Friday, June 28, 2013

A Most Mysterious Moment of Mercy

Ray Deter, rest in peace

Did you ever have an experience in which you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is real? Monday June 27, 2011, was a day that I will never forget.

Br. Jude Thaddeus and I were the only friars home at our friary in Harlem. We decided that we wanted to do something special, something out of the ordinary, go on an adventure. We started to brainstorm with various ideas. Mysteriously every idea ended up not being available. We laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation, “Finally a free day and we can’t find something to do!”

My eye caught sight of a postcard which had been on our office corkboard for months. It was advertising a new Eucharistic Adoration Chapel in New York City. We decided to go to this chapel for our evening prayers – some adventure! Mysteriously the phone number was disconnected. I called my sister to check out the listed website which – mysteriously - did not exist. We were very close to canceling our plans. As we climbed into the car I told Br. Jude that we might be going on a wild goose chase.

With map in hand I tried to locate the address of the alleged chapel. Being unfamiliar with the particular neighborhood, I suggested that we take the West Side Highway south then east on Canal Street. As we approached the intersection of West Broadway we accidentally got stuck in the left lane behind some cars which were waiting to turn left.

I told Br. Jude that we needed to get over a lane so that we could continue going straight. Br. Jude waited as a car going straight was about to pass us. As soon as it passed we moved over and started to enter the intersection. At that moment a middle-aged man on his bike ran the red light and was hit by the car right in front of us. It all happened so fast. It seemed that neither person saw each other. Within seconds I was present to the bicyclist who was lying unconscious face down in the street. In a most mysterious moment of mercy I was able to pray the words of absolution and apostolic pardon over my brother who was in his hour of need. Br. Jude was at my side praying “Jesus, mercy, Jesus, mercy.”

We are never out and about at that time of day. We are seldom in that neighborhood. I feel like we witnessed a miracle of mercy. Jesus the Good Shepherd placed us at the exact time and place needed to bring His presence to a tragic situation.

Our prayers that morning had included the following passage from St. Augustine, “Even in the midst of this life of tears and tribulations, what happiness, what great joy it is to realize that we are God’s flock! He keeps watch over us when we are awake; He keeps watch over us when we sleep. A flock belonging to a man feels secure in the care of its human shepherd; how much safer should we feel when our shepherd is God? Not only does He lead us to pasture, but He even created us.” Psalm 103 was prayed at Mass that morning, “The Lord is kind and merciful…He pardons all your iniquities, he heals all your ills. Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.”

Ray Deter died less than a week after the accident. I do not know about his relationship with God, although he did grow up in a Catholic family. Since the accident there has been a colossal outpouring of sympathy. This bears witness that he was a great guy. He was a bar owner and beer connoisseur. I would have loved to talk over a pint, now maybe on the other side.

After the accident we found out that the adoration chapel does not exist, so we offered our evening prayers for Ray that day at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

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

nydailynews.com article on Ray's accident
facebook page of Ray's bar
dnainfo.com article and pictures

Unusual Company

A few months ago, while recovering from a run, I came across something very interesting.  It was a postcard-sized picture of DaVinci’s Last Supper, but with some unusual characters.  Instead of the usual suspects (i.e. the twelve Apostles), Jesus was surrounded by Ellen DeGeneres, Lance Armstrong, and Katy Perry on his right as well as LeBron James, Jerry Jones, and Kim Kardashian on his left.  The card posed the question: “What would Jesus say to…”, listing the names of the surprising dinner companions.

What an interesting question!  What would Jesus say to theses celebrities, if He met them one on one?  How would the conversation go?  When I showed the card to others, there were a variety of reactions.  “I’m God and your not”, “Turn or Burn”, “Short the pleasure, eternal the punishment”, “repent”, “What profiteth a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”  We might imagine many other things that Jesus could rightfully say to them.  But what would Jesus really say to them?  “I love you!”  “I love you!”  “I love you!”  “Let me help you!”  “Let me show you mercy!”  “Let me heal you!”  “Let me free you!”  “Let me make you truly happy!” 

I love reflecting on this question because I think it reveals what Jesus says to us and how we perceive him.  We often think that Jesus has nothing but negative things to say to us, but all he really wants to say is “I love you!”  An even more interesting question, however, is “What would Ellen, Lance, Katy, LeBron, Jerry, and Kim say to Jesus?”  The answer to this question might show us how we respond to the Lord’s love for us.  How do you reply to Jesus? 

+ Br. Ignatius Pio Mariae, CFR
Saint Joseph Friary
Harlem, NYC
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013


A few months ago, during the celebration of one of the virgin martyrs of the early church, it struck me: “If not for her martyrdom, no one would know who this girl was.” Think about how many young girls there were in ancient Rome—how many there have been in all of history. How many of them are remembered today? Not a lot. Of those who are remembered, how many died before their fifteenth birthday? What makes these girls different? They went against the flow. They did not give in to the enticements of the world or to the threats of the power. They withstood powerful politicians and noblemen of great stature, whose names have long been forgotten. But the names of these young girls live on and their memory inspires millions, all because they were faithful to Christ and to the Christian life.

What if they had given in? What if Agatha and Agnes had surrendered to their suitors? What if Maria Goretti had accepted Alessandro’s advances, even out of fear or pragmatism, to save her own life? Then they all would have been forgotten. They would have been just another girl who gave in to the immoral desires of a man. We would not even know that they had existed. But, thank God, they had courage and resisted, and so won the glory of martyrdom. May they inspire us to do the same when we are tempted to surrender our faith in Christ!

+ Br. Ignatius Pio Mariae, CFR
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Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Good Side of Evil

“If God is good, why does he let bad things happen?” We have all asked this question. It is a problem that plagues even the most brilliant of intellects and challenges even the strongest of believers. The answer seems even more elusive when bad things happen to good people. A recent experience has put this question in a different light for me.

I met a man, we’ll call him John, who had suffered a series of medical emergencies. His limbs were stiff and cramped. He was unable to speak or communicate in any meaningful way, except smile. It all happened suddenly. One day he was healthy, the next he was not. John had lived a difficult life, but he had a good heart. Yet, prior to his physical decline, he was becoming more and more estranged from his family. Everything was about to fall apart. Now, however, those who were about to leave him for good were constantly at his bedside. They had rediscovered their love for him, as I’m sure he did for them. Before his death, he was reconciled to family members who had not spoken to him in years. It was clear to me that, if not for his medical condition, none of this reconciliation would have taken place and even the family he had would have been lost.

This experience taught me that we have to judge things from the perspective of eternity. What is most important is that we leave this world reconciled to God and to others. Whatever it takes to accomplish this reconciliation is worth it. Unfortunately, because of our stubbornness, it often takes a tragedy to make us realize the importance of reconciliation. God, loving us and desiring our salvation, allows these bad things to happen so that we will attain that Supreme Good which will make us forget even the most painful of tragedies.

+ Br. Ignatius Pio Mariae, CFR
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Three Big Fights: The Devil

St. John gives us three great enemies of the soul: the world, the flesh and the devil.  It is, therefore, always a good idea to know how to challenge these great adversaries.  Here's a tip:

The devil: the cunning deceiver
He is the father of lies.  He is to be always mistrusted, disdained and denied.  St. Peter describes him as a lion always prowling about looking for someone to devour, and we are exhorted to resist him solid in our faith.  He will certainly tempt and entice with words of honey and half-truths of spice.

How to Combat
A best offence is a great defense, and we have to first know what we are to defend against.  The devil's plan is not, as is commonly thought, that we should simply do great evil.  He is far more crafty than that.  He wants only that we fail to do God's will.  So when God says do good, the devil either says do great evil or do a little evil.  But when God says do better, the devil says just do good.  And when God says be perfect, the devil says, just be a little better. 

Your great weapon here is the sacrament of confession.  This followed by the Sacrament of the Eucharist is a powerful combo against his lies because this keeps us in a state of grace, a state of active friendship with God.  And the best part about being close friends with God is that he shares with us his Divine Nature (or grace).  Sharing in his divine nature means that we walk in his light which enables us to see more clearly the advances of the enemy and therefore resist them more thoroughly.

The Moral

You are master over yourself.  God's grace, his divine nature elevates our human nature to a divinized state that empowers us to see more clearly the lies of the devil.  If we should reject this state of life by a deadly sin, we may regain it by humble repentance and the sacrament of confession, but the more we can maintain divine life in our soul the greater will our resources against evil be.

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Three Big Fights: The Flesh

St. John gives us three great enemies of the soul: the world, the flesh and the devil.  It is, therefore, always a good idea to know how to challenge these great adversaries.  Here's a tip:

The flesh: the seductive enticer
Ah, yes.  We have come to the most alluring of tempters.  The flesh grabs us through carnal pleasures and delights.  Two Capital Sins fueled by the flesh are Lust and Gluttony.  Lust fosters in us a spiritual blindness or a blindness of mind and Gluttony gives us a spiritual dullness or a dullness of sense.  We begin to neglect prayer and our spiritual life, faith is pushed aside and we wake up ten years down the road not knowing who we've become.

How to Combat
A simple plan.  Every night make a decision to engage in one small sacrifice for the next day (I'd even write it down).  If your struggle is in the area of lust or gluttony then let that be your sacrifice.  "Tomorrow I will not (eat in between meals) (use the internet for anything but e-mail) (eat meat)" or whatever the thing is, and it may have to be all those things.  If already you find yourself able to maintain a state of grace this practice will help you to further your spiritual growth.  Perhaps you forgo sugar in your coffee, or promise to say an extra rosary, cook dinner for the family or something along these lines.  Whatever it is make the decision the night before and stick to it, and do it every night.  Remember little things are easier kept, big things easier rationalized away.

The Moral
You are master over yourself.  The temptations of the flesh are strong and (important!) they keep company with one another.  As we begin to make our decisions based on reason and right living, their influence weakens and their allurement becomes amazingly unattractive.  Remember, enjoying carnal pleasures appropriately is one-hundred percent more pleasureful and pleasing than engaging them sinfully.  That's a promise.

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Three Big Fights: The World

St. John gives us three great enemies of the soul: the world, the flesh and the devil.  It is, therefore, always a good idea to know how to challenge these great adversaries.  Here's a tip:

The world: The ever present tempter
Now-a-days the world has a great advantage it hasn't enjoyed in past ages.  The television and the internet.  Are these things intrinsically evil? no.  They are like magnifying glasses making larger and more pervasive whatever they're used for.  Yet given our fallen world, it may just be that their evil uses are more prevalent and impacting.  But lest you be scrupulous, I assure you, reading this is making excellent use of the internet.

How to Combat
Two words...well, one word and a prefix: un-plug.  Pay attention--this is valuable information.  To unplug is to disconnect, to be off the grid, to go rogue.  Now, in some ways the world is relying more and more on internet, so surely one has to learn how to live with it and not in it because living all together without it is becoming less and less possible.  But occasionally living without it is a great way to train yourself to become a master over it.  So, for the weekend, unplug it.  Turn it off.  And learn how to detach from it.  This exercise may extend to your cell phone and your T.V.--depending on how daring and radical you want to be--and let me just say, when it comes to combating sin it is good to be very daring and very radical.

As regards television the method is the same, but keep it off.  And if you want to be a revolutionary, throw it out the window!  Quit the cable plan and begin to re-sensitize yourself to a healthy and well-ordered understanding of entertainment.  There is always something better to do in the evening than Prime-time T.V.  And if you want to hang onto it for a family movie from time to time feel free to do so, but only keep one and let it be in a room not necessarily orientated toward it.

The Moral

You are master over yourself.  These influences are very strong and quite often begin to dictate our lives, opinions and actions.  Little steps (and sometimes bigger ones) lead us to remember that the will serves the intellect and our intellects are to be informed by Jesus Christ and his Church rather than the World and its allurements, its celebrities and advertisements.

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
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Another song by Br. Tobias Marie Redfield, CFR

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Letters of hope and consolation #25

Your tendency in life is to make everything difficult; whether it is your spiritual life, relationships with other people or simply deciding what to eat for dinner. Life is not intended to be a complicated endeavor in which every moment becomes a stress filled response to a continuous array of problems. In essence, life is very simple.

Many of the saints and mystics tell us that as we draw closer to God we become more “simple,” simple not meaning that we lack or loose intelligence and common sense, but that we become as a whole more unified and oriented towards God with our whole being. In short, as we draw closer to God our lives become more integrated and our life becomes more of a whole instead of a thousand various pieces scattered within us.

In the gospels Jesus often gives us very simple commands; “Let not your hearts be troubled,” (Jn 14:1) “love one another as I have loved you,” (Jn 15: 12) and “abide in my love” (Jn 15:9). These “simple” sayings of Jesus are not meant to just affect one aspect of our life. Rather, they are meant to affect our entire life and through them God is calling us away from a scattered and multi-tasking way of life to a life that is ultimately moving in only one direction-towards Him.

Even the term “spiritual life” can be misleading because it implies that our spiritual life is only one aspect of our life like exercise, work and our hobbies. Jesus calls us to a complete transformation that is our entire life and not just one aspect of it. The greater simplicity there is in our life the easier this transformation will occur.

Learn to become simple, that is, more oriented towards God with your entire existence and you will discover the great secret of the saints which prevented them from living a million different lives moving in a million different directions. Instead they lived one life well moving in one direction despite all life’s twists and turns. Hence, the fruit of a life of simplicity is holiness and union with God. Be brave enough to simplify your life and the one life you desire to live will be yours.

God bless you,
Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR
Sacred Heart of Jesus Friary
Fort Worth, TX
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