Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Christmas Prayer

Merry Christmas from the friars. For those of you who read Magnificat, this beautiful prayer will be familiar...

On that holy night,
It happened.

God took a handful of humanity:
Proud, petulant, passionate;
And a handful of divinity:
Undivided, inexpressible, incomprehensible:
And enclosed them in one small body.

Somehow, the all too human
Touched the divine.
And was not vaporized.
To be human was never the same,
But forever thereafter,
Carried a hint of its close encounter with the perfect.
and forever thereafter,
God was never the same,
But carried a hint of the passion of the mortal.

If God can lie down in a cattle-trough,
is any object safe from transformation?
If peasant girls can be mothers to God,
Is any life safe from the invasion of the eternal?

If all this could happen, O God, 
What places of darkness on our earth
are pregnant with light waiting to be born this night?

If all this could happen, O God, 
Then you could be, and are, anywhere, everywhere,
Waiting to be born this night in the most
unbelievable places,
Perhaps even in our own hearts. Amen.

- Ian Oliver
We Ask Your Blessing: 100 Prayers For Campus Occasions

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

SAINT ANDREW - Bringing our Brothers & Sisters to Christ

SAINT ANDREW - Bringing our Brothers & Sisters to Christ

Who was the first of the Apostles? Usually we think of Peter because he is at the top of the list, but the first in historical order was Saint Andrew. Andrew, along with another unnamed disciple of John the Baptist, was the first “vocation visitor” invited by Christ to come and see how He lived. He was a fisherman, like his brother Simon-Peter, who was the first person that he went to in order to get him “hooked” on Jesus as well (See Jn. 1:35-42).

Bringing people to Jesus was evidently Saint Andrew’s forte. At another key moment it was Saint Andrew who brought the young man with the 5 loaves and 2 fish to Jesus so that He could multiply them for the crowd (Jn 6:8-9).

Perhaps what is most notable about his efforts is his lack of notoriety. Saint Andrew seems content to fade into the background after he brings people to Christ. He doesn’t get to go with his brother and fellow fishermen, James and John, when they are with Jesus at the Transfiguration or Gethsemane. Maybe he was the responsible one whom Jesus could leave in charge while He was away.

Saint Andrew teaches us that the work of evangelization, being fishers of men, doesn’t call for a lot of recognition. John Henry Newman said that the true estimate of a person’s influence comes more from looking at their private life than their public life. Is anyone more influential than a mother or father upon the life of their children? Edward Leen, in his book on Progress in Mental Prayer reminds us that: We can never know if God shall realize His purpose in us through keeping us hidden or bringing us to light. The soul that seeks to be perfect must consent to be nothing, that is, to be held as nobody. It is wrong to seek to do remarkable things in God's service for the sake of attracting others to that service, (p. 116) As one member on a team of medical scientists said, “It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, as long as those who need it get the cure.”

Many great saints followed this path of hiddenness. For example, Saint Therese and Saint Benedict were not well known during their lifetimes. Saint Bernadette went into the hidden life of the cloister after the famous events took place at Lourdes, explaining that she was content to be like a broom in the hands of her Master, who could use her when needed and then put her back in the closet. She must have pondered the humble hiddenness of the Mother of God, such a central figure in salvation history about whom we really do not know many details.

It is enough to bring our brothers and sisters to Christ and let Him take over from there. It is encouraging that Saint Andrew’s success in evangelization began with his own family. This is not often the case, but he shows us that it is a worthwhile effort. In this case he won over the first pope. His manner of doing so was simply to share his experience of what he went and saw: “We have found the Messiah!” We might not be able to tell a family member how to live the faith, (that is, there is usually an independent spirit among family members in these matters) but we can at least be true to who we are and what God has done in our lives and share that experience with them. It is good to pray that the Lord would send a “fisherman” friend to them, who they might listen to more readily. If all else fails, I know of a woman who sewed a prayer cloth blessed by a priest into her husband’s clothing (unseen of course). Her husband, who had been away from the Church for 20 years, went back to church that Sunday and became a daily communicant!

Saint Andrew’s example also reminds us to be grateful for all of those people who brought us to Christ at crossroads of our lives and then faded into the background. We ask Saint Andrew to intercede for each of them, for our families, and for every person that Christ wants us to bring to Him.

Fr. Richard Roemer, CFR
St. Crispin Friary
Bronx, NY

Monday, November 16, 2009

Reading Souls

Reading Souls

Throughout history there have been prophets who were given the grace to read souls. The Old Testament is full of examples, one of which is the scene when the prophet Nathan confronted King David for his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent killing of her husband. This grace to read souls is always ordered to inviting the sinner to repent of sin. David wrote Psalm 51 in repentance for his sin.

Saints John Vianney and Padre Pio are modern day examples of this grace. They could tell you your sins when you knelt in their confessional! The effect was beautiful: people who were hard of heart and unrepentant, ended up converting and repenting. Yet, the absolution which these two saints offered is no different than the absolution one can receive from any Catholic Priest. You had to wait in line for days to make a confession to those two saints. Many priests sit alone for half an hour on Saturdays in the confessional. If we only knew the graces which are available things would be different ... In all of her modern day apparitions, the Blessed Virgin Mary has been encouraging us to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a month.

Pray for the grace of a well formed conscience and true contrition for your sins.

God bless,
Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
St. Joseph Friary
New York, NY

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It is true; we are never alone, especially in our moments of pain and suffering.

“The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing.  When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat.  They were frightened, but he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.”  John 6:18-20

Perhaps the greatest hardship of pain and suffering occurs when we convince ourselves that we are alone, that everyone, including God, has forgotten about us and we must face this dark period in isolation from the rest of the world.

However, as months pass and we reflect on those moments with fresh eyes we slowly begin to realize that we were not alone.  God was indeed very close to us.  Even the most darkest and violent periods of history reveal this to us.  How could humanity survive any of the countless tragedies she has faced and will continue to face, if there were not a loving God behind it all, holding back the gates of despair and anarchy from erupting upon the earth?

Jesus’ words to his disciples in the midst of their fear, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (Jn 6:20), are much more than an affirmation that everything will be alright.  They are the proclamation that it is Jesus Christ who is the ultimate authority in the universe.  It is He who conquers every tragedy, every disaster and every act of violence.

It is true; we are never alone, especially in our moments of pain and suffering. 

Br. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR
St. Leopold Friary
Yonkers, NY

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Life Changing Box

Life Changing Box

Sharp has an advertising campaign for their Aquos LCD HDTV's. Their motto is "Change your TV, change your life." I recently saw a billboard which advertised their website as lifechangingbox.com. I found this to be sickening yet thought provoking...

The famous Mother Angelica of EWTN once called TV "The Devil's Tabernacle". There is a sense of irony here because she founded the largest global religious media network!! The key to any technology is how you use it. I am using a computer to write this message (and you to read it). Yet, even good use of technology can become time consuming - never mind the loss of attention span resulting from media overload.

Sometimes at night I sit in our chapel adoring Jesus mysteriously present in the tabernacle. If I glance out the window I can see an ominous TV-glow in most of the windows across the street. Make a commitment to limit your time in front of the tube and for heaven's sake, spend some time in front of the real life changing box.

Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR

St. Joseph Friary
New York, NY

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Transitus of Saint Francis 2009

St. Francis – 803 Years of Unceasing Conversion

Grace and peace to you after the glorious solemnity of our Holy Father, St. Francis!  Every year, the friars and sisters and our friends gather on October 3rd to pray the Transitus, or the “crossing” of St. Francis from life to death.  Over the last few years, the novices, postulants, and sister candidates, under the direction of Father Agustino, put on a dramatic production of Francis’ life from before his conversion until his death.  Each year brings new laughs and new tears while stirring in us a renewed love for our founder and a reinvigorated desire to live more faithfully the live he has set before us, which is nothing other than the Gospel.

Our culture can have a pretty inaccurate idea of who was this “most Catholic of men.”  St. Francis was not a sissy, but was of Assisi!  He did love animals, but more so through his admonition to the brothers that, “God created you according to His image and likeness, and yet all creatures under heaven, each according to his own nature, serve, know, and obey their Creator better than you.”  His brothers certainly inherited his love for animals as one of our friars once said during an EWTN interview, “We love animals – they’re delicious.” Furthermore,St. Francis never wrote the popular “Peace Prayer.”  We don’t have any recorded writings of him saying, “Preach the Gospel; use words when necessary,” but we do have, “Give praise to Him since He is good and exalt Him by your deeds for He has sent you into the entire world for this reason that in word and deed you may give witness to His voice and bring everyone to know that there is no one who is all powerful except Him.”  Francis never dissented from the teaching authority of the Church nor disrespected, ignored, disobeyed, or undermined Her hierarchy, but instead wrote in his rule, “I command the ministers, through obedience, to petition the Lord Pope for one of the cardinals of the holy Roman Church, who would be the governor, protector, and corrector of this fraternity, so that, always submissive and prostrate at the feet of the same holy Church, and steadfast in the Catholic faith, we may observe the poverty and the humility of the holy Gospel.”

Br. Isaiah Hoffman, CFR Novice, plays the part of St. Francis

Being this the “Year of the Priest”, this year’s Transitus production featured a new scene that demonstrated the great love Francis had for priests - even the most sinful.  As the stage lights came on, one of our postulants, dressed as a priest, was celebrating Mass while his people were off to the other side of the stage with their backs turned and their arms crossed.  Francis, played by one of the novices, appears and asks them why they are not attending Mass.  They claim that the priest of their parish is a public sinner; that he is out all night drinking and visiting the local brothel.  Francis tells them that no matter how sinful of a priest he may be, God still uses his hands to turn the bread and wine he offers into the Body and Blood of Christ.  He enters the church, and as the priest finishes the Mass, Francis kneels before him and kisses his hands and feet.  Francis’ kindness and reverence reminds the priest of his great dignity and, falling to his knees, he begs Francis to pray for him.

St. Francis and his companions (played by Br. Angelo LeFever and Br. Pierre Toussiant Guiteau) before his conversion

Francis said in several of his writings:
 “We must venerate and show respect for the clergy, not so much for them personally if they are sinners, but by reason of their office and their administration of the most holy Body and Blood of Christ which they sacrifice upon the altar and receive and administer to others.” …
“Woe to those who look down upon the clergy; for even though they may be sinners, nonetheless no one is to judge them since the Lord alone reserves judgment on them to Himself. …Those who sin against them commit a greater sin than if they sinned against all other people of this world.” …
 “Let the whole of mankind tremble, the whole world shake, and the heavens exalt when Christ, the Son of the living God, is present on the altar in the hands of a priest.”

St. Francis tempted by the devil (played by Br. Alan Paul Fimister

For the Solemn Mass of St. Francis, the Church gives Franciscans a sequence that is sung after the second reading and before the Gospel.  It is a prayerful testament to his conversion, life and stigmatization.  Please pray for us, that we might become less unworthy sons and daughters of our Holy Father Francis.

May Jesus and Mary reign in our hearts! Ave Maria!

Br. Aloysius Marie Mazzone, CFR
St. Joseph Friary
New York, NY

Fr. Andrew Apostoli plays the part of the Pope!

Lo, new signs of sanctity,
Deserving praise in high degree,
Wonderful and fair to see,
In Francis now behold!

To this newly-gathered band
Francis gives the King’s command,
And guided by his mighty hand,
The New Law does unfold.

Before the world’s astonished view
Arise the life and Order new
Whose holy rules again renew
The evangelic state.

Francis to Christ’s law conforms,
The life monastic he reforms
And all the apostolic norms
He keeps inviolate.

Scant the measure of his food;
Scant his raiment, coarse and rude;
A cord his girdle plain and rude;
He goes with feet unshod.

For naught but poverty he yearns;
From money he in loathing turns;
All earthly things now Francis spurns,
Despising all for God.

He seeks a place to weep apart,
And mourns in bitterness of heart
The time he lost while taking part
In earthly things so vain.

Within a mountain cavern lone
He hides to weep, and lying prone;
Prays aloud with sigh and groan;
Then peace returns again.

There in that rocky cave’s retreat,
Enrapt in contemplation sweet,
The wise judge spurns the earth beneath,
To heaven he aspires.

His flesh by penance is subdued,
Transfigured wholly and renewed;
The Scriptures are his daily food;
He scorns all base desires.

Then like a seraph from the height
Of Heaven, comes the King of might;
The patriarch, in deep affright,
Beholds the vision dread.

It bears the marks of Christ, and lo!
While Francis stands in speechless woe
It pierces him, and blood does flow
From out the wounds so red.

His body, like Christ’s crucified,
Is signed on hands and feet.
His side,
Pierced through and through, is slowly dyed
In crimson streams of blood.

Prophetic secrets now are heard;
Great wisdom has the Lord conferred
Upon the saint; the mystic word
His soul with light does flood.

Now in those bleeding wounds, behold!
Black nails appear, cause pain untold.
Sharp are the points, and manifold
The anguish and the woe.

No human instrument did aught
To make those wounds; they were not brought
To him by nature’s hand, nor wrought
By cruel hammer-blow.

We pray you, by the cross’s sign
Marked on your flesh, whereby ‘twas yours
The world, the flesh, all things malign,
To conquer gloriously:

O Francis, take us to your care,
Protect us here from every snare,
That we your great reward may share
In heaven eternally.

O holy Francis, Father sweet,
Devoutly we your aid entreat.
May we and all your children meet,
Crowned victors in the strife.

In virtue’s path our footsteps train
And guide us where the saints now reign,
That we, your children, may attain
The joys of endless life.  Amen.  Alleluia. 


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Labor by Br. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you.” (John 6:26-27)

One cannot help to be impressed by the discipline many athletes undergo. They spend hours in the gym, deny themselves certain foods, practice their sport day in and day out and even make sure they have a sufficient amount of sleep so they can function properly.

Yet how short is their glory! It seems that when one person breaks a record, somebody else comes along in a relatively short span of time and topples that record. The former record melts away into history and sooner or later will be forgotten.

Jesus gives us an important principle that is necessary to discern our priorities in life: “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.” (Jn 6:27)

It is true everybody needs to eat; everybody needs to buy clothing and other accessories; everybody deserves to go on vacation, etc., but a characteristic of our culture is that we have turned these things into “ends,” and for so many people they constitute their identity and their whole life becomes an endless accumulation of things that eventually crumble right before them.

The question needs to be asked. Am I laboring for food that will ultimately perish? The prophet Isaiah sums it up perfectly, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Incline your ear and come to me, hear that your soul may live.” (Is 55:2)

What is your answer?

Br. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR

St. Leopold Friary
Yonkers, New York

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Why is Saint Matthew’s Gospel in the #1 spot in the New Testament? The first reason may be that it links up so well with the Old Testament. Not only the genealogy that begins Chapter 1 by tracing our roots to Abraham, but throughout his Gospel there are many references to Jesus' teaching fulfilling the Old Law and building upon it. Look for example, at the refrain in Chap. 5 "You have heard it was said...."in vv. 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, and 43 followed by "but I say to you...." There are many other ways that Jewish Christians would have understood Jesus as the new Moses by what Matthew chose to include in his Gospel.

There is even a line spoken by Jesus that we only find in this Gospel which sums up this point: "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the Kingdom of Heaven is like a master of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old" (13:52). This line appropriately describes Saint Matthew himself - not a bad reason for him to include it!

It is a temptation sometimes for Christians to ignore the Old Testament with the mistaken generality "That's the mean God. I prefer the nice God, the merciful One that Jesus talks about." This isn't a new temptation or mistake. There was a heretical teacher named Marcion in the 2nd Century who tried to rid Christianity of the Old Testament for that very reason.

Recently at our St. Anthony's Shelter for Renewal in the Bronx, we were discussing the role of Our Lady during our weekly Bible study. One of our homeless guests asked, "Couldn't God have picked any woman to be the mother of His Son?" Another homeless man, who is Protestant, quickly replied, "No, she had to be from the House of David." That was a helpful introduction from a surprising source to be able to speak with them about God's plan from all eternity and how He gradually brought it about in the fullness of time through Our Lady's “yes.” This is just one of a million examples why it is helpful to know the Old Testament in order to really appreciate the New Testament. At the same time, we believe that the Old Testament cannot be understood correctly without the New.

The history of Sacred Tradition in the Church follows a similar principle. There must be continuity between old and new for authentic renewal to take place. There is a maxim in theology that "the Church's teaching must change to remain the same." We believe that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever," but the language that draws us into the mystery of the God-man may be adapted and updated to speak to every age.

Recently two of our friars attended a Mass in Latin in Manhattan (nice rhyme, eh?) where the priest was preaching about openness to the Charismatic gifts (which I presume included other tongues besides Latin). I think Saint Matthew would enjoy that kind of mix - the treasures old and new.

Every reform in religious life seeks to follow this same principle of dynamic continuity. One Church historian said that the success of the Capuchin reform in the early 1500's was due to their ability to bring the ideals of the early Franciscans into their age and respond to the needs of the Church at that time. Our Community of Franciscans of the Renewal has a similar goal.

The same principle applies to one's spiritual life in many ways. Although we are called to put on the new man who is Christ without compromise, His grace builds upon nature. It is evident from his Gospel that Saint Matthew had an eye for detail, legal knowledge, a sense of history, a gift of persuasion, and an investigative sense. It's reasonable to imagine that all of these gifts were developed because of his years as a Jewish tax collector. God's plan in the history of each individual is also an adventure of dynamic continuity.

"Something old, something new, something gray, something blue...." - or something like that.

Fr. Richard Roemer, CFR

St. Crispin Friary
Bronx, New York

Monday, September 7, 2009

2009 C.F.R. Sisters Novice Investiture

And when they lifted their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
(Luke 17:8)
This sentence describes Peter, James and John after having had a strange and wonderful experience on Mount Tabor - having seen the Lord transfigured before them. This verse strikes me as a fitting caption for the photos of our postulants on the day of their investiture. They too have been selected to "come up a high mountain apart.” (Lk 17:1) Having felt a call from God, having tested it by living our way of life for a year, these four young women arrived at the day of investiture with an eager desire to go forward - following Jesus wherever He may be leading – even if Mount Tabor is inner-city Bronx, NY.

Transfixed on Jesus in His Eucharistic disguise, they knelt before Him to give up a regular life in the world and to give in to His invitation to follow Him. What wells up in the heart of a woman who has perceived the summons of God; who is being invited into deeper communion with a Divine Person? The mystery of God's desire for us can only provoke awe and amazement. The more it is accepted, the less it is understood. That God can yearn is mystery enough - that His thirst is for us is beyond reason or understanding. When a person perceives that she is the object of this desire and the "Amen, Yes. So be it." eventually rises to the surface of her mind and heart so that at last she is able to say "Yes, I will be the handmaiden of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word." It is then that she embarks on a journey of romance and adventure, one of combat and battle, of sacrifice and death and of fruitfulness and life - even unto life eternal, if she will be faithful.

And so, with hair shorn, and clothed in the Holy Habit, (both wedding gown and battle array) down the mountain they come - and into the novitiate. With two years of intense preparation for vows before them, life in a quiet novitiate may not seem to be a romantic, battle ridden, mystery adventure at first glance.

The stillness of their hours in the chapel, the simple work of cleaning and cooking, the studying and singing and serving all oriented toward our Divine Bridegroom - with Him, In Him, Through Him. Supernatural romance. Praying with Saint Francis "Who are you O Lord, and who am I?" and as they gaze upon Christ, discovering Him and in Him discovering themselves in their truest identity as beloved children of the Father, heirs of the Kingdom and chosen for an especially close following of Jesus Christ, Mystery into mystery. As for the battle, it is waged against ourselves - getting up to pray when we'd rather sleep in, smiling when we’d rather groan, serving when we don't feel able. Saint Francis reminds us that our worst enemy is our own lower nature. And so it is a battle to decrease that Christ may increase in us. Sounds like hard labor, doesn’t it? To labor in love yields life.

And so our novices have undertaken the journey of deeper prayer, purer virtue to be ever more clear reflections of Christ so that they will be able to make their vows with joy and be sent forth ready to bring the Light into the darkest corners – even unto the ends of the earth.

Please pray with us for them.

Sr. Clare Matthiass, CFR

(l-r) Sr. Agnes Holtz, Novice Directress; Sr. Guadalupe Magdalena Gonzalez; Sr. Ruth Therese Myrick; Sr. Mercy Faustina Bohacik; Sr. Kelly Francis Oslin; Sr. Clare Matthiass, Community Vicar and Postulant Directress; Sr. Lucille Cutrone, Community Servant.