Tuesday, December 31, 2013



In the dark of night
creation sighs,
the cedars grown
and babies cry.
Behold the storms
Behold the sick
Behold the poor tonight.

There, beneath the stars,
blow heavy winds
while shepherds pray
and lovers sin.
Behold the rain
Behold the pain
Behold yourself tonight.

In the colder hours
tea leaves seep
in forgotten cups
while the milk goes sour.
Behold the hurt
Behold the chill
My lungs they burn tonight.

Then dawn delays
where camels spit;
the masses breathe
and war is stayed.
Behold the crib
Behold the Lord
Behold he comes tonight.

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
Paterson, NJ
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013


The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal
would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent & The Very Pregnant Virgin Mary

During this month of December, Magnificat has a beautiful picture on the cover of a very pregnant Virgin Mary. Ready to give birth any day now, she is the image we ponder as the Church is at the end of Advent. We have been praying, pondering and singing, "Come, come, O Come Emmanuel!" Like a mother at the end of her pregnancy, the Church assures us, "He will be here very very soon!"

Madonna del Parto Unknown Master, Italian (late 15th century in Valsesia)

Around two thousand years ago Jesus did come in history. At an unknown date in the future Jesus will come again in Majesty. By grace, prayer and sacraments Jesus comes anew every day in mystery. Why do we want Him to come? Because when He is present, He gives presents, gifts - Love, peace, joy, mercy, healing, forgiveness, meaning, purpose, salvation, blessing, new life ...

+ Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Advent & a Lame-Footed Friar Revisited

If you saw the first blog I wrote it tells of my injury where I broke my foot. Many things in my life changed as a consequence and honestly most of it just made me frustrated and angry. I am weak, broken (literally), and desperately in need of others (especially if I want a cup of coffee – which I don’t have a free hand to carry – in the morning), and most of all in need of God. But I don’t like any of that. I prefer to be doing for others, to be independent and in control. One of the practical consequences of my injury is that at Mass each day the priest brings the Eucharist to me where I am seated in the chapel. This has been going on for over a month now and it wasn’t until a few days ago that the Lord revealed to me a deep truth in this experience. The priest was coming toward me, and in my heart I was crying out for the Lord to help me in my weakness. Suddenly I realized that I was even too weak to go to Jesus where he was, he had to come to me! And He spoke to my heart saying simply: “I come to you. I love you, you don’t have to strong, Malachy, just open up your heart to receive me.” 

My heart experienced a deep peace and immediately I thought of the mystery of Christmas we are preparing to celebrate. Each of us, in fact the whole world was and is too weak and broken to “go to Jesus,” and so in His tremendous love and mercy for us he comes. He comes into our poverty and weakness. He comes into our sin. He comes into our sickness. He comes into the darkness of our lives, our world. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us!” Jesus comes and is coming again this Christmas, all we need to do is open our hearts and receive Him!

+ Br. Malachy Joseph Napier, CFR
Harlem, NY
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advent & a Lame-Footed Friar

Reflections of a lamed-footed friar: Believing is seeing…

About five weeks ago I had an accident while climbing on some rocks that resulted in my heel being broken. In my normal stubbornness I refused to go to the ER immediately, but eventually the pain won out I discovered that I couldn’t simply “push through” and continue life as usual if didn’t want to permanently damage my foot or risk needing surgery. So contrary to all of my natural inclinations I decided to listen to the doctor and “stay off it” for a while. The transition from MACH 3 living to literally having to ask others to do even simple things like carry a cup of coffee to a table, fix me food, etc was perhaps more painful than the broken foot.

One step at a time going up and down in the friary, having to sit and rest after going from one place to the next. I hardly went outside for a month and was pining for freedom from my unexpected encounter with the cross. And then it happened. I looked out the window of my room and I saw a tree! I know it sounds woefully mundane and ordinary, but I had looked out my window countless times and never noticed it right there in front of me. It was beautiful, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It was screaming with existence and there were tiny drops of water clinging to all its naked branches twisting about like the hair of someone who just finished sticking their finger in a socket to see if there was power or not. And as I thanked God for this simple tree and its beauty I began reflecting on the mystery of God’s presence all around us. How many times had I passed Him by? How many moments of my life was the Lord of All present and I was simply unaware or too busy to notice or care.

And then I thought about those shepherds who left there work in the fields to go to a stable and look on the face of a child. What did they see? I don’t imagine it was a radiant face, but the simple face a human child that yet when looked upon with “eyes that could see”, a heart that believed, revealed a tremendous Presence – the Presence of Emmanuel, God-with-us! Lord gives us “eyes that can see” so we recognize you not simply in a distant history or beautiful story, but in the reality of our own lives, where You desire to reveal your beauty and love to us each day.

+ Br. Malachy Joseph Napier, CFR
Harlem, NY
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Monday, December 16, 2013

Darkness and Advent

Advent is one of my favorite times of the whole liturgical year! Even though there is lots of cold and dark these common things we don’t think too much about, can help us enter in more deeply to Gods plan for us.

Darkness: it makes us hungry for the light. I remember when I was hiking in college with one of my best friends. We had been looking for a while to find this cave that other students had explored. We eventually found it and, of course, we went inside. I learned a lot from this experience (besides nearly getting stuck inside)! We turned off our flashlights at one point… it was the darkest place I had ever been: I could not even see my hand when I put it up to my face! But to my surprise, when, fumbling, I lit a match in the dark: the light from it was surprisingly bright. I would have never expected so much light from one match.

The whole season makes us feel the very same hunger for the coming of the Messiah that the people of Israel felt for centuries. They felt like God might have abandoned them, and things all around seemed only to get more and more dark. All of the readings for Mass and the songs we sing (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!) are meant to make our hearts stretch and remind us to live in expectation of Jesus! But when he came, what was it like? Not flashy, not with big fanfare and Times Square billboards. No, he came with one “yes” from a heart totally waiting and ready for him. And the light he brought into the world was nothing like what we could have imagined. Who could possibly think that God would become an infant, born in a stable? It began as one small light burning in the heart of Mary, in her womb, in her arms, and at rest in the stable of Bethlehem. Like one candle burning in a dark place, he came into the world to set it all afire with his love. He wants to do the same in our hearts in a new and unexpected way this Advent… to come into the dark places of our lives still awaiting the fire of his love to come, to make us free, to make us new. Let us give permission as Mary did, that Jesus can come to give us his light and joy.

+ Br. Pius Marie Gagne, CFR
Newark, NJ
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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gray Friar Newsletter

May the Word Become Flesh - in us!
by Fr. Mariusz Koch, CFR

The Winter 2013 GrayFriar Newsletter 
now available online (click here)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent Guadalupe & the Sailboat Church

Inspired by the passages where Jesus gets in Peter's boat (see Luke 5), tradition has seen the Church as a new Noah's Ark - a chosen vessel of the Lord for salvation and safety as we travel the floods and seas of this life. 1 Peter 3:20 ff. compares the Ark and floods to the Christian sacrament of Baptism.

With the help of Newark's Coadjutor Archbishop Hebda, we had a spectacular celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe this year. Answering the call of Pope Francis to go out into the streets, our Br. Simon cooked up a holy scheme. We placed a huge banner of Our Lady on the back of a truck. We followed her through the streets of inner-city Newark singing and praying with joy and enthusiasm. The wind billowed the image which appeared as a great sail, empowered by the Holy Spirit, pulling a sailboat through the streets - an image of the Church. She is pregnant with the baby Jesus, an apropos Advent image.

+ Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Coming One

The Coming One
As anticipated at Convento San Antonio, Nicaragua

There’s a scent of rain riding low beneath the clouds.  Over me it drifts as they slowly unfold above the orange tiled roof of our friary and the mountains around us.  It smells like spring but spring has since passed on—here they call it winter.  I call it spring because that’s how it smells, that’s how it tastes—cool and moist, heavy like the showers that fill our gutters our water basins, yet gentle like the flowers hanging loosely in my hands, frustrated by my delay.  “You have till the bell,” I say staring into the sky, not minding the flowers. 

Yes, true to form the scent of rain precedes the rain itself and the clouds go from cotton to graphite grey.  Aside the chapel I watch them stealthily stretch across the city and over the valley into which it is neatly tucked.  The world below seems not to notice as they carry on their sweep unperturbed at the sounding of the vesper bells.  “Okay, five minutes,” I said, “I’ll give you five minutes.” I fix my gaze in a specifically unspecific location somewhere between the cotton and graphite shades.  I’m looking for the Son of Man, hoping today’s the day, hoping he may beat the rain. 

Standing there in the paseo, it felt like a long time; it felt like an eternity.  I never saw him in the sky that day.  In fact, the only one coming, it would seem, was the evening shower.  But I did see him soon enough—not in so dramatic a way—but he came to us that evening like he always does and I brought him the flowers I had picked in a vase for the altar, and I said to him like I always do, “in the end, whenever you do come, I want to go with you.” And that’s where we left it.  That’s where we always seem to leave it. 

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
Paterson, NJ
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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Our Daily Advent

Our Daily Advent

The candles, already burning,
cry out like a voice in the wilderness,
"Prepare the way of the Lord."
The key is in the tabernacle lock
ready to spring open the heavens at the sound
of a resounding "yes"!
"Let it be done to me according to your Word."

The corporal is open and laid out
like a receiving blanket.
"She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths."

The monstrance,
made for one purpose only,
stands open, empty, waiting.
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord."

"The Spirit and the Bride say come!"
Our Daily Advent.

by Sr. Clare Matthiass, CFR
Harlem, NY
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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Curious Advent Abstinence

Now that we have briefly covered the historical origins of Advent, I would like to muse on a curious Advent abstinence. The practices of fasting and abstinence have deep biblical roots.

During Advent, we typically refrain from singing the "Gloria in Excelsis Deo / Glory to God in the Highest" hymn (which is usually sung towards the beginning of Mass). Why?
1) Remember that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Like the Lenten abstinence from the Alleluia this practice can help us to rediscover the purpose and power of the Gloria.
2) After four weeks of this peculiar spiritual starvation we are hungry for that hymn! We finally sing the Gloria on Christmas Eve at Midnight Mass. This can be a powerful moment.
3) The beauty of the decorated Church synthesizes with the profundity of the Gloria as sight and sound unite in giving praise to God. I like to think that all those flowers and Christmas decorations are an artistic expression of that hymn. Now I know why I have eyes, ears and a voice!
4) Finally, we remember again where the Gloria came from. In Luke 2 we read that the Angels sang it to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem on the very night Jesus was born! So when we sing it again at Midnight Mass, we are caught up in a tremendous moment of memory, wonder and worship. Like that choir of Angels so long ago, we give thanks with jubilant joy that Christ is born again - in our hearts that silent, holy night.

+ Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Where did the season of Advent come from?

Here is a short explanation regarding the historical origins of Advent:

1) The LORD lead the People of God to commemorate certain saving events in a sort of Jewish liturgical year. The annual celebration of Passover is a great example. Every year they remember, celebrate and commemorate with sacred ceremonies their liberation from slavery in Egypt, the Exodus.
2) In the earliest days of the Church, Christianity was but a small sect among many sects in the Jewish faith of the time. By the end of the first century, Christianity had separated from the synagogue and was considered a separate religion.
3) You can read about the first great Christian controversy in Acts 15 and Galatians. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the leaders of the early Church decided that non-Jewish converts did not have to accept certain Jewish practices.
4) As Christianity spread, grew and developed the early Church started to imitate Jewish liturgical sensibilities. Before the year 100 AD, Christians were celebrating Easter with some sort of time of preparation (which became what we now call Lent). By the year 200 AD, some Christians were celebrating the Birth of Christ and some sort of time of preparation (which became what we now call Advent).
5) Before the year 400 AD, we find references in several writings bearing witness to various practices of preparation for the celebration of Christmas.
6) By the middle ages we see a richly developed liturgical season filled with special readings, prayers, hymns and devotions.