“Good Pope John”

Pope John XXIIIToday, the Catholic Church celebrates the life of St. John XXIII, was Pope, Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, from 1958 to 1963.

Born Angelo Roncalli, in the Italian province of Lombardy, to a family of sharecroppers, in 1881. He would be ordained a priest in 1904, serve as an stretcher bearer and chaplain in the Italian army, during World War I. After the war, he would be a bishop’s secretary, papal diplomat to Bulgaria, Turkey, and France. During World War II, he would use his diplomatic and ecclesial status to help hundreds of Jews escape the Holocaust.

He was appointed Patriarch of Venice, Italy, and made a Cardinal, in 1953. In 1958, after the death of Pope Pius XII, he joined other Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, to elect the new Pope. After eleven ballots, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli was elected Pope. As is custom he took a new name, and became Pope John XXIII.

He was expected to be a “caretaker” Pope, his papacy was to be short and uneventful. He shocked everyone when in 1959, he summoned the world’s bishops to what became the Second Vatican Council. He would not live to see it’s conclusion, dying of stomach cancer in 1963.

I have no memories of his pontificate. As an altar server, I witnessed the steady changes that came in the liturgy. When I was in high school, I came across a book listing his memorable sayings, including his more humorous ones. I became attracted to this Pope from the Italian countryside. In seminary, I read his spiritual journal, “Journal of a Soul,” and encountered the deeply spiritual Pope John. And I have read, or at least tried to read his social justice papal encyclicals “letters,” especially his famous “Pacem in Terris.”  I am finding that this letter still has something to say for our times.

Recently, I learned that there is something St. John XXIII and I share; we are both Secular Franciscans.  He joined the OFS during his seminary days, I joined in 1988.  So to my fellow Franciscan, I ask his intercession for our troubled Church, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into living the Gospel life more fully.

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.

Weekend Coffee Share – 10/22/2017

deacon coffee mugWelcome! Here is a cup of coffee, hot off the Keurig. Today, I want to share experiences from last weekend. Last Saturday, the second Saturday of the month, my Secular Franciscan fraternity holds its monthly meeting. It is held at Saint Anthony’s Shrine, located in downtown Boston, MA. I have been trying to attend this meeting more regularly; so, I was up early in the morning, grabbing a commuter train. I transferred to the subway, and got off at Downtown Crossing, Boston.
I came early into the city; so I would be able to walk around the area before the meeting. It had Downtown Crossing 2017been a while since I had made such a walk about. The biggest change in the neighborhood, is the Millennium Tower. Built in the space where the famous Filene’s Department Store once stood, it is a very, very tall high-rise building. It houses department stores, offices, and condominium apartments. I have not been around Millenium Towerthe entire building, so I was amazed at the changes I saw! One thing that really stood out for me; was the number of coffee shops that are in neighborhood now! I am not talking about an increase in the number of Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks; but places like Caffe Nero. One can imagine the amount of caffeine flowing through the veins of the residents and office workers!
Bromfield Pen ShopOne stop that I had to make was the Bromfield Pen Shop, which is located, where else? On Bromfield Street! It has the largest collection writing instruments, including fountain pens, I have ever seen. And the most expensive collection of pens I have ever seen! I like looking over their pens, and the notebooks and journals they sell also. Sadly, I have only been able to purchase a Pelikano Junior, a very sturdy plastic fountain pen. I purchased a new box of ink cartridges for it, and with a wistful look behind me, left the shop.

St Paul cathedral EpiscopalI continued to walk up Bromfield St., towards Tremont St., which forms one border of the Boston Common.  My intention was to visit the Episcopal St. Paul Cathedral.  The church was established in 1819, as an Episcopalian parish.  In 1912, St. Paul’s was designated as the Cathedral Church of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.  When I worked in the Downtown, I would visit St. Paul’s on a regular basis; I found the quiet interior to be conducive to meditation.  Back then, it still had, what I would call, cubicle seating.  The pews arrangedInterior St Paul and separated by stalls.  I had heard that the cathedral church was going to be renovated, and I wanted to see the result.  When I entered the main church, I was stunned!  Gone were the pews, the memorial plaques on the walls, the altar rail.  It was wide open space, with stackable, plain chairs arranged for some service.  The interior was flooded with natural light, streaming from the skylights above.  And in the center, was a labyrinth.  Music flooded the church, as an organist was playing at the organ in the chancel of the Cathedral.  I still had a very peaceful experience during my time there.
I left the Cathedral and made my way to the Shrine, to attend the 12:00 Noon Mass, with the rest of the fraternity. I had forgotten that this Mass was going to be a special one, because we were St. Anthony Shrine 2017celebrating a Profession. A young man, Bobby Hillis, was going to profess his intention to live the Gospel life, in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, by following the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order. For about a year and half, he has been in formation, learning what it means to be a Franciscan; in his personal life; his life in the Church; his life in the world. After the homily, before the Franciscan priest, who was our celebrant, and our fraternity Minister, and the whole Fraternity, he declared:

I, Bobby Hillis, by the grace of God, renew my baptismal promises and consecrate myself to the service of his Kingdom. Therefore, in my secular state I promise to live all the days of my life the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Secular Franciscan Order by observing its rule of life. May the grace of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our holy father St. Francis, and the fraternal bonds of community always be my help, so that I may reach the goal of perfect Christian love.
[Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order, pp. 23 & 24.]

After the Profession Mass, we all gathered in the Shrine’s auditorium for a celebratory luncheon. For anytime a new member is professed, it “is a cause of great joy and hope for all the members of the community and for the whole Church.” (Ritual, p. 24)

SFO Profession 1 102017

SFO Profession 2 2017

 

So that was my trip into downtown Boston; now the coffee cups have to go into the dishwasher rack. Hope to see you again next week.

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 8/13/2017

Over a cup of coffee, I would share with you how upset I have been over the events in Charlottesville, VA.  I had hope that we had outgrown the white supremacist movement; and the racism and hatred it generates.  But, that appears not to be happening.  We know we must confront it, but we need to realize we cannot use the same tactics.  We, as a nation, are better than the racists in our midst.

Over a cup of coffee, I would share that earlier last week, my wife and I were still on Cape Cod, MA, with members of her family.  While there, we paid a visit to Provincetown, located on the northern tip of the Cape.  Let us say, it is one of most unique communities in the Commonwealth, maybe in the country.  When you walk through the town streets, you are in the midst of a diverse crowds of people. It can be a very interesting time.

Over a cup of coffee, I would share that I have increased the number of books I have read.  Trying to spend more time with a book in my hands, rather than an IPhone.

Yesterday, I attended a meeting of my Secular Franciscan fraternity.  It has been awhile, but I needed to get back in touch with my Franciscan spiritual roots.  The Secular Franciscan Order is a lay branch of the Franciscan Movement.  It was good to  see old friends again.  

Well, the cups are in the dishwasher rack.  I will see you again next week.

Reflecting Again on Why I Write.

Writing

Writing

Why do I write?  That is a very interesting question today, especially since I have been finding it to sit in front of a keyboard, or to pick up a pen.  It was not too long ago, that I would be posting on my blog every other day, if not every day.  I have a serious case of writer’s block, which is why I am trying out Writing 101.

Why do I want to write?  Because sometimes I feel have something to share with the rest of the world.  As a Christian Catholic, a Secular Franciscan, and a Deacon, I feel the need to share my experiences of my encounters with God through Scripture, the Eucharist, prayer, and life.  I want to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a world that more skeptical, that is a little darker, more violent, and where the poor and powerless have no voice.  I want share the Good News with those who are struggling with the challenges of everyday life; by sharing my own struggles with living the faith daily.

I want to write about, and express my belief that the Catholic Church, this community of believers, is still relevant for our society today.  While not turning a blind eye to its sins and failings, to express the joys, comfort, and inspirations I have experienced for myself.  And I want to share my opinions with a voice that accepts others, whether they agree with me or not.

When I write, I hope I am becoming, like St. Francis of Assisi, a Herald of the Great King, Jesus Christ!

From a Franciscan Perspective – Blessed Frederic Ozanam and Care for the Poor

“1) Secular Franciscans should always act as a leaven in the environment in which they live through the witness of their fraternal love and clear Christian motivations.

2) In the spirit of minority, they should opt for relationships which give preference to the poor and to those on the fringe of society, whether these be individuals or categories of persons or an entire people;  they should collaborate in overcoming the exclusion of others and those forms of poverty that are the fruit of inefficiency and injustice.”  (Article 19, General Constitutions, Secular Franciscan Order)

Gravure d'Antoine Maurin dit "Maurin l'aîné" (1793-1860) à partir d'un dessin de Louis Janmot (1814-1892)

Blessed Frederic Ozanam

On August 4th, the Catholic Church remembers and celebrates the life of Blessed Frederic Ozanam.  Born in France in 1813, he originally wanted to become a writer, but his father insisted that he become a lawyer.  In 1831, he went to the University of Sorbonne, in Paris, to study law.  While there, he noticed that the Catholic Church was being attacked by the intellectuals in Paris.  A devoted Catholic, he and some friends started a debate club, where they could discuss issues of faith with agnostics and atheists.  At one of these debates, Ozanam was challenged to prove his faith with actions, and not just talk.  Taking up the challenge, Frederic and a friend began visiting the poor in the slums of Paris, and providing whatever assistance they could.  Their approach was novel, instead of just giving money to some religious or church organizations; they went out and personally met the poor in their homes.  Other laypersons were attracted to work Ozanam was doing, and together they formed the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.  Frederic did earn a law degree, but would eventually also earn a doctorate in literature.  He married in 1841, and he and his wife had a daughter.  He continued his work with the Society.  Continuously suffering from poor health, he died in 1853.  Some time before his death, he supposedly joined the Third Order of Saint Francis; today known as the Secular Franciscan Order.  The Saint Vincent de Paul Society has grown into a worldwide organization, with local conferences based in most parishes.  They continue their work of personally visiting and providing assistance to the poor in their local communities.

There have been some negative comments about Pope Francis’ focus on the poor.  Some feel that he is neglecting the middle class, who are also suffering from a decrease in wages, the threat of foreclosure on their homes, and a loss of a sense of security that their parents had.  As an out of work member of the middle class, with shrinking resources; I understand the feeling of anxiety, uncertainty and fear people are experiencing.  I am experiencing that to.  But Jesus, through his Gospel, has told us that we are called to take up our crosses daily, and follow him.  And to follow Jesus means to proclaim the Good News to the poor, to heal the sick, to care for the widow and orphans, feed the hungry and to set free the imprisoned.  Even with our own anxieties and sufferings, we are still called to encounter the poor among us, and offer help.  We can accomplish this through God’s grace, and being open to the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Through Jesus Christ, God is with us, in good times and the difficult times.  Let us be open to that Presence, and open to sharing that gift with others.

A Franciscan’s Perspective: Blessed Ramon Lull, His Life and the Takeaway.

Blessed Ramon Lull“Therefore, any brother who, by divine inspiration, desires to go among the Saracens and other unbelievers should go with the permission of his minister and servant…As for the brothers who go, they can live spiritually among [the Saracens and nonbelievers] in two ways.  One way is not to engage in arguments or disputes, but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake (1 Pet 2:13) and to acknowledge that they are Christians.  Another way is to proclaim the word of God when they see that it pleases the Lord, so that they believe in the all-powerful God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-the Creator of all, in the Son Who is the Redeemer and Savior, and that they be baptized and become Christians; because whoever has not been born again of water and the Holy Spirit cannot enter into the Kingdom of God (cf. Jn 3:5).  (The Early Rule of the Order Friars Minor; Chap XVI: 2-3, 5-7)The

Today, June 30th, the Catholic Church remembers Blessed Ramon Lull, who was a member of the Secular Franciscan Order.  He was born in 1232 AD, on the island of Majorca.  He was extremely well-educated and served in various royal courts on the Iberian Peninsula.  After listening to a sermon that touched his heart, he earnestly strived to live the Gospel life as a Secular Franciscan.  He promoted missionary work among the peoples of North Africa; working to establish mission colleges, where missionaries could learn Arabic.  He firmly believed that the way to bring non-believers to Christ was not with the sword, but through prayer and dialogue.  He took time away from his college building efforts, and lived the life of a hermit for nine years.  During this time, he produced a substantial amount of spiritual and philosophical works.  In 1314, at age seventy-nine, he went to North Africa, to be a missionary himself.  There he encountered a mob of hostile Muslims, who stoned him, and mortally injured him.  Some merchants were able to get him on a ship bound for Europe.  He did in 1315.

Francis of Assisi once described himself as a herald of the Great King, Jesus Christ.  He encouraged his brother friars to go out and preach about the love of God, to all they came in contact with, believer and non-believer alike.  But he also wanted their words to be backed up by their actions; by their works of charity, and showing respect to all they came in contact with.  In the first draft of the Order’s Rule (Regula Non Bullata), he describes the two ways his friars were to evangelize, by way of life, or open proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Church, and especially the Church here in the Archdiocese of Boston, are being called to engage in a New Evangelization.  One way of evangelization is live our lives as believers of the Good News; as those who have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  This relationship should color how we interact with others, in our families, our workplaces, and in the marketplace.  The other is to never be shy about sharing what our personal encounter with Christ has meant for us; what it has changed in us.  We share our struggles with our faith; we share the joys of our faith.  And we have the courage to invent others to come and see.

Evangelization is something God is calling us to be involved in, in our world today; right now, right here.  We are all called to be heralds of the Great King!