What’s In A Name? From the Heart of the Minister – July, 2019

The practice of taking a religious name at Profession stopped in the 70’s.  We stopped at the same time that the religious Orders stopped.  We don’t become a Secular Franciscan in order to become a new person with a new identity.

Just so I would have something to back up what I am writing here, I put the question out on the Regional Ministers’ list serve so that all Regional Ministers across the country would see it and respond. Some of the Ministers asked what century I am living in and others said they never heard of taking a religious name.  And here is the wonderful answer I received:

If we take a look at the past, a name change at Baptism was originally meant to give a person a Christian identity and name as opposed to a pagan name.

As Secular Franciscans, prior to Vatican II, we followed the custom of religious communities that gave a new name at the time of reception into the community. It signified the idea of dying to the old self and rising to life in Christ. This is no longer done in religious life. Taking into consideration that we are lay people; we are even less inclined to take a religious name.

Why is this no longer done?

At the time of the second Vatican Council, all religious were encouraged to go back to their roots: to look at Baptism as the foundational sacrament. We are given Christian names at Baptism. Therefore, we are being asked to be known in the community by our baptismal name.

 Our Secular Franciscan profession intensifies our baptismal commitmentIn Profession we make a public statement that we are going to live out our baptismal commitment for the good of the church. 

Remember when we switched from SFO to OFS?  Oh what moaning and groaning there was over that!  It was done so that all Secular Franciscans worldwide are identified in the same way.  Taking a name falls into the same category.  It is not an accepted practice worldwide.  Receiving a cord and taking a religious name at Profession were stopped more than 50 years ago.

By the same token, all formation comes from For Up To Now – or the FUN manual as we know it – and the Franciscan Journey.  To deny the Inquirers and Candidates of what the rest of the world is learning is not acceptable.  People end up being professed without knowing what every professed Secular Franciscan needs to know.  Later, these same folks are voted onto Council and are so lost and find the position so hard because their formation was not done according to the Rule, the Constitutions, the Statutes and Guidelines.

There is work to be done. We have willingly joined an Order and to be able to keep order, we all must comply with our governing documents.  These documents can keep Ongoing Formation well stocked for a couple years at least!

As we learn about where we are in our Secular Franciscan journey, we can step into the future of our Order with solid knowledge and practices.

 

From the Heart of our Minister – June 2019

We often pray – “Make Me An Instrument Of Your Peace”.  We want to be the conduit to give Christ’s peace to another.  Yet, we don’t hold onto our own peace. Giving peace away is fine – as long as it isn’t yours!

 

I had one of those “Ah ha” moments last Sunday while watching the Mass on EWTN.  I must admit that I don’t know who the priest was saying the Mass.  Not a face I recognized.  But his message was powerful and part of it went like this…if you had a gold bar and someone came up to you and insulted you or made you feel badly (=angry, hurt, embarrassed, humiliated etc, etc) you wouldn’t then hand them the gold bar and say –here–, take it. Why in the world would we hand over our gold especially to someone who just hurt us.  Why then, do we so readily hand over our peace?

 

We all complain about the amount of stress we have while replaying a scenario in our minds of some incident where we were the victim. Guess what?!  You are keeping yourself a victim by having the conversations again in your head, And again each time you tell someone else what happened and how you felt. How hard would it be to allow yourself to be an instrument of peace….to you?

 

You can’t give away what you don’t have. You can’t drink from an empty cup. Believe me, I don’t win any awards at this stuff.  I declare to anyone listening that I can’t handle the situation and have handed it to God, telling Him (oh brother!) that He has to handle it for me.  And then I systematically tell Him how badly He is handling it and what needs to happen.  How many times do we give things to God to handle and snatch it back again before the words die out on our lips?  Proverbs 3:5 -“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely.”

 

The hardest prayer to pray is to ask God for the best solution…..and then leave it there. Not what I want, not what I think should happen but what the best solution is. Let me be an instrument of Your peace. And let it begin with me.  Maybe that line simply means that of all the channels of peace we try to set up, at least one of them needs to make a U-turn and come back to our own hearts. Isaiah 41:10 -“Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

 

As Franciscans, we are called to minister to God’s people.  Don’t forget that we are also one of them!

From the Heart of Your Minister – May 2019

What is perfect joy?  Hhhhmmmmmm………where have we heard that before? My dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you peace and help you find perfect joy!  I just watched what is the personification of perfect joy.  When I wake up in the mornings, I usually check my cell phone first thing to make sure I catch any messages that came during the night.  And I’ll admit, I usually take a peek at ‘what’s happenin’’ on Facebook.

I was drawn to a video from one of those “_______________’s Got Talent” shows. (Fill in the country – there are quite a few countries with their own version of this show.)  The video opened with a young man walking on stage and approaching the mic.  His face radiated such joy that I found it impossible to click on the next post without watching.  When I say this young man walked on stage, believe me, it was excruciating to watch.  He was very physically handicapped.  He was able to walk, but his legs were obviously crippled and he did not have complete hands and arms.  I’m sure that isn’t the politically correct way to say that but I’m not sure what is the right thing to call his condition.

After the moderator asked his name (Emmanuel) he also asked this young man who was with him backstage.  If there could be more joy radiating from him, it happened when he said his Mom and brother were with him.  The camera panned over to the Mom and another young man standing with her.  He was equally as handsome as his brother and equally crippled by not having complete limbs.

The moderator then asked Emmanuel how old he is and the answer was “Well, sir, I don’t rightly know”.  There was complete silence in the audience and lots of looks of confusion.  How could you not know how old you are?  Emmanuel went on to explain that he and his brother were found in war torn Iraq and taken to an orphanage.  There were no papers and certainly no birth certificates in the box with the two babies.

There wasn’t a lot of explanation on how it came about that his Mom visited the  orphanage and adopted the brothers, but that is what happened.  She is Australian and perhaps was in Iraq serving in her country’s military as a soldier or maybe a nurse.  However she arrived at the orphanage was undoubtedly orchestrated by God Himself and she chose to be the mother of these two exceptional boys.  They adore her and she couldn’t love them any more if she tried.  She has raised two wonderful boys and guided them to be beautiful (inside and out) young men.

Now, here stood Emmanuel on the stage barely able to contain his joy.  The moderator asked what Emmanuel was going to sing and he simply said “Imagine”.  The moderator put his head down and uttered ‘Oh man!’ knowing it would be very emotional watching this young man, who was thrown away at birth, singing these lyrics.

What a magnificent voice!  And of course, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. How poignant to see this person standing there singing the words:

You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one  

A woman who chose to be a mother to sons who would have a difficult life at best. Two sons who chose to squeeze every ounce of joy out of every day.  What a lesson, what an example. So the next time you think you have had a bad day, think of Emmanuel and his brother and the joy they found in just being.  And then reflect on the last line of Imagine…….I hope some day you’ll join us.  And the world will be as one.

 Asking God to bless this month of May for you,

kate

From the Heart of Our Minister – April 2019

April, 2019

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you peace!  Another three years stretches ahead of us.  It feels like turning to a new page in a notebook or turning that button on the Etch-a-Sketch to make the design disappear and have a clean slate to start again.  The new Regional Council is a wonderful blend of some repeaters and some newbies.  Old or new, experienced or not, we are a united Council ready to serve all of you over the next three years.

When the Region is hosting a weekend in Easton, it has been our tradition to gather after dinner on Saturday night for the “Let’s Talk About It” segment of our agenda.  It is very casual and relaxed and it is a time to discuss whatever you would like to bring up.  Suggestions, problems, “why-do-we-have-to-do-that?” questions are posed and answered.  There were some good suggestions brought forth:

  1. If your fraternity has a website, ask the pastor where the fraternity meets to add it to the parish’s site.
  2. Look into having either a once a year Region-wide candidates’ retreat or break it into Districts. If held by District, a candidate would have some options if he or she can’t make it to the one scheduled in his or her home district.
  3. Have our Region paired with a Region from another country and become penpals. We can learn a lot about fraternal life in foreign lands and get to know our brothers and sisters.

More suggestions are welcome.  So put on your thinking cap and let us know what you come up with!

Later this year we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of our Region.  At the moment, the plans are so much in the infancy stage, they really haven’t been born yet!  So if you have ideas about how to celebrate – bring them on!  We will be working on a history so all you seasoned seculars, start remembering!  Whatever the celebration turns into, it will be wonderfully created by the family of St. Katharine Drexel Region.

Our elections weekend was blessed in so many ways.  Our National Minister, Jan Parker, OFS, presided and was so generous with her time with all of us.  She brought along her guitar and we sang a number of Jan’s ‘adjusted hits’.  If you’ve never been privy to a sing-along with Jan, her adjusted hits are popular songs where she changes the lyrics.  The Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA became Serving USA and she managed to get every town where our fraternities meet into the lyrics.  John Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy becomes Thank God for Fraternity.  When Jan had played through her list, Brother Kip broke out his song book and entertained us with his tremendous talent of both singing and playing the guitar.  What a great night!

This past Tuesday night at my own fraternity meeting, our on-going formation was a presentation on Pope John XXIII. Edie Kurzweil, OFS, did a magnificent job and had so much information we had never heard before.  Pope John loved being a Secular Franciscan and lived his life as a Secular first. I’m not sure I have this correct, but I believe this quote came from Pope John himself…………….no one becomes a Franciscan.  You are born a Franciscan.  I want to get that put on a tee shirt! How great is that??

Please keep the new Council in your prayers and know that we pray for all of you. Let us know your thoughts, ideas and yes….complaints.  We can’t change what we don’t know about.

May each of us be blessed this Easter Season in whatever way we need the most.

Blessings,

kate

From the Regional Minister - December 2018

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord fill you with peace!

It is that time of year when I should be writing about peace on earth and good will to men. Come to think of it, I am going to write about good will to men…or the lack of it.  The last few things I have written have been on this topic but I am not getting through to the ones who need to embrace it.  Frankly, I’m at a loss as to what to say now that will make a difference.  I might be at a loss, so I’m turning this over to the Holy Spirit.

Our Franciscan charism includes following the footsteps of St. Francis as they lead to Christ.  St. Francis never made snide remarks about people not learning English or started a sentence with the words “those people”. Our Lord chose to be born poor, to live a humble life. At a very tender age, he fled death threats and took refuge in a foreign land with his parents.  Imagine how frightened they were!  How could you face God Himself if you weren’t able to keep His son safe?  Would Joseph stand at the gates of Heaven and say, “I’m sorry, the Egyptians wouldn’t let us cross the border. After traveling in the dark of night with the demons of hell at our heels, we got to safety only to be turned back.” If that had happened, our salvation story would have a decidedly different ending.

The world’s attitude has taken a giant step backward in the last few years.  Being prejudiced, a bigot, or condemning someone else’s beliefs has become a treasured virtue to wear proudly and to be taken out and used at every and all opportunities. But, do you remember that little phrase we live by….we are in this world but not of this world. That is what sets us apart. Our eyes, our hearts, our feet and our actions should all point to Our Lord.

There is a beautiful prayer called the Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930) which ends with “That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…”  A beautiful sentiment to embrace and make our own.

In February of 2015, in Pope Francis’ address to the Cardinals, he wrote “The Gospel of the Marginalized is Where our Credibility is Found and Revealed.”  There is a lot to chew on just in that title!  The pope highlighted the fact that “for Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!”  In fact, “Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal!  He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp “.“In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy”, Francis stated. “Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law.”

I sat in awe yesterday as three new souls made their profession to our way of life.  This is what I want.  This is what I want.  Those words ringing out in the church brought joy and smiles to the Franciscan brothers and sisters who were witnessing their commitment. There is hope for all of us in each new Profession. May all those coming into our Order keep us on the path we subscribed to on our day of Profession. I’m also seeing a slow turn to embracing JPIC and actively stretching out God’s hand to those who need it.  Praise God, may it continue! God cannot be present to those He holds dear if we are not willing to be His instrument.  However we cannot be employed by God while harboring hatred and prejudice in our hearts.

As a Christmas gift to yourself and those around you, take a long hard look at your own behavior.  Who is your leper?  You might just find out it is you.

May you take a step closer to the manger this Christmas and embrace the family gathered there who are not your race, speak your language and have virtually no place to call home.

Praying for your Blessed Christmas Season,

kate

From the Heart of Our Minister – November 2018

This truly comes directly from my troubled heart………

Several months ago I started one of these posts with that famous quote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Right now all I can say is “It is the worst of times”.

The entire world is in such turmoil and the news has to be followed not day by day, but hour by hour. Who has been shot, what has been said, who is supporting whom in the mid-term elections, how close is the caravan today? All of these scenarios can set off sparks between any two given people (or more) and set brother against brother and sister against sister.  And it has been hitting me in the face for several weeks.  And by that, I mean the actions and behaviors of some has cause a great deal of heartache.  Certainly only a small number. but as usually happens, that small number of folks bang the gong loudly. And the din has risen to the top, obliterating the peaceful voices of most of us.

“Christ accepted you, so you should accept each other, which will bring glory to God” (Romans 15:7).

Why is this so hard? Why do we feel so righteous and superior to any other group of God-created people? And how, being a professed Secular Franciscan do we allow the hate to grow and fester?  We are called to be better than that but that means better than the other’s bad behavior not ever superior. We who remain silent when comments are made and bigoted e-mail messages are forwarded are just as guilty

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke

It is always easier to let someone else step up.  Being peacemakers doesn’t mean keeping it peaceful for ourselves. No ripple in the water here!  I’m not going to aggravate either side! We are called to make that ripple and on the day of our profession, we said “This is what I want”. Going from Gospel to life and life to Gospel has no room for ‘I’ll live the Gospel as long as I can still hate all Muslims’…..or make snide remarks about those who don’t speak English…..or decide who I want in my fraternity.

We are all human, I get that.  And at some point in our lives we have harbored ill feelings or thoughts against another group of people.   But those who have matured in their faith and vocation have seen the error of that thinking and done something about it. Those who haven’t are holding onto their misconceptions like a badge of honor;  not only wearing it proudly but advertising it whenever and wherever they can.

“If you hate someone, you are defeated by them” – Confucius

Our faith is our anchor in these terrible times. But we upend that anchor with every hate-filled work and action.  These actions damage not only our relationship with each other, but greatly damage our relationship with Jesus, His Holy Mother and Saints Francis and Clare.  Who are we if we have thrown them away?

I saw this poem and felt it ties in with what I am trying to get across:

Always be kind,

If you see someone falling behind, walk beside them.

If someone is being ignored, find a way to include them.

If someone has been knocked down, lift them up.

Always remind people of their worth.

Be who you needed when you were going through hard times.

Just one small act of kindness could mean the world to someone.

That next to the last line: Be who you needed when you were going through hard times, speaks volumes to me. We have all been in some tough situations where some small act of kindness changed everything.  When I was in that bad car accident in July, a man opened the driver’s door and reached in and took my hand.  I never did see his face because all the airbags had deployed and I was inside that cocoon of plastic sheets, wires and broken glass.  He calmly talked to me until the ambulance arrived and then slipped away when the EMT’s were trying to get me out of the car.  I don’t know if he lived in the neighborhood and came out when he heard the crash or if he was driving by and stopped to help.  When he reached into the car for my hand, he had no idea if I were black, white, Muslim or Jew. I don’t know his name, but I can tell you this, I still pray for him. And I pray that someday I might give that gift to someone else in need.  That’s how it works, brothers and sisters.  God shows us how and then helps us accomplish it.   He is not present when we are spewing hurtful remarks or belittling a group of folks who are different than us……not better or worse………just different.

We have tremendous opportunities these days to be the peacemakers, to light the darkness in someone’s life. We have asked to be instruments of peace.  Can we allow God to play His healing melody through us?  Take some time to ask Him.  Both of you will be glad you took the time to visit.

 

 

 

From the Heart of the Minister – October, 2018

October 1.  Wasn’t it just September 1?………..August 1?  The days are going by at warp speed any more. If you don’t like the season, wait a minute and it will change. But not everything changes that quickly.  Think back to when we were growing up.  Women in the work force? Laughable!  Men changing diapers??? Not on your life!  Here’s a confession I’ve never made before…………when I was 17, a girlfriend and I having just gotten off a long flight from Europe, went into a bar at JFK International Airport.  (We had several hours to wait for our connection back to Philly.)  She and I were “asked” to leave in a voice that demanded no argument.  Not because we were underage, but because we were not accompanied by a man. What makes it ironic is that I didn’t drink as a teenager and still don’t to this day.  Now if you had to have a man accompany you to buy fine chocolates, my life would have been so much different!

It is NOT my intention to get into a political conversation.  It has been difficult enough to watch the hearings and/or news this past week.  There is no gray area in this situation.  You are decidedly one side or the other. Sometimes vehemently one side or the other.  I haven’t heard one person say “Oh, I don’t care how it turns out”. Or “It’s none of my business what he/she did.”  We have all made it our business. Because to some degree, we all have a story to tell.  There is no six degrees of separation here.  We are only one degree away from being involved.  Our daughters, granddaughters, our neighbors,…….ourselves.  The $64,000 question is how do we deal with all this as a Franciscan??

We are supposed to be peacemakers. We have promised to follow St. Francis’ footsteps to Christ.  If we take a closer look, those footsteps are not leading into one camp or the other. They are leading directly to God. And that’s where we should head in these types of situations.  It’s hard to be a peacemaker when you are angry and riled up. But here’s a thought,……how many times have you sung Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace?  No, I can’t count the number of times either.  Just the title takes us right where we need to be.  Just what we need to ask for.  Make me a channel of your peace.  We aren’t asking for peace, we ask to be a channel.  And before anybody says it…………I know there is no proof St. Francis wrote the hymn!!  There is a huge difference between asking for peace and asking to be a channel.  That is where the Franciscan meets the road.  Even though I am angry, even though I don’t know what to do with all the feelings that have been stirred up, let me be the channel.  Let that conduit go right through my anger and even though it is still there, don’t let me hand it on to someone else. Or fire up their feelings with more hatred and hostile words. Let me only hand the other person God’s perfect peace.  Not easy! Here are some words written by St. Francis, from The Later Rule:  I counsel, admonish, and exhort my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ not to quarrel or argue or judge others when they go about in the world; but let them be meek, peaceful, modest, gentle, and humble, speaking courteously to everyone, as is becoming.

We even have the wisdom of our beloved Pope Francis who said: The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who “take up” their “yoke”, namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart.

~Pope Francis, VISITA PASTORALE DEL SANTO PADRE FRANCESCO AD ASSISI

In my own case, I can still feel that “BUT” sitting on the tip of my tongue, wanting to justify why I feel the way I do.  We have no business being right (= righteous).  Our job, our mission, our request from God Himself is to be a peacemaker.  In our humanness, the only way we can be a peacemaker in the middle of this explosive topic is to be a channel.

While you are spending a little extra time in church this week for the Transitus and the very special feast day of our Seraphic Father, ask to be the channel.  Visualize that channel plowing right through your anger and serving up God’s peace.  Just how much do you think Jesus felt like extending peace to his Apostles at the last supper?  Surely, if Jesus was able to do it on that night in particular, we can give it try now. God is not extending our hand to our fellow man, we are extending His hand, but only if we can be a channel. Amen?

Thanks, Lee, for the help with the references!

Peace, much love, and happy feast day,

kate

From the Heart of Our Minister - June 2018

On Wednesday, I took myself to the movies and saw Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.  I knew it only had one more showing at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and yet I was dragging my feet about going.  I told myself the week before that I was absolutely going to get there before it left the theater.  But every day there were a half dozen reasons why it couldn’t be that day.  It wasn’t going alone that bothered me.  In the nine years that I have been widowed, I have learned if I want to do something….go do it!

So to insure that I got there, I went on line and bought my ticket.  Now that I had spent $$, I was much more likely to get there. And so I went.

To my surprise and delight, the opening scene is about St. Francis.  The movie hadn’t run more than 10 minutes when I was rummaging in my handbag for paper and pen.  I wanted to write down everything the Pope was saying.

I have loved Pope Francis from the day we saw the white smoke.  After seeing this movie, I love him more. He is the definition of humility……and kindness…..and compassion. But he is not afraid to tell it like it is.

The first thing I wrote down on a scrap of paper I found in my pocketbook was the Pope’s question:  “Who is the poorest of the poorest of the poor?”  Mother Earth!  Because we rob her continually and don’t give back.  Sounds like a Franciscan opportunity to me!

The next note I have is “The Church is suffering from Spiritual Dementia”.  Wow.  He pulls no punches there.  I take the message as the Church has forgotten where it came from.  Go back to the grassroots of the church and look around. Yes, there were troubles and persecutions, but the Apostles didn’t worry about where they would sleep at night or where their next meal would come from. Carrying God’s love out to the people was all they could or needed to carry.

Then my notes went to “We are a culture of waste.  We look at the Earth upside down.  We are not the Earth’s master but its caretaker”.  Culture of waste, you can say that again.  Every part of our lives has become disposable.  Food, products, people…. even ourselves.  How much do you value yourself?  Enough to slow down?   Another quote from the movie is “We run with the accelerator all the way down which ends up affecting our mental health, physical health and spiritual health.”  I need to take some time to meditate on this one!

I know there were many more jewels to be had from this movie and I wasn’t keeping up with my note taking.  I want to see the movie again to hear what I missed the first time and to have what I did hear be reaffirmed.

The movie ended beautifully with another scene of St. Francis. When I walked out of the theater, there was a woman standing on the sidewalk waiting for her husband to pick her up.  She saw my Tau cross and asked if I had just seen the Pope Francis movie.  When I said yes, we looked at each other and just sighed.  We talked for several minutes and I found out her father had been a Secular Franciscan.  When her husband pulled up, my new friend, Peggy, and I spontaneously hugged each other.  It was a blessed moment.  Two days later, I’m still feeling blessed.

The movie isn’t being shown in many of the main stream theaters, but if you Google the title, Pope Francis, A Man of His Word,  all the places which are showing it will come up.  Do yourself a huge favor and go see it.  You are worth it!

 

 

 

 

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!