Creating a New Earth

Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Easter by FAN executive director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our May 13th newsletter

As we continue our journey through the Easter Season and await the festival where we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, perhaps we should take some time and reflect. Do we view the Resurrection and the Pentecost as a static events that happened some 2000 years ago? Last Tuesday I was at Mass at the Monastery, in his homily the priest talked about the Resurrection not as a one time event, but rather an ongoing transformation that happens in each of us everyday. Sunday’s second reading from Revelations starts with: “Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away…:”

What if the purpose of the Incarnation and Resurrection was not so we could go somewhere else, but rather so we, with God, could create a new Earth? I occasionally, in my meditations, will imagine what a new Earth a new Heaven would be like. The first thing I imagine is that Heaven and Earth are not separate places. Earth is not a place where we start out with hopes of getting to Heaven. Earth is the place where we create Heaven. On this new Earth, children would not have to hide under their desks frightened that they might get shot. We will turn our weapons into plowshares. On this new Earth, not a single child will go to bed hungry. When we saw them hungry, we fed them. On this new, Earth there will be no walls separating us. When we saw the stranger, we welcomed them. On this new Earth, we will not destroy the environment. There will be a covenant with God, us, our descendants, and every living creature; the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth. On this new Earth, some children will not be living in mansions while others live on the streets. “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.” On this new Earth, abortion will not be an issue. Not because we criminalize and demonize. But rather because every child will be welcomed and cared for from conception to natural death regardless of their circumstances. On this new Earth, we will not be waiting to go to heaven, we will create heaven.

In his book The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr says: “The true and essential work of all religion is to help us recognize and recover the divine imagine in everything.” Think about how wondrous, how awesome this new Earth would be if everyone that looked at you saw the Imago Dei and you saw the image of God in every blade of grass, every bird, every person from the destitute homeless person to the Pope. Sometimes I think we complicate our faith. We believe that we are too small to understand. We have to have volumes and volumes of rules on how to pray, and hold our hands. Whether we should stand or kneel. We think that if we don’t follow these mysterious rules that we do not really understand and we will not go to Heaven. Jesus made it very simple. In our Gospel reading this week Jesus says: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If we saw the image of God in everything, how could we not love every creature, every person?

St. Angela of Foligno, a 13th century Franciscan mystic, said: “My soul in an excess of wonder cried out: ‘This world is pregnant with God!’” In the next few weeks leading up to Pentecost, reflect on this image of a new Earth pregnant with God. Then instead of sitting around waiting for Jesus to come and create this new Earth, reflect on what you can do with God to be a co-creator of the New Earth. Then, when Pentecost Sunday comes and we are filled with the Holy Spirit, don’t sit meekly and quietly in your pew or your home. Stand up! Shout from the mountain tops that you are one of the disciples who is here, not preparing to go to Heaven, but to create the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth.

Peace and All Good

Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on May 14, 2019 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

God: The Shepherd of All

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Easter by FAN Board Member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our May 6th newsletter

While on retreat recently, I participated in an exercise that had a profound impact on my life. We were asked to find a partner we did not know and then sit facing each other, holding each other’s hands. We were asked to first look into our partner’s eyes and then look down at their hands. We sat this way for about 15 minutes while a mantra “I love you” played quietly.

As I gazed at my partner’s hands I began to “see” hands of people in countries throughout the world, people I did not know, hands of all different shapes, sizes, and skin tones. With each, I thought to myself “I love you.” After several minutes my thoughts flowed to the hands of those who traffic other human beings for profit. In my mind these hands also took on different shapes and hues. I remember hesitating; I knew that I was called to say “I love you” to each of these people also. I also knew that I could only authentically say this by remaining “faithful to the grace of God.” (1 Acts 13:43) My thoughts then moved to the hands of some specific people in the news who I disagreed with or I disliked. I knew that each of these individuals were made in the same image and likeness of our God who shepherds us, and so to each I said, “I love you.”

This Sunday is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. It may serve to remind us (me!) that God reaches out to all people. God is the shepherd of all, even, and perhaps especially, those individuals who plan evil acts, who not just ignore, but who choose to do all they can to mock and to destroy the most vulnerable in our society and world.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on May 7, 2019 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

“I am going fishing.”

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Easter by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our April 29th newsletter

Looking for a distraction from a deep feeling of let-down, a feeling too hard to bear, and even less to comprehend, Peter, in this week’s readings, is going back to what he knows best, fishing. I have to say that it is a reaction not very different from mine when I need something to distract me or help me deal with what I do not want to face yet, or I need time to come to terms with. I can procrastinate, do something I enjoy doing or that I am very familiar with, so I do not have to think. Peter had a lot on his mind, as did the six disciples who went with him.

However, it did not help and on top of it, fishing was not successful. The Gospel says that Peter and his friends “that night caught nothing.” So their sadness was compounded by disappointment and frustration. It is only when it was already dawn, the text says, that something different, unsettling and unexpected happened. A stranger dares to ask them, from the shore, if they caught anything and, even more daring he tells them to cast the net over the right side of the boat. I can only imagine Peter’s thinking: “Right, who are you to tell as how to fish?!” But they do it, maybe out of the desire to prove this daring stranger wrong or because they had nothing to lose anyway. We know the story…

It is at this moment, when something unforeseeable and really mind boggling happens, that their eyes were opened and they realized that only the Lord could have done such a miracle. The mood completely changes, from desperation to elation, so much so that Peter jumped into the sea…and they were treated to breakfast!

So it is the journey of faith, the Easter journey, our openness to the unexpected, big or small, that gives us the possibility to see with new eyes, what we cannot see if we remain closed in on ourselves, our own disappointments, fears, frustrations, and setbacks.

Following the Risen Jesus is to be open to new possibilities. He asks us to trust that life cannot, will not be the same, once we know that he is still present in our lives and in the lives of those we encounter every day, and so be ready to be challenged by the one we least expect.

Peter was now ready to be challenged about his love for Jesus and this time he passed the test: “Lord you know everything: you know that I love you.”

The Easter Season puts our expectations to the test. Are we ready to allow our life, our heart to be surprised by the novelty of the Easter message? Are we ready or willing to meet or find Jesus even in places we may not wish to go?

The apostles were ready: “We must obey God rather than men… So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”

Can I say the same when I speak up for justice, for those who seek a better life in our country, for peace and a more merciful and humane world, and hope to be surprised with results? Yes, I want to be surprised and be able to sing: “Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on April 30, 2019 at 10:12 am  Leave a Comment  

“Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have come to believe”

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Easter by FAN Board Member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our April 22nd newsletter

For too many, a miracle in today’s current climate and culture and time seems to be a special effect or some type of emotional reaction in a story. We are, for the most part, returning to a time where self comes first, the age of Thomas the Apostle, of needing to see to believe.

Look around in Church this Sunday. The pews have more room and space than last week. There’s more parking in the lot and the even the flowers in the Church seem to be different than last week, when their newness and sweet smell made the Church seem so alive and new. Yes, Easter has come! Now what? Where is the difference in our hearts and more especially in our lives?

The Spanish have a great proverb that fits this Sunday and its readings so well. It is, “Establish your reputation and go to bed.” This speaks to us about the difficulty in changing what people know of us.

Too many of us know this proverb in a personal way. No matter what happens in our lives, we are looked at by those who know us, or more importantly who think they know us, as what we were known by our relationship in the past.

Thankfully, it’s very different with God! For us, God is the Lord of many chances.

During Lent, I spent time each day reading short daily stories of men and women whose lives were touched and changed by God’s love and Grace. Many of whom are called Saints and even more whose lives and experiences touched others and brought them to the Lord.

In every life, it was not so much what they said, but it was always what they did for others. Today’s miracles are the lives that embrace, encourage, support, and accept those whom our society overlooks or more so looks away from out of fear or confusion. These are the miracles of today that will lead the doubting into believing.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on April 23, 2019 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  

From Darkness to Light, From Death to New Life!

Reflection for Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of the Lord by FAN Board Member, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our April 15th newsletter

As I reflect on our readings for Easter Sunday, I am acutely aware of the fact that this reflection will be sent out and possibly read on the Monday or in the days leading into Holy Week.

This awareness is important because we cannot begin to understand the depth and profound gratuitous gift of new life in the Resurrected Christ unless we are willing to open our eyes, our hearts and our minds to the suffering and Crucified Christ. As we enter into the Paschal Triduum we enter into the experience of the suffering of Christ Jesus who was betrayed, arrested, denied, beaten, scorned, ridiculed, and put to death. The Triduum, the Paschal Mystery, is not individual events or rituals but one flowing movement of God’s gracious outpouring of Crucified Love that breaks the bonds of suffering and death to offer new life, new hope and the promise that the Christ who was raised from death will come again.

Let us enter this week and remember the presence of the suffering Christ in our sisters and brothers who have been abused and betrayed by the clerical leaders whom they trusted. Let us recognize those who have been betrayed and imprisoned into the darkness of human slavery and trafficking. Let us acknowledge the suffering Christ in the men, women, and children arrested at our southern border and denied the right to seek asylum and refugee status. Let us look upon the suffering Christ in those scorned, ridiculed, and beaten because of the color of their skin, because of the clothes they wear, the way they pray and express their faith or their human sexuality. Let us truly see the dying and crucified Christ in all those who have lost their lives from violence, hatred, and shootings in schools, at concerts, in movie theaters, in churches, mosques and synagogues. This is the Body of Christ suffering and dying in our midst and in our world today.

Our culture, our society, our self-centeredness continues to create an environment of distrust, hatred, and fear. Is this really any different than what Jesus encountered in his final days? Yet God continues to pour out forgiveness, mercy, and reconciling love and invites us to recognize and to work for the unity, goodness, and healing of the Body of Christ in our world. Only then will we begin to understand the gift of Resurrected Love and the promise of One Spirit that flows through and unites all people and all creation. May we be willing to embrace the darkness of pain and suffering and be the light and the hope of Christ’s presence and resurrected love for others!

Margaret Magee OSF
Member of the FAN Board

Published in: on April 16, 2019 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Getting the Earth’s Sacredness Right Every Earth Day

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

by Gary Paul Nabhan

What if getting our relationship right with the Earth and all its creatures is not the scenic backdrop for some circus sideshow, but is as crucial as getting our relations right with our Creator, our family and our neighbors? What if all of Creation is the most palpable expression of our Creator’s generosity, sense of wonder, and commitment to diversity? What happens if we begin to include the fungi, the flowers, the fritillary butterflies and the flocks of wild geese as our neighbors, our family, and our Creator’s expressive face?

Nearly fifty years ago, as a seventeen year old, I worked as a volunteer doing articles, graphics and cartoons for the Environmental Action news magazine at the headquarters established to coordinate the initial Earth Day. I was one of a dozen youth and young adults who worked there, preparing for the participation of 20 million people around the world in the first-ever global recognition of the Earth’s sacredness and its vulnerability.

Some of the staff were veterans of Civil Rights Summer in the South; others were conscientious objectors who did not want to “study the war no more.” We were out to do something affirmative, something inclusive—not a protest, but a celebration.

On Earth Day itself, I was sent to a small Catholic college near the Mississippi River, to be the youngest presenter at a campus-wide convocation. A young nun greeted me, and asked if I had ever given a speech before. I [shook] my head side to side, unable to even speak the word “no.” The nun held my hand, and said,

“Don’t get jittery, honey, just pretend you are offering a prayer, talking to God, giving thanks. As long as you don’t get into issues like overpopulation and abortion, I think you’ll be okay.”

I don’t think I knew much of anything about abortion at that time, so it was easy to follow her advice.

I have no idea what I said that day. I simply looked out the windows above the assembled crowd, watching eagles move among the towering trees growing along the banks of a tributary of the Mississippi, as the water moved forward and blended into the Big Muddy itself.

Whatever words I spoke were directed toward those eagles as much as they were to the humans assembled there that day; to the catfish in the river as much as to the Christian community; as a call of the wild as much as a call for a communion of all races, faiths and classes.

Actually, I can’t recall that any words spilled out my mouth that morning. I am not at all sure that my voice was heard — let alone remembered — by anyone present that first Earth Day morning, but that did not matter much to me. I felt as though I was present at the dawning of Creation, at the first sanctioned gathering of two-leggeds, four-leggeds, winged ones and rooted ones where all came to express their joy in being part of this sacred place that was careening through space and time.

It is true: whenever any of us feels that kind of gratitude for all of Earth’s creatures, we have become fully Present, fully Alive ourselves.

That may be what Saint Francis meant when he urged us to “go out and Preach the Good News, and only when necessary, use words.”

Published in: on April 12, 2019 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

From Palms to Passion

Image by Harry Anderson

Jesus rides on a colt into Jerusalem with crowds cheering, waving palms, and crying “Hosanna! He is the king of glory!” For the unaware disciples, it was a heady moment, the one for which they had been waiting. Jesus accepts the accolades, but his heart is heavy, knowing what “up to Jerusalem” means for him.

Probably all of us have had our small moments of “glory” when we were praised and honored. It may have been an academic or athletic achievement; or an artistic, scientific, or humanitarian award; or perhaps being elected to leadership in a religious or secular organization. If we are humble, we accept the acclamation with gratitude. If we are wise, we know it is ephemeral. “This, too, shall pass.”

There are too many examples in our country and world of people who cannot live without adulation, without the roar of the crowd. Too many examples of people not being wise, so when the glory fades and the crowds are silent, or ridicule and criticize, those formerly in the limelight turn to alcohol or drugs for numbing or even commit suicide.

The Liturgy of Palm and Passion Sunday opens with Hosannas and palms but moves quickly into the reading of the Passion. In our lives we experience moments of praise and times of rejection or misunderstanding or being ignored. Do I allow the latter to embitter me, to make me resentful, or do I follow Jesus, whose way up to Jerusalem moves from Hosannas to Crucifixion, and then to Resurrection? In moments when I am praised, am I both humbly grateful and wise?

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on April 9, 2019 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Helping to Turn Strangers into Neighbors

Fr. Paul Lininger, OFM Conv., Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church, in Burlington, NC submitted this blog post to highlight how the Franciscan Friars Conventual are helping to turn strangers into neighbors.

On February 21, 2017, Pope Francis in an address to the VI International Forum: Migration and Peace, felt compelled to address the nature of contemporary migratory movements, which increases challenges presented to the political community, civil society and to the Church, and which amplifies the urgency for a coordinated and effective response to these challenges. Our shared response, according to our Holy Father Francis, “may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.”

Have you ever wondered what it is like living in a world, city, or local neighborhood, where your very presence arouses contempt, suspicion, prejudice or common indecency? Where judgements are made of you based on the tone of your skin, the first language you speak or the accent present in your words? Where you as the stranger are literally untrusted, despised or rejected? Where your description begins with a negative – illegal? Where the term friend, neighbor, brother or sister are unspoken?

Sometimes we forget that the words we choose to identify another person do make a difference in whether they meet with our approval, are treated with respect and dignity or vilified and turned away.

Ever given a second thought, to what is to be in hand to enter your child’s school, pick-up a pharmacy prescription, enter a hospital, sit in a library or present when you use a credit card? Read More….

Published in: on April 8, 2019 at 12:14 pm  Comments (1)  

Interfaith Root Causes Delegation to Honduras

March 18-25, 2019
by Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

It was a sunny hot day when we landed in San Pedro Sula in Honduras in the early afternoon on March 18th.

This was my second delegation in this beautiful Central American country. This time I was here to see for myself why so many people choose to migrate and make the long, difficult, and dangerous journey north to the US southern border. Because it was my second time, I knew what to expect and was able in this way to see more, to feel more, and observe what the first time, I was not able to grasp and capture. I was able to see with open eyes and open heart.

As soon as I stepped outside the Customs at the airport I was pleasantly enveloped in the welcoming, noisy environment of a Latin American country. I felt at home almost immediately and was happy to be back. People with an easy smile responded to my gladness to be among them.

As we left the airport, I noticed that everything was very dry. I was made aware that certain areas of Honduras are experiencing a four year drought, and I thought, “This is not helping the struggle of the few farmers left in this country.”

Honduras is indeed a beautiful country, blessed with fertile land, rolling hills, clean rolling rivers, and miles of coast on the Gulf of Honduras and the Caribbean Sea. I experienced this beauty as we traveled, with a brief stop in La Ceiba on the Ocean, to the remote village of Guapinol, municipality of Tocoa in the north. The Bayo Aguan region is blessed with the pristine waters of the Aguan river. It is here that a few months ago a group of land and water defenders confronted the combined powers of big business (extracting mines) and their allies, politicians who sought to criminalize their protest and thus silence them. They were protecting their water from mines run off; without water there is no life. I tried to ask the mayor in our visit to him, could he please help them to make sure that their source of life is preserved clean and usable? Not much came from that meeting.

The sacrifice and tenacity of the people of Guapinol really struck and touched me. Their welcome was sincere and their joy authentic. I reflected on their strength and also noticed the poverty in which some of them live. The few that are a little better off are those who receive money from relatives in the USA. What is left for them but to fight when the very source of life is taken away from them? As I observed and tried to speak my broken few Spanish words and smiled a lot, I found myself becoming more and more sad, upset and really angry at the way things are in the world. I have seen poverty in my life. My time in East Africa was one of those times, but as I get older and I learn that it does not have to be this way, I find that I would like to scream at our leaders and at any one who wants to listen: We are contributing to this; our government is doing it in our name. We the Americans are doing it to these people by supporting the wrong causes, by supporting the powerful instead of making sure that with our financial help, they do the right thing for their people. Unfortunately, most of the aid we are sending to Honduras goes to the military who in turn oppress their people and militarize the nation in the name of national security. If I learned one thing it is that we need to make our leaders accountable for what they do.

I became even angrier when not far from the American embassy, on the side walk of a busy street of Tegucigalpa the capitol of Honduras, close to 80 people have made their home. Why? A few days before they were evicted from the land and homes they called theirs, by the rich family in the area that is slowly depriving people of their land since no land reform was ever completed and people do not have a title to show that it is theirs and no money to pay the rent.

The wealthy, who run the country, are constantly adding more land to a mono crop of African palm oil which grows well in parts of Honduras but destroys the land for future crops for decades. The palm fruits are not processed in the country, so no jobs for the people. No land, no jobs; people live on the sidewalk.

I went to see the root causes of migration and I found a country of strong people, but in a country with almost 70% of its people living in poverty and 44% living in misery, there is really no alternative but to go somewhere else in order to survive.

The USA supports the unlawful presidency of Juan Orlando Hernandez. As a country, once again we support a dictator who is oppressing his people and certainly not working for the well-being of the country and its citizens. What are we getting in return? Maybe a military presence in the region? Learn more here.

Our President wants to close the border. How will that be a solution for the people who are coming to save their lives? Maybe it is about time that as United States of America, we use our influence to help resolve the enormous issues inside a country so that its people are not forced to leave but happily stay in their land.

As the beautiful and courageous people of Guapinol continue their fight for survival, I am more determined than ever to speak the truth for them.

I want to speak for Orbelina (pictured) who cannot go home anymore because her life was threatened many times, so she stays with friends day by day, night by night. Her determination to continue to stay in the struggle for her people, for her family deeply touched me. What choice do I have but to stay in another struggle beyond the border because as Martin Luther King said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

I know my companions have also written beautiful and fact laden articles/blogs. I am adding some links to these articles here for those who desire to know more and may be advocates for the people of Honduras.

Sisters of Mercy:
America Magazine:

PBS has a four-part series in its “News Hour” on Honduras:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Please continue to keep the people of Honduras in prayer.

Published in: on April 4, 2019 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Doing Something New

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our April 1st newsletter

Lent is often thought of as the time when we fast and give up stuff, like junk food or coffee. We spend time in repentance and sacrifice as we reflect on the real meaning and purpose of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. In this week’s second reading from Philippians 3:8 it says: “For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ.”

I remember as a kid being told that I had to give up something for Lent. I would sit around with my brothers and sister and my cousins and we would all declare what we were giving up. Then we would spend Lent keeping each other in check. Making sure we didn’t cheat. The author of the letter to the Philippians tells us we have to give up everything to become one with Christ. The letter is pretty clear, it is not through following the law or through our self proclaimed righteousness that we find Christ. Rather it is living in Christ. It is not through worshiping at the foot of the Cross, but by taking up the Cross.

One of our FAN staff members, Sr. Maria, just returned from spending a week in Honduras. She shared about seeing the most horrific poverty and hunger. Maria heard stories about small farmers having their land stolen by wealthy landowners and they left with their families to starve. When they try to make their way north they are met with hostilities and accusations of them being terrorists, rapists, and drug smugglers. In the U.S., we hear our political leaders making statements and chanting phrases demonizing and dehumanizing these children of God, our brothers and sisters. Can we we really be living in Christ while brothers and sisters live in such conditions?

This week’s first reading from Isaiah says: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” In Matthew 9 it says: “Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined.” Twentieth century visionary, Buckminster Fuller said: “In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.” Maybe for Lent, we should consider giving up our old ways, our existing paradigm. Maybe instead of giving up junk food or coffee, we should be part of the creation of something new. St. Angela of Foligno, a 13th century Franciscan mystic, said: My soul in an excess of wonder cried out: ‘This world is pregnant with God!’ Wherefore I understood how small is the whole of creation- that is, what is on this side and what is beyond the sea, the abyss, the sea itself, and everything else- but the power of God fills it all to overflowing.” Imagine being part of building a new creation, a new Earth pregnant with God, being a mirror of God, and overflowing with God. What would that new creation look like for you? What would it look like for the people of Honduras? Have courage, for in Matthew 28:20 Jesus says: “I am with you always…”

Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on April 2, 2019 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment