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.