Learning to Let Go

Reflection for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Br. Edward Falsey, OFM Conv., FAN Director of Solidarity Tables

This reflection was originally posted in our October 8th newsletter

Let GoThis week’s Gospel reading for me creates a bit of a dilemma. Do I take this message literally or metaphorically? But still, I struggle…

Jesus spoke in stories and metaphors to convey the powerful and deep meanings of his message. By doing this, we can challenge ourselves to explore the profound levels of meaning in the Gospels as we grow in our faith and understanding.

This Gospel Reading is still challenging. In what ways do I need to give up my attachments to people, places and things? Being typically American, things mean a lot to me and sometimes become more important than even myself. When this happens in my life, I know things are out of balance. Sometimes I become aware of this in very painful ways. My challenge is to find the balance I need to be okay. How do I let go of those things that are not that important?

Jesus shows how letting go of these things can bring us all to a better place. Many times I find myself holding on and being forced to let go of the thing I want. When I do let go, I have found myself blessed in ways I could not imagine.

An example of one of these letting go experiences is the Friar’s Camp on Raquette Lake. I had been in charge of it for several years. The Friars told me we were giving it up in 1992. I had to let go. A group of people organized and set up a small nonprofit organization to help preserve the 100-year-old church that was on the property. This organization has been a wonderful blessing for the community on Raquette Lake. I have met many wonderful people. I have been part of the fundraising and restoration of the church on Long Point on Raquette Lake.

I let go of something that was very important to me. In many ways, the blessings came in ways I could never have expected. I have made some good friends. I have helped create an organization that continues to help build community on the lake. We have helped preserve a wonderful historic treasure, the Church of St. William’s on Long Point, for future generations. When we do let go, we allow God to do amazing things.

Being the stubborn sort, I have lots of examples in my life where I learned to let go. Some of these were painful, some not so painful. However, every single time, blessings come in ways I never expect. All I can do is be forever grateful.

Br. Edward Falsey, OFM Conv.
FAN Director of Solidarity Tables

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

Go with Less; God Will Provide

Christopher M. Fernandez is a Conventual Franciscan postulant in formation in Chicago. An ecologist by training, he hails from the Washington D.C. metro area. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

By Christopher M. Fernández

“What were you arguing about on the way? But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. (Mark 9:33-35)”

How many times do we find ourselves boasting about ourselves, about our Partyaccomplishments, or even about where we come from? How many times do we give or receive flattery with the desire for esteem or privilege? How many times do we selfishly put ourselves in front of others in our actions and words?

It is a hard reality for us to face, but we’ve all been there; walking amongst a bunch of friends, or maybe in an attempt to be outgoing in a new setting or among a new group of people or in a new workplace. We try to welcome praises, we speak pridefully, and we argue about how we are better, more qualified, or most skilled at something. Our arrogance, a vestige of the original human fault, once again corrupts us. This has been and will be the age-old issue in humanity.

God is always speaking! But are we listening? A lot of times we listen to what we want to, waiting for the “big” or “right” inspirations to fall into our laps. We settle for a mediocre faith-life, one with many unrealistic expectations, one that builds a large, ornate façade, an edifice built on quicksand. But how then do we build up on solid ground and root ourselves in rich and nourishing soil? After all, can a seed lift itself and plant itself in rich soil on its own? The Word of God is a lamp for our feet (Psalm 119).

As Christians we need to surround ourselves with people and environments that cultivate us and foster growth toward our baptismal calling. Unfortunately, sometimes, seeds fall on rocky, thorny, or even sandy ground. We don’t get to select our families, our upbringings, or circumstances; BUT, we do get to choose what to do with our experiences and how we allow our past to drive our futures. In this very time in human history, God is reminding us of the great need to seek healing from our wounds and brokenness, to reconcile with others, and to love our enemies. Naturally, none of us feel we can do it! How are we supposed to face our inner demons if it means having really tough, uncomfortable conversations with family and “friends” or even making decisions or taking actions, that even in truth and good intention, will cause upset, confusion, and division? My sisters and brothers, Christ has not called us to comfort, he has called us to Francis.Raingreatness. We must be vulnerable with God and ask that “he [may] be like rain coming down upon the fields, like showers watering the earth, that abundance may flourish in his days, great bounty, till the moon be no more.” Only His salvific love and mercy can purify, heal, and prime us for what is to come. As our love for God develops and moves us to praises of worship, so does our listening and our obedience. “[Once] you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a [pure] heart. You [will be] been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:22-23).” We should imagine God the Father picking us up and joyfully planting us in rich soil, and actually ask for this! That we might be planted in unpolluted and uncorrupted soil.

“Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (James 4:1-3).”

Where in our lives are we asking wrongly?!? How can we improve our prayer to be more than a list of rote intentions and supplications? How can we learn to carve forms of meditation and contemplation into our prayer and actually structure our days around prayer times? Are we praying enough with our families and communities beside that time obligated on Sundays? How are we stopping to sanctify our day and slow down to enjoy every moment?

It is vital that we listen to the living Word every day—which has so generously made Himself known and available to us—and additionally listen to that which he has set before us as a universal reminder to reflect and to pray, this being the gospel of creation. The Creator’s eminence holds by its divine nature that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent in all of Creation, while being distinct from it. Every day the Father strokes His brush across the earthly canvass and paints for us new stories, reveals to us new knowledge, and gives us an abundant harvest with the most perfect artistry. And the greatest thing about this Truth is that all creation is Christ-centered. God is the greatest gift giver, and we are lousy recipients. The largesse of the Father’s goodness to us spills over in the ingenuity of our sister mother-earth. She is after all, not superior or inferior to us, being born from the same mighty, immortal hand of God. Hence, we should do as these very words of St Basil: “Oh, God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things; with our brother creatures to whom You gave the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to You in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live not for us alone, but for themselves, and for You, and that they love the sweetness of life even as we and serve You in their place better than we in others.”Francis.help

In the gospel readings from Mark, Jesus reminds us that joyful, trusting, innocent, child-like abandonment to God is a requirement to enter the kingdom of God. Spiritual childhood is the soil for humility and its sister virtues to flourish in our lives. We need to empty ourselves of desires that are acutely selfish—especially as these might be means of injustice to others. Anything we surrender to God is not lost. The USCCB has made this clear with regards to our socioeconomic structure: “the economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected—the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.”

The Lord upholds our lives because we are His beloved creation. We must work as one to love others radically, even if that love is not reciprocated—just shake the dust from your feet (Luke 9:5). This starts in our own communities, espousing a need for respect of all life, advocating for fair wages, protecting rights for pre-born children, children and vulnerable adults relying on community or government support, caring for commonly shared natural resources and healthy, clean water, air, and soil and also having reverence for the natural place of Sister death in our lives and in all creation. As we celebrate the Transitus of St. Francis let us work again to renew our convictions in the gospel and go with less in a childlike abandonment. God will provide, go in the peace of Christ.Francis.Death

Prayer of St. Catherine of Sienna
Eternal God, eternal Trinity! You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When you fill my soul I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light. I desire above all to see you, the true light, as you really are. O eternal Trinity, with the light of understanding I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation. In seeing myself in you, I have seen that I will become like you. Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you. You are my Creator, eternal Trinity, and I am your creature. You have made of me a new creation in the blood of your Son, and I know that you are moved with love at the beauty of your creation, for you have enlightened me. Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, you could give me no greater gift than the gift of yourself. I recognize that you are the highest good, one we can neither comprehend nor fathom. And I know that you are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, you gave yourself to man in the fire of your love. You are the garment which covers our nakedness, and in our hunger you are a satisfying food, for you are sweetness and in you there is no taste of bitterness, O triune God! Amen!

Published in: on October 3, 2018 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Right Relationship

Reflection for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our October 1st newsletter

heart.handsThe readings this week tell the wedding story. It is a beautiful story of two people coming together in love to make a commitment as it says in Genesis 2:24 “and the two of them become one flesh.” We understand what that means from a physical perspective but do we ever stop and think what it means from a spiritual perspective? When we form this spiritual bond where we become one flesh connected through love, we become connected through God, whether we like to acknowledge God or not. The two beings become like the Trinity, three beings connected and becoming one through love. Since God is love we are connected through God. As it says in Hebrews all things exist through God and God is perfect Love therefore all things exist through love.

St. Bonaventure taught us that the purpose and meaning of all of creation is relationship. If we exist through and in God then we have to be in relationship. First in right relationship with God. Sr. Ilia Delio, OFS so beautifully describes this relationship in her book Making All Things New; “Eucharist means being an active participant in the Cosmic body of Christ, a body evolving unto fullness, the Cosmic person, through the rise of consciousness and unity in Love.” Then as Bonaventure teaches, we have to be in right relationship with all of God’s creation, a relationship of love, not of power over, of abusiveness. St John of the Cross taught us that human desire is unlimited. The heart of the human being is not satisfied with less than Infinite. This infinite is clearly God himself. Our deepest human desire is a desire of God. When we turn away from God, we no longer consider God’s creation and all that it encompasses as sacred. As a nation today we are so divided, so separated. Families cannot even come together without fighting and bitterness. We no longer consider ourselves as children of God and brothers and sisters.

This week the reading on the wedding story has special meaning to me. My daughter got married this past weekend. I was a proud father as I watched her walk up the aisle. I thought about how far she had come and how she had grown into a beautiful young woman. My daughter spent her early years in and out of foster homes. She had been abused as a child. My wife and I were foster parents and we took in Briana and her brother when she was nine. At ten, we welcomed them to our family through adoption. She is African-American, so she not only had to overcome her early years of abuse and moving from family to family, but she also had to overcome the racism she experienced as a teenager. I often share with people that I thought I understood racism until I became the parent of two black children; then I really understood racism. Her new husband is white. Just 19 years ago in South Carolina where they live, it was against the law for a black person to marry a white person. As I watched the two of them exchange their rings and share their love and joy for each other, I thought of this reading. I watched the large gathering of folks who came to share this beautiful evening come together. Her biological parents were there as well as many of her biological cousins. We all gathered to share in their love. There were black, white and Latino, straight and gay, conservative and liberal, Christian, Jewish and Muslim. They were gathered not caring about race, color, sexual orientation, creed or political views. Just gathered sharing in love. I thought, ‘this is what America should be.’

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
Executive Director

Published in: on October 2, 2018 at 10:17 am  Comments (3)  

Active Nonviolence: rediscovering a central teaching of Jesus

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is 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.

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano

“But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

“To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (see Luke 6: 27-35).

Do we really take Jesus seriously here?

His first followers certainly did.

Christian literature from the first three centuries affirms that the earliest followers of Jesus Christ completely rejected all forms of violence and bloodshed – no abortion, no euthanasia, no capital punishment, no war.

But this drastically changed when… read more

Published in: on September 26, 2018 at 11:58 am  Comments (1)  

Make No Distinctions

Reflection for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Sr. Marge Wissman

This reflection was originally posted in our September 24th newsletter

make no distinctions.blindThis week’s scriptures readings acknowledge that God calls all people to be part of the kingdom without making distinctions among groups, races, or nationalities.

In the first reading, God bestowed the spirit on Moses and the elders and they begin to prophesy. Eldad and Medad were not present with the others but they also received the spirit and began to prophesy. One young man complained to Moses that the two outsiders should not be prophesying. Moses rejected this complaint because he believed in inclusiveness and no one should be left out of the benefits of God’s spirit.

In the second reading, James criticizes those who have become wealthy by taking advantage of others. James leaves us with the presumption that God will carry out appropriate justice toward them.

In the Gospel, as in the First Reading, John comes to Jesus to complain that someone who was not a member of the disciples was expelling demons in the name of Jesus. Jesus makes it clear that he has no problem with this and makes no distinction between “outsiders” and “insiders”. Jesus makes a strong statement that he would only have a problem with those who would harm the faith of others.

It is very clear in all of the readings for this Sunday that Jesus’ call for his disciples to spread the good news is a universal call and is not contingent on Membership in a certain group, social class, or race.

This is a message for our country today if we also want to be a member of God’s Kingdom!

Sr. Marge Wissman
FAN Board Member

Published in: on September 25, 2018 at 10:16 am  Comments (1)  

The Cross Unites us in Love

Christopher M. Fernandez is a Conventual Franciscan postulant in formation in Chicago. An ecologist by training, he hails from the Washington D.C. metro area. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

By Christopher M. Fernández

Christopher Fernandez

This week, among the many things set out for us to complete and the many ways we are asked from God and people in our lives to be present and share of ourselves, our gifts and talents with them and the world, we are prompted by Jesus to stop and introspect about a couple of important questions relevant to Christians everywhere.

Jesus asks us, personally:

“Who do people say that I am?

[and]…who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8: 27 & 29)

It is in praying with and evaluating these questions in our lives that we are called to reckon who is the person of Christ in my relationship with the triune God. Last Sunday’s gospel (Mark 8: 27-35) reminds Christians the reality of the power of words in the spirituality tied to human language. Jesus challenges each of us to discern the longings of the Spirit within our created beings and to distinguish this from the forces of evil acting in the world. We are told that if we hope to fulfill our baptismal call to embrace Christ and to be continually renewed in Him, and with Him, and through Him, we “must deny [ourselves], take up [our] cross, and follow [Him].”

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., suggests that “the cross is what unites, what breaks down the walls of hostility, reconciles people among themselves and with God….The cross separates and divides. This is true: it is the tool God uses to prune the shoots of the great vine of the Body of Christ so that they may bear fruit.” We are consistently reminded in scriptures (i.e. the psalms) that the living Word is meant to act like a two-edged sword. Meant to divide and set two “subjects”/“segments of flesh”/“parts of a whole” apart, Jesus helps us recognize that in creating space between these two seemingly disparate parts they might come to see clearly the ways in which they are similar before parsing through all the differences.


For us humans, this is at times a painful and awkward experience. Having to face the truth in the hardships and tensions in our lives requires that we deny ourselves of our wants, desires, and even our needs. St. Francis was no stranger to dying-to-self. In fact, in his Canticle of the Creatures, Francis acknowledges the importance of “Sister Death, from whom no one living can escape.”

Saint James (James, Chapter 2) tells us the way to accomplish this sort of transformation—along with receiving the merciful healing and edifying graces associated with this process—is in praying for understanding that “faith without works is dead.”

“Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.” (Canticle of the Creatures)

As Christians we ought to strive to live with a remembrance of death. Beyond simply professing faith in the gospel of Christ, we must also desire to emulate His example in living it out, even where it is uncomfortable. For “love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away…At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13) Even with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to us so generously at our baptism, it is important to embrace the fullness of the Love who is God! This is the Love who helps us feel “fully known” and to know more “fully.”

At the forefront of the virtues “faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13) All people of good will must come to reckon with this, because ultimately “wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” (Luke 7:35)

Before fleshing out the fullness of the gospel in relation to creation and “debating” the usefulness of the scriptures in caring for our common home, we must come to know how God’s truth applies to our lives as stewards at home and our communities.

“Hardly anyone studies the supreme science of Jesus, as did Saint Paul. And yet this is the most noble, the most consoling, the most useful, and the most vital of all sciences and subjects in heaven and on earth. First, it is the most noble of all sciences because its subject is the most noble and the most sublime: Wisdom uncreated and Incarnate. He possesses in himself the fullness of divinity and humanity alike and all that is great in heaven and on earth, namely, all creatures visible and invisible, spiritual and corporal.” (St Louis de Montfort)

Sisters and brothers, let us begin again, with the intrinsic desire for goodness and truth, for up until now, we have done little or nothing!

-Christopher M. Fernández

Published in: on September 24, 2018 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Thoughts on Welcome 75k Refugees

By FAN Intern & Franciscan Postulant, Holy Name Province, Michael Specht

blog photo 1Having been around Franciscan friars and Franciscan-hearted people for several years, I had heard about Franciscan Action Network, but was not entirely sure about what the group advocates for. Within the first hour of my first day volunteering with FAN, I was on my knees in front of the White House, praying with local faith leaders for the current administration to change the capped number of refugees that are admitted into this country to 75,000 for the next fiscal year. I was thrown into the fire right away with FAN, and was able to immediately get a taste of some of the actions of this group.

With faith leaders of several Christian congregations, we gathered to urge the Trump administration to allow more refugees into our land. This past year, less than 25,000 were allowed into the states as refugees, and fewer are expected to be admitted in 2019. The urgency and importance was not lost on the group that attended the rally, as we pushed for admittance of 75,000 refugees in the coming fiscal year.

Having been raised in a home that attended mass every Sunday, I constantly heard the gospel proclaimed, where Jesus’ calls us to serve and love one another. In some ways, it went in one ear and out the other, as can happen with something routine. When I went away to college, I studied at a school that’s sponsored and staffed by Franciscan friars. I heard the same readings, but was challenged by the friars, who introduced me to the movement that Francis of Assisi had started over 800 years ago. How are we to radically live the Gospel? Why are we called to truly love one another? What does it mean to care for our common home? How are the birds and trees of the earth our brothers and sisters?

Franciscans don’t shy away from making a statement, from taking the lessons of Jesus, and applying them to real-world issues that are happening today. Praying for large issues is certainly important and necessary in a world that’s full of problems. But faith doesn’t call us exclusively to prayer. Through prayer, we should be moved to act. More to the point, this past Sunday’s Second Reading from the Letter of James clearly states that “Faith, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2: 17).

Through prayer, blog photo 2we reach out to our brothers and sisters in this world who are hurting, who are marginalized and subjugated by the powers that be. Francis spent much time in prayer in the church, but is arguably better known for being with the marginalized of his world.

Standing and kneeling in front of the White House with people of different Christian faiths, I realized that my faith needs to have a focus of non-complacency. With so many refugees seeking to enter this country, who are we to deny them this basic human need of refuge? Certainly, getting the current administration to raise its quota to 75,000 admitted refugees for the year is an uphill battle, but if we as believers are complacent when our brothers and sisters are suffering, then we have turned a blind eye not only to them, but to the Gospel as well.

I look forward to my time this year with Franciscan Action Network and look forward to marching on my feet and praying on my knees for those that our world continues to push aside. May the spirit of Francis continue to inspire us all.

-Michael Specht

FAN Intern & Franciscan Postulant, Holy Name Province

Published in: on September 21, 2018 at 9:06 am  Comments (1)  

Receive and Welcome Christ

Reflection for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our September 17th newsletter

Child.1“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.”

The words from this Sunday’s Gospel should cause all Americans to pause. How do we, as a country, receive children?

Our government has been globally transparent in its disregard on the care for children. Our country is the only United Nations member state that is not a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which aims to protect and promote the rights of all children around the world. Furthermore, the United States recently notified the United Nations that it will no longer take part in the global compact on migration, sending a signal to the global community how our government regards children who have fled their homes due to war (think Syria), gang violence, and environmental disasters.

Each day, approximately 3,000 children are aborted in the United States. While the United States is technically not at war, 87 percent of the children in the world killed by guns are killed in our country. Do we love our guns more than we love our children? While climate change and the destruction of the environment impact the human rights of all people, those of children both now and in the future are of great concern.

The United States is also now known as a country where babies are torn from their mothers’ arms because the mother made the decision to flee violence and war to save her child and herself. The world’s media was permeated with images of children forcibly separated from their parents in the United States and then “housed” in fenced cages. Government agencies have handed over (inadvertently) unaccompanied children to human traffickers.

“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.” At one time, other nations used to look to the United States as a beacon of hope that would protect and promote human rights around the world. How does the world see us today? How do we see ourselves? Our Catholic social tradition impels us to uphold all human life, to make decisions that will allow all peoples to have what they need to live with dignity, to uphold the family as the central social institution and that in our shrinking global world all people are our neighbor. As followers of Christ and as Franciscans, we strive to model the tradition of “welcome” that has been handed down to us through the legacies of Francis and Clare. We strive to receive each child, each human being, as “brother” and as “sister,” as a gift from God. In our attempts to receive and welcome each person, we receive and welcome Christ.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on September 18, 2018 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Praying Through Action

Reflection for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Communications Coordinator, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our September 9th newsletter

StJames.BridgeHow much does our faith mean to us? This week’s readings talk about faith, works, and carrying crosses.

In our society today we are bombarded with information. The 24-hour news cycle pelts us with stories of immigrant children separated from their parents and lying in detention centers, leaders in the Catholic church abusing the faithful and then covering it up, the possibility of our tax dollars being used by schools to arm teachers; world news, business news, politics, health and pop culture. There are times when I just get tired of all the news. I want to act like an ostrich and stick my head in the sand until it goes away. At times like this, I want to go, sit in church, say the prayers, take my communion and go home, feeling fulfilled by that effort. But inevitably, it’s not enough. I always end up feeling restless and more troubled.

In the second reading this week, James bluntly speaks about having faith without works. Faith without works “is dead” he says. Simply going to church services, saying the prayers, and taking communion doesn’t fulfill the demand. In order to fully practice our faith, we must go out and “give the necessities of the body” to those in need. We must care for our brothers and sisters in our communities. Dorothy Day says it this way: “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” Think about that for a minute.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells his Disciples of his future suffering, death and resurrection. When Peter, in a very human way, rebukes him, Jesus snaps at him and offers his own blunt statement: “Whoever wishes to come after me, …must take up his cross”. In today’s vernacular, Jesus is telling us we can not just talk the talk, we also must walk the walk.

What can just one person do, you might ask? Try not get overwhelmed. There are so many issues of importance today; Climate, immigration, gun safety, healthcare, peacemaking. I encourage you to choose one. Find something that sparks passion in you. Do some research and see what issues keep you thinking. Once you find that issue, look for a way to get involved. Talk with others in your community about that issue and find others who feel the same way you do. Much like practicing our faith in community, surrounding ourselves with people of similar thinking gives us strength and validation of our ideas. When we act on our faith together, we can make an enormous difference.

Janine Walsh
FAN Communications Coordinator

Published in: on September 11, 2018 at 9:45 am  Leave a Comment  

A reflection for the first week of the Season of Creation

Christopher M. Fernandez is a Conventual Franciscan postulant in formation in Chicago. An ecologist by training, he hails from the Washington D.C. metro area. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

By Christopher M. Fernández

Last Saturday was the World day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. This marked the beginning of the “season of creation” which continues until the feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th. A very special time for the greater church, both Orthodox and Catholic.

Nevertheless, to say it is a tumultuous time in our church would be an understatement. It has become evident that the trajectory of abuse of power has held many ramifications for Christians worldwide throughout human history. These crises remind me somewhat about the parable of the weeds among the wheat (Mt 13:24-30) where Jesus describes harvesting his people (the “wheat”) for the kingdom of God, He describes being asked whether to pull out the “weeds,” he responded “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn’ (Mt 13:29-30)”. We must be honestly aware that there are and have been humans in mother church, professed religious leaders, that have very wrongfully misled people—other Christians and potential Christians. The church is not SIMPLY a human institution! It is also by nature of being instituted by Christ a divine institution— if we believe what the Bible tells us. With this understanding, we must especially recognize the gravity of the errors of priestly or religious abusers as human perpetrators. It’s akin to politicians, policemen, teachers, or any other important leadership who intentionally abuse their positions to meet their selfish and perverse appetites. Corruption exists in many human institutions, it is the product of original sin. Following Dante Alighieri’s logic (a Secular Franciscan) in his Divine Comedy-Inferno, one could suppose that there’s a very special place in hell for those who abuse their priestly or religious vows. Peter.Rock.Church

We as Christians of good faith must be conscientious about our discourse in the public sphere, being mindful that it does not diminish into debate. The art of argument is very important, but we must be cautious about argumentation as means to reach our own ends, especially in the public sphere. To debate and disagree is one thing, to be entirely disagreeable is another, especially in the public sphere (that includes social media). We were instructed by Jesus to use our gifts, talents, and voices to espouse gospel values and stand for Church teaching; however, doing this with respect of each other’s integrity, speaking with civility, and with the hope of reaching consensus—even if that means we have to stop to recognize we disagree on a lot, but we can also recognize the small areas we see eye-to-eye. This is the foundational challenge of the Christian; to live a gospel life is inherently relational. We cannot be dismissive nor overbearing in our attempts to be convicted in faith, hope, and charity. We must not forget ‘humility’ in and among all these, and as Saint Francis would suggest furthermore, ‘courtesy’ is truly the sister of charity. As much as we want peace in our hearts and in our church, and justice for the victims of many types of abuse, first and foremost we must desire love. That love which is relational, a love that is intersectional, love that is a decision we must choose to say yes to (even when it hurts) daily, and yes, the love who is God in three persons. It is in this love that we must practice obedience to the church, its teachings and its rightfully professed leadership. This is very difficult to say and practice considering the recent scandals. Nevertheless, with the gamut of emotions we have felt regarding these issues, we must channel that energy into a fervor to seek the truth and create transparency and conversion in our church. We do this by starting at home: the domestic church. We are not professed clergy or leadership, but we are the voice, limbs, hands and feet of the church. As so we need to act in accordance with the living Word of God.

In being openly critical of the church we love so much, we must not forget that the secular world in public spheres is looking very closely at every one of our actions. With this in mind, it is also necessary that we remain hyper vigilant of our temptation to bring our human politics and bureaucracy into discussions regarding mother church. When we go to offer a criticism, let it be constructive and not simply accusatory or one sided. Restrain yourself from burrowing into a cavity that causes more hurt and confusion for you and for others. We need be cautious about running with only one part of the story. Vatican officials and the Holy See have not released official statements about any of the accusations.

So, how should I respond to all of this?!? Before we start prying out the thorn from the side of our greater, universal church, we must first start by pulling the spines and prickles off ourselves. Begin at home and in your heart. Where have I become too comfortable as my life as a Christian? In what ways have I condoned things at home (prayer, fasting, almsgiving; critical conversations with family and friends, seeking the sacraments, studying and learning from the Bible, the catechism, and other devotionals and resources)? Where have I failed in my baptismal call to be a missionary disciple? Where have I been indifferent about issues at home, in my community, or in my parish? This and many questions more are where we need to begin. Brokenness in the family has led to brokenness in the church. Pope Francis.Church Abuse

This does not mean we should turn a blind eye to anything anymore. This does not mean I should be quiet about abuse (at any level of society—even at home). This does not mean I should just entirely move on and forget that it ever happened. This means that we live day by day even more cognizant of all God’s creation—the poor, the broken, the outcast among all His creatures. In thirsting for transparency, we must strive for accountability—even if that begins in our own lives.

Without a doubt it is time for a renewal in our great church. It is time to transform a throw-away culture, a culture of death, by healing it with a culture of relationships, a culture of interdependence. Yes, silence and prayer are an important place to start addressing any issue but let us not forget to draw from the graces received in prayer to carry out a rational and Spirit-led response, one that through humility and conviction of heart holds our shepherds to honest conversion and transparency.

In this season of creation, let us pray with our sorrows and bring them before God. Saint Francis grieved at the sin and brokenness in all of creation, human and non-human. He was a man integral in his perspective of God’s creatures. Not too far from where he prayed outside of Assisi, Saint Clare was in deep contemplation in her monastery about the same sin and brokenness. She gazed at the Christ of San Damiano, prayed for healing, and actively sought to bring healing to others through Christ’s love and mercy. Implementing this holistic perspective is how we begin to understand integral ecology as a renewed ecology which challenges us to recognize both the natural and human ecology, where they intersect and how they inform one another through the Spirit of Truth. In praying during this season of creation, let us not forget our spiritual patrimony to be stewards, at home, at church, at work, and beyond in the canvass that is God’s creation. In kinship with creation, beyond praying for our respective petitions we must also strive to be and live the answer to our own prayers through the graces of God. We have been asked to pray for and pay attention to issues involving water this season. Let us begin by praying for and with the confluence of two rivers in our lives and in our church, one flowing with the purifying, renewing, living waters of the Creator, and the other flowing with the blood from the side of Christ, flowing from His pain and suffering, and from the bloodCrying Francisshed from His martyrs here on Earth. In the confluence of these two rivers let us pray that God’s love and mercy floods over us and continually redeems the entire world!

Know that we Franciscans worldwide are praying for you, the church, that through this renewal we continue to rebuild upon the living cornerstone.

May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts!

-Christopher M. Fernandez, OFM Conv. Postulant



Published in: on September 7, 2018 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment