OFS-USA Blog

ST. PADRE PIO SECULAR FRANCISCAN FRATERNITY, GUAM

(This article originally appeared in the TAU-USA Spring 2020 ISSUE #100)

 GUAM, U.S. TERRITORY

by Sharon Winzeler OFS

(with contributions by Joann San Nicolas, Ben Diaz, Therese Babauta, and Birdena Toves)

With the canonical establishment of the St. Padre Pio Fraternity on Jan. 4, 2020, in Guam, the National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order USA now reaches to the westernmost part of the United States. “The Holy Spirit has found a welcome home in the hearts of the brothers and sisters of St. Padre Pio Fraternity, and these are not just pretty words. These Secular Franciscan have opened their hearts; they have each said: “yes, let it be done,” and “yes” to their vocation and all it entails,” National Minister Jan Parker, OFS, said at the establishment ceremony.

A festive Mass celebrating the new fraternity was held at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Agana Heights. The celebration included the distribution of 1,200 homemade almond cookies to all attendees. (Almond cookies, baked by Lady Jacoba, were such a favorite of St. Francis that he asked her to bring him some when he lay on his deathbed.) Afterwards, all gathered for a grand ocean-side reception, which included brunch, the singing of Christmas carols honoring Christ’s birth, and a splendid cake on which was written, “Let us begin, for up to now we have done little or nothing,” (a famous quote from St. Francis of Assisi). All 28 members of the newly established fraternity, along with their families and six friars from St. Fidelis Friary in Agana Heights gathered for the reception. The patio was filled with laughter and joy.

Guam, an organized U.S. territory in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean, is a 12-hour plane ride from San Francisco and eight hours from Hawaii. Seventy-five percent of its population of 160,000 is Catholic. The island is 30 miles long and 12 miles wide at its widest point.

Violeta Manibusan, OFS, is minister of the fraternity, with 23 professed members, four inquirers and one in orientation. They began their journey toward establishing a fraternity on Guam in 2011.

In the beginning, professed members were formed by Fr. Patrick Castro, OFM Cap., who was appointed Spiritual Assistant by the Vice Provincial Fr. Joseph English, OFM Cap. Fr. Castro presided at the Mass celebrating the establishment of St. Pio. “It took nine years with the Lord’s guidance and the guidance of the National Executive Council. Let us thank God,” he said.

Fr. Castro challenged fraternity members, “This is a time of blessing and joy. It is also a time of admonition. Are you willing to continue to die to yourself and live for Christ? We die with the Lord, so we can live with the Lord.”

He also praised the members for the solidarity they express as fraternity. “We are called, like Francis, in humility, service and love, to be Christ’s 23 light in the world. This fraternity carries the light of Christ. They are always communicating with each other – 24/7 – always encouraging each other,” Fr. Castro said in his homily.

The Capuchin friars have a strong influence in Guam, according to Manibusan. “The first Capuchins arrived on Guam on August 12, 1901. Until the 1990s, the majority of the parishes were staffed by Capuchins. Today, five parishes are headed by Capuchin friars. The majority of our members are current parishioners of, or have been in, Capuchin parishes,” she said.

Fraternity members represent a variety of backgrounds. “Our members come from all walks of life and represent 10 out of the 26 parishes island-wide. Our member’s ages range from 35 to 73. Our professions vary in the local and federal government, specifically as educators, administrators, finance, civil service, engineering, warehousing, and the judicial branch. In the private sector, we have banking, airlines, finance, baker, and a few domestic engineers,” Manibusan said.

The fraternity meets twice a month at St. Fidelis Friary in Agana Heights. “We meet on the second Saturday of each month for prayer and initial formation class and on fourth Saturday for our monthly fraternity meeting, prayer, ongoing formation and fellowship,” Manibusan said. Members participate in a number of pro-life activities and serve in apostolates that help feed, clothe, and visit the sick, poor, and elderly on the island. Several members are members of the St. Joseph of Arimathea Society, a group that arranges a Christian burial for unclaimed bodies. St. Pio Fraternity hosts a long list of annual events, including Transitus, service retreats, Advent and Lenten Days of Recollection, Padre Pio Monthly Novena, and Mass devotion, as well as a May crowning of the Blessed Mother.

Plans for the fraternity meant years of collaboration between the members and the National Executive Council (NEC), which sponsored St. Pio. “We sought guidance from National Executive Council and traveled to Denver, Colo. in October 2012 for the NAFRA Chapter. This was our first physical interaction with the NEC. We were invited by Bob Fitzsimmons, OFS, who at the time was part of the National Formation Team, to a formation training in Hawaii in the latter part of 2012, where we were introduced to the For Up to Now (FUN) Manual. We used the FUN Manual from 2012-2015. In 2016, Mary Frances Charsky, OFS, was assigned as our NEC point of contact and introduced us to the Franciscan Journey book. which we continue to use. On February 20-23, 2017, Tim and Kathy Taormina, OFS, from the Queen of Peace Region, Minn., volunteered their time and talent and came to Guam to conduct a formation workshop. In October 2018, the National Formation Commission, under the guidance of Diane Menditto, OFS, provided supplemental resources to enhance our formation,” Manibusan said.

Support from the NEC is continuing. “Diane continues to support us in our formation. In 2019, Francine Gikow, OFS, established communication with our local Formation Director, Therese Babauta, OFS, to offer additional assistance as needed. Our current NEC point of contact is Joshua Molidor, OFS, who witnessed our canonical establishment on January 04, 2020, along with Jan Parker, OFS, and Elizabeth Ishimitsu, OFS,” Manibusan said. Elizabeth Ishimitsu is the Minister of Ohan ’O Ke Anuenue Region in Hawaii, of which St. Padre Pio Fraternity is now part.

Jan Parker noted the significance of the new fraternity, as well as all the other local fraternities. “The local fraternity is the most important part of our worldwide Order. It is here in this fraternity that the brothers and sisters will find the help they need to go forth as witnesses and instruments of our common mission – to proclaim Christ, to see Christ, to be Christ in the world. In this way, all Franciscans do their part to rebuild the Church,” Parker said.

Other members of the St. Pio Fraternity Council are Vice-Minister, Teresita Flores; Secretary, Joann San Nicolas; Treasurer, Ben Diaz; Formation Director, Therese Babauta; and Councilor Birdena Toves and Deborah Tenorio.

2020-07-28T11:57:20-04:00July 29th, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter|0 Comments

Lockdown

(This poem originally appeared in the Spring 2020 Issue of the TAU-USA #100)

By Brother Richard Hendrick, OFM Cap.

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
 Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.

But,
They say that in Wuhan
after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
 The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi

People are singing to each other
 across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
 so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the west of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the
housebound.

Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number through the neighborhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.

To what really matters.

To Love

So we pray and we remember that
 Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.

Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.

Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.

Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic.

The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul
 And though you may not be able
 to touch across the empty square,

Sing.

Brother Richard Hendrick is a Capuchin Friar and guardian of the Ards Friary and Retreat Center in Donegal, Ireland and teaches Christian meditation and mindfulness on social media. He has also been active in youth ministry. Through his poetry, he shares his message through social media, calling for solidarity and empathy. Shortly after posting “Lockdown” on Facebook it went viral around the world touching people’s hearts and giving by giving them hope.

2020-07-27T19:54:23-04:00July 27th, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter, Uncategorized|1 Comment

FRANCISCAN LIVING

(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 Issue of the TAU-USA #100)

 ST. CLARE: HER LIGHT AND HER WORDS

By Francine Gikow, OFS

Have you ever read what St. Clare actually wrote? If not, you will be in for a pleasant surprise! Although a lot has been written about St. Clare, reading what she actually said can be quite an eye opener! Her words are ripe with rare beauty, full of medieval sensuality reminiscent of the Song of Songs in the Hebrew bible. In her words, St. Clare reveals her relationship with the Lord and her Franciscan heart. She is a mystic in love with Love incarnate!

Please don’t rush through these words of St. Clare. Read them slowly and let them seep into your heart and become your prayer. Savor them! They are Clare’s gift to you!

In her letters to St. Agnes of Prague, St. Clare describes her relationship with her God and Spouse. She writes:

“Draw me after you,

let us run in the fragrance of your perfumes,

O heavenly Spouse!

I will run and not tire,

until You bring me into the wine cellar,

until Your left hand is under my head and Your right hand will embrace me happily,

You will kiss me with the happiest kiss of Your mouth.”[1]

Clare did not easily arrive at this sacred place, however. She united herself with the Suffering Jesus, insisted on the love of poverty, and persevered in her vocation throughout her life.

If you suffer with Him, you will reign 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.”[2]

 Clare embraced poverty, understanding that poverty’s riches lie in dependence on God alone. In her words: “For I firmly believe that you know the kingdom of heaven is promised and given by the Lord only to the poor because she who loves what is temporal loses the fruit of love.”[3]

Finally, St. Clare exhorts us:

“What you hold, may you hold,

What you do, may you always do and not stop.

But with swift pace, light step, unswerving feet,

so that even your steps stir up no dust,

may you go forward

securely, joyfully, and swiftly,

on the path of prudent happiness,

believing nothing,

agreeing with nothing

that would dissuade you from this commitment.”[4]

As you can see, Clare was a strong lady. She fought for her “privilege of poverty,” owning nothing, but relying only on what the good Lord would provide. She “agreed with nothing” that would dissuade her from this commitment to follow the poor Christ. She persevered despite many challenges.

We shall conclude with St. Clare’s exhortation and blessing:

“Always be lovers of your souls and

those of all your sisters [and brothers.]

And may you always be eager to observe

what you have promised the Lord.

May the Lord always be with you and

may you always be with Him. Amen.”[5]

 

All quotations from: Clare of Assisi: The Lady. New York, N.Y.: New City Press, 2006. Used with permission.

[1] 4LAg. 30-32.

[2] 2LAg 21-22.

[3] 1LAg. 25.

[4] 2LAg.11-14.

[5] BlCl. 14-16.

2020-07-25T16:08:10-04:00July 26th, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter|0 Comments

Embracing Technology in Times of Necessity and Change

(This article originally appeared in the TAU-USA Spring 2020 Issue #100)

By John Baldino, OFS, MALS

From quarantines to stay-at-home orders, isolation is a challenge for those who meet regularly in fraternities and participate in parish and community activities. Secular Franciscans are in the world, working and playing among people all the time, so it is no surprise that during a time in which people must avoid contact with each other brothers and sisters may feel apprehensive. While fraternity meetings are the equivalent of a monastery for the brothers and sisters of penance, the Secular Franciscan Order is not cloistered. It operates beyond monasteries.

In spite of drastic measures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, today’s situation is not debilitating. The Order should not allow this crisis to curb meetings and actions. Digital communication platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and even conference calling connect people in ways almost as closely as in-person gatherings. Social platforms like Facebook and Instagram present evangelization opportunities for Secular Franciscans and all the faithful. Websites share schedules, formation materials, prayers, and inspiring words.

Fear precludes many from using these technologies. It is human nature to fear the unknown, and that fear is prominent when it comes to digital media. If Secular Franciscans are driven only by fear of basic communication technology as it emerges, obsolescence will surely come next—and soon. Websites, social media presence and communication technology are vital to the success of any organization—especially one that is expected to preach the Gospel at all times. These platforms are key when traditional face-to-face interactions are not possible, and optimal supplements even when in-person contact is permitted.

Fear notwithstanding, human beings communicate digitally. Remaining relevant means adapting and embracing the way the faithful communicate.

The Catholic Church has a long history of embracing communication technology. From being among the first to abandon scrolls in favor of the codex to Fr. Gabriel Richard publishing the first Catholic newspaper in the United States in 1802 to St. Maximilian Kolbe using magazines and radio to combat Nazi propaganda in Poland and Japan during World War II, the Church has been a pioneer in communicating with people in the way they want to be reached. Kolbe said, “If Jesus or St. Francis were alive today, they would use modern communication technology to reach the people.”

Email was first introduced in the 1970s, videoconferencing in the 1980s, so today’s modern technology is not really new at all. There are just new, better platforms that deliver that technology to more people today than 30 years ago.

Jesus tells us “Be not afraid.” St. Clare said, “Go forth without fear.” The Minister General of the Secular Franciscan Order, Tibor Kauser, OFS, wrote in his Easter message, “Do not be afraid of using contemporary instruments and tools. Share your feelings, your experiences with each other,” he wrote. “Make phone calls, write e-mails, short messages, organize videoconferences.”

Once fear is overcome and the realization of a technological society sets in, the instruments available abound. Fraternity meetings and community prayer are easily conducted via Zoom and Google Hangouts. These video conferencing services offer brothers and sisters the opportunity to see each other while meeting. It is the next best option to meeting in person, and the best option when in-person meetings are not possible. Facebook is an opportunity to evangelize, sharing scripture quotes, images (those not protected by copyright), and even links to the written word on fraternity websites. Blogging on websites can supplement formation for the fraternity, the region, and the nation. It puts more content available to be used and shared.

Technology created by man can be used for the greater glory of God as we face unprecedented times.

2020-07-21T10:04:36-04:00July 21st, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter|0 Comments

NATIONAL ARCHIVES OFS-USA

(This article originally appeared in the TAU-USA Spring 2020 Issue #100)

OUR NATIONAL ARCHIVES:

IDENTIFYING, ORGANIZING AND PRESERVING

By Sharon Dale, OFS

Last November, I flew to St. Bonaventure University in New York to have a first look at our National Archives, located in the lower level of St. Francis Hall. At first look I thought, “Oh my, look at all these boxes!” Indeed, there were 237 boxes labeled by number.

The room was clean and comfortable, dimly lit, and looked to be safe and secure for our precious Secular Franciscan records. Boxes were stored on sturdy shelving units and no box was stored on the floor. Temperature, lighting, cleanliness and safe storage are important when a “home” for archives is being considered.

What are archives?

Archives are important documents and artifacts that need to be preserved. They are as diverse as the institutions and people they serve. They are located in federal, state, and local governments, colleges and universities, religious institutions, businesses, hospitals, museums, and historical societies—wherever it is important to retain the records of people or organizations. Included in archives are important letters, photographs, films, audio and video recordings, very important manuscripts, business meetings, and so on.

As the National Archivist of OFS-USA, I am responsible for selecting pertinent records, arranging and naming them, and ensuring the long-term preservation of the collection. When needed, I can assist researchers and plan exhibits and other out-reach programs.

Why is it important to identify and organize records?

An archivist is more than a historian—more like a museum curator. I take the minutes of OFS national meetings, the correspondence to and from our International Order, the continued work of our various national commissions and committees, the elections of regional officers, reports from Quinquennials and a hundred (only slightly exaggerating) other sources that are sent, and create files. These files will be stored alphabetically for easier future access, then placed into numbered boxes. Only books that have been written to memorialize important OFS national events will also be kept as archived matter. You know from your workspace at home, filing bills coming in and payments being made, emails to be answered and so on, that one must be organized. If not, the inevitable “I can’t find…” becomes your wail.

What about preservation?

Taking care of the records tagged as important at the national level, as well as being the archivist/ secretary at the regional level is essential to assure their longevity. At the regional level annual reports, documents of establishment, visitation reports, pictures of fraternity events and so on should be stored.

The area chosen should be well-ventilated, safe and secure, with low to no light. Other members of your regional council should be aware of and approve the space chosen. If archived material must be stored in a basement, there should be no humidity issues. All boxes should be archival (bank boxes are fine). Every-day cardboard boxes should not be used, as they aren’t sturdy enough for long-term storage. Boxes should be identified as OFS material. So many records are lost because family members look at unmarked boxes as “throw-aways.”

It is most desirable is to have records scanned into a computer so that there is not only hard-copy, but in case of possible “lost items,” your fraternity would have the electronic backup.

Looking ahead

I’m looking forward to the work ahead in our National Archives. Sharon Deveaux, my predecessor, has done a great job in acquiring mountains of documents and interesting artifacts of our early years, first as Franciscan provinces, then as regions. A special place will be established for non-paper items such as reels of film from the old television series Hour of St. Francis, old scapulars and cords, burial garments and tunics, profession crosses and various Third Order ribbons and medals. My priority will be to make sure all files are itemized and properly labeled in boxes. After getting access to a scanner, my hope is to provide an electronic backup of all paper documents.

It is the hope of National Historian Tom McNamara and I to have a “museum” of sorts at our upcoming Quinquennial in 2021, where we will have documents and artifacts available relating to the early years of the Secular Franciscan Order in the United States.

****************************************************************************

Archives Mission Statement

(Quoted from an undated document in the archives.)

The Secular Franciscan Order in the United States is an organization consisting of a National Fraternity, 31 regional fraternities, many local fraternities and more than 17,000 members. Its history includes many personal and institutional activities, functions, ministries and events which demonstrate and encourage Franciscan spirituality and the vocation to be followers of Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, according to our Rule.

The Archives… serves as the main repository for the historical documents, official records, photographs, books, letters, artwork, memorabilia and many other materials that pertain to the history of the Order in the United States. The establishment of the Archives is in fulfillment of Article 6.3 of the National Statutes.

The purpose and mission is to actively collect existing materials, appraise materials for historical significance, organize material into a cohesive collection, ensure the physical care and preservation of the collection, and to facilitate scholarly interpretation and use of the collection.

2020-07-14T15:14:47-04:00July 15th, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter|0 Comments

Accompanying Young People: Looking Back, Looking Forward

(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of the TAU-USA #100)

Kathleen Molaro, OFS National Franciscan Youth and Young Adult Commission Chair

The National Franciscan Youth and Young Adult (FY/ YA) commission was formed in 1995, and members have contributed articles to the TAU-USA since its inception in 1996. In looking back at the very first FY/YA commission article published, it is interesting to note that right from the start, the intention of the commission has been to motivate Secular Franciscans to understand our role in accompanying youth. Young people, our society, and our Church have all changed dramatically. In this 100th issue of the TAU-USA, however, the current commission points out that the responsibility to accompany young people in their journey has not changed.

The opening of the 1996 commission article, written by Mary and Anthony Mazotti, states, “Spiritually motivated and dedicated youth are not formed in a vacuum. They are lifted up by those going from Gospel to life and life to Gospel.” Our Bishops recently stressed that in this pluralistic, confusing world, walking with young people toward wholeness and holiness is essential. They state in the final document of their 2018 synod on young people, “Being present, supporting and accompanying the journey towards authentic choices is one way for the Church to exercise her maternal function… Service of this kind is simply the continuation of the way in which the God of Jesus Christ acts towards his people: through constant and heartfelt presence, dedicated and loving closeness and tenderness without limits.”

As Secular Franciscans, we are called to this same mission. Isn’t that what fraternity is all about? Neither Jesus nor Francis sent their disciples out to spread the gospel alone. We work together, and our efforts would be blessed with young people by our side.

The 1996 TAU-USA article also said, “The Church recognizes that there is a great hunger among youth for deeper meaning and purpose to their lives. There is a strong desire among many of them to make the world a better place, to save it from its seemingly bent to self-destruct.”

The current commission agrees and Commission Chair believes we all need to rise to the challenge in offering young people opportunities to discover and utilize their gifts.

Our charism leads us to incorporate social justice action. Young people realize it is imperative to be “hands-on” in working for change. They are eager to offer their time and talents and to assume responsibility. We find young people at the forefront, seeking creative ways to combat social and environmental diseases, discrimination, racism and violence that permeates our world.

Recently, Pope Francis recognized this hunger and exhorted young people to view their lives as mission. He tells them they should refrain from asking “Who am I?” They will find more meaning in life by asking “For whom am I?” Don’t we all strive to know God’s plan for us? To seek purpose in our work? Walking with a young person is an important step toward holiness, not only for the youth, but for those who serve them. Through formation, fraternity, and service, we all grow in our faith. “In a world marked by diversity of peoples and variety of cultures, ‘walking together’ is fundamental if the initiatives of solidarity, integration and promotion of justice are to be credible and effective,” whether in 1996 or 2020.

______________________________

1 Wicks, William, A History of the Secular Franciscan Order, Vol. III, Smoky Valley Printing, Lindsborg, KS, 261
2 Young People, The Faith and Vocational Discernment: Final Document of the Fifteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the

Synod of Bishops, 91
3 Wicks, William. [Ibid? some fuller citation?] 4 Young People, The Faith and Vocational Discernment, 69 5 Ibid, 126

2020-07-13T13:16:58-04:00July 13th, 2020|Categories: Formation, National Chapter|0 Comments

Formation Commission

(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of the TAU-USA #100)

A REFLECTION ON OUR FRANCISCAN SENSES

by Layna Maher, OFS

When we were very young, we learned that we have five basic senses that help us collect information and process the world around us. We see, we hear, we smell, we touch, and we taste. Our senses give us an awareness of the world around us.

As Franciscans, we strive daily to live a Gospel life and follow Jesus in the footsteps of our Seraphic Father Francis. We have the opportunity and responsibility to preach the Gospel with every encounter and interaction we have. Daily conversion calls us to do just that. We are called by our profession to let the Gospel values guide the way we perceive, interpret, and interact with the world around us. With our basic senses in mind, let us ask ourselves these questions and reflect on our answers.

Do I see others with Franciscan eyes? Do I use a Franciscan lens as I take in the world and see the imprint of the Most High? Especially when I meet others who are different and hold different beliefs, do I see and accept them “as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ?” (OFS Rule: Art.5) What do people see when they see me? Are my actions an observable example of Christ? What does God see as he looks into my heart?

Do I hear with Franciscan ears of love? Do I hear and answer the call of the Spirit? Do I hear the cry of the poor? Let us hear “The option for those who are least, those whom society discards” (Evangelii Gaudium, 195). What do people hear when I speak? Are my words of love and a proclamation of Christ? What does God hear when he listens to my prayers? Do I smell with a Franciscan nose?

Do I recognize the fragrant beauty of creation? In 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, the apostle Paul tells us “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the odor of the knowledge of him in every place. For we are the aroma of Christ for God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”

Do I smell of the fragrance of Christ’s love? Do I touch with Fr a n c i s c a n compassion? Do I reach out and relate to others with love? Am I willing to open my heart to love others with the same acceptance St. Francis gave as he embraced the leper? Do I keep in touch with my Franciscan brothers and sisters and participate in fraternity life?

Do I taste with a Franciscan tongue? Do my thoughts and ideals have the flavor of the Franciscan? Consider my Franciscan palate. Do I savor the Gospel? Do I pray for vocations and ask others to taste and see? We are reminded and reassured in Psalm 34:9 to “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” Do I trust in the Lord? Has what seemed bitter “changed… into sweetness of body and soul?” (Testament of St. Francis) Do I taste the sweetness of body and soul?

Sisters and Brothers, we are called to be messengers of perfect joy as Secular Franciscans, members of an evangelical order. We must ask ourselves, do our words, thoughts and actions exude Franciscan love and mercy so others experience Christ’s love? Are you using your Franciscan senses?

2020-07-07T20:02:08-04:00July 8th, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter|0 Comments

Reflection On Our Franciscan Senses

(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 Issue of the TAU-USA)

by Layna Maher, OFS

When we were very young, we learned that we have five basic senses that help us collect information and process the world around us. We see, we hear, we smell, we touch, and we taste. Our senses give us an awareness of the world around us.

As Franciscans, we strive daily to live a Gospel life and follow Jesus in the footsteps of our Seraphic Father Francis. We have the opportunity and responsibility to preach the Gospel with every encounter and interaction we have. Daily conversion calls us to do just that. We are called by our profession to let the Gospel values guide the way we perceive, interpret, and interact with the world around us. With our basic senses in mind, let us ask ourselves these questions and reflect on our answers.

Do I see others with Franciscan eyes? Do I use a Franciscan lens as I take in the world and see the imprint of the Most High? Especially when I meet others who are different and hold different beliefs, do I see and accept them “as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ?” (OFS Rule: Art.5) What do people see when they see me? Are my actions an observable example of Christ? What does God see as he looks into my heart?

Do I hear with Franciscan ears of love? Do I hear and answer the call of the Spirit? Do I hear the cry of the poor? Let us hear “The option for
those who are least, those whom society discards” (Evangelii Gaudium, 195). What do people hear when I speak? Are my words of love and a proclamation of Christ? What does God hear when he listens to my prayers?

Do I smell with a Franciscan nose? Do I recognize the fragrant beauty of creation? In 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, the apostle Paul tells us “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the odor of the knowledge of him in every place. For we are the aroma of Christ for God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” Do I smell of the fragrance of Christ’s love?

Do I touch with Franciscan compassion? Do I reach out and relate to others with love? Am I willing to open my heart to love others with the same acceptance St. Francis gave as he embraced the leper? Do I keep in touch with my Franciscan brothers and sisters and participate in fraternity life?

Do I taste with a Franciscan tongue? Do my thoughts and ideals have the flavor of the Franciscan? Consider my Franciscan palate. Do I savor the Gospel? Do I pray for vocations and ask others to taste and see? We are reminded and reassured in Psalm 34:9 to “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” Do I trust in the Lord? Has what seemed bitter “changed… into sweetness of body and soul?” (Testament of St. Francis) Do I taste the sweetness of body and soul?

Sisters and Brothers, we are called to be messengers of perfect joy as Secular Franciscans, members of an evangelical order. We must ask ourselves, do our words, thoughts and actions exude Franciscan love and mercy so others experience Christ’s love? Are you using your Franciscan senses?

2020-07-05T16:34:50-04:00July 6th, 2020|Categories: Formation, From the Newsletter|1 Comment

Celebrating Sister Mother Earth

(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 Issue of the TAU-USA)

Carolyn D. Townes, OFS, National Animator

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs. From the Canticle of Creation by Francis of Assisi

“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord.”

In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”. ~ From the opening of Laudato Si’, 2015

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis’ much-anticipated encyclical, Laudato Si’. These important milestones have ignited a renewed energy and excitement for environmental justice issues. They have also brought back to light the tremendous damage we are doing to the earth, our common home.

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22 to demonstrate support for the protection of our environment; of our Sister, Mother Earth. Earth Day is a global reminder that we have to continue to care for our common home. Unfortunately, we as a people have been negligent in that care and have done great harm to the earth. Pope Francis writes in Laudato Si’: “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ’groans in travail.’. We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

More than 800 years ago, Saint Francis wrote that our Sister Mother Earth sustains and governs us; she gives us life. Instead of returning the favor, we have laughed in her face by the damage and the harm we have done to her. The social teaching of our Church speaks to us of caring for all of God’s creation – this includes God’s people and God’s earth. In Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) writes: “We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate: The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole…. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other” (48, 51).

Finally, Article 18 of our Holy Rule states: “Moreover [we] should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and [we] should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship”. This is not just a lovely suggestion or some pie-in-the-sky platitude, this is what we promise, what we profess. As Secular Franciscans, let us continue to call to mind the words of our Holy Rule and our seraphic Father Francis who called our earth Mother and Sister. Let us always show Sister Mother Earth the reverence and respect that Saint Francis showed. May the Lord continue to grant you peace.

2020-06-29T07:00:52-04:00June 29th, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter, JPIC|0 Comments

As We Look to Our Own Wellbeing, Think of Others

(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 Issue of the TAU-USA)

By Alexander Escalera, O.F.M. Cap.

As part of our Franciscan charism, we have the idea that not only do we need to look to our own wellbeing, but we must also consider the welfare of others who surround us, even if our own life is not going the way we want it. For this, we have the example of St. Francis and his encounter with the leper. Francis was going through a major conversion point in his life (as he would for most of his life). He was trying to find out what God wanted him to do with his life. Where was God leading him? This was not an easy task for one who had tried it and still continued to do so. Yet God answered Francis in giving him the grace to embrace the leper, to be God’s instrument in showing His mercy and love even though he still had so many questions of his own.

A modern day example: My brother, Deacon Stephen Gabriel Escalera, passed away on October 29, 2019, due to complications from a liver disease. He was a deacon at Christ the King Parish in Pueblo, Colorado, and leaves behind a wife and two children. Steve was 53, his daughter is a senior in high school, and his son is in junior high. My brother suffered greatly in his more than three-month stay in the ICU at the University of Denver Hospital. When I visited him in August 2019, he was writhing in pain on his bed, he had a tracheotomy, and his face was contorting from all his suffering.

“God is not fair,” “God works in mysterious ways,” and “Why do bad things happen to good people?” are almost clichéd phrases given how much use they get. Many will see my brother Steve’s suffering for such a long time before his final passing, dying so young and leaving behind such young children as tragic. Yet in the Introduction to his book, “God Is Not Fair And Other Reasons For Gratitude,” Daniel Horan, OFM, states that the simple premise is that God’s way is not our way; God’s lack of fairness by human standards should challenge and show us how inappropriate, inhumane, and unchristian we actually are. We would project how we see our own world view, put that on other people, and even our own religion, as if to say these things are not our way but God’s way.

In the story of my brother, several days before he passed away, our parents were with him. At some point, a cleaning lady came in to tidy up Steve’s room. She told mom and dad how much she admired Steve because he was a fighter, fighting his illness till the end. She was a bit sad, however. Her own daughter had just been taken to the hospital for trouble breathing. Upon examination, it was discovered she had a heart defect. The doctor examined further and found out she had diabetes. And upon even further examination, it was discovered she had a lump on her leg, and the doctor couldn’t figure out what it was. She was going to go visit her daughter after her shift ended. She turned to leave after she cleaned up, and Steve, who could not speak due to the tracheotomy, motioned to get her attention. He then pointed to himself, clasped his hands like praying, then pointed at her. Translation, “I’m going to pray for you.” Even as he lay there dying, my brother, God gave him the grace to think of others in their need. Surely this was not where Steve had intended his life to go, but he was always open to God’s will.

As I write this letter, the coronavirus is spreading throughout the world. I don’t know if, by the time you read this, it will be under control or not. But in this time of uncertainty, be safe and healthy, and may God give you His grace to think of and help the other.

2020-06-29T07:02:04-04:00June 24th, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter|0 Comments
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