What does humility mean?

Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent by FAN Supporter and former Board Member Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our November 21st newsletter

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

This Sunday is the First Sunday in Advent, when we begin preparation for one of the most significant examples of the humility of God modeled in the birth of Jesus, who took on the flesh of creatures and gave His “flesh for the life of the world” (Jn. 6: 51). Thomas of Celano, the first biographer of Saint Francis, wrote that for Francis, God “delights to be with the simple and those rejected by the world.”  

Humility (or minority as in the Order of Friars Minor) is one of the four values that characterize Franciscan communities and ministries; it is one way Franciscans and Franciscan-hearted people attempt to be “instructed in his ways and walk in his paths” (Is 2:3). It is only with humility that we can “walk in the light of the Lord” (Is 2:5). Franciscan Theologian Ilia Delia, in her book The Humility of God: A Perspective, writes that through our Franciscan lens, “we see that the humility of God tells us something not only of God but our lives as well.”   

What does living with humility mean for us today? It might mean admitting we might not see the whole picture (as God sees it), so we must be open to seeing through new lenses. It might mean being silent and trying to understand another’s perspective, especially if it is the polar opposite of our own. To transform society, to bring about the Kingdom of God in the world, we need to be open each day to a transformative way of being in the world, which is only realized with humility. Only when we are prayerfully open to our individual transformation can we work effectively to transform unjust structures and societies. It is only with humility that people see our common humanity and that we are all human beings made in the image of a child born in Bethlehem.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

FAN Supporter and former Board Member

Published in: on November 22, 2022 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Pope Francis: ‘Please be pacifists’

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose writings are 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.

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

During his conversation with journalists on his flight back to Rome from his recent pastoral visit to Bahrain, Pope Francis shared his thoughts on many of the world’s current human-made tragedies – including today’s numerous armed conflicts which reminded him of the World War II Allied military landings at Normandy, France.

He said, “It was the beginning of the fall of Nazism, it’s true. But how many boys were left on the beaches in Normandy? They say, 30,000. … Who thinks of those boys? War sows all of this. That is why you, who are journalists, please be pacifists, speak out against wars, fight against war. I ask you as a brother. Thank you.”

Pope Francis’ heartfelt request to journalists to be pacifists touched my heart.

Many years ago, as a young man, I found myself in U.S. military basic combat training at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

While firing my M-16 weapon at life-like pop-up targets, it occurred to me the army was not training me to hit targets, but instead to kill some poor guy like me in a far-off country who got caught up in the propaganda of his own country’s war machine.

I came to fully realize this was all wrong. And I knew that in my desire to imitate the nonviolent Jesus, I could kill no one.

I spoke to my drill sergeant about my deep anti-war feelings, and my desire to apply for conscientious objector status. He urged me to wait until I completed basic combat training and apply for CO status when I arrived at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis for Advanced Individual Training.

At Fort Harrison, I was previously trained as a journalist and was receiving additional training as a broadcaster for Armed Forces Radio in Germany. But that exciting future did not deter me from seeking CO status. My broadcast instructors tried to convince me that the chances of my having to shoot someone from a radio station were extremely remote. However, I knew my role as a military journalist and radio disc jockey would be to boost the morale of those who would be pulling the triggers and dropping the bombs. And I knew that I could have nothing to do with this unholy enterprise.

Although the Holy Father’s inflight press conference plea, “You who are journalists, please be pacifists, speak out against wars, fight against war,” was on that occasion directed to journalists, it is reasonable to believe that his pacifism plea is also extended to all people of good will.

And it is important to clarify that pacifism does not mean lying down and allowing brutal aggressors to kill and destroy. Quite the contrary! Pacifism, or the preferred terms “nonviolent resistance” and “active nonviolence” is courageously committed to using the numerous nonviolent, highly effective tools available to limit and even stop armed aggression. For example, please see Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative  https://nonviolencejustpeace.net/ and The Nonviolent Peaceforce https://nonviolentpeaceforce.org/what-we-do/.

The late preeminent theologian and biblical scholar, Fr. John McKenzie said, “If Jesus does not reject violence for any reason, we do not know anything about Jesus. Jesus taught us not how to kill but how to die.”

On Sept. 7, 2013, countless believers across the globe, and over 100,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, prayed with Pope Francis for peace in Syria and throughout the world.

During the four-hour prayer service at St. Peter’s, the Holy Father said “We bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and in every war. … We have perfected our weapons, [while] our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death! Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death.”

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 November 19, 2022 at 10:30 am  Comments (1)  

Dismantling Environmental Racism

By Sr. Damien Marie Savino, F.S.E., Ph.D.

With a love of lakes and self described passion for all creation, FAN Board Member Sr. Damien Marie Savino, F.S.E., Ph.D. serves as Dean of Science and Sustainability at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI. Her childhood love of nature and the outdoors “opened up in me the desire to protect the beauty and diversity of the natural world. It also led me to questions about who is the author of this beautiful nature, which ultimately led me to my vocation as a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist.”

In 2020, Sr. Damien Marie gave a “Gallagher Talk” for the Catholic Information Center in Detroit, MI. It aligns well with the 4-part series FAN has hosted this fall on Confronting Environmental Racism.

In her presentation, Sr. Damien Marie defines the issue of environmental racism–disproportionate effects of pollution and environmental degradation on people of certain races–and shows scientific proof of its seriousness, particularly in the state of Michigan where she lives. She goes over the principle of integral ecology from Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ and offers practical suggestions for what can be done at the local level, rooted in the Catholic Social Teaching principle of subsidiarity. She suggests direct engagement with affected communities to be sure that efforts to address problems are appropriate. It can be viewed on FAN’s website here or on YouTube.

Published in: on November 17, 2022 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Environmental Racism Series Continues Shining Light on Petrochemical Industry

By Sara P. Marks, M.A., Executive Director of the Franciscan Federation

FAN is hosting a 4-part series on environmental racism co-sponsored by the Franciscan Federation and the Franciscan Friars (OFM) US-6 JPIC Working Group. We hear first hand stories about how petrochemical facilities are adversely affecting communities inhabited by Black, Brown, Indigenous, or poor which have been deemed “sacrifice zones” and what can be done to address this situation. Find more information at www.franciscanaction.org.

Confronting Environmental Racism Series, November Session

In the November session of the Environmental Racism Series, 75 people joined us to watch the final documentary in the series, Big Oil’s Last Lifeline, produced by Hip-Hop Caucus. We encourage those who have been participating as well as anyone newly interested in the topic to join us on December 8th for our final gathering where we will delve deeply into the overall topic of environmental justice as it relates to the petrochemical industry. Joining us will be Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., President and CEO of Hip Hop Caucus, and Sr. Nora Nash, former director of the Office of Corporate social responsibility with her community, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. This panel discussion will provide participants with practical advice on how to advocate for those affected by environmental injustices and provide avenues for those interested in getting involved.

During November’s session, Kathy Ferguson, community organizer and interim executive director of Our Future West Virginia shared, “If communities near petrochemical plants want to be rid of them once and for all, they will have to band together and stick it to them.” She was speaking about the Sacrifice Zones in West Virginia. The affects felt by West Virginians living in the shadows of petrochemical plants range from autoimmune and respiratory disease to neurological problems and cancer. With no evacuation plans in place by the towns where these plants reside, residents are left with chemical smells wafting through the air, no access to clean water due to the contaminated rivers, and the looming threat of explosions.

Kathy Ferguson was joined by Dustin White from the Center for International Environmental Law and 11th generation West Virginian. In a society that is so incredibly polarized, Dustin’s journey is an inspiration. He shared his story of conversion as he went from believing the propaganda of the chemical industry, to witnessing the ill effects mountain top removal had on his family’s land. This experience led him to his work to fight against the petrochemical industry and for environmental justice. Dustin emphasized the need to flip the narrative of the “backwoods hillbilly” claiming that the community was purposefully miseducated, and that such tactics of the petrochemical industry have greatly harmed the many people of West Virginia. Kathy agreed, highlighting, “activists live here!” She encouraged people to amplify their voices, shared the movement toward green economies, and accentuated that West Virginia is “open for activism” to bring about meaningful change.

Both Kathy and Dustin desire to honor the legacy and history of coal mining in their community while also recognizing the need for just economic transitions that will continue to create jobs for the people who have relied on the coal industry for generations. The session ended with a simple question presented to Kathy and Dustin, what brings you hope? While admittedly a challenge, Dustin spoke of the way in which this work has personally transformed him, seeing everything as beautiful, thinking twice before swatting a bug, and gaining a new appreciation for life. Kathy shared the discouragement that can arise from this uphill battle that’s been being fought for generations, and the joy when someone joins their work for justice, but overall, she gave praise to God.

Published in: on November 16, 2022 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Reflections of Christ

Reflection for the Feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe by FAN Director of Campaigns Tobias Harkleroad, OFS.

This reflection was originally posted in our November 14th newsletter

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

We have been hearing a lot about kings this fall! To our modern sensibilities, these kings may not have the awesome degree of power and authority that the Church envisions by declaring this coming Sunday to be the solemnity of Christ as King of the Universe. Because we are most familiar with situations like Great Britain where the new king is largely a figurehead meant to promote a sense of loyalty and unity, we might not understand the truly awesome power to create the world anew that Jesus possesses.

And yet, we can still see the rule of autocrats in many nations who rule like the kings and emperors of old.  We can sense how it might feel to live in a part of the world where the power of the state is controlled by a single ruler or small cadre of elites.

In times and places where justice and peace prevail, we can easily see a reflection of what it means for Christ to be King of the Universe, but if we are living somewhere that is shrouded in greed, oppression, or injustice then our sense of why we would call Christ our King may be warped because the power of the state is misused.

This week’s gospel for the solemnity of Christ the King is not set in a throne room; instead it is set on a hill with Jesus hanging in weakness from the cross.

On the hill of Calvary, there was a thief hanging next to Jesus who could see with eyes of faith. When the other thief mocked Jesus, the so-called Good Thief, who tradition names Dismas, says: “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? … but this man has done nothing criminal.”

Dismas, after declaring the injustice of Jesus’ death sentence, then said with great humility “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” To which Jesus replied: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

This is the power Christ wields as King of the Universe. While the rulers of this world have the power to oppress and subjugate through brutality and fear, Christ offers his power to provide us with paradise based upon faith and love.

As Franciscans who are called to live the Gospel of Jesus, we must work to bring the world into conformity with the vision that the King of the Universe laid out during his earthly ministry. Throughout the liturgical year we have repeatedly heard that vision proclaimed from lowly stables to hillsides and lakeshores and finally to the cross. But even after the mighty Roman Empire executed Jesus, we see with the eyes of faith that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, forever signaling to us that the message of the Gospel is right and true.

I recently returned from a Franciscan Pilgrimage to the Southern Border of the U.S. After listening and praying during my pilgrimage, I urge everyone to advocate for the migrants and desperate asylum-seekers, work to change the narrative, and elect lawmakers who desire comprehensive immigration reform that is rooted in human rights. Read about my experience here.

Let us not be discouraged by kings, autocrats, and elites of this world who rule in ways that oppress and brutalize. Instead, let us seek to make our nations and rulers reflections of Christ, the King of the Universe, who was willing to die for the love of each and every one of his subjects; a king who offers us paradise through his message of Good News.

Tobias Harkleroad, OFS

FAN Director of Campaigns

Published in: on November 15, 2022 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

A Call to Radical Hospitality and Authentic Accompaniment

A personal reflection on a Franciscan Border Pilgrimage by FAN Director of Campaigns Tobias Harkleroad, OFS

FAN Director of Campaigns, Tobias (Toby) Harkleroad, OFS

Standing among hundreds of Venezuelan migrants on the bank of the Mexican side of the Rio Grande I looked down and saw a small boy with a shiny backpack emblazoned with the words “COOL TO BE KIND.” I looked around and our small group of Franciscans was surrounded by migrants who had recently been expelled from the United States under Title 42, a public health law being used to target certain asylum-seekers as dangerous because of the threat of COVID-19. Walking among the Venezuelan’s tents were also armed Mexican soldiers and some Mexican journalists. Despite my fear of the machine guns slung across the shoulders of the soldiers, I was fixed on that boy.

I was a Catholic school teacher and principal for two decades. In that ministry the little boy could have easily been one my kids. I founded and led a community called Saint Francis International School which was primarily made up of the children of immigrants from over 50 countries, the majority of whom were Latino. In my heart, I wanted to scoop that little boy up and make sure he was fed and his backpack was filled with books and toys, but that wasn’t really possible.

Earlier that day, we visited Kiki Romero Municipal Shelter, a basketball gymnasium that is the only facility operated by the government of Ciudad Juarez housing the Central American and poor Mexican migrants that flow to the city in the hope of reaching the safety of the US. While the shelter was colorful and clean, it was filled with families. At this government shelter I wondered about education and entertainment for the children who wait there as their parents pray for a chance to enter the US.

Before we returned to the US ourselves, we visited a shelter run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd that is serving women and their children who are fleeing from severe violence. We were told that since the shelter reopened after COVID restrictions, they have had around 500 mothers and children stay with them. 479 of those guests have been allowed to enter the US after a two to four month stay with the sisters because the level of violence and fear they would return to is so dangerous. However, earlier in our visit a legal aid organization in El Paso explained to us that the federal asylum judges in Texas deny 99% of the petitions of those allowed to legally enter the US. We knew that those mothers and their children would more than likely eventually be sent back to their dangerous origins.

In El Paso and near Las Cruces, New Mexico, we visited multiple shelters and advocacy agencies where we saw and heard the same things. Central Americans, Venezuelans, and poor Mexicans who live in cartel-controlled areas alongside Haitians and even Syrians and Russians are arriving daily in Ciudad Juarez hoping to cross one of the four bridges that connect Mexico and the United States.

As part of our trip we attended a mass that took place on the banks of the Rio Grande, the international border that divides El Paso and Juarez, which is an urban area that otherwise could be confused for a single city. At that mass, El Paso’s Bishop Seitz, alongside the bishops of Juarez and Las Cruces, commemorated the at least 843 migrants who have died attempting to cross the border over the last year. Just as thousands come to the legal border crossings seeking asylum and refuge, there are those so desperate that they give exorbitant amounts of money to “coyotes” (smugglers) who promise to get them into the US via the desert or other irregular means.

On Saturday, we easily drove through a gate in the border wall to get to the mass which was celebrated on a platform in the middle of the drought-stricken Rio. On Sunday in Mexico, our group of Franciscans drove out to desert fringe of Juarez to see the wall from the migrants’ perspective. The 35-foot-high steel fence had graffiti pleading that “We are just international workers, not delinquents” and the ground around the wall was littered with water bottles and tattered clothes, including a child’s t-shirt not unlike what my own kids wore when they were little. Among the shrubs, I found the skeleton of a dead dog; I picked up one of the desiccated white bones and could not help but pray because I realized that could just as easily have been the femur of a small child.

What we saw was pure desperation. What we heard was disappointment. Over and over, we were urged to recognize the need to treat these people with human dignity first and foremost. Impassioned Americans and Mexicans told us how desperately the migrants need advocates and the presence of supportive people. We were also told that there is a crisis, a crisis of care; the people of Juarez and El Paso are overwhelmed they need help treating the migrants with basic respect. Some of us asked why no one encourages the migrants to go home, to which we were told starkly that they do tell the migrants that because of Title 42 and other US policies there is little hope of getting into and staying in the United States, but that the migrants are focused on the dream of safety and refuge in America.

In listening and praying on my three days at the southern border I conclude that while we must advocate for the migrants by urging the Biden Administration to end Title 42 and the other policies that discriminate against desperate asylum-seekers, we also must advocate by working to change the narrative of the crisis at the border. We must work for comprehensive immigration reform that is rooted in human rights and we must also find ways to care for and accompany the migrants who are so desperate in the meantime.

There is much to be done! As a Franciscan, my mind repeatedly wandered to story of St. Francis of Assisi at Greccio, 800 years ago, where the Little Poor Man first set up a Christmas nativity scene. St. Francis sought to bring the humanity of the Holy Family to the people of Greccio, Italy, in a way that would feel real and tangible to them because Bethlehem and the holy mother and child were too far away in distance and time. As Franciscans today, I firmly believe we are called to make these parents and their children, migrants like the Holy Family, real and tangible to the people of the United States. I urge all of my Franciscan sisters and brothers as well as all those with loving hearts, to take up the cause of both changing the narrative and doing something, anything, to support these desperate people who cling to hopes and dreams of an America that stands for human rights, justice, and liberty.

To learn more about the Franciscan delegation to the border, please click here to read a PDF of my report to the staff of Franciscan Action Network.

Published in: on November 9, 2022 at 12:17 pm  Comments (4)  

Intimate Trust

Reflection for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member Sr. Marge Wissman

This reflection was originally posted in our November 7th newsletter

The readings for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time are about the end of the world! Most people do not think about the world coming to an end and most do not believe it will happen in our lifetime. The deepest teaching is not so much about the physical ending but more about how you and I should be living now.

The Gospel addresses the issue of the second coming and the destruction that will accompany it. It expresses more a warning than a timetable. One day people were standing around talking about the Temple remarking about how beautiful it was, the splendor of its stonework and memorial gifts. Jesus appears unimpressed by the whole thing. Jesus said, “All of this you are admiring so much – the time is coming when every stone in the building will end up in a heap of rubble.” He warns about false prophets who will use current crises and consternations as signs that the end is about to happen, but they are not signs of the final end.  

The best preparation is to live each day as if it were the final one, knowing full well it will probably not be. Living out one’s Christian faith in a hostile environment will be a full time challenge and deserves our full attention. Our faith does not promise a life of calm but offers hope.  

The readings urge us to trust in the Lord. If we trust in God, the Sun of Justice will arise with its healing rays. We come to recognize that we cannot lead strong spiritual lives just by our own willpower. Rather we must ask God to change us and to help us. If we need to repent from some sin, now is the time. If we want to thank God for something, now is the time. If we need to forgive someone, now is the time. The Scriptures tell us that now is the day of salvation, now is the time that the Lord is with us bringing compassion and love.

Sr. Marge Wissman

FAN Board of Directors

Published in: on November 8, 2022 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

God is calling you to be a saint!

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose writings are 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.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Although the recent celebration of All Saints Day (Nov. 1) has come and gone, God’s personal invitation to you to strive for holiness continues. God is calling you to be a saint!

And Lord knows, our wounded world needs saints. Not next week, not next month, not next year, but now is the time humanity needs every Christian to faithfully walk in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus – just like thousands of canonized saints and countless little-known saints have done – and are doing right now.

But you may say, “Who me, a saint?” You bet! Yes, you and I are called to be holy saints.

In the Second Vatican Counsel’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Nos. 39, 40) the world’s Catholic bishops solemnly declared “In the church, everyone … is called to holiness.”

During All Saints Day, Pope Francis, reflecting on the Gospel reading of the Beatitudes, said that the Beatitudes serve as a “identity card” for the saints.

While pointing out that the saints did not live “perfect” and “precise” lives, nonetheless, he emphasized that by striving to follow the demands of the Beatitudes, the saints lived radically “countercultural” and “revolutionary” lives!

Calling particular attention to the peace Beatitude of Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” Pope Francis said that “Peace is not achieved by conquering or defeating someone, it is never violent, it is never armed.”

In further developing the Gospel call to be peacemakers, the Holy Father said that our first step is to disarm the heart by standing before Jesus’ Cross with openness to him, and by going to Confession to receive his “forgiveness and peace.”

Pope Francis said that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, in urging us to act as peacemakers, calls us to understand that building peace requires that we work nonviolently to oppose injustice, care for those at the margins, and forgive everyone.

The Holy Father added that “Those who love everyone and hurt no one win” (see: https://bit.ly/3fEIbY5).

Yes, the world needs saints!

Our hurting world needs Christians who are committed to being the very body of Christ on earth – saints.

As St. Teresa of Avila said so beautifully, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks [with] compassion on this world. Yours are feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

Imagine if you and I, and every person who professes to be a Christian, decided with the power of the Holy Spirit, to be the body of Christ. Imagine if every disciple of Christ decided to think, feel, pray, speak, and act as Christ did when he walked the earth.

Just imagine what good could be realized if every Christian would commit to becoming a saint.

Blessed Pope John Paul I – the saintly smiling pope – said, “If all the sons and daughters of the Church would know how to be tireless missionaries of the Gospel, a new flowering of holiness and renewal would spring up in this world that thirsts for love and for truth.”

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 November 5, 2022 at 10:30 am  Comments (1)  

‘I was hungry and you gave me food’

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose writings are 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 next time you are hungry, imagine that instead of going into your kitchen and reaching for various foods to prepare a meal for you and your family, that there is no food to reach for, no vegetables to pick from in your garden, and that you have no money to buy food for you and your hungry children.

For millions of people in many countries, having no food is not something to imagine, it is a suffering reality every day.

As I write, it is World Food Day (Oct. 16), and according to the World Food Program (WFP) report titled “A Global Food Crisis – 2022: A Year of Unprecedented Hunger,” 828 million people are currently suffering from hunger. And the number of fellow human beings facing life-threatening acute food insecurity – has sharply increased from 135 million to 345 million people since 2019. And the hungriest of the hungry, are the 50 million people in 45 countries who are staring famine in the face.

There are four deadly combined factors, according to the WFP, which are driving much of the world to be hungrier than ever:

  • Conflict – war and violence – is the most pressing reason people are hungry.
  • Climate Change – is causing unprecedented serious weather events like floods, droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes.
  • COVID – has killed millions of people throughout the world and continues to destroy lives – in mostly poor nations.
  • Costs – in operating world food feeding programs are at an all-time high (see: https://www.wfp.org/global-hunger-crisis).

Thus, it should be obvious to attentive and caring people, governments, and corporations that new efforts to curb and finally end the production and selling of arms must finally become a high priority goal (see: https://bit.ly/3Sikke7). And that comprehensive global conflict resolution strategies must replace war, war preparations, and internal conflicts.

The money saved from ending war preparations, armed conflicts, and war itself could then be used to completely end global hunger and poverty. For as the world’s Catholic bishops declared at Vatican Council II, “While extravagant sums are being spent for the furnishing of ever new weapons, an adequate remedy cannot be provided for the multiple miseries afflicting the whole modern world. … Therefore, we say it again: ‘the arms race is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, and one which ensnares the poor to an intolerable degree.’”

Climate change, with its increased droughts, floods, heat stress, and extreme weather events, is projected to have an increasingly negative affect on food production, thus threatening countless more people with hunger and starvation (see: https://bit.ly/3z36K7L).

Therefore, it is of paramount importance that governments around the world sharply increase money for renewable energy and climate change adaptation – especially for the most economically depressed nations. The international “Green Climate Fund” is one excellent vehicle to help here. However, the U.S. has only partly honored its funding commitment (see: https://bit.ly/3VHwal3).

According to the ecumenical poverty-focused organization Bread for the World, the “Global Food Security Act” (S. 4649) is a proven project that helps poorer nations develop inclusive and sustainable agriculture-led economic growth (see: https://bit.ly/3yXAP8A) American readers, please urge your two U.S. senators and representative to vote for this life-saving bill (Capitol switchboard number: 202-224-3121).

Please kindly consider sharing your bread with desperately hungry brothers and sisters by making a donation to Catholic Relief Services (see: https://www.crs.org/ways-to-give).

In his recent message for World Food Day, Pope Francis challenged us to “See others as our brothers and sisters, as members who make up our own human family, and whose sufferings and needs affect us all.” And he added that “We are called to redirect our gaze towards the essential, towards what has been given to us freely, focusing our work on caring for others and for creation” (see: https://bit.ly/3VS9nmK).

When the Lord Jesus judges us, let us hopefully make sure by our loving care for the hungry now, that we hear him say “I was hungry and you gave me food.”

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 attmag6@comcast.net.

Published in: on October 29, 2022 at 10:30 am  Comments (1)  

Reflection on receiving Franciscan Vision Award

By Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF

On October 6, 2022 the Franciscan Action Network honored Sr. Margaret Carney with the Franciscan Vision Award to highlight her visionary leadership of the Franciscan Federation. Below is the reflection she wrote that guided her remarks that evening which many of us found inspirational.

The question that rises in me when I am in the presence of people like you—people who spend every day on the JPIC barricades—is this:  What allows you to go on day after day? How can you continue your work even when it appears that little progress is made, or progress can be demolished after untold efforts. Outstanding successes are few and often not heralded in the Times or CNN.

In Christopher Frye’s play, “A Sleep of Prisoners” there is a line that fits this sensibility.

“Thank God our times are now when wrong comes up to face us everywhere. Never to leave us till we take the longest stride of soul [man] ever took. Affairs are now soul-size. The enterprise is exploration into God.”

Fr. Bill Headly C.S.Sp., founding director of the Kroc Institute at the University of San Diego, spent years working with various national and international organizations like FAN. At one point he made a study to answer that question. He asked what made it possible for persons working in situations of extremely stressful conflict and injustice to have faith, to draw on   their spiritual motives and resources. He conducted this work study in Northern Ireland, Palestine, South Africa. Years ago, I had the privilege of hearing him describe the outcomes of these visits and the people he came to know. He reminded me that very often the leaders making headlines are supported by a great many companions who share their risky ventures. The disciplines that developed within these persons, these communities, are what make it possible to persevere.   These insights have remained helpful to me.

How do we sustain ourselves on the quest for a better world and church?

If I were to put the question to each of you this evening, you would surely answer with some of the following explanations:

  • I have been called to this. I know this and accept this vocation.
  • I am so inspired by those who do this work; I want to be part of it.
  • The grace of God urges me forward.
  • My community is a source of strength and hope.
  • I must help to alleviate this suffering.


Whatever the reason that is upper-most in mind, I suspect that we also live with motives and aspirations that come from deep wellsprings in our cultures. Within those sources—whether they are of a nation, a race, a faith—we find myths, epics, stories and poems that fire the imagination. They plant within us a desire to live in such large ways. To “dream the impossible dream” of Don Quixote. To do the great deeds that matter.

In recent weeks I have been thinking a lot about the role of these legends that shape ways of thinking about truth, valor, moral courage. While they may not be the primary ground of our motivation, I believe that they continue to hold a fascination for us. After all, even in our 21st century, obsessed with technology and AI, we have seen new epics arise. Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. (And we can hope that the untimely death of Chadwick Bosman does not prevent The Black Panther from joining that list in time.)

These three modern sagas share the core elements of the ancient tales.

1)There is a hero. This individual is usually the unlikely candidate for the role. A hobbit? A little person with furry feet? What can he do? An orphan boy who sleeps in a crawl space beneath the stairs because his Muggle relatives do not know what to do with him. The boy from a desert planet who only realizes after meeting his Zen-like mentors that he possesses the charism of a true Jedi.

2)There is a struggle against an evil force: Sauron, Voldemort, Darth Vader.

3)And this struggle demands that the hero lead the quest, dare to do the thing that will disempower the dark lords no matter the cost.

We also see in these stories tales of inclusion and diversity. The range of beings that inhabit a star-ship, the collection of hobbits, elves, dwarves that accompany Frodo—these fascinate us and teach us that heroes need to accept strength from many sources.

We might also reflect that these modern epics have exerted enormous attraction in a time of the anti-hero, the rise of cynicism and mistrust of government leaders and institutions. Let’s not miss that message; let’s think about their narrative power.


One of the reasons these modern myths are so interesting to me is that I see in Francis of Assisi a similar longing to be part of great and heroic deeds, to be in the company of knights. (This was so even though his state of birth would have been an obstacle to this goal.) Tales of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, The Song of Roland, these epic tales were in the air. Had Francis actually heard these performed by troubadours—the social media of that era? He certainly loved to describe himself as a troubadour. It was that poet’s role to sing the praises of the King, tell of his exploits and victories, and create poems of admiration for the ladies of the royal court.

We can see a very dramatic example of this literary influence on Francis in the Office of the Passion. This is a text which most of us normally avoided due to the difficulty of actually using it as a prayer practice. Then André Cirino teamed up with Laurent Gallant, OFM whose doctoral dissertation focused on this text. Together they created a marvelous new edition, one that is ‘user-friendly’ and thus provided us with a deep understanding of this prayer which represents the “mind of Jesus” as He endures the struggles of his Passion and Death. Gallant was convinced that Francis meant to create this work in the spirit of a troubadour who was telling of the great deeds of the Hero, the King, Jesus. With such a motive, the more accurate name for the text would be The Geste—the story—of the Great King. The word office portrays the melding of this unique Franciscan prayer with the monastic tradition of praying the various hours of the Divine Office.

Praying this text allows us to see the genius of Francis as he weaves a tapestry of Scriptural passages and psalms. They are carefully selected and edited so as to highlight the combined virtues of obedience as Jesus accepts the will of the Father and hope that his obedience will finally bring him to peace, to glory. The Geste has those elements of the heroic quest:

Jesus is the one whose mission it is to restore humankind to the good graces of God.

The dark forces are revealed in the temptation of Peter, the betrayal of Judas, the abandonment of the apostles.

The Resurrection—indicated in psalm verses and antiphons—confirms the victory of the Hero.

We need to remember that Francis and Clare lived in a situation of unending violence. The very nature of warring medieval communes created a constantly shifting panorama of feuds, vendettas, civil uprisings. This prayer gave them one way of standing in this environment while being reminded daily of the triumph of Jesus. Thus, they could continually draw from their faith in the ultimate victory that the Christ secured. Gallant said this: “The geste portrays the work of darkness, evil and death; but also proclaims the victory of light, goodness, and life “in superabundance (Jn 10:10). Francis harbored no naiveté concerning the weight of sin, which burdens humankinds’ march in search of fulfillment.” (The Geste of the Great King. The Franciscan Institute, 2001, 26.)

This remarkable work, this prayer, deserves our study and use. In that way we may become more attuned to the hope of Francis as he seeks to “sing” of his Lord’s goodness, bravery and ultimate sacrifice for us. Here is his epic prayer; his homage to the greatest deeds of saving ever seen.


On a night like this is may seem easy to invoke images of heroic work and ultimate victory. All the same, many times—most of the time—we are not feeling heroic or successful. We are just trying to hang in there day by day.

It may be just as important to recall those stories of quests that did not achieve victory, that appeared to end in failure. So often, such failures blind us to the merit of those heroes and heroines who dared to dream of being agents of salvation, of victory, of restoration of lost hope.

One such example might be the Irish rebellion of 1916. Any of us who have Irish parentage no doubt know some of this story. Ireland suffered under the hard hand of British rule. Barely recovered from the famines of the 19th century, the people continued to battle poverty and hostility to their religious identity. A group of radical insurgents planned and executed a “rising” during Easter week in 1916. It was an abysmal failure. Many Irish citizens were wary of the effort and stood by. The armed militias were mostly volunteers with only modest training. The communications were full of gaps. The leader was a poet, Padraic Pearse. (You may already guess that having a poet lead an armed revolt is not a formula for success. But that’s the Irish for you! We love our poets!)

What turned the military rout into a raging determination of the whole nation was the execution of the leaders. These young men had valiantly tried to give voice to aspirations that now could not be silenced. The road to independence was born of the carnage of those deaths. So, the legacy of Pearse is best summed up in a poem he wrote entitled The Fool. I leave you with his vision:

I have squandered the splendid years that the Lord God gave to my youth
In attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil.
Was it folly or grace? Not men shall judge me, but God.

O wise men riddle me this? What if the dream come true?
What if the dream come true? And if millions unborn shall dwell
In the house I shaped in my heart, the noble house of my thought?
Lord, I have staked my soul, I have staked the lives of my kin
On the truth of Thy dreadful word. Do not remember my failures,
But remember this, my faith.

May your faith hold true and final as you journey onwards.

Published in: on October 27, 2022 at 10:30 am  Comments (1)