Franciscan Moment: St. Francis School Greenwood, Mississippi

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity share a link of the current issue of St. Anthony Messenger featuring our Sisters and Franciscan Friars of the Assumption BVM Province serving at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Greenwood, Mississippi as our Franciscan Moment. Because of this coverage, we step away from the typical question and answer format that we use for this Franciscan Feature. Enter into the story of this precious place of God.

 

Click here to subscribe to the St. Anthony Messenger or to read the article on St. Francis of Assisi School, Greenwood, Mississippi.

Franciscan Moment: Brother Sam Nasada, OFM

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity focus on Brother Sam Nasada from the Order of Friars Minor presently in the Santa Barbara Province for our monthly Franciscan Moment.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m originally from Indonesia. I came to the United States for college. Then I found a job as an engineer in the Los Angeles area. When I started become very active with the Indonesian and LA-area Catholic communities, it was then I started exploring my vocation to the priesthood and religious life.

What attracted you to the Franciscans?

I had no idea about the Franciscans or even St. Francis before I joined the friar. Then I met a friar who was also a liturgist. We started talking about liturgical music, especially multi-cultural liturgies that are so rich in California. Then one day he asked me if I would like to ride with him from Los Angeles to Oakland, visiting some friaries along the way. What I experienced was the warm welcome of the friars I visited and the fraternity they showed to each other. I was hooked!

What is the challenge of being a friar today?

Sometimes I feel the challenge comes mostly from Catholics themselves. Often times we are accused of being un-orthodox, of watering down Church teachings, and so on. What gives me comfort is learning that the history of our order, and I think almost all the other religious orders, is rooted in serving those who are on the peripheries of the Church. Consequently, our first priority is not so much on how doctrines are followed to the detail, but on how those who have been marginalized can again feel that God has not abandoned them.

What story or words of St. Francis are dear to you?

More than the words that many of his biographers attributed to him, I always go back to his own words in the Testament. Instead of contributing his conversion to a dream or a vision from God, he tells us that his conversion happened when he encountered the lepers. This is something that we can all relate to, that our ongoing conversion happens when we are willing to go beyond our comfort zone and be open to wherever the Holy Spirit moves us.

Is there any past experience that is especially meaningful to you?

During one of our desert hikes to leave water to help migrants who are in need, our group came across a human skeleton. We stopped our hike, paused to pray in silence, and waited for the sheriff deputies to claim the remains. While waiting, we had lunch and shared our food with each other. To me it was absolutely sacramental, how we broke bread together to remember this brother or sister who had died unnoticed. At that moment, we joined him or her in the communion of saints.

As you look to the future what gives you joy?

My joy has been and will continue to be having a Pope that has exemplified the spirit of St. Francis. It’s been so much easier to make the Church and the world understand our charism when the top leader of the Church is very Franciscan in words and deeds.

Franciscan Moment: St. Paul Elderly Services Inc. , Kaukauna, Wisconsin

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity are honored to feature St. Paul Elderly Services, Kaukauna, Wisconsin as our May Franciscan Moment.

Tell us a bit about St. Paul Elderly Services.

Founded in 1943 by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, St. Paul Elder Services delivers a full complement of compassionate care to successfully meet the health needs of older adults in the greater Fox Valley area. From community education to hospice services to memory care, and everything in between, we are here to provide a continuum of care that enriches the lives of those we serve, both within our facilities and within the community. Each program and facility has been designed to experience a seamless transition from one stage of care to the next. We take great pride in the compassionate care we provide and the expertise we bring to caring for each person. St. Paul Elder Services serves over 2,000 individuals annually and employs nearly 400 professional caregivers and support personnel.

How do you keep the spirit of St. Francis alive among you?

For 75 years, we have been blessed to journey with older adults through their later years and the ends of their lives, which we feel is such sacred work. We are called to enrich lives in physical, emotional, spiritual, and social ways, and by the very nature of the work of caring for others, our mission is undeniably present. At St. Paul Elder Services, we cherish all life, and see the gifts in each person we serve and in each person we work with. We treat all people, no matter their abilities, status, or backgrounds, as though they were our own family members, and strive to provide them the best care possible. Our commitment to quality is unwavering, and our quality outcomes are a mark of our mission integration. The growth in our services and programs illustrates our firm belief in providing for what the community needs. Our employees are deeply appreciated by us, and by those they touch day in and day out; we strive to enrich their lives as well through meaningful engagement and opportunity.

Is there any significant news in your institution that makes this an especially Franciscan Moment for you?

On March 19, 2018, LeadingAge and Integrace together honored the incredible achievements of  individuals and organizations that care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias every day at the 5th annual Great Minds Gala at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington D.C. Three awards were presented:  National Excellence in Dementia Care Award, the Proxmire Advocacy Award, and the Exceptional Friend or Family Care Partner Award. The Excellence in Dementia Care Award is Kaukauna’s own St. Paul Elder Services, Inc., whose innovative “Passages” program supports individuals as they experience various stages of dementia. Passages includes a wide variety of memory care-specific supportive services and living options across the entire care continuum. St. Paul Elder Services supports people living with dementia at each stage in the progression of the disease, and in whatever setting they prefer to call home. The result: the right amount of support at the right time for each person, who live with socialization, meaningful experiences, and interventions that allow for continued independence and maximum safety. President and CEO Sondra Norter, NHA. JD and Chief Operating Office and in-house dementia expert Becky Reichelt received the award.

Any recent experience among the people that is especially meaningful?

These are a couple of anecdotes that motivate us to do all that we do with our Passages programs and the education and engagement that are at their core. The first is based on some words that Becky Reichelt, Chief Operating Office and our in-house dementia care expert, actually wrote about one of our CNAs on one of our skilled dementia neighborhoods. Becky described observing a staff person who had embraced our dementia training and person-centered philosophy interacting with a resident living with dementia who was experiencing some agitation. The resident was unable to communicate, but Becky observed the CNA approach the resident, and the resident’s demeanor changed, she was so happy to see our CNA, and Becky said that if the resident had been able to communicate, you know that she would have said something like “Thank God you are here, I feel so safe with you.”

Another current resident who has progressed through our continuum of Passages programming with us said “everyone is so kind, I was so worried about what would happen to me, I am so relieved, I love my new home.” And the family of a resident who lived with early onset dementia and the many challenges that go along with that particular diagnosis, and also progressed through our Passages programs, said “there are not enough words to thank you for the excellent, compassionate care you provided to our mother over the past 3.5 years. The person she became was certainly not the person she was, and we appreciate the fact that you all knew that and treated her with respect.” Those stories are why we do what we do, and why we continue to work to bring more education and innovative services to those living with dementia and their care partners.

Franciscan Moment: Brother Paul R. Clark OFM Conv

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity feature Brother Paul R. Clark, OFM Conventual as our April Franciscan Moment Feature.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

A native of Louisville, KY I met the friars at St. Louis University (SLU) where I earned a bachelor’s degree. Twenty-five years ago this month I professed vows on the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola (7/31) which is fitting because St. Louis U. is a Jesuit University. I am a friar-brother who ministers in a non-church oriented ministry: I am a Registered Nurse who teaches and researches key nursing issues (such as workplace bullying and workplace stress) at the University of Louisville School of Nursing. Nursing students are the most fabulous students to teach as they are motivated to become professionals and sincerely want to help people

What attracted you to the Franciscans?

Fr. Mario Ross was the campus minister in the dorm where I lived at SLU. He dressed casually, not like a student, but like a campus minister: shorts (when it was warm) or slacks and a black, roman collared shirt with sandals. He was deeply spiritual and very student focused. During finals week he brought boxes of pizza to the dorm floors where we students lived, sat and shared pizza, and then packed up and moved to the next floor. He was kind and gracious and made a positive impression on me. He invited me to live in the friary over two summers while I was an undergrad, and that is where I met and got to know several other really fantastic friars.

What is the challenge of being a friar today?

Poverty and chastity are two vows that we friars (and other religious men and women) take that are not valued by society until after people get to know us. I worked as an Emergency Nurse for a number of years and co-workers would ask me how I bore the difficulty of not having a spouse. I talked about the freedom of having a religious community to root in along with the wings to work locally, nationally, and internationally with the people of God, sick patients, our Franciscan students, etc. No one understood how I could give up “control” of the money I earned, until I pointed out that because of their family’s financial obligations (child’s education, house & car payments, food, utilities, etc.) they generally don’t have control of their money either! After they understood the life which I and the other friars lived (and in some ways the similarities between the our lives), they understood the value of the vows. I believe they find value in the vows after experiencing the power of God in their lives through us friars.

What story or words of St. Francis are dear to you?

I love the story about Francis and the leper. The pre-conversion Francis, the knight and man-about-town, encounters a leper which made him quite afraid. People with leprosy were greatly feared because leprosy was/is so contagious. Francis overcame his fear, saw the Christ in that person who had leprosy, hopped off his horse, and hugged that man. By facing his fears, he overcame them, and he provided a moment of compassion and generosity for a person who generally was ignored at best and feared at worst. More interestingly, the leper almost immediately disappeared, leading some to speculate that the leper was actually Christ, providing Francis an opportunity to deepen his conversion experience.

Is there any past experience that is especially meaningful to you?

When I was a “novice” friar in coastal California, in my third year of formation (training before vows), I would often drive to the shore at Moñtana de Oro state park. I would sit on the sand dunes, perched 150 feet above the shore, and pray, read, and watch the waves crash over the rough, rocky beach below. The sea is amazingly spiritual and healing, and I loved falling in love with God on the shore up on those dunes.

May the Lord bless you, Brother Paul!

Franciscan Moment: Mary Esther Stewart O.F.S.

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity feature Secular Franciscan Mary Esther Stewart during the month of March.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a mother, grandmother, widow, retired educator, gardener and artist living in Flagstaff, Arizona. I am a member of our local Secular Franciscan fraternity named for Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, ofs.

What attracted you to the Franciscans?

In 1999, as director of adult education for our parish, I was asked by our pastor to provide an education program about our new patron, St. Francis of Assisi. I began to read the Franciscan sources, interact with some Franciscans in Phoenix, and look into this new-found spirituality. What I discovered was a healthy, positive approach to God and all things spiritual. This was reinforced in me when I got involved with the writings of St. Bonaventure and made a few pilgrimages with the Franciscan Pilgrimage Program. I just simply liked what was unfolding in me. My children liked it, too; they told me there was something different about me and they liked it.

 

Why did you become a Secular Franciscan?

I had no desire to formalize my Franciscan adventure, least of all to join an official group. But I heard Franciscans talking about “the Franciscan family.” As a widow, the idea was beginning to appeal to me. On the occasion that I was assisting a friar with a retreat, I heard him explain the roles for each of the branches of the Franciscan family. When he came to the Seculars, he said their role was “to be Gospel in the world.” That really spoke to me; I decided that I really wanted that for myself. In 2010 I was professed in the Secular Franciscan Order and I’ve been a happy Franciscan ever since.

In what way do the Secular Franciscans differ from the other three branches of the Franciscan family?

All the branches of the Franciscan family are equal but autonomous, and they all share the same charism, to live the Gospel in the spirit of St. Francis. But each branch has its own emphasis: the friars are to be minor, lesser brothers in the world, at the service of all; the Poor Clares are the contemplative dimension of the family; the Third Order Regular (active religious living in community and bound by vows) are the focused apostolic part of the family in their work in schools, hospitals, missions, social work, etc.; and the Seculars are to be Gospel in the world. We maintain our secular lives, our jobs, our families, our money, cars and homes, but we live a life of witness to the Gospel. So a Secular Franciscan mailman delivers mail, treating each person he meets with dignity; a Secular Franciscan nurse serves her patients with joy; a Secular Franciscan who volunteers at a homeless kitchen prepares the food as if he or she, like Zacchaeus, were feeding Jesus. Shouldn’t everyone do this, you ask? Yes, but they don’t always. Christians have not always seen their spiritual life connected to the social needs of others; we have too long been blind to the leper among us, both systemically and individually. As Secular Franciscans, we make a permanent, life commitment to live the Gospel in the world. We strengthen and support each other by our fraternal life and our shared and individual prayer lives. We meet in monthly gatherings for prayer, formation, and laughter and joy. We have a Rule of Life that guides us along with our daily contemplative prayer time focused on the Gospel. We don’t take vows, but we make a life promise to observe poverty (a simple life-style), chastity (a life of love for our families, our fraternity members, and all whom we encounter), and obedience (a life dedicated to listening to the Gospel message) and to live the Gospel in our secular state. Our Secular Franciscan life is a permanent way of life.

What do you think is the significance of the Secular Franciscan Order for the future of the Church?

Secular Franciscans, like their brothers and sisters in the other branches of the Franciscan family, take roles of service, prayer, and apostolic activity. But we can be your next-door neighbor, your bridge partner, the CEO of the company, or the chef in the local restaurant. Rather than a religious habit, our symbol is the Tau, a letter in the Hebrew alphabet. One Secular Franciscan friend of mine summed it up perfectly: She was a teacher’s aide in a public school. She was highly respected by the parents for the kind way she treated the children in her class. She always wore a little silver Tau around her neck. One day a parent asked her what that was. She said that she was Franciscan and that the Tau is her Franciscan symbol. The parent replied, “Oh, I always knew there was something different about you.” That is our Secular Franciscan challenge in the world: to make a difference in ourselves, in our society, and in the future of our Church by spreading the Gospel message of peace and joy.

You can learn more about our Secular Franciscan life by visiting our fraternity website: www.sfoflagstaff.org.
Please visit me on my website and view my Franciscan art, writings and Franciscan presentation list: www.arcoirisstudio.com

Franciscan Moment: Fr. James Puglisi, S.A.

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity introduce Franciscan Friar of the Atonement Father James Puglisi. Here’s a Francisan Moment reflection for February.

Tell us a little bit about you.

I am a Franciscan friar of the Atonement born in Amsterdam, NY.  Coming from a faith-filled family, I received my vocation though our Sisters  who taught us religious instruction, directed our choir and trained our altar servers.  They are not “school sisters” but ones who worked with people and families where they are. They inspired me by their humility, their love of Francis and their devotion.  These were the years before Vatican II.  My dream was to become a doctor never thinking of becoming a religious or priest. It was during my first year of university that I realized that God was giving me a call not to heal bodies but souls.  It was the Atonement (or sometimes known as Graymoor) Sisters who introduced me to the Friars on a trip to their mother house at Graymoor, NY.  You might say that the rest is history!

What of St. Francis’ life or spirituality is important to you?

Francis loved!  This is what inspires me. But we use this word is so many ways: in song, in expressions like “Love, ya”. However Francis desired to know what this really meant in the experience of Jesus who would die for a sinner like himself, like myself.  He wanted to know this experience of love from Jesus’ perspective.  In discovering this love by learning to journey in Jesus’ foot steps he was transformed.  He arrived at the point of experiencing what it meant to be at-one with his Maker again. I love exploring how Francis was able to reconcile many opposites in his own life and thereby become the same challenge to the world that Jesus was. Francis for me is also a model of reconciliation, of peace building and embracing all of the beauty of creation so he could embrace the Creator.

Is there any experience in your past that is especially dear to you?

Having lived for so many years in Rome and having had the privilege of being an eye witness to many events, one stands out as being particularly moving. I was in the Sistine Chapel for a service commemorating the 10th anniversary of the lifting of the mutual excommunications of the East and West.  The representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch was there with Pope Paul VI.  At the end of the ceremony Pope Paul stood up to greet the Metropolitan, but then he knelt down and kissed the feet of the bishop  You can imagine the buzz among the Cardinals who were shocked by this gesture of the Pope before the representative of the Patriarch of Constantinople. In addition, Paul was already suffering from painful arthritis.  When asked what this gesture meant he responded: It is simple “Blessed are the feet of the one who proclaims good news”.  The reconciliation of the Eastern and Western churches after so many centuries of division was the good news he referred to.  The Pope was such a humble minister who had great love for the Church and his own apostolic ministry of reconciliation. I felt so honored to have been an eye witness to this prophetic and living gesture of the Bishop of Rome. In many ways he was a figure of Francis of Assisi and we are so blessed to have another Bishop of Rome who this time even bears the name of Francis in honor of this great saint, servant of the poor and reconciler.

How does being Franciscan challenge you every day?

The great challenge for me as a Franciscan is trying to become a “lesser brother” in my daily life by creating a space for the other. It is hard to empty out oneself to be able to allow for the encounter with the other.  Francis exemplified this is his own journey until he was able to embrace the leper and see in him the Other. This stance is one of evangelical poverty where “letting go” is far more important this holding on to possessions. It is this example of Francis who wanted to understand the divine love found in Jesus which was nothing other than the great love of the Father for all of creation. I often think of why God continues to seek us out in spite of our (my) great infidelity. Francis teaches me the answer is because God cannot not love what he has created (he said it was good!).  This is why Francis calls God the good, the all good. How then am I to embrace this God if not by imitating the love of his Son for all of creation. This is the daily challenge: to learn to love as Jesus loves and how Francis did in imitation of Jesus.

As you look to the future, what gives you joy?

The great joy for me is to know that within the church today we have an example who in many respects challenges all of us Franciscans to put into practice the Franciscan values of Gospel living. We too often speak about these ideals but somehow do not incarnate them. The Joy of the Gospel and Laudato si are two teachings from another Francis which give hope to many women and men, Christian and not, that the world in which we live and for which we have been entrusted its care can become the very kingdom of God whose peace and justice can conquer the forces of evil contrary to God’s law of love.  Joy for me is seeing the living of the Beatitudes to over come the forces of this world. This is the very project that Jesus has entrusted to us in his non-violent stance before the powers of this world.

Learn more about the Friars of the Atonement. Click here.

Franciscan Moment: Friar Johnpaul Cafiero O.F.M.

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.

Franciscan Gospel Reflection: The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph with another collaborative Franciscan Gospel post. This weekly Sunday Gospel reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. If you would like to read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection December 31 2017  Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing.

Luke 2:22-40

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Photos:  St. Therese, Schofield, WI, St. Peter in the Loop, Chicago, IL

 

Background

The gospel text presents a picture of the faithfulness of Joseph and Mary. In the first verses of the second chapter of his gospel, Luke tells his community that Joseph and Mary went to Nazareth to be enrolled to fulfill the decree of Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1-5). Just as Joseph and Mary are faithful in fulfilling the command of the civil authorities, they are also faithful in fulfilling their religious requirements of purification. In this text, Luke states five times that Joseph and Mary are acting to fulfill the law (verses 22, 23, 24, 27, and 39).

This faithful home of Joseph and Mary is the home in which Jesus will be raised and grow not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually. Following this gospel text Luke will also recount the occasion when Mary and Joseph found “the lost” Jesus in the temple. (Luke 2:41-51) While many have tried to fill in the missing details of Jesus’s early life, the early Christians who would have had access to those who remembered Jesus’s early life chose only to record these two incidents from that time. This gospel text is an important window into the family and the early life of Jesus that deserves our attention.

The Jews believed that blood contained a life-power, belonged to God, and was sacred. Therefore, it was kept separated from the mundane things of life. When that separation was not preserved, the people and the objects that came into contact with the blood needed to be ritually purified. Naturally both birth and death became the focus of many purification practices. A second belief within the Jewish tradition was that the first-born son belonged to God. Therefore, an offering was made to God as a way to acknowledge God’s claim on the child.

In the text, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had gone to the temple to make the necessary offerings in fulfillment of requirements associated with these two beliefs. While they were there, they encountered Simeon and Anna. This encounter probably took place in the outer courtyard of the temple where women would have been permitted. By addressing Mary, Simeon was acting in way that was out of character for men of the day, who never addressed unfamiliar women in public. Both Simeon and Anna are described as people who had spent much of their life waiting for the day of fulfillment. They are the ones who recognized the divine presence within the infant Jesus. While it is not directly stated, it is implied that the religious officials who would have been about the temple area did not recognize God’s presence within the child.

Reflection Questions

  1. How much did the values of your parents and their culture affect how they raised you?
  2. Has there been a time in your life when you felt disappointed in the preparation your parents provided?
  3. Has there also been a time or an incident when you discovered a new appreciation for the way you were raised?
  4. How do you look on the role Joseph and Mary played in the life of Jesus?
  5. The gospels present that God has been actively preparing not only Joseph and Mary for this moment in history, but all of creation with them. Why would God choose this manner of beginning God’s fullest presence in our world?
  6. Can you talk to God, who chose to bring Jesus into the world through the family of Joseph and Mary, about your own beginnings, or about your hopes to be a place where God presence can grow and develop, or some other awareness that rose within you as you read this gospel?

Franciscan Moment: Greccio, Italy by Fr. John Cella OFM

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.

Franciscan Moment: Blessed Solanus Casey by Br. Jason D. Graves OFM Cap

As the Catholic Church celebrates what some have called a renewed “Franciscan Moment,” thanks in large part to the pastoral and relational tone being set by Pope Francis, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity feature Solanus Casey, beatified on November 18, 2018, at Ford Field, Detroit, MI. Brother Jason D. Graves, Capuchin Friar of the Province of St. Joseph, responds to questions about this saintly member of his fraternity.

Tell us a little bit about Solanus Casey, a member of your province.

Bernard Francis Casey was born on November 25th, 1870 in Oak Grove, Wisconsin. The sixth of eleven children, Bernard worked several odd jobs in his youth until, after witnessing a brutal murder while working as a trolley car driver in Superior, Wisconsin, he decided to pursue a vocation to the Catholic priesthood. Initially he enrolled at St. Francis Minor Seminary in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but due to some difficulty in understanding both Latin and German, the languages seminary classes were taught in at that time, Bernard eventually left the school with the suggestion to seek out a religious order. Upon receiving divine instruction from our Blessed Mother, Bernard was told to seek out the Capuchins in Detroit, Michigan. He joined the Capuchins in 1897, took the religious name Solanus, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Throughout his nearly six decades as a Capuchin Franciscan Friar, Solanus Casey served primarily in the ministry of Porter, the doorkeeper of the Capuchin monastery. Because of this, Solanus was the first person visitors would meet upon arriving at the monastery. This is how Solanus was able to meet, counsel, and touch the lives of so many people. This ministry was often reserved for lay brothers; Capuchins who were not ordained to the ministerial priesthood. Because of his perceived struggles with his studies, Solanus was ordained a “simplex priest.” The simplex priest was able to offer the Mass, but was not thought to have a strong enough grasp of theology to be able to preach a doctrinal homily, or to hear confessions. Solanus was never known to complain or grumble about his “lesser state.” Rather, he performed the ministry of porter in such a way that he revealed the love of God to many thousands of people.

What can you share about Solanus’ letters?

Not long after his death, a book was compiled containing many of the letters Solanus sent during his vast ministry of correspondence. These letters so deeply touched the lives of those he sent them to, that the recipients held on to the letters for years, and in some cases decades, eventually turning the letters over to those who were championing Solanus’ cause for Sainthood. While in his time Solanus was not considered to be “book smart,” his letters reveal a deep understanding of the human person. He writes to people concerning their doubts and their concerns, as well as their joys and their triumphs. His ability to connect with people on such a personal level would have undoubtedly made Solanus a great confessor, had he been allowed to function in that capacity.

What gives your heart joy about the coming Beatification of Solanus?

It gives me such joy to see the Church recognizing Solanus as someone who was able to probe the very depths of the human person, to connect with someone on the most basic human level, and to be with the poor and the suffering, as well as the rich and rejoicing. Many of Solanus’ letters have a common theme, one that has become his hallmark: thank God for all that God has done, all God is doing, and all God has yet to do. Solanus’ message of thankfulness is as needed and relevant today as it was 100 years ago; perhaps even more so.

Is there any one of Solanus’ quotes that you feel is especially significant?

“Ask, seek, knock.” These words greet pilgrims at the beginning of their visit to the Solanus Casey Center, not just because they hold great significance in our Gospel tradition, but because they provide a rich imagery of how Solanus often encouraged others to relate with God. In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told to ask, and we shall be given an answer; seek, and we shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened. This signifies a proactive approach to our relationship with God. We are the seekers, the ones who wish to draw closer to God. Pilgrims visit the Solanus Casey Center not just because they wish to learn more about Solanus Casey, but because they wish to draw closer to God; the one to whom all Saints point. Solanus always encouraged others to approach God in a spirit of thankfulness and praise.

How did being a Franciscan Friar challenge Solanus every day?

“Thank God ahead of time” has become one of the phrases most closely associated with Solanus, as has the moniker “Blessed be God in all His designs.” We do not simply passively sit around and wait for God; we seek God with open minds and open hearts, in a spirit of thankfulness and praise. This is perhaps the most enduring legacy of our brother Solanus: in a world where there is so much darkness and despair, where so many people long for hope and light, Solanus encourages us toward the source of all goodness, in a spirit of praise and thanksgiving. Solanus entreats us to remember the poor and the outcast, and to care for one another as God cares for us. This is what we celebrate in the beatification of Solanus Casey; not just the humble man who touched so many lives, but the message of hope he provides for the Church and for the world, today, and for generations to come.

Br. Jason D. Graves, OFM Cap. is a Capuchin Franciscan Friar of the Province of St. Joseph. He currently serves as a Transitional Deacon at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he also serves as Assistant Vocation Director for the Province of St. Joseph. A native of Hazel Park, Michigan, Br. Jason grew up hearing the story of Solanus Casey, and was so moved as to take Solanus as his Confirmation name. As Br. Jason prepares for his presbyteral ordination in 2018, he is honored to be able to share the story of Father Solanus, and he remains confident that Solanus will continue to inspire others, just as Solanus has inspired him.