Thursday, December 11, 2014

All we have to decide is...

I am re-reading with delight The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  In the early part of the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo, a humble and happy hobbit, is lamenting the darkness of the time that he lives in, wishing that it were not so.  Gandalf, the wise wizard, offers a gentle correction stating that it is not for us to decide which time we live in, adding, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  With these simple, strong words Gandalf encourages Frodo as he faces the lonely possibility of embracing the mission before him.  He encourages Frodo to accept reality as it is, not as he wished it could be and so choose freely how to respond to the circumstances in which he finds himself.

There is so much depth in this short sentence for anyone and yet especially for one discerning God’s call in his/her life.   This 2nd Sunday of Advent the Church proposes the person of John the Baptist as one who clearly knew how to live the time that was given to him.  John’s whole identity was in pointing to the coming of Jesus.  His singular witness remains an icon of religious life.  For us in the 21st century it is a rather bizarre image of one who wore camel hair and ate locusts and wild honey!  (Maybe he was from California or an archetypal founder of the CFR’s ?!)  And yet mysteriously the Gospel tells us, “All the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him.”  His prophetic witness was attractive because it was clear and authentic in a world that was afraid and confused.  He knew what he was about.  Jesus. He was a friend of the Bridegroom, listening for the Bridegroom’s voice so that he could announce joyfully to the world the coming of Christ-the desire of all nations (Jn 3:29).

Pope Francis put it simply. The role of religious is to “wake up the world.” And how our world desperately needs waking up from its spiritual lethargy.  God is calling each of us to respond for our time.  We cannot change the times we live in. Each of us can only respond as we feel led by Him. Even if like Frodo, we feel inadequate and small, each of us has a mission.  “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”  Advent is a time of grace given that we may do this.  Let us not waste time but act manfully.  May the intercession and example of St John the Baptist stir our hearts to respond wholeheartedly to the call of Christ and the needs of our time.   

Fr Emmanuel Mary CFR

Vocation Director

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The ‘Ripple Effect’ of Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s ‘Yes’ to God

“If it hadn’t been for Fr. Benedict, I don’t know where I’d be.”  These words, spoken by a young man who had lived at the St Francis House for boys founded by Fr. Benedict in the 60’s, have been echoed by the sentiments of countless others during these days of prayer and rememberance.  As Fr. Andrew preached at yesterday’s funeral, “No Fr. Benedict, no CFR’s!” and so without Fr. Benedict, I don’t know where I would be! 

We CFR’s have been powerfully reminded (and perhaps educated) this week that Fr. Benedict’s untiring and faithful “yes” to God for over 60 years has been a source of tremendous grace for thousands, if not millions of people; bishop’s; priests; families in poverty; religious sisters; boys from Children’s Village; viewers of EWTN; readers of his 43 books; homeless men; women in crisis pregnancy and who knows how many more…?  And who knows what the ripple effect of God’s grace has been through the lives of those touched by Fr. Benedict?  Only God.  And that’s how Fr. Benedict would like it. 

So often the news is disturbing and frightening.  War, terrorism, disease, moral confusion.  There is a great deal of fear in our culture.  People feel helpless and hopeless in the face of everything and so do nothing.  But that wasn’t Fr. Benedict’s style!  He was a man of faith and hope, impelled by the love of Christ and so he had to do something.  And he did a lot!

But what is our response?  What is my response?  It must be the same response uttered by Fr. Benedict when he was 17 years old, as he left home to follow Jesus and join the Capuchins.  It must be the same response that then led him (some 30 years later) as he left the Capuchins (his home) to follow Jesus and begin the CFR’s.  The same response he uttered, not without struggle and suffering, for over 60 years. We can almost hear him say it in his unmistakable quiet voice, “Yes Lord.” 

Just the other day I read this quote from St. John Paul II and thought of Fr. Benedict:

The first duty of the consecrated life is to make visible the marvels wrought by God in the frail humanity of those who are called.  They bear witness to these marvels not so much in works as by the eloquent language of a transfigured life, capable of amazing the world  (Vita Consecrata). 

Fr. Benedict wasn’t perfect and nor are any of us.  I’m not called to be Fr. Benedict and nor are you but his powerful “yes” challenges each of us, in our frail humanity, to offer our lives to God wherever we are, with the same passion and generosity.  Fr. Benedict’s life made visible the marvels of God and you know what?  So can we!!  And that’s what amazes the world - the ripple effect of grace!

+ Fr. Emmanuel Mary Mansford, CFR
Harlem, NY
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

From Fr. Gabriel Joseph Kyte in England


                Hope this e-letter finds you all well.  This year in the European region we’re introducing Come and See weekends.  If you’re from North America and have visited St. Joseph’s Friary in New York, this style of visit will be familiar to you.  In the European region however, we’ve had a number of visitors over the years to our friary in London, but many of the guys don’t get a chance to meet the others who are discerning with us.  Brothers in Europe, you are not discerning alone!  There are many other young men who are asking the same questions as you, and wrestling with the same fears and aspirations in discovering God’s will with joy and trust!  The Wednesday to Sunday stay will hopefully allow for a more focused stay as you take another good step in the process of discernment.

                A Come and See “weekend” will be offered in each of our friaries in England and Ireland. 

The first one will be in Bradford at St. Pio Friary November 12th-16th, 2014.

The second will be in Limerick at St. Patrick’s Friary, February 4th-8th, 2015.

The others are planned for May and July in Derry, N. Ireland and in Limerick respectively.

                Please call me at St. Pio Friary in Bradford, England if you’d like to come on any of our Come and See Weekends (0044-1274-721-989).  I pray that they will be a helpful part of the journey for you in following in Jesus’ footsteps.

You are in our prayers,

Fr. Gabriel Joseph

Vocation Director, Europe.

                With Fr. Benedict’s passing, I wanted to recommend to all of you a great book that Fr. Benedict wrote while accompanying a young man discerning and pursuing God’s call.

                Father Benedict Groeschel had a great love for vocations.  He helped many to discover and/or persevere in the will of God for them.  One of them was a priest named Fr. Eugene Hamilton who became a priest in the final moments of his life.  Fr. Benedict’s book, A Priest Forever (Our Sunday Visitor Press), tells Fr. Eugene’s story.  If you can track it down, it is well worth the read…even if the diocesan priesthood is not your call. 

With special permission from St. John Paul II, Eugene was ordained to the priesthood in the final hours of a long battle with terminal cancer.  Fr. Eugene was young.  Fr. Eugene wanted to do God’s will.   With all of his heart (toto corde) St. John Paul II gave his permission that Eugene be ordained a priest, even if only lived out in this life for a very short period.  St. John Paul II knew that to do God’s will, even if only lived out briefly in this life was worth more than a thousand lives lived doing one’s own thing.  At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Eugene Hamilton was ordained a priest 3 hours before he passed from this life into the next, a priest forever. 

                Be assured of our prayers brothers and of our support as you discern God’s will.

St. Francis, pray for us.  St. John Paul II, pray for us.