Remaining Franciscan in a Presidential Election Year!

 

The words are brutal;  the attitude – ugly.  Accusations are made, stories true, half true or completely untrue are repeated and repeated and repeated.

It must be a Presidential election year!  What a great time to be Franciscan!!

This is not a political blog.  I am not here to foist my political views on anyone.  I don’t care who you are voting for – that’s your right and privilege.  What I do care about is how easy it is to get caught up with the crowd.  And that’s not Franciscan.  Don’t we naturally tend to swim upstream? …against the tide of what everyone else is doing?

Both conventions are over and now the real mud slinging begins! There are far, far too many people who believe every word that crosses their screen.  It’s no different than all the people who believe every word that is written in the Star or the National Enquirer.  If it’s in print, it must be gospel!

We really need to be vigilant in what we do…and how we do it.  There are some beautiful religious e-mails that come around – beautiful prayers, inspiring thoughts.  And at the end, it reads……make a wish and pass this on to all the people in your address book.  Make a wish?? That’s not how I approach my God.  Can you see St. Francis proclaiming one of his passionate canticles and then turning to the Brothers and saying…Make a wish and go tell everyone you know.  Making a wish has nothing to do with who we are.  Taking part in slander is very wrong.  Even passing on true information can be wrong if we have no business passing it on.  Lies and even hurtful truths take on a life of their own.  My heart aches for the parents of the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide because of what her classmates had posted on the web about her.

I am not saying Franciscans shouldn’t forward any messages on the Internet.  But before you do, stop and think WWFD…What would Francis do?

Our reading from Morning Prayer on Friday, Week I comes form Ephesians, 4:29 – 32:  Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them.  Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander and malice of every kind.  In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.

This Presidential race will be more lively than most. The closer we get to election day, the more tightly wound everyone will be.  In this election year, wouldn’t it be better…more Franciscan …to pray for the right outcome? Ask God to guide us in getting the person in office that He wants to be there.

It’s going to be a long, hot summer and that has nothing to do with the weather!  Wouldn’t it be nicer to stand back, hold onto our Franciscan serenity, and stay out of the sensationalism?

Here is a prayer put forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Prayer Before An Election

Lord God, as the election approaches, we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country, and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.

We ask for eyes that are free from blindness so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters, one and equal in dignity, especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.  We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned, Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom. We pray for discernment so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word, live your love, and keep in the ways of your truth as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.

We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

 

 

 

Experiencing The Q

Mea Culpa!  The month of July is several days old and I am just getting to the postings.  I have been in St. Louis since June 28 preparing for the 2016 Q.  Now that I am home, there is still a smile on my face and I hope it stays there a good long time.  It is hard to describe what it is like to spend 4 days with 600 Secular Franciscans.  There is great joy at greeting old friends and new.  If there is a tau cross around your neck…..you are family!  Spending time in prayer with so many brothers and sisters who are traveling the path with you, is certainly uplifting if not life changing.

The theme for the 2016 Q is Reviving Our Spirit and it was very well chosen.  Every aspect of the weekend lifted your spirit.  There were talks by Father Murray Bodo, OFM, Father Lester Bach, OFM Cap and the keynote speaker, Father Dan Horan, OFM.  These men are Franciscan “All Stars” whose books helped to form us and now that we are professed, help sustain us.  Listening to them speak and spending time one-on-one with them is truly a hug from God. These humble men stood in line for their meals, asked if they could sit at an empty place at the table and joined in conversations. They really do preach the gospel by their actions.

Tibor Kauser, OFS, our Minister General was there and spoke of fraternities in Lebanon and Dubai.  Jenny Harrington, OFS, from Africa spoke about having fraternities in the US ‘twinning’ with a fraternity in Africa. Our order is growing around the world and we need to tap into that.

So many of you participated in the Blessing Bag project which blessed people far beyond our own reach.  Box after box after box was waiting for the Committee when we arrived. It was hard to believe the response!  We sorted hundreds of bars of soap, tooth paste, deodorant, shampoo, etc down one side of the room.  The other side was dedicated to snack items:  instant oatmeal, raisins, energy bars, crackers.  The Herr Company – a local family owned business – donated 12 cases of Herr snack paks.

Packing the Blessing Bags was optional on The Q schedule and was slated for Friday afternoon.  We had it set up like an assembly line.  Grab a zip lock bag at one end of the tables and walk down packing whatever you would like from the selection. The number of people who came to pack the bags was amazing.  Both the toiletry side and the snack side had solid lines of people giving their time to help.  At the end of both sides were a stack of holy cards with St. Francis on one side…of course!…and printed on the back was the message:  Packing this Blessing Bag for you was a blessing for me.  I will hold you in my prayers.

Sister Connie Probst, who heads the St. Anthony Food Pantry in St. Louis, arrived at 4:00 to pick up the donations.  Something happened to the communications because Sister Connie showed up in a Toyota never expecting she would need a large van!  She laughed and cried at the sight that greeted her.  When the Secular Franciscans do something, they do it right!!

So many of the Seculars who were passing through these lines remarked that this is something we should continue to do.  Many felt we can do it at Regional Meetings as well.  It certainly doesn’t have to be on such a grand scale as what we did at The Q.  If it is done at a Regional Meeting, we can donate the bags or each of us take one home to keep in our car.  When you come upon a homeless person you will be ready to bless them with a few items to make their way a little easier.

This last year being on The Q Committee was more work than I ever dreamed of. But it resulted in so very many blessings for all who attended and that is a big blessing to me.  I carried each of you in my prayers throughout the week and hope that you will be able to experience a Quinquennial at some point.  It certainly helps you feel that you belong to an Order and not just a Fraternity.  The next Q will be in 2021 – 100 years since the very first Q was held.  Start saving those nickels and dimes because it promises to be spectacular!

What Part of the Message Did You Miss?

St. Francis rebuild my church

My dear Brothers and Sisters, may God’s peace and grace be with you! The month of June is upon us.  Last weekend we were wearing coats, this week, the AC is on full blast.  How did it happen so quickly? There was no easing into summer this year.

I have never been tied to my cell phone like it was my lifeline to the world. I’m not the President of the United States; so, no one needs to get in touch with me that urgently. Of course, when ‘life’ is urgent and I am ‘needed’, the cell phone is never far. But we don’t get to pick and choose when we are needed.  Life doesn’t work that way.

One late afternoon recently when I remembered I hadn’t looked at my cell phone all day, I picked it up and found it was out of ‘juice’.  I plugged in the charger and went about my business.  Around 10:00 p.m, I heard the sound for an incoming text message.  That had the hair on the back of my neck standing up.  When I do get text messages, they definitely don’t arrive at 10:00 p.m.  It was from my ‘baby’ sister and it stated “Just wanted to let you know that we are all OK and home again”.

What had I missed?  There was something that came before this message that I didn’t see or bother to check.  There were two texts that came in around 5:30 a.m. and I hadn’t checked my phone when I got up.  The first message was “PRAY! The police just called and said Bill was in a very bad accident and they were trying to get him out of his truck.”  The second message was “I’m at the accident scene.  A young lady had been on her cell phone – t-boned Bill’s pickup at such a high rate of speed, that his truck was catapulted through two lanes of north bound traffic, across the three lanes of southbound traffic, rolled down a hill and knocked over two trees.

I felt terrible that I had not responded to the early morning messages and at the very least been in touch with my sister to let her know I was available to come be with her and was praying.  Those messages had been a call to action and I missed it. God gave me an opportunity to serve and I wasn’t connected.

During the Profession ritual, there are three different times that we answer “Yes, this is what I want”. But how connected are we to the meaning of our “Yes”?

Rule 21  The ministers’ and councilors’ task to lead is temporary.  The brothers and sisters, rejecting all ambition, should show love for the fraternity with a spirit of service, prepared both to accept and to relinquish the office…….

Their service, which lasts for a definite period, is marked by a ready and willing spirit and is a duty of responsibility to each member and to the community.

…should show love for the fraternity with a spirit of service.  Is that the part of the message we have missed? When it comes time for the fraternity elections, so many are sitting on their hands and avoiding eye contact in order to not be asked to serve. There is no member of this Region that doesn’t have other things going on in their lives.  We all have family issues, health issues, financial issues, job issues.  If we wait until life is calm and without any obligations, we will have missed the opportunities that God has offered. Our vocation is one of service. We cannot rebuild the church (fraternity) if we aren’t willing to pick up a brick or two.
I am learning to keep my cell phone close….and charged.  My brother-in-law’s injuries were relatively minor compared to how that pickup looked; thank the dear Lord. But I failed my sister that day by not being ready to serve when I was needed.

If we have missed the first part of the message, the second part won’t make any sense. Check with God to see what message He is trying to send you.  Stay connected and be ready. God doesn’t dial wrong numbers. The message is for you!

Apostolate of the Ear

At my fraternity gathering last month, our Formation Director, Justin Carisio, OFS, spoke about a book by Pope Francis – The Name of God is Mercy. The title alone could take an entire evening to discuss.

 

Justin focused on just a few points from the book;  one of which was Apostolate of the Ear.  I must say, when I saw that topic, I was a little skeptical of how that would tie in. Basically, what it means is to give the gift of listening to someone who needs to be heard. And we all need to be heard.

 

Being called a good listener is a compliment, but one that is seldom heard any more.  We have all learned to tune each other out.  People walk by briskly on the street with their ear buds firmly in place.  Whether they are listening to music or not, having those ear buds on is an excuse not to talk to anyone and especially not to listen to anyone.

 

We live in a very noisy world. The TV is on while three people in the room are having conversations on three different cell phones. A man I used to work for would call me every morning to talk about what was going on in the office and what was going on with me.  And he would be checking e-mail at the same time.  He never heard what I was trying to tell him.  And it hurt.  I wasn’t worth his time or full attention.

 

Isn’t really listening to someone a true act of humility?  We have to shut down our own ego and problems of the moment and really concentrate on the words coming from the other person.  We give the gift of ourselves to the person who needs to be heard. How Franciscan!

 

Most times, people are not looking for solutions to their problems or an opinion about what has them upset. They just want someone to validate them, let them know they are valuable to us.  In our Rule, Chapter 2, #5, the first sentence is: Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters,

 

If Christ came to you after a bad day, would you check e-mail while He spoke to you? During the month of May, let all of us work on this small but powerful gift to give to the Christ we meet every single day.  May God bless and direct our steps as we strive to follow in the footsteps of our Seraphic Father.

Much love and many blessings,

kate

 

The Next Three Years – April 2016

My dear Brothers and Sisters, peace and Easter joy!  This is my first post as the elected Regional Minister.  Thank you for your confidence in my ability to be your servant for the next three years. It is not easy to follow our Sister, Mattie Ward, OFS, who has served for the last 9 years as Regional Minister. I cannot follow in her footsteps, I can only bring my own footsteps to the job.  I’m sure I will make mistakes, I’m sure I will falter, but I am also sure I will do my very best to be here for you and be available whenever a need arises.

 

At this moment, the next three years is a blank slate.  The Regional Executive Coucil will be meeting soon to discuss plans and ideas.  Our Sister, Rose Viragh, OFS, Regional Formation Director, has already started to put together a Formation Directors’ Workshop that will be scheduled for the coming year.

 

When the brand new Regional Executive Council met shortly after the elections, there was an agreement that we will work to strengthen the relationships in each District.  We need to learn from each other……what is your fraternity doing that another fraternity can adopt?  What can we accomplish together?  How can we serve each other and the communities around us?  Each one of us is a part of this Region and together we can make a difference whether it is to one person, one neighborhood, one opportunity that St. Francis is bringing before us.

Whatever the next three years bring, I promise you that with the help of God, I will do what is mine to do.

The Lord’s choicest blessings!

kate

We Are Chosen

I’ve been thinking about Judas a lot this Lent.  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.

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 - February, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, peace and every mercy! We have barely gotten through Christmas and Lent is upon once again.  Our Holy Father’s Lenten message this year begins with a Scripture quote from the Gospel of Matthew…”I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”.  Matt:9, 13; which points back to the same words in Hosea: 6,6.

Most of us are of an age to remember the Sisters drilling into our heads to give up something during Lent.  Candy, soda, and ice cream were tough things to give up as a child.  And we all joked we would rather give up school, homework, and chores. Forget the hard things and instead give up the easy ones.  That’s not exactly what Pope Francis has in mind.  He would like all of us to incorporate the Spiritual Works of Mercy into our Lenten journey.  But how is this a sacrifice?  If it is difficult for you to do, if you have to go out of your way to make it happen, or if you have to step out of your comfort zone – it’s a sacrifice.  Just as there are many ways to perform the Corporal Works of Mercy, it is the same with the Spiritual Works. » Click to continue reading “From the Heart of the Minister – February, 2016” »

From the Heart of the Minister -- January 2016: No One Is Excused

Peace and Mercy as the new year opens before us!  So many events have been remembered in the liturgies of the last few weeks.  Mary goes to visit her kinswoman, Elizabeth, whose unborn babe recognizes the Saviour that Mary is carrying. Jesus is born and in the Gospel two days later is 12 years old and teaching in the temple. Today, the wise men have arrived.  Simeon and Anna will soon recognize the child when He is presented at the temple.  So many stories, so many characters playing the parts that God has written for them.  No one is excused.

This particular cast of characters takes in the two unborn players….John the Baptist and Jesus,  Mary, the teenager, Elizabeth who is middle aged and pregnant, and Simeon and Anna who are elderly.  All of them have said Yes and did what was theirs to do. Not one of them said, I am too young, I am too inexperienced, I am too busy, I don’t feel well, I’m too old….let someone else do it.

God wrote the script of their lives and they all said Yes. Our Regional Elections are scheduled for March 19 – the feast of St. Joseph.  Although Joseph wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do when his beloved Mary became pregnant, once God made it clear to him, he also said Yes.  Have you asked God if he wants you in a role that might shake you out of your comfy chair? Is there work with your name on it that you turn a blind eye to? No one is excused.

We all said Yes on our days of Profession. This is what I want. This is what I agreed to.  If God is tapping you on the shoulder, are you standing up or looking the other way?  No one is excused.

From the Heart of Our Regional Minister - December, 2015

My dear Brothers and Sisters, peace to your hearts!

There is much to do in December. We have been celebrating Christmas since we were born. We all know what it takes, how much we have planned, how much we can actually do. We can only hope as Franciscans that we manage to pare down the list a little more each year and take a step closer to the manger.

This December is also very special because it kicks off the Extraordinary Year of Mercy. It will be a huge opportunity to not only gain mercy but to live it. Can we get out of our own way to allow God to work through us to bestow mercy on someone else?

The Corporal Works of Mercy can give us a great stepping off point. We know them; but we ask God “When did I see you thirsty?” etc. More often than you think! Perhaps turning out of our comfort zone – or doing what we always do – will give us a new way to look at them.

Feed the Hungary

Very straightforward. Donate food to a local shelter, volunteer at a soup kitchen. How about…..not wasting the food we are eating? Don’t throw leftovers out, pack them for lunch. Don’t like leftovers? Make a plate up for a sick or elderly neighbor,

Give Drink to the Thirsty

This is a tough one. We don’t see many thirsty people every day. Again….how about not wasting it? A little awareness now can hold off the day when we are out of water. My grandmother taught me after you boil an egg, let the water cool down and water the house plants.

Clothe the Naked

Typically a no-brainer. There are plenty of Good Will stores and Salvation Army places around. Did you know both Purple Heart and American Family will pick up your donations at your front door? How about…. looking through your clothes and possessions with a Franciscan eye and ask yourself….when did I last use this and could someone else be blessed by having it?

Shelter the Homeless

This one must be very close to Jesus’ heart since there was ‘no place to lay his head’. Have your fraternity get involved in the Blessing Bag project that will culminate at the “Q” in June. Have you ever contacted Habitat for Humanity to see if you have some skill to offer them? If Jimmy Carter can still do it at the age of 90 while suffering from brain cancer…….

Visit those in Prison

The definition of ‘visit’ is not limited to physically going to see someone. It is very easy to visit through a card or letter. Mary Mother of Captives runs a pen pal program where the prisoner does not have your real last name or address. When I sent a birthday card to my pen pal on death row, I got a gut wrenching letter back. It was the first birthday card he had ever received….in his entire life.

Comfort the Sick

Do you give much thought to those who are sick at heart? Very often you don’t need to look outside your own family. Caregivers are a vastly overlooked group in desperate need of just a little kindness.

Bury the Dead

Yes, there is more than one way to look at this one. Mark your calendar or keep a record of when people pass – your neighbor’s spouse; your co-worker’s child. On the one year anniversary, send a “I’m Thinking of You” card or have a Mass said. For that person, it will feel like a hug directly from God.

And lastly, let us pray for one another as we journey through this Extraordinary Year of Mercy that we not only receive God’s mercy, but allow ourselves to extend His mercy to others.

Blessings,
kate

From the Heart of Our Regional Minister - November, 2015

My dear brothers and sisters, it is November….already! It is a month of earlier darkness, chillier weather, and holidays breathing down our necks. But it is also a month of remembering – all saints, all souls, all our loved ones who have gone to God. If you have recently lost a loved one, these days can be difficult.

bench-forest-trees-pathEcclesiastes 3:1 states: For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. For those who have gone before us, their season has come to an end. They are reaping the harvest of their lives in the Kingdom of God.

Our seasons continue – not one day shorter or longer than God intended. What has God planned for our season? Sometimes it is so clear and other times….not so much. Some of us think we have our entire season figured out. (ah….that would be me) When my husband passed, I felt like my season had come to an end, too. It was logical…to me. And being hardheaded, it took quite some time to figure out that it wasn’t over; and even longer to be able to move forward without feeling guilty. God clearly has a plan for the second act of my season. But it wasn’t until I was willing to move towards it, that it began to be clearer and not so frightening.

All of us made room for a servant leadership role on the day of our Profession. “Yes, Lord, this is what I want.” Our Regional Chapter of Elections will be held on March 19, 2016. Now is the time to ask God to allow you hear His call, either for you to step up or to nominate someone. Our Sister, Lois Pestritto, OFS, has sent out the nomination instructions with the ‘job descriptions’ for each position. If there are brothers and/or sisters in your fraternity who do not have access to a computer or who may need help sending a reply to Lois, please reach out. It is the work of a true servant!

And during this month of honoring those who have passed into eternal life, let us pray for each other’s loved ones. It’s what family does!

Blessings,
kate