Receive and Welcome Christ

Reflection for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our September 17th newsletter


Child.1“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.”

The words from this Sunday’s Gospel should cause all Americans to pause. How do we, as a country, receive children?

Our government has been globally transparent in its disregard on the care for children. Our country is the only United Nations member state that is not a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which aims to protect and promote the rights of all children around the world. Furthermore, the United States recently notified the United Nations that it will no longer take part in the global compact on migration, sending a signal to the global community how our government regards children who have fled their homes due to war (think Syria), gang violence, and environmental disasters.

Each day, approximately 3,000 children are aborted in the United States. While the United States is technically not at war, 87 percent of the children in the world killed by guns are killed in our country. Do we love our guns more than we love our children? While climate change and the destruction of the environment impact the human rights of all people, those of children both now and in the future are of great concern.

The United States is also now known as a country where babies are torn from their mothers’ arms because the mother made the decision to flee violence and war to save her child and herself. The world’s media was permeated with images of children forcibly separated from their parents in the United States and then “housed” in fenced cages. Government agencies have handed over (inadvertently) unaccompanied children to human traffickers.

“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.” At one time, other nations used to look to the United States as a beacon of hope that would protect and promote human rights around the world. How does the world see us today? How do we see ourselves? Our Catholic social tradition impels us to uphold all human life, to make decisions that will allow all peoples to have what they need to live with dignity, to uphold the family as the central social institution and that in our shrinking global world all people are our neighbor. As followers of Christ and as Franciscans, we strive to model the tradition of “welcome” that has been handed down to us through the legacies of Francis and Clare. We strive to receive each child, each human being, as “brother” and as “sister,” as a gift from God. In our attempts to receive and welcome each person, we receive and welcome Christ.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Member

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Published in: on September 18, 2018 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Praying Through Action

Reflection for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Communications Coordinator, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our September 9th newsletter


StJames.BridgeHow much does our faith mean to us? This week’s readings talk about faith, works, and carrying crosses.

In our society today we are bombarded with information. The 24-hour news cycle pelts us with stories of immigrant children separated from their parents and lying in detention centers, leaders in the Catholic church abusing the faithful and then covering it up, the possibility of our tax dollars being used by schools to arm teachers; world news, business news, politics, health and pop culture. There are times when I just get tired of all the news. I want to act like an ostrich and stick my head in the sand until it goes away. At times like this, I want to go, sit in church, say the prayers, take my communion and go home, feeling fulfilled by that effort. But inevitably, it’s not enough. I always end up feeling restless and more troubled.

In the second reading this week, James bluntly speaks about having faith without works. Faith without works “is dead” he says. Simply going to church services, saying the prayers, and taking communion doesn’t fulfill the demand. In order to fully practice our faith, we must go out and “give the necessities of the body” to those in need. We must care for our brothers and sisters in our communities. Dorothy Day says it this way: “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” Think about that for a minute.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells his Disciples of his future suffering, death and resurrection. When Peter, in a very human way, rebukes him, Jesus snaps at him and offers his own blunt statement: “Whoever wishes to come after me, …must take up his cross”. In today’s vernacular, Jesus is telling us we can not just talk the talk, we also must walk the walk.

What can just one person do, you might ask? Try not get overwhelmed. There are so many issues of importance today; Climate, immigration, gun safety, healthcare, peacemaking. I encourage you to choose one. Find something that sparks passion in you. Do some research and see what issues keep you thinking. Once you find that issue, look for a way to get involved. Talk with others in your community about that issue and find others who feel the same way you do. Much like practicing our faith in community, surrounding ourselves with people of similar thinking gives us strength and validation of our ideas. When we act on our faith together, we can make an enormous difference.

Janine Walsh
FAN Communications Coordinator

Published in: on September 11, 2018 at 9:45 am  Leave a Comment  

A reflection for the first week of the Season of Creation

Christopher M. Fernandez is a Conventual Franciscan postulant in formation in Chicago. An ecologist by training, he hails from the Washington D.C. metro area. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


By Christopher M. Fernández

Last Saturday was the World day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. This marked the beginning of the “season of creation” which continues until the feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th. A very special time for the greater church, both Orthodox and Catholic.

Nevertheless, to say it is a tumultuous time in our church would be an understatement. It has become evident that the trajectory of abuse of power has held many ramifications for Christians worldwide throughout human history. These crises remind me somewhat about the parable of the weeds among the wheat (Mt 13:24-30) where Jesus describes harvesting his people (the “wheat”) for the kingdom of God, He describes being asked whether to pull out the “weeds,” he responded “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn’ (Mt 13:29-30)”. We must be honestly aware that there are and have been humans in mother church, professed religious leaders, that have very wrongfully misled people—other Christians and potential Christians. The church is not SIMPLY a human institution! It is also by nature of being instituted by Christ a divine institution— if we believe what the Bible tells us. With this understanding, we must especially recognize the gravity of the errors of priestly or religious abusers as human perpetrators. It’s akin to politicians, policemen, teachers, or any other important leadership who intentionally abuse their positions to meet their selfish and perverse appetites. Corruption exists in many human institutions, it is the product of original sin. Following Dante Alighieri’s logic (a Secular Franciscan) in his Divine Comedy-Inferno, one could suppose that there’s a very special place in hell for those who abuse their priestly or religious vows. Peter.Rock.Church

We as Christians of good faith must be conscientious about our discourse in the public sphere, being mindful that it does not diminish into debate. The art of argument is very important, but we must be cautious about argumentation as means to reach our own ends, especially in the public sphere. To debate and disagree is one thing, to be entirely disagreeable is another, especially in the public sphere (that includes social media). We were instructed by Jesus to use our gifts, talents, and voices to espouse gospel values and stand for Church teaching; however, doing this with respect of each other’s integrity, speaking with civility, and with the hope of reaching consensus—even if that means we have to stop to recognize we disagree on a lot, but we can also recognize the small areas we see eye-to-eye. This is the foundational challenge of the Christian; to live a gospel life is inherently relational. We cannot be dismissive nor overbearing in our attempts to be convicted in faith, hope, and charity. We must not forget ‘humility’ in and among all these, and as Saint Francis would suggest furthermore, ‘courtesy’ is truly the sister of charity. As much as we want peace in our hearts and in our church, and justice for the victims of many types of abuse, first and foremost we must desire love. That love which is relational, a love that is intersectional, love that is a decision we must choose to say yes to (even when it hurts) daily, and yes, the love who is God in three persons. It is in this love that we must practice obedience to the church, its teachings and its rightfully professed leadership. This is very difficult to say and practice considering the recent scandals. Nevertheless, with the gamut of emotions we have felt regarding these issues, we must channel that energy into a fervor to seek the truth and create transparency and conversion in our church. We do this by starting at home: the domestic church. We are not professed clergy or leadership, but we are the voice, limbs, hands and feet of the church. As so we need to act in accordance with the living Word of God.

In being openly critical of the church we love so much, we must not forget that the secular world in public spheres is looking very closely at every one of our actions. With this in mind, it is also necessary that we remain hyper vigilant of our temptation to bring our human politics and bureaucracy into discussions regarding mother church. When we go to offer a criticism, let it be constructive and not simply accusatory or one sided. Restrain yourself from burrowing into a cavity that causes more hurt and confusion for you and for others. We need be cautious about running with only one part of the story. Vatican officials and the Holy See have not released official statements about any of the accusations.

So, how should I respond to all of this?!? Before we start prying out the thorn from the side of our greater, universal church, we must first start by pulling the spines and prickles off ourselves. Begin at home and in your heart. Where have I become too comfortable as my life as a Christian? In what ways have I condoned things at home (prayer, fasting, almsgiving; critical conversations with family and friends, seeking the sacraments, studying and learning from the Bible, the catechism, and other devotionals and resources)? Where have I failed in my baptismal call to be a missionary disciple? Where have I been indifferent about issues at home, in my community, or in my parish? This and many questions more are where we need to begin. Brokenness in the family has led to brokenness in the church. Pope Francis.Church Abuse

This does not mean we should turn a blind eye to anything anymore. This does not mean I should be quiet about abuse (at any level of society—even at home). This does not mean I should just entirely move on and forget that it ever happened. This means that we live day by day even more cognizant of all God’s creation—the poor, the broken, the outcast among all His creatures. In thirsting for transparency, we must strive for accountability—even if that begins in our own lives.

Without a doubt it is time for a renewal in our great church. It is time to transform a throw-away culture, a culture of death, by healing it with a culture of relationships, a culture of interdependence. Yes, silence and prayer are an important place to start addressing any issue but let us not forget to draw from the graces received in prayer to carry out a rational and Spirit-led response, one that through humility and conviction of heart holds our shepherds to honest conversion and transparency.

In this season of creation, let us pray with our sorrows and bring them before God. Saint Francis grieved at the sin and brokenness in all of creation, human and non-human. He was a man integral in his perspective of God’s creatures. Not too far from where he prayed outside of Assisi, Saint Clare was in deep contemplation in her monastery about the same sin and brokenness. She gazed at the Christ of San Damiano, prayed for healing, and actively sought to bring healing to others through Christ’s love and mercy. Implementing this holistic perspective is how we begin to understand integral ecology as a renewed ecology which challenges us to recognize both the natural and human ecology, where they intersect and how they inform one another through the Spirit of Truth. In praying during this season of creation, let us not forget our spiritual patrimony to be stewards, at home, at church, at work, and beyond in the canvass that is God’s creation. In kinship with creation, beyond praying for our respective petitions we must also strive to be and live the answer to our own prayers through the graces of God. We have been asked to pray for and pay attention to issues involving water this season. Let us begin by praying for and with the confluence of two rivers in our lives and in our church, one flowing with the purifying, renewing, living waters of the Creator, and the other flowing with the blood from the side of Christ, flowing from His pain and suffering, and from the bloodCrying Francisshed from His martyrs here on Earth. In the confluence of these two rivers let us pray that God’s love and mercy floods over us and continually redeems the entire world!

Know that we Franciscans worldwide are praying for you, the church, that through this renewal we continue to rebuild upon the living cornerstone.

May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts!

-Christopher M. Fernandez, OFM Conv. Postulant

 

 

Published in: on September 7, 2018 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Building a Common, Inclusive Reality

Reflection for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN executive director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our September 3rd newsletter


09.03.3018newsletterI recently heard a story about a Guatemalan mother who entered the US with her 19 month-old baby, seeking asylum because she feared for their safety. She filed for asylum and she and her baby were placed in a detention center. The baby died after falling ill in a Texas immigration facility. In Colorado, a 9-year-old boy who died by suicide last week had been bullied at school after announcing over the summer that he was gay. We have been faced, once again, with major news reports and with the Pennsylvania grand jury indictments for sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy. We continue to hear stories of cover-ups, secrecy, and the protection of the abusers. If you are a decent caring person who believes in God and the Gospel you cannot hear stories like this, you cannot see the pain and hurt, and not get angry. As a survivor, I was physically nauseous and emotionally drained when I heard of the grand jury report. When looking at these three issues you might think these are horrible. Some might speak out about one or more of these issues, maybe you will write a letter, or make a call. Most of us probably view these as three distinctly separate issues with nothing in common. Yet these are just a small sample of the reality we live in. They are connected by the reality of our separation from God, from each other, and from all creation.

In the first reading this Sunday from Isaiah it says; “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared;” The Gospel from Mark tells the story of Jesus touching the ear of a deaf person and they were able to hear. I used to think that meant that a single blind person would see and a deaf person would be able to hear. As I got older I realized that, when I ignored or did not see the suffering of the poor and marginalized, I was the blind person. When I did not hear the cry of the oppressed, I was the deaf person. As it says in our second reading, “have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?” We will continue to be blind and deaf as long as we live in a reality of separation.

These stories are not unique or unusual. They define who we are as a people. Can anyone really say they are happy with our current reality? We have lost sight of the reason for the Incarnation. The Franciscan theologian Blessed John Duns Scotus presented to us a vision of living focused on beauty and harmony and centered in love. Not a vision of individual love and separateness but of a community of oneness with the Creator and all creation. As Sr. Mary Beth Ingham, OSF writes in her book, The Harmony of Goodness Mutuality and Moral Living, “It belongs to the divine nature to initiate a community of co-lovers. The perfection of justice in love flows beyond any one individual’s friendship with God and moves towards a common inclusive reality.” Together through the Incarnation we can be co-creators with God of this new reality of Heaven on Earth. A vision that Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” In a recent blog, Death in the Church is a New life Ahead, Sr. Ilia Delio, OSF wrote: “Unless fundamental levels of consciousness change, we cannot attract a new reality.” This consciousness change begins with opening our eyes and clearing our ears to see and hear God’s love in order to create a new reality.

Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on September 4, 2018 at 9:50 am  Comments (2)  

Hear with a Heart

Reflection for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our August 27th Newsletter


Hear with a HeartIn the book of Deuteronomy, Moses calls on Israel to hear, really hear, God’s teachings in order “that you may live.” If Israel listens, hears, and observes “the whole law of God,” all the nations will say: “This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.”

What makes a nation great? Wealth? Military might? Advanced technology? Outstanding universities? A democratic form of government? By these standards, the United States is a great nation. But wait. Jesus says to the people, “Hear me all of you and understand. . . From within people, from their hearts comes evil. . .” He quotes Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Don’t only hear God’s word, says James: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” He continues, true religion is this: “to care for the orphans and widows in their affliction (i.e. for those who are vulnerable to exploitation, on the margins of society) and to keep oneself unstained by the world (the world of greed, ambition, privilege, cruelty, domination).”

According to what the scriptures teach us, is the United States, or any nation, a great nation? Or do we need to redefine “greatness”? How and what do we hear from the heart? Once we have heard, how are we doers of that word? These are challenging questions for each of us and for the nation. The first step is to ask the questions with humility and answer them honestly. Then, with integrity, be doers of the word our hearts have heard. Only then can we live as a wise, intelligent, and compassionate people—maybe even a great people.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on August 28, 2018 at 8:59 am  Comments (1)  

A Two-Tiered Tragedy in Iowa

By FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF


Mollie TibbitsThe murder of young college student, Mollie Tibbetts, is a terrible tragedy, and the discovery of her body in a cornfield is devastating for her family and friends. Her murder is a senseless, horrific crime which must be punished. Our sympathy and prayers must be with her loved ones.

Because the accused murderer, who has confessed to this horrific crime, is, apparently, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, some politicians seize the moment to blame the country’s immigration system for her death. Mollie’s own family members say that they do not want “Mollie’s memory to be lost amongst politics.” Using her death as political leverage only intensifies their grief.

To blame a whole community for the crime of one individual would be another tragedy. Factually, studies have shown that far fewer crimes are committed by undocumented immigrants than by citizens. But important right now is that the tragic murder of this young woman not be exploited for political purposes. Generalizations based on immigration status are irrational. To blame our friends and neighbors who contribute to this society and seek citizenship for the heinous action of one individual is totally unjust and against what we say we value as a nation. Legal authorities will conduct their investigation. Mollie’s loved ones will grieve and share their loving memories of her. The rest of us must hold them in prayer and not allow her death to be used for political purposes to divide us.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

Published in: on August 24, 2018 at 11:47 am  Leave a Comment  

A FRANCISCAN WORD

A Franciscan reflection on the current state of the Catholic Church, by Fr. Joe Nangle, OFM

Fr. Joe is a founding member of FAN and served as our first board treasurer. This reflection was submitted after Fr. Joe’s reading of our weekly newsletter reflection from August 20, 2018


Joe Nangle

Fr. Joe Nangle, OFM

The Franciscan tradition has, from the beginning, challenged the Catholic Church. Now after more than 800 years, we are called to follow the example of Saints Francis and Clare whose life-style contrasted directly with the prevailing Church culture of their day. They were prophets in the biblical sense of the word, speaking mainly through their way of life, Gospel truth to a powerful institution, which to a great extent had abandoned its Christ-given vocation.

It is not too much to say that for the last several decades at least, significant members of the Catholic clergy and bishops have similarly abandoned their sacred commitments. The evidence for this has increasingly come to light. We are overwhelmed by the extent and horror of the harm done to children and vulnerable adults by acts of unspeakable betrayal by these men. In the face of this modern church crisis, the Franciscan families, whose DNA contains the spiritual heritage of Francis and Clare, have the right and obligation to speak our truth relative to the current state of the Catholic priesthood and episcopacy.

But what to say? Surely we weep and beg God’s forgiveness for this incredibly widespread cancer eating away at the Household of Faith. We make our own the outrage and deep pain which the ongoing revelations of clergy abuse and episcopal coverups are causing. We agree with demands for total transparency and accountability on the part of church officialdom related to these ongoing revelations.

In addition, we should speak a uniquely Franciscan word comparable to that of Francis when he confronted the scandal of yet another Crusade. With the permission of the Church itself, he journeyed to the heart of the Muslim world in an attempt to prevent yet another violation of non-violent Gospel ideals.

Should not we modern Franciscans imitate our Founder’s courageous example and ask Pope Francis to call an ecumenical council of the whole Church just as Pope John XXIII did a little more than fifty years ago? And in light of our tradition of inclusivity, should we not further specify that this council would consist of lay, vowed religious, clerical and episcopal members of the Church and be held someplace other than the Vatican? This “First Council of the People of God” would take as much time as needed (Vatican II lasted four years) for a comprehensive study of the current reality of the Catholic priesthood and episcopacy, then make the comprehensive reforms – beginning with our current seminary system – needed to assure the selection of pastors, women and men, who will live out their vocations in the image of Jesus.

Published in: on August 22, 2018 at 9:24 am  Comments (2)  

We cannot turn away!

Reflection for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board President, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our August 20th newsletter


08.20.MMMuch in our readings for this Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time call us to deepen our relationships, widen our attentiveness, and expand our compassion and kindness. This is a call to be more deeply committed in our living and in our relationships with one another and with God.

Joshua gathered all the people of the tribes of Israel, especially naming the elders, the leaders, the judges, and the officers. He was direct in his question to the people. “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve…” Joshua goes on to name the many gods whom the people once followed. He stirred their memory. “Our God…brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery. God performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey.” Joshua called them to remember and wanted their firm commitment to be faithful to God’s covenant.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is often misunderstood with its call for wives to be subordinate and submissive to their husbands. We need to remember the culture and the context in which this letter was written and not get caught up in its language, which today is oppressive and domineering. Rather, let us focus on Christ’s coming to dwell within our humanity as God’s action of love and a desire to be one with all people and with all of creation. God did not create humans to have power over creation. So we are called to dwell in love and in relationship with one another and with all of God’s creation.

In the gospel we are reminded that the way of Christ, the way of Crucified Love, is not an easy road. It is a life that calls for deep commitment. It calls us to experience life in ways that are profoundly meaningful. We hear that for many of the disciples, who traveled with Jesus and the apostles, the way became too difficult. They left and returned to their former way of life. Jesus then asked those closest to him, the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

This is always the question we must ask in our own commitment to the way of Crucified Love, especially with the challenges before us today. Living attentively and faithfully means that we cannot turn away from the truth of the destruction and deterioration that we are inflicting on our Sister Mother Earth. We cannot turn away from the harsh and callous policies that separate immigrant infants and children from parents who are seeking asylum and a better way of life for themselves and their children. We cannot turn away from the apprehension and fear that many children, teens and families face as they prepare for another school year without changes that are needed in our policies on gun control that would protect them and allow them the safety and peace they deserve.

Living each day, faithfully and attentively, is a call to speak out, to advocate for change and to work for justice. Our Franciscan call to ongoing conversion challenges us to change our ways and our attitudes, so that we may effect change and promote deeper connectivity among all people and all of creation. Let us not turn away! Let us truly live our Spirit and Life!

Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN Board President

Published in: on August 21, 2018 at 9:39 am  Comments (2)  

I AM

Reflection for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our August 13th newsletter.


footprintsWe live in an time of ‘seeing is believing.’ You can put just about any kind of phase or ask how to do something in to a search engine and there’s a video for that. Now, I am probably the most frequent user of that gift. Just last week, I could not figure out how to put a plastic luggage tag on my suitcase for a trip, until I watched it on YouTube. To be honest, I use this method a lot, especially on technical issues.

In the first reading from the Book of Proverbs this week, we hear “To the one that lacks understanding …come …advance in the way of understanding.”

In Ephesians we read, “Watch carefully how you live, not as a foolish person but as wise, making the most of the opportunity,…”

I might be off on this since I am not a Scripture Scholar, but as I reflect on this week’s readings I can only remember three times in the bible when God uses the phase, “I AM”.

The first time was to Moses when God replied after being asked for a name, “I AM” and then in this Sunday’s Gospel, when Jesus tells the crowds, “I AM the bread of life.” The final time was in Matthew 28:20 when Jesus says, “I AM with you always until the end of time.”

May God reveal to us today as we gather around the table of the Lord, the greatest miracle of how the Eucharist makes us one. May we trust in the Lord to reveal to us what we need to know to continue to live a life of faith in our world today.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on August 14, 2018 at 9:45 am  Leave a Comment  

What has drinking Capucchino have to do the the Capuchin Franciscans?

The Capuchin Office of justice, peace and integrity of creation in Rome posted the following biography of Blessed Mark of Aviano OFM Cap (1631-1699), who is today’s Saint of the Day. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom!


Saint of the Day – 13 August – Blessed Mark of Aviano OFM Cap (1631-1699) – Franciscan Capuchin Friar, Priest, Preacher, Spiritual Advisor, Political Advisor, Peace-maker, Miracle worker and the inventor of Cappuccino – born on 17 November 1631 at Aviano, Italy as Carlo Domenico Cristofori and died on 13 August 1699 of cancer in Vienna, Austria.Bl.Mark of Aviano

Carlo Domenico Cristofori was born in Aviano, a small community in the Republic of Venice (Italy). Educated at the Jesuit College in Gorizia, at 16 he tried to reach the island of Crete, where the Venetians were at war with the Ottoman Turks, in order to preach the Gospel and convert the Muslims to Christianity. On his way, he sought asylum at a Capuchin convent in Capodistria, where he was welcomed by the Superior, who knew his family and who, after providing him with food and rest, advised him to return home.

Inspired by his encounter with the Capuchins,… Read More

Published in: on August 13, 2018 at 4:03 pm  Leave a Comment