Faith Shining in the Darkness

Reflection for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Carolyn Townes

This reflection was originally posted in our September 26th newsletter


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“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

In our world today, we have become overwhelmed and perhaps even desensitized to the news of violence and blood-shed. We wonder when it will end and pray to God for the violence to end. In this Sunday’s readings, we hear the Prophet Habakkuk cry out to God because of the violence going on around him. The Prophet continues to cry out to though God does not intervene. Yet God was not blind to the destruction nor deaf to the cries of the Prophet. God told Habakkuk to have faith and hold on.

Because we are so focused on the storms of violence, we have forgotten that we are people of faith. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we were not given a spirit of fear and cowardice, but we have been endowed with the power of faith. Yes, there continues to be violence and destruction, but as people of prayer and faith, we can overcome the misery of the world by remembering the power that lives on the inside of us.

Like the apostles, we want an increase of faith, not recognizing the faith we already have. Greater is He that lives on the inside of us than he that lives in this world of destruction. We have already been given the gift of faith; yet, we tend to wallow in the spirit of fear and that is what contributes to the world’s fear. This week, we commemorate the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, who also witnessed the violence and destruction in his day. As followers and friends of St. Francis, we are called to walk in the light of faith as instruments of peace, love and justice. Pope Francis wrote in Lumen Fidei: “The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence.”

As we have been given a spirit of power, love and self-control, let us exercise our human existence by living out our gift of faith in a powerful way. Remember where in your life you do apply your faith: when you leave your home every day, you have the faith that you will return to it. When you order food from a restaurant, you have faith that you will receive your meal. When you step into your car, you have faith that you will safely reach your destination. Do not allow a spirit of fear and cowardice to overtake you, but step into the light of your gift of faith.

Carolyn D. Townes, OFS
National Animator, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation
U.S. Secular Franciscan Order
FAN Board Member

Published in: on September 27, 2016 at 9:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Looking Down Upon the Poor?

Reflection for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board President, Sr. Margaret Magee

This reflection was originally posted in our September 19th newsletter


looking-down-poorReflecting on this weekend’s readings, we can mistakenly hear the gospel simply in its historical context. In that way we can feel derision and contemptuous ridicule for the rich man with his blindness and lack of care for Lazarus who went unnoticed as he laid at the rich man’s door, covered with sores. Or we can acknowledge that our blindness and lack of compassion continues to affect the lives of the poor in our neighborhoods, in our cities and in our world today. Our gospel today is not simply about generosity or charity it is deeply rooted in a call for our conversion, attentiveness and transformation.

The youthful Francis of Assisi could easily be cast in the role of the rich man with his expensive garments and rich linens. As the son of a rich cloth merchant he wanted for nothing. One day while assisting in his father’s shop and attending to wealthy customers, a poor man came in begging for alms. Francis, impatient with the man and desirous to complete his sale, caustically turned the man out. Later, feeling remorse for his words and actions Francis ran through the streets seeking out the man and upon finding him filled his hands with coins. Another event in Francis’ early conversion took place sometime later while he was making a pilgrimage to Rome. Overwhelmed by the vast crowds of people, especially those who were poor, crippled and destitute, he emptied the money from his purse at the tomb of St. Peter. He then went back out to the church steps and in the midst a crowd of beggars exchanged his clothes with one of the poorest. Dressed in the beggar’s rags, he sat on the church steps with hands outstretched begging for alms. In these events one can see the movements of grace in the life of Francis of Assisi. He moved from charity to a place of oneness with those in need. He moved from seeing himself as better or over others, giving from his excess to embracing those in need as sister and brother. This was the process of conversion which transformed Francis inwardly and outwardly into the presence of the crucified Christ, whom he loved.

We, who profess Christ crucified, must see the suffering and crucified in the poor and the homeless who often go unnoticed on our streets. We cannot be complacent and comfortable while others go impoverished. Let us not look down or away but gaze deeply in their eyes to see the presence of Christ!

Sr. Margaret Magee
FAN Board President

Published in: on September 20, 2016 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Praise the Lord who Lifts up the Poor

Reflection for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our September 12th Newsletter


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This Sunday’s readings offer an interesting perspective in light of what is happening in our political world. We are about 7 weeks from electing a new person to lead our nation. I have yet to hear anything about lifting up the poor. We hear a lot about emails or building walls, talk promoting fear and hatred of this group or that. But nothing about caring for God’s beautiful and wondrous creation, nothing about welcoming the stranger, nothing about the poor. I stopped watching all the news shows and talking heads. I keep waiting for one of them to ask “but what about the poor?” Our first reading from Amos could have been written to describe the situation today as easily as it described the world around 2700 years ago. The reading does not waste time or words; it starts right in condemning those who ignore the poor. “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” I pray that every priest, minister and preacher starts their homily with those words. The reading goes on “When will the new moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell our grain, and the Sabbath, that we may display the heat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals.” In today’s society, fixing the scales is not only accepted but encouraged. Many corporations only care about profit and will do anything to enhance profit, including stealing wages from workers, stealing resources from indigenous people, destroying the environment and using and promoting slavery. The reading ends with the warning: “The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!”

The Gospel from Luke continues with this theme. It ends with: “No servant can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and mammon” (money). Listening to all the political rhetoric, it is very clear that as a society we have chosen. Our choice is to worship money over God. Over and over Pope Francis has called for a cultural revolution. A rethinking of who we are. A shift away from a culture of individualism and separation towards living in connectedness, interbeing. A revolution that will put the needs of the poor and the protection of God’s creation over the wealthy and profit. I just finished reading a book edited by Ilia Delio: Personal Transformation and a New Creation. It is about Beatrice Broteau, a woman described as scholar, teacher, interspiritual pioneer, and intrepid explorer of the evolutionary edge of consciousness. In it, Broteau is quoted: “The coming revolution in consciousness is truly new, a genuine radical shift in our basic perceptions.”

In reading Amos and Luke and reflecting on what is happening today, it is clear that our basic perceptions haven’t changed much in 3000 years. Despite the prophets like Amos and Isaiah, the incarnation of God becoming man, the saints like Francis and Clare, and the modern day spiritual leaders like Merton and Broteau, we are still living in a society of separation and a culture where we worship money and ignore the poor, the stranger. By our Baptism we are all priests and prophets. So this Sunday if you attend service and your priest does not talk about the poor, does not mention worshiping money over God, does not preach on Laudato Si, then use your prophetic voice and stand up and challenge them. By our silence we are as guilty as those who protect the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on September 13, 2016 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Ending Slavery is Everyone’s Work

Reposted from the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking
USCSAHT Members Attend the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, by Jeanne Christensen, RSM


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Jeanne Christensen, RSM

The 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum took place the first week of June in Minneapolis, MN. The theme was Globalizing Compassion and its goal was Inspiring Peacemaking. The conference was under the auspices of the Norwegian Nobel Institute in collaboration with Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota.

This year’s keynote speaker was Kailash Satyarthi, one of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in 2014. In his acceptance speech, he said: “Friends! We live in an age of rapid globalization. We are connected through high-speed internet. We exchange our goods and services in one single global market, thousands of flights connect us from one corner to another corner of the globe. But there is one serious disconnect, and that is…

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Published in: on September 6, 2016 at 2:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Habitual Acts of Mercy

Reflection for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Carolyn Townes, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our September 5th newsletter


hands-compassion“So the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.” (Exodus 32:14)

One definition of mercy is: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. Grace is receiving what you don’t deserve; while mercy is not receiving what you do deserve. This Sunday’s readings all speak of the grace and mercy of God in the midst of undeserving. The Israelites who idolized a golden calf in place of God who rescued them from slavery. David the King, who committed adultery then murder to cover his sin. The Apostle Paul, a persecutor of the early followers of Jesus. The Lost Son, who squandered an inheritance he was not entitled to. All these people did not deserve mercy; they deserved to be punished for their iniquitous and criminal behavior. And yet, we see the boundless mercy of our God.

In today’s world where vengeance and violence abounds, acts of mercy are certainly not the ideal. Even random acts of kindness are only “random” and not habitual. Are we living a life so rushed that we have forgotten how to stop and take a breath? The people in the readings were living lives where God was an afterthought; until they came to themselves. Something had to happen in order for them to cry out to God for his mercy and then repent of their wrongs. Unfortunately that is our story today. Until there is a mass shooting or a natural disaster, we have forgotten that we are our brother’s and sister’s keepers.

As we commemorate this anniversary of one of our nation’s most horrific tragedies, I remember all too clearly the atmosphere surrounding the events. We were all ready to rally and rescue or recover. Our churches were filled with people crying out to God, trying to make sense of what had happened. I ministered in at least three churches at the time in New York City and witnessed the brokenness first hand. I cried with them, trying to come to grips with the unbearable pain of loss and grief. Like those people in the readings, I too had to come to myself, realizing that perhaps I wasn’t as merciful as I was called to be.

Where in your life are you called to be merciful rather than punitive? Where can you lessen the violence in your daily life? In the way you speak to others? Toward the homeless or those on the margins of society? Instead of waiting for a natural or human-made disaster, how about practicing a habitual and deliberate act of mercy. It is an act that you will never regret.

Carolyn D. Townes, OFS
FAN Board Member
National Animator, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation

Suggested Action:
This week, make a conscious effort to show mercy and kindness, not once randomly, but twice or three times intentionally.

Published in: on September 6, 2016 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Who Is God For Victims And Survivors Of Human Trafficking?

By Jeanne Christensen, RSM

Reposted from the September Monthly Reflection of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking.


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As persons of faith, our prayer calls us to respond to the needs of the world and our response in ministry leads us back to God. We are called to integrate contemplation and action. Who is God for each of us?

Who is God for victims and survivors of human trafficking? How does their endurance of daily repeated physical, emotional, and sexual abuses shape their image of God?   The trauma which trafficking survivors experience is very complex and complicated. How do we help victims understand the love of God and that they are spiritual beings worthy of being loved by God?

Ponder these questions for a few moments.

Here is what some of the exploited women served through The Justice Project’s Willow Tree in Kansas City said about God:

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Published in: on September 2, 2016 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment  

In Every Age, Emmanuel– God-With-Us

Reflection for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Staff, Sr. Marie Lucey

This reflection was originally posted in our August 29th newsletter


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This week’s psalm refrain reminds us to keep hope alive and not give up when crosses seem too much to bear. “In every age, O God, you have been our refuge.” (Ps. 90) In every age of Jewish history, with all its trauma, infidelities, and triumphs, God was their refuge. Throughout the ages of the Church, checkered with periods of light and dark, God remains our refuge. In our individual lives, from infancy to old age, if we seek God in all our life’s experiences, carrying the crosses of circumstance and even of ourselves (both burdensome and beautiful) God is our refuge, is here with us, even when we doubt it.

It is still August as I reflect on these readings, and very recent events occupy my thoughts: the Pax Christi USA conference, connecting with people striving to be peacemakers; floods ravaging Louisiana towns; Milwaukee exploding in violence where needs have been ignored; an Imam shot to death on a New York street after leaving a mosque; young Olympians using their talents, strength, and hard work to compete for medals for their home countries and perhaps make new friends from other countries; a major earthquake destroying lives and towns in central Italy. So much life and death, exuberance and grief, humanity and hate, on this planet in two short days. Before September 4th there will be more stories of suffering, of tragedies. We seek refuge in God, yes, but not refuge that merely comforts us and turns us away from the world’s pain.

Carry your cross, Jesus says in Luke’s gospel, and unite it with the suffering of others, not only people close to you but those whose stories appear in the daily news. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart,” prays the psalmist. In the wisdom of his old age, Paul pleads on behalf of Onesimus, a slave imprisoned with Paul who has become Paul’s “own heart.” The refuge offered by God comforts, strengthens, enlightens, assures, gives courage to carry the day’s crosses. And on Labor Day, let’s remember especially all underpaid workers and those seeking employment.

Suggested action: Identify individuals and communities in need of God’s refuge; pray for them.

Sr. Marie Lucey
FAN Director of Advocacy and Member Relations

Published in: on August 30, 2016 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  

“So That They May Be One”: John 17 and Catholic-Protestant Dialogue

By FAN Board Member, Kelly Moltzen. Cross-posted from her blog, Food for Thought and Action


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Yesterday, I stepped foot into the Bahá’í House of Worship for North America on the outskirts of Chicago with my good friend from high school, who happens to be Jewish. The Baha’i faith is one that is inclusive of all religions – actually, the Bahá’ís believe “the religions of the world come from the same Source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.” After my experiences with religious unity with GreenFaith, it felt so good to be able to return to this feeling of oneness, this feeling that I did not need to feel separated from my brothers and sisters of other religions and other denominations, despite the world’s great attempts to keep us all divided.  Growing up in the public school system, I have always had friends of other religions and denominations, and the divide between us because of my connection to the Catholic Church has always saddened me.  So, it felt good yesterday to be able to share in worship with someone who, other than babysitting kids at her temple during Jewish holiday services as a teenager, I had not previously shared a religious experience with.

As a teenager, I was very active in a Franciscan ministry program for youth called..

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Published in: on August 28, 2016 at 10:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Who has the Right of Way?

Reflection for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN board member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our August 22nd newsletter


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Recently, while taking a routine driver’s awareness course for my community, I came across this phrase, “You only have the right of way if the other driver gives you the right of way.” I have thought of this many times when I encounter aggressive drivers on the road. One unexpected consequence of remembering this phrase is feelings of peacefulness and calm while driving.

Our readings this Sunday remind us that when we try to follow the nonviolent Jesus our world and values will be turned upside down. Power, pride and social status were just as important to people in biblical times as they are today. Self-sufficiency, ambition and egoism are values ingrained in the social structures of our culture. Advertising and our economic system thrive on greed and self-absorption. We probably can all think of a time when we may have been personally humiliated by assuming “the place of honor at the table.”

Saint Francis wanted his followers to be “minores,” to differentiate them from those who have wealth and power. Francis wanted his followers to always be aware of their total dependency on God. The good we possess is a gift from God and the good that we do is only through God. We may wince at words such as dependency or minority and may tend to avoid any situation where we may be given “the lowest seat at the table.” We can only practice humility on a daily basis with God’s help. In her book the Humility of God, Ilia Delia writes that Saint Bonaventure describes the humility of God as God “plunging in the darkness of humanity to meet us where we are, in our violence.”

Gandhi taught that “the spirit of nonviolence necessarily leads to humility.” How different would our homes, our roads, our society, our politics be if we each practiced nonviolence, attempted to respond to situations in a nonviolent manner, for even an hour each day? The Franciscan Action Network website offers suggestions on active nonviolence.

Thomas Merton wrote that when he made the decision to try to act in a nonviolent manner he began by closing doors gently. Perhaps we can begin by remembering that when driving “you only have the right of way if the other driver gives you the right of way.”

This week: Try to close doors softly and be conscious of any aggression while driving.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board of Directors

Published in: on August 23, 2016 at 9:03 am  Comments (1)  

The Narrow Gate

Reflection for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Communications Coordinator, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our August 15th Newsletter


682This week’s second reading spoke to me as both a parent and a child. I remember as a child being disciplined for some wrongdoing, always thinking it was unfair. Yet, when I became a parent, all those little disciplines I got from my mom and dad were suddenly justified. I could see much clearer the love out of which those corrections came. It’s very hard to explain to 5-year-olds why they are being punished. Only later, when the child has a little “wisdom of age” does she or he fully understand the reasoning: Love. It is the same with God. All the trials we endure in this life, the author explains, are due to the Lord’s love of us, his children. “For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.” God gives us only what he knows we can handle. We are preparing for heaven by our responses to these trials.

In the Gospel, we have two seemingly contradictory statements. Jesus’ followers ask him how many will be saved. First, Jesus tells his disciples, “many will attempt to enter” into heaven, but “will not be strong enough.” Yet, by the end of the parable, we are given visions of many people from all over the world welcomed to the table of God. “People will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.” This sounds like the opposite of the warning in the beginning of the reading.

We have many ways of separating people in our society today; rich, poor, black, white, brown, gay, straight, the list goes on.  However, the Gospel assures us people from all over will be welcomed into the kingdom of God. God does not have favorite people. He doesn’t make distinctions of power, nationality, age, sex, money, etc. He loves all humanity without exception. The only requirement is Jesus. When we believe in Jesus and live by his ways, we will be united with one another and God. Jesus is the narrow gate through which we are to strive for heaven.

Janine Walsh
FAN Communications Coordinator

Published in: on August 16, 2016 at 9:53 am  Leave a Comment