Thursday, December 23, 2010

Prayer for Secular Franciscan Vocations

National Prayer for Vocations to the Secular Franciscan Order

Here is a version of the national prayer from our Fraternity's newsletter.

Perhaps it could be cut and placed somewhere that it could be prayed daily.

Good and Gracious God,
God of mercy, compassion generosity and love,
as we live our lives in the model of Saint Francis,
choosing daily to live the Gospel life,
Help us to help others hear your call,
Help us to help others to recognize their vocation
as a Secular Franciscan
that You have already planted in their heart,
Help us so that together we all may work
to bring the Gospel to life.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Solanus Casey - a man full of thanks!

How appropriate that this Thanksgiving Day falls on the 140th birthday of Venerable Solanus Casey, a Capuchin who truly knew how to offer thanks to God for blessings received.

"Let us thank God ahead of time for whatever he forsees is pleasing to Him, leaving everything at His divine disposal, including, with all its circumstances, when, where, and how He may be pleased to dispose the events of our death."

I pray that I can emulate his gentle, peaceful, practical, grateful ways.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Peace ... not Anger

As part of formation, we discussed the topic of peace.

I had a hard time.

I am not a peaceful person. There is a lot of anger in me. I have a bad temper. I fester and seethe at times.

As I read the material, as I thought of the Franciscan focus on peace, as i considered the life of St,. Francis, I couldn't help think of my own lack of peace.

I told my formation director that I was so troubled as I read and reflected that I wondered if I could in good conscience make my final profession before I had dealt with this issue.

He was supportive and comforting, but still, the misgivings linger.

Of course, I may never "resolve" this. It may be a life-long issue with which I'll have to struggle. And as a Secular Franciscan, I would be on a spiritual path that will help me if I am open to God's grace.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Confession is good for the soul

I was beginning to find myself drifting into habits I don't like - and that could lead me astray. So I went to confession.

The priest wisely pointed out that many of my failings are due to choices I make - and that I could make the right choices. I have to get into the habit of making the right choices. Then when the bigger challenges come I'll be stronger, more sensitive, and more self-aware.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, October 9, 2010

St. Francis cookies

Before last night's SFO meeting - at which we were going to have a small celebration of St. Francis's feast - I looked on line for cookies associated with St. Francis.

I learned for several sources that apparently he was fond of almond cookies.

You learn something new every day.

I stopped a store on the way. They did not have "official" almond cookies, but they did have something like them. I bought them. Next year, maybe I'll try my hand at making some real ones.

I also discovered a couple of more recent recipes for "Wolf Paw Cookies," which he would not have known, but which were created in light of the story of Francis and the wolf of Gubbio.

Maybe I'll try those some time too.

A silly post? Perhaps. But Francis did consider himself a Fool for Christ.

Maybe like me he was a Fool with a sweet tooth.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How do I spend my time?

During formation on Friday, we talked about evangelization. A good discussion.

Then up to an activity recommendation that I work out "a possible schedule of how (I) might be able to tithe one-tenth of (my) waking hours in service to the Church and/or in bringing a Christian spirit to society with a conscious effort."

Ten percent of my waking hours? That works out to about 1.6 hours a day (1 hour, 36 minutes).
Just over 11 hours per week.

My formation director was hard pressed himself to come up with how one might do that if one does not include prayer time. Our days are so full of work, family activities, and so on.

I can easily see that some days I hit the mark. I'm in two music groups at Church - each practices 1 1/2- 2 hours every week except summers. On weeks when Rock of Faith is playing, I'm putting in 3-4 hours (not including Mass time). I'm involved with 40 Days for Life, both as part of the starring committee, and in prayer in front of Planned Parenthood. That works out to at least one hour a week from August to the end of October, and two or more hours during the actual campaign.

But even if you include travel time for all these activities, that still does not average out to
more than 11 hours a week.

I pointed out at some of my online activities might qualify. After all, I am a writer, and even worked as a Catholic journalist for many years. When I blog or post on Facebook about Franciscan activities, Church music, spirituality, or social and political issues, I am helping to evangelize. (Of course, time spent on games, fantasy sports, chit-chatting with friends, posting silly poems don't count, etc.!)

Still not enough.

Finally I noted that to meet such a goal, one has to reorient one's life to reduce activities that don't advance the Kingdom. One must make more time activities that serve the church and and advance the Christian spirit.

But isn't that the point of a vocation to the Secular Franciscan life? it's not just a social activity. I am in formation for an order.

So maybe I really do need to spend less time fiddling about online, or watching television, or reading junk. If I am to be a follower of Francis, I must follow him in his dedication to the Lord.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gloomy face, chilling look

“It is not fitting, when one is in God's service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.” - St. Francis of Assisi.

The other day, a parent remarked to the principal at my school that she thought I was mad at her. That came just moments after we'd had a brief conversation, but one which I thought was innocuous - and certainly without confrontation or harsh words.

I was trying to figure out why she would say that when the principal added a comment about smiling.

A subtle suggestion?

I tend toward "serious" looking expressions. People have commented in the past that I sometimes look mad or upset even when I'm not.

They have a point. I need to work at trying to look more friendly, more inviting.

I've got to keep trying to smile more!

Pax et bonum

Friday, September 24, 2010


Tonight at formation we talked about evangelization and the many ways we can evangelize.

Yes, there is talking - preaching. But we also evangelize through writing (such as through blogs), through our actions, through acts of charity, through volunteering at Church and in the community, through the way we conduct ourselves a work and at home, through our attitides and the way we interact with others.

In short: In all that we do.

We should be witnesses to God's love and forgiveness each and every moment of the day.

As Christians, that is our call. As Secular Franciscans, that is what we should be consciously trying to do.

Be with us Lord. Give us the strength we need!

Pax et bonum

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Praying for a better Prayer Life

At formation, we talked about struggles with prayer.

Finding time. Making time.


Wandering minds.

Just feeling as if one is going through the motions.

The director basically said that the important thing is to persevere even when the "feeling" is not there. The effort itself is of value - and it is building up spiritual muscles even if we are not aware. Plus, it may be the thing that is keeping us form going off the deep end into despair when our souls are plagued by dryness.

Keep on keeping on.


Pax et bonum

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Me too egotism

Lately I've caught myself practicing "me too egotism."

I will be listening to someone else relating an experience, and instead of offering sympathy or praise, or even just simply listen, I will find some way to interject a somehow related experience I had. Even into conversations I was not originally part of.

I do it not to show the person he/she is not alone. I do it not to offer comfort. I do it not to draw the other person out more.

I do it to draw attention to myself.

And too often the other person's moment is overshadowed.

I need to be more concerned about the other person's feelings and needs. I need to practice the arts of humility and silence more.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Before dawn

up before dawn
dealing with various aches -
aspirin, prayers

Pax et bonum

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Finally Feeling Franciscan Again

I have not written in more than a month.

It's been a difficult month for a variety of reasons, and I have not felt particularly Franciscan.

My thoughts and words have certainly not always been Franciscan.

My new dog even chewed on my Tau cross!

Yes, I know faith is more than feeling. It involves commitment, decisions, consistency, actions. It requires prayer even when the words feel like sand in your mouth.

I'm back. God help me to stay where I'm supposed to be.

Pax et bonum

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Prayer Meme

My friend at Do Not Be Anxious tagged me for this Catholic Prayer Meme in this blog. (I was also tagged at my main blog by another blogger, so this post is doing double duty!)

Here are some of the guidelines:

"Name your three most favorite prayers, and explain why they're your favorites. ... Finally, tell the person who tagged you that you've completed the meme... The Liturgy and the Sacraments are off limits here. I'm more interested in people's favorite devotional prayers."

I had to think about that one. I have a lot of favorite prayers. I have prayers i say for specific purposes. I have prayers that meant a great deal to me at one point, but then I moved on or had other needs.

Three that are especially important to me are:

"The Our Father." This prayer is a gift of Jesus; that alone makes it special. It it a prayer of praise, of longing, of supplication, of challenge. It was one of the first prayers that I learned. It's one I recite as part of the Rosary, but also one I often say just to say it!

"The Apostles Creed." I tend to be a bit of a legalist - I was tempted at one time to be a lawyer, and as my students will grouse, I'm a stickler for guidelines and enforce the rules. I like a clear set of beliefs, and this prayer spells out the basic beliefs of my Catholic faith.

"The Jesus Prayer." (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.) I discovered this prayer years ago. It appealed to me because of its shortness (I like short, as my haiku, clerihews and limericks reveal). It's a prayer I recite often when I need help. When my mind begins to wander along paths it shouldn't 't wander, I recite it to get my mind back in focus (or to break the focus on things I shouldn't be focusing on!). It's also a prayer I recite when I'm trying to deal with something troubling or painful (like when I'm sitting in the dentist's chair!).

There they are, the big three. I'm grateful for the tag, for it got me thinking about prayer, and why these particular ones appeal to me.

Part of this meme calls for me to tag five other bloggers. I prefer to let people decide for themselves if this is something they want to do. If you a reader of this blog, feel free to try it.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Knuckleheaded Francis got it right

I'm reading St. Bonaventure's life of St. Francis.

While reading it hit me: St. Francis was a bit of a knucklehead!

What I mean is that as he began his spiritual journey, he took things so literally, almost like one of the Three Stooges.

For example, when asked to rebuilt the Church, he understood that to mean build a particular church. He did that in instance after instance. God would ask him to do something, and he would interpret the request literally.

The important thing is that he did respond. He did act. Even when he did not do what he was really supposed to do, he still followed the directions to the best of his abilities.

After, all, he was a fool for Christ.

I must seek what God wants form me in my own life, and I can't let fear that I'll get it wrong stop me. I just have to do what I believe God wants me to do, do it to the best of my ability, and do it in a spirit of humility and openness so that if I have not gotten it right God can tap me on the shoulder - in my case, maybe a whack me on the head - with further directions.

I wonder what Francis would have thought of the Three Stooges? He might have welcomed them as brothers.

Pax et bonum

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Prayer of St. Bonaventure

Pierce, O most Sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, with true, serene, and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with love and longing for Thee, that it may yearn for Thee and faint for Thy courts, and long to be dissolved and to be with Thee.

Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the bread of angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and supersubstantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delight of taste; let my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, upon whom the angels desire to look, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst after Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the richness of the house of God.

May it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, attain Thee, meditate upon Thee, speak of Thee, and do all things to the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, and with perseverance unto the end.

May Thou alone be ever my hope, my entire assurance, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my fragrance, my sweet savor, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession and my treasure, in whom may my mind and my heart be fixed and firmly rooted immovably henceforth and for ever. Amen.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Franciscan quotation

"While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart." - St Francis of Assisi

Advice I need to keep reminding myself about.

Lord, give me peace in my heart.

Pax et bonum

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Franciscan surprise (St. Anthony)

I went to morning Mass today and got a surprise.

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua, but since the Feast fell on a Sunday it was superseded. So the parish marked his Feast at this morning's Mass instead.

Several ladies dressed in Franciscan robes processed with a decorated statue of St. Anthony - lilies in hand. (Though i don't understand the dollars attached to the statue. An Italian custom?)

Father preached about St. Anthony, telling about him and some of the customs surrounding him'

At the end of Mass, some of the "Franciscan" ladies distributed bread in St. Anthony's honor.
I got two small loaves - one for me and one for the Good Looking One.

Thank you Lord. What a great way to begin summer!

Pax et bonum

Sunday, June 13, 2010


My formation session on Friday dealt with prayer.

I had to admit that lately my prayer life has become uneven.

On good days, my daily prayers include Mass, a rosary, some Bible reading, some spiritual reading, Night Prayers, and assorted short spontaneous prayers of praise, joy and supplication.

Sounds good - though there certainly could be and should be more if I am going to grow spiritually.

Alas, there have been too many days - especially of late - that have not been "good days."

Too tired, too stressed, too busy with end-of-the-school year business.

Of course, when I am tired and stressed, that's precisely when I need prayer.

I'm not beating myself up, but I do have to get back up to speed spiritually and have more "good days."

Maybe even some "better days!"

Pax et bonum

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Offering it up

A couple of weeks ago ago, my Brown Scapular broke. A few days later, we stopped at the local Catholic shop and while there I bought a new one. It's slightly larger than the one I'd had before, and shorter, so it rides higher under my shirt.

My wife had it blessed last week, and I put it on.

It itches. A lot.

At first, I considered not wearing it. I kept it on, though.

Then yesterday we were in the gift shop at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, N.Y. - a shrine dedicated to the North American Martyrs, and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.

They had a nice selection of scapulars. I thought about buying one.

But then I thought about some of the disciplines engaged in by holy people of the past - including St. Francis and Blessed Kateri. Among those practices was the wearing of hair shirts.

It occurred to me that in a way, this itchy scapular is like a mini hair shirt!

I've decided to keep wearing it and to offer up the minor irritation.

It's the least I can do considering the suffering Jesus went through for me.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Possessed by possessions (Book 'em)

At my formation session at our last fraternity meeting we talked about poverty. One part of that discussion was about having too much.

When it comes to me, books was one of the things that came up.

I just own too many of them. I once counted and found I had more than 2,000 books - and that was more than a decade ago.

Books are good, but like so many other good things, in excess they can hold us back. They are possessions that can possess us.

At least in my case they can.

Now that doesn't mean I should stop buying books - if they are books that I can really use. But I have books packed in boxes that I haven't looked at since we moved here into this smaller house 16 years ago! (My old house had enough room to have most of them out - I actually had a "library" room.)

So I'm adopting a rough rule of thumb: If I buy a book, I have to get rid of two other books. Maybe I'll give some to other people. Or maybe I'll donate them to the library for their book sales to help them raise money.

And to reduce the clutter in my life.

Pax et bonum

Wearing the Tau

After posting previously about wearing my Tau necklace in public - a sign of my membership in the Secular Franciscan Order (albeit, just as a candidate at this point) - I have been trying to wear my cross when I can (and when I remember!)

At work, where I can't wear it in the open, I wear it under my shirt or sweater.

Outside of work, I try to keep it out in view.

It's a public witness. So far, though, no one has asked or said anything. I have seen a few eyes stray to the cross, but that's about it. Maybe its mere presence is enough.

But this morning I discovered another purpose.

I stopped at a coffee shop after morning Mass to pick up coffees and treats for my wife and me. I was wearing my cross.

As I turned to leave, I spotted an attractive young women at a table. Being a normal male, I glanced at her.

She looked at me. I got the impression she was looking at my cross. (I'm an overweight middle-aged guy, after all.)

My glance was quick and harmless - not a stare or an ogle - but the thought occurred to me as I walked to my car: I was in my actions a public witness, and in wearing the tau, I was a public representative of the SFOs.

I thought of priests and how careful they have to be in all they do and say in public.

Maybe this will help me to remember that all my actions, gestures, and words send a message to others.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sigh - Satan tosses one my way

We all face temptations. All of them can harm us, but we are often susceptible to some more than others.

My weak spots involve the flesh.

I had been doing well for a while, but the other night my wife was watching a movie I had never seen. I wandered in to sit and read. I kept glancing up, though.

The movie dealt with various kinds of carnal behavior, sometimes with humor, but also with violence. And then there appeared the requisite gratuitous nudity.

I left the room.

But the next day, some of the images and lines kept popping into my head.

As I was driving. As I trying to say my rosary.

I tried my old standby prayer to battle thoughts: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Repeated over and over.

It would work for that moment, but the images would come back.

I was reminded of the story of two Zen Buddhist monks.

They came to a ford of a stream that was running high, and the current was strong and frightening looking. An attractive young lady was standing at the ford, looking nervous. She clearly was afraid to cross, but had an important reason to go across.

Without a word, the older of the two monks lifted her in his arms and waded across the stream, and placed her safely on the far bank. The younger monk looked shocked at this action, but kept his silence for quite some number of miles as they continued their journey. Finally, he blurted out, "You know that it is against the rules of our order to have any contact with women. How could you do that?"

The older monk replied, "I put her down when I reached the other side of the river. You, on the other hand, have been carrying her this whole way."

I suppose some people can watch such movies - though, to be honest, from what I saw there was little of redeeming value in the film (the Bishops rated it Morally Offensive) - but given my own weaknesses, I can't . I have to be careful what I watch, what I read, and what I listen to.

I am a sinner.

Those stories of St. Francis battling temptation by rolling in snow or even thorn bushes make sense to me!

Pax et bonum.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Public Witness?

Today the Good Looking One and I were going out to pick up some bird seed and to stop for lunch.

As I got ready, I picked up the Tau Cross I received when I became a Candidate. I debated whether or not to wear it where it could be seen.

Part of the debate is because of a report we had at our last meeting. That report said Secular Franciscans need to "evangelize" more, need to promote the Secular Franciscan Order more. At my locla fraternity we certainly could use more new members: I'm the only Candidate.

There was talk of maybe placing an ad in the Catholic newspaper, or perhaps sending out bulletin announcements. Meanwhile, I'm meeting this afternoon to help launch a blog for our locla fraternity as one way to do this. I've also begun to think of a Facebook account to help get our local fraternity some more public presence.

But then there is the Tau.

Do I wear it in public as a public witness (except at work, where it would not be allowed)? If I'm a member of an order, shouldn't I be like members of other orders - priests, brothers, women religious - who wear distinctive garb or symbols as a public witness to their vocation?

I chose not to wear it. I need to talk to some other members of the fraternity. I also seek others' input.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Now I am a Novice

Last night I was officially accepted as a Candidate (Novice) with the Secular Franciscan Order.

I knew it was coming, but I had not known it would be last night.

I arrived for the meeting of the Glory of the Most High Fraternity when I was told it would take place. I was asked if I wanted to take this next step. I said yes, though in my heart I wondered if I was worthy, if I was living the Franciscan vocation well enough in my daily life, if I was truly being a person of prayer and penance.

We had a brief ceremony, with Scripture readings, and then I was presented with a Tau Cross to wear and a copy of The Rule.

I will be a Candidate for the next 18 to 36 months now, after which I will be able to profess.

It is wonderful - joyful - frightening - because of all that it entails.

This is not just joining a club.

This is not just a social activity.

When I profess, this will be a commitment to a Gospel way of life in a Catholic Order. This is a vocation. This is life-long. In all that I do and say I will be a witness for the Church, for Franciscans.

Father, be with me. Give me the strength I need.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Positive Penance

As part of my formation, I read some selections concerning penance.

My notions about penance tend to focus on two areas.

The first is about making up for sins. Penance is the things we do to atone in some way for those sins - saying prayers, giving up something, doing something of a spiritual nature.

The second is about uniting in love with Christ in his suffering. It is sharing in that suffering in some way - during prayer by meditating on what he experienced.

But the selections touched on an idea that I had really not thought about.

We perform acts of penance to help clear away all those things in our lives that keep us from seeing God and his love clearly. It is working to remove all the obstacles to accepting God's love - the greed, the lust, the gluttony, the pride.

The hatred for the body that Francis spoke of is not a negative rejection of the flesh - it is a recognition that there are some aspects of the flesh that blind us and keep us physically, emotionally and spiritually unhealthy. So, for example, we give up sexual activities not because sex is bad, but because those particular activities separate us from God.

We give up these things so that we are open to the love of God that is always there, always showering us.

Penance then becomes a way to become healthy individuals, individuals who recognize what is true, what is real - the Love of God. Even when we face physical infirmities, the effects of aging, the mental and emotional pressures put upon us by the world, we still have a healthy view of reality. Thus while in the eyes of the world we appear to be suffering when we face such troubles, we are actually fully healthy in spirit.

We are full of joy, for we realize how loved we really are.


Pax et bonum

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Good Friday Meditation

Thank you Lord
for your two great gifts -
the gift of your birth
and the gift of your death -
for it is through both
that we have been saved.

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Persecution comes in many forms

At our SFO meeting last week, I started the Candidacy lessons (though I will not be officially accepted as a novice until, God willing, next meeting). Then I joined the rest of the group to talk about the writings of St. Francis, which they are studying as part of ongoing formation.

They were talking about Chapter XVI of the "Earlier Rule." This chapter concerns "Those who are going among the Saracens and other nonbelievers."

One person pointed out that the chapter deals with those who are placing themselves in situations in which they might become martyrs for the faith. The person lamented that we don't have those opportunities as easily today, and implied that we are somehow "weaker" for not seeking out martyrdom ourselves.

I pointed out that the rule was for the members of the first order, not us SFOs. We Secular Franciscans have vocations as lay people, husbands, parents, and workers in the world, and we are not as free to seek martyrdom deliberately (though we might face it anyway).

I also noted that we face different kinds of martyrdom. Whenever we stand up for the our faith, whenever we defend the Church, whenever will live as Catholics in the world, we proclaim the faith, and we face possible persecution. We might be ridiculed, or subject to constant verbal attacks, close scrutiny, knowing looks, and so on.

I reported that recently, for example, I had been drawn into a debate with others over the papacy, Africa, AIDs, birth control and condoms at a gathering after my father's funeral! (My mind was understandably distracted; I don't think I did as good a job as I should have.)

The portion of the rule we were discussing says one way to witness is "not to engage in arguments or disputes, to be subject to every human creature for God's sake (1 Pet 2:13) and to acknowledge that (we) are Christians." So simply by living according to the faith and not being afraid to admit what we are, we are "preaching" - and we might be persecuted. At the simplest level we might be labeled as a "religious fanatic," and thus in that way dismissed.

I am one of those prone to arguing and disputing, though I lack the knowledge and patience to do so effectively at times. I should not stop doing that when I can do so in an appropriate way, but I also need to remember that I can preach by simply living out my faith. I need to remember that if I have a reputation as a believer, I have to be careful that all of my words and actions are in keeping with the teachings of the faith and the example of St. Francis.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Failing as a follower

At school yesterday I got angry. That happens. That's human.

But I acted on it.

A troublesome student pushed all the right buttons, and I responded harshly, saying things to her that I know I should not. I reacted in anger.

There is too much anger in me. I have not given it over to God. I have not asked for the healing I need.

The fact that my spiritual life has been out of whack for more than a month now does not help. Had I been praying, had I been more consistent, maybe I wouldn't have spoken the way I did. I would have been more open to God's help and strength.

But I haven't been. I wasn't open. I failed.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Snow - but onward

The retreat in early February took the place of our regular meeting. It was a wonderful experience, by the way.

Last night, the meeting got cancelled due to the snow storm that hit the Rochester area.

It is just as well. With dad in the hospital, I was able to pop over again to see him last night.

But still, I was looking forward to the meeting - I need a spiritual boost with all that's going on. And I've had no formal formation sessions in a month since completing the Inquiry phase.


The formation director called and left a message to let me know the meeting was cancelled. Then he said I should just go ahead and read the first candidacy session material, even though I am not officially a candidate yet. I will gladly do so.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Formation - another step

Last night we completed the material for the Inquiry Phase of formation. The next step is the "Admission of Candidates" - in my case, the "Candidate" since I'm still solo.

I'm not certain when that will officially happen. Our next meeting is a Day of Recollection with Father Anthony, so no "meeting" per se. The next meeting is scheduled for February 26.

We talked about my struggles with prayer. Not making enough time. Not remaining focused - mind wandering.

I often say the rosary while driving, for example. It's hard to meditate on the mysteries while worrying about that semi on the right. And I tend to read the Bible before bed - when my brain drifts off because I'm tired.

Someone previously suggested the Liturgy of the Hours as one practice. I dug out my book and said the morning prayers today. I will try to do that every day - and to cut down on pre-dawn wasting of time on the computer.

I will try to read the Bible during the day - and to spend some time meditating.

I will try to get in a rosary when NOT driving.

I'm good at saying all the right things, so I can seem like I'm progressing. But I will not really grow unless my prayer life improves.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pontiff praises Dominicans and Fransciscans

In his General Audience January 13, Pope Benedict XVI praised the Dominicans and the Franciscans - and secular orders.

He noted that these two orders were among the mendicant orders that arose in response to a need in the 13th Century.

"Of the Mendicant Orders that arose in that period, the most notable and most important are the Friars Minor and the Preaching Friars, known as Franciscans and Dominicans. They have these names because of their founders, Francis of Assisi and Dominic de Guzmán, respectively. These two great saints had the capacity to wisely read `the signs of the times,' intuiting the challenges that the Church of their time had to face."

He observed that some of the mendicant groups that arose at that time embraced poverty, but rejected the Church. But "the Franciscans and Dominicans, in the footsteps of their founders, showed that it was possible to live evangelical poverty, the truth of the Gospel, without separating from the Church; they showed that the Church continued to be the true, authentic place of the Gospel and Scripture. Thus, Dominic and Francis drew, precisely from profound communion with the Church and the papacy, the strength of their witness."

These two orders "taught ways to nourish the life of prayer and piety. For example, the Franciscans greatly spread devotion to the humanity of Christ, with the commitment of imitating the Lord. Hence it is not surprising that the faithful were numerous, women and men, who chose to be supported in their Christian journey by the Franciscan and Dominican friars, sought after and appreciated spiritual directors and confessors.

"Thus were born associations of lay faithful that were inspired by the spirituality of Sts. Francis and Dominic, adapted to their state of life. It was the Third Order, whether Franciscan or Dominican. In other words, the proposal of a "lay sanctity" won many people. As the Second Vatican Council recalled, the call to holiness is not reserved to some, but is universal (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 40). In every state of life, according to the needs of each, there is the possibility of living the Gospel. Also today every Christian must tend to the "lofty measure of Christian life," no matter what state of life he belongs to!"

I found his words affirming. I do wish he had gone further and encouraged people to join the secular orders! I guess that's up to us.

You can read the rest here.

Pax et bonum

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Constant values, changeable applications

As part of my ongoing formation, I was asked to consider how one balances constant values (also called unchangeable principles) with ongoing adaptations (or changeable applications). And then I was asked about my own experiences.

Constant values in life include such things as honesty, fairness, respect for others' property, putting God first, etc. At the simplest level, following the Ten Commandments.

From a Franciscan perspective, that means the above, but also "living the Gospel of Jesus Christ," simple life-style, penance, and so on.,

The hard part can be the application.

Thou shalt not kill - well that's pretty straight forward. Few of us kill another person. But when we push further, that includes all acts of violence against others, physical, verbal, psychological.

Gossip. Sarcasm. Exaggerating. Insults. The silent treatment. I'm guilty of those and more.

We can't always predict how we will will be challenged. There's no rule book on stealing, for example, that touches on every single situation.

It's pretty easy to understand that shoplifting is wrong. But taking home office supplies? Using the work-place computer to do our Christmas shopping or our child's school report? Hanging out with co-workers to talk about last night's game instead of getting that report done? Talking to a friend on a phone while a customer is waiting to be served?

My understanding of all this is that we need to have the basic principles in place. We need to practice them constantly. We need to thoughtfully and prayerfully apply them as situations come up - when we have the luxury of time. And even in those instances in which we need to make a quick decision, hopefully we will have built up the habit of doing the right thing so that our instinctive reaction is to do what is right. That doesn't mean we won't make mistakes or judge incorrectly. But then we can learn from that and the next time maybe not make a mistake, or we'll be stronger so that when a new situation comes up we'll be more likely to make the right decision.

It's a matter of developing the habit of living according to these basic principles as best we can so that we can apply them in changeable circumstances. It's aa matter of being honest with ourselves about these principles, and not looking for loopholes.

One other thing I've realized is that as we progress, as our understanding grows, our eyes are opened. What 10 years ago may not have occurred to us was wrong we now realize was indeed wrong. And things we are doing now that we don't realize are wrong we may in 10 years see for what they are.

It's an ongoing process. One doesn't just convert and it's all over. Conversion is a day-by-day, hour-by hour, minute-by-minute process. It's a process we would not have the strength to continue if not for the grace of God.

Pax et bonum