Taking Vocations to the Road

CarWrap

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!

saint-francis

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,

olc-3-knot-logo-410-kb

3 Visiting Postulants

franciscan-kitchen

Brandon Greene, Bobby Mahas, Chuch Mattingly (Franciscan Kitchen Director), & Louis Lugo

Our three OLC postulants Brandon, Bobby, and Louis finished their Midwest visit to many of the friars’ ministry apostolates.  This is an effort to solidify relationships to the province of Our Lady of Consolation and all the engaging ministries of the friars. We did not cover all the diverse ministries in the Kentuckiana area however we did visit the following: St Anthony Clarksville’s school mass and classroom visits, Eddie and Laura Bauer and their multifaceted Media outreach, Archives & Mission Appeals with Friar Dennis, Retreat Ministry with Friar Bob Baxter, Development Office with Ladonna Mitchell, Provincial Office with Friar Jim, Audubon Hospital and St Martin de Porres parish with Friar Conrad, Tribunal Office and Provincial Secretary Office with Friar Nick, St Mary Navilleton with Friar Pius, St Mary New Albany with Friar Tom M, St Mary Lanesville with Friar Bob S., Ashram House at Holy Family Parish including the friars Campus Ministry at Bellarmine University, and Franciscan Kitchen in downtown Louisville.  It has been an enriching look into all the great ministry of the friars over the January break and the postulants reflected it has been a worthwhile visit and engaging fraternity with all the friars. Thanks for the many friars who took time out of a busy schedule to make this happen.

dishteam

Jerry, Dennis, & Friar John clean 491 trays today!

Please continue to pray for our Postulants as they report back to Kenmore House of Postulancy on January 23rd.

The Gift of St Leonard’s

stleonard

Happy Birthday Friar!!!

On the Feast Day of St Leonard of Port Maurice, November 26th, 2016 this friar received the most wonderful birthday invitation.  Not only was this Feast Day my 50th birthday, but I also had the unique privilege to celebrate mass with the children of St Leonard’s School and celebrate the 60th anniversary of the parish & school with Rev. B.J. Breen, St Leonard’s pastor.   We introduced the vocation story of St Leonard who was born on December 20th, 1676 and was an excellent student.  Given his academic brilliance and fine communications skills his life was on a trajectory toward a medical career as a physician.  He lived in Rome with his Uncle Agostino and attended the Jesuit Roman College.  When the Divine Physician led him to a higher calling to seek the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a Franciscan friar, his uncle disowned him.  I like to say he continued to work in the medical field, only he healed the soul as well as the body when he stood in for the person of Christ, the Divine Physician.  St Leonard was known as an excellent preacher, professor, and retreat master.  When he led a parish mission it often lasted for 15 to 18 days with a week of confessions afterwards.  Now that is one faithfully committed missionary as well as a long-winded preacher!!!

For the Feast of All the Franciscan Saints, which occurs every year on November 29th,

all-saints-of-franciscan-order

we played a Franciscan Saints game with some of the upper classes participating.  Mrs. Janice Berry kindly led me throughout the school and introduced me to staff and teachers, and opened doors and opportunities to me that I’m truly in her debt.  I would have been lost without her selfless dedication and hospitality.  It was such a wonderful way to share our common love for all things Franciscan and be surrounded by so many open hearts living the Franciscan dream.  One of the eager students of St Leonard’s shared with me when asked, “what is a vocation?” His reply was, “what God calls you to BE”.  I am amazed at the wisdom that comes forth from the mouth of babes!! Thanks for a wonderful day to celebrate a benchmark birthday and a joyful Feast Day of St Leonard along with the eager prospect to return and share more of our common Franciscan heritage!

img_0224

The Jonah Complex: A Force to be Reckoned 

What is a vocation? It is the place God calls us donate ourselves toward something larger than ourselves. In the words of St. John Paul the Great, it is “total self gift.” How do we find the place where we give the most and receive the most in return? We must take time to discern, that is to prayerfully weigh the greatest decision of our lives. Should we fail to take the time to discover our vocation, then the currents of life will inevitably decide for us. And this is where Jonah gives us a great life lesson.
Jonah ran from his vocation, all the way to Tarshish. He felt resistance which is not necessarily a bad thing. Resistance can indicate a very important life transition. Jonah had a vocation and call to be a prophet in Nineveh so he ran 180 degrees in the opposite direction, as far west as he could go. Jonah was sleeping in the belly of the boat bound for Tarshish while all those around him were in chaos. The captain and crew of the boat were in turmoil. (Jonah 1:3-5) Our failure to follow our vocation can bring turmoil upon ourselves and others around us. We can put off this great calling from God, but a higher calling toward a vocation is not something to be ignored.
There is a great scene in the movie “Star Wars: the Force Awakens” when the protagonist Rey first touches the lightsaber and has a scary flashback. Rey who is a natural when compared to other Jedi Knights senses a mission that is larger than herself. A prophetic woman named Maz Kanata wants Rey to follow her true calling and pick up the lightsaber. Rey is reluctant and resists her call and flees to an evergreen forest. But this vocational calling is too big to flee, and her new friend Finn rescues her with the same lightsaber in hand, and gives her the encouragement to follower her “destiny.” The secret message to pursue a vocation is … we can’t do it alone, often we rely upon our friends and family to push us and guide us through difficult decisions.


When we take the easy option it is rarely the right choice. The comfortable path lures us into the “lazy boy” Gospel and we nap through challenges in our comfy easy chair. The Gospel of Christ is one of discomfort. There is nothing comfortable about carrying a cross. It requires us to confront our resistance, to freely give ourselves away, and to pick up a cross custom made for our shoulders. Jesus encourages us to follow our vocation, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:30) and with our free will we pick it up and carry it. To follow Christ is not a Gospel of easiness, it is a Gospel of queasiness. It is that nervous tightness in our throat or tickle in our belly that makes a person unsettled, queasy, and afraid to go out and act. Your vocation moves you toward the challenging path, not the easy path. We know in the depths of our hearts that our vocation is the place we will gain the most, and potentially risk the most, and have the most at stake. St Paul taught us this on the road to Damascus, St Francis of Assisi taught us this when he prayed before the crucifix, St Clare of Assisi taught us this through her tenacious hold to absolute poverty in order to govern her religious community of nuns.

Your vocation is the one thing that will challenge the most of you, it will demand all the courage you can muster, and it will also pay out the greatest rewards. Affirmations surface in the form of joy and peace that fill a seeker’s heart, these are signs that you have found your vocation. If you have bitterness and resentment, these are signs that God may have something else in store for you. Where has God led you today? What holds the greatest joy for you? What produces the greatest sense of fulfillment and excitement? I tell you this is where your vocation lies and where God calls you today. Do not let the easy chair Gospel lull you into a lazy snooze, today is time to pursue our God-driven vocation. Jonah sailed away on a ship bound for Tarshish and God brought him back to the shores of Nineveh for a do-over. We are all traveling on a providential ship bound for our holy vocation. We can settle in a belly of a ship of our own making, or in the belly of a fish of God’s own making. Which way is your vessel traveling, towards God or away?

Radical Living of the Gospel

Pope Francis is challenging clerics to depart from the stuffy sacristies and deliver the Gospel message to where the people are. Shepherds need to smell like the sheep they serve, not like the rectories where they live. Many are taking the Pope’s directive to heart, one group is friars living the radical Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in Brussels, Belgium

“Not so much” says Conventual Franciscan Friar Jack Mardesic, “The mission trips are becoming less and less radical.”  Friar Jack has responded to an appeal from the Minister General Marco Tasca, the 119th successor of St. Francis, to continue a long history of friars serving the people of Belgium.  6 friars comprise the friary that are transforming the neighborhood through the joy of the Gospel, one person at a time.  Friar Daniel Marie Theveneh, OFM Conv. the guardian (superior) is from France; Friar Jean Luc Marie, OFM Conv. is from France as well, Friar Adrian Baciu, OFM Conv. is from Romania, Friar Giuseppe Panarisi, OFM Conv. is from Italy, Friar Bart de Pape, OFM Conv. is from Belgium and Friar Jack Mardesic, OFM Conv. is from Australia.

All 6 friars live in the arena of providence.  No transportation, no booked reservations, no meal plan, just a backpack, water and a breviary when they set out on 3 week mission.  “We experience the goodness of God’s providence” and the people open their homes and networks to give us all we need.  It is not long before we have a list of interested people that want us to stay in their homes.  We share our prayer with them, sing our hymns with them, and swap many great stories.  “Our missions are becoming less and less radical because the goodness of the people and we entrust ourselves to God’s wonderful providence.”  People give from their hearts whatever we need, however we never accept money while out on mission.  Friar Jack smiles with the many memorable stories of walking from the Italian capital of Rome to Assisi, the hometown of St. Francis.  Today the trip would be a 2 and 1/2 hour drive that took the friars 8 days to navigate on foot.  A walk that has not been led by friars for too many years to count.  The stories he encounters while walking with the people make the friars’ preaching come alive to the people, and they have an experience that touches the hearts.  He’s had atheists sincerely chase him down to say “God Bless You!” and homosexual guys who at first want to hassle them and later want to unload their wallets on the them.  It’s great to witness the change in character and transformation of people once they realize the reason the friars are on the streets.  “We have witnessed people healed, drug dealers shaking free of their addictions, God reaching out to give a healing touch to His people.” The friars are simply witnessing to the joy of the Gospel as St. Francis might have done 800 years ago.  Friar Jack emphasizes that there is nothing radical about it, that he is just taking Franciscan fraternity from the friary out into the streets.  “We live a very normal Conventual Franciscan lifestyle most of the year, only once or twice do we set out on an itinerant mission over the course of a year.”

St. Francis was called to the itinerant life that was always on the move taking the Gospel to the people.  His travels went as far as Damietta Egypt and as near as his hometown streets of Assisi.  In Belgium there has been a history of hostility to religious and Franciscan friaries have a heart-wrenching history of being suppressed.  Brussels has a large Muslim population much like Damietta, Egypt in the time of St. Francis.  Franciscans have a long tradition of reaching out to people of faith across denominational lines.  The friars are bringing the Gospel to the people and continuing the itinerant tradition unique to Franciscan history.  “Our prayer occurs 3 times a day, we pray the rosary together at Mid day prayer, and we fast every Friday.  It’s all the same stuff we do in the friary only now we bring it to people’s homes and invite whoever is with us to join in.”  And people receive the Gospel well.  Friar Jack met 2 enthusiastic youth living on the streets when one girl says, “you are so joyful and have to have the best religion ever, I want to join.  What religion are you?”  They have been taken into homes of gypsies, socialists, Muslims, and others curious about the Franciscan life.


Most of the time Friar Jack is not afraid but there have been some close calls with youth gangs and robbers.  The criminal element is there but when they realize the reason they are there, to share the love of Christ, the bad situations make a 180 degree turn for the better. I asked Friar Jack if his mom ever has any worries for his safety?  Jack says, “Not really, my dad worries a bit about his drum-banging boy and is afraid I’ll turn into his gypsy son.”  What is your best day in Brussels I asked Friar Jack, and he said, “My best day is playing the drums with the youth on the street and losing myself in the music, we have one guitar and I do percussion.”  The enthusiasm and the receptivity of the youth keep him inspired, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t get exhausted after a long weekend.  “Our task is simply to testify to the presence of Christ in the world, exemplified by the joy of our Franciscan fraternity.” Ephesians 6:19 summarizes the Franciscan mission well, “and as for me, that speech may be given me to open my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, so that I may have the courage to speak as I must.”  Here are 6 ambassadors of Christ set out on mission with courage to spread the Gospel with great conviction.  St. Francis must be smiling!

Peace and all good,

Friar John Bamman, OFM Conv.

Matthew Kelly visits Louisville

How do we become silent and discern in a noisy world? Matthew Kelly addressed this question to a packed church at St Patrick’s, over 1100 tickets were sold for the Saturday lecture. My friend Brad, who is discerning religious life, and I enjoyed this enthralling lecture that had us engaged with Eliot Morris music and the Auzzie accent of speaker Matthew Kelly. Doing discernment means we go through a process to come to a great decision. When we look at the deepest desires of our heart, we must seriously enter discernment to redirect all our efforts toward that life decision. A vocation could be a mother, a father, a single person, a teacher, a priest, a religious brother, a religious sister, an ordained deacon, a fireman or a police man just to name a few. It is not easy in a world that is filled with so much noise and distractions. We have alerts that beep and poke and nudge us constantly through musical tones, and advertisers now track our every movement like hunters in deer season. C.S. Lewis in his novel Screwtape Letters suggests the master plot of the devil is to create so much noise in the world that people cannot hear the voice of God. How often do we slow down and ask the bigger question, “What would God have me be doing, right now, in this moment?” Matthew Kelly encourages us to be the best version of ourselves, and one way to do this is to ask 4 big questions:

1. Who am I?
2. What is my purpose?
3. Who does it best?
4. Who does it worst?

I know that I am a child of God, no more and no less. Easy right! Of course that means everyone else is a child of God and my spiritual attitude toward others, or the way I treat other drivers on the road of life, must reflect this simple answer.
My purpose is to live out my passion, my vocation, the area where the deepest desires of my heart meets the place where others will benefit most. I could lead a wonderfully whimsical and hedonistic life, but others will not benefit at all by my own selfish pursuits. My passion is the joy of Gospel living, and to chase after those who live the teachings of Jesus Christ best.
I have found that St. Francis of Assisi has done it the best, that is lived the good life well. His life was filled with so much joy and love for others that people around him knew he had something special. People and even animals and birds were attracted to Francis. His love of Gospel living, authentically bringing to life the teaching of Jesus Christ, transformed others around him. 800 years after this beggar traveled Italian roads I can call St. Francis my hero and he inspires my efforts to follow after Jesus with everything I’ve got.
Celebrities who reach the pinnacle of their career and then self destruct can be the worst examples of holy living. If holiness is defined as living the best version of yourselves, then these famous people leave much to be desired. How many singers, song writers, actors, athletes and cultural icons have we seen destroyed by all the empty promises of money, power, fame, and pleasure? Too many I say. These bad examples leave us an epithet written across their lives that something better has to be out there to fulfill the human person, and that something is a relationship with Jesus.

So if the busy highways of life are bothering you with all their noise. I”m here to remind you to pull over at an oasis and take a one minute “time out.” Ask the bigger questions like, in this one moment God, what can I do for you that you are calling me to do? Safe travels spiritual driver!

IMG_0557.JPG

IMG_0556.JPG

A Case for Francis

Pope Francis directs our lives to the joy of the Gospel in his publication Evangelii Gaudium. Our mission is to live the gospel as disciples, and good discipleship will enact the Gospel mission with great joy. When I was young I wanted to know the faith better than anyone. I would be smarter than anyone. I wanted to have all the answers and be a walking omniscient Catholic encyclopedia. Actually truth be told I never made it past the A’s in the bookshelf size, multi-volume encyclopedia set. A walking reference book I have not become. The more I learned in my theology classes the more my instructors made me aware of how little I knew. Perhaps that is a life lesson to realize we are not walking “know it all’s” even with a google search engine in our pockets.

What were the things that attracted others to St. Francis, what are the things that attract people today to Pope Francis, and what will make good Franciscans tomorrow? Francis’ brother once asked him, why does the whole world chase after you? You don’t have a long lineage of royal blood, you don’t have good looks, you don’t even like books and no degrees! Why does the whole world chase after you? Perhaps people want authenticity!! People crave someone who walks their talk, and it is such a rare thing that when people do it they flock. Perhaps that is why people chase after Pope Francis. We as Franciscans carry a huge respect factor, they see the habit and immediately we’ve won their trust. This is a huge responsibility and also a cross. We must represent the Church well and hold people’s trust with utmost confidentiality and care. Put it in a nutshell, the way we live the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I can give long theological discourses on erudite matters of Gospel-living, but I’m not sure that will compel others to exemplify the Gospel. What is more compelling is how we live our lives, the compassion we show our neighbor, and the love we display beyond ourselves. When I was discerning to enter the Conventual Franciscan order it was the small acts of love that drew me in. It was Friar Ambrose who took the extra time to fold my laundry when I made a quick pit stop from the trucker’s working highway. A small act of love that today continues to humble me. It was Friar John who took the time to help an aging Friar Arnold celebrate daily mass, and assist with finding pages when needed. A small act of love that was the Gospel living portrayed before my very own eyes. Another friar told me of regret having not ever felt genuine love for his brothers so he set the goal to shed sincere tears for his brother some day soon. He selflessly served many friars in the twilight of life and poured his love into their lives. In my humble opinion he accomplished his ambitious goal!

St. Francis enacted the Gospel with bold examples. One story was the gathering of his friars at Rivo Torto when all the brothers were fasting during the penitential season. One of the friars awoke in the middle of the night crying and bemoaning the fast, “I’m dying, I’m dying, I can’t do this anymore.” So St. Francis awoke all the sleeping brothers and announced that all would break the fast and eat bread, grapes and other scrumptious food together. It was this great act of charity to selflessly love the friar with the weaker constitution. Each friar had to let go of their personal fast to selflessly love the weaker brother. This is the Gospel message well lived.

Pope Francis is enacting the Gospel with bold examples. Whether it is denying a limousine for a bus ride, or turning away his personal driver to travel by foot, or visiting with workers behind the scenes. He has truly displayed an image of “the People’s Pope” and one who does not want to be isolated from the flock. Clearly he strives to be involved in people’s lives and in close proximity to the pulse of the people. Pope Francis writes from his Apostolic Exhortation, “I can say that the most beautiful natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to. I also think of the real joy shared by others who, even among pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ.”1

Pope Francis is the first pope in 110 years to depart the Papal Apartment on the third floor of the Apostolic Palace. Relocating from luxury to simplicity he favors communal living among the working cardinals, priests, and staff of the Vatican at Santa Martha Domicile (Domus Santae Marthae). Here he is one among many. This locale situates Pope Francis in close proximity to a common dining hall for meals and daily celebration of 7am mass with the Vatican employees in the residence chapel. In these small ways his life endears many to the gospel. Pope Francis writes of the joy of the Gospel, our mission is to beam with joy and this will enact the Gospel by our example, “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.”2

It is no wonder that so many still chase after the little poor man from Assisi, St Francis. In many ways he did not do anything new. He just lived the Gospel and lived it in his own time and place. Just as Pope Francis is living the Gospel in his time and place. Just as many friars I have witnessed living the Gospel in their own time and place. And God willing people will look upon our faithful community as people who live the Gospel in our time and place. The world is hungry to receive the Gospel, and we with great joy will deliver!

1 Apostolic Exhoration Evangelii Guadium by Pope Francis, #7.
2 Ibid, #24

Time to Cultivate

Time to Cultivate“Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it” (Mt. 13:7) Traveling from Minnesota to Texas and everywhere in between I’m always on the move.  Vocation work requires me to move outward and meet people where they are at.  My role is to nurture the call from God working in the soul who desires to do the Lord’s will.  Along my travels I saw the most tragic thing on the roadside.  It was a semi tractor overtaken by weeds.   A machine that was made to be on the move, rolling down the road and it was covered in weeds.  Wheels made to turn, motor made to rumble, a commander’s chair made for hauling and all were held captive by weeds choking out the truck’s purpose.  The essential nature of the very thing a truck does requires movement.  The purpose of a truck is to move!  Somewhere along the way that movement became stationary and the weeds choked it.  It was the saddest thing ever seen.
054
We Franciscan Friars are called to be on the move.  It is uniquely tied to our charism.  Francis received the Gospel mandate to go forth to the world and be a missionary to plant the Gospel (Mt. 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.) St. Francis of Assisi was called to carry the Gospel from Assisi, Italy to the streets of the world.  The Gospel message so moved his heart that he could not remain stationary.  St. Francis was the messenger and sent it to the streets.  Today there is not one continent on the globe that lacks a Franciscan presence to witness the Gospel.  This is why the Gospel continues to move outward today and cannot remain parked on the shoulder, overrun by weeds.

We are called to movement in the spiritual life as well.  The weeds of sin always have the capacity to choke out spiritual growth and tie us down.  The Gospel requires one to move and be willing to accommodate spiritual growth.  Archbishop Joseph Tobin tells of an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor who was counseling a math professor.  The sponsor was not educated to the level of the professor, and when it came to math he could not keep pace. But when it came to sobriety, the math professor let the weeds of booze take root.  So in the first meeting the sponsor told the professor, you should know that I have only counseled 11 guys in AA and 6 of them committed suicide.  The professor was shocked and said, “why are you telling me this?  You are not all that successful in your counseling, you think?”  The sponsor said, “It’s my job to deliver the message, what you do with the message is up to God.”

We all have a spiritual message to deliver with the collateral of our lives.  This message cannot remain stagnant.  Either we move upward and onward toward our eternal destination, or the weeds will immobilize us.  What part of your life needs a bit of weeding?  Is there a neglected area that requires some focused attention?  An addictive behavior?  A bad habit at work? An internal voice that nags you with the repeat switch of shame?  Selfish time that could be filled with charitable outreach toward others?

We are called to be on the move.  The saints before us like St. Francis shared the Gospel and moved on.  Spiritual growth requires us to nudge forward and move on.  Keep those wheels rollin’ and see you at the next rest area!