“Do you always finish your crosswords?” he asked her hoping for a conversation. I couldn’t hear her answer, but I watched her turn towards him, the friar with whom I traveled, setting down her pen, saying something with a slight tilt of the head and a kind smile. This was just after take-off.
The young lady, Irish in appearance, sat with her back to the small round window and a green scarf wrapped doubly around her neck. I saw in her pale water-color eyes an intellect both reserved and impressive. As he spoke to her of who he was and why, I watched them search his words with a kind of longing for what they contained, but she wasn’t impulsive. She strained her naturally soft voice against the wind resistance of the flying airplane countering his concerns clearly with the intellectual scripts of popular academia, but her voice lingered. Like a curious child before gifts not hers to open, she tip-toed around his thoughts with a certain necessity that came unfeigned in her voice heightening her beauty by its honesty and her sorrow in its severity.
He had a deeper voice. With southern charm he spoke boldly to challenged truths. From the aisle seat he followed her meandering thoughts: always suffering questions packed tightly with emotions and tensions leaving little room for any needed resolutions. As he navigated popular philosophy and a misinformed bio-chemistry his fingers spun patiently about the rosary beads in his lap. Constantly they were rolling over the wooden beads, unless fidgeting he stroked his beard, and he listened. His eyes I couldn’t see, but he spoke with a conviction she didn’t have.
After their conversation she closed her small window, got out her lap-top and played a movie she watched alone. The southern friar, up stretching his legs, played a children’s game with a Jamaican girl. He lost and we laughed about it later.
I was there when she said goodbye, the Irish girl; the words left her lips regrettably, though I wonder if she knew it. She spoke very politely, but her scarf was melancholy and she didn’t look any warmer for it.
+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
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Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
For the sinner it is an experience of relief and joy:At last someone has found me in this place,
in this darkness where I’ve been living.Until now I didn’t know.Until
light walked in and led me out, I had no idea where I was nor how dark the
darkness had become.
When one lives a life of sin so long that the darkness into
which he’s immersed himself becomes common place, it is not easy to lead him
out.It is all he knows.It is comfortable.On the other hand, for one who, for a while
now, has been living in a state of grace, this darkness is that much more dark.
That much unfamiliar.That much
abrasive.For example, for a man who
likes his drink, the drunken bar scene is something comical, somehow sociable,
but enter a sober man and it is sad and difficult to endure.Yet it is for those in a state of grace to
meet sinners in the dark places of their hearts—to travel into these low places
of human existence—this counterfeit world of sin—and bring to them the light
that will illumine their need for redemption.
This heaviness of sin can lurk behind the brightest smile in
the office or the easiest gait of our school hallways.Only few can truly discern the hearts of
others (let alone their own), but the vast majority of us cannot.It is for us then to boldly enter into any life
(at times like diving into an ocean wave, at times like slipping into a
swimming pool).We are responsible for
one another.How else will they be led
out if those who know the way don’t take them by the hand and walk them on?
This darkness pervades souls.It can be seen everywhere.Sin lies and many have been deceived.We’ve forgotten who made us and for what we
were made.Some are content with their
vices and others with minimal levels of virtue.It’s true: we all settle for different levels of existence, nevertheless
we ought to strive for the highest, for union with God.And yet wherever we are on our way up that
mountain, it is for us to descend and travel through the low lands in search of
the lost souls whether on the streets, in the bars, the office, the parish or
even the family.We must show the world
that the light is as relentless as the darkness because there are some who,
having been so deceived, have forgotten who they are, and they are surrounded
by none capable of reminding them.
+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
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If we only realized how we hurt others & ourselves, who are living images
of God on earth, we might cease the sheer madness of sinning with its
Sin's desolation is far worse than that of the fiercest worldly conflicts,
which are merely the "outermost fruit" of sin's hideous offspring that
often remains hidden & very much alive deep within our hearts.
The greatest damage inflicted by sin is always the harm to my *own* soul &
my relationship with God. Lent and Holy Week are the time to "rip sin out
by the roots" by a good Examination of Conscience & thorough Confession.
As we prayerfully reflect on Our Lord's Sacred Passion during these most
holy days of the year, we remember how He Who IS Love & Life Himself took
on our full human condition of rejection, torture & death for our
salvation - overflowing with most tender Love, Mercy & Compassion for us.
In the Light of His Amazing Love, I can say:
Woe to me if I am not moved to repentance by the Passion of my God!
Woe to me if I take His Sacrifice for granted with ingratitude!
Woe to me if I do not humble myself & open my heart to receive His Gift
of Pardon which He won for me at the Infinite Price of His Most Precious
Blood, & which He freely offers to me in every Confession, Communion, &
fellow brother or sister who I am blessed to encounter - especially the
poor or annoying people who cannot duly repay me in this earthly life.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me - for I am truly
the sinner on earth most in need of Your Love & Forgiveness. Amen.
+Br. Philip Maria Allen, CFR
St. Felix Friary
Yonkers, NY, USA
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I can hear her song. Each night, having slid myself between sheets of colorfully printed dinosaurs, she pulled the thin blue bedspread up to my chin. I would wiggle out my arms, and she would begin her lullaby. She had always sat herself next to my pillow, and as her thin hand found my brow, my eyes would close to her song. I would pretend to sleep.
I’ve never known anything like that voice. It didn’t matter that the song was always the same; in fact, I think I preferred it. Did she know I wasn’t sleeping? Could she tell my eye lids closed intentionally so that the last thing my ears would hear was her song and not another “sweet dreams”, not another exchange of words.
Her goodnight kiss lingered over me the way her song continued to linger around the walls and carpet of my room, the jelly jar of flickering fireflies, the toy trucks and ninja turtle posters. Somehow, at night, my mother managed to leave my room without leaving my world.
And as the hallway light thinned through the shutting door, the darkness settled quietly around me. I opened my eyes into this silence and there I would lie until sleep closed them again. I always loved that time at night. I loved it, I think, because as a boy I simply loved feeling loved, and what more is there for a mother to provide than this?
+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR Paterson, NJ
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Controlling others, seeking to please others, indifference towards others, & lust are all terrible lies about love. They are counterfeit forms of love inspired by the false father, the Devil.
As a slave of lust, for example, one twists & subverts love so that the "loving gift of self" intended by God in the marital embrace - a beautiful gift so amazing that it cooperates in the creation of an entirely new human person created in God's image & likeness! - is changed into a wicked weapon that diminishes human dignity: not just the other person's, but above all his or her *own* dignity! (The Enemy sickly delights in our sins - since he cannot attack God directly, he mocks God's image in His children.)
A victimized person may be innocent of others' sins, & thus even without repentance retains all full dignity in tact (though forgiveness, however difficult, is absolutely necessary for inner freedom & peace). An assailant, on the other hand, must willingly undergo true repentance & conversion of heart & life, or else risks serious & everlasting damage to his or her own soul.
So where can healing begin for us in this vicious cycle of hurt & pain? Perhaps in realizing that I am NOT the sum of my sins or wounds. Neither am I entirely innocent of failing to love others as they deserve & as Christ commands.
Ultimately, God, Our Real Father, loves me with an Everlasting Love. He sent His Son Jesus as a Victim of Love to redeem me from all my sins. Thus each moment, by His grace, I can begin believing again in God's All-Sufficient Love for me & live in the full freedom & dignity of His beloved children.
+Br. Philip Maria Allen, CFR St. Felix Friary Yonkers, NY, USA ------------------------------------------------------------------ We need your help! Donate here.