Refugee cap unreasonable and unacceptable

By Matt Ryan, Holy Name Province Postulant and FAN Intern

September 27, 2017

Last week, the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) issued a press release voicing our Refugee Cap PCconcern over limiting the refugee admissions to the country. Today, FAN attended a press conference hosted by the Church World Service and several other organizations opposing the 45,000 cap on refugees proposed by the Trump Administration. Rev. Dr. Earl Trent, Board Chairman of the Church World Service; Ambassador Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Leaders Circle Member of Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees; and former Liberian refugee Faith Cooper all called the Trump administration to task for proposing dramatic reductions in refugee admissions during what is arguably the worst refugee crisis in the history of the world. Together they knocked on a framed door, symbolizing the proposed cap limit, before opening it and passing through the threshold to approach Congress.

Legislation in 1980 gave the U.S. President a role in capping the number of refugees entering our country. No president has proposed a cap lower than 67,000. President Obama proposed 110,000 last year. A cap of 45,000 admissions during the current humanitarian crises is not just a moral outrage, but also undermines American leadership and therefore, paradoxically, its own security. This is unreasonable and unacceptable.

Pope Francis has called all Catholic parishes throughout the world to sponsor a refugee family- to actually physically welcome refugees into our homes and churches. It is our duty to love our neighbor, to feed the hungry, and to clothe the naked.

While it may be difficult to intellectually process the difference between 45,000 people and 110,000 people, because numbers are so impersonal, we must remember these numbers concern real people. Tens of thousands of families. Each with hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

That point was driven home by Ms. Cooper’s powerful testimony about her journey to America. As a young girl in civil-war-torn Liberia in the 1990’s, she and the surviving members of her family fled to the Ivory Coast and then to Ghana. While waiting to emigrate to America, they spent five years as a refugees being vetted to ensure they were not health or security threats to the United States. After a long and difficult process, Ms. Cooper and her family were able to emigrate to the U.S. It was possible to be compassionate, realistic, and properly vet refugees in the 1990’s and that should be a goal now.

Nearly every American has an immigration narrative in their extended history. The refugees are our neighbors and ourselves. We can do better than this, Mr. President. We are better than this. We urge members to send this tweet to the president: “People of Faith want @POTUS to allow more #refugees then 45,000. #RefugeesWelcome @franciscanNet”

Peace and All Good

Published in: on September 27, 2017 at 4:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Self-Interest or Interest in Others?

Reflection for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN executive director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our September 25th newsletter

AssistanceIn our second reading on Sunday from Philippians 2:3 it says: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.” I often try to imagine what our world would look like if we regarded others as more important than ourselves. It is a pretty simple thought to always think of the other, but it is kind of one of the most important teachings of the Gospels. It is presented throughout our sacred text in a variety of ways, whether it is in Luke 10:27 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Or Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” If this concept is so basic to our faith then why do we continually ignore it?

In times of crisis we are a very generous people. We have seen this generosity displayed as a result of the destruction of the recent hurricanes. We have opened our hearts, our prayers and our checkbooks to help those affected. I honestly believe most do so not out of selfishness but because in their hearts they know it is the right thing to do. But, what happens next month? When the flood waters have receded, when people are still hungry and homeless, do we still put the interest of others over our own self-interest?

We are in the middle of debate over health care. By the time you read this Congress may have already repealed the Affordable Care Act which could leave 25 million people without health care. Those supporting the repeal say we cannot afford to continue paying the cost. Whose interest are they putting first? The reading also says: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.” When we fail to provide healthcare to the sick, when we push to deport the stranger, when we fail to adequately fund programs that feed the hungry, are we of the same mind as Jesus or are we acting out of selfishness?

Let us not wait for the next crisis to open our generous hearts. Let us, as the reading says, put the interest of others before ours.

Peace and All Good
Patrick Carolan

Published in: on September 26, 2017 at 10:50 am  Leave a Comment  

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last”

Reflection for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, by FAN Board Treasurer, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our September 18th newsletter

Line.QueueI’m sure the usual readers of FAN’s reflections on the Sunday Readings, and more properly the FAN critics (yes, we have some, but so did Jesus) are awaiting, to see that we only speak about labor relationships or the need for a just or livable wage. Sorry to disappoint you on either side.

To understand the parable in this week’s Gospel, all we have to do is to remember that the word “wage” has nothing to do with money. The “daily wage” Jesus is talking about is really about “heaven”. The whole story is about God giving “heaven” to anyone He pleases.

Perhaps it seems unfair that God’s Mercy and offer of heaven is not based on merit, accomplishment, endurance nor even expertise, but on the Will and Mercy of God. We will never see an advertisement from a credit card company with this kind of offer or moreso agreement. To us as Americans this idea of how much you do or how long you are doing it, seems to challenge our entire culture.

Perhaps now we can see a little better, how Justice is a part of Mercy. God can not be outdone in Mercy and in Justice.

Hopefully, this is not a new concept or discovery for us. Today in the first reading we hear “God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts”. So, we have no control over who gets into heaven. No one can work their way into heaven. I can’t even pray my way into heaven. But more especially I can not control who does not get into heaven.

So, let’s follow the examples of those who have gone on before us and are examples of holiness. Trust in God, see Christ in all we meet, protect the stranger, feed the hungry, open your lives to others, and let go and let God do a marvelous deed in our lives.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Treasurer

Published in: on September 19, 2017 at 9:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Forgive a “Whole Bunch”

Reflection for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Members Alisa and Doug O’Brien

This reflection was originally posted in our September 11 newsletter

Hug.ForgiveThe readings this week are pretty straight forward: To be forgiven for our sins, one must forgive others. The first reading asks “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?” Then in the Gospel when Peter asks Jesus how much one must forgive, Jesus uses words that our three young kids can understand: “not seven times, but 77 times,” in other words, a whole bunch.

Whether in our families, our parish, or in debates on national issues such as immigration, climate change, or race relations, seeking and granting forgiveness can be deeply challenging. Like other lessons, when trying to teach forgiveness to our kids, we struggle with how to make the lesson “stick” – when to teach with words or actions, when to let them learn a lesson on their own, or when to use carrots and sticks to help them learn to forgive. Sometimes our choices lead to parental lectures, furrowed brows, or even denial of privileges. While words and actions can be effective, we know the very best way to teach is by example. While Jesus shared parables and performed miracles, the ultimate lesson is his example on the cross.

The only way that we can expect our kids to forgive is to forgive them. The only way we can expect them to be merciful is for them to see us showing mercy to others. As a married couple, we need to forgive each other; even if the kids do not see us doing so, they will know if we don’t. God forgives us every day by continuing to love us despite our sins; on Good Friday, this was Jesus’ request when he asked, “Father, forgive them, they know now what they do.” (Lk 23:34)

What do Jesus’ lessons about forgiveness mean for us today? We have a responsibility to speak out for the poor, the prisoner, the immigrant, and for God’s creation. The most effective teachers – from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Ghandi to Jesus himself – show us that to make the greatest impact toward a more just and peaceful world, we need to practice mercy, forgiveness and non-violence. As Pope Francis reminded us in his 2017 World Day of Peace message: “Jesus himself lived in violent times…But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives.”

Yet to forgive is not to condone. We cannot stand by idly as God’s people and creation suffer injustice and injury. But to refuse to forgive simply continues the vicious cycle of anger. This is true in the national and international stage, just as it is in our own family.

Alisa and Doug O’Brien
FAN Board Members
(Alisa and Doug have three children, aged 3, 5, and 8 years old.)

Published in: on September 12, 2017 at 9:02 am  Comments (1)  

One Debt. One Law.

Reflection for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey

This reflection was originally posted in our September 4th newsletter

commandments.heartMy parents were of the generation that did not want to be in debt, so they saved until they could pay for an item. Today, we are a country of credit cards, so most of us always owe some company something. Many college graduates are burdened with debt for years after they graduate. There is just one debt that all Christians must assume, Paul tells us in his Letter to the Romans: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another…” Why? “…for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” What law? Aren’t there many civic and church laws? “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” All the other commandments are summed up in one law, the law of love. “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Imagine a country, a world, in which everyone assumed this one debt, obeyed this one primary law. Would government officials track down, detain and deport people who broke a border law to escape violence, oppression and severe poverty in their home country? Would Dreamers live in fear of being deported to a country that they don’t even know? Would there even be violence and extreme economic inequalities in any country? Would we be grappling today with our country’s original sin of racism? Would we hold our collective breath every time a self-absorbed, power-obsessed world leader threatens to push the nuclear button?

Of course, ours is an imperfect world. Even those of us who desire to be ruled by love stumble and fall short. Conflicts persist in every dimension of human living – family, community, workplace, church, national and global civil society. In this week’s Gospel, Jesus offers a model of nonviolent conflict resolution which is not sufficiently tried. He acknowledges that not all efforts are successful, and sometimes we have to move on and trust the situation to God, but first, we must do everything we can to resolve the conflict or transform the situation.

Since August 15th, a core group of young Dreamers, supported by many in the faith community and others, have held a 24-hour vigil at the White House, urging the Administration to protect DACA and TPS (Temporary Protected Status), and calling on Congress to pass the Dream Act, and then work for bi-partisan immigration reform. Many advocates around the country join them in prayer and action. As I write this reflection, there are rumors that the President will rescind DACA even before September 5th. We continue to pray, fast, cry out, stand, and march, with hope that the law of love will prevail. If it doesn’t, may God open another path forward because we cannot, in love, just walk away.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on September 5, 2017 at 8:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Followers of the Nonviolent Jesus

Reflection for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Secretary, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our August 28th newsletter

Arms linkedIn the beginning of the documentary The Sultan and the Saint, there is discussion of how the human brain is hardwired to act with compassion and empathy toward other human beings. For example, you may have witnessed children who cry when they see another child hurt.

Human beings need to be taught to “conform themselves to this age,” (Rom. 12:2) and “think not as God does, but as human beings.” (MT 16:23) The documentary discusses how humans learn how to kill another person when socialized into thinking of that person as “other,” and not as a human being with a soul “thirsting for God.” (Ps. 63) In the United States, we have experienced this “objectification” of other human beings made in the image of God with the use of terms such as “the axis of evil,” “collateral damage,” “casualty” or “guerrilla.”

Nuclear weapons, along with the devastation of God’s creation, pose the greatest threat to the annihilation of humanity. A nuclear war would not only kill hundreds of thousands of human beings immediately but thousands of others would die in the aftermath due to radiation exposure and to the destruction of the environment.

Several weeks ago 122 countries negotiated the first-ever legally binding treaty outlawing nuclear bombs. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons passed at the United Nations was the culmination of a decade-long effort by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Catholic Bishops from both the United States and Europe have called on the leaders of their nations to promote and support nuclear disarmament. This treaty will be signed on September 20 and will need to be ratified by at least 50 nations to become international law. The United States and all other nuclear weapon nations did not participate in the negotiations nor vote for the treaty. Further information about this treaty will be posted in this newsletter and on the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons website.

As followers of the nonviolent Jesus, whose last words to his disciples included “put away the sword,” let us join our Bishops and pray and advocate for a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Secretary

Published in: on August 29, 2017 at 9:06 am  Leave a Comment  

“Who Do You Say I Am?”

Reflection for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Treasurer, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our August 21 newsletter

Rock Wall.Caesarea-Philippi2Over the past few weeks, we have been listening to stories of Jesus while He and His disciples were, shall we say on the road. Today, we see the importance of content and place. Why did they travel so far, and why did they enter the town are good questions to ponder as we look into the plan of God.

In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, we hear how the Lord told the Master of the palace: “I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station…I will place the key of the House of David on him.” God is changing the order of things because as it says in Psalm 138; “Your kindness O Lord, endures forever.” God wants us to be open to change, and to be open to seeing and doing things differently.

One of the most impressive pieces of landscape in all of Israel is the massive rock wall at Caesarea Philippi. It’s upon a sheer cliff and at the time of Jesus was a sign of the Power and Presence of Rome, a temple to remember Caesar. Also at that time in history there were many carved out niches on the side of the cliff to honor pagan gods.

So, here is Jesus with the disciples between a vision and place of Rome’s power and shrines to pagan gods and He ask them “Who do the people say I am?” And, “Who do you say I am?” Perhaps, Jesus was also asking, am I just another one of those gods?

Peter from his heart says: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Jesus then looks at Peter and says “Keshas”, Aramaic for rock, translated in Greek as Petra’s/Peter, it is upon this human rock I will build my church. Christ came to teach us a new way of life. That even upon a shaky rock like Peter, God works. Sometimes with us and, more often, in spite of us.

God simply waits for each one of us to have our eyes opened, to see Him in the poor and marginalized, to speak truth to power, and to accept others as God has accepted us. To love those that disagree with us and to pray for God to open others hearts and lives to the grace of His presence today in our lives and in our society.

For, it needs to be true that others can say: “See how they love others in Christ’s Name”.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Treasurer

Published in: on August 22, 2017 at 9:20 am  Leave a Comment  

My Justice, About to be Revealed…

Reflection for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini

This reflection was originally posted in our August 13th newsletter


“Thus says the Lord:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
For my salvation is about to come,
My justice, about to be revealed.” Is 56:1

These verses at the beginning of the First Reading prompt us to ask ourselves: what justice is God talking about? It is easy to notice that all three of this week’s Readings are talking about Foreigners, Gentiles, a Canaanite; in other words, someone outside the Jewish world or religion and, in the case of the Canaanite, a woman! Is this the justice God is talking about, to do justice to the foreigners?

We could not find a more timely message while in prayer we ask God to guide our ministry as followers of Jesus. Today our world and country are engaged in a real confrontation with two issues of primary importance which, in many cases, are created by U.S. policies. They are, how to deal with IMMIGRATION from places of extreme poverty to more affluent parts of the world, and REFUGEES running away from violence and death to a place of safety and protection. In fact, we could easily substitute the word “foreigners” in the first reading with “immigrant, refugees, asylees”, and the message is quite clear for us today. God is not asking foreigners where they come from and why, or how they called their God. Instead, God’s asks are simple and straightforward: …join themselves to the Lord, love the name of the Lord, keep the Sabbath…etc. By doing so “their offerings will be acceptable on my altar for my house shall be called a house of prayer for ALL PEOPLES.” So, who are we to put limits on whom God looks with favor?

The Gospel, I believe, has a similar message but presented in a more dramatic way. I have to confess I never liked this Gospel. I found it quite rude and could not reconcile the Jesus I believe in with the one presented here…until it dawned on me that Jesus is teaching, by using exaggeration to convey a lesson. Jesus uses his behavior towards the Canaanite woman to emphasize a point and get the attention of his disciples. He must have sensed that the woman would not let go! “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” So, being a Canaanite woman does not exclude this mother from being “acceptable” in God’s house, for justice to be revealed to her.

I tried to imagine what the disciples were really saying with “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” Could it happen today? What about: send her/them away, they have come here to take away our jobs; she/they did not follow our policy and kept on coming; she/they are not like us, she/they do not speak our language. Send her/them out because they are here without our permission; she/they keep on coming back and pestering us, using our resources that should go to our children…and so on.

Jesus saw the disciples’ resistance and took the occasion to show them that what really matters is the heart, the motivation, and for the Canaanite mother both were in the right place.

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on August 15, 2017 at 9:04 am  Leave a Comment  

God Speaks in Thunderclaps and Whispers

Reflection for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our August 7 newsletter

ListeningDuring my early morning prayer outside during a July heat wave, I was grateful for every small whispering breeze that moved the leaves ever so slightly, listening to what God had to say to me in the day’s scriptures. Often at night, the heavens rumbled with thunder, lightning flashed, strong winds and rain wreaked havoc with flowers, as if the forces of nature are angry with a government that puts political interest above the welfare of people. Almost every day, there is a new slap at vulnerable people in need of health care, at immigrants whose only “crime” was entering our country without legal papers or carried here as children, at Mother Earth herself.

On a personal level, life brings its thunderclaps of pain and loss, and its whispers of comfort, consolation and hope. God speaks to us in both if we are able to listen, as the scriptures teach us. God spoke to Moses in thunder on the mountain, and to Elijah, in this week’s First Reading, not in heavy wind or earthquake, but in a “tiny whispering sound.” When apostles, caught in a storm at sea, are terrified by “a ghost” that is Jesus, Peter believes, walks on water toward Jesus, but loses focus and begins to sink, crying out “Lord, save me!” He is caught by Jesus and the wind dies down.

Like Peter, we are asked to “Take courage…do not be afraid,” but to trust in God even when storms rage around us or within us. We must learn to listen to God in both thunderclaps and whispers. Often it is difficult not to be afraid, to feel overwhelmed, to sink into discouragement and hopelessness, but this is when we most need to trust that Jesus will reach out to catch us, and maybe even enable us to “walk on water” with him.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on August 8, 2017 at 9:05 am  Comments (1)  

Transfiguration and Washing Feet

Reflection for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN President, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our July 31st newsletter

foot washing2As I reflect on the Sunday readings, the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, interestingly, it is the image of Christ washing the feet of the disciples that immediately comes to mind. The Christ, transfigured on Mt. Tabor, is the same Christ who knelt before each of his disciples as humble servant and washed their feet.

Too often, we desire to move, intellectually and spiritually, to the image of God and of Christ Jesus as divinely manifested in all glory, power, and majesty. Too often, we might get caught up with festive religious celebrations full of grand processions and majestic robes. Too often, like Peter we want to remain up on the mountaintop in the majestic glory of the presence of God. Like Peter we want to set up ‘tents’ or shrines to mark these places as sacred, places of our encounter with the Divine.

Yes, we are called to come to know and dwell with the transfigured Christ and to grow in union with God’s Divine Love. The gift of Christ’s transfiguration is the invitation to Peter, James, and John and to all who follow Christ to gaze into eternity. God desires our union. This feast is God’s invitation to glimpse beyond our human understanding and to imagine Eternal Divine Life.

St. Clare of Assisi, a woman who lived in the medieval world, expressed this invitation to feast on God’s divine presence as she wrote to St. Agnes of Prague, “Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory! Place your heart in the figure of divine substance! And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead Itself, through contemplation!” In another letter to Agnes she instructed her to, “gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him.”

Both Clare and Agnes were drawn to the gospel life of poverty that they witnessed in Francis of Assisi and the early friars. This gospel life brought Francis and his brothers not to lofty mountain tops or quiet cloistered monasteries but into the forests and caves where the lepers dwelt abandoned and isolated and into the hovels where the poor and the destitute longed for food and comfort. Clare, Agnes and the women who were drawn to this gospel life of poverty also desired to serve the poorest of the poor and to see themselves as “minoras” or little ones, servants washing the feet of others, as Christ did.

As Christians and especially as Franciscans today, the gospel call has not changed. Our life, prayer and spirituality must be deeply rooted in the fourfold movement of gazing, considering, and contemplating which moves us into imitating and embodying the presence of Christ as humble servants for others. Our gospel call should lead us more deeply into Divine Love and then outside of our shrines and churches into the marketplaces and streets where those who are lost, abandoned, and poor still struggle from the loss of their human dignity and the basic needs for living.

foot washing1Pope Francis wrote, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37). (Evangelii Gaudium apostolic exhortation, 49. (November 2013)

May Christ’s divine transformative energy move us beyond our narrow views of ourselves, our church and our world, to be a transforming reality that heals, comforts and brings new life and relationships to birth in our world.

Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF
Board President
Franciscan Action Network

Published in: on August 1, 2017 at 9:05 am  Leave a Comment