Archive for the Franciscan Spirituality Category

FMS World Care Annual Benefit and Celebration

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality with tags , , , , , on March 21, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

FMS_Image2014Every Spring, Franciscan Mission Service (FMS), a wonderful organization that provides training and support for lay missioners who serve from two to six years in various Franciscan placements around the world — e.g., Bolivia, South Africa, Zambia, and Kenya — hosts a fundraiser and celebration. The World Care annual benefit and celebration takes place in Washington, DC, and is set this year for 7:00pm on Friday April 11, 2014. Each year FMS honors a person who has demonstrated leadership in social justice, global transformation, and modeled the priorities of FMS. This year the honoree is Jack Jezreel, the founder of JustFaith Ministries. FMS also invites a keynote speaker to offer a reflection on the theme of that year’s event. The theme happens to be “Profoundly Changed: New Disciples for Peace, Justice, and Hope,” and the speaker is me.

It is an honor to be invited to be the keynote speaker at this event and humbling given the tremendous good work that FMS does at home and abroad. For those in the Washington, DC, area, I encourage you to consider coming to the benefit and celebration on April 11 or help out FMS in any way you are able. You can visit the website via the links above to learn more.

From the Spiritual Bookshelf

Posted in Book Review, Franciscan Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

One of the great unexpected perks of the type of ministry, both popular and academic, that I am engaged in is that frequently publishers and authors will share with you a variety of new books. Many times I experience the personal frustration of not being able to at least preliminarily explore some of the books that come through my mailbox or inbox before they land on an ever-growing real or virtue stack of “to be read” books. Working on several concurrent book and other writing projects, traveling as often as I do, serving the community in pastoral ministry, and completing a doctoral degree full time all unfortunately compete with my ability to mention some excellent and interesting new books with the speed and regularity I would ordinarily like. This is my feeble excuse for not talking about these three books as soon as would have liked (and the many others I hope to also get to at some point).

And so, rather than three individual reviews and comments, I thought I might offer something of a joint spiritual review of three books that have come across my desk in recent months, each from different authors with vastly different backgrounds, grounding their reflections in three different spiritual traditions.

Rooted in Love

91RYJ27ZhoL._SL1500_First on the list is Rooted in Love: Integrating Ignatian Spirituality Into Daily Life (New Voices, 2013). This book, written by the South African author Margaret Blackie, a scientist and spiritual director, offers an interesting look at Ignatian Spirituality. Grounded in accessible and personal experiences, Blackie’s approach to Ignatian Spirituality finds its origins in what Karl Rahner might describe as “everyday mysticism.” It might find itself stylistically in the same vein as Tim Muldoon’s The Ignatian Workout (2004) or Jim Martin, SJ,’s A Jesuit Guide to (almost) Everything (2012), as a text that seeks to make the Ignatian adage “Finding God in All Things” tangible for the modern reader. By and large, I believe that Blackie does this and does so in a unique way.

While one certainly learns about Ignatian Spirituality along the way, this book is less didactic than it is experiential. With the distinctive and expert style of a spiritual director, Blackie’s prose reads more like a conversation than it does a lecture, which is something someone on retreat or seeking to find a quiet retreat-like experience at home can appreciate. One feels like they get to know Blackie personally throughout the book, sharing with her the experiences of her own spiritual and life journey while also considering your own path. Each chapter includes reflection questions for further consideration, prayer, and possible discussion in a group setting.

For those who are already familiar with and are fans of Ignatian Spirituality, this is a good book to take another look at the tradition you embrace. If you are not as familiar, I think this is a helpful and comfortable way to get to know it better.

The Wandering Friar

9781625101815medNext on the spiritual shelf is a book written by a fellow Franciscan friar, John Anglin, OFM, titled The Wandering Friar: A Traveling Franciscan Preacher Looks at the Church Through the Stories of Its Members (Tate, 2013). This is a unique book. Rather than a straightforward narrative or expository text, Anglin’s book is a compilation of experiences, stories, and real-life parables collected from his many years on the road as a retreat leader and preacher. The book is divided into two parts. The first, “The Hand of God,” is the shorter and features his personal vocation story and the setup for how he became the wandering friar (which is also the title of his blog). Here we get the clearest introduction to and description of his whole project, which is mostly contained in the remaining portion of the book:

I hope to hold that mirror, as it were, before many members of the People of God that I have encountered over the years and before you, the reader, in the hope that you will see more clearly the Body of Christ that you receive in the Eucharist and that we truly are as the Church (51).

As you might tell from this brief excerpt, Anglin grounds his reflections as a Franciscan friar and traveling preacher in the rich theology of the church from Vatican II. Throughout the book, you get the sense that he understands — especially having lived through it — the significance of the Council and the importance understanding ourselves and the People of God in this light has for the ongoing reflection on what it means to be the Body of Christ. Additionally, as you might also note, this short except is reflective of another aspect of this book that might be welcomed or not by particular readers. Anglin’s style has an aural quality to it, which makes sense given that these are reflections of a preacher. He writes in a way that bears a resemblance to how we might hear his reflections. This is a stylistic observation, one that could potentially be frustrating for those looking to pick it up like another book, but perhaps interesting to those who can conjure the voice of an experience Franciscan sharing his story and the stories of those he has met aloud.

The second part of the book is the bulk of the text, a collection of stories and parables taken from the life of a itinerant preacher, taken from the experiences of many different people over the years. These are presented in such a way as to provide a different look at what we call “the church,” something that Anglin — rooted in good theology and Vatican II — continually reminds us is the Body of Christ and not just its leaders.

Atchison Blue

9781933495583.jpg.x625The last book on the spiritual shelf today is a real gem. Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, A Spiritual Home, and a Living Faith (AMP/Sorin, 2013) is a personal spiritual reflection written by the television journalist Judith Valente. The title, which caught my attention right away, comes from the color of the chapel glass found in the St. Scholastica Benedictine Monastery, where Valente’s faith journey finds its support and new life. This is a spiritual memoir of sorts that offers a glimpse and appropriation of a monastic way of living and praying from the vantage point of a modern-day professional. We are presented both with Valente’s journey, but also invited along the way to consider how we might embrace — regardless of social location, profession, and state of life — the Benedictine spiritual rhythm of ora et labor(prayer and work).

Not that one should judge a book by its cover, I feel like I have to say that this book — in its cover, in its French style, and in its rugged page cuts — is an attractive book and one that definitely drew me to it.

Valente’s book is something of an in-between text compared to Blackie’s and Anglin’s. Whereas Blackie gives a solid and direct presentation of Ignatian Spirituality from a personal and dialogical perspective and Anglin provides a collection of disparate and personal narratives, Valente presents the Benedictine tradition as experienced in her journey peppered with seemingly disparate, but nonetheless interesting, stories that bring the reader along with her on her assignments for PBS and other such adventures. It is something of an exitus and reditus flow of the ora et laborspirituality — one leaves the monastery to labor in the diverse fields of the world and returns to the monastery (real or analogous) to pray and recharge.

Valente is an excellent writer and the book takes little effort to settle in. I found myself moving smoothly along with her narration, interested in the first-person “behind-the-scenes” like story of her faith journey.

 

 

Are You Salt and Light?

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Homilies, Scripture, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

salt-and-lightI believe that one of the real challenges Christianity faces today is a widespread memory problem. For example, do you remember from what book this Sunday’s Second Reading was taken? Most people probably don’t, and while that’s a shame (and raises questions about how closely we are paying attention to the Word of God during liturgy), that’s not exactly what I’m referring to here.

The memory problem I’m thinking about has to do with how we are very quick to apply our own ideas and judgments of various Christian figures throughout history to them before we pause to recall — to listen — to what they are telling us.

Take, for instance, St. Francis of Assisi. Many are quick to mention a whole host of things they associate with the saint. But do they recall that he was stupid, an idiot, crazy, and unattractive? Now before you get too offended, you need to know that these were the descriptions that he himself, many of his fellow Assisi villagers, and the early biographers ascribed to him!

Francis viewed himself as one who was lesser and referred to himself as uneducated and simple, an idiot and stupid. The people who had known him from birth called him crazy as he began to change his life, some accounts even have young adults and others in Assisi jeering and spitting at him. His official biographers also described him as not particularly attractive and affirmed his less-than-impressive educational background.

The reason I bring this up is because it reflects something that is going on in the Second Reading this weekend very well. St. Paul similarly confesses to the Corinthians that he did not come to them nor does he preach elsewhere with any sort of personal charisma or eloquence. Rather, he insists, his whole mission is just to preach Christ crucified!

In the previous chapter of this Letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains how what he is preaching is “a stumbling block to Jews” (who maintain that their understanding of One God precludes the Incarnation) and “foolishness to Gentiles” (who see “divine” and “human,” let alone divine suffering, to be contradictory terms). Nevertheless, this is what we believe and it has important implications for how we should live and act in this world.

We have a memory problem because we way too often look back at those like St. Paul and the St. Francis and imagine that they were such amazing exceptions to the rule, such that we cannot relate to them or hold ourselves to similar standards. But the truth is, these guys were just two average people. Baptized, like you and me, they received the gifts of the Holy Spirit like the next person — like you and me — and actually lived this calling out.

Now we might be able to hold that some of these confessions of Paul and Francis are more about humility than they are about pure fact, but there is something very telling in their similar testimony.

This testimony is the lived witness they provided the world in following Jesus’s instruction to us in today’s Gospel. We are the salt of the earth, we are the light of the world — but do we believe it?

Paul and Francis were and remain lights in the world, figures we put up on the “lamp stand” (i.e., “pedestal”) to shine for all of Christianity. But we are called to do the same thing.

And this isn’t optional.

One way to read the “you are salt” business is to think of the optional flavoring dimension of salt. Want something more savory, add some salt. However, to draw on the metaphor that we are indeed the Body of Christ, every body needs salt to live; without it, we die.

I know this first hand. Many people know that I am a runner. I’ve run for many years, and I’m not too bad at it. Four years ago I was running a 15k Road Race (about 9.3 mi), and as I ran past mile 9, with about 0.2 miles left to go, I collapsed out of nowhere. All I remember is seeing the finish line off in the distance and then waking up in an emergency medical tent only to then be taken to hospital where I stayed for two days.

I was dehydrated and my electrolytes, including most importantly salt, were way out of whack. It was serious and scary, but I came through ok. That never happened before nor has it happened since, but it is a testament to how fragile our bodies are and how important salt is in our system.

We are the salt of the Body of Christ — it cannot live without us. We need to live in such a way as to preach the Gospel of Christ with our words and deeds. But what does that look like?

This is where our First Reading comes into view. The Prophet Isaiah tells us:

Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
your vindication shall go before you,

This is what it means to be salt and light in the world, to be like Paul and Francis, to bring hope and joy to a world that experiences pain and suffering. But are we up to the task? Can we answer positively to our Baptismal vocation? Are we willing to come across as foolish, or stupid, or odd, or different in the way we live in the world?

Photo: Stock

Public Lecture and C21 Resource

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Prayer with tags , , , , , , on January 27, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Horan_lectureI want share an update about an upcoming event in the Boston area that is free and open to the public. I have been invited to give a lecture at Boston College as part of the Church in the 21st Century Center’s 2014 series of events. The series includes other speakers such as Rowan Williams, Cardinal Walter Kasper, Alice McDermott, M. Shawn Copeland, Richard Gaillardetz, among others. I certainly do not deserve to appear on the same webpage let alone event schedule as they do, but I’m happy to spread the word as best I can about all the events this Spring.

The lecture, titled “Dating God: Intimacy, Prayer, and Franciscan Spirituality,” will take place on Thursday February 20, 2014 at 5:30pm (more information available here).

Additionally, the Church in the 21st Century  publishes a very helpful resource for exploring faith, spirituality, and the Catholic Christian tradition twice a year. The magazine, C21 Resources, is available free online, free subscriptions and print copies can be ordered through the C21 website too.

The current issue, “Intimacy and Relationships in Catholic Life,” edited by Lisa Sowle Cahill and Kerry Cronin, includes a number of essays from a wides selection of authors. You kind find a short essay by me in the issue titled, “The Intimate Journey of Relationship with God.”

I haven’t shared too many schedule updates of this sort, but I’ll try to be better about doing so (a number of people have been asking that I send more notices out). In the meantime, you can always visit: http://danhoran.com/events/ for the latest information on lectures, retreats, and other events.

Francis, Franciscans, and The New Yorker

Posted in America Magazine, Franciscan Spirituality, Pope Francis, Social Justice with tags , , , , on January 21, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

friars-in-habits-giving-out-bread-in-front-of-sfa-nyc1There was a certain amount of understandable pride that I experienced when I saw a well-known ministry of my Franciscan province featured in the eminent pages of the most-recent issue of The New Yorker (January 20, 2014). The brief profile of the ministry and its director appeared in the front “Talk of the Town” section, titled: “Dept. of Kindness: Breadline.” But what struck me more than the gratitude that a renowned publication, and one not always intuitively hospitable to religious subjects, might report on the good work the Franciscan friars have done and are doing in midtown Manhattan was an almost passing reference to the “Francis Effect” that appears buried within the descriptive narrative Ian Frazier offers of the morning breadline routine.

After noting such details as the longstanding presence of the St. Francis of Assisi Church’s breadline ministry – “The breadline has existed since September, 1930, and is the oldest continuously operated breadline in the United States” – and the colorful presentation of the breadline’s current director, Fr. Paul Lostritto, OFM (literally colorful: “Some friars prefer leather sandals, but Father Paul’s were orange Crocs”), Frazier points to a recent addition to the cadre of breadline volunteers:

“As the line continued past the coffee urns, it was met by Sikhs who were giving out bags of fresh fruit.  The Sikhs, from Long Island, had read about Pope Francis in the news, admired him, and looked up information about the saint whose name he had taken. ‘We like very much what we learn about St. Francis,’ Baldev Srichawla, one of the Sikhs, told a bystander. ‘He was not a lavish person. He lived humbly and cared for the poor, and we Sikhs believe in helping the needy. When we found out about this church named after him, we wished to participate in this food line, too.’”

This little paragraph is what has stayed with me the most about this short New Yorker report. Those who still doubt the so-called “Francis Effect” might have a difficult time explaining away the first-person narrative of a small community of Long Island Sikhs that have been so inspired by Pope Francis and his medieval namesake.

One thing that Frazier doesn’t mention, and understandably so given the limited focus and scope of a “Talk of the Town” piece, is that St. Francis of Assisi was also instrumental in reshaping Christian interreligious dialogue in his time, such that it has continued to impact the way women and men of all faith traditions (or of none at all) have come together, collaborated on projects of good will, and sought to genuinely understand one another.

Francis of Assisi, after returning from the now-famous peaceful encounter with Sultan Malek al-Kamil in Damietta, Egypt, around 1219 during the Fifth Crusade, instructed his brother friars when going among Muslims or other non-Christians to live “spiritually among them” and “not to engage in arguments or disputes but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake” (Regula non bullata, Ch. XVI). It is for this reason that Pope John Paul II called a multitude of religious leaders from all around the world to Assisi in October 1986 for an interreligious prayer service for peace.

Pope Francis continues to live up to his name, inspiring the peaceful coming together of people of all traditions. Not only are the poor, the marginalized, the overlooked, the disenfranchised, and the forgotten now on the social radar and consciences of more people – Christians and non-Christians alike – but in the spirit of the Saint from Assisi, this Bishop of Rome seems to be truly inspiring interreligious community and cooperation.

Daniel P. Horan, OFM is a Franciscan friar of Holy Name Province, a columnist at America magazine, and the author of several books including the new The Last Words of Jesus: A Meditation on Love and Suffering (2013).

This post also appeared on America magazine’s website.

Photo: HNP

Pope Francis on the Feast of Saint Francis

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Pope Francis with tags , , , , on October 4, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

131004-pope-tomb-730a.photoblog600A Blessed Feast of St. Francis to all! Here is the prepared homily of Pope Francis in Assisi for the solemnity of the Saint from Assisi after whom the current Bishop of Rome has taken his name.

I give you thanks, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to babes” (Mt 11:25).

Peace and all good to each and every one of you! With this Franciscan greeting I thank you for being here, in this Square so full of history and faith, to pray together.

Today, I too have come, like countless other pilgrims, to give thanks to the Father for all that he wished to reveal to one of the “little ones” mentioned in today’s Gospel: Francis, the son of a wealthy merchant of Assisi. His encounter with Jesus led him to strip himself of an easy and carefree life in order to espouse “Lady Poverty” and to live as a true son of our heavenly Father. This decision of Saint Francis was a radical way of imitating Christ: he clothed himself anew, putting on Christ, who, though he was rich, became poor in order to make us rich by his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). In all of Francis’ life, love for the poor and the imitation of Christ in his poverty were inseparably united, like the two sides of a coin.

What does Saint Francis’s witness tell us today? What does he have to say to us, not merely with words – that is easy enough – but by his life?

1. His first and most essential witness is this: that being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus; it means putting on Christ, being conformed to him.

Where did Francis’s journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus. With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life for us and draws us to himself. Francis experienced this in a special way in the Church of San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross which I too will have an opportunity to venerate. On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate, a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death. When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become “a new creation”. Everything else starts with this: the experience of transforming grace, the experience of being loved for no merits of our own, in spite of our being sinners. That is why Saint Francis could say with Saint Paul: “Far be it for me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to remain before the cross, to let the crucified Christ gaze upon us, to let ourselves be forgiven, and recreated by his love.

2. In today’s Gospel we heard these words: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:28-29).

This is the second witness that Francis gives us: that everyone who follows Christ receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the world cannot give. Many people, when they think of Saint Francis, think of peace; very few people however go deeper. What is the peace which Francis received, experienced and lived, and which he passes on to us? It is the peace of Christ, which is born of the greatest love of all, the love of the cross. It is the peace which the Risen Jesus gave to his disciples when he stood in their midst and said: “Peace be with you!”, and in saying this, he showed them his wounded hands and his pierced side (cf. Jn 20:19-20).

Franciscan peace is not something saccharine. Hardly! That is not the real Saint Francis! Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos… That is not Franciscan either; it is a notion some people have invented! The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who “take up” their “yoke”, namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart.

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to be “instruments of peace”, of that peace which has its source in God, the peace which Jesus has brought us. francis

3. “Praised may you be, Most High, All-powerful God, good Lord… by all your creatures (FF, 1820). This is the beginning of Saint Francis’s Canticle. Love for all creation, for its harmony. Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created, and that men and women are called to safeguard and protect, but above all he bears witness to respect and love for every human being. God created the world to be a place where harmony and peace can flourish. Harmony and peace! Francis was a man of harmony and peace. From this City of Peace, I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love: Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction! Let us respect each human being. May there be an end to armed conflicts which cover the earth with blood; may the clash of arms be silenced; and everywhere may hatred yield to love, injury to pardon, and discord to unity. Let us listen to the cry of all those who are weeping, who are suffering and who are dying because of violence, terrorism or war, in the Holy Land, so dear to Saint Francis, in Syria, throughout the Middle East and everywhere in the world.

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Obtain for us God’s gift of harmony and peace in this our world!

Finally, I cannot forget the fact that today Italy celebrates Saint Francis as her patron saint. The traditional offering of oil for the votive lamp, which this year is given by the Region of Umbria, is an expression of this. Let us pray for Italy, that everyone will always work for the common good, and look more to what unites us, rather than what divides us.

I make my own the prayer of Saint Francis for Assisi, for Italy and for the world: “I pray to you, Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies: Do not look upon our ingratitude, but always keep in mind the surpassing goodness which you have shown to this City. Grant that it may always be the home of men and women who know you in truth and who glorify your most holy and glorious name, now and for all ages. Amen.” (The Mirror of Perfection, 124: FF, 1824).

Photo: AFP/Getty

Pope Francis: Living Up to the Name?

Posted in America Magazine, Franciscan Spirituality, Pope Francis, Social Justice with tags , , , , , on September 30, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

03800364This post originally appeared today on America magazine’s “In All Things.”

Shortly after Pope Francis was elected the Bishop of Rome, I wrote in these pages about the significance of the name “Francis” as it comes from St. Francis of Assisi (“What’s in a Name?”). In light of the six-month mark of his pontificate and the unprecedented interview given in August and published earlier this month, it seems fitting to revisit some of the themes that are so importantly tied to the name Francis to consider how the pope may or may not be living up to the name. In other words, while there have been many excellent commentaries on the interview and the six-month pontificate, there hasn’t been much explicit discussion about the courageous decision to take the name after the Poverello, the most famous saint in Christian history. So here are a few thoughts from a Franciscan contributor to America.

There were three overlooked yet significant themes about the legacy of St. Francis that I named in the April article: The renunciation of power, reform with love for the church, and peacemaking that included proper love for creation.

As far as the renunciation of power is concerned, Pope Francis discusses his “experience in church government” in the America interview. There is a sense of humility that deserves recognition in Pope Francis’s acknowledgment that he has made many mistakes in the past. “My style of government as a Jesuit at the beginning had many faults.” Furthermore, he believes that he has learned from his mistakes, stating: “Over time I learned many things. The Lord has allowed this growth in knowledge of government through my faults and my sins…I believe that consultation is very important.”

It appears, through concrete actions and manner of living, Pope Francis has embraced a more collaborative, consultative, and humble approach to leadership. Rather than offering leadership “from above,” he reaches out for advice and assistance when pontiffs of the past preferred to appear to make decision unilaterally. Although no one can ever truly “renounce power,” especially given certain circumstances tied to one’s social location (it’s hard to be an average person when you’re nevertheless still the pope), the decision to eschew so many of the trappings– symbolic and concrete alike – of an antiquated and monarchical pontificate seems to suggest a positive effort to follow in the footprints of the Saint after whom he is now named.

It is clear that Pope Francis loves the church. What sort of reformer he will be remains unseen in the full, but there are glimpses that suggest a way of moving forward that bears a reflection of St. Francis’s way of being. Take his advocation of “thinking with the church,” an Ignatian concept from the Spiritual Exercises, in the America interview earlier this month. There is a connection between his preferential consideration of the church as the “People of God” (Lumen Gentium no. 12 and passim) and reform in terms of church discipline and doctrine (for more on this, see Richard Gaillardetz’s commentary in NCR, “Francis Wishes to Release Vatican II’s Bold Vision from Captivity”).

For example, he says: “Thinking with the church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people [of God]. And all the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief, and the people display thisinfallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing, through a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together.” Following his love of the church, which is the People of God or all the baptized, the pope seems to gesture toward the possibility of a deeper, renewed, and unfolding sense of our faith that can be better understood in time and together.

Finally, his consistent reiteration of the need for the church and world to turn its attention to the poor and those at the margins is emblematic of what it means to be a peacemaker in the spirit of St. Francis. The poor man from Assisi let nothing get in the way of his embracing his sisters and brothers. Pope Francis, perhaps more clearly than in any other aspect of Christian discipleship, has modeled this in word and deed.

However, what remains to be seen is how the Bishop of Rome will encourage women and men of faith and all people of good will to renew their understanding of their right relationship with the rest of creation. Will he draw on the Franciscan theological and spiritual vision of kinship with all of the created order, rooted as it is in Scripture and the tradition? Will he help us to see that, like Leonardo Boff’s famous book by a similar title suggests, the cry of the earth is inextricably tied to the cry of the poor? Time will tell.

In the meantime, six-months in office as the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis seems to be living up to the name “Francis” as best as one might expect so far. There is a lot that can still (and should) be done, and I believe much more will be revealed when his next Encyclical Letter, which rumored to be on the theme of poverty, is published.

Photo: Wire

Saint Francis, Pope Francis, and The Gospel

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Pope Francis, Scripture, Social Justice with tags , , , , , , on September 22, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Italy Vatican Pope

I think it’s fair to say that today’s off-script remarks in Cagliari, Sardinia, represents one of the most “Franciscan” actions of his pontificate so far. Reuters reports:

Francis, at the start of a day-long trip to the Sardinian capital, Cagliari, put aside his prepared text at a meeting with unemployed workers, including miners in hard hats who told him of their situation, and improvised for nearly 20 minutes.

“I find suffering here … It weakens you and robs you of hope,” he said. “Excuse me if I use strong words, but where there is no work there is no dignity.”

He discarded his prepared speech after listening to Francesco Mattana, a 45-year-old married father of three who lost his job with an alternative energy company four years ago.

What makes this so Franciscan? Well, it has to do with the overlap of Pope Francis’s understanding about the Gospel notion of the dignity and value of the human person, his critique of current systems of economic degradation, and the Gospel readings for this Sunday.

Saint Francis’s preaching and way of life (i.e., his “deeds”) centered on a response to the emerging money economy of his medieval time. Already in the 13th Century Francis saw what has become so extreme today: the valuation of human persons — their time, their talents, their lives — in terms of wealth and money. He knew that this was not God’s intention, but something insidious that was capturing the imaginations and speaking to the greedy hearts of his contemporaries. If only he knew how bad things would get eight-hundred-years later!

Later in the day, Pope Francis spoke during Mass, echoing the prescient words of the medieval saint after whom the modern pontiff took his name:

“We don’t want this globalised economic system which does us so much harm. Men and women have to be at the centre (of an economic system) as God wants, not money.”

“The world has become an idolator of this god called money,” he said.

How timely this critique and call to action really is today! In all three of our readings for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary time we hear proclaimed the Wisdom of God in indicting and challenging ways.

The first reading, from the Book of the Prophet Amos — one of the twelve minor prophets in Hebrew Scriptures best known for scathing critique of social injustice — decries those in authority who exercise their power in such a way as the benefit at the expense of the least among the community.

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy
and destroy the poor of the land!
“When will the new moon be over,” you ask,
“that we may sell our grain,
and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?
We will diminish the ephah,
add to the shekel,
and fix our scales for cheating!
We will buy the lowly for silver,
and the poor for a pair of sandals;
even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”
The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Never will I forget a thing they have done!
(Amos 8: 4-7)

The ancient prophet’s words really speak for themselves. They traverse the divide of time, space, and culture to strike at the ears and hearts of women and men in our day — but do we listen? Do we take this seriously?

The Second Reading from the First Letter to Timothy is significant for at least two reasons. First, prayers are requested for the conversion of the “kings and all in authority” so that they might prioritize prayer, tranquility, peace, and justice over their other preoccupations — presumably with power. Second, there is the affirmation that God desires “everyone be saved” and that Christ Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all.” This is striking especially for those who want to form an “elite” church and vision of salvation. That is not God’s plan, that is a human misrepresentation and distortion that reflects selfishness and exclusivity unknown in the Gospel.

Finally, today’s Gospel summarizes the major theme of the Christian life this weekend with the line: “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” Or, for those who aren’t familiar with that term, put more simply: You cannot serve both God and money!

How do we orient our lives? Do we prioritize our own wealth and live according to the norms of a capitalistic culture that values human beings according to dollar signs and the accumulation of material goods? Or do we, hearing the cry of the poor (Psalm 34) through the proclamation of the Gospel in the exhortation of Pope Francis and in the example of Saint Francis, live following in the footprints of Christ Jesus in working for a just world?

Photo: Wire

Exciting New Franciscan Book Now Available!

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Spirit and Life with tags , , , , , , , on September 19, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

SLCover_2013Even as I’m out of town to record the audio version of another of my forthcoming books, I’m delighted to share with all of you the exciting news that a collaborative project between my friend and campus minister Julianne E. Wallace and me has just been released! This book, Spirit and Life: A Franciscan Guide for Spiritual Reflection, is the result of many years of research, development, and trial uses “in the field” with campus ministry groups, parishes, and individuals, this Franciscan guide for spiritual reflection is the first of its kind and has already been incredibly well received! Below you’ll find more information as well as advance praise for Spirit and Life from college campus ministers, non-profit organization leaders, and experts in the areas of social justice and ministry. Currently, the book is available from Amazon.com, but within the next few weeks it will be available at Barnes & Noble, from your local bookstore, and through the major book distributors. Check this exciting new resource out today!!

Spirit and Life: A Franciscan Guide for Spiritual Reflection
(Koinonia Press, 2013)
co-authored with Julianne E. Wallace
ISBN: 978-0615781167
Paperback: 118 pages
List Price: $6.99

Book Description

In Spirit and Life you will discover a book that is a reflection guide, a personal journal, an inspirational collection of prayers, and a scriptural resource rooted in Franciscan spirituality and theology. Designed to highlight the spirituality of solidarity that grounds the Christian faith and guides the Franciscan tradition, Spirit and Life is the first tool of its kind! It is a guide for spiritual reflection perfect for students, parishioners, and individuals seeking to deepen their faith, discern God’s call in their lives, and faciliate discussion about the experience of direct service and immersion trips. This book is intended for use by facilitators and participants alike, everything you need in one place!

Where to Purchase the Book (and available formats)

From Amazon.com [Paperback]

From Barnes & Noble [Paperback]

And wherever books and other media are sold! Ask your local bookseller to stock it today!

Editorial Reviews

Spirit and Life is great gift to all those who facilitate immersion experiences. Those new to the work will benefit from the theologically sound, sequential, tested, and thoroughly adaptable structure; experienced practitioners will be blessed by the rich collection of prayers, Scripture readings, reflection questions, and thoughtfully selected texts from the Franciscan tradition. Spirit and Life is an extraordinary resource. It will serve as a significant contribution to this important work for years to come.”
— MICHAEL LOVETTE-COLYER, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President and Director of University Ministry, University of San Diego

Spirit and Life is an invaluable resource for any minister leading service experiences. It masterfully uses scripture to help participants connect the life of Christ to their experiences and threads Franciscan spirituality throughout in a gentle, inviting, and utterly compelling way.”
— SUSAN HAARMAN, Faith and Justice Campus Minister, Loyola University Chicago

“This resource is a rich, compelling, and eminently usable guide for any ‘pilgrim’ on an immersion-style experience. The authors offer the Franciscan tradition as a powerful framework for an encounter with poverty, an experience of service, or simply a journey in community. I have no doubt that many students (and teachers alike!) will benefit from the rituals, reflections, and challenging questions found in this guide to the spirituality of solidarity.”
— DAVID GOLEMBOSKI, Chair of the Board, Witness for Peace

“Dan and Julianne provide us with a unique creation: a process for people in any experience, meeting each person where he or she is, fostering prayerful reflection, inviting growth, and leading to solidarity. This resource encourages making immersion experiences more than a onetime encounter. Here, the value of integrating immersion experiences into our lives is celebrated and demonstrated to bolster relationships with God and with those once considered ‘Other’ now known to be Sister and Brother.”
— KATIE SULLIVAN, Executive Director, Franciscan Volunteer Ministry

“Horan and Wallace provide a simple, but inclusive method for spiritual reflection in the Franciscan tradition. The text, intended for college-age students who have participated in or will participate in a period of immersion in impoverished areas, provides a very usable format to internalize the lived experience. Each reflection includes quiet and community prayer, both a scripture reading and a reading from the Franciscan sources as well as time and space for written reflection and group sharing.”
— SR. MARGARET KLOTZ, O.S.F., Director of the Franciscan Center, Cardinal Stritch University

Spirit and Life is something that every campus minister should not only have on their shelves but use for every service experience they plan. As someone who created a reflection guide for a weekend service trip I know how important it is to have theological reflection as a part of every service experience no matter what the age of the participants. Now I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I will gladly and enthusiastically use this guide and buy it for all my college students.  Spirit and Life will be a resource and time capsule of each experience that I take with my college students. And for young adults, it will be something they will return to again and again. It will remind them of the experience they had and also of how they felt and where God was in the midst of it all. St. Francis is so accessible to people so even those that do not have a background in Franciscan Studies as I do will appreciate and come to know more about this popular saint.  A true gem. “
— COURTNEY HULL, Campus Minister, Mansfield University

Recording Audio Version of New Book

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, The Last Words of Jesus with tags , , , on September 18, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Horan_cover_draft2013I’ll be on the road for the next few days recording the audiobook for a new book of mine that comes out in December titled, The Last Words of Jesus: A Meditation on Love and Suffering. In the next few months I’ll share more information about this book as we get closer to its release date. This is the second time so far that I’ve had the experience to record the audio version of one of my books and, as other authors who are asked by their publishers to read their own books for the audio versions can tell you, it is not easy. It looks easy: sit in a room and read your book to yourself out loud. But it isn’t. The experience last time, when I recorded Dating God: Live and Love in the Way of St. Francis, was an incredibly humbling venture. It’s difficult to read well, consistently, without goofing up or tripping over your words, and for hours on end. There is something disconcerting about being in a sound-proof room alone with only the words you had written for print before you, a microphone to record that vulnerable editorial offering, and the knowledge that in another room is a team of engineers and producers listening to every syllable you say and pause you make. It gave me a lot of respect for those women and men who do this sort of thing professionally. Wish me luck and keep me in prayer — hopefully, this will be as painless as possible!

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