Saturday, November 29, 2008
Our Lady of the Sign (cf. Isa. 7:14, Mt. 1:23), "Behold a virgin shall give birth to a son and shall call him 'Immanuel' [a name which means 'God is with us'!]"
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Thanksgiving is deeply ingrained in the entire Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. It is simply what we as Christians do! We give thanks to God.
Fr.Joachim Studwell, OFM at the Great Entrance of the Divine Liturgy
Fr. Patrick Gawrylewski, OFM (right) and Fr. Brendan Wroblewski, OFM during the Eucharistic Prayer at the chapel of Assumption BVM Parish
Thanksgiving Day is far more than its nickname, "Turkey Day!" It is about an attitude of life. Giving thanks and forgiving someone are both might antidotes to bitterness in human life. Not just the proverbial "counting the blessings", as good as that might be. Just giving thanks!
It takes our attention off ourselves and focuses us on Another, in this case God. Hopefully we have been reared to be grateful -- grateful for presents, sending thank-you cards, showing appreciation to people in our family, at work or in school.
Giving thanks just makes plain sense -- and it's good for mental health, besides. Grateful people are happy people. They notice small things about people and take notice of them in a positive way. People of thanksgiving notice the details of life and express gratitude. As the 12 Step Program calls it cultivating the Attitude of Gratitude!
And so it is with the Lord. Maybe we can look at the New Testament reading (above) again, where St. Paul the Apostle deliberately writes that we are to give thanks in ALL circumstances (please note, not for all circumstances, but in all circumstances)! That means we acknowledge God is supreme and greater than any and all circumstances in which we find ourselves.
I'm grateful for Him, first of all! And for my Franciscan brothers, my family and my friends, for the many who have trusted me and allowed me into their lives through ministry, for all the good things that the Lord has lavished upon me. And I am grateful for my vocation as a Franciscan friar and priest.
What are YOU grateful to the Lord for this Thanksgiving Day?
Monday, November 24, 2008
A couple weekends ago I attended a youth event that was led by a group of Brothers and Sisters. There was lively music and high energy and, overall, a rather positive spirit among the presenters and participants.
This was shortly after our national elections on 5 November 2008.
Later in the afternoon, a priest gave a talk on Christian morality and was preparing the young people and their chaperons for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Two things he said astonished me -- he obviously supported John McCain as his choice for president of the USA (by stating that the wrong man had been elected) and he inferred that there was a similarity between the rise of Adolph Hitler in 1930s Germany and the election of Barack Obama.
His choice of candidate is fine; it is his business and has no correlation to a public announcement at a Catholic youth event sponsored by the Church. His connection seemed to be focused solely on Mr. Obama's consistent pro-choice stance and support of the 1973 Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade.
Since then I have become aware of others making this rather odd and, quite frankly, frightening association. Some have been Catholic (on blogs like this, apparently) and others have been political. Already at the end of the political campaign there seemed to be fear-mongering about Obama as a "socialist" and other such epithets directed at him.
BTW, is anyone familiar with the political campaigns when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was running for president? As I recall, he was also dubbed a socialist!
I find it alarming that people -- especially people of faith and public Catholic leaders like I had met -- would insinuate a connection between Hitler and Obama. Hitler was a thug! He wanted to eliminate the Jews from Europe (and beyond, if possible!), as well as the Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, Communists and Free Masons. He made it to office through thuggery and manipulaton. He precipitated World War II in 1939 by setting up a bombing in Germany and falsely accusing the Poles of committing the violence, and subsequently invaded Poland for the sake of the "honor" of the German fatherland. BTW, he committed this heinous injustice with the collaboration of Joseph Stalin and the now-defunct Soviet Union. Hitler explicitly promoted violence and Germany as the "superpower" and the Aryan people as the "super race" in his book, Mein Kampf (My Complaint).
As a Catholic Christian, a Franciscan friar and a priest I certainly disagree with Mr. Obama's stated position on abortion and the so-called pro-choice stance, as well as his apparent and unequivocal support for the "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA), which our US Catholic bishops have rightly and resoundingly opposed.
At the same time, I oppose any insinuation of connection between Obama and Hitler! Enough is enough. Someone who is "unhinged" may take this inference and seek to protect the nation from "another Hitler". God forbid! We as Catholic Christians, as clergy and religious, must advocate for life and oppose violence of any kind. Especially as Franciscans, for as St. Francis of Assisi stated to his friars early on, "If you are going to proclaim peace with your lips, make sure you have it first in your heart!"
Friday, November 21, 2008
In their semi-annual meeting earlier this month in Baltimore, MD, the US Catholic Bishops had to confront an unsettling reality -- the election to the presidency of the United States of America of a man who has consistently supported abortion rights for women.
US Catholic Bishops at their semiannual meeting in November 2008 at Baltimore, MD
While acknowledging the landmark election of the first African-American man as president and, it might be added, the first president to NOT have a European surname, the challenge the US Catholic bishops perceived was responding to the new president-elect's campaign promise to sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). This piece of legislation would, in effect, roll back any federal restrictions to the availability of legalized abortion in this country that the sitting President G.W. Bush had put into place earlier in his term.
Francis Cardinal George (on right), Archbishop of Chicago and current president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), together with brother bishops, drafted a strongly worded response to the proposed Freedom of Choice Act.
He stated at the bishops' meeting that Roe v. Wade was a "bad court decision" and expressed concern that FOCA would ". . . deprive the American people in all 50 States of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry." He pressed on and said, "FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their dollars. It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government and others of good will to reudce the number of abortions in our country. Parently notification and nformed consent precautions would be outlawed, as would laws banning porcedures such as partial-birth abortion and protecting infants born alive after a failed abortion. Abortion clinics would be deregulated. The Hyde Amendment restricting the federal funding of abortions would be abrogated. FOCA would have lethal consequences for prenatal human life."
President-elect Barack Obama and Vice-President-elect Joseph Biden , Democrats. Both consider themselves "pro-choice" regarding the availability of legalized abortion. Joseph Biden considers himself a Catholic in good standing, is originally from Scranton, PA and the now-former senior Senator of the State of Delaware.
Among the painful realities that the US Catholic bishops must confront is their own "house cleaning" and the ongoing struggles pertaining to the 2002 fallout of the sexual abuse crisis. The cases don't disappear. In fact, arch/dioceses are still reeling from the effects of the sexual abuse crisis of minors. Some have already declared bankruptcy as a result of inability to pay the lawsuits. So, while the bishops rightfully decry abortion on demand, their own credibility -- by their own admission, by the way -- has been sorely compromised.
What are the bishops to do? What are we, as Catholics, to do? First, it would seem prudent and just plain smart to admit to the past failures and seek to make as much restitution as possible. This does not diminish the bishops' teaching authority as successors to the Apostles. In fact, it might really augment it.
We, as Catholics, are called upon to pray for our bishops. They are the successors of the Apostles. St. Francis of Assisi, in the Rule of 1223, writes, "The brothers may not preach in the diocese of any bishop when he has opposed their doing so." Yes, we obey our bishops. We also encourage them to "come clean" -- out of support for them and their office as teachers of the local Churches.
Unlike our more secular society, the teaching credibility of the US Catholic bishops doesn't come from popularity. Rather, it comes from their succession to the Apostles and their communion with one another, with the Pope and with the entirety of our Tradition.
However, the bishops are not limited to dealing only with Catholics -- being public figures, they also must contend with the reality of a much broader world. They are legally responsible and accountable, as well as ethically so, to secular society. This is not such a bad thing, although it may be uncomfortable. It may be truly a moment of grace for greater authenticity -- on the part of us all.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
When Galen Osby, from Howards Grove, WI decided to embark upon the journey of becoming a Franciscan friar, he probably didn't guess the various challenges that lay ahead. He had an unusual postulancy program (the first year when a candidates begins to explore, or "postulate", becoming a friar minor), mostly because he was the only one!
Galen Osby as a postulant to the Franciscan Friars (OFM) of the Assumption BVM Province.
After his varied experiences and ventures -- from Milwaukee, WI to McAllen, TX to Greenwood, MS and then to our senior friar residence of Queen of Peace Friary in Burlington, WI, Galen "took up his cross daily" to follow the Lord Jesus and encountered several surprises along the way.
Last May 2008 Galen applied to and was accepted to be received into the novitiate, when a man entering our brotherhood becomes a novice, or "new man". It is what St. Francis of Assisi calls in our Rule, the "year of probation", or a time of testing. The novice is tested by life in the fraternity to help in the discernment if this is the right life for him; the novice tests the community to ascertain if this is the correct community or way of life for him. That information can be found in a previous blog.
This past 26 September 2008 Galen and his classmates were invested in the "habit of penance", the brown habit of the Franciscan Friars of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM). It consists of a long tunic, a brown habit, or "capuche" and a woolen cord. Novices have no knots in their cords -- that is reserved for their first profession when they make temporary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Bro. Galen Osby, OFM, novice and newly invested with the habit of penance, the Franciscan habit, at San Damiano Friary, Cedar Lake, IN
The novitiate is located in Cedar Lake, IN, south of Hammond and about one hour or so southeast of Chicago, IL. The Assumption BVM Province hosts the novitiate and shares its leadership and membership with two other provinces, Sacred Heart Province (headquartered in St. Louis, MO) and St. John the Baptist Province (headquartered in Cincinnati, OH).
The team for the novitiate is Fr. John Stein, OFM (SJB Province), Fr. Larry Nickels, OFM (SH Province) and Fr. Camillus Janas, OFM (ABVM Province). Fr. John is the Novice Director, Fr. Larry is assistant and Fr. Camillus is the Guardian (local superior).
You might ask, "Why 26 September?" In the calendar of the Catholic Church of the Roman Rite, 26 September is the memorial of the holy brother and doctor martyrs, SS. Cosmas and Damian. It was at the chapel in honor of St. Damian (in Italian, San Damiano) that Francis of Assisi heard the Lord's call to him, "Francis, go repair my Church, which you see is falling into ruins!" And, the house of the novitiate is called San Damiano Friary. So, it's their friary's patron saint's day!
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Whether you voted Repulican or Democrat, Independent, Green or Libertarian, Socialist Worker Party or a write-in candidate this past Tuesday, 4 November 2008 was a historic day in the United States of America!
We are remarkably blessed in this country to be able to vote, albeit indirectly (i.e. through the Electoral College), for the office of President of the United States. And the fact that our nation has for its new leader an African-American man is a stunning development. Barack Hussein Obama is the first President-Elect whose surname is not European; it is defintely African. He is the first President-Elect to carry a KiSwahili first name (Arab influenced, meaning "blessed") and an Arab middle name.
The fact that 52% of the popular vote went to him across racial, religious, ethnic, social, income and gender demographics is also a historical development for this nation which, just fifty years ago, was struggling with overt segregation in the South and covert segregation in the North.
Discrimination is still happening, folks, as I think we are all aware -- race, gender, immigrant status, age and, yes, even religion -- in the USA. Lots of work still to do!
John McCain's concession speech was also remarkable in being gracious and conciliatory, as was Barack Obama's victory speech referring to his now former opponent. What a superb blessing we have and, hopefully, a light of real hope for the world in which so many people cannot vote freely and in which national elections (e.g. Zimbabwe) are marred with terror and violence.
So, let's pray for the new President-Elect and the Vice President-Elect -- for their safety and wellbeing and that of their families, for their new administration and for a greater openness and response to the whole pro-life message, from conception to natural death. Scripture urges us to remember our leaders in prayer (cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-2) and this mandate has been honored in the historical Churches (Catholic and Orthodox alike) ever since.