Rainbows and Deserts

Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our February 12th newsletter


Rainbow Desert“I set my bow in the clouds to serve as the covenant between me and the earth,” proclaimed God to Noah after the great flood. Who doesn’t love a rainbow, sign of hope and promise? But without rain there is no rainbow. On this First Sunday of Lent, this translates into no resurrection without crucifixion and death. It is worth noting that God’s covenant is with Earth, not only two-legged humans. God’s creative and sustaining love is with ALL creation. We humans need this reminder as we continue to exploit, damage and kill other life forms, and harm air, water, and soil which try to sustain and energize our bodies and spirits.

The Gospel this week moves us from a rainbow to desert sand where Jesus struggles with wild beasts of temptation as he fasts and prays for 40 days. Exhausted, hungry, but victorious, he is ministered to by angels. Confirmed in his mission, he sets out to proclaim “the gospel of God… Repent and believe in the gospel.” In order to hear the gospel of love, mercy, forgiveness and faith we must repent of all that closes our ears and hardens our hearts to Jesus’ message.

As we embark on the Lenten journey, we ask ourselves what in our lives calls for repentance. What sins have we committed against our neighbors both close to us and, by negligence or indifference, those around the world? For what abuses of Earth do we need to repent and make amends? These readings of skyscape and landscape are intended to focus each of us on our soulscape. Rainbows offer hope. Angels in many forms provide comfort and strength as we face life’s challenges. Repentance sets our spirits free and offers joy.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

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Published in: on February 13, 2018 at 8:33 am  Comments (1)  

“I Will Do It”

Reflection for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our February 5th newsletter


BibleThe Gospel story this week brings a question as do the other readings from the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The question through the readings is the same and it is “Are we willing to Trust God’s Word?” And the follow up question should be “Am I willing to make an act of faith in believing God’s Word?”

These questions are a reflection about how open we are to God’s Love that we can be healed, we can be changed, and we can have our hearts turn from stone into the living, beating heart of God.

In our society, we love the success story, the retelling of how our struggles were turned around by our actions. We expect that each person will take care of themselves, will be responsible, will not bother others and should certainly not expect government help.

But God doesn’t just help those who help themselves. God helps those who ask and works miracles for those who believe and rely on God’s Word. How can I say that? All we have to do is read the stories of the founders of Religious Communities and Institutions, read about the lives of the Saints and the Blessed who are examples of believing and trusting in God’s Word and Action.

Jean Vanier the founder of L’Arche says it so well, “We are healed by those who are the most excluded and rejected, if we live with them in a relationship of friendship”.

May we all find this healing in our lives as we Encounter the other in our society.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on February 6, 2018 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Report on Honduras Delegation

Recently, our own Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini was part of a delegation to Honduras, heading down to show support for the Honduran people in their struggles with their government. Sr. Maria gave us this brief report.


Maria.Honduras

The delegation consisted of about 50 people from varying faith traditions and from different parts of the U.S. There were a few clergy from different Christian denominations, several journalists, many activists and returning missionaries and few sisters in our group. It was quite powerful and energizing to feel the commitment of the group and their willingness to share their stories. We were invited by Jesuits, in particular Padre Melo and ERIC (Equipo de Reflexión, Investigation y Comunicación) in Progreso, to accompany them in this very difficult time, in a way to be their shields and protect them from the police and military reprisal.

We had a press conference as soon as most of us had arrived at the airport to make it known that we were in the country. They came to welcome us with a big banner with the pictures and names of the 30 people killed or disappeared since the elections in December. The signs and welcome from the people warmed our hearts. They were so grateful we were there, and at the same time watchful to see the reaction of the authorities.

On the first morning we had a presentation on Honduras, including the historical build-up to the current situation. In the afternoon we went to a Mass held in a nearby village to pray for hope and courage in a village terrorized by the police. After Mass, we walked through the streets, stopping traffic, hoisting banners, and following Padre Melo to show solidarity for the Honduran people. You could feel the tension; it seemed everyone was waiting for violence to break out. The people were very grateful for our being there. They felt that the delegation’s presence was the reason there was no violence during the mobilization. In fact, every time we were present, the police never intervened, even though the protesters were always afraid and expecting violence which had been the norm for the past weeks. The Honduran people are very much determined to continue fighting for their freedom and the right to choose their leader. The people have decided: this is going to be their struggle for the next few years. They didn’t choose it and they want their country back.

On Inauguration day, the delegation was on standby in case we were needed as witnesses to any violence that might break out. We again spent time in the streets, walking, witnessing, chanting, praying, holding banners. That day no violence occurred at the events we witnessed. The situation became real to me when, before joining the protesters, we were given a small towel wet with vinegar just in case tear gas were thrown at the protesters. Thankfully, there was no need to use it.

After one of the mobilizations, mostly done by teenagers 14 or 15 years old, they were so afraid the police would run after them that we decided to accompany them back to their village. We walked with them for five kilometers to assure they returned safely. Several groups were so thankful and grateful that we were there, they wanted protection, to be accompanied in their struggle even by just walking with them. Our presence was felt, and each time we were there, the police never intervened in the group’s activities. They lined the streets with all their paraphernalia and guns, but they watched and let the situation enfold. Some of the delegates who knew Spanish tried to engage them and show our friendly side.

The last two days we went to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, four hours drive from Progreso. We participated in a Prayer Vigil in the street in front of the American Embassy. It really warmed my heart to see the faith of the people and feel their warmth. The next morning we went for “a lobby visit” with the acting US ambassador, Heidi Fulton. It was a memorable moment to be able to speak truth to power. We were so proud of the ones who spoke for all of us. We asked our country to stop sending military aid to Honduras which is used to militarize the country and against its citizens. We do not think we touched the hearts of anyone in the embassy, but we did say what was in our hearts, especially to urge them to protect the life of Padre Melo and others who have received death threats. We wonder why we never learn from history, that what is happening to Honduras is a repeat of El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.

The last night was a FIESTA in great style with live band, “baleadas,” and of course dancing. It was the way for the people to say thank you for our presence, for having responded to their call for help. In reality the delegation owes them a big thanks for their welcome and hospitality. From the Sisters of Notre Dame who hosted us, to Padre Melo and every single person we met, we found a warm welcoming smile. I was once again reminded of how joyful Latin American people are. They have chosen not to allow the struggle to take away their joy. What a beautiful witness to choose to celebrate life, even if lost, in gratitude for the life given and the length of time it was given.

I found hope all around. There was a clear sense that the struggle will be long but determination to keep in the fight and do it together. The words on the tee shirt they gave us the last night summarizes it: “Con El abrazo de los pueblos, venceremos los miedos.” With the embrace of the people, we will conquer fears. (Padre Melo)

As we returned, we committed ourselves to raise awareness of the stories of the Honduran people that we have heard. There are plans to for a project to raise money to protect the radio station with bullet proof glass and rebuild the radio tower destroyed a few weeks ago by the government. These will be shared as plans are finalized and assistance requested. For a good information about what brought the situation in Honduras to this point please read this article.

There were many photos taken while we were there:

Day One: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157665074900998
Day Two: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157691922436194
Day Three https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157691949789574
Day Three Demonstration: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157689887467332
Day Three Police Assault Reporter’s House with Gas: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157692018268214

Day Four Meeting Victims: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157690005912502
Day Four Blockade: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157663268019067
Day Four Safe Walk Home: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157692931816535
Day Four Demonstration: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157691253056851

Day Five Candlelight Vigil at US: Embassy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157668984332279

Day Six: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157663264380997

Day Seven: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54922368@N07/albums/72157690036928192

Published in: on February 3, 2018 at 8:25 am  Comments (1)  

Urgency of the Message…no time to waste

Reflection for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini

This reflection was originally posted in our January 29th newsletter


hourglassAccording to Mark’s Gospel this Sunday, this is Jesus’ first full day “on the job” so to speak. After being baptized in the Jordan, and spending time alone in the desert, choosing a few friends to hang out with, Jesus started to proclaim the Good News in the synagogue in Capernaum where his teaching is noticed, new and coming from someone who speaks with such authority that “even the unclean spirits obey him.” His reputation spreads fast and by the end of the day the whole town was gathered at the door of the house of Peter’s mother-in-law whom he has cured even before he could have dinner. Jesus then cures all those who were brought to him before going to sleep. A very long and busy day indeed.

The next day he rises very early and is off to a deserted place to pray. The peace does not last too long because he is reached by his new friends telling him that everybody is looking for him with many more people to heal. Jesus tells them “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.” And then he proclaims “For this purpose I have come”.

Jesus is on the move in Mark’s Gospel. I feel the urgency in his words and deeds; he has so many people to reach and the Good News to proclaim. It feels like he knows that time is short and he has too many things to accomplish and so many things to say on behalf of His Father.
The same urgency and sense of being sent for a purpose, is in Paul’s words in his first letter to the Corinthians “for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!”

Where does my urgency lie? Do I really feel it? I too have been called by my Baptism to continue the mission of Jesus in our world today. Do I/we feel the urgency to proclaim God’s mercy and love to our world that seems to have lost His teaching as a compass? There are so many towns and villages that seem to have forgotten their Christian roots, so many people who need a word of comfort and healing.

There is no time to waste because our world needs help: Nuclear arms race being reignited; Social inequality growing larger and larger; gun violence rampant in our cities and our leaders unable or unwilling to act to help; health care seen as a privilege not as a right for all citizens; millions of people displaced and fleeing from their homes because of war and famine; millions of people in our own country living in fear of deportation, and a seeming unwillingness from our leaders to see their suffering and find a solution. And this is not an exhaustive list.

How can we face this daunting mission and not feel overwhelmed like Job who asks “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?” Like Jesus and like Paul we can only rely on the One who chose us for a purpose, spend time daily, maybe like Jesus early before dawn, to renew our commitment to be the face of love, justice and compassion in a world that seems not inclined to hear it. We can only “offer the Gospel free of charge” knowing full well that “We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.” (Bishop Ken Untener)

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on January 30, 2018 at 9:36 am  Comments (1)  

Belief and Action

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our January 22nd newsletter


cross.faithIn yesterday’s Gospel of Mark, Jesus called the first disciples to follow Him. Jesus’s words were so powerful, they left everything behind to follow Him. This week’s readings challenge us to remember the moment when God called us and stirred our hearts into action from our ordinary lives. But the true message of this week’s readings is, to have our hearts and lives changed or turned around by God’s word we have to believe in He who is speaking to us and to act on our beliefs.

Recently, our Capuchin Community in the United States rejoiced at the Beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey. He was a simple man who had a great belief in God’s Divine Providence. He taught us to “thank God ahead of time”, in answering our prayers and to trust in God above all else and at all times. That is the great beauty in the history of our relationship with God. When we believe and put our trust in God change happens, there is healing, and there are changes in our lives and in our society.

In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, we hear God proclaiming that, “I will raise up for them a prophet (like Moses) from among their people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who will speak to them everything that I command.” Now, we can assume that the word is true by virtue of their source in God, not everyone will believe. This is why God then adds: “Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself shall hold accountable.”

The Word of God does or should not lead us to Passivity, but to change, or encounter with the other, or to action. But too often, we are similar to the Pharisees and ask for a visible sign or miracle instead of being changed ourselves or standing up for change in our safe social life and settings. We are interested, intrigued even, but we still aren’t ready to commit, to become the prophet or the agent for change and justice.

St. Paul in the second reading, really hits the nail on the head with the passage from 1 Corinthians, “I should like you to be free of anxieties.” We are simply too anxious about all the wrong things.

This week, we are again offered a choice; are we following and looking for signs or are we becoming a sign of believing and trusting in God’s word in our lives and for our society?

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap
FAN Board Member

Published in: on January 23, 2018 at 9:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Transformation in Ordinary Time

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time by FAN Communications Coordinator, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our January 15th newsletter


TransformedAccording to the Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, Ordinary Time is the period where: “no particular aspect of the mystery of Christ is celebrated, but rather the mystery of Christ itself is honored in its fullness.” The mystery of Christ itself, of transformation, speaks to the reasoning behind the readings this week. In the first reading, we are given a glimpse of a merciful God in the story of Jonah calling on the people of Ninevah to transform their lives and repent for their sins.  In the gospel, we hear again the story of how Jesus called his closest friends and challenged them to become disciples, requiring a transformation of their worldly ideals. However, it is Paul’s warning to the Corinthians in the Second reading which called to me in particular.

Paul advises the people of Corinth that the time of this world is short, imploring all to conduct themselves worthily in the eyes of God and be detached from this world’s pleasures. Our hearts, minds and eyes should be more focused on God’s desires than our own. In our pursuit of worldly ‘riches’ and material ‘progress’ we are compromising the quality and meaning of our lives and the lives of those around us. How many possible Divine revelations are we missing because we take our focus away from God? This detachment from worldly and societal “needs” and “values” can I’m sure be seen as a great suffering by some, but  it is often said that one can be transformed through their suffering. Transformation is the ultimate goal.

Richard Rohr offers, “Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to both destabilize and reveal our arrogance, our separateness, and our lack of compassion.” Saint Francis, Saint Teresa of Calcutta and other saints were transformed, not just through their own suffering but also by living with the suffering of the entire Body of Christ. They worked with the poor and marginalized and felt the suffering of ‘the other’ deep within themselves. They prayed and trusted in God to transform this suffering in their time. God does not work on our human timelines, but S/He does allow for human transformation.

Are we willing to be transformed? Do we have the humility to trust in God’s plan instead of our own? Do we have the courage to endure the suffering of others and allow it to transform us?

Janine Walsh

FAN Communications Coordinator

Published in: on January 16, 2018 at 10:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Peace and All Good

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our January 8th newsletter


listening (2)As we enter into this new year our readings this Sunday call us to the importance of listening. Samuel, the psalmist and the first apostles hear God’s word to them by attentively listening to God through the people and the events of their lives.

We enter this year in a country where “fake news” masquerades as unrelenting lies; falsehoods and cover-ups are far more common by our elected leaders than transparency, reality and objective truth. One of the last acts of our elected officials last year was to shamelessly vote for and celebrate legislation which will harm a majority of their constituents; all this against the wishes of these very vocal constituents. The disregard for democracy, among those elected and sworn to protect it, is unprecedented in US history. Money appears to give people license to detach themselves from the collective fate of the rest of Americans. Children without healthcare, Dreamers and immigrant families, refugees, those suffering from natural disasters were all cast aside in order to serve the financial interests of the .1 percent most affluent people in the country, some of whom are these legislators’ major donors (and many of whom are the recipients of federal contracts.)

How do we listen and hear God’s word to us through these events and through the people in our lives? We know the lessons of history and know the dangers of leaders who have no regard for the truth, who demonize people more than speak out of love, who scapegoat minorities and who gather the wealth and resources of a nation as their own. As citizens informed by the Gospel, the life of the nonviolent Jesus and the example of Saint Francis who recognized the gifts and dignity of all God’s creation, we cannot remain indifferent but are impelled to bring a moral and nonviolent voice to the public arena.

In the 2017 World Day of Peace Message Pope Francis stated that “Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict.” Erica Chenoweth writes that even under the most repressive regimes, nonviolence proves twice as effective as violent movements. Pace e Bene is a Franciscan Organization which fosters a just and peaceful world through nonviolent education, community building and action, programs endorsed by the Franciscan Action Network. May we journey through this year saying each day “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Sam.3:10) Show me what is mine to do today to be a nonviolent instrument of your peace.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Secretary

Published in: on January 9, 2018 at 9:01 am  Comments (1)  

Obey or Disobey?

Reflection for the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our January 1st newsletter


Magi (2)This Sunday we are celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord. The celebration has different meanings among Christians. The word ‘epiphany’ comes from the Greek word ‘epiphaneia,’ meaning ‘manifestation or appearance.’ In the Roman church it is generally considered the feast that celebrates the visit of the magi. It is often described as the revelation of the incarnation of when God became man. In Eastern Christianity, it is associated with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, a time to acclaim to the world that the Messiah has come. The feast of the Epiphany is one of the oldest Christian feast days we celebrate. The feast is filled with rituals, songs and pageants. We all remember the song “We three kings of Orient are bearing gifts, we travel afar.” I remember when I was about 9 years old, I was selected to play one of the kings in the Christmas pageant. I was so excited I could not wait to run home and tell my mom.

Over the years, I have heard the story preached, I have read theological interpretations on its meaning, the significance of the gifts, and who the magi were. As I was reflecting on this Gospel something struck me. Verses 7 & 8 say: “Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” So, the Magi were given a direct order by the King. Herod told them to return and let him know where this child was. Later on, Matthew says: “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.” I wonder what the magi were thinking? They had just been witness and part of a cosmic event. They may not have understood the significance but they knew something remarkable happened. They were ordered to return to Herod. Not to do so would be a violation of a direct decree by the governor; in effect they would be breaking the law. They were risking arrest and, in all probability, death.

In my work, I am often involved in nonviolent civil disobedience. I am often challenged by folks who say that we should obey the laws of our country. I wonder what would have happened if the Magi felt that way and returned to Herod instead of following their hearts?

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on January 2, 2018 at 9:27 am  Comments (2)  

This Week We Celebrate Family

 

Reflection for the Feast of the Holy family, by FAN Board Member, Sr. Marge Wissman.

This reflection was originally posted in our December 25th newsletter


Holy FamilyThe gospel passage this week starts with only three people: Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Obeying the law, this new family makes their way to Jerusalem to present Jesus to the Lord. As they enter the temple, they encounter Simeon to whom the Holy Spirit had revealed that “he would not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.” And Simeon knew that this was the child! He revealed to Mary and Joseph that he had good news and bad news. The good news that Jesus will be a revelation of God to all people, the bad news that his revelation would not always be welcomed. This tiny child will grow into “a sign that will be contradicted.” Having been amazed by Simeon’s words they now met Anna, the prophetess. Anna spoke about this child for “all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem”, that it is time to thank God for sending Jesus into the world.

Mary and Joseph were taking in the revelation that this child was not just part of their insular family but is here for all. Over 7 Million people in the US live in a different state this year from where they lived last year. Over 40 million who live in the United States today were not born here. Putting these things together, most of us no longer live in the midst of the families into which we were born, but within families that we have made. And so our family is much larger than we often envisioned. Simeon said that God is at work in all people, so we should not fear to build positive relationships with those who are new to us or different from those we have known in the past. Thus we are part of a very large family.

One of the greatest symbols of family connections in human history is to gather around a common table. When we gather around the table of the Eucharist, we are called to remember that we are joined together by God’s love into the biggest family – God’s Family! Let us pray for acceptance and rejoice in our large family.

Sr. Marge Wissman
FAN Board Member

Published in: on December 26, 2017 at 8:24 am  Leave a Comment  

With God, Nothing is Impossible

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent by FAN Intern, Matt Ryan

This reflection was originally posted in our December 18th Newsletter


climbing hill“Don’t put your gods too far above you,” is an admonition my Dad gave me once when I was feeling some self-doubt about my own abilities in comparison to others. Only God belongs on a pedestal.

I’ve thought of his advice this Advent, when we joyfully await the birth of our God who “littled” himself to become one of us. What an awesome mystery of humility to contemplate.

Our Gospel this week tells of the Annunciation, a joyful mystery; the source of our “Hail Mary;” and the predicate to the “Magnificat.” It details how the angel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin saying she was full of grace and would give birth to our savior Jesus. Mary was troubled by what she heard. She wondered how she could have a baby? What did all this mean? Mary was a lowly, young, unmarried girl from Nazareth. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46.) She thought herself entirely unworthy. Who wouldn’t be overwhelmed by such a message? We have all felt lowly, unworthy, and overwhelmed at times. Being overwhelmed is almost culturally required this time of year.

This Advent season, however, has been particularly overwhelming with the barrage of battles on every front. Wars, environmental catastrophes, and xenophobic immigration policies flash in our news feeds with a rapidity that could easily leave us numb and incapacitated.

As Franciscans, however, we choose life, rather than numbness and we choose hope, rather than complacency. It’s a difficult path, yet we can take comfort in Mary’s example. We are reminded in the Gospel of the following: 1. God does speak to us, even though we initially may not understand. 2. We have free will to act. 3. The seemingly impossible becomes possible.

As we continue to fight for peace, refugees, immigrants, and the care for our common home, God will walk with us, even though we don’t know exactly where our faith journey will take us. God will hear us, even though the answer may not come when we want it. Let us pray God also will use us as His instruments to make the seemingly impossible, possible: Welcome for immigrant, safety for the refugee, and protection of our common home. Let us ask this through the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary for “nothing will be impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37).

In joyful hope, have a blessed Advent and a Merry Christmas.

Matt Ryan
FAN Intern, St. John the Baptist Province Postulant

Published in: on December 19, 2017 at 9:19 am  Leave a Comment