A Life Well Lived: The Radical Hospitality St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi has been my patron saint for as long as I can remember. I have always had a devotion to him, the simple, humble aristocrat-turned beggar of Assisi. His radical ways of living have always touched deeply at my heart, as they have at so many others across the ages. Francis, was ordained as a Deacon. Never a priest. And he LIVED his Diaconate in every sense of the work Diakonosservice. Francis lived a life of radical hospitality. He welcomed all, stranger, muslim, Christian, woman, child, etc as Christ. Ever since his encounter with the poor beggar man, wherein Francis gave him his cloak, Francis lived a life for others. He lived his life as an alter Christus (another Christ).

Francis had a great love for the Church, he had a great love for the people of God, a great love for the Liturgy in all its splendor, and he had a great love for beauty. Francis lived the radical hospitality, which the Gospel demands with such fervor that he saw God’s presence in the beauty of each part of Creation. Whether it be Sister Moon, Brother Wolf, Sister Breeze, Brother Leo, Sister Clare, or even Sister Death…from whom no mortal can escape. Francis saw the presence of God, the incarnation of Christ in every living being. He lived the mystery of the Incarnation, because he honored Christ’s presence, wherever and whenever he found it.

Francis was joyful. There’s no doubting that. Read any commentary you ever could on him, watch Bishop Robert Barron’s The Pivotal Players episode on him (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING SO) and you will see a man, faced with trials, with sin, with struggles, yet as he walked he sang. As he received he gave. As he lived, so he loved.

Francis abandoned the pleasures of the flesh, the pleasures of the world, because he had seen that only Christ, could provide what he needed. He had fallen deeply and madly in love with the Bridegroom of the Church, and sought to offer his own life with Christ to the glory of God the Father. Francis embraced his trials. He received the Stigmata. He founded religious communities. He created the first “living” Nativity Scene. He rebuilt physical church buildings. He prayed often. He went away to quiet places for retreats. He stirred up the ardor of faith in men of no faith. He loved without being loved in return. Why? Because he embraced the Radical Hospitality of the Gospel. He embraced a life of joy. He embraced Christ, present in all of humanity and creation, with all of its boils, warts, pimples, scars, etc. because he saw the beauty of the Creator within.

St. Francis of Assisi, lived a life of radical surrender to the workings of the Spirit. He lived a life of radical hospitality and love. He lived a life of joy as he embraced the cross.

May we have the strength and courage to do the same.

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for me and for us, that we might be made worthy to share the light of Christ in Heaven with you. Amen.

 

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Can I Be A Weak Priest?

“Can you be a weak priest?”

So ended a conversation I had recently with my mentor for my Pastoral Year. Both Fr. Jerry and I had stayed up way too late enjoying a drink, celebrating Easter and discussing different aspects of my time at St. Stephen Cathedral. The school year ends in just a matter of weeks and I was discussing my final evaluation with Father, talking about areas I have grown in and areas that still challenge me.

Since that conversation, I have taken the “rhetorical question” Father Jerry asked me to prayer, asking our Lord, what it means to me and in my discernment at this time. “Can I be a weak priest?” Maybe it would help a bit if I put this statement into some context.

I have been called many things in my life and during this Pastoral Year. I heard a new one on Monday; “Chief bottle-washer.” I honestly had no idea what that meant, so I asked some of our office ladies. They responded that it was the 17855438_1445955895454724_1865125997131649018_osame as when I say: “Im a jack of all trades and a master of none.” I’m a talented individual. I’m not bragging by this statement, but honestly acknowledging that God has blessed me with many gifts. I’m a musician, a woodworker, a photographer (amateur), I can fix plumbing problems, I’m a gardener, I’m a techie, I’m a decorator, I’m a extrovert, I’m a host, I’m an MC, I’m a cook, I’m a Youth Minister, I’m a graphics designer, I’m a team player, I’m a doer, I’m a leader, I’m a man of community, I’m a friend, I’m a tractor-driver, I try to be generous with my time, I’m many many things. God has blessed me abundantly, and for that, each day I am truly thankful.

With being a man of many talents I pray, and work that I will be a good investor, a good sharer, and user of my talents, like we hear Christ speak of in Matthew 25:14-30 in the Parable of the Talents. At the same time that I have and use all of these talents I like any other man am weak. I have weaknesses and challenges like anyone else, though I don’t always show them. This gets to the heart, I think of what Fr. Jerry was challenging me on and encouraging me to grow in. He also said: “I think that sometimes people like to see their priest mess up and make mistakes. They’ll talk about it for a long time after, not because they think it’s funny, or like to see someone do something wrong, but they want to see that their priest is human.”

In the Exsultet, which I was blessed to chant at the Easter Vigil at St. Stephen Cathedral this year, is an ancient hymn of praise, recounting the blessings and workings of God through man across the centuries, from the first fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, to the saving of the Israelites from the Egyptians in the Red Sea, to the coming of Christ, the Son of God and Man to redeem the world and draw it back to his Father. There are countless beautiful images of light versus 17904067_10212867266013332_7236651706856425136_ndarkness, with the light always triumphing and coming over the darkness, allowing the mercy, love, and strength of God to show. As I sang “the praises of this pillar, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor,” I was filled with love. I made the chant my prayer, recounting how God was “leading them (the people) to grace and joining them to his holy ones.” As I sang of how “This is the night, when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld” I also sang of how the first sin of Adam and Eve was indeed a “happy fault, which earned for us so great and glorious a redeemer!” I chanted of how that happy fault, which wounded the world was necessary for salvation. I love that line: “happy fault.” Yes, sin is bad, yes when we fall we sometimes do so pretty hard, yet it is what comes after that defines us. It is what comes after that makes us into the better men and women God has called us to be.

I have a lot of gifts. I also have a lot of weaknesses. I have a lot of faults, which through the grace of God I continually try to turn into those “happy faults,” and use them to become a better man. I can be cynical, I can gossip, I can curse like a sailor, I can be angry, I can be selfish, I can make it all about me, I can be jealous, I can be lazy, I’m the king and first card-carrying member of the procrastination club, I can be a perfectionist, I can be overly OCD, I can judge others, I can be a lot things and do a lot of things that separate me from God, the church, and the community as a whole. Yet, like Venerable Bruno Lanteri I remember and act on: Nunc Coepi! Being again! I rise and turn my fault into a happy fault, I use it as a stepping stone into something greater that God has called me to do.

So. Can I be a weak priest? Can I let another see my wounds? Can I allow the Lord to not only work through my strengths and gifts, but also through my weaknesses? Can I let my weaknesses transform me more after the Heart of Christ into who he wants me to be and not just what I think I should be?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,* in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Father Jerry’s question will continue to be a challenge for this hard-headed, german-blooded, blessed seminarian who is just trying to make sense of what the Lord is asking of me each day. It is something that will take time to become more “okay” with. Bearing our wounds to another, letting another know that we are broken, that we have faults, that I have shortcomings, is never easy. But it is necessary.

As Christ hung upon the cross, stripped of his dignity, bearing everything from the weight of our sins, to his own human emotions had to be rough. But, the Resurrection, the story of new life doesn’t come easily. It is only through hardships, through trials, through faults-made happy, that we are able to glimpse and better come to understand the loving God who made us and calls us to be His.

IMG_5529Pray for me, as I continue to try to be okay with being a weak seminarian and hopefully one day a weak priest, for it is only then, that Christ will more fully be able to dwell with me. Pray that: “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ;…”*

” for when I am weak, then I am strong.” *- 2 Corinthians 12:9

Fellow Bruté Seminarians interviewed for Fox59

Fellow Bruté Seminarians interviewed for Fox59

Two of my brother seminarians here at Bishop Bruté were interviewed for the local station: Fox59 on the night of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s abdication. You can watch their video on the link above, but before you do, here is some information on the woman that they have “rebutting” them. 

Center For Inquiry Executive Director Reba Boyd-Wooden is a woman who has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church. The Center for Inquiry is a group that seems from a little investigation  , to be a group that is anti-religion. The statement that Wooden says in the video clip, instantly proves that she has no idea on the reasons or background for the Catholic church’s position on things and that she has nothing to do with the church. So take her statements with a grain of salt and maybe a prozac. Part of her main statement of: “I would hope they would elect a pope that will want to liberalize and modernize the Catholic Church,…” should instantly raise red flags in many Catholics and non-catholics minds. One of my friends and fellow freshman here put it perfectly when he said: “The church is about teaching the truth.”  And what is the truth? The truth as we have been learning in Theology Class is the message of the Gospel of God, taught by Jesus Christ, his only begotten son. The message of the Gospel is what we are called to spread throughout the world. And the world needs it now, so much more than ever! Let us all join together in promising to spread the truth throughout the world. As St. Francis of Assisi, my patron once said: “Preach the Gospel at all times…If necessary use words.”