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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Francis Cardinal George, Rest in Peace

STATEMENT OF THE FRANCISCAN FRIARS OF THE RENEWAL
ON THE DEATH OF HIS EMINENCE, FRANCIS CARDINAL GEORGE


The Friars wish to express their sadness upon learning of the passing of Cardinal Francis George.

We are particularly thankful for the friendship, guidance and example of Cardinal George. A fellow religious and stalwart leader of the Archdiocese of Chicago, His Eminence was a prophetic voice in our times. We are especially grateful for his support of our Father Bob Lombardo and the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels outreach on the West Side of Chicago.
May his soul, and the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Playfulness of the Resurrection

At the Easter Vigil, the church—as always—was beautifully arrayed with lilies and tulips, with candelabra and their clean white candle sticks. Yet my favorite part is always the little lamb displayed before the wooden altar. It’s that image where the lamb has tucked up against his white fleece the banner of the Resurrection—a flowing white banner with a stark red cross. I failed, however, to notice this little lamb until I was walking up to receive communion. He caught my eye at this moment because of the movement of the people shuffling up the aisle towards the altar. Once I would see him then someone would shift their weight obstructing my view. This happened repeatedly so that the lamb seemed to be ebbing in and out of the people ahead of me as if hiding—playfully.



In fact, the same was true for the Lord himself. If I looked ahead in another direction there was Jesus prominently presented before the communicant and then disappearing into his hand. It was as if he was popping up, and winking, he would slip away again. I sort of laughed to myself about this playful interpretation of these events, but the truth is I found it very endearing of God. I’m going to get you, I thought. And I did, of course, but isn’t that what the hider wants when we play such games? When we play peek-a-boo with a child, its fun and elicits laughter insofar as eye contact is made or perhaps just anticipated. It is played with the hope of catching sight of the other.

I think about this in reference to the Resurrection. For forty days Jesus is popping up now here, now there. He comes disguised—looking like a gardener or a passer-by. He shows up walking through walls and eating fish. He appears at specific times to specific people but not at all times nor to all people. One may always be expecting him as if with eyes closed, and the Lord himself may somehow be joyfully anticipating his next encounter when his friend’s eyes are uncovered and he is beheld. I think there was much laughter during these days.

Of course, the rules change a little bit after the ascension. After Pentecost it is different, but the game is still played. Jesus still comes to his friends. Jesus still wants to appear before you when your eyes are uncovered. But since at Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to give us a new spiritual vision, Jesus appears before our the eyes of our spirit. The problem is we seem to be very good at covering these eyes, huh? The problem may be that we’ve taped them shut.

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Friday, April 10, 2015

Lessons from Lourdes

At Lourdes, as in many apparition spots, the Blessed Virgin Mary asked for a chapel to be built. Why? Mary always leads us to her son, Jesus. A chapel is where we encounter Him at Mass! On our birthday we had the blessing of offering Mass in the original Lourdes chapel. St. Bernadette herself prayed in this chapel before she left Lourdes for the convent.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter

Mary of Magdala had just the time to run to the Cenacle and to come back to the Garden behind the Golgotha, incredulous, by the lane asleep of Jerusalem. The sun had not yet crossed the top of the mounts of Moab. At her first visit to the Tomb, she had not noticed that the jasmine and the almond tree exhaled a sweeter fragrance than usually, and she had remained deaf to the cheerful song of the bird that, dumbfounded, had seen the stone rolling.

The soldiers, frightened, were already far from. The tomb was empty. For Mary it was obvious and she did not question herself or tried to know more about what happened really: "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him. . Having alerted Peter and John, she was back to the Tomb. The sun was already high in the sky. Life was resuming in Jerusalem, even if many people were as “knocked out” by the events of the previous Friday. Blinded by her tears, Mary wandered in the garden ...

In the stories of appearances, always the Lord makes the first step. There is first surprise and confusion, then recognition and confession of faith, and finally a mission is given. Todays’ Gospel respects this sequence.
The one whom she searches since daybreak, Mary mistakes Him for the gardener. Jesus has to call her by her name so that she recognizes Him and confesses Him as
Her Master. Mary would undoubtedly try to extend this moment, but Jesus puts an end to effusions to entrust her the mission to confirm the Good News of his resurrection to his disciples. So therefore, the first Evangelist was a woman! The sinner with demonstrative love entrusted with the mission to strengthen the unsteady faith of the first companions.

This mission of “confirmation” did not stop on Easter morning. Since 2000 years, men and women had received the mission to proclaim Christ’s resurrection as the core of the Christian faith to their brothers and sisters. It is still ours today. While the faith in Resurrection collapses in the West, including among churchgoers, to the advantage of a vague belief in ”reincarnation” for liberals and “jet-setters”, it is essential to return to the foundations of our Christian faith. Because, as pope Francis put it in his first Encyclical Letter : Christ’s death discloses the utter reliability of God’s love above all in the light of his resurrection. As the risen one, Christ is the trustworthy witness, deserving of faith (cf. Rev 1:5; Heb 2:17), and a solid support for our faith. "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile", says Saint Paul (1 Cor 15:17). Had the Father’s love not caused Jesus to rise from the dead, had it not been able to restore his body to life, then it would not be a completely reliable love, capable of illuminating also the gloom of death. (2)

With the all Church, we have fifty days to rediscover our faith in Christ’s Resurrection and to build all our life on this unshakeable corner stone.

fr. Raphael-Jacques, Cfr 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Holy Friday

Jesus said : It is consummated

And he bowed his head and gave up his spirit - John 19, 30. It is by this sentence, of an extreme sobriety, that the Gospel according to saint John depicts Christ’s death. In his account, no darkness or earthquake, torn curtain in the Temple and opened tombs with raising saints walking in the city - Mt 27, 45, 51-53. No! Just a feeling of fullness.



Certainly, the Passion according to John, as the three others, puts every reader in front of an absolute horror : the condemnation and execution of an innocent, of THE Innocent. Two chapters where meet all together:  bad deal, treason, indifference - denounced in his Letter for Lent by Pope Francis - and finally, a pure violence of which men are sometimes capable. Synthesis of all the misfortunes of our world, which, in spite the increasing feeling to belong to the same humanity, seems to have no limits. How, in this year where we remember the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the Death Camps, do not think to Auschwitz in this day?

Yes, all bloody human madness, and more still, is contained in the Passion. However, it is the apex, the summit, of a way, which, from Bethlehem to the Golgotha, brings back humanity on its feet! Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped - Philippiens 2, 6 ss -.  And again : In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered - Hebrews 5, 7-8. If Christ, in John’s, can give up his spirit so serenely to the Father, it is because during all his life on earth he was drive by the accomplishment of his father’s will: Holocaust or victim you did not desire… then I said: Behold I come. In the head of the Book, it is written of me that I should do your will, O my God - Psalm 40, 7-9. Where the first Adam had rebelled, second, The Eternal Son, found his joy in obedience. Pilate was not aware that he was right when he proclaimed: Here is the man - John 19, 5. The man who accepts his condition of creature, who refuses deadly temptation to think himself as God, and to act as a demiurge - Genesis 3, 5.

This True Man tells himself to us throughout the Gospel and the Cross summarizes his message. Today, we must contemplate it in order to know more about Him. Come, let us adore Him in the silence of our heart. By his wounds, we have been healed of ours and He guides us toward His glory.

+ fr. Raphaƫl-Jacques, Cfr

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

Bridges Across the Abyss

Last week we heard the Gospel parable about Lazarus and the Rich Man and the great abyss that divided them after death.  Last week we also had a medical brigade come down from the States  to Honduras for a surgical mission.  I was grateful again to see how San Benito Jose Medical Center becomes a bridge in a variety of ways.




It is beautiful to see the encounter of people from the so-called *first world* and *third world,**gringos* with *catrachos,*appreciating each other with a sense of solidarity, of being brothers and sisters.  The gringos are edified by the patience, the gratitude and the faith of the Hondurans.  The Hondurans are edified by the generosity and kindness of the medical team from the States.  SBJ is a wonderful bridge in that way across the abyss between rich and poor that unfortunately still exists.

More importantly, SBJ also becomes a bridge between the abyss between each of us and the Lord.  The gap between divinity and humanity is huge, but the heart of Christ is the bridge.  The doctors and nurses encounter Christ in His distressing disguise of the poorest people, for whom medical care is completely out of reach economically.  The poor encounter Christ in His healing and consolation, that they are not forgotten by Him and that He is able to work miracles in their lives.  I was grateful to hear from the patients so consistently their gratitude to God first of all and secondly to the team at SBJ. *Primero Dios* was the constant refrain as they gave thanks.

Thanks be to God for our Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis who lives out the title of *pontiff,* which means *bridge* in Latin, in his love for the poor and his call to solidarity with them.  May we also allow the heart of Christ to be the bridge that draws us together to the Father.

(If you would like to understand more of what happens at San Benito Jose, you can go to the link here on our website)

Gratefully in Christ,
Fr. Richard Roemer, CFR
Comayagua, Honduras
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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Silent Psalm

Psalm 123

To you have I lifted up my eyes,
you who dwell in the heavens.
My eyes, like the eyes of slaves
on the hand of their lords,
like the eyes of a servant
on the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes are on the lord our God,
till he show us his mercy.
Have mercy on us, lord, have mercy.
We are filled with contempt.
Indeed, all too full is our soul
with the scorn of the arrogant,
the disdain of the proud.


It’s a silent psalm full watching.

The lifting of eyes. The muted gaze of slaves upon their masters. The hushed attention with which the servant girl steadies her eyes on the hand of her mistress. The heavens, silent, somewhere beyond the clouds.



Lent is a silent season. A season of watching. We fix our eyes not on the hand of our Lord alone but upon his whole body. We note each scratch, scrape and wound of the one we call master and Lord. Yet the psalmist doesn’t stop with just quiet observation. The focus shifts dramatically from his eyes to the depth of his throat and his gut as he cries out, “Have mercy on us Lord, have mercy. / we are filled with contempt.” He started with his eyes, but we are left—among remorse—in the psalmist’s heart.

It is a great mediation for lent, in fact, all of prayer. So often it starts with our eyes, our eyes upon a word or a devotional image, sometimes a moment or an aspect of creation. Then like the servant our eyes must engage the person to whom the hand belongs, the Living One made present by the word or image.  Holy week will fill you with plenty of these words and images to capture your eyes and external senses. May they capture, also, your hearts, and lead you to the person to whom they point, the Crucified Christ. From there, what you say, how you engage him, is up to you.

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Let God Lead During Lent

As a young friar, lent often meant the beginning of heroic penitential undertakings.  I might give up some cherished food item or two—I even made the huge mistake of trying to give up coffee a couple of times—in addition to reading a certain Lenten-themed book and adding this or that prayer devotion to my repertoire.  Mind you, all this was on top of an already prayer-packed and spartan CFR lifestyle and the plain old daily struggle of just facing what life throws at you.  It was too much and my “heroism”—aka, perfectionism—suffered greatly.  Over the years this heavy-lifting approach to lent has gradually given way to a more realistic one, which has actually proven more helpful in meeting reality, and, therefore, Christ, head on.  In fact, in recent years, reality itself has proven to be penance enough for me.  The following anecdote from a friend illustrates the point.



This friend of mine is currently in an initial six-month training program for a big-name consulting company.  The environment is intense and sometimes stressful and recently, during a week-long role play, the intensity and stress reached new heights.  The week began well, but by Tuesday his team began to unravel and this led him to choose poor eating habits, poorer stress-relieving choices and ultimately, to lose a lot of sleep.  By Friday, he was so frustrated and overwhelmed, he almost burst into tears in front of his teammates and two bosses.  Eventually, after an instructor-intervention, his team was able to regroup and salvage the lost project.  But that’s not the good news.  The good news came when my friend remarked, “Through it all, God’s burning love is at work in my life.  He used a terrible week at work to take a sledgehammer to my perfectionism and to show me that things won’t always work out the way I want them.  He really loves me.”  Now, I’m no expert in these matters, but I’d say my friend is not far from the Kingdom of God.  And I’d also say that openness to the love of God in our everyday lives, especially in our failures, is what lent is all about.


Fr. Isaac Spinharney, CFR



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Modern Day Annunciation

What if the Annunciation was to happen in our own times? What would it look like? Special thanks to my friends, the Domans of Ave Maria, Florida, for this picture which helps us to imagine.

The apple reminds us that the Aunnunciation to Mary undid the apple incident of Eve!

Throughout history, artists of every era have tried to depict this special story as happening in their own time & place. You may have read my blog post regarding the same phenomena in the Christmas Creche's of the world ("Born in Bronx-lehem" - find it here). God is just as present in our own times & places as the times & places of the Bible. Here are a few examples for your edification:

Henry Ossawa Tanner - The Annunciation


Mary's Yes, stained glass window, St. Patrick's Church, Kokomo, IN

The Annunciation, Leonardo Da Vinci

China

Africa, from jesusmafa.com


Japan, from anephia.deviantart.com


Central America