Tag Archives: lawful

“Is It Tax Time In God’s Kingdom?!” – Matthew 22:15-21†


     

 

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

 Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Psalm
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

On this day, in 1940, the Nazi’s established the “Warsaw Ghetto”.  Ironically, six years later (1946) – on this date – ten Nazi war criminals of the Second World War, were condemned to death in the “War Trials” (Nuremberg), and are immediately hung.

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Seventy days left till most of us celebrate CHRISTinMASS.  I personally try to celebrate CHRISTinMASS as often as possible.  How ‘bout you?!

 

 

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 Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1333 – Death of Nicolaas V, [Pietro Rainalducci], Italian anti-Pope (1328-30)
†   1591 – Death of Gregory XIV, [Niccolo Sfondrati], Italian Pope, at age 56
†   1594 – Death of William Cardinal Allen, English Catholic cardinal (b. 1532)
†   1690 – Death of Margaretha M Alacoque, French mystic/saint, at age 43
†   1755 – Death of Saint Gerard Majella, Catholic saint (b. 1725
†   1855 – Birth of Camille Looten, Belgian priest/literature historian
†   1890 – Birth of Maria Goretti, Italian saint (d. 1902)
†   1978 – Pope John Paul II is elected in Rome.
†   Pope John Paul II Day in Poland

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

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 Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

 

 

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Today’s reflection is about the Pharisees sending their disciples to test Jesus with a question about paying census taxes to the Emperor: Herod.

 

 

(NAB Matthew 22:15-21) 15 The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech.  16 They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.  17 Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”  18 Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?  19 Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin.  20 He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  21 They replied, “Caesar’s.”  At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

 

 

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 Gospel Reflection:

 

Payment of taxes is not likely to be a disputed issue in your life.  After all, Mark Twain’s famous saying is that the two “absolutes” in life are, “to pay taxes and dying”.  Yet, we can still learn something from today’s Gospel reading.  The Jewish authorities sought to trap Jesus in the religion versus State issue.  Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees and Herodians redirected their question to focus on the issue of greater importance: loving and honoring God.  Taking this perspective in our daily lives can help us make good judgments in dealing with conflicting issues of importance.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem (especially the Pharisee’s) continue their anxious, nervous, and stressed exchange of questions and challenges toward Jesus and His teachings.  They are afraid of Him, they know He is powerful, and they had to silence Him.  The point of today’s reading, the followers of the Temple Pharisees, along with the Herodians (the followers of Herod) consciously and maliciously try to entrap Jesus by their question with regard to the payment of census taxes.  This is not the first “clash” however.  The first encounter Jesus had with the Temple officials is described in Matthew 21, let’s look at it first:

When he had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things?  And who gave you this authority?’  Jesus said to them in reply, ‘I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.  Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?’  They discussed this among themselves and said, ‘If we say “Of heavenly origin,” he will say to us, “Then why did you not believe him?”  But if we say, “Of human origin,” we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.’  So they said to Jesus in reply, ‘We do not know.’ He himself said to them, ‘Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.’” (Matthew 21:23–27).

In today’s reading, and in relating future disputes with the Temple leaders, Matthew follows Mark’s Gospel with few variations.

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Matthew, in this reading, puts together an unusual and uniquely strange partnership between the Pharisees and the Herodians.  The Herodians were supporters of Herod Antipas, a Jewish political leader who collaborated with the Romans.  His collaboration would have required a compromised observance of the Mosaic Law.  Along with his concessions, the Herodians and the Pharisees also made financial concessions.  The Herodians were willing to bend their interests, placing political over religious beliefs.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, taught a scrupulous and painstaking observance of Mosaic Law, and strongly opposed Roman occupation.  Herodians favored the payment of taxes; the Pharisees opposed it.  In this reading, there are two severely opposing beliefs coming together for a common purpose: to destroy!!

Though Matthew maintains a joining together of the Pharisees and Herodians in this account, he clearly wished to emphasize the Pharisees’ part in the plot to discredit Jesus and His movement.  The Pharisees are solely mentioned in the first verse of today’s reading (Matthew 22:15).  The Herodians (followers of Herod) are joined with them only in the prepositional phrase of Mt 22:16:

They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” (Matthew 22:16)

The Pharisees wanted to “entrap Him [Jesus] in speech”.  With a covert intent, they posed a question, trying to force Jesus to take either a position contrary to that held by the majority of the people or one that would bring Him into conflict with the Roman authorities in Jerusalem.

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The help of the “Herodians”, supporters of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, seemed to be needed in the deception of Jesus.  The Herodians were a political (and not religious) faction, who favored payment of the Roman imposed census taxes. The Pharisees, on the other hand, did not favor the imposed taxes.  The Pharisees and Herodians were not friendly toward each other, and possibly even hostile toward each other, under “normal” circumstances.

So, why did they come together to trap Jesus in some sort of perceived “slanderous” statement?  The answer is quite easy: Jesus Christ was a common enemy to both of them.  To the Pharisees, He questioned their authority and teaching.  To the Herodians, He was a potential threat to their societal structure: He was revealing that both groups have gone astray from following the “Torah” of God the Father.  So, Jesus was perceived as “stirring the pot”, creating dissention within the Temple and Societal leadership itself. 

These men were as familiar with regard to Herod the Great was, 32 years prior (at Jesus’ birth), in regards to Old Testament prophecies of the “coming Savior Messiah”.  Both the Pharisees and the Herodians liked their lifestyles, and feared any change.

Per the Old Testament prophecies, the “Messiah” would:

1) come from David’s family and be heir to David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-16, Psalms 89:3-4, Psalms 110:1, Psalms 132:11, Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 11:1-5, and Jeremiah 23:5);

2) have “Kings” bow down to Him (Psalms 72:10-11);

3) would bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and announce the release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1);

4) would enter the Temple “with authority” (Haggai 2:7-9, Malachi 3:1 );

And,

5) would be the cornerstone of God’s Messianic Community (Isaiah 28:16, Psalms 118:22-23 ).  

Both, the Herodians and the Pharisees saw the people believing that Jesus of Nazareth was living out the Old Testament requirements of God’s Messiah.

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The Jewish people resented their foreign rulers and despised paying any taxes to Caesar.  So, the Pharisees posed an “impossible (tricky) question” to test Jesus to see whether He was loyal to them and to their (misguided) understanding of religion, or not.  (Nothing is impossible with God; nor is anything too tricky for Him!)  

The Herodians and the Pharisees approached Jesus, asking that He take a side in their dispute. They appear to be asking Him for His Rabbinic wisdom, yet (in reality) only wishing to trap Him in a “catch-22” situation.  If Jesus answered that it was lawful to pay taxes to a pagan ruler, then he would lose credibility with the Jewish nation who would regard him as a coward and a friend of Caesar.  If he said it was not lawful, then the Pharisees would have grounds to report him to the Roman authorities as a political trouble-maker and have him arrested.  

So, why the BIG deal over a few coins?  Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power.  Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them.  In a certain sense, the coin was regarded as the personal property of the ruler.  Where the coin was valid, and used, the political “ruler” held political control over the people of the region.  Since the Jews used the Roman currency, it was the property of the Roman leader, Caesar.

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The Pharisees asked Jesus if it is lawful to pay census taxes according to “the law of God”.  Both groups thought that Jesus would be “trapped” either way He answered.  If he said “Yes”, the Pharisees would say he was paying alms to the Romans and not the church.  If He said “No”, they would call Him a “revolutionary” and report Him to Herod.

Jesus, in a classic Jewish rabbinical way, answers the question by asking a question:

Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?” (Matthew 22:18)

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Jesus’ response to this attempt to trap Him publically exposed the astuteness and cleverness of His inquisitors.  From His first words in response to their questions, Jesus showed that He is very much aware of what they were trying to do: to entrap Him.

’Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”  Then they handed him the Roman coin.” (Matthew 22:19) 

Jesus asks for a “Roman coinand it is readily and immediately provided to Him.  It probably came from the hand of a Herodian in attendance (which for me is the only reason they are mentioned in this Gospel reading), yet, the Pharisees showed themselves to be quite willing to freely accept a compromise made with the Herodians and the Roman government.  Remember, Jesus had already exposed the Pharisees as hypocrites in an earlier reading (Matthew 21:23–27, mentioned earlier).

They [the inquisitors] were ready to produce money for Jesus to hold.  Picture the image of Jesus holding money, and stating either, “No, don’t pay these taxes” or “Yes, you must pay Herod”!  Either would be devastating from a public perception viewpoint.  Their readiness to supply a visual image to their question – – money – – implies another proof of acceptance by the Pharisees, of the financial “advantages”, of the Roman administration in Jerusalem and Palestine as a whole.

Jesus then takes His response one step further.  He asks the Pharisees and Herodians:

 “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  (Matthew 22:20)

His inquisitors examine the coin and agree it is Caesar’s image on the coin.  This “Caesar” was the emperor “Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus” (A.D. 14–37).  

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Jesus’ answer cunningly avoids taking any sides in the question of the “lawfulness of the tax” by saying:

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Matthew 22:21)

With simple logic, Jesus tells the Pharisees and Herodians the coin belongs to Caesar, avoiding the question of lawfulness altogether. Going further, then, Jesus tells them that their obligation is also to pay to God that which belongs to God!

In saying to “repay to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”, Jesus raises the Pharisee’s debate to a new (and super-natural) level (ha, ha).   The Pharisees and Herodians hypocritically asked about taxing in respect to its relationship to the “law of God”; but instead, should have rather been concerned with repaying God the Father with the “good works” which are due to Him. 

If they don’t pay attention to this requirement, hear what Jesus had said earlier, in another parable, He recently told:

He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.  Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:41, 43)

No wonder they were trying to “trap” Him!

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Holy Scripture tells us to give to everyone whatever is their due, and to owe no one anything, except to love one another:

“Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.  Love fulfills the Law.  Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  (Romans 13:7-8)

Jesus’ response to the Herodians and Pharisees in today’s story, suggests the proper ethics, a principle or belief directing one’s behavior, that Catholic Christians should adopt in their lives.  Jesus’ “Words” of “paying to God which belongs to God” should remind ALL of us the importance of keeping things of this earth in their proper perspective!!  How many of us are attached to worldly (materialistic) things at the expense of the love and honor which we owe to God?

Make a list of the activities which you spend time doing, such as household tasks, jobs, academics, and recreational activities, and so on.  What is the true importance of each of these activities?  What would happen if there were an imbalance in your attention to these activities, spending too much time on one activity at the expense of another?

Today, we are reminded of the necessity of giving things their proper importance.  The Herodians and Pharisees were giving too much importance to the issue of the payment of taxes.  Jesus Christ reminds the Pharisees and Herodians (and us) that loving and honoring God is of greater importance than ANY thing on earth.  We do many important things; but we need to remember that God is of the greatest importance in our lives!!  Pray that you will learn – – and continue – – to keep things in a proper perspective while remembering to keep God first in your lives.

 

For me, today’s Gospel reading has another deeper meaning as well.  We, too, have been stamped with God’s image since we are created in His own likeness:

Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.  God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female* he created them.” (Genesis 1:26,27).

We rightfully belong – – not to ourselves, – – but to God (just as Caesar’s coins belonged to him):

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price.  Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

 

Let me finish today with what Saint Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1). 

Do you acknowledge that your life – – and everything you possess – – belongs to God the Father, and not to yourself?  Do you give to God what rightfully belongs to Him?  I try every single day (and some days, I succeed!!)!!

 

 

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 Reflection Prayer:

 

Psalm 96

Sing praise to the Lord.

 

“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.  Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his marvelous deeds.  For great is the LORD and highly to be praised, to be feared above all gods.  For the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.  Splendor and power go before him; power and grandeur are in his holy place.  Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and might; give to the LORD the glory due his name!  Bring gifts and enter his courts; bow down to the LORD, splendid in holiness.  Tremble before him, all the earth; declare among the nations: The LORD is king.  The world will surely stand fast, never to be shaken.  He rules the peoples with fairness.  Amen.” (Psalm 96:1,3-10)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

When the Eucharistic Prayer begins, we will again respond:

And with your spirit

to the first line of the opening dialogue.  The last line of that dialogue also changes.  We presently say, “It is right to give him thanks and praise,” but with the new text, we will say:

 “It is right and just.”

This will lead more clearly into the opening of the prefaces, which will commonly begin with the words:

It is truly right and just.

Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick

 

 

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 A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Margaret of Cortona (1247-1297)

 

Margaret was born of farming parents in Laviano, Tuscany.  Her mother died when Margaret was seven; life with her stepmother was so difficult that Margaret moved out.  For nine years she lived with Arsenio, though they were not married, and she bore him a son.  In those years, she had doubts about her situation.  Somewhat like St. Augustine she prayed for purity—but not just yet.

One day she was waiting for Arsenio and was instead met by his dog.  The animal led Margaret into the forest where she found Arsenio murdered.  This crime shocked Margaret into a life of penance.  She and her son returned to Laviano, where she was not well received by her stepmother.  They then went to Cortona, where her son eventually became a friar.

In 1277, three years after her conversion, Margaret became a Franciscan tertiary.  Under the direction of her confessor, who sometimes had to order her to moderate her self-denial, she pursued a life of prayer and penance at Cortona.  There she established a hospital and founded a congregation of tertiary sisters.  The poor and humble Margaret was, like Francis, devoted to the Eucharist and to the passion of Jesus.  These devotions fueled her great charity and drew sinners to her for advice and inspiration. She was canonized in 1728.

Comment:

Seeking forgiveness is sometimes difficult work.  It is made easier by meeting people who, without trivializing our sins, assure us that God rejoices over our repentance.  Being forgiven lifts a weight and prompts us to acts of charity.

Quote:

“Let us raise ourselves from our fall and not give up hope as long as we free ourselves from sin. Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners.  ‘O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!’ (Psalm 95:6).  The Word calls us to repentance, crying out: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).  There is, then, a way to salvation if we are willing to follow it” (Letter of Saint Basil the Great).

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)

 

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 Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

Saint Francis and the Spirituality

 

What is Saint Francis’ description of “true obedience”?

Why did Saint Francis say that moving to a “hermitage” would be an “escape”?

Does his reason resonate with us in some of our frustrations?

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule
Subsection #’s 16 & 17 of 26:

 

16.  Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.

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17.  In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ.

By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for His Church. They should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being attentive to the vocation of each child.

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“Where Is the ‘LOVE’ In All the Trickery? The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath!” – Mark 3:1-6†


 

Many Christian churches have designated January 18th – 23rd of every year as a “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”.   How can pray for a deeper unity among believers?  What unites us is much greater than what separates us!  Let us anticipate the day when we all will be completely and truly united in and with Jesus Christ, our common “Lord and Savior”!! 

The theme for prayer this year is from Acts (2:42):

“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles and to communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

“Teaching of the Apostles” can be achieved by learning what our church’s teach.  When was the last time you actually read, even a portion, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church?  Do you own, or heard of such a book?  It is, in essence, our faith’s “book of rules and practices”.

“Communal life” can be gained by seeking opportunities to support one another in Jesus Christ.  All we need is “LOVE.”  (Hint: this is covered in today’s reflection)

“Breaking of the bread and prayers” is possible through working together for a common cause.  How do you support the poor and maligned?  Do you work to protect the unborn is some way?  Praying with other Christians (both Catholic, and of other faiths) is a powerful way to break new ground, and possibly even change the way we view each other’s faith and traditions.

 

 

 

 

This January 22nd is the 38th Anniversary (1973) of the controversial, immoral, and death sentencing decision from the US Supreme Court legalizing abortion in the case titled “Roe vs. Wade”.

Norma McCorvey, the real name of the person called Jane Roe in the infamous lawsuit, has since converted to Christianity (in 1995).  She has dedicated her life to stopping Abortion.  An active “Pro-lifer” now, she has a ministry called “Roe No More.” (http://www.roenomore.org/)

In describing how McCorvey views the “Pro-abortion” (Pro-Murder) community, she says, “Plain and simple, I was used. I was a nobody to them.  They only needed a pregnant woman to use for their case, and that is it.  They cared, not about me, but only about legalizing abortion.  Even after the case, I was never respected — probably because I was not an ivy-league educated, liberal feminist like they were.”

The prayer today (at the end of my reflection) is a “Novena Prayer of Reparation”.  Please pray this prayer frequently for the end of the horrendous assault against creation, nature, and God!

 

Today in Catholic History:
 

†   973 – Pope Benedictus VI elected
†  1607 – San Agustin Church in Manila is officially completed; it is currently the oldest church in the Philippines
†  Feast/Memorials: St. Mark of Ephesus
†  Eastern and Oriental Catholic Orthodoxy — Julian Calendar Theophany (Epiphany).
 

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”  – John Bunyan

 

 

Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

This is a thirteen (13) part reflection on a letter from the SFO International Council website.  It is titled “An exhortation of the Church to the Secular Franciscan Order” by Benedetto Lino, OFS.  It can be read in full at http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

(Continuation from Previous blog)

Part 06 of 13 Parts

 

The key points are the following:

  •  AWARENESS OF BEING PRESENT ALL OVER THE WORLD, EVEN WHERE THE CHURCH IS PRESECUTED

Perhaps you will not be asked to shed your blood in martyrdom, but you are indeed asked to give consistent, strong witness in the fulfillment of the promises made at Baptism and Confirmation and renewed and confirmed at your Profession in the Franciscan Secular Order. (John Paul II)

  • INVOLVEMENT WITH AND SUPPORT OF FRANCISCAN YOUTH

The letter, then, contains a strong, earnest exhortation to be an effective “sign of contradiction” in the world, with frankness and courage, and never to be content to go on guiltily accepting the evil of this world and the plight of the poor and excluded.

 (Continued on next published blog)

  

From “An exhortation of the Church
to the Secular Franciscan Order”
A commentary on Cardinal Franc Rodé’s letter
By:
Benedetto Lino OFSSFO International Council Website
http://www.ciofs.org/Y2009/a9ENrodelet.html

 

 

  

  

Today’s reflection is about Jesus curing a man with a “withered” hand.

 

1 Again he entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand.  2 They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse him.  3 He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.”  4 Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”  But they remained silent.  5 Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out and his hand was restored.  6 The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.  (NAB Mark 3:1-6)

 

This is only the start of the third (3rd) chapter of Mark’s Gospel, and the Temple, religious, a government officials are already are upset and outright hostile toward Jesus.  Is He really a threat?  Well, you decide.  It seems the crowds love Him, and want to hear Him wherever He goes.  Not only does He obviously speak well, He speaks with an “authority” that others cannot match.  Jesus speaks the truth and is not afraid to debate His “elders” in the synagogues or Temple.  In today’s reading, He actually refers to these “pious” men as having a “hardness of heart!”  Their closed-mindedness actually angers Jesus!  And finally, Jesus talks and teaches about something “new” coming — the Kingdom of God!!

In today’s reading, Jesus is depicted in yet another controversy and disagreement with his rivals and opponents over the question of His performing work on the Sabbath, thus violating the Mosaic Law in regard to the Sabbath-day observance.  His rivals and opponents (mostly the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes) were already cold, distant, and unkind toward Him because they believed Jesus was a persistent violator of the Sabbath regulations.  These people held a very strict belief of the Sabbath observance, based on “God’s resting” on the seventh day:

Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.”  (Genesis 2:2-3)  

Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.”  (Exodus 20:8)

In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”  (Exodus 20:11)

“Take care to keep holy the Sabbath day as the LORD, your God, commanded you.”  (Deut. 5:12)

 

The Scribes, Pharisees, and Herodians wanted to catch Jesus in the act of breaking the Sabbath observance so that they could (and most certainly would) publicly accuse Him of breaking “God’s divine law!” 

Sadly, these “leaders” (May I say, “Fools”?) put their own thoughts, actions, and needs as a much higher priority than the wishes of God.  Where was the LOVE?  They were wrapped up in their own stringent interpretations and micro-managing “by the book and to hell with anything else” type of legalistic worship, simply because they forgot, did not understand, or did not care to see the true and loving purpose of God in theirs, and others lives.  Though these men “of prayer” were sincere in their devotion and worship, their role became ones of guardian and interpreter of the Law, instead of ones for “love” of God’s law.  Instead of using common sense, they attached themselves to the interpretation of God’s word.  This position led them to an unsound attitude.

Jesus also loved the “Law”!  He lived to uphold the Law and the word of God in its true way and meaning: with love as the key element, and not the “rules”.  But,  He also wasn’t keen on rules that put unnecessary burdens on people, or misrepresented the intent of God’s word.    In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus shows them (and others present at this time) their falsehoods by pointing to God’s true intention for the Sabbath: “to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it“.  In asking His question, Jesus foreshadowed His own rising up on that Sunday morning we now call “Easter”, – – a resurrection that He shares with us all.

Jesus’ question to His opponents places the matter at hand in a broader theological context that seemed to be well outside the reasoning and questions of the Pharisees and Scribes.  As the Second Person of the “Trinitarian Godhead”, Jesus has the same authority as God, His (and ours) heavenly Father.  In the question that Jesus articulates to these men in the synagogue, He declared that the Mosaic Law does not supersede His divine authority: power over life, death, and judgment.

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.  Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.  Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself.”  (John 5:21, 24-26)

“Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son.  And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”  (John 5:22, 27)

Jesus’ answer to their question seemed to truly “stir the pot”; and was blunt, apparent, and obvious in showing His power and divinity (I just love this guy – and God!)!  He healed the man “with the withered handin the sight of all (especially those opposed to His mission), and reduced His opponents to silence.

In the clashes Jesus had with the Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Temple Scribes during His three years of earthly ministry and teaching, He seemed to always overcome His opponents with simple and honest responses and parables to their questions; and always seemed to “reduce” them to silence. 

And when Jesus saw that (He) answered with understanding, He said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.”  (Mark 12:34)

 

Well, so what happens?  These Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and even some other Jews in Galilee, did not like being put “in their place” by this “commoner.”  They thought of Jesus as a rogue organizer and zealot that had to be taken care of in the most severe of ways: with His life.  These so-called “religious” people were scared of losing control, and also of Jesus’ message and teachings to others in their synagogues and Temple.

“But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.’  For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.” (John 5:17-18)

Mark reports the plan and actions of the Pharisees and Herodians to “put Jesus to death” after they witnessed His display of divine power.  Jesus’ words and actions were perceived as arrogance toward the synagogue and Temple leaders by His rivals and opponents.  Mark used this “perception” and “plan” as a pattern for later conflicts, disagreements, and debates throughout his Gospel.

“Then he taught them saying, ‘Is it not written: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples?  But you have made it a den of thieves.’  The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it and were seeking a way to put him to death, yet they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.”  (Mark 11:17-18)

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech.  They came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.  You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?  Should we pay or should we not pay?’  Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why are you testing me?  Bring me a denarius to look at.’  They brought one to him and he said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’  They replied to him, ‘Caesar’s.’  So Jesus said to them, ‘Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ They were utterly amazed at him.”  (Mark 12:13-17)

 

Herodians” were tireless supporters of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch (ruler) of Galilee and Perea.  The Temple leaders needed their help to take action against Jesus, especially actions ending with His death.  (Were they the “biblical” mafia of the time?)  Along with the Temple leaders, the Herodians exhibited a serious and extreme focus on fulfilling an immoral mission: the impending passion and death of Jesus Christ. 

Their immorally based mission was, at the same time, a necessary and important component in God’s salvation plan.  Hmm, makes you think; doesn’t it?  There are always two sides to a coin!  If you see the bad in life, flip the situation over and look for the good.

 

How do you handle adversity in your life?  Do you “trust” God totally and completely?  Or, do you panic, fret, and become fearful?  You need to remember that fear is a natural reaction, and even has a medical term associated with the nervous system response to impending danger or harsh conditions.  It is called, “sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ reaction”.  However, also remember Jesus wants much more from His followers than just this normal, self-preservation, bodily reaction.  Jesus wants “perfect love!”

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.   We love because he first loved us.”  (1 John 4:18-19)

 

 

Catholics (and I am sure other Christians) celebrate Sunday as “the Lord’s Day” in some way.  Sadly though, it usually does not include remembering, observing, and/or honoring God – – and His bringing about redemption in and through Jesus Christ.  For most Catholics (my perception anyway), Sundays do not include the “new creation” God brought about through Jesus Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.  How SAD!!

As disciples, followers of Jesus Christ, our “Sabbath” should express a true and total honor to God for all that he has done for us.  Unnecessary work and activities should be curtailed.  We should spend time with our family and friends in a special way, thus honoring God’s creation.  The Third Commandment says, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day”:

“Take care to keep holy the Sabbath day as the LORD, your God, commanded you.  Six days you may labor and do all your work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD, your God.  No work may be done then, whether by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or ass or any of your beasts, or the alien who lives with you.  Your male and female slave should rest as you do.  For remember that you too were once slaves in Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you from there with his strong hand and outstretched arm.  That is why the LORD, your God, has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”  (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

And from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“God’s action is the model for human action. If God ‘rested and was refreshed’ on the seventh day, man too ought to “rest” and should let others, especially the poor, ‘be refreshed.’  The Sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite.  It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.”  (CCC p.2172)

“The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the Sabbath law.  But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day.  He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’  With compassion, Christ declares the Sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing.  The Sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God.  ‘The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.’”  (CCC p.2173)

“The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship ‘as a sign of his universal beneficence to all.’  Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.”  (CCC p.2176)

“’Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy’ (Deut 5:12).  ‘The seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest; holy to the Lord’ (Ex 31:15).  The Sabbath, which represented the completion of the first creation, has been replaced by Sunday which recalls the new creation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ.” (CCC p.2189-2190)

However, such “rest“, as prescribed in Holy Scripture, the Catholic Faith and its teachings, or even by “tradition”, does not excuse or release us from loving others.  It can take a little extra effort to observe a day of “rest”.  In fact, wouldn’t the Sabbath be the best days for helping someone enter into “rest” with the Lord, Jesus Christ?  In truly loving the Lord, – – above all, – – then the love of, and for, God must, and will, naturally and automatically pour out as a love for others as well.  Helping others is a beautiful and spiritual way of honoring our God, and keeping the Sabbath “holy”!

Here is some food for thought: Picture Jesus standing before you and inviting you to come up to be with Him, like that man in today’s reading.  Well, each one of us IS that man in the synagogue.  Each one of us is personally and individually invited to “to come up” and to enter into Jesus Christ.  Will you accept His invitation immediately, or do you want to “wait and see” what is best and/or more lucrative for you?  Do you honor the Lord in the way you spend your Sunday with family, friends, and neighbors?  The “Lord’s Day” is called such for a real and true reason. 

As we “Keep CHRIST in Christmas”, we must also “Keep Son (of God) in SUNday!”  RUN TO JESUS TODAY AND EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE!!

 

Novena Prayer of Reparation

 

God and Father of Life,
You have created every human person,
And have opened the way for each to have eternal life.

We live in the shadow of death.
Tens of millions of your children have been killed
because of the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
Father, have mercy on us.
Heal our land
And accept our offering of prayer and penance.

In your love for us,
Turn back the scourge of abortion.
May each of us exult in hearts full of hope
And hands full of mercy
And work together to build a culture of life.
We pray through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Fabian (c. 250)

 

Fabian was a Roman layman who came into the city from his farm one day as clergy and people were preparing to elect a new pope.  Eusebius, a Church historian, says a dove flew in and settled on the head of Fabian.  This sign united the votes of clergy and laity and he was chosen unanimously.

He led the Church for 14 years and died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in A.D. 250.  St. Cyprian wrote to his successor that Fabian was an “incomparable” man whose glory in death matched the holiness and purity of his life.

In the catacombs of St. Callistus, the stone that covered Fabian’s grave may still be seen, broken into four pieces, bearing the Greek words, “Fabian, bishop, martyr.”

Comment:

We can go confidently into the future and accept the change that growth demands only if we have firm roots in the past, in a living tradition.  A few pieces of stone in Rome are a reminder to us that we are bearers of more than 20 centuries of a living tradition of faith and courage in living the life of Christ and showing it to the world.  We have brothers and sisters who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith,” as the First Eucharistic Prayer puts it, to light the way for us.

Quote:

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian).

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 19 & 20 of 26: 

19.  Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon. Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others. Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.

 

 

20.  The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national, and international. Each one has its own moral personality in the Church. These various fraternities are coordinated and united according to the norm of this rule and of the constitutions.

 



“Not MY Job, It’s HIS; Or Is IT?!” – Mark 13:13-17†


The Holy Father’s (The Pope) Prayer Intention’s for June, 2010:

General Intention: That priests, united to the Heart of Christ, may always be true witnesses of the caring and merciful love of God.

Missionary Intention: That the Holy Spirit may bring forth from our communities numerous missionary vocations, willing to fully consecrate themselves to spreading the Kingdom of God.

 

It is the first day of June, and I hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday weekend.  Hopefully we all remembered and prayed for all veterans and military personnel, living and dead.

 

Today in Catholic History:

† 1480 – Birth of Tiedemann Giese, Polish Catholic bishop (d. 1550)
† 1495 – Friar John Cor records the first known batch of scotch whisky.
† 1571 – Death of John Story, English Catholic
† 1846 – Death of Pope Gregory XVI (b. 1765)
† 1903 – Birth of Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky C.Ss.R Bishop and Martyr (d. 1973)
† Today is Commemoration of Justin Martyr (Eastern Orthodox).

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:
     

Men have never wearied of political justice: they have wearied of waiting for it. – G.K. Chesterton
     

Today’s reflection is about Civic and Religious Duties.
     

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech.  They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?”  Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.”  They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.”  So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.  (NAB Mark 13:13-17)

  

Who were the “Pharisees and Herodians?”  Of the three major religious societies of Judaism at the time of the New Testament, the Pharisees were often the most vocal and influential.  The name Pharisee in its Hebrew form means separatists, or the separated ones.  They were the most bitter and deadly opponents of Jesus Christ, and His message.

The Pharisees perhaps meant to obey God at first, but eventually they became so devoted and extremist to only a small portion of the Jewish Laws that they became blind to the “Messiah” when He was in their very midst.  They saw His miracles and heard His Words, but instead of receiving it with joy they did all that they could to stop Him; to the point of getting Him killed because He truthfully claimed to be the “Son of God.”

The Herodians on the other hand were one of the Jewish parties of Jerusalem and Judea during the human lifetime of Jesus Christ.  Unlike the other Jewish groups, the Herodians were primarily a political group, rather than religious.  The Herodians were supporters of Herod.  While the Pharisees and Sadducees opposed Jesus Christ because they viewed Him as a competitor for religious leadership of the people, the Herodians opposed Jesus because they viewed His growing popularity as a political threat to their Roman masters.

In the conflicts Jesus had with the Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Temple Scribes, Jesus vanquished his adversaries with simple and honest responses and parables to their questions; reducing them to silence.  In Mark 12:34, it is written, “And when Jesus saw that (He) answered with understanding, He said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.” 

Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  What a simple, yet profound, statement!  I firmly believe we have as much difficulty with the concept today, as the Disciples of Christ did two-thousand years ago.  Jesus did not say, “Give to Caesar nothing, and give everything to the Church.”  Nor did He say, “Make sure what you give to Caesar is in no way associated with the Church.”  Jesus made it clear that we had a duty not only to the Church, but also to the people around us, to the civic leaders, and to society as a whole.  To be a good Catholic is to be a good citizen as well.  There is both a “physical” king, and a “spiritual” king to which we answer.  Jesus was not to rule by the force of military might, but by service to all.  He was not to be a political “Messiah.”

What do we owe to the government and others, and what do we owe to Christ and the Church.  Church precepts are easy, because they have been written down, and easily found.  The five duties of ALL Catholics:

1. To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and rest from servile labor on these days. 
2. To receive the
Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, if aware of committing a mortal sin, more often.
3. To receive
Holy Communion at least once a year, between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday.
4. To observe the
fast days and abstinence days established by the Church.
5. To contribute to the support of the Church

How sad that so many Catholics today do not adhere to ANY of these five simple precepts of our Church.  Some people get upset and disgusted that these “C&E” (Christmas and Easter) Catholics only come to Mass twice a year if that, AND then go to Communion on top of it!  I instead have a strong feeling of sadness and spiritual pain that these misguided (those usually self-guided) individuals don’t know how bad they are hurting themselves, and the Church community as a whole, by putting their own needs and selfishness over following a few simple rules.

There are other practices that a good Catholic should also be involved with.  The Church has broken them down into two categories:  “Corporal” and “Spiritual” Works of Mercy.  Being a good citizen involves, but is not limited, to these various works.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s body:

1.  Feeding the hungry
2.  Giving drink to the thirsty
3.  Clothing the naked
4.  Sheltering the homeless
5.  Visiting the sick
6.  Visiting the imprisoned
7.  Burying the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are the seven practices of Catholic charity toward our neighbor’s soul:

1.  Admonishing the sinner
2.  Instructing the ignorant
3.  Counseling the doubtful
4.  Comforting the sorrowful
5.  Bearing wrongs patiently
6.  Forgiving injuries
7.  Praying for the living and the dead

Being a good Catholic is nothing more than doing your best, being your best, and living your best.  We are to love all others because they are creations of God, and we are to be good Stewards of the gifts and resources God has given us.  When Jesus said, “Repay to Caesar … and to God …,” He was, and still is, extolling a need for an organizational flow in order to have a safe and orderly society; with realistic requirements, needs, and almsgiving in this world and in the next.  Jesus recognized the civil authority and its rights, but He warned that greater rights belong to God.

In this world, it involves paying taxes, adhering to the laws of society, and value the Church precepts, including the “works of mercy.”  In the next world, it involves simply honoring and praising our Creator, which will be easy for me as I am getting a head start well before getting there!

Give to Caesar the coins, and to God your heart!
    

A Prayer to Mary for Politicians & the USA

“O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.  We beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son.  Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins in our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.  Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people.  Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.  Free us from the falsehood that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life.  Grant our Country the wisdom to proclaim that God’s law is the foundation on which this nation was founded; and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.  Amen”
     

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

Franciscan Saint of the Day:  St. Joseph the Worker
   

Apparently in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955. But the relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers has a much longer history.

In a constantly necessary effort to keep Jesus from being removed from ordinary human life, the Church has from the beginning proudly emphasized that Jesus was a carpenter, obviously trained by Joseph in both the satisfactions and the drudgery of that vocation. Humanity is like God not only in thinking and loving, but also in creating. Whether we make a table or a cathedral, we are called to bear fruit with our hands and mind, ultimately for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Comment:

“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). The Father created all and asked humanity to continue the work of creation. We find our dignity in our work, in raising a family, in participating in the life of the Father’s creation. Joseph the Worker was able to help participate in the deepest mystery of creation. Pius XII emphasized this when he said, “The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with Him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work. Thus, if you wish to be close to Christ, we again today repeat, ‘Go to Joseph’” (see Genesis 41:44).

Quote:

In Brothers of Men, René Voillaume of the Little Brothers of Jesus speaks about ordinary work and holiness: “Now this holiness (of Jesus) became a reality in the most ordinary circumstances of life, those of word, of the family and the social life of a village, and this is an emphatic affirmation of the fact that the most obscure and humdrum human activities are entirely compatible with the perfection of the Son of God…in relation to this mystery, involves the conviction that the evangelical holiness proper to a child of God is possible in the ordinary circumstances of someone who is poor and obliged to work for his living.”

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.; revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From: http://www.americancatholic.org website 

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #1:
   

The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.

In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.