Prepare the Way of the Lord

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Advent by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our December 3rd newsletter


prepare.roadEvery year in the readings of the Second Week of Advent we hear the words of Isaiah proclaimed by John, son of Zechariah: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” I admit that I like this yearly calling, as well as the songs that are usually sung at Sunday liturgy. They accompany the  ritual of the lighting of the candle in the Advent wreath which gives a visual to the Season. But, what does it mean for me this year, to prepare the way of the Lord? That is when I realized that Paul, in the letter to the Philippians, is coming to my/our help.

Paul is praying for us, I suggest, helping us to prepare the way of the Lord. “And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” So this year Paul prays for me that I may be able to discern what is of value. Our world is so confusing, value seems to have very blurred lines. What is proclaimed as important  is actually secondary or non-important, while the values of love, decency, respect and mercy are ignored. There is certainly no true value in rejecting people at the border, in admitting only those who do not need financial help, in being indifferent to the catastrophic famine in Yemen that is caused also by U.S. bombs. What is of value? What do I value in my life? Do the choices I make in what I say, what I do, what I buy, what I read, reflect my values or do I allow the buzzing of the media to shape what I care for? Am I ready to say that Jesus and his values are taking flesh in me this Advent Season?

Next week we also celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She too can teach us what is of value by choosing to make herself present to Juan Diego, a poor Mexican peasant whose life of service to his sick uncle was hidden. Mary chose him as her privileged son to show the world that his hidden and simple life was of great value to her, more than the powerful in the eyes of the world could tell. As we discern for ourselves how to prepare the way of the Lord in our lives, let us ask Mary and Paul’s help that when the Lord comes He may find us “filled with the fruits of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ”.

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

FAN Director of Advocacy

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Published in: on December 4, 2018 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Lessons learned in mission land USA

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.


Tony Magliano

By Tony Magliano

Many years ago as a young man born and raised in Baltimore, I spent a very different week getting a taste of life in Appalachia.

The opportunity to travel from the hustle of big city life to the quiet beautiful mountainous area of eastern Kentucky – to deepen my Catholic faith, experience Christian community with other young adults from around the U.S., and help the rural poor – was an offer this adventurous soul jumped at!

Through a wonderful program which the Glenmary Home Missioners still offer (see: www.glenmary.org/come-and-see), I and about 20 other guys, under the supervision of two skilled Glenmary brothers, worked on improving impoverished homes of several mountain families. Then in the evenings, we participated in wonderful spiritual retreats.
Now fast-forward 40 years.

Having recently retired after 17 years as a pastoral associate in Baltimore, I contacted Glenmary to see if I could volunteer once again. Father Vic Subb, pastor of Holy Family parish and Divine Savior mission in Lafayette and Celina, Tenn. respectively, warmly invited me to take up residence at his home and assist him in ministering to the folks in his neck-of-the-woods.

And so I packed my bags and headed south, driving over 700 miles to Holy Family and Divine Savor in Tennessee – which are the only established Catholic congregations within a five county radius.

For nearly six weeks, I took the Eucharist to homebound and nursing home parishioners, assisted with R.C.I.A., gave two social justice and peace presentations, and delivered a weekly Scripture reading and sermon on the local country radio station.

It was all a very enriching experience of sharing and receiving God’s love.

But my most insightful experiences were ministering to prisoners and migrant workers.
Every Friday at the Macon County Jail, Fr. Subb, along with a few volunteers including myself, celebrated the Eucharist with 20 prisoners. Their prayerful reverence and sincere reflections concerning the proclaimed Scriptures deepen my understanding that active faith in God’s love and mercy is greater than our sins, and as Jesus often taught, is our very salvation (see: Luke19:1-10).

On several occasions, I traveled to migrant worker camps in Tennessee and Kentucky with Fr. Subb – who for years has traversed many country back roads to befriend and minister to numerous Mexican and Central American farm workers.

During a visit one evening, I asked them to tell me about their work harvesting tobacco. They explained that for 11 hours a day, six days a week, they work non-stop – except for lunch – cutting, stacking, hanging and stripping this hazardous crop – dangerous to workers and users alike.

These very poor migrant workers labor so hard in dangerous conditions, because at about $11 an hour, they make 11 times what they would earn back home.

While millions of migrant workers pick our fruits and vegetables, these men – migrant women also work the fields – explained that tobacco was the only farm job available to them.

Although all of these men have legal worker visas, millions of other migrant workers throughout the U.S. remain in the undocumented shadows, partly because the federal government refuses to issue enough worker visas each year.

Comprehensive, fair immigration reform legislation is sorely needed and long overdue.
Now back home in Maryland, where my county and all of the neighboring counties have Catholic churches, I realize the final lesson I learned in mission country USA is that in our very secular nation and world, mission country actually starts in our own families, neighborhoods and parish congregations (see: https://bit.ly/1i8E8ro).

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan and parish gatherings. To invite Tony, contact him at tmag@zoominternet.net.

Published in: on November 29, 2018 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Abound in Love

Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent by FAN Board Member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our November 26th newsletter


LoveMakesAmericaGreat“The days are coming, …May the Lord make you increase and abound in love,…for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

In this week’s first reading we are reminded that God’s plan and will for us as a person and as a people will prevail. Now, that really is Good News! Because far to often in our time and in our lives it really takes Faith and Trust in God to believe this, in spite of what we see and hear around us.

This past week I, along with so many others, spent time traveling to be with family and friends for Thanksgiving and/or hosted family and friends. Many of us used our time, talent, and treasures to do so and took on more anxiety, work, and perhaps even stress to do so. Some of us were even able to go beyond our comfort zone by sharing the gift of hospitality to help others have a time of welcome and acceptance into our homes and lives.

As we hear in the second reading, “May the Lord make you abound in love for one another and for all.” Hopefully we can extend a day to a season of Preparing for the Lord to come afresh into our hearts and lives. Doing good deeds, being kinder, accepting the stranger and encouraging others to become a sign of God’s Love in and through service to others.

This is what Advent is about, preparing, changing our hearts and embracing God’s call to abound in love.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on November 27, 2018 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Christ, King of Hearts

Reflection for the feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our November 19th newsletter


The feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, “in splendor robed,” closes Ordinary Time in the liturgical calendar before the Season of Advent turns our attention to the vulnerable Child born in a stable. In the United States, we do not take kindly to kingship and kingdom given our history of separation from being ruled by a king. In the magnificent Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, over the main altar is a very large mosaic of a muscular, white, blond, scowling King Jesus (pictured) for which I feel antipathy. For me, it is no more authentic than the sweet, docile Jesus on many holy cards.

In this week’s gospel, Jesus acknowledges kingship when he is on trial before Pilate. He clearly states, however, “My kingdom does not belong to this world,” before he is led to be tortured and crucified. His is a spiritual kingdom embracing everyone. I recall an incident shared by a priest who was praying in a small chapel in a country in Africa (I forget which one) and noticed something different about the crucifix. A closer look revealed that there were no nails holding Jesus to the cross. Why? Because it was love that held Jesus, our crucified king, to an instrument of agony and death.

As the Church transitions from Ordinary Time to Advent preparations for the birth of the Incarnate God as a small baby, we are reminded that Jesus Christ is both the “Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 1:8) and the King of Love. Today, we honor Christ, King of the Universe, and Christ, King of Hearts.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on November 20, 2018 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Living in the Present Moment

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

This reflection was originally posted in our November 12th newsletter


As we come to the end of the Church year we are called to be mindful that something new is coming – like the fig tree “When its branches become tender and sprout leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that God is near, at the gates.” But the mystery is that we do now know when that time arrives. The key is to remain faithful and live in hope. The end of the year readings prompt us to live for the present moment.

Pondering the end of life reminded me of the last judgment as recorded in Matthew 25:31-35 when we are told exactly what we need to do to get to heaven:

FEED THE HUNGRY
GIVE DRINK TO THE THIRSTY
WELCOME THE STRANGER
COMFORT THE ILL
VISIT THOSE IN PRISON

What is happening in the present moment? The caravan of those fleeing persecution in their own countries and looking for a place of rescue. Is this the present moment when God is calling us to live these works of mercy? Is it the present moment when God is asking us to remember that all were made to God’s image and likeness so we are all brothers and sisters? Is this the present moment when we are called to bring hope to those who struggle with hope for a better life? In answering these questions we will prepare ourselves for our judgment at the end of the world.

Sr. Marge Wissman
FAN Board Member

Published in: on November 13, 2018 at 9:29 am  Leave a Comment  

What “Mite” I Give?

Reflection for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, David Seitz, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our November 5th newsletter


Mite I giveThe readings for the 32nd week of ordinary time call us to consider the question; What might I give? In each of the readings, and the psalm, the scriptures are challenging us to give. To give not only from our surplus, but to give in total; to make a total gift.

The story of Elijah and widow in 1 Kings is a favorite of mine. Elijah asks the widow for a gift of all that she had remaining in the world, her last bit of flour and oil during a severe famine. This widow made a total gift of what she had to Elijah, trusting in the providence of God. Result? God provided for her and sustained her through the rest of the famine, her jar did not go empty.

The Gospel reading from Mark is another story of a widow making a total gift of all she has. “The Widow’s Mite” is how many recall this story. The rich man gave of his surplus and made sure everyone knew of his generosity earned his reward on earth, while the widow gained an eternal reward.

What strikes me about these two stories is the most generous givers turned out to be those the Mosaic law called on the Jewish nation to support. The book of Deuteronomy, the book of the law, commands no less than 12 times that Israel must take care of and support the widow, the orphan, and the alien among them, the most vulnerable of society. Jesus often spoke out against those who tithe on mint leaves yet neglected to care for the poor.

Now for the real meat of the readings, Psalm 146. I do not have the space here to quote in total but in summary, the Psalm praises the Lord who cares for the oppressed, hungry, prisoners, blind, those who are bowed down, strangers, widows, and orphans.

St. Paul reminds us that “we” are the body of Christ. As the body, we are the Lord who cares for the oppressed, hungry, prisoners, blind, those who are bowed down, strangers, widows, and orphans. As the body, we are called to total giving as Jesus gave himself totally for all persons.

Sisters and brothers, this is our call to action! We must be the Lord’s two feet of love. We are called, with one foot, to take care of the immediate needs of those in need, regardless of race, creed, nationality or gender and create for them lives worthy of people redeemed by Christ. With the other foot we are called to engage in the field of public life to advocate for laws and policies that will create a just society that alleviates conditions which keep those on the fringe of society from coming into a more secure and sustainable quality of life.

What “Mite” I give? Support FAN financially so it may continue the work of engaging the leadership of our nation to create just laws and policies We must take care of the immediate needs of those on the fringe, but it is also important to create a society where those immediate needs become less frequent. Visit the FAN website and donate. Consider the 10 for 10 campaign and pledge your monthly gift of $10. Consider sponsoring a ticket to the FAN 10th Anniversary Award Benefit this month so a deserving immigrant or religious brother or sister can attend. If you have deeper pockets, consider sponsoring a table and purchasing an ad in the benefit E-Ad booklet. We must support both feet of love. Without both feet we are not able to stand in support of our brothers and sisters in need.

David Seitz, OFS
FAN Board Member

Published in: on November 6, 2018 at 9:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Testimony of Father Patrick A. Smith to keep Providence Hospital open

The following testimony was given to the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Health Public Oversight Hearing by Father Patrick A. Smith, Pastor of St. Augustine Catholic Church on November 2nd, 2018


Prov.Hospital

Thank you, Chairman Gray and members of the Committee for the opportunity to testify in support of keeping Providence Hospital open.

My name is Fr. Patrick Smith. I am the Pastor of St. Augustine Catholic Church at 14th & V in Ward 1. I am here today not as an official or unofficial representative of the Catholic Archdiocese Washington but as third generation native Washingtonian from Ward 8 where I grew up. I have been a priest in this Archdiocese for more than 28 years. My ministry has almost exclusively been in the African American community.

I am here today because I am deeply concerned that children and families in our community that I have dedicated my life to serve will be put at risk if Providence Hospital closes. I am here because I know and you know that here in the District of Columbia, that all too often people of limited means, those living on the margins of the nation’s capital, cannot get the health care they need. I am hear because I believe that the closure of Providence Hospital will only make the health care needs of the most vulnerable population in our city LESS accessible to them. As was the case when the labor and delivery unit at Providence Hospital was shut down a year ago – a unit serving a population with a shockingly high infant mortality rate – especially among African American women (14.6 deaths per 1000 live births in Ward 8) – closed a year ago just two months before the highly promoted and largely Catholic sponsored Annual March and Rally for Life was held in this city. I am here because I am afraid that people may get the impression that when we Catholics say “Pro-Life” that we are NOT including black and brown babies and mothers or lower income families in our definition of life worth defending, protecting, serving and saving. I am here because I am afraid that when Ascension Health Care promotes and prides itself in being called Catholic plans to close the Emergency Care Center they named after Pope Francis; that the gesture will be perceived as a meaningless PR stunt that has no real affinity to the actual Pope who said “Health care is not a consumer good, but a human right, and access to health care cannot be a privilege.” I am afraid that when WE as Catholics repeat the truth that “The Lord hears the cry or the poor” (Psalm 34) that that truth may fall on deaf ears if we close one of the only two hospitals on the east side of the District knowing that all but one of the seven other hospitals are concentrated in the wealthiest neighborhoods of the city.

I am here today because Jesus said that what we do to the least among us, we do to him; because he said I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you offered me no welcome…I was poor and you gave me no assistance; I as sick you offered me no healthcare; I was in need of medical attention and you closed down the hospital that provided the best opportunity for me to be cared for. I am here because Jesus said that I, we, Ascension Health, ALL of us, will all be judged by how we treated – and whether we provided treatment – to the least of our brothers and sisters among us.

I am here because Providence Hospital is vital to the health of residents of the eastern half of this city. Finally, in the words of Edmund Burke: “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

I want to thank Chairman Gray and the Members of this Council for refusing to be counted among those who “did nothing” by voting unanimously last month to take an important step to keep Providence Hospital open as a fully functioning hospital with acute-care services. Thank you for standing up for our shared values and working to ensure health care for all residents of the District. I want to call on the Department of Health and our Mayor to do so as well.

Let us continue to work together to ensure that Ascension Health upholds its stated mission of service and compassion for those most in need by keeping Providence Hospital open and providing acute-care services.

Our children and families deserve no less.
Thank you.

Published in: on November 5, 2018 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

FAN Friend Supports Guatemalan Community’s fight for Clean Water

FAN Friend, Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM works for Catholic Charities and recently made a trip to support several communities in Guatemala in their struggle against a mining operation threatening their water supply. Here, with permission, is his story.


By Jacek Orzechoski, OFM

Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM

Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM

Yesterday [October 29,2018], I and a few members of the Central American Franciscan family visited a community of resistance against the gold mining operation in La Puya. It is located about one hour outside of Guatemala City. For the past six years, the impoverished Guatemalan communities of San Jose de Golfe have been engaged in a David and Goliath struggle against the US-based company, Kappes, Cassidy, and Associate. The communities insist that their right to clean water – and therefore their right to life – takes precedence over the mining company’s insatiable desire for gold and profit. Recently, the people have scored the major victory yet, their peaceful, non-violent fight is far from over. http://www.yestolifenotomining.org/guatemala-communities-s…/

The US-Canadian mining company is still looking for ways to get gold from La Puya. On one hand, there is a prospect of huge profits for the rich foreign elites; and on the other hand, there is a specter of arsenic-poisoned water and unusable land for tens of thousands of local people. In that moral contest, if the greed wins then, the people that live in the area would have only two options: stay there and consume poison; or take your family and migrate north. In Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras – among other countries – the gold mines, the hydroelectric projects, and extensive monoculture plantations have been displacing a huge number of people from their land. They have also contributed to the culture of corruption, violence, impunity, and kleptocracy. Under the guise of bringing development and progress, one can see a neo-colonial theft and robbery. It’s appropriate here to quote St. Basil the Great who in the 4th century called an unfettered pursuit of money rules, “the dung of the devil”.

JAcek blog

President Trump and his enablers continue to spawn racism, hatred, and division. Together, they demonize migrants and refugees and label them as dangerous criminals when in fact they are fleeting violence, extreme poverty, and deadly repression in their countries of origin. Yet, too many Americans fail to see that, all too often, it is the U.S. economic policies imposed on many Latin American countries that generate an enormous structural violence. Pope Francis has spoken against the tyranny of “the economy that excludes and kills”.

Rather than talking about building the wall, we as Americans must open our eyes and join in solidarity the progressive democratic movements in Central America that offer an alternative to the US-promoted, insane model of development that frequently, in the process, crushes the poor, poisons the land, stamps out the authentic, participatory democracy, and replace it with corruption and violence.

Confronting these challenges is a daunting task. Yet, the courageous witness of the Guatemalan communities in peaceful resistance at La Puya can inspire all of us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN2M4oiDpoo The Franciscan family is getting more involved in promoting the culture of peace and moves towards a prophetic witness in solidarity with the oppressed. Let me know if you’re interested in learning more about what you can do. Peace and all good.

Published in: on October 31, 2018 at 11:25 am  Leave a Comment  

You are not far from the Kingdom of God

Reflection for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our October 29th newsletter


heart.bookThis Sunday, in the Gospel of Mark, we see that one of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”

Was this a test, or was it asked to help the scribe and perhaps all of us to become more focused on what is most important?

Not sure, but Jesus’s answer put together two commandments. “The Lord our God is Lord alone! You should love your God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Or, as St. Augustine called it, “The rule of love.”

Too many of us believe that our Practice of Religion is a personal and a private matter and that is true to the extent that we realize that God speaks to a people, and that God calls us to be His hands, and feet and voice on this earth.

What we do speaks so much louder than what we say. How we treat others, how we extend our lives to embrace others is very important to how others discover God’s love and concern for them.

Realizing God’s love for us brings us to share this good news with our neighbors.

As we prepare to vote this Tuesday and continue to prepare for Thanksgiving, let us also share God’s love and gifts with others.

Moses said it so well in this week’s first reading, “Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on October 30, 2018 at 10:34 am  Leave a Comment  

“Have Pity on Me”

Reflection for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our October 22nd newsletter


Bible.prayerI always liked the passage from this week’s Gospel of Mark. At different times in my life I felt like the blind man at the side of the road shouting, “Jesus, have pity on me!” What I like about it is the persistence of the blind man that does not allow himself to be intimidated by the rebuke of the apostles, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, annoying everybody, I am sure. But Bartimaeus was desperate. He wanted so much to see and he considered Jesus passing as his chance to finally be heard and healed. I wonder how long he had been sitting by the roadside begging? He was certainly not going to let the passing of Jesus go in vain and miss his chance for a better life.

Do we have the determination of Bartimaeus in our asking, in our begging to Jesus to have pity on us?

Jesus, Son of David have pity on us when we are so blind not to see that putting children and families in cages is not the human thing to do.
Jesus, have pity on us, when we are so blind to believe we are safer and stronger if we demean the other, the one who seeks help and refuge from unspeakable situations of violence.
Jesus have pity on us, when we are so blind not to see that our own policies create situations of unrest and fear.

On a personal note, do I allow myself to be distracted or discouraged, telling myself that nothing will change anyway, that God will not pay attention to me?

Today in our world and particularly our nation it is so easy to get overwhelmed or discouraged by what is surrounding us. It seems that the rich and powerful have more and more their fill while the people who are poor and dispossessed loose on all sides. Earth is used and abused and we seem not to care what kind of world we are handing down to our children. Is this really the way it has to be?

The Gospel tells us that Jesus heard and stopped and directed the blind man, “Courage, getup, Jesus is calling you.” I challenge myself and all of us to hear these words addressed to each one of us, knowing that our faith tells us that Jesus does hear us. Maybe what has been asked of me is to fine tune the hearing in my heart. Do I do my part? Do I cry out loud enough? Do I speak out with courage and even desperation against injustice, against what I deem harmful and immoral? Do I do my civic duty and go to vote or do I just sit quietly by the roadside?

If I do speak out then the reading of Jeremiah confirms my conviction that God will hear. The Lord heard the cry of the Israelites in exile and “The Lord has delivered his people,…I will bring them back…I will gather them…they shall return…they departed in tears but I will lead them to brooks of water… for I am a father to Israel”. Like our ancestors, we too need not to be afraid but do our best in encouraging one another to trust because “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”

And God will not let us down NOW.

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on October 23, 2018 at 9:42 am  Leave a Comment