Monday, October 22, 2012

Days of Grace

It has been a wonderful couple of days. Recently, a group of us were able to make a pilgrimage to the shrines of St. Kateri Tekakwitha and the North American Martyrs. The shrine is a mere three hour drive north of New York City. This spot is some of the holiest soil in our country. During the mid 17th Century three of the martyrs toiled and shed their blood for the faith on that spot. The remains of St. Rene Goupil are still buried somewhere in the revered ravine (find their story here).

Ten years after the martyrdom of St. John Lalande and St. Isaac Jogues, St. Kateri was born in this same blessed village. Recently canonized a saint, she was an amazing anomaly.

You may have heard of a famous quote by the 2nd-century Church Father Tertullian who wrote that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church." This implies that the sacrifice of the martyrs will lead to an outpouring of grace and conversions. The truth of this insight is born by history. How did a small persecuted sect (Christianity) conquer the Roman Empire which sought to stamp it out?

St. Kateri is another example of inexplicable grace flowing from the yes of martyrs. May Saint Kateri pray for an outpouring of purity and prayer in our lives today (find the Pope's canonization homily here). Here is her inspiring story from the Vatican Press Release:

God bless you,
Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
Harlem, NY

Monday, October 15, 2012

Letters of hope and consolation # 14

Despite the fears that often trouble your soul, God dwells in those inmost depths in silence and peace.  The difficulty is hearing him and experiencing his presence because your fears are so loud and intimidating.  They have convinced you to think that the future contains no hope and that nobody, especially God, could love you simply the way you are.  You must appear smarter, look holier, come across as having your life together, and be more physically attractive and so on.  In short, you must be anything but yourself, so they seem to say!

In believing in your fears you run from one “solution” to the next.  Yet a day later they return and you are off again to the races desperately trying to find something to silence them.  The reality is running only makes things worse.  If only you could learn to stand before the Lord as you are, accepting yourself as you are, and patiently allowing God’s love to penetrate your wounded humanity you could begin to experience healing.  If you follow this and learn to be still and trust in God you will discover that the real strength and the real power belong to God and that instead of running from life there is a much greater and more peaceful option:  waiting in silence with confidence upon Him who dwells in the depths of your soul.

God bless you,

Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR

St. Felix Friary, Yonkers, NY

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Monday, October 8, 2012


One of the lessons that the Lord teaches Job, especially in Job chapter 9, is that resignation to Divine Providence is better than resistance and insistence. Resignation to God’s will always bears good fruit. And this is not just a giving up of trying to do things ‘my way’ because sometimes the situations we face in life are things we did not choose. This requires a positive and free surrender; a conscientious self-entrustment to Divine Providence.

This sort of letting go is taken to a whole new level with Jesus in the picture. In Luke 9 Our Lord makes it clear that, unlike Elijah who allowed for the fulfillment of sacred family duties before having Elisha follow after him (1 Kings 19), the nature of the call of Jesus has a sacred primacy above everything and everyone else. Jesus is greater than Solomon; greater than Elijah; greater than Jonah; greater than the Temple. Jesus does not require from us cooperation, or commitment, or an agreement…Jesus demands everything. This is the only true and sure path to freedom, to have hands and a heart empty and ready for reception.

Fr. Jacques Philippe shares a story in his book Called to Life about a woman who spoke to him once about how her entire life had completely fallen apart. Her fiancé just left her, someone in the family had just died and she had just lost heart job. Listening to her Fr. Jacques also noticed unforgiveness in her heart towards her own father. He focused on that. And when she was able to let go of that unforgiveness, everything else was manageable. This is the interior freedom that the children of God are called to live.

God bless you,
Fr. Sebastian Maria Kajko, C.F.R.

St. Pio Friary
Bradford, England

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012


This year’s Transitus was presented in the Church of Saint Adalbert in the South Bronx. Like last year, the church was packed with friends and neighbors to witness “an extravaganza on a shoe string”—although each year the shoestring gets a bit bigger!

It is the custom of Franciscans throughout the world to gather together on the eve of the feast of Saint Francis to commemorate the “Transitus,” that is “the passing” or the death of their spiritual father. There is no official format to the Transitus, so, much like the Franciscans themselves, the ceremony varies from place to place. The Transitus commemoration is ordinarily held in churches or chapels and composed mostly of prayers, hymns, and readings from the life of Saint Francis and the Scriptures.

For a number of years the friars and sisters celebrated the Transitus with a candlelight procession beginning in the basement of the church—that is until Brother Agustino Torres came on the scene! Like other friars who bring their particular expertise to the community, Brother Agustino threw in his contribution to the pot. Since then, the Transitus has never been the same!

It now appears to be the short standing tradition to enlist both friar and sister novices and postulants into the production. Thankfully, the classes have been quite creative which means all the characters which make up the story of Saint Francis are there: the saint and his ever-growing band of brothers, an always angry father, the bishop, knights, sultan, and lepers. Br. Peter was the well chosen narrator who led us through the drama with his fine homegrown British accent.

Art, music, and drama have been used in the Church through the centuries as an expression of her obedience to Christ’s command to go out and preach the gospel to every nation. For this reason, plays, processions, and public pilgrimages were used not only for private devotion, but also for evangelization. Preaching the gospel should not be bound only to the pulpit, but as Pope John Paul II used to say, be taken to the streets and to public places.” Like the biblical scenes in stained glass, dramas were a way to reach and teach those who could not—or today, will not—read. A song and a skit can “bring home” the gospel message, and not only stir the emotions, but get a person to think, and then act according to the will of God.

As long as the Lord sends us the vocations, we will be there—in the open, front and center. Indeed, the two are related, that is, vocations and public witness. When religious hide their identity and their religious duty under a bushel basket woven of secular straw, no one notices them, and no one comes. Like a boat with unfurled sails, we will go nowhere if we are afraid of appearing proud. If we are afraid of standing up and being counted, the count will be small indeed. This is one reason the garb of the religious is important. While it is true “the habit doesn’t make the monk,” who would want to be a monk without one?

How grateful we are to God for sending us young men and women who are excited to stand up and be counted for Christ. These are ordinary young people, yet they feel called to embrace an extraordinary life—and are not afraid to let the world know. As you view these photos, pray for them—that their enthusiasm and dedication may only increase and mature. Pray that they receive the grace to burn brightly in a very dark world and set the world aflame with faith, charity, and new life. It happened many years ago. May it happen once again, in our day!

Fr. Glenn Sudano, CFR
Most Blessed Sacrament Friary
Newark, NJ
(reprinted from the archive)

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