told her that I was praying for them. She thanked me very much and said that she too was praying. I was feeling a little anxious or excited. I could not imagine how they were feeling. They were told that they would do all the talking and that we would remain silent just being in support of them. They did not look like people who were used to standing up for themselves, so I imagined the fear they must be feeling, going up to several border patrol officers and asking to be let in.

When we first arrived at the border, the first family that was with us asked to cross and was told that only legal people could cross the check-point. Of course, asking for Asylum is legal, but right now that does not matter to our government. We all just stood there. When they saw that we were not leaving, they asked us to stand to the side. I noticed one officer make a phone call.

About 15 minutes later an officer came down the line of immigrants and asked for their papers. Many other officers showed up. I feel certain that this was a very scary time for the immigrants not knowing what was going to happen. I knew that many people were praying for us on the other side.

One of the officers asked where we were from. When we told him, he asked if the Catholic Bishop was with us. He had not come. We waited in silence another 15 minutes. Finally, all 15 immigrants were allowed to pass after being warned that all their belongings would be taken away and they would be put in detention (the hilera, the refrigerator). The families agreed to this.

After they walked through the border, we were allowed to cross. We could see the immigrants taken to another room, but near enough that I could see the immigrants giving up their belongings and hear the border patrol yelling at them. I could not hear what they were saying. I could hear their tone of voice, and I would not like to be talked to in that manner. I still was feeling anxious knowing what the immigrants with small children would be going through. But I was also feeling very elated knowing that we had helped 15 people cross. I knew that the Holy Spirit had been with us. We were preparing to spend two to three hours on the border and it took only 30 minutes – a record. Glory be to God.

We continue praying for the families on the border and those 15 who have crossed. We hope to hear that they have spent only two days (the minimum) in the hilera and then are released to the Annunciation House in El Paso. (end of reflection by Lucretia)

All of the Action participants gathered that evening to eat together, visit, and learn from others what each had seen. It was a time of celebration as we learned the good news of what had occurred on the bridge.

Sunday, October 13 began with a panel discussion of Latinx Leadership for the Present Moment. One of the panelists was Rev. Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of the Diocese of El Paso. At the conclusion of the panel discussion, there was a time of reflection for students and also others in attendance. Everyone was invited to come together at a chapel service for the Celebración de la Eucaristía overseen by Bishop Seitz. Bishop Seitz then held a formal signing of his Pastoral Letter: Night Will Be No More (Noche Ya No Habrá).

I was so impressed with the preparation that was obvious from both of the co-sponsors of this teach-in. To bring together such a diverse group of speakers and participants and offer such depth of material and spiritual expression felt Spirit led. Thank you to all.

My sincere hope is that communication paths will be forged within the Latinx communities and also interfaith and justice groups to amplify this message of inclusion and solidarity. Asylum seekers come from many different countries, backgrounds, and religious faiths and yet all fall victim to the same fate when they reach the border. Each of us who hear the call to “Love our Neighbor” shed tears as we witness crosses left by a roadside for those killed by hate. We grieve over children pulled from their parents. We hurt to see mothers and fathers separated from each other and their children by our country’s failures to hear asylum pleas. We know from history that these are not unique only to today, but we only have today to act.

Published in: on October 21, 2019 at 10:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Imagine having no place to call home

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.

Just imagine for a moment that you have no home.

What will you do for meals today? Where will you shower? Where will you sleep? If you have children, how will you provide for them?

And how will you cope with being homeless tomorrow, next week, next month?

Such imaginations are distressing. Aren’t they? But let’s not allow these distressing imaginations to cause us to ignore the sad crisis facing so many children, women and men: the crisis of having no place to call home.

Instead let’s make an effort to better understand why this devastating crisis exists. And what we can do to help end it.

In its 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) stated that on a single night in 2018, approximately 553,000 people were homeless in the United States.

The HUD number of 553,000 homeless people is considered very low by numerous homeless advocacy organizations. One reason is that HUD does not attempt to include the number of homeless persons who are temporarily staying with other people – often needing to move from one location to another (see: HUD 2018 report).

According to the U.S. Department of Education, during the 2013-14 school year, more than 1.3 million homeless children and youth were enrolled in public schools.

But no matter how we look at it, there are definitely lots of people in the U.S. who do not have a home.


To help find out why so many people are homeless, I spoke with Annie Leomporra, grassroots analyst for The National Coalition for the Homeless (see: https://nationalhomeless.org/). She said there are many factors that contribute to homelessness, but the most important reasons people find themselves homeless are due to the lack of affordable housing, lack of livable wage jobs, and the lack of access to general healthcare and mental healthcare.

She added, “We need affordable health care that does not keep people waiting up to six months to see a mental health care provider. Homeless people have a life span of only around 50 to 60 years. People are dying every day on the streets from treatable illnesses. Because healthcare isn’t available to all, their illnesses go unchecked.”

I also spoke with Paul Boden, director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project – a homeless advocacy organization based in San Francisco – who also emphasized the prime importance of building enough affordable housing.

Boden highlighted the fact that the mass homelessness we now have today was nonexistent prior to the early 1980s, largely due, unlike today, to the federal government’s commitment back then to appropriating much more money for large scale construction of affordable housing for low and moderate income people.

In stark contrast to today’s Congress, 70 years ago Congress passed “The Housing Act of 1949” with the objective to provide “a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family” (see: https://bit.ly/33Ib22l).

Boden said, “Nothing ends homelessness like a home.”

So please urge your two U.S. senators and congressperson to end homelessness by appropriating the increased funding necessary to provide affordable housing for every homeless person, as well as health care and a living wage for all. These are not give-a- ways; these are God-given human rights.

And let’s be mindful that homeless people are persons, human beings like you and me who deserve and need our kindness.

In the spirit of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who help the homeless, for they shall find a home in heaven.”

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

Published in: on October 18, 2019 at 10:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Border Wall Construction: Imperiling Sacred Sites, Churches and Religious Freedom

By Bother Coyote, OEF

Gary Paul Nabhan (Brother Coyote, OEF), is an agricultural ecologist, ethnobotanist and writer whose work has focused primarily on the desert Southwest. He is considered a pioneer in the local-food and heirloom seed-saving movements. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Franciscan Action Network

Most of us have heard the devastating reports of how the new construction of a thirty-foot wall and floodlights along our southern border has begun to impact water flows, wildlife and archaeological resources long-protected by federal laws. The federal protection of endangered species, critical habitat and cultural antiquities has been waived along a three-hundred foot swath along the U.S./Mexico border. Eminent domain under the auspices of homeland security has allowed U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and Army Corps of Engineers to condemn lands and sidestep long-standing laws that by former presidents from both political parties signed without much debate or rancor.

Most of the legal efforts to gain injunctions to stop wall construction undertaken by the ACLU, tribes and environmental groups have been vacated or kicked up to higher courts. But what has not been challenged to date is Homeland Security’s right to impair or ignore religious freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

As documented in a 220-page National Park Service report covered by the Washington Post and New York Times, archaeological sites – including Native American sacred sites, burial and ceremonial grounds – have already been impacted by wall construction in national parks and wildlife refuges along the border.

And yet, some of these same sites have been – and still continue to be visited, used and stewarded by Native American communities who live within 50 miles of these parks and refuges along the border. They are part of living, continuing spiritual traditions – not by-gone remnants – that have been practiced in the desert borderlands for upwards of 4000 years.

What has also escaped the notice of most journalists is that several sites imperiled by wall construction and well-drilling along the border have also been utilized by Christian communities of Native, Hispanic- and Anglo-American practitioners for centuries.

Perhaps the first-recorded Palm Sunday mass recorded in present-day Arizona took place at Quitobaquito Springs – then known as A’al Wappia in the O’odham or Piman language – in 1698 or 1699. It was presided over by the Jesuit priest and explorer Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino. Now part of Organpipe Cactus National Monument, this ancient springs and agricultural settlement was frequented by Roman Catholic practitioners for rituals related to the Day of the Dead and the Holy Sacrament of Baptism at least through the 1980’s.

Some of the long-standing participants of these rituals remain alive and well in communities on both sides of the border, but fear retribution from CBP if they visit the site while construction is in process. Individuals from their communities who were simply taking photographs of the destruction of sacred plants and cultural resources at this site have already been threatened by construction workers and on social media.

Elsewhere along the U.S./Mexico border, the white adobe chapel of La Lomita built in Mission Texas in 1899 is now threatened by wall construction, as are several cemeteries in San Juan and Pharr, Texas. These cemeteries have served Mexican- and African-American families for decades. However, the families and their lawyers have been told by Homeland Security department officials that all laws which protected sacred sites along the border have been waived because of a “natural security emergency.”

Similarly, since 2008, bi-national gatherings of La Iglesia Fronteriza or Border Church have been organized by Methodist Pastor John Fanestil along the border wall in Friendship State Park, south of San Diego. But recently, gatherings involving deportees and refugees in attendance have been heavily monitored and at times disrupted by Customs and Border Protection Officials.

While no one can pass from one side of the border to the other at Friendship Park, parishioners are allowed to touch their “pinkies” through the wall to have contact with relatives on the other side – those who have been deported or denied access to visiting their families on U.S. soil.

These disruptions of religious traditions and harassment of spiritual practitioners appear to be in violation of Constitutional mandates intended to assure that citizens and refugees can practice their faith with a full guarantee of religious freedom.

We urge Native American, Christian and other faith communities to unite in solidarity in response to this crisis, and to meet with Homeland Security and other federal officials to find alternative solutions to further violations of the religious freedoms of the peoples of many faiths, creeds, cultures and races who live upon the border.

We urge you to write the Environmental Branch Chief, Border Patrol Facilities and Tactical Infrastructure Program Management Office, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20229, and the Commissioners of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the same address. May your prayers be with them to do the right thing, as well as with the refugees, deportees, and faith practitioners who wish to worship along the border.

Gary Paul Nabhan (Brother Coyote, OEF), is an agricultural ecologist, ethnobotanist and writer whose work has focused primarily on the desert Southwest. He is considered a pioneer in the local-food and heirloom seed-saving movements.

Published in: on October 17, 2019 at 9:44 am  Comments (2)  
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Lift up those weary arms!

Reflection for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our October 14th newsletter

Sometimes the Sunday scripture readings are in very clear alignment in support of a theme or teaching. This Sunday is one of those times. With help from friends, Moses is able to keep his hands raised in prayer until Joshua wins the battle against Amalek; Paul instructs Timothy “…be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient…”; Jesus narrates a parable to illustrate the necessity “to pray always without becoming weary.”

The contexts of the readings from Exodus and Luke reinforce the message of Paul that persistence is needed even more when it is “inconvenient,” when the going gets tougher. Moses assumes responsibility to keep his hands raised until the battle is won, but he grows tired. Haven’t we all grown weary of continually beseeching God to intervene in a painful personal situation or in our deeply troubled country and world, yet nothing seems to change for the better? Haven’t we felt like the persistent widow demanding “a just decision” from the unscrupulous judge? But neither Moses nor the widow gave up. Moses persisted with help from others. The widow persisted, convinced of the justice of her cause.

It is easy to pray when it is “convenient”—when I’m not distracted or anxious, when the weather is beautiful and I’m in a peaceful place. More often than not, however, outer or inner clamor distracts or disturbs me. I grow weary of calling on God to heal sick friends and to render just outcomes in very unjust situations. Like Moses, I rely on support and encouragement of friends and co-workers to keep me steady. Like the widow, I must be sure of the justice of my cause—the cause of people in poverty and pain caused by unjust systems—and be persistent “whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” I must trust that God does listen and is with me, with us, in the struggle.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on October 15, 2019 at 10:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Arrested for Christ

Reflection for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, David Seitz, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our October 7th newsletter

The readings this week have a great Psalm response; “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.”

How has the Lord’s saving power been revealed? By me and you; by our evangelizing and living an authentic Gospel life. History is full of stories of evangelizers who have paid a price for speaking the truth of Jesus Christ. We celebrate the saints who have suffered for the sake of spreading the Good News. Think about that. The Good News. If this news is so good why are those who proclaim it so often persecuted?

Jesus said in John 15:20 that they persecuted him and so we too will be persecuted. St. Paul, in the reading from Second Timothy, is writing from prison. He is weighed down with chains. He is in prison for proclaiming the Lord’s saving power. He is rejoicing because he is suffering for Jesus. St. Paul knows well that Jesus, proclaiming the saving power of God, was arrested, tortured and executed. The saving power we proclaim often convicts those who possess worldly power. It challenges the conscience of the religious and political elite. Nothing has changed in 2,000 years.

I’m perplexed at times when the staff of the Franciscan Action Network is harshly criticized for taking part in civil disobedience actions which sometimes leads to a staff member being arrested for publicly proclaiming the saving power of the Lord. They are called out as being anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, anti-Franciscan, law breakers who have no business going to the public square to proclaim the Gospel message. These events are always planned in advance with the local authorities, with those who are the target of the protests; there are no flash mobs. Law enforcement and those being arrested know in advance that the arrest will happen. This is our constitutional right being exercised in the public square.

As a professed Secular Franciscan, I promised to live a rule of life which states in Article 15 “Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.” Franciscans are called to take action to promote a just society. Franciscans are called to let their faith inform their action in public life, not let politics inform their faith. This is challenging, especially in our polarized society where civil conversation is scarce. We live in a world where if you disagree with my point of view then I have no time for you.

Paul says, “such is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.”

We are fortunate that in the United States, civil disobedience only leads to a possible arrest, usually ending with paying a fine at the police station after being detained for a number of hours, although the risk of staying in jail overnight exists. We are not being tortured and executed for proclaiming the saving power of the Lord as are many of our sisters and brothers across the globe. Every morning I pray the Canticle of Zechariah during morning prayer. There is a line in the canticle that we should all cherish; “to set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.” Free to worship without fear. Sisters and brothers, addressing social justice issues in the public square is how we will ensure that our children’s children will enjoy this same freedom. Next time you read about a FAN staff member being arrested for proclaiming the saving power of the Lord, instead of criticizing, why not thank them for “promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives.” (Article 15, Rule of life, Secular Franciscan Order)

David Seitz, OFS
FAN Board Member

Published in: on October 8, 2019 at 9:23 am  Comments (2)