Holy Week 2018

It’s Palm Sunday and I went to church today.  Nothing earth shattering about that! I dawdled the morning away and missed my chance to go to the 9:00.  When I pulled into the lot for the noon Mass, I was a little surprised that I got such a good parking space.  Palm Sunday is another one of those days when people make a bigger effort to get to church. But it was only quarter of, still plenty of time for people to arrive.

When I walked into church, I saw a number of pews had those big white bows on the ends.  About 6 pews or so on both sides.  “Oh no!”  I walk into church on a beautiful and sad occasion, when the Lord’s glory is shouted from the crowds and all I can think is “Oh no!” My second thought was “That’s why there isn’t a crowd here.  Everyone else must know there is something special going on and went to the earlier Mass.  It’s already a long Mass with the Passion being read but we have to have something else going on, too!”

Shame on me! Had I left my Franciscanism at home? Why wasn’t I open to whatever was scheduled and embrace the opportunity to spend a little more time with Jesus? Because I was too all fired worried about my schedule after Mass and how it would be impacted. Shame on me again.

Mass began; Father kissed the altar and then spoke a few words.  “Today we celebrate the Lord’s triumphant entry to Jerusalem and we have not one, but two very special groups of people celebrating with us.”  Did that groan come from me?  Two groups??? Oh, brother!

Father continued, saying “On my right are the boys and girls who will be fully admitted to the church at the Easter Vigil. Some will be baptized.  All will receive their First Holy Communion and Confirmation.”  These angels sitting in front of me were scrubbed clean inside and out and are so ready to join themselves with me and every other member of the church. The shame was starting to get a bit heavy.

And Father went on to say, “On my left are my good friends from the Coffee Club”.  The “Coffee Club” is Father’s name for the group of homeless folks he has befriended.  He goes to Chester every week and treats this group to coffee and doughnuts, some kind words and enough dignity to get them through the next few days.  Father often brings the group to church on special holidays and feasts.  They attend Mass and then are invited to the church hall for breakfast that some volunteers provide.  As I looked at this group, I could see that they were not scrubbed as clean as the little boys across the aisle. They had been picked up right from the streets and brought to church.  I wonder who God was happier to see visiting His house…..the angels on the brink of joining the church, the homeless folks who came “as I am” or me, the Secular Franciscan with a Tau Cross around her neck and enough shame piling up on her head to want to crawl out the side door?

How many Rules was I breaking?   Article 5 of our Rule: Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity. The faith of St. Francis, who often said, “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.

I was sitting in the house of God with all these other people who had chosen to be there, too, and I was too blind to see that.

Article 13: As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.
A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.

I have much to work on and although Lent is down to Holy Week, I still have the opportunity to make good on the Rule I professed to follow.  That’s what makes our God such a wonderful Father.  He provides a new opportunity each and every day for us to return to Him, step closer to Him, take His hand.

At the Sign of Peace, I wondered if the young boys in front of me would be embarrassed to shake hands with a woman.  There were no parents in the pews with them to nudge them into doing what they should.  One young man turned around and extended his hand to me.  And then all the boys in the two pews ahead of me all turned around and held out their hands.  I’m sure they had no idea why there were tears in my eyes.  But I do. And most especially, God does, too.

May you walk closely with Jesus during this Holy Week. And on Easter morning, may your soul be bursting with the joy of the Risen Lord!  Happy Easter, my dear brothers and sisters!

 

 

 

From the Heart of Our Minister

 Luke, Seth, John, Joe and Bro. Kip

Friday, February 23, 2018

It is a downright miserable morning!  It is very gray and cold and it’s not quite raining.  More like ‘spraining’ – something between a sprinkle and a rain.  Whatever it is, it is just chilly enough and damp enough to go right through you.

But on this very miserable morning, I am anything but!  I have just spent the last few hours with the postulants of the Padre Pio Friary in Philadelphia. Brother Kip Ledger, OFM Cap, is in charge of the Postulants.  Last year, I was stunned when Brother Kip invited me to speak to the class of Postulants and tell them about Secular Franciscans.  Not only was I honored; but ‘over-the-moon’ that he was reaching out to educate the guys early in their journey.

This year when the invitation was extended, I jumped at the chance to speak to the new class. Brother Kip also invited me to attend the 7:30 a.m. Mass and then have breakfast with them before the class at 9:00 o’clock. What a wonderful start to the day!

I received an e-mail from our brother, Patrick Martin, OFS, the Regional Minister for the St. Margaret of Cortona Region, who had heard I was speaking to the class.  Patrick had spoken to them on Servant Leadership and he thought I could use the piece from the OFM Caps’ constitutions where we are mentioned.  Although I know the Friars are supposed to work with us, I never saw these words before.  They are certainly beautifully written.

…the Secular Franciscan Order should be especially dear to us. Let us work with Secular Franciscans so that their fraternities may grow as communities of faith particularly equipped for effective evangelization.  Let us also work with them in the formation of their members, so that they may spread the Kingdom of God not only by the example of their lives but also by various kinds of apostolic activity.

The young men in the class are so young and holy and so ready to go out in the world and serve.  They were very impressed with the history of the OFS and want to be part of its future. Something very powerful happened this morning – this rainy, miserable morning. And it is filled with sunshine from the Lord and a smile or two from St. Francis. May we continue to reach out to each other and get to know our family better!

Message from the Regional Minister for July 2017

How is your Franciscanism doing these days?

Seems like a strange question.  I’m not asking how you are doing, what’s new or what’s going on.  How is your Franciscanism doing?  Is it gaining weight or is it on a diet, slowly being lost, shed or forgotten?

These are hard times to be a Franciscan.  Everything is disposable, replaceable, or of little value. Got a better one?  Throw the old one out.  Can’t use all of that…chuck the rest.

I recently read the newsletter from the Hospitalier Brothers of St. John of God.  There was a statement that caught my eye – and soul.  It read: These are difficult times to live a vocation in an authentic way; the operative word being authentic.

What is the authentic Franciscan way of life?  If people don’t notice something different about the way we live, we aren’t being Franciscan. Are we preaching the Gospel by our way of life…..the way we speak…..how we act? Are we being Franciscan in how we treat our secular Brothers and Sisters? If we can’t be kind to one another, how can we be kind to the rest of the world? Do we treat each other with respect? Do we return phone calls and answer e-mail? Everyone is busy; but, we all deserve the respect of having a message answered.

There are no vacation plans in my foreseeable future, but I plan to take my Franciscanism on holiday this summer.  My soul deserves some renewal and refreshment.  With gas prices so high it is now in vogue to take a Staycation. – a word coined to mean you are staying home.  In my day, we said we were going to Yardsville – and spent some happy hours in our own back yard.  This summer, why not say your morning office outside in the early hours before the heat and hustle begins.  Spend an hour with your Lord in a park or reflect on our brother Francis as you do some gardening.  Francis walked around with wild flower seeds in his pocket.  He is still planting seeds today.  What seeds have you planted lately?  We carry many in our hearts, but they are no good until they are planted and shared.

So..how is your Franciscanism doing???

From the Heart of our Minister - June 2017

Some of you have heard about my friend Christy.  We have been penpals for more than 30 years.  We have shared much laughter and many tears in those letters and grew to love each other as sisters.  Christy is serving a sentence of life plus 25 which was handed down when she was 17.  I started writing to her a few years later.  She is now in her 40’s and has spent more than half her life in prison.  Last year I was able to go see her at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women.  It was a brutal schedule for me – I was making the trip there and back in one day.

God smiled on the entire day, but there is one moment that stays with me more than most.  Joining us during the visit was a woman named Ivey.  She had been Christy’s cell mate when my husband was first diagnosed with cancer.  Ivey sent cards and letters to us, offering her prayers and support.  She was released from prison three years ago, but we have stayed in touch.

You are only permitted to take two items into the prison during a visit.  One is your picture ID, which is held by the guards until you leave, and the other is change for the vending machines.  Ivey arrived clutching a Ziploc bag stuffed with change.  I must admit here, if I met up with Ivey on a dark street, I would have made it a point to keep my distance.  To my shame, she seemed to fit what my idea of a woman prisoner looks like.

When we decided to get something to eat from the machines, I intended to empty my bag of change and pay for everyone.  Ivey had other plans.  “Whatever you want, Miss Kate, I’m going to treat you”.  No, no…I couldn’t let her do that.  After all….I was in a better position to pay than she is,   I have a better life than she does.  I am….better????  Shame on me again.

The lesson is – sometimes you are the servant and sometimes you need to be served.  Ivey was so proud that she was buying a meal for me.  We feasted on a banquet of junk food and every mouthful was delightful.  Ivey’s face shone with pleasure.  As for me…along with those potato chips, I was eating a good portion of humble pie.

P.S., After more than 32 years in prison, Christy will be walking out the door of that prison on Monday, June 5. Her release has been many years in the making with enough ups and downs to give you a whiplash!  Imagine being isolated for all these years and then suddenly being free in this world…..this world! She will truly be an alien in an alien land. I would be so grateful if you could say a prayer or two for her.

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From the Heart of our Minister, May 2017

Last week I was blessed to attend the Memorial Mass for Vince Peroni.  Vince was the husband of our dear sister, Madge Peroni, OFS. The Mass was held in St. Anthony’s church which is a beautiful, beautiful building that is filled with peace.

Over the main altar are the phrases:  The Lord is here + He is calling you.  Sorry – the picture isn’t the best, but it at least gives you an idea.  Sitting before Mass and gazing at these words, I knew I wanted to write about them this month. They were speaking to my heart.

The Lord is here.  We believe in the presence of God everywhere. I believe it, too.  But, seeing those words rising high about the tabernacle just meant so much more.  The Lord is here.  Yes, God is everywhere, but this is His home. He is here.  We share a meal with Him here. We come to visit Him here and we take away that love that we get from spending time with a beloved family member. We walk out feeling cherished and cared for.  Is God getting the same vibe back from us???  Do we walk into Mass thinking…..I hope this doesn’t go any longer than an hour…I have things to do. What was the Gospel reading today?  I dunno…..I was making the grocery list in my head at that time. Hmmm, how can we really be living from Life to Gospel and from Gospel to Life if we can’t give it some attention while it is being proclaimed?!

The second phrase….He is calling you…really struck a chord with me.  It doesn’t read…He has called you, or He will call you but – He…is…calling…you.

He calls you with the joy you experience when you hear from someone who means a great deal to you. He calls you with the patience that says, I know you haven’t answered Me in awhile, but I’m still calling.  He stays in touch, even when we don’t. He is calling when we have had a bad day and he is calling when we have had a really great day!

When God is calling, we need to make sure He isn’t getting a busy signal! God bless you all!

 

 

From the Regional Minister - April 2017

Will I give Him my best?

When I was a young girl many, many years ago Easter was given so much more significance than it is now. Even though Spring Cleaning had just occurred, the house was still scrubbed from top to bottom, curtains starched and ironed.  The dining room table was set with the real cloth tablecloth and Mom’s best dishes. Even the card table for the kids looked better than most any other day. The house even smelled like Easter….all those lilies and hyacinths.

We all had new outfits – “from the skin out” as my mother always said.  New socks, new dress, new maryjanes, new hat and gloves were ready for Sunday morning Mass.  We didn’t even see our Easter baskets until we got home from Mass.  Meeting the Risen Lord in the finest we had to wear came first.  As we knelt before Mass, we would silently tell Jesus how successful …or not….we had been trying to make sacrifices for Him during Lent.

How very different it is these days. No hat, no gloves. No scrubbing, no starching. We don’t do the external preparation for Easter as we used to.  More importantly, are we doing internal preparation?  What do we have to give Our Lord on Easter morning?  Have we cleaned something up within ourselves?  Have we added something that would please Him?

There are a few weeks left before the glory of Easter is upon us.  There is still time to prepare to greet the Risen Lord and may He look at us on Easter morning and see that we bring our best just for Him.

From the Heart of your Minister - March 2017

Judas has been on my mind.  Don’t ask me why….I have no clue.  I’m assuming there is a lesson in there that God wants me to learn.  But again….I have no clue. Am I being a Judas or am I just dealing with too many Judas’ in my life?

So I have just tried to think in general about Judas.  If the story of the Last Supper were a cowboy movie, Judas would be the one wearing the black hat and we would know he is the villain.  If the Last Supper were an old black and white movie, Judas would be the one with the slicked down hair, the prim mustache and goatee and dark beady eyes.  And we would know he is the villain.

I have always thought that Judas looked like a villain.  But I can’t find any place in the Bible where the other apostles shied away from Judas.  Or any time that they went to Jesus and said – get rid of this guy, he’s bringing us down.

Nor does the Bible tell us that Judas was plotting from the beginning.  When we come into the story, Judas has been an apostle for awhile.  It seems like Judas didn’t think about going to the Pharisees until things started to go wrong.  That last week in Jerusalem must have been difficult with all the rumors swirling around.

But let’s go back to when Judas first became an apostle.  Jesus chose Judas knowing what would happen.  Jesus knew on some dark night in the future, Judas would do the unthinkable.

But He said to Judas, “Come follow Me”, just like He said it to the other 11.

So, Judas must have looked and acted like one of the guys.   There was the incident at Lazarus’ house where Mary poured the perfume over Jesus’ head and Judas protested.  Did he start looking for a way out then?  Had his feelings for Jesus begun to sour?

Judas spent quite a while living in Community with Jesus and the other apostles.  If the other 11 were living the way Jesus was teaching them, then they embraced Judas as a brother. That must have been the way Jesus wanted it.

Jesus didn’t wash 11 sets of feet on Holy Thursday night.  He didn’t pass the bread and wine to one end of the table and not the other.

Knowing what would happen a few hours later, Jesus shared that last meal with all 12.  Because Jesus knew something else besides the fact that He had freely chosen Judas.  He knew there was forgiveness for Judas, if Judas wanted it.

Jesus has chosen each one of us to be Secular Franciscans.  Why….I don’t have a clue.  But He does.  So for the remaining time of Lent, let’s work on being better Franciscans. So that on Easter morning, the Risen, Glorious Lord can look at our efforts and say….ahhhh yes, I know why I chose you!

From the Heart of the Minister

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….

Sounds like how we all are feeling, doesn’t it? These opening words from A Tale of Two Cities were written in 1859. But they feel like they were written last week.  The world is in an uproar and we are swept along.  It isn’t easy to keep a firm Franciscan stance when so many are angry, accusing and very, very sure they stand on the side that is correct.

 

One night last week, I was speaking with our brother, Ted Bienkowski, OFS, who is our Regional JPIC Coordinator and he said, “We cannot be politically divisive and spiritually effective.”  Powerful words.  It is the perfect time to put those words into action.  Lent will begin in a few short weeks. Be spiritually effective for Lent! What exactly does that mean? Stay out of the firestorm of political opinion and use that energy to visit the immigrant family in your neighborhood. Make them feel welcome here. Smile at people! You have the Tau cross around your neck – show the joy that comes from being a Franciscan. Sow the seeds of kindness – you are rebuilding the church stone by stone, smile by smile. When those around us are nervous and fearful of what will happen, show them that we know God has our backs.

 

Try something new for Lent. Earn those bricks to rebuild the church.  By the time Lent is over you will have some wonderful new habits! May we walk together through these troubling times, and may God continue to smile on our efforts!

From the Heart of the Minister - December 2016

The Franciscan Gift

May the Lord give you peace! Most of us grew up being taught to think of others first. We take care of everyone else and see to their needs before taking care of ourselves.  That really was our first brush with Franciscanism!  This time of year is especially filled with thinking of others.  What gift shall I buy for Johnny, don’t forget to bake those special cookies that Grandmom likes so much, make sure you write a note to your old neighbors before you send their card.  If we ever make time for ourselves it surely isn’t at this time of year!

Although it goes against the grain, this year we need to give ourselves a gift…..a Franciscan gift. Do something different at your prayer time.  That’s it, that’s the gift.  If you have a particular space where you say your prayers, change it up somehow;  place a nativity scene where you can see it.  Light a candle. Doing even the smallest thing differently will (hopefully) make you stop, take a breath, shake off the demands of the world for just 20 minutes and enter into the presence of God.  If you do the Office from your cell phone and text messages and/or phone calls intrude, go back to using your prayer book. Leave the phone outside your prayer space.

During our Advent journey, ‘place’ yourself in the manger while you are praying. Be part of the wonder and joy that took place there. Feel the love that Mary and Joseph have for each other. Surely God chose them to be His Son’s parents because they did have a great love for each other. And by Christmas morning, may you be so close to the new born King, that you can smell the hay on which He lays!

May the Lord bless each of us with a happy and holy holiday!

From the Heart of the Minister – November, 2016

First, I must apologize for the delay in the November postings. The details of why I am still without electricity are not nearly as important as the apology. Rose Viragh, OFS, our Regional Formation Director and Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, our Regional Spiritual Assistant, always, always, always, have their articles to me in time for the first of the month postings. My sincere apologies to them especially!

A few weeks ago while getting my hair cut, I noticed an elderly woman in the next chair. She was getting “the works” as we women say, and she was so happy and excited that she was about to burst! She was getting all ‘gussied’ up for her grandson’s wedding that afternoon. The joy bouncing from every pore of this little old lady was because her grandson and his fiancée had asked her to be the flower ‘girl’. What a phenomenal gift to this woman. Grandmothers generally don’t have a special role in weddings other than being seated in the church while pictures are taken of her on the arm of a young groomsman.

This grandmother was remembered and honored. She would be the first to come down the aisle and as weddings generally do, emotions would be stirred up at seeing this elderly woman taking the role that is usually filled by a much younger family member.

November is the month when we remember our loved ones who have passed, especially in the previous year. It is a wonderful practice and gives importance to those in our lives who have gone to God. But even greater is remembering those loved ones who maybe slipped off our radar in the last year. Is there an elderly family member, neighbor or acquaintance from church that you haven’t spoken to in a long time? The joy that comes from a few minutes of your time cannot be measured by the one receiving it.

May all of our departed loved ones rest in peace. And may all of our living loved ones know that we hold them in peace!

Blessings,
kate