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