Are We Living as Christians or Hypocrites?

Reflection for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our October 17th newsletter

We live in very strange and disturbing times. According to Bread for the World, every day nearly 18,000 children die from hunger and hunger related disease. In the time it takes you to read this meditation around 60 innocent children of God will have died. We justifiably challenge our leaders and politicians who support the sin and evil of abortion, but we give a free pass and even honor those who contribute to the sin of hunger. We rationalize it by saying it is different. Sunday’s first reading from Sirach tells us: “The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites…. yet he hears the cry of the oppressed. The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.” Our God certainly heard the cry of those 60 children who died in the last 5 minutes. Did we hear their cry?

In a few weeks we will be giving candy out to children at Halloween. The children will be smiling as we put a candy in their bags. We will be thinking how cute they look. Maybe we will be thinking about when we were young and went trick-or-treating. We probably will not give a second thought to the children who are trafficked and sold into slavery to pick the cocoa seeds used to make the candy. God will certainly hear the cry of those oppressed children. Will we?

In an article by Cindy Wooden at Catholic News Service, we are told Pope Francis spoke with a group of young people October 13th and was asked what the greatest sin is. His response is prophetic: “…the sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy,” which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ.

“You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian,” he said. “You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes. You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25,” which is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the stranger.

“It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,” he said. “If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”

Luke’s Gospel reading starts with the statement, “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” The story goes on to talk about the two men, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee talks about how righteous he is, how he prays and gives money to charity. He does all the prescribed fasts and considers himself better than the sinners. The tax collector admits he is a sinner. We know how this story ends. In her book, Holy Thursday Revolution Beatrice Bruteau says Jesus’ teachings and actions mean “we are to deepen our purity beyond ritual observances and not let any purity practice divide us or set us at odds with our fellows.”

If we are so concerned with our rituals and our purity codes that we are not hearing the cry of the poor and oppressed and not acting on those cries, what does that make us?

Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on October 18, 2016 at 8:07 am  Leave a Comment  

FAN Member Letter to Editor Supports VA Congressman

FAN Member and Friend, Vinh Cam sent us a Letter to the Editor which was published in a local Virginia Paper, the Reston Connection. Here is the letter:

Connolly: Competent, Caring, Accessible


To the Editor:
As the headlines on the devastating impacts of climate change in our country and worldwide are hitting the media, we wonder whether our legislators are doing enough to address this issue. It is comforting to know that we have such a champion in our Congressman Gerald Connolly.

Here are some of Gerry’s environmental activities:
* Co-chair of the House Sustainable Energy and Environmental Coalition (SEEC)–54 members active on environmental, sustainable and renewable energy issues.
* As Chairman of Fairfax County, he helped adopt the County’s first comprehensive environmental plan and adopted the Cool Counties initiative.
* He is an original cosponsor of Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s Healthy Climate and Family Security Act, which is a cap and dividend proposal similar to what Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) advocates.

Gerry has visited 98 countries and has witnessed the pains inflicted on people by hunger, poverty, and political and religious repression. The burning desire to help Americans preserve our great democracy has led Gerry to pursue a career of public service on Capitol Hill. He has devoted his time to helping his constituents on all issues ranging from a small business matter to legislative efforts on climate change. His open door policy in welcoming constituents to express their concerns is managed by a staff who are committed to helping them in finding a satisfactory solution.

Coming from a war-torn country that was shattered by political instability and poverty, we have learned to appreciate the value of peace and democracy. It is exactly the type of representation and leadership found in someone like Gerry that we can count on to fight for social justice and to keep our democracy strong. Gerry is known for his tenacity and candor in speaking up and fight for a cause. He is competent, caring and accessible. Let’s work together to re-elect our Congressman Gerry Connolly.

Vinh Cam, Ph.D.
Founder & CEO
Vietnamese American Coalition

Published in: on October 14, 2016 at 3:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Be Persistent in Prayer

Reflection for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our October 10th newsletter

In the gospel for this Sunday, we see the persistence of prayer. I was inspired by the widow who continually for a “long time” begged for a judgment against her adversary. Giving up her persistence was not something she was going to relinquish no matter how uncomfortable and time consuming it was. She did not give in but finally the judge gave in reluctantly just to get rid of her who he considered a pest.  How many justice issues are we persistent about?

Two especially come to my mind – gun violence and the death penalty. They are taking a “long time” to overcome. Gun violence is almost an everyday occurrence in this country. Our greatest hope came when President Obama tried to pass measures to curtail the use of guns. It was rejected by Congress but he and many citizens are still persistent in ending such rampant gun violence even if it takes a “long time.” We will not give up. We persist by writing letters to our congress people, have concerts and sing peace songs, dedicate a weekend (Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath – Dec. 14 – 18) to pray for an end to gun violence and support our Representatives who staged a “sit in” on the house floor. These actions are persistent. And we have Faith!

In regard to the death penalty, organizations and citizens persistently petition and work with states to abolish the death penalty. Because of this persistence, 18 states have abolished the death penalty and the percentage of citizens who oppose it keeps rising. This can only happen when we hold steadfast in our persistence to the cause which has been and probably will continue to be over a “long time.” It may be a “long time” of persistence but we are told in Luke’s gospel that “God will see that justice is done…” And we have Faith!

Sister Marge Wissman, OSF
FAN Board Member
Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation Director
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, IN

Published in: on October 11, 2016 at 8:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Recognizing God’s Blessing in our Lives

Reflection for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN board member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our October 3rd newsletter

During a recent community day of reflection on the issue of immigration I asked my sisters to reflect on the words of the Magnificat, Mary’s hymn of praise we pray each evening, in light of how we think about our nation’s borders. Borders, fences and walls, in our country and in many areas throughout the world, are often built to divide those who possess the necessities of life, the rich and mighty, from those who lack what they need to live with dignity, the lowly and hungry. In the times of Jesus and St. Francis barriers separated those with leprosy from the rest of the population. “The ten lepers ..stood at a distance from him.” (Luke 17: 12-13) We all have internal personal barriers, yet God’s love, mercy and healing is inclusive of us all even when we exclude God by excluding others made in the image and likeness of God.

People who experience their neediness on a daily basis, as did Naaman and the lepers in this week’s readings, are often inclined to recognize their dependence on God and the interdependence of all peoples. Thomas Merton wrote, “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Gratitude never unresponsive.” In our readings this Sunday, both Naaman and the leper are grateful for their physical transformation but they also experience an internal conversion which opens them to the presence of God in their lives.

One may wonder if ingratitude for the many blessings we have as a nation is behind the discontent and intolerance that has been showcased during much of this election season. As a nation we are inarguably on the side of the border of the rich and mighty, not to deny that many in our country live in poverty and go to bed hungry. As a practice this week perhaps we could list three things each day for which we are grateful. The option to respond to any of the action alerts below or to those on the Franciscan Action Network website is a freedom not experienced by many throughout the world. We may all echo Mary’s words in the Magnificat, “God has done great things for me!”

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on October 4, 2016 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment  

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

“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

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


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.


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