Our experiences at Teach-In 2019: Jornada por la Justicia in El Paso

These reflections and photos were sent to us by Terry and Lucretia Burton, who participated in the Teach in Jornada por la Justicia in San Antonio, prior to the Catholic Action for Immigrants on Oct. 12th. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of Franciscan Action Network

by Terry and Lucretia Burton from the Interfaith Welcome Coalition in San Antonio

Terry and Lucretia Burton

(In San Antonio, the Interfaith Welcome Coalition (IWC) has been serving asylum seekers since 2014 as they are released from nearby detention centers. These have been primarily family units who have been processed at the border and often held for extended periods in facilities in Dilley, Karnes, and Pearsall. When they have passed their credible fear interviews and found sponsors, they are bused to the Greyhound station or airport in San Antonio to begin their journeys across the states to their sponsor locations. IWC volunteers are at these locations to greet them, give each family a backpack with supplies for the trip, explain their tickets and primarily express warm welcomes which they often haven’t received before along the way.)

Seven individuals associated with IWC travelled by plane and car to attend the Teach-In 2019: Jornada por la Justicia co-presented by the Hope Border Institute and the Latinx Catholic Leadership Coalition. Our group arrived Friday, October 11 and quickly set up at a table to display information about IWC. Flyers for the Bold Border Action on October 26 in Laredo were placed in front along with pictures of immigrant kids who have died while being held by Customs and Border Patrol or ICE.

After a prayer and blessing we began a discussion of Our Communities Are Under Attack: Undermining White Supremacy Through Solidarity.

Msgr. Arturo Banuelos

Msgr. Arturo Bañuelos was the keynote speaker for the evening and spoke passionately about the El Paso mass shooting on August 3, 2019. He personalized the tragedy with stories of the individuals killed and those who survived. While the normal response was to speak of gun control or mental illness, Msgr. Bañuelos was clear about the cause being rooted in white supremacy and the hatred that is expressed for “others”, in this case those with brown skin. While talking about the gunman, he laid the blame to those who use statements against immigrants linking them to murderers and rapist. With the same brush all Hispanics are described as invaders who threaten the way of life for those white Americans. “The wall is a Monument to Hate.”

Msgr. Bañuelos called on all of us not to only express empathy and compassion for our immigrant neighbors but to relate our lives directly to theirs. We need to see them clearly as those who are only different from us by circumstance. The challenge to each of us is in how we change our lives to contribute less to the situations that have impoverished their lands. It is the use of resources to advance our economy that has contributed to inequities and environmental consequences felt around the globe. Our trade policies have again exploited cheap labor and goods from other countries who are coerced to buy our surpluses of agricultural and manufactured goods which compete unfairly with their existing ways of living. Our political goals are imposed on others often creating wars and struggles that really are just proxy wars for dominant global ideologies.

He concluded his call to action with the image of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who stood at the foot of the cross as her son was crucified. Her tears and anguish were a sharing in the pain felt by her son. As Jesus looked down on her, he turned to His disciple, John and said “John, here is your mother.” And then to his mother he said “Here is your son”. Jesus is asking each of us to see the mother who is forced to Remain in Mexico as our mother. To see her child as our child. When we take this position, we will act in love and true compassion to do what we can do to change this tragedy.

Saturday October 12, we began with a panel discussion on Latinx Theological Narratives y la Construcción del poder político. We had great speakers who spoke to the need for care for the fragility of life. The variety of experiences and backgrounds we all come from contributes to the message when we are unified.

Breakout workshops were offered during the day on various topics relating to Overcoming Racism, Know your Rights, Catholic Social Teaching, the history of Border Militarization, etc. Each in our group chose topics that interested them and we tried to absorb as much information as possible while making contacts along the way.

Around noon we listened to a panel discuss From the Margins to the Center: Latinx Power and Immigration Reform. Another round of workshops followed our quick lunch and after these we gathered again to prepare for the Actions that afternoon. Two Actions were offered. Those who were able and desired would cross over the bridge into Mexico and visit where the Remain in Mexico asylum seekers were camping along a narrow street. They would offer prayers and a blessing of the bridge as they returned. A second group who preferred to stay on the U.S. side of the border were invited to participate in a Jericho walk. They would start at the Sacred Heart church and walk the path outlined to prayerfully witness to the plight of asylum seekers.

My wife, Lucretia, was one of a small group who also went into Mexico to meet the asylum seekers but with a special mission in mind. She describes that here:

After a wonderful weekend of learning more about discrimination, racism and how to fight it, 150-200 people went across the border in El Paso to Juarez to visit with the Asylum seekers waiting on the other side of our border. We saw the tents that they sleep in along the buildings right over the bridge. They are made of tarps and garbage bags and blankets they have scrounged up or been given. They had smiles on their faces and greeted us warmly. I talked with a couple of them. One teenage boy said to me, “The Americans want us to come, but the Mexicans are keeping us on this side.” They want to believe in our goodness so much.

After the large group prayed with the immigrants and handed out some food, the majority of the people left to walk back across and bless the bridge. I was one of the privileged ones who was allowed to stay to walk with 15 Mexican Asylum Seekers to the border to ask for asylum. There were about 10 of us. We decided to wait about 30 minutes while an attorney explained to us and to the immigrants what would be happening at the border.

During that time, I was able to speak with a mother and father and two of their children. Their baby daughter was 11 months old. She smiled and enjoyed taking my finger. This family had tried to cross the night before, but had been turned back. Their seven-year-old son had several questions for me about money. He asked the amount of three quarters and what it would buy. His friend had the three quarters. He asked if the candy in the United States tasted good. He said that he liked chocolate. He smiled a lot and was anxious to cross. The family also had an 11-year old that I didn’t get to speak with because he was with his friends.

On the way across the bridge, I walked with a mother and her son, about 12-years old. I told her that I was praying for them. She thanked me very much and said that she too was praying. I was feeling a little anxious or excited. I could not imagine how they were feeling. They were told that they would do all the talking and that we would remain silent just being in support of them. They did not look like people who were used to standing up for themselves, so I imagined the fear they must be feeling, going up to several border patrol officers and asking to be let in.

When we first arrived at the border, the first family that was with us asked to cross and was told that only legal people could cross the check-point. Of course, asking for Asylum is legal, but right now that does not matter to our government. We all just stood there. When they saw that we were not leaving, they asked us to stand to the side. I noticed one officer make a phone call.

About 15 minutes later an officer came down the line of immigrants and asked for their papers. Many other officers showed up. I feel certain that this was a very scary time for the immigrants not knowing what was going to happen. I knew that many people were praying for us on the other side.

One of the officers asked where we were from. When we told him, he asked if the Catholic Bishop was with us. He had not come. We waited in silence another 15 minutes. Finally, all 15 immigrants were allowed to pass after being warned that all their belongings would be taken away and they would be put in detention (the hilera, the refrigerator). The families agreed to this.

After they walked through the border, we were allowed to cross. We could see the immigrants taken to another room, but near enough that I could see the immigrants giving up their belongings and hear the border patrol yelling at them. I could not hear what they were saying. I could hear their tone of voice, and I would not like to be talked to in that manner. I still was feeling anxious knowing what the immigrants with small children would be going through. But I was also feeling very elated knowing that we had helped 15 people cross. I knew that the Holy Spirit had been with us. We were preparing to spend two to three hours on the border and it took only 30 minutes – a record. Glory be to God.

We continue praying for the families on the border and those 15 who have crossed. We hope to hear that they have spent only two days (the minimum) in the hilera and then are released to the Annunciation House in El Paso. (end of reflection by Lucretia)

All of the Action participants gathered that evening to eat together, visit, and learn from others what each had seen. It was a time of celebration as we learned the good news of what had occurred on the bridge.

Sunday, October 13 began with a panel discussion of Latinx Leadership for the Present Moment. One of the panelists was Rev. Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of the Diocese of El Paso. At the conclusion of the panel discussion, there was a time of reflection for students and also others in attendance. Everyone was invited to come together at a chapel service for the Celebración de la Eucaristía overseen by Bishop Seitz. Bishop Seitz then held a formal signing of his Pastoral Letter: Night Will Be No More (Noche Ya No Habrá).

I was so impressed with the preparation that was obvious from both of the co-sponsors of this teach-in. To bring together such a diverse group of speakers and participants and offer such depth of material and spiritual expression felt Spirit led. Thank you to all.

My sincere hope is that communication paths will be forged within the Latinx communities and also interfaith and justice groups to amplify this message of inclusion and solidarity. Asylum seekers come from many different countries, backgrounds, and religious faiths and yet all fall victim to the same fate when they reach the border. Each of us who hear the call to “Love our Neighbor” shed tears as we witness crosses left by a roadside for those killed by hate. We grieve over children pulled from their parents. We hurt to see mothers and fathers separated from each other and their children by our country’s failures to hear asylum pleas. We know from history that these are not unique only to today, but we only have today to act.

Published in: on October 21, 2019 at 10:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Imagine having no place to call home

By Tony Magliano

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.

Just imagine for a moment that you have no home.

What will you do for meals today? Where will you shower? Where will you sleep? If you have children, how will you provide for them?

And how will you cope with being homeless tomorrow, next week, next month?

Such imaginations are distressing. Aren’t they? But let’s not allow these distressing imaginations to cause us to ignore the sad crisis facing so many children, women and men: the crisis of having no place to call home.

Instead let’s make an effort to better understand why this devastating crisis exists. And what we can do to help end it.

In its 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) stated that on a single night in 2018, approximately 553,000 people were homeless in the United States.

The HUD number of 553,000 homeless people is considered very low by numerous homeless advocacy organizations. One reason is that HUD does not attempt to include the number of homeless persons who are temporarily staying with other people – often needing to move from one location to another (see: HUD 2018 report).

According to the U.S. Department of Education, during the 2013-14 school year, more than 1.3 million homeless children and youth were enrolled in public schools.

But no matter how we look at it, there are definitely lots of people in the U.S. who do not have a home.


To help find out why so many people are homeless, I spoke with Annie Leomporra, grassroots analyst for The National Coalition for the Homeless (see: https://nationalhomeless.org/). She said there are many factors that contribute to homelessness, but the most important reasons people find themselves homeless are due to the lack of affordable housing, lack of livable wage jobs, and the lack of access to general healthcare and mental healthcare.

She added, “We need affordable health care that does not keep people waiting up to six months to see a mental health care provider. Homeless people have a life span of only around 50 to 60 years. People are dying every day on the streets from treatable illnesses. Because healthcare isn’t available to all, their illnesses go unchecked.”

I also spoke with Paul Boden, director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project – a homeless advocacy organization based in San Francisco – who also emphasized the prime importance of building enough affordable housing.

Boden highlighted the fact that the mass homelessness we now have today was nonexistent prior to the early 1980s, largely due, unlike today, to the federal government’s commitment back then to appropriating much more money for large scale construction of affordable housing for low and moderate income people.

In stark contrast to today’s Congress, 70 years ago Congress passed “The Housing Act of 1949” with the objective to provide “a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family” (see: https://bit.ly/33Ib22l).

Boden said, “Nothing ends homelessness like a home.”

So please urge your two U.S. senators and congressperson to end homelessness by appropriating the increased funding necessary to provide affordable housing for every homeless person, as well as health care and a living wage for all. These are not give-a- ways; these are God-given human rights.

And let’s be mindful that homeless people are persons, human beings like you and me who deserve and need our kindness.

In the spirit of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who help the homeless, for they shall find a home in heaven.”

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

Published in: on October 18, 2019 at 10:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Border Wall Construction: Imperiling Sacred Sites, Churches and Religious Freedom

By Bother Coyote, OEF

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

Most of us have heard the devastating reports of how the new construction of a thirty-foot wall and floodlights along our southern border has begun to impact water flows, wildlife and archaeological resources long-protected by federal laws. The federal protection of endangered species, critical habitat and cultural antiquities has been waived along a three-hundred foot swath along the U.S./Mexico border. Eminent domain under the auspices of homeland security has allowed U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and Army Corps of Engineers to condemn lands and sidestep long-standing laws that by former presidents from both political parties signed without much debate or rancor.

Most of the legal efforts to gain injunctions to stop wall construction undertaken by the ACLU, tribes and environmental groups have been vacated or kicked up to higher courts. But what has not been challenged to date is Homeland Security’s right to impair or ignore religious freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

As documented in a 220-page National Park Service report covered by the Washington Post and New York Times, archaeological sites – including Native American sacred sites, burial and ceremonial grounds – have already been impacted by wall construction in national parks and wildlife refuges along the border.

And yet, some of these same sites have been – and still continue to be visited, used and stewarded by Native American communities who live within 50 miles of these parks and refuges along the border. They are part of living, continuing spiritual traditions – not by-gone remnants – that have been practiced in the desert borderlands for upwards of 4000 years.

What has also escaped the notice of most journalists is that several sites imperiled by wall construction and well-drilling along the border have also been utilized by Christian communities of Native, Hispanic- and Anglo-American practitioners for centuries.

Perhaps the first-recorded Palm Sunday mass recorded in present-day Arizona took place at Quitobaquito Springs – then known as A’al Wappia in the O’odham or Piman language – in 1698 or 1699. It was presided over by the Jesuit priest and explorer Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino. Now part of Organpipe Cactus National Monument, this ancient springs and agricultural settlement was frequented by Roman Catholic practitioners for rituals related to the Day of the Dead and the Holy Sacrament of Baptism at least through the 1980’s.

Some of the long-standing participants of these rituals remain alive and well in communities on both sides of the border, but fear retribution from CBP if they visit the site while construction is in process. Individuals from their communities who were simply taking photographs of the destruction of sacred plants and cultural resources at this site have already been threatened by construction workers and on social media.

Elsewhere along the U.S./Mexico border, the white adobe chapel of La Lomita built in Mission Texas in 1899 is now threatened by wall construction, as are several cemeteries in San Juan and Pharr, Texas. These cemeteries have served Mexican- and African-American families for decades. However, the families and their lawyers have been told by Homeland Security department officials that all laws which protected sacred sites along the border have been waived because of a “natural security emergency.”

Similarly, since 2008, bi-national gatherings of La Iglesia Fronteriza or Border Church have been organized by Methodist Pastor John Fanestil along the border wall in Friendship State Park, south of San Diego. But recently, gatherings involving deportees and refugees in attendance have been heavily monitored and at times disrupted by Customs and Border Protection Officials.

While no one can pass from one side of the border to the other at Friendship Park, parishioners are allowed to touch their “pinkies” through the wall to have contact with relatives on the other side – those who have been deported or denied access to visiting their families on U.S. soil.

These disruptions of religious traditions and harassment of spiritual practitioners appear to be in violation of Constitutional mandates intended to assure that citizens and refugees can practice their faith with a full guarantee of religious freedom.

We urge Native American, Christian and other faith communities to unite in solidarity in response to this crisis, and to meet with Homeland Security and other federal officials to find alternative solutions to further violations of the religious freedoms of the peoples of many faiths, creeds, cultures and races who live upon the border.

We urge you to write the Environmental Branch Chief, Border Patrol Facilities and Tactical Infrastructure Program Management Office, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20229, and the Commissioners of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the same address. May your prayers be with them to do the right thing, as well as with the refugees, deportees, and faith practitioners who wish to worship along the border.

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.

Published in: on October 17, 2019 at 9:44 am  Comments (2)  
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Lift up those weary arms!

Reflection for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our October 14th newsletter

Sometimes the Sunday scripture readings are in very clear alignment in support of a theme or teaching. This Sunday is one of those times. With help from friends, Moses is able to keep his hands raised in prayer until Joshua wins the battle against Amalek; Paul instructs Timothy “…be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient…”; Jesus narrates a parable to illustrate the necessity “to pray always without becoming weary.”

The contexts of the readings from Exodus and Luke reinforce the message of Paul that persistence is needed even more when it is “inconvenient,” when the going gets tougher. Moses assumes responsibility to keep his hands raised until the battle is won, but he grows tired. Haven’t we all grown weary of continually beseeching God to intervene in a painful personal situation or in our deeply troubled country and world, yet nothing seems to change for the better? Haven’t we felt like the persistent widow demanding “a just decision” from the unscrupulous judge? But neither Moses nor the widow gave up. Moses persisted with help from others. The widow persisted, convinced of the justice of her cause.

It is easy to pray when it is “convenient”—when I’m not distracted or anxious, when the weather is beautiful and I’m in a peaceful place. More often than not, however, outer or inner clamor distracts or disturbs me. I grow weary of calling on God to heal sick friends and to render just outcomes in very unjust situations. Like Moses, I rely on support and encouragement of friends and co-workers to keep me steady. Like the widow, I must be sure of the justice of my cause—the cause of people in poverty and pain caused by unjust systems—and be persistent “whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” I must trust that God does listen and is with me, with us, in the struggle.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on October 15, 2019 at 10:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Arrested for Christ

Reflection for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, David Seitz, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our October 7th newsletter

The readings this week have a great Psalm response; “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.”

How has the Lord’s saving power been revealed? By me and you; by our evangelizing and living an authentic Gospel life. History is full of stories of evangelizers who have paid a price for speaking the truth of Jesus Christ. We celebrate the saints who have suffered for the sake of spreading the Good News. Think about that. The Good News. If this news is so good why are those who proclaim it so often persecuted?

Jesus said in John 15:20 that they persecuted him and so we too will be persecuted. St. Paul, in the reading from Second Timothy, is writing from prison. He is weighed down with chains. He is in prison for proclaiming the Lord’s saving power. He is rejoicing because he is suffering for Jesus. St. Paul knows well that Jesus, proclaiming the saving power of God, was arrested, tortured and executed. The saving power we proclaim often convicts those who possess worldly power. It challenges the conscience of the religious and political elite. Nothing has changed in 2,000 years.

I’m perplexed at times when the staff of the Franciscan Action Network is harshly criticized for taking part in civil disobedience actions which sometimes leads to a staff member being arrested for publicly proclaiming the saving power of the Lord. They are called out as being anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, anti-Franciscan, law breakers who have no business going to the public square to proclaim the Gospel message. These events are always planned in advance with the local authorities, with those who are the target of the protests; there are no flash mobs. Law enforcement and those being arrested know in advance that the arrest will happen. This is our constitutional right being exercised in the public square.

As a professed Secular Franciscan, I promised to live a rule of life which states in Article 15 “Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.” Franciscans are called to take action to promote a just society. Franciscans are called to let their faith inform their action in public life, not let politics inform their faith. This is challenging, especially in our polarized society where civil conversation is scarce. We live in a world where if you disagree with my point of view then I have no time for you.

Paul says, “such is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.”

We are fortunate that in the United States, civil disobedience only leads to a possible arrest, usually ending with paying a fine at the police station after being detained for a number of hours, although the risk of staying in jail overnight exists. We are not being tortured and executed for proclaiming the saving power of the Lord as are many of our sisters and brothers across the globe. Every morning I pray the Canticle of Zechariah during morning prayer. There is a line in the canticle that we should all cherish; “to set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.” Free to worship without fear. Sisters and brothers, addressing social justice issues in the public square is how we will ensure that our children’s children will enjoy this same freedom. Next time you read about a FAN staff member being arrested for proclaiming the saving power of the Lord, instead of criticizing, why not thank them for “promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives.” (Article 15, Rule of life, Secular Franciscan Order)

David Seitz, OFS
FAN Board Member

Published in: on October 8, 2019 at 9:23 am  Comments (2)  

Respect life! Challenge the culture of death!

By Tony Magliano

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.

St. Pope John Paul II, in his powerful encyclical letter “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), challengingly said “How can we fail to consider the violence against life done to millions of human beings, especially children, who are forced into poverty, malnutrition and hunger because of an unjust distribution of resources between peoples and between social classes?

“And what of violence inherent not only in wars as such, but in the scandalous arms trade, which spawns the many armed conflicts which stain our world with blood?

“What of the spreading of death caused by reckless tampering with the world’s ecological balance?”

St. John Paul then linked these deadly affronts against life to the lethal attacks upon human beings at life’s earliest and final stages – through abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

Attempting to raise our consciousness regarding the vastness of assaults against humanity, St. John Paul said, “It is impossible to catalogue completely the vast array of threats to human life, so many are the forms, whether explicit or hidden, in which they appear today!”

He powerfully called this evil reality a “structure of sin” manifested in a culture characterized by a denial of our solidarity with each other – especially with the poor and vulnerable – leading to what can be called a veritable “culture of death.”

St. John Paul insightfully saw that this “culture of death” is widely promoted by powerful cultural, economic and political forces that devalue the lives of human beings who require and deserve greater acceptance, love and care.

He saw what so many don’t care to see: that in a society overly concerned with efficiency and personal lifestyle choices, that ill, handicapped, poor and vulnerable persons, or any others considered useless or a burden, are to be “looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of ‘conspiracy against life’ is unleashed” (see: https://bit.ly/2nW5GRz).

St. John Paul said of all this, “It is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak.”

And so, we the followers of the Prince of Peace, the lover of the poor and vulnerable, the Almighty Creator of the very earth we all inhabit must nonviolently enter the battle!

With the weapons of faith, prayer, compassion, wisdom, courage, generosity, self-sacrifice, perseverance, truth, justice and love let us challenge the “culture of death.”

There is no time to lose!

Every single day unborn babies are being brutally dismembered and aborted, brothers and sisters in Christ are being tortured and killed, children and adults are starving, people are drinking filthy water, human beings are barely existing in sub-human conditions, wars are plaguing dozens of countries while several rich nations continue profiting from selling weapons of war, children in need of an education are instead forced to work, people are suffering in modern slavery under the new name of human trafficking, migrants and refugees fleeing armed conflicts and dire poverty are pleading at our borders for help, our earth home is increasingly being polluted and the climate of our planet is dangerously heating up.

Yes, all of this is overwhelming. No one person can right all these wrongs, and cure all these ills. But all of us together can.

Every single person can make a difference! Remember, Jesus is saying to each one of us: “You are the light of the world!”

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

Published in: on October 7, 2019 at 2:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

A reflection on the Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace… 

Where there is hatred, let me sow love… 

When politics tempt me to hate the other side,
when my envy delights in workplace intrigue,
when my thoughts walk the paths of anger’s edge:
teach me to love as you have loved me… 

Where there is injury, pardon… 

When words cut sharp as knives,
when idle gossip tears apart,
when careless deeds wound deep:
teach me to pardon and heal
as you have healed and pardoned me… 

Where there is despair, hope… 

Teach me, Lord, 
to hope when I’m unsure of many things,
to trust when I want so much to give up,
to believe when I’m confused and lost in doubt,
and teach me to share your truth and my hope in you
with those who struggle or have none… 

Where there is darkness, light… 

Teach me, Lord, to trust in your light when I cannot find it,
to walk by your light when the shadows beckon,
to stand firm in your light when darkness threatens
and to share your light and its warmth
with all who seek it… 

Where there is sadness, joy… 

Lighten my heart with the gifts of your Spirit,
touch my heart’s ache with the peace of your presence,
lift my heart’s burdens and free me to share
the gift of your joy, the joy of your grace… 

O Divine Master… 

Help me find my peace in making peace with others,
help me come to know your love in learning to love those I know,
and let the needs of others’ hearts help me learn what I most need…

Teach me to give from my heart as your heart gives to me,
teach me to pardon others as freely as you forgive me
and deepen my faith
that in your dying 
I rise to life, 
forever with you…

With Brother Francis I offer this prayer, my God,
this morning, this day and all through the days ahead… 


Published in: on October 4, 2019 at 10:17 am  Comments (1)  

Comfort in the Space Between Failure and New Hope

By Catherine Juliano

Catherine Juliano is a math and political science major at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. She is assisting our communications coordinator. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

“Blessed is the servant who does not consider himself any better when he is praised and exalted by people than when he is considered worthless, simple, and looked down upon, for what a person is before God, that he is and no more”— St. Francis of Assisi (Admonition XIX)

Who today does not feel overwhelmed by the discord and the urgency of events occurring all around us? It’s a deluge of upsetting news, and many of us feel so besieged by it that we need to retreat. Indeed, the political situation in the United States can leave many of us feeling spiritually impoverished as if God is far away. We are worried and anxious, not confident and secure. We resist feeling this way, but perhaps the only way around it is through it.

It hearkens back to one of the times in St. Francis’ life when he was probably feeling defeated. After fighting the neighboring Perugians and being held as a prisoner of war for a year by them, Francis returned to Assisi, no doubt beset by trauma. As he was praying before a crucifix in the dilapidated Church of San Damiano, Francis heard the voice of God tell him to “Go…repair my house.” This revelation led Francis to go to his earthly father’s store, take fabric and a horse, and sell them in town. Afraid of his father’s wrath, Francis hid in a cave, and when he finally came out, gaunt and dirty, his father, Pietro Bernardone, was so angry that he beat his son and locked him in a closet. After being released by his mother, Francis was taken before the bishop in the piazza where he stripped off his own clothes and handed them to his earthly father, thereby aligning himself with his heavenly Father.

The sign of greatness isn’t the absence of difficulty in one’s life but rather the ability to come back from the difficulty even stronger. Great nations decline, but they also recover. Social institutions fail, but they also come back. Likewise, great people disappoint us, and they fall. We can only imagine that this was the perspective of Pietro about his son. But we don’t always see the whole picture. As long as people get up again, there is always hope. The space in between the fall and the comeback is where God does much of His work. It’s the place where we learn to trust, pray, and wait. Pietro couldn’t have anticipated the thousands of friars who would come to follow Francis in his own lifetime. Perhaps we need to get comfortable in the spaces in between.

The rapacious caterpillar, hung up and asleep, has a transformed blueprint for the future. He could never foresee that beyond death, his body melts down into an orange, yellow, and black butterfly. So it was for Christ, and for Francis after he received the stigmata and died. So it is for us as we wait in the uncomfortable spaces for God to work in and through us in our uncertain world.

Published in: on October 3, 2019 at 10:37 am  Comments (1)  

Standing Firm in Faith Despite Adversity

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

This reflection was originally posted in our September 30th newsletter

Sunday’s first reading from Habakkuk makes the statement: “How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery?” How many of us have felt this way? We often feel abandoned by God. I imagine over the years all those people bound in slavery cried out but felt abandoned. Why doesn’t God intervene? As a boy I was sexually abused by a Catholic priest. I still ask God the question: “Why didn’t you intervene? How could you have let this happen to me?”

I have heard priests give homilies about suffering being part of God’s plan, how we may not understand why but on judgement day we will understand our suffering was a key part of the kingdom. I cannot believe a God who is the epicenter of love, who created us in love could be so cruel as to allow what happened to me or what is happening today to children on the border, or to children who are trafficked and sold into sex slavery.

Some of our theology teaches us that creation was a one time static event. God created perfection and nothing has changed. By this logic, my suffering was just a means to help bring us back to that perfection. Nothing from God’s creation is changing. But we know that everything is changing. The theologian John Haught in his book Resting on the Future: Catholic Theology For an Unfinished Universe suggests a different story. He suggests that our universe was not a finished product the moment of creation but rather an unfinished universe. Or as Sr. Ilia Delio, OSF puts it, “If we take the future as our starting point for thinking about God, creation, and humanity—then everything we know must change or rather be realigned to an evolving universe, including our theologies, philosophies, economic and political systems, cultural matrices—in short, our planetary life.” If Haught and Delio are correct and the universe is constantly changing and evolving, then my and your suffering and pain is not part of some master plan by a cruel God. Rather it is part of the suffering of growth that happens with the creation of a new Heaven.

In our second reading from 2 Timothy we are told: “I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” Think about what that means. Acting in a spirit of cowardice during this time of crisis that we live in. In my nine years as executive director of FAN I have been constantly attacked by some people. I have been accused of acting in league with satan, of not being Catholic or Franciscan. I even had one person say he hoped my son would be killed by Muslim terrorists then I would understand the need for a Muslim ban. These people are not acting out of love; they are cowards.

The reading goes on to say “So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” The strength that comes from God is love. Love of all creation and all creatures. If we do not act out of love we are not following the teachings of Jesus.

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on October 1, 2019 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Who is on Our Doorstep?

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

This reflection was originally posted in our September 23rd newsletter

In reading this Sunday’s Gospel about the rich man and Lazarus I was reminded of another story I read about a man who, when going to his office everyday, noticed a ragged looking child sitting outside the building begging. This irritated the man who asked God everyday why God did not do something about this. One day he heard God’s answer: “I did do something, I created you!”

I do not know if this man acted on God’s message or not. We do know that the rich man in the Gospel was enjoying his wealth and paid no attention to those suffering and perhaps did not even know that Lazarus was on his doorstep.

Are we aware of who is on our doorstep? Or do we see them and act like we didn’t, and really wish we hadn’t seen those suffering? We need to also heed the caution that Amos gave the chosen people in the First Reading. Amos cautioned the people against a false sense of security. That if they think God expects nothing more of them because they are the chosen people, they are mistaken and this complacency can lead to ruin.

That is exactly what happened to the rich man for when he died he was sent to the “netherworld where he was tormented”. Lazarus died at the same time but was taken by the “angels to the bosom of Abraham”. When the rich man begged Father Abraham to warn his five brothers, Abraham answered: “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them.”

Who or what has God placed in our path to warn us – the beatitudes, the commandments, the Social Justice Principles, modern day prophets, and those suffering – God places these in our path to warn us to notice injustices. We are challenged by the reality that it is hard to be giving in a society where having is deemed more important.

Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on September 25, 2019 at 9:29 am  Leave a Comment