Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Nowhere Man

Pax et bonum

Saint Lawrence of Brindisi

Saint Lawrence of Brindisi

At first glance, perhaps the most remarkable quality of Lawrence of Brindisi is his outstanding gift of languages. In addition to a thorough knowledge of his native Italian, he had complete reading and speaking ability in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French.

Lawrence was born on July 22, 1559, and died exactly 60 years later on his birthday in 1619. His parents William and Elizabeth Russo gave him the name of Julius Caesar, Caesare in Italian. After the early death of his parents, he was educated by his uncle at the College of St. Mark in Venice.

When he was just 16, he entered the Capuchin Franciscan Order in Venice and received the name of Lawrence. He completed his studies of philosophy and theology at the University of Padua and was ordained a priest at 23.

With his facility for languages Lawrence was able to study the Bible in its original texts. At the request of Pope Clement VIII, he spent much time preaching to the Jews in Italy. So excellent was his knowledge of Hebrew, the rabbis felt sure he was a Jew who had become a Christian.

Lawrence’s sensitivity to the needs of people—a character trait perhaps unexpected in such a talented scholar—began to surface. He was elected major superior of the Capuchin Franciscan province of Tuscany at the age of 31. He had the combination of brilliance, human compassion, and administrative skill needed to carry out his duties. In rapid succession he was promoted by his fellow Capuchins and was elected minister general of the Capuchins in 1602. In this position he was responsible for great growth and geographical expansion of the Order.

Lawrence was appointed papal emissary and peacemaker, a job which took him to a number of foreign countries. An effort to achieve peace in his native kingdom of Naples took him on a journey to Lisbon to visit the king of Spain. Serious illness in Lisbon took his life in 1619.

In 1956, the Capuchins completed a 15-volume edition of Lawrence's writings. Eleven of these 15 contain his sermons, each of which relies chiefly on scriptural quotations to illustrate his teaching.

- From Franciscan Media

Pax et bonum

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Not My Idea ... of a book children should read

There has been much talk lately about a book by Anastasia Higgenbotham called Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness. Some school districts are making use of it. But some opponents of "critical race theory" are decrying it.  

Being a former teacher, and always being concerned about fairness and accuracy, I decided I had better read it before saying anything concerning the book. 

The book does address important issues concerning racism, and at first, it was okay. But then it started to state things in a way that implied they were facts rather than the theories or opinions that they were, and I got uneasy. Can children really differentiate between them without further knowledge?  Then we hit these facing pages: 

The book never defines what exactly "Whiteness" is. And I wondered if people would accept an author declaring "Blackness is a bad deal."

The devil page spouts things that are true in some cases or were so in the past, but it states them as if they are the reality for most people now (except for a few exceptions the author cites). This is really misleading, especially for young people who don't have broader knowledge and experience. And I kept thinking, this book in its own way is kind of racist.

This is not my idea of a book that is appropriate for children, especially given the seriousness of the issue.

Pax et bonum

Monday, July 12, 2021

Saints John Jones and John Wall, Franciscans martyred in England

Saint John Jones and Saint John Wall

These two friars were martyred in England in the 16th and 17th centuries for refusing to deny their faith.

John Jones was Welsh. He was ordained a diocesan priest and was twice imprisoned for administering the sacraments before leaving England in 1590. He joined the Franciscans at the age of 60 and returned to England three years later while Queen Elizabeth I was at the height of her power. John ministered to Catholics in the English countryside until his imprisonment in 1596. He was condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. John was executed on July 12, 1598.

John Wall was born in England but was educated at the English College of Douai, Belgium. Ordained in Rome in 1648, he entered the Franciscans in Douai several years later. In 1656 he returned to work secretly in England.

In 1678, Titus Oates worked many English people into a frenzy over an alleged papal plot to murder the king and restore Catholicism in that country. In that year Catholics were legally excluded from Parliament, a law which was not repealed until 1829. John Wall was arrested and imprisoned in 1678, and was executed the following year.

John Jones and John Wall were canonized in 1970.

Pax et bonum

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Pray the Rule Daily

A fellow Secular Franciscan, Karen Szczesniak, "personalized" the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, paraphrasing it and noting on what paragraph in the Rule she based each paraphrase. I have used her creation as part of my daily prayers.


In recognizing, experiencing, and celbrting the holiness of my secular state in life, I am called as a Franciscan, by the Spirit of God:

To follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, making present the charism of my Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church. #1

To strive for perfect charity, pledging myself to live the Gospel in the manner of St. Francis, by means of our Rule. #2

To accept that interpretation of our Rule belongs to the Holy See and its application is made by General Constitutions and particular statutes. #3

To devote myself especially to careful reading of the Gospel, going from Gospel to life, and life to the Gospel. #4

To encounter the living and active person of Christ in my brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity, making the faith of St. Francis an inspiration and pattern of my Eucharistic life. #5

To go forth as a witness and instrument of mission in the Church among all people, proclaiming Christ by my life and words; devoting myself energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity. #6

To conform my thoughts and deed to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the Gospel itself calls "conversion." #7

To let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all I am and do; reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ; participating in the Eucharist and joining in liturgical prayer. #8

To express ardent love for the Virgin Mary by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently. #9

To faithfully fulfill the duties proper to my circumstances of life; following the poor and crucified Christ, witnessing to Him even in difficulties and persecutions. #10

To seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying my material needs; being mindful that according to the Gospel, I am a steward of the goods I receive for the benefit of God's children; to purify my heart from every tendency and yearning for possession and power. #11

To set myself free to love God and my brothers and sisters. #12 

To accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ; to be on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom I shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ. #13

To build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively; to exercise my responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service. #14

To promote justice; to esteem work as a gift and as a sharing in creation, redemption, and spirit of the human community. Especially in the field of public life, make definite choices in harmony with my faith. # 15 #16 

To cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life; to live the grace of matrimony; to joyfully accompany children on their spiritual journey. # 17

To respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which "bear the imprint of the Most High"; to promote universal kinship. #18

To seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue; striving to bring joy and hope to others. #19

To give true meaning to Sister Death by serenely looking toward the ultimate encounter with the Father. #19

To recognize that local, regional, national, and international fraternities have their own moral personality in the Church, united through this Rule and the Constitutions. #20

To be guided by my elected Council and Minister according to the Constitutions. #21

To help develop, as a privileged place, my fraternity, with a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and to enliven the apostolic life of my brothers and sisters. #22 

To recognize that my entire community is engaged in the process of growth by the way we live in fraternity, to be open to fraternal dialogue with those in initial formation, and because Profession is a permanent commitment, be of aid to those in the discernment process. #23

To assist my local council in fostering communion among my brothers and sisters; work with Franciscan Youth Groups; seek ways to adopt appropriate means of growth in Franciscan and ecclesial life and encourage everyone to a life of fraternity. #24

To be in communion with deceased brothers and sisters through prayer for them #24

To offer a contribution according to my means to assist my own Fraternity and those needs of the higher council. #25

To be in communion with suitable and well-prepared religious for the purpose of spiritual assistance.#26  

Pax et bonum

Friday, July 9, 2021

Thistles and Thieves (MacRae)

Thistles and Thieves by Molly MacRae is the second of my recent Scotland-set mysteries (the first was The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton). It was also one of the contemporary "cozy" novels I was sampling.

First, it was an enjoyable read. The mystery worked (even if I did guess the killer before the end of the book), and the characters were believable. The writing was smooth, though the constant sprinkling of Scottish words and phrases sometimes got annoying. I can imagine reading more of MacRae's books.

But it had the misfortune of being the second of the Scottish books. In The Cracked Spine, I had a sense the author was a fan of the Outlander series. In this book, Outlander was alluded to, with a slightly ironic edge. I suspect both of these books - parts of Scotland-set series - owe their existence to the interest in Scotland engendered by Outlander.

As I was reading this one, and recalling the previous one, it became clear that as cozies go these books are written for women readers. The constant talking among female friends, the interests of the characters, the setting details were all women-oriented. There were also elements in this one that reminded me of the Aurora Teagarden mysteries - also women-oriented. There's even a"club" of sleuths the more formal Real Murders Club in the Teagarden stories, and the informal SCONES (Shadow Constabulary of Nosy Eavesdropping Snoops). There's nothing wrong with that; there's an audience for such books, and the two authors are shrewd enough to write for a market that will buy their books.

Still, I need to seek out some cozy mysteries with male protagonists.   

Pax et bonum

Tenth Anniversary of My Franciscan Profession

With my wife Nancy (now also a Secular Franciscan) and my late father-in-law, Frank Paris

It's been a joyful 10 years. I'm still growing, still learning. 

St. Francis, pray for me.

Pax et bonum