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