God and St Francis on Lawn Care

In cleaning up files from my computer, I ran across this classic bit of saintly humor. Enjoy!

GOD:   Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles. Continue reading

Who are my mother and brothers?

The reading from today’s gospel (with a few extra verses) and St. Francis of Assisi’s answer to the question.

20 Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. 21 When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” … 31 His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. 32 crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers* [and your sisters] are outside asking for you.” 33 But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and [my] brothers?” 34 And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 35[For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3) Continue reading

A moment of mindfulness

Today is the Feast of St. Bonaventure the great Franciscan saint, theologian and provincial minister of the Order in the mid-13th century. There are a special set of feast day readings for the Saint. I was particularly taken by the feast day’s first reading that describes a deep abiding intercessory prayer by St. Paul for the community of Ephesus: Continue reading

Up until now

StBonaventureToday marks the Feast Day of one of the great figures in Franciscan history – St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio – as well as the 15th anniversary of our Franciscan presence in this historic downtown parish.  St. Bonaventure is a good model of what it means to be a Franciscan while at the same time being a priest in leadership positions in a parish.  Bonaventure reminded the friars of his day that our first vocation is as “brother.”  At the core of our charism, we are a fraternity in mission to the People of God striving to continue our Order’s 800-year-old mission:  bringing the Gospel into the everyday experience of men and women through our life in fraternity and compassionate service to all. Continue reading

The Desire of Souls

Years from now I will perhaps look back in my notes at this homily and will need to remind myself what was unique and different about this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, popularly known as Corpus Christi Sunday. Notes to self: 94 days ago, the World Health Organization declared pandemic status for the covid-19 virus. 87 days ago, the churches of the diocese of St. Petersburg were closed to the public. 79 days ago, a safer-at-home order was declared for the City of Tampa. Continue reading

The Body of Christ for Francis

During these last days as the topic of racial justice was omnipresent around us, someone emailed to ask if Francis of Assisi had ever written on race relationships. The short answer is “no.” Francis of Assisi lived in the 13th century growing up in the Umbria region of Italy. His world was provincial and focused on the world in which diversity meant which town you were from and the “other” referred to the “Saracens,” against whom the Crusades were aimed in order to free the Holy Land from Islamic control. Continue reading

The Holy Spirit

When I was a child growing up in the 1950s Catholic milieu, we prayed “In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” We didn’t give it a lot of thought. We were kids. We also did not particularly make the connection between the third person of the Trinity and Casper the Friendly Ghost or any of his not-so-friendly counterparts. But at some point, the phrase “Holy Ghost” gave way to “Holy Spirit.” Continue reading

Super Bowl ads…

Super Bowl ads – love ’em, hate ’em or don’t pay attention – or go out and refill the chips and salsa!  I hope you were able to see the New York Life commercial, “Love Takes Action,” that takes viewers through the four words for love, as expressed by the ancient Greeks: philia, storge, eros, and agape.

The New York Life ad takes its inspiration from C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves, in which the Christian apologist identified four types of love mentioned in the Bible. While philia, storge, and eros are based on feelings, Lewis explains, agape, as it is presented in the New Testament, is a sacrificial love that comes about as an act of will rather than a response to emotions. As the greatest love of all, Agape represents the selfless love that God has for man and man has for God, and that every Christian should strive for, and is sometimes defined as charity/caritas….Enjoy.

 

Franciscans in China

Ideograms for Rabban Bar SaumaServant of God – John of Montecorvino
Franciscan and first Bishop of Beijing

Today is a day in which we Franciscans remember John of Montecorvino. To which most people – even most Franciscans – will say “who?” Brother John was the first Catholic missionary to China, centuries before the efforts of other Catholic religious orders. It is a compelling story.  If you would like to read an interesting and accessible account of the travel within the context of an art historian comparing 13th century Italian and Chinese art, read Lauren Arnold’s: Princely Gifts & Papal Treasures: The Franciscan Mission to China & Its Influence on the Art of the West, 1250-1350 – fascinating book.

Beginning with the pontificate of Innocent IV (1243–1254), the popes and Mongol khans began to communicate and exchange gifts in a diplomatic effort to see if there was a basis upon which to effectively bind and subdue their common enemy, the Muslim Empire.  The two most famous envoys were the Franciscans John of Plano Carpini and William of Rubruck. Their journeys, remarkable and daring, were not specifically missionary but were more as political emissaries. Carpini traveled in the years 1245–1247 while Rubruck’s mission was 1253–1255. Although Rubruck was sent by Louis XI of France to enlist the aid of the khan against Islam, Rubruck also attempted to convert the Mongols (also known as Tartars) by converting the Great Khan.  William’s Itinera is a masterful travel account  that also includes observations about the Saracens and Nestorian Christians found in the Mongol territories. On Pentecost 1255 William met with the Great Khan who received William but nothing more came of the meeting. Continue reading

Land of the Rising Sun

Ike Ndolo’s chorus is an unabashed proclamation that he belongs to God and to heaven

“Grace is huge because you haven’t even asked for it but it’s available … Nobody is beyond Grace. God is always near. We are not abandoned, that to me is encouraging and beautiful. Even in the midst of our own brokenness in a broken world, a very broken world, we are not abandoned.” – Ike Ndolo