Happy Mother’s Day! I pray that everyone gives their mother a call, a hug and kiss, and a sincere “thank you” for the role she had (or has) in your life, education, and faith. Also, do not forget to thank our “heavenly” mother: the Blessed ever-virgin Mary. A nice rosary of gratitude would be appropriate, or even a sincere “Hail Mary” would show your praise to this faithful mother and servant of God.
My Mother died a little over a year ago. I think about her many times during the day. This is my letter to her on this Mother’s Day.
I thought of you with love today, but that is nothing new.
I thought about you yesterday and days before that too.
I think of you in silence, and I often speak your name.
All I have are memories and a picture in a frame.
Your memory is a keepsake, with which I’ll never part.
God has you in His keeping, and I have you in my heart.
On another note:
I am sorry I haven’t published a blog for the past few days. I had to handle several issues in my life. In examining my priorities, I realized that I haven’t been that loyal to my vow of fostering a MORE prayerful life. My blog seemed to take lead over my prayer life. So, for this reason, I have decided to publish only three or so blogs each week: probably on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday; but this will be a fluid schedule.
Hopefully, I will reflect on a gospel reading, a SFO rule, or a Franciscan reflection question. I plan on having some type of quote or joke; and the saint of the day section, along with my reflection. If there are any other suggestions, please let me know on Facebook, or in the comments section.
Quote or Joke of the Day:
When we pray, the voice of the heart must be heard more than that proceeding from the mouth. ~ St. Bonaventure
Today’s reflection is about my conversion story, and how I became a Secular Franciscan Catholic:
I firmly believe I became a Secular Franciscan out of an act of the Holy Spirit working in me. I do not believe I had ever met a Franciscan of any kind in my life, prior to becoming one. In the St. Louis area, there are not many Franciscan Friars (priests and brother that wear the brown robes with the white cords wrapped around their waist), with the exception of one parish in the deep St. Louis inner-city.
I knew of Franciscans and the many other orders of religious in the Catholic faith; and even explored some of these orders when I was discerning the priesthood in the 1980’s. My discernment led me instead to the married life, and the parent to four beautiful boys (that sometimes drive me crazy).
My vocation became one of healthcare, being a paramedic for thirty years, including active leadership and education roles. I loved my work; dealing with people in various stages of life and distress. I honestly felt I was doing God’s work on earth.
I was well known on the local, state, and even national levels. Some would say I was HOT, and a “who’s who” in the emergency pre-hospital field. I was on top, and life couldn’t have been much better.
One day while in the ER of a major hospital in North St. Louis County, a male nurse was talking to me about religion during a slow period of patient care. When he found out I was Catholic, he said, “Would you like to learn more about Christianity?”
“WHAT, I am a Christian!” was my answer! He responded, “No; you’re a papist. Catholics cannot be Christians.” I was stunned. I wanted to beat the holy hell out of him; but I was also stunned for another reason. I did not know how to respond to his statement, at that time.
He was right; I did not live my faith daily. I had barely read the Bible; much less knew bible verses verbatim. In reality, I was a typical “cradle Catholic” and this truly upset me. I swore that day that I would never be put into that position again. I swore I would learn more about my faith, so I could respond to any attack to my faith! 1 Peter 3: 15-16 in part says, “… Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear so that when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.” I think the nurse that I just mentioned forgot this verse.
Even with a new emphasis on “faith,” in hind-sight I still would have considered myself lukewarm in regards to my faith and religion. I actually felt quite lonely in my prayer life. Even though I was praying very piously (I thought) on a daily basis, it did not seem to be making a big difference in my life. I did all the “Catholic” things: I participated in Eucharistic Adoration and in a small group scripture study, plus I prayed the rosary daily. Even with these opportunities to be closer to the Trinitarian God, I felt quite often that my prayers were not satisfying, or even noticed by God. In addition, I had another problem: I was a “great paramedic” and had priorities that were more important than my faith.
In 2006, without really any warning, I went from being fairly healthy and active, to being disabled due to severe lung, heart and back problems. I was now on oxygen 24 hours a day and taking 14 plus different medications every day; with some medications multiple times each day. I had to medically retire from my occupation, my vocation of thirty years. During those years, I had been awarded and honored numerous times for my sometimes unique teaching, training, and clinical skills. And now it was all over – FOREVER! I was angry at everyone: myself, others, and especially at God for letting this happen to me.
I went to church and prayed (in reality, yelled) to God, HARD AND LOUD! My dialogue would have been considered at best, “for mature audiences only.” I asked (again, actually I demanded) from God, “Why are you doing this to me? I was good at my job, and I have helped so many people in their times of distress! What am I going to do now to support my family?” For me, God was so unfair!
I sat in that church a long time. All I heard or felt for an answer to all my prayers, demands, and exaltations was, “Thank you for finally talking to me. Come back, and let’s talk again tomorrow.” I went back that next day, and the next, and so on! I kept going back, again and again.
I read all types of books including the Bible, in earnest. I began listening to pod-casts and any other media to figure out why this was happening to me, and how I could justify my anger and rationalizations. And I couldn’t! I just couldn’t sincerely rationalize the anger I was experiencing. I went to confession for probably the first time in ten years.
Slowly, and over time, I moved through my anger. I asked for forgiveness from everyone, especially God. I realized that my suffering was, AND STILL IS a necessary component in my life. It keeps me focused on the divine mercy of Jesus through His own suffering. Maybe, the pain I have now is sort of my own personal stigmata to keep my heart and soul going in the right direction.
I needed to be humbled. I learned to be humble and pious, instead of proud and boisterous in my prayer life and religious faith. I learned NOT ONLY to talk to God, but to LISTEN to Him as well.
Today, I can honestly say that I have never been more Catholic and possibly happier in my life. God definitely works in a mysterious and unorthodox way. He messed with me in a big way, and I truly love Him more than I have ever for doing what He did to me.
I had a new found love for my old friend: the Catholic Church. I became a human sponge; devouring any all information I could grasp. I wanted to be around others that had a strong fire burning in their hearts and minds for the knowledge and love of our God. My family thought I was becoming one of those “holy roller” types; but I wasn’t. I just realized how much Jesus did solely for me and you: all sinners. There is no way possible for me to thank Him, other than to try living my life in His footsteps, wherever they may lead me.
I had a few saints that I had become enthralled with, and looked upon as my personal saints: Padre Pio and Maximillian Kolbe were my favorite ones. I believe they lived lives of near-perfection in following Jesus’ footsteps. It wasn’t until I was looking at tertiary and secular religious orders that these two being Franciscans clicked to me.
I read a large deal on the Secular Franciscan Order, including its rule and constitution. I visited several different Fraternities in the St. Louis area, and went to a “Day of Recollection,” a regional Mass for the Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and a “Transitus:” a Franciscan devotion to ritually remember the passing of Saint Francis from this life into God. From what I read, observed, and experienced, I knew that the Secular Franciscan Order was a home for me.
Since being accepted, I have gone further into learning about St. Francis and St. Clare; the various Franciscan communities; Franciscan Spirituality, and so on. Besides the learning of new (and old) approaches to prayer, I have also become a devout participant in the “prayer” of the Catholic Church: the “Divine Office,” also known as the “Liturgy of the Hours.” This group of prayers and scripture readings is said at least twice a day, and up to six times a day by all religious, clergy, and some laity throughout the world. By virtue of the time zones, the Divine Office is constantly being prayed somewhere in the world at any time of the day or night.
St. Paul’s summons to Timothy states, “I charge you … proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage (but) through all, (with) patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).
I still have a long way to go with my journey in the big man’s footsteps, and still have much more to experience. I did not have to become a “holy roller” standing on a soapbox. I am discovering new things about Jesus, the Bible, and Catholicism every day. I also learned that this new love and knowledge can scare people; especially those that do not want to be “evangelized.”
I found that the best way to evangelize is simply to help those in need; to smile, to listen, and to hold my tongue. Just be a true friend to all I come into contact with. I try to see Jesus in everyone, including the person I see in the mirror every morning.
Pope Benedict XVI recently said, “There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him (Jesus), and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. In closing, my favorite quote is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (go figure): “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”
“Lord, make me an instrument of your Peace. Help me to grow in my love for you. Allow me to share my love for you with others in non-threatening ways. Amen”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
Franciscan Saint of the Day: St. Catharine of Bologna 1413-1463
The birth of Catharine was foretold to her devout father by the Blessed Virgin, with the announcement that the child would be a brilliant light throughout the world. On the feast of the Annunciation of Our Lady in the year 1413, Catharine was born at Bologna. Her father, John of Vigri, was a relative of the marquis of Este, who resided in Ferrara. It was his wish that little Catharine, who charmed everyone with her beauty and lovableness, be brought to his court, to be educated there with his daughter. Here Catharine learned the foreign languages and especially Latin, painting, and everything that belongs to the culture of a young woman of high rank. People admired in her the singular wisdom and insight with which she read the profound works of the Fathers of the Church, along with her great modesty and such purity of soul that she was looked upon more as an angelic than as a human being.
The court with all its splendor was not able to fascinate Catharine. The most distinguished suitors were compelled to withdraw without the least hope of obtaining her hand in marriage; she entertained no other desire than to be plighted forever to Jesus Christ, the spouse of her heart. When she was 17 years old, she obtained the consent of her mother–her father having already died–to join a pious company of young women in Ferrara who led a religious life but had not yet adopted a definite rule. Catharine appeared among them as a mirror of all the virtues, but meanwhile she was also being subjected to very severe temptations of the evil spirit.
Four years later, a royal princess founded a convent for this society according to the rule of St. Clare, and several zealous sisters from Mantua introduces the young women to the Poor Clare rule of life. Catharine was charged with the duties of the bakery; she cheerfully undertook this laborious service, and even when the heat began to affect her eyes, she remained at her post as long as the abbess required it.
One day, just as she had placed the loaves in the oven, the bell called her to the choir for some very special religious service; she made the Sign of the Cross over the loaves and said, “I commend you to our Lord.” She was not in a position to return to the bakery until five hours later, and certainly believed that everything had been burned by that time. However, when she removed the loaves from the oven, there were nicer than ever.
After a time she was entrusted with the duties of mistress of novices. Catharine tried, indeed, to be excused, explaining that she was entirely incapable of this task; but she was compelled by obedience to accept it. Her diffidence in herself drew down God’s blessing on her efforts to give the novices a good training. She endeavored, above all, to impress on their young hearts that they should desire nothing but the honor of God and the fulfillment of His holy will, and so she recommended that they look upon the holy rule and obedience to their superiors as their guides. Her own experience taught her how to protect them from the snares of the devil. “Sometimes,” she said, “he inspires souls with an inordinate zeal for a certain virtue or some special pious exercise, so that they will be motivated in its practice by passion; or again, he permits them to become discouraged so that they will neglect everything because they are wearied and disgusted. It is necessary to overcome the one snare as well as the other.” She also taught them to use the golden mean that leads to solid virtue.
For a long time she herself was troubled with the temptation to sleep during the spiritual exercises. Once when she was again heroically struggling against it during the holy Mass, God Almighty permitted her to hear the angelic choir singing after the elevation. From then on the temptation was overcome, and she was even able to devote hours to prayer during the night.
Catharine had spent 24 years in the convent at Ferrara and had trained many sisters in the way of sanctity when, at the request of the city of Bologna, she was sent with 15 sisters to establish a similar convent in her native town. She was appointed abbess, and governed her community with wisdom and motherly love. She was particularly solicitous for the sick sisters. In dispensing to them spiritual consolation she said, “My dear sisters, you are now the true brides of the Divine Savior, who chose pain and sufferings as His portion.”
Although she was sickly from the time that she was 22, she never complained. When at times it seemed to her that her afflicted body would be justified in complaining, she would say to herself, “O bundle of corruption, that will soon turn into dust, why should you complain? It appears as if you had not yet learnt to be a true servant of Christ.”
She was particularly tactful in preserving peace within herself and peace among the members of her community. Hence she was also loved by all of them. When she died on March 9, 1463, sounds of sobbing and weeping were heard everywhere in the convent. But even after her death her sisters were to be made joyful through her. Her body, which had been the temple of so chaste and immaculately pure a soul, diffused a sweet odor. It remained incorrupt and retained its quality of flexibility like that of a living body. Thus it can still be seen in Bologna, robed in a costly garment presented by St. Charles Borromeo and seated on a throne, under a crystal shrine. Innumerable miracles reward the faithful for their devotion to her. Pope Clement XI canonized her.
from: The Franciscan Book of Saints,
ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #9:
The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.