For our January Franciscan Moment feature, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity invited Franciscan Friar Johnpaul Cafiero from the Sacred Heart Province of Order of Friars Minor to share his thoughts in this new year.
How has the study of St. Francis influenced you?
My first “real” study of St Francis came in the summer of 1978 at St Bonaventure University in Olean, NY. I attended the Franciscan Institute during the summer of my novitiate year. It was a special year for me, I professed my vows on August 2, my birthday and Feast of the Portiuncula with the then minister general of the Order; Constantine Kosser.
I studied the Franciscan sources and writings of Francis and Clare with the Franciscan greats of Regis Armstrong, Murray Bodo, Zachary Hayes, Bob Karris, to name a few. Beginning my Franciscan life with such rich resources was the perfect foundation for my whole Franciscan life. Next to my pilgrimage to Assisi, I think this is where I fell deeper in love with Francis and Clare.
What story or words of St. Francis are dear to your heart?
The words that I hold dear are those “attributed” to Francis: “Preach the Gospel always, sometimes use words.” We really do not know if Francis ever said these words but they are related to the story of Francis going to preach with Brother Leo, They got to a small village and gave half of their lunch to a beggar at the gate, Helped a poor woman struggling to walk through the town, picked up a small lost crying child and found her parents, gave the rest of their food to another beggar, and after a few other charitable deeds continued through the city and walked out the other side. Brother Leo looked at Francis and asked, “I thought we came here to preach. Francis replied, “We did.” We know actions speak louder than words, let us always preach the Gospel with our lives.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a Franciscan Priest of the Sacred Heart Province of Chicago/St.Louis. I was Born and raised in the New York Metro area, as the oldest of an ltalian/Polish Catholic family. I am a former police officer who has worked as a counselor and chaplain at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center in Chicago. My ministry has included counseling with gang members and their families , with Adult Children of Alcoholics both in private therapy and in the 12 Step Programs. My work has brought me to minister to survivors of physical and sexual abuse. I have lectured and preached retreats and missions throughout the United States and internationally. I lead pilgrimages to the Holy Land and other sacred places (check out my website-www.friarjp.com). I was formally the Vice President of Spiritual Life and Pastoral Counseling at Hales Franciscan High School on the south side of Chicago for twelve years. I am a pastoral associate and preacher at Holy Family Parish in Inverness and various other parishes in the Chicago land area, formerly the assistant vocation director for our Franciscan order and now serve as chaplain for ALGO-Archdiocesean Gay and Lesbian Outreach and the Illinois State Police.
How does being Franciscan challenge you every day as a Friar?
Today more than ever we need Francis’ message of peace. In a church, country and world torn apart by division, anger, violence, and the demonizing of the other, we need the Franciscan message that ALL of us are sisters and brothers. The challenge of living this today, I feel is the greatest of all challenges. Francis of Assisi, in his great prayer poem, The Canticle of the Creatures, challenges us to see God’s face in all of creation and care for our beautiful sister, Mother Earth. This is the basis for Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si”. I, as all of us, must look at my use of the earth’s resources, my being a peacemaker in conflict situations, and seeing the Lord disguised in the poor, sick, refugee, immigrant, homeless, and all who are abused and have no voice, that we can often pass by on the street. “When you did it to the least…”
Of all your writings or talks, which one would you recommend reading/listening to today as we begin 2018?
After my reflection above, I think my reflections on the Peace Prayer would be the most applicable.
From my website: www.friarjp.com
“Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace”: Reflections on the Peace Prayer
Friar Johnpaul will lead us in a reflection on the popular and well-loved Peace Prayer. His storytelling and humor bring to life the message of Jesus’ words to us, his disciples today. Topics such as: being Instruments of Peace in a war-torn world, faith and doubt, happiness verses joy, depression and surrender, death and new life will be explored. An enjoyable and faith strengthening experience for all.