May, 2020, from the Regional Minister

Along With Everything Else in the World, Communicating Has Turned Upside Down!

Oh, the times we live in!  Could you ever imagine (outside of a Stephen King novel) that churches are locked, most people are not working, most retail business is closed and in order to go out of your house, you must wear a mask!?  Who would have thought? I’m not sure even Stephen King could dream up all that we have been through in the last two months that feel like two years. And I haven’t even touched on the virus itself and how it is robbing us of our loved ones, our health, our peace of mind, our livelihood, and our lives as we knew them.

Nothing is the same;  we’ve been shaken to our boots and yet, here we are.  Many of our local Councils and fraternities have met through conference calls or ZOOM meetings. Formation has started up again using some form of meeting virtually.  The only way to attend Mass is by watching it on TV or streaming on the computer.  Who would have thought??

But…………… and you knew that was coming, right!?  There are many good things coming out of the pandemic.  We have prayed the rosary together on the phone and we prayed the Stations of the Cross and the Divine Mercy Chaplet….on the phone.  Who would have thought?  The first night of the rosary, there were 80 of us on that call.  And although the parts where we prayed together sounded like a joyful Tower of Babel, we were one, saying one prayer with one purpose.  Who would have thought??

I was asked the other night what ministries we can be involved in with all these restrictions.  My immediate answer was “We are each other’s ministries!”  We need to check in with each other on a regular basis.  And that is not a task that has the ministers’ names on it.  It is something all of us can and need to be doing.  And I’m going to up the ante.  S-T-R-E-T-C-H those dusty Franciscan skills and call someone from your fraternity that you don’t regularly talk to or sit with at meetings or maybe don’t even like. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation and if it helps, write down a couple questions before you call.  Then, if the conversation lags for some reason, you are ready with some backup topics.  We have been given the gift of time and wouldn’t it be such a blessing all around if we actually got to know one another better?  Who would have thought??!!

We need to learn how to communicate and convey our love and joy….from behind the masks we are wearing.  That’s a skill that is going to take some work. If all someone can see of us is our eyes, are they getting the kindness our smile would normally be conveying?

When I was in high school – oh so long ago! – I went on a weekend retreat and late on Saturday afternoon, we were given the hardest task in the world.  We had arrived on Friday after school and the group consisted of high school seniors from the local Catholic high schools.  We were assigned rooms so we couldn’t bunk with our best friends.  We were separated into groups that had a good mix of kids from different schools.  And then we were assigned places at table for meals.  All to have us with someone we didn’t know.  And then came the group task on Saturday afternoon.  After listening to a wonderful presentation on forgiveness and accepting people as they are, each of us was told to go pair up with someone who we didn’t particularly like.  What a humbling experience.  We each had to go to someone we didn’t like and say, will you be my partner in this exercise.  At that point, we didn’t know what the exercise was.  For each pair, one was the leader and one was being led.  The one being led was blindfolded and taken outside by the leader and taken on a Blind Faith Walk.  The blindfolded one could not speak and had to rely on the leader to tell him or her when to turn, when to step up, when to step over and these directions were coming from someone we admittedly didn’t like!  So how hard can it be to pick up the phone and check in on someone?  Now, don’t get the wrong idea and think that anyone who calls you is someone who doesn’t like you!!  Look at it as the one who called you would really like to get to know you a little better and as a Secular Franciscan, is reaching out in love and concern to see how you are doing.

We all know this isn’t going to be over any time soon so I would like to go even further and perhaps once a month, have each minister trade phone lists with another minister and have the folks in your fraternity call from the list of another fraternity.  We might really end up knowing each other!  Who would have thought??  And the answer is simple.  Who would have thought?  God.  Pure and simple.  The pandemic has given us a lot of lemons.  God has given us the recipe for lemonade.

“Let each one confidently make known his need to another that the other might discover what is needed and minister to him. Let each one love and care for his brother as a mother loves and cares for her son in those matters in which God has given him the grace.” St. Francis   ~ St. Francis of Assisi, The Earlier Rule, (IX: Begging Alms), 71  Thanks, Cindy Louden, OFS, for this beautiful and very appropriate portion of The Earlier Rule

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