Category Archives: Friar Reflections

A regular reflection from one of our Franciscan Friars on the day’s readings, the happenings around the parish, or discussing parochial outreach initiatives.

Go and Do Likewise | Staff Reflections | The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear parishioners,

This week’s Gospel delivers a branched or layered look into the principles of our faith, wherein Jesus provides us with tenets through the Greatest Commandment, and backs it up through parable with the Good Samaritan. It’s so fitting that the law scholar approaching or questioning Jesus calls him “Teacher,” because that is exactly the way anyone in that selfless profession would approach their student. They would explain the necessary information, then work them through a hypothetical or real-world scenario in which they could apply the information they just learned.

It’s so simply applied, yet so poignant, to see Jesus readily act as a teacher. He provides the scholar the tools for which to achieve his end goal of salvation, but He does not go so far as to over explain or provide too much context. I’ve always admired how casual this scripture reading ends, as if He were to shrug His shoulders when telling the scholar, “Go and do likewise.” I’d half-expect that Luke left out the part where Jesus patted the scholar on the back, saying, “Go get ’em, kid!”

We have a very good opportunity within our parish community here at Sacred Heart to embody that line: “Go and do likewise.” Many of us on the staff are doing just that, taking the relative downtime of the summer months to prepare the parish for larger aspects of the liturgical and event calendars following the season’s conclusion, working to ensure you can join us in the “likewise.”

Registration for Faith Formation programs, such as RCIA, for the upcoming catechetical year is now available.

It’s no secret that so much of a Catholic parish’s calendar is dictated by the school calendars of their local area. This gives our Faith Formation staff the opportunity to plan their programs for the upcoming 2022/2023 catechetical year. Much of what they hope to accomplish with their students and catechumens is already ready to go. Registration for Family and Adult Faith Formation, sacramental preparation, and RCIA was made available recently through the parish website.

Event planning is working at a breakneck pace, with the addition of our new event coordinator. The staff is reinvigorating several events that were discontinued in the face of the pandemic, including “new parishioner welcome” meals, ministry fairs, volunteer appreciation luncheons, and new offerings, like “Theology on Tap.” An event planning committee is being reinvigorated as well. Those wishing to assist with events like our Fall Festival and Cookies with St. Nick, among others, will have the opportunity to reengage with the parish in this new group via monthly meetings starting in late August.

Events such as “New Parishioner Welcome” meals will be coming back onboard as we continue to build back our event schedule.

Our event and communications staff are working in concert to finalize details for parish listening sessions, alongside the friars and members of our parish advisory board. In a previous letter, I mentioned the need to provide a platform for parishioners to directly engage with our friars regarding long range plans and vision, and these sessions will provide that and more. Invitations for specific sessions will be released this month, with multiple sessions being hosted throughout August, culminating in an open session in late August and the launch of a parish-wide survey. We hope to have as much participation as possible in this endeavor.

Many ministries are also preparing their new offerings. A new women’s prayer group is being formed. A new racial justice committee has held their initial meeting, and are gathering a plan for programming as the friars continue to assist the implementation of a broader JPIC ministry within the parish. Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation being a principle tenet of the Franciscan charism, it will be great to see where this new group takes their ministry.

While this summary of our parish’s current objectives is just a small glance, I hope this is enough information for you, our parishioners, to “do likewise” alongside us.

Peace and all good,
Rob Boelke

A Time For Contemplation | Friar Reflections | The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear parishioners,

This past week, the friars took the opportunity to have a short retreat at the Franciscan Center. It was a time for the four of us to come together and talk about our fraternal and ministerial life here at Sacred Heart. It was a time to reflect and to get away, even though it was only a few miles up the road. Monday morning, we celebrated the Eucharist with the
Allegany Franciscan Sisters. It is always great when we can get together with other Franciscan groups.

We started off the ministerial part of the day with this prayer.

Loving Father, help us to celebrate and serve the people of many races, languages, and ways of life You have gathered to Yourself to form Sacred Heart Parish.

May we be signs of your welcome as we greet people as they gather.

May we encourage them to pray always as contemplative friars in ministry.

May we bless their generosity by being generous ourselves.

May we love them through loyal service, a faith that is fearless, compassion, and mercy.

May we share their joys and their hopes, their griefs and their anguish, their laughter and their tears.

Together as friar servants to the People of God, recognizing that we are all united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, may we journey towards Your kingdom each in our own way, proclaiming Christ’s message of salvation, using words only if we must.

In one of our discussions on the retreat, the friars and I focused on Pope Francis’ Instructional on “The pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelizing mission of the Church.” In this document, dated to just under two years ago, in July 2020, the pope highlights a struggle many parishes face when making determinations for the level of services or sacraments that can be provided to potential or current parishioners. His premise is largely fueled by the impasse of needing to respect parish boundaries vs. destination parishes, and how the number of registered parishioners vs. unregistered can impact a parish. After a few minutes of healthy discourse, one friar said, “Are they baptized? If so, we are called to serve them!” We all readily agreed to that summary. In our discussion, we were pointing out the many hurdles people are required to jump over, and how we can make it easier for people to live out their faith within our own parish. The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was brought up, with His Arms and Heart being open to all people. It is a wonderful and fitting image for our parish.

We had many productive conversations over the two days we spent at the Franciscan Center, and I feel we accomplished a lot of reorganization and planning. We had the opportunity to talk about our fraternal life together, our prayers, our shared time, and our commitment to each other as brothers. We also had the time to talk about our lives with Sacred Heart. We discussed our parish’s various ministries and with the addition of Fr. Steve to our group, we made new assignments on which friars will be involved with each particular ministry, and how best to help them. I and all the friars are always willing to help out with any of the ministries whenever needed. We also discussed how we can best serve the parishioners here at Sacred Heart. We will bring the conclusions from those conversations to the staff for their input in the coming days.

The days weren’t all work. After all, this was meant to be a retreat. We did get to have a meal at a few different restaurants, and ended the evenings with a card game. Fr. Steve gave us the instructions as we played. I remembered back to a time when both Fr. Steve and I were both working together in Raleigh, N.C., and he ran the card games there as
well. What I remember most, however, is that I didn’t win either time. I wonder then about the common denominator. The most important things about the retreat are that the friars
enjoyed their time together, and we all feel recharged.

Peace and all good,
Fr. Mike

A Look At Catholic Social Teaching | Friar Reflections | Friar Henry Fulmer

Dear parishioners,

The Catholic Church has a history of social teaching that goes back centuries and provides a compelling challenge for living responsibly and building a just society. Modern Catholic Social Teaching, rooted in Scripture and articulated through a tradition of written documents, has evolved over time in response to the challenges of the day.

Our Giving From the Heart donation events are a fine example of the principle of community and participation.

It is said that Catholic social teaching originated in 1891 with the encyclical letter “Rerum Novarum.” Since then, a wealth of teaching continues to bring to life the Scriptures and shape the Church’s response to our modern world. It is from the Catholic social teaching documents the encyclicals we get theses seven core principles.

The first is dignity; that God created every human person in his image and likeness. This gift we share as fellow human beings. We are all loved by God. Every one of us is unique and beautiful and God is present in each one of us human beings, regardless of religion, culture, nationality, orientation of economic standing.

The second is solidarity. Solidarity arises when we remember that we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. Solidarity happens when we stand with those living in poverty. In our interconnectedness, we are invited to build relationships—to understand what life is like for others who are different from us.

The third principle is community and participation. We are encouraged to stand side by side with others, especially those living in poverty. We should help whenever and however we can, thinking both about our local and global neighbors.

Ministries like Hands of Hope embody Catholic Social Teaching through their weekly meals for the poor.

The fourth principle is one of preference, in option for the poor. Jesus’ words come alive when He says “you will always have the poor among you.” This principle is a moral test of how our most vulnerable members are faring. Our tradition instructs us to put the needs of poor and vulnerable people first. This option reminds us of God’s love for the poorest and most vulnerable people. God is love, and His love is universal. He does not side with oppressors, but loves the humble.

Our next principle is Peace. The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Today, our world is still in need of peace. In the Ukraine, as an example, thousands have died following the Russian invasion. The conflict has destroyed tens of thousands of homes and have displaced millions of residents of the Ukraine. We pray peace be restored.

We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of the principle of creation. Pope Francis has invited everyone on earth to consider how our actions and behaviors actions are the earth and the poorest among us.

The Garden Ministry exemplifies both the dignity of work as well our stewardship or care for creation.

Finally, Catholic social teaching has long upheld the dignity of work. The well-being of the human person should always come before the pursuit of profit.  The worker should always have a just wage, spend time with their family and rest. Everyone should be given a chance to work and participate.

John 13:35 is one of my favorites. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love another.” I believe this sums up Catholic social teaching in a nutshell.

Peace and all good,
Friar Henry

Christ Has No Body But Yours | Friar Reflections | Fr. Steve Kluge, OFM

Dear parishioners,

Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

Two weeks ago on the Solemnity of Pentecost, the Church had us focus on the Holy Spirit: the Divine Love who abides within and among us so as to encourage and empower us to “follow in the footprints of Christ.” With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Church is given its mission to preach and be the presence of Christ in the world. In the Gospel according to John, the Church is born from the spear split side of the crucified Christ from which gushes forth water and blood (signifying the great sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist).

The Corpus Christi Procession
Arcadi Mas i Fondevila | 1887

Last week, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Church proclaims the Mystery of All Mysteries in which Christians profess and celebrate that God is in God’s very Self a relationship of Love. From this relationship we are created in and for Love, nourished and redeemed by Love enfleshed in Christ Jesus, and sustained and sanctified by Love through the Holy Spirit. As God is a Personal relationship of Creative, Self Sacrificing, and Abiding Love, we in our everyday lives are called to imitate this love in our own finite way.

Today we focus on the mystery that in the Holy Eucharist, the Risen Christ is truly and fully present under the appearance of bread and wine. Meditate on this. The Risen Christ is not only seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, but in all humility comes into our hands to be touched and tasted. Christ comes to us not only to nourish our souls but our bodies as well.

Each time we receive the Risen Christ in the Holy Eucharist, we are once again dipped in the waters of Christ’s baptism of solidarity. Our identity as disciples of Christ is strengthened and our mission to each other is renewed. As St. Augustine wrote, “Rejoice, O Christian! For by your baptism, you are more than a Christian, you are Christ Himself.” We receive Christ in the Eucharist so as to become more like Him. Seen in this light, the Holy Eucharist becomes food for our journey through life, not a reward for good behavior.

Today I am reminded of that great prayer of St. Theresa of Avila:

St. Theresa of Avila
Anonymous, 17th Century

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, YOU are His body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

So today, as we leave our beautiful church and head back into our beautiful and broken world, let us remember that we take Christ with us. Our call is to make Christ visible in the world, and we do this best through simple acts of charity. And to all of us who are the Body of Christ, I give a resounding “Amen!”

Peace and all good,
Fr. Steve

The Mystery of the Trinity | Friar Reflections | Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. I think we can all agree the understanding of the Holy Trinity is one greatest of all mysteries of our faith: the One and Only God is a unity of Three Persons. In attempts to define the Trinity, we often hear it explained as a three-leaf clover, all being part of one stem. We’re also referred to the physical states water can take, as either liquid, ice, or steam, yet are all still water.

Perhaps you are familiar with a story from the life of St. Augustine on The Trinity:

It was around the year 415 A.D., and St. Augustine was walking along the beach on a bright, sunny day. He was frustrated, having taken a break from working on what’s become known as one of his greatest contributions to the Church, “On the Trinity.” The subject matter had left him bleary-eyed and in need of fresh air, so he went for a walk on the beach.

It was in this moment, as the frothy tide rushed out, that a little boy caught St. Augustine’s eye. He was a freckle-faced child who had a determined, furrowed brow. He was clearly up to something, running back-and-forth, back-and-forth, between the sea and a tiny hole in the ground.

The Vision of St. Augustine by Sandro Botticelli, 1488

“My son,” St. Augustine called over the crashing waves, “What are you doing there?” The boy held up the pink shell he was using to move water, “I’m trying to fit that great big ocean into this tiny hole,” he yelled, pointing assertively at the sand. St. Augustine smiled, charmed by the child’s innocence. He then followed the boy to kneel beside the hole, watching him spill out a few meager drops.

“My child,” the bishop of Hippo started, as he attempted to break the news gently, turning the boy’s shoulders to face the sea. He then spread his own arms wide, “You could never fit this great, magnificent ocean into that tiny hole!” The child didn’t flinch, but responded quickly: “And you could never possibly understand the Holy Trinity.” Then in a flash, the boy disappeared.

In our Franciscan tradition, the fact that God is Triune is not simply a dogma for the intellect. The Trinity should have meaning in all of our lives. Scripture and tradition establish key things. First, God is love. Second, as Trinity, God is in loving relationship with Godself. Finally, we are created in the image and likeness of a loving and relational God; this means we are most human when we are in loving relationship with God and one another.

On his window depiction in our church, St. Patrick holds a three-leaf clover, in reference to The Holy Trinity.

Although the hidden life of God remains a mystery inaccessible by reason alone, professing God as Trinity is not meant to distance us from him. Through the Son’s incarnation and the sending of the Holy Spirit, not only are we capable of understanding the eternal  relationship of intimate loving communion that is the Holy Trinity, we are able to share in it. This is why we were created, why every human heart cries out to be loved. The revelation of God as a relationship explains what it means to be human. Let us always pray inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives for the understanding of what it means to be in true relationship with God, each other, and all of God’s creation!

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Zack

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit as Sacred Heart | Friar Reflections | Pentecost Sunday

Dear Parishioners,

Pope Francis, in his homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Pentecost, May 24, 2015, said the following:

“The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit. Closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin. There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit: by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism — seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as ‘hypocrites’; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways.

However, the world needs the courage, hope, faith and perseverance of Christ’s followers. The world needs the fruits, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul lists them: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’ The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace.”

In looking out into our parish it is wonderful to see how parishioners are willing to use their gifts for the betterment of our parish. As we celebrate this Pentecost Sunday, I would like to provide you, our parishioners, with an update on just how I have seen the Holy Spirit moving within our parish of late, and where I expect more things to progress as we head into the summer months.

More and more ministries are starting up again, not to mention new ministries in development. There is a group of women starting up a Women’s Prayer Group, to complement the existing one for the men of our parish. A committee on racial justice within our parish community is also forming. There are still more ministries that could use people’s gifts and talents. The staff and I plan on providing an updated ministry fair for late August.

This weekend we welcome Fr. Steven Kluge, OFM, who will be joining our parish staff. Fr. Steve and I were ordained together in 2001. Alongside the friars, I welcome Fr. Steve and look forward to having him in our local fraternity and sharing in our ministry to Sacred Heart. Over the summer Fr. Steve will be looking at what ministries he will be getting involved in.

The alcove alongside the spiral staircase will be enclosed to create a more private confessional.

Our Maintenance Committee has been hard at work, and we have several projects that we hope to complete this summer. In the church, we will be working with a restoration company to reinvigorate and fortify our front doors, along with the side entrance, handicap doors. In our alcove featuring the spiral staircase leading to the choir loft, a glass enclosure will be installed to create a more private confessional.

Up at the North Campus, two buildings are set to be renamed. The library will be renamed “Alumni Hall,” in memory and recognition of the alumni of the school. In an effort to make the space more useful for our ministries, the space will be redecorated, including painting and adorning the walls with photography and images that depicted life at Sacred Heart Academy while it was open. Our docents will be assisting with this venture.

Incremental progress continues on many North Campus projects.

Also slated for a name change is the old Pre-Kindergarten building, which will be renamed “St. Bonaventure Hall.” The restoration of electricity to the building is still scheduled for an early summer completion. Once restored, we can investigate if the air conditioning unit will also need replacement. We will also have to look at updating the bathrooms in that building as well. Our goal is to get it up and running for the Fall so that ministries can start using it for additional meeting space, reducing potential timing conflicts.

We’ve had initial talks about a way forward in updating the kitchen within the North Campus cafeteria. We are in the preliminary stages on this, trying to determine what the project would entail, and what functionality is of most need. It is then that we would be able to get an estimated cost to fundraise toward.

I look forward to providing you more updates as these exciting additions to our parish continue to come to fruition.

Peace and All Good,
Fr. Mike

Running Back to Home Base | Friar Reflections | “Bleacher Brothers” Mission Recap

By Rob Boelke, Manager of Communications

When introducing Fr. Casey Cole, OFM, and Fr. Tito Serrano, OFM, at the beginning of our parish mission this past Monday evening, I asked the pair of friars how the start of their ambitious tour was going, seeing as Tampa was just their second stop following the kickoff in Miami just days before. “There’s been a southern Florida cloud gently hovering over our  trip so far,” Fr. Casey stated. “Every part of our trip has had a little bit of ‘rain’ or a little bit of ‘slipping here, forgetting something there,’ but it has been great.”

Fast forward about 20 seconds, and he thought there was another cloud, as Fr. Tito’s microphone was fighting against him. Motioning to the congregation of more than 100 in attendance, Fr. Casey exclaimed, “we make plans and God laughs, and that’s what we are praying for.” Fr. Tito eventually figured things out (he forgot to turn it on) and thus began an evening of discourse that we rarely get to have in our parishes these days. One of openness and civil discourse, humility and humanity. I certainly hope their visit to Sacred Heart set a tone for their summer tour.

Watch the Full Mission Session Here:

Casey and Tito are on a pilgrimage more so than a tour, however. You’ll have seen in our advertisements over these last few months that the pair of young friars are visiting each and every Major League ballpark this summer, marrying ministry and their passion for the sport of baseball. When I asked where their passion for baseball emanates, Fr. Casey provided insight into this mission’s focus on evangelization in untraditional settings. “Who doesn’t love baseball? It gets in your bones…it brings people together. There is something spiritual about it, almost like a church. You have the fraternal aspect; you spend a lot of time sitting with your brothers in the dugout. For some, that may call it boring, but I call it quality time. The beauty of the stadiums attracts us as well. They are kind of like cathedrals, each slightly different, some ornate, some big, some beautiful. They are hubs for cities, and they house tradition. No other sport has the tradition that baseball does, rooted in something much bigger than yourself.”

Fr. Tito (left) and Fr. Casey (center), with Rob Boelke (right) during the Bleacher Brothers event at Sacred Heart on May 23, 2022.

“We are putting ourselves out there,” Fr. Tito mentioned as the discussion turned to the goals for their interactions at the stadiums. “We’re hoping people will approach us. You don’t go to a baseball game dressed like this (in their habits) unless you want that attention.” Fr. Casey interjected, “Oh, look the Padres are in town. You’ll get kids asking if it is Star Wars night. These (jokes) are pretty popular.” Tito continued, “You’ll get that look from people thinking, ‘Can I?’ (approach) and we say ‘Of course you can!’”

Fr. Casey then told us about one interaction in particular from their first game in Miami that exemplified their mission. “We were in the bathroom and a young guy, 19 years old, came up to us saying he wanted to talk to us, but not in here.” I remarked that I was glad the gentleman in question made such an important distinction, as the congregation laughed. Fr. Casey went on to explain that the man had really been struggling with his faith, with his parent’s faith and culture, and that he felt disconcerted. “He had some real questions for us, and he ended up hugging us after. It was great!”

Fr. Casey (left) and Fr. Tito (right) at Tropicana Field on May 24, 2022

Similar to the interactions they anticipate on having in each ballpark this summer, we had questions prepared for Casey and Tito, covering topics that face the modern Church, both specific to Sacred Heart and on an broader scale. We discussed how to grow alongside the population moving into our parish boundaries. We examined how to invite back our family or friends who have fallen away from the Church, and how to do so with dignity and respect for their experience. We talked about divisiveness, and how civil discourse and listening can help you connect with those who have a different worldview. And just like the encounter with the fan in Miami, it was great.

On behalf of the parish, I thank Fr. Casey and Fr. Tito for their time, honesty, and compassion during this visit, and I hope we see them again soon. And thank you to our parishioners who made the trip out to the church during a Monday evening rainstorm to join us.

Time To Get In The Game | Staff Reflections | The Sixth Sunday of Easter

Dear Parishioners,

This week’s Gospel opens with Jesus addressing His disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit: “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything.” It is more than a coincidence then that this week we will host a mission at our parish working to directly embody this early principle of evangelization that Jesus was preparing his disciples to embrace. Soon the Holy Spirit will descend on His disciples, and they will have new and innovative ways in which to deliver His message, His Passion and sacrifice, and most notably, His love. Soon we will have a pair of young friars visiting us to describe the new and innovative ways in which they are attempting to continue delivering His message.

Fr. Casey Cole, OFM, and his longtime friend and fellow friar, Fr. Tito Serrano, OFM, will likely be heading through Alligator Alley and up I-75 at the time you will be reading this, fresh off the first night of a tour that will see the brothers work their way to all 30 Major League Baseball cities over 11 weeks in an attempt to have His Word reach new hearts and minds in settings that may have never been engaged in this way. The pair are baseball fans, yes, and while a portion of their “Bleacher Brothers” tour will see Fr. Casey and Fr. Tito have the chance to visit every stadium to interact and spread the Gospel where people congregate, our time with them will have very little to do with our beloved Rays, or baseball in general.

Cole and Serrano will be stopping at parishes in each city for mission sessions in addition to the baseball games, to engage with parishioners about anything from current events to papal bulls and doctrine, in an effort to promote the Franciscan Charism. Fr. Casey reached out to me a few months ago and requested what I can only assume he may be doing with parishes at each of the additional stops. He asked me how he and Fr. Tito could best interact with our parishioners. The pair do not simply want to “talk at” those in attendance, and they showed a distaste for scripted talks. Given Fr. Casey runs a pair of successful YouTube channels, I could understand the idea of script-writing for each talk feeling a bit old-hat and too similar to his day job. We landed on the idea of hosting a panel, where the pair will be able to interact with each other and a moderator discussing a myriad of topics in an unscripted manor, followed by a chance for those in attendance to ask a few questions themselves.

Fr. Casey (left) and Fr. Tito (right) leaving on their summer-long, “Bleacher Brothers” tour.

READ MORE: For a full breakdown of the the friars visit to Sacred Heart on Monday, May 23, and to hear Fr. Casey’s interview on Spirit FM, click here.

A fair few of the topics up for discussion will cover challenges facing our modern Church, on local and national scales, from division and reconciliation to congregational growth or change and the alienation some parishioners may feel as a result. We’ll be talking about it all. That may seem like a lot to fit into an hour or so, but that is what young friars like Casey and Tito seem to do so effortlessly, though I am sure if you ask them, they will say it takes some doing. For Fr. Casey, it is something he has been doing on his YouTube for the better part of a decade.

I implore you, if you have the time, to join us Monday night for this mission. Watch a few of Fr. Casey’s videos too. You’ll get a good sense of how the Holy Spirit is continuing to work in new and innovative ways to spread the Word.

Peace and All Good,
Rob Boelke

Fraternitas | Friar Reflections | The Fifth Sunday of Easter

Dear Parishioners,

As St. Francis stressed the need for another kind of being in the world, so the Franciscan order seeks more wherein God calls all of us to be peacemakers and reconcilers. This evokes the Franciscan’s principle of “faternitas,” which can be translated as “fraternity” or “brotherhood,” but is defined with a certain emphasis by Pope Francis, who interprets the principle to represent “family.” Pope Francis uses fraternitas as a metaphor for reimaging social and political engagement. He summarizes that while families have disputes, healthy examples of family work to resolve their issues. Pope Francis believes fraternitas can be a model for thinking about the bigger picture within society.

Families may quarrel, but ultimately, the family bond is something that does not change. The pains and struggles of a family argument are felt by all its members, sometimes even after the resolution is reached. That is what it means to be family. As we reflect on this weekend’s Gospel, with Jesus providing the “New Commandment” to the eleven remaining disciples, we can learn how to apply the way Pope Francis defines fraternitas more regularly. For example, if we viewed our political opponents, or a rival in the workplace in the same way that we view our children or spouse, mother or father, what a difference we could make!

True peacemaking requires truth telling and shared commitment to the good of others. It also requires recognizing how decisions have consequences—some of which could have dramatically negative ones—for the most vulnerable among us in society. As Franciscans who work for a tranquil social coexistence, recognizing that the people of God should witness and walk in the footsteps of Christ, we never forget the inequality and lack of integral development to make peace possible. St. Francis promoted a model of fraternitas being a lens through which to view all relationships, while always prioritizing the poor and marginalized.

Pope Francis goes a step further by not condoning “easy” forgiveness or reconciliation, which often comes at the expenses of silencing or dismissing the discomfiting experiences and histories of those who have been victimized. Instead, Pope Francis insists on the importance of memory in a manner evoking the theological concept of “dangerous memory,” or the decisions and actions arising from fear and resentment. That memory should serve as an opportunity for healing through fraternitas.

St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio

READ MORE: For more on ‘Fraternitas’ and the three principles of Franciscan relationships as seen in Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti: click here.

In the spirit of St. Francis, Pope Francis appeals to all religious believers, regardless of their traditions, to be agents of reconciliation, recognizing the fundamental commitment that we all must promote the common good. St. Francis ties together the importance of the example of Jesus Christ and faternitas as the foundation for our universal human vocation to be peacemakers and reconcilers, for the well spring of human dignity and fraternity is the Gospel. From it arises the action of the Church, the primacy given to relationships, the emphasis to the encounter with the sacred mystery and enter into universal communion with the entire human family as a vocation.

Peace and All Good,
Friar Henry

For Our Mothers | Friar Reflections | The Fourth Sunday of Easter

Dear parishioners,

As you know, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. Although the holiday is secular in its origin, there is much that is sacred about the celebration of Mother’s Day. The Church does not provide special readings for Mother’s Day, and as such, today’s readings for this year’s Fourth Sunday of Easter do not particularly lend themselves to the virtues of motherhood. Any attempt at ‘reflection acrobatics’ trying to fit the readings onto this special day would be a stretch, so we’ll stick to moms for the day.

Mother’s Day is a special day. Today we pause to think about our mothers and those who have shaped our lives. Our mothers have given us the most important time of their lives by bringing us into this world and nurturing us through the most critical time of our own. The first sounds we hear are the beating of our mother’s heart, followed by her voice. Her eyes gazing on us were our first mirrors, helping us to open our own eyes to the wonder of the
new world around us.

We give thanks to God and share memories as we think about our mothers who have gone before us. We give thanks to God and reach out in love to our mothers who are in our lives today. We give thanks to God and celebrate those who, like mothers, have shaped us. We give thanks to God and celebrate those who are, or are like mothers to the ones we love. Let us not forget our other Blessed Mother, Mary the mother of Jesus, and how she loved as well. Mary is the model of all mothers and it’s appropriate that we celebrate Mother’s Day in May, a month set aside by the Church to honor Mary. Mary is also the first disciple, and there are lessons we can learn from her about motherhood and being a disciple.

Like any good mother, we know that Mary would have taught her son how to pray. Prayer was an essential habit to Mary and is an essential habit for all mothers and disciples. Another lesson we can learn from Mary is the importance of placing God’s will before our own. We see this most clearly in the Annunciation, when Mary says “yes” to the will of God to bear his son, Jesus. Mary’s willingness to place God’s will before her own also allowed her to put others’ needs before her own, which is the definition of love. Her ability to sacrifice is something all mothers and disciples can learn from.

In learning to accept God’s will, Mary also learned to embrace challenge and difficulty. In doing so, she gained the courage and grace to persevere. Being a mother has to be one of the most difficult things a woman can do. We need to constantly offer our support, gratitude and prayers for them, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day. As we seek to grow as disciples of Jesus, let us strive to follow the example of Mary and our mothers in being people of prayer, committed to doing God’s will, and accepting of challenges along the way.

On this Mother’s Day, and every day, let us thank God for our mothers and those who have played the role of mother in our lives. May all mothers know God’s deep and abiding love for them and ask Mary today to watch over our mothers and to anyone who may have been like a mother to us.

Wishing you all a very blessed Mother’s Day!
Fr. Zack