Just Gospel: Call to Be in the Service of Peace

“…Peacemakers truly ‘make’ peace; they build peace and friendship in society …And if there are times in our community when we question what ought to be done, ‘let us pursue what makes for peace.’ (Rm. 14:19)”

These words from Gaudete et Exsultate harmonize with Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month which is a call to be in the service of peace. He asks us to pray “that the language of love and dialogue may always prevail over the language of conflict.” In the document on holiness, Pope Francis makes his call to be peacemakers very practical as he writes, “It is not easy to ‘make’ this evangelical peace, which excludes no one but embraces even those who are a bit odd, troublesome or difficult, demanding, different, beaten down by life or simply uninterested. It is hard work: It calls for great openness of mind and heart, since it is not about creating ‘a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority.’”
The prayer intention focuses on language, on our words. We can ponder the way in which we speak to and about those who are odd, troublesome or difficult, demanding, beaten down or uninterested. If we can use this language of love and dialogue with one another in our day-to-day interactions, we can begin to create an oasis of peace in our lived experience and plant some seeds of peace within the locales where we minister by our work and/or by our presence. Yet, we may wonder what effect this little step can have on the world scene where wars of words often lead to wars of nations. Perhaps a little fable will help us to consider action on this level.
This story comes from New Fables—Thus Spoke The Caribou by Kurt Kauter.
“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a mouse asked a wild dove.
“Nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.
“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the mouse said.
“I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow-not heavily—not in a raging blizzard—no, just like a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch—nothing more than nothing, as you say—the branch broke off.”
Having said that, the mouse scampered away.
The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on peace , thought about the story for a while, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”
Could it be that yours or mine would be that one voice that could tilt the balance toward peace in any situation? Pope Francis writes, “We need to be artisans of peace, for building peace is a craft that demands serenity, creativity, sensitivity and skill.” Let us strive to hone our use of these qualities in crafting peace.

Just Gospel: Gaudate Et Exsultat and Pope Francis October Intention

Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy continues with a series of postings that link Pope Francis’ Gaudate Et Exsultat with his special prayer intention of the month.

This month we once again try to link the thoughts in Pope Francis’ Gaudate Et Exsultat with his intention for the month. That intention has special significance for us as religious. It states, “That consecrated religious men and women may bestir themselves, and be present among the poor, the marginalized, and those who have no voice.”

There are a couple of concepts that stand out in this intention. First, the word bestir. The verb implies that we need to be moved, to be stirred out of complacency. We are confronted by our Pope with his perception that we may be collectively in the wrong place at this juncture of history. That may mean that we are physically living and ministering in areas where we are not present among the poor or it may mean that we are not mentally and/or physically sharing with the lot of those who are marginalized or who have no voice. There are many needs in the Church and all of God’s children need the presence and witness of religious. However, Pope Francis is giving a preference to the poor. If we are not in a position to pack up and bestir ourselves to a poor place, to a home with the marginalized or to become a voice for the voiceless, then we can still bestir our hearts to pray powerfully for these little ones in need. We must bestir ourselves to make the effort to be informed about the plight and poverties of those on the edges of society.

In Gaudate Et Exsultat Pope Francis writes, “Although Jesus’ words (in the Beatitudes) may strike us as poetic, they clearly run counter to the way things are usually done in our world. Even if we find Jesus’ message attractive, the world pushes us towards another way of living. We can only practice the Beatitudes if the Holy Spirit fills us with his power and frees us from our weakness, our selfishness, our complacency and our pride.” These challenging, yet disturbing words don’t allow us to simply think about the plight of those mired in poverty. We are to practice holiness by changing our way of living.

Along those same lines we note in this month’s intention that Pope Francis asks us to be present among the poor. He doesn’t simply ask us to remember the poor, to consider the poor, or even to fight for the poor or to stand up for the poor. He distinctly asks us to be present among them. This even differs from being present to the poor. We must be among them and we must be fully present there. For many of us this seems impossible.

How are we present among the persons of the Trinity? Do we not enter their Presence through prayer and contemplation, through study and exploration? We can be present to many distant realities through the power of our mind and spirit, if not by the strength of our limbs or the validity of our passport. When we see one who is poorly dressed or unattractive in some way at a doctor’s office or in a store, do we shy away, ignore or show disapproval? A kind word or even a smile can make us present to such a one in a holy way. When we have a choice to read a novel or an informative article on some aspect of the existence of the voiceless, what do we choose? When we have an excess of possessions, do we just throw them away or take the trouble to find a way to share? Do we share things that are not worthy of the dignity of the poor?

As we consider ways we can live out this challenge of Pope Francis, we may benefit from repeating his words from Gaudate Et Exsultat, “Being poor of heart: that is holiness.”

Just Gospel: Called to Holiness and Pray for Africa’s Young People

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ encyclical Gaudete Et Exsultate and his monthly intention of prayer that young people in Africa may have access to education and work in their own countries.

Our Good God has given us all another year and other seasons in which to reflect on and challenge ourselves individually and communally in the practice of justice. This year, our reflections aim to bring together thoughts from Gaudate Et Exsultate: On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, and concerns raised by Pope Francis in his monthly intentions given to the Apostles of Prayer. Many may wonder how the spiritual theme of a call to holiness may relate to the often considered political nature of the practice of justice. This will be our journey for the year—linking these two challenges.

An old African tale goes…

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!
Every obstacle presents an opportunity to grow.

This story speaks to us of Pope Francis’ intention for September, namely, that young people in Africa may have access to education and work in their own countries.
Though there are undoubtedly huge and difficult obstacles in the way of obtaining an education in many parts of Africa, our prayer is that there will be many young people with the spirit spoken of in the tale above. We pray that young people will have the motivation and strength needed to desire to overcome obstacles, and then the opportunity and energy to actually do it. Thus, the riches of education can enter their lives and aid them in their own journey to the Kingdom.

As Pope Francis writes in Gaudate Et Exsultat, “Life does not have a mission, but is a mission”. We are called to accept the mission of our life. We can wander through life, we can charge ahead through all our days, or we can choose to employ our gifts and talents in the light of God’s grace to plot our mission of life. This is where education intersects with holiness. We are created in the image and likeness of God with the ability to reason. Our likeness to our Creator deepens with the opportunity to employ the gifts given us. Trevor Noah, a comedian from South Africa writes, “The generations who came before you have been pillaged, rather than being free to use their skills and education to move forward.” These Children of God have been denied the chance to live in a just society, and have also been limited in their journey to holiness. As St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”

Let it be our prayer that “beautiful feet” of many sizes and hues will answer the call to open the minds of the youth of Africa and indeed, of the world, so that they might become forces for justice and examples of holiness in our world community.

Just Gospel: Pope Francis’ March Intention

Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ March intention “that the Church may appreciate the urgency of formation in spiritual discernment, both on the personal and communitarian levels.”

…Spirit of faith, rise above our doubting. Make us your own, now is the time… Tom Kendzia continues to challenge us in the words of his hymn. In our minds we know that certainly God in all his might is quite capable of rising above our puny doubts. However, in the daily round of living we can lose perspective and our little doubts trade places with God’s mighty Spirit and that Spirit becomes distant and small in the blur of our vision which focuses on the doubts that beset us. Now is the time to put things in order, to see clearly, to take on the focus of God’s vision.

Pope Francis, in his intention for the month leads us to the tool most needed in sharpening the focus of our inner vision. He asks us to pray, That the Church may appreciate the urgency of formation in spiritual discernment, both on the personal and communitarian levels. There is much for us to pray about here. We know the term “formation”. It is good to be reminded that the discernment Pope Francis speaks of cannot be simply taught or learned or even caught. Spiritual discernment requires formation, long term openness to the Hand of the Master and his instruments. And what is spiritual discernment? Spiritual discernment is calling on the Holy Spirit to lead or give direction on a matter. It is how the Spirit shows the church and its people what God wants them to do and be. So we are to pray for ourselves, the Church and the whole world that all may be open to being formed in ways of calling on the Spirit to lead in our decision-making. What a different world this would produce!

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada invokes Pope Francis’ image of the Church as a field hospital after a battle. He writes, “The image of the church as a field hospital is not just a simple, pretty, poetic metaphor. Field hospitals by their very nature indicate a battleground, a struggle, suffering, confusion, emergency; and they foster dialogue and encounter, conversion, accompaniment, consolation, compassion and the binding of wounds. Each of us who serves on the front lines in the field hospitals of the Church is also a wounded healer. The power to heal comes from a spiritual source and each one of us has the potential to connect with that source.” So, if we are to serve the People of God as healer, teacher, or leader, we must be in touch with the source of all healing and life, that is God. This implies an ability to discern the working of his Spirit among us.

This challenge of spiritual discernment finds a place in our life through the living of our charism. Our Core Value statement reads, “We believe that our Charism both identifies us and influences our decision making as we become more faithful followers of Jesus and Francis.” There’s that mention of decision making. The context for our discernment has to be our Franciscan and uniquely Catholic Charism. This month should find us praying for guidance in our spiritual discernment, for inspiration among all of God’s people that they might discern authentically, and that we might worthily participate in the formation of others in finding the workings of the Spirit here and now for now is the time!

We invite you to visit us at a time that works for you or consider one of our other discernment opportunities. Click here.

Just Gospel: Pope Francis’ Intention to Resist Corruption

Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy continues Just Gospel post highlighting Pope Francis’ monthly intention that those who have material, political or spiritual power may resist any lure of corruption and Tom Kendzia’s song Now is the Time.

…Spirit of truth, save us from our lies. Make us your own, now is the time…Tom Kendzia’s lyrics again lead us to reflect on some themes for this month. Notice that the words plead to be saved from our own lies. We do not ask for protection from the deceits of others. What is more insidious than our own deceptions and corruption of the truth? If we are truly to belong to God, we need to make His truth our own and be set free from lies.

In a similar vein, Pope Francis asks us to pray, That those who have material, political or spiritual power may resist any lure of corruption. The word corrupt comes from Latin and means to be broken apart. When we break the truth apart and appropriate only what suits us, when we break the truth into parts small enough for our personal comfort, when we break the truth apart and reorder its parts to make it more palatable we are guilty of corruption. Our power level may not be great, but we all have power in some measure and thus we need to examine our use of that influence and our faithfulness to the truth given us.

Once again Father Federico Lombardi has something to say to us on this topic. As he reflects on his experiences with Pope Benedict XVI when he served as papal spokesman, he writes, “It was necessary to recognize the truth even when it was extremely painful, to go deep into the truth before God and people. To not be worried about the image first or concerned about saving face. Benedict has always insisted on the primacy of truth and the search for truth.” We must be aware of our call to be speakers of the truth, but also as ones called to pray for those in positions of power that they might have the strength of character and the dignity given them by God to speak the truth and to act with integrity.

Values Speak to Truth

Personally, we are often held in esteem due to our vocation in the Church. Our Core Value statement reminds us of the responsibility we have to truth as it says, In joyful acceptance of poverty, we, as vowed women religious, affirm the need to honestly evaluate how we use material goods so as to become a ‘disturbing presence’ in our materialistic culture. This statement has many applications, but for our purposes here, it is good to consider the aspect of honest and truthful evaluation of our use of material goods. This is a part of our life that is evident to those who live and work with and among us. If we are not honest in our living of poverty, then the rest of our living, speaking, witnessing and evangelizing can be called into question. Let us use the power given us by the privilege of our calling in an honest and forthcoming way. Truth must characterize our living for, now is the time!