Sometimes, just as at the first Christmas, we see light in darkness most clearly in the face of a newborn, a baby, where innocence can still stun us into wonder and soften, for a while, the edges of our cynicism and hardness. That, in fact, is one of the main challenges of Christmas. Like the shepherds we’re asked to watch in the night and we’re watching when, in our hearts, there is more wonder than familiarity, more childlike trust than cynicism, more love than indifference, more forgiveness than bitterness, more joy in our innocence than in our sophistication, and more focus on others than on ourselves. Christmas is meant to soften the heart and it’s that which sharpens the eyesight. – Fr. Ron Rolheiser
December 1, 2014
The “feast of feasts” is upon us and I just want to wish everyone an assortment of God’s choicest blessings. How silently, how tenderly, how utterly blessed are we!
Just one point before getting on with the newsletter: Thanks in advance to all who are contributing to the Christmas “baskets” for the farm workers. A special thank you to Fr. Martin Tavarres, parochial vicar from Sacred Heart Church in Medford, for translating a letter inviting the men to Christmas liturgies in Spanish.
Peace and all Good,
Lord Hear Our Prayer
We thank God for the blessing of restoration of health to Patricia Doyle, OFS – they were able to remove all the cancer and she has no further treatment…. We continue to pray for OFS Cecelia Rayburn’s daughter Noreen who was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy and is still not “out of the woods”. Cecelia lost her son Steve to cancer in October and we continue to pray for the repose of his soul…. We pray for excused and withdrawn members in their particular struggles, especially for Florence Grimes, OFS, Carol Pyle, OFS and Paul Williams, OFS. We pray for Secular Franciscans throughout our Troubadours of Peace Region – for Bob Fitzsimmons, OFS, for Clare and Mike Reidy, OFS, for Bill and Sue Ballinger, OFS, and for all whenever there are prayer requests. We pray for our families, parishes and communities, and for our world.
By our Vice Minister Debbie Wasche, OFS
When asked to write for our Franciscan Newsletter I immediately thought; “Oh Lord, what would I have to say?” Using that as a prayer I “Let go” of it and gave it to God and went on with my daily busy life. But as is always the case God uses my “daily life” as a way to reach out and connect with me. Not as I a sinner would have it of course, but the “whisper in the darkness” that he lovingly provides.
I am a “lover of words”. They excite me, educate me, fill me with humility, and through their utterance lead me to God more knowingly day by day. I write words down, use them in a sentence, correct my spelling, and most importantly connect with others through their use.
As a Franciscan there are some VERY important words in my life. Community, faith, family, empathy, care, peace, Love and a new one I’m just learning about from our new Pope, ”mercying” (You should check that one out if you haven’t already).
One word I’m re-learning is Humility. It used to have such a negative connotation for me. But I now find in it an ”uplifting realization of my own humanity” – a me that God made me to be, needing HIS help all along the way. I’ve come to that understanding slowly and through it have much more of a connection with the people God puts in my path.
As in the first chapter of John, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God“, we have the Holy Word spoken to us during Mass and the luxury of being able to pick up a Bible and reading “the Word” at any time.
The Lord has seen fit to give this to us in order to help us come to Him. We must learn ways to use it for Him. To learn, take time before we speak, listen “actively” to others and then only speak with honesty and charity. Or, then as Francis says, ”Only if necessary”! – Merry Christmas to All!
We continue to study The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis. What a Franciscan spirit our Pope has! It is radical and demanding transcending the usual conservative/liberal splits so apparent these days. We are taking turns leading the discussion and recommend the read to anyone.
Day of Recollection
Our Day of Recollection flew by. We took time out to go visit our excused sister Florence Grimes, OFS who was in the hospital. We sang off key most of the time but she loved it along with our prayers with and for her. We continued our day with the usual sharing time and watched Leonardo de Filippis’ St. Francis: Troubadour of God’s Peace. Of course food enters the picture here as we all enjoyed our pot luck and fellowship. A hearty thank you as always to Sr. Mary Pat, our honorary Franciscan, for sharing her wonderful home, cooking brunch, and creating a sacred space for us..
“I must decrease and He must increase” – St. John the Baptist
Ruth Burrows has a wonderful article in last December’s, ahem Jesuit, magazine America titled Lose Yourself: Getting past ‘me’ to thee’. Even with just the excerpts it is rather long, but worth the read:
All three of the Synoptic Gospels reveal Jesus’ insistence on the necessity of becoming as little as a little child in order to enter the kingdom of God.” …
“Our God reigns! Our God reigns,” we sing heartily enough, but does he? Does God reign fully in his Christian people? Does God reign in our hearts, every day every hour of the day in every circumstance? God in our hearts means accepting to be spiritually helpless, to be little, unimportant, totally dependent. It is to dethrone the ego. To become as a little child has everything to do with the first and greatest commandment “You shall love the Lord your God, with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with your whole strength…. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” ….
Only our Creator knows who and what we are and the glory and blessedness God destines for us. On our own we cannot know any of this and certainly cannot achieve our proper fulfillment. It can come about only by self-surrender in total trust to our Creator, doing God’s will …. As I understand, there are two major effects of the Fall: spiritual blindness and the terror inevitable to our condition of contingency, blind as we are to the protective, nurturing, utterly faithful love of our Creator in whom we live and move and have our being. We instinctively dread the loss of “me”, of who I am, my “self”; we dread diminishment, dwindling into nothingness and unimportance…
We are told that we must assert our supposed independence, be ourselves the arbiters of what is happiness and glory and go for it. We are desperate to keep control; we watch lest others threaten our rights. In other words, we insist on being our own god. Good, noble, virtuous in all manner of ways, we remain in control. We believe there is no problem in giving generously of the fruits of our vineyard, so long as the vineyard remains our own. And yet it is precisely this jealously guarded self-possession that must be surrendered. I do not think that we ourselves can make this absolute surrender. God himself must do it for us, must wrest us from ourselves. Nevertheless, if God is to achieve this ultimate triumph, we must do all that is within our power to help.
The Son of Man came, not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus himself, the humblest of mankind, is the model for what he is asking of his disciples. Mark’s picture of Jesus holding the child close to him illustrates the point. Jesus is the perfection of spiritual childhood. The stringent unless of turning and becoming as a child in order to enter the kingdom of heaven is another way of saying that to seek to save one’s life in this world is to lose it.
What Jesus asks is always possible. The stern, uncompromising injunction to “deny thyself” is not a call to strip ourselves of earthly goods, to take on a life of rigid austerity – the ego could grow fat on that sort of thing. Our Lord addresses each one of us in our particularity. There can be no pattern. We must want to follow him, want what he wants for us and died to give us…. Once we really give our attention to the matter, we see more and more how powerful, how tenacious is our selfishness. Every day offers small occasions for surrendering self-interest, our own convenience and wishes for the sake of others; for accepting without fuss the disappointments, annoyances, setbacks, humiliations that frequently come our way. …
Paradoxically, to accept humbly and trustfully the impurity of our motives, seeing ourselves far from the loving selfless person we would like to be, is choosing to be little, admitting our helplessness and unimportance – provided, of course, that we are doing our utmost. Childlike, we surrender our autonomy to our Lord who, we now see, must do everything for us, and we find a happy freedom in the knowledge that he is everything we are not and he is all for us (emphasis mine). When we no longer insist on being god to ourselves, every one of our doors is thrown open to the king of glory… (it) is to cry out to God from the heart: ”Take me from myself, wrest me away and take me to you.”
Did you know that January is Poverty in America Awareness month?
What might we do in our little corners of the world?
Gathering Fund – $556.91; Fair Share – $550; Well Fund – $41.38
SFRV Fraternity Members Birthdays
3 Florence Grimes, OFS
7 Cecelia Rayburn, OFS
SFRV Fraternity Members Profession Anniversaries
Mary Gulrich, OFS (February 1, 1961)
Blanche Richman, OFS (February 1, 1966)
Franciscan Calendar, USA
8 Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Franciscan Patron and Queen
12 Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patron and Queen of the Americas
15 Blessed Mary Frances Schervier, virgin, III Order
1 Solemnity of the Mother of God
3 Holy Name of Jesus
7 Blessed Angela of Foligno, religious, III Order
12 Blessed Bernard of Corleone, religious, I Order
14 Blessed Odoric of Pordenone, priest, I Order
16 Saints Berard, priest, and companions, protomartyrs, I Order
24 Saint Francis de Sales, bishop, doctor, Cord-bearer of Saint Francis
27 Saint Angela Merici, virgin of III Order
30 Saint Hyacinth of Mariscotti, virgin III Order
31 Saint John Bosco, priest, III Order
4 Saint Joseph of Leonissa, Priest, I Order
6 Saints Peter Baptist, Paul Miki and companions, martyrs, I and III Orders
7 Saint Colette, virgin, II Order
10 Saint Conrad of Piacenze, hermit, III Order