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

Our Lady of Consolation pray for us…

OLCpink

August 14th, 2016 I witnessed a sea of candles held by pilgrims processing with the statue of Our Lady of Consolation. Thousands of people poured light over the country roads and campsites of Carey village, OH all along the half mile walk from Shrine Park to the Basilica.  The rains held off for an outdoor mass at Shrine Park, celebrated by the Bishop of Toledo Daniel Thomas and the Bishop of Lexington, KY John Stowe, OFM Conv with several Friars, Knights of Columbus, and seminarians participating.   The statue of Our Lady of Consolation is adorned with hand­made, priceless garments sewn by tailors and artisans.  Filipinos, Chaldeans, Albanians, Hispanics, Italians, Poles, Slovaks, Lebanese, and more have all donated these priceless garments.

OLCdresses

We have hundreds of these custom dresses locked up and on display at Our Lady of Consolation lower church, some have platinum threads, others are golden, some with jewels embedded in the fabric.  These dresses are valued beyond money and reflect one’s gratitude to the Blessed Mother. This tradition to dress the Blessed Mother in handmade dresses comes from Luxembourg and intends to gift only the best of the best to Mary in appreciation for the graces received from answered prayers.  Mary has been busy delivering graces in Carey, OH for over 140 years.  So many have received miracles that there are not enough days in the year for Mary to wear all the dresses. It all began with the first miracle in Carey and since that marvelous day the miracles have multiplied.

OLCshrine

On May 24, 1875, the statue of Our Lady of Consolation was carried in procession from the church of St. Nicholas in Frenchtown to the church in Carey. It was during this procession that the first sign of the special intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary was revealed. As the procession marched, a severe storm raged in the entire area. Though the faithful could see the rain pouring down on all sides of them for the entire seven ­mile walk, not a drop touched the statue of Our Lady of Consolation nor anyone in the procession. This memorable church, the place of so many favors granted through Mary, remains today not only as a relic of the past, but as a place of prayer and worship. Members of Our Lady of Consolation parish gather there for early morning Mass, and many groups celebrate the goodness of God with special programs and devotions within its walls.

OLCFrJimSelfie

Fr Jim Sichko catches a “selfie” with Our Lady of Consolation, he has the most amazing friends!!!

 

 

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?

5G Network

5G Transmitter
Metal antenna symbol with letters 5G on white

Cell phones are all the rage nowadays. So many people have them for good communication. We appreciate the 3G network, 4G network, and now 5G network. I’m not sure how they work exactly but I know they facilitate communication in more places throughout the globe and with stronger signals, therefore less dropped calls. When you have a strong network your good conversations will not be interrupted by a disconnected drop. If people discern well they must tap into God’s 5G network. This network allows for 5 key points of discernment, tuning our ears to God’s personal call for you. Good Godly communication requires these elements of the 5G network:

1. Grab a Bible

We need the daily word of God interacting in our lives to allow opportunities for God to speak to our hearts. St. Augustine began his discernment when he heard children on a playground singing a rhyme that said, “pick it up and read it.” And so Augustine picked up the book next to him and began to read the Bible. We need to give God the opportunity to draw us to him, and pick up the Bible and read it.

2. Go to mass

The Conventual mass has been a staple of Franciscan religious life for centuries. It is the community mass for the brother-friars and priest-friars. Friars have the advantage of the Sacrament of Eucharist every day and this gives God the opportunity to grant graces to us. And who could not do without additional graces? Regular opportunities to attend mass beyond the Sunday obligation is a fitting way to enrich your communication with God.

3. Go to confession

Regular confession frees the heart of past sins and allows one to pursue the thing that delights the soul. For each person the path of a vocation call is a different one, but first we loose the burdensome baggage of past sins and give ourselves over completely to the one who pursues us. Like the hound of heaven, the lapping love dog can not be dismissed or shaken from pursuit and at some point requires a response. We respond to the Lord’s love through confession, and even further is the enriching counsel of a spiritual director.

4. Gaze at the Lord in Adoration

Adoration is the meeting of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. St Francis of Assisi would often be taken up by Adoration and in his own words, “Oh Sublime Humility, Oh Humble Sublimity” Meaning God so humbled himself to be one of us, yet he was exalted in the highest heights of heaven, and he bent low to be human just like us. What an awesome dignity God showed us of humanity, and wonderful affirmation of all the things that make us human.

5. Glorify God by your lives

We are invited to represent God well by the testimony of our lives. That all we do, all we think of, all we dream about, everything that pulls on our heart will glorify God. “God has called us out of darkness into his own marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9.)” And we glorify God by the brightness of our life basking in that light.

 

When we tie these 5G’s together it makes for good communication with God, an open heart to discern God’s holy will for us, and clarification of just what God’s call is for us. Given the strength of God’s 5G network, we will have a clear signal toward our life’s direction, and we will suffer no more dropped calls.

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.

Time to Practice Swimming, unlike Narcissus

image
Narcissus was a handsome hunter who knew he was handsome and would show disdain for people who recognized him. He was proud and haughty, if you loved him then he responded with nothing but dislike for you. Narcissus was enticed by Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, to gaze into the pool’s reflection, whereby he fell in love with his own reflection. Nemesis was seeking revenge for jilted Echo, a beautiful goddess who was despised and rejected at every turn. Narcissus could not take his eyes off himself, leaning closer and closer toward his own reflection, he fell into the water and drowned. Narcissism means to have an unhealthy fixation with oneself. What are the things that captivate you and fixate your attention?

In March I enjoyed a homily by Bishop Jospeh Cistone of Saginaw, MI who uncovered the narcissistic tendencies of our culture to fixate on individualism and the popular philosophy to “go it alone.” One example is the tragic story of Chris McCandless a 24 year-old who broke ties with family, friends, and society to survive solo in the wilds of Alaska with no safety net. Jon Krakauer wrote a book about his adventures called “Into the Wild” that details his journey from the Ivy league to Denali National Park. McCandless did himself in with his narcissistic myopia when he ate wild potato potato seeds that later caused paralysis and the inability to save himself. I listened to Bishop Cistone speak about the chronic levels of narcissistic individualism that paralyze our own culture. We have a strong chord of individualism that pushes the human person toward selfish pursuits rather than seek out community support. I watched a couple venture out to dinner who were sitting with 2 laptops, 2 cell phones, and completely disengaged from each other across the table. We have so much screen to screen communication these days that our person to person communication is deprived of minimal human interaction. We now have resources available to answer every question on the internet that only requires a pocket sized gadget. People delight in their own information overload as we send voice commands to Siri rather than approach a living person. We love to post social media alerts about our doings and updates, “its all about me” right? It is more convenient to pull up Global Positioning by Satellite rather than ask a person for driving directions. Individualism is a part of the every day person engaged in technology. We are so wired to narcissistic media that is is near impossible to unplug. What do you think about my selfie now? Are these technological marvels fixating our attention on Nemesis’ entrapping pool? How do we depart from the pool edge of this beautiful reflection of what the self can do?

A person’s vocation is the polar opposite of narcissism. A vocation will pursue the area in life that a person can make a generous gift of self. It is a call from God that will enflame one’s desire to serve others. St Clare says her entire life is a call “to become a vessel of God’s compassionate love” poured out for others. This call will never survive in a private world of “God and me.” It requires the community to confirm and affirm the call. The community will sustain a vocational call whether the state of life is a call to be single, ordained, married, or religious. A vocation will have a person compelled to serve a part of the world much bigger than the self. A vocation is not a career but is a personal call by God to serve. Individualism will never survive in a selfless sea of God-called swimmers.

There is an imprint of God in the soul of each person to give themselves generously to a vocation. Given the opportunity people will selflessly give of themselves to something bigger than themselves. We are hard-wired to give ourselves away to a vocation. During 9/11 when the twin towers of the World Trade Center were taken out by terrorists, EMS providers were rushing toward the scene. When most people were fleeing the scene for their own personal safety, fireman, policeman, and EMS providers were running toward the chaos. Some ran for their lives away, others ran for their lives toward. 343 firefighters and 60 policemen died on that day under the rubble of the twin towers. One could easily imagine the difficulty to recruit EMS providers in the aftermath of that level of destruction. But the opposite occurred. Recruitment levels are at record levels in NewYork and people desire to put their lives on the line selflessly to give themselves to something bigger than themselves. These individuals have found their vocation and seek this with all of their heart. This type of self donation has no space for Narcissus.

Where is God calling you to make a heroic donation of self? Have you asked yourself, where does God want my gifts to be selflessly given away in His service? This is your vocation swim practice. And today’s swim lesson is to pull you away from that dangerous pool of narcissism. God is our lifeguard and He will not let us drown!

Hartley Vocations Day

HartleyHS

Deacon Frank Sullivan, campus chaplain at Hartley High School, gave a warm welcome to this Franciscan friar for Vocations Day. We had a long line of young men filing into the chapel to hear about religious vocations from the perspective of a Dominican friar Tom Blau, O.P., Diocesan priest Fr. Dan Dury, and myself a Franciscan friar.

Hartley has an impressive vocation program for juniors and seniors to prepare them for a career immediately after high school. They can spend a half day at High School classes and half day at vocation preparation school taking more classes. These unique career centers located around Columbus, Ohio prepare the Hartley student to learn the trades of the job and complete high school classes to receive a high school diploma. Impressive vocation program for a career but we were visiting to speak about something bigger than just a vocational career.

On Vocations Day we were concentrating on religious vocations. There were Dominican sisters combing the halls. Sr. Mary Jacinta and Sr. Mary Perpetua spoke to all the young women. The young men were cycling through the chapel to hear from two mendicant friars and a diocesan priest. Great questions and insightful young women and men who were willing to absorb our stories and begin that dialogue with God, “Where God are you calling me?”

That dialogue with God is so crucial. God continues to call young men to religious consecrated life, priesthood, and diaconate and its incumbent on men to have ears ready to listen. Part of the difficulty of discernment, or making a big decision in your life, is calibrating our ears to openness and readiness. All these men were listening attentively with hearts wide open and readied for our message. And what was the message?

People are yearning to give their lives to something filled with worthwhile meaning. People cling to a life imbued in meaning, and want to give themselves to something bigger than themselves. Look at 9-11 for example. On September 11th, 2001 when the terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Centers, the result was tragedy and chaos. While people were fleeing the area in hysteria and running from the scene for their lives, the first responders were doing the opposite. The firemen, police, and EMS providers were rapidly moving toward the danger to put their life on the line for strangers they would never meet. And this noble calling of sacrifice requires a bit of lunacy. Is there a salary worth adequate compensation for this level of danger? Frankly, I don’t think you could pay them enough money for what they do. On that heroic day 343 firefighters and 60 policemen lost their lives in the fall of the twin towers. Patches sewn on jackets were later issued that said, “Remember 343” so that we not forget the sacrifice made by these heroic men and women. Now if I were to post a job description to new recruits and say you will never be paid your worth in a salary, you will be forced to confront terrorizing dangers, and there is a good chance you will lose you life for people you may never meet. I would think new recruits in New York for fire, police, and EMS would be impossible to find! But the reverse has happened. Recruitment classes have had no problem filling their quotas. In fact the numbers of willing people to donate themselves to this noble calling are at record levels. Why?

Deep inside of us we yearn to give ourselves to a noble purpose, we want to dedicate ourselves to something bigger than ourselves, and that is our vocation! The students at Hartley High School get this, and they want to move toward a noble sacrifice of self worthy of their investment. The power, pleasure, wealth, and prestige of our culture have their enticements, but meagerly compare to one’s higher calling toward the things that are everlasting.

The dialogue has begun. Young men and women at Hartley High School are asking the bigger questions like: “Where are you calling me, God?” What is the direction that moves me beyond myself?” “Where can I serve the world that gives me the greatest meaning?” “Where is Jesus Christ leading me to live out this joyful God given call?” “Is my vocation a call to be a single person, married person, ordained person, or consecrated religious person?” Thanks for responding to the challenge to ask the bigger questions. Way to go Deacon Sullivan, “let’s roll” in this essential and world changing ministry. Go Hawks!
IMG_2101

A Time to Speak — A View from the Pew

It’s all about being open to that Divine nudge and I would imagine there are many in the herd with a short memory for making a stubborn stand!

The Record Newspaper

Merry Dougherty Merry Dougherty

By Merry Dougherty

On a recent college visit with our oldest son, he walked out of the information session and uttered (pun intended) these words, “Mom and Dad, you can try to make a cow move, but you really don’t get it to go anywhere until you prod it, and you guys didn’t prod me enough to study hard and get involved.” Really?

Of course my mind started churning, remembering all the nights I sat and explained to him how important it was to become more active at school and to always give his best effort academically if he wanted to go to a really good school. Of course, I didn’t have a prod to bump him on the shoulder or pop his bottom every time he elected to stop studying for the night. I also remember being met with, “Mom, I don’t want to do any of…

View original post 445 more words