Novena from ‘Nuns Against Gun Violence’

The newly formed coalition of women religious bringing their unique perspective to the gun violence prevention movement has developed the following novena to pray in the 9 days leading up to National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 2nd.

Loving God, You created for us a world of beauty, order and endless possibilities.

But today ours is a world often in chaos: war, famine, drought, so many “isms”, lack of respect for life and for one another. In this our very own beloved country we face these issues day after day. One of these is uppermost in our minds these days—the horror of gun violence which continues to ravage our nation, our society, our people, even the youngest of our children.

Spirit God, we give you all names: Holy, Sanctifier, Paraclete, Advocate. Yet you are so much more: Challenger, Nudger, Whirling Wind and Engulfing Fire, Mover, Enabler, Lover, Breath of Life.

Be that for us, we pray. Instill in us your gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, reverence and awe. Pentecost us. Enable us to be as daring as the newly inspired Apostles—to be bold in our defense of the right of all persons to feel safe wherever they are, unafraid of being forever silenced by those who are armed with weapons and anger and sometimes even hatred.

Give us the courage to speak the Word. Give us the audacity to take the actions needed to end this needless violence against innocent victims.

In the name of our Creator God, in the name of the Word of Life and in the name of the Fire of Love. Amen.

Published in: on May 24, 2023 at 10:30 am  Comments (2)  

The Ever-Present Holy Spirit

Reflection for Pentecost Sunday by Creation Care Advocacy associate Sr. Louise Lears, SC

This reflection was originally posted in our May 22nd newsletter

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In the gospel for Pentecost, we find the disciples of Jesus huddled together in fear behind locked doors. They had good reason to be afraid. The religious and political authorities had crucified Jesus, their teacher. Yet, Mary of Magdala had seen Jesus, in the flesh, near the tomb where He had been laid. No wonder the disciples were crowded into a locked room, hoping to stay safe while praying about next steps. 

Into that confusing, frightening situation, Jesus appears, offering peace, showing them His hands and His side. We read that the disciples rejoiced when they saw Jesus, who extended His peace once again. Perhaps Jesus realized that He could not offer His peace too often. His followers would need His peace in order to go forth and preach the Good News. 

But Jesus does not stop there. He breathes on His faithful followers, gifting them with the Holy Spirit, who will enable them to do what they cannot do themselves. This Holy Spirit will give them courage to unlock the doors, go forth and proclaim the Good News, confusing though that news was!

The Spirit that Jesus breathed upon His followers in that locked room is the same Spirit who moved over the waters when God created heaven and earth. The same Spirit who surrounded  a young girl and made her the Mother of God. The same Spirit who compelled John Lewis to raise his voice repeatedly for social justice and voting rights. The same Spirit who inspired 17 year-old Indigenous activist Autumn Peltier to demand clean drinking water for First Nation communities. The same Spirit who emboldened Sister Norma Pimentel to journey in solidarity with refugees and immigrants to the United States. 

Even in our worst moments, Jesus’ ever-present Spirit can break through and raise up women and men and young people who turn things around, like John Lewis, Autumn Peltier and Sister Norma Pimentel. Jesus’ ever-present Spirit still speaks, still beckons us to walk gospel paths both ancient and new. The same Holy Spirit continues to send out disciples like you and me to make a difference. 

Will we unlock the doors in whatever room we are hiding, trusting that Jesus’ peace and the Holy Spirit will be enough? 

Sr. Louise Lears, SC

Creation Care Advocacy

Published in: on May 23, 2023 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Reflection on the Feast of Christ’s Ascension

Reflection for the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord by FAN supporter Fr. Joseph Nangle, OFM

This reflection was originally posted in our May 15th newsletter

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Feast of Christ’s return to his Father during his Ascension is the mandate for all efforts on behalf of justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

As he was about to take his leave, Jesus said to the disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth”. And at that dramatic moment as they watched him fade from their sight, they heard the words of angels: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?”

That says to me, now Jesus’ work is in our hands and those of all who will come to believe in Christ.

That work then and now is summarized in the principal message of Christ’s teaching: engagement in building the reign of God on earth. He insisted over and over that he had come to inaugurate the new creation of justice, peace and love and that would be the task of all who came after him.

In our times this teaching has taken on a greatly expanded meaning. We have come to a new consciousness as modernity has unfolded. The challenge now is to teach and witness to the message of Christ in a globalized world, in a world which is intimately connected for better and for worse.

The Ascension Day message in our time involves not only an invitation to individual conversion but a call to all nations, all peoples, all cultures. Bringing about God’s Reign now means the establishment of justice in a world of systemic inequities; achieving nonviolence in a world of armed conflicts; and stemming the destruction of our common home, planet Earth. 

Providentially, we have received a new grace from the Holy Spirit, guidelines for this expanded dimension of witness to Christ. That is Catholic Social Teaching. It has addressed virtually every aspect of human activity through the lens of Jesus’ teaching and stands as an invaluable resource for today’s disciples of the risen Christ.

An outstanding example of fulfilling this new meaning of witness is in organized responses to institutionalized poverty, violence and destruction of Mother Earth – such as the work of Franciscan Action Network. Organizations such as FAN point to the conviction that the enormous challenges faced by Christ’s followers today are best faced by groups of good people dedicated to these common purposes.

Returning to the words of Jesus and the angels as he concluded his historical time on earth and ascended to his Heavenly Father, let our guidance be witnessing to Christ’s message to the ends of the earth and acting on the command to take our eyes off the skies and act in the world around us.

Fr. Joseph Nangle, OFM

FAN Supporter

Published in: on May 16, 2023 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Love is as Love Does

Reflection for the Sixth Sunday of Easter by FAN Executive Director Michele Dunne, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our May 8th newsletter

In the reading from the Gospel according to John for the sixth Sunday of Easter, Jesus tells us what loving him consists of, saying it two different ways in case we should be in doubt: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” and “whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” For me, this passage recalls the old aphorism, “love is as love does.”  

So, if I want to “do” my love for Jesus, what are his commandments I need to keep? In the very same passage from John’s Gospel, Jesus’s command is delivered twice: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you,” and again, “This I command you: love one another.” The commandment is utterly simple, yet it takes a lifetime to comprehend and to live it out.

Luckily, I am not left alone, with my poor human brain trying to figure out how to love others as God does. After all, I am not God, and it is not possible for me to see others with God’s eyes. But Jesus tells us in the Gospel passage for May 14 that there is help on the way: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you.”

This suggests that there is some relationship between the truth that the Holy Spirit speaks within me and my ability to love others. Perhaps this truth, which Jesus promises will be “in” me, will keep me humble and nonjudgmental, able to see others and myself in right relationship and with divine compassion. Perhaps this truth will reassure me that this is not a love of a distant God or a Jesus who is far away—rather, as Jesus says, he is in me, and I am in him.

There is also a wonderful reminder in the second reading, from the first Letter of St. Peter, that love is not only as love does, but also as love speaks. St. Peter counsels us always to be ready to speak about our faith but to “do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear.” Speak my truth and my faith, yes, but not in a way that is self-righteous or excludes the possibility of other views.

So, let me ask myself plainly: Am I loving Jesus by loving others? Am I in sync with the Spirit of truth within? Am I saying what I know to be true and witnessing to my faith—in the most loving way possible? Am I doing what I know is the most loving thing even when it is inconvenient? Am I willing to sacrifice my personal inclinations and interests—for example, my desire to pay the lowest possible taxes despite the needs of the poor, my wish to see a foreign military aggressor not only defeated but humiliated, or my reluctance to learn the language or culture of new immigrants or refugees to the U.S.—to love others as God loves, not grudgingly but lavishly? Only if the answer is yes—for which I will need the grace of God every moment of every day—can I begin to follow Jesus’ commandments and therefore to love him.

I need companions on this challenging lifelong journey; how about you? Let’s walk together and work together to speak our truth and to love others through our advocacy for justice, peace, creation, and the dignity of human life. Please join FAN for upcoming events on root causes of migration (May 17), efforts for peace in Ukraine (May 25), care for the impoverished and homeless (June 28) and much more, so that we can learn with and from each other about how to love Jesus by following his commandments.

Michele Dunne, OFS

Executive Director

Published in: on May 9, 2023 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Climate Provisions in the Farm Bill

by Molly Mullin, FAN Intern

The Farm Bill 2023 is one of the most important pieces of legislation introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate this year. To better explain the climate-related provisions in the Farm Bill and why they should matter, especially to people of faith, I interviewed Madison Mayhew, a Federal Policy Advocate at Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) in Washington, D.C. 

Mayhew explained that the Farm Bill is a multi-billion dollar legislative package that needs to be renewed every five years in Congress. There are 12 titles within the Farm Bill that include topics such as agriculture, nutrition, and conservation, and the bill sets standards and funding limits for each of these areas of policy, which in turn affects domestic and global priorities for the United States. 

Mayhew emphasized that the Farm Bill has major climate implications. “It has a lot of opportunity for addressing greenhouse gas emissions and other areas impacted by the agriculture system,” Mayhew said. This is why many organizations with a focus on climate issues, such as IPL, are keeping a close eye on the bill as it progresses through Congress.. 

This climate piece of the puzzle is one reason why Mayhew believes the average American should be paying attention to the Farm Bill. “Sometimes, when people hear ‘The Farm Bill’ they think it only applies to big farms in the Midwest or places where a lot of crops are grown. In reality, it impacts all of us because it sets the priorities for agriculture and nutrition systems,” Mayhew said. Since American farms supply food across the country, the way they produce food and other goods contributes to climate change. Mayhew stressed that it is important to have farming practices that are sustainable and climate-friendly. Since the Farm Bill prioritizes what farming practices should be used, this legislation can greatly affect the role our country plays in the climate crisis. 

For people of faith, it is especially important to be invested in the Farm Bill. On this, Mayhew said, “As people of faith, we are called by a moral clarity to care for people and planet. It’s clear that the Farm Bill is one of the biggest opportunities we have to make sure that farmers are treated well and have the resources they need to protect their farms and do practices that are healthy for their communities and the overall climate.” As people of faith are called to protect the dignity and wealth of all people, Mayhew said they need to advocate for policies that demonstrate care for communities and creation. 

What can we do about the Farm Bill? There are many ways to advocate for the Farm Bill to be reauthorized in September 2023 with a focus on climate initiatives. FAN members can call their members of Congress and speak about the Farm Bill overall, or a few important specific notions within it. These include urging Congress to increase the Conservation Title (which provides funding for farmers to implement climate-smart farming practices) as well as funding within the the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to go towards climate-safety practices (as of now, this program only partially goes towards funding farmers who need financial help when implementing climate-safety practices). According to Mayhew, we should “prioritize funding for farmers who are actually implementing climate smart practices and encourage both older and newer farmers to change their ways of farming.” Divisions within the current Congress increase the likelihood that the current Farm Bill would be extended for a year, but we should keep advocating for a new and improved Farm Bill. 

Published in: on May 3, 2023 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Faith and Works

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter by Third Order Franciscan & Writer Gordon Kubanek, P.Eng.

This reflection was originally posted in our May 1st newsletter

Image by Alexa from Pixabay

Our faith can and must inspire us to do works every bit as great as Jesus did. This week’s readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter are loaded with clear guidance on how we can live a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life. I will focus on John 14:9 where Jesus says:

How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works.

Clearly, it appears, at least here, that works and belief go hand in hand. No belief, no works. No works, no confirmation of belief. What does that mean for us in our everyday life? This is a confirmation of what we all know but constantly need a reminder of: we must pray AND work. John is clearly telling us that the works Christ did ARE his message. Yes, words help, but more powerful were, and are, his deeds. Is it possible that this famous quote attributed to St. Francis comes from this part of John?

“Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

Our belief is clear: to be a Christian is to walk in Christ’s footsteps. Every saint, including the first  to be martyred, St. Stephen had the courage to walk in Christ’s footsteps towards the cross. That takes a faith that is courageous. It means that fear cannot control our lives. It means that conforming completely to our secular world and being seen as ‘normal’ is not our path. How do we walk that path of martyrdom? By allowing our belief in Christ to be so powerful that we do good works that demonstrate to any person the power of God. I leave you with the prayer listed below as you go into the world to build God’s kingdom.

Gordon Kubanek, P.Eng.

Third Order Franciscan & Writer

Published in: on May 2, 2023 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Living an Abundant Life

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter by FAN Communications Coordinator, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our April 24th newsletter

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

The readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as Good Shepherd Sunday, remind us that Jesus Christ leads us through the gate of salvation. The apostles use Jesus’ own life as an example to teach us how to live an abundant life. 

In the first reading, Peter proclaims, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Peter addresses Christian communities, pointing out how Jesus took no revenge on his persecutors: “When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten.” There was no violence stemming from the violence of the crucifixion, but instead, forgiveness and mercy. These examples begin to shed light on living an abundant life.

What is an abundant life? In the gospel, Jesus says, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” This pasture Jesus refers to is an abundant life. Knowing God and Jesus Christ whom God has sent is the key to finding pasture. It is knowing the voice of the good shepherd who truly cares for us. It is life in community, finding security and nourishment as part of his flock with abundant life for all. The abundant life is touching and living the divine life. It’s a quality, not a quantity.

Living an abundant life adds to the life of others and the world. It’s life that leads to life, love that leads to love, joy that leads to joy, hope that leads to hope, kindness that leads to kindness, generosity that leads to generosity, beauty that leads to beauty, and gratitude that leads to gratitude. It does not add to the pain of the world but adds to and enhances life, our own as well as others’. This type of abundant life is what we strive for through our work at FAN. We invite you to join us.

Janine Walsh

Communications Coordinator

Published in: on April 25, 2023 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Encountering the “other”

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter supporter and former Board Member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our April 17th newsletter

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

The Gospel reading this week for the Third Sunday of Easter of the disciples on the road to Emmaus accompanied by Jesus Christ is the story of each of us. How often are our “eyes prevented from recognizing him” (Lk 24:16) in those people we live with, work with, meet on the street, and see on the news?

For the past year, my religious community has been actively reflecting upon how we as individuals are prevented from recognizing Christ in human beings who may be different from us. We consider how we are all conditioned to “other” another human being based on nation of origin, skin tone, religious beliefs, accents, body size, what a person is wearing, disabilities, etc. We all resist spending time with certain people who are different from us or act in a manner we may oppose. We have attempted to take on the challenge to allow God to transform even our most cherished illusions about ourselves to encounter and embrace those we consider different or “other.”  

The late Pope Benedict once said, “closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God.” Becoming aware of how we are prevented from seeing Christ in another person through our implicit biases and fear is only the first step in allowing God to open our eyes and recognize (Lk 24:31) the image and likeness of our God in another whom we previously feared or opposed.  

By encountering the one we fear, oppose, or in some way “other,” we often learn to conduct ourselves with reverence (Ps 1:17) towards another as we discover that most of our biases are found in feelings and not truths.  

Moreover, in our divisive society and world, this Gospel demands that we go beyond recognizing Jesus in another. When the disciples recognized Jesus, they “set out at once and returned to Jerusalem” (Lk 24:33) to proclaim how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. As such, we are compelled to proclaim the God-given dignity of each person, to stand for and with the most vulnerable and those ostracized in our society.  

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

Supporter and former Board Member

Published in: on April 18, 2023 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

“Peace be with you”

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our April 10th newsletter

Image by Treharris from Pixabay

As I started focusing on my reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter  (also called Sunday of Divine Mercy by Pope John Paul II in 2000) and its beautiful Scripture passages, I was pulled in so many directions. In considering the connection of mercy with justice and advocacy, I asked myself: what makes me do what I do? Is it connected somehow to mercy?

I came across a quote from Pope Francis: “Divine Mercy often makes us aware of the sufferings of our neighbor.” I found this to be the answer to my question. What motivates me to advocate for justice is the awareness of suffering and injustice around me. The experience of mercy, of being forgiven totally, completely, and all the time by a Loving God, opens me to “see” my sisters and brothers, extend to them the same mercy, and advocate for a better world in which to live.

It is the suffering and the injustices all around that make me do what I do, the desire to make a better world by being mindful of the needs of people who are poor and suffer injustice. I went to search when and where Pope Francis said the words that touched me. I was so happy to find that it was in his homily on this same Sunday last year. I found it so insightful and thought provoking, as I always find Pope Francis’ homilies, that I decided to let him do the reflection this week. In that homily, Pope Francis reflects on the three times Jesus wishes the disciples, “Peace be with you.” It is well worth reading. Enjoy! Find homily here.

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

Director of Advocacy

Published in: on April 11, 2023 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Easter People Sing Alleluia in Darkness

Reflection for Easter Sunday Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection by Associate Director Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our April 3rd newsletter

Scripture readings for Easter overflow with exuberant praise, joy, and hope. We celebrate not only Christ’s Resurrection but our own. Because he has rolled back the stone and broken the bonds of death, so will we if we believe in the promise, if we live as Easter people. “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!” is a heart-felt cry attributed to St. Augustine. 

Our faith compels us to sing “Alleluia” even in dark times—personal, communal, or global. Twenty years ago, my younger sister died of lung cancer a few days before Easter. On the saddest day of my life, Alleluia stuck in my throat, but not quite in my heart. “He is risen!” offered assurance that my sister’s life was not ended, but transformed. She was free from suffering, singing her Alleluia in her God’s loving embrace.

Through the centuries, Christians in war ravaged countries, Christians oppressed by a dictator or in refugee camps or in prisons have sung their Easter Alleluia even in pain and through tears, confirming their belief in light beyond darkness, in life after death. The glorious “Exultet,” sung during the Easter Vigil is sung in darkness, except for the light of the Easter candle, symbol of Christ. Each stanza recounting the delivery of the Jewish people from slavery, up to Christ rising from the dead, begins “This is the night.”

The gospel narrative of Mary of Magdala arriving at the tomb notes that it was “early in the morning, while it was still dark.” Then everything changes. Here is the great Christian paradox, that life emerges from death, darkness gives way to light, hope prevails over despair. Easter people don’t settle for “happiness” as defined by the world, but seek the deep joy that is found by following Jesus up to Jerusalem, to be betrayed, denied, forced to carry a cross, executed and buried—and to rise from the dead as he had promised. Easter people sing Alleluia even when the song sticks in our throats.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

Associate Director

Published in: on April 4, 2023 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment