Joyful Expectation

Reflection for the Second Sunday in Advent by FAN Director of Advocacy Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our November 29th newsletter


Our Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent begins with a litany of names and titles. Proclaiming these tongue-twisting names seems unnecessary and an awkward preface to the meat of the passage, but Luke is setting the preparation for the coming of Jesus in the context of world history. It is a real story about real people in a real place in real time. It is not a fairy tale set in some other world. Luke wants to make sure it is clear what is the universal purpose of God when he says that the gospel belongs to all people. The gospel is for the world. This is God’s gift to God’s creation.

Luke preserves these names of influential people for posterity because of their influence upon the lives of John and Jesus. The gospel will not only encounter the poor, lame, and blind, but also the synagogue rulers, high priests, governors, kings, treasurers, city officials, imperial guards, and finally the emperor himself. Luke is also speaking to the covenant community: “the Word of God came to John.” John’s ministry is the fulfillment of the collective prophetic voice: “Prepare a way for the Lord; clear a straight path for him.” Luke later designates John’s preaching as “the Good News.”

Our first reading from Baruch, probably the least known of all the books of the Bible, is clear and unambiguous: A mourning and dispirited Jerusalem and people will have cause for celebration because God is about to act to bring those people home. The God of mercy and righteousness will not leave God’s people scattered in exile. What a wonderful message for Advent. It evokes hope and expectation in the hearts of those of us who wait for the coming of Jesus, those of us who sometimes feel we are in exile in a strange land following a crooked path.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians expresses affections generated by a long-standing relationship. Paul is not writing to a church he has only recently established, but to a church he has known for years. He received their prayers, their loving concern and their money. It is a genuine partnership that existed between Paul and his supporting church that accounts for the intimate tone of this prayer. Every time he thought of them he became thankful. Every time he prayed for them, it was an occasion for joy. His bond with them is one of pure affection: “God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” The Advent pearl of wisdom for us is that “…you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”

What is the Good News for us as proclaimed by Luke, spoken to those in physical and virtual exile by Baruch, and in supportive communities like Philippi?

“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Advent is a time to renew and deepen our relationship with God. It is a time of patient waiting for God, prayerful and trusting waiting for God, in this world that so needs it. Because the season of Advent is so important the Church gives us four weeks to celebrate it. Let us celebrate Advent with our hearts. It is an opportunity to step back from that which preoccupies and distracts us daily and make a straight way for the Lord this Advent.

May our prayer every day be: “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on November 30, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

We owe it to them

by Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose writings are published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


Image by billy cedeno from Pixabay

During the U.S.-led coalition’s 20 year devastating war in Afghanistan against the Taliban, the poverty-stricken people of that nation suffered the brutalities of war of which most of us can only barely begin to imagine. And the recent end of that war, has not ended the suffering.

According Brown University’s “Cost of War” project (see: https://bit.ly/3CEW5Pp), Afghanistan has endured at least 46,319 civilian war deaths, serious human rights abuses against civilians committed by CIA armed militias, mental health problems in two-thirds of the population – including countless traumatized children – large-scale destruction of infrastructure and over 2 million refugees.

On top of all this misery, millions of Afghans are facing imminent starvation!

According to the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, the U.S. Congress allotted more than $3 billion for the Afghan military before it fell to the Taliban in August. Raising a powerful moral question, the Quincy Institute asks, “Do we have similar determination to help the Afghan people as millions face starvation this winter?”

According to the Quincy Institute, the U.S. has pledged only $474 million to ease Afghanistan’s starvation crisis. They emphasize that this amount pales in comparison to the trillions of dollars spent to wage war in Afghanistan, and is far less than what is needed to avert mass famine.

According to a recent U.N. report, Afghanistan is on a “countdown to catastrophe without urgent humanitarian relief.”

The report starkly states, “The combined shocks of drought, conflict, COVID-19 and an economic crisis in Afghanistan have left more than half the population facing a record level of acute hunger.” 

In the report, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General QU Dongyu appealed, “It is urgent that we act efficiently and effectively to speed up and scale up our delivery in Afghanistan before winter cuts off a large part of the country, with millions of people – including farmers, women, young children and the elderly – going hungry in freezing winter. It is a matter of life or death” (see: https://bit.ly/30LlAkK).

“Hunger is rising and children are dying,” said David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program. “We can’t feed people on promises – funding commitments must turn into hard cash, and the international community must come together to address this crisis, which is fast spinning out of control” (see: https://bit.ly/3HH0S6U and watch inspiring video: https://to.pbs.org/3nC7N9g).

Please contact your national representatives urging them to robustly fund lifesaving aid to the desperate Afghan people. (In the U.S. email and phone your two senators and representative/Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121). And everyone needs to pressure President Biden, urging him to push for far more immediate and long-term aid funneled through NGOs like Catholic Relief Services. Email him at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/.

Also, please make a donation to Catholic Relief Services’ highly effective lifesaving efforts on the ground in Afghanistan https://support.crs.org/donate/support-afghanistan).

The world, and especially those nations that waged war in Afghanistan, cannot largely ignore the life and death emergency facing the long-suffering Afghan people. These are our brothers and sisters crying for our help.

Pope Francis, in his inspiring and challenging social encyclical letter titled Fratelli Tutti (“All Brothers: On Fraternity and Social Friendship”), urges us to build a Gospel-centered fraternal global alternative that replaces our “throwaway culture” with the “culture of encounter.”  Francis writes, “I very much desire that, in this time that we are given to live, recognizing the dignity of every human person, we can revive among all a worldwide aspiration to fraternity.”

Suffering Afghanistan is calling us to build Pope Francis’ “culture of encounter.”

We owe it to them!

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.

Published in: on November 27, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Keep Hope Alive

Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent by FAN Member and Supporter Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our November 22nd newsletter


In this week’s Gospel, Saint Luke refers to the actions of the sun, moon, stars, roaring sea, and the waves as heralds of the second coming of Christ. (Lk 21:25) From prehistoric times human beings have experienced the majesty and power of creation as revelatory of the greatness of our God. Pope Francis writes in Laudato Si’, “Saint Francis invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness.” (LS, 12)

In a year when many throughout the world suffered from fires, floods, drought, heatwaves, and “once in a century” storms, and when nearly 1 in 3 Americans experienced a weather-related disaster, we may be, hopefully, waking up to the fact that humankind has put the earth on a path of unsustainability and destruction.

As we light the first Advent candle, traditionally the candle of hope, we look with hope to those dedicated to lovingly caring for and stewarding all of God’s creation which has been entrusted to us.

Many individuals and faith-based organizations have committed to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. A collaboration between the Vatican, an international coalition of Catholic organizations and “all men and women of goodwill” (LS, 3), the Laudato Si Action Platform takes a “ground-up approach rooted in the strengths and realities of communities around the world.” We are all invited to take “decisive action, here and now” as we journey towards a better future together. (LS, 161)  

Perhaps in the next four weeks, as you prepare for the celebration of the birth of our Creator, you may consider joining a group in your parish, online, or in your geographical area that is engaged with walking the path of renewing our earth together.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

FAN Member and Supporter

Published in: on November 23, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Celebrating Christ the King

By FAN Board Member and Oldenburg Franciscan Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our November 15th newsletter


Image by Avi Chomotovski from Pixabay
Image by Avi Chomotovski from Pixabay

In this Sunday’s liturgy we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. In 1925, Pope Pius XI established the feast of Christ the King in his encyclical Quas Primas (In the First.) This encyclical was a direct response to the growing nationalism that was taking hold across the world. The First World War had just recently ended, fear was everywhere and the time was ripe for the rise of tyrants. In fact several years after this encyclical was written, Mussolini and Hitler rose to power through the false hope they gave to their followers. Hope that centered on the tyrant’s personality and played upon the greatest fears of their followers. Truth died, others were demonized, power was centralized, and the rest is written in history, hopefully never to be repeated again. The goal of this feast as envisioned by Pius is to remind us that Christ is our only guiding authority, not the state or any other person. 

In the Gospel for this feast, Pilate who ruled under Caesar asked Jesus: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answers that his kingdom does not belong to this world. Then Pilate said to him: “Then you are a king?” But Jesus never really answered that question directly in his reply: “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world – To testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Thus Jesus stated what was his mission in this life – to testify to the truth, to witness to the truth, to speak to the truth, to reveal the truth. Truth is total dependence on God. A kingdom of servant king, loving king, and shepherding king was exactly what Pope Pius XI envisioned by this feast of Christ the King. It is to remind us that Christ is our guiding authority!

Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF

Oldenburg Franciscan

FAN Board Member

Published in: on November 16, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Climate change risks devastating conflicts – even nuclear war!

by Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose writings are published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


Image by Kevin Snyman from Pixabay

As climate change rages along its disastrous path of increasing and more intense natural disasters – hurting the poor most of all – it now appears that a majority of people are finally beginning to admit climate change is for real – and that pollution from humans burning oil, gas and coal is the main cause.

But one disastrous possibility related to climate change most people do not yet seem to realize is that more armed conflicts, new wars and even nuclear war are dangerously becoming more possible.

As reported in a 2020 U.N. press release, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe Miroslav Jenca warned, “The climate emergency is a danger to peace.” He explained that record temperatures, unprecedented sea levels and frequent extreme weather events point to a dangerous future for the planet and for humanity, as lives and livelihoods are threatened, competition increases, and communities are displaced.

Jenca added that while no automatic link exists, climate change exacerbates current conflict risks and is likely to create new ones. As an example, he cites that in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, the impacts of climate change have already deepened conflict and provided fuel for extremist groups (see: https://bit.ly/304Y7uu). 

As I write, a breaking story reported by the The Guardian highlights how at least 1,000 refugees from countries including Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are tragically being forced to remain in a freezing woodland border line between Poland and Belarus with soldiers on both sides forcing them to stay out – and forbidding them to apply for asylum (see: article and heartbreaking video https://bit.ly/3H75UZR ).  

While it’s uncertain to what extent climate change is playing a role in this tragedy involving refugees from countries immersed in multiple armed conflicts, nonetheless, it is reasonable to note that these nations are also very arid countries where climate change is making growing food and obtaining adequate access to water even more difficult. And in general, we know that climate change has started to, and will, generate countless refugees – who are sadly not welcomed by most of the world’s nations.

Now adding to the desperate, unjust situation forced upon these hungry and freezing refugees – including young children – on the Polish-Belarus border, is the possibility that an armed conflict could break out between these two nations.

Since Poland is a member of NATO, and Belarus is a close ally with Russia, it is conceivable this situation could escalate into a war between NATO and Russia – which could devolve into a catastrophic nuclear war.

While this frightening, worst case scenario is presently unlikely, it does point to how this, or something like this, could really happen in a worsening climate changing world (see: https://bit.ly/3od5uZu).

But in this case not just climate change, but armed conflicts, dysfunctional international relations, and outside powers jockeying for positions to their advantage are all inter-related tragic factors.

Pope Francis, in his famous environmental encyclical letter Laudato Si’ (“On Care for our Common Home”), encourages us to live and promote the concept of “integral ecology” – an understanding that everyone and everything is connected, and that “today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis” (see: https://bit.ly/3oa4fKD).

In light of the Glasgow international climate change gathering of world leaders, and their resulting inadequate commitments to address the growing dangers of climate change, it is most appropriate for us to boldly act on the Holy Father’s challenge in Laudato Si’ calling us to exert public pressure “to bring about decisive political action. … Unless citizens control political power – national, regional and municipal – it will not be possible to control damage to the environment” (see: https://bit.ly/3mYD45U).  

Pricking our consciences, Francis reflects, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.

Published in: on November 13, 2021 at 10:30 am  Comments (2)  

Living with faith and not fear

Reflection for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our November 8th newsletter


As we approach the end of the church’s liturgical year the readings for this Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time call us to reflect and focus on the events of the end times. This apocalyptic theme is not unknown to us, especially to those who are drawn to TV programs and movies which portray the destruction of humanity and the earth through cataclysmic earthquakes, consuming fires, devastating floods, plagues and yes, even a viral global pandemic. Truth be told, all of this sounds like many of the evening news reports we’ve watched over these past nineteen months of the COVID pandemic.

Some researchers believe that watching pandemic and apocalyptic programs or movies can be a coping mechanism. Coping mechanisms are strategies people use when experiencing great stress and trauma. They are often ways to manage difficult and painful emotions. These strategies help us to maintain balance and emotional well-being.

Another way of looking at the popularity and our fascination with the apocalyptic and pandemic movies is how they can lull us into a false sense of reality and security. The happy endings with the heroes and heroines discovering that last minute miraculous solution that solves all the problems and saves the people and planet is truly a made for Hollywood moment. What is needed today is a good dose of reality and the awareness of the critical role each of us and all humanity has played and continues to play in the environmental crisis and the destruction of the earth and her resources.

Perhaps our scripture this weekend can serve as a real and urgent wake-up call. In the first reading, the prophet Daniel speaks of the distress and tribulation but affirms that it will be those who are wise who will shine brightly and lead the many to justice.

We who profess Christ and the gospel as our way of life must lead with justice and the wisdom that speaks to a world that has grown cold, uncaring and deaf to the plight of people who are immigrants displaced by war, violence, earthquakes and floods. We must work, teach and advocate for the restorative justice and integral ecology that sees all of life, all of creation, all of humanity as integrally related and connected. Consider the recent pipeline failure that caused the major oil spill off the coast of California. This single catastrophe has poured 126,000 gallons of oil into the ocean potentially harming wildlife and presenting a danger to human health.

We must come to understand the role that we, as members of the human race, have played throughout history in industrial development and the over-consumption of fossil fuels and other natural resources.

On September 10, 2021, Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issued a joint statement calling on people of all faiths to take action to halt the devastating impacts of climate change. “The current climate crisis speaks volumes about who we are and how we view and treat God’s creation. We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure. But we also face a profound injustice: the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsible for causing them.”

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, is currently being held in Glasgow, Scotland until November 12, 2021. How many of our parishes, colleges, universities and communities have educated and prepared its members for this important event? How are we following the decisions and plans being developed in this conference? We need to be the heralds of change. We must take up this important work and call people to action and justice for all people and for our Sister Mother Earth. It is time to act and to change our ways!

Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF
Board Member

Published in: on November 9, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Give of Yourself and Your Need

Reflection for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member Bro. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap., MSW

This reflection was originally posted in our November 1st newsletter


This week’s Scriptures are a call to give of yourself and to offer to God not a surplus, but from your need. This call is indeed very challenging. Perhaps more so today because our society rests on what it wants which makes us feel important. We want to have the latest, such as clothing, as is the case with far too many things.

I will always remember my experiences with immigrants and refugees, especially bringing them shopping for the first time in a supermarket. They entered and were overwhelmed by many choices for the same food. They were even more mystified by their first trip to a superstore!

But isn’t that the same experience that St. Francis underwent in his conversion and perhaps the same experience that has happened in your family’s history? We keep trying to live simpler lives, to declutter what we have to conserve and recycle and to help others we may meet who are in need.

A call, a challenge, a change usually means a nudging by God to be uncomfortable and to give to others of ourselves through our time, talent, or treasure.

The poor widow in this week’s reading, heard the call of the Prophet that he was hungry and thirsty. Because of that she was blessed.

Our love needs to be focused on others and their needs and a little less on our wants. So this week, let us focus on our own lives, our own direction and on our journey. Perhaps we may not be able to help someone until we take time to talk to them.

There is a story that Mother Theresa was talking to a group of people about how to do God’s will. She said that once you know the names and stories of the poor you can embrace them, value them, accept them, and then you can start to help them.

Bro. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap., MSW
FAN Board Member

Published in: on November 2, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Pope Francis at his prophetic best!

by Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose writings are published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


Clearly siding with the world’s poor and marginalized in a video message for the recent Fourth World Meeting of Popular Movements, Pope Francis boldly declared, “Seeing you reminds me that we are not condemned to repeat or to build a future based on exclusion and inequality, rejection or indifference; where the culture of privilege is an invisible and insurmountable power.”

Reflecting on the many crises around the globe, the pope continued, “Every person, every organization, every country, and the whole world, needs to look for moments to reflect, discern and choose, because returning to the previous mindsets would be truly suicidal and, if I may press the point a little, ecocidal and genocidal.”

Yes, Holy Father, please press the point!

Ecocidal and genocidal are truly accurate words to describe what most of those who hold corporate, industrial, economic and political power are inflicting on our earth-home and all of humanity – especially upon the poor and vulnerable of this generation and generations yet unborn.

And ecocidal and genocidal also accurately describe the attitude of all the rest of us who remain indifferent to the crises now confronting us.

“The pandemic has laid bare the social inequalities that afflict our peoples,” said Francis.

The pandemic has forced us to at least glimpse at some of the longstanding grave, highly immoral inequalities between rich and poor nations as evidenced in vaccine distribution.

Continuing his message to the popular movements – who advocate for the poor and vulnerable like themselves – Pope Francis said, “We have all suffered the pain of lockdown, but as usual you have had the worst of it.”

Continuing his broadening of the term pandemic, the Holy Father says, “And speaking of pandemics, we have stopped questioning the scourge of the food crisis. … Annual deaths from hunger may exceed those of COVID. But this does not make the news. It does not generate empathy.”

Instead, the pope hopefully reflected, “If all those who out of love struggled together against the pandemic could also dream of a new world together, how different things would be!”

But resistance to just and loving changes run deep, Francis says. “They are what the Social Teaching of the Church calls structures of sin, these too we are called to change, and we cannot overlook them in the moment of thinking of how to act.

“Personal change is necessary, but it is also indispensable to adjust our socio-economic models so that they have a human face, because many models have lost it.”

In the name of God, Francis straightforwardly challenges many of the “structures of sin.”

“In the name of God, I ask the great extractive industries – mining, oil, forestry, real estate, agribusiness – to stop destroying forests, wetlands and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people.”

Continuing with his list of bold prophetic statements, each too beginning with “In the name of God,” Pope Francis challenges:

  • food corporations to end monopolistic systems that keep many people hungry;
  • arms manufacturers and dealers to completely stop their unholy work (see: https://bit.ly/3Ejnqbm);
  • technology corporations to stop facilitating hate speech, fake news, conspiracy theories;
  • the media to stop promoting post-truth, disinformation and attraction to dirt and scandal;
  • powerful countries to stop aggression, blockades and unilateral sanctions, military invasions and occupations.

“We have already seen how unilateral interventions, invasions and occupations end up.”

As a guiding Gospel-based light out of all of the darkness, Pope Francis urges us to read, study, pray and apply Catholic social teaching to all of the life and death issues facing humanity (see: https://www.crs.org/resource-center/CST-101).

And to reap the full inspiring richness of Pope Francis’ message to the Fourth World Meeting of Popular Movements, please read it in its entirety (see: https://bit.ly/3b4Tdjx).

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag6@comcast.net.

Published in: on October 30, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

With all your Heart

Reflection for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Director of Creation Care Advocacy, Sr. Louise Lears, SC

This reflection was originally posted in our October 25th newsletter


Image by 2023852 from Pixabay

In our Gospel passage for this Sunday, we read that a scribe steps out of the crowd and poses this question to Jesus: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” At times, the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus a question in order to trap him. But let’s imagine that this scribe, a student of the law, is asking an honest question. After all, there are 613 laws recorded in the Torah. It would certainly be easier if one commandment explained or superseded all the others.

Jesus responds to the scribe by quoting two different passages from Scripture, passages that would have been familiar to many in the crowd. The first, from Deuteronomy 6:4, is recited by the Jewish faithful every morning and evening: “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

The scribe may well have been satisfied with this response. He might have even stepped back into the crowd, thinking Jesus had finished. But Jesus surprises everyone by adding a second commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Jesus did not invent this second commandment; he took it from Leviticus 19:18. Placing these two commandments together is one of the major innovations of Jesus’ teachings. Love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable, two sides of the same coin.

Jesus’s message is clear: love, not obligation, must always be the motivation behind following God’s commandments. This love, which requires all our heart and soul and mind and strength, must tend together and inseparably toward God and neighbor. Love urges us to look upon others not only with our own eyes but also with the gaze of God, which is the gaze of Jesus. As long as there is a sister or brother to whom we close our hearts, we still have work to do.

Sr. Louise Lears, SC
FAN Director of Creation Care Advocacy

Published in: on October 26, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Through God we are all one

By Patrick Carolan

Patrick Carolan is a Catholic Activist and served as Franciscan Action Network’s Executive Director from 2010-2019. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Franciscan Action Network


Patrick Carolan

Christians recently celebrated the feast of St Francis of Assisi. We can learn many things from the life and stories of St Francis. Stories that tell us about his encounter with the Sultan Al-Kamal or his embrace of the leper. Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn is from his vision of a world where we are all connected, through God we are all one. Francis viewed all creation as his brothers and sisters. He didn’t see the leper or a Muslim as the ‘other.’ As is the case with most of our holy women and men, we have a tendency to objectively sanitize and place them on a pedestal, while forgetting and/or ignoring the message they teach us. One key concept in every major religion whether it be Islam, Christianity, Sikh, Hindu or Judaism, is the belief in welcoming the stranger. Francis would never have considered anyone a stranger. He would have thought of them as a child of God, his sister whom he has just met. He would welcome them, feed them, and care for them.

We have recently experienced a migration of thousands upon thousands of people from Afghanistan. For a long time, Afghanistan has been a pawn in the global power struggle between super powers. It is a beautiful country that was the birthplace of the great Sufi mystic and poet Rumi. Rumi lived shortly after Francis and it is thought that they were both influenced by the Sufi mystic Shams Tabriz. Rumi, like Francis, believed that all creation was connected through God. They believed in welcoming and helping all God’s creatures in whatever difficulty they found themselves. Ironically Franciscans were sometimes referred to as Christian Sufis by Muslims.

In America we have seen the influx of around 95,000 of our brothers and sisters. They are scattered throughout the country at various refugee camps. In the past some Americans have been generous in traveling to other countries to help at refugee camps. This is the first time in a long time that we have set up refugee camps in our own country. For the past few weeks I have been volunteering at one such camp. The camp has over 5000 of my brothers and sisters. Many came with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Many are separated from family members. They speak Pashto or Dari with a few speaking some English. Each morning as I arrive at the camp I am greeted with the traditional greeting of ‘a-Salaam’ with a bow of the head and a touch to the heart. Though many of the boys that I am working with follow that up with a high five and ‘What’s up.’ A young boy told me his story about how he was in school on the day that Kabul fell. He managed to connect with his uncle and cousins and get to the airport. He came here with only the clothes on his back. His shoes are a pair of sandals that are falling apart and held together by tape. His family is still in Afghanistan. Despite all that he has been through he is filled with laughter and joy. He speaks a little English so he helps teach the other children who do not speak any English. I heard the story of a young man who is married with one daughter. He has a master’s degree. Despite the fact that he has lost everything, he has a contagious smile. I am trying to teach him English while he teaches me Pashto.

I could be overwhelmed by their stories and feel like what can I as one person do. But each evening I remember the story of the young girl walking along the beach. It was right after a major storm so thousands upon thousands of starfish had washed up and were stranded on the sand. The young girl was walking along picking them up one at a time and throwing them back into the water. A man came by and said, “What you are doing is foolish, you cannot possibly save all the starfish.” The young girl picked up a starfish, threw it into the water and replied, “Maybe not but at least I saved that one.”

We are living in a perilous time. God’s beautiful creation is being destroyed by our arrogance. The covid virus is ravishing communities. Our geo-political policies have caused famine, disease and hunger. In every nation the wealthy continue to hoard their wealth while the poor go hungry. We stopped believing in that core principle of welcoming the stranger and started building walls to separate us. The 20th century Catholic priest and one of the founders of the eco-spirituality movement, Thomas Barry once said: “We will go into the future as a single sacred community or we will all perish in the desert.” To go forward as a single sacred community, all we need to do is go back to those two 13th century mystics and poets Francis of Assisi and Rumi.

Peace and All Good.

Published in: on October 23, 2021 at 10:30 am  Comments (1)