A Call to be the Fire of Love, Integrity, and Compassion

Reflection for Pentecost Sunday by FAN Board President, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our May 14th newsletter


St.Catherine of SiennaAs I anticipate this upcoming feast of Pentecost there is a deep yearning within me to see and experience some signs of newness, change and renewal. The Pentecost experience that we hear proclaimed in this Sunday readings speaks of the outpouring of the Spirit as the birth of the church. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles recorded the events which transformed the once reluctant disciples, fearful of the Romans and Jewish leaders, into fearless proclaimers and evangelizers of Christ and the Kingdom of God.

Are we content with simply remembering the past and celebrating what happened thousands of years ago? Where and how do we experience the presence of Christ and the boldness of the Spirit today? Where and how do we experience the winds of life and goodness blowing new life in the places where disciples of Christ gather? Where and how are we touched by the presence of Christ and the Spirit as if tongues of fire came down and rested on each believer? Where and how are we moved to go forth fearless and empowered to be witnesses and evangelizers incarnating Christ’s presence in our world today?

What might this change look like in our church, in our national government and throughout the world? Dare we hope to see ourselves, our ordained leaders, ministers and our civic and national leaders as servants of the people? Imagine how engaged and enlivened people and communities would become if they felt that their voices were heard and that the concerns of those most in need were respected, realized and fulfilled.

I’ve heard the following or similar words repeated over and over on TV, on the radio and from common folks, “We are allowing bizarre behavior to become normalized without complaining, questioning or calling for change.” Have we allowed our spirits and souls to become lulled and complacent into thinking that either individually or even together we cannot make a difference or change a seemingly hopeless situation?

One has only to read the newest document, Gaudete et Exsultate, of Pope Francis to be reaffirmed and challenged with how much we can do as persons of faith and communally as people of faith. In the section entitled Boldness and Passion (129-133), Pope Francis writes that holiness is parrhesía, that is, holiness is to live with a boldness and with freedom. This boldness or freedom is not grounded in ourselves or in our own ego. In order for our boldness and freedom to be genuine and used for the goodness and well-being of others it must be rooted in Christ and open to following the will of God.

As we celebrate this Pentecost let us truly be renewed and enlivened by the Spirit of God. “We need the Spirit’s prompting, lest we be paralyzed by fear and excessive caution, lest we grow used to keeping within safe bounds. Let us remember that closed spaces grow musty and unhealthy. When the Apostles were tempted to let themselves be crippled by danger and threats, they joined in prayer to implore parrhesía: “And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). As a result, “when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

Let our spirits, our places of worship and gathering be shaken with the boldness of God’s compassionate and loving Spirit. “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”

Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN Board President

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Published in: on May 15, 2018 at 9:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Is Torture Immoral or Not? What Say You, Ms. Haspel?

Blog submission by George Cassidy Payne

Opinions of the author do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network


Haspel

Photo Credit: Tom Brenner/The New York Times

According to the New York Times, in late 2002, Gina Haspel was dispatched to oversee a secret C.I.A. prison in Thailand code-named Cat’s Eye. While she was there, C.I.A. contractors waterboarded al-Qaeda suspects including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashir, the man accused of orchestrating the bombing of the American destroyer U.S.S. Cole off the coast of Yemen in 2000.

Based on her compelling testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Haspel clearly believed that she was following the law when she authorized these “practices.” She stated that her principals were well thought out and that she had the authority to make these decisions. Besides, the president, the Attorney General, and most members of Congress actually ordered them to be done in the name of national security.

But torture is not wrong because it is illegal. Torture is illegal because it is wrong. Classified programs, oaths of allegiance, and upholding professional conduct will not make an immoral act/program justifiable- not even when it is deemed perfectly legal by lawmakers such as presidents and senators. Haspel may be a bureaucrat of remarkable intellect, unswerving loyalty, and self-evident leadership poise, but simply following orders has nothing to do with moral accountability. Apartheid was legal in South Africa. The Gestapo obediently followed orders in Germany. It was legal for Kim Jong-un to execute family members and feed their remains to dogs. Less than 100 years ago it was legal in certain parts of America to lynch a black person for trying to vote. Even Osama bin Laden reinterpreted Islamic theology in order to make killing other Muslims legally acceptable to Allah.

Since the Spanish Inquisition the same tactics used under Haspel’s watch have been considered torture and immoral. Today, this belief has been codified into international law. Torture is wrong because it contaminates the intentions of anyone trying to pursue moral truth.

It does not matter if Gina Haspel believes the C.I.A always follows the law. Does the CIA follow the Truth? We know that she followed orders without questioning them. But does she believe that torture is immoral today? That is the main issue. What say you, Ms. Haspel?

George Cassidy Payne is a freelance writer, domestic violence counselor, and adjunct professor of humanities at Finger Lakes Community College in Western New York. He lives and works in Rochester, NY.

Published in: on May 14, 2018 at 11:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Love and Unity

Reflection for the 7th Sunday of Easter/Ascension of the Lord by FAN Communications Coordinator, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our May 7th newsletter


This Sunday, most Catholic dioceses will proclaim the Gospel for the Ascension of the Lord, however, in my home diocese of Bridgeport, CT we will celebrate the 7th Sunday of Easter keeping the tradition of Ascension Thursday as a Holy Day. In preparing for this reflection, I read the readings for both days and I heard the Lord speaking to me in both of the second readings.

In the first letter of John (used for 7th Sunday of Easter) we hear, “No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection…” 1JN 4:12 Simply put, this phrase says all we need to do to acknowledge God who dwells within each person, is love. It sounds simple, but can be quite difficult for us to love. For me, the act of receiving Eucharist at mass each week gives me the strength to continue to love, even when it’s difficult. During Mass, I say this prayer to myself during the consecration: ‘Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of the Eucharist to serve as a constant reminder of your presence within each one of us.’

In the letter to the Ephesians, (used for Ascension of the Lord) we hear “grace was given to each of us…to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith” EP 4:7, 12-13. This phrase points us toward our purpose. Again, we are called to recognize the grace given to each of us manifested in our God-given gifts. We are to support and uplift each other’s gifts, using them for the greater good. As we are all put on this Earth at this moment in history, we are all called to build up the body of Christ and be unified in faith with others.

With these two directives, to recognize Christ in everyone we meet and to build the body of Christ in our lifetime, we are energized to take our faith in to the streets and build the Kingdom on God here on earth.

Janine Walsh
FAN Communications Coordinator

Published in: on May 8, 2018 at 9:28 am  Leave a Comment  

“God Shows No Partiality”

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

This reflection was originally posted in our April 30th newsletter


God’s love accepts the sinner and our love embraces their journey to change their lives and accept forgiveness from God. The difference between a Saint and a Sinner is one stopped trying to change and, of course, the other keep at it.

On one of our recent Vocation Discernment Weekends, one of the young men told me he was interested in our community because of the many Saints. It brought to my mind a saying that we have in the community that yes, we might have many Saints but that is because living in community has made it possible. So, we are a community of Saints and more so a community that helps make Saints through our living together.

Acceptance and Repentance are the building blocks of our Christian lives. Peter says it so well in the first reading this week, that God has no partiality, and it was because of that gift that the early Church was seen as being so different, intriguing, and called out to so many as a light of hope and a place of welcome and caring for all who walked into their meetings and services. The recent release of ‘Paul, Apostle of Christ’ shows so clearly how the Christian Community embraced all and reached out to all in Jesus’s name. It’s all about relationship and acceptance and welcome.

So here’s a few things we can all try to improve in our lives and more especially in our local Church.

First: Let us truly try to love one another. To go beyond just saying our prayers, performing our services, but to make a stronger effort to reach out and talk to someone we do not know or do not know well that we are at Church with.

Secondly: Let someone share their story with you. If we are too busy to listen, we are too busy doing something that takes us away from building the Church through building relationships.

Finally: Let God love you! I know, it’s hard to realize that God really and truly loves you. But He does.

If we keep trying to do these three things, we can help Christ transform our society and touch the hearts and lives of others in Jesus’ Name.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on May 1, 2018 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  

St. Francis School in Mississippi Delta in Need

Recently, FAN was contacted by Sister Kathleen Murphy osf, who is the Kindergarten teacher at St. Francis of Assisi School in Greenwood, MS. She told us of the school’s plight to stay solvent in these difficult economic times. We invite you to read their story and help as you are able.


Peace and all good!

School 1

Greetings from the Mississippi Delta! Here in Greenwood, at the Eastern edge of the Delta you will find our little Catholic elementary school. St. Francis of Assisi School was founded and is owned by the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province of Franciscans and the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity help to staff the school.

We have a rich history originating in the Civil Rights era. The founding Franciscans had a zealous belief in education as a tool to build a more just society. There was no adequate source of elementary education for the African American child in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. St. Francis School opened, grew, and flourished in filling that gap amidst many challenges. I would refer you to an article in the National Catholic Reporter, March 23 issue entitled “Franciscan Was An Unlikely Civil Rights Hero”, to learn more about the founders and their role in the local Civil Rights Movement.

The needs of the Black and Latino population here are surely not the same as they have been in times past, but we still have a great passion for serving the children of families that in many ways are in day-to-day trauma. A dire economic picture in the area as well as the threats of deportation for those involved with DACA issues loom large in the lives of our school families. The majority of students in our school are not of the Catholic faith. s 100That has been historically true. We are here to bring the Gospel in the form of a good education and a safe and loving learning community.

This is the landscape in which we daily minister to children and families. This is the setting where we currently struggle to stay afloat. Sources of funding become more difficult to find. Quality educators are a rare breed in the Delta while failing public schools abound.

What might you do? Perhaps you will discern a call to take on the mission of teaching here in the Delta or would be willing to partner with us financially in adopting a student or just contributing to the general financial picture here at St. Francis School.

Francis of Assisi had a passion for serving the poor and little ones. This passion lives on here in the Delta. Join us as you can!

Published in: on April 25, 2018 at 9:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Ignited in Jesus

Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Easter by FAN Board Member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our April 23rd newsletter


“Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of — indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.”

These words from the poem “What I Have Learned So Far”* by Mary Oliver came to mind as I reflected on this Sunday’s readings.

After Paul’s conversion he was “ignited” to speak “out boldly in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 9:29) However, Paul experienced what many people to this day encounter when attempting to live the Gospel, “they tried to kill him.” Anyone who has ever attempted to follow the Gospel call to speak out for justice or take action for peace has probably experienced the angst that comes with the numbness that comes with the status quo, the negativity of those who prefer “indolence.”

In her poem, Mary Oliver echoes the words from our second reading where St. John writes “Let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” (1 Jn. 3:18) There are people who may say they are Christians but when it comes to being ignited, taking action for justice and peace, they do not do them. Action, deeds and truth validate the speech about, and words of, love.

In our Gospel, Jesus invites us to remain in relationship with him, to stay connected to him as he is connected with us. Only through contemplating the love of God within us can we reflect the creative power of God and “bud toward radiance.” Jesus invites us to “be passionate about the just, the ideal, the sublime, and the holy,” and to commit to labor for its cause. Jesus invites us to live our very short time on earth “ignited,” to actualize the Gospel each day.

Remain with Jesus and be ignited!

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Member

*from New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver, Beacon Press; July, 1993

Published in: on April 24, 2018 at 9:08 am  Comments (1)  

Money Spent on Missile Strike Could Have Been Invested in Peace

Blog submission by George Cassidy Payne

Opinions of the author do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network


Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed that the U.S. used more than twice as many missiles as it did in a 2017 strike on Syria’s Sharyat Airbase on April 7, 2017. That attack used 59 Tomahawk missiles, and was ordered by President Donald Trump.

Tomahawk

Tomahawk Missile

“We were very precise and proportionate, but at the same time it was a heavy strike,” Mattis said.

If the 118 missiles used this time around were Raytheon manufactured Tomahawks, at least 165.2 million was spent on this mission. That’s a lot, especially when one considers other ways that this money could have been spent. Rather than blowing up three buildings, further traumatizing a war torn populace, subjecting the U.S. to Russian propaganda, and doing nothing to deter Bashar al-Assad from continuing to wage war against his own people, this money could have been spent on peacemaking.

What do I mean by peacemaking? For instance, while shaming the Syrian government over the use of chemical weapons-an abomination to all civilized people- President Trump could have rolled out a multi-pronged 165.2 million dollar investment strategy aimed at providing the Syrian people with real aid, dismantling Syria’s capacity for using these weapons in the future, and denying the Russians from accusing the United States of breaking international laws. After-all, 165.2 million dollars goes a long way.

To begin with, the president could have used a percentage of this money to offer asylum to the victim’s families. What city in America would turn away a refugee if their stay is bought and paid for by the United States government? Millions could have been spent (in a highly public way) to help Syrian refugees already relocated in the states with money for housing, medical care, education, and job training.

The president could also have made a high profile contribution to several cash strapped charity organizations that are making a tangible difference on the ground. Bolstering the operational budgets of groups such as the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and the UN White Helmets would have done more to send a message to the Assad regime than any missile strike ever could.

With the millions left over, the president could initiate a multinational peace summit that brings together all of the necessary parties.

Anything would be better than the status quo. Estimates of deaths in the Syrian Civil War, per opposition activist groups, vary between 353,593 and 498, 583. This bloodbath cannot go on. It may feel cathartic to blow stuff up, but it is not an effective way to bring peace to Syria. Just watch and see. The 162.5 million dollar missile strike will do absolutely nothing to stop the slaughter. If the president is truly committed on sending Assad and his allies a message, he should invest massively in humanitarian aid, peace publicity, and domestic support to refugees.

George Cassidy Payne is a freelance writer, domestic violence counselor, and adjunct professor of humanities at Finger Lakes Community College in Western New York. He lives and works in Rochester, NY.

Published in: on April 18, 2018 at 8:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Our Loving God Always Accepts Us

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Easter by Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg Associate, Carolyn Meyer

This reflection was originally posted in our April 16th newsletter


file000753288887The readings this week stress the all-loving and accepting nature of the God who created us. They also call us to see God in everyone and especially to see God when we look in the mirror. We are reminded that we are God’s children and we are all accepted into God’s “fold.”

In the first reading, Peter was asked how the crippled man was healed and he told them, although he probably didn’t see why it mattered. Peter and John were arrested and jailed because they healed a lame man in the name of Jesus. Again, how a man was healed seemed to be a huge concern. The leaders must have been incredulous when Peter said that he healed in the name of Jesus. They surely felt intimidated by a man they had crucified, that he would have such great power through his followers. Peter was telling the people of Israel that even though they turned away from Jesus, he is continuing his mission of salvation and healing through those who believe.

Should we be called to account for the kindness we have done? How many times have I questioned when someone is helped? Do they deserve it? How much do they deserve and how often? I may even be suspicious of the motive of the person doing the good deed. Instead, I tried this Lent to die to my human shortfalls and live in Christ.

Carolyn Meyer
Associate of the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Published in: on April 17, 2018 at 9:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Live the Gospel

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Easter by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our April 9th newsletter


NewsletterWe continue our journey through Easter season. The Triduum was a few weeks ago. We celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus. We welcomed some new members to our community on the Easter vigil. Maybe on Easter Sunday, we celebrated with family and friends. When my children were younger their grandfather would always hide Easter eggs and we would have an Easter egg hunt. Our extended family would sit down to a big dinner with ham and potatoes. Then Monday would come and life would go on. Do we just go through the motions? Is the Triduum and Easter just another static event that happened some two thousand years ago? Or do we actually have any trust and hope in the power of the Risen Christ?

In our first reading from Acts on Sunday, Peter tells us, “whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One.” Peter should know; he walked with Jesus for three years, witnessed miracles and yet even he denied Jesus. I often wonder if we are continually denying the “Holy and Righteous One” and turning him over to Pilate again and again. But the good news is the Resurrection. Today, we can deny Jesus, turn him over to Pilate by failing to live the Gospel, and tomorrow, we can be born in the Spirit.

In this week’s Gospel reading, Luke 24:45 states that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” St. Francis is credited with saying “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words.” Everyday, if we open our hearts and live the Gospel, not just preach the Gospel, we understand the Scriptures. In Matthew 3, Jesus tells us “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Last week, my staff and I participated in the A.C.T. to End Racism mobilization. A few weeks ago I was arrested for non-violent civil disobedience, standing with my brothers and sisters covered by DACA. Next week I will be participating in a forum on faith and environmental justice. How could the kingdom of Heaven possibly be at hand if we are not welcoming the stranger, if racism is alive and flourishing, if we are destroying God’s wondrous creation?

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on April 10, 2018 at 10:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Believe in God’s Mercy

Reflection for Divine Mercy Sunday by FAN Board Member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our April 2nd newsletter


Jesus2This Sunday, (referred to as Divine Mercy Sunday) was chosen to be a time to especially remember God’s Mercy to us.

I sometimes have a difficult time remembering the difference between Mercy and Charity. Partly because of my growing up and being influenced by what our media portrays in various plays, novels and movies about Mercy. At the same time I have to be honest and say that it has also challenged me personally in regards to going to Confession and accepting God’s Mercy in my life.

For some inane reason Mercy to me means that I have given up or have lost, and I do not like to be beholding to anyone. It makes me feel uneasy and perhaps even a little ashamed that I have failed or have lost or am wrong. Sorry, if I am being too revealing, but just going through Lent and preparing for the Glory of Easter, my reflections and experiences are still rooted in this very reflection of the difference between Charity and Mercy for me and in my life.

Charity is an action that we do for others, Mercy is accepting that I can not and need to accept God’s Mercy in my life and also from others, in order to do in God’s name.

So, today I feel like Thomas in the upper room, looking for a sign, awaiting a sign and Jesus enters my life, my space and says “Blessed are they who have not seen and believe”

Lord, cure my unbelief and have Mercy on us all!

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on April 3, 2018 at 9:50 am  Leave a Comment