The Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality with tags , , , , , on September 17, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

stigmata of francisToday is the Feast of St. Robert Bellarmine (d. 1621), the important Jesuit bishop and theologian. Or is it?

With all respect to my Jesuit brothers and the universal church, for whom today is the memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, the worldwide Franciscan family celebrates the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis each September 17. It has always struck me as an awkward celebration, at least after first glance. It would appear that Franciscans the world over are celebrating five wounds, celebrating the pain and suffering the we know accompanies what is sometimes billed as a great grace or gift from Christ. And it remains awkward and even weird if we remain fixated on the crucifixion wounds that appeared on Francis’s body.

But this feast day actually has little to do with these wounds as such.

Rather, the Feast of the Stigmata, at least theologically, is a much more complex and robust celebration. What we see when we take a closer look beyond the disputed history of hagiography and medical inquiry (numerous studies have been written about the veracity of the Stigmata accounts, most recently Solanus Benfatti’s book, The Five Wounds of Saint Francis [2011]), is not a question of what appeared on the outside of the Poverello, the poor man from Assisi. Instead, we are invited to look more carefully inside, to the interior life of a Christian disciple who wished nothing more than to follow in the footprints of Christ.

In his conclusion, Benfatti writes:

It is essential to comprehend that Francis had never thought to pick and choose aspects of the life of Christ to dress himself up in, but rather had chosen something that I would say is much harder because there is far less control in it: he had chosen, simply, to follow. Francis chose to move forward step-by-step in the footprints of the Lord, which I say is dangerous, because who can know where it will lead? (236, emphasis original).

This is at the heart of the Feast — a recognition that what appeared externally on Francis’s body was reflective of his interior conformity to the lived example of Jesus Christ.

So often we are people who judge from the exterior — how someone dresses, how or what someone speaks, where someone lives, what someone does, and so on. Yet, as the Scriptures continually remind us, God judges what is inside and in our hearts. The Feast of the Stigmata is a celebration of a Christian life lived as fully and authentically as possible. The ‘grace’ that was given to Francis was not some random burden or some freak sideshow illness, it is a visual and corporeal representation of what only God can typically see — a baptized man who lived as fully as he could bearing the resemblance of Christ.

On this feast day, I invite all people — Franciscans and others alike — to look within, see how each of us does or does not bear the marks of Christ in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Perhaps we won’t receive the marks of Christ in the form of five wounds, but we could certainly — and should certainly — make visible the presence of Christ in every other way.

Happy Feast Day!

Photo: File

The Memory of 9/11: An Anniversary Reflection and Christian Response

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

The following is an excerpt from my essay, “A Franciscan Millennial and the Memory of 9/11,” which appears in the book, Franciscan Voices on 9/11 (Franciscan Media, 2011), and is now available for the Amazon Kindle. The book also includes essays from Richard Rohr OFM, Joe Nangle OFM, Mike Guinan OFM, and others.

Approaching the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we are called to remember, commemorate and mourn. Each of these practices is an engagement with memory. The first (remember) is to “call to mind,” to “bring forward” a concept or experience. This “thing-to-call-to-mind” can be positive or negative, but it remains in the past or in the realm of the imagination. The second (commemorate) is a communal engagement, to remember with others usually in a public way. The third (mourn) is to bring to mind in order to let go or reconcile. But what is this memory that we are asked to engage?

In one sense it is a very subjective reality. So much of my memory is cast, edited, recast, forgotten and so on by “me.” Yet, there remain public or shared factors that inform much of a memory I claim as my own. The constant repetition of “the story of 9/11” in the news, in political-campaign speeches, from sermon pulpits and around the patriotic hearth of American households seems to convey a sense of objective truth that “this story” is “the story.” However, this is not the case.

So much of the shaping of this memory has been done by language that is constricted by the discourse of American nationalism and vengeance. It is a memory of attack and violence that has been crafted to justify the retributive action of the United States across the globe. Two wars, thousands of deaths, trillions of dollars and lost civil liberties later, one must only allude to 9/11 to justify violence, discrimination and abuse. As such, the memory of 9/11 becomes not a token of solemn reflection fit for remembrance, commemoration or mourning, but a pawn in the game of global power.

Recently I was eating lunch with some other Franciscan friars and two employees who work for the friars in Albany. Having just returned from an academic conference in another part of the country, I shared my frustration about the loss of civil liberties exemplified in the highly invasive procedures of airport security. One of the employees said she would rather feel violated (as I had that week) and be open to further restrictions in order to “be safe.” When I and some others at the table explained that studies often show such actions are simply theatrical and reactionary and in fact were not making anybody safer, she admitted that either way she would support the surrender of her rights. Her memory has been so shaped by the popular language of the possible and the collective narratives of violence that she could not see the contradiction inherent in sacrificing one’s rights to “protect” these very same rights.

This memory is highly selective. The images and emotions evoked by the way people discuss 9/11 perpetuates the belief that “justice” means vengeance and “peace” is attainable only by a war on terror. This sort of rhetoric draws on religious symbolism, blatantly contradicting the core of Christian belief, which so many of those who willingly capitulate to this narrative claim as their own. If the memory of 9/11 were not limited to the language of the possible, more people might see that what we passed off as “the memory of 9/11” is really just a tiny sliver of the fuller story. Its use has not been to authentically remember, commemorate or mourn a tragedy, but to perpetuate injustice and violence in our world.

The 13th-century Franciscan saint, theologian and doctor of the church, St. Bonaventure, explains that memory is not only shaped by our own experience and the influences of the community, but it can be informed and shaped “from above” by those things that cannot be perceived through our senses. In other words, our memory also can be affected by the divine light of God, illuminated and made clear through the Spirit. What the selective memory of 9/11 has done is preclude the memory of the tragedy from receiving the light of God. Instead, it remains in the shadow of worldly wisdom. St. Paul reminds us how Christians are to approach the wisdom of the world.

Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demanded signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:20-25, NRSV).

A Christian response to worldly wisdom, to the factors of popular, civil and political influence on memory, is to question what at first might seem wise and appropriate in order to allow God to illuminate the true wisdom.

St. Paul and St. Bonaventure challenge the conventional notion of the memory of 9/11 by reminding us to examine what has shaped and informed it. Is this how God sees what happened on 9/11? Is this how Jesus Christ would respond after such an event?

To speak with a Franciscan voice, to remember, commemorate and mourn as one who lives the gospel would, we must be willing to step back and challenge the individual and collective memory of that fateful day ten years ago. We must be willing to ask about what factors have come together to produce the story that is passed along as the memory, challenging the conventional wisdom as Jesus himself had. “You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). Though to many a Franciscan voice will sound foolish, it is nevertheless rooted in the wisdom of God.

To read the full text and other essays on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, read Franciscan Voices on 9/11 (Franciscan Media, 2011).

Photo: Stock

The Prophetic Burden

Posted in Homilies, Scripture, Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 31, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

seeking godJeremiah never wanted to be a prophet. That much he makes very clear. From the opening scene in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah onward, this young man does his best — as do the prophets that came before and would come after him — to avoid the responsibility and call that God has placed before him. What we get in this short snippet in today’s first reading (Jer 20:7-9) is just one reminder of the fact that this guy did not ‘sign up’ for the job.

What we encounter at the beginning of the passage is Jeremiah in the middle of a serious lament. He is upset, which might be an understatement, that his preaching has led to personal ridicule, no one will take him seriously, and that those he has been sent to call out — those who abuse power and others, for example — want him gone. He is now fearing for his safety and life, concerned that those who want to silence him will do precisely that. He feels in over his head, lost without direction, upset that his life had to take this turn.

And, in this moment, he blames God.

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.

Who else should shoulder the blame? It was, after all, God who in the beginning of the Book of Jeremiah, insists that the young would-be prophet doesn’t know better than God and that God has destined him for this mission from before he was born. Jeremiah feels betrayed by his creator.

But what should he expect?

Those who bear the name ‘Christ’ as Christians should be able to relate well to our predecessor Jeremiah. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that to follow him is no easy task. Jesus is not a sadist, nor is he encouraging masochism among his flock. Those who interpret the “denial” and the “taking up of crosses” as signs that Jesus wants nothing more from his followers than abject self-punishment are missing the point.

The denial of oneself here refers to the situation that we, like Jeremiah before us, often face in our lives of faith. When the going gets tough, we’d rather get going back to our own plans with us as number one. We are hesitant or, more likely, completely unwilling to surrender the possibility that the world revolves around us and that I should first take care to be sure I’m secure or comfortable or whatever before bothering to do God’s will or help others. Instead, the denial has to do with our desire to place ourselves first. Placing God first instead shifts our outlook away from our own navels and out toward the rest of the world right in front of us.

In the end, like a good prophet, Jeremiah anticipates Jesus’s message in the Gospel of Matthew. He understandably and rightly offers his cry of lament to God, embracing the suffering, fear, disappointment, and embarrassment that he experiences as a result of his carrying the cross of following God’s will. But his exclamation doesn’t stop there. Jeremiah says:

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

He at first considers a plan of his own devising — yes, he’ll stop doing what God desires, no longer risk preaching and proclaiming the word of God. Instead he will be silent and enjoy the peace and comfort he once had.

Except, he can’t do that. He realizes that he has a burning desire to proclaim God’s word, to announce the dissatisfaction that God has with the ways in which we human beings treat one another and the rest of creation. Though he tries to be silent, tries to enjoy a ‘normal’ life, he grows “weary holding it in” and must continue with the proclamation. And this is what some scripture commentators refer to as the “prophetic burden,” the drive and fervor the prophet has to proclaim the word of God.

May we find ourselves, even in the midst of frustration, embarrassment, discomfort, and doubt, with the word of God burning like a fire in our hearts. May we grow weary of trying to keep that held in and instead, dare to pick up our crosses, deny ourselves, and be the prophets the world so desperately needs. May we all share in the prophetic burden.

Photo: Stock

Endorsements for ‘Postmodernity and Univocity’

Posted in Postmodernity and Univocity, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

FortressBookThough I’m currently on the road recording the audio version of my forthcoming book, The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press), which is due out in late September, I have been simultaneously involved in the final stages of the editorial production process for my book, Postmodernity and Univocity: A Critical Account of Radical Orthodoxy and John Duns Scotus (Minneapolis: Fortress Press). Yes, it seems like a lot (and it can feel like a lot), both of these books weigh in heavily at 280+ pp and 220+ pp respectively — nothing makes that so clear as sitting in a recording studio reading one out loud for several days on end.

I don’t have to worry about needing to read this manuscript for there will certainly not be an audio version of Postmodernity and Univoicty. As you might tell from the title itself, this is not one of my books aimed at a more-popular audience, but rather it is an academic monograph that evaluates the Radical Orthodoxy movement’s use of the thought and legacy of the medieval philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus. In short, Radical Orthodoxy thinkers have established a widely embraced narrative that Scotus is responsible for laying the foundation for all that is wrong with modernity. However, their presentation of the subtle doctor‘s work is inaccurate and has subsequently positioned Scotus as the boogeyman and/or scapegoat of theology par excellence. This book offers an alternative reading as a corrective to the Radical Orthodoxy view.

My editors at Fortress Press have recently sent me the endorsements they solicited for the book and I am humbled and honored to have received these. I am delighted to share these with you here and hope that these blurbs may get you as excited about the release of this book in December as I am. I want also to express my gratitude to each of these four scholars for their generosity in reading the manuscript and responding so favorably.

“This book provides a careful and fair-minded rebuttal of the presentation of Duns Scotus’s thought proposed by the theologians of Radical Orthodoxy. Horan meticulously describes Scotus’s own view and in doing so offers a valuable corrective to the misrepresentations found so frequently in recent literature on the subject.”
——Richard Cross, University of Notre Dame

“This is an important book and a long overdue one. Dan Horan has boldly confronted the misreading of Duns Scotus by adherents of Radical Orthodoxy and brilliantly illuminates their metaphysical flaws. At the same time, he shows a correct understanding of univocal being and discusses why Scotus’s metaphysics provides a coherent basis for a postmodern theology. This book can help bridge the relationship between science and religion by providing a correct reading of univocal being, and it can open up new paths of dialogue that have become stifled by theological and philosophical differences.”
—— Ilia Delio, OSF, Georgetown University

“Daniel Horan argues meticulously that Radical Orthodoxy’s ‘Scotus Story’ seriously misunderstands the philosophy of John Duns Scotus. Hence, Scotus cannot be the villain of their story of the rise of secular, idolatrous modernity with its ‘space apart from God.’ By placing Scotus in the context of his actual debates (with Henry of Ghent more than Thomas Aquinas) and concerns (epistemological and semantic as primary, and metaphysical as derivative), Horan not only effectively undermines the keystone of Radical Orthodoxy’s historical narrative but offers a more persuasive portrayal of Scotus’s central achievements.”
—— Terrence W. Tilley, Fordham University

“Daniel Horan has presented a spirited challenge to Radical Orthodoxy’s ‘Scotist illiteracy’ by identifying the rhetorical sleights of hand of its major voices. Horan clearly inhabits the living tradition of a vital Franciscan theology, long overshadowed by a reactionary overdependence on Thomism in much of contemporary antimodern theology. Postmodernity and Univocity is at once a critical and constructive erudite study, but distinguished by exceptional accessibility and clarity in style.”
—— Susan Abraham, Loyola Marymount University 

Airport Mass, Pope Francis’s Solidarity in Korea

Posted in Pope Francis with tags , , , , on August 24, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

lima-airport-chapelDespite the summer lull in my posting here at DatingGod.org, the number of subscribers continues to grow by the day. So before I chime in with some of the latest (and likely random) thoughts and reflections, I want to express my gratitude to those who continue to stick with the blog and, explicitly or more tacitly, encourage me to continue. Thanks!

Now for the latest.

First, I’m writing from the road. The month of August has been a busy one for me travel-wise. A combination of retreats, speaking engagements, and a weeklong vacation has occupied the first three weeks of August and led me to criss-cross the United States. After two days at home in Boston, I’m back on the road. This weekend began with a short visit to Manhattan for the solemn profession of three of our brothers at St. Francis of Assisi Church on 31st Street — always a joyful event! Today I found myself en route yet again with a stopover in Washington, DC, during which I happened to be at the airport at the same time that Catholic Mass was celebrated in the interfaith chapel. 

Though I’ve been aware of these chapels for a long time and happen to know well the coordinator of the airport chapels in Chicago, Mike Brennan, I have never actually participated in a liturgy despite my abnormally regular presence at airports. I don’t often fly on Sundays, usually because I’m somewhere where I will speak or preach or preside at Mass, so that’s the one day of the week you’re least likely to find me in a terminal. 

But this Sunday I was at the right place at the right time and what I experienced was very interesting.

It was a very mixed experience. On the one hand, the small chapel was filled to capacity. The miniature congregation was composed of a diverse representation of airport employees and travelers, baggage handlers and pilots, tourists and business travelers (and at least one undercover priest). There were men and women of many different ethnicities and races, ages and sizes. It was a microcosm of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. 

The faith of my sisters and brothers with whom I sat in close proximity in the tiny space inspired me and gave me great hope.

The only downside was — drum roll please — the presiding style and homily. The elderly priest who presided seemed like a very nice man, and I commend him for his efforts. It seemed clear that he was retired and slower than he probably once was, but he tried…somewhat. Despite the room being packed, he never invited any of the members of the assembly to volunteer to read the scripture, but instead plowed through all four readings himself. It was the closest experience of a “tridentine-like mass” in the vernacular (no full and active participation) that I’ve had. We were more or less “watching” as passive observers, occasionally reciting our prayers and receiving the eucharistic species at communion. The homily also left a lot to be desired. I won’t say much more about that, I imagine there are plenty of times incognito priests and religious could say similar things about this or that homily of mine. The only thing to say is that it is never, never ok to tell people that “if you don’t understand the church’s teaching, get yourself a catechism.” Nope. Everybody there was a practicing Catholic, therefore baptized and in full communion with the church — no catechumens to be found. A Catechism is a fine quick-reference tool and guide for instructing those in RCIA. That’s all. 

Even with that less-than-stellar review, I must say that I am very grateful for the work of this priest and of those, like Mike in Chicago, who generously give of their time and ministry to make the sacraments available to those who find themselves on the road on Sundays, especially those (such as myself) who have to be on the road a lot. Thank you!

Second, I want to draw your attention to an excellent article by The Boston Globe‘s John Allen about Pope Francis’s visit to Korea last week (“Two Pins in South Korea Show A Pope Doing it His Way“). The piece recounts and explains the significance of the Holy Father’s seemingly extemporaneous decisions to wear two pins at various points during his trip. The first was a yellow ribbon worn in solidarity with those nearly 300 people who lost their lives, many high-shool kids, on the ferry that sunk off the coast. This was significant in large part because a pope typically does not publicly express views that could be viewed as offensive or threatening to the leadership of a country which he is visiting. Despite the political implications, Pope Francis nevertheless chose to express his solidarity and concern for those who were suffering in the wake of this tragedy. 

The second pin was given to Pope Francis by a group of “comfort women,” Korean women who were forced into sexual work during the occupation of the Japanese. The controversy surrounding this action had little to do with the pin or the women, but where and when he wore the pin — on his chasuble during mass. Now even I get uncomfortable with this one, but after taking a proverbial “step back” was able to see the powerful witness given in this action. Presiders don’t have the prerogative to make changes to the vestments, etc., during the celebration of the liturgy. It is, literally, the work of the people (from the Greek leiturgia), the celebration and worship of the whole Body of Christ, the church. It is not this or that priest’s “show time.”

Yet, there are occasions when, like Jesus to the scrupulous religious leaders of his time as recounted in the Gospels, we need to break from the traditions of our making in order to honor a higher responsibility. In this case, Pope Francis gave witness to the extreme pastoral need in a difficult situation, recognizing that what Jesus would have done is exactly that or more. It is a call for humility, a reminder of who is really presiding over every assembly in worship — Jesus Christ.

I encourage you all to take a look at Allen’s article, and wish everybody a wonderful end of the summer and start of the Fall. After this short stay in DC, I’m off to record the audio version of my forthcoming book, The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton, which is due out in just about a month.

Photo: File

Congratulations to Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

I am taking a short break from my vacation to share this NCR story about Professor Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ’s acceptance speech at this week’s LCWR annual assembly on the occasion of her having received this year’s Outstanding Leadership Award. Her remarks (those made public in new reports, the full text has not yet been made available) are courageous and honest. Not only does Prof. Johnson deserve this recognition in light of her academic work, but her steadfast yet respectful engagement with the USCCB committee on doctrine in the wake of its treatment of her writing remains a model of faithful response. I wish to extend my congratulations to Prof. Johnson and to my sisters in the LCWR here. To read more, see Religion News Service story or the NCR report by Dan Stockman here:

————————–

The Vatican and women religious are caught up in a tension with historical, sociological and ecclesiastical roots, but a solution could be found, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson said.

The Fordham University theologian praised the sisters for their commitment to “meaningful, honest dialogue” and urged them to stay the course.

Johnson was honored Friday with the Outstanding Leadership Award by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the largest group of women religious leaders in the nation, representing about 80 percent of the 51,600 sisters in the United States.

Both Johnson and LCWR have been criticized by the church, and Johnson told the nearly 800 sisters gathered here for LCWR’s annual assembly that the criticisms of her writing and of LCWR are intertwined.

Johnson is widely admired by LCWR members, and she urged them to hang on despite an ongoing investigation by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“I think both of us are caught in a situation not of our own making,” she said.

Johnson, a Sister of St. Joseph from Brentwood, N.Y., is considered one of the architects of feminist theology. She has published nine books and more than 100 essays in scholarly journals, book reviews, book chapters and articles; her work has been translated into 13 languages. She holds a doctorate in theology from The Catholic University of America and is a distinguished professor of theology at Fordham.

Johnson is a former president of both the Catholic Theological Society and the ecumenical American Theological Society, was a consultant to the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Women in Society and the Church. She was featured in a Library of Congress calendar called “Women Who Dare.”

She is also controversial. In April, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ordered that after this assembly, speakers at the group’s events must be approved by Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, who heads the congregation’s five-year reform agenda for LCWR. Müller cited LCWR’s selection of Johnson for the Outstanding Leadership Award as one reason for the mandate, noting that Johnson has been “criticized by the Bishops of the United States because of the gravity of the doctrinal errors in [her] writings.” Sartain attended each of the public events during the LCWR assembly except for Johnson’s presentation, as he was traveling Friday night.

LCWR communications director Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Annmarie Sanders said the assembly directed the board members to respond to the mandate but would not say what that response would be.

“They told the board to take the next steps,” Sanders said.

A statement on the action to be taken is expected sometime after the board finishes meeting Monday.

In 2011, the doctrinal committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Johnson’s 2007 book, Quest for the Living God, is not in accordance with official Catholic teaching.

Johnson’s selection as a speaker, Müller said in April, “will be seen as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the Doctrinal Assessment” and further alienates the LCWR from the bishops.

“It was clear from his statement that Cardinal Müller neither read the book or my response, but simply echoed the criticisms of the panel,” Johnson told LCWR members. “But the committee’s assessment of Quest is itself theologically flawed.”

Johnson reiterated her stance that the book does not say the things the panel claims it does and that she does not believe the things they say she wrote.

“It criticizes positions I take that are in accord with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and in several instances, it reports the opposite of what the book actually says in order to find fault,” she said. “In my judgment, and this is difficult to say, but I do believe such carelessness with the truth is unworthy of the teaching office of bishop.”

Johnson said the doctrinal congregation’s criticisms of LCWR are similar.

“The investigation’s statements express a vague, overall dissatisfaction and distrust on certain topics, and judgments are rendered in such a way that they cannot be addressed,” she said. “But your willingness to stay at the table and offer meaningful, honest dialogue is a powerful witness.”

Johnson said historically, there has always been tensions between religious communities and the hierarchy because one is based on a radical living of the Gospel and the other is based on administration, which requires order.

The issue is also sociological, she said.

“The church did not start out this way, but as an institution, it has evolved a patriarchal structure where authority is executed in a top-down fashion and obedience and loyalty to the system are the greatest of virtues,” Johnson said.

Finally, she said, the tensions are ecclesiastical because women religious have undergone the renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council and the hierarchy has not.

“Certainly, the LCWR and the sisters they lead are far from perfect, but they have got the smell of the sheep on them,” she said to heavy applause. “Post-Vatican II renewal has not taken place at the [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith].”

LCWR said Johnson was chosen for her distinguished academic achievements and scholarly contributions and for her consistent focus on those suffering and in need.

“Through her engagement of the most difficult questions of our day and her attention to violations of God’s beloved creation,” the LCWR statement regarding the award said, “she works tirelessly for change in our world that is in accord with Jesus’ vision of the reign of God.”

Franciscan Sr. Nancy Schreck, who delivered this year’s keynote address, said Johnson’s speech was “fabulous.”

“She names things so clearly, but at the same time, her commitment to the faith is unquestionable,” Schreck said.

Loretto Sr. Maureen Fiedler praised Johnson’s assessment of the situation.

“Her analysis of the difficulties between the hierarchy and where religious communities are was right on, and she did it on so many levels,” she said. “What do you do when you’ve gone ahead and implemented Vatican II and they haven’t?”

Following her speech, Johnson received a long standing ovation, and afterward, dozens of sisters waited in line to speak with her while dozens more waited outside the hall to order audio recordings of the speech.

Johnson closed her talk by sharing an Apartheid-era photo of a wall in South Africa where someone had written “Hang Mandela!” Someone else had come and penciled in “on” to make it “Hang on, Mandela!”, completely changing the meaning of what had been a statement against anti-Apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, who was still in prison at the time.

That creativity, she said, subverted a slur into an inspiration, a curse into a blessing, and that same creativity can be used to change the present situation.

And so, to LCWR members, she urged, “On!”

Photo: NCR

Thomas Merton and the Feast of the Portiuncula

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Thomas Merton with tags , , , , on August 2, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

porziuncolanotteToday is the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels, both the patronal feast of the “City of Angels” (LA) and a very important celebration in the life of the Franciscan family. August 2 is also known as the Franciscan Feast of the Portiuncula, the “mother church” of the Franciscan Order. This little church in the valley outside the city of Assisi was one of the most important places for St. Francis during his own lifetime. In the early sources we read that this was the only place that the friars were permitted (if not commanded) to keep. It remains an important pilgrimage site in the Franciscan family. I have had the great fortune to visit the Portiuncula chapel twice (Portiuncula means “little portion”). While it was at one time a freed-standing church, today it stands within a large basilica that was built over the tiny little church.

On this day when we remember the place of this church, Our Lady of the Angels — it’s official name, I thought it would be nice to share what Thomas Merton, the 20th-Century Trappist Monk and Author, said about the Portiuncula and the feast itself in his journal. Especially as we anticipate the release of my next book, The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton: A New Look at the Spiritual Inspiration of His Life, Thought, and Writing, due out in September, which focuses on the intersection of the Franciscan tradition and Thomas Merton.

The Porticuncula always brings me great blessings – and that is the Franciscan side, which continues to grow also…The feast brings graces of contemplation and spiritual joy, because every church becomes that tiny little church that St. Francis loved above all others and everyone in the world can share the bliss of his sanctity. (August 2, 1948)

May you have a blessed day and remember your Franciscan sisters and brothers in your prayers! Peace and all Good!

Photo: File
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