Embrace the Beauty in the Broken

Reflection for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Communications Coordinator, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our February 6th newsletter

The Gospel readings for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time focus on the commandments and laws of Jesus’ time. In the first reading, Sirach reminds us of the choice we are given, saying, “If you choose you can keep the commandments,” and “if you trust in God,” then you will be saved. In the Gospel, Jesus revisits the commandments with his disciples, offering another way of thinking about them. Jesus does not condemn those who don’t follow the commandments. He recognizes that we as humans are not perfect beings. Instead, he gives us a lesson on humility by pointing out that we are all broken in some way. He urges us to understand the imperfection in ourselves, which allows us to reconcile with our broken brothers and sisters. If we want to follow Jesus, we must love each other despite our brokenness.

Saint Francis of Assisi realized that the more he let go of the things society deemed important, the more he could embrace the brokenness of the world. He recognized that material possessions were what prevented him from being able to love all things around him, so he gave them up. He saw beauty in the lepers, the outcasts of the world, those who were shunned by Assisi, while also embracing the beauty and brokenness of all of creation. Like Francis, we must give up the norms and visions of greatness that society has elevated and instead reach out to the outcasts as well as embrace the beauty in the broken. 

“Kintsugi,” also known as “kintsukuroi,” is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. What was once weak or disjointed becomes even stronger and more beautiful through these repairs. Think of all the beauty we could create by mending ourselves and others with the “gold” of God’s mercy and forgiveness. 

Our world is full of outcasts and people who are broken. Let us recognize that we too are broken and together let us strive to be a lifeline for those cast out by our communities, taking action to safeguard and support a more just and equitable society for all. 

Janine Walsh

FAN Communications Coordinator

Published in: on February 7, 2023 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Use Your Voice

Reflection for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Supporter Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our January 30th newsletter

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The readings this week for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time begin immediately with orders to be inclusive. Jesus calls us to be the salt of our society, to preserve what is good, true, and just in our society. In the first reading, Isaiah is clear on how to be light in the darkness: “share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, and clothe the naked” (Is. 58:7) with a demonstration of Spirit and power (1 Cor. 2: 4). Each time we reach out to or speak up for those vulnerable and “othered” by society, our light shines before others, and we glorify our all-inclusive God. (Matt. 5:16)

“That Little Voice” is a short YouTube video which addresses that little voice within each of us that urges us to stay silent, usually out of fear or self-interest, when we hear or see another person or group “othered,” bullied, or excluded. The video emphasizes the importance of finding your voice and making it heard whenever we see another person made in God’s image and likeness being “othered” or subjected to any non-inclusive behavior.  

Use your voice. Be the salt of the earth. Let your voice be the light that shines in the darkness.

Each time we do not speak up against language or actions that classify people as outsiders, it becomes more acceptable for us and others to engage in those same biased behaviors. People are less likely to participate in “othering” when we use our voice and help make non-inclusive behavior socially unacceptable.

As followers of our all-inclusive Jesus, who spoke for those “othered” in his time – women, children, lepers, sinners, and tax collectors – our voice matters in today’s society. Our attempts to live the Gospel of Jesus have concrete social and political ramifications. We must be the voice, the salt that preserves the values of inclusivity, truth, the interconnectedness of all, and the light that illuminates the significance of the common good to our divisive society and world where individualism reigns. 

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

FAN Supporter

Published in: on January 31, 2023 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Called to Unite

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time by FAN Director of Campaigns, Tobias Harkleroad

This reflection was originally posted on our January 23rd newsletter

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

So many wise yet paradoxical words in the readings for the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time!

I was speaking about this gospel with a group of high school juniors a few weeks ago and we took time to break down what the word blessed (beatitude) means. How can Jesus say: “Happy are those who mourn”? How can St. Paul tell us that God chooses the weak and lowly? How can the Psalmist praise the Lord and insist that God secures justice for the oppressed?

When we look around our own neighborhoods and around the world, we see oppression, hunger, poverty, violence and those most affected by these terrible things are the “weak” and the “lowly”. There are seemingly many reasons to mourn and to be unhappy! Yet, these readings speak of happiness and joy and promise that the Lord shall reign and bring happiness to those most in need.

We can be tempted to hear in the Beatitudes the promise of reward “in heaven” and to leave these promises in the Lord’s hands, but I think we must read the Beatitudes in their entirety and take into account the words of the Prophet Zephaniah: “I will leave in your midst a people who are humble and lowly” in concert with the words of Jesus specifically naming “those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.”

Those who hunger and thirst for justice may be only a remnant, but they know that justice is possible and is the will of God. We are called to be part of that remnant that is filled with those who are poor and weak and who seek righteousness. We are in this together: the meek, the mourning, the captives, and the hungry, alongside those who observe the law of God and seek justice.

It is because of those who seek justice and obey the law in righteousness that the hungry will be fed and captives will be released. The Psalmist can shout joy to the Lord because he knows that those who follow God’s law must care for those in need.

We must see these readings as a whole; they must have integrity and they must inspire us to have solidarity. Weakness and poverty, injustice and captivity, these things separate and divide. But, if we love the law of God and we thirst for righteousness, then we must feel compelled to live the law and bring happiness to our brothers and sisters. We can find our happiness when we seek to bring happiness to those who are cast down by systems of injustice. We do not have to wait to be “in heaven.”

In hearing these words we are called to be paradox; we are called to unite the thirst for righteousness and justice with the needs of those who suffer and struggle. We are called to bring forth the reign of God by risking persecution and anger for the sake of righteousness and justice.

Tobias Harkleroad

FAN Director of Campaigns

Published in: on January 24, 2023 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Faith in Democracy Vigil Address

By Imam Dr. Talib M. Shareef, USAF-Retired

On January 5, 2023, Franciscan Action Network and Light4America hosted “Faith in Democracy Interfaith Vigil.” We invited various faith leaders from different traditions to pray with us for unity and hope in our country. The following reflection was offered by Imam Dr. Talib M. Shareef, USAF-Retired, President, Masjid Muhammad, The Nation’s Mosque.

We acknowledge, call upon & give praise and thanks to Almighty G-d, The Compassionate, The Merciful. The same G-d for all of us, Who created us all and cares about us all equally.   As-Salaam Alaykum, I extend the Greetings of G-d’s Peace to all as well as my gratitude to the organizers for the invitation and for creating this space for these unifying moments of prayer and reflection on the theme: Faith for Democracy.  Faith is the common property of every Human being regardless of label or religious Identity, and Faith is the strongest energy for the establishment of the life that G-d wants on earth. 

We have gathered here upon Faith, on this eve of the anniversary commemorating the day our nation and the world witnessed an insurrection by fellow American citizens, right here, at this U.S. Capitol. It was an attempt to stop a Constitutionally ordained process of free – fair elections and a peaceful transition of power.  We were shocked but not surprised by the violent assault that was launched on our democracy bringing America face-to-face w/itself.  In coming face-to-face with our own humanity as a nation, the social fabric of our society, we began to see the threads coming apart.

Nevertheless, let us not overlook that a major enabler giving life to the present situation was a suitable environment.  We, as a society, are a product of our environment. Before we can correct the problems of society, we must first correct the problems in ourselves. The Present inherits the Past.  As a nation, we have inherited and have been caught in the mistakes of the past that are rooted in the fact that Human Beings were enslaved, oppressed, gravely mistreated, and used as beasts of burden. The nation grew and progressed, but its action during its growing process did not agree with its Constitutional position that all men are created equal & that all men have a God-given right to freedom, to life, to liberty, & to the pursuit of happiness. This conflict in the growth eventually brought about the end of chattel slavery and millions were physically freed. That “freedom” was just a move further in the path towards the real thing that the life of freedom was trying to manifest in America. Physical freedom came but some did not have the Human Dignity of other people and were not recognized as equal citizens of the nation. This tells us that a significant number of people, they had not yet seen the values that they claimed to stand up for. Despite the beautifully worded constitution, human beings were still gravely mistreated. There remained a disposition that said, “Yes, we believe that black people should not be chained or denied their rights, but we do not like to see them share w/us in America as our equals.” 

The Reality is that we are all, equally, the children of Adam, when he was created on the 6th day, He didn’t have a racial identity … ethnic ID, nor national ID etc, those IDs came later – The 1st Identity – Adam’s 1st Identity given by Almighty G-d, The Creator, was human.  And from that ID came all the wonderful, beautiful, diverse expressions of Human life that have contributed to the beauty and strength of America.  The Human identity is the most important ID and it will always be strong enough to support all other identities. The truth is anytime a new baby is born we see Adam again, good, pure, innocent, obedient to the life and the nature it was created upon, loving & ready to receive love, etc.  The baby comes here upon UNIVERSALS – not conscious of themselves as a race, ethnicity, nationally, etc, only human, and speaks universally, loves, cries, laughs, and communicates the same.  The mother, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, etc, in a state of nature, she feeds that child right from the place where she wants to hold that new precious life, right by her heart.  A beautiful endearing powerful picture of love and compassion.  Love is a key ingredient to a healthy Human being, healthy relationships, and a healthy Human society.  Dr. King said, “…We must meet the forces of Hate with the Power of Love.”

If there was or is a time for unity & solidarity, the time is now.  The unity we are to have can only manifest when there is real Faith.  Real faith requires real work to realize it. We can never simply believe, we have to also build upon our beliefs.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: “You will never enter the garden of paradise unless you have Faith, and you will never have Faith until you practice loving one another.

Faith is first but there is a condition for Faith- Love, until we practice loving each other.  How can you say you love Allah, G-d, whom you can’t see and you don’t even even love your brother and sister whom you see daily.

When you practice loving one another you strengthen bonds and because your brother or sister sees / knows you love him/her – He/she believes in you and trusts you – Faith is not just a belief, it is also trust.  We say “In G-d we Trust” So…Prophet Muhammad said “No Trust, no Faith.”

In Islam we have to testify, a declaration called the Shahadah:  when we do that we are Saying our Faith is 1st in G-d  – then Faith in man.  It’s a requirement of G-d, that we have Faith in Him and in human beings. 

This is a time for us to brighten up our hopes and have faith not only in G-d but also faith in one another, in mankind and subsequently Faith in our Democracy

America began “In the name of G-d,” and We say, “one nation, under G-d” and “E Pluribus Unum”, one out of many (expressing the makeup of the U.S. populous), we’re a nation of nations. A country made up of people from every land.  We Choose our leaders and We need our leaders to be respectful and reflective of our reality and to live up to the responsibility that WE, the citizens of this country have entrusted to them. That is, provide good government for the people, by the people, and to protect the rights of all citizens.   For G-d’s sake!!!   Let us have a true democracy and truly treat all citizens equally as the creation of the Creator.  We are here as people of faith, united, extending an invitation for us to respect and embrace our shared Identity as humans and Americans, to stay the course, do your civic duty and to value our intrinsic nature to live together peacefully and intelligently.  We pray for our Creator’s help in sustaining our resilience, patience, strength, and inherent goodness as we turn towards each other as fellow citizens.  May our Creator be our bridge over troubled waters as we work to build bridges of peace over violence, Love over Hate, Faith over Fear, & Unity over Division. 

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

Published in: on January 14, 2023 at 11:01 am  Comments (1)  

The Justice Circle at Cardinal Stritch

by Jordan Kiokee

As part of our outreach to form Franciscan Justice Circles (FJC) among youth and young adults, we have been building a relationship with different Franciscan schools, such as campus ministry at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The following reflection is from student leader Jordan Kiokee about the experience of forming a student-led Justice Circle on campus.

Cardinal Stritch University (CSU) is a liberal arts institution, founded and sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi of Milwaukee, WI, and dedicated to the Catholic intellectual and spiritual tradition, proudly proclaimed by our four Franciscan values: Creating a Caring Community, Making Peace, Showing Compassion, and Reverencing All of Creation. While these values are not exclusive to Cardinal Stritch University, the Franciscans, or even the Catholic Church, there is something special about the myriad ways in which our Catholic Franciscan heritage operates to actualize our identity. One of these ways is through our Office of University Ministry.

This is where I come in. My name is Jordan Kiokee, and I am a student of psychology in my senior year at Cardinal Stritch University. Alongside my Catholic faith and my interest in the social sciences, I have a passion for peace, justice, human dignity, solidarity, and a preferential option for the poor. Those familiar with the principles of Catholic Social Teaching will immediately recognize that these terms express the same idea: social justice. My love for exploring the theory and practice (or praxis) of social justice has been put into action by forming and leading a Justice Circle on campus.

Our Justice Circle began as an idea, and was pitched to me by our Director of University Ministry, Gino Grivetti. Gino envisioned a group that would be dedicated to the discussion and development of actionable changes in our community through the overlapping lenses of social justice, Catholic Social Teaching, and our Franciscan Values. During our initial discussions, we partnered with Nora and Toby of the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) in Washington, DC, to both gather resources and discuss strategies for a smooth and successful running of the group. As the semester progressed, I recruited members from various clubs on campus, including the Black Student Union, Latinx Student Union, Aspiring Educators Club, SAFE (Sexual Advocacy For Everyone), Eco-Club, and others. Next, we discussed our meeting schedule and decided to meet twice a month over a meal. Finally, we made a list of justice issues to discuss at each meeting. At this point the real work was ready to begin!

We had time to hold three meetings during the second half of the fall semester 2022. At the first meeting we made initial introductions, but I also added some questions and handed out some prompts for a short discussion on what the term justice means to each member of the circle. This would allow the members of the group to begin our journey together with a common understanding. At the next meeting, we jumped right into the nitty gritty, and discussed the intersection of environmental and racial justice, specifically how climate change, pollution, and natural disasters disproportionately affect black and indigenous people of color around the world. It was an incredible meeting, which ended up going for more than double the time we had originally scheduled. Finally, at the last meeting of the semester, we discussed the various ways in which wealth inequality disproportionately harms women and people of color in the United States. That was another meeting which went almost double over the time we had scheduled.

Before the last two meetings, I sent an email with short videos and a few prompt questions dealing with the concepts (rather than the exact content) of the videos. At the meeting itself, I distributed a handout with one additional question that attempted to stir up a brainstorming session on what changes we can make regarding the topic. For example, on the matter of environmental justice, the question was raised as to whether we could participate in federal programs that would install solar panels on our campus buildings. Since one of the members of the Justice Circle is the leader of the Eco-Club, this spurred discussion on future opportunities to make an organized effort to work with our administration to cut down the university’s waste and carbon emissions. How about that for a discussion group!

This is just a small example of what is possible when a dedicated group of involved students get together and exchange ideas and analyses of contemporary social, political, economic, and racial issues. The Catholic Franciscan heritage provided by the history and tradition of Cardinal Stritch University has proven to be a solid base for us to develop a deeper understanding of the problems facing people in the world today and to dream of the changes that we can actualize in our community as dedicated university students.

In the spring semester, we plan to continue with a similar gameplan: recruiting more members from clubs already dedicated to celebrating and defending the identity of students on campus and hosting bi-monthly meetings on the intersectional ways that injustice penetrates society. Additionally, we are planning a Mission Trip with the Franciscan Servant Scholars (FSS), which is a service-learning scholarship program also sponsored by University Ministry. With some fundraising, this should prove to be a pivotal semester that will showcase exactly what the clever, yet clear and devoted conscience of the Catholic intellectual tradition of Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi, can accomplish!

Published in: on January 12, 2023 at 10:30 am  Comments (1)  

Faith in Democracy Interfaith Vigil Address

By Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv.

On January 5, 2023, Franciscan Action Network and Light4America hosted “Faith in Democracy Interfaith Vigil.” We invited various faith leaders from different traditions to pray with us for unity and hope in our country. The following reflection was offered by Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop of Lexington in Kentucky.

While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in the darkness, brothers and sisters, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  For you are all children of light, children of the day.  We are not of the night nor of the darkness.  [1 Thessalonians 5: 3-5]

Saint Paul frequently reminded the early Christians that they were to be always alert and ready for the Lord’s return.  When that second coming did not occur as soon as originally thought, the Christian community had to pay more attention to how they were living the present moment in anticipation of the coming Reign of God.  They had to pay attention to the importance of right relationships with God and with each other and to order their lives by the values of God’s kingdom.

Pope Francis used this text earlier in the week in his message for the annual World Day of Prayer for Peace, observed each January 1.  His central message was that no one is saved alone, we are all in this together.  And, as he reminds us rather beautifully in his letter Fratelli Tutti, we need to rediscover the bonds that connect us as a human family of sisters and brothers in order to survive.

While two years ago on this night there were hints and warnings of impending violence right here at the capitol, many of us could not believe that in the “land of the free and the home of the brave” the transition of executive power from one administration to the next would not be done in the usual peaceful way.  We have since learned that our cherished democratic tradition of government of the people, by the people and for the people cannot be taken for granted.  We must be vigilant and not caught off guard by those who work to undermine the right relationships necessary for democracy to flourish rather than decay into mob rule or the values of “might makes right”.

It is well known that democracy was not the political system of choice for much of Christian history; no less a theologian than Saint Thomas Aquinas found it problematic.  It was the American “proposition”, especially as presented by the Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray in discussions of religious freedom at the second Vatican Council, that allowed global Catholicism to eventually consider the democratic system as a legitimate way to pursue the common good and to promote the intrinsic worth and dignity of the human person in a pluralistic society.  The formal endorsement of democratic forms of government comes most explicitly in John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus which elaborates the importance of citizens participating in political choices and the governed both electing and holding accountable those that govern them. [CA, 46].

The value of subsidiarity is likewise enshrined in the best practices of democracy.  John Paul warned that without respect for the rule of law democracy cannot function in the service of the people and the common good.  Corruption and secrecy undermine the values that make democracy productive.  Like Saint Paul reminded the Thessalonians, we are to be children of light, not of darkness. Our presence tonight is to insist that we cannot allow these values to slip away because we are not vigilant nor to be taken away by those who would prefer to be under the dictatorship of one who shares their views rather than doing the hard work of creating a democratic consensus in which all voices matter.  Pope Francis is not the first pope to suggest that political activity could and should be an expression of love.  Pope Benedict XVI, whose funeral was celebrated today, spoke of the institutional mediation of the polis as no less practice of charity than direct service. (Caritas in Veritate, 7).

As we gather in vigil and prayer for the survival and flourishing of our democracy, Pope Francis’ address for this new year is quite apt:,

“We cannot ignore one fundamental fact, namely that the many moral, social, political and economic crises we are experiencing are all interconnected, and what we see as isolated problems are actually causes and effects of one another. Consequently, we are called to confront the challenges of our world in a spirit of responsibility and compassion. We must revisit the issue of ensuring public health for all. We must promote actions that enhance peace and put an end to the conflicts and wars that continue to spawn poverty and death. We urgently need to join in caring for our common home and in implementing clear and effective measures to combat climate change. We need to battle the virus of inequality and to ensure food and dignified labor for all, supporting those who lack even a minimum wage and find themselves in great difficulty. The scandal of entire peoples starving remains an open wound. We also need to develop suitable policies for welcoming and integrating migrants and those whom our societies discard. Only by responding generously to these situations, with an altruism inspired by God’s infinite and merciful love, will we be able to build a new world and contribute to the extension of his kingdom, which is a kingdom of love, justice and peace.”

We are indeed sisters and brothers, we value the voices of all of our sisters and brothers and must seek ways to include the voiceless among us.  The events in this place two years ago remind us that democracy requires the engagement of all people and our faith reminds us that politics in the service of the common good is a noble expression of Gospel love.

Published in: on January 11, 2023 at 2:44 pm  Comments (1)  

My Choice or God’s Choice?

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time by FAN Supporter Gordon Kubanek, TSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our January 9th newsletter

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

We all believe that we are in control of our lives. We desperately want to be in control of our own life. But is this our Christian path? The Bible seems to tell us otherwise by asking a different question: Is it best that I choose or is it better if God chooses WITH ME? Or, to put it another way, am I “of the world” or “of God’s world”? 

The readings for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, like all good scripture, make us question the ways of the world, the ways of men and women, and point out that God’s ways are not our ways. For example, Isaiah tells us: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” For me this is a double whammy. First, that I, the servant, shall “raise the tribes of Jacob” – what if I don’t really want to do this? What about what I think? What about what I want to do with my life? If that’s not overwhelming enough and out of my comfort zone, Isaiah then tells me God says my role – like it or lump it – is to be “as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Wow! I am just little old me; I can barely get out of bed in one piece and brush my teeth properly and God, the creator of the universe, wants little old me to bring God’s salvation to the end of the earth??? That’s crazy! 

Well, yes, you got it. Your mission, my mission, the mission of all Christians, is to bring salvation to the end of the earth. An outrageous demand on God’s part, but, what would you expect from an all powerful, all knowing, infinite being? Once we have chosen God – which IS our choice – we are part of God’s team. When we choose to be on the team, God knows best what we can do for the salvation of everybody – including little old me. Personally, although I know this in my head, I still find it hard to accept in my heart. My ego, the little me inside, is crying out: “But why won’t God just have me do and be something normal and safe and something I am comfortable with?” Isaiah tells us “Sorry, you’re on Mission Impossible. Do it. Now.”

Maybe you think Isaiah was a little extreme – you know, a crazy Old Testament prophet. You might think that in the New Testament, through the love and peace of Jesus, God’s demands are a little more reasonable. Well, if you think this, you would be wrong. As we read in John, “We have found the Messiah.” He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas [Peter]” (John 1:42). I guess when you are God’s teammate you not only get sent on impossible missions but also have your name changed. It seems to me that God’s version of love means that we must, and WILL, become courageous and we must, and WILL, become a new person – a person we never thought we could be. If God wants you to help the poor – do it. If God wants you to care for creation – do it. If God wants you to be a peacemaker – do it.

You get to choose to be on God’s team but after that God, your loving Father, is working WITH you to accomplish his Mission Impossible of salvation for ALL the earth and in doing so transform you, perhaps with a new name, so that you become a new person – a true saint. Good luck on this adventure!

Gordon Kubanek, TSSF

FAN Supporter

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

Go by another way

Reflection for The Epiphany of the Lord by FAN Associate Director Sr. Marie Lucey, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our January 2nd newsletter

The secular world was finished with Christmas on December 26: untrimmed trees on curbs for mulch; carols silenced; gifts put away or returned. Back to business as usual. Not so in the liturgical world. Before we return to Ordinary Time, a great celebration of Mystery, Magi from a distant country guided by a star, gifts given and received, a dream warning and return journey home “by another way.”

Whether the wondrous gospel story of the Epiphany of the Lord by Matthew is historically true or not, this Epiphany/Manifestation has significant theological and spiritual life lessons for us. That Jesus Christ became human for ALL humanity—east and west, north and south—is one such lesson. Revelation of Divinity in human flesh is a lesson. Another, I suggest, is that when we return to “ordinary time,” we must travel “by another way.” The violent way of war, regional conflicts, and gun killings is not the way of the Prince of Peace. Deep political divisions fed by lies and racial hatred are not the way of Wonder-Counselor. Closing our borders to asylum seekers is not the way of the Sun of Justice. Splits within the Church are not the way of Jesus the Christ.

Francis of Assisi discovered this truth in his militarized society which ignored suffering of poor and vulnerable people, and a Church with corrupted clergy, so he set out by a different way embracing poverty, humility, compassion, nonviolence, and love of all Creation centered in Jesus Christ. In 2023, we are called by Jesus, Francis, and Pope Francis to seek another way through the turbulence of our time and invite others to join us, guided by the lodestar of justice/peace-nonviolence/care for Mother Earth and vulnerable sisters and brothers. 

Sr. Marie Lucey, OFS

FAN Associate Director

Published in: on January 3, 2023 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

A Mother’s Concern

Reflection for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God by FAN Creation Care Advocacy Associate Sr. Louise Lears, SC

This reflection was originally posted in our December 26th newsletter

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In our Gospel for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, we read that the shepherds have arrived in Bethlehem to find Mary and Joseph caring for the infant Jesus who is lying in a makeshift bed. We hear that all are “amazed” when the shepherds share what the angels told them: a child has been born this day, lying in a manger, who is the Messiah. Is it any wonder that Mary, recovering from the birth of her first born son, journeying in a strange land, and hearing the message of the shepherds, “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”?

In addition to the astounding news that her child is the Messiah, the Son of God, what else might Mary, likely a teenager, have pondered in her heart that holy night? Perhaps she struggled with questions common to other mothers looking upon their newborn children. How will she and Joseph care for this child, given their few resources? Will they find a safe place to raise their child? Will their new family be welcomed given the strange circumstances of Jesus’ conception and birth?

I think of mothers who might identify with Mary’s concerns. Mothers from Guatemala living on the streets of El Paso, Texas, waiting for the opportunity to seek asylum. Mothers who fled Afghanistan and currently live in the U.S., hoping for the right to apply for permanent residency. Mothers living in “sacrifice zones,” such as Cancer Alley in Louisiana, who are concerned about the impact of pollution from the nearby petrochemical plants on their children.

The concerns of these mothers are why FAN called on President Biden to lift a public health measure (Title 42) that allowed the U.S. government to deny asylum to those waiting at our southern border. Their concerns are why we advocate for the Afghan Adjustment Act, which will allow those who fled Afghanistan to apply for permanent legal status. Their concerns are why we call on the 118th Congress to pass environmental justice legislation that would vastly expand the power of communities to reject projects that cause long-term pollution.

Mary opens her heart to let in the Son of God – spiritually and physically. She moves beyond her doubts and fears to trust the message that the angels shared with the shepherds. May we too give birth to the God of peace and justice in our time.  

Sr. Louise Lears, SC

FAN Creation Care Advocacy Associate

Published in: on December 29, 2022 at 2:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Shepherds of Today

Reflection for Christmas Day by FAN Communications Coordinator Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our December 19th newsletter

Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay

The Gospel message on Christmas depends heavily on which Mass one attends, at least in the Catholic Church. The Vigil Mass offers the genealogy of Jesus or, as an alternative, the brief story of “how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” (Mt 1:18). For Mass at Dawn, we hear Luke’s story of the visit of the shepherds to the Nativity. For Mass during the day, there is John’s spiritual account of the Incarnation, with no details about Jesus’ birth. In the final option, Mass at Night, Luke introduces the device of the Roman census in order to place Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, telling a simple story of Mary giving birth, and concluding with the angels’ message to the shepherds nearby.

Whether or not the Roman census actually took place at the time of Jesus’ birth, considering how the Roman Empire looked at its inhabitants brings my thoughts back to the shepherds. Luke’s story says, “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.” The shepherds did not return to their hometowns to be registered. They were on the very bottom rung of society. They could not pay taxes and probably were not even expected to. They were nobodies. Imagine what it would feel like to be told by society and the government for your whole life that you don’t count. You don’t matter. You aren’t even worth the trouble to write down your name on a list so you can pay taxes. This was the case for those tending the sheep outside Bethlehem on that blessed night. Yet these chosen few were told first of the birth of the Redeemer Christ.

After the Angel departed from them, the shepherds could have stayed in the fields with the sheep; they knew the territory there, they had a job to do, and they knew they were not welcome in the city anyway. But they had both the raw courage and the profound generosity to share the message, to share the Good News, with people who had never valued them. That is grace. That is joy. That is a life transformed by the gospel.

Recently two of my FAN colleagues traveled to El Salvador and Honduras as part of a faith delegation of accompaniment, support and solidarity with local activists and organizations working to address the injustices there, and to enhance their awareness of the US government’s role in perpetrating those injustices. Equipped with this information, their objective was to take actions in the US, in solidarity with those they encountered, to address the injustices. 

FAN Advocacy Director Sr. Maria Orlandini told us of her heartbreak at seeing the poverty around her. Advocacy Associate Merwyn De Mello, an Indian citizen and US permanent resident, experienced being singled out and harassed at the Honduran border. In the ensuing 3 1/2 hours, the delegation accompanying Merwyn collectively implemented a range of tactics including the power of moral persuasion, prayer, and contacting persons of influence, while always including the Honduran official in the process and upholding his dignity. Merwyn was never left alone. Ultimately what started out as a deportation ended up with Merwyn being granted a Honduran visa, a joyful victory for the power of nonviolence. The grace with which Merwyn endured the situation was described as inspirational. 

People who are treated as “less than,” whether inside their country or at the borders, are the shepherds of today. Their courage and personal stories remind us of the shepherds in the gospel and provide a Christmas message we all need to hear and spread: God loves us so much and wants us to know that we count. You matter. You are important. The Kingdom of God needs you.

Janine Walsh

FAN Communications Coordinator

Published in: on December 20, 2022 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment