Archive for October, 2012

Franciscan Reflection and Prayers for After the Storm

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 31, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

The following was distributed to the Franciscan family by Fr. David Convertino, OFM, the executive director of the Holy Name Province office of development. 

We often say the prayer: God is our refuge and strength, always present in times of trouble and distress.

As we watch and witness the pain and loss of so many people with the utter devastation and destruction of our cities, towns and harbors by Hurricane Sandy, it may be difficult to really believe in that prayer even as we say it. In any natural tragedy, we can be quick to blame this as an act of God. I believe it is not an act of God, but rather an act of nature. The act of God is what happens afterward, when women and men come together to rescue, save, feed and comfort those who are suffering because of this terrible storm.

As part of the “act of God” taking place all over the East Coast and our entire country, we can join together and pray for the survivors and for those who died in the wake of this hurricane. As Franciscans, we not stand in awe of creation for its beauty, but also know the fear of its power and destruction.

Please join us, the Friars and our Franciscan Family around the country, in prayer for all those who are suffering in so many ways because of this storm.

I offer you some suggested prayers here, also knowing full well that prayers from the heart often feel more fully, the pain of those in need.

Thank you, as always, for your support of the Friars and of our work.
May the Lord bless and ease the pain of our suffering sisters and brothers in this time of great tragedy,

Fr. David Convertino, OFM
Executive Director – Office of Development
Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province

PRAYER AFTER THE STORM

Living God, our refuge and strength, even the wind and sea obey your voice.
Put the wind back in its place, and say to the sea: Peace! Be still!
Fill us with great faith, and save us from the surging waters their destruction
so that we may tell the good news of your saving love.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our hope and our salvation. Amen.

PRAYER IN A TIME OF DISASTER

Loving and Compassionate God, you are our comfort
and strength in times of sudden disaster, crisis, or chaos.
Surround us now, O Lord, with your grace and peace
through storm or winds, fires or floods.
By your Spirit, lift up those who have fallen,
sustain those who work to rescue or rebuild,
and fill us with the hope of your new creation;
through Christ, our rock and redeemer. Amen.

A Prayer for Hurricane Season

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 30, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

O God, Master of this passing world, hear the humble voices of your children.  The Sea of Galilee obeyed your order and returned to its former quietude; you are still the Master of land and sea.  We live in the shadow of a danger over which we have no control.  The Gulf, like a provoked and angry giant, can awake from its seeming lethargy, overstep its conventional boundaries, invade our land and spread chaos and disaster.  During this hurricane season, we turn to You, O loving God.  Spare us from past tragedies whose memories are still so vivid and whose wounds seem to refuse to heal with the passing of time.  O Virgin, Star of the Sea, Our Beloved Mother, we ask you to plead with your Son in our behalf, so that spared from the calamities common to this area and animated with a true spirit of gratitude, we will walk in the footsteps of your Divine Son to reach the heavenly Jerusalem where a storm-less eternity awaits us. Amen.

This prayer comes from BeliefNet.com, originally dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Audrey in 1957.

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Dating God Podcast #19 — Author Chris Haw

Posted in Dating God Podcast with tags , , , on October 26, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

This episode of the Dating God Podcast features author Chris Haw, who talks about his new book From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart: Rekindling my Love for Catholicism (Ave Maria Press, 2012). Chris, who identifies himself as a husband, father, carpenter, potter, and theologian, is also the founder of Camden House, an intentional community in Camden, NJ. From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart is both an engaging popular book that traces the milestones of Chris’s own experience of “returning” to the Catholic Church through his experiences of social justice, solidarity, prayer, and liturgy. Co-author with Shane Claiborne of the best-selling book Jesus for President, Chris has an excellent writing style that is sure to keep each reader engaged, while at the same time presenting some rather substantial theologically grounded insights and considerations.

Here’s what my endorsement blurb says in the book, to give you a feel for what I think of this excellent book:

In an accessible and intelligent way, Chris Haw presents us with the colorful fabric of his faith journey woven together with rich resources, inviting readers on a theological and spiritual adventure of action and contemplation. This book is perfect for those struggling to understand how they fit into the Church and world today, especially those young adults seeking to make sense of their faith in challenging times. — Daniel P. Horan, OFM, author of Dating God: Live and Love in the Way of St. Francis

Listen to the podcast online (streaming)

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (iTunes website)

Upcoming Talk in Boston

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 24, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

The Assumptionist Center, a community run by the Augustinians of the Assumption, hosts a monthly community event called Conversations at the Center that features a speaker who discusses some aspect of his or her work or ministry and then leads an informal discussion about that topic. I have the joy of being the speaker on Sunday November 4th. Asked to talk about Franciscan spirituality, the topic about which I’ll speaking is: “The Basics of Franciscan Spirituality: Prayer as Relationship.” Here is the description as advertised:

Francis of Assisi remains one of the most popular saints in all of Christian history, drawing admiration and providing inspiration for millions of Christians and non-Christians alike for more-than eight-hundred years. While most people are somewhat familiar with certain aspects of St. Francis’s history, experiences, and even writings, few are well-versed in what is generally called “Franciscan Spirituality.” Beginning with the life and writings of the poverello (“little poor man” from Assisi), the tradition of spirituality in the Franciscan family has grown and expanded over hundreds of years. What are some of the ways in which the insights, model, and tradition of the Saint from Assisi carry onward in those who would come after Francis in the following centuries? How might we benefit from this unique Franciscan Spirituality in our own lives of prayer, study, and ministry? This Conversation at the Center will focus on just a few elements of the rich tradition of Franciscan Spirituality for reflection and discussion, offering several basics that center on the Franciscan notion of prayer as relationship.

For more information, you can download this PDF information sheet. Hope to see you there!

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The Ministry of Relationship According to St. Francis

Posted in Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith, Franciscan Spirituality, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 23, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Francis’s way of being-in-the-world centered on following the example of Jesus Christ. Franciscan scholar Michael Blastic insightfully connects the humility of God that Francis recognized in the Incarnation and sought to emulate with God’s outward movement toward humanity. Once rooted in humility, God Incarnate – Jesus Christ – entered into relationships with the people around him.  All four Gospels recount the multitude of encounters Jesus had with many: the marginalized, outcast, wealthy, powerful, average, violent, peaceful, and so on.  Because he lived in such a perfect state of humble existence among his sisters and brothers, Jesus was able to meet those he encountered as they were and treat them with the inherent dignity rightly deserved by virtue of their humanity.  For Francis, this became a major component of his way of life and remains a characteristic of Franciscan ministry today.

While most of the preserved writings of Francis are letters, prayers, admonitions or ways of life addressed to large audiences, we have one letter that was written to a particular minister.  The identity of this brother remains anonymous, which at first causes frustration in an age full of people impatient for instant gratification; however, the anonymity of the recipient allows us to stand in his place as the receiver of wisdom from Francis concerning ministry.  The letter provides a touching look into the heart of Francis.  Francis is concerned about the attitude and disposition of his brother friar and instructs him:

I wish to know in this way if you love the Lord and me, His servant and yours: that there is not any brother in the world who has sinned – however much he could have sinned – who, after he has looked into your eyes, would ever depart without your mercy, if he is looking for mercy.

Mercy trumps retributive justice.  Relationship remains the primary hermeneutic for interpreting every encounter with another.  While in retrospect this sort of observation may at first appear obvious, it is only because our familiarity – if only subtly and indirectly – with Franciscan ministry informs our way of seeing.  However, this had not always been the case.  Franciscan historian Joseph Chinnici describes the early Franciscan movement as a radically new form of “penitential humanism.” Chinnici understands this term as the unifying tendency of the Franciscan movement to connect people amid “social discord and violence.”  This approach to ministry is one that places relationship and community above one’s personal faith journey and conversion.  In fact, one’s own conversion, if indicative of a Franciscan hue, should lead toward humanity and away from only one’s self. It is for precisely this reason that Francis insisted that the friars were to remain mendicants and not monks, to live as if the whole world were a cloister and not be limited to the four walls of private religious life.

A Franciscan approach to ministry is not simply a praxis of good method and skillful implementation of model practices; rather it is an ethical project that seeks to unite those who are separated by the violence of social, political, and ecclesial dissent. To further stress the importance of relationship as the operative approach to ministry, Francis often used familial terms in his writing.  In his Earlier Rule, Francis says, “Let each one love and care for his brother as a mother loves and cares for her son.” The familial understanding of relationship in the spirituality of Francis even extended beyond human relationships to include all of God’s creation as found in his most famous work, The Canticle of the Creatures, where he addresses all elements as brother or sister.  In an age of heightened ecological awareness the notion of relationship with the earth and the rest of creation can positively influence our approach to ministry.   We are called to minister to all with a deepened sense of our interdependence and relatedness as children of God and brothers and sisters of all God’s creation.

This is an excerpt from the chapter titled, “A Franciscan Way of Ministry,” in my new book Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith: Exploring Franciscan Spirituality and Theology in the Modern World (Tau Publishing, 2012). To read more, check out the book in Paperback and for the Amazon Kindle. 

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‘Catholic’ Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does

Posted in Huffington Post, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 21, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

The following article first appeared in The Huffington Post on Saturday, October 20, 2012.

If you were to ask a stranger on the street or the co-worker at the water cooler what first comes to mind when they hear the word Catholic, chances are good that you might get a response like “the Vatican,” “the Pope” or “the Mass.” If you were to press further, you might even get a response that comes from the colloquial use of the term according to the English dictionary: a synonym for “universal.” On the surface, both answers would be generally correct.

However, the origin of the word and its usage in Christianity for millennia suggests something quite different from what we might initially think. And what it really means has profound implications for what it means to be a Christian in the world and how we should conceive of being “church.”

In 1990 the now-late Jesuit scholar of English literature and philosophy, Walter Ong, S.J., wrote an essay for America magazine that responded to the perennial question for educators in Catholic institutions of higher education: How does such a school incorporate this nebulous concept “catholic identity” into its mission in a tangible way?

Ong’s contribution was to look at the meaning of the word catholic itself to get a better handle on the task at hand. What he revealed bears broader ramifications than simply helping Catholic colleges and universities develop their mission.

His insight should radically challenge our understanding of what it means to be a Christian (especially aCatholic Christian) in the world.

The centerpiece of his research is the etymology or origin of the word “catholic.” While we do commonly use it to mean “universal,” Ong points out that the Latin or Roman Church (as distinct from the Orthodox or Eastern Church) had a word for universal in Latin — universalis. Ong asked:

If “universal” is the adequate meaning of “catholic,” why did the Latin church, which in its vernacular language had the word universalis, not use this word but rather borrowed from Greek the term katholikos instead, speaking of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church (to put it into English) instead of the “one, holy, universal and apostolic church”?

Great question!

Ong explains that it has a theological and practical significance. The origin of “universal” in Latin likely comes from the two root-words unum (meaning “one”) and vertere (meaning “turn”). The image it evokes is something like an architect’s compass, which is used to make a circle around “one” central point.

Universal does bear a certain sense of inclusivity, for it gathers everything and everyone that is within the boundary of that line drawn around the circle. Yet, by virtue of the boundary or circle, it necessarily impliesexclusion for whatever and whoever falls outside of the “universal” line.

By contrast, katholikos comes from two Greek words: kata or kath (meaning “through” or “throughout”) and holos (meaning “whole”). This notion of “throughout-the-whole” carries no notion of boundary or lines drawn that demarcate those who are “in” and those who are “out.”

The point, Ong suggests, is that the life, ministry and preaching of Jesus of Nazareth also supports this notion of katholikos — “Catholic” — rather than a more exclusive notion of the church as “universal.” He points to Jesus’s very short parable of “the yeast” found in Matthew 13:33 (and Luke 13:21), in which Jesus likens the Kingdom or Reign of God to a woman who makes bread.

The Kingdom of God is said to be like the yeast that is added to flour and is found “throughout-the-whole” of the dough, building it up, not destroying or separating the flour, but becoming one-with, part-of, and mutually benefiting from and contributing to the life of bread.

Ong is quick to point out how non-colonial yeast is. In its own organic way, it inculturates and accepts the ingredients in which it finds itself. One can even take starter dough from one type of bread and add it to an entirely different type of flour and the yeast appropriates the form of its surrounding, and does not turn the new ingredients into a replica of itself.

Yeast, in its true catholicity and insofar as yeast can in its own way, does not seek conformity in this regard, but works with and celebrates the diversity of flour and ingredients it encounters.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how these two conceptualizations of “catholic” can inform and shape our understanding of what it means to be a Christian in the world.

The “universal” approach, one that draws lines and is inclusive only of those within a certain proximity to the “one point” around which the boundary is marked, is represented by those who are constantly concerned about who is in and who is out. Those who talk about the church as leaner, smaller, more “orthodox” are more likely to see boundaries between “the church” and “the world” as a good thing.

On the other hand, the “catholic” approach, one that recognizes the call for the enacting of the Reign of God “throughout-the-whole” of the world, sees the church as inclusive because it is to be found without separation from, but instead exists as part of the world and society. Those who talk about the church as in the world and not apart from it, follow in the pathway of the Second Vatican Council’s document Gaudium et Spes, “The Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the World.”

As we begin celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, this need to remember what the relationship of the church to the world is becomes especially important. There remains too much discriminatory and exclusive talk about the church in this “universal” key. Some church leaders have made it quite clear that they see “the world” (as if it were something apart from the church and the People of God that constitute the church) as a threat to Christianity. The implication is that we must re-inscribe the boundaries, literally encircle ourselves around a singular point, and exclude those who do not happen to fall, as it were, “in line.”

In an odd linguistic turn, perhaps what’s needed more than ever is for Christians of all sorts, but especially Roman Catholics, to become more catholic.

We need to see ourselves and understand our Church (which is the Body of Christ) as living and moving “throughout-the-whole,” as mutually building each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and as welcoming all with open arms as Jesus did.

[Daniel P. Horan, OFM's Huffington Post contributor page]

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Academic Papers, Public Lecture: Busy Weekend in the NYC Metro Area

Posted in Dating God Book, Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

For those who happen to be in the greater New York City metro area and Northern New Jersey, consider coming to some of the exciting things happening this weekend! On Saturday the Fordham University Theology Graduate Student Association is hosting a conference titled: “Sacred Topographies; or, Parks and Revelation” (full schedule below) at which I and two of my Boston College colleagues will present papers. The conference is being held at the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham (details here) and is open to the public, so if you’re interested in theology and happen to be in or around Manhattan, consider stopping in for all or part of it.

Also, on Sunday, I will be at St. Mary’s Church in Pompton Lakes, NJ, as part of their ongoing month-long celebration of Francis of Assisi. I will be celebrating and preaching at the 12 noon mass after which there is a public talk about my book Dating God: Live and Love in the Way of St. FrancisThere will also be books for sale (at a price cheaper than Amazon!), both Dating God and my latest book, Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith: Exploring Franciscan Spirituality and Theology in the Modern World. I will be signing copies for those who are interested.

While this weekend is sure to be a busy I hope to see many of you around!  And, as always, you can see my full schedule of speaking events at: DanHoran.com/events

Schedule of Fordham Conference

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20TH

9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
2012 Fordham Graduate Theology Conference
Fordham University, Lincoln Center campus

PANEL 1: Identity, Topography, and Local Particularity (9:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.)

1.”The Paradigm of Ghurbah – Shifting Topographies within the Turkish Muslim Immigrant Community in Germany”
Zeyneb Sayilgan, Georgetown University

2.”Ephesus as Contested Space: Mapping Religious, Economic, and Spatial Movement in Acts 19″
Christy Cobb, Drew University

3.”Sacred Rusticity: An Overture in Theology and Rural Topography”
Scott McDaniel, Dayton University

PANEL 2: Liturgical Space and the Topographies of Worship (11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.)

1.”Constructing the Kingdom: The Aesthetic Dimensions of Locating the Liturgy”
Brendan McInerny, Fordham University

2.”Filiation and Nostalgia at the Mosque of Cordoba”
Basit Iqbal, University of Toronto

3.”‘I am not leaving’: Our Lady, Sacred Space, and Catholic Visionary Culture”
Jill Krebs, Drew University

LUNCH BREAK 12:30 P.M. – 2:00 P.M

PANEL 3: Ruptured and Shifting Topographies (2:10 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.)

1.”Terror, Territorialism and the Cries of the Canaanite Victims: Towards a Postidealist Understanding of the Exodus Paradigm”
Eduardo Gonzalez, Boston College

2.”Throwing off the Cloak of Urban Fabric: A Spatial Analysis of Genesis 4:1-17″
Amy Beth W. Jones, Drew University

PANEL 4: Transgressed/Transgressive Topographies (3:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.)

1.”No Place for Damaged Bodies: Imagining the Kingdom of Heaven in the 4th and 5th Centuries”
Lindsey Mercer, Fordham University

2.”Be-ing on the Boundary: Re(Dis)-covering the Boundary Metaphor in Mary Daly’s Early Feminist Theological Anthropology”
Jessica Coblentz, Boston College

3.”Planetarity, Kinship and Ktiseology: Toward a Constructive and Postcolonial Franciscan Theology of Creation”
Daniel P. Horan OFM, Boston College

KEYNOTE ADDRESS (5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.)

Elizabeth Castelli, Professor and Chair of Religion at Barnard College

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Insightful NCR Interview with James Martin, SJ

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 18, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Over at the National Catholic Reporter, Sr. Camille D’Arienzo’s regular contribution features an interview this week with Jesuit priest and author James Martin, SJ. It’s a nice glimpse into the faith life and professional work of Fr. Jim. If you’re a fan of his writing or his presence as the official “Colbert Report Chaplain,” check this out.

Sr. Camille: Let’s begin with an ordinary question. What was your childhood like and where did you spend it?

Martin: Well, I had both an ordinary childhood and a happy one. I grew up in Plymouth Meeting, a small suburb outside of Philadelphia. These days, when I look back on my childhood, it seems almost magical, or at least something from “The Brady Bunch.” My parents provided a stable, happy home for my younger sister and me, and we had lots of friends in our neighborhood. I walked or rode my bike to elementary school and played in the woods near our house. And I loved school — all the way from kindergarten to high school. Looking back, I can see so many blessings from those days.

A few days ago, in fact, a friend sent me via Facebook a color snapshot of my friends and me playing during recess. There were five or six of us fifth-graders building a human pyramid, and I had a huge smile on my face. What an amazing thing to see! It reminded me once again of the way God blesses us all throughout our lives and how easy it is to forget these blessings. And, by the way, for those who condemn Facebook, that’s an example of how it led to a real grace in my life.

Did you have role models?

At that time, not really. I respected and loved my parents, but I didn’t have any sports heroes or fictional heroes I wanted to emulate. I had a Tom Seaver scrapbook but I never figured that I’d play for the Mets. And since I was living in Philly — and not New York — if I had wanted to, I wouldn’t have admitted it.

What were your career goals?

As a boy, I wanted to be an architect. I used to spend hours drawing houses and buildings. For a while, I drew for our junior high newspaper, and later for my college humor magazine. I laughed when I found out that Thomas Merton — who was my role model later on — had done the same.

What led you to the Jesuits?

Good question! In the end, I decided to study business at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and took a job at General Electric in New York City after graduation. I thought that going to Wharton would land me a good job, and it did. The problem was that the business world was a terrible fit for me, and I ended up being pretty miserable.

One night, in my fourth year at GE, I caught the tail-end of a TV documentary called “Merton: A Film Biography.” That hit me like a lightning bolt — here was something that I wanted to do. Of course I knew zero about religious life or the priesthood, but Merton’s way of life seemed a lot more attractive than what I was doing.

At the time I was living in Stamford, Conn. So I asked my parish priest about vocations and he said, “You should talk to the diocesan seminary, and you might as well contact the Jesuits up the road at Fairfield University.” Of course, I had no clue what a Jesuit was. But once I met the Jesuits, they just seemed “right” for me.

What lessons beyond academics enriched your formation?

There are, I think, two levels of formation. There is the visible level: the studies, the work one does in our ministries and apostolates, the communities in which one lives. Then there’s the invisible level, where God is forming you as through prayer and experience into the person God wants you to be. And I think I learned as much on the invisible level as the visible level.

Many of us can recognize some life-changing encounter or experience. Are there any that stand out in your experience?

The most important experience in my Jesuit life, besides the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, was the time I spent working in East Africa. After philosophy studies and before theology, Jesuits work full-time in a Jesuit ministry. My superiors sent me to work with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Nairobi, Kenya, where I spent two years with East African refugees, helping them start small businesses. It was the certainly best job I’ve ever had, and by far the most enjoyable. Interestingly, it put to use all those business skills I thought I’d left behind in Wharton and GE. God writes straight with crooked lines, as they say.

Essentially, we offered start-up grants to all sorts of refugee businesses. And these were people from all over East Africa: Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia. We had lots of women, for example, with a small sewing “business,” which usually consisted of their working over a Singer sewing machine in their shacks in the slums. And we sponsored men carving sculptures; other refugee groups ran a chicken farm, a bakery, a restaurant, a bookbindery, even a dairy farm. In time, we opened up a shop on the edge of slum in Nairobi that marketed their wares. I just loved that work. And I wrote about it in my very first book, This Our Exile. As a result, by the way, I know more than most Jesuits about sewing machines and chickens.

I often think that when I get to heaven and God asks me what I did, I won’t say, “I wrote this book or that book”; I’ll say, “I worked in Kenya.”

A few months ago, your column in America eulogizing the late Jesuit Fr. Vincent T. O’Keefe recalled with fondness his friendship with Pedro Arrupe, a former superior general of the order. What attracted you to these outstanding Jesuits?

Vinnie was someone I knew mainly as the superior of my community in New York. And I admired him not just for his storied past in the Society of Jesus (as the No. 2 man to the superior general), but for something simpler: his hospitality to guests and strangers. He was probably the most hospitable man I ever knew.

As for Father Arrupe, he’s one of my great heroes. Often he’s called the “Second Founder” of the Jesuits, since he guided the Society of Jesus during the period following the Second Vatican Council and, among other achievements, turned us more toward work with the poor. A great man — a saint really.

In the far distant future, what would you like your legacy to be?

My legacy? If after my death, people say, “He was a kind person and a good Christian,” I’ll be happy. If they read some of my books, I’ll be happy, too. But I hope I won’t be too worried about that in heaven!

When did you realize that your writing was both a gift and ministry?

Early on in Nairobi, I interviewed a remarkable Somali refugee who turned out to be a philosophy professor, which upended my narrow stereotypes about refugees. So I sent to America a straightforward interview, with no context, and they, not surprisingly, rejected it. Then I wrote back, “What’s wrong with it?” One editor politely told me what was wrong: It was too flat, simply the transcript of an interview. So I gave it more context and sent it back. It was rejected; I asked again; and they answered again. Finally, I paired the story of the Somali refugee with a visit I made to a refugee camp in Kenya (that is, two journeys: his and mine, in tandem) and it was accepted. When it was published, I was happy to have been able to share both stories. It was a wonderful moment, and started me thinking about writing more.

Who first encouraged you in this area?

After I returned from Kenya, Jesuit Fr. George Hunt, the editor of America at the time, offered me (through my provincial, of course) a job. He was a very kind and generous editor.

Would you share some of what assures you that your work helps others?

I’m lucky that during speeches and retreats, people will come up and express their thanks to me. But when you’re writing, you’re never 100 percent sure it will help others or if it’s just something that’s of interest only to you.

But I hope that if it does help others, it’s because I’m honest about my struggles in life and about my reliance on God. The authors I like best — Merton, Henri Nouwen, Kathleen Norris –are honest about their own faith journeys, and so I try to be as well. I also try to leaven things with some humor. There’s no reason for spirituality to be deadly serious.

With so many thousands purchasing your books and attending your lectures, what keeps you anchored in reasonable humility?

That’s easy: life! It also doesn’t take much effort to be humble when you live in a religious community and work in an office. In the first venue, I’m a Jesuit like anyone else, and I live with a great many impressive individuals — former university presidents, former provincials, editors, writers, teachers, theologians and high school presidents, so my work isn’t seen as more or less important than anyone else’s in the community, and that’s true. Community is the great equalizer. Plus, not everyone in my community follows the particular kind of work I do. So, for example, if I’m on “The Colbert Report,” they may not see it at all. All of that keeps you humble — like it or not.

In the second venue — work — I participate in meetings and so on and pitch in, so that keeps one humble. Plus, I’m a human being, so I’m well aware of my own faults, limitations and plain old sinfulness. And I have a body so I get sick from time to time; I have a mind so I worry; and I have feelings so they get hurt. So humility is not that hard.

To read the rest visit: “Despite popularity, Jesuit Priest, Author Puts Religious Life First.

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St. Francis and the Spirit of Humility

Posted in Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

When Francis started to work in God’s name, having renounced his worldly possessions and aspirations, he began to do penance and followed the Gospel as he felt led to by God. It was not long after Francis began living this new way of life that others came seeking to imitate his efforts and follow his manner of life in what Franciscan scholar Thaddée Matura calls the “Franciscan project.” This project, while initially devoid of an articulated course of development and not the intentional goal of Francis himself, quickly grew within Francis’s lifetime to include thousands of friars and hundreds of sisters. What attracted such a number to follow in the footsteps of this medieval man through the renunciation of property, the adherence to a life of obedience, and the voluntary adoption of chastity?

One element of the Franciscan project that emerged from the work of those who were with Francis was the radical adherence to subordinate positions in society. Those early followers of Francis saw the humility of a man who left behind the life of a wealthy merchant to live among lepers and outcasts. In his Earlier Rule, Francis instructed those who were to come after him where within the social strata they should strive to live. He says, “Let no one be called ‘prior,’ but let everyone in general be called a lesser brother. Let one wash the feet of the other.” Francis continued by enjoining his brothers to be “lesser ones” who should always “be subject to all.”

This spirit of humility acts as the foundation for all subsequent characteristics that compose a Franciscan approach to ministry. Francis was less concerned about what someone did in the world than about how someone did it. Here we see the saint’s admiration for the humility of Christ emerge as part of the centerpiece of his spirituality; to be a Franciscan is to live the Gospel by following in the footprints of Jesus Christ. Michael Blastic summarized this well when he wrote, “As Jesus turned toward those around him, so Francis and Clare in contemplation and compassion incarnate the praxis of Jesus as they follow him in their world by turning to those around them.” From the Incarnation and birth to death on the Cross, Jesus’ life served as Francis’s model for humble service.

Perhaps the most succinct articulation of Francis’s image of humble service is found in Admonition XIX. Here Francis says,

Blessed is the servant who does not consider himself any better when he is praised and exalted by people than when he is considered worthless, simple, and looked down upon, for what a person is before God, that he is and no more. Woe to that religious who has been placed in a high position by others and [who] does not want to come down by his own will. Blessed is that servant who is not placed in a high position by his own will and always desired to be under the feet of others.

Humility is a virtue of ministry, being of service to and among people, that Francis often reiterated in his writings. In addition to being a reoccurring theme in his Admonitions, humility becomes concretized as a constitutive characteristic of the Franciscan way of life when it appears three times in his Later Rule. In chapter III, we read, “I counsel, admonish and exhort my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ not to quarrel or argue or judge others when they go about in the world; but let them be meek, peaceful, modest, gentle and humble, speaking courteously to everyone, as is becoming.” Two chapters later in the same document, Francis exhorts his followers to, at all times, work humbly as a servant of God and a disciple of poverty. Toward the end of the Rule, Francis again reminds his followers that even amid persecution, hardship and infirmity, they are to have humility and patience while loving those who persecute them. Francis echoed the theme of humility at every opportunity because it was in this way that Christ served his brothers and sisters, and it was in this way that Francis desired to serve.

Matura makes a keen observation about the importance humility held for Francis’s way of life and the subsequent movement that emerged from his example. Matura believes that Francis was well aware of the temptation, perhaps within himself, for pastoral ministers to consider themselves better or above those whom they served. It is possible that his concern about friars judging others and seeking special privileges was rooted in his own experience as the son of a wealthy merchant, a well-off young man who was disgusted by lepers and people of lower social status. Regardless of Francis’s initial motivation, we are the inheritors of a vision that inspires ministers to always put others before themselves. In a world that is fraught with the promotion of self-centeredness and material accumulation, where even good-minded ministers are tempted to seek personal reward, a Franciscan approach to ministry rooted in humility remains a prophetic stance.

This is an excerpt from the chapter titled, “A Franciscan Way of Ministry,” in my new book Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith: Exploring Franciscan Spirituality and Theology in the Modern World (Tau Publishing, 2012). To read more, check out the book in Paperback and for the Amazon Kindle.

Photo: Stock

Michael Peppard’s NYT Op-Ed on Paul Ryan’s Catholicity

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 16, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Michael Peppard, a young theologian on faculty at Fordham University, offers a sharp and intelligent presentation of the complications that surround the catholicity of the vice presidential candidates. Spurred on by the novelty of having two Roman Catholic candidates for the second-highest political office in the United States of America and the contentious discussions that frequently arise concerning who is and who is not “a good Catholic” according to any given number of factors (most often, though not exclusively, involving abortion), Peppard draws readers’ attention to the lack of orthodoxy (as one might argue) concerning Ryan’s particular espousal of anti-abortion and economic policies.

But while Mr. Ryan’s vision for abortion policy is far more restrictive than current law, it is not the one advocated by the Catholic hierarchy. Along with Mr. Biden, he has joined the ranks of dissenting Catholic politicians, those who preserve a distance between nonnegotiable Catholic moral teaching and civil law.

The rest of the op-ed piece highlights the ways in which Ryan’s approach to the abortion issue as political does not authentically jive with Catholic moral teaching.

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, which candidate you chose in the polling station in November, or where you stand in your interpretation and execution of Church teaching on these moral issues, Peppard’s essay is sure to engender a lot of discussion and debate. Hopefully those who wish to enter the fray will do so respectfully and intelligently.

To read the whole piece online, go to: “Paul Ryan, Catholic Dissident.

Photo: Pool (from VP debate)
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