The Cross: Symbol of Reconciliation and Unity

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board President, Sr. Margaret Magee

This reflection was originally posted in our January 16 newsletter


weekchristianprayerOur readings this Sunday proclaim a clear message, prophecy is fulfilled in the person of Christ Jesus. The evangelist Matthew recalls the words of the prophet Isaiah that the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali are lands settled by foreigners. Isaiah calls these lands “a place of darkness” because in his time they were densely populated by non-believers, people who Isaiah would have referred to as pagans. For Isaiah, the few faithful Israelites remaining in these lands had difficulty holding onto their ancestral faith and traditions.

In the time of Jesus this same area was renamed Galilee, “Galilee of the Gentiles” as we hear in the Gospel. Though mostly populated by the Israelites, Galilee was surrounded by those they considered non-believers or Gentiles. They were looked down upon by many of the Jewish people because they feared the other, the pagan cultural influences that would weaken their faith.

In the time of Jesus, this region of Galilee had also become an occupied territory. Conquered by Rome and ruled by the Roman, Herod Antipas. We know him through the scriptures as “Herod the Tetrarch” or King Herod, whose brutality and intolerance of anyone who threatened his power, was legendary.

Jesus, the Christ, entered into an ethnically diverse land that was filled with mistrust and suspicion of those who were seen as different and suspect. It was also a society manipulated by oppression, violence, hatred and death.

Jesus came in simplicity and humility proclaiming a Kingdom of hope, light and justice for all people. Yet divisions, rivalries, and suspicion were evident even among those who would come to believe in Christ and formed one of the earliest Christian communities in Corinth. Paul, disheartened by the news from Corinth wrote insisting, “that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose…so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.” The cross of Christ, Crucified Love, is the symbol of reconciliation and unity.

The World Council of Churches has chosen the theme, Reconciliation-The Love of Christ Compels Us for this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25, 2017). This week marks the 500th anniversary year of the beginnings of the Reformation. The resource for worship published by the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches states, “The love of Christ compels us to pray, but also to move beyond our prayers for unity among Christians. Congregations and churches need the gift of God’s reconciliation as a wellspring of life. But above all, they need it for their common witness to the world…The world needs ministers of reconciliation, who will break down barriers, build bridges, make peace, and open doors to new ways of life in the name of the one who reconciled us to God, Jesus Christ…May people and churches be compelled by the love of Christ to live reconciled lives and to break down the walls that divide!”

Our Franciscan charism and spirituality calls us to be Christic peacemakers, instruments of peace. Francis of Assisi was truly a man of peace and reconciliation. Francis lived, embodied, and witnessed the person of Jesus Christ by breaking down barriers and seeing all people and all creation as sister and brother. In doing so, Francis became visibly marked by the wounds of Divine Love, the stigmata.  May we be the visible instruments of God’s presence opening doors to reconciliation, creating new relationships and new ways of building up the Kingdom of God.

Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN Board President

Published in: on January 17, 2017 at 8:42 am  Leave a Comment  

“I Do Not Know Him”

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Ms. Carolyn Townes

This reflection was originally posted in our January 9th newsletter


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“As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts.” ~ Saint Francis of Assisi, as quoted in 2017 World Day of Peace Message

In this season of Ordinary Time, there is nothing ordinary about our journey with Jesus. During ordinary time, we pause to get to know Jesus, as the nonviolent Prince of Peace. In this Sunday’s Gospel, John the Baptist, who was ordained from the womb to be the Prophet of the Most High, had to admit “I do not know him.” Of all the people who would have known the coming Messiah, you would think it would be John; who was the greatest born of woman, as Jesus described him.

The festivities are over so we can sit down, breathe and get to know the reason for all our seasons. Jesus came to bring us abundant life, but we must accept and receive this gift of abundant life. How do we get to know Jesus? By listening to him. We don’t know a person if we don’t take the time to listen to him or her. It is in the listening that we learn about the person. We learn about their likes and dislikes; their joys and sorrows; their hopes and dreams. And then, they listen to us. This is how conversation happens and in true conversation, there is conversion – a constant turning and shifting. A turning and shifting towards new ideas and information we learn as we listen. We don’t have to agree with what we are hearing, but we must remain respectful in the listening process. To truly listen to someone is a kind and loving act. This is pivotal to nonviolent living, living like Jesus.

When we read, share and meditate on the Gospels, we get to know Jesus more and more. And if necessary, we ask questions of the Spirit of God for clarity. John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus was he the one sent from God or should they keep looking. John needed clarity because even he “did not know him.” Just for today, pause, listen and get to know the Lord.

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

Published in: on January 10, 2017 at 9:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Stars and Shadows

Reflection for the Epiphany of the Lord by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Marie Lucey

This reflection was originally posted in our January 2nd newsletter


magiIt is hard to let go of the Advent and Christmas Seasons and move into Ordinary Time, especially since we expect 2017 to be anything but “ordinary” in political and geo-political terms. We have been nourished by prophetic visions and nativity stories of angels, dreams, and stars centered on the Child, Emmanuel, hope for the world. Epiphany closes the Season with the manifestation of the Christ Child to the Gentiles, with magi from the East bringing rich gifts and bowing in homage to the Child.

Even in this wondrous story of revelation, however, a shadow is cast, as the magi are warned in a dream not to return to lying Herod who plots to kill the Child. In fact, woven through the nativity stories are shadows of uncertainty, fear and doubt. Zechariah is struck mute because he doubts the angel. Joseph is greatly disturbed by Mary’s pregnancy and struggles about what to do until he is directed in his dreams. Mary is startled by the angel’s seemingly preposterous message. Uncertain, she asks her question, then proclaims her trusting Yes. Ordered by the tyrant, she and Joseph set out on a rough journey even though she is close to her time to deliver.

Through the years we have sugar-coated these stories with a bit of Hallmark romanticizing for our own comfort. Perhaps this year we will be more conscious of the shadows and take hope for our time. Isaiah’s marvelous visions came out of a time of struggle and anxiety. The time of Jesus and the gospel writers was a time of oppression, violence, and threats by both civic and religious leaders. Epiphany is marked by both a star and a shadow. In our shadow times, may we not lose sight of the star. May we trust the vision of Isaiah: “See, darkness covers the earth and thick clouds the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines…”; and the assurance of the psalmist: “Justice shall flower in his days and profound peace, till the moon be no more.”

Sr. Marie Lucey
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on January 3, 2017 at 10:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Mary Did You Know?

Reflection for the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God by FAN Director of Communications, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our December 26th newsletter


mary-jesus-frescoThis week we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. After giving birth to each of my three daughters, I became conscious of Mary as a mother in a much deeper way. With each new life handed to me, I recall praying to Mary, asking for her intercession and guidance in raising this new soul with the faith I was given.

When I hear her story today I am in humble awe of her unfailing faith in God. She must have had such a quiet, yet powerful strength about her. Knowing all she did about her Son, even before His conception and still saying yes to the angel must have taken every ounce of bravery in her. In this week’s readings, shortly after giving birth, she receives shepherds from nearby who “made known the message that had been told them about this child.” She solemnly keeps these things inside, “reflecting on them in her heart.” Would I have been so calm?

As we enter into the Christmas season, I invite you to reflect on your own mothers. Mothers are not perfect, not without sin like Mary was, but I believe we try our best. It’s an awesome gift to receive each Christmas, the ability to call on the Holy Family when we are in need. It is a great comfort to me to know that Mary and Joseph have been through what we go through and so much more.

I leave you with the lyrics of one of my favorite Christmas carols, “Mary, Did You Know?” by Mark Lowry.

May the Christmas season bring each one of you joy, peace and hope.
Peace and all good~
Janine

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM!

Janine Walsh
FAN Director of Communications

Published in: on December 27, 2016 at 9:23 am  Leave a Comment  

CLIMATE ACTION is the ultimate pro-life movement.

The following is re-posted from a blog by Mary Colborn, certified educator, writer, community activist, and organic farmer. She’s served as a climate activist and has worked for the Global Catholic Climate Movement as an organizer for the 2014 People’s Climate March.

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Reclaiming the Narrative

A few years ago my sister and I cleared away an old forgotten pile of wood on our family farm. As we were moving branch after branch and stacking chunks of wood, we startled a well-camouflaged toad. It responded to our intrusion by creeping deeper into the pile. Each time we shifted the pile and uncovered the toad, we’d call out to each other, “Watch out for the toad. Be careful you don’t hurt him.” Slowly, the pile dwindled and finally there was no wood left and no place to hide. Still the toad made an attempt by covering itself with a cluster of dry leaves. I was ready to wrap up the task, leave the toad where it was and find a new project, when my sister called out to my brother to come over and rake the site. Unfortunately, the first thing he did upon arriving was to make a swing with the rake toward the toad’s leafy hiding place. Together, my sister and I screamed out, “Watch out for the toad.”

I have no idea how the toad fared, because our little outburst set off a three hour rant. Shamed by us, my brother ranted and railed for hours about the “the crazy liberals who care more about the lives of toads than babies.” In confusion, I tried to explain that there were no babies present and certainly none at risk of being harmed. He just went deeper into his rant about abortion, adding insults on my character, focusing on the insane notion that I wanted to kill babies to save animals, like toads. As he continued his rant against “crazy environmentalists,” he grew more and more profane. I finally abandoned the work site for my own safety and left.

I tell you this story, not to share my personal struggles with right-wing family members, but to suggest instead that it is time for those of us who love the Earth to take back the narrative. We must get people to understand that our care for nature includes a deep and defining love for all life in it and upon it. We must make others know that we stand up for clean water, as so many of us did at Standing Rock and in Flint, because we love people. We recognize that people need clean air and clean water, as much as they need a connection to nature.

I say this, because we environmentalists have failed to adequately convey that we believe people matter and all life matters.

We who love the Earth must reclaim the pro-life narrative.

Sixty-some years ago, when the environmental movement started picking up steam, it was not about climate change…

Read more…

Published in: on December 23, 2016 at 11:24 am  Leave a Comment  

A Return to Truth

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Voltaire

reading-the-news

Franciscan Action Network is dedicated to advocating a vision of truth and integrity  which we  believe is essential in  bringing about peace in the United States and throughout the world.  The growth of widespread false statements and deliberate lies, referred to as “fake news,” that are flooding social media have resulted in potentially violent actions that are alarming and must be stopped.

An armed 29 year old man drove six hours from North Carolina to a pizza shop in Washington based on what turned out to be a fake news story concerning child sex trafficking that had been circulating on the internet for almost a month. At least one shot was fired. Thankfully, no one  was injured or killed at the restaurant; however this incident has focused attention  on the potentially dangerous consequences of “fake news.” We may never know who originated this particular story. It is unlikely their intention was the shedding of innocent blood. However, this incident demonstrates that this could have been the reality.

Victims of lies and violence are not only people, but truth itself. The dissemination of falsehoods, feigning as news, mocks those who have lost their lives for our freedom of press. This falsehood vilifies and belittles those journalists who have died in their quest to bring us the news. Moreover, in this particular case, made up stories about child sex trafficking denigrates the true victims of this horrific crime.

We add our voices to others calling for a return to truth and to our better nature, to self-respect as human beings, and to mutual respect for the common good.  We call on social media sites, which are  the source of news for over sixty percent of the population to,  return to an ethical code of conduct of integrity and reliability.

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.

The Society declares four principles as the foundation of ethical journalism and encourages their use in its practice by all people in all media. These principles are; to seek truth and report it; to minimize harm; to act independently; to be accountable and transparent.

We call on all people  to shun fake news, for it grows only as much as we “like” it to flourish further and wider in our webs of communication. As followers of the nonviolent Jesus, we have no option but to feel uncomfortable when we face dishonesty, misinformation, and propaganda from a deliberately deceitful  media.  We recommit ourselves to the tenets of the Franciscan Commitment to Civility in Discourse.

Published in: on December 21, 2016 at 1:56 pm  Comments (1)  

We Put Our Trust In the Power and Plan of God

Reflection for the Nativity of the Lord by Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap., FAN Board Treasurer

This reflection was originally posted in our December 19th newsletter


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For the past four Sundays we have been guided through the New and Old Testament to remember the promises of God to His People. We have listened to the cry of John the Baptist and the prophets and have been preparing ourselves for a direct intervention into our hearts and lives.

St. Francis looked to Christmas as a time to celebrate and also as a time to bring all together in celebration! God so loved the world that He sent his Son to be one of us so that through Him we may share Salvation!

In the midst of our celebration we must realize that it is not what we give as much as it is what we have received that is important.

“Happy Holidays” just doesn’t cut it when we think about welcoming the child who comes as Savior, to reconcile a world which seems to have little time for God. Welcoming the child challenges us to welcome all that He welcomes. We need to make room for all that God loves, including the unwanted, the marginalized, the burdensome, and the inconvenient. We must welcome the poor and the destitute, the stranger and the alienated, just as Christ has welcomed us.

A few years ago, I was blessed to be working in midtown Manhattan, with the hustle and bustle. A place of welcome to so many from all over the county and the world. Our community is still there trying to serve and welcome and offer a place of peace for prayer, reflection and welcome. But I have to be honest, at times there were disruptions and arguments that really put welcoming to the test. You never knew who would be walking in the doors of the office or what they would be looking for or seeking. We were a place for Saints and Sinners and all of us who are in between.

One day a young woman came into the office and was crying and upset. So I prepared myself and asked what can I do to help? She said that she was sorry to be so emotional but she knew that God wanted her to share her story with me.

She had come into the Church to pray and was distracted by two other visitors, who were talking and acting “different” than what she would expect someone to act in Church. So she decided to pray for them until they left. During her time of praying for them she thought and said in her prayer something about ‘look what the cat dragged in.’ After the pair left, she continued praying, then felt that God spoke to her and that was why she was crying. She heard God tell her that He also dragged her into Church in worse shape than those who disturbed her quiet time.

Let us all try to accept all that are a part of our lives as we go forth to celebrate the birth of Christ.  Continue to be kind and accepting of others especially within our families.

So, as we consider the circumstances of Christ’s birth, this is a perfect time to remember to pray for all women who are carrying children and the fathers of those children, particularly those who are fearful and challenged to provide for a family in these challenging times.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on December 20, 2016 at 8:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Do Not Be Afraid

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Advent by FAN board member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our December 12th newsletter


mary-joseph“Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.” (Matt.1:20) I often wonder how different the lives of Joseph and Mary would have been if Joseph acted out of his fear and followed the societal norms of his day. Over 2,000 years after Mary and Joseph awaited the birth of their son, we approach the celebration of this birth in a world where the welfare of some individuals is tied to the demonization of other human beings and where fear and violence is employed so that the privileged may retain power.

Francis, do not be afraid to embrace the leper, to seek an encounter with the sultan, to cultivate peace with the wolf. Our second reading testifies that we are all “set apart for the gospel of God…called to be holy.” (Rom. 1:1-6) In the Admonitions, St. Francis gives direction on his attempts to see the face of God through his fears and act out of the call to be holy. “Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” (The Counsels of the Holy Father St. Francis, Admonition 27)

What fears do we have for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our country and for our world? How is God calling each of us to stand with the vulnerable as Joseph stood with the very vulnerable, pregnant Mary? As people proud to be living in probably the most diverse and pluralistic society in history we recognize that our personal ideals and cultural norms will not fit everyone. Our Gospel this week serves as a reminder that love for each of our brothers and sisters, all created in God’s image and likeness, takes precedent over adherence to our cultural norms and ideals. As we enter this last week before we celebrate the birth of Jesus, may we pray for the peace, charity, wisdom, patience and humility that we need to assist in the daily birthing of Emmanuel “God with us” in our own lives and in the life of the world.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on December 13, 2016 at 1:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

“We Become What We Love”

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Advent by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our December 5th newsletter


contemplationAs we continue our journey through the Advent season it is good to take a step back and spend time in quiet reflection. Advent did not fully become part of the church until the late 6th or early 7th century. It originally was a season, like Lent, of repentance and penance. It is often described as a time of waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The word Advent itself means coming. It is derived from the Greek word “Parousia” which refers to the coming of a king. I find it fascinating and telling that we created a season to prepare for the arrival of a king given that the four Gospels each present a different Jesus. In Matthew, Jesus is the king; in Mark, He is the servant; in Luke, He is the perfect man; in John, He is God Divine. The king won out, after all who would spend four weeks preparing for the arrival of a servant? Yet in Mark 10 it says: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”

This week’s readings all have a theme of patience. The first reading from Isaiah prophesies about what will happen in the future. It says: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.” In our second reading we are told: “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.” We live in a world where patience is rare. We want instant gratification. We expect our prayers to be answered yesterday. When that does not happen we get angry, we blame others. If we learn anything from the election it is that we have created a world based on fear and blame. We are so disconnected from each other that we have failed to see the God in all of creation. We have ceased following the teachings and living the example of the servant and turned the servant into a king. We should stop calling ourselves Christians. I wish Jesus would come across the sky in a chariot and wave a magic wand to make everything right. But we all know that is not going to happen because Jesus never left us; we left Jesus.

The only answer I have comes from St. Clare when she wrote: “We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God’s compassionate love for others.”

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on December 6, 2016 at 9:14 am  Comments (1)  

Returning to Ourselves

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent by FAN Board Member, Ms. Carolyn Townes

This reflection was originally posted in our November 28th newsletter


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John the Baptist had a difficult task ahead of him. From the time he leaped in his mother’s womb, John’s divine assignment was ordained. He was to be the herald of the coming Messiah. He was to pave the way for the message and mission of the Christ.

During Advent, the appearance of John is very prominent and no less so in this Sunday’s readings. We hear John doing exactly what the Lord called him to do – preach repentance to the people of his day. This is what John was called to do: to usher in a new way of being with Jesus.

But John also had to practice what he preached. It wasn’t enough for him to point the finger of condemnation at others; he also had to look in the mirror of the waters of the Jordan River where he baptized. John had to keep his own heart pure as he was anointed and appointed by God to shepherd His people until the coming of the Son of God.

“The need to advise, admonish and teach should not make us feel superior to others, but first of all oblige us to return to ourselves to see if we are consistent with that we ask of others,” Pope Francis told his audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Part of our call to practice what we preach is to act with mercy. We must be about the business of kingdom justice; hearing the cries of the poor and the afflicted and doing what is ours to do to alleviate their suffering. We too are called, like John, to work for a more just society, bearing with one another in mercy and love. The task will not be easy, but we are gifted with the spirit of grace which assists as we need. As Pope Francis said, we must consistently “return to ourselves” to exercise that spirit of grace and mercy.

During this Advent season, as you examine your thoughts, words and actions, do you return to yourself to make sure you are practicing what you preach? Or, are you calling others to repentance without checking yourself in the mirror of the Word of God?

Loving and merciful God, grant us the grace to see what we need to see in order to do what is ours to do. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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

Published in: on November 29, 2016 at 9:35 am  Leave a Comment