The silver lining of teaching: I used to teach freshman religion at our Franciscan high school in Cincinnati. One day in the teachers’ lounge there was a posting of the 15 scariest jobs in America. First was a bomb technician, obviously. But in between the eight scariest (firefighter) and the tenth (cemetery worker) was my job – a high school teacher. There is some truth to that listing. Long days, humble pay, crazy schedules, classroom discipline, administrative demands, trying to impart knowledge…need I say more? Oh, and don’t forget the students are teen-agers.
A few weeks ago I was invited to an after school social for current and emeritus faculty and staff. Happening to be in town, I went. It was great reconnecting with my previous co-workers. Adventures and tales were told (a teacher is never short of wild stories). Frustrations and anxieties were shared. Teaching is demanding and laborious. But in the midst of our gathering, one person exclaimed, “We have the best students!” And as if it were a rehearsed production, in unison, all declared, “Absolutely!”
It’s easy to focus on the hardships and negativity of life; high school teaching is no different. But these teachers and staff members saw the silver lining, the light and goodness in the young men and women they ministered to every day. And without hesitation they could proclaim its certainty. For light always dispels the darkness.
On this Pentecost Sunday about twenty of us will gather at the Unversity of Dayton to begin preparations for our All-Province Assembly which begins tomorrow afternoon. We expect about 135 to attend as we spend a week in fraternal gathering.
This event happens every three years. On the off years we gather for our Provincial Chapters and retreats. Thus every year we come together as a province to build fraternity, legislate norms for our lives together, elect our leasership and renew our spirits in prayer. This is the year for fraternal support and learning.
Please remember us in your prayers as we gather and may the Holy Spirit renew the face of the earth.
I did a quick Google search for "carbon footprint calculator". Finding several options I browsed through a couple and selected the EPA's website [http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/ind-calculator.html]. The form was colorful and very streamlined. After 10 minutes of inputting some basic data I had a figure to work with. The calculator had given me a number: 40,449 lbs/year of CO2 Emissions.
As we all know, numbers only mean something when you know how to use them! Our number (our Carbon Footprint) was 40,449. The average per household for the USA is 83,000. Thus Bl. Giles friary (where I live with three other friars in Chicago, Ill.) has a carbon footprint of less than half the average household of our size in the USA.
This is due to many concrete choices we have made as a friary. One significant factor is that we have chosen to have only one car for our friary of four friars. Therefore we often employ the "Cardinal Bergoglio transportation method," aka the bus. But that is just one contributing factor among many. Check out what the Carbon Footprint is and you'll find out that you and your household can become more "green" and environmentally friendly by following a few easy suggestions.
Go ahead, give it a try. Calculate your carbon footprint. It is easy! It is also a great way to encourage a wholistic first step on the path of conversion towards living a more simple and ecologically responsible life.
From Richard Goodin, OFM:
Preachin' in the key of Bob Marley: Last December while on a mission trip to Jamaica, I was afforded the opportunity to do a little Advent preaching. It all began with a class project. I was tasked to develop an evangelical preaching series based on the ideas of the "new evangelization" (for Preaching II class). And as luck would have it, by the end of the semester I would be in Jamaica. Two plus two: I would develop my preaching series for my Jamaica mission trip. And I intended to deliver the series in Jamaica, to Jamaicans.
So I set out to find something to talk about. I mulled over more of how to preach rather than content. I wanted to use a Jamaican thread of culture as a foundation. I needed something that every Jamaican would know; it would be a hook. Without such an angle I would run the risk of being only a foreigner talking about foreign things. To end up that way would be to waste my time and waste the time of any would-be listener.
It came like a dream: Use Bob Marley songs. Thus, after about two months of drafting and redrafting, out came a four-talk series. The titles: One Exodus, one God, one Baby, one Love. If you know your reggae or your Jamaican culture you can pick out the allusions immediately. If not, well, the preaching series was meant specifically for those who would "get it" immediately!
Now, if you feel left out because you might not understand the "one" part or why Exodus or One Love are important to Jamaicans, this reveals an important part about preaching. A preacher must know their audience! When a preacher knows the audience (I lived in Jamaica for a year; and I have turned into a student of Jamaican life in the meantime) then they can connect and really preach the Word of God.
Take a look for yourself at the concluding paragraph of the four-night series: "Sisters and Brothers, a wise man once said, One Love! That same wise man also said, "There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation." No hiding place! None! Ya believe dat? Brothers, sisters, there is no hiding place from the Father of Creation and it is good to proclaim One Love to the world! Because of the Father's love, we say One Love! And because of the Father's love we do not have a hiding place because that Love will find us no matter where we go, no matter what we do. One Love finds every hiding place. One Love destroys division. One love brightens every heart. And One Love is the only way to live life and create a future of peace and respect!"
A man told me afterwards one evening, "Thank you, brother, I liked how you were preaching to us about Catholic teaching in the key of Bob Marley. Keep it up!"
I told him, "Thank you." He confirmed for me that a new evangelization is possible if we just put some basic principles to work. One such principle: Culture is an extremely important medium that can carry the Word of God. Not to mention, we must prepare very carefully in all our efforts to preach the Word of God in this time of a new evangelization!
Works of Mercy: “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’” (Matt 25: 34-36)
All of us who went on the Alternative Christmas Break had many opportunities to serve the bodily needs of our brothers and sisters in Jamaica. Within the Catholic tradition these are called the Corporal Works of Mercy: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. Including Fr. Jim Bok and Fr. Bernard Younas as group members, we were able to do six of the seven works, missing only burying the dead, during our week in Jamaica.
What has struck me most as I have continued to reflect on my experience in Jamaica involves the discerning of my motivation for doing Corporal Works of Mercy. Before entering the Franciscans I was involved in a number of charitable events like soup kitchens, home repairs and working with youth. The purpose of doing these works is to extend God’s compassion and mercy to those in need. And yet I have to be honest and say that many times, these actions were either for my greater glory and not God’s or for the “warm and fuzzy” feeling I would get after doing volunteer work. Through the formation process I have learned to prayerfully discern the motivations of my actions and how they might help bring about the Reign of God. Which is after all, what all of us are trying to do.
Big love in small places: Weddings are a time of great joy and celebration. They remind us of the self-emptying love Christ has for His Church. I have recently attended two weddings, one for a cousin and another for a friend. My presence at weddings does produce a certain amount of confusion. People scratch their heads trying to figure out if I am a rogue Jedi Knight or a hobbit that has lost his way to the Shire. Family and friends normally set the record straight.
As the wedding reception progresses, I find myself talking to more and more people, most complete strangers. At first they are curious about my way of living, but the conversation normally turns to their own self-examination of moral living. I try to open my heart and listen to them, asking the Holy Spirit for aid and counsel. So many people reflect on a list of failures, attempts to love unselfishly that fall short. And in this, they see themselves unworthy of God.
And as I listen, I hear all the glorious ways they have and do love. The care for their children, financially support their Catholic grade school, call their despondent brother every week. Small acts of love, small moments of God grace. I bring these acts of love to the surface, saying, “In these small acts of love you witness God’s presence.” Daily we must reflect on the ways we prevented Christ from coming into our life, but also rejoice in the ways we invited Him in.
Dinner and Conversation: A quiet Saturday at the friary ended with a joyful gathering of friars and new acquaintances. People ask quite often, "What is like to live in a friary?" Well, seeing that pictures are worth a thousand words and experiences are priceless, we invited a couple of guests over for supper so they could see for themselves.
Br. Colin met one of the gentlemen at a recent lecture on the Subtle Doctor of Franciscan theology, Bl. John Duns Scotus. Br. Colin was chatting about having recently done a brief mission trip to Jamaica, and the gentleman overheard him and piped up to share that he had done several such trips to Jamaica. A conversation later, an acquaintance was made. The other guest was an acquaintance of mine and Br. Colin from our ministry at the John Paul II Newman Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Our evening was simple. We ate a whole batch of homemade gumbo (yes, all from scratch) and had a few hours of quality conversation. It was a relaxing time. We did not dwell too much on any one thing. We just got to know each other and shared stories of life.
Funny how something so simple could be so much fun. Try it at home sometime. The recipe is easy: some time, some food, some friends mixed gently with acquaintances and next thing you know, you won't miss the TV!
Keeping a tradition! A few years ago I decided I needed a hobby. The motivation came from the perceived need to strike a balance in life. I was saturated with schoolwork. I love to read but I had had enough of that, too. I needed a hobby. And I would soon find out that I was entering a long line of monks and friars who have done the very same thing!
I had heard that making beer is like a combination craft and cooking experience. So I asked my guardian for some funds to begin a hobby and off I went to the local home-brew store for everything I needed. Luckily for me one of the friars I was living with had a beer making history himself. So I learned a new hobby and shared time with a friar; a win-win. Franciscan Friars in Germany, so I am told, still make beer in their friaries. Some even support their friaries by selling commercially.
That year I made three types of beer. Five gallons each of an English brown ale, an Indian pale ale, and a bourbon-infused Irish stout. Each batch of five gallons yields about 50-plus bottles of beer. So far each and every bottle has turned out wonderfully!
Now I am back at the hobby again after a bit of an absence. I am happy to report that I have 4 gallons’ worth of Trappist Abbey Ale set aside in a dark closet for “conditioning”. In about a week I will bottle the beer after adding a little sugar. Then, BAM! Ten days later – hopefully – I’ll have a lovely Belgium-style Trappist Ale, right from my kitchen!
Putting faith into action: During this past year, Br. Richard Goodin and I have been doing ministry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. When we met with Fr. Pat Marshall, the chaplain at UIC, he encouraged us to try and engage the students in concrete activities that would manifest the Church’s teaching. One day we came up with the idea of having an Alternative Christmas Break trip to Jamaica, where Br. Richard spent his pastoral year and where I will be spending my pastoral year starting June 12th. It sounded very simple at the time: Convince college students living in Chicago to spend a week in December at our missions in Jamaica. After a couple of initial difficulties, like recruiting students and raising money, the trip came together. A student from the Newman Center was able to recruit six peers, and several people donated money to pay for the trip as well as make a donation, with money left over. We offer special thanks to the very generous people from St. Mary’s Parish in Bloomington, Ill.
Although it took more work to make the trip happen than either of us expected, it was a wonderful experience for all of us to put our faith into action and be in solidarity with the poor and marginalized in Jamaica. This was also a very strong reminder for me that as we take a step out in faith, God will provide for all that we need in an abundance that we cannot begin to understand.