Sunday, November 11, 2007

Montecasale: International Fraternity

Peace and Good!
My few days of retreat at Montecasale, in the heart of the mountains of Italy, were also a time to reflect on the wideness of God’s mercy and presence. Besides the Italian brothers, there was also a friar there from Nigeria, who was studying in Rome and helping out at the hermitage for the summer. What a circumstance, friars from three continents in this little place on the side of the road, joined in prayer and fraternal life and ministry.
It reminded me of the time when Francis told the first brothers not to be afraid of how small their little group was. “I see men from all over joining us, from England and France and Germany and Spain and all over the world.” It began in his own lifetime, but over the centuries has continued to be true.
It is true that there are differences of culture and language to be respected and celebrated and at times overcome, but being a friar has always been for me a reminder that God loves the whole world. And that God acts through so many different people and different circumstances. But it also reminds me that kindness and compassion and a welcoming smile are international, enduring signs of the Love of God in our midst.
God bless and keep you!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Montecasale: The Thieves and God's Mercy

Peace and Good!
Across from the friary at Montecasale is a hill, which had been used in the years before Francis’s time as the site of a fortress. Frederick I, called Barbarossa, had torn the fortress down about the time Francis was born, and the hill site was abandoned. It was the perfect place to watch the road, however, and after the friars had settled in the hermitage of Montecasale, a trio of thieves had decided to live on that hill and rob those passing by on that road. They were violent and much feared, but even thievery is subject to ups and downs, and even for thieves things can get desperate, so that one time they found themselves hungry, and decided to go over to the hermitage and ask the friars for alms. Good Brother Angelo received them graciously until he learned who they were; then he sent them off angrily. The thought, that thieves should steal even the alms of God’s poor!
Francis, however, did not approve. He sent Angelo, who I am sure was not all that keen, to seek out the thieves at their home and give them something to eat. And also to ask them to think about their lives. This they did, and eventually came over to the friary and became friars. The hill where they lived is still marked with three crosses.
Before they came over to the friary, however, they spent a hard night on that hill. The three had decided to give up their life of crime, but a question nagged at them: would God forgive them for all the evil that had done? Could they dare to hope for God’s mercy? Since they could not answer this question, they decided to go to the friary and ask Francis. The great miracle, I think, is that Francis was able to help them trust in God’s power and desire to forgive them. That was the heart of their conversion, as it had been a vital part of Francis’s own conversion. Repentance and conversion involve not only a reassessment of our own lives and actions, but, more importantly, an act of faith in the Divine Mercy.
That Mercy is so clear in the Gospel reading for this Sunday: Zacchaeus. I’m not sure he knew what he was looking for. He merely wanted to see Jesus. Yet, Jesus used this occasion to invite him to recognize his place as a child of Abraham, the one who had such great faith in God’s mercy and love. Believing in God’s mercy is helped when we are invited into it by others. It was in this way that Francis followed Jesus, in inviting the thieves to look at their lives, and to believe in the power of God’s forgiveness. May God help us to believe in the Divine Mercy, for ourselves and for others, especially for those who seem to us farthest from that Mercy. May God help us, one way or the other, to invite them to believe in God, who so loved the world that He sent His only Son to save us.
God bless!

This is the door where the thieves came seeking alms!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Not Like the Rest

Peace and Good!
Brother Masseo once asked Brother Francis: “Why after you? Why is it that so many people follow after you? You’re not attractive looking or well born or a gifted orator.” And Francis answered that it was because in him they saw the greatness of God’s mercy. “For if the Lord had shown so much mercy to the greatest sinner, he would be more grateful than me.”
The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, from the Gospel of Luke, is this Sunday’s Gospel. A powerful meditation. We usually focus on the two persons involved, but as always, Jesus calls us first of all to focus on God, and what God does for us. For the Pharisee is not a hypocrite in what he does; his problem is that he uses it to lift himself up, and by doing so separates himself “from the rest of men.” Pharisee means 'one who separates himself,' and the reason the Pharisees did so was so that they could keep the law in its fullness. This was not bad in itself. The problem was that it tempted them to think of themselves as some how fundamentally different from ‘the others,’ especially from “pagans and sinners.” What Jesus tried to show them again and again was that they were prone to the same temptations and could sin just as much as the publicans and prostitutes. Their zeal for observance could become pride and self-righteousness. Jesus reminded the Pharisees, and us, of the need to recognize that all goodness comes from God, and that God is the Creator of all.
To separate ourselves, at least in our minds and our hearts, from “the rest of people,” is to face the same temptation as the Pharisees. We all seek ways to exalt ourselves, to ‘feel good about ourselves’ by looking down on others. Our prayer can be like that of the Pharisee, “Thank God I am not like the rest.”
Of course, it can take so many forms
“Thank You Lord that I am a conservative, not like those loony liberals.” or “that I am a liberal, not like those creepy conservatives.” It can be: “Thank You that I am an environmentalist, not like those selfish consumers.” or “that I am a responsible business person, not like those nutty tree huggers.” Or “that I am from the city, not like those hicks from the country.” Or “that I am a good country person, not like those shallow city people.” And it could go on and on. All these thoughts are ways we exalt ourselves.
Francis was tempted to do the same thing; he could have looked down on the merchants and soldiers and revelers who were his peers. He could have looked down on those who did not follow his path, who did not dedicate their lives to the Gospel. But he learned from Jesus not to look down on anyone, because he knew himself to be as much a sinner as any of them. I don’t think this was just some sort of ‘holy humility’ that saints have: it was real. He knew that what made the difference in his own life was not what he did, but what God did for him. And he knew that if he were to believe really in the love of God for him, he had to believe in the love of God for all men and women, the greatest saints and the most miserable sinners. He was not different “from the rest.” Neither are any of us.
And that God for that! Because we have to remember that Jesus came to save sinners, to call sinners, to seek the lost. So we can only be saved if we place ourselves among them, like the publican did in the parable. “O Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
God bless and keep you!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Peace and Good!

Blessings. There will be more reflections soon, God willing. God bless us all.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Montecasale: Overhanging Rock

Peace and Good! Francis liked not only places with water, but places with caves or grottoes. Many of the hermitages he frequented began as simple caves where hermits and others seeking God could shelter while they prayed and fasted. Today there are often structures built around the nucleus of such caves, as at Greccio or Le Celle in Cortona. The overhanging rock (sasso spicco) at Montecasale has escaped this fate, thank the Lord. I say that, because it is one of the few places in Italy you can go and stand in a place where St. Francis stood and see pretty much what he would have seen. The sasso spicco at Montecasale is a place in the side of the mountain where a massive rock hangs out over a shelf in the hillside, cut out by water, wind, and perhaps visitors like Francis, Anthony of Padua, and Bonaventure.
To get to this spot, you have to leave the friary and walk down a trail, sometimes pretty steep. Walking there is a contemplative experience in itself, as you enter the rough forested hillside, filled in the summer with the rhythmic trill of the cicadas and the warm dust raised by your feet. You come upon the rock ledge from above, and see a long, shaded area. If you descend onto this ledge, you come to the spot where the stream coming down from the hillside pours over the rock’s edge (although, 2007 was the first year in memory in which there wasn’t enough water in the stream to flow over the rock!) Standing at that spot, you feel the firm rock beneath your feet and looming above you, and look out on the green hillsides closing the area all around. In such a place you feel at once your own smallness, and yet your place in the midst of creation.
(Here is the view from Sasso Spicco)
I would think it was in places like this that Francis started to receive the inspired thoughts that would lead later on in his life to the composition of the Canticle of the Creatures. Sun, stars, water, earth are all here, praising the Lord by being what they were made to be. And as you sit under this overhanging rock, you are led to ask the question: what am I made to be?
God bless you!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Power of the Word of God

Peace and good!
The book of Jonah tells us of one of the most successful preaching tours ever. Jonah preached to the Ninevites, who didn't know God and didn't respect the Jewish people. Yet, in only one day, Jonah's preaching brought them to repentence and humility before God, who heard their pleas for forgiveness. And the amazing thing is, Jonah didn't want any of this to happen! He was a reluctant prophet who did not want his mission to succeed. Such is the power of God's word.
I sometimes imagine St. Francis outside the gates of Perugia. We are told he preached there. Yet, Perugia was the ancient enemy of Assisi, and Francis had spent a horrid year in disgusting conditions in a Perugian prison. I am sure that when he went to Perugia to preach, some part of him felt like Jonah: wanting to proclaim the merciful God, but hoping God wouldn't be too merciful to his enemies. Yet, he did preach to them, he overcame his natural animosity and distrust. He believed in the power of God's Word, greater than his own word.
May that Word work in us, through us, and, sometimes, despite us.
God bless!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

When, O Lord?

Today's Reading from Habakkuk:
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? Destruction and violence are before me;there is strife, and clamorous discord.
Then the LORD answered me and said:Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily.For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;if it delays, wait for it,it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.
Faith means trusting that God sees the long view, that the vision, because it is God's vision, still has time. Francis, I am sure, was tempted to ask God: "When?" He saw the violence in the world, the greed among the prelates, the dissensions among his own brothers. And God told him: "The vision still has its time...wait for it." And Francis chose to wait, to let God's vision be the one he followed. We need to make that choice, too, as hard as it is. Lord, increase our Faith!
Peace and Good!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lazarus and the Rich Man (Dives)

Peace and Good!
This is a powerful parable, and an uncomfortable one—and so, very important. An interesting point: it is the only parable of Jesus that I am aware of in which one of the characters has a name: Lazarus. Sometimes the parable is called “Dives and Lazarus,” but dives is just the Latin word for “a rich man,” so he doesn’t get a name. In the parable, the rich man apparently enjoys his wealth and ignores Lazarus completely, not even sharing crumbs from his table. The mention of the dogs licking Lazarus’ wounds is meant to emphasize this neglect: the licking of wounds by dogs was thought to help healing, so even the dogs were doing more for the poor man, Lazarus, than his rich brother.
Even in the afterworld, the rich man does not look at Lazarus as anyone to note. He does not ask Lazarus for a drink, but tells Abraham to send him to dip the tip of his finger and serve the suffering rich man. He does not ask Lazarus to go to warn his brothers, but asks Abraham to send him. For the rich man, Lazarus still does not count for anything.
Which makes me think that the great chasm Abraham speaks of that exists between them is put there not by God, but by the rich man himself. His refusal to recognize Lazarus, either in life or in death, places a chasm that cannot be crossed.
So, we create the chasm. And we cannot bridge it, or cross over it ourselves. Only one who has loved in the supreme way can do that: Jesus. This same Jesus came and comes to show us how to cross that chasm, or better, how to rid ourselves of it. “Love God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole strength; love your neighbor as yourself; love one another as I have loved you.”
Francis experienced the gap being closed only when he looked on a leper and did not see a horror, or an object to be avoided, but a brother, to be embraced and served and, even, loved. Such is the power of Jesus Christ and the cross and resurrection.
God bless you!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Montecasale Evenings

Peace and Good! One of the enjoyable things during my retreat at Montecasale was the time after dinner in the evening. We all moved outside onto the terrace, overlooking the town of San Sepolcro, and visited. Chatted, told stories, laughed. Since it was mostly in Italian I was not able to participate a lot, but it was an enjoyable experience. And good, not to have to talk over the TV or compete with so many other distractions. I don’t bemoan modern inventions, they have been a great blessing from God in many ways. But I think Francis would warn us to be very careful that we use the things God has given us to become more human and more the children of God we are created to be. Do all the gadgets and inventions make us more human or less? It’s not automatic, either way. We have to make a choice. Montecasale evenings reminded me of that. Thank you Lord!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Clay God Uses: St. Francis Mary Camporosso

Peace and Good! A brief interlude from musings on Montecasale to mention today’s saint, Francis Mary of Camporosso, a Capuchin lay brother who worked many years as questor in Genoa and helped many people with his prayers and kindness. He died helping victims of a cholera epidemic. Such a death may seem insignificant and perhaps useless. Most of the people he aided during the epidemic probably died anyway. But his death has to be seen in the light of Jesus’ death. We forget that for most of the world the day of Jesus’ death was like any other. The Emperor Tiberius kept up his misrule of the Empire; the dockworkers in Ostia, Piraeus, Alexandria and else kept loading and unloading ships; the soldiers patrolling the borders of the Empire kept up with their watch and their dice games. For most of the world it was an insignificant event, this death of one member of a conquered race in a small corner of the world.
The significance, of course, was tremendous, for in that event the Love of God burst into the world in a new and amazing way. But it did not look that way at the time. Neither did the death of Francis Mary of Camporosso. But we celebrate him today because we believe that the same Love was with him in his sacrifice as was there on Calvary.
What makes our life and actions, and our death, significant? If we believe Jesus, it is only to live out his command: Love one another as I have loved you. How simple, and how hard! Yet, it is life. I am grateful to St. Francis Mary, Bl Teresa of Calcutta, St. Francis, and all the others who show us that truth again and again. And for the sacrament of the Love of the God, the Eucharist. We don’t do anything significant: take some bread and wine, say some words. But what the Love of God does with that!
(Peace to all those with connections to Naples! I know today is also the feast of St. Januarius. It is said that when Januarius (Italian Gennaro) was beheaded by pagan Romans in 305 A.D., a Neapolitan woman soaked up his blood with a sponge and preserved it in a glass phial. Every year on his feast the people wait to see if the blood will liquefy. It did again this year, and Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, then showed the glass phial of blood to the congregation and paraded it to the crowds outside, where fireworks were lit in celebration. "It is a prodigious sign that shows the Lord's closeness and predilection for our beloved and long-suffering city," he said.)
God bless you!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Montecasale: Fossa

Peace and Good! St. Francis had several hermitage spots in Italy where he liked to go for prayer. The requirements for them all seem to be that they were high up, far from town, and that they had water nearby. The last, of course, was a necessity: no one could long survive without water, even an austere hermit. For Francis water was important for life, both the life of the body and of the spirit. Water taught him much about God. As he says in the Canticle of the Creatures: “Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.”
While I was in Montecasale, they were experiencing a drought. So the little stream nearby was not running—or better, it was barely running. There were pools of water and tiny streamlets over the rocks. As I sat by them one day, a deer creeped slowly down toward the pool, seeking to slake her thirst. “As a deer yearns for running streams, even so my soul.” What a gift water is, and the longing for water! They both speak to us of the goodness of God and of our need, built into us, for God. We can forget that need, until the thirst compels us to seek living water. That, perhaps, is what drove Francis up into those mountains!
God bless and keep you!

Friday, September 07, 2007


Peace! These are the Capuchin Poor Clare Sisters elected to lead their federation.

God bless!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Contemplative Interlude

Peace and Good! I am with some Capuchin Poor Clare sisters this week, helping with a meeting. We reflected on St. Bonaventure and his writings about contemplation and about St. Francis. The sisters are truly inspiring as they live their cloistered life of prayer and charity. I will be continuing my reflections on Montecasale and the pilgrimage in a few days. God bless!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Montecasale; Ah, Contemplazione!

Peace and Good!
I was sitting on the top of the mountain above the friary at Montecasale, admiring the beautiful view and the Creator of it all. I had been pretty much alone the entire afternoon, but as I sat on a log I saw a man approaching, with a hiking staff. With my little Italian and his little English, our conversation was short. We admired the view and the beauty, but when he saw I was a friar he said to me, respectfully, “Ah, contemplazione!” and smiling turned to leave me to my prayers.
What a great gift, to have someone understand the need for quiet prayer on the mountaintop, and to respect it. Sometimes it seems that what people want to do in this world is save themselves and others from silence. There are times when we can and should use our voices in the great gift of communication God has given us. At times a kind word or interested conversation is a gift to another. But, there are also times when we need to encourage one another in entering into the silence. The Church has always stressed that even in its communal prayer periods of silence are not only recommended, but a necessary part of the rhythm of prayer.
I think that is why Francis sought out such places and encouraged his friars to spend time in hermitages. To learn the gift of silence, and, as importantly, to share the gift of silence among themselves and with others. It isn’t easy to be quiet, to learn to listen to God, to open one’s life to contemplation. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it.
Ah, contemplazione!

God bless you all.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Montecasale: Up (and Down) the Mountain

Peace and Good!
St. Francis learned to climb! I don’t know if he ever loved climbing, but he certainly didn’t shy away from it. Of course, part of that came from his own youth, growing up in Assisi, a city clinging to the mountainside. You can hardly go anywhere in town without either walking up or down a street, usually a steep one. Still, to reach some of the hermitages he frequented, like Montecasale, required the legs of an athlete and the agility of a mountain goat! St. Bonaventure said of him:
“It was a custom of the angelic man Francis never to rest from the good, rather, like the heavenly spirits on Jacob’s ladder, he either ascended into God or descended to his neighbor…he spent some of his time working for his neighbor’s benefit and dedicated the rest to the tranquil excesses of contemplation.” (Legenda Maior XIII.1)
As I climbed the mountain above the friary, I realized that it is good for us to not only ‘ascend’ to God with our minds, but to feel such an ascent in our bodies too. Climbing up the mountain was hard work, but worth it when the climb ends at the top, where there is beauty and tranquility. However, though I was tempted, like Peter, to pitch a tent up there, I couldn’t stay up on that mountain; I had to go back to be with the friars, to pray and eat and wash the dishes with them. Coming down the mountain physically was also an important experience, and a hint at what it meant when “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” We say that Jesus came down from heaven, for our sake. Francis experienced that in his soul and his body, and I think it helped teach him compassion and patience.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Montecasale: A Living Place of Prayer

Peace and Good! One of the blessings of making a retreat at Montecasale was being a part of the community of friars who live there. This place was kept as a Franciscan hermitage for many years after the death of Francis, then was left behind by the friars until the Capuchins came back in the 1500s. It is now a house of the Tuscan Province. There are four friars stationed there. The guardian, Fra Pio, has been there many years. While I was on retreat there, a friar from Nigeria, Fra Clemente, was helping for the summer.
It was a joy to rise each day and go to the small choir to pray the Divine Office with the friars, then to celebrate the Eucharist with them and the people who would come. The chapel is not very large, but is quite old and lovely. Keeping in the Franciscan tradition of simplicity, it is most wood and stone. There is an ancient statue of the Blessed Virgin and Child, reportedly brought to the friary by St. Francis himself.
What was wonderful was to live in such a place and know that it is still serving the same purpose it did in 1212, when Francis came there. It is still a place of quiet prayer and contemplation, and also of welcome. Pilgrims who come are invited to spend time in prayer in the chapel, in the woods, or sitting out on the terrace enjoying the spectacular view of the valley below. The spirit of prayer is still alive in the world, and the need for it is still calling people.
Montecasale reminds me that we have to look at our past not as in a museum, but as a living part of who we are. Also, that those who have gone before us have shared with us wisdom from God about the meaning of human life and activity.
God bless!

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Retreat at Montecasale

Peace and Good!

It was a great blessing to be able to make a retreat at the hermitage of Montecasale before the recent pilgrimage.

This is a place of prayer cared for by the Capuchin Franciscan friars since the 16th century. It was one of Saint Francis’s favorite places to stay and spend time in prayer. Like most of the places he chose for this, it is high up on a mountainside, outside the ancient town of (Borgo) Sansepolcro. Also like most of the places we associate with him, this was a place of prayer before Francis of Assisi ever arrived. It had served as a hermitage and hospice and was given by the Camaldolese monks to Francis and his followers as early as 1212 or 1213. It is associated with several stories about St. Francis, including his conversion of the three thieves and the incident of planting cabbages upside down. I will reflect on these later.
Montecasale is a relatively small hermitage. Unlike some of the other places where Francis stayed, such as the La Verna or Le Celle, a large complex never grew up here. The friary is bigger than it was when he was here, but it is still small and simple. While it is visited by pilgrims, it is less crowded usually than La Verna or such sacred spots. This makes it still a wonderful place to make a retreat. It is set up on a mountainside, amid a lovely forest. It is said that not only St. Francis, but also St. Anthony and St. Bonaventure spent time here in prayer and reflection. It was an honor and blessing to be able to do the same.

I hope to reflect on Montecasale and Francis for the next few entries, then move on to other sites from the pilgrimage.

God bless and keep you!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Few More Photos

Pace e Bene!

The basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome, and the town of Bagnoregio, where St. Bonaventure was born.
God bless you!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Clay God Uses: St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Peace and Good!
While on pilgrimage in Italy, I reflected on how at times Francis felt a longing to stay up in the mountains as a contemplative, and how hard it was for him to guide his order as it grew so quickly. Yet, he couldn't escape the fact that God called him to interact with others, to use his amazing talents for good. The same thing was true of St. Bernard. He complains at times about how all he wants to be is a simple monk, and yet how often he ends up caught up in the needs of the Church of his day. He and Francis both had to differentiate between what they wanted and what was the true desire of their heart. That true desire is what God planted in them and called them to.
And that is what we all have to seek: to live our true heart's desire. We have to remember, too, that following it will not always be easy or even, ironically, feel 'desirable.' The rich young man in the gospel felt a great desire, but when Jesus told him how he could pursue it, he went away sad.
May God give us courage not to go away sad, but to follow in the footprints of Jesus, with the help of Mary, Francis, and Bernard.

(Here are a few photos from Assisi)


Saturday, August 18, 2007


Pace e Bene! Still adjusting to the change of time, and still amazed at the blessings of the pilgrimage. Today three brothers will be making their solemn vows as Capuchin Franciscans. Each one is a great gift from God. God bless and keep you all!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Back from Italy

Peace and Good! We've returned from the pilgrimage. It was a most amazing and blessed time. I hope to begin reflections in a few days. Meanwhile, here's a photo of Assisi I took on this trip. God bless!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Clay God Uses: Joachim and Ann

Pace e Bene! We are at the ancient Capuchin Franciscan friary at Camerino. This is a wonderful feast day, to thank God for all who made up the family of Jesus. Mary's parents must have been special, to raise so special a daughter. May God bless and keep you always!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In Italy

Pace e Bene! Here in the far mountains of the Marches of Ancona, in Camerino at one of the earliest Capuchin friaries. Rome was great, thought hot and sticky. I am praying for everyone. Pray for me. God bless!

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Peace and Good! I am currently helping with a pilgrimage in Italy. A group of friars will visit Assisi and other Franciscan sites. I look forward to sharing more musings on my return (after Aug. 15). Pray for us. God bless.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Clay God Uses: Benedict

Peace and Good! As he would have liked, most people know about St. Benedict through his Rule and the many monasteries who still follow it. Benedict never wanted to point to himself, but to Christ. Ironically, his humility ensured him a place in history. The same for St. Francis. I read somewhere: "There is no limit to the good you can do, if you don't care who gets the credit for it." Benedict and Francis would agree.
God bless you!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence and Freedom

Peace and Good!
Today in the United States what we celebrate officially is our independence from England. However, we also use this day to mark our values, especially freedom, liberty, justice for all. It’s good to reflect on these things in our relationship with God as well as with others.
In regard to God, we can never be independent. Our very existence depends on God, so being independent would mean not existing, certainly not a desirable end. Scripture tells us, too, that we may never be independent of God’s love: God is love, John says. So the Lord does not give us the gift of independence. However, He does give us the gift of freedom. We can choose freely to be what we are made to be. We can choose freely to accept joyfully the love of God. Our faith tells us that such freedom is at the basis of human life, and of human dignity.
This dignity is why, in regard to other people, we speak of independence and dependence. Here, too, there is no such thing as absolute independence from others. In life in so many ways we depend on others, they depend on us. That’s part of how God made us.
However, we do need a certain amount of independence from others, if we are to be open to choose to be what God has made us to be. Others can help us discern God’s will, but no human being can tell us absolutely who we are. To listen to God we have to have a certain independence from others.
St. Elizabeth of Portugal, a saint celebrated today, is a good example of this. She was a queen, and accepted that role. However, she interpreted that role independently, in freedom. Following the example of her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, she thought that a queen ought to reach out and help the poor, even to the point of serving them at table and washing their feet. People at court told her this was no way for a queen to act and that she should stop, but she was independent of their opinion, in her desire to be free to do what God called her to do.
We find this in the life of St. Francis. He was very obedient, open to listening to God’s will through the Church and his brothers. On the other hand, he was independent in seeking to live his vocation within the Church, rejecting the calls of others who told him he should abandon his project and simply fit into the established system of religious life. His genius was to balance dependence and independence. He was able to do this, I think, because he was open to learning true freedom, freedom to be loved by God and become that love in the world.
Happy Independence Day! God bless America, and every nation and people in the world!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Peace! I've read a few blogs today on St. Thomas. Yes, he doubted. Yes, he needed Jesus to booster his faith. But why is that the only thing we remember about him? Earlier in the Gospel of John (11:16), when the other disciples try to keep Jesus from returning to Judea because of the hostility, John tells us:
"Then Thomas (the name means 'Twin') said to his fellow disciples: "Let us go along, to die with him.'"
Brave Thomas, complete with his doubt.
Conversion is, to remember a very old song, to 'accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and forget about ol' mister in between.' Thomas, with God's help, overcame his skepticism and accepted bravely his mission to preach the Gospel and even suffer death because of it. Thank you, St. Thomas.
God bless and keep you!

Friday, June 29, 2007

God and the Unlikely: Peter and Paul, Francis and Clare

Peace! This is the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. I often reflect on how God brings together unlikely pairings. Simon the Fisherman from Galilee (Peter) and Saul the Pharisee from Tarsus, Roman citizen (Paul) had little in common and would probably not have never met or put up with each other: except for what--or better, who--they had in common: Jesus Christ. What wonders God does with the glue of love and faith! It's the same with Francis and Clare: the rambunctious son of a merchant would never have had much of a chance to talk with, let alone be friends with a noble daughter like Clare (despite what some movies want you to believe). She had no reason to trust him (after all, he and his faction had driven her family out of Assisi when she was very young) and he had no reason to expect anything much from her (as an aristocrat representative of the old order). Yet, they met: in Jesus Christ, in faith and charity. And look what God did for both of them and for the world through them.

So, as we walk, let us look for God in the most unexpected places, and especially in the most unexpected persons.

Peter and Paul, Francis and Clare, pray for us!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

God Uses Clay: St. Irenaeus

Peace and Good!

Many of the early heresies in the Church rejected the Old Testament. They considered it too messy, both in the actions of the people involved and the images of God they found there. Yet, the Church held onto the Old Testament as a vital part of the scriptures, both fulfilled in the Gospels and illuminating them.

St. Irenaeus had to fight against an understanding of faith that was too cerebral: the Gnostics, who proposed that salvation involved 'knowing (gnosis)' and escape from the flesh. Yet, the Word becoming flesh is central to the Gospel message. Irenaeus knew that, and fought to articulate a theology which did not ignore sin, but more importantly did not try to explain away the Incarnation nor the redemption of the body.

Christian conversion is a balancing act, recognizing the reality of sin but in the context of the goodness of all creation, including the body. Weak was we are, balancing these two things is not always easy. Francis himself struggled with it. How to be austere so as to grow in grace, not become some disembodied ghost. Part of his secret was to begin always with praise of God and the goodness of creation. All creation: the sun and the moon, as well as the rocks and the worms and even that part of creation we flee: death. Sister Death.

I conclude with a beautiful quote from St. Irenaeus' Against Heresies:

Since you are the work of God, wait patiently for the hand of your Artist, who does all things at the right time. Present to him a supple and docile heart, and keep the form that this Artist gave you, having in yourself the water that comes from him and without which you would become hard and would reject the imprint of his fingers.By letting yourself be formed by him, you will rise to perfection, for through this art of God, the clay that is in you will be hidden; his hand created your substance… But if you become hard and push away his art and show that you are discontent with the fact that he made you a human being, by your ingratitude towards God you will have rejected not only his art but life itself; for it is the very nature of God’s goodness to form, and to be formed is the very nature of being human. Thus, if you give yourself to him by giving him your faith in him and your submission, you will receive the benefit of his art and you will be God’s perfect work. If on the contrary, you resist him and if you flee from his hands, the cause of your incompleteness will be in yourself who did not obey, and not in him. (Against the Heresies IV, Pr 4; 39,2)

God bless you!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Birth of John the Baptist

This is an ancient feast in the Church. (Note that the celebration of John's birth, sixth months before Jesus', falls on June 24, because in the old way of reckoning, each feast is six days before the beginning of the next month.)

This day is important for all the Church in remembering John, and more importantly, God's work through John. The readings all speak of God knowing and acting from his birth, and even from before his birth, when he was in the womb. Actually, from the moment of his conception. God works in all of us from that moment, for life is a continual gift.

It is interesting that in the debate over the use of embrionic stem cells, the Church's opposition is considered part of being 'anti-science.' But it's just the opposite: the oppostion comes because of what science tells us: that even the single cell produced by the union of a sperm and an egg contains all the DNA information for a complete and unique individual person! In earlier times they did not know that, and discussed when an embryo or a fetus was 'quickened,' i.e., when it received its soul. Yet now, we know that the 'human-ness' of each person goes all the way back to conception. Science tells us that, yet some choose to ignore it.

The feast of the Birth of John the Baptist is also significant for Franciscans, because that is Francis's baptismal name: Giovanni Battista. His father later made everyone call him Francesco, "Frenchy." This was probably because a cloth merchant didn't think it appropriate for his son to be named after a man who wore camel's hair! Francis didn't seem to live up to his patron saint at first, but his life showed that he was more like the Baptist than anyone would have guessed.

May John the Baptist help us to witness to Christ, to follow him, and to live our vocation to love as God loves, a vocation given to every one of us from the moment of our conception.

God bless!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Clay God Uses: Anthony of Padua

Peace and Good!
At the Basilica of Anthony of Lisbon (he was Portuguese, though he died and was buried in Italy) in Padua, one of the major relics on display is Anthony’s tongue, a reminder of his great ministry of preaching. Anthony would probably think this very appropriate because, while the tongue is used in speech, in itself it is just a muscle, with no power to make a sound or communicate anything. The tongue needs the breath from the lungs and the vibrations from the vocal chords.

So the preacher does not give his own message, but has to open himself to the action of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Word of God. Yet, just as the tongue is important in forming words, so the preacher is called to use his gifts to share the Word of God with the men and women.
St. Anthony used the science and culture of the thirteenth century to communicate to others the Gospel message, but always grounded himself in prayerful contemplation of that message first. In this he followed the example of St. Francis while also showing a different aspect of Franciscan ministry.
May he help us today, to live and proclaim the Gospel, to be the tongue giving voice to the Word of the Lord in the Spirit.
God bless!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Clay God Uses: Barnabas

Peace and Good! A wonderful trait of St. Barnabas seems to have been his ability to see potential in people. It was he, the Acts of the Apostles tells us (12:25-26), who went to Tarsus to seek Saul to help with the wonderful work of the Spirit in Antioch. The other Christians had sent Saul, the former persecutor, away to Tarsus and seemingly forgot about him, perhaps even still suspicious of his conversion. But Barnabas saw his potential, which he wonderfully encouraged. (His name, after all, means 'son of encouragement.' Acts 4:36)

It is interesting that later in Acts he and Saul (now Paul) have an argument about his young cousin John Mark, who had abandoned them earlier Acts 15:36-39). Barnabas saw the potential in the young man and argued strongly that he deserved another chance. Paul disagreed, and in the end they parted. In this matter Barnabas was wiser, for John Mark is usually identified with the author of the Gospel of Mark. So Barnabas' encouragement was wise.

I think of Francis encouraging others to the gospel life. Some of them, perhaps, would not have seemed to be very good material. His prejudices would have warned him that Clare and Rufino were nobles and too used to an easy life. But he saw in them great potential, and encouraged it.

I pray that St. Barnabas will both encourage us in our own lives and vocations, and help us to discern the good in others and the possibilities in them for God's grace to work.

(The painting is of Paul and Barnabas is Lystra Acts. 14)

God bless!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Patience of Tobit?

Peace and Good!
Yesterday's reading from the book of Tobit included a scene where the blind Tobit was told by his wife that a goat he heard was a gift: Yet I would not believe her, and told her to give it back to its owners. I became very angry with her over this. So she retorted: “Where are your charitable deeds now?Where are your virtuous acts? See! Your true character is finally showing itself!” (Tobit 2:14)

This reminded me of a saying of St. Francis: "Blessed are the peacemakers, since they shall be called sons of God" (Mt 5:9). The servant of God cannot know how much patience and humility he has in himself, while he is satisfied. However when the time has come, that those who ought to satisfy him, do the contrary to him, as much patience and humility as is there then, that much he has and not more. (Admonition 13)

Times of trial, problems and difficulties can bring out the worst in us. But this, too, is a blessing from God, because the faults revealed have been there all along. Once we see and recognize them, however, we can ask God's help to be converted from them and grow in grace and wisdom. The temptation is always to ask, "Why is this happening to me, Lord?" But it would be better to ask: "What are you teaching me through this, Lord? How can I grow in Your love and learn to glorify You in my littleness."

That is what Francis learned to do. It does not make our pain go away, but it helps us to know that Jesus Christ walks with us through our pain and wants to lead us through it on the way to salvation. A hard lesson at times, but another grace of the Gracious One.

God bless!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Our Exemplar: the Visitation

Peace! Just the awesome idea that someone who has just been told that she will be the mother of the Messiah, the Son of God, then undertakes a difficult journey to serve her cousin, who is pregnant with the messenger for the Messiah. Worldly values turned upside down! No wonder St. Francis looked to Mary as the first and foremost disciple of Jesus, following her Son down the path of love and giving. God bless!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Peace and Good!

This blog will continue, but recent events and a death in the family have kept me distracted. Keep me in your prayers. May the Holy Spirit bless us all.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Out of Sight!

Peace and Good! The liturgy of the Ascension celebrates Christ being taken beyond our sight. The Alternative Opening Prayer says: “Our minds were prepared for the coming of your kingdom when you took Christ beyond our sight.” The Second Preface for the Feast of the Ascension says that he “has passed beyond our sight not to abandon us but to be our hope.”
Perhaps if we had Jesus visible among us (and who could bear that sight?), we would be tempted to say that we know where he is, and we would not look any further. Yet we believe that his presence is among us in so many ways: in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Church, which is the mystical body of Christ, in the poor and in the beauty of the world around us, and especially in the suffering he shares with us that we might share His Glory.
Francis came to know this in a very particular way, through his experience of God’s sweetness in his encounter with the leper. He experienced that Jesus Christ was truly present there, in that poor sufferer in front of him. From that experience Francis knew he had to seek the presence of Jesus in all its different manifestations.
Our conversion involves our letting go of an image of Jesus which restricts his presence to the places or ways we are comfortable with. He has gone ‘beyond our sight’ precisely so that we will never stop looking for him. May God help us to open our eyes, or better, to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit (for the Ascension is always tied to Pentecost) so that the Spirit may help us to see with spiritual eyes Christ among us, beyond us, within us, beside us.
God bless!

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Clay God Uses: St. Felix

Peace and Good! Felix (baptized Peter) was born in a small mountain town. Yet he spent almost all his life as a Capuchin in the midst of the busy city of Rome. He was known as Brother "Deo Gratias," because that was what he was always saying, "Thanks be to God." He is the first saint of the Capuchin Order, a man of simple humility and prayer. He is a great example of someone who learned to see God everywhere. His time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament helped him to see the same Christ present in the poor and the beggars of Rome, and in such friends as St. Philip Neri (in this painting with him). May he ask God to help us see, and be like him, Felix (happy, joyful). God bless!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Choosing Matthias

Peace and Good! Today we celebrate Matthias, chosen to take Judas' place among the Apostles. The method of choosing him has always fascinating me. The Acts of the Apostles says:

So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas,who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.Then they prayed,“You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias,and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.

So what was involved was discernment (who to propose), prayer, and the casting of lots, which could be called luck, except that this was done with trust in the presence of God, more specifically of the Holy Spirit. This puts human decision making in perspective I think. We need to do all we can to make good and right decisions, but in the end we have to trust the power of God to bring about the good.
This helps in understanding the famous story of St. Francis and Br. Matteo. On a preaching mission, they came to a crossroads and were wondering which way to take. They talked about it, prayed, and in the end Francis turned Matteo around and around until he was dizzy and then let go and waited for him to fall. In whatever direction he pointed, they would go. It may sound silly, but it reflects a deep faith and also a key to true peace: to put all we can into making our decisions, but in the end trusting that it is God's will that will ultimately prevail.

Not so easy at time to remember. So we ask St. Matthias to pray for us as we walk on the road and make decisions, big and small.

God bless!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Clay God Uses: Philip the Apostle

Peace! Philip, like Thomas, is most often remembered for a deficiency. At the last supper Jesus says, "After I have been with you so long, do you still not know me?" Yet, in the Gospel of John, Philip is also the one who brings other to Jesus, both Nathaniel, and the Greeks who want to see Jesus. Our task, like that of the apostles, is to bring others to Jesus, even if we don't always understand completely what God wants to do with them. We trust, like Philip, that Jesus is the one who can show us the Father--as Jesus tells him and us, that is exactly what He came to do. Francis believed this. May Philip, James the Less, Francis and all the saints help us to come to Jesus, and to bring others to Him. God bless!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

St. Joseph the Worker


My father loved to sleep in. My father used to get up every morning before 5 a.m. (sometimes as early as 3:30 a.m.) to be able to get to his construction jobs to support his family. I have always thanked God for this example of love.

St. Francis mentioned that the brothers who received the grace of work should do so, but always in such a way as not to extinguish the Spirit of the Lord and His holy operation. Labor with our bodies, our minds, and our hearts, can be a sharing in the work of God (opus Dei), if we allow Him to work in and through us. It doesn't matter if it is big or small, well-known or obscure, if it is done in God. May St. Joseph help us to remember this, and honor one another and all the labor that is done in the name of love. God bless!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Clay God Uses: Fidelis of Sigmaringen

Peace and Good! Today I am reminded about the true meaning of the word 'martyr:' witness. Fidelis worked hard for the unity of Christians, and would not compromise his adherence to the Catholic faith. What makes him a witness is that he was willing to die to defend that faith, but not to kill for it. Thus, he followed Jesus faithfully (his name means faithful). I would love to see us remove the name martyr from those who kill others and themselves in the name of God. But better, maybe we can pray to St. Fidelis to help us all resist the power of hatred while standing firm in favor of the power of God and the love Christ teaches us.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

They didn't know it was Jesus

Peace! In John's accounts of the resurrection appearances, the setting seems so unremarkable. A man in the garden, a figure on the lakeshore. I once read this gospel in the spot where tradition says this occured. It was an incredible sensation, to read the words, "They were not far from shore, just about a hundred yards," and then point to the spot. Jesus did not appear in flashes of lightning or amid wind and earthquake, but quietly walking on the lakeshore and giving some fishermen advice. God walks in the everyday world. Our task is not to make God appear among us, but to recognize His presence. That is what Francis learned to do, like the apostles learning to recognize Jesus' presence even in the humiliating and painful events of life. God help us all, too, for His love is for all of us. Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I See Nothing but Violence and Strife in the City

Peace! Blessings in the Risen Christ!

As we are daily reminded, there is much violence in the world. At the extremes we can either try to ignore it as much as possible or let it dominate our thoughts. Or take the third way: know that there is violence and evil, but never believe that they are ultimate. The reason to believe that: Jesus' death and resurrection. This is what helped Francis survive his own experiences of violence, both in the world around him and within his own heart. Thirteenth-century central Italy was an incredibly beautiful world, filled with an incredible amount of violence. Francis had experienced Assisi's war with Perugia, a very violent local affair, not as an observer but a participant. That experience of the futility of violence, when opened up by the teachings of the living Christ, helped make him an "instrument of God's peace." May St. Francis help us to be such in the world where violence still seems to reign, from Virginia to Iraq to Darfur. And with Francis may we humbly do what we can to be instruments of peace. God bless!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Will He Come to the Passover Feast?

“So from that day on they planned to kill him. So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?” (John 11)

The hostility of his enemies is growing, and Jesus knows that his actions will have consequences. He does not push things unduly, but he has a choice: celebrate the great feast of the Lord’s deliverance in a public place, and so put himself within the reach of his enemies, or hide away and praise the Father quietly in private. John always emphasizes in his Gospel that Jesus chooses, he is not just some unwitting pawn.

That is part of conversion: choosing to act, to do things, even though some of them may open us up to attack. That is a choice Francis had to make in regard to facing his father. For a while, he was too afraid of the consequences and hid from his father. But at last he knew if his choice were to be truly authentic, he had to face his father no matter what. I am sure Francis hoped his father, Pietro, would understand his choices and support him, or at least let him go with a tacit blessing. But he knew his father, and knew that there were other more likely reactions. He went forth, anyway, right into the heart of town, to meet Pietro and see what would happen, trusting that whatever happened God would be there.

Knowing God is with us in hard decisions is so vital. And so Jesus chose to show us the truth of it: His Father was with Him, even when He chose to go to Jerusalem for the Passover and face the hostility that was building. May God give us this faith and courage too, in all the little decisions as well as the big ones that are difficult to make.

Peace and Good!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Word Betrayed

We near Holy Week, and the readings take a definite turn. The tension is mounting as Jesus confronts the unbelief of this world.
In deciding to live among us, the Word opened itself to both being accepted and being rejected. That is what love does, and so decisions made from true love have to be made with the awareness that betrayal is always an option. Yet, that is what God calls us to: choosing to love others while knowing that love will be betrayed in one way or another. Even the death of a loved one is a form of that betrayal, because human love promises eternity but can’t deliver it. Which is why, of course, it has to be grounded in divine love.
Francis’s conversion included accepting others: “The Lord gave me brothers.” These were the brothers who loved and supported him, who challenged and pained him. But he accepted it as part of the via crucis, the way of the cross.
So, Love: but know you will be disappointed and even betrayed. Love in Christ: and know that the crucifixion and resurrection are tied together in the one great mystery of faith.
Peace and Good!

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Word Made Flesh

Peace and Good! There are two extreme views of human free will: the ‘scientific’ view that we have none, that all is genetically, physically, and chemically predetermined, or its opposite, that our own will is the ultimate reality, the ultimate good. It is this second view that Milton puts into the mouth of Lucifer: “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.”
The feast of the Annunciation tells us that neither extreme is correct. We have a free will, and that will enables us to consent or not to being what we are: creatures of God. Yet, saying ‘yes’ to God does not mean that things are within our control. Mary says ‘yes’ to God through the angel (thank you, Mother), but she does not know all that it will entail. She does not control the way in which her Son will be the Messiah. That’s why her ‘yes’ was not complete until she stood beneath the cross and accepted that her Son, crucified and dying, was still indeed the Messiah, the Son of God.
Francis did not know what accepting the Lord’s will in his life would entail. He reminded himself often in prayer that it was “a true and holy will.” Sometimes this was obvious, sometimes it was not. But he ultimately had faith in the fact that God is good and so God’s will is what is best for us.
We all have to struggle to live this by learning to say ‘yes’ to God in our lives. We do this in many different ways. Parents accepting a child into their lives are called to say, ‘yes, we will accept this child,’ even though they have no idea how that infant will turn out. The way of conversion is the way of faith, believing the in goodness of God and seeking His will. We don’t do that all at once: conversion is a daily process.

Today let us ask those who have gone through this to help us: Holy Mary, our Mother, Francis and all the saints. Let it be done to us according to God’s Word, the Word made Flesh who dwells among us.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Preaching the Unwelcome Word

Peace and Good! Jeremiah the prophet had it hard: not only was his message unpopular, but God even told him that no one would listen to him! So why go on? Because God's word burned with in him. There are three reasons to preach, to share our faith: to praise God, to help others, to remind ourselves. Francis knew this. He preached as much to remind himself of the power and goodness of God as to tell others of it. This is why he was able to be a preacher both humble and yet forceful. And in all, praise the goodness and power of God. That is what we all are asked by God to do, a task not always easy, but one in which is life.
God bless!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Clipped and Manured

“I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it.” (Luke 13:9) So the gardener says in the parable of the fig tree which bore no fruit. In plants, growth is often stimulated by things which might seem contrary: cutting them back, and surrounding them with smelly waste products. In our life of conversion, the same thing is often true. The things that seem to cut us up, to take away what we think is vital, are what God uses to help us to grow beyond what we can imagine, like roses which are cut back drastically to help them blossom in an amazing way.
So Francis discovered in his life. It was at moment’s of pain—the expression of his father’s anger and greed, being thrown into a ditch by robbers—that he found out more clearly who he was, who God called him to be. Even when he was surrounded by the manure of his own and his brothers’ weaknesses, he found deeper growth.
I think Francis had to learn this in his life, and it was this truth he wanted to share: the goodness of God is found even in garden shears and piles of manure! God is good, all good, ever good, the supreme good, who will not force us to grow, but rather invites us, again and again. We ask the strength to choose him, to become fig trees that do what they were made to do: bear figs.
Peace and Good!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Do Not Judge; Love your enemies

The Gospel readings these days have told us of the importance of humility, its centrality in our following of Christ. The saints tell us that a great aid to our humility is to focus on our own littleness, but more importantly to focus on the greatness of God. To be open to God’s actions is to learn to be humble, because God acts often when we least expect, and uses the instruments we least suspect. This is connected with Jesus’ command not to judge. Of course we must make judgments in our lives, about good and evil, about situations and decisions. But Jesus warns us against judging anything, or anyone’s ultimate value. That is for God alone, who gives rain to the just and the unjust, the saints and the sinners. Any person’s value ultimately comes from God, and is not subject to human judgment or determination. It is hard to accept this at times, for it leads us to Jesus’ command: Love your enemies. Pray for your persecutors.
Humility led St. Francis to the great realization that we should not only pray for our persecutors, but even thank God for them, because sometimes the Lord uses even our enemies to guide in our lives. Who knows what instruments God will choose? If we judge and put ourselves above others, we may not be able to listen to God speaking through them.
Francis learned this lesson through the experiences of his life. One major one was his encounter with the leper, of course. In his wildest dreams he never would have thought that God would touch him through the disgusting, diseased flesh of a leper. Yet, as he tells us, that is exactly what God did.
Even more important, I think, was Francis’s experience with Bishop Guido of Assisi. They tell us Guido was a passionate, greedy man in many ways, prone to fits of anger. Francis could easily have judged him and condemned him in his heart. He certainly would have been suspicious of any help he might receive for his new gospel venture from the bishop. Yet, with faith he turned to Guido as a minister of God’s Church, and found that God used that bishop to help him discover his vocation. When Francis’s father left him naked in the piazza, it was Guido who covered him with his mantle and helped him on his way. Francis found support from this ‘worldly’ bishop and turned to him for advice. Francis, too, had a good effect on Guido. This experience probably helped Francis grow in his faith in Christ’s promise to be with his Church always, despite the failings of some of its members.
Lent may be a good time for us to ask God’s grace to listen even to those who annoy us, those who hurt us, even those who persecute us. Whatever their intentions, God may use them as instruments. And, who knows: God may want to use us as instruments in their lives.
Peace and All Good!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Transfiguration and Conversion

Peace! This second Sunday of Lent always brings us the story of the Transfiguration, because witnessing that event was part of the road to the Apostles’ conversion, and ours. God calls us to open our eyes, or more precisely, let the Spirit open them for us, so that we can see more of ‘what’s there.’ We all have limited vision: limited by our upbringing, our experiences, our character, our expectations. We can only see part of the truth, and need to be shown there is more. And to accept it.
Peter was expressing the temptation to not accept that vision. We often take his saying, “Let us build three booths,” as a sign that he wanted to hold on to the experience, didn’t want to leave. But I think another part of it was that he didn’t want the experience to end, because it meant he would have to look at the world differently, he would have to change once they climbed down from that mountain. And that frightened him. God’s call to see more is always frightening. Think of the ‘terrifying darkness’ that enveloped Abram as he heard God offer him the covenant. To see the world differently is frightening, because of what it does to our lives: turns them upside down.
Francis with the leper had this experience: his expectations we turned upside down. He had always seen lepers as the sign of God’s absence from the world. The fact that society rejected them meant that they were no concern of him. But in him embrace he suddenly saw them differently. They WERE a concern of his, and a sign not of God’s absence but his sweet presence. No wonder after his embrace, Francis tells us he still “lingered in the world” a little while. It’s not easy to get your bearing when God turns everything upside down.
But it’s worth it. Once the disciples were enveloped by that frightening cloud, they heard the voice. ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” What better reason to listen to Jesus each day, to let him constantly shake us up with words like “Love your enemies.” And how good and great it is of God to be so patient, and let us come back again and again, since we forget the lesson so easily.
St. Francis, pray for us. Sts. Peter, James and John, ask God to grant us vision and hearts that are willing to see.
(P.S. Thank you for your prayers. My exams went well. God bless!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

God's Grace

Peace! Just to let anyone who reads this know that I am sorry about not posting lately. I am in the midst of my comprehensive exams but will be back posting regularly soon. Keep me in your prayers. God bless!

I call this photo: The Icy Hand of Winter.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A Little Help from His Friends

Blessings and Peace on the Feast of Sts. Timothy and Titus!

Jesus sent out his disciples two by two.” We are not supposed to ‘go it alone,’ because we are part of the body of Christ. Paul, in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, shows us that even a powerful believer and preacher can use ‘a little help from his friends.’

For this is why I wrote, to know your proven character, whether you were obedient in everything. Whomever you forgive anything, so do I. For indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for you in the presence of Christ, so that we might not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not unaware of his purposes. When I went to Troas for the gospel of Christ, although a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no relief in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.
“For even when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way--external conflicts, internal fears. But God, who encourages the downcast, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his arrival but also by the encouragement with which he was encouraged in regard to you, as he told us of your yearning, your lament, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.”

Sts. Timothy and Titus helped him out.
St. Francis had his friends, like Br. Leo and Lady Jacoba, who encouraged and helped him on. May we thank God for those who help us along the path of life, and the way of faith!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Conversion of Paul, Ananias, Francis

To see Christ in the ones you persecuted
and the people of God in the heathen Gentiles.
To see God's chosen servant
in the very man who had sworn to destroy
God's people.
To see a leper on the road, and embrace Jesus.
Thank You, Lord, for conversion.
Help us all to see!