A Nation In Mourning….Again!

To quote Thomas Paine, “These are times that try men (and women) souls.” We have experienced once again the horrors of mass shootings, in El Paso TX, and Dayton, OH. It should shake everyone’s being down to their souls. No other country, that is not at war or in civil strife, has suffered the casualties we have in the United States, from gun violence. People from around the world cannot understand how a country, so modern, like the United States, can let this bloodletting continue.

The answer is both simple and complicated. There are those in this country who feel they are losing control of it. That immigrants and of other races are taking what was once theirs; jobs, control of local governments. They see government, especially the Federal government taking away their lands, their jobs, for protection of the environment. They see gun ownership as the only means to protect what they see as their rights. This might only express some of the reasons why the country is so full of hate, so divided; and why some feel driven to pick up the gun.

But Jesus has said, “All who take the sword will die by the sword.” (MT 26:52). What is called for are laws to remove or at least control access to military style weapons. There also must be dialogue between peoples, to understand the desires, the needs, and the fears of all sides. We need a responsible government, whose goals are to preserve the general welfare, and not their own political power.

Jesus said that the primary commandment for his followers was to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. The second important commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. The challenge of these two commandments have always been before us. Never before in our society’s history, had meeting that challenge been so important!

From “Old Cape Cod.”

Praise be you, O my Lord, for our Brother Wind, and for air and cloud, calms and all weather by whom you uphold life in all creatures.” Canticle of the Creatures – Francis of Assisi

My wife and I are on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We are at my mother in laws home, for a gathering of the clan. I am sitting on a deck, a copy of Henry Thoreau’s Walden in my hand.

I am looking up into blue sky, with wispy clouds being blown across. And I spot seagulls circling above, held up by winds coming off the ocean. It is a quiet time, it is a holy time. St. Francis wanted his followers to live in simple huts, mostly as a commitment to poverty. But I would speculate that he hoped his community would be outside experiencing the beauty of God’s creation. As I was for a glorious moment. And in that moment, my soul felt renewed.

Most high, almighty, good Lord God, to you belong all praise, glory, honor, and blessing!”

“Praised be You, O my Lord and God”

“Praise the Lord for our Mother Earth, who sustains us and keeps us, and brings forth the grass and all of the fruits and flowers of many colors.”

From the “Canticle of the Creatures;” written by Saint Francis of Assisi, around 1225 AD. Picture is of the first sunflowers I have seen blooming this summer.

“Behold the Wood of the Cross!”

Last Friday, I was coming home from work, going down a walkway from the train platform. I just happened to look down and saw on the ground, two sticks in the form of a cross. I do not know if someone put those sticks together to form a cross; or if the sticks fell together that way. What I can tell you is that the sight stopped me in my tracks.

I must confess that my spiritual life has felt a little dull lately. Practices I have done; have fallen by the wayside. Books I have looked to for spiritual nourishment in the past, have remained unopened. Only at Sunday Mass, do I feel the spark ignite! Yet, at the sight of that little cross, I was inspired to begin to pray. It was only for moment, it was a wonderful moment!

I left the cross as it was; I have no idea if it is still there. I hope it is there for someone else to find.

The following prayer is from St. Francis of Assisi; that he is to have prayed before the San Damiano Cross:

Most high, most glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart. Grant me a right and a perfect charity, feeling, and understanding of you, so that I may be able to accomplish your holy and just commands. Amen!

“Where is the Newborn King…?”

On this January 6, 2019, many Christians will be in church, celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord. We are celebrating the moment, when three magi, wise men, came from the east and proclaimed to the leaders of Jerusalem that the birth of the Messiah had been revealed to them. They had traveled from a far land, to see with their own eyes, this wonder. Their belief in this revelation was so strong, that they were willing to make this risky journey, guided only by a unique star, to a foreign land. And the Gospel gives no indication that they were disappointed at what they found. Finding a small child, with his peasant mother, in a simple village house; they “did him homage.”

We are all seeking that intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, with our God and Savior. Sometimes, that life journey may take many years; sometimes, the encounter can happen in just an instant. We find that we need to give up our own preconceived images of Christ; let the Holy Spirit guide us on our journey; and be open to what the Scriptures will reveal to us. And above all, open ourselves to the experience, the wonder of the Eucharist; which in a real sense, is food for the journey we are on.

There have been others, who have also been on this journey before, who, by sharing their own experiences, can help guide us on ours. Some of my favorites, Francis and Clare of Assisi, who made living the Gospel of Jesus Christ an intimate part of their lives. Teresa of Avila, founder of monasteries and mystic. Caryll Houselander, laywoman, artist and mystic; who had a vision of Christ in every passenger of a train she was on. Thomas Merton, author, monk, and mystic. Despite being in a monastery, he was always on a journey, seeking our Risen Lord. And finally, I would recommend Sister Wendy Beckett, who recently passed away. Hermit, art historian, media star; she brought a fresh look at art, with both a scholar’s and mystic’s eye.

I am still very much on journey, seeking the Lord. I have sometimes gone off course, sometimes felt like not going any further. But always, I feel that tugging to continue on; something many pilgrims feel, to finish the journey. I still am not sure what I will find; I have faith that when I truly see the Lord, with eyes of faith; I will bow and do him homage.

“Praised be You, my Lord…”

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing.

To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no man is worthy to mention Your name….

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.    

(The Canticle of Brother Sun, by St. Francis of Assisi; Verses1, 2, 9, 14)

St. Elizabeth of Hungary – Patroness of Secular Franciscans

St. Elizabeth of HungaryToday, November 17th, Franciscans around the world, but especially Secular Franciscans, will celebrate the memory of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.  With St. Louis IX of France, she is Co-Patron Saint of the Secular Franciscan Order.

Born in Hungary, in 1207, she went to the German territory of Thuringia, to become the wife of its ruler, Louis.  Together they would have four children.  She would become well known for her acts of charity to the poor, establishing a hospital for the ill; and food for her poor subjects. Her husband would die from illness, while he was traveling to join an Imperial Crusade to the Holy Land. Court intrigue forced Elizabeth, with some of her children, to abandon the capital city, and flee. In a smaller, poorer city, she took residence and continued her service to the poor. Influenced by the recent arrival of Franciscan friars, she took one of them as her spiritual advisor. She would eventually become a Franciscan penitent. She would also eventually die relatively young.

St. Elizabeth can be, in fact, is a counter cultural example for our modern times. With our fascination with the rich and famous. With a minority of people controlling the majority of wealth in our country; to hear of a young, energetic woman willingly give up her riches for the poor, should shake our complacency. How best can we answer Christ’s command to feed the hungry; shelter the homeless; welcome the stranger. And what opportunities have we missed to do so?

Through the intercession of St. Elizabeth, may our eyes and hearts be open to those in need.