Embracing the Call to Witness Love

Reflection for the Ascension of the Lord by FAN Board Member, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our May 27th newsletter

As we prepare to celebrate Eucharist this week and reflect on the readings for the feast of the Ascension the phrase, the question, that stands out is “…why are you standing there looking at the sky?”

We can only imagine the dynamic experience of Christ’s Ascension. Artists through the centuries have depicted the scene with Jesus rising up into the clouds. Others have painted Jesus surrounded by heavenly hosts of angels. All of these are the artists’ attempts to capture this significant event. Yet, we have no visual, only the words and the testimony of those who were present.

Luke wrote, “Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.”

His words are simple and uncomplicated – Jesus parted from them and was taken up to heaven. We also hear of the simplicity of the Apostles’ experience and their response – they did him homage and returned to Jerusalem.

What becomes evident in this writing is that too often we might look for and focus on the dynamic experience of the Ascension event as expressed by artists. In our lives, do we spend our time ‘looking at the sky,’ gazing, watching, looking for Christ? The two divine messengers who questioned the disciples seemed to say, Stop looking up at the sky. There are so many things to do!

Our following Christ goes far beyond ‘looking up at the sky’. Our discipleship is an internal and communal dynamic, captured by Luke as he wrote, “…they returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple praising God.” The feast of the Ascension calls us to discipleship, to make the values of the gospel, the values of mercy and compassion for all people, peace, justice and the integrity of creation visible and vibrant in our world.

This is the gift of the Ascension and of the Spirit. The Christ who once walked this earth continues to be present and dynamic in us. Let us live and be Christ’s disciples with our eyes and hearts focused on the needs of others and alert to the cries for justice.

Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on May 28, 2019 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Prayer Vigil for Migrant Children Lost at our Border

At a prayer vigil on Capitol Hill, interfaith leaders came together to mourn the young lives lost at our nation’s border, after coming here for safety and protection. Attendees prayed for the administration to finally see the inherent humanity of the lives of migrants and to act to change these inhumane policies.

FAN’s Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF contributed the following lament to the occasion:

Prayer Vigil for migrant children May 23, 2019

In Christian scriptures, Jesus embraces and blesses children. When the disciples try to shoo children away, Mark writes, Jesus “became indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” And Matthew tells us that Jesus said, “whoever receives one child. . .in my name receives me.” This Jesus was also a migrant child when his parents fled with him to Egypt when he was threatened with death by a jealous king. Certainly, when migrant children die in U.S. custody today, Jesus would be more than indignant; he would grieve and would condemn conditions in which these children die. He would hold administrators liable.

In June, 2018, Pope Francis reminded the world that migrants are not numbers, but persons, who need ongoing protection, with particular concern for migrant children and their families. We know the names of migrant children who have recently died in U.S. custody and remember them: Jakelin. . . Felipe. . .Juan. . . Wilmar. . . Carlos. . . and a 10 year old girl who died in September.

Last week, during his Wednesday audience, Pope Francis gave a joy ride in his pope-mobile to 8 migrant children who arrived recently in Italy from Syria, Nigeria, and Congo. His words and actions are in clear contradiction to Italy’s hard-line anti-immigrant government.

This morning, in the shadow of our country’s administration and lawmakers, we mourn the deaths of these children; we pray for their grieving families; we pray for all vulnerable people, especially children, held in Border Patrol custody on our southern border; we pray that government officials will see migrants not as numbers but as human beings in need of protection from the violent and harsh conditions from which they are fleeing; we pray that our elected officials will think of their own children and grandchildren when they see photos of Jakelin, Felipe, Juan, Wilmar, Carlos, and others. And may we who offer these prayers, also ACT by calling on the administration and congress to investigate conditions on the border and make necessary changes that value human lives.

Published in: on May 23, 2019 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wars, threats of more wars, dishonor Memorial Day

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

Flag waving and military parades are synonymous with Memorial Day. It is a day of intense nationalism – highlighting a perceived need for military strength.

But there is a far better way for us to respectfully remember the countless numbers of men and women who have died in past wars – and are dying in present wars.

Instead of making it a day of intense nationalism which accepts ongoing war as “normal,” the healthiest, holiest way to honor combatants killed, is … READ MORE

Published in: on May 22, 2019 at 9:35 am  Leave a Comment  

God’s Gift to All

Reflection for the 6th Sunday of Easter by FAN Board Member, BR. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our May 20th newsletter

In the first reading this week we hear such a familiar discussion or debate in regards to how one is “SAVED.” In the Gospel, Jesus is preparing us for what is to come or perhaps more importantly how the Church, the community of believers, needs to understand and see the work of God on earth in our midst, in and through the gifts of unity and more importantly through the Power of the Holy Spirit.

So, the first reading is a summary of the first embrace of differing opinions in the Church about how God is working in our current situations. That gathering is called the First Council of Jerusalem. The conversion outside of the Jewish community, of the “others” brought about some different opinions.

Needless to say, people were not of one mind on this issue. In fact, both sides had very strong opinions, which caused disagreements. Sound similar? It might have been the first, but as we know, not the last.

Throughout the history of the followers of Jesus, there have been times of great discussion and debate. Even today, the voices within the Church are at times diverse on Policy and Practices. But we need to be true to the Gospel, where we hear that in loving Jesus, we keep His word. His word, His gift to all, to love one another, in spite of our opinions, differences, attitudes, and policies and practices.

For if we can listen to each other and still accept our differences, then the Holy Spirit can empower us to see a New Heaven and a New Earth, and perhaps we can then “build that city on a hill!”

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Conv.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on May 21, 2019 at 9:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Creating a New Earth

Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Easter by FAN executive director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our May 13th newsletter

As we continue our journey through the Easter Season and await the festival where we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, perhaps we should take some time and reflect. Do we view the Resurrection and the Pentecost as a static events that happened some 2000 years ago? Last Tuesday I was at Mass at the Monastery, in his homily the priest talked about the Resurrection not as a one time event, but rather an ongoing transformation that happens in each of us everyday. Sunday’s second reading from Revelations starts with: “Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away…:”

What if the purpose of the Incarnation and Resurrection was not so we could go somewhere else, but rather so we, with God, could create a new Earth? I occasionally, in my meditations, will imagine what a new Earth a new Heaven would be like. The first thing I imagine is that Heaven and Earth are not separate places. Earth is not a place where we start out with hopes of getting to Heaven. Earth is the place where we create Heaven. On this new Earth, children would not have to hide under their desks frightened that they might get shot. We will turn our weapons into plowshares. On this new Earth, not a single child will go to bed hungry. When we saw them hungry, we fed them. On this new, Earth there will be no walls separating us. When we saw the stranger, we welcomed them. On this new Earth, we will not destroy the environment. There will be a covenant with God, us, our descendants, and every living creature; the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth. On this new Earth, some children will not be living in mansions while others live on the streets. “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.” On this new Earth, abortion will not be an issue. Not because we criminalize and demonize. But rather because every child will be welcomed and cared for from conception to natural death regardless of their circumstances. On this new Earth, we will not be waiting to go to heaven, we will create heaven.

In his book The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr says: “The true and essential work of all religion is to help us recognize and recover the divine imagine in everything.” Think about how wondrous, how awesome this new Earth would be if everyone that looked at you saw the Imago Dei and you saw the image of God in every blade of grass, every bird, every person from the destitute homeless person to the Pope. Sometimes I think we complicate our faith. We believe that we are too small to understand. We have to have volumes and volumes of rules on how to pray, and hold our hands. Whether we should stand or kneel. We think that if we don’t follow these mysterious rules that we do not really understand and we will not go to Heaven. Jesus made it very simple. In our Gospel reading this week Jesus says: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If we saw the image of God in everything, how could we not love every creature, every person?

St. Angela of Foligno, a 13th century Franciscan mystic, said: “My soul in an excess of wonder cried out: ‘This world is pregnant with God!’” In the next few weeks leading up to Pentecost, reflect on this image of a new Earth pregnant with God. Then instead of sitting around waiting for Jesus to come and create this new Earth, reflect on what you can do with God to be a co-creator of the New Earth. Then, when Pentecost Sunday comes and we are filled with the Holy Spirit, don’t sit meekly and quietly in your pew or your home. Stand up! Shout from the mountain tops that you are one of the disciples who is here, not preparing to go to Heaven, but to create the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth.

Peace and All Good

Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on May 14, 2019 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

God: The Shepherd of All

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Easter by FAN Board Member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our May 6th newsletter

While on retreat recently, I participated in an exercise that had a profound impact on my life. We were asked to find a partner we did not know and then sit facing each other, holding each other’s hands. We were asked to first look into our partner’s eyes and then look down at their hands. We sat this way for about 15 minutes while a mantra “I love you” played quietly.

As I gazed at my partner’s hands I began to “see” hands of people in countries throughout the world, people I did not know, hands of all different shapes, sizes, and skin tones. With each, I thought to myself “I love you.” After several minutes my thoughts flowed to the hands of those who traffic other human beings for profit. In my mind these hands also took on different shapes and hues. I remember hesitating; I knew that I was called to say “I love you” to each of these people also. I also knew that I could only authentically say this by remaining “faithful to the grace of God.” (1 Acts 13:43) My thoughts then moved to the hands of some specific people in the news who I disagreed with or I disliked. I knew that each of these individuals were made in the same image and likeness of our God who shepherds us, and so to each I said, “I love you.”

This Sunday is often referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. It may serve to remind us (me!) that God reaches out to all people. God is the shepherd of all, even, and perhaps especially, those individuals who plan evil acts, who not just ignore, but who choose to do all they can to mock and to destroy the most vulnerable in our society and world.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on May 7, 2019 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

“I am going fishing.”

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Easter by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our April 29th newsletter

Looking for a distraction from a deep feeling of let-down, a feeling too hard to bear, and even less to comprehend, Peter, in this week’s readings, is going back to what he knows best, fishing. I have to say that it is a reaction not very different from mine when I need something to distract me or help me deal with what I do not want to face yet, or I need time to come to terms with. I can procrastinate, do something I enjoy doing or that I am very familiar with, so I do not have to think. Peter had a lot on his mind, as did the six disciples who went with him.

However, it did not help and on top of it, fishing was not successful. The Gospel says that Peter and his friends “that night caught nothing.” So their sadness was compounded by disappointment and frustration. It is only when it was already dawn, the text says, that something different, unsettling and unexpected happened. A stranger dares to ask them, from the shore, if they caught anything and, even more daring he tells them to cast the net over the right side of the boat. I can only imagine Peter’s thinking: “Right, who are you to tell as how to fish?!” But they do it, maybe out of the desire to prove this daring stranger wrong or because they had nothing to lose anyway. We know the story…

It is at this moment, when something unforeseeable and really mind boggling happens, that their eyes were opened and they realized that only the Lord could have done such a miracle. The mood completely changes, from desperation to elation, so much so that Peter jumped into the sea…and they were treated to breakfast!

So it is the journey of faith, the Easter journey, our openness to the unexpected, big or small, that gives us the possibility to see with new eyes, what we cannot see if we remain closed in on ourselves, our own disappointments, fears, frustrations, and setbacks.

Following the Risen Jesus is to be open to new possibilities. He asks us to trust that life cannot, will not be the same, once we know that he is still present in our lives and in the lives of those we encounter every day, and so be ready to be challenged by the one we least expect.

Peter was now ready to be challenged about his love for Jesus and this time he passed the test: “Lord you know everything: you know that I love you.”

The Easter Season puts our expectations to the test. Are we ready to allow our life, our heart to be surprised by the novelty of the Easter message? Are we ready or willing to meet or find Jesus even in places we may not wish to go?

The apostles were ready: “We must obey God rather than men… So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”

Can I say the same when I speak up for justice, for those who seek a better life in our country, for peace and a more merciful and humane world, and hope to be surprised with results? Yes, I want to be surprised and be able to sing: “Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on April 30, 2019 at 10:12 am  Leave a Comment  

“Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have come to believe”

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Easter by FAN Board Member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our April 22nd newsletter

For too many, a miracle in today’s current climate and culture and time seems to be a special effect or some type of emotional reaction in a story. We are, for the most part, returning to a time where self comes first, the age of Thomas the Apostle, of needing to see to believe.

Look around in Church this Sunday. The pews have more room and space than last week. There’s more parking in the lot and the even the flowers in the Church seem to be different than last week, when their newness and sweet smell made the Church seem so alive and new. Yes, Easter has come! Now what? Where is the difference in our hearts and more especially in our lives?

The Spanish have a great proverb that fits this Sunday and its readings so well. It is, “Establish your reputation and go to bed.” This speaks to us about the difficulty in changing what people know of us.

Too many of us know this proverb in a personal way. No matter what happens in our lives, we are looked at by those who know us, or more importantly who think they know us, as what we were known by our relationship in the past.

Thankfully, it’s very different with God! For us, God is the Lord of many chances.

During Lent, I spent time each day reading short daily stories of men and women whose lives were touched and changed by God’s love and Grace. Many of whom are called Saints and even more whose lives and experiences touched others and brought them to the Lord.

In every life, it was not so much what they said, but it was always what they did for others. Today’s miracles are the lives that embrace, encourage, support, and accept those whom our society overlooks or more so looks away from out of fear or confusion. These are the miracles of today that will lead the doubting into believing.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on April 23, 2019 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  

From Darkness to Light, From Death to New Life!

Reflection for Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of the Lord by FAN Board Member, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our April 15th newsletter

As I reflect on our readings for Easter Sunday, I am acutely aware of the fact that this reflection will be sent out and possibly read on the Monday or in the days leading into Holy Week.

This awareness is important because we cannot begin to understand the depth and profound gratuitous gift of new life in the Resurrected Christ unless we are willing to open our eyes, our hearts and our minds to the suffering and Crucified Christ. As we enter into the Paschal Triduum we enter into the experience of the suffering of Christ Jesus who was betrayed, arrested, denied, beaten, scorned, ridiculed, and put to death. The Triduum, the Paschal Mystery, is not individual events or rituals but one flowing movement of God’s gracious outpouring of Crucified Love that breaks the bonds of suffering and death to offer new life, new hope and the promise that the Christ who was raised from death will come again.

Let us enter this week and remember the presence of the suffering Christ in our sisters and brothers who have been abused and betrayed by the clerical leaders whom they trusted. Let us recognize those who have been betrayed and imprisoned into the darkness of human slavery and trafficking. Let us acknowledge the suffering Christ in the men, women, and children arrested at our southern border and denied the right to seek asylum and refugee status. Let us look upon the suffering Christ in those scorned, ridiculed, and beaten because of the color of their skin, because of the clothes they wear, the way they pray and express their faith or their human sexuality. Let us truly see the dying and crucified Christ in all those who have lost their lives from violence, hatred, and shootings in schools, at concerts, in movie theaters, in churches, mosques and synagogues. This is the Body of Christ suffering and dying in our midst and in our world today.

Our culture, our society, our self-centeredness continues to create an environment of distrust, hatred, and fear. Is this really any different than what Jesus encountered in his final days? Yet God continues to pour out forgiveness, mercy, and reconciling love and invites us to recognize and to work for the unity, goodness, and healing of the Body of Christ in our world. Only then will we begin to understand the gift of Resurrected Love and the promise of One Spirit that flows through and unites all people and all creation. May we be willing to embrace the darkness of pain and suffering and be the light and the hope of Christ’s presence and resurrected love for others!

Margaret Magee OSF
Member of the FAN Board

Published in: on April 16, 2019 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Getting the Earth’s Sacredness Right Every Earth Day

Gary Paul Nabhan (Brother Coyote, OEF), is an agricultural ecologist, ethnobotanist and writer whose work has focused primarily on the desert Southwest. He is considered a pioneer in the local-food and heirloom seed-saving movements. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Franciscan Action Network

by Gary Paul Nabhan

What if getting our relationship right with the Earth and all its creatures is not the scenic backdrop for some circus sideshow, but is as crucial as getting our relations right with our Creator, our family and our neighbors? What if all of Creation is the most palpable expression of our Creator’s generosity, sense of wonder, and commitment to diversity? What happens if we begin to include the fungi, the flowers, the fritillary butterflies and the flocks of wild geese as our neighbors, our family, and our Creator’s expressive face?

Nearly fifty years ago, as a seventeen year old, I worked as a volunteer doing articles, graphics and cartoons for the Environmental Action news magazine at the headquarters established to coordinate the initial Earth Day. I was one of a dozen youth and young adults who worked there, preparing for the participation of 20 million people around the world in the first-ever global recognition of the Earth’s sacredness and its vulnerability.

Some of the staff were veterans of Civil Rights Summer in the South; others were conscientious objectors who did not want to “study the war no more.” We were out to do something affirmative, something inclusive—not a protest, but a celebration.

On Earth Day itself, I was sent to a small Catholic college near the Mississippi River, to be the youngest presenter at a campus-wide convocation. A young nun greeted me, and asked if I had ever given a speech before. I [shook] my head side to side, unable to even speak the word “no.” The nun held my hand, and said,

“Don’t get jittery, honey, just pretend you are offering a prayer, talking to God, giving thanks. As long as you don’t get into issues like overpopulation and abortion, I think you’ll be okay.”

I don’t think I knew much of anything about abortion at that time, so it was easy to follow her advice.

I have no idea what I said that day. I simply looked out the windows above the assembled crowd, watching eagles move among the towering trees growing along the banks of a tributary of the Mississippi, as the water moved forward and blended into the Big Muddy itself.

Whatever words I spoke were directed toward those eagles as much as they were to the humans assembled there that day; to the catfish in the river as much as to the Christian community; as a call of the wild as much as a call for a communion of all races, faiths and classes.

Actually, I can’t recall that any words spilled out my mouth that morning. I am not at all sure that my voice was heard — let alone remembered — by anyone present that first Earth Day morning, but that did not matter much to me. I felt as though I was present at the dawning of Creation, at the first sanctioned gathering of two-leggeds, four-leggeds, winged ones and rooted ones where all came to express their joy in being part of this sacred place that was careening through space and time.

It is true: whenever any of us feels that kind of gratitude for all of Earth’s creatures, we have become fully Present, fully Alive ourselves.

That may be what Saint Francis meant when he urged us to “go out and Preach the Good News, and only when necessary, use words.”

Published in: on April 12, 2019 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment