Wednesday, October 17, 2018

NEW MUSIC Poco a Poco

Struggler music video: https://youtu.be/Xdm4MqvhMJs

Brother Isaiah, of the CFRs, has been gifted with an amazing voice and talent. For the past year, he and his brother friars have been working on (and praying with) a musical album they are hoping will bring Catholics closer to God, and help support their mission serving the poor. 

Music written to help Catholics pray

The Franciscan Friars spend hours each day in meditative prayer. They have drawn from the quiet depths of their daily prayer to write these songs which they hope will help Catholics maintain a prayerful state as they go through their lives.

There are many ways to listen to the music. It can be purchased and listened to on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and Amazon. (Links below)

Listen on iTunes

Listen on Spotify

Listen on Google Play

Listen on Amazon
There are also a limited amount of CDs available! First come first served ... they're expected to go fast!

CD & merch:

Monday, October 8, 2018

Beyond Death

I have lived almost my entire life in the Northeast. Every year a sublime 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. But now, in mid October, they are approaching the encore. For the next few weeks these woods will become a glorious spectacle of bright red and orange, yellow and brown. People will take pictures, hiking trails will fill up and artists will attempt to paint this majestic scene while it lasts. 

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. Throughout our lives we will experience 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 an unappreciative boss or a prayer that God seems to be ignoring. Death, at least according to the rhythm of nature, is not an end but is always a necessary means to something greater. 

When my mother first became depressed life as I knew it had ended. A few months earlier, my grandmother passed away, and my mother never recovered. Almost immediately my family recognized a change in my mother. She had lost her joy and her enthusiasm for life. Instead of engaging the family in conversation I would often see her gazing out the window, bypassing our conversation and my need for affirmation. Most of all, my mother, who was always strong and confident in all of life’s details, had now become shattered and torn, unable to stand before the life she once loved. 

Before this occurred I was a happy, confident and enthusiastic 17 year old who, almost overnight, became sad, insecure and self-conscious. It was as if an earthquake had struck my family and now I was forced to find my way among the rubble without a guide. After the dust had begun to settle, I no longer recognized my family, my home or myself. My life, at least the way I knew it, had died and I was unable to see beyond the grave. 

Ironically, it was this death that eventually led me to a recovery of faith. Since a vital figure in the foundation of my life had been uprooted, I was driven to seek another one, one that when “the rain fell and floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house…it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:25).

Encountering the fragility of life at such an intimate level, led me to pray in a way I never had before. Instead of just murmuring prayers I had learned as a child, I began to pray from the very depths of my pain and confusion. Sometimes I yelled at God, asking why he allowed this to happen. Sometimes I cried, begging God for help and strength, while other times I tried bargaining with God, promising to do something for him if he would heal my mother. Despite my persistent efforts to force God to act, her depression only got worse. God appeared, if not deaf, than at the very least, not interested in helping me.  

As the weeks and months passed, I began to notice a strange phenomenon occurring. I was beginning to experience a mysterious strength inside of me, one that enabled me to stand face to face with this suffering, instead of running from it as I usually did. In the midst of this heartache, instead of feeling alone and abandoned by God, I began to feel a presence accompanying me on this journey, consoling me and embracing my entire being. Instead of continually asking why, I began now to consider how I could help my mom and be with her in her suffering. Finally, after a long and dark winter, the first signs of spring were beginning to blossom in my soul. 

In many ways, I am reminded not only of this event, but also of the many “deaths” I have had to undergo in life each season of fall. Despite how difficult some of those “deaths” were, after each one I experienced in the depths of my soul a resurrection to something more profound than I could have ever imagined. If someone would have told me years ago that God would use my mother’s depression to bring about a deeper conversion in me I would have considered that person a fool. Yet now, many years later, I still remain in awe as I ponder the mystery of God’s ways. 

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. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

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 we don’t know. 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, CFR
Monticello, NY


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Why Jesus Wants Us Poor

Homily at the Lourdes Grotto by Fr. Luke Fletcher, CFR.
Saints Francis, Therese and Bernadette all knew the spiritual secret of littleness and humility. Listen to learn more!


Thursday, September 20, 2018

CFR Sisters Update

The Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal are happy to announce that Sr. Clare Matthiass is the Sisters’ new Community Servant (Superior General) as of September 12, 2018, Feast of the Holy Name of Mary. She is now known as Mother Clare. The Community is tremendously grateful to Mother Lucille Cutrone for 23 years of dedicated leadership as Community Servant in the important first stages of the Community. Mother Lucille will continue to remain a member of the Sisters’ Community Council. Won’t you please keep the CFR Sisters in your kind prayers during this time of transition.

After Mother Clare's renewal of vows, all the professed sisters kneel and renew their vows to Mother Clare.

Mother Lucille receives Fr. Andrew's chalice from Fr. John Paul. Fr. Andrew left this chalice to the Sisters in his will, and it was presented to them on this special occasion.

As part of the ceremony, Mother Clare renews her vows in the hands of Mother Lucille.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Bringing It To Completion

Several weeks ago I received some of the happiest news of my life:  a publishing company contacted me and informed me of their interest in publishing a series of reflections I sent them three months earlier.  I was so shocked, I said, somewhat embarrassingly to the editor on the phone, “Are you serious…, really publish it…as a book?’  
Laughing, he said, “Yes I am serious, a real book.  We really like what you sent us.”  
He began to speak about some of the details of publishing, mentioning words like contracts, royalties, and deadlines.  As soon as he began speaking, I was swept away by a euphoric feeling of joy and gratitude.  “Maybe I wasn’t wasting my time writing these reflections,” I said to myself.  “I can’t believe this is happening.  Thank you Lord.” 
“There is only one problem,” he said.
Immediately, my daydream came to a screeching halt.  
“Your manuscript is currently at 20,00 words.  We need it to be at 35,000-40,000 words before we can publish it.  So, keep writing.  We will set a deadline for six months.”
There was a long pause.
“Father,” he said, “are you there?
“Yes,” I said, hesitantly and feeling like I was just punched in the stomach, “I am here.”  
“Good.  Now, another editor will email you the contract in a few days.  Please read through it and sign it so we can begin the process.  In the meantime, keep writing.  I look forward to seeing how this project progresses.”
“Um, thank you. Me too.” 
I hung up the phone and began to experience a dramatic shift in my emotions. My joy and gratitude quickly turned into anxiety and fear.  
“How am I going to write 20,000 words in six months?” I said to myself.  “I am a priest with other responsibilities.  I have homilies and retreats to prepare, spiritual direction appointments to attend to, responsibilities from my own religious community to fulfill, etc.  I am not a full-time writer.  I can’t do this. Why did I ever start writing this book in the first place?  I should have known that I don’t have time for this.”             
Whenever I am given a task, regardless of its nature, there is a subtle voice that whispers inside of me, “You can’t do this.”  This voice has followed me for as long as I can remember.  After my “reversion” to Catholicism at age 18, a voice kept whispering to me, “You are going to lose all of your friends.  Everybody is going to laugh at you when they see you praying and going to church.  You will never be able to withstand it.  You care too much what people think.”  When I was discerning joining the Franciscans a voice kept telling me, “You can’t live in New York City.  You’re from the country.  It will be too much for you.”  A few years ago, when I began to spend extended periods of time in hermitage, a voice kept saying, “Who do you think you are spending all this time in solitude?  Look how weak and insecure you are, you will go crazy.  You can’t do it.”      
St. Ignatius of Loyola believes that each person must contend with three voices in their life: the voice of God, the voice of the devil and the voice of one’s own humanity/psychology.  Each voice, like each person, has a distinctive character to it.  The voice of God, generally, is uplifting, encouraging, and loving, lifting one’s heart and mind to higher things, while the voice of the devil is filled with discouragement, negativity and sadness, leaving a soul entirely earthbound in its pursuits, pleasures and vision.  The voice of one’s own humanity is not always so clear.  Perhaps it can be a mixture of both, depending on one’s own history and life decisions.  Regardless of which voice is speaking, St. Paul’s reminder to the Ephesians is an appropriate one:  “For we are not contending against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12).  Hence, reality contains many other powers or forces that are always present, even though we don’t often perceive them.  
The real question is not, how will I finish this book, but which voices will I listen to?  I will finish this book the way I have accomplished everything in my life: with God’s grace.  If God wills something for us, his grace is never lacking.  Every time the voice of discouragement has appeared in my life it has always proven to be false.  I returned to the Church despite what my friends thought.  I spent many wonderful years living in New York City as a Franciscan, and despite my weaknesses and insecurity I have spent a significant amount of time in hermitage alone with God, and remain (at least somewhat!) mentally stable.    
What God asks of us at times can seem impossible.  How can I forgive that person who hurt me?  How can I face life with this disease, embarrassment, or failure that is always before me?  Instead of feeling strong and confident before God’s will we often feel inadequate and incompetent.  Abraham asks God, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?” (Genesis 17:17) The prophet Amos, hoping to escape his vocation laments, “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores” (Amos 7:14).  Zechariah asks the angel Gabriel, “How am I to know this?  I am an old man; my wife too is advanced in age?” (Luke 1:18)  In all of these examples, however, these instances are not the last chapter.
This voice that has been telling me “You can’t do this,” cannot be the voice of God.  Whether it is the voice of the devil, or my own humanity, or a mixture of both, the conclusion is evident: I must refuse to listen to that voice and persevere in this writing, while relying completely on God’s grace for inspiration and strength.  
The same is true for each one of us.  Wherever God’s will has us at this moment, we move forward not by asking why or how, but by sifting through the voices until we arrive at the voice of our Father, who loves us, encourages us and strengthens us for the journey ahead.  “I am sure of this much: that he who has begun the good work in you will carry it through to completion, right up to the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

+  Fr. Jeremiah, CFR
Monticello, NY

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Letter to the Nuncio

For Immediate Release 
September 5, 2018
Contact: Fr. Angelus Montgomery, CFR: (212) 234-2203

“Send forth your Light and your Truth” (Ps 43:3)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,  
Given the grave nature of the situation in the Church today, the Community of Franciscans of the Renewal has written and is making public a letter written to the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. The letter was sent on the memorial of Saint Teresa of Calcutta (September 5, 2018) as the Friars join their voices to the growing number of Bishops, priests, and lay faithful who are asking for a full investigation into the specific allegations made by the former Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganĂ². The full truth is the first step in bringing justice and healing to the victims of abuse and restoring moral integrity to our Church.
Leading up to the feast of St. Michael the Archangel on September 29, the Friars of the Renewal are taking a time of prayer and fasting, beseeching the Lord to bring about a new grace of renewal in the Church at this time in history. Join us in praying for all victims of abuse, our Holy Father Pope Francis and all Bishops, priests, and lay faithful.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Martha’s Gift

As a child, I would often go for long walks in the woods behind my house to be alone with God. There in those solitary woods, the presence of God was as natural to me as the air. The trees, the animals, and the lakes were a reflection of a reality much greater than this world. What fascinated me was not the forest per se, but the creator of such magnificent scenes. Though I did not utter many prayers in those woods, I went there to simply be with God, which, I would learn much later, is the real essence of prayer.
After dinner, when I was no longer able to roam about outside, I felt compelled to try and articulate what I encountered in those solitary moments with nature. Curiously, the attempt to write about my own experience was almost as exciting and beautiful as the experience itself. Writing, for me, was a process of discovery. Even though I had felt something, heard something or seen something, it wasn’t until I wrote about it that I came to a clearer understanding of how near God was to me.
Both writing and prayer have consumed a significant amount of time and energy in my life. When prayer is consoling me and writing is nourishing me I feel alive and eager to share my joy with everyone around me. Yet when prayer is dry and I am suffering from writer’s block I often feel frustrated and want to isolate myself from the rest of the world. At various periods in my life I have vowed to quit one of these activities, so as to focus exclusively on the other, only to find myself a few days later plunging more deeply into both of them than I had before.
On the surface, writing and prayer can appear to be two different activities. However, I am discovering a surprising symmetry between them. Writing, I have come to realize, is my Martha, while prayer is my Mary. In the Gospel of Luke there is a famous episode where Jesus enters the home of Martha and Mary. Mary sits at his feet and listens to him while Martha is busy serving and taking care of the practical needs of her guest. Frustrated by her sister’s apparent laziness, Martha complains to Jesus and asks him to support her. Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42).
We can often view the activity of our life, whether it is our job, family, or social responsibilities, as a distraction from the “better part” that Mary chose. What we often fail to recognize is that our activity often prepares the way, both for ourselves and others, for this silent receptivity that Mary exemplifies. Without Martha’s activity Mary wouldn’t be free to sit at Jesus’ feet. Mary herself was not free from daily responsibilities. It was only by fulfilling them that she was able to receive Jesus with such reverent attention.
I am beginning to understand my relationship with writing and prayer in a similar fashion. I have often wondered what purpose my writing serves as a Franciscan priest and have been tempted to quit writing because of my inability to see how it relates to my vocation. I have entertained the notion that writing is a distraction, preventing me from deeper intimacy with God, and that if I just quit writing I would be holier because I could devote more time to prayer, meditation and preaching. Within the past few months I have discovered that writing is not only an expression of my love for Jesus, but that without it, I could not sit quietly at his feet and listen. In other words, without Martha I cannot be Mary.
There is a misconception among certain people that those who live in monasteries, convents or friaries sit around and just pray all day. My own sister often tells her friends, “I’m not really sure what my brother does all day!” Despite the fact that religious have times reserved for prayer, meditation and spiritual exercises, when we are not engaged in those pursuits we live a normal human life, a life filled with activity. Even though God loves us and cares for us, he does not cook our food, clean our homes, or answer our doorbell.
It would be a mistake to assume that this activity is a distraction in my relationship with God. On the contrary, it is the activity of the day that opens my heart and creates in me a longing for God. As I sit in prayer in the morning with the duties and the responsibilities of the day staring in front of me, I become aware of my need for God’s grace before I approach these tasks. When nighttime arrives, with the activity of the day behind me, my heart and mind are more disposed towards quiet contemplation, as I ponder the many ways I encountered God that day.
Perhaps Martha’s fault was not her activity, but her inability to see how her activity was meant to be a bridge to something greater. The activity of our life, whether it is writing, or anything else, is never an end in itself. What Mary has to teach us, and what I am learning through writing, is that our work here in this life is never complete. If it were, we would never experience the deep peace that comes from simply resting at the feet of Jesus.

+ Fr. Jeremiah, CFR

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

In the Silence, the Heart First Knows Itself

       Our friend Tim—one boy on his lap and another at his side—joins us for Holy hour. Behind me his sons click their tongues. They smack their lips. The sound is sharp in the tall rectangular space of our friary chapel. It fascinates them. Wonder teems in their little minds at the big echoes’ ricochet. Tim shushes them with one of his dad sized hands so that the chapel is suddenly soundless. Like the sight of an anthill, like the oaring motion of the darter hawk's wings, to the boys, the silence is a puzzling wonder. The older boy, Timmy, scoots out of it with a breathy whisper: Dad. Dad, why is it so quiet? 

Is it so quiet? I think to myself. The sounds of Nepperhan Avenue—that constant lurch and growl of traffic, that large dragon's belly always crouched outside the friary, always stalking our prayers—always  always there, patient as rat trap—none of this was noise. Nor was the interior scrimmage against sleep; nor the battery of anxieties; nor the inchoate shouts of the self; nor that montage reel of anything interesting, incriminating or inciting enough to distract from the One upon whom we all gazed—no, none of this was noise to the boys. The men in the chapel were all silence: shut mouths, unmoving lips, stroked beards. The tall space was so loudly hushed that whatever the clamor within or without didn't count to them for noise at all. Dad answers the question: It’s quiet because they’re praying, Timmy. The loud whisper back: I don’t hear them praying.
          I wonder at what moment a child becomes aware of his heart. And how does he learn to sit within his heart the way these men sit in the chapel silently worshipping God? For every heart can be like a chapel where the living God lives, where without, there lurks a beast loudly patient. When does the boy become aware of the world inside him and how?

When did I?

         I was supine lengthwise along the painted slats of a wooden bench. It could be Goshen, Virginia. It could be Pelican Lake, Minnesota. It may have well been anywhere. Everywhere the sky is domed at night and the fixed stars boast of their white light quietly. They are small, and I, a teenager, already hacking away through the brush of life, am so so obviously (uncomfortably) smaller. For twenty minutes they tasked us to sit alone in silence. Twenty seamless minutes—no phones, no friends, no forfeits—at the end of which a bell would sound signaling a return to our cabins.

How is it that you feel heard on a bench thinking? Is it by some residual pagan impulse that we talk to starshine? Is it a deception of physics that because sound waves travel outward, we, lonely men, assume they travel toward someone? I blocked the lamplight with the palm of my hand and the starlight flexed. I said words. I didn't know I was praying. Prayer was something different than this, afterall. It was formulaic, ostentatious. I heard the shifting of my weight, trout surfacing like laughter in the water, a mosquito’s hum at the lobe of my ear. I saw and (imagined?) I felt the blunt beats of moth wings. I got bored. Scattered across the camp hundreds of teenagers sat stranded in unusual silence. Twenty minutes is a long time.

It was pitched to us campers as part challenge, part invitation. For days we had heard different talks about Christ. “Jesus is more than just a pal.” (Cue the then popular imagine of buddy Jesus) “Jesus is like the star in the child's shape sorter.” (The preacher actually has one between his hands.) “We try the yellow square or the plastic yellow circle.” (He literally tries the yellow square and the plastic yellow circle.) “But in your heart is the star shaped hole and only the star fits.” (He’s right. It slides in—clink, clink—on the inside of the ball. He’s somehow earned our attention. He keeps it with stories of celebrity suicides and NFL stars catching their super bowl rings in the light on the bus ride home with that digging question on their lips: “now what?”) “If you put your love into something that will always love you back, something that will last forever, you won’t be let down.” 

These are the ideas brushing up against our ears all week. This night was the dramatic cliffhanger: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” we were made to know. And, “the wages of sin is death.” That was the bare bones of it, and that's how it felt—like the preacher's words were bones ground into dust, and we were made to drink them. Then they marched us off into the darkness and asked us to think and to pray. Apparently, I had mismanaged my love. I had chosen sin rather than Jesus and that choice earned me death, and I was powerless over the consequences. I couldn’t remember having experienced that dilemma. How could I have chosen against a man I thought so little about? It didn't occur to me then that the question was the answer to itself.

I was silent for twenty minutes in Virginia (or Minnesotta). I considered the talks. I spoke aloud. I addressed someone—God made more sense than anyone else. Still, as far as I was concerned, I wasn't really praying—and, as far as I was concerned, He didn't really answer either. Of course, He did answer. It was so soft and imperceptible an answer that I hadn’t even noticed it. No words. No miracles. Something unexplainable and unfelt happened. It would take time and reflection to recognize it. That first presence, though—the very first presence—I came to know that night was not His. It was my own.

The wood slats running the length of me. Lapping lakewater. Stars far too urgent for their size and distance. In the silence, O Lord, these things shouted beautifully, and I heard them. But those things that were me—the push of my lungs and crack of my knuckles, my own humorous, my own pensive, my own vain or searching thoughts—these also shouted, and, although alone, I knew that they were heard by another. 

In the silence the heart first knows itself. It then reaches for the next nearest heart which is always yours. Prayer—before it is a work of articulation—is a blind and mute longing.

       Therefore, in the back of our chapel at St. Leopold Friary, Tim may have answered his son: You don’t hear them, Timmy, because prayer doesn’t always take words.

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
Yonkers, NY
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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Our Lady of the Angels

Blessed feast of Our Lady of the Angels (Aug 2) the "Portiuncula-Little Portion" chapel rebuilt by St Francis. This poor little chapel is the mother church for all Franciscans!

Info on the special indulgence today:

Official liturgical texts:

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Monday, July 30, 2018

The Rest of the Story - Bl Solanus Casey

Prayed for all of you at his tomb this morning (more pics below)

Today is the first official feast day for Blessed Solanus Casey. I prayed for all of you at his tomb in Detroit this morning. He has some really great advice for all of us, not to be missed! Podcast by Fr. Luke Fletcher, CFR.



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