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. 
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo Hams

 

 

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

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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!

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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,

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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