For our December Franciscan Moment, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity feature Greccio, Italy through the eyes of Franciscan Friar Fr. John Cella, Assumption of the BVM Province.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am from Philadelphia and I joined the Franciscans because I fell in love with St. Francis and his vision of the world – that all is good and that all of creation is connected. My training is in the areas of mathematics, finance and canon law. I teach at the seminary; I do occasional work for the Archdiocese in terms of annulments and legal cases, I am the treasurer of my province and I help out at various parishes. I love my life and my ministry. I am big believer in the interplay between science and faith – They are not exclusive. I love astronomy and study it as much as I can.
Could you share a bit about the significance of Greccio in the life of Francis?
Francis had a great love for God. He was utterly fascinated by the fact that God would deign to become one of us. That is how powerful love is and Francis cherished it. For him, Christmas was an mysterious gift of the Incarnation. WE have been forever changed by it. That great love manificested itself in the creation of the creche scene and the showing of the child Jesus.
Do you have any special memory of visiting Greccio yourself?
As I mentioned, I love to study astronomy. For me, being in Greccio and seeing the poster of the comet passing over – brought me memories of how our universe has billions of galaxies and trillions of suns, blackholes, etc,,, and that our God is not just the God of our little planet, Earth, but of all the galaxies, etc. just blows my mind that this God came to our little planet and allowed the God being to become a baby —- how SO VERY AWESOME is our God and how special we must be to our God. I love going to Greccio and looking up at the stars.
How does being Franciscan challenge you every day as a friar?
Sometimes, I lose sight of the great love God has for me and for all of creation. To be a friar, means to stand humbly before God and before all, that can be tough for me sometimes when I want to feel more important. Also, I am challenged to find ways to relate and bond with those who are poorer than I am in whatever way. Sometimes I don’t have the passion and wonder that I should have.
Of all the Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs, which one are you most excited about at this moment?
I have always loved the pilgrimages to the Holy Land where Our Lord walked, loved and died. It is precious and yet I can feel the tension between the different faiths in that sacred place. No peace in the world until there is peace in Jerusalem. The other pilgrimage that excites me is the pilgrimage for veterans. So many veterans suffer from past memories of the horror they saw or experienced. Our pilgrimage can help these people find peace in their lives. You can check our pilgrimages at www.franciscanpilgrimages.com.