Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Ending of Star Wars as Perfect Ending of 2015

Spoiler alert! Also this meditation is mine, I make no claim that the following ideas were intended by those who made Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Today is the day we all look back on the last year. 2015 was a year of violence: terrorism, shootings and brutality (sometimes by the Police). How many people are facing the new year with anxious hearts? This is not a time to bury our heads in the sand like a scared ostrich. Rather, this is a time to join the war which is happening, not in the stars, but in the heart of every person.

The Biblical view of the world acknowledges the spiritual side of this present warfare. Saint Michael the Archangel is revealed as leading the cosmic battle against evil. Christians are invited to join the resistance against the forces of darkness at work in our world. This stuff is real not imaginative fairy tales!

Friars saying Mass on Skellig Michael (johnwesson.com)
At the end of Star Wars, we see that Luke Skywalker has been hiding out on a remote monastic island. A young woman holds out the hilt of his old lightsaber - as if it was a baton. She is inviting him to reclaim the baton and carry it into the fight. The dramatic scene was filmed on an Irish island called Skellig Michael, so named because Saint Michael had once appeared there with a host of angels. In the movie we see shots of the old stone beehive hermitages. That was a perfect place for monks because the religious vocation is all about dedicating oneself to spiritual warfare like Christ in the desert.

How can each one of us respond to the troubles of our times? The weapons of our warfare are faith, hope and love. These three theological virtues always hang together. This is a time to shine the light into the darkness. Thanks to the visionary leadership of Pope Francis, 2016 needs to be a Year of Mercy. Let's make it happen.

Spoiler alert! The good guys win (seriously)!

+ Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Like the priest at Mass, give Jesus to others in your life!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

HolyHaiku Franciscan Christmas

ALMIGHTY! ... now so small - 
I hold YOU who hold it all?
become like a child -
"Almighty" is pronounced in two syllables with a deep southern accent 😇  

Who Will We Worship?

Last weekend it was a tremendous joy to be the narrator for our yearly Live Nativity at Most Blessed Sacrament Friary in Newark. As always, it was packed as our neighbors and friends came out to watch volunteer actors put on the Nativity Story. It should also be mentioned that there was great excitement for the live animals that come every year. Always a big hit!

At one point when we were practicing a few hours before, there was a point in the story where the Wise Men go and adore Jesus in the manger. In my own script, there was a note that told the narrator to give a brief reflection about the meaning of Christmas etc. In that moment I remember praying for a “Word” to give the crowd, and of course, nothing came! It was the moment during the actual show that I felt the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As the Wise Men bowed before the Lord I proclaimed a simple question to the crowd: “My Brothers and Sisters – this Christmas we are confronted with a foundational question in all of our lives – Who will we worship!?” Quiet came over the crowd as I dramatically asked a second time: “Who will we worship?!” I got pretty fired up and went on to talk about the perfect opportunity that Christmas gives us to reevaluate our priorities and consider all the things that get in the way of us truly worshiping God.

Over the last week, this questions still remains at the forefront of my mind and heart. Even as a Friar I need to reexamine where my true worship is. You see my friends, if we truly worship God there is a letting go that has to happen. There is an acknowledgment that we don’t have the answers and that we are not in charge of our own lives.  When this movement happens in our lives true “adoration” begins. The Wise Men were looking for the king, someone other than themselves! The answer is in the Child of Bethlehem. HE is worthy of our adoration and worship, and is waiting for us to let go of everything that distracts us and holds us back from him.

Notice in every manger scene the eyes of all the people and animals are looking to Jesus in the manger. This is no accident! Let us beg for the grace this Christmas season to keep our eyes on this Child, and for the much needed reorientation in our hearts and lives to truly Worship Him, who is so worthy of our praise and adoration.

+ Br. Angelus Montgomery, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Mother T, Xwings & Xmas

Mother Teresa, Star Wars and Christmas

A probable reason that the Church celebrates Christmas at this time of the year is due to the winter solstice. In nature we see that the light is starting to conquer the dark. What an appropriate time to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, Light of the World!

At the heart of the spectacular new Star Wars movie is the battle between the light and the dark side. Everyone loves a good versus evil tale. Even Google allows you to choose sides as you sign into gmail (google.com/starwars)! Although that theme is found in all religions, Christmas is a great time to ponder the war which is happening - not among the stars - rather in the heart of every person.

The Mother Teresa movie, Letters, is a compelling compliment to this theme. Mother had written letters to her spiritual director which bore witness to her personal struggle with darkness. In the movie, these letters are used as a prism to reveal the inner depths of this modern saint.

Each one of us is tempted by the dark side. Every single day brings new opportunities to reject the devil, sin and evil. Every sun rise brings new opportunities to choose life, love and light. Time to spiritually awaken. Which side will you choose today?

+ Fr. Luke Skywalker Fletcher, CFR
Yonkers, NY

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Curious fact: Max von Sydow is in both movies!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Pray & Sacrifice for our Persecuted Brethren (& advice from Yoda) Part 2 of 2

Pray More: Both quantity and quality matter. Do what you can. Don't stay in church all day unless you're a monk or nun; but don't be afraid of stepping inside a church other than at Sunday Mass either. Maybe pick one day every week to offer up "everything you can" for them. ​I would like to hear our persecuted brethren named in our Intercessions at Mass and other prayers with the same fervor as a mother praying for her only son who is in a war zone. ("Out of sight, out of mind..." Let us not forget them!) Post a reminder on your fridge and a prayer card in your Bible or prayer book.
Fast in Some Way: Do something - that's better than nothing! You're not St. Francis of Assisi, but you are you, and God wants your fasting too.  Perhaps every Friday, maybe Wednesday as well, omit something you like or eat less. Give up your favorite sin for at least a day or an hour (or even better, forever!). Or perhaps fast from "electronic device time" in favor of prayer or spending time with family. We all can give something up - or several things. The homeless really need clothes as it gets colder: purge your unused wardrobe. Just do it - let it go and feel the joy you've been missing. Don't wait until Lent to begin fasting!
Almsgiving: Pray​​ about what you can do (if not now, then when you can); then stick to what you have decided upon. It's good to feel stretched a little; our persecuted brethren are stretched a whole lot. In addition to your local parish, community, or religious order, consider supporting a cause that moves your heart - whether people in need, evangelization, education, or those who serve them. God will multiply your gift and reward you.
Sacrifices:​ Sacrifices, when done with faith and love for Christ, have tremendous power to help save souls. They are the "firepower" behind our prayers. St. Therese, Co-Patroness of the Missions, said: "My weapons are prayer and sacrifice." Jesus promised St. Faustina to save a soul for "every stitch" she made while sewing. WOW... Maybe we won't be granted such a sweet deal, but even offering up your daily duties with love, and adding some extra little sacrifices of things you would rather not do, may actually help set prisoners free, protect the innocent, and convert the hateful around the world. I remember young school child in the U.S. who heard about widespread slavery happening in some country; she asked her teacher if she could do something, and after a brief campaign of giving by the families at her school, literally hundreds of people's freedom were bought back. Amazing! I'm sure she did not even see this as a sacrifice. Christ redeemed us from our sins, and we, His beloved disciples, by humbly cooperating with His grace can actively participate in the salvation of others through our human efforts. Venerable Fulton Sheen often said that there is nothing worse than "wasted suffering"!
Little Acts of Love:​ This is another powerhouse of grace. Do an act of love for someone you live with, today. Do something you know you should do, and do it with love. Also do something they would never expect. Be creative. Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire you. And reach out to the poor and needy in some way. Visit a soup kitchen, shelter, hospital, nursing home, or neighbor. Ask forgiveness from or offer forgiveness to a family member or loved one; no one deserves it, but we all need it! Share your faith with someone at work, when shopping, at the gym, or anywhere. You are a missionary of Christ! Don't be a couch-potato Christian. God made you for greatness: start living up to it.
Receive the Sacraments Frequently: H​ow foolish we would be if we thought we could do anything without God's grace. That's why we need the Sacraments. Go to daily Mass when you can. Go to Confession regularly - at least once a month, but maybe twice. Receive Communion as often as you can (in the state​ ​of grace, of course). Try to make at least a weekly Holy Hour. If you're very ill or feel useless, ask a priest to pray over you and perhaps give you the Anointing of the Sick. Whenever we make a good Confession or receive Communion worthily, we are restored to our Baptismal innocence in the sight of God. How beautiful! And how often we forget this tremendous reality.
Be Radically Faithful to God's Will:​ This means doing my best to carry out what I believe God wants from me each day according to my state of life. Fidelity is very difficult, but the results are astounding like radiation from a supernova (this should be seen positively - not as destroying planets around it, but as giving birth to entirely new solar systems)! Sometimes love hurts and puts unhealthy relationships to an end; but this is only so new healthy relationships can form! Just think of a faithful father, mother, friend, or loved one who means the world to you; now be that person for someone else. The more faithful we are to God, the more He will bless us - and all those for whom we pray. And don't deceive yourself - fidelity means actually doing what we should. "Do or do not - there is no try." -Yoda

Following the clarion call of Pope Francis, let us each prayerfully ask God how (not if) He wants us to support our persecuted brothers and sisters, then put this into action and encourage others to do the same (tell all your Facebook Friends!). Remember: God is never outdone in generosity. I truly believe God will rain down mighty graces upon the Church and the whole world if we do this ASAP. God bless you, and may the True Force of the Holy Spirit be with you!
+Br. Philip Maria Allen, CFR
St. Leopold Friary
Yonkers, NY, USA

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pray & Sacrifice for our Persecuted Brethren (& advice from Yoda): Part 1 of 2

Our hearts are united with our many suffering brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world. May God have mercy on those who are suffering intensely right now for Jesus and His Church, and convert those who persecute them. +Amen.
As in the times of the early Church and this past "Century of Martyrs", thousands and thousands of Christians are literally in danger of death, and many more are actively suffering abuse, imprisonment, or worse for the sake of Christ. Similar to those who protect us from physical dangers like our Armed Forces and Police, these valiant men, women, and even children are on the front lines in testimony to what we hold most dear: our faith in Jesus Christ.
A brief listen or look at the news should shake our hearts to the core at the plight of those in Syria and Iraq, Nigeria, Mindanao Island in the Philippines, China, and so many other places. They are the heroes of our day, and we owe them our deepest debt of gratitude.
>>> But what are we doing for them? What am I really doing to support them? Are you a lukewarm believer on the sidelines like so many people today? Do we simply complain about it and feel helpless to change anything?
I challenge myself and you today to do more for our beloved brethren who are in harm's way simply for being Christian. You can make a huge difference! The Saints of our Church, as Our Lady at Fatima in recent times, have made clear how we can help.
Here are Seven Practical Ways to Helpprayer, fasting, almsgiving, sacrifices, acts of love, living a rich sacramental life, and radical fidelity to God's Will.​ (I will explain each of these in Part 2.)
Br. Philip Maria Allen, CFR
St. Leopold Friary
Yonkers, NY, USA

Monday, December 7, 2015

New Book

In Letters of Hope and Consolation, Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR simply responds to questions regarding the deepest desire of the human heart which is eternal union with God. His powerful insights serve to motivate people to live a life by seeking the love and promises of the Lord. Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock entered into the Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in 2002 and was ordained a priest in 2011. He has served in various roles of formation and is currently a Spiritual Director residing at the House of Prayer in Monticello, New York.

Find it here:

Friday, December 4, 2015

HolyHaiku Advent from God's Perspective

waiting, longing love
from before the start of time
I wanted to come!

(from last year)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent, Parousia, Panim

If looked up in an English dictionary, the word Advent will be defined as: a coming of an event, a person, or place. Indeed Advent is an event, a great event, and likewise a coming, a person. The word ‘Advent’ is derived from the Latin word ‘Adventus’ which means coming. In the Liturgical season of Advent, we await in joyful expectation the coming of our Lord. Not only do we commemorate Christ’s first coming in the flesh, but as we find ourselves in these ‘last days’, we also await his 2nd coming in glory, in which He will consummate His Eternal Kingdom. However, the Latin word Adventus is actually a translation of the New Testament Greek word Parousia(παρουσία). I would argue the word Parousia is much richer than the word Adventus. The meaning of the word Parousia is two-fold in nature; it contains a double entendre. Not only does it mean coming or arrival but it also means presence. Know going even a step further back into the Old Testament Hebrew word used in place of Parousia is Panim(פָּנִים). This word absolutely blows my mind! This is not only the word for presence, but… it is also the word for ‘face’, actually this word is plural, so in essence ‘panim’ also means ‘faces’.

Why all the buildup of these three words? Indeed we await joyfully the Advent of our Lord, but there is more than just the coming of an event, the mere commemoration of what happened at a ‘place’. Advent is the expectation of not only some abstract idea or commemoration of Christ. A true advent, namely, a parousia, is the celebration of a panim, a presence, a person, a face[s]… Christ! Does not this happen everyday at the sacred Liturgy? Does not Christ come in the fullness of His glory… with His presence, with His Face, with the other two persons of the Most Holy Trinity that are consubstantially united and inseparable with Him? Does not this Panim of Christ reside in our brother, in every Church, in every tabernacle throughout the world? This Advent, let us celebrated the sacred mystery of his True presence. Let us enter into this presence, this person, with a face, truly present, really present, substantially present for you, for me, for all. He has come, He is here, and He is coming into the world.

+ Br. Roch Mary Greiner, CFR
Yonkers, NY

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Advent Promise

Hey Church, here we go again! The holy season of Advent begins the liturgical year. The awesome prayers and readings will focus us on the core reason for the season:

God made a promise.

In the midst of our daily drama, He is with us. Though there are scary signs in the sun, moon and stars, He is with us. Even if the sea roars, the earth shakes and your life is filled with anxiety, He is with us.

So basically, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose ... What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:28-31)

+ Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Are We Going to Hell?

One day I was the last guy in on a very packed elevator. I had to back in and pull my beard back from the closing doors. The man next to me could not see the buttons, so he asked, "Are we going to L?" I responded, "I hope not!" The crowded cubicle filled with nervous laughter. Then I commented, "But we do appear to be going down." Ponderous silence ensued. When the doors opened I announced, "No flames!"

During the end of the liturgical year, the readings at Mass focus us on the Last Things - death, judgment, heaven & hell. It can be spiritually fruitful to remember that we will die - "Frater, memento mori!" was a common greeting among medieval monks. When you die there is an elevator which transports your soul to your eternal abode. Elevators only go up or down. Don't press L.

+ Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Something More: A Vocation Story

I was never able to remain in crowds.  In elementary school as soon as the bell rang for recess students were off like a pack of dogs chasing a ball into the playground.  A quiet country field became a spectacle of childhood games.  I too was like the rest of the kids, excited to do something, anything, after almost dying of boredom from the morning classes.  The excitement for me, however, was short-lived.  After playing kickball for a few minutes, I would often leave the game, sit against the wall, and gaze up at the sky.  For those few moments of pondering the sky life appeared to me like an ocean, wild and free, and there was a presence inviting me to swim in its waves.
When I was a senior in high school we students were obsessed with scoring high on the SAT’s, visiting our favorite colleges, attracting the opposite sex, and embodying the latest trend.  Our frantic attempts and failures at self-realization awoke in me a hunger for something more.  I began reading books of poetry, philosophy, religion and literature, and writing about my desire to see reality in its purest light, rather than live behind a wall of shadows.  While reading and writing I felt like a child again, in the presence of a loving parent who was inviting me to explore this road less traveled. 

After graduating from college everyone I knew went in three different directions: sending out resumes in search of a job, applying for graduate school, or preparing for marriage and family life.  Of these three, the only one I considered seriously was graduate school for either writing or philosophy.  I realized, however, the only reason I would choose graduate school was to make myself more appealing to future employers, something that was not bad, but something I was not interested in.  I would often visit the nearest church where I could be alone in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament to think and to pray, but mostly to listen.  There I often felt like I was in a dream in which everyone was sleep walking, and this mysterious presence was inviting me to wake everyone up.  Enlightened by this presence, I chose another path.  I gave up everything I owned and moved to New York City to begin living a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. 

Looking back, the way I understand my vocation to religious life is the desire for something more.  A part of me was attracted to the same things my friends were: marriage, a career, a family, and the many other good things of the world.  For me, the problem with them is that they were not enough.  When I sat in prayer, and I imagined a “normal” life, I knew immediately that could not satisfy me.       

Some of my more idealistic and philosophically oriented friends understood my vocation to be a social protest against capitalism and a heroic decision to fight for the rights and protection of the poor so as to eradicate human poverty.  Even now, after many years of living with the poor I still chuckle when I think about their misunderstanding of my vocation.  Who did they think I was after all?  By entering religious life I wasn’t protesting or fighting anything or anyone.   I didn’t choose religious life in anger against the government or social conditions, but to joyfully follow Him “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”(Revelation 1:8)

Every Christian, by virtue of Baptism, is called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  What is unique about religious life is that it attempts to be radical.  It is not admiring His life from a distance or even walking hand in hand next to Him.  It is complete discipleship, following the Master not only where He goes, but how he lived while on earth.  Hence, religious life is sometimes referred to as the “perfect imitation” of Christ.  Perfect, not because those living religious life are perfect, but because the way of life they are choosing is the exact life the Son of Man lived while on earth.  Through the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience the religious radically imitates Christ. (Jn 4:34, Lk 9:58)  Like Jesus the religious chooses poverty for the sake of becoming rich in what matters to God.  He chooses chastity for the sake of a greater love.  And he chooses obedience because he wishes to be led ultimately by the Father.    

In a culture that is obsessed with sex, status, and material possessions the religious becomes a prophetic sign pointing to something more.  To the married couple the religious reminds them that their love for their spouse must be pure, holy, and life giving.  To the youth the religious provokes wonder and amazement in front of a way of life that society does not consider intuitive.  To politicians the religious reminds them that there is a higher law, and that God’s ways are the true path that leads to human freedom.  To the atheist the religious challenges them to reconsider, to probe deeper into their own hearts and discover the presence in which they “live and move and have their being.” (Acts 16:28)

It has been thirteen years since I left everything to follow Jesus.  In that time I have lived a full life.  I have been ordained a priest, preached all over the world, buried my own mother, spent endless hours with the homeless, prostitutes, drug addicts, and those suffering from mental illness, spent days and weeks alone with God in a hermitage, and lived in places I would have never imagined like Harlem, Newark, New Jersey, and Fort Worth, Texas.

Yet the most remarkable aspect of my life is the growing intimacy I experience with Jesus as I stumble along each day following in his footsteps.  Poverty, chastity, and obedience have purified me, humbled me, strengthened me, and have forced me to “seek the things that are above,” (Colossians 3:1) transforming me into a mature human being and an ardent disciple of Christ. 

Religious life certainly is not perfect.  The rules and customs can seem outdated, too idealistic, and even inhuman at times.  Sometimes my fear, pride, or stubbornness prevents me from simply being led “where [I] do not wish to go.” (John 21:18)  The people in religious life struggle with human problems like depression, fear, scrupulosity, self hate, and insecurity.  Even our superiors sometimes give commands that are not based on reason or even good discernment but on their own brokenness.  Through this imperfect reality one is given the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who “was oppressed and afflicted…despised and rejected by men…wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:7:3:5)

Despite my struggles with broken humanity, I have never once considered leaving religious life.  Why would I?  It has always lived up to its promise of leading me to something more.  I have discovered a treasure in a field, and like the man in the parable “in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Mt 13:44)  Yet as I grow older I am becoming increasingly aware there is still more of God, more human experiences, more life that I have yet to encounter.  In many ways I still feel like a child, fascinated by the simplest discovery yet far away from perfect maturity.  Currently I am living a more contemplative expression of Franciscan life, one that includes large doses of silence and solitude.  The reason is not because I want to avoid people, but because I am falling more deeply in love with the silent presence of God, who is continuing to invite me, even in this desire, to still something more.

+ Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR
Monticello, NY
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Monday, November 16, 2015

Today's Gospel for Today

Blind man: "Jesus, Son of David, knock down the sight-blocking walls which surround my Jericho heart. Lord, please let me see!"

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Mighty Widow HolyHaiku

poor, yet rich in faith
outpour from her God-like heart
trust seeps from her pores

"Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, 'Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.' ”
Mark 12: 41-44

Thursday, October 29, 2015

What Waiting Obtains

A characteristic of the world, whether we like it or not and whether we wish to admit it or not, is that everything in this world is limited. We can only eat so much food before we get sick. We can only listen to so much music before our brains beg us for silence and we can only watch so much TV before we get bored and maybe even depressed.

A sign that we are beginning to mature is not only the realization of this fact but the acceptance of it in my life. By accepting the limited nature of this world, which includes other people, I stop hoping and expecting to find my ultimate fulfillment here. The irony is that by accepting life and other people as they really are, i.e., limited, I can begin to appreciate the beauty of life as it unfolds before me.

How then are we suppose to live in this world?

The Psalmist encourages us: “Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage, yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). Waiting for God is no easy task. Perhaps there is nothing more difficult in this life than this. In times of darkness and difficulty we run to some “thing” hoping that it can ease our pain. But instead of reacting immediately, instead of running to some “thing” or someone we are called simply to wait upon God, the only one who knows no limits.

+ Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR
Monticello, NY
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Monday, October 19, 2015

Beyond Death

I have lived almost my entire life, with the exception of two years, in the Northeast.  That is a total, in case you are curious, of thirty-four years.  When I travel and people ask me where I am from their first response is generally something between mystical wonder and childhood enthusiasm.   “Wow,” they often say, “you are lucky to live there.  So close to New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, the ocean, the mountains, etc.”   In other words, there is so much to do here, so many people, so many things happening.  Things are alive here!  Actually, if it was up to me I would live somewhere like Montana, Wyoming or Colorado where there is a lot of “nothing.”

One thing I love about the Northeast is the season of fall.  Every year, like clockwork, an impressive mystery occurs.  The leaves begin to sing.  Up until now they have been quiet, simply blending in and clothing the trees in their simple attire.

I am blessed right now to be living in upstate New York.   There are deer, black bears, foxes and many other creatures roaming around in my backyard.  Not only are the animals great and exciting to watch but I am surrounded by trees of all different shapes and sizes.  The leaves on those trees, now in mid October, are singing their final song.  For the next few weeks these woods will become a glorious spectacle of bright red, orange, yellow and brown.  People will be taking pictures, hiking trails will be crowded and artists will be attempting to paint this majestic scene.  And then it will be over.  The song of these leaves will end as these once brilliant leaves fall to their death.
When winter comes life can appear a bit stark.  Those beautiful leaves, once so colorful, have now disappeared.  The ground is frozen, the trees are barren, darkness hovers over the horizon and snowstorms taunt us with an endless array of possibilities.  And then, as almost by a miracle, the earth appears to be reborn.  The ground softens, the darkness descends into the horizon and the leaves return to the trees, leaving the earth youthful and vibrant.

The season of fall provides us with a mirror in which we can contemplate something much deeper than the changing of seasons, namely the mystery of death.  One of the many paradoxes in life is that by living we are also dying, undergoing throughout the years many “deaths.”  These deaths will be as unique as each person.  For some they could come as an illness, a financial problem or the end of a relationship.  It could be the death of a friend or parent, a dream that was shattered, or trying to move through a period of depression or loneliness.  For others it could be traffic jams, a boss who doesn’t recognize my potential or a prayer that God seems to be ignoring.  And then there is the big death, death itself.

Death, at least according to the rhythm of nature, is always a necessary means, not an end, to something greater.  The same is true with God.

When I was young I played baseball on a very competitive team.  Every morning during the summer before the official practice or game that evening I was out in my backyard throwing a ball against the wall practicing my pitches and working on other skills.  Those mornings I actually believed, due to a vivid imagination, that I was pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies and that there were thousands of people in my backyard yelling and cheering me on.  In fact, we even won a few World Series, at least in my imagination!

However, when I was 17 I came to a painful realization; I was never going to make it to the Major Leagues.  The main reason was simply because I was not good enough.  No matter how hard I practiced I lacked a certain level of skill that would enable me to advance to the Major Leagues.    For about three weeks or so I became depressed.  What else was there to live for?  What else was I going to do with my life?  I had spent so long thinking that my life had to be a certain way and when that idol was shattered I experienced a bit of a “death.”

As time went on I found myself immersed in other activities.  Since I was no longer playing baseball and devoting much of my existence to it I had time for things like writing, reading, hiking, mountain biking and becoming reacquainted with the Catholicism that was the very air I breathed as a young boy.  I discovered, much to my surprise, that I really enjoyed writing and I spent a considerable amount of time fostering my relationship with God.  In fact both of them were inseparable.  Writing was drawing me closer to God and my new found relationship with God was stirring me to write.

While I was a freshman in college and it was time to declare a major writing appeared as the obvious choice.  Not only was it the perfect fit but it led me to another discovery; God was calling me to religious life as a Franciscan and to the priesthood.  Looking back now after thirteen years of religious life and five years as a priest I am so grateful I was not “good enough” to make it to the Major Leagues.  But I also realize that none of this would have occurred if I had not experienced that “death” when I was 17.        

In many ways I am reminded not only of this event, but of the many “deaths” I have had to undergo in life each season of fall.  Some of those “deaths” were much easier; some were harder while others appeared as nearly impossible to survive.  Yet after each “death” I experienced in the depths of my soul a resurrection to something more profound than I could have ever imagined.        

These beautiful leaves that surround me right now are in their glory, but they too must die only to be reborn once again with the passing of time.  The words of Jesus seem most appropriate here, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  

Perhaps what scares us most about death in general is that we can’t see beyond it.  What will life look like if I lose my job?  If I have cancer?  If I can’t have the career I want?  The truth is there is no answer.  Nobody, including you, knows.  But as nature, and God himself have revealed, there is something much greater beyond what we can see and understand, if only we can trust in its rhythm and allow it to take us beyond ourselves.

+ Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR
Monticello, NY
We need your help!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

On The Go

May the Lord give you His Peace!
Has it already been a year since many of us gathered in the Bronx on the evening of October 3rd, 2014 to celebrate the Transitus in a moving way as Fr. Solanus Benfatti led us through the meditations that he wrote? Only to realize later that night that our own beloved Fr. Benedict was experiencing the hand of the Lord and His holy operations in his own life.

I wanted to share with you one picture of Fr. Benedict that I continue to treasure. This picture was taken as we flew from New York LGA to Denver, Co. It was in the Spring of 2011 we were on our way to a Men's Conference in Colorado Springs. I had a camera with me and as he was silently praying the brievary I took this picture. Plane travel with him was always an adventure because the friar traveling with him had to be ready for the unexpected. Whether it was greeting those who knew him from T.V. to having a tip ready for the attendant who was pushing his chair or getting him through security. So moments like this picture depicts was a sigh of relief when all the work was done and you hand a few moments to relax. There were tough moments on the plane of course. Like when he asked me to ask two passengers in bulk head seating who were the size of Br. Giles and Fr. Terry to switch with us. I thought "Really? This is not going to work, and I am embarrassed." But it did work out.
Many times as we traveled the brievary was prayed "on the go." Either in the van or here on the plane. Later on at the St. Joseph's Home with the Little Sisters of the Poor in his room but best of all in the chapel. He truly always wanted to pray in the chapel if he was able to do so. This is how I remember Fr. Benedict so fondly wanting to give his love and attention to his prayers and especially before the Blessed Sacrament.
As we remember Fr. Benedict this October 3rd, 2015 may our hearts be filled with gratitude for all the Lord has done in our midst in and through Fr. Benedict.

Br. Simon M. Dankoski, CFR
Paterson, NJ

Friday, October 2, 2015

Remembering Father Benedict One Year Later

For Franciscans October 3rd is a day of death. Every year we gather on this anniversary to remember the passing of Saint Francis. That Father Benedict would pass on this day was surely a sign.

For me it is also the anniversary of my mom’s passing. As she lay dying of cancer at 47 years of age, she shared with me that she was offering her suffering for my vocation. I had only been a friar for two years at the time. That my mom would pass on this day was surely a sign.

Like a concerned grandfather, Fr. Benedict kindly reached out to me in my grief. I will never forget his tenderness and concern. He took me under his wing for a while as I was recruited to be his “driver.” So many others could tell a similar story. As I shared in the adventures of life with Father Benedict he shared in my sorrow and guided me towards hope.

When I had my own scare with cancer Father Benedict was there for me again. Although he possessed a towering intellect, he could speak directly from the heart. His presence and prayers were a huge consolation. He could always use humor to lighten the burden. My fear broke and I burst into laughter when he told me (in that famous Jersey City accent), “There’s nothing that helps you focus like a loaded gun pointed at your head! Pray for the rest of us who don’t realize we are dying.” It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Father Benedict we miss you, thank you and pray for us.

- Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
Yonkers, NY

Father Benedict serving at our South Bronx Homeless Shelter

At the March for Life

Father's food and gift give out during Thanksgiving
Father was a friend and adviser to Mother Teresa
Father touched millions through his popular EWTN shows

Thursday, October 1, 2015


“O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth” Jeremiah 5:3

Truth, not an opinion poll, a fad, a trend, or political correctness, is what God looks for in us. Hence, truth must become the motivation for our entire life.

So often we compromise truth for 3 C’s; comfort, convenience and consolation. There is of course nothing intrinsically wrong with any of these C’s. The problem occurs when we absolutize them and make them the ends for which we strive desperately to reach in our lives.

The comfort we experience in our homes, the cars we drive or the clothes we wear cannot be the end and goal of our lives. The convenience of technology can make communication and other aspects of life quicker and easier, all of which avails us with more time to seek the truth. The consolation of friends, promotions, and parties will always leave a soul hungry and ironically more alone if we merely stop there.

The hope that we place in all of these things is really the desire for Christ himself, who is, “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). If I pursue anything in life, relationships, career, vacation, etc. without this desire for truth, my life becomes dominated by superficial concerns and attitudes, all of which are here today and gone tomorrow. The truth, by contrast, never fades away and when our lives are motivated by the truth we stand on a firm foundation in a world that is ever changing.

Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR
Saint Joseph Friary Harlem, NY
We need your help!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pope Francis

What a blessed visit we had from our Holy Father Pope Francis! It is worth mentioning that the political categories that many Americans use to frame a consideration just don't fit when it comes to Jesus, the Christian faith or the message of Pope Francis. Let's leave behind the commentators and sit with the actual texts of what the Pope said. Very beautiful indeed! It is as if Saint Peter is still fulfilling the mandate he received from Jesus, "Strengthen the brethren" (Luke 22:32).

Find the texts here

Deacon Br. Antonio served the Pope during Vespers at St. Patrick's Cathedral

Mother Lucille was able to personally meet the Holy Father

Many of our priests heard confessions before the Mass at Madison Square Garden

The Pope's words about the difficulties of living in a big city resonated

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bronx Press Conference

http://youtu.be/i84WZbgHjLE for the video of the press conference where NYC Mayor de Blasio and Cardinal Dolan announced a new partnership to serve the poor. Seen at our Saint Anthony Homeless Shelter in the Bronx, Fr. Herald was able to witness to the Catholic approach to serving the poor by calling to mind the example of Saint Francis.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Our Lady of Sorrows


Jesus with His mother by Michael O'Brien

Mary at the cross,
New Eve with the New Adam,
compassion with His passion.
Now our suffering has meaning
when united with Jesus.

Monday, September 14, 2015

HolyHaiku Exaltation of the Holy Cross

From Stone's rejection,
via Calvary's altar,
His temple rises.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Upcoming NYC Area Events!

Click here to see our upcoming events as we prepare to welcome Our Holy Father Pope Francis to NYC and America!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

HolyHaiku Saint Monica & Saint Augustine

When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.” (Jn 16:21)           

“Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.’” (Jn 3:4-5)