“O Lord and Master of my life, grant me not a spirit of sloth, meddling, love of power and idle talk. But give to me, your servant, a spirit of sober-mindedness, humility, patience, and love. Yes, Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, since you are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen.”
Saint Ephrem, a Syriac Christian, was born around 306 AD, in ancient Mesopotamia. Baptized as a young man, he also was ordained a Deacon. He acquired fame as teacher of the Faith, and as an author of hymns. His hymns were written again to promote and defend the Christian faith, as well to give praise to God. With his fellow Christians, he was forced to flee his homeland for ancient Edessa. He died in 373. He was proclaimed a “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Benedict XV, in 1920.
Acts10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4: 7-10; John 15: 9-17
We find ourselves in unsettling times, a deadly pandemic is ravaging the world, killing millions of people. We are just now beginning to getting a handle on it in this country, but it is devastating other parts of the world. But in this country, in addition to COVID, we find ourselves in the midst of political strive. We find an unwillingness to cooperate, to even civilly discuss the issues that affect our country. And even within our own Church, there is divisiveness! In opinion columns; through the internet, and even, God help us, from some pulpits, comes a level of argument, disagreement, down right disrespect and vindictiveness, that I never heard of in the past; from both sides! Is there any wonder why some polling services are reporting that the number of people no longer identifying themselves as Catholic has dropped, seriously dropped?
“This I command you: love one another.”
When Jesus Christ issued this command, he does not mean having a “Hallmark” moment! But…look at our Crucified Lord! ”No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Keep in mind, by “friends,” Christ means everyone we encounter, from family members, neighbors, coworkers, strangers, and yes, anyone we may have disagreements with. Because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ! We called to pray for everyone! We are called to welcome all, friend and stranger with love and acceptance. We are called to discuss and debate, with respect for the other, maintaining peace of heart with all. We are called to show charity to all in need.
And we can do this, if we turn to Jesus for help; let the Spirit inspire us, and remember that we are all children of God. Whatever we need in order to fulfill Jesus’s command, the Father will provide. Let us take to heart what Jesus has taught us, let the Holy Spirit inspire us! Let us love one another, today, tomorrow, and always. If we can do this, we can inspire others to do the same, we can help bring peace to our communities, to our state, our nation, to a world that desperately needs it.
On Sunday, April 18, 2021, St. Francis Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order, based in Milton, MA, gathered in a member’s backyard. It was the first time the fraternity has come together since the COVID pandemic was declared. Everyone wore masks and social distancing was observed.
Franciscan friars from St. Anthony’s Shrine in Boston MA, came and celebrated Mass with us. Also with us was a group of Korean Catholics, who were entering formation to become Secular Franciscans. One of the friars was also Korean, and he preached the homily both in English and Korean. One of the Korean’s with us, sang a beautiful Korean hymn during the Mass. it was a very blessed moment for us all!
After a delicious pot luck lunch, there was held a Welcoming ceremony for the Korean Catholics, who hoped to become professed Secular Franciscans after their time in formation. The ceremony was simple but moving. It gives to us “old timers,” hope that the Order will go on and flourish!
It has been a little more than a year since this pandemic grabbed hold of our world! There has been mourning of loved ones lost! Empty town and city streets; empty stores and offices. And empty churches and synagogues! Our fraternities have developed new skills in using programs like Zoom to keep in touch. Newsletters, personal notes of prayers and support have helped some in maintaining contact.
Still the most important thing we can and should do is pray for one another. Pray for fraternity brothers and sisters, locally, regionally, nationally, and throughout the world! It is by prayer, it is by recognizing that in Christ, we are all one, in Christ, we will get through this, and flourish!
Christos anesti! Christ is risen! Alithos anesti! He is risen indeed!
The above is a traditional Easter greeting that Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholics share amongst themselves on Easter Sunday. I first heard this during a homily given by a Franciscan friar, who had, at one time, been a member of the Eastern Rite branch of the Order, and it has remain in my memory ever since.
When I reflect on this greeting, what strikes me is that people are not saying, “Christ had risen,” or “He did rise;” as if they are describing a past event. No, they are proclaiming that “He is risen!” Present tense! Jesus Christ is just as present in our time, as he was when he appeared to his disciples so may years ago! He is with us even now! His light shines on before us, within us; dispelling the darkness that may threaten us, especially in these COVID times.
So reflect on that; draw hope from that. And as we are transformed by the love of Christ; let us share that Light with all we come in contact with! Blaze out into the world, so that the world will hope, will rejoice! “Christ is risen!” He is risen indeed!”
In a couple of days, it will be Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week for many Christian churches throughout the world. It is a week of preparation, of intensifying our prayer life, of focusing our minds on what we are commemorating this week and following weekend. We call to mind that on Good Friday, Jesus Christ willingly suffered and died on the Cross, so that all of us may be freed from the chains of sin. We remember that on Easter morn, Jesus rose from dead, and by that event, we all have been promised eternal life, death no longer has hold of us.
This is what Holy Week should mean for us, but in reality does it? In our country, the marketplace has completely skipped over Good Friday, straight into Easter. Displays of bright colored clothing, Easter eggs, every possible sweet, crowd the store shelves. For many families, plans are going forward for gatherings for Easter Sunday dinners. Now these things are not bad in and of themselves. But we cannot forget what this passing season of Lent was for; what holy period of time we are now entering.
Now, I will be the first to admit, that my own Lenten experience has not been as intense, as focused as I wished it to be when the season started. But in these final days leading up to the Holy Triduum, can I; can all of us make a last intensive push to be ready spiritually for this coming week? Let’s give it “the old college try,” shall we?
I know I have been writing as much in the blog, as I should be. That being said, I going to try writing a post in thirty minutes, at least every other day. Let’s see what path that leads me down. Blessings to you all!
Once more, people of Irish descent; and those would like to be Irish, are celebrating the Feast day of St. Patrick. In this country, on this “holy” day, people would celebrate in bars and pubs, although maybe not so much during these COVID days! Individuals and families will feast corned beef and cabbage; and there will be the wearing of the green. Real, and what passes for “real” Irish music will blaring out in homes, stores and cars.
Sadly, we tend to forget what the churches are asking us to remember today, the story of a man of faith. As a young man living in ancient Britain, Patrick was kidnap by Irish raiders; taken to wild Ireland and sold as a slave. He would later escape, returning to his homeland. But he felt called to return to Ireland as a missionary. He would study and was ordained a priest; he was later consecrated a bishop, and sent to Ireland to establish the Christian faith there. He would be successful in his efforts. A Celtic style of Christianity would soon developed, which disappeared for awhile, but is experiencing a rebirth. Eventually, it would be Irish monks, coming over into Europe, that would lead to a rebirth of Christianity in Europe itself, as it recovered from the Dark Ages.
The following is part of a prayer, attributed to Saint Patrick, it speaks to his deep spirituality; Saint Patrick’s Breastplate:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me. Christ beside me, Christ to win me. Christ to win me. Christ to comfort me and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me. Christ in quiet, Christ in danger. Christ in hearts of all that love me. Christ in mouth of friend or stranger.
“Blessed be God, in his angels and in His saints!”
Hearing the first reading for today’s liturgy, how many of us are thinking, “Gee, this sounds familiar!” Now, leprosy, as experienced by the Jews of Moses time, of even the time of Jesus, was and umbrella term, that covered a whole slew of skin diseases. There were people who might develop a severe skin rash or infection, that would be considered leprosy, but that the sufferer could recover from. We see in the Book of Leviticus, that there was a ritual that had to be followed for that recovered person to perform in order to be readmitted into the community. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people who developed actual leprosy, the disease we associate with Damian of Molokai and his people; with Mother Theresa of Kalkuta in India. It was back then an incurable disease, a living death sentence, a disease that made a sufferer an outcast from his or her community forever. We may be able to identify a little; maybe a lot, with the fear that might strike a family, a community, a people, when a deadly, unseen disease threatens our health, our lives.
And maybe, like the people of Jesus time, we raise our eyes up to heaven and cry out “Where is God, with all this fear, this illness, with all this death! I am no theologian, who can give a deep thought that explain all this. What I can say is this; God is with us! His Spirit is with the scientists, who are finding and developing the vaccines to keep us safe. Jesus Christ is with the doctors, the nurses, the hospital staff, who care for our loved ones who may be ill, putting their own lives at risk. And the Spirit is within each one us, inspiring us to comfort a person going through hard times, to give of our time, talents, and treasure, to help those out of work, struggling with to keep a roof over their heads. And Jesus is with anyone who reaches out us, when we feel this pandemic weighing down on us.
I have a story to tell. One of my favorite saints is Francis of Assisi, there is a story of him and an encounter with a leper. Francis was dedicated to caring for lepers, as his brother friars shared that same dedication. In this shelter they had for housing local lepers, they would feed them, wash them, make them as comfortable as possible. Now, there was this one leper who did not appreciate the quality of care they were trying to provide them. He would swear at the friars, calling them incompetents, and some other words that should be mentioned in public. Francis heard about this, and went to meet with the leper. When he entered the room he was in, he gave his usual greeting; “Peace be with you! “ “Peace?” The leper snarled, “How can I know peace when you send me brothers who cannot help!” “Well” Francis replied, “I am here now, How may I serve you?” The leper said “I stink! I need to be bathed!” So, Francis ordered a tub of warm water be prepared; with fragrant herbs added. He lowered the leper into the water and to began to wash him. And wherever his hand touched the leper’s skin, the leprosy disappeared! The leper was so moved by the miracle, he went to the friars, and begged their forgiveness for the way he treated them. He was said to have lead a very holy life from that time on!
In myriad of ways, Jesus reaches out to touch us, to comfort us, to heal us in whatever way we need it. He, in turn, expects us to share that grace with anyone else in need that may cross our path. God is with us, in many mysterious ways! Rejoice, and be at peace!