Monday, March 30, 2015

Bridges Across the Abyss

Last week we heard the Gospel parable about Lazarus and the Rich Man and the great abyss that divided them after death.  Last week we also had a medical brigade come down from the States  to Honduras for a surgical mission.  I was grateful again to see how San Benito Jose Medical Center becomes a bridge in a variety of ways.

It is beautiful to see the encounter of people from the so-called *first world* and *third world,**gringos* with *catrachos,*appreciating each other with a sense of solidarity, of being brothers and sisters.  The gringos are edified by the patience, the gratitude and the faith of the Hondurans.  The Hondurans are edified by the generosity and kindness of the medical team from the States.  SBJ is a wonderful bridge in that way across the abyss between rich and poor that unfortunately still exists.

More importantly, SBJ also becomes a bridge between the abyss between each of us and the Lord.  The gap between divinity and humanity is huge, but the heart of Christ is the bridge.  The doctors and nurses encounter Christ in His distressing disguise of the poorest people, for whom medical care is completely out of reach economically.  The poor encounter Christ in His healing and consolation, that they are not forgotten by Him and that He is able to work miracles in their lives.  I was grateful to hear from the patients so consistently their gratitude to God first of all and secondly to the team at SBJ. *Primero Dios* was the constant refrain as they gave thanks.

Thanks be to God for our Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis who lives out the title of *pontiff,* which means *bridge* in Latin, in his love for the poor and his call to solidarity with them.  May we also allow the heart of Christ to be the bridge that draws us together to the Father.

(If you would like to understand more of what happens at San Benito Jose, you can go to the link here on our website)

Gratefully in Christ,
Fr. Richard Roemer, CFR
Comayagua, Honduras
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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Silent Psalm

Psalm 123

To you have I lifted up my eyes,
you who dwell in the heavens.
My eyes, like the eyes of slaves
on the hand of their lords,
like the eyes of a servant
on the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes are on the lord our God,
till he show us his mercy.
Have mercy on us, lord, have mercy.
We are filled with contempt.
Indeed, all too full is our soul
with the scorn of the arrogant,
the disdain of the proud.

It’s a silent psalm full watching.

The lifting of eyes. The muted gaze of slaves upon their masters. The hushed attention with which the servant girl steadies her eyes on the hand of her mistress. The heavens, silent, somewhere beyond the clouds.

Lent is a silent season. A season of watching. We fix our eyes not on the hand of our Lord alone but upon his whole body. We note each scratch, scrape and wound of the one we call master and Lord. Yet the psalmist doesn’t stop with just quiet observation. The focus shifts dramatically from his eyes to the depth of his throat and his gut as he cries out, “Have mercy on us Lord, have mercy. / we are filled with contempt.” He started with his eyes, but we are left—among remorse—in the psalmist’s heart.

It is a great mediation for lent, in fact, all of prayer. So often it starts with our eyes, our eyes upon a word or a devotional image, sometimes a moment or an aspect of creation. Then like the servant our eyes must engage the person to whom the hand belongs, the Living One made present by the word or image.  Holy week will fill you with plenty of these words and images to capture your eyes and external senses. May they capture, also, your hearts, and lead you to the person to whom they point, the Crucified Christ. From there, what you say, how you engage him, is up to you.

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Let God Lead During Lent

As a young friar, lent often meant the beginning of heroic penitential undertakings.  I might give up some cherished food item or two—I even made the huge mistake of trying to give up coffee a couple of times—in addition to reading a certain Lenten-themed book and adding this or that prayer devotion to my repertoire.  Mind you, all this was on top of an already prayer-packed and spartan CFR lifestyle and the plain old daily struggle of just facing what life throws at you.  It was too much and my “heroism”—aka, perfectionism—suffered greatly.  Over the years this heavy-lifting approach to lent has gradually given way to a more realistic one, which has actually proven more helpful in meeting reality, and, therefore, Christ, head on.  In fact, in recent years, reality itself has proven to be penance enough for me.  The following anecdote from a friend illustrates the point.

This friend of mine is currently in an initial six-month training program for a big-name consulting company.  The environment is intense and sometimes stressful and recently, during a week-long role play, the intensity and stress reached new heights.  The week began well, but by Tuesday his team began to unravel and this led him to choose poor eating habits, poorer stress-relieving choices and ultimately, to lose a lot of sleep.  By Friday, he was so frustrated and overwhelmed, he almost burst into tears in front of his teammates and two bosses.  Eventually, after an instructor-intervention, his team was able to regroup and salvage the lost project.  But that’s not the good news.  The good news came when my friend remarked, “Through it all, God’s burning love is at work in my life.  He used a terrible week at work to take a sledgehammer to my perfectionism and to show me that things won’t always work out the way I want them.  He really loves me.”  Now, I’m no expert in these matters, but I’d say my friend is not far from the Kingdom of God.  And I’d also say that openness to the love of God in our everyday lives, especially in our failures, is what lent is all about.

Fr. Isaac Spinharney, CFR

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Modern Day Annunciation

What if the Annunciation was to happen in our own times? What would it look like? Special thanks to my friends, the Domans of Ave Maria, Florida, for this picture which helps us to imagine.

The apple reminds us that the Aunnunciation to Mary undid the apple incident of Eve!

Throughout history, artists of every era have tried to depict this special story as happening in their own time & place. You may have read my blog post regarding the same phenomena in the Christmas Creche's of the world ("Born in Bronx-lehem" - find it here). God is just as present in our own times & places as the times & places of the Bible. Here are a few examples for your edification:

Henry Ossawa Tanner - The Annunciation

Mary's Yes, stained glass window, St. Patrick's Church, Kokomo, IN

The Annunciation, Leonardo Da Vinci


Africa, from jesusmafa.com

Japan, from anephia.deviantart.com

Central America

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Rose in Lent

The most memorable response as I was distributing ashes this past Ash Wednesday was from a tall man who looked to be in his early fifties. Tracing the ashes on his forehead in the sign of the cross I said: “Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” He leaned in and replied: “Hopefully not too soon ay!” I laughed. He laughed, and went on his way. As unconventional as that response was, there was something refreshingly true about it – naturally, he wants to live! Below is a photo of my new niece Chiara Rose (born on Ash Wednesday!). She is held by her mother, my sister Lauren. Her face beams with freshness, gladness, innocence and beauty. As human beings, something happens when another delights in us - the simple, pure, unconditional delight of another. It awakens us and restores us. For Chiara, it’s happening with her mother. I think that man’s desire to live is about more than mere survival, it’s the desire for what’s written on Chiara’s face.

+ Br Francesco Mary Gavazzi, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Friday, March 20, 2015

Youth 2000 Retreats

Please pray for our powerful Eucharistic centered #Youth2000 Retreats - starting one today at #AveMariaU in Florida!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Self-denial Self-gift

My recent preparation for Lent has brought me to reflect on chapter 58:1-14 of the book of the prophet of Isaiah.  In doing so, a particular thought comes to mind… This Lent, instead of afflicting ourselves with misery, maybe we can attempt to relieve the misery of the afflicted.  So often during Lent we can practice self-denial in attempt to omit our vices, but how often during Lent do we focus on the virtues in order to grow in love? Is not this the ultimate goal of self-denial, to grow in love, to be filled with love, to fall deeper in love with our Beloved?  Surely, I am not saying to eliminate altogether the tradition and wisdom included in the practice of penance, self-denial, and exterior mortification (for this can also help us to grow in virtue and freedom from sin), but what I am saying is one goal of lent is to grow in our love of God, which can come about through interior mortification. In effect, we become more our truly ourselves, namely, who Christ has destined us to be, who he desires us to be, who he created us to be.  Self-denial should lead to Self-gift, that is, that we become a greater ‘gift of self’ to others.  May the words and wisdom of St. Francis help us to grow in Love this Lent… “My brothers, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, so that he who gives himself completely to you may receive you totally.”

+ Br. Roch Mary Greiner, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What to Do During the Storm

In the midst of the “stormy weather” moments in life, it can be hard to think and to feel correctly because many internal and external factors to the person makes one disoriented; furthermore, the temptation is to want to jump ship or to out of fear or anger do something that in your better moments you know you would not have said or done. This storm can be caused by many things, whether of an internal or external nature. We are weak. But Jesus is our strength and song.

Along with the sacraments and fervent prayer, a key “weapon” in the midst of what may feel like “being under attack” is fasting. There is power in fasting in Jesus’ Name. While there are different forms of fasting (food, gossip, “media gluttony”, etc.), I would like to lift up food as an example (yummy!). Maybe simply don’t eat any snacks between your three main meals. Or no sweets for the next few days. Or no alcoholic drinks. Be reasonable and know what your limits are. Again, fasting can be a help in the midst of our struggles. It helps clear the mind of distractions. We are a body & soul composite, so purifying the body also helps to purify the soul and vice-versa. The self-discipline of fasting is healthy and with God’s grace will help you gain better possession of yourself during conflicts. Fasting helps us to slow down in life. Ask Jesus for the grace to fast. We start to fast well when we do it not just for ourselves, but most importantly so that we might be better lovers of God and of other people. Let us pray (and fast) for one another.

- Br. Antonio Maria Diez de Medina, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Monday, March 9, 2015

Opening Doors

Dear CFR friends and visitors of franciscanfriars.com! I’m happy to
make a contribution (hopefully the first of many…) to the CFR .com
family! I feel really blessed to make this first visit to the CFR .com
family in light of the following from papa francesco in the 49th World
Communication Day (January 23, 2015): To “visit” is to open doors,
not remaining closed in our little world, but rather going out to
others. So too the family comes alive as it reaches beyond itself;
families who do so communicate their message of life and communion,
giving comfort and hope to more fragile families, and thus build up
the Church herself, which is the family of families.

Wow! Opening doors, going out to others, coming alive, reaching beyond
oneself…awesome seasonal (Lent) and perennial (“inseason and out of
season”) qualities and virtues! Qualities and virtues so necessary for
love - the fundamental vocation of the family and of every human
person on the planet without exception. In fact, papa francesco
continues: It was in our families that the majority of us learned the
religious dimension of communication, which in the case of
Christianity is permeated with love, the love that God bestows upon us
and which we then offer to others.

So in light of this love this Lent please pray for me and pray for us
as we pray for you as we all progress and pray for one another,
growing in love overcoming all elements and traces of indifference
caused by that fatal withdrawal into ourselves. The love of God breaks
through that fatal withdrawal into ourselves which is indifference.
The Church offers us this love of God by her teaching and especially
by her witness (papa francesco Message for Lent 2015).
Here’s to a great rest of Lent for a greater and more ardent witness
to the love that goes “to the end” (cf. Jn 13:1). May the great saint
jpii pray for us to be inflamed, as he prayed and lived to bear ardent
witness to that love which sums up the divine law and is the bond of
all perfection (cf. Col 3:14).

Ciao for now with love ands prayers in Jesus and Mary,

PS maybe you’d like to join us for the 10th annual JPII Poland Rome
Study Pilgrimage October 14 – 28, 2015. For details send us an e mail;

fr stan fortuna CFR

Is God Mercy or Justice?

Homily video from Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR


The parable of the prodigal son and the story of Jesus showing anger in the temple. These two gospels can cause confusion on the question; is God is just or merciful? We may then ask ourselves; how do we behave based on these two models? Watch Father Luke as he shares his own prayer experience and guides us through the confusion.


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Friday, March 6, 2015

Edward Cardinal Egan, Rest in Peace


The Friars wish to express their sadness upon learning of the passing of Cardinal Edward Egan.

We are profoundly grateful for the life and service of His Eminence. We remember with great affection his steady leadership as the Archbishop of New York and in particular his fatherly care and guidance of our Community. We would like to offer our prayers and condolences to his family and all those who mourn his loss.

May his soul, and the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Fr. Benedict concelebrating Mass with His Eminence during a visit to the Bronx.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ash Wednesday Unworldly Warfare

I was struck anew by the poetic imagery of warfare used in the new translation of the Mass for Ash Wednesday’s collect, the prayer the priest prays gathering all our mass intentions and offering them to the Father at the end of the entrance rite.  The collect prayer begins:

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
The warfare God calls us to wage is different than worldly warfare.  An example of the difference can be seen in the opposite modes of preparing for battle.  The Church recommends fasting which allows us to experience our weakness and recognize our limited personal resources, so as to rely on God’s strength.  The way of the worldly warrior relying on his own resources is to “eat, drink, and be merry” (Lk 12:19) before a campaign.  This can be for two possible reasons. One can be the presumptive attitude of green recruits deluded into believing that they are invincible supermen who already celebrate their own glory, another mentality is that of a jaded veteran whose quite despair in the recognition of his peril leads him to greedily suck as many pleasures out of life before his number is up.  These two vicious extremes are to be avoided.
We fight the good fight in hope because “the battle is the Lord’s.” (1 Sam 17:47) Jesus Christ has ahead won the crucial victory over sin and death through His Pascal Mystery.  Take the risk of faithfully following the commands our fearless Leader, even when his strategy doesn’t seem to make sense.  Trust that He sees the bigger picture.  Let us also remember that Jesus’ victory on Calvary did not materialize out of no where. Jesus began his public ministry of liberating souls from the forces of evil with a season of fasting when “full of the Holy Spirit, [he] returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil.” (Lk 4:1-2) We are called to meditate upon and imitate the mysteries of his life so as to share in it.  That is why we begin this Ash Wednesday with fasting, thereby empowered by Christ’s life in us to conquer those foothold the evil one still has in our lives.
+ Br. Justin Jes├║smarie Alarc├│n, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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