What is Behind a Title?

st anthony walnut tree 2What was the genesis of my blog’s title?  To answer the question, I need to write a little about where I was coming from, when I finally decided to begin blogging.  Most of my adult life, from my college years, to the 1980’s, I have been in some type of religious, spiritual formation; feeling called to life as a Catholic priest, and later, to be a Franciscan friar.  I would finally discern that God wanted me to follow a different path; which lead me into the business world, and to my wonderful wife, Peg.  One thing that did not change for me, though, was the Franciscan spirit I inherited from the friars.  I found myself joining the Franciscan lay movement, known as the Secular Franciscan Order.

Fast forward a few years, to around 2008; where I was becoming more acquainted with the concept of Web blogging.  I inherited my interest in personal computing from my Dad, and I was finding this blogs, with these interesting articles.  I was wondering if there was anything I could contribute to mass of online information.  One day, I browsing through Border’s bookstore, (it was still in existence then!) when I came across a book, “The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging!”  I purchased it, and devoured it in a few days.  I decided to give it a try, and in 2009, I opened my first blog on “Blogger.”  But what was I going to call this new blog?  It was suggested that any title I picked had to be unique, to separate it from the other blogs.  My hope was to share my observations of what was happening in my country, the world, and in my Church.  I would draw on whatever insights came to me from my Catholic, Franciscan spiritual life.  Now, for Franciscans, out of all the saints in the movement, the key ones are Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Clare of Assisi, and Saint Anthony of Padua.

Saint Anthony of Padua has been popular with Roman Catholics, because of his reputation as a miracle worker; “Miracles waited on your every word, which you were ever ready to speak for those in trouble or anxiety.”  This is part of a prayer, addressed to St. Anthony; asking for his intercession.  However, St. Anthony was also famous as a preacher.  A trained theologian when he joined the Franciscan Order, he was sent on preaching tours throughout northern Italy, and southern France.  He was successful not only because of the quality of his sermons, but also the example of his life.  After many years of bringing the Gospel of Christ to all who would listen, he sensed his life was drawing to an end.  He went to a friary, located in a small village near the Italian city of Padua.  There, he asked his fellow friars to build him a tree house, in a walnut tree.  There, he intended to spend his last days in deep prayer and contemplation.  However, people still sought him out; seeking spiritual guidance, or a word on the Love of God.  St. Anthony died on June 13, 1231.

So I decided to name my blog; “From Saint Anthony’s Walnut Tree.”  Later, I would reestablish the blog on WordPress; and one of the Blogging 101 assignments was to tweak our titles.  It suddenly came to me tweak the title to:  “Musings from Saint Anthony’s Walnut Tree.”  I think it more accurately indicates what I hope to accomplish with this

All About Me


Howdy!!…….One More Time!

My modified profileHowdy, my name is Jonathan Francis Jones. I am a 62 year old man, who is happily married, a Roman Catholic, a Secular Franciscan, and an ordained Permanent Deacon.  Oh, and as of January, 2015, I have been unemployed.  This is my second go-round with Blogging 101; but to all of you newbies, allow me to reintroduce myself.

Ever since I was a kid in elementary school, I felt that God was calling me to some sort of service.  After high school, I entered the Catholic seminary for the Archdiocese of Boston, and spent eight years in studies.  I felt the need to take a leave of absence for a year to sort some things out.  I spent the year with an ecumenical organization called: “A Christian Ministry in the National Parks.”  It recruits theology students, and other college students, to go out into the country’s national parks, lead Sunday worship services, Bible studies and other activities.  I spent the summer in Yellowstone National Park, leading Sunday services at Old Faithful Inn; and washing dishes the rest of the time.  The Fall and Winter of that year, I was in Texas, at Big Bend National Park, right on the Rio Grande River.  My “earn my keep” job was being a night watchman; after which, on Sunday morning, I lead 2 worship services.  It was in the midst of all this natural beauty that I began to sense the Holy Spirit drawing me to testing a calling to be a Franciscan friar.  I spent at year and half in formation, when I came to discern that maybe I was meant to go down a different road.

So I found myself working in the Mutual Fund industry, servicing customers, but I was still felt being called to be a follower of St. Francis of Assisi.  Fortunately, the Franciscan movement has a lay branch, the Secular Franciscan Order.   I became a professed member in 1988, coincidently, the same year I married my beautiful, wonderful wife, Peg.  I remained active in the Church, as a member of my parish choir, and as a reader during the Sunday Mass.  I continued my life of prayer and service, still feeling called to go deeper.  I, along with my wife, entered the formation program for the Permanent Diaconate.  In September, 2012, I, along with my fellow classmates, were ordained as Deacons.  Peg, with the other wives, gave me the vestments I was to wear.  I have been assigned to several parishes in Beverly, Massachusetts, serving the people there I whatever way I can.

While, still in the Diaconal formation program, I felt called to blog; yes, called!  As I surfed the Web, I came across blogs that I really enjoyed, some that infuriated me, and others that confused me to no end.  One day, during 2009, in a downtown Boston bookstore, I found a book: “The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging.”  I bought it, read it cover to cover.  I felt God calling me to share my faith experience with others, to try my hand at being an electronic evangelizer.  At the same time, I wanted to share my own observations of what is happening in my community, my Church, and my world.  So in 2009, I started my first blog, on Google’s Blogger, I would later move to WordPress.

I am hoping that through my random scribbles, I can inform, get people thinking, and in some small way, share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Good Friday in Beverly – 2015

TGood Friday Crosshis is the first chance I have had to write some reflections on part of what I have been doing during this Holy Week, 2015.  Yesterday, Good Friday, I assisted at the service that was held at St. Margaret of Scotland parish in Beverly, MA.  The small church was built in the late 1800’s, and has a very unique design.  The interior has a dark wood ceiling, which sort of adds to the solemnity of the liturgy we were about to celebrate.

The Good Friday service commemorates the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, it is the most solemn liturgy held during Holy Week.  Wearing red colored vestments, the Pastor and I silently processed into the church.  Entering the sanctuary, Father, I and the cantor kneeled in the sanctuary, and the service began with readings from Scripture.  I, the cantor, and our music director chanted the Passion of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of John.  After the prayers of the faithful, I went to the rear of the church, picked up a plain wooden cross, and began to process down the main aisle, back to the sanctuary.  I stopped three times; each time intoning: “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Savior of the world!” to which the congregation responded: “Come let us worship.”  After Father and I had each venerated the Cross, members from the congregation came forwarded to also venerate it.  Some kissed the wood, others knelt and touched it, and others just bowed before it.  When everyone had come forward, Father and I set the Cross on a side altar, with two candles on either side.  A communion service followed, then Father and I processed out and we did in, in silence.

After greeting members of the Catholic community as they left the church, I went back in; back to the side altar with the Cross.  As I stood, looking at that bare wooden Cross, it came to me, how an instrument of public execution, has become a symbol of triumph, Christ’s triumph of death.  I think though we forget what suffering Jesus went through, for us, for our salvation.  We need to recall what was written by the prophet Isaiah:

“Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many and their guilt he shall bear.  Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.”  (Isaiah 52)

Tonight, we commemorate, we celebrate Jesus Christ victory over sin and death; we celebrate the peace and joy that is still being experienced by so many of us.

A House Divided; Sort Of!


March 13, 2015, was the third anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, as the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church.  As he enters the third year of his pontificate, he appears to enjoy a great deal of support from the vast majority of the world’s Catholics.  However, on the opposite sides of the theological, ecclesiastical spectrum, there is a divided opinion.

When conservatives heard that the cardinals had elected a South American Pope, and a Jesuit no less; there were some who started getting a little nervous.  When he came out in just the white papal  cassock, throwing election night protocol to the winds, conservatives became increasingly concerned.  When traditionalists heard that he was not occupying the papal quarters; saw him adopting simpler vestments, compared to the liturgical finery of his predecessor; they were up in arms!

Then there were Pope Francis’ homilies, off the cuff remarks, and his actions towards reforming the Curia, the papal bureaucracy.  Not taking an extreme hard line approach against those who disagreed with the Church teachings on sexual matters, abortion, and homosexuality; while at the same time, denouncing the negative effects of a freewheeling capitalist system; caused some conservative commentators to question the legitimacy of his election.  Career bureaucrats in the Curia are upset over Pope Francis charges of clericalism, and cronyism in the Vatican.  They see his efforts to reform the way financial affairs are handled, as a threat to their way of patronage.  His intentions to introduce more laity, especially women, into the Vatican offices, are equally seen as threatening the curial lifestyle.

Now on the left, many saw Pope Francis as one of them, and expected a wholesale change of Church’s teachings on women’s ordination, sexual morals, homosexuality, and on divorce and remarriage.  And they were extremely disappointed when none of that happened, and with the Pope’s indications that such radical changes was unlikely to happen under his watch.  There are survivors of sexual abuse by clergy who feel that this Pope has not moved fast enough to implement worldwide protections for children, or to hold any bishops accountable for covering up the clergy abuse scandal.  Many are disheartened at the slow pace of the reform of the Curia.  There is a feeling among left wing Catholic reformists, that Pope Francis is all fluff and no substance.

Now I think the conventional wisdom is that when both extremes of a social spectrum are against you, you must be doing something right.  There are many commentators in the middle, one of them being John Allen of the Boston Globe’s website Crux, who feel that Pope Francis has already achieved much.  His reform of the Vatican’s financial system is in place, despite one curalist attempt to weaken it.  His council of cardinals, who are advising him on how to reform the Curia, has presented suggestions that have been discussed with all of Church’s cardinals.  The Synod of Bishops will convene again to discuss the status of the family in the Church and the world.  And Pope Francis continues to encourage open discussion on these and other topics among the Church’s bishops.  Where this will lead, no one is sure.  This will be a test of whether the Pope will continue to be a collegial shepherd, or be the Supreme Pontiff, enforcing his will on the bishops.  John Allen has written an interesting column on what we could see on what the third year of this pontificate might bring.  Strap in folks, this could be quite a ride!

What is Behind a Title?

st anthony walnut tree

Our second Blogging 101 assignment was to tinker with our blog’s title and tag line.

Well, I have had this title ever since I started blogging five years ago, on Google’s Blogger, and I really do not want to let it go.

How did the title come about?  Well, I am Franciscan at heart, as well as in reality (a lay Franciscan)!  Among the most popular Franciscan saints, after St. Francis of Assisi, is St. Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese friar, who wanted to be a missionary in North Africa; but wound up in Italy.  It was there that his talent for preaching was discovered, and he was sent off to preach throughout Northern Italy and Southern France.  Towards the end of his life, he went off to a small Franciscan friary, near the Italian city of Padua. There he had a sort of tree house built-in a walnut tree; it was going to be a place of quiet, contemplative, prayer for Anthony, a hermitage.  Legend has it that people would still come to the friary, seeking a good word from him.  And he would preach from the branches of the walnut tree.  It is this story that inspired the title for this blog

Let Me Introduce Myself….Again!

Photo 2

Greetings!  My name is Jonathan Jones.  I am a married Roman Catholic, a Secular Franciscan, and a Permanent Deacon.  I am writing this blog, because as St. Francis of Assisi is believed to have tell his followers, “preach often, and if necessary, use words.”  But as Francis preached from his own experiences of a loving God, I hope to share my own spiritual experiences with you.  I am also a child of Vatican II; I grew up during the Council, was educated by nuns and priests influenced by the Council, and believe firmly in the teachings that came out of the Second Vatican Council.  So my view of the world and the Catholic Church are colored by that experience, and I wish to share those views.  I have also been influenced by many spiritual fathers and mothers, living and dead.  These include my parents, Franciscans, religious and lay, among them: Francis and Clare of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bonaventure, and Angela of Foligno.  Others include: Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, St. John XXIII,  and Henri Nouwen.

My life experience has been varied, unique and interesting.  I have been a diocesan seminarian, and a Franciscan novice.  I have worked in the mutual fund industry for almost 33 years and have recently been laid off, and looking for work.  I am married to a wonderful woman, whose name is Peg, for a little over 26 years, who has been very loving, and very, very patient with me!

So all this I bring to the table, as I view my Church, my state, my nation, and my world.  I wish to share my views with you, and hope you will share yours with me.  Pax et Bonum!