Thursday, December 20, 2012

Discipleship: An Unexpected Journey

I recently saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of a trilogy of movies based upon J.R.R. Tolkien’s marvelous prelude to his Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  I found myself deeply moved and inspired by the movie, especially the character of Bilbo Baggins and his reluctant struggle to accept an invitation to step out of his comfort zone and make an “unexpected journey”.  While not an immoral hobbit, Bilbo was living a very comfortable, “I’m ok, you’re ok, leave me alone” lifestyle.  He was minding his own business, eating (several meals a day), sleeping, smoking his pipe, reading his books and maps, and seems perfectly content to live for the next meal, nap or smoke.  However, the good wizard Gandalf showed up at his front door and disrupted all of that, inviting Bilbo on a journey of epic proportions, and not taking “no” for an answer!  Before they set out, Bilbo asked if Gandalf could guarantee his safe return.  Gandalf said that he could not, but then assured Bilbo that if he did return, he would not be the same person that he was when he started.  It was as if to say, if he made this journey, Bilbo would become the person he was created to be.  What Bilbo gradually began to realize was that before he chose the journey, the journey had already chosen him—he was made to do this. 
            Brothers, I find Bilbo’s struggle to accept Gandalf’s invitation so moving because it speaks to both the struggle of vocational discernment and the on-going struggle of discipleship.  Vocational discernment can indeed be a journey, sometimes a reluctant and grueling one, as we seek to distinguish between the voice of God, our own voice, and the voice of the enemy (the world, the flesh, and the devil).  That’s why we feel a sense of victory and peace when we are able to surrender and say “yes” to what God is asking of us.  However, the journey is not over at that point!  Really, it is just beginning.  Vocation discernment is about saying “yes” to the journey of discipleship, but the living out of our vocations is about actually making that journey.  And we quickly realize, as Bilbo and his companions did, that it is an “unexpected journey”, and that the fulfillment of our “yes” is full of peaks and valleys, joys and sorrows, darkness and light, defeat and victory.  And through it all the Lord is molding us into our true selves.
            We witness a similar dynamic in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  At first, the visit of the Angel Gabriel deeply troubled her.  She didn’t fully understand his greeting (what did it mean that she was “full of grace”?) or the invitation being extended to her:  “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  But the angel Gabriel assured her that “nothing will be impossible for God” and that she was not to rely upon her own power, but that of the Holy Spirit.  He helped her to realize that she was being asked to say “yes” to a journey that had already said “yes” to her.  It wasn’t a journey she fully grasped; she accepted it amidst the darkness of faith not completely knowing what would be demanded of her.  While she experienced truly unfathomable joy as a result of her “yes”, she also experienced untold sorrow as well.  And yet, ultimately, her “yes” changed history, bringing salvation to those of us who accept it.
            Blessed John Paul II proclaimed that “Mary teaches Christians to live their faith as a demanding and engaging journey, which, in every age and situation in life, requires courage and constant perseverance.”  And so, we look to her this Advent and Christmas not only for the grace to say “yes” to the journey of discipleship, but for the courage and perseverance to live that “yes” through every “unexpected” twist and turn.  If we do so, our unexpected journey will lead us to unexpected joy!

Merry Christmas to you all!

Fr. Isaac Mary Spinharney, CFR
St. Joseph Friary
Harlem, NY

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Come and See

We will be hosting a special "Come and See" weekend from December 7-9, 2012.

It will be a great opportunity for prayer and discernment. This weekend is open to catholic men in their 20's or 30's who are seeking to better know God's will in their life. Spend a weekend with our friars in London and learn more about following Jesus in the footsteps of Saint Francis!

For those men in Europe who are interested in spending a weekend at our friary in London, England, please contact Fr. Emmanuel Mansford, CFR, at the phone number below.

Fr. Emmanuel Mary Mansford, CFR
St. Fidelis Friary
Killip Close
London E16 1LX

0207 474 0766

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Saints and All Souls

Yesterday was the Solemnity of All Saints!  Pope Benedict XVI says that “to become saints means to fulfill completely what we already are, raised to the dignity of God’s adopted children in Christ Jesus…”  In saying this he seems to be echoing St. John who writes in his first letter:  “beloved:  see what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.  Yet so we are… Beloved, we are God’s children now…(1 Jn 3:1-2)".  St. John and Pope Benedict thus reveal to us that the path to saintly glory begins with the recognition of what we have already received at our baptism, namely, divine sonship!  Sanctity is nothing more than our full reception of this awesome gift, our true identity!
            Brothers, no one needs to enter religious life or enter a seminary or get married in order to prove something to God; to prove that he is worthy of Love!  It’s not about our worthiness, but about His gift:  “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loves us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10).  Discerning and choosing a vocation is simply a response to our Father’s love for us which comes to us through His Son Jesus.  The Church teaches that religious profession—professing and living the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience—is “a special and fruitful deepening of the consecration received in Baptism” (Vita Consecrata, 29).  Essentially, this means that religious life is all about going deeper in our sonship, our relationship with God our Father!  That’s good news!  Have courage, God, your Father is calling you!

            I would also like to offer a brief thought regarding All Souls Day.  Most of us are well aware that we can pray for the poor souls in purgatory; that our prayers actually help them as they continue to be purified along their journey to heaven.  However, not everyone is aware that they can pray for us!  They can do so because we are members of the same body of Christ, and while they can no longer pray for themselves, their prayers are powerful before the throne of God on our behalf.  Therefore, I invite you to consider including them in your discernment, especially if you are struggling to know God’s will or struggling to say yes.  One proposal is to ask our Lady, the mother of the entire Body of Christ, to gather up a group of souls in purgatory who also struggled with discernment, or who didn’t discern, or who didn’t discern well—in short, a group of souls that may be in purgatory for not saying a complete yes to their vocation or for dragging their feet in doing so.  Offer to pray, through her intercession, that these souls will be released into the arms of Jesus very soon.  And then ask her to guide these souls in praying for you as you discern and seek to choose God’s will for your life.  Praying to the souls in purgatory is not magic, but it is another way that God our Father helps us along our journey.  Isn’t it great to be Catholic?!

God bless you all,

Fr. Isaac Mary Spinharney, CFR
St. Joseph Friary
Harlem, NY

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Marriage and Religious Life - Part 4

Over these last four weeks, we have been considering the call to both marriage and the religious life.  We have studied their fundamental differences and have also discovered their mutual complementarity.  These reflections were an attempt to highlight the beauty and the richness of both of these vocations so as to aid some readers in their personal discernment.  I certainly hope this goal was accomplished.  Yet, I want to close with a word of caution and an exhortation.
            First of all, the word of caution:  In your discernment, don’t get lost in the world of lofty theology and overly-sentimental idealism.  The theology is beautiful brothers, and it is all true.  However, our knowledge and understanding of marriage and the religious life is helpful only insofar as it leads us to a true encounter with Jesus Christ!  Sacred Scripture tells us that Jesus is the author of our salvation.  If that’s true, then that means He is also the author of our vocations.
            Vocational discernment and vocational choice take place in the context of a relationship with Jesus.  And as our relationship with Him grows, eventually he asks us the same question he asked those two “vocation visitors” in John’s Gospel 2,000 years ago, “What do you seek?” (Jn 1:38).  And so begins the dialogue, the open and honest dialogue with Jesus regarding the deepest and truest desires of our hearts.  On one hand, the answer to the question “what do you seek?” is “You, Jesus!  I come seeking you.”  That response is true regardless of what marriage we are called to.
But, we also recognize that Jesus is calling us to something specific, something personal.  And it takes time and it may take struggle—struggle with ourselves and struggle with God—in order to arrive at a place where we can freely choose the vocation that God is calling us to.
We may be really attracted to religious life while also having a deep desire for marriage, secretly wondering, “Can I really be happy without a wife and children?”  Or maybe our hearts contain a question or a fear of a different sort:  “Can I be holy without becoming a priest or religious?”  The answer to both questions is YES, ABSOLUTELY, long as God is not calling you to that respective vocation!  Our happiness and holiness will be found in whatever vocation God is calling us to!  The Second Vatican Council states quite clearly that “all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love” (Lumen Gentium 40).  So again, the question is “which marriage or which vocation is God calling you to?”
Discovering the answer to that question will depend largely on the answer to another question, and here comes the promised exhortation.  The question is:  Can we trust God?  The answer and exhortation is:  YES!  Can we trust that God has a plan for our lives?  YES!  Can we trust Him with the deepest desires of our hearts?  YES!  Does he want us to be happy?  Can He make us happy?  YES!  YES!  And He will do so if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2), the one who “came that [we] may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

God bless you all!

Fr. Isaac Mary Spinharney, CFR
St. Joseph Friary
Harlem, NY

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Marriage and Religious Life - Part 3

            I concluded last week’s reflection on marriage and discernment by stating that “the question is not whether one is called to marriage or not, but which marriage is one called to?”  This week’s reflection will explain the meaning of that surprising statement, demonstrating that religious life points us to the ultimate marriage between God and man in heaven.  As a reminder to our readers, this is the third part in a four part series and this reflection will be more meaningful if one has read the first two parts (see e-letters of 10/10/12 and 10/15/12).
In Matthew 22:30, Jesus boldly declares to the Sadducees that “in the resurrection they [man and woman] neither marry nor are given in marriage….”  At first glance, these words of Christ seem to undermine everything we have said about the greatness of marital love.  However, as we’ll see, they actually reveal the ultimate fulfillment of it!
Let’s return to the gospel from the 27th Sunday in Ordinary time, Mark 10:2-16.  In this passage, the Pharisees approach Jesus seeking “to test him” by asking him whether divorce is lawful.  After they remind him that Moses allowed divorce, Jesus reminds them that this was a temporary concession made because of the hardness of their hearts and that “from the beginning of creation” God made the marriage bond between man and woman indissoluble.  The reason for this is that “from the beginning of creation” the sacrament of marriage has existed to point us to the ultimate marriage, the marriage of Christ and His Church.  And, in heaven, this ultimate marriage is fully realized; the sacrament of marriage gives way to reality!  The sacrament is no longer needed!  This is where religious life comes in!
In Matthew’s version of the same gospel passage (Mt 19:1-12), after Jesus restored the permanence of marriage according to God’s original plan, his disciples concluded that it was better not to marry because of the difficulty presented by Christ’s teaching.  But, Jesus takes the discussion to a whole different level:  “Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given.  For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who haven been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.  He who is able to receive this, let him receive it” (Mt 19:11-12, RSV).
I don’t think I need to explain what eunuchs are!  But, in the Christian tradition a eunuch “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” is someone who freely forgoes the earthly sacrament of marriage in anticipation of heaven, where men and women “neither marry nor are given in marriage.”  In Perfectae Caritatis, the Vatican II document on the appropriate renewal of religious life, the Church teaches that “for ALL CHRIST’S FAITHFUL religious recall that wonderful marriage made by God, which will be fully manifested in the future age [heaven], and in which the Church has Christ for her only spouse” (PC, 12).  Again, Genesis 2:18 tells us that “it is not good for man to be alone.”   Religious who faithfully live the vow of chastity reveal that the ultimate fulfillment of solitude, the ultimate communion that all men desire, is found only in union with God.  This is the Church’s understanding of religious or consecrated life, a life that already participates in the ultimate marriage between Christ and His Church in heaven.
So, again, I pose to you the question, “which marriage are you called to?”  Put another way, are you called to the sacrament of marriage which is an image of the ultimate marriage of Christ and His Church, of God and man?  Or are you called to religious life, to freely surrender the earthly sacrament of marriage so as to anticipate and already participate in the wedding feast of heaven? As you begin or continue to ponder that question this week, stay tuned for next week’s final installment of our four part series on Marriage and Religious Life!

God bless you,

Fr. Isaac Mary Spinharney, CFR
St. Joseph Friary
Harlem, NY

Monday, October 15, 2012

Marriage and Religious Life - Part 2

Last week we considered briefly the vocation to married life in light of the Lectionary readings for the 27th Sunday in ordinary time.  Next week I would like to offer a brief consideration of the vocation to religious life.  This week, however, as a bridge between our reflections on the vocation to marriage and the vocation to religious life, I would like to make some practical observations about marriage and discernment.
            The Church’s teaching on the sacrament of marriage (see e-letter of 10/10/12) is quite rich, and very beautiful.  Let’s face it, it’s downright attractive!  And authentic discernment of religious life demands that we are honest about the attractiveness of it.  Therefore, if someone discerning religious life feels a desire for the vocation of marriage, that desire should not be ignored!  We need to face the desire for marriage, think about it, pray about it, speak to our spiritual directors about it—it is a holy desire, “ordained by God and ordered to his purposes,” (Fr. Robert Barron, Magnificat, October 2012, p. 99).
And even if we are called to the priesthood and/or religious life, that does not change the fact that we are made for another, made for marriage!  It is written into every aspect of our person—spirit, soul and body.  So, even though one may be called to religious life, his sexual desire will not mysteriously disappear.  Moreover, his emotional/affective desire for another will not mysteriously disappear.  And finally, his desire to be a father will not mysteriously disappear.  In religious life, all of that becomes part of that gift of self made to God in living out the vow of chastity.  In fact, for the religious, these desires become power for loving God and others in a free, total, faithful and fruitful way, and in this they are uniquely fulfilled.
Religious life is not an escape from marriage.  It is not a safe place for those who are uncomfortable with or afraid of their sexuality or for those who are emotionally immature and afraid of relationships.  It is a place where one must face and fully embrace his sexuality and his emotional life and with the help of God’s healing grace seek to integrate them fully into his personality and his life.  From this standpoint, the expectations of one called to religious life—psychological and sexual maturity—mirror those for one called to married life.  And this makes sense, for as we’ll see next week, the question is not whether one is called to marriage or not, but which marriage is one called to?  Until then…

God bless you,

Fr. Isaac Spinharney, CFR
St. Joseph Friary
Harlem, NY

Interested in learning more?  Call us at

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Marriage and Religious Life part 1

This past weekend, we had the privilege of welcoming seven men on a come and see visit in order to discern a possible call to religious life.  I found it to be both surprising and humorous that the gospel passage for that Sunday (the 27th Sunday in ordinary time), the last day of the visit, was from Mark 10:2-16 where Jesus affirms the indissolubility and dignity of marriage!  However, after I stopped chuckling to myself and began to dig in and prepare for the homily, I realized that this was a gift from the Lord offering these young men, and indeed all of us, an opportunity to understand both the vocation to marriage and the vocation to religious life more deeply.  Over these next four weeks, I would like to reflect on both of these vocations in the light of the readings from last Sunday and recent Church teaching.  My hope is that these reflections will highlight both the fundamental differences and the complementarity between these two vocations and, therefore, aid some readers in their personal discernment.  We’ll begin this week with marriage.
In last Sunday’s first reading from Genesis 2:18-24, we read “the Lord God said:  ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a suitable partner for him” (Gen 2:18).  Immediately this tells us something important about man (mankind; ourselves), namely, that he is incomplete without another.  Man is made for communion.  Marriage is a communion of persons and it is in the context of this communion that he experiences the happiness he was created for! That is why later on in the same reading, Adam, upon seeing Eve for the first time, cries out with joy:  “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”  Adam’s first words weren’t, “Wow you’re gorgeous” or “would you like to go out to dinner sometime?”  Instead, he responded to Eve’s presence with the intensity of a poetic, star-crossed lover because in her he saw his own completion, the meaning of his existence.  A modern translation of Adam’s exclamation might be “I will give my very life for you!” or “You are everything to me; I will never love another the way I love you” (Fr. Robert Barron, Magnificat, October 2012, p. 99). 
In marriage, Christ elevates this natural intensity of love to a sacrament!  And He does so because this awesome sacrament reveals something even greater than the natural intensity and happiness of human love.  It actually reveals to us the love of Christ for His Church.
This is the teaching of St. Paul in Ephesians 5:21-32.  In this passage St. Paul begins by exhorting wives to be subject to their husbands because the husband is head of the wife AS Christ is head of his bride, the Church (Eph 5:23).  But, he also exhorts husbands to love their wives AS “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her…” (Eph 5:25).  Thus, he concludes that the mysterious, one-flesh union of husband and wife points to the greater mystery of the one-flesh union between Christ and His Church.
The Church teaches that authentic, married love is free, faithful, total and fruitful.  This is because these are the very characteristics of Christ’s love for His bride.  Jesus, the bridegroom of the Church, freely and totally gives Himself to the Church in faithful and fruitful love.  Therefore both He in the gospel and the Church in her magisterial teaching affirm the indissolubility and dignity of the sacrament of marriage because it is an image of His marriage to the Church.  If Jesus or the Church allowed divorce, that would be akin to saying that Jesus could divorce the Church; that He could come down from the cross.
The ultimate purpose of the sacrament of marriage is to reveal to us this awesome love of Jesus for His Church.  That is why marriage and sexual love in the context of marriage are held in the highest honor by the Church.  This is the core of Blessed John Paul II’s teaching in the Theology of the Body.
This concludes our brief reflection on the sacrament of marriage.  I hope this offers you an opportunity this week to ponder more deeply this beautiful vocation.  Stay tuned for next week when we will discuss.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Lord gave me brothers

Today, October 4, is the feast day of our Holy Father St. Francis, arguably one of the most renowned and celebrated saints in Church history.  While popularly characterized as the great lover of animals and an ecological pioneer, those of us who seek to follow his way of life are inspired by his love for Jesus and the holy gospel, and his desire to follow in the very footsteps of his Lord by living a life of prayer, poverty, penance and obedient suffering.  And yet, for us Franciscans, his appeal goes even beyond these qualities.  St. Francis was not only a great lover of God, but a great lover of men.  He understood the two to be inseparable.

In is Testament—a short document written at the end of his life entrusting his spiritual legacy to his brethren—Francis, makes the simple, yet profound statement that “the Lord gave me some brothers….”  It seems as if it were merely mentioned in passing, but the rest of the document and the testimony of his whole life bear witness that this remark is charged with meaning.  His various biographers detail story after story revealing the strong, but tender love that the poor man of Assisi had for his brothers.  For example, on one occasion a brother woke in the middle of the night seemingly dying of hunger pangs as a result of intense fasting.  St. Francis, whose own fasting seemed to know no bounds, rather than chastise the young brother, ordered all of the brothers to get up and eat grapes with the young man so that the he would not be ashamed of his weakness.  St. Francis recognized his brothers as one of the greatest gifts God had given them and he loved them deeply.

In our own community, the tradition of Franciscan brotherhood lives on!  It is days like today, when in honor of St. Francis, almost twenty priests and over fifty brothers and sisters gathered around the altar of the Lord for the holy sacrifice of the mass that I am reminded that the Lord gave ME brothers.  It is days like today, when our liturgical celebration extends onto the basketball court for some healthy and holy competition or into our evening festivities when we seek to entertain each other with some self-deprecating skits that I am reminded that the Lord gave ME brothers.

However, my most powerful experience of Franciscan brotherhood is on the non-feast days, when I am struggling day-in and day-out with the few brothers that I live with to live the Franciscan life.  It is the moments when I am able to share my heart and my pain with a brother or encourage him in his pain that I am reminded that the Lord gave ME brothers.  It is the moments when I need to repent for not loving a brother as he deserves and I hear him say “I forgive you from the bottom of my heart” that I am reminded that the Lord gave ME brothers.  It is the many moments of laughter brought on by the brothers’ antics that remind me that the Lord gave ME brothers.

Perfectae Caritatis, the Vatican II document on the renewal of religious life, says that it is much easier to live the vow of chastity in an environment of genuine fraternal charity.  I would extend that statement to the living out of poverty and obedience as well.  Fraternal life and charity is meant to be a particular source of joy and strength for a religious in any community.  St. Francis understood this completely and he continues to teach it to us, the brothers whom God has given him!

Coming soon:  an introduction to the three new members of the vocations team.

God bless you,

Fr. Isaac Mary, CFR
St. Joseph Friary
Harlem, NY

Interested in learning more? Give us a call!

Thursday, August 30, 2012


The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal sincerely apologizes for the comments made by Fr. Benedict Groeschel in an interview released yesterday by the National Catholic Register, online addition. In that interview, Fr. Benedict made comments that were inappropriate and untrue. A child is never responsible for abuse. Any abuser of a child is always responsible, especially a priest. Sexual abuse of a minor is a terrible crime and should always be treated as such. We are sorry for any pain his comments may have caused. Fr. Benedict has dedicated his life to helping others and these comments were completely out of character. He never intended to excuse abuse or implicate the victims. We hope that these unfortunate statements will not overshadow the great good Fr. Benedict has done in housing countless homeless people, feeding innumerable poor families, and bringing healing, peace and encouragement to so many.

Fr. Benedict helped found our community 25 years ago with the hope of bringing the healing peace of Jesus Christ to our wounded world. Our desire has always been to lift-up humanity and never to hurt. About seven years ago, Fr. Benedict was struck by a car and was in a coma for over a month. In recent months his health, memory and cognitive ability have been failing. He has been in and out of the hospital. Due to his declining health and inability to care for himself, Fr. Benedict had moved to a location where he could rest and be relieved of his responsibilities. Although these factors do not excuse his comments, they help us understand how such a compassionate man could have said something so wrong, so insensitive, and so out of character. Our prayers are with all those who have been hurt by his comments, especially victims of sexual abuse.

Personal Statement from Fr Benedict Groeschel:

I apologize for my comments. I did not intend to blame the victim. A priest (or anyone else) who abuses a minor is always wrong and is always responsible. My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be. I have spent my life trying to help others the best that I could. I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone.

With questions please contact Fr. Glenn Sudano at 914-965-8143.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May Brings Ordinations

Fr. John Paul at his first Mass in the South Bronx.

On May 19th I had the privilege of con-celebrating at the ordination Mass of Fr. John Paul, CFR.  Fr. John Paul had a significant influence in my initial discernment and throughout my years in religious life.  My first assignment upon making vows was to live at St. Felix friary and help build Casa Juan Diego, our apostolate in Yonkers.  Fr. John Paul had already been there two years assisting Fr. Andrew Apostoli with his responsibilities.  The first evening at dinner Fr. Lawrence and I were welcomed by Fr. John Paul and Br. Felix with a song with lyrics about stories of us in the novitiate as well as predictions of how life would be at St. Felix Friary.  Transitions are usually not easily and warm welcomes make those memories so much more pleasant.

A Point to Consider:

Whenever a difficult journey lies ahead it is so much easier when you walk with someone who has gone the path before you. In many of the year’s activities Fr. John Paul led the way mostly by example but always with a humble confidence, making it easier and desirable to walk with him.  Without being aware of it, I was being influenced by his example.  The more we strive towards humble confidence the clearer our discernment becomes and we receive the grace to fulfill what God asks of us.

If you would like to discuss your discernment or maybe make a visit with us in the Big Apple, feel free to call us at 212.281.4355. Keep in mind that I will be away until June 9.

You have our prayers,
Fr. Gabriel Mary Bakkar, C.F.R.
Saint Joseph Friary
Harlem, NY

Check it out:

Father John Paul Ouellette, C.F.R.
Possessions included, he gave his life to God

One Priest and Five Deacons Ordained in May
(with photo galleries)

Novices Make First Profession of Vows

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Sunday, April 29, 2012, is the 49th World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Every year the Pope asks the whole Church to pray for, think about and discuss the topic of vocations. He also delivers a message on the issue of vocations. Find the full text of this year's message here.

"I am inviting you to say yes to your vocation!"

This year Pope Benedict is focusing on the mystery of Love. God is love. It is only love that motivated God to create. In love He seeks us out. He invites us to respond in love. This loving response is our vocation.

Other than referring to some helpful passages from the Bible, the Pope also includes some great quotes from Saint Augustine, Blessed John Paul II, Saint John of the Cross, Pope Saint Gregory the Great and Saint John Vianney. Among other things, he recommends a strong devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the Poor. We felt such a confirmation when we read that because these are two anchors for our way of life as Franciscan Friars of the Renewal!

As we train our spiritual eyes to see Jesus in the Eucharist,
we will start to see Him in the poor as well.

Please know that we are praying for all of you who are reading this. Please feel free to contact us to discuss your discernment and maybe even make a visit to us in The Big Apple. We do not run specific "come and see" weekends, rather we take visitors as they are able to come! Because we do not have internet in the friary, we usually do not do ministry over the internet. Give us a call @ 212.281.4355 ...

God bless you,
The Friars

St. Joseph Friary
523 W. 142nd St.
New York, NY 10031


Friday, April 20, 2012

New Website!

May the Lord give you His peace!

Sorry for the delay in contacting all of you out there. We have been really busy working on the new Let us know what you think. Meanwhile ...

On Palm Sunday, Pope Benedict gave a great message to the youth on Joy.

He wrote, "Speaking of generosity, I would like to mention one particular joy. It is the joy we feel when we respond to the vocation to give our whole life to the Lord. Dear young people, do not be afraid if Christ is calling you to the religious, monastic or missionary life or to the priesthood. Be assured that he fills with joy all those who respond to his invitation to leave everything to be with him and to devote themselves with undivided heart to the service of others. In the same way, God gives great joy to men and women who give themselves totally to one another in marriage in order to build a family and to be signs of Christ’s love for the Church."

Know that you are in our prayers and feel free to call us to make a visit!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Is there any legitimate limit to the power of the government?  Is there any area of our lives that are protected from governmental control?  This great country of the United States of America was founded on the principles of individual liberties.  Our founding fathers all agreed that there are areas of our lives that the government has no business meddling with.

In recent months we have seen the government attacking and infringing upon one of these fundamental areas: religious liberty.  In fact, it is the very first of the Amendments to our honorable Constitution that ensure freedom of religious, freedom, that is, from governmental intrusion in the area of belief.  Does the government have the right to tell you what to believe?  Can the government force you to do that which you find morally reprehensible?

The recent H.H.S. Mandate attacks and undermines this fundamental principle of our American way of life. Therefore, the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal stands shoulder to shoulder with our Bishops and all those who defend our American values.  Our founding Fathers sacrificed for what they believed in and left us a powerful legacy.  Following their courageous example, we will peacefully and steadfastly resist any infringement upon our religious liberties and our deep-seated beliefs.

Whether someone agrees with the Catholic position or not, it must be admitted that the Catholic position is a deep-seated, ancient and constant belief of the Catholic faithful.  It goes back to the time of the Apostles.  It is quintessentially a religious belief.  It is a belief that the Almighty God created human life and it is very good.  It is a belief that each human person has an inalienable value because of a God-given immortal soul.  It is a belief that we are all daughters and sons of a Loving Father.  Only in acting with dignity and purity do we express the full wonder of being human.  Anything that artificially interferes with the beautiful act of the marital embrace or involves a voluntary mutilation of a healthy person or causes the deliberate death of an innocent human being is diametrically opposed to the goodness of life and the love of God.  Accordingly, all of these acts are beneath our dignity and can never be supported by those who hold the Catholic faith.

We ask our politicians and our fellow Americans to stand with us against this assault on our freedoms.  If we can be forced to act against our fundamental beliefs, how long will it be before you are forced to do the same?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What to do for Lent?

At the beginning of Lent Christian homes are full of conversations about what to do or "give up" during this annual penitential season. Let the medicine match the malady. If you have a cold you do not take chemo therapy. If you have cancer you do not take an aspirin. Why not take a look at those faults and weaknesses that you usually pray about and confess. Then think about a devotion or practice that would directly impact those things.

The New Testament often quotes a famous passage from Isaiah 40, "A voice of one calling in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low' ..." So let us level those mountains of pride and fill up those valleys of doubt in order to make a path in our hearts for the grace of the Lord!

God bless you,
Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
St. Joseph Friary, New York, NY

Papal message for Lent 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Discernment and Renewal

On the Feast of the Presentation our brothers renewed their vows to live our Life for one year. Renewing vows for one year may or may not seem like a huge commitment. On its own it really isn’t. Really the renewal encompasses far more. I renewed my vows for the first time eleven years ago, yet I remember it quite vividly. All the friars kneeled at the altar rail of St. Adalbert Church in the Bronx. In the presence of all the friars in the community, I spoke into the microphone: “I Brother Gabriel Mary of Jacksonville vow and promise to almighty God…” At age 25, and after having spent two and a half years with the community, my renewal of vows was for me telling God, "You’ve brought me this far and I believe you are calling me to this life and so I will continue to follow."

Every step forward becomes a step towards letting go of that which is solely our own will. Through this period of discernment we become more aware of who we are as His sons and who we are called to be. Discernment is never meant to be a source of anxiety but an opportunity to trust. Our Lord didn’t give the Apostles a five-year plan; he simply invited them to follow Him.

Please pray for all of the friars who renewed their vows!

Check it out ... 

+ FYI : The two-week visit for those wanting to join our community will be July 12-26, 2012.

+ The friars are featured in this new book. It is really positive and well written.
(find it on amazon here)
(video of an interview with the author here)

+ NEW!
Your one stop site for all books, audio and video from Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR

God bless you,

Fr. Gabriel Mary Bakkar , CFR 
Saint Joseph Friary
523 W. 142nd St.
New York, NY 10031

Interested in learning more? Give us a call!

eLetter Archive

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Jesus 2012

Whether we like it or not, our country is in full election mode preparing for the presidential election next fall. This time for some is a time of great excitement and anticipation, and for others it is a cause of great frustration and annoyance. I guess it comes with the territory as they say, but upon reflection I would like to propose a lesson that we can learn from this process every four years.

Every couple of years the country has a national conversation about priorities and the direction things are headed. The buzz word that is always used is CHANGE. Different candidates and philosophies, political parties, and movements all share there perspective and plans for particular change dealing with particular sets of issues. Change is good, but as Christians we must see things differently. You see, Jesus called for change too. His first words in the gospel of Mark chapter 1, verse 15 was to repent! There is no need to discern what He wanted, it is quite clear! For those calling for change today seem to be saying that the “other” guys need to change or those who disagree need to come over to their side. These battles that display the mentality that someone else is always to blame are why the election process gets discouraging at times. Wouldn’t it be great if one of the candidates got in front of a camera or a large crowd and said, “I am the one that needs to change!”

The need for Christians to repent of our ways is so necessary and central to every Christian call, but even more so for a religious and those discerning religious life. In his document on religious life, Blessed John Paul II states, “The vocation of consecrated persons to seek first the Kingdom of God is first and foremost a call to complete conversion, in self-renunciation, in order to live fully for the Lord, so that God may be all in all ( #35). Our vocation is to be transformed!

There is no question that there is much to consider in discerning a call to religious life. Contemplative or active, community life or solitude, teaching or serving the poor, and so much more! But when we take a step back, to “reprioritize” if you will, to become holy is the end. Our openness and understanding of this simple reality, that first and foremost the Lord calls us so Himself, to be transformed into a new creation, to live a new life and in a new way is the beginning and end of consecrated life.

Change is needed. Sure, change in the government or the philosophies of the day, but most importantly change in our hearts. This is the key to discernment and the beauty of religious life! No need for slogans and commercials or complicated plans! Just an openness and fidelity to following the Lord as He first desires to bring conversion to our hearts that ultimately transforms the world in which we live. Not to get cheesy or to take someone else’s line, but at the end of the day this is truly change we can believe in and only this kind of change can last.

God bless you,

Br. Angelus Immaculata, CFR
Saint Joseph Friary
523 W. 142nd St.
New York, NY 10031

Check it out ...
Man chooses prison over monastery (very funny)
Midnight run with the Friars of the Renewal (animated slideshow)
Archbishop Dolan named a Cardinal (our Archbishop gets the red hat!) NEW!
Your one stop site for all books, audio and video from Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR