Happy New Year to All of our Order of Franciscan Hermits Associates, Members, Family and Friends! It is with much LOVE and JOY that I send my prayers for your Happiness, Health and Spiritual Growth throughout 2019.
The Order of Franciscan Hermits now has over 2500 Associates and Members in over 87 countries worldwide who have committed to carrying out St. Francis' original Mission to "Rebuild the Church" and to Pray for World Peace. THIS IS SIGNIFICANT! Even though we are dispersed throughout the world, we are UNITED in this Mission and we each serve as anchors of Christ's Unconditional LOVE and COMPASSION - Welcoming Home EVERYONE who is estranged (for whatever reason) from our Family as One Body in Christ! I can picture the Globe with Bright Lights Shining as our Brothers and Sisters in 87 countries are keeping this important Franciscan Calling very much Alive, each and every day!
I would like to ask each of us to read the story of the "Prodigal Son" (Luke 15:11-32) and keep this as our ongoing "theme" and lesson to live by as I see it as fully interconnected with our Mission to Rebuild the Church.
The Lord is constantly searching for us... yearning for us to "Come Home." We are called to be in a Loving Relationship with the Father.
We read that, "while [the Son] was yet at a distance," the Father, "saw him and had compassion, and RAN and embraced him and kissed him." Our Lord and Father in Heaven "RUNS" towards us... seeks us out every moment of every day with Joy and Enthusiasm to Welcome Us Home! He's NOT judging our past or counting all of the inheritance that we've squandered... NO! He's CELEBRATING our return HOME, for 'We were Dead and are now Alive; we were Lost, and now Found!"
Are WE enthusiastic about our Mission to Rebuild the Church through our prayer life and truly yearn for our reunification with our lost Brothers and Sisters? Are we too busy looking at the "speck" in our Brother's eye while we have a "plank" in our own???!!! (Matthew 7:1-5).
If we are truly to be Franciscans... Christians committed to "Love One Another as I have Loved You." we must welcome EVERYONE Home regardless of their sins and CELEBRATE their return, not looking at any of their transgressions, but EMBRACING them as the Father embraces us!
Look at these beautiful depictions of the Father Joyfully and Tenderly Embracing Us, Welcoming Us Back Home into His Care. We need to be the Prodigal Son... the Prodigal Father... Christ for One Another...
This isn't too much for us to accomplish... Remember... we're "Temples of the Holy Spirit!" We have the Gifts which allow us to LOVE... God... Our Neighbors... Ourselves and our Enemies. It is only our own reluctance to Accept One Another, just as they are on their Journey, that is keeping us from Living the Gospel Life.
As the song, "Hosea" says...
"Come back to ME with ALL your Heart... Don’t let FEAR keep us apart!
Long have I waited for your coming Home to Me and Living DEEPLY Our New Life!"
This is our invitation and our Mission as Franciscans and Christians. I pray that we persevere in our quest and I say it is NOW time to go HOME and CELEBRATE DEEPLY Our New Life!
PEACE, LOVE and JOY Always...
Founder and Guardian of the Order of Franciscan Hermits
Pope Francis has called for a "Year of Mercy" beginning December 8th, 2015. The article about the Cloistered Argentine Carmelite nun and her ministry to the trans women in her community is a wonderful example of how we are all called to Show Mercy in our lives. It is a beautiful story of true Christian Love and Service. Are we Loving and Serving ALL of God's children in our lives? Are we rejecting anyone who needs our Love or Mercy?
PLEASE read a personal story about one of my Best Friends...
I have worked with the homeless for over 25 years and I have known many prostitutes, several of them were transgender. One of these "Prostitutes" literally became one of my BEST FRIENDS over the years. She was born a heroine baby and had brain damage because her mother used to bash her head against the wall when she (the infant) cried. Because of this she had SEVERE learning disabilities.
Eventually her mother went to prison, so she was raised by her Grandmother who was a good woman. Her entire life, everyone thought my friend was a little girl. On the first day of Second Grade, the teacher said to the class, "All right now, I want all of the boys to line up here, and all the girls to line up here." My friend (born a boy), lines up in the boys line. The teacher says, "I said the girls are to line up over there" and physically placed "him" (at the time) in the girls line. He was ALWAYS being mistaken as a girl. He never felt like a boy and did identify as a girl so at the age of 13 he transitioned to be a girl with the grandmother's permission.
When 13 years old, her Science teacher would keep her after class and molest her in the classroom every day. She was African American and lived in a very poor neighborhood. There was a man who started to pimp her out (at 13) to all of the men in the neighborhood. She feared for her life because she was forced to be a prostitute and couldn't tell anyone because her Grandfather was the local Minister and she feared all of the repercussions if he found out. Eventually she was able to move away, but she was ILLITERATE (neither able to read or write at all) because of the brain damage caused by being a heroine baby and physical abuse, so she couldn't get a job in an office situation. She couldn't file paperwork, type, do ANYTHING that you and I take for granted every single day. She was so illiterate that she couldn't even fill out a job application. When she was able to get a job, she was a good salesperson but couldn't make change, so she would frequently lose jobs because they thought she was stealing.
As long as I knew her (at least 15 years) she was always involved with learning programs at the local college to help her with her learning disabilities. She WANTED to LEARN, to READ, to WRITE, but her brain was simply not teachable. She literally had NO OPTIONS other than being a Prostitute.
One day I asked her how many people she had sex with throughout her life to survive (she was around 45 years old) and her answer was, "Oh Paul... I have no idea... Thirty Thousand???" You and I might say, "That's impossible!" But, if you think about it, she started at the age of 13 and she "worked" right outside of a military base. She would orally service 10+ soldiers a night! That number... 30,000 was NOT impossible and probably underestimated!
This "Prostitute" (I use quotes because that is what Society would label her as, as if SHE was corrupting the world and SHE was the problem. As if SHE was DIRTY. No one seems to blame her customers, do they???)... This "Prostitute" was one of the best examples of Living the GOSPEL and the LOVE that God asks each of us to show our Neighbors and our Enemies.
"Oh Brother Paul... HOW could you POSSIBLY Say such a thing???!!! She was a PROSTITUTE... A WHORE!!! Surely she will go to HELL!!!!"
Well... You tell me... her story continues...
This "Prostitute" ALWAYS took care of the poor. She volunteered EVERY WEEK at the local soup kitchen (she was NOT homeless). She would collect clothes and blankets and give them out to those in need and on cold nights she would take as many homeless people she could find and let them stay at her house. When her Grandmother died, she inherited the family home and she opened it up for her family to live in who were struggling themselves back home.
Her Greatest asset was her HEART! She knew how to LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY. She showed MERCY because she knew that someday, she would need Mercy shown to her!
Honesty, she has helped more people and is a better example of Christian LOVE than MOST Christians I know.
So, while this seems to have been a tragic story, and I assure you IT WAS, we all LOVE to have a happy ending, Right???
Well... There's NO HAPPY ENDING HERE.
No one had heard from her in awhile, so her best friend had called the police because they usually spoke 5 to 6 times a day. It was highly unusual for her not to hear from her so the police went to her house to see if there was anything suspicious. They weren't allowed to break into the house... 72 hours had to pass before they could enter. After three days, they broke in and she was MURDERED by one of her clients, lying face down on her bed and her little dog was killed by putting it in the freezer.
Was my friend a Saint? Most probably not, but I remember she said to me one day, "Paul, do you think I WANT to be a Prostitute???!!! I only do this to SURVIVE!!!" I HONESTLY, TRULY Believed her. Would anyone WANT to be molested by their teacher or pimped out at the age of 13??? Or to sleep with 30,000 men???!!!
As I said before, "She showed MERCY because she knew that someday, she would need Mercy shown to her!"
How many of us need to be shown Mercy???
Perhaps a few more reminders are needed for us...
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." - Luke 6:37
"Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone."- John 8:7
"Blessed are the Merciful, for they will be shown Mercy" - Matthew 5:7
"Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment." - James 2:13
Beginning December 8th, Pope Francis has called for a Year of Mercy. Please Join me in making this a priority in our lives.