Prayer for those dealing with the Coronavirus

Dear Father, Almighty Healer and Physician, we bring our fears, anxiety and petitions to you during this outbreak of coronavirus.  Please restore our inner peace so that we can be a shining light to those stuck in the darkness.

And let us pray for

+        All those who have the virus and fear the outcome, may they find their peace in you.

+        All the medical staff who cannot work from home but need to be in the ‘trenches’ taking care of the sick, may they have the stamina and good health to continue to serve.

+        For all the working parents who are suddenly faced with their childrens’ schools being closed. Help them to find a solution that does not impact their earnings too greatly.

+        For all those who are worried, please grant them the peace to get through this time.

+        For all those working extra hours to provide more test kits, masks and sanitizer, shower them with the ability to keep up their difficult schedule.

+        And for all the rest of us, please help us make good decisions about where we go and when to stay home, what supplies we buy and how much/many, and most especially keep us calm and filled with Your grace so that we are able to reach out to others in need.

We ask these things through the Sacred Heart of Your Son, Jesus.  May we be open to Your Ministering to us so that we are equipped to minister to others.   Amen



State of the Region – 2019

State of the Region – Annual Meeting 2019

It’s been a busy, busy year and there is a lot to report on.  First let’s talk about the changes at the Regional Level. Ted and Gretchen Bienkowski have resigned their positions on the Regional Council for personal reasons.   I am very, very saddened at this but I understand that life happens and we need to roll with it.  I would like to publicly thank Ted and Gretchen for everything they have done in the last 3 ½ years.  They traveled many miles with me for visitations, elections and special visits with fraternities.  You all know they live about 5 miles past God’s country and if we needed to be someplace early, they would come the night before and book a room at their own expense. We will certainly miss you and wish you well.

Cindy Louden who held the position of Councillor at Large has been appointed the Regional Vice Minister and there was a vote to accept by the Regional Council..  That leaves both positions of Coucillor at large open and the Regional Council will convene next week to discuss candidates for the positions.

The Venerable Matt Talbot Emerging Fraternity is as “emerged” as it needs to be.  The speed bump keeping them from Canonical Establishment is getting the altius moderamen secured.  When the group first came into being, they were sponsored by St. John the Evangelist fraternity who, at that time, was bonded to the TORs.  As you know, the TORs no longer have a presence in this area and the St. Augustine Capuchins, do.  In order to go forward with the Canonical Establishment of Matt Talbot, we are in negotiations with the St. Augustine Caps to take on their altius moderamen.  The St. Augustine Caps recently elected a new Provincial, Father Tom Betz, and he is getting up to speed on every aspect of that job, not just what we are asking.  In the meantime, I would like to congratulate Ken Johnston, minister of the Venerable Matt Talbot group for working so hard to get the group to where it is today.

Another great addition to the Region in the last year has been the Padre Pio Fraternity.  They did not have to go through being a forming group and then an emerging fraternity because they started with enough professed people to form a Council.  They are resurrecting the charter of the Cathedral fraternity which closed some years ago.  The charter remains active for 100 years after the last member dies.  The Padre Pio fraternity meets at the Padre Pio Prayer Center so we are working on getting them bonded to the St Augustine Caps who run the prayer center.  They fraternity welcomed 3 new members at a Profession last Monday night.  Carolyn Murray is the Minister at Padre Pio.

Queen of Peace fraternity has come to the conclusion that they must close.  There are not enough folks left to make a fraternity.  They certainly tried hard!  St. Peter fraternity in Beverly, NJ, is also closing.  Their numbers have dwindled as well and the remaining members are looking at local fraternities to transfer to.

That brings us to the difficulty of getting Spiritual Assistants when half of our fraternities are without one now. As I announced in May, the Lay Spiritual Assistant program concluded with 5 women being certified as Lay Spiritual Assistants.  So far, we have been able to temporarily assign Liz Bueding as Spiritual Assistant to the Venerable Matt Talbot fraternity.  However, it wouldn’t be Franciscan without miles of paperwork and that hurry up and wait M.O. we all know and love!  The Provincial of the Order to which the fraternity is bonded must agree to the assigning of a Lay Spiritual Assistant.  We are all but finished on this one.  We are hoping to utilize a few more of our Lay Spiritual Assistants in the near future.  We don’t have any plans at the moment to start another class.  However, if there is enough interest, we can certainly talk about it.  If anyone is interested in going through the program and becoming a Lay Spiritual Assistant, please let me know.  Just remember, we will not assign a Lay Spiritual Assistant to his or her own fraternity.

One of our new initiatives in this last year came as a suggestion from Vince Iezzi.  He suggested sending a card to members who are celebrating a significant anniversary of their profession.  That would be one that is divisible by 5.  Ted Bienkowski took on the task and has done a stellar job in sending the cards for anniversaries but also expanded it to sending cards for serious illnesses and a sympathy card to the families of a member who has passed and also sending a card to a member who has lost a family member.  We took it a step even further by sending cards to the Ordinaries i.e, the Bishops of the dioceses that are covered by our Region.  We celebrate the anniversary of their Ordination, their birthday and the date of their being named a Bishop.  To date, 120 cards have been sent. Thirteen of them have come back as undeliverable but several of those were resent with an updated address.  Three thank you notes have been received in response to the cards being sent at the death of a loved one.  All in all, this has been a hugely successful effort and Ted is the reason for its success.  I have also sent each of the Bishops a report of the fraternities within their diocese outlining where and when those fraternities meet and how to reach the minister.  I also have taken the list of apostolates from your annual reports and included them in the report to the Bishops so they know what good things you are doing!  Several bishops answered that they were happy to get this information.

In addition to the regular elections and visitations, I have made a concerted effort to get out to the fraternities to just spend time with them.  Some folks are suspicious of my motives………..Why is she here???………. but for the most part, these “friendly” visits are well received.  I have been to several Professions and anniversaries of Fraternities.  If you invite her….she will come.  Although it keeps me rocking and rolling most weekends, it’s good to get out and spend time with folks without an official reason.

I’d like to switch gears and talk about some of the things that have come out of the NAFRA Chapter that was just held in Corpus Christi.  There is a new Transfer form.  It’s now FOUR pages long.  I will mail a copy out to each minister.  We have lost people in the shuffle with using the old form and hopefully this will help keep better records for all of us.

One of the things that is discussed every year is the Duns Scotus Fund. Below are my notes from the NAFRA Chapter.

Duns Scotus Fund

  • John the Baptist Province sold property and they set up a trust fund for Seculars. The funds are to be used for formation and the Friars had “oversight” of the account. The oversight was to last 20 years.
  • The 20 years are over and we take over the account in its entirety.
  • The fund will be known as Duns Scotus Formation Fund
  • Local requests should be presented to Regional before going to National
  • Individuals can apply as well as fraternities
  • After the Regional Council has seen the proposal, the requester calls or contacts one of the people on the Duns Scotus board to see if the proposal has been done correctly and if the idea will pass
  • Proposal then goes to the Board and an answer is given within two weeks
  • One of the purposes listed for applying for these funds is Leadership Training. I am proposing that we apply for our Council Boot Camp workshops (copying expenses, stipends for church hall or meeting room etc)


The Fair Share, as you have heard, is not being increased this year.  We are the lowest Region in the Nation for Fair Share.  One of the Regions has a Fair Share of $75 per person!

And now to that dreaded subject………..the Annual Report.  I will be sending out this year’s report within the next week.  Please use the report that I send and not an older version that you might have on your computer.  There will be NO demographic information collected this year.  The drop dead deadline is February 1.  I must have all the information consolidated and to National by March 1.  This isn’t a “would you like to do an Annual Report request”.  This is we ALL must do one. No one out there considerers it more of a pain in the neck than I do.

What is coming in the next year………

We would like to take a look at the Districts and even them out some.  During the Memorial Service, you may have noticed that when I called PA Central, there were many more people coming up.  The locations and numbers of fraternities have changed since these borders were drawn.

We are also actively preparing for a “Boot Camp” for Councillors workshop.  Our March weekend in Easton is March 27 to 29 and we will be working on each of the positions of Council, what the duties are and putting together a small handbook of See Spot Run directions and resources.  It isn’t restricted to current Council members but is open to everyone especially those who think they might be willing to run for a position the next time their fraternity has elections.  Once we have the weekend workshop, we will pare it down to a one day version and take the show on the road for all those who were not able to attend the Easton weekend.  All Council members are being asked to attend one of the workshops which will be held at different locations throughout the Region.  Stay tuned for more details on that.

Now……..are there any questions that you would like to ask?

Before we end with our closing prayer, I would like to especially acknowledge the Carisios who were sitting here waiting for me yesterday morning to help me set up the room.  Most especially to Theresa who went through the room with the big mop, checked the bath rooms for toilet paper, and volunteered to bring water and a fruit tray.  God bless you both!

And most especially to Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap who so graciously allowed us to meet here!


You Can’t Blow a Kiss to Your Leper – Kate Kleinert, OFS, November 2019

You Can’t Blow a Kiss to Your Leper

We are often asked “who” or ‘what’ our leper is.  That can be a tough question or one that is glaring at us from every angle.  Once we figure it out, how do we approach our leper?

When St. Francis heard God command him to rebuild His church, Francis didn’t contact United Builders Local 500 and ask them to put in a bid for the job.  No, Francis rolled up his sleeves, scrounged for materials and got down and dirty. Literally.

When Pope Francis was newly elected, there was a phrase being bandied about “Smell Like Your Sheep”.  I have it on a tee shirt.  And back in the day, the shepherd did smell like his sheep.  He slept with them, he herded them to a place where food was more plentiful, he tended to their needs. And he smelled like them.  The sheep were comforted by that.  No strangers here…..he’s one of us!  You never see a collie herding sheep from the sidelines – they are always in the middle of the fray.

The ultimate example, of course, comes from Jesus. There was only once (that we know of) where he cured someone from a distance (the Centurian’s servant) and that was done to teach faith.  Otherwise, He is face to face with those He is ministering to.

How do we live that part of the Gospel??  The first article of our Rule states:

The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi. In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.

The words that jump out are life-giving union with each other.  That phrase isn’t directing us to walk past the homeless on the street, or ignore the person holding the sign and walking among the stopped cars at any given intersection.  Life giving union doesn’t necessarily mean to bring the homeless home with you, but when you hand that person a few dollars or a blessing bag, look into their eyes and ask what their first name is.  And then say…”____________ (Joe, Jane, whatever) I’m going to pray for you.”

Life giving union……Life giving dignity!  We ignore the homeless because we don’t’ want to be bothered or put on the spot for a donation.  If I don’t look at them, they don’t exist.  And the homeless embrace that treatment as being a necessity of living on the streets.  No identity, no address, no one caring.  If the light is still red and there is time, more often than not, Joe or Jane reply “I’ll pray for you, too:”


I’m sure there are many definitions of Life giving union.  This is only my own interpretation.  Remember our plea to God to ‘make me an instrument’  No instrument can be played unless it is willing, warmed up, and ready to deliver God’s music.


You cannot play an instrument from the sidelines.  You cannot kiss a leper without getting close. Maybe Francis (we) got the message wrong in the beginning – Rebuild my church – Life giving union –  or just maybe God wants us to start with getting our hands dirty – the Franciscan way.  Look people in the eye when you tell them God cares for them.  If we are truly living the Gospel life, when that person looks back at us, he or she will see God shining through us! May the Lord give you peace.  And may you give it to someone else!

Choose to be Grateful - From the heart of your Minister - October 2019

I was in the middle of a “man-about-the-house” job and loving every minute…..NOT….when I realized I needed longer zip lines.  The closest place is Walmart and it was dinner time – either the best or worst time to go to Walmart.  Was everyone home eating dinner or did they all decide to postpone dinner and get to Walmart right away.

It was the worst time to go. Figures.  I found what I needed and decided rather than make a U-turn in that aisle to go to the checkout counter, I would go down the next aisle which had Fall and Halloween decorations.  There was a flat wooden pumpkin with the words Choose to be Grateful painted on it.  Yes, that is it, pictured above because I did buy it along with the longer zip lines.  I was intrigued by the pumpkin because what has Autumn or Halloween have to do with being grateful and the bigger question….when did Walmart start selling inspirational items???

Choose to be Grateful?  You mean it’s an option??? YES!  Just like we choose to be upset and choose to be angry or hurt or wounded.

Yesterday, I drove my sister to an appointment.  She is going through something right now and was in no state to follow these complicated directions to get to the office she needed.  I was happy to help.  We arrived in enough time that we sat in the car and talked for a bit.  She went in for her appointment and I walked around the back of the building to deadhead the marigolds that were planted there.

A woman came out the door and said “Oh!  You are stealing the plants!”  Like a guilty kid with her hand in the cookie jar, I immediately held out my hand to show what I had and assured her I was only picking the dead ones.  She laughed and said she was only kidding but I still felt the need to explain.  “See, (holding up my Tau Cross) I’m a Franciscan and we are doing a project with these seeds.  I’m only picking the dead ones because that is where the seeds are.”  She thought it was a nice idea and started walking to her car.  Halfway across the parking lot, she stopped and turned back to me.  “Can you say a prayer for me?” she asked.  “You bet I can!  What’s your first name?” It turned out to be Marian and she was so grateful for the promise of a prayer.  She has been having severe pain in her back and that day the doctor decided she needed an injection at the Pain Intervention Center.  The first appointment is November 14; a long time to wait in pain.

I returned to the car to see my sister coming out of the building, visibly upset and shaking. While I was deadheading marigolds, she was going all over the building looking for the right office only to find out that they had moved.  We were at the wrong place.  Her cell phone rang and it was the person she was supposed to meet with and he was apologizing for not giving her the right address and directions.  The appointment was not an easy one to make and she was afraid she had missed her chance.  The man said he would see her as soon as we got to the right place.  Now she was feeling guilty that she was holding me up and that we would be going home in rush hour.

I chose to be grateful.  First, I told her it was never a waste of time to be with her which calmed her down some.  Then I told her about picking marigolds and having an opportunity to pray for someone. Both things to be grateful for.  If we had not been at the wrong place, I wouldn’t have more marigold seeds, or have met someone who needed to hear from God.  Make me an instrument….

 I could have been upset about losing more time when I have so much to do right now.  I could have been annoyed with my sister for not having the right address, and I could have been very angry being stuck in rush hour traffic on the Blue Route.  But I chose to be grateful…grateful for how God used me to reach out to a woman who is scared and in pain.  And grateful that God allowed me to spend time with my sister who I dearly love.  Yes, being grateful is a choice.  Not always an easy one. But something I want to continue to work on.  I feel a lot better choosing to be grateful than being tied up in knots on the Blue Route!  While you are trying to choose to be grateful, say a prayer for Marian.  She could use it!

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,


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.



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,


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.