Friar Don Miller. OFM
I am a Franciscan priest. I spent my early years of ministry in New Mexico working among the Pueblo Native Americans and the Hispanics. In 1978 I began my years in academics working as a chaplain, faculty member, and administrator at various universities in the southwest and the midwest. I taught various course in theology, especially in my area of specialty which is moral theology. I have been the Vocation Director for the Province of Saint John the Baptist since 2003.
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Reflection on the past week

Dscf0017Once in a while we experience a sequence of events that make us pause to reflect. This past week or so has been such a time for me. As I shared in a previous post, I was in Peoria, IL last weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. One of the highlights of the weekend was getting to meet the newest member of the family, my then six-day-old great niece. (She's a whopping 12 days old today!) Also, I had the privilege of visiting a prospective and his family in Marshalltown, IA. These were enjoyable occasions, as was the entire weekend. Times to reflect and meditate on the beauty of family and friendship and the opportunities we have to get together and share life.

Monday, just before returning to Cincinnati, I participated in the Funeral Liturgy of the brother of a fellow Franciscan priest. Father's brother lived in Peoria so I stayed in town an extra day. Sixteen Franciscans from the Central Illinois area gathered with the family to celebrate the life and memory of a man who obviously enjoyed life and family. I did not personally know the deceased, but I certainly got a positive image of him from his family and friends. It was good to be with the friars of the area, all of whom I know and some of whom I have lived and worked with over the years.

Last evening a large group of friars gathered in Oldenburg, IN (just about 45 miles west of Cincinnati) for the Funeral Liturgy of one of our elder Franciscans who had been a Novice Master and Pastor in his younger years. Father Benno influenced and touched the lives of many members of our province over the years.

Life, family, friends (old and new), birth, death--they all converge and mix to make up our lives. As we just celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King last weekend and prepare to enter into the beautiful Season of Advent this weekend, I can't help but think about the beauty of the ebb and flow of our personal and family(communal) lives. Members are born--or in the case of our community, members join us as new brothers seeking to live our life, and members die and pass on to eternal life much as the season of autumn follows the fruitfulness of summer. The landscape here in the Midwest is barren, but not lifeless. Nature is preparing for next year's crops. As we bury our dead and celebrate new life as families and as a province, we are constantly reminded of the fact that what sometimes looks like barren dessert is oftentimes a fruitful land where the Holy Spirit creates the wonders of life. This season of Thanksgiving and Advent and the Celebration of Christ the King offer us the possibility to pause and pray--and prepare our hearts for the upcoming celebration of the Birth of Jesus.

New Arrival

I got to visit and hold the newest member of the family this weekend. Mary Ellen was all of six days old the day I saw her. She and mother and father are doing very well. She has a great appetite and is very healthy. Mary Ellen is my eldest sister's four grandchild and my second great niece. She is her parents' first child.

Yesterday I drove to Marshalltown, IA to meet with a prospective and his parents. I enjoyed the day and appreciate the family's warm hospitality. I am staying over in Peoria, IL tonight to attend the funeral of the brother of one of our friars. The deceased lived here in my home town, so while I am home visiting family I'll stay to participate int he funeral.

Lot's to think about this weekend with family, a new baby, a visit with a prospective, and a funeral. Hopefully when I get home I'll be able to share a few thoughts.

Comment on Thanksgiving Celebration by Barbara

Barbara writes in response to the post on our friary celebration of Thanksgiving.

Fr. Don-

God's greatest blessings upon you and the friars during this T-giving break!

I really enjoyed Scott's "Turkey soup" tale. I could smell it as I read it.

Maybe the recipe somewhere in your next post?

Thanksgiving Dinner at St. Anthony Friary

Friars_at_table Close to two dozen friars gathered at St. Anthony Friary for a Thanksgiving Meal on Wednesday evening, November 22. Guests from local small friaries joined us for turkey and all of the trimmings. We gathered on Wednesday because most of us headed out on Thanksgiving Day to spend a little time with our families this weekend. Those of us at St. Anthony Friary gathered for Eucharist Thanksgiving morning and then scatted in various directions. I, for example, am in Peoria, IL where I overate with my family yesterday and enjoyed seeing my two sisters and their families, many of whom are now married with their own families. I have yet to meet the newest member of the group--my six day old great niece.

Scott_and_drumstick_1Brother Scott, pictured here "delicately" eating a drumstick, also performed his annual ritual Wednesday night--making a very large pot of turkey soup from the carcass and other choice portions of the bird. When I went to my room late Wednesday evening I could smell the soup filling the house with wonderful aromas. It is little "traditions" like this that make our friaries homey. Yes, we get into patterns of behavior that become community traditions much as members of our families of origin do. What family doesn't have all sorts of rituals and customs that have become traditions around Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Well, so do the friars, and Scott's "famous" turkey soup is a good example.

Good Article on our House of Prayer

One of the possibilities that Saint Francis foresaw was the need for friars to get away once in a Ava_friarywhile to live a more contemplative lifestyle. Thus, Francis wrote a Rule for Hermitages.

Four friars, two from Saint John the Baptist Province and two from Sacred Heart Province, have founded a hermitage in Ava, MO. These four men form the "permanent" community as they make available a place for others to go for some quiet time of prayer and renewal.

Our most recent Provincial Newsletter featured the hermitage at Ava and I have made a link available below for anyone interested in reading that item.

Happy Thanksgiving

A Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving

Amid all of the food and travel and football and family and whatever else makes up this holiday weekend, I pray that our hearts will be truly filled with gratitude to God for the many blessings we share in this country. We are far from perfect and can do some fairly stupid things as individuals and as a group, but the Lord has shown us great mercy and has blessed us with many blessings--far beyond anything that we could have earned or deserve.

Last Saturday, one of our Postulants, Richard Goodin, and I participated in the Ohio Catholic Young Adult Conference here in Cincinnati. One of the events of the day was a question-and-answer session with Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk. In his opening comments, the Archbishop emphasized that being thankful is a Christian trait. The central mystery of our faith is Eucharist--Thanksgiving.

Maybe sometime this weekend each of us can take the time to prayerfully list the things for which we are thankful and give our gratitude and praise to God.

Happy eating and safe travel.

Newsletter from Vocation Office

The latest Newsletter from the Vocation Office is available in pdf format. The reference on the second page to the "enclosed statement from our 2005 Chapter" can be found on the left-hand column of the Is this life for me? page (click on the left of this page).  I intend to make the future periodic newsletters from the Vocation Office available on this blog.

Download november_2006_newsletter.pdf

Hard copies of the newsletters are sent to all of the men presently in contact with the office and looking into the possibility of joining our community. If you feel possibly called to our Franciscan life please click the How to contact us page on the left.

Six Participate in "Come and See" weekend

Nov_2006_1Six men ranging in age from 18 to 36 just completed a Come and See weekend at St. Anthony Friary in Cincinnati, OH. The purpose of the weekend is to allow those seriously interested in looking into the possibility of joining our Franciscan community a chance to experience and learn about our life and ministries. They have already been in touch with the Vocation Office for an initial period of discernment and are ready to look more deeply into our fraternal life. Those who feel that the weekend confirmed their feeling that the Lord is calling them to us now begin the admission process.

The participants, as pictures from left to right, were: Jacob Powell from Lubbock, TX; Joshua van Cleef from Detroit, MI; Dan Helfrich from Sandusky, OH; Daryl Allen from Beaumont, TX; Roger Lopez from Pensacola, FL; and Davies Crasta from Lubbock, TX. (It seems Texas was the state to be from this weekend.) In December, the My Journey feature on the Franciscan Formation page on our vocation pages at our website will highlight comments from these men.

The photograph and the names of the participants are used with their permission.

Comment from Stan praying for discernment group

Stan writes concerning the Come and See weekend:

Fr. Don!  Please let the men know that they are being lifted in prayer as they discern with the friars this weekend. There are several people here praying that God's Spirit will speak to their hearts so they will embrace the Call to rebuild the Church within the Order or outside of it... whichever God wants. Pax et bonum to all enjoying the weekend there!

Comment from Stan

Today, November 8, is the Memorial of Blessed John Duns Scotus, a renowned Franciscan Philosopher of the Middle Ages who was instrumental in helping our Church define the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. So Stan writes:

Fr. Don!  Just wishing you a blessed feast of Duns Scotus!
May we have the freedom to love and become more perfect by our loving! "Tota Pulchra Es Maria!"

(The Latin phrase in the comment refers to a hymn to Mary entitled "You are all beautiful, Mary" referring to her Immaculate Conception.)