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.