Prophets of our Time

John the Baptist prophesies

The Gospel Matthew reveals how we are to receive prophets: “whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward.” (Mt 10:41)

Dr Art McCoy gives us a voice of the modern day prophet.

It takes discernment to identify the prophets of our time, because there can be false prophets who want to mislead us.  I would like to recognize two modern day prophets who walk from the Bible into our modern day.  One is doing amazing ministry in education, Dr. Art McCoy, who is the superintendent of Education in Jennings, MO.  In the 90’s his childhood neighborhood north of St Louis was taken over by gangs, poverty, and crime.  The education system was a flop.  People were calling the entire region the “dropout factory.”  Like a prophet he has been mobilizing his community to see a new vision.  Dr. McCoy has a contagious optimism that appeals, he can truly inspire with mere words.  He comes from 4 generations of pastors, he loves the Bible and loves to push people beyond their potential.  He spreads the enthusiasm of God with every word, yet in a public school arena he must avoid religious terms like “Jesus”, “God”, or “Holy Spirit.”  He drops biblical quotes like “He must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30) and everyone knows who he’s referring to.  His words are seeds of hope dispersed like “Johnnie Appleseed.”  However, not all people respond to his same level of optimism. Opponents stand in the back with arms crossed and roll their eyes to mumble, “we’ve tried that one before.” Others criticize, “This guy is crazy and his head is stuck in the clouds” and people refuse to budge.  He rises to the challenge and positions himself to enter the personal space of his critics and then confronts them with love.  I don’t know any other way to explain it, but he calls out their hopelessness and stands in their space and to say, “you know I love you; you know I care about you?  Maybe you have some truth I need to yield to and maybe not, so let’s hear it.”  And he gives them opportunity to voice their truth, and just loves on them.  He’s not afraid to hug someone.  Many years back the US Embassy assigned Jennings, MO refugees from Rwanda.  It was following after the ’94 genocide, when  600 boys flew from Somalia to New York and on to St Louis seeking safe haven and peace from their war-torn homeland.  One hardened child soldier was a diamond hunter from Sierra Leon who had killed many people and pillaged many resources, he was a cold-hearted kid who had been through too much.  The boy was only 15 years old and had a diamond tattoo recognizing his troubled history.  Like an Old Testament prophet Dr. McCoy stood in his space and called him out.  He could not find words to push back the darkness covering this boy, so he walked up to him and grabbed his shoulders, and then squeezed him into an all-out hug.  Over the span of a long drawn out awkward hug many tears were shed, and it was a gut cry, an ugly cry and a mourning that comes from deep inside of a person.  “Salleah” was moved and transformed by the encounter with Dr. McCoy. Later he moved in with a white family, always honored and respected Dr. McCoy, graduated from school, and later went on to do amazing things. 

Dr. Ralph Martin unpacks Fr. Michael Scanlon’s prophesy

The other prophet is Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR who delivered some prophetic words before his death on January 7th, 2017.  45 years ago he was part of an incredible audience of church leaders including Pope Paul VI in 1975 at St Peter’s Basilica.  There were many prophetic words that rattled solid institutions thought to be invincible.  In 1976 Fr. Scanlan received this prophesy which is particularly apt for what Catholics are going through today especially in light of churches closing their doors, the public square shutting down, and financial institutions reeling from record losses.   Below is the prophetic message shared 44 years ago:

“Son of man, do you see that city going bankrupt? Are you willing to see all your cities going bankrupt? Are you willing to see the bankruptcy of the whole economic system you rely on now so that all money is worthless and cannot support you?

Son of man, do you see the crime and lawlessness in your city streets, and towns, and institutions? Are you willing to see no law, no order, no protection for you except that which I myself will give you?

Son of man, do you see the country which you love and which you are now celebrating—a country’s history that you look back on with nostalgia? Are you willing to see no country—no country to call your own except those I give you as my body? Will you let me bring you life in my body and only there?

Son of man, do you see those churches which you can go to so easily now? Are you ready to see them with bars across their doors, with doors nailed shut? Are you ready to base your life only on me and not on any particular structure? Are you ready to depend only on me and not on all the institutions of schools and parishes that you are working so hard to foster?

Son of man, I call you to be ready for that. That is what I am telling you about. The structures are falling and changing—it is not for you to know the details now—but do not rely on them as you have been. I want you to make a deeper commitment to one another. I want you to trust one another, to build an interdependence that is based on my Spirit. It is an interdependence that is no luxury. It is an absolute necessity for those who will base their lives on me and not the structures from a pagan world. I have spoken and it will take place. My word will go forth to my people. They may hear and they may not—and I will respond accordingly—but this is my word.

Look about you, son of man. When you see it all shut down, when you see everything removed which has been taken for granted, and when you are prepared to live without these things, then you will know what I am making ready.”  Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR 1976

A prophet will explain the will of God, and by prophesy give messages directed to the future.  The prophet’s words are presenting a new vision.  A new way to interpret events around us.  More importantly to reposition God on the dashboard of our lives.  Maybe God has been in the backseat for a time, but this can be no more.  Now God must move to His rightful place, to the center of our lives.  All our efforts must be to lean on Him for everything.  “My soul finds rest in God alone … He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken(Psalm 62)

Its never easy to welcome the unsettling message of the prophet.  Yet, we are called to move where the Spirit leads and welcome the message of the prophet, and with it the prophet’s reward.

Extraordinary COVID Times Demand Extraordinary Measures

I did not watch the Pope live in St. Peter’s square on the 27th of March as we friars were at prayer in the basilica, but after several people mentioned it and how powerful the images were, I thought I would take a look. Watched it on YouTube. Wow! Powerful indeed!

Pope Francis addresses and empty Vatican speaking in Italian

Here are some thoughts regarding the possible symbolism behind these images; I’m not saying this is what they are, just this is what popped into my mind. As you probably noticed I try and find the simple and useful meaning in all.

As you may recall the columns of St. Peter’s square, according to the designs of Bernini, were intended to evoke the image of the open arms of God welcoming and embracing all humanity.

Rain drenches St Peter’s Square

Starting from that perspective we can see the chair illuminated and empty as the light of the Holy Spirit that dwells within everyone’s heart and soul.

The vast emptiness is the space that we usually try and fill up with the joys of this world; many of them awesome things as is God’s plan to give us the wonders of His creation to enhance our happiness here on earth. But we lost sight of our priorities and where God belongs in this life. So like a good parent, He took away our privileges and put us on a “timeout” from all those distractions to think about what we have done. 

He’s giving us time to realign our priorities and put God first and all else second and on down the line. And He gave us some images to help guide us on what to reconsider during this time of solitude such as the (rain) water to have us read prayerfully the reason and beliefs we have about our baptism.

We saw fire to remind us to reacquaint ourselves with our belief behind having received the Holy Spirit more completely in confirmation. And the seven steps the pope ascended to get to the chair are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit which rest deep in each person here on earth.

From there we heard “The Word” and a homily.  Then the Pope went to the icon of Mary, who gave her fiat and initiated God’s salvific plan allowing “The Word to be made flesh”, and he prayed in front of the image of Mary with the baby Jesus.  

Then the Pope went to the Crucified Christ and prayed. After, he walked toward but did not enter the Father’s house (St. Peter’s) as the altar was set up in the middle just outside the basilica but not in the Darkness of the world. A middle place similar to purgatory where we spent time with the pope in front of the flesh and blood soul and divinity of the resurrected Christ.

Finally, we received the blessing of Christ and he returned from that middle place back into His father’s house where a place has been prepared for all humanity. We all want to get to the Father’s house and the only way to the Father is through the Son. And before this Mary is there to lead us to the Son who came to us first as The Word.

Then, and this is extremely important, we see once again the empty space showing that we are given another opportunity and this time we must remember our place, remember God’s place and fill this empty space with God’s Love. We must go and share the Joy of the resurrected Christ and bring His Love to all humanity, all creatures and all creation  We use the renewed and refreshed lesson just received and the realignment of our ways to go back out in the world when God wills this is over and not “fall back” into the same old routine but with the zeal of modern day disciples we go out to the ends of the world and proclaim through the lives we live that Jesus Christ Is Lord!! 

 The 3 lessons I share in this reflection are not just to say “oh wow that’s cool” I believe they are absolutely necessary to benefit from the next of the three-part process we may be undergoing. This “timeout” is for us to reconnect to The Way, The Truth and the Life, make a serious attempt because the level of realignment we make, the ground we clear spiritually is where the benefits will go in the next step. With little or no space, we will receive little or no benefits.

Reacquaint yourself with the reasons why and benefits of Baptism and Confirmation (Water and Fire). Get to know the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

May the Peace of the Lord be upon you

The Light of the Holy Spirit shine through you

And the Love of Father surround you,

Love,

 Br. Don Bassana, OFM Conv

Presently serving in Rome and Assisi Italy

Holy Spirit Takes Aim

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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.

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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.

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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”

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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. 
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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