Clear out the Old Yeast

Reflection for Easter Sunday by FAN Communications Coordinator, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our March 29th newsletter


We’ve lived among a pandemic for more than one year. I remember my deep sadness last Easter at not being able to enjoy the annual rituals at my parish during Holy Week. I was depressed that I was not able to join with my fellow parishioners in my faith community to sing “Hosanna” on Easter Sunday. Watching it on tv was just not the same, I lamented. How could I ever be satisfied?

Now, one year later, new habits have formed. Grabbing a mask as I walk out the door and washing my hands when I come in the house is second nature. I’ve watched mass on tv so much, I have developed a deep connection with the Spiritual Communion prayer. These habits that seemed so foreign to me last Easter are now my “new normal.” In meditating on Sunday’s second reading from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, I wondered, was God clearing out my “old yeast”?

My oldest daughter was one of so many who began baking during the shutdown last year. She honed her skills and learned how to make delicious loaves of bread. My favorite is her herb and olive oil focaccia. I watched her in awe as I was never a great baker. Chemistry was not one of my favorite subjects. I couldn’t understand why the ¼ tsp of salt had to be in there! How can such a small amount of salt matter that much? I remember, when I was young, being frustrated that a cookie didn’t come out the way it was supposed to. My mother looked at the recipe card and asked if I added the right amount of salt. At my angst, she laughed understandingly and said “Chemistry matters in baking.” It was these memories that stirred in me as I read St. Paul’s words.

“Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become fresh.” They say “old habits die hard” but it’s amazing what you can do when motivated. Think back to this time last year. How long did it take you to acquire new habits like grabbing a mask or sanitizing your hands more often? One year of living with a pandemic, we find ourselves developing new habits, perhaps even better ones than the old. With fresh yeast, we can join together to celebrate “sincerity and truth.” Who wouldn’t want a slice of that?

This Easter season, let us discover the empty tomb and ponder the mystery of the Resurrection. Let us “clear out the old yeast” in our hearts to be strengthened in our faith so as to develop new habits. Habits like Jesus had: feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and dying, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, welcoming the stranger, and loving the ‘unlovable.’

How, you may ask? With a little fresh yeast and some chemistry. Welcome those who may think differently than you…they are the yeast. Add in the chemistry of other cultures and soon you have beautiful, bountiful ideas to develop and nurture new habits of justice for all.

Janine Walsh
FAN Communications Coordinator

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

Nails Not Needed

Reflection for Palm Sunday by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our March 22nd newsletter


A few years ago, a priest shared a story about visiting a chapel in Namibia where, as he prayed, he noticed that something was different about the wooden crucifix. When he went closer to examine it, he saw that there were no nails holding Jesus on the cross. Why? It dawned on him that it wasn’t the nails that held Jesus on the cross—love did.

Have you ever wondered if the excruciating agony of Jesus’ crucifixion was really necessary for our salvation? How could a loving Father God demand the torture of the Son? Certainly God could have chosen another way without so much pain and blood. Wasn’t it enough that God became human? But that’s the point. Paul reminds us that the Christ came “in human likeness.”

In our humanity, we all experience suffering. Only some are tortured. Not all undergo great physical pain. But each of us suffers in some way: loneliness, isolation, depression, rejection, anxiety, abuse, death of loved ones, financial insecurity, impact of racism, spiritual emptiness; not an exhaustive list. For more than a year, the whole human family has suffered with the global pandemic. Is the reason for Jesus’ Passion not only about, or even mainly about, payment for our salvation, but about God “in human likeness,” desiring to enter fully into the human experience? Is it more about God being present with me in my suffering than it is about saving my soul?

In the Palm Sunday narrative of the Passion, all the palm wavers disappear; the “Hosannas” are traded for cries to “Crucify him!” Jesus is deserted by almost all his closest friends and disciples. From an instrument of torture he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But the good news for us is that we can be sure that God in human likeness knows and understands our suffering and never abandons us. God is with us, even when we don’t feel God’s Presence. Self-emptying love is what kept Jesus on the cross.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director


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

Lent’s radical call to each person and every nation

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.


“Repent and believe in the Gospel” – the call we received from Christ on Ash Wednesday – is a radical call, the most important call we will ever receive. It directs our attention to uprooting all that is sinful in our lives and to ever more fully live lives of love – for friend and foe alike – with a special emphasis on the vulnerable and poor. It’s a radical call that is meant to be heard, reflected on, and acted upon beyond the season Lent – throughout all the seasons of our lives!

In the Gospel the biblical word used for repent is the Greek word “metanoia” – a radical change of mind, heart, soul and action. It happens when one changes course and turns around to walk in the right direction – walking out of the darkness of our lives and into the light of Christ. Metanoia means a life-changing conversion. That’s what Jesus is calling us to when he says “repent!”

Think of some of the great saints who deeply repented, who truly experienced a metanoia.

St. Paul did a complete about face. He went from persecuting the followers of Christ, to championing their cause and suffering with them.

St. Augustine of Hippo turned from fleeting unmarried sexual pleasure and unsatisfying philosophical pursuits to a totally fulfilling surrender to the will of God. In his famous autobiographical “Confessions” he sums it all up so well: “You [God] have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

When you and I allow our heart to rest in God, we become a new creation, fully dedicated to advancing his kingdom. But this takes humility, honesty, selflessness, much prayer and hard work. True repentance (conversion) is not for the faint-hearted!

The renowned Catholic English writer G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

And making it even more difficult, a life dedicated to listening to the Holy Spirit concerns itself not only with personal repentance/metanoia, but also with the conversion of the nation, that is, praying and working to change in our country what St. Pope John Paul called the “structures of sin” – everything from abortion to war – into structures of life, love, social justice, peace.

In this year’s Lenten message, Pope Francis encouragingly writes, “To experience Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In these days of deep uncertainty about the future, let us keep in mind the Lord’s word to his Servant, ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you’ (Is 43:1). In our charity, may we speak words of reassurance and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters.

“Only a gaze transformed by charity can enable the dignity of others to be recognized and, as a consequence, the poor to be acknowledged and valued in their dignity, respected in their identity and culture, and thus truly integrated into society” (Fratelli Tutti, 187).

As one important concrete way of charity, please consider a selfless Lenten donation to the poorest of the poor (please see: https://bit.ly/3c5mYRt).

Let us pray that the God of love, the God who is love, will transform all our gazes into gazes of charity, thus inspiring us to recognize the dignity of each poor person near and far, and to therefore do all in our power – as individuals and governments – to help lift our brothers and sisters out of poverty into the decent dignified conditions of life they deserve.

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 March 20, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Struggling with Christian Morality

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Lent by FAN Executive Director, Stephen Schneck, Ph.D

This reflection was originally posted in our March 15th newsletter


Image by falco from Pixabay

For more than thirty years, I taught political philosophy at The Catholic University of America. As part of the canon for courses on the history of ideas, Friedrich Nietzsche’s book, Genealogy of Morals, was one I would lecture about every few years.

In the book, Nietzsche made the argument that Christianity was a slave morality. He particularly contrasted Christian morality with the moralities of the classical ages of Greece and Rome – those moralities had at their heart a celebration power, nobility, spiritedness, magnificence, fame, wealth, nobility, pride, glory, and living exuberantly. They were moralities directed toward living gloriously as a master in the world.

Nietzsche loved Greece and Rome. He mocked Christian morality because it was morality for servants and slaves. Christianity was about meekness, humility, denial of self, obedience, turning the other cheek, and doing good to those who persecute you. Christianity embraces and identifies with those in poverty and those poor in spirit. It calls us to be lambs not wolves, to give rather than take, and to overcome our own egos, and our desires and pride, to surrender to become instruments and channels of divine love.

The readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent remind me of how my students struggled with these Nietzsche arguments. The Responsorial Psalm prays that God will cleanse our hearts from the glamours of pride and sin. The second reading, from the Epistle to the Hebrews, explains that even Christ suffered to deny himself in perfect obedience to the Father.

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death…

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

The Gospel, from the twelfth chapter of John, dramatically insists on this same denial of self, insisting that we reject living gloriously in this world, that we spurn the appeal of magnificence and power and wealth.

Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.

And, John’s Gospel passage continues in this vein. We are called to be not masters; we are called to be servants, even as Jesus himself served the will of the Father, choosing not to save himself from an ignoble death, sacrificing his “self” for our salvation.

No wonder Nietzsche was appalled. Nor is Nietzsche alone. Indeed, are not those with power, fame, glory, wealth, and magnificence the kind of people we too often admire in the world around us? Isn’t the glorification of the self a modern American norm? We want VIP status. We post selfies. Our apps constantly invite us to self-promote.

The season of Lent reminds us, week after week, that our Christian morality is entirely different. It is ever about humbling and overcoming our individual selves in loving service to God and others. Lent is a journey to relearn the central message of Christian morality – a morality that begins and ends with being servants. It is a morality that identifies with those in poverty, the meek, the powerless, and the poor in spirit. Indeed, Christian morality is a Lenten morality wherein overcoming the self we allow ourselves to become instruments for divine purpose in this world and in preparation for the world to come.

Stephen Schneck, PhD
FAN Executive Director

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

Rejoice! Because God so Loved the World

Reflection for the 4th Sunday in Lent by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our March 8th newsletter


We are nearing the great Easter Triduum: the celebration of our Free gift of Salvation. The Scripture Readings of this Fourth Sunday, called also “Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday,” remind us, in case we have forgotten it, that indeed Salvation is a free gift, a gift given in spite of our rejection and blindness.

What is it with us humans that at times we can be so blind and deaf to warnings and even evidence that something cannot continue as it is, even to our own peril?

The first reading tells us that God tried everything to warn the people about their behaviors. God sent messengers to help them confront the evil of their actions, but they did not listen and they mocked the messengers. They were not able to heed the warning and change their behavior. So the house of God was burned and the people sent into exile. But God in the end did not leave them and through the vision of Cyrus, king of Persia, the worship in the temple was restored.

St. Paul, in the letter to the Ephesians, also makes it clear that while we were dead in our transgression we were brought to life with Christ. And finally, John’s Gospel presents us with the very well known verse “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

If I could attempt to summarize the Scripture messages of today, I would say they are a hymn to love and mercy. And that is why it is indeed a Laetare Sunday.

So today as we listen to God’s Word, we may ask ourselves if we too are deaf and blind. Are there warnings to which we are not paying attention? Who are the prophets we ridicule or ignore? In these troubled times, our country and our world need to pay attention to the signs around us: climate crises, poverty becoming more widespread, violence on the increase, white supremacists acting out their fear and hatred, just to name a few. We need to listen and pay close attention to at least one prophet of our time.

Pope Francis is tirelessly pointing us in the direction of change, encouraging us to believe that a different society is possible, writing documents to show us the way. Pope Francis also reminds us that while we are sinners we are also infinitely loved and surrounded with the tenderness of God, if only we recognize it. There could be such a different way to live if only we would be energized by this truth, that God so loved the world, and therefore act with mercy and compassion. May the end of the Lenten season be the time for us to listen. It is never too late to rejoice in the awareness of God’s love.

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

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

They need us, and we need 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.


They are deadbeats who want free benefits from our country. They are taking our jobs. They are dangerous criminals who are hurting our people and our country. “They” are the 11 million undocumented migrants living in the U.S. And “they” are overwhelmingly not any of the above. Quite the contrary!

Numerous studies confirm that immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than U.S.-born citizens. The truth is that immigrants greatly enrich our churches, culture and economy.

According to “The Hill” (see: http://bit.ly/1rm6iF0), certain segments of the U.S. economy like agriculture, are overwhelmingly dependent upon undocumented immigrants. “In terms of overall numbers, The Department of Labor reports that of the 2.5 million farm workers in the U.S., over half (53 percent) are illegal immigrants. Growers and labor unions put this figure at 70 percent.”

Over 40 years ago, when Annunciation House – a sanctuary and home of hospitality that has served over 100,000 refugees, homeless poor and undocumented workers – was started in El Paso, Texas, founding director Ruben Garcia and a few friends, wanted to place themselves among the poor, to see where the poor would lead them. He said, “They took us to the undocumented – the most vulnerable.”

Garcia explained to me that since the undocumented have no legal status in the United States, they are forced to take undesirable, poorly paid jobs, which offer no benefits. Unlike poor U.S. citizens, undocumented workers and their families cannot receive food stamps, Medicaid, or housing assistance. They are at the lowest rung of American life.

So why do they come? They come because most often they and their families are extremely poor, and they cannot find jobs in their native countries that pay a living wage. And that the U.S. has many more low-skilled jobs than there are Americans who are willing to take them. And many others come to escape death threats from drug gangs and other violent conflicts.

But why don’t they enter legally? Because there are too few low-skilled visas available.

Worldwide, according to U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees there are more than 25 million refugees and over 4 million asylum seekers throughout the world. And 40 percent of displaced people are children (see: https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html). Sadly, only a very small percentage of them are allowed to build new lives in host countries. Last year, the U.S. allowed only approximately 11,800 refugees to enter legally.

The Catholic Church clearly teaches that needy people have a right to migrate to other countries. Saint Pope John XXIII, in his encyclical Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”) wrote, “Every human being has the right to freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of his own country; and, when there are just reasons for it, the right to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there.”

Garcia asked that I raise the following questions on behalf of the undocumented: “Should undocumented immigrants have to live in an underground world? Is it right to use closed borders for the purpose of exploiting cheap labor? Why is it so acceptable to have undocumented workers perform the jobs few Americans are willing to do – pick our fruits and vegetables, wash dishes, and work in meat slaughterhouses?”

It is very important that U.S. citizens email and call their two U.S. senators and congressperson (Capitol switchboard number: 202-224-3121) urging them to pass long overdue fair, compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year.

Lord Jesus, heal the indifference of most wealthy nations toward vulnerable and poor refugees who are only asking what all of us desire: a decent, safe place to live and work.

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 March 6, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

God is the Center of Our Lives

Reflection for the Third Sunday in Lent by FAN Board Member, Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our March 1st newsletter


Image by Andrea Don from Pixabay

The readings for the Third Week of Lent impress upon us that God is the Center of our lives. The commandments given through Moses to the Israelites are signposts meant to point the way toward authentically living out this reality. Jesus also reminds the people to make God the center of their lives when he encounters the sellers in the temple. In Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospels Jesus admonished the sellers by telling them that “This is a house of prayer.” But John’s retelling in his gospel is more forceful and goes further, saying that Jesus made a whip to drive out the sellers with their goods and animals that were being sold and turned over the money changers’ booths. Also, during John’s portrayal, Jesus says that he will rebuild the temple in 3 days which was a reference to his passion and resurrection and not rebuilding the temple. The Jews did not understand his prediction and asked where he got the authority to throw out the sellers. But his prediction proved true in three days with his resurrection.

The scriptures that were written years ago are passed down to us today, so we can perhaps apply them to actions in the present time. When contemplating Jesus expelling the sellers for turning his house into a market place, I was reminded of the attack on the Capitol building on January 6th. In that attack, God was not the Center of the attackers’ lives. Moses’ prediction that the commandments were a signpost for authentic living also proved to have been forgotten. Several of the commandments were not reverenced on that day especially: Honor your father and your mother, You shall not kill, You shall not steal. What would Jesus have done if he had been at the Capitol building that day? During this attack, God was not the Center of the insurrectionists’ lives.

In the Gospel event, the Temple is a sacred building but is a building that can be replaced. The Capitol is a revered building but it too is still a building. Memories of what happened here will never be forgotten by those living today and will go down in history as a violent event.

God never gives up on us and God’s truest intention for creation is always aimed toward love and life. We read in Genesis that God looked on creation as very good. God’s intention is to be the Center of our lives and hopefully in all our lives God wins that center space.

Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF
FAN Board Member

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

Editorial: Bold, Visionary Thinking is Necessary to Combat Climate Crisis

By Patrick Carolan

Patrick Carolan is a Catholic social justice advocate originally from Connecticut and is currently working with Vote Common Good as Director on Catholic outreach. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.


Patrick Carolan

A little over five years ago Pope Francis wrote a profound teaching document (called an encyclical) on climate change named Laudato Si. In it he said: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications, especially for the poor and in developing nations.” He called for an economic system with “more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations.” Overall, Pope Francis has called for what some would describe as a radical environmental ethics influenced by St. Francis and his followers. He said “St. Francis’s message for today is that the intrinsic value of all of God’s creatures should be respected and our economic practice must reflect this recognition.”

He wasn’t the first Pope to speak out about the destruction of the environment, Pope Benedict XVI was often referred to as the “Green Pope”, because of his ecological commitments in his writings, statements, and actions. In 2008, Pope Benedict oversaw the installment of a new solar energy system to power several key buildings and a commitment to use renewable energy for 20 percent of the Vatican’s needs by 2020. In 2010 as part of the World Day of Peace Benedict XVI said:

“In 1990 John Paul II had spoken of an “ecological crisis” and, in highlighting its primarily ethical character, pointed to the “urgent moral need for a new solidarity”. His appeal is all the more pressing today, in the face of signs of a growing crisis which it would be irresponsible not to take seriously. Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees”, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.” Pope John Paul II was also well aware of the rapid environmental decline facing our planet and often appealed for international cooperation in the fight against climate change in his annual messages on the World Day of Peace.

Pope Francis followed in the footsteps of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI by writing and speaking about the connection between caring for God’s creation and caring for the poor and marginalized. He recently tweeted “The earth and its poor urgently demand a sound economy and a sustainable development. Therefore, we are called to rethink our mental and moral priorities so that they are in conformity with God’s commandments and the common good.” In many of his writings, Pope Francis writes about the intersectionality of all creation and how we are all part of our Common Home. In Laudato Si, he says: “Natural creatures have an intrinsic value independent of their usefulness. Each organism, as a creature of God, is good and admirable in itself; the same is true of the harmonious ensemble of organisms existing in a defined space and functioning as a system” Then he continues this thought in Joy of the Gospels, writing: “In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”

Today our mainstream economic and business practices do not consider the value of God’s creation, as our Holy Father urges. A tree has no inherent value when it is standing in a forest. It only has value when it can be cut down and sold. We develop economic models on the value of a tree based on the cost of cutting the tree down vs the monetary value of the profit gained by cutting the tree down. We look at environmental assets and services by using their market value. This view is contrary to what Franciscan values teach us. In a recent article Social Justice without Cosmic Theology is Blind, Ilia Delio, OSF writes “God liberates when God becomes fully alive in the human person and in creation. If we want a different world then we must become a different people.” The Economist and Ethicist Laszlo Zsolnai wrote in his article Franciscan Spirituality and Economics, “However the total value of natural entities cannot be calculated merely on the basis of their material usefulness for humans. Price is a poor and often misleading model for assessing the value of natural entities. Scholars demonstrated that the value of natural entities cannot be determined by the market mechanism.” In his book Franciscans and their Finances: Economics in a Disenchanted World, Fr. David Couturier wrote, “Francis’ fraternal economy is not primarily about dollars and cents, market shares or stock derivatives. It is about the destiny of men and women in the real world and how they come about a new security and peace in God.”

Saints Francis and Clare had a relational understanding of creation. For them and for us today, we believe that all people and all creatures, from the smallest to “our Sister, Mother Earth,” are sisters and brothers, part of the very fabric of the family of God. Because of this, Francis was named the patron saint of ecology by Pope John Paul II. As Franciscans, we are called to consistently examine our relational understanding of creation. Looking to theologians like St. Bonaventure who developed a theological and spiritual vision that acknowledged all creation as emanating from the goodness of God, existing as a “footprint” of God, and leading us back to God if we are able to “read” nature properly. He spoke of creation as the first book that God wrote.

The Franciscan emphasis on the goodness of God and creation has many ramifications. Creation is the outpouring of God’s love into the universe. Creation reveals to us God’s love for us and God’s beauty which is why Franciscans call creation, beauty and goodness the mirror of God. We build on Bonaventure’s idea that God has two books of creation—Sacred Scripture and creation.

Francis of Assisi looked at life and all creation through the lens of relationship and connectivity. He lived, preached and modeled this relational connection from which blossomed a perspective of deep empathy. He looked for ways to awaken within people his way of seeing all life as integrally connected, especially concerning the care of those who were poor and marginalized and for Sister Mother Earth. Rather than viewing creation from ‘anthropocentrism,’ which literally means ‘human-centered’, Francis saw creation as ‘biocentrism’ which means ‘life-centered.’

“The earth sustains humanity,” wrote Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th-century Benedictine nun and doctor of the church. “It must not be injured; it must not be destroyed.” Laszlo Zsolnai points out in his aforementioned article that “Pope Francis’s encyclical letter “Laudato Si’” is consistent with and supports St. Francis’s views which emphasize the frugality of consumption and acknowledging the intrinsic value of nature.” The overall vision that St. Francis taught us by his words and his life is based on a God-centered, spiritual way of living and acting. Pope Francis added an integral ecology to the vast body of Catholic social teaching in the hope that it “can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face”.

Most scientists, religious leaders and even everyday people agree that we are running out of time to tackle the climate crisis. The clock is ticking as more and more communities face catastrophic wildfires, droughts, and storms. Over the past decade, the federal government has spent $350 billion due to extreme weather and fire events, according to a 2017 report by the U.S. Government Accounting Office. But it will only get uglier, according to the experts. Reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Global Change Research Program tell us that if the global average temperature exceeds pre-industrialized levels by 2 degrees Celsius or more it will cause more than $500 billion in lost economic annual output by the year 2100. Forest areas affected by wildfires in the U.S. are on pace to at least double by 2050, and there is a risk of damage to $1 trillion of public infrastructure and coastal real estate in the U.S. To avoid this, we urgently need bold, unprecedented action to tackle the twin crises of climate change and inequality. We need to mobilize vast public resources to transition from an economy built on exploitation and fossil fuels to one driven by dignified work and clean energy. What we need is a Green New Deal.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The term “Green New Deal” was used by Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Friedman in an article written in January 2007. America had just experienced its hottest year on record (there have been five hotter since), and Friedman recognized that there wasn’t going to be a palatable, easy solution to climate change as politicians hoped. It was going to take money, effort, and upsetting an industry that has always been very generous with campaign contributions. Friedman saw the need for a bold transformation of our economy in the same way Roosevelt’s New Deal helped lead us out of the Great Depression. The idea of a New Green Deal was used in the platforms of multiple Green Party candidates, and organizations like the United Nations Environment Programme began to promote a similar global initiative.

In listening to the campaign rhetoric during the 2020 election, one would think the Green New Deal was a satanic communist manifesto that will force us all to live in caves. People believe this rhetoric without bothering to learn what is actually in the Green New Deal. In reality, the goal of the Green New Deal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the worst consequences of climate change while also trying to fix societal problems like economic inequality and racial injustice.

In 2019, an enormous step forward was realized when Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced a resolution supporting the concept for a Green New Deal. While official legislative language was never developed, the proposal lays out a 10-year plan to achieve 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030, a guaranteed living-wage job for anybody who needs one, and a just transition for both workers and frontline communities. This is the type of visionary thinking that reflects the passion and care for all of God’s creation that guided the life of St. Francis of Assisi.

The Green New Deal calls on the federal government to wean the United States from fossil fuels and curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions across the economy. It also aims to guarantee new high-paying jobs in clean energy industries. Included are proposals to mobilize all aspects of American society towards a goal of 100% clean and renewable energy, guarantee living-wage jobs and a just transition for both workers and frontline communities, all over the next 10 years. Our current COVID crisis has highlighted the fact that the status quo economy continues to leave behind the poor and marginalized while corporations and billionaires grow wealthier. Working class families, communities of color, and others are continually exposed to stagnant wages, toxic pollution, and dead-end jobs. The climate crisis only magnifies these systemic injustices. The Green New Deal is insightful as it recognizes the interconnectedness of all these issues and attempts to transform our economy from one based on exploitation of people and God’s creation to one where, as St. Clare challenges us, we become a mirror of Christ for others to see and follow by reflecting Christ in our lives, and helping build up the body of Christ through transformation in love.

Francis of Assisi was bold and prophetic in his vision. He understood the interconnectedness of all creation. The Green New Deal reflects this same visionary thinking combined with an understanding of the relational nature of creation. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis also reflected this vision when he said: “New processes taking shape cannot always fit into frameworks imported from outside; they need to be based in the local culture itself. As life and the world are dynamic realities, so our care for the world must also be flexible and dynamic.” (#144) He goes on to say: “All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution…We do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.” (#114)

It is this type of bold visionary thinking that our nation so desperately needs today. Neither Congresswoman Cortez nor Senator Markey make claim to being Franciscan, but their vision as laid out in the Green New Deal clearly embraces the values and the vision of our Franciscan life and spirituality.

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

The Hill We Climb

Reflection for the Second Sunday in Lent by FAN Board Member, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our February 22nd newsletter


Our readings for this Second Sunday of Lent provide us with varied and interesting insights into how God was experienced throughout the scriptures. They also call and challenge us to be attentive, clear and sensitive to how we embrace and express our attitudes and understanding of God’s presence in our lives and in our world today. This is a call to be the transfigured love and presence of God.

In the Book of Genesis, we know that God established a covenant relationship with Abraham. This covenant was a bond of divine-human love with not only Abraham but all of his descendants. Yet, in the first reading we hear of a God who puts Abraham to the test. Does Abraham measure-up? Do we measure-up? So many of us grew up being taught of a God who sat in judgment looking down from the heights of heaven recording all we did or didn’t do. Do we still hang onto this perception of a judging and testing God? Do we embody and witness to a God of merciful covenant love or one who stands in judgment of others?

Paul’s Letter to the Romans states, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” We grasp a message for a people emboldened with confidence in the presence of God despite the suffering and persecution they experienced under the reign of the Emperor Nero. It’s interesting that the biblical scholar, N. T. Wright used an image of a mountain peak when he identified the Letter to the Romans as Paul’s masterpiece presenting a challenge and spiritual vision to the faithful. He wrote of the Letter to the Romans, “It dwarfs most of his other writings, an Alpine peak towering over hills and villages.” The source of this mountain peak, emboldened confidence is surely the resurrected Christ, who conquered hatred, persecution and humiliating death to rise victorious and promises this new life to all who believe.

The gospel passage of the Transfiguration of Jesus gives us the ultimate mountain peak experience. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” This event marked God’s covenantal union with Christ and all of us, for Jesus did not go up that mountain alone. His invitation to Peter, James and John was for them to witness and later preach that he, standing with Moses and Elijah, was the true fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He is indeed the Christ, the Messiah of God.

Last month, we all witnessed the prophetic words of the young Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, a black woman, Harvard scholar and Catholic. Her words of wisdom, The Hill We Climb, still echo in my heart. “We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always just-ice.” “If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright.”

With the sacred scriptures, Amanda’s words call and challenge us to live and witness to the emboldened confidence of God’s presence. This covenantal love and mercy is within us and in all people, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, and even in the midst of dark and difficult times. It is the call to enter into the sufferings of others, to work for justice, to see and to be the transfigured and resurrected presence of Christ Jesus. Do we have the courage to live in the light of Christ and together work and climb to the peaks of justice and love?

May this be our life’s work, so that united with Amanda and all God’s people we may proclaim, “When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Margaret Magee OSF
Member of the FAN Board

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

Let us venture together from darkness into the light

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 Peter H from Pixabay

On Ash Wednesday, with dust-like ashes crossed upon our foreheads we were each invited to call to mind that this mortal body, this earthly life, is passing away – sooner than we realize – and that you and I would be wise to diligently prepare for eternity, to get our lives in God-like order: “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.”

Another essential message presented to us as we received ashes is that we are to “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” Scripture often equates sin with darkness – the inability to see clearly, causing us to stumble around in this life with no clear direction; with no sure way to the truth that sets us free – free from enslaving deadly sin.

Left unchecked, with no repentance, our many collective individual sins metastasize into what St. Pope John Paul II called the “structures of sin” – those larger elements within our cultures, societies, governments and corporations that operate in the darkness of self-absorbed greed, power-lust, violence and indifference to suffering (see: https://bit.ly/3bgyjOh).

We desperately need to turn away from sin – both personal sin and the structures of sin. An honest look into many of our human-made institutions surely reveals decadent sinful structures that need conversion.

From abortion to war, from poverty and hunger to homelessness, from the refugee crisis to unfair trade agreements, from sweatshop labor to low frozen minimum wages, from the international arms trade to neighborhood gun violence, from nuclear weapons to astronomical military budgets, from lack of affordable health care to COVID-19, from drug abuse to insufficient drug treatment facilities, from crumbling infrastructures to unemployment, from racism to human trafficking and from environmental pollution to climate change … it is undeniable that our world is deeply suffering from human-caused structures of sin.

As the world struggles to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, we must even more importantly be determined to emerge – with the grace of God – from all of our structures of sin. Let us instead build structures worthy of human beings for the greater glory of God!

Our nation and our world desperately need a new standard to measure human progress: not gross national product, not the stock market and not military supremacy.

The new standard we need to creatively envision and fully implement is as old as the Sermon on the Mount and Christ’s final judgment of the nations scene in Matthew’s Gospel. And it’s as modern as Catholic social teaching (see: https://www.crs.org/resource-center/CST-101).

Pope Francis continues to urge us to see how all of humanity is interconnected. And that we are interconnected to all of creation. In order to survive and thrive, we need to join hands and hearts in prayer, and to tirelessly work together to build a world of love, social justice and peace.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

As we more faithfully walk in the Master’s footsteps, we become more and more radiantly like him. And we begin to better understand and more fully live out his related challenge to us: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. … Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

There is no better time than Lent to “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel!”

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 February 20, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment