The new Franciscan Minister General, Fr. Mike Perry, OFM, the American friar who was elected the 120th successor of St. Francis of Assisi last week was interviewed by Catholic News Service about the challenge Pope Francis offers to the Franciscan Order today.
Archive for CNS
In a CNS article titled, “Archbishop says people returning to confession because of pope,” we read of the anecdotal evidence for some changes in the Italian pastoral landscape marked, in part, by a rise in sacramental confession and an increase in the attendance of visitors at public papal audiences. Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, “said during an early May visit to southern Italy and in conversations with priests from northern Italy where he grew up, he repeatedly heard reports that ‘a lot of people have been going to confession and many have said that while they hadn’t gone in a long time, they felt touched by the words of Pope Francis.’”
I’m not entirely sure, from a social-science perspective, how much weight to give such a claim. However, I am positively disposed to the gesture; namely, that Pope Francis’s public presence, well-known simplicity in lifestyle, casual and approachable demeanor, humility in liturgical celebrations, and accessible and heart-felt preaching has garnered a lot of understandable attention that might very well contribute to broader shifts in public opinion about the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and its role in the world today.
While Archbishop Fisichella does not prefer the term “Francis Effect,” I’m less put off by the phrase. When I hear that term, I first think of St. Francis of Assisi and call to mind the world-changing effect he had in his own time that has so rippled through history to reach our own day. I think of how this one man from the Medieval Umbrian town of Assisi could draw so many people to him and his memory that he would, 800-years later, remain the most popular saint (after Mary) in the church. I think of how there is really something to the name that Pope Francis adopted after his election as bishop of Rome and, in large and small ways, lives out in the same spirit.
The CNS article reports the secretary of the council’s surmising about what is happening:
“People want to be present, listen to his voice and see him, touch him, because he makes a connection (with people) that is very moving,” the archbishop said, adding that the pope’s popularity reflects the “importance of the faith, the importance of being Christian, and the importance of the pope at this moment in the history of the church.”
There is a danger, of course, that this is only a superficial interest that people have — something more akin to the pontificate of John Paul II, the so-called “rock-star pope.” Yet, while JPII was a world traveler and charismatic figure, and his energy seemed to arise from his personality rather than actions, Pope Francis’s appeal seems less focused on himself (although this is no doubt a factor here) and more on the striking, at-times iconoclasm that he has unleashed on the peripheral aggrandizing dimensions of the pontifical office. His eschewing of ostentatious formalities and vesture, his casual preaching tone and presence (especially from the ambo and not ex cathedra), his willingness to create a new international advisory committee — these things are not insignificant signals of some change, of some kind of “Francis Effect.”
Granted, it is still far too early to begin forecasting long-term “effects” of Pope Francis. However, it is my hope that these signs — mixed as they are with more ambiguous and complicated negotiations with contentious inherited items like the LCWR investigation — might signal a truly powerful shift in time. I still believe that, for example, the LCWR investigation was wrong-headed, something confirmed by the public-relations melee from within the curia in recent weeks, but I’m not sure I entirely understand Pope Francis’s current relationship to it and, in the meantime, I’m hoping for the best. This also goes for the unfolding political drama in Puerto Rico, where my confrere Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez, OFM, the archbishop of San Juan, has been caught in the middle of some as-of-yet still unclear political battle with one of the Vatican dicasteries and local political nationalistic movements. It remains to be seen how these sorts of matters play out and what leadership role — either directly or through episcopal appointments — Pope Francis plays in them.
Nevertheless, I’m hopeful and continue to sit back and see what happens. If the “Francis Effect” does, in reality, lead to greater participation in the sacraments — not just sacramental confession, which is one of the most misunderstood of the seven — then it is a good effect indeed. If the “Francis Effect” does mean real change in antiquated structures of partisan cronyism in curial offices, then I think it is a good effect indeed. If the “Francis Effect” does draw women and men closer to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to live lives in the footprints of the Lord, then it is a good effect indeed.
We will have to wait and see.
The following is a Catholic News Service (CNS) article that was published on the CNS wire on 2 April 2012.
By Beth Griffin, Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Getting to know God is akin to entering a dating relationship, according to Franciscan Brother Daniel P. Horan.
When two people already like one another, they devote copious amounts of time and energy to learning everything they can about each other and joyfully anticipate spending time together, he explained.
“Dating requires intentionality, planning and effort,” Brother Horan said.
Brother Horan, a member of the Order of Friars Minor, is the author of “Dating God: Live and Love in the Way of St. Francis.” At 28, he is not very far removed from the more traditional understanding of dating.
The oldest of four boys, Brother Horan attended Catholic schools and was an altar server, lector, eucharistic minister and sacristan at Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica, in the Diocese of Syracuse. He felt drawn to the priesthood in high school and studied theology and journalism in the honors program at St. Bonaventure University, a Franciscan school in Olean.
“Over the course of four years, I got to know the friars’ intellectual traditions and spiritual life and develop personal relationships with the friars themselves,” he said in an interview with Catholic News Service.
In college, Brother Horan ran a photography business, specializing in sports and news coverage. He called it “a hobby that got out of control.” His freelance clients included CNS, Associated Press and Getty Images.
After graduation in 2005, Brother Horan entered the Franciscans. He is one of five men from his parish who became Franciscans.
Brother Horan earned a master’s degree in systematic theology at Washington Theological Union and will complete a master’s in divinity in May. He expects to be ordained May 19 in Silver Spring, Md. After a summer assignment to St. Francis of Assisi Parish on Long Beach Island, N.J., he will begin studies for a doctorate in systematic theology.
The dating imagery occurred to him during a Franciscan workshop on the writings of Sts. Francis and Clare during his novitiate. “Their expressions of their relationship with God, while not quite love letters, evoked images of the tenuousness, ambivalence, excitement, energy and passion of dating,” Brother Horan said.
“Like other images for the human-divine interrelationship, it won’t be helpful for everybody. Any language to talk about our relationship with God always falls short, but this one is shocking and startling enough to get people thinking about their relationship with God in a new way,” he said.
Traditionally, God has been referred to as parent, companion, friend, even lover, in the Song of Songs, Brother Horan said. “I like the dating metaphor, because it’s an active verb,” he said.
Dating has a romantic connotation, which works for the metaphor, Brother Horan said, because the beginning of a romantic relationship is a more rarified, focused and intense version of the beginning of all healthy relationships.
“Christian tradition has always emphasized making a date with God, but you won’t find it in the Gospels that way. It’s a focus on solitude and the distinction between loneliness and being alone. The idea that we would set aside time to be alone with someone in order to get to know them better and allow ourselves to be known” is common to both dating and prayer, he said.
Brother Horan reflected on the connection during a five-day hermitage experience. A self-described extrovert, he said it is easy to get distracted by noise and technology, rather than acknowledge the merit of quiet and solitude. Many people are afraid of silence and equate being alone with depression, sadness and boredom. Seeing it as being alone with God changes the dynamic, he said.
“We can learn about who we are and our relationship to God by looking at our relationships with people. This is off-putting to some who want to make God removed from creation,” Brother Horan said.
“We bring our entire selves to all our relationships,” including fears, joys, emotions, anxieties and happiness, he said.
All relationships require work, Brother Horan said. Early on there is energy, intensity and effortlessness “and you might change because of the other person,” he said, but the ease does not continue. Friends, couples and believers need to devote time to reconnect and be alone with one another in shared experiences.
“We still need to go on dates with God. There has to be an intentionality to our prayer life,” he said. “Going to church once a week in a crowd doesn’t cut it. It’s good, but it’s not enough. You can’t have a relationship if you don’t spend time alone together.”
He cautioned the dating image is only a starting point for a new way to see things.
In addition to his studies and service as a deacon, Brother Horan delivers talks on topics as diverse as Franciscan spirituality and “The Digital Christ: Communion in a Technological Era.” And he knows he must make the time himself to maintain his relationship with God.
Brother Horan is eagerly anticipating his ordination and recommends that other young people consider whether they have a religious vocation.
“I love this way of life and I would encourage others to give it a try,” he told CNS. “There’s so much competition for our attention that religious communities get drowned out by the noise. I’m grateful that the spirit has led me to this way of life and I’d encourage others not to write it off.”
Photos: CNS/Bob Roller
This is a theme I’ve addressed elsewhere in another blog post shortly after the tragic shooting in Tucson last month. It is a topic I have returned to because of a Catholic News Service article that was published today bearing the title, “In Gun Control Debate, Catholic Position Elusive.” The subheading of the story reads, “One gun-carrying priest: ‘I tell people all life is sacred, including mine.’” That should give you a sense of why this is a matter worth discussing again.
The February 11th CNS article begins:
Avid outdoorsman and hunter Fr. Joe Classen, associate pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in Maryland Heights, Mo., has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
“I rarely ever conceal and carry, but sometimes if I’m in a very bad area, I do take protection,” he said. “I tell people all life is sacred, including mine.”
A few states away, Fr. Theodore Parker said he knows he has the constitutional right to own a gun, but can’t see any reason why he would. The pastor of two inner-city Detroit parishes said, “The real purpose of a gun in our culture is violence.” And there’s just too much of that, he contends.
As readers of this blog know, I agree with the position of the second interviewed priest, Fr. Parker, and take it a step further — a step that, according to a January 14 CNS article titled, “Gun control: Church firmly, quietly opposes firearms for civilians,” is clearly in line with the Church’s teaching, no matter how “elusive” it may appear to Fr. Classen and others.
Guns are designed to do one thing: kill. Granted, there are instances such as hunting at which times civilians might justifiably use a firearm to gather food. However, there are other ways one can find nourishment today and some people would even suggest that one need not even hunt to eat healthily, just ask a vegetarian or vegan. Apart from hunting animals for food, the only thing guns are good for are killing human beings.
Fr. Classen defends his ownership, concealment and carrying of a firearm in “very bad areas” for “protection.” In what way does he intend to use the firearm for protection? The most obvious answer is to kill or harm another human being before that person could ostensibly attempt to harm him. How is that OK? Especially for a priest?
All life is sacred. Period. And to be truly prolife means that one’s life is not worth more than another, not even a priest’s over an alleged criminal’s.
I understand that the issue of self-defense is a complicated and contentious one, where people otherwise committed to nonviolence find examples worthy of exemption. However, when we really turn to the Gospel for guidance in the matter of violence and the role of Christians, can we ever justify the use of violence? Jesus Christ himself submitted, innocent as he was, to the violence of the state and individuals. In the case of self-defense, Jesus chastised his own Apostles for trying to defend him with violence. Jesus did NOT see self-defense as a legitimate reason for violence.
I find it particularly upsetting when priests publicly defend the carrying of weapons. It seems like something that stands in stark contrast to what Christian life is all about. When it comes to guns of any sort, we know What Jesus Would Do.
The world will only be transformed by love, not violence. Maybe instead of carrying a tool of death into “very bad areas,” Fr. Classen could carry a spirit of openness and peace, meeting the people he is scared of with the compassion of Christ and not the violence the Lord condemns. This is especially important if gun-carrying priests like to see themselves as in persona Christi.
Jesus wouldn’t defend guns, why would you?
This reflection is now available in Daniel P. Horan, OFM’s book Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century: Selected Reflections from the Dating God Blog and Other Essays, Volume One (Koinonia Press, 2013).