Speaking Truth to Power

By Br. Joseph Nangle, OFM, former FAN board member and one of the original founders of our organization. He joined us in Newark, NJ for the recent Catholic Action for Immigrant Children. This is his reflection of the day.

Br. Joseph Nangle, OFM

In the past six weeks, large groups of Catholics have gathered in two very public places to protest our government’s treatment of immigrant families, particularly children, on our southern borders. Each venue was consciously chosen: the Russel Senate Office Building in Washington and the Federal Building in Newark, New Jersey.

The U.S. Senate was selected to underscore our legislators’ total failure to enact a just immigration policy for our country and Newark because it houses one of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices.

The reasons for these public protests are well known. Due to a draconian immigration policy known as “zero tolerance,” instituted in 2018, every adult crossing the border into our country without proper documentation is subject to detention and deportation; meanwhile, children are separated from their parents and held in other facilities. In May and June of this year, some 2000 children have been held in horrendous conditions – some even in cages – for weeks and now months beyond the 1997 (Flores) regulation that obliges immigrant agents to free children from detention after 72 hours!

Biblical Mandates
Quite appropriately, this stain on our government’s soul has aroused the indignation of most Americans, including, of course, the Catholic groups mentioned above. Our actions at these two venues were vivid examples of the Gospel mandate to “speak truth to power” both as American citizens and as followers of Jesus.

Marie Dennis, OFS, and Pat Sieber at the protest in Newark. (Photo courtesy of Octavio Duran)

The archbishop of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, affirmed the validity, and indeed the necessity, for such public actions when on the streets of his city he cited… READ MORE

Published in: on September 12, 2019 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Are We a Stiff-Necked People?

Reflection for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Jason Miller, FAN Director of Campaigns and Development

This reflection was originally posted in our September 9th newsletter

This Sunday’s readings are familiar to us: the First Reading tells of the Golden Calf where God tells Moses, “I see how stiff-necked this people is,” (Ex: 32:9) and the Gospel is a variety of parables of which we are all very familiar, including the Prodigal Son and the Lost Sheep.

When reflecting on these readings, I stumbled across a cartoon from David Hayward, who goes by the moniker “Naked Pastor”.

When I saw it, I immediately thought to myself how “stiff necked” the 99 sheep were! When we hear the parable of the Lost Sheep, we often think only of the one sheep that was lost, not the other 99 who may have been acting stubborn, just as when hearing of the Prodigal Son, we only focus on the “lost” brother, not the other brother. We might also actually view the 99 sheep as just that—sheep rather than as an analogy for human beings who reject others. In fact, the 99 were the lost ones, just as the “faithful” brother in the Prodigal Son had some shortcomings of his own. (Anger and jealousy for starters.) Both the 99 sheep and the “other brother” were “stiff necked” just as the Israelites in the Old Testament who decided to worship the Golden Calf instead of God. The Israelites were so “stiff necked” that they didn’t even realize that they were going through a crisis of faith and disobeying God. Like the 99 sheep and the “other brother” they were so certain of themselves that they were doing the right thing. But were they?

When Jesus tells these parables, he’s addressing the Pharisees, which today has become a synonym for self-righteous hypocrites as they were so obsessed with following the letter of the law, they believed themselves to be better than everyone else. The Pharisees too were “stiff-necked” and did not understand Jesus’ message—they accuse him at the start of the Gospel of welcoming and eating with sinners. (Lk: 15:2) But who was really sinning by turning themselves away from God?

As we enter this week and continue to reflect on the readings, let’s ask ourselves: are we too so “stiff necked” that we turn away from God and worship our own golden calves of materialism, self-centeredness, and false prophets? Are we following Jesus by welcoming and eating with sinners? Or are we Pharisees who reject the lost sheep and the Prodigal Son and judge others who are different from us?

Do we even welcome and eat with our own neighbors let alone those we might silently judge as “sinners”? Today our neighborhoods, communities, and churches seem so divided. Are we welcoming our immigrant sisters and brothers? Are we breaking bread with our LGBTQ sisters and brothers? Our Muslim sisters and brothers? Those who have different political viewpoints? Or are we so “stiff-necked” that we reject them like the Lost Sheep or Prodigal Son and don’t realize that in fact we are the ones that turned away from God and sinned?

I’ve been in the D.C. area for 11 years and have worked at FAN for almost six. In this time I have encountered many who believe that they have all the answers, that others should listen to them, that they are in fact the “Chosen One.” We know this to be false. At a time when we are so divided, we need to turn to God and work together using our “both feet” of faith and action to solve the great challenges of our time and welcome those some have deemed “the other” and we must be wary of false prophets and Golden Calves.

Jason Miller
FAN Director of Campaigns and Development

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

How Can We Co-Create Our World?

Reflection for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN former board member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our September 2nd newsletter

This week’s readings can be among the most challenging of Jesus’ teachings. “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends.” (Wis. 9:13) After the mass killings in Texas and Ohio several weeks ago, a travel advisory to the United States was issued warning people throughout the world that it is no longer safe to visit this country we call home. Meanwhile, as we begin a new school year, parents and children worry about violence in our schools. Our government continues to separate children from their parents and to imprison many of these children in deplorable detention centers. Our readings confront us to determine what it means for us to authentically live from our Catholic Social Tradition and follow in the footsteps of Jesus in this world.

The rich tradition handed down to us by Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi of professing our faith, not so much by beliefs or recitation of pious words but by the way we live our lives, orients our life of continuous conversion. In the words of the FAN vision statement: “It is through continual conversion that the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor can be heard in their authenticity and understood in a way that leads us to re-discover our original goodness, both personally and collectively. Through this process of continual conversion, we discover ourselves as co-creators with God and others.”

How are we to co-create our world? When we look to Jesus’ years of public ministry, we see that Jesus advocated for and reached out to the most vulnerable in His society, always with an eye and heart turned to His Father. Our commitment to follow Jesus will be at times inconvenient, when we must “carry our cross.” (LK 14:26) Our commitment to follow Jesus will always force us out of our comfort zone. May God “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” (PS 90:12)

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
Former FAN Board Member

Published in: on September 3, 2019 at 11:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Am I Meek and Humble of Heart?

Reflection for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our August 26th newsletter

Our readings on this Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time speak of the need for good and humble hearts. The beautiful reading from the Book of Sirach seems a good guide for how we should conduct our lives. “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” Unfortunately, this is not the lesson that we hear encouraged and taught in our society and culture today. All too often we get caught in the “ego”, we thrive on competition, rivalry and personal success. These attitudes often breed conflict, enmity and distrust. We tend to live in a culture of conflict where people want to protect what they feel is rightfully theirs, protect the things that they have worked hard and long to acquire.

The Letter of Paul to the Hebrews suggests that perhaps this culture of conflict has been with us for a long time and has been shaped by how people have imaged and imagined God. Time and time again the ancient Israelite people, those brought into the covenant relationship with God through the great prophets, Abraham, Moses and Isaiah, turned away and hardened their hearts. Often this hard-heartedness led to people creating their own image of God and limiting God to their people and their tribe. Paul, writing to their descendants, the Hebrews, reminds them that they are called to dwell in the city of the living God, in a new and heavenly Jerusalem, brought about through Jesus Christ. Paul’s vision of living Christ, living community in relationship with all people, was so much more inclusive and expansive.

In today’s gospel we sense a very observant Jesus who was invited to dine in the home of one of the leading Pharisees. Considering the culture and custom of that time, it is easy to imagine how the seating arrangement worked. Is it really any different in our current milieu? Often today, people still get caught up with the ego, the “places of honor”, identifying those who are acceptable and those who are unacceptable, the misfits.

This timely parable calls us to “check our ego at the door” and be attentive with hearts open to see ourselves in relationship, as one with others. We are called to have the mind and heart of Christ Jesus who humbled himself, becoming incarnate in our human flesh. Christ becomes incarnate in all human flesh, in the flesh of the poor, the flesh of the crippled, the flesh of the oppressed, the bullied, the unwanted and in the flesh of all those who are marginalized. May we humbly grow in seeing Christ enfleshed in ourselves, in all people and in all of creation.

Richard Rohr, OFM expressed this so well, “It’s a gift to joyfully recognize and accept our own smallness and ordinariness. Then you are free with nothing to live up to, nothing to prove, and nothing to protect. Such freedom is my best description of Christian maturity, because once you know that your “I” is great and one with God, you can ironically be quite content with a small and ordinary “I.” No grandstanding is necessary. Any question of your own importance or dignity has already been resolved once and for all and forever.” (Radical Grace: Daily Meditations)

Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on August 27, 2019 at 10:23 am  Leave a Comment  

What is Good News?

Reflection for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our August 19th newsletter

This Sunday, the response for our Responsorial Psalm is from Mark 16:15 “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.” The last couple of weeks it has been hard to find “Good News.” What with the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the shootings of police officers in Philadelphia, the ICE workplace raids in Mississippi, the continued separation of children from their parents at the border, the unrest in Hong Kong, it is kind of hard to think of any Good News. I often ask myself, ‘What is that Good News that Jesus told us to preach?’ Is it about something and someplace far away in the distance? Is the Good News that, at some point (if we are good) we get to go somewhere else? It is awfully hard to tell the world something that we really don’t fully understand ourselves.

Our theology teaches us that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins so we could get into Heaven. Maybe this is the good news; because we were dammed by the sin of Adam, Jesus had to come and save us and now when we die, we can “go to Heaven.” Whatever we do on Earth is only important insofar as it helps us get to Heaven. Is that the Good News?

Blessed John Duns Scotus said, “The Incarnation of the Son of God is the very reason for the whole Creation. To think that God would have given up such a task had Adam not sinned would be quite unreasonable! I say, therefore, that the fall was not the cause of Christ’s predestination and that – if no one had fallen, neither the angel nor man – in this hypothesis Christ would still have been predestined in the same way.” If Scotus is right then Jesus didn’t come to save us from original sin. Maybe, just maybe, the “Good News” which we seemed to have lost over the past 2000 years, is that the Kingdom of Heaven is here. The good news isn’t that Jesus came so we can go somewhere else but he came to create the kingdom here on earth.

In our first reading it says: “and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.” Imagine if we were telling the world, every nation, all people the Good News, not that they can go to Heaven at some point, but rather that Jesus came to create the Kingdom of Heaven. They can stop worshiping at the foot of the cross and do as Jesus commanded and pick up their cross to be co-creators with God in building the Kingdom of Heaven right here on Earth. Now that is Good News.

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on August 20, 2019 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  

The Sultan and the Saint goes to India

The Franciscan Action Network has been working for more than 2 years on a project promoting the docu-drama, The Sultan and the Saint. Produced by our friends at Unity Productions Foundation, the film is a powerful depiction of Muslim-Christian encounter as told through the story of St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan of Egypt.

This year is the 800th anniversary of this historic meeting in 1219. To celebrate, FAN has reinvigorated our efforts to have the film screened all over the globe.

The following is a report from the coordinator of one such screening, written by Fr. Victor Edwin SJ.

The docudrama THE SULTAN AND THE SAINT was screened at the Presentation Convent School Auditorium [in India] for the students of Eighth Grade of the same school.

Students watched the movie with great interest. After the movie in an interesting conversation conducted by Lakshmi Menon one of the organizers of the event.

Children felt that it is a crime to dehumanize the other and make people fight one another. Crusades were the fruit of such campaign, they said.

Children felt that it’s a pity that still politicians and vested interests people cleverly dehumanize others for polarizing people to strengthen their political and economic interest.

God raises people like Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malik al Kamil and give them courage to reach out to others for building Peace. Desire for peace comes from God, one girl affirmed. Peace requires wisdom said a girl.

Children emphasized that only courageous people could strive for peace. They were amazed by the mercy of Sultan in his act of feeding and protecting enemies and their horses. Has not Jesus said, Love your enemies, asked a little girl.

One girl pointed out that God inspires small and insignificant people to raise up to speak for God … speak for Peace. It is the divine paradigm!

It was an amazing morning of learning for us to be with children and to listen to their wisdom. Lakshmi asked the kids how many of them are ready to be messengers of peace. Everyone raised hands foe Peace.

We the organizers return home wondering the marvels of God that are revealed through the wisdom of Children.

Submitted by Fr. Victor Edwin, SJ

Published in: on August 15, 2019 at 12:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Have Come to Set the Earth on Fire

Reflection for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Vice President, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our August 12th newsletter

This week’s Scripture should sound familiar to us. There are within it many quotes that we have heard or have shared in our lives, and more especially in sharing our life or story of our Faith with others.

In the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we see how God’s Word in a ‘Public Forum’ or to people in power can be harsh. In fact, God’s Word to us can be very challenging, personally. For the call to look at ourselves or how we are living and what we are doing in light of God’s call can bring about that dreaded need to change that none of us are ever happy to hear.

I remember in my early days of formation, being told that if I ever really wanted to know God’s will, or call in my life, to pray and then do whatever came to mind that I would not want to do. It’s still true today for me. Thus our journey always gets us where we need to go, but it might be a little rocky along the way.

In Hebrews we are encouraged to continue in running the race, to endure and to be faithful to the call of God in our lives. To put aside anything that would distract us or slow us down, knowing that we will get there in God’s time, and might even see a miracle along the way.

In the Gospel of Luke we hear about division, fire, and disputes between family and friends. Sounds kinda like the news and all that is happening in the world and within the Church.

But let us not be like those who did not like what Jeremiah was saying. For the Prince of Peace is talking about the Presence and the Power of the Holy Spirit which will overcome in God’s Name all for the Glory of God’s Kingdom.

Instead, let us hang on, accept, share our lives and hearts for we know that God indeed has a plan. For His Will shall be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Vice President

Published in: on August 13, 2019 at 10:32 am  Leave a Comment  

God is calling us to break violence’s stranglehold on our world

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.

The recent tragic mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, killing at least 29 people, point to an ongoing epidemic of mass shootings in the United States. As of Aug. 5, the 217th day of the year, there were 255 mass shootings – more mass shootings than number of days so far this year.

When both mass shootings and single shootings are added together, everyday on average 100 Americans are killed with guns and hundreds more are shot and injured (see: https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-america/).

When compared to other wealthy nations and many low-income countries, the U.S.’s rate of gun violence is far greater (see: https://n.pr/2T9W6FP).

While common sense gun control laws like universal background checks and gun registration, as well as banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons would certainly help stem this epidemic, the problem runs far deeper than reasonable legislation can adequately address.

The U.S., as well as so much of the world, is addicted to the evil of violence.

Just consider how widespread and far-reaching are the global tentacles of violence: 55 million annual abortions, infanticide, euthanasia, drug gangs, child soldiers, religious/ethnic/racial persecution, dozens of armed conflicts, armed militias, war preparation, arms manufacturing, arms sales, the violent “entertainment” industry and the astronomical global military spending of $1.7 trillion annually.

And then there are the many other cruel realities that human beings suffer from, that at first glance may not appear violent-related, but, in truth inflict grave violence to the human dignity of countless brothers and sisters. Among these cruel realities are closed borders to desperate migrants and refugees, hunger, poverty, homelessness, people lacking clean water/sanitation/medical care, abandoned orphans, forgotten elderly, human trafficking and child labor.

Dare we not forget there are two other evil categories of violence which are threatening the very existence of life on earth: the ominous reality of nuclear weapons – with the very real possibility of nuclear war anytime, and the unfolding catastrophic violence to our common home – the earth – caused principally by human-induced climate change.

Both of these looming dangers have led the prestigious Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to report that their Doomsday Clock is perilously still at 2 minutes to midnight (see: https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/).

In the words of Pope Francis we need to create a “culture of encounter” with all people – even our enemies.

“But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … Do to others as you would have them do to you,” said Jesus.

Violence is not the way of Jesus. This is indisputable!

The late preeminent theologian and biblical scholar, Fr. John McKenzie said, “If Jesus does not reject violence for any reason, we do not know anything about Jesus. Jesus taught us not how to kill but how to die.”

So, following the example of the non-violent Jesus, let us teach, preach, work and pray to root out violence in ourselves, governments, corporations, schools, cultures and even in our church – e.g. the “just-war” theory (see: https://nonviolencejustpeace.net/).

Saint Pope John Paul powerfully said, “Violence is evil, that violence is unacceptable as a solution to problems, that violence is unworthy of man. Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings.”

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 August 9, 2019 at 9:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Where Is My Treasure?

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

This reflection was originally posted in our August 5th newsletter

Faith without fear is a strong theme in this week’s readings. Abraham, Sarah, and many generations are held up as models who “did not receive what had been promised but saw it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth…” And “All died in faith.” Today, as this country and the world struggles with a migration crisis, it is good for us to remind ourselves that we are all migrants, all sojourners, in our time on Earth. As we sojourn, a critical question for each of us is “What do I treasure?” Critical because Jesus teaches “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” That is, your purpose in life, what gives you meaning and happiness.

We have myriad examples of people who knew where their treasure was and allowed it to direct their hearts. Clare of Assisi, whose feast is August 11th, is a shining example of one who knew at a young age where her treasure was and gave herself wholeheartedly to living it with faith, not receiving papal approval for her Rule of Life until she was dying.

It is not hard to find examples today. An elderly neighbor spends every moment caring for her beloved husband who is sinking deeper into Alzheimer’s. Parents of a mentally disabled young woman surround her with love, support, and opportunities, with unrelenting patience. Catholics deeply concerned about the inhumane conditions in which immigrant children are held in detention gather in the nation’s capital to pray and call for the administration to stop the inhumanity. Seventy women and men, religious and lay, are arrested in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. A young mother writes an inspiring article explaining why she brought her 3 year old son to join the Catholic Action.

These are some of my experiences of people whose hearts compel them to do what they do because they know where their treasure lies. I suggest that the treasure is even more than a husband, a daughter, or immigrant children. God’s presence in their hearts guides them to do the right, true, loving thing. You have examples of your own. Include yourself. Be encouraged with Jesus’ promise: “Do not be afraid… for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on August 6, 2019 at 11:26 am  Leave a Comment  

You Fool…

Reflection for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our July 29th newsletter

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.” As I begin this reflection, I ask myself this question over and over again: What is God’s message that I need to be open to hear to-day? If you wish, do the same, ask yourself the same question before you continue reading.

For me, God’s voice could not be louder and clearer in this 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time readings: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Lk. 12:14

We (the human race) have sold ourselves a big lie. We have convinced ourselves that being successful, thus happy, is linked to what we possess in money, material things and intellectual capacity: the bigger, the more, the better. The rich man of the gospel certainly represents this belief. In fact, instead of sharing what he had unexpectedly acquired in abundance, he does not hesitate to build larger barns for his exceptional harvest and say to himself: “You have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” Then God says to him:

“YOU FOOL, this night your life will be demanded of you,”
you will not be able to carry your barns with you!

What is it with us humans that in spite experiences of life to the contrary we continue to believe that “bigger barns” are the proof of having made it in life, of being blessed by God’s goodness? We continue to believe what has been disproven by common sense or even by science.

We seem not to hear, or at least not believe, the New Testament warnings against greed and the constant invitation to love simplicity of life, in order to grow in Christ. The letter to the Colossians invites us to: “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, and the greed that is idolatry… even further: “Stop lying to one another.” Indeed, we are all caught in a big lie.

We as a country, and the world as well, are living a moment of history of deep confusion, when human values placed in our hearts by the Almighty are abandoned and substituted with the almighty dollar; when the world is more then ever divided by the have and have-nots, by the place where we come from and by the color of our skin. In the midst of this, today I hear God’s voice suggesting to us: you fool, is that going to matter when life is going to be demanded of you? How much can you take with you? It is not what you had that will be remembered of you, but what you were able to share of possessions, your welcome to others, your effort to create a more compassionate and livable world for future generations. And so…

If I want to be honest with myself and listen to God’s voice, I cannot miss this clear teaching:
“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all in all.”

May we heed God’s Word.

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on July 30, 2019 at 10:37 am  Leave a Comment