Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Christian Hansen for The New York Times

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! This is the best time of the year in the Bronx. The people started lining up outside our friary at 3 AM. They were joyfully (mostly) waiting in the cold and rain for hours to receive a thanksgiving food bag and a blessing. How we are humbled by the Anawim, the little poor ones of God. It reminded me of 1 Cor 1: 26-29:

"For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God."
Br. Innocent and Br. Tansi prepare some treats.
Today would be a great day to pray the Thanksgiving Canticle from Daniel 3:51-90, giving thanks to the Lord for everything. Here is a funny memory: We hosted some friars from Africa for a while. I sat next to Br. Emmanuel in the chapel, he was my chapel buddy. During the lines, "cold and chill" he would not answer "bless the Lord". During the lines, "fire and heat" I would not answer "bless the Lord". Sometimes we were laughing so much that we could barely finish the prayer. It is our faith that allows us to give thanks to God for it all.

Happy Thanksgiving!
+ Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
   Yonkers, NY
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Monday, November 25, 2013

Marveling At Matagalpa

Have you ever had a spiritual experience which escapes description by mere words? I was recently blessed with the opportunity to visit our friars in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. I was unprepared for what I would see. The life and work of our brothers in this little corner of the world is really inspiring. It was like seeing pages of the Gospel lived out in front of my eyes. Fr. Juan Diego is doing a spectacular job ministering at a national prison. Fr. Augustine was shining as he prayed, blessed and baptized the sick at the local hospital. Fr. Albert is leading a much needed youth ministry which is meeting some special needs in the culture there. Br. Joachim doesn't need to speak Español to communicate the love of Christ with his infectious smile and jovial demeanor as he seems to be present everywhere in the town.
Matagalpa Cathedral in the center of the city.

Every morning as the sun was rising, while drinking delicious local coffee, I would pray and bless the people of Matagalpa. The Kingdom of God is coming in that little place. About two hours from the Managua, Matagalpa is a city surrounded by mountains. Our Convento San Antonio is situated on the edge of town, half way up a peak called Apante, the mountain of peace. Here is what I really want to write about: Responding to some inspirations, dreams and prophecies Fr. John Anthony is coordinating a very special project. Looking down upon the city atop Apante, we are building a 33 meter cross and chapel. During a television interview to announce the project, an earthquake hit the area - a foretaste of what is to come. They will have an outdoor way of the cross which starts at the Cathedral and ends on Apante. The fourth station will be at our friary. Stay tuned!!! (click here if you are interested in helping with the project)

Fr. Luke and Fr. Albert before the rising frame of the Cross.

+ Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
Yonkers, NY

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Fulfillment of Encounter: Behold the Bridegroom Comes

Here, perhaps, is a new thought for you: processing up the aisle to receive holy communion is like a bride processing toward her groom, with each step she draws nearer to him whom she loves, to him who has given himself for her.  The bridegroom comes freely and awaits her hand; watching her approach he rejoices in her beauty and goodness and love, and she goes freely to meet him; freely to his embrace she goes.

The soul wants nothing more than to be freely and passionately loved by Jesus Christ.  In this way it images the bride.  Her deepest desire is that the bridegroom would freely desire her and choose to deeply love her all his life, and she knows that she can do nothing to earn such love, being aware of her powerlessness her disposition becomes one of expectation so that upon his arrival she cannot contain her joy, for at last, she can rest in her beloved.

This is the mystery of our union with God, this is the poetry of the Song of Songs, this is the experience of the Eucharist.  And once we begin to experience the intimacy of his love, it becomes clear that as much as we may fail him, he will never fail us.  You can never lose that look of love with which he watches you draw near in Holy Communion.  You could turn and walk away from him but that only changes your gaze not His, and at your first repentance he will be awaiting you.

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
Paterson, NJ
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Monday, November 4, 2013

The Fulfillment of Encounter: Eating the Flesh of God

Given Catholic teaching, it is not surprising to learn that a common accusation against early Christians was that of cannibalism.  Non-Christians were not allowed to the whole of Christian worship, but rumors spread about phrases caught like eat my flesh and drink my blood, and in some ways it’s not an outlandish accusation but upon further scrutiny it’s just not applicable.  Eating the flesh of a human being is a very different thing than consuming the body of the living God.  One reduces men to animals, the other elevates man beyond angels.

Jesus is very clear in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink, “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I will raise him up on the last day.”  Sounds pretty important, right?  In fact, he was so clear about it that he lost a large number of disciples over it.  They left.  This is a hard teaching, they said,  who can accept it?  Even the apostles found it difficult to hear, but Peter in a moment of wisdom, instead of leaving, gave the perfect response to difficult teachings, “to whom else would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”  You see, the temptation is to take all the things we like about Jesus and run with them glossing over that which challenges us.

When I first heard the idea, I have to admit it sounded ridiculous, but I knew that if it were true, I could not be any closer to the Lord than to receive him into my very being, and I knew that if it weren’t true then Catholics were worshipping a piece of bread, and this is a very bad idea.  It turns out its true.  Jesus unites himself to us through this sacrament in a way that provides for a foretaste of Heavenly communion, the union with God that is the goal and joy of the Christian faith isn’t something we have to wait for, salvation isn’t something that comes after we die; eternal life isn’t something to be hoped for only after this valley of tears but amidst it.  We live eternal life now because Jesus is made known to us in the breaking of the bread and as he himself said, “eternal life is knowing [God] and him whom he has sent.”

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
Paterson, NJ
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Friday, November 1, 2013

Red Sox beards and friars

The Red Sox, beards and the friars. Sampson like strength and Franciscan tradition.