This beautiful story of the future was sent by Fr. Christopher Panagoplos, T.O.R. It’s a “must see”!
We have all travelled the road the two disciples walked that Easter night—the road of deep disappointment, sadness, despair, and anger. But it is also a road in which we meet the Risen One in the guise of those who offer us support, compassion and counsel along the way.
One of my favorite holy pictures shows this scene of three robed figures walking along a dirt road, shafts of sunlight breaking through trees and clouds. The person in the middle, hand upraised as he talks, seems to fascinate the others. I like this artistic rendition because it allows us to observe the travelers from behind. They are walking away from some event; they are walking away from something. They have wavered from their calling.
Today, a different kind of stranger joins us. It’s a death-dealing presence, a presence from which we cannot walk away. It has interrupted our lives, our happiness, our social gatherings and fraternal responsibilities. We wish this stranger, this threat, not be in our company. It has invaded everything that we enjoy doing and loving. As in the story of St Francis and the wolf of Gubbio, so now with us—befriending the present danger we must, for our sakes, and the sake of others.
Befriending is not easy; it takes courage, it takes faith. For us today, it means: shelter-in-place, isolation, surrendering freedoms and routines. The Risen Lord surrounds us. God is with us. Everything in the Emmaus story is applicable to our life today. Jesus was more with the two disciples on their journey—even in their doubt and unbelief—than when they actually saw and recognized Him and finally believed. I find this paradox of faith—this distance and closeness, of belief and unbelief—repeated over and over again in our lives.
As Vatican II teaches, we meet Christ in the Scriptures. Let this time of deprivation help us intensify our love. Routine can become very customary. Teilhard de Chardin once wrote poetically about offering Christ on the altar of the world, “The Divine assails us, penetrates us and molds us We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.” If Emmaus is correct, then the Risen Christ surrounds us. Yes, He stays with us through the entire journey of life.
Sisters and Brothers, may the Lord grant you peace!
Countless millions of us are ordered to “stay-at-home,” not to go to work, not to go to school, and to practice safe and social distancing when venturing out of doors for specific purposes. Religious services and events are being cancelled while religious leaders are asking that church doors be locked. Let faith and reason prevail, and let us not curse the darkness of this pandemic hovering over us. We have truly realized that we are a “domestic church.” And, we are brothers and sisters of penance.
As we follow these directives to “painfully” stay at home, I spy a blessing in disguise. Let us, Secular Franciscans, join with the many contemplative religious orders of women and men in prayer, study and reflection. Let St Clare, our mother and teacher, inspire us to “gaze, consider, contemplate and imitate” Christ Jesus, crucified and risen. For Mother Clare speaks:
“If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him,
weeping with Him, you will rejoice with Him,
dying on the cross of tribulation with Him,
you will possess heavenly mansions with Him
among the splendor of the saints and in the Book of Life
your name will be called glorious among the peoples.”
(1 Letter to Agnes, #21)
Let us pray for the grace needed to endure the days and weeks ahead. Activate those calling lists of fraternity members. Be a source of strength to our sisters and brothers especially to those who are elderly and vulnerable, those “home alone” in extended care facilities whose visitors and family members are restricted. With words of comfort and calm, sing joy into joyless hearts of neighbors known only to you. Pray God to grant us ways to order human life.
Sometime during the day, with your beverage of choice, make an effort to re-connect with the Rule and Constitutions, studying and reflecting, actively contemplating on what you professed to be and do. You gotta stay bright to be the light of the world. May the Lord make us partners in our living, increasing our compassion as messengers of faith.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27). Let me share a reflection by Philip Andrews: “There is dignity here—we will exalt it. There is courage here—we will support it. There is humanity here—we will enjoy it. There is a universe in every child—we will share in it. There is a voice calling through the chaos of our times; there is a spirit moving across the waters of our world; there is a movement, a light, a promise of hope. Let them that have ears to hear—hear. But look not for the end of the world. Behold, we bring you tidings of great joy: the incarnation.”1
Let faith and reason prevail. Peace and All Good.
Father Christopher, T.O.R.
1Philip Andrew, “The Song of the Magi,” in Suffering and Hope, Ron O’Grady and Lee Soo Jin, ed., Christian Conference in Asia, 1976.
Fr. Michael Higgins, T.O.R. – Video – “The Nature of Spiritual Assistance in the Secular Franciscan Order”; Keynote Address at the Life-Giving Union – Discernment and Discussion conference, August 26-29, 2019
Fr. Higgins keynote addresses from our August, 2019 gathering are now available in video, enhanced with selected slides from his presentations. You can also view the entire PowerPoint presentation here Our Life-Giving Union – Discernment and Discussion – August 2019.
- Part 1 – Introduction to and Heart & Core of Spiritual Assistance (33.29 minutes)
- Part 2 – Heart & Core of Spiritual Assistance, cont. (33.29 minutes)
- Part 3 – Spiritual & Pastoral Assistance & Collegial Assistance (24.51 minutes)
- Part 4 Collegial Assistance, cont., & Duties of Spiritual & Pastoral Assistance (34.32 minutes)
The Formation Course for National Spiritual Assistants to the OFS and YouFra ends today with a presentation by Ana Fruk, OFS, from Croatia, on Promoting YouFra. Many will remember Ana from her YouFra days. She is now a Presidency Councilor. She is pictured here with Fr. Francis Dor, OFM Cap., Fr. Christopher Panagoplos, T.O.R., and Fr. Jerome Wolbert, OFM.
Over 60 Friars participated in the gathering in Rome this week, representing nearly as many countries, including Arabia, Argentina, Bosnia, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Great Britain, Haiti, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Paraguay, The Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Rwanda, Slovenia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Tanzania, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, USA, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
CNSA USA members Fr. Christopher Panagoplos, T.O.R, and Fr. Jerome Wolbert, OFM, are in Rome this week (November 10 – 15, 2019), attending the Congress of National Spiritual Assistants to the OFS. Fr. Christopher arrived on Friday, November 8th, and enjoyed some fraternity time at the Motherhouse of the Third Order Regular, The Basilica of Saints Cosmos and Damian, (courtyard shown at left), situated in the Roman Forum. Fr. Joined T.O.R. Friars from the Philippines, Paraguay, Croatia and Brazil.
The congress, a gathering of National Spiritual Assistants to the OFS and YouFra from around the world, is being held at the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure, commonly called the Seraphicum. The Seraphicum is the international study center of the Friars Minor Conventual in Rome.
Some of the topics and presenters at the Congress are:
- OFS History and Identity – Fr. Pedro Zitha, OFM, (General Spiritual Assistant)
- OFS Official Documents – Tibor Kauser, OFS, (OFS General Minister)
- OFS Spirituality – Fr. Amando Trujillio-Cano, T.O.R., (General Minister and General Spiritual Assistant) (The full text of his presentation is available here Franciscan Spirituality .
- Spiritual and Pastoral Assistant to the OFS-YouFra, and Formation Process in the OFS-YouFra – Fr. Francis Bongajum Dor, OFM Cap. – (General Spiritual Assistant)
- Relevance of the Franciscan Charism for Today – Fr. Alfred Parambakathu, OFM Conv. – (General Spiritual Assistant)
Among those in attendance were some familiar faces. Tibor Kauser, our General Minister, pictured here with Fr. Alejandro Isare, T.O.R., from the Philippines, and our own Fr. Christopher, and Fr. Francis Dor, who was with us at Chapter in 2016 and 2018.
We look forward to our CNSA Friars sharing insights and inspirations from the Congress when they return, and wish them safe travels.
In late October, Jan Parker, OFS, our National Minister, received a letter from Fr. Michael Zielke, OFM Conv., Minister Provincial of the Province of St. Bonaventure, OFM Conv., appointing Fr. Chris Shorrock, OFM Conv., as the OFM Conv. representative for the Conference of National Spiritual Assistants, USA. Fr. Chris replaces Fr. Giles Gilbert, OFM Conv., who had to step down from the CNSA due to health reasons.
Fr. Chris is a native Australian, and currently lives at St. Bonaventure Friary in Chicago, IL. Fr. is assisting with classes to Postulants at the House of Formation, and is also an adjunct lecturer at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Hales Corner, WI. Fr. Chris was a member of the Conference of National Spiritual Assistants for Australia. He holds a doctorate in Theology, and has taught at Catholic Theological College in Melbourne, Australia and the Franciscan International Study Centre, Canterbury, UK. His academic interests are Franciscan Spirituality, Church history and Mariology.
Fr. joins Fr. Christopher Panagoplos, T.O.R., Br. Alexander Escalera, OFM Cap., and Fr. Jerome Wolbert, OFM, making the USA CNSA fully representative of the four obediences of Friars. Welcome, Fr. Chris! (more…)
Bishop William Michael Mulvey prepared the way for the 2019 National Chapter meeting by celebrating Mass at the Jesus Christ Our Peace Chapel in Corpus Christi on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
The meeting, which will continue through Saturday night at the Pax Christ Liturgical Retreat Center, will include approval of the 2020 budget, a keynote on the state of the order by National Minister Jan Parker, group discussions, presentations, a service project, and the announcement of the JPIC award.
The meetings began Tuesday as Cherryle Fruge, OFS, Minister of St. Joan of Arc Region, and Claudia Kauzlarich, OFS, National Treasurer, facilitated the orientation of the new Regional Ministers in preparation for the official opening of the Chapter on Wednesday morning, October 16th.
Each year at our National Chapter, the Regional Ministers elected since the previous Chapter, along with their mentors, assemble for an orientation session. This year, Fruge focused on the spirituality of serving the region as minister. She shared with us that she didn’t fully understand servant leadership until she served as Regional Minister. She told us that the experience of being Regional Minister has enhanced her spiritual life.
Fruge encouraged the new ministers with inspiration words about their role as leaders: “A vocation to the office of service is under the mantle of divine protection, and you are given all the graces sufficient to fulfill whatever we are called to do.” Most importantly, she said, “Don’t short change prayer”.
The new ministers and delegates were warmly welcomed in the traditional introduction of the National Executive Council and Commission Chairs at the conclusion of the orientation. The new Ministers and the delegate are:
- Emma Lozowski OFS – Franciscans of the Prairie Region
- Barbara Braley OFS – Our Lady of Indiana Region
- Steve Geldmacher OFS – Saint Clare Region
- Joanne Lockwood OFS – Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Region
- Marianne James OFS – Saint Maximilian Kolbe Region
- Gene Keenan OFS – Tau Cross Region
- Tim Taormina OFS, RVM, delegate for Hazel Martin, OFS – Queen of Peace Region
- Dale Marzano, OFS – delegate for Lorna Miressi, OFS – Mother Cabrini Region
Our CNSA website pages are now online! We have moved content from the old web pages, as well as added new and expanded content, including documents and photos from the August, 2019 “Our Life-Giving Union – Discernment & Discussion” gathering in St. Louis. Please take a look, and check back often. New content will be added as available.
The Friars and staff of the Conference of National Spiritual Assistants