FamJam 2019

Fishing awards, archery, Bouncey Houses, 5K friar fun run, Hiking around the lake, Canoeing, Craftivities Tent, families huddled around a Swedish Smokers!  These were just some of the activities pulling families together at Mount St Francis Sanctuary and Retreat Center.  Do you ever feel as though technology has too strong a pull from our family gatherings?  Have you ever wanted to mute all TVs, phones, and video games during a family gathering called … dinner?  Well then you would find solace in FamJam 2019!


The weekend began on Friday at noon when campers rolled in all day in big RV’s the size of buses, pop up trailers, and small tents to pitch alongside the lake.  It was well organized with preassigned camping spaces for tents and RV’s and over 80 families participating.  The four bouncey houses were a big hit with the kids, and the little ones explored the bright colored castle with big and small rooms to discover and bounce in like popcorn in a frypan.  We had a fishing contest for smallest fish caught and biggest fish landed, canoe races, target practice for Hunger Games enthusiasts, moonlit hike around the lake, and family bonding lounging around the “holy smokers,” a clever Swedish smoking log round devised by Tim Moberly.  Many community volunteers staffed a “Craftivities Tent” that kept youth busy all day Saturday decorating walking sticks, finger painting, face painting, friendship bracelet making, rosary making, collage building, and more.  Many helping hands were teaching all kinds of fun-filled, engaging arts. 

Holy smokes its a Swedish Smoker!!!
5K Friar Fun Run
A castle of Bouncey Houses
Craftivities Tent along the lakeshore

Mary Anderson who gifted the friars with all 400 acres back in 1896 would have smiled to see all the arts being celebrated at FamJam.  Not only the circus size tent filled with Craftivies, but also the Saturday exhibit by Artist Philip Sugden introducing his wall hangings on handmade canvas that tells a divine, age old tale through image and ancient language.  Masterfully and exquisitely detailed work that pulls the viewer into an encounter with all that is good and holy! 

Philip Sugden explains his engaging artwork


The natural setting of Mount Saint Francis filling the horizon with colorful trees reflecting on the water’s surface laid the perfect backdrop for our morning prayer, evening prayer, and Adoration.  Saturday evening at sundown we had a candlelight Eucharistic procession from the chapel to the lake shelter, families lined the route with vigil candles and lit the way for Jesus.  Later 4 priests celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation for families, and prayerful worship music was led by Phillip Weis and Leah Kelly.  Sunday, we celebrated the Lord’s Day with outdoor mass taking in the grandeur of God by the lake, contemplating the Creator’s finger painting the Indiana hills with autumn colors.  Together we consecrated all the families to Our Lady of Consolation, patroness of the Midwest friars. (https://franciscansusa.org/province-history).  All in all, it was sad to see the weekend come to an end but served as an exceptional way to celebrate the Feast of St Francis of Assisi and also acknowledge all our families and friends of the friars … in the outdoors.  I imagine St Francis would have enjoyed the gathering in his day, dancing a happy jig, and playing his favorite 2 sticks like a violin.  “The heavens are telling the glory of God, and all creation is shouting for joy…”   

St Francis of Assisi on his feast day Oct 4th!

Prayer to Our Lady of Consolation

Holy Mary, Mother of Consolation, we are happy to be in the presence of your Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  You are a model woman of faith who learned trust in Our Heavenly Father in all circumstances of life.  You give us the perfect example of openness to God’s Word and God’s will, help us to do the same.  

Through your prayers, help us to remember God’s promise that all things will work for the good of those who believe.  Help us to be able to see that God is at work in our lives, even when life seems so challenging.  Help us to place in Gods’ hands the things that cause us stress and worry. 

Blessed Mother, you console the afflicted with the assurance of God’s love and presence in their lives.  Help us to be hopeful as we continue our pilgrimage through life and as we remember all the wonderful things God has already done for us.  May we echo your song from the depths of our hearts, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  Help us to share the hope that comes from the Holy Spirit with all those we encounter.   Jesus, King of Families, come and reign over our family! Mary, Our Lady of Consolation, take possession of our hearts! St. Joseph, Protector of Families, help us to be absorbed in and reflect the love of the Holy Family! Amen


Holy Spirit Takes Aim


Renewal Ministries gathered for their annual meeting in Ypsilanti, Mi “to walk in the Holy Spirit.”  Three takeaways from the gathering:

1)each person is called beloved by God

The hound from heaven chases after us whether we acknowledge Him or not.  Our heavenly father has called us beloved children, He sees Himself shining in us because we were made in His image, and His nose-tracking sniffer is relentless.  Whether we climb to the highest heights of the planet, or flee to the lowest depths of Hades, (Psalm 139) His presence will always be with us.  Like a blood hound on the heels of his quarry, so God will be onto us wherever we walk.


2)each person is called to be a disciple

This is our secret mission, to take Christ to our homes, our families, our work, and our schools.  People yearn to hear about Christ, and we need to place Him in the center marketplace of life.  Courage and conviction will be our companions to make our discipleship a reality.


3)each person is equipped to be a disciple

Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation each believer receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Unlocking these gifts is our daily task, seeking these gifts is a life worthy pursuit, and asking for the manifestation of these gifts is our prime directive.  Wisdom, Understanding, Council, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Reverence are the 7 gifts of the holy spirit cited in Isaiah. Each person is equipped with one or more of these gifts, and they are uniquely tied to their individual call.  A person equipped with a gift is not the owner of the it but is only the steward of it.  The gifts are on loan by God for a higher purpose that we call Divine Providence or the will of God.  They can be unused, taken back, or misused.  Consider one of the great figures of the Old Testament King Solomon.  He was known for his great wisdom and insight, yet he lost this great gift.  Solomon reined in Israel during the 40 years of prosperity and national unity.  Later he turned away from God’s teaching, centered on his own ambitions and lust, and lost this gift of wisdom (1Kings 11:2).

“Lord help me be your little humble servant and let go of all my fanciful ambitions”


I am surprised to discover how many recipients of the gifts are often little humble servants ignored by fame and prosperity.  One example is Fr. Solanus Casey, OFM cap who served much of his ministerial assignment in Detroit, MI.  He was judged to have inferior intelligence by his formators and ordained merely a Simplex priest, which limited his ability to celebrate Sacraments in public.  His duty was to serve as priest for his Franciscan friars only.  His ministry was to watch after the door, answer it, and call someone else more intelligent to address the situation.  Later the people of God discovered his many gifts, notably the gift of Council and the gift of Wisdom.  His understanding of what the people were suffering and the ability to answer their most deeply held question gave him fame both far and wide, like the Wisdom of King Solomon.  Daily he would have a line encircling St. Bonaventure Monastery of people seeking out his gifts.  Fr. Solanus was not the most talented, not the most skilled, not the best model student, but he did excel in humility.  That little faithful friar made a worthy home for many gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Lord help me be your little humble servant and let go of all my fanciful ambitions.  Today let’s paint on ourselves a worthy target for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to strike home.


Table of Plenty

The Umbrian Valley wraps around the peaceful town of Assisi, Italy and late summer has a yellow sea of rolling sunflowers.  This backdrop landscape to the hometown of Italy’s famous saint, St Francis of Assisi brings back so many fond memories of sunflowers.  The sunflowers track the daily course of the sun as it yawns across the valley.  Huge fields with yellow flower heads as big as serving platters smile at your arrival and perk up when you walk by. 
nature field summer quantity
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

We can take lessons from the sunflowers by greeting one another with a smile and marking the course of the Son of God, Jesus working in our day.  I was reminded of these golden teachings from the cycle of the sunflower while visiting Nativity House over Labor Day.  They had an overflowing table, laden with blessings, where they share the goods of the earth with visitors.  Chicago postulants along with one man discerning the Franciscans ventured to this special gathering called a “Farm to Table” fundraiser, filled with the bounty and goodness of the earth shared with the bounty and goodness of hospitality.

Nativity House Table of Plenty

The predicted thunderstorms were prayed away, and towering wildflowers, verdant vegetable gardens, and smiling sunflowers were like waving hands welcoming us, we were the guests to a festive banquet.  It began with a Eucharistic banquet outdoors and continued to a gourmet menu packed with original courses like cucumber mint sorbet and smoked polish sausage with braised cabbage and apples.  Let’s not forget peach crumble & ice cream to wash it all down, what a scrumptious feast!  The food was a great centerpiece, the kid games encircled the house with glee, and the live band kept line dancers enthralled til the wee hours.

Justin & Venus w/Franciscans

The program was a fundraiser to help expectant mothers find a safe haven to nurture their newborn child. The Nativity House was packed with so much love that it spilled over on everyone like the wildflower gardens overwhelming the front lawn.  Better than the seamless program were the smiles on the people present.  It was like those sunflowers waving in the Umbrian Valley of Assisi all over again, and the openness of one person greeting the other with a simple smile.  There are many lessons to be learned from sunflowers, and even more from Nativity House.

Photo Hams



Drive-Thru Pope Mobile

Traversing the Midwest trumpeting the way of the troubadour St Francis has been one unexpected surprise after another. I love being a Franciscan Friar and sharing the story of St Francis with others.  I love even more being a Vocation Director invited to schools, retreats, and eager prospects excited to hear more about Franciscan life. God has been preparing me for a long time to do what I’m doing now.  Before the friars, I was encouraged by God to seek a CDL driver’s seat and negotiate professionally a tour bus, an 18-wheeler, and various passenger shuttles.  Never did I expect to be evangelizing the drive-thru!!!  Since fall of 2016 benefactors have helped me wrap the vocation director’s car with an icon of St Francis of Assisi alongside an image of Pope Francis.


Dubbed the “pope-mobile” by teenagers, I reach a wide area with the Franciscan message, and drive about 25,000 miles a year. Now whenever I enter a drive-thru the first thing workers see is Pope Francis in their window, waving to them, before they ever notice me.  In one case a worker jumped backward in terror.  I replied, “You are afraid of the Pope, really?”  She embarrassingly backed away from the window, made an “all call” to her co-workers who huddled at the window to point and laugh.  This wasn’t the nice laughter of something cute and adorable, this was the insulting laugh of “joke is on you.”  I turned 3 shades of red, waved, and sheepishly grabbed my order and split.  I wish I had left a prayer card with her, and patiently shared what we are trying to do.  That everyone has gifts on loan from God, and to use those gifts to make the world a better place is a precious vocation.  To deny those gifts and not feed your passion to a hungry world is a grave tragedy that can ruin your life and those around you.  I missed my opportunity to evangelize, and resigned to my own drive-bye.

The same day, no less, packed another surprise.  Feeling down and frustrated at missing another opportunity to witness to the Franciscan life.  I was walking into a jammed parking lot filled with cars, panning the horizon for the pope-mobile, when I saw some commotion next to it.  All I could see from a distance were parents and their kids facing the images on the car.  I was so excited to redeem myself and re-evangelize this fresh new opportunity before me.  My return had arrived! I zipped around the fender of the pope-mobile, filled with renewed zeal for everything Jesus, and joyfully blurting out, “Are you fans of the Pope?”  These two moms looked up from their children being buckled into a stroller, filled with annoyance at my intrusion, both replied in stereo, “NO!”

Driving with a Catholic billboard wrapped around your driver’s seat has brought unexpected challenge and evangelical turmoil.   I love the fuel island conversations that begin with an eager young voice, “look dad it’s the Pope.”  I get excited with the curious parking lot comments, “what are you up to?”  I’m amazed at the kindness of drivers extending an extra brake for a lost and wandering friar.  What I didn’t expect were the all too familiar hard-hearted responses of people angry and frustrated at the Catholic Church.  But hey it goes with the territory of evangelization, right?  I’m not alone here.  The apostles were not met with universal praise and alleluias, eventually they put their life on the line for the gospel.  Enemies did not want to hear their message of hope and killed them for it.  I love all the accounts we hear in the Easter season of believers who witness to Jesus, eager to share their passion for Him.  Through 12 ragged and bewildered apostles Jesus sparked a world-wide messaging campaign, namely Jesus’ hope is greater than any human despair.  These incredible inspirations fuel my engine.  Yes I believe there is hope to keep the message moving, even in the drive-thru.  Please, pray for me.

Secret Remedy of Gratitude

Where there is sadness…JOYShh

I attended a Saturday workshop at Terre Haute Regional Hospital with brilliant scientists and medical professionals who were speaking about one remedy improving the health of patients — gratitude.  More specifically patients were required to journal their individual gratitudes, no gripes allowed, and good health ensued.  Gratitude is a secret source of joy.  Let me prove it, do this one experiment.  List something new you are grateful for in your “Gratitude Journal.”  For example today I’m grateful for my breathing lungs, tomorrow I must enter something new into my Gratitude Journal.  St Paul tells us in Thessalonians 1 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you” (1thes 5:16-18).  This is why many grateful saints have been found kissing their own way of the cross.  Padre Pio said, “many suffer, but few know how to suffer well.” How few of us thank God for the everyday stuff, and how even fewer move on to thank God for the difficult stuff.

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” –Karl Barth

Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at University of Pennsylvania has made great strides in cognitive psychology or how our thoughts, especially our inaccurate ones, affect our emotional life.  For example, the cover girl who thinks she is ugly because of her big feet.  We can warp our own minds with these twisted thoughts that have no truth in reality. Professor Seligman recommends a “Gratitude Night”.  Invite over an honored guest whom you have never properly thanked.  The group of people all give testimonials of gratefulness toward the person.  For both the givers and receivers this becomes a powerful and emotional experience for all.  St Francis admonishes us today, “where there is sadness … (we Franciscans must bring) Joy!!!!!” Gratefulness will always overpower toxic thinking, then we can move on to happy healing!!!  This Lent I’m going grateful and leaving behind those poisonous thoughts!!!!



Taking Vocations to the Road


We strive to bring awareness to the culture of vocations, to awaken the heart to the personal call from God to build His Kingdom in diverse ways. One way we can do this is to make our vocations efforts more visible on the road.

Over the past year the Development Office has been accepting donations from benefactors wanting to “wrap” the vocation director’s car. This is a common way for business to advertise on the road, surrounding their vehicles with images that describe their trade or business.  We are happy to announce that generous benefactors of 2017 have stormed the Franciscans and successfully wrapped the Vocation Director’s car.

This is a new way to advertise religious vocations, and a novel way to take vocations to the road!   We have accomplished this bold initiative to both advertise vocations and bring awareness to the Franciscan presence in the world to “Rebuild my Church.” Those first words spoken in 1205 that St Francis received from Christ began his exciting work of conversion. Since the 13th century friars have continued the work of rebuilding the church, sometimes brick by brick and other times person by person.

The work of vocations is to re-establish the link to God, awakening the restless pursuit to serve the will of God.  Christ invites people to leave everything and pursue the Lord. Where do we find our life’s passion? Where do we find our purpose that fuels our energies? What thing excites us to greet the day, each and every morning? This is our vocation!  As Frederick Buechner says “…the place God calls you to where your deepest happiness meets the world’s deepest hunger.”

People are inspired by St. Francis and by Pope Francis. One of the challenges of our time is to present the Church as attractive, current, and engaging in people’s lives. Wrapping the vocation director’s car is one small effort to bring the conversation of vocations to the road, and awaken the passion to serve the Lord with the zeal of St Francis.

Consider joining us in this challenge to take vocations to the road through the gift of your prayers, your time, your talents and your treasure!


Artwork by Cecelia Lawrence

The Church must be attractive. Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living. It is possible to live differently in the world. We are speaking of an eschatological outlook, of the values of the Kingdom incarnate here on this earth. It is a question of leaving everything to follow the Lord. –Pope Francis

Peace and all good,


How Great is St X!


Do you believe in evil?  Does God permit evil to happen or create it? Sophomores dove into the deep waters of meaningful conversation across the globe from Rwanda to local issues in Louisville.  In Mrs. White’s religion class we discussed the tragic story of the genocide that occurred in 1994 when the Hutu majority set out to exterminate the Tutsi people through a horror-filled campaign of murder and slaughter.  One million Tutsi’s were assassinated and we heard the story of one survivor Immaculee Ilibagiza who hid in pastor Murinzi’s bathroom with 7 other women.  Her courage and tenacity to survive carried her through the next 3 months of terror.  Immaculee learned to forgive despite a hellish landscape of evil encroaching upon her.  We had a lively discussion on the presence of evil in the world and what evidence we have of evil around us.  How does someone respond to insidious evil that murders your own family members, and how does one, if ever, begin to forgive?

Our Lady of Kibeho Book

One ray of hope throughout this bleak story of genocide is Our Lady of Kibeho.  The mother of Jesus, Our Lady of Kibeho, began visiting the children of Rwanda asking them to pray the chaplet of sorrows devotion on behalf of their country.  The message Our Lady was communicating of a terrible sorrow descending upon Rwanda that would turn rivers of water in to rivers of blood.  The providential timing of this story amazes listeners to learn that these Marian messages occurred 12 years before the genocide occurred.  These prophetic messages about what was going to happen to the country of Rwanda, and then actually happened, began an outpouring of faith.  Thousands of people and children responded to this plea for prayer from all faiths, from all backgrounds, across the entire country.  The Vatican, in a rare pronouncement on behalf of the Catholic Church, has approved and endorsed these messages from Our Lady of Kibeho as authentic.  We distributed prayer guides in the classroom on how to pray the sorrowful chaplet and 2 lucky St X sophomores received prayer bracelets made up of 7 beads for the 7 sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


St Francis of Assisi would want us to know that we all share a common “minoritas” when compared to the greatness of God.  We are not made up of the greater status of God, but actually we comprise the lesser status of humanity, we live the everyday “minoritas.”  The Creator is the greater, the creation is the lesser.  A humble position of lesser standing when a little one is in the presence of greatness-this is minoritas.  God is great and we humans will be forever humbled in the presence of greatness.  The classic church hymn, “How Great Thou Art” is a demonstration of our posture toward the greatness of God, one of awe and magnificence.  TAU is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and a strong reminder for St Francis to view himself as little, small, and beholding of last place, always dependent upon God.  St. Francis would likely change this stirring church hymn to “How Great TAU art” in a way that elevates humanity to acknowledge each person created in “the image of God”, and because we resemble the Creator we are all raised toward God.  Each lesser human person shares the greater dignity and nobility of royal origins from the breath of existence we all received from our Creator.  Our common ancestry as children of God binds us all to a royal bloodline, and calls us all to protect life that aligns to our dignity.   In light of genocide we always need reminders of the preciousness of life.  Thanks to the students and faculty of St X who affirm the sanctity of all life and even invited a little friar to bring this powerful message to Religion class.  Maybe you could ask the nearest teenager how they view evil through the lens of horrendous events in the world like genocide.  Does evil exist, and if so, how do you know?

A New Way to Fast? Jesus answered and sa

A New Way to Fast?
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will be- come in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back” (Jn 4:13-16). The living water, the gift of the Holy Spirit, can only be given by the Lord Jesus whom the Father sent into the world to give to all men and women eternal life, that is, never ending happiness. As the Pope re- minds us “only the water that Jesus offers, the living water of the Spirit, can quench” man’s “thirst for the infinite” (Benedict XVI, homily 24 February 2008). Man is able to give his fellow humans, affection, money, power, human glory, honor, career … but not endless happiness which, since it is an unlimited good, belongs to the divine, infinite sphere! The living water flows only from the divine source. The Samaritan woman went to a well which was deep, but limited, whereas unlimited was her thirst for happiness and love. The woman, the Holy Father tells us, “ represents the existential dissatisfaction of one who does not find what he seeks”. How often man seeks the infinite, the eternal, well=being…but sadly continues to seek it in a well, in a reality, the earthly reality, which is unable to contain it. How many wells, deep but empty, how many wells of stagnant water, we have met on our way! We carry within us immense desires and easily deceive our- http://ow.ly/i/sB50g