Let Me Introduce Myself….Again!

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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!

Thomas Merton, 100th Birthday of a Trappst Monk…And a Secular Franciscan?

Merton

Today, January 31, 2015, would have been the 100th birthday of Father Louis Merton, OSCO; better known to the world as Thomas Merton. The Catholic, Christian blogosphere is abuzz with reports, stories, and reflections on the life of this Trappist monk, one I read on Crux, by Dennis Sadowski, of the Catholic News Service; another by Margery Eagan, On Spirituality columnist for Crux, and finally a very moving post by Father Dan Horan, OFM on his blog.

I do not know how many will share this opinion, but I think of Thomas Merton, as the one person who brought Christian spirituality, especially contemplative spirituality to the modern American Catholic population. After him, I think we see an increase in the number of books on spirituality, and prayer, geared for the Catholic laity, and new authors, like Thomas Keating, M. Basil Pennington, Richard Rohr, and Emilie Griffin. I know for myself, my spiritual life became much deeper, more enriched by reading his writings. He showed me a path to walk, and encouraged me to seek out other spiritual fathers and mothers, for inspiration and guidance.

I am still discovering new things about Merton, especially as heretofore unpublished journals, books, and essays are becoming public. This has given a much more rounded view of Merton, his life, his struggles, and his achievements. Now there are some facts that I was not aware of until I recently read Father Dan Horan, OFM book on Merton, was that Thomas Merton had some deep Franciscan roots. After his conversion to Catholicism, he felt a call to the Order of Friars Minor, and had applied to the Order, and was initially approved to enter into formation as a friar. Before he was to enter, something happened; scholars are not completely sure what, that caused Merton to withdraw his application. Still attracted to Franciscanism, he found himself at the Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure’s, in western New York. There, he joined the faculty as an instructor in English. It was during his time there, that he became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, now known as the Secular Franciscan Order. This bit of information floored me. Now I knew that Merton had a Franciscan connection. When I was once a Franciscan novice myself, and attended some summer classes at St. Bonaventure’s, I daily would look up at a hillside clearing, known as “Merton’s Heart.” But to learn that Merton had been a Secular Franciscan, “Wow!”

Of course, this brings a whole bunch of questions: what fraternity did he belong to? Is the fraternity still in existence? Is the fraternity’s register, with his name listed in it, still available? Did he attend monthly fraternity meetings, or was he an isolated tertiary, attached to a fraternity, but unable to make the meetings? Maybe someday, some scholar, maybe even a Secular Franciscan, will be able to find answer to these questions.

I owe a debt of thanks to Father Louis, for prodding me to go ever deeper into my relationship with God. May he rest in peace!

Loring Crossman – Rest In Peace Brother

Loring Crossman, OFS

Loring Crossman, OFS

Last week I lost a friend, Loring Crossman, a fellow Secular Franciscan.  I was asked the day before his funeral, to give a brief eulogy for him.  I had no notes when I gave it, but to the best of my memory, here is what I said.

“Loring Crossman was my brother.  Through Baptism, we were brothers in Christ.  We were also brothers in Saint Francis of Assisi.  Loring was a person committed to ’ living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi’  He succeeded me as Minister of our fraternity, and he lead the fraternity as we strived to adapt our lives to the new Rule of Life, that came out of Vatican II.  Like St. Francis, he led us with gentleness and compassion.  I only saw him lose his temper once, and that was at me over something I had failed to do.  Like St. Francis, he was generous with his time, talents, and treasure.  And like St. Francis, he had fraternity members who would provide comic relief.  I remember that once at the anniversary of our new Rule, St Bonaventure University, in New York, was sponsoring a seminar on the SFO Rule.  I drove there myself; Loring, Edwina and two other members were traveling together.  They had to pick up one member in Connecticut, because she was spending some time at the casinos!

Like St. Francis, Loring suffered from many illnesses.  In Francis’ final months, he spent some time with St. Clare and the Poor Ladies of Assisi, at San Daminao monastery.  Francis stayed in a small hut on the monastery grounds.  He was suffering from blindness, stomach problems and other illnesses.  And his hut was being overrun by mice and other critters, which allowed him no rest.  Yet, in all that suffering, Francis was able to compose a most beautiful hymn, the first poem in the Italian language, “The Canticle to Brother Sun.”  It was Francis way of praising God, despite all his suffering.  And I am sure that Loring, despite everything he was going through, was able to continue praising God, to trust in His love.  Loring was able to say, with all his heart, ‘Welcome Sister Death, I am going home to the Father.’’