We were very honored to have a visit in Charlottesville from Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., on February 18th, as a speaker at the St. Anshelm Institute for Catholic Thought at the University of Virginia. Archbishop Chaput gave a very good talk entitled City Upon a Hill: Augustine, John Winthrop and the soul of the American Experiment Today. Archbishop Chaput has been a great advocate for American Catholics to know their role in being faithful citizens, and it is part of everyone’s call to holiness to be involved in making a free and just society.
Archbishop Chaput speaking at The University of Virginia’s St. Anshelm Insitute of Catholic Thought
Archbishop Chaput is a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, and was the second Native American to be ordained bishop in the United States, and the first Native American archbishop. He chose as his episcopal motto: “As Christ Loved the Church” (Ephesians 5:25) Archbishop Chaput has served as a bishop of South Dakota and worked in the church for Native American issues, and spoke about Indian Spirtuality and its good and bad points, and why many Native American’s are drawn to the love of Jesus Christ. Archbishop Chaput has also served as bishop of Denver, and presently in Philadelphia. I find it most interesting that he as a Franciscan Capuchin, and his fellow bishop (Cardinal Sean O’Malley) were both called to “rebuild the church” in two of the most challenging dioceses in America (Philadelphia & Boston) that were affected by scandal and corruption. I am extememly proud of my fellow Franciscan bishops, and that Pope Francis, in choosing his name, to take on this task of renewing our beautiful Catholic Faith in the spirit of St. Francis “to rebuild God’s house.”
Archbishop Chaput was just two weeks earlier called by Pope Francis to join the new Pontifical Council on the Laity. Archbishop Chaput spoke in his talk of the great importance of the laity to help with the church in evangelization, prayer, support, and active participation amongst everyone, including those in the secular world. Archbishop Chaput said he does not know yet what he will be doing on this new council, but looks forward to the challenges ahead. I was pleased to meet him after his talk, and wished him well and said that he will be in my prayers.
I encourage you to view his entire talk, because I can’t do it justice in my writing, and the Q&A afterward in link below.
It was a cold five degrees today in Washington, D.C. for the 41st Annual March for Life, but that did not dampen the enthusiam for tens of thousands of people from across America advocating for the dignity of life from conception to natural death in this country. I was very moved at the fortitude of so many people coming out in harsh weather conditions to fight for a noble cause in saving innocent life. Life that is under constant threat regarding abortion, aging, healthcare, and developemental disability rights. It is sad to report that the count is now up to 55 million babies murdered since the passage of Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973.
Many arriving during snow storm at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for prayers and Masses.
The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
There were thousands of people who came to visit the National Shrine on Tuesday for many activities including, Eucharistic Adoration, Mass, and Confessions, and Prayer Vigil for Life that filled the many chapels and the Basilica with faithful from around the nation. It was so upilifitng to see the youth of today practicing their faith so devoutly.
Pilgrims arriving to pray at Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel
Blessed John Paul II Shrine
I then went to visit the Blessed John Paul II Shrine which is just a few blocks away from the National Shrine. I was blessed to attend a Mass at the Shrine and the chaplain invited attendees to venerate a new relic that was a piece of the vestment that Pope John Paul II wore when he was shot. It was a moving experience for many, and especially this year when he will be officially canonized on April 27th (Divine Mercy Sunday) along with Pope John XXIII. During our Mass there was a lot of construction noise as the Knights of Columbus are busily getting the Shrine ready for events in April. There will be many events announced soon for the canonization including a Masses at the National Shrine and a procession of the Holy Eucharist up the road to the “Saint John Paul II Shrine.” There will be a new 400 seat chapel unveiled for the canonization that includes a new sacristy and confessionals where the sacrament of reconciliation will be offered every day. They are also remaking a 14,ooo square foot area in the basement featuring interactive displays on the life and teachings of Saint John Paul II, but unfortunately will not be ready until July.
Veneration of a new Blessed John Paul II relic (his vestment when he was shot).
March for Life 2014
I arrived early at 10am on the National Mall and was one of the first to see all the crews setting up the sound system. I was really psyched to meet Matt Maher as he arrived for his sound check in fridged tempertures to play an accoustic guitar. I have included a link to his last music album below from SoundCloud – definately worth a listen.
Matt Maher warming up for March for Life performance
I was also priviledged to meet Gus Lloyd and Fr. Jonathan Morris from The Catholic Channel on XM/Sirius Satellite Radio. Great to see them in action providing wonderful Catholic radio programming accross the nation. I also met Teresa Tomeo, from EWTN, and seeing their camera teams in action offering live TV coverage interviewing many eager participants in the march.
Gus Lloyd braodcasting for XM/Sirius Satellite Radio
Catholic New Media
The March for Life became more involved with using social media including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. The March for Life also unveiled a new logo for 2014. There were also two new Apps that became good resources for the March for Life this year.
The March for Life App offered a list of events, maps, ticket links, news, video, take action, and education resources.
Nine Days for Life App offering a nine day novena from January 18-26. It offered prayers, meditation, and suggested exercises of faith. I also like that it offered the time of day you could select to get a reminder text sent to you from the USCCB.
New Ways in Saving Lives
Save The Storks Bus
Save the Storks is a new program offering mobile vans that offer loving support to women thinking about abortions. The vans are equipped with a screen to watch supportive pro-life videos, and offer 3-D sonograms of their babies. Pregnancy resource centers are able to park these units outside abortion clinics to show Christ’s love and compassion to help women in making a lifesaving decision. Save the Storks is looking to grow this program to more communities, and has made a wonderful start in serving the Archdiocese of Boston over the past three years.
Interior of Save the Storks van.
Lifeboat Coffee is a new coffee company that offers gourmet coffee in both ground and whole-bean. All the proceeeds from the sale of these coffees go to help for the cause of the pro-life movenent. You can find out more about their wonderful story and how to get their coffee at the link below.
Bagpiper playing Hail Holy Queen
The Supreme Court
Monsignor Charles Pope in front of the Supreme Court
The crowds from many walks of life marched up Capitol Hill to the Supreme Court. When I arrived with the other photographers before the crowd turned the corner, I was pleased to see my cousin, Monsignor Charles Pope there praying the rosary. He is a wonderful priest for the Diocese of Washington, and is the main writer for the diocesan blog which now has many readers. He recently rededicated the Ten Commandments monument which is just behind the Supreme Court which had been vandelized. I continue to pray for the end of legalized abortions and the protection of innocent life in our country and thankful for so many people who came out for the 2014 March for Life — God Bless you all.
The Ten Commandments Monument
I did have one other casualty on the March for Life — my iPhone battery. It was so cold that it drained much quicker than anticipated. I think the Holy Spirit intervened– while visiting a Starbucks, some very kind young people from Florida who were here for the March for Life, let me borrow their charger, which was a life-saver (God Bless you again).
Catholic Tour Apps – $.99 (Apple) Fantastic tour app with facts and photos of pilgrimage sites, historical sites, holy places. One for Washington, DC, and one for Boston. 2014 will add New York City and Baltimore. http://www.pauline.org/catholictourapps
We Parent More App – FREE (really a website, but can be bookmarked on your mobile device to work like an App) Offering parenting resources including prayer and videos and activities for little ones. http://www.weparentmore.org/
iBreviary “Pro Terra Sancta” – FREE (Apple, Blackberry & Droid) Offering the Liturgy of the Hours, Daily Missal, Prayers & Rituals, and added features for specific religious orders including Franciscan, Salesian, & Passionists. http://www.ibreviary.org/en/
Vocre App – $4.99 (Apple) Offering voice supported language translations in 66 languages, and Latin was recently added. Works like a Star Trek Communicator to have a conversation in real-time (see video). http://www.vocre.com/
I hope you find apps that are useful to inspire and help you grow in your faith, while finding a good balance in your life to keep time with your family, friends, and parish. Comments and suggestions of other apps are most welcome.
I am a big fan of automobiles, and have always kept up with the latest innovations in the auto industry. I have always wanted to drive an exotic supercar, but am content to motor around town in my 2005 Honda CRV. Pope Francis has certainly been frugal with his mode of chosen transportation with a Ford Focus over the Mercedes-Benz Popemobile. Pope Francis recently wrote in the opening of his Apostolic exhortation The Joy of The Gospel:
1. The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness.
2. The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor.
The Catholic Church is NOT against the wealthy, we all need wealthy citizens to help in making a robust economy for a nation, as well the need to be generous in giving in charity. I think that Pope Francis is saying that the disparity of the wealthy and the middle/poor class has gotten to be too great. Does a wealthy person really need a home of 50,000 square feet, or a $1,400,000 automobile? Could they buy something of fine quality and perhaps still have money left to give to charity or invest in jobs?
Here is a suggestion for the wealthy to live closer to living the Gospel Life that Pope Francis suggests. Following is a video of one of the most expensive and exotic sports cars with a $1,400,000 price tag called the 2014 Pagani Huayra. I admit that after viewing the video about this incredible hyper car, it creates a desire to own and drive one, BUT this is the type of excess that Pope Francis is preaching against. This car will be owned by very few people, and employs very few people in its production and maintenance.
Now here is a video of the new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Z-51 with a $70,000 price tag, which is still an incredible car with a much more reasonable price.
Could there be a happy medium for the wealthy that still allows for enjoyment of toys travel, and technology, and also helps the middle-class and poor? Here is a suggestion to the wealthy in living the Gospel Life, that will bring driving joy, as well as a joy in life of giving to the needy:
Buy a 2014 Corvette Z-51 at $70,000 and help build a more just society with the savings.
Suggested donations & investments of $1,330,000 to charities and industries that help the poor and middle-class from remaining savings from buying a Pagani:
Invest $1,000,000 in salaries for new or existing employees (helps economy & employment)
Donate $200,000 to Catholic Charities (helping feed, shelter, and clothe many of the poor and homeless in many areas of the world including Haiti, Syria, Sudan, and Afghanistan)
Donate $130,000 to St. Jude Children’s Hospital (helping pay for children who can’t afford needed healthcare)
This Christmas reminds me of a quote from Henry Ford who invented the mass production process for automobiles with the Model-T and believed in paying good wages, so his employees could afford to buy the products he manufactured. Henry Ford sent the following Christmas message in 1923:
“Christmas stands for the human factor which makes life tolerable midst the hurry of commerce and production. All of us need the annealing effect of Christ’s example to relieve the hardening we get in the daily struggle for material success.”
Pope Francis has certainly been an inspiration with his choice of vehicles and purchased a Renault 4 that runs in bio-diesel, and requested that priests purchase modest cars for their use.
Pope Francis’ Renualt 4
My own pastor recently need a replacement for his car, and purchased a Toyota Prius which is economical and environmentally friendly. Apparently an artist agreed with this choice and made this mock-up ad for Toyota:
What Would Jesus Dive by Chris Dalton
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May we all help to build a more just society in 2014 and the years to come.
Have you started to read a really good book, and not wanted to put it down. Well, this is one of those books that is addictive to read, and kept me up later than usual on recent nights. Angels in My Hair (2008) by Lorna Byrne tells the amazing story of a woman who has the gift of being able to see angels and people’s souls. Lorna grew up in Ireland in poor circumstances, but ended up living a very rich spiritual and joyful life because of her gifts. She is now sharing these gifts with the world in her books, talks, and spiritual direction with those in most need.
Early in her life, she was diagnosed by health and school officials as being mentally retarded. In actuality, she was distracted by the many angels engaging her that led to this misdiagnosis. She talks about the trauma this brought to her childhood, as she was an outcast by those in the school, the community, and even her own family. I truly understand her pain with this issue, after being a social worker with adults with developmental disabilities, I would regularly witness the ridicule that these people face on a daily basis. Despite the ridicule, Lorna got incredible support from her angels, and they told her to not tell anyone about her gifts. It was not until the writing of her first book in 2008 that the angels permitted her to tell this amazing story. I know to, from working in mental health, that the angels gave her incredible advice, knowing that sharing her gift at the wrong moment would risk her being institutionalized in a mental health facility.
I will tell you that I was a bit skeptical about first reading about her gifts, but after reading her book, and seeing her videos, that it is hard to believe she is making up all these incredible stories. She comes across with such warmth, sincerity, and deep understanding of spirituality that it is hard not to come away an unbeliever in angels. I know too that The Vatican could never officially endorse an Irish mystic who says she sees angels (but I would not be surprised if Pope Francis himself secretly would endorse Lorna’s gifts).
Lorna had a near death experience and went for a brief time to Heaven. She learned of the incredible love she experienced in Heaven and did not want to return, but realized that it was not her time, and God had further plans for her on Earth. I think God’s plan ultimately was to share these incredible gifts with others through her writings, prayers, and mass media as she now shares on Facebook many of her works of faith. It is funny that this was how I found Lorna, as I had shared a link about angels, and she wrote me a thank you note in Facebook which led me to buying her “International Bestseller” now printed in 21 languages.
Lorna recently came to America and spoke in New York and in Philadelphia to enthusiastic crowds about her experiences. These talk were also with two other people who also had near death experiences and feeling the love of Heaven. One of them is Dr. Eben Alexander, a University of Virginia Hospital neurologist who previously worked with coma patients who shared their experience of going to Heaven and he blew-it off as neurosis in these patients. Then one day Dr. Alexander was afflicted by a rare brain illness putting him in a coma for seven days. Now, Dr. Alexander is a believer and has penned a best-seller called Proof of Heaven: a neurosurgeons journey into the afterlife. God must have a sense of brilliant humor in showing people from all walks of life the love in Heaven, and bringing them home on a new mission.
Lorna Byrne & Dr. Eben Alexander
Lorna says that everyone, no matter your religion, race, or unbelief, you have a guardian angel. Lorna is very lucky to have this amazing gift of seeing angels and souls all the time. Sometimes it is a burden, but she has been amazing in sharing her gifts with the world. Lorna is lucky to regularly talk with Michael the Archangel, and he told her that “God hears all your prayers.” Michael instructed her to write down and share this prayer given by God to her:
Prayer of Thy Healing Angels,
That is carried from God by Michael, Thy Archangel.
Pour out, Thy Healing Angels,
Thy Heavenly Host upon me,
And upon those that I love,
Let me feel the beam of Thy
Healing Angels upon me,
The light of Your Healing Hands.
I will let Thy Healing begin,
Whatever way God grants it,
I really encourage you to read Angels in My Hair, The True Story of a Modern-Day Irish Mystic, by Lorna Byrne (2008, Three Rivers Press). Lorna has added two additional chapters to the most recent printing: Afterword: America The Gateway to Humanity’s Future and Twelve Ways to Connect with Your Guardian Angel. Lorna has also just published another book going on my wish list entitled A Message of Hope from The Angels (2013). You can check out more about Lorna’s work with the links below.
I would like to recommend an upcoming movie called Heaven is for Real (2014). Greg Kinnear stars in this true story about a man with a young son who has a near death experience who talks about his experiences in Heaven. Coming to theaters April 16, 2014. Check out the official trailer below:
Greater Good Technology is a new ministry developed by Catholic Web Services to help give disadvantaged people access & training in technology. We have developed a successful pilot program here in our hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. Greater Good Technology’s program aims to help homeless people, by giving them a fair seat at the table to search for a job.
Empowering those transitioning from homelessness
Today’s society requires modern communications to be on a level field for employment. We train a Lead Training Mentor that targets 12 other men and women transitioning from homelessness to train. The lead trainer receives a Google Chromebook with which to train his trainees and receives payment for each trainee they graduate that is verified by our online training system at Catholic Web Services. Each trainee receives a Google gmail account, Google Voice number for email, begins to create a resume, and receives training on how to make calls online.
Catholic Web Services is successfully working with Howard, our first Lead Training Mentor, in the Charlottesville pilot program. Our Director of Technology, Carl Stacy became friends with Howard through a local mentoring program. Howard wanted a way to give back to the community, the same community that had provided him assistance in his time of need, and was very enthusiastic about sharing his new technology skills with others to help them find employment.
We were thankful for an initial grant from the Lions Club, but need your help to grow this deserving ministry. Please contact us if you are interested in bringing Greater Good Technology to your community.
Charlottesville’s Support Network for Homelessness
One of the reason’s this program works well is because it adds to a great support system of people and agencies who provide a network of services helping the homeless gain independence, housing, and employment. Charlottesville’s system of supports has grown over the years and is getting better through the cooperation of our great provider groups: PACEM, The Haven, Lion’s Club, The Salvation Army, and county and city social services.
PACEM is a grassroots organization that coordinates space and volunteers to provide shelter for individuals in our community who are homeless. Charlottesville currently has no permanent shelter for the homeless, so the religious community united to help in the cause of sheltering the homeless during the cold months of the season.
More than sixty congregations in the Charlottesville area take turns opening their doors – setting up cots, serving warm evening meals, and providing companionship. Through PACEM, congregations of many faiths and community groups come together to address the need for shelter in our community. The name, PACEM, is an acronym for (People And Congregations Engaged in Ministry). Pacem is also a Latin word meaning peace.
Director Tom Shadyac visiting his friends at The Haven
The Haven is a safe and welcoming place for the homeless and very poor of Central Virginia to be during the day. Opened for business on January 18, 2010, The Haven provides this community with a central place to receive vital services and get connected to social service providers. The Haven came into being through the generosity of UVA alumni & Movie Director Tom Shadyack. Tom came back to Charlottesville in 2006 to film the movie Evan Almighty, a hit comedy retelling of the Noah’s Ark story, and he gave proceeds of the film to buy an old city church to make it a “haven” for the poor and homeless.
The Haven provides meals, short-term storage, showers, laundry facilities, computer access, living room, community garden and referrals to on-site service providers offering substance abuse assessment, mental health peer support, financial literacy and counseling, legal assistance, public housing applications, resume development and job search coaching, health advocacy and navigation, social services such as food stamp screening. It has been a wonderful asset to bring all the services under one roof, and Greater Good Technology is working to help with technology training to give these men and women an opportunity at a better life.
Help Us GROW! — YOUR SUPPORT NEEDED
We would like to continue this program and grow it to other communities, but we need your support. Your help with financial support, and through prayers are very much appreciated. We are seeing a great need to help the homeless and your support in any way helps us to keep our ministry going. We are looking for people who could donate any size donations which are very much appreciated. We are fundraising now through Christmas with an indiegogo crowd-source funding campaign. You can contact Catholic Web Services Director, John Clem, if you have any questions:
Laura Ingraham came to the University of Virginia Law School as an alumnus to speak about her work and experience in law and politics from a very personal perspective. Laura was invited by The Federalist Society for Law Public Policy Studies to speak about politics and the public perception of the Supreme Court. Maybe I was expecting to hear the same brash personality from FOX News, or from her conservative radio show, but really she offered a very honest and rational view of the state of America. Laura was critical of Democrats, but even more so of her own Republican Party.
Laura shared with us that she is friends with both of the candidates for the Virginia Governors race, Terry McAuliffe & Ken Cuccinelli. She said that she goes to the same church as Terry McAuliffe, and often has friendly debates with him, even though they do not agree ideologically. She said Ken Cuccinelli is a “good man,” but does not have a vibrant personality needed to win with voters. Laura made clear that she thinks many of the people in Washington are well-intentioned politicians, but we need someone who can lead our nation and “wright the ship” from a $17-trillion deficit or disaster will come soon. She said she does not care what party a politician follows, she just wants to see America get leadership in place that will address the biggest issues of jobs, the economy, and liberty.
Laura is true patriot and wants to see a better future for her children, and very worried about the state of our nation. Laura commented that the current problems with the Affordable Health Care website are representative of of the problems of the Obama administration, showing his lack of experience in running a business. Laura said that our next president should have experience in leadership running a business, as a vital requirement of the Chief Executive. Laura said she is not critical of Barrack Obama as a person, but rather about his lack of leadership skills needed for the office. Laura did comment that the US Courts also need good leadership, and questioned the ruling by Supreme Court Justice Roberts on the Affordable Care Act.
The most important thing in Laura’s life is her family. Laura is a wonderful mother who adopted three children, and is a strong advocate for domestic and foreign adoptions. Two of Laura’s children were adopted from Russia, where she had to use her legal skills and ability to speak the Russian language in their courts to save these children. Laura was recently outraged at the ban on foreign adoptions made by Vladamir Putin in Russia. In response, she has started a charity to help promote a culture of supporting adoptions called Burning Both Ends. Laura shows us bi-partisan leadership in partnering with Democrat Mary Landrieu for this wonderful cause. Great video below worth your time to view:
A Charitable Heart
Laura helps many charities, and shows a love of people with the many works of mercy and financial supports in her work. Laura has been a supporter of the military with the Wounded Warrior Project, and a number of worthy causes for our troops. Laura is a breast cancer survivor who helps others afflicted, and in finding a cure. She is also a staunch supporter of life–from conception to natural death. Following is a list of her worthy charities:
Laura is a recent convert to Catholicism. Laura has a very strong faith, and it is wonderful that she shares her faith with her listeners on her radio show. Laura is friend’s with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, and they both share time with their families and appear on each other’s shows.
Raymond Arroyo & Laura Ingraham (photo Huffington Post)
Laura said she was very grateful of her experiences from living in Charlottesville, and attending the University of Virginia. She said it gave her the skills and knowledge that has guided her well in life. It was an honor to listen to her talk tonight, and I join her in praying that we find leadership in America to help us all out of this mess.
On my drive back to Virginia from Boston’s Catholic New Media Conference, I seemed to be guided by the Holy Spirit on a pilgrimage that I was not expecting. Starting my day on Monday with 7am Mass, and I decided to visit the St. Anthony Shrine in downtown Boston. This is a wonderful ministry church that serves many people in acts of mercy and support to those most in need. Fr. Ronald Stark was the celebrant of the morning Mass, and I was able to talk with him after Mass about our new ministry at Catholic Web Services called Greater Good Technology, in helping bring technology to the homeless offering on-line training to help get employment. I told Fr. Stark we would love to help bring this program to Boston and other communities, and we are hoping for prayers and donations to help us make this happen. Father Stark gave his blessings to the ministry and wished me well on my journey home.
St. Anthony Shrine in downtown Boston
St. Francis receiving the stigmata before the San Damiano Cross
Old Sturbridge Village
In leaving Boston, my Honda CRV needed some gas, and it brought me to Sturbridge, MA. My knee was tight, and I needed a walkabout, so decided to visit Old Sturbridge Village. This was a great blessing that helped my knee as well as gladdening my soul to walk through this beautiful living history village in full Fall colors. Old Sturbridge village brings history to life, and reminds us of how hard life was in the early days of this country and how much we have to be thankful for in America. Old Sturbridge Village depicts life in New England from 1790-1840 on over 200 acres filled with historic buildings and costumed historians.
Old Sturbridge Village
Gardening in an earlier time
Covered bridge and pond at Old Sturbridge Village
Historian showing the way life was for the poor in early America.
St. Anne Shrine
My next stop was the gas station, but I guess the Holy Spirit had something else in mind, as I spotted an inviting sign to the Shrine of St. Anne. I had not heard of this shrine, but decided to stop and find out more.
St. Anne Shrine
St. Anne Shrine is a sacred place, dedicated to St. Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandmother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Pilgrims and visitors come to the Shrine seeking physical and spiritual healing, and in this peace-filled atmosphere they find hope, strength and comfort for themselves and their loved ones. The St. Anne Shrine just celebrated its 125th Anniversary last year.
St. Anne Shrine and Gift Shop
The natural beauty of the grounds, the Way of the Cross, the Lourdes Grotto, the Scala Sancta (Holy Stairs) and many other prayerful places provide an ideal setting for contemplation and meditation. There is also a well-stocked gift store that also has a Russian icon exhibit that is the property of the Augustinians of the Assumption who help run the shrine. I was very spiritually moved by this wonderful shrine, and encourage you to stop by for spiritual renewal. It is amazing the read the letters from people whose prayers were answered, and to see all the crutches and rosaries hanging near the relic of St. Anne, a testament to the miracles at this holy site.
Russian icon exhibit at St. Anne Shrine
Stations of the Cross done in large bronze castings.
Statue of St. Anne & Blessed Mother Mary
St. Anne Shrine with relic (a piece of St. Anne’s wristbone)
Crutches & Rosaries left at the St. Anne Shrine honoring the many healings and answered prayers.
Shrine for St. Anne for mothers
My next stop was for lunch and gas in Waturbury, Connecticut. I spotted a beautiful church and drove up to it. To my surprise it was named Shrine of St. Anne for mothers. It is a place of pilgrimage and worship where we promote the sanctity of life by honoring and praying for our mothers, grandmothers and godmothers. The Shrine of St. Anne is evolving from the French Canadian ethnic parish of greater Waterbury into a Shrine, and has been undertaking a major fundraising and restoration effort. This is a beautiful shrine and parish, and must see it if you are driving through Connecticut.
Shrine of St. Anne for mothers
Gorgeous stained glass at Shrine of St. Anne for mothers
As sunset was pending, I stopped in Pennsylvania for a break and a lady suggested that I go see the town of Bethlehem on the way home, noting its beauty. It was a lovely drive through the Delaware River Valley and crossing the Appalachian Trail, where I also passed through the town of Nazareth (a town associated with Jesus, Mary, and Anne). Upon arrival in the town of Bethlehem I could see a large lighted star on a mountaintop overlooking the village, and then looking to my right I saw a neon sign on top of a building “Hotel Bethlehem.” Wow, I hope when Jesus has his second coming that he is welcomed at the inn? What a great spirit-filled trip home, and thankful for the great experiences and people I met in Boston and on my journeys.
I attended the annual retreat of the St. Margaret of Cortona region of the Secular Franciscan Order at the beautiful Priestfield Pastoral Center in Kearneysville, West Virginia this past weekend. Our retreat was led by Fr. Gene Pistacchio, OFM, who is Director of Franciscan Spiritual Companionship Ministry at the St. Anthony Shrine in Boston.
Fr. Gene Pistacchio, OFM
Fr. Gene is a wonderful speaker and storyteller and spoke on the Journey of Faith: A Franciscan Spirituality of Encounter. Fr. Gene said there are three components of the Franciscan faith journey and they are: listening, embrace awakening, and mission. It is important to be aware of the need around you through listening and dialog, as well as quiet-time to listen to God. We need to embrace awakening and follow the call to the Gospel life, and Fr. Gene shared that his path was difficult at times, but by embracing awakening he has been led to a wonderful life as a friar working in The Bronx and other areas of New England. We are all called to mission Fr. Gene reminds us, and in doing so find Jesus in unexpected places.
The Elephant Whisperer
Fr. Gene shared many stories with us but one of the most touching stories was about Lawrence Anthony – The Elephant Whisperer. Lawrence was moved to help save the elephants after seeing so much killing and destruction of their habitat. But Lawrence died last year and amazing thing happened.
For 12 hours, two herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of late author Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who saved their lives.
The formerly violent, rogue elephants, destined to be shot a few years ago as pests, were rescued and rehabilitated by Anthony, who had grown up in the bush and was known as the “Elephant Whisperer.”
For two days the herds loitered at Anthony’s rural compound on the vast Thula Thula game reserve in the South African KwaZulu – to say good-bye to the man they loved. But how did they know he had died March 7?
Known for his unique ability to calm traumatized elephants, Anthony had become a legend. He is the author of three books, Baghdad Ark,detailing his efforts to rescue the animals at Baghdad Zoo during the Iraqi war, the forthcoming The Last Rhinos, and his bestselling The Elephant Whisperer. (BeliefNet)
In a way this was a perfect story illustrating: listening, embracing awakening, and mission. Through these elephants, it shows we are all interconnected in this world and hopefully guides us to mission for a more peaceful and holy world. Below is a video about The Elephant Whisperer.
Francis & The Sultan
Fr. Gene spoke of the work that the St. Anthony Shrine has accomplished in Boston. Just before the Boston Marathon Bombings on April 15, 2013, members from the both the Catholic and Muslim communities began to meet for fellowship and peace-building. After the bombings, the Friars reached out to the Muslims in peace for dialog and understanding, and it helped bring healing to the community.
Fr. Gene spoke of the example of St. Francis who in his own time had worked to build peace by meeting with the Sultan Malek al-Kamil. Through example we have much to learn from both faith communities, and there are some wonderful resources being used to help facilitate peace in your community. Fr. Gene has begun to use a program from JustFaith/JustMatters called “In the Spirit of St. Francis and the Sultan: Muslims & Christians Working Together for the Common Good” and offers guides and materials to have a group discussion to help bring peace and understanding. There is also another great program from Franciscan Media called “In the Footprints of Francis and the Sultan” which has a two-part DVD with interviews from Franciscan Friars and Muslim leaders and relates to the story of St. Francis and The Sultan meeting. It also offers many materials for learning and discussion in facilitating a group on the website. Below is a preview of the DVD from Franciscan Media which we hope to host a show and share in Charlottesville with our Muslim & Christian brothers and sisters.
The Franciscan Earth Corps is a new ministry for young adults (ages 18-35) fostering Franciscan Spirituality in action for social & ecological justice in caring for God’s creation. On September 20-22, forty young people gathered at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America for a weekend of prayer, fellowship, learning, and action in forming a new national effort to grow the Franciscan Earth Corps. The Franciscan Action Network is now helping to grow this ministry with guidance and resources to start a chapter in your local area. Below is a great video made by students from Syracuse University in New York that shows the Franciscan Earth Corps and invites young adults to help form new chapters:
The weekend in DC with the Franciscan Earth Corps members was very inspiring and motivating to meet many people from across America working on, or planning great projects in their local communities. We were blessed to have a great speaker begin our weekend with a talk from Sister Ilia Delio, who spoke on the subject of “The Emergent Christ and Franciscan Spirituality.” She has written many great books on Franciscan ecology, spirituality, and prayer. One that is recommended to Franciscan Earth Corps members to read is Care for Creation, by Sr. Ilea Delio, O.F.S. , Keith Douglas Warner, O.F.M., and Susan Wood. Below is a video from Georgetown University’s Woodstock Center with Sr. Ilia Delio talking on Food, Ecology, and Consciousness
Sister Ilia Delio, OSF, speaking in The Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land.
The group who met in DC had the opportunities to learn about the resources at the monastery. The group had contemplative prayer time in the beautiful prayer gardens that have replicas of Holy Land sites, Lourdes Grotto, and Portiuncula Chapel. We also got a tour of the garden programs, beehives, and ecology projects at the monastery. We also learned about community organizing, and shared experiences to help form a the beginnings of a great ministry.
I had the pleasure to spend some time with a young man, Andre Rivera, from The Bronx, in New York City who is helping to form a new chapter of the Franciscan Earth Corps. He has a wonderful story to tell, and it is well illustrated in a video he made to help save the Bronx River:
Our weekend ended with a beautiful Mass at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. This church run by Franciscan priests is a wonderful parish, that serves a diverse community with Mass said in Haitian, Vietnamese, Spanish, and English. After Mass, members of the Franciscan Earth Corps joined members of the local community in a guerilla gardening project. The Earth Corps helped beautify an abandoned lot that had the support of the community. Beautiful photos below are from the event taken by Amanda Schulz.
“We pray this action of beautifying a forgotten place can be a spark,” said Fr. Kevin Thompson, OFM Cap., whose nearby Sacred Heart parish brought several of the young adults to the site. Neighbors said the parking lot, church, and house at Georgia Ave and Park Road NW had been abandoned for over a year and was a haven for drug dealers. Many neighbors cheered on the gardeners as they walked past, with two young boys joining in the digging and a woman adding a large flowering plant from her own yard. A man living next door thanked the group and pledged to take care of the flowers after they were planted.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood from the Hip Hop Caucus was invited to lend his support and add inspiration to the event. With Franciscan Earth Corps focused on global as well as local issues of ecology, Rev. Yearwood spoke about the crucial role of people of faith in the struggle to take on climate change. He applauded the role that local, nitty-gritty efforts of solidarity must have in an expansive movement for change, saying, “We must fight poverty and pollution at the same time and bring hope to communities where there is no hope.”
Franciscan Earth Corps members helping care for God’s creation in Guerilla Gardening Project in Washington, D.C.
Find a Franciscan
There is now a Find a Franciscan map system to find a sponsoring Franciscan community near you. There are many parishes with a Secular Franciscan Order fraternities, or Franciscan priests, brothers, and sisters who would like to hear from you about helping with the Franciscan Earth Corp or any part of the Franciscan Family. My local Secular Franciscan Order, Mount LaVerna Fraternity, is sponsoring a new chapter of the Franciscan Earth Corps, so if you live in Central Virginia, check us out.
Franciscan Earth Corps in Washington, DC on September 22, 2013