Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day 2012: Reflection

(Is 9:1-6; Titus 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14)

There is something fascinating about the hands of an infant—especially when they reach up and grasp the outstretched fingers of a doting adult. Although the child will not be able to speak for months, through their hands, they are able to express one of our most basic needs; the need to belong, to touch and be touched. Most of us find it easy to respond to this need and to do so eagerly. Caressing a baby in our arms seems to soften even the most hard-hearted among us.

Why is it that we are so ready to love and be loved by an infant? Perhaps it is because of their absolute innocence. Maybe it is because we love that which is fresh and new. It is probably both of these—and more. But I think it is also a matter of being drawn into a love that demands very little from us. It’s easy to love an infant—to hold and lavish attention on someone without any commitment. It makes us feel good and there are no strings attached (except, of course, if you are the parents).

And so, we delight in the feast of Christmas. We gaze lovingly at the infant Jesus and wish that we could just pick him up and hold him and love him.

My brother and sisters, sometime during the weeks of the Christmas season, go to the crib scene in church or in your home. Reflect on the mystery of God’s loving patience and then look at those outstretched hands that seem to demand so little from us. They are the same hands which, as they grow older and before they are folded in death, will demand a great deal from us. They are the same hands that commanded the sea to be calm as he and his disciples were being tossed about on the stormy sea. They are the hands which, when laid upon the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, or the withered limbs of women and men broken and in need, brought sight, hearing, and wholeness. They are the hands that took bread, blessed it, broke it, and said, “Take and eat; for this is my body.” They are the hands which, when fastened to a cross, embraced every woman, man, and child whoever lived and whoever would live, in one supreme and selfless act of blessing and redemption.

My brothers and sisters, by all means, take the hand of the infant Savior into your hands. But as his hand grows larger and his grip grows stronger and the wood of the crib becomes the wood of the cross, do not pull back. Rather, tighten your grip and savor the unimaginable peace and joy that comes with total commitment—not just a warm and sentimental Christmas moment—but total commitment to the eternal Son of God.

– Fr. Anthony Criscitelli, T.O.R.

(Originally printed in According to Your Word - Reflections for the Advent & Christmas Seasons; See http://franciscanfriarstor.blogspot.com/2011/11/according-to-your-word-reflections-for.html)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2012: Reflection

(Image of the Advent wreath is from ImageVine/courtesy of www.imagevine.com. All rights reserved.)

Cycle C
(Mic 5: 1-4;  Heb 10: 5-10; Lk 1: 39-45)

In light of today’s Gospel from Luke spend some time praying with the following texts from Saint Francis’ Earlier Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance and the powerful words of Doug Hitt’s poem.

 Earlier Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance
“We are spouses
when the faithful soul
is joined by the Holy Spirit
to our Lord Jesus Christ. 

We are brothers to Him
when we do the will
of the Father who is in heaven.

We are mothers
when we carry Him
in our heart and body
through a divine love
and a pure
and sincere conscience
and give birth to Him
through a holy activity
which must shine
as an example
before others.”

 – Saint Francis of Assisi


this God whose incarnation
is never done
the Spirit
blowing cold
over ice
finding no yielding flesh
to put on
and share

lonely God
as creation and destruction
run strides apart
and sons and daughters plod
rather than dance
as life bearers

wrap yourself in
perpetual Christ
release your ache
in us

– Doug Hitt
(© copyright All Rights Reserved Hitt, Doug)

(Originally printed in According to Your Word - Reflections for the Advent & Christmas Seasons; See http://franciscanfriarstor.blogspot.com/2011/11/according-to-your-word-reflections-for.html)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Third Sunday of Advent 2012: Reflection

(Image of the Advent wreath is from ImageVine/courtesy of www.imagevine.com. All rights reserved.)
Cycle C
(Zeph 3: 14-18;  Phil 4: 4-7;  Lk 3: 10-18)
Francis of Assisi knew and understood the perfect joy that today’s scriptures invite us to experience.  To his beloved brother Leo, Francis related that perfect joy is not an emotion that is roused as a result of outside circumstances.  Even if all the great theologians joined the Franciscan Order, or all non-Christians converted to Christianity, or by God’s grace we were able to cure all diseases, this would not be perfect joy, Francis says.  Certainly, such happy events would be cause for rejoicing and great delight.  Everyone experiences joy in times of grace, blessedness and success. To Brother Leo’s incredulous question, “Then what is true joy?” Francis reveals to Leo what the scriptures reveal to us.  The true manifestation of perfect joy is found when, in the midst of misunderstanding, rejection and failure, a person is able to maintain patience, equanimity and peace in their spirit.
How can this be? Ah! that is the crux of the issue and the question that resounds throughout this holy season.  The answer rests upon knowing and experiencing the nearness of God.  “The Lord, your God, is in your midst”, the prophet Zephaniah shouts out, not once, but twice, in today’s pericope.  God’s promise to us is not to remove all further misfortune, discouragement or failure.  Rather, God promises to remove our fear.  When crippling fear is cast out, we know the shelter found in God’s love.  In that Love all things are possible and with that Love our joy is perfected and complete.
– Bro. David Liedl, T.O.R.
(Originally printed in According to Your Word - Reflections for the Advent & Christmas Seasons; See http://franciscanfriarstor.blogspot.com/2011/11/according-to-your-word-reflections-for.html)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Second Sunday of Advent 2012: Reflection

(Image of the Advent wreath is from ImageVine/courtesy of www.imagevine.com. All rights reserved.)

Cycle C
(Bar 5: 1-9;  Phil 1: 4-6, 8-11; Lk 3: 1 –6)

When you think about it, there is very little real history recorded in the gospels.  The scriptures are meant primarily to be inspirational rather than historical in content.  In this brief gospel passage we are given an historical framework for the mission of John the Baptizer, the one who is pointing to and prepares the way for the Messiah, Jesus.  Even before John, the prophets like Baruch were preparing the chosen people for the coming of the long expected one.

Paul refers to it as “the day of Christ” (Phil.1:6).  Even after the historical coming of Jesus Christ, we still are in an anticipation mode in our world.  Everyday in this season, we prepare ourselves for his coming, no longer in an earthly, historical way, but in a mystical/spiritual way into our lives.  Yet, it remains a two-way street.  Jesus is always there ready to come into our lives, but we have to do our part.  We have to invite him into our lives, our hearts.

How will you do this in the next few weeks?  How will you open wide the door of yourself to let him come in?  How will you make room for him in your daily business?  Remember, he is at your door wanting to come in.  Are you hearing his gentle knock?  He wants to be invited in.

+ Fr. Emile Gentile, T.O.R. (1936-2011)

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

(Originally printed in According to Your Word - Reflections for the Advent & Christmas Seasons;

Sunday, December 2, 2012

First Sunday of Advent 2012: Reflection

(Image of the Advent wreath is from ImageVine/courtesy of www.imagevine.com. All rights reserved.)

Cycle C
(Jer 33: 14-16; I Th 3: 12– 4:2; Lk 21: 25-28, 34-36)

Advent expresses in symbol and ritual three phases in our Christian journey of faith: Christ has come, Christ will come again, and Christ is present now! We reflect upon the first; we look to the second; we live the third daily. All three shape who we are as individuals. With these scripture texts, Advent begins with warnings about taking stock of our lives so that we may be “blameless in holiness.” Those who are faithful will be able to face any danger and welcome Christ’s coming. There are three poems that come to mind as I reflect upon these scripture readings (see Monday, Week 1, Friday, Week 2, and January 1.) For me, these poems imagine the different ways we cope or respond to that moment.

In this winter season, the earth seems to be dying. Advent begins at this time and the poems and readings provide a way for us to reflect communally on the Word of God that speaks to us of the end times. In what ways have I prepared for the end of my world when I am called? What are some of the ways I can prepare to meet the Lord at crib or cross with a good conscience? With the disasters our nation has experienced since to change our ways of looking at reality. As TOR Franciscans, Advent is our season with its call for conversion, a fresh turning to God. Let us not be intoxicated by society’s commercial attractions. Rather, read and reflect upon these poems with your heart's eye so you can see Christ however He comes---whether through friend or stranger each day. How have you prepared for the Lord’s coming?

– Bro. Didacus Wilson, T.O.R.

(Originally printed in According to Your Word - Reflections for the Advent & Christmas Seasons;

Saturday, June 30, 2012

"Abstraction" - Franciscan Poetry & Prose


Love is not a theory.
Love must be felt.
Proved in extremities of promise,
begotten, beyond understanding.

Love is not occasional.
Love must be eternal.
Fleshed in an innocent cry,
suddenly strong to conquer.

Love is not weak.
Love must be bold.
Gone forth in revealing stride,
filling faith with truth.

Love is not scared.
Love must be trust.
Stretched from side to side,
unbroken under obedience.

Love is not dead.
Love must arise.
Submerged in tearful wonders,
recreated by love.

– Fr. David Kaczmarek, T.O.R.

(© copyright All Rights Reserved Kaczmarek, David.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist - Scripture Reflection

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
(Is 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Lk 1:57-66, 80)

Earlier this month, the bishops of the United States met for their annual June assembly in Atlanta. One of the topics they spent a lot of time discussing was religious liberty and the many ways that Catholics and other people of faith are being challenged these days on any number of fronts. John Gavin, the president of my alma mater, the Catholic University of America, was one of the featured speakers. In addressing the bishops on the topic of religious liberty, Gavin called to mind St. Thomas More, whose memorial we celebrated on Friday. More, as you may remember, was a friend and confidante of Henry VIII and a high ranking official in his court. When Henry, in a desperate attempt to have his first marriage annulled, mandated that all loyal subjects had to sign an oath of loyalty and adopt a new faith, Thomas More could not reconcile his conscience with the demand of the king and found himself on the chopping block. As he said before he was beheaded, “I die as the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Gavin used the example to remind the bishops in a vivid way that that the question of religious liberty is not a dead one—a remnant of a past age—but something that people of faith continue to struggle with today. He observed that our society won’t care about religious freedom if it does not care about God, and suggested that it where reform is needed first. “The best way to protect religious freedom,” he advised, “might be to remind people that they should love God.” In some ways it is an indictment of us and our society—that the struggle for religious freedom is really a symptom of a deeper and more pervasive problem—a lack of love for God and what we say we believe. This is the very thing that John the Baptist confronted when he emerged from the desert to prepare the way of the Lord.

When John appeared preaching and baptizing at the Jordan, he finds a people who, on the one hand, are yearning to be redeemed but, on the other hand, are content with their lives and do not want to change. They say they want a better future—to know in their lives and in their hearts the Reign of God—but they are unwilling to do what is necessary to bring about that reign in their lives or in the life of the world. John knows he has an enormous task before him in terms of motivating these people and helping them dig themselves out of the rut they are in.

John goes about his task by placing himself in their shoes. By his example, as much as by his preaching, he calls them to repent—to believe—to reform their lives. He tells them there is indeed a better future for them and that God wants them to bring about the conditions that will help create that future. There is no time or room for complacency or indifference; they must reprioritize their lives and be about the works of mercy and justice and peace. It was to call people to this that John was born and the hand of the Lord was, indeed, upon him.

The greatest enemy to Christian faith and that values we hold is not doubt, or even persecution. The greatest enemy to faith is a loss of commitment; to be lukewarm about our faith and give it mere lip service. And, if we’re honest, we—individually and as a community—have to admit our guilt. Do we really act on what we say we believe...does our faith in Jesus Christ and his gospel make a difference in how we spend our lives...our money...our resources? For every one of us who is here this afternoon/morning, how many others should be here, but are not? For every one who takes the risk of speaking out on behalf of the poor, the unborn, and all those groups who are marginalized, there are many more of us who are content to continue to live in an isolated world, shielded from the unpleasantness that is reality for so many. Yet, in spite of all our indifference and hesitance, God continues to call us. More than ever, we need the spirit of people like John the Baptist and Thomas More...we need to accept the message of change and repentance...we need to be committed to the works of justice and charity...to see ourselves not as Republicans or Democrats or conservatives or liberals, but as citizens of heaven and children of God...God’s servants first. And once we experience that kind of renewal in our own lives...our own hearts...our own communities then...maybe...we will see it in our nation. And surely, the hand of God will have been with us.

– Fr. Anthony M. Criscitelli, T.O.R.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"(W)hole" - Franciscan Poetry & Prose


(for S.G. and J.R. – dead from Crohn's disease)

I knew Stan and Jack but
But their lives were not
Filled in. They were half dug.
It's not right.
We are made to dig
And then fill in the hole
Complete to finish the chore.
That's how we come to know
Who we are. It's about emptying
And filling. Kenosi. Pleroma.
Via Negativa. And Via Positiva

And I'm not sure but they both
Got screwed when it came to emptying
Holes deeper than any body ever needed.
Bodies filled with scars, holes and tattoos
Of grief. Hard hues and dues. Pain's paint chips.

I miss them. And you know what scares me?
I'm still digging too and feeling closer to them both.
There's this hole deeper than I'll need.
And I'm tired of dirt in my shoes and neath my nails.

You know, it's hard to see God
From the ignorant end of a slit trench
Or a grave.

Yea, perhaps no saints in foxholes
But, then again, don't look for atheists
In sickbeds either

Father, forgive us, for our words are black and blue.
Father, forgive me, for a life in search of you.

– Bro. Didacus R. Wilson, T.O.R.

(© copyright All Rights Reserved Wilson, Richard S.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Religious Freedom - A Message from the U.S. Bishops

This Sunday, the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, many U.S. Dioceses are presenting a message from their local Bishops concerning religious freedom and the Fortnight for Freedom. Below is the video from the Diocese of Orlando.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Friars Celebrate the 4th Annual Blessing of the Community Gardens

(Bro. John Kerr, T.O.R. and Fr. Eugene Kubina, T.O.R.; from left to right.)

Fr. Eugene Kubina, T.O.R. blessed the Monastery Gardens on June 2nd. The friars and gardeners prayed together before the annual blessing and Br. John then shared some "holy dirt" he had brought back from the shrine in Chimayo, New Mexico. The gardeners added some to their plots, many of which were growing much ahead of last year's crops when rain slowed the planting. A potluck luncheon followed in the Care for Creation Center.

This year's gardeners include inmates from the local prison, who are growing three plots of vegetables for distribution to the local food pantry, soup kitchen and Dorothy Day Center and three plots for their own use at the Blair County Prison.

Plans are being made for a large yard sale and then the garden's annual Bounty Festival on July 28th.

The Care for Creation Project was started by the Franciscan Friars, T.O.R., Province of the Immaculate Conception in 2009 as a concrete response to the signs of the times concerning the environmental crisis. The project aims to spread the vision of St. Francis of Assisi who regarded all creatures as sister and brother by sharing our land and spiritual heritage with the larger community. To this end, the Friars have opened the beautiful property of St. Bernardine's Monastery to community gardening and “care for creation” programming that focuses on sustainability and cultivating a spirituality inclusive of creation. The Friars are looking forward to the many opportunities for building community, “going green”, and having fun!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Presence" - Franciscan Poetry & Prose


You cannot see a breeze;
You can feel it slice your sun-reddened face,
And rise and fall, the siren of your ears,
And whirl the leaves,
And part the grass like Moses.
You cannot name a breeze;
It will not be owned or ever blocked,
Or kept from some dark corner,
Or tempted or repulsed,
Like a quantity of something made.

When I knew spirit, it was a breeze;
It did not cool or silence the din in my head;
It found me fearsome in my room
Where I was helpless and alone with my friends,
Casting shame into a parting flame.
I know the breeze now from the wind;
We rise and fall together, nameless and unseen,
But ever felt when absence haunts the world
And eyes start at the memory of love.
Our fire does not consume.

– Fr. David Kaczmarek, T.O.R.

(© copyright All Rights Reserved Kaczmarek, David.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ Reflection

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
(Ex 24:3-8; Heb 9:11-15; Mk 14:12-16, 22-26)

Today the church celebrates “Corpus Christi” the Body of Christ, the institution of the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

When Our Lord was to leave the world He gave not only His blessing, His gifts but a way of remaining with us. He did this through the Eucharist. This is a great sacrament and we might consider it under various aspects: as Sacramental, Communion, or the term used by the Church: the Real Presence. It is the Heart of the Mystery of the Eucharist. We do not have in the Eucharist a “symbolic presence,” or a mere memorial but the Presence of Christ. The sanctuary lamp burns continuously to remind us that this is God’s House and that Jesus Christ - the Lord - is here, present among us therefore with the same concern, compassion, love and Power described in the today’s gospel about the feeding of the multitude.

Christ is present to us here - and if we want to become like Him then we must be present to Him. The Saints have understood this and so the Eucharist was the center of their spiritual life:

St. Elizabeth Seton: Two things bought her into the Catholic Church - the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Mother.

St. Thomas Aquinas: When he had a great problem to solve, he would leave his books behind and go to the chapel. He said he learned more on his knees before the Blessed Sacrament in five minutes than hours in the library.

St. Vincent de Paul: He opened letters in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament asking the Eucharist Lord for solution to people’s problems.

Bl. Mother Theresa: Morning Mass gives us the courage to go among the poorest. Her great delight was to have a Holy Hour with Benediction at the end of a day working with the dying, with lepers, Refreshed and reminded her and the sisters that they belonged to God and God belonged to them.

One could go on and on with examples but as Mons. Ronald Knox wrote: “For the most part Our Lord’s closest friends have not been learned people who know how to argue religion but simple people who know how to live it!

Their lives teach us the need for respect and devotion to Christ present in the Eucharist --- and the transforming power of the Eucharist consciously and worthily received!

– Fr. Seraphin Conley, T.O.R.

Monday, June 4, 2012

"Time On Its Side" - Franciscan Poetry & Prose

(Sculpture by Kenneth Treister at the Miami Holocaust Memorial.)

Time On Its Side

Hunger crawls in a crooked line,
Hunger stalks from here, to there, to nowhere.
Hunger speaks in small mouths of rice.
Hunger counts backwards like a patient anesthetized.

Hunger growls regardless of its leash.
Hunger is a straw-empty cage of lies.
The lens of its stare ready to ignite,
Hunger sprawls patiently in the sun.

Hunger knows its whims, is terminal.
Hunger never asks, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
Hunger is sloppy, skin-taut and navel protruded
like a series of ellipses.

Hunger breaks no bones.
Hunger, nothing less than a corpse's masque,
is visible, lonely,
Consecrated with flies that hover like dirt angels

Praying over their victims.
And here no lilies smolder at the edges,
Putting on airs---
Hunger waits with time on its side.

– by Bro. Didacus R. Wilson, T.O.R.

(© copyright All Rights Reserved Wilson, Richard S.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Brother John's reflections from his recent sabbatical

(Bro. John at Bandelier National Park)

May God give you peace.

I recently completed the 100-day sabbatical program at Sangre de Cristo Center in New Mexico. It was a wonderful, growth-filled experience for which I am very grateful to the province. Sadly, our group, the 100th session, was the last as it seems as the declining number of religious make it difficult for the program to continue.

Twenty men and women from nine countries and a variety of communities, including six Franciscans, participated. Each of us chose one of the four spiritual directors on staff to meet with every week. The first half of the program focused on the inner journey and consisted of classes on prayer, journaling, transitions, sexuality and the enneagram. The second half moved us into the outer journey of discipleship, religious life, care for creation and ministry. In between was an eight-day silent retreat with extended homilies at Mass by a Passionist priest from the Arlington Diocese.

I really appreciated the balance of opportunities to delve deeper into the spiritual, emotional and physical aspects of life. We were given solid blocks of time for prayer, including “desert days” of quiet every Thursday. We shared input from classes and reflections on our journey in small groups and lived community through planning prayer and Eucharist, doing community service around the house and occasionally cooking. There was also time to hike in the beautiful mountains and go into nearby Santa Fe with its history and art. Arts and crafts, group exercise and massage were also available.

In the 100 days I had time to look at my life and assess many of my ways of thinking and behaving, my giftedness and limitedness. That was both affirming and challenging. I realized how important a balanced life and being connected to creation is for me. Above all, I know a little deeper in my heart how much God loves me.

– Bro. John Kerr, T.O.R.

Monday, May 28, 2012

"Weapons of Mass Creation" - Franciscan Poetry & Prose

Weapons of Mass Creation - A Sonnet (2003)

Colors mean nothing to those who cannot see
or feel because their hearts have lost the touch.
In lack we fail to find divinity,
we lie to say we cannot love much.

The Christ is in the billions of the world
in same degree and will not be denied;
the Christ of innocence has often cried,
and reigned as waves of warring were unfurled.

The thorns will prick with every orphan's cry,
the nails will pierce as nameless bombs destroy.
Their vic'try in control for some means joy,
if only Christ were not in those that die.

Our peace is in the billions of the earth
when Christ is seen and touched in ev'ry birth.

– by Fr. David Kaczmarek, T.O.R.

(© copyright All Rights Reserved Kaczmarek, David.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pentecost Sunday Reflection

Pentecost Sunday
(Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Gal 5:16-25; Jn 20:19-23 or Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15)

According to the old cliché, Timing is everything. On November 21, 1783, Benjamin Franklin, the American Ambassador to France was at the Bois de Boulogne near the palace of King Louis to witness the second experiment in human flight. Someone had already managed to ascend a few feet in a hot air balloon, but on this day, two soldiers were going to try not just ascending but actually flying with the goal of making it from one side of the Seine river to the other. There was some trouble at first, but they managed to climb nearly five hundred feet into the air, make the crossing and land safely on the other side. And they didn’t have to pay a fee to check their bags.

After this success a rather smug Parisian who knew Franklin remarked to him: “What possible use could this have?” Franklin replied: “What possible use could a newborn baby have?” Timing is everything and Franklin knew that what he witnessed that day would someday have an enormous impact on the way people lived.

In today’s readings we heard two different accounts of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon the Church, each with its own unique sense of timing. Probably, the more familiar account comes to us from the Acts of the Apostles, the second volume of Luke’s Gospel and the action takes place a considerable amount of time after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. But in John’s Gospel Jesus enters the locked room where the disciples are gathered in fear and he brings the Spirit with him.

These two accounts may differ a bit in the timing, but they absolutely agree on the result: The pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the Church unleashes a creative energy unknown by humanity since the beginning of Creation itself. The disciples are transformed from a trembling mass of humanity to men and women who become relentless in their preaching of the Gospel in every corner of the world. The Gospel itself becomes transformed from the memories of a few to a universal proclamation of truth, known in every human language and culture.

And the fledgling Christian community becomes transformed, finally, into the Body of Christ, the Church. As amazing as the power of the Spirit of Jesus is to the disciples and apostles, it is even more amazing to the leaders of Jerusalem and not in a good way. Much like the unnamed Parisian in the story, they were convinced that these Christians, few in number, would come to nothing—at least that was the plan in getting Jesus killed.

But remember Franklin’s rhetorical question: What possible use could a newborn baby have? What is the use of new life after all? Perhaps not much until we understand that all life comes from God. And that is what the Church is: new life; new life in Christ, the Son of God, through the Spirit. Timing is everything and at the moment the disciples receive the Holy Spirit of Jesus, they receive exactly what they need: not a placeholder for Jesus while they waited for him to return, but the Spirit of Jesus himself, to teach them, the guide them, to unify them, to work with them to open the Kingdom of God to every person in every place.

Paul tells us in the second reading: To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit, even though we are all parts of the one Body of Christ. Paul loves to talk about the Spirit because the Spirit is the ultimate understanding of what freedom really means, the kind of freedom that can only be experienced in the love of God. Ultimately, this is what the gifts of the Spirit, unique to each person, are all about: freedom. With faith in Christ, the Son of God, comes new life through the Spirit and in this new life comes the potential for what the early Church called metanoia or change: turning to Jesus.

When we hear the Pentecost account in Acts, it all sounds so automatic, doesn’t it? The Spirit descends and they all run out into the street to proclaim the gospel. This is why we need John’s account too, to remind us that the journey to becoming witnesses to Christ is not all neat and pretty; in between there is a lot of fear and trembling behind locked doors. And even though the Son of God, Jesus, and the Spirit throw open those doors, you can be assured that not everyone ran into the street with joy in their hearts. A few will always remain behind, choosing to remain in their own false sense of security, rather than embracing the freedom of God that comes in the Spirit.

The only way to make that choice, to allow the Spirit to lead us instead of fear, is through faith. Because faith alone allows us to see past the moment and to know that what we have witnessed has potential. That potential is in you and me and every believer through the Spirit, waiting for each of us to say, ‘yes’.

Brothers and Sisters, timing is everything and the time for the Spirit of Jesus, the Son of God, is now. Goodbye to fear and trembling. Goodbye to disillusionment and hopelessness. Welcome the newborn life in every believing heart that will never die again. Alleluia!

– Fr. David Kaczmarek, T.O.R.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Field Work" - Franciscan Poetry & Prose

(Corn Field at St. Bernardine Monastery; Hollidaysburg, PA)

Field Work
(for Ambrose)

Let me resume
my words announcing a psalter
of tool, earth,
kingdom of the earthworm,
stake and furrow ...
where there is ground
that never goes fallow.

Let these hands
wake to the ways
dank, soft, leaf-rot,
the command of my fingers
darkening, waiting to tap
the trek of root, runner and vine.

In the pale half-light
where the air is alive
with ochre, russet,
and the assertion of stones,
let my body remember the pull
of this fair patch of soil,
the blister of the sun
touch by touch and how
my labor rests in tne hickory
handle of a hole as it
harnesses a deeper power.

When day's done
let sleep's secrets
nestle like seeds
in my cranial fields:
dreaming of laced ferns, molten
mosses, rusted dogwood and laurel.

Then let me rise
with pollen in the corner
of my eyes and the sun
blessing my branches forever.

– by Bro. Didacus R. Wilson, T.O.R.

(© copyright All Rights Reserved Wilson, Richard S.)

(Bro. Matthew, T.O.R. working in the field.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Easter Reflection: The Ascension of the Lord

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
(Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23 or Eph 4:1-13; Mk 16:15-20)

It’s tempting for us to view the event of the ascension as the conclusion of Christ’s earthly ministry, but—as the author T.S. Eliot reminds us—what seems an ending is also a beginning. And that is what we really celebrate today.

As we just heard in St. Matthew’s gospel, before he ascended to his Father, Jesus instructed his disciples: “Go...make disciples of all the nations.” He urged them to baptize, to preach the Good News, to do the work he called them to do. In a sense he is telling them, “The world is waiting for you, so...GO!”

This sending of the disciples is also confirmed by the reading from the Acts of the Apostles. After they watch Jesus disappear into the clouds, two men appear and ask, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking into the sky?” In other words, what are you waiting for? ... GO!

There is a sense of urgency about the command of Jesus and the admonition of the heavenly messengers. The disciples were not to waste time staring up at the sky, wondering where Jesus was going and when he would return. Nor were they to look back nostalgically on the good old days when Jesus was with them, working miracles, healing the sick, and calming the storms. There was a world waiting to be converted and, after all, Jesus’ last word to them was go. Go and transform the world. Go and pick up those who have fallen. Go and heal those who are hurting. Go and love those who have been forgotten or neglected. And we know from the Acts of the Apostles, the Letters of Paul and other disciples, and the history of the early Church, they went and great numbers came to believe in Jesus Christ as a result of their work and witness. Through the centuries, other men and women have also heard that call and brought people to faith in Jesus Christ.

What about us? After Mass, we will return to our homes, our families, our routines. We have appointments to keep, errands to run, and all the business that makes up our lives. Where in all of that does that command of Jesus fit? How and where do we heed Jesus’ simple command to go and proclaim the gospel? How do we participate in the great commission given to the apostles and all believers? So much of the world still needs to hear and know the Good News; that they are loved, that they have not been forgotten by God, that they, too, have a place at the Table. And, if we who gather here day after day and week after week do not tell them, who will? It is not enough for us to gather here, nurture ourselves, and return to our homes. We need to hear the simple command of Jesus: Go! Take what you have received and share it with others. We need to be reminded as were the disciples—don’t linger too long. Don’t waste time dwelling on the past. Look instead at what lies before you. Get ready and GO! The kingdom of God still needs to be built. The Ascension was just the beginning; the rest is up to us!

– Fr. Anthony M. Criscitelli, T.O.R.

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Alzheimers Magnificat" - Franciscan Poetry & Prose

Alzheimers Magnificat (2004)

My soul proclaims God's glory
                                                     Do you know my story?
My spirit exults the Lord
                                                     Can you hear my word?
Who favored a lowly servant
                                                      I'm lowly too, and bent.
                                                 ... and holy is the name of God.

All people will call me blest.
                                                    Where will I find rest?
God has done good for me;
                                                     I can only see darkly ...
God's mercy lasts forever.
                                                    Can you turn my page?
                                                ... and holy is the name of God.

God has shown a strong arm
                                                    Protect me from harm.
and has scattered the conceited;
                                                    Who has pride anymore?
God has pulled rulers from thrones
                                                    Why am I Alone?
and has lifted up the lowly.
                                                    I'm lowly too, and bent.
                                                ... and holy is the name of God.

God has filled the hungry,
                                                 Will you feed me?
but given the rich nothing.
                                                 Am I anything?
God has aided a servant,
                                                 What's my name?
in remembrance of God's mercy.
                                                 Do you remember me?
                                             ... and holy is the name of God.

– by Fr. David Kaczmarek, T.O.R.

(© copyright All Rights Reserved Kaczmarek, David.)

The Friars Celebrate the Renewal of Vows of a Brother

“…I Jeffrey R. Wilson, in the presence of the assembled
friars and into your hands, Father Patrick,
vow to live in obedience, in poverty, and in chastity
according to the Rule and Life
of the Brothers and Sisters of the
Third Order Regular of Saint Francis…”

The friars of the Florida region, along with our Provincial Minister, Fr. J. Patrick Quinn, T.O.R., gathered to witness Brother Jeffrey R. Wilson renew his vows as a Franciscan Friar on May 14, 2012 (Feast of St. Matthias) at San Pedro Retreat Center in Winter Park, FL. The ceremony took place during the celebration of Evening Prayer. Afterwards, the celebration continued at San Pedro Friary with a festive meal and socializing.

Brother Jeffrey first professed simple vows on May 30, 2009. He is studying for ordination to the priesthood and is beginning his third year of theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Holy Ground" - Franciscan Poetry & Prose

Holy Ground

Grackles with eyes of halfed lopes
jabber along the loose coils of barbed wire.
Weeds grow to dizzy angles here
while I call out the friar's names:
Osbelt, Smyth, Hatch, McNammera.
Something calls from the scrub pines
that casts scented shadows from sun-stung
needles. The pine cones mime balmed secrets
that gather meaning from the wind.

At the priory across the road,
shades are pulled to the noon sun
and the refectory is filled with
the clutter sounds of spoons against bowls.
I stand here among these headstones
where the air is as still as a young possum's breath
and the field rocks doze in the drainage culvert,
their backs bleached and dry.
it is late.
The slow sanctus of the Angelus bell
Encircle our small lives.

Come Sit. Listen.
McNammera, Hatch, Smyth, Osbelt.

– by Bro. Didacus R. Wilson, T.O.R.

(© copyright All Rights Reserved Wilson, Richard S.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Easter Reflection: Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sixth Sunday of Easter
(Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 Jn 4:7-10; Jn 15:9-17)

Have you ever had the experience of a family member or friend move away. How did you feel? Did you give them a gift or receive a gift or memento from them to help you remember them?

In today’s gospel something like that is happening. Jesus has been with his disciples for a long time. They have shared many special and exciting times together and now he is preparing them for the fact that he is going to be leaving them. Naturally, they are saddened to hear this. They have come to love Jesus very much and he loves them. They have also come to depend on Jesus to pull them out of trouble and to help them when they had any kind of need. Not only are they sad; they are also afraid—afraid that they will be alone and they will have to face the future without their friend.

Jesus knows this, but he also knows that he must be faithful to what his Father has asked him to do. So, he gives them something very special to remind them that they are never alone—that he is always with them. He gives them the gift of Himself in Holy Communion. He shares this one last meal with them and before they eat the bread he says, “This is my Body.” Then, when he shares the cup of wine with them he says, “This is my Blood. Whenever you do this my memory, I will come to you. I will fill you up with my love and you will know that I am with you.” Jesus becomes food for them and for us so that we can become one with Him and be filled with his life, his strength, and his love.

Today we also hear Jesus tell his friends—and us—that we must love one another as he loves us. Sometimes that’s hard to do. But if we are filled with the life and the love and the strength of Jesus we can do that because, as Jesus lives in us, he also acts in us and loves in us. So Holy Communion is so special because it is the wonderful gift that Jesus gives us to help us remember that we are not alone—that He is always with us—that He desires to become a part of us. That’s how much He loves us; that’s how much He wants us to love one another.

– Fr. Anthony M. Criscitelli, T.O.R.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Easter Reflection: Fifth Sunday of Easter

Fifth Sunday of Easter
(Acts 9:26-31; 1 Jn 3:18-24; Jn 15:1-8)

In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke, speaking about the Church throughout the then-known world, makes the enviable comment, “The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.” How nice that must have been—for the people, for the leaders of the local communities, and for the apostles like Paul and Barnabas who had left all things in order to proclaim the Reign of God. When we look around at the state of the Church today—be it our parish church, the Local Church, or the Universal Church, we do not see this enviable peace. Marriage amendments and mergers, the role of the laity and of women in particular, clergy abuse and cover-ups...all these things and more give us pause and tell us that it’s no small wonder that people remain a part of such a flawed body. And so one of the things the Scriptures challenge us to ask ourselves—individually and as a community of faith—is how can we return to—how can we know—the early Church’s deep sense of peace?

In truth, we cannot, because in many respects it never existed! One needs only to read the letters of Paul to see that all was not well with many of the local communities or the Church as a whole. Paul publicly denounced Peter as a hypocrite in Antioch; he cursed anyone who disagreed with him on the essence of the Gospel; he constantly berated the Corinthians for the ways in which they conducted their lives; and he reminded those who criticized him for his past as a persecutor or the Church that he was in no way inferior to the apostles who had the privilege of being called by Jesus. When we consider that, we think, “That’s more like it! That sounds more like the Church I know!”

In telling us that the Church was at peace, Luke is not really lying to us. Instead, he is giving us the ideal Church, rather than the messy one that existed, reminding us—maybe even challenging us—to see that it is still possible to know deep peace even while enduring persecution from the outside and challenges from within...that even though we don’t all agree with one another or have the same understanding of the Church...we can still be one body in Christ. It is interesting that this very passage in Acts describes Paul’s meeting with the pillars of the Church in Jerusalem—men who were responsible for leading both the local communities as well as the larger Church. Having known him as a persecutor of the Church, they are not quite convinced of his sincerity. Barnabas, a respected man known to them, assures them that Paul is truly one of them and, as result of his testimony on Paul’s behalf, Paul is able to move about freely and he is ultimately accepted by them.

That kind of intimacy and trust must be rooted in Christ. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. He reminds us that without him, we wither and die, but with him and through him, we flourish and produce great fruit.

If we want the Church to be at peace—locally and on the larger scale—we should gracefully and graciously accept that the Church includes leaders and members who run the gamut in terms of their theology, how they understand Scripture, and the ways in which they are inspired by the Holy Spirit. We need people in the pews as well as pastors and bishops who can be stretched and challenged. And we need wise and respected people like Barnabas who know how to bring them together. We need to know that the arms of God are wide and that within them all are embraced. Above all, we all need to know that we draw our life from the vine that is Christ.

The late Walter Burghardt, a renowned preacher and respected Jesuit theologian, made this observation on the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination:
In the course of a half century I have seen more Christian corruption than you have read of.
I have tasted it.
I have been reasonably corrupt myself.
And yet I love this church, this living, pulsing, sinning people of God with a crucifying passion.
For all the Christian hate, I experience here a community of love.
For all the institutional idiocy, I find here a tradition of reason.
For all the individual repression, I breathe here an air of freedom.
For all the fear of sex, I discover here the redemption of my body.
In an age so inhuman, I touch here tears of compassion.
In a world so grim and humorless, I share here rich joy and earthy laughter.
In the midst of death, I hear here an incomparable stress on life.For all the apparent absence of God, I sense here the real presence of Christ.
The Second Vatican Council taught us that we are a Church of churches and that our uniqueness and diversity—what makes us us, individually and as a parish community—helps us to understand better the life of the Spirit. Through it all, let us strive to be at peace.

– Fr. Anthony M. Criscitelli, T.O.R.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Easter Reflection: Fourth Sunday of Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter
(Acts 4:8-12; 1 Jn 3:1-2; Jn 10:11-18)

This Fourth Sunday of Easter is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because the gospel presents us with the image of Jesus as shepherd—one who knows his sheep and whose sheep know him and who spares nothing in order to protect and care for us. It’s a pleasant enough image, one that many people take great comfort in. However, some people find it an insulting –even demeaning –image; primarily because sheep are really very stupid animals and we bristle at the idea that we are in any way like them.

Think about it. Have you ever gone to a circus and seen an act involved sheep that have been trained to do tricks or amuse a crowd? Sheep have a very strong flocking instinct and seldom act independently. If they get separated from the flock, they don’t know how to survive and will likely end up as another animal’s dinner. They have no survival instinct, nor do they have any natural protection like claws or antlers or a touch hide they can use to protect themselves. They do have wool, but that only makes it easier for an enemy to grab them and pull them down. Their voices are not threatening and will not scare away any predators; quite the contrary, their bleat is kind of whiny and probably makes them more annoying than anything. And on top of all this, they can be willful, stupid and stubborn. And this is what we are compared to in the Scriptures?

But it’s not just the sheep that come across as less than sterling; shepherds are not the most polished or sought-after group of people, either! At the time of Jesus, they were looked upon as the lowest of the low. Although they were hard workers, they were thought of as bandits and thieves and they were believed to be so dishonest that their testimony was not accepted in courts of law. Being a shepherd is certainly not something you would want one of your children to aspire to!

And yet, this is what the Gospel uses as an image to speak of our relationship with Jesus and his with us. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? Given what we have observed about sheep, maybe we are not as different from them as we would imagine ourselves to be. Lord knows, we can be easily swayed by the opinion of the crowd and not very firm in our own convictions. We can get caught up in the rat race of our work lives and move from one thing to another without a whole lot of thought or reflection. We can subscribe to the economic philosophy of success at any cost and believe that the more things we have, the happier we will be. And we can be herded into believing that we create our own success, but we usually discover that no matter how much we have we always seem to want more and that whatever success we achieve is never enough, either for ourselves or others. Perhaps that’s why Jesus has chosen this imagery. Like sheep, we need to depend on the shepherd for our safety, for our sustenance, for our wellbeing. In using this image, Jesus is telling us that if we allow ourselves to depend more on him and less on ourselves, he will give us a life. If we silence so many of the conflicting voices we allow to distract us and listen to his voice he will lead us to a place of life and refreshment where we will know the abundance and peace God desires for us...all the beautiful things we hear in Psalm 23. By listening to his voice, by being grateful for the care he gives us, we can free ourselves from so many of the burdens we allow to weigh us down and we can begin to recognize the wonderful graces that are already a part of our lives.

Sure, there will still be disappointments, failures, sickness and death, but by giving all of those things over to God, by finding the ways that God has been good to us…by listening to God’s voice we also find the happiness and peace that God desires for us and that we cannot achieve on our own. “I came that you may have life,” Jesus says, “…and have it in abundance.” That’s the voice of our Shepherd and we would do well to follow it and come to know that life.

– Fr. Anthony M. Criscitelli, T.O.R.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Easter Reflection: Third Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter
(Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-5a; Lk 24:35-48)

The scriptures this weekend—particularly the first reading and the gospel—are all about recognition; recognizing the presence of Christ and who he really is. In the first reading, we find Peter and John in the temple in Jerusalem. By the power of Jesus’ name, they cured a man who had been crippled from birth and who had been begging money from people who passed by him. Naturally, his cure caused a big stir—especially among the temple officials—and Peter and John seized the moment to remind them that this man was cured not by them but by Jesus of Nazareth...the one they had put to death, calling out for him to be crucified.

The gospel verses we hear today come right after the disciples’ encounter with the Lord on the road to Emmaus. Today we find those same disciples back in Jerusalem, telling the others about their encounter with the risen Lord and, while they are speaking, the risen Lord comes among them. To prove himself real to them, he invites them to touch him and even eats some of their food. Once they are convinced that he it is he, he commissions them to do the work for which he called them—to preach to all the nations and tell them the Good News that he is risen and that they have reason to be hopeful.

When we hear these scriptures—the stories of how slow the disciples were to believe that Christ had indeed risen even as he stood before them, we sometimes shake our heads and wonder why. Yet, if we are honest, we know that they are not the only ones who doubt the presence of Christ in their midst. How often have we doubted? How often has Christ stood before us to assure us that he is with us ... how often have we received the very body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist ... and still wonder where God is when we are anxious or fearful. Maybe it’s because we would rather keep Christ at a safe distance, lest we feel compelled to change and be the better people he knows we can be. Maybe we fail to recognize Christ because so often he comes to us in the guise of the poor, the needy, the person or people we would rather not have to deal with.

I said at the beginning that the scriptures this weekend are about recognition...or the lack of it. And recognition is more than perception...seeing what is in front of us. Recognition is seeing with understanding ... not only seeing what is in front of us, but knowing and understanding who and what it is. It is something far deeper than merely seeing with our eyes. And this is part of the gift of the risen Christ to us—not only the assurance that he is risen and with us, but also—and more important—a share in that risen life so that we can rise above whatever it is that saddens us ... whatever it is that drags us down...whatever it is that prevents us from knowing the fullness of life God desires for us.

We see that so clearly and beautifully in the life of the disciples and the early Church. Having seen Jesus crucified and buried, they had been plunged into the depths of despair. They were a broken and frightened community; grieving people who felt that they lost everything meaningful for them, but each time the risen Lord appeared to them they grew confident in his presence among them and with them, they experienced a transformation that empowered them to unlock the doors and windows and go out into the world with confidence and joy to bring the Good News to any and all who would listen.

Although our presence here says that we believe in the risen Christ, we all have moments and times in our lives when, like the disciples, we feel like life has lost its meaning. We get mired down in sadness and grief and forget the times we have seen and experienced the presence of the risen Christ. It’s at those moments that we need to know and understand that the risen Christ is with us and that we have been and are loved by God more than we recognize. And the more we recognize—know and understand—this presence, the more our sadness is transformed into joy and we are empowered to be his witnesses to other.

– Fr. Anthony M. Criscitelli, T.O.R.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Reflection: Easter Sunday Morning

(Acts 10:34, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9)

If you listen closely to the gospel passage we just heard proclaimed, one thing becomes apparent—none of what they were seeing and experiencing on that morning of the first day of the week was making any sense. Not to Mary Magdalene or her companions, not to Peter nor John. The author of the gospel attributed this to the fact that none of them—neither his closest apostles nor his most devoted followers—understood the Scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. Yet, when the beloved disciple followed Peter inside the tomb and saw the clothes lying there, we are told that he believed. The gospel does not say what he believed; only that he believed. There is no further conversation between him and Peter that is recorded for us, only that they returned to their homes. The rest of the story—as Paul Harvey used to say—belongs to Mary Magdalene. She is the one who saw the angels...she is the one who saw the risen Lord. Peter and John saw nothing but a vacant tomb and some clothes piled up in a corner. Any way you look at it, that’s a mighty shaky beginning for a faith that has lasted nearly two thousand years and has billions of adherents throughout the world.

And yet, that is where we continue to focus our attention on this glorious Easter morning—on an empty tomb...on what did or did not happen there...and on how we might explain it to anyone who does not believe. Resurrection does not square with anything else we know about physical human life. No one saw it happen on that first Easter morning; no one has ever seen it happen since. Ironically, this most important event in the life of Jesus is the one and only event that was not witnessed by anyone; it was entirely between him and the Father. There were no witnesses whatsoever; they all arrived after the fact. Two of them saw a pile of clothes, one of them saw a vision of angels, and most them saw nothing because they were home in bed, hiding behind pulled up blankets and securely bolted doors.

In the end, none of that really matters and to focus on an empty tomb is to miss the point. The tomb was just an empty shell—a cocoon—and the living being that had been inside was no longer there. Maybe that’s why Peter and John did not stay very long. Clearly, Jesus was not there. He had outgrown his tomb and the stone walls could not contain the life, the energy, and the hope that were radiating from his new being and that needed to be shared. As we are sometimes wont to say, the risen Lord had people to see, things to do, and places to go. His business was among the living to whom he appeared over and over in John’s gospel. And every time he came to his friends they became stronger, wiser, kinder, more daring. Every time he came to them, they became more like him. That’s where our focus should be this morning; not on an empty tomb, but on the presence of a living and breathing God who showed himself to his frightened disciples and transformed their fear into the ability and desire to continue to live and proclaim the message he spoke to them while he was among them.

That is the Easter miracle, my brothers and sisters; not an empty tomb, but an encounter with the living Lord. Easter began for Mary Magdalene not when she stood frightened and confused before an empty tomb, but when she saw the Lord and he spoke her name. It is no different for us. Easter is not about bunnies or colored eggs or even an empty tomb; we will know the true meaning and deep joy of Easter when we acknowledge the Lord who stands before us in our sisters and brothers...in all the moments of our lives...who speaks our names...and offers us nothing less than a participation in his own new and glorious life.

– Fr. Anthony M. Criscitelli, T.O.R.