Saturday, December 27, 2014

Franciscans and the Nativity

Throughout Christmas and up to Epiphany, God’s word proclaims Jesus’ mastery over creation.  In the Gospel readings he can heal the sick; he multiplies the loaves and fishes; he walks on water.  These miracles demonstrate and remind us of Jesus’ almighty power and how much he emptied himself when he became one with us.  Not as a man, but as an infant. 

The Creator of the world could not walk, talk, or even roll over.  The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity weighed just a few pounds; he shivered, cried, and nursed at his mother’s breast.  The message of Christmas and God's incarnation is shocking. He who created the billions of galaxies with billions of stars, who created the countless creatures of our world, became completely dependent on us for his safety, well-being and nourishment.

It seems almost blasphemous to suggest that God became human. Yet, he did so out of love for us.  A testament to who “I” to who “We” are.   That are goodness far out weights our brokenness.  That we are much more than our sinfulness.  So much so that God placed his trust and faith completely in us.  And given our track record of violence he probably should have feared us. 

Jesus, became one with us, out of love for us, and amazingly as scripture points out, "we must have the same love for one another" (1 Jn 4:11).  One of the great Christian apologists of our time, G.K. Chesterton, once wrote a parable to illustrate this point:
“A man who was entirely careless of spiritual affairs died and went to hell.  And he was much missed on earth by his old friends.  His business agent went down to the gates of hell to see if there was any chance of bringing him back.  But though he pleaded for the gates to be opened, the iron bars never yielded.  His priest also went and argued:  “He was not really a bad fellow; given time he would have matured. Let him out, please!  The gates remained stubbornly shut against all their voices.  Finally, his mother came; she did not beg for his release.  Quietly, and with a strange catch in her voice, she said to Satan:  “Let me in.”  Immediately the great doors swung open upon their hinges.  For love goes down through the gates of hell and there redeems the dead.”  
The incredible graciousness, power, and mercy that came into our world in Jesus is still, at least potentially so, in our world in us, the Body of Christ. What Jesus did we too can do; in fact, that is precisely what we are asked to do as Christians. We are called to enter the world of another; to enter their pain and suffering. We are to be reminders that their goodness far out weights their brokenness. That they are much more than their sinfulness. We are to remind others that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image and likeness of God and they are GOOD!

This is the true message of Christmas and the primary mission of the followers of St. Francis of Assisi.  A powerful message of our goodness and the message we are called to share with others. 

Peace and All Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM


Join the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara in praying the "Collect" and
reflecting on the Gospels of Advent leading up to the powerful message of Christmas.

Personal Reflection:

If you feel called to religious life as a Franciscan friar of the Province of Saint Barbara are you willing to enter the world of another, to enter their pain and suffering?

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email:  
vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/OFMvocation
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Care for Creation

 
"Saint Pope John Paul II named Francis the patron saint "of those who promote ecology" in 1979. Ecology in Europe refers to what we in the United States call environmentalism and not just the science. Francis is the patron of those who cultivate ecological consciousness, but that means a lot more than being the patron of environmental educators. His example really points to a mystical or a spiritual vision for all of the creative world as brother and sister, as he describes in his Canticle of the Creatures." - Br. Keith Warner, OFM

As Franciscan friars and followers of St. Francis we are called to cultivate this spiritual vision for the natural world as brother and sister and our need to care for creation.  If you are interested in our way of life you'll need to clarify your willingness to serve the poor and marginalized through caring for creation.  The poor and care for creation are linked together.  It's the poor and marginalized who are the first to suffer the consequences of the abuse of the earth's resources. 

While discerning our way of life you'll need to test your desire and abilities to promote and practice this vision within your family, neighborhood, community, etc....  Look for local opportunities to get involved in your community around environmental issues.

As you volunteer or work in this field you'll need to become aware of the movements of consolation and desolation before, during, and after engaging in this work. As you reflect on your experience you'll ask:  Did I experience desolation?  Did I feel weary, dry and dissatisfied?  Did I feel consolation?  Did I feel cheerful and satisfied?  Was I able to engage in these activities with a joyful and generous heart?  These two movements well help reveal the movement of the Holy Spirit in your discernment process.  Read the blog post "Consolation and Desolation" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, take your experiences and engage in theological reflection.  Theological reflection is an essential ingredient in the process of spiritual discernment.  It holds the possibility of discerning God's presence and/or direction.  It's the process of standing before your experience 'open' to what may or may not be revealed through the lens of faith.  Read the blog post "Theological Reflection" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, share you experiences with your spiritual director and/or vocation director.  This person will listen to your story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine.  They will also help you discern between your voice, the world (family, culture, and society) and God's voice within your experiences and theological reflection.  Read the blog post "Spiritual Direction" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Remember to be nourished by the Word and the Eucharist at Mass in order to be sent forth in mission to love and serve the Lord.  Read the blog post "Freely You Have Received, Freely Give" for more information on why Mass is important for discernment.

Lastly, at this stage in the journey you are trying to put on the "habit" of serving the poor and marginalized by promoting care for creation and living in balance with the earth and her resources.  You're trying to see if you have the abilities and the desire to live within and promote this spiritual vision as a religious brother or priest.  The work is not easy, but it's the love of God that sustains and nourishes us in this work.

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

Reflection:

For more information on St. Francis' vision of the created world as brother and sister and how it  informs our understanding of "Care for Creation" read Franciscan Keith Warner, OFM article published in U.S. Catholic Magazine.

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email: 
vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/OFMvocation
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org

Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara spent the week giving thanks because it's at the heart of what it means to be Franciscan and a Catholic Christian.  We see all of life as "Gift". We are thankful for this gift and in turn share it with others out of gratitude.  To give thanks is at the heart of our Catholic faith.  Which is why the Church calls us a Eucharistic People because Eucharist is Greek for thanksgiving.  We are called to be a people of thanksgiving.  

Share and read the blog post, "Freely you have received, freely give" to reflect on the message of thanksgiving and how it relates to our common vocation to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.

Freely you have received, Freely give.

Peace and All Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM



Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email:  
vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/OFMvocation
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Faith Journey of Eddie Fronske, OFM

Fr. Eddie Fronske, OFM shares his faith story with the Franciscan Renewal Center (The Casa).  He was honored with their Peace Award.  The following is his acceptance speech given on September 21, 2014.

The Beginning
 
I am grateful and humbled to be receiving this peace award from the Casa today.  My Franciscan journey began here in 1954, when I made a men's retreat.  I'd never even heard of Franciscans before.  One morning I had served Mass for a friar, and when asking my dad who those guys were-Franciscans, and what they did, he signed me up for a men's retreat here at the Casa.  And at the end of the retreat, I was signed up for the seminary in Santa Barbara.

My parents, each of my eight brothers and sisters, and Isabel - whom I nicknamed 'Bika', who worked for the family during my childhood, have had - and still have - a wonderful influence on my friar journey, as have the friar community.  In 1967 I was ordained in my home parish of Nativity, in Flagstaff.  I told my family I was going to pray for snow so people would remember - 83 inches!  My little sister, Beth, met me at the train station with:  "You overdid it!

Work with Cesar Chavez

My first assignment was Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Delano, California.  Bishop Manning asked the friars to take over because of the escalating tension there.  So, I went from the theology classroom to Delano - no year of intership for me!  The Farmworker Union under Cesar Chavez's wonderful leardership, had its hands full with the strike.  Cesar had a gift of leadership and a passion for justice like I'd never seen.  You would never know he only had an 8th grade education.  His commitment to nonviolence equaled his passion for justice.  His deep faith, which I got to witness on many occasions, truly inspired me.  His love for our Lady of Guadalupe was like none I'd ever seen.

But what most challenged and inspired me was his passion for justice.  I remember when a couple of ruffians from another union - who gave the farmworkers a hard time - got into a fight with each other and were arrested, roughed up in jail and given a heavy fine.  Cesar heard of it, and sent two of his lawyers to take their case.  The fine was lessened and each of the men giving an apology.  This was hard for the young union members to handle, and even threatened the union's unity.  But Cesar did not budge.  I believe one or two of those men became Cesar's bodyguards.  Cesar's faith and courage, the farmworkers' loyalty in the midst of so much violence and injustice, had a profound effect on me!

Work with Undocumented Immigrants 

Though I'd asked to go to the Apache nation, my next assignment was Las Vegas, to live in the Black ghetto and minister to the Hispanic parish of St. Christopher.  On arrival, I was asked to take a vacated parish out in Overton, sixty miles north of Las Vegas.  Here I ministered to St. John's parish, half Anglo, half Hispanic.  Invitations to baptize from an area north of Overton, introduced me to a community of undocumented Catholic families, and I began having Mass in a little motel, room 6, which we called the cathedral of Cristo Rey.  Soon I was ministering to undocumented families in the wider area.  How I cam to love them!  On one occasion there was a raid, during which  the immigration officers flagrantly broke the law.  I was enraged!  We met that night in one of the homes that had been affected.  As I sat there, I was thinking: Let's just get one of them and show them that they can't hurt people like that.  Imagine!  I had said nothing as I sat simmering, but the mother, whose house it was, looked directly at me and said:  "Father, as long as you hate immigration people, you're no good to us.  You have to help us fight their injustice, but you have to love them, or you can't help us."

Work with the Apache American Indians

You see what great teachers I had!  They prepared me for the ministry I am in, and have been for the last thirty-one years, pastor of one, and then three White Mountain Apache parishes.  And what great teachers they have been!  I can vividly remember sitting in the hospital emergency room with a mother whose daughter had been shot through both legs at a dance.  Her mother said to me when I came and sat next to her:  "Father, I'm trying to forgive the man who shot my daughter, but I am having a hard time!" Talk about teachers!

With Pope John Paul II's visit in the 1980s, I heard him apologize to the Native Americans for our misunderstanding and persecution of their religious beliefs and traditions.  He asked for forgiveness and told them to go back to their own spirituality, which was given by God and sacred, and bring those tradition to Christianity so both could be enriched. What an incredible blessing that was!  And my bishop, Pelotte, our first Native American bishop, encouraged me to combine the two spiritualties as much as I could.  Again, what a blessing!  How it has enriched our liturgies!  And I've been invited to participate in their ceremonies, and been so enriched by them!  As the Pope and Bishop encouraged, we use parts of their spirituality in our Eucharistic celebrations; they use our rituals - blessings, Eucharistic, prayers - as part of their ceremonies.

In the 31 years I have been with the White Mountain Apaches, I've seen so much injustice and prejudice, so much oppression, from within and without.  I have seen their woundedness, divisions and addictions.  I see them struggle to keep alive their sacred traditions and ceremonies.  

And I have been so blessed by a number of parishes,  including here at the Casa, and St. Thomas More in Glendale.  You help Anna - who has ministered with me for over 11 years - and me, to reach out to those in great need, and great need there is!  Because we have won the trust of so many in the community, we are in a position to reach out.  We do so with the help and support you give us.  For example, the food cards you have sent, are so important, and enable us to be there in a quite, sometimes critical way to help ease some of their burdens.  We have won the trust of so many, Catholic and non-Catholic.  But without your most generous support, we would be helpless to reach out to them. 

And they have been such an inspiration in so many ways.  One of our parishioners, Deedee, came upon a scene where an inexperienced driver from the Valley had slid off the road in the snow and hit a tree.  Deedee was the first on the scene.  She stopped, saw that the mother - the driver - was dead, and that her son was in bad shape in the back seat.  Her prayer of what to do was answered by the Lord asking what she would want someone to do if that were her and her son in the back seat.  So, she crawled in the back seat, held the boy and began to sing to him in Apache.  They boy later told the doctor who was stitching him up that an angel had come along, crawled into the seat with him and sang to him, but he didn't know what she was singing.  Years later, as her own son was dying, after two lung transplants, I was there as she held him in her arms and sang to him:  "This little love of mine, I'm going to let him shine..."  She is now in our music ministry. 

Reverse Mission

I have been so blessed to have been with the White Mountain Apaches for these 31 years!  The Apaches in our three parishes have embraced me - and now Anna - so well; have been such wonderful teachers.  An now we have begun bringing in outside groups for an immersion experience that has dramatically influenced the lives of those who come!  This now includes friars in our formation programs.  I call it "reverse mission":  "those who used to receive the missionaries, are now the missionaries, and the role of the missionary - me - is to build a bridge of trust so others can come and experience the richness of their lives and spirituality."  Reverse mission is truly one of my passions!

I am deeply touched by this award!  It came as a complete surprise, and it will encourage me to continue to work in the midst of such overwhelming odds.  My love and respect for my teachers, mentors, friars, and friends along the way, makes me most grateful to our provident and loving God, who writes so well with crooked lines.  Thank you for this most amazing gift!

Jesus, Francis, Cesar Chavez, Fr. Alan McCoy, my undocumented brothers and sisters, my fellow friars, the White Mountain Apaches, my family and many friends, have reminded me that each of us is called to struggle for peace and justice in our very hurting world.  Each of us is gifted.  Each of us is a part of a faith community; we can, and are called to witness, pray, and continue to work for peace and justice.  Jesus encourages us:  "With Me you can do all things."  So, as my father St. Francis told us:  "Preach always, and if necessary, use words."

Thank You!
 
Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email: 
vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/OFMvocation
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org




Monday, November 17, 2014

Peace and All Good

The Meeting of St. Francis and the Sultan
Once there was a war and two armies came together in battle. They fought from the time the sun came up in the east till it set in the west. When the day was at a close, only two warriors remained, surrounded by their dead comrades covered in the blood and gore of war.

They stood facing each other, so exhausted from death that they could barely move. Finally one said, “Let us rest until dawn and then finish this fight and only one will go home.” The other warrior agreed.

And so they took off their dented helmets and unstrapped their shields and sheathed their swords. They lay down among their fallen comrades only a few feet apart from each other. But they were so weary that they could not sleep. It was the weariness that comes with too much killing. Finally one turned to the other and spoke.

“I have a son at home in my village and he plays with a wooden sword. Someday he wants to grow up and be like me.”

The other man listened and finally replied, “I have a daughter at home and when I look into her eyes I see the youth of my wife.”

The two men started to tell each other stories. Stories of their families, their villages, their neighbors, the old stories that they learned at their grandparents’ knees when they were young. All night long they told stories till the sun started to creep to life in the east.

Slowly they stood and put on their helmets. They buckled on their shields and drew their swords. They looked deep into each others’ eyes and slowly sheathed their swords and walked away, each to his own home.

This story is called, "The Two Warriors" by Dan Keding and highlights a fundamental understanding of promoting peace for Franciscan.  Peace comes through relationships of mutuality based on justice (Read: Promoting Justice) . As Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara we are dedicated to promoting peace.  What is the scriptural understanding of peace?

The Hebrew word for "peace," shalom, is a blessing of God that provides wholeness, balance, completeness, health and happiness (Lev 26:6). Peace also means the absence of hostilities and war (Josh 10:1-4; Rev 6:4).  This is the salvation that Franciscan friars ask and desire for all people:  "May the Lord give your peace."  This would become Francis' greeting and his desire for all, "Peace and All Good."

If you are interested in our way of life you'll need to test your abilities and clarify your desires to serve the poor and marginalized by promoting peace.  You'll need to start by searching out opportunities to promote peace and learn about non-violent engagement.  To learn more about nonviolence visit Pace e Bene a peace ministry founded by Louie Vitale, OFM a Franciscan friar of the Province of Saint Barbara.

As you volunteer or work in this field you'll again need to become aware of the movements of consolation and desolation before, during, and after engaging in the works of peace. As you reflect on your experience you'll ask:  Did I experience desolation?  Did I feel weary, dry and dissatisfied?  Did I feel consolation?  Did I feel cheerful and satisfied?  Was I able to engage in these activities with a joyful and generous heart?  These two movements well help reveal the movement of the Holy Spirit in your discernment process.  Read the blog post "Consolation and Desolation" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, take your experiences and engage in theological reflection.  Theological reflection is an essential ingredient in the process of spiritual discernment.  It holds the possibility of discerning God's presence and/or direction.  It's the process of standing before your experience 'open' to what may or may not be revealed through the lens of faith.  Read the blog post "Theological Reflection" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, share you experiences with your spiritual director and/or vocation director.  This person will listen to your story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine.  They will also help you discern between your voice, the world (family, culture, and society) and God's voice within your experiences and theological reflection.  Read the blog post "Spiritual Direction" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Lastly, remember to be nourished by the Word and the Eucharist at Mass in order to be sent forth in mission to love and serve the Lord.  Read the blog post "Freely You Have Received, Freely Give" for more information on why Mass is important for discernment.

At this stage in the journey you are trying to put on the "habit" of serving the poor and marginalized by living in and promoting peace and non-violent engagement.  You're trying to see if you have the abilities and the desire to work for peace as a religious brother or priest.  This work is not easy, but it's the love of God that sustains and nourishes us in this work.

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM
 
Listen to this Radio Pod Cast:  St. Francis and the Sultan
 
In 1219, St. Francis went to Egypt in an attempt to convert the Sultan. This radio podcast explores some aspects of this encounter and how the meeting of St. Francis and the Sultan can serve as a model of peace and brotherhood. 
 
Personal Reflection:
 
To begin the discernment process you'll need to reflect upon your abilities, talents, and experiences.  Then you'll ask, "Can these gifts be used in the mission of the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara to promote peace for the poor and marginalized?"  How have you or will you promote peace in your community?

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email: 
vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/OFMvocation
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Faith Story of Br. Phillip Polk, OFM

In the distance I can hear the sound of church bells echoing throughout town.  This was our sign to start the short walk down the street to St. Charles for Sunday Mass.  At times I can still hear my Grandfather's voice, "Come on, let's get going."  It was a short walk that would have a lasting and profound effect on my life. 

On our Sunday morning walks to gather with the Apache Catholic community, my grandfather would always ask me one question:  "How are you doing?"  He said it with real concern, and not as a way to make small talk.  I would share my struggles and some of the joys I was experiencing in my young chaotic life.  He would share his stories of hardships he experienced growing up in a similar situation.  No matter what, he would always remind me how much he loved me, and I always knew it, not by his words, but by his concern and care.

This short journey I shared with my grandfather shaped me into the person I am today.  It was on this journey that I experienced the meaning of God and what God's love is really about.  Now I wish to journey with others, as my grandfather journeyed with me, so that they too might have an encounter with the love of God.  

I recently graduated from Holy Names University with a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies and I'm currently studying at the Franciscan School of Theology in Oceanside, Calif. as part of my formation and education in preparation for the priesthood.

Br. Phillip grew up on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona.  He is the first American Indian to take solemn vows with the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara.  The friars have ministered on the San Carlos' reservation for over 100 years.  This past August he made solemn vows.


Br. Phillip Polk, OFM and three other bothers make solemn vows.

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Avenue
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email: 
vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/OFMvocation
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Faith Journey of James Seiffert, OFM

Childhood Journey

Br. James' childhood was spent in New York in the ethnic and religiously diverse Bronx with his German Irish family.  He attended primary school with the Carmelite Fathers. However, it would be Sr. Michelle, a Sister of Mercy, who would awaken him to a faith expressed through joy.  Sr. Michelle snuck her third grade class into a local performance of "Up with People."  Their joy filled songs and celebration of life made a deep impression on James.
 
 
Years later when James' family moved to the suburbs of Long Island he began to attend CCD.  It would be music that enkindled his desire to serve others.   His Confirmation class sang Christmas carols at the local nursing home.  James saw the impact this had on the residents.  This would be the start of his desire to serve others, especially the sick and elderly.

James' high school years were spent in Georgia.   His father moved the family there for work.  He describes the relocation as moving to another country.  As a Catholic he became a minority in the South.  However, it would be there that his faith would grow.  Baptist friends asked him if he was born again.  He said, "That question started the conversation about what I believed."

Adult Journey
After high school James' family moved to Florida where he attended community college.  It would be here that he would be introduced to the charismatic movement of the 70's and 80's.  After reading an article in the local Catholic newspaper he attended a talk by a  Catholic nun.  Little did he know this nun happened to be Mother Angelica from EWTN.  Her talk was a light hearted presentation on the twelve apostles and was filled with music and prayer.  After the presentation Mother Angelica prayed over James and he experienced the joy and love of the Holy Spirit.  The Charismatic movement helped shaped his outlook and desire to pray for others, especially the sick.
After a stint as a physical therapist assistant he found himself working for United Airlines after he got the travel bug visiting his extended family in Germany.  His time in Germany was also a transformative moment.  As part of his travels he visited Lourdes for the Eucharist Congress and discovered the universal Church, her beautiful liturgies, and her care and compassion for the sick.

AIDs Ministry
After several years with United Airlines he was transferred to San Francisco. He attended Holy Redeemer Parish located in the Castro neighborhood.  His time at the parish coincided with the AIDs crises of the 80's.  He volunteered with the parish's AIDs Support Ministry caring for men dying of AIDs. 
James told the story of one client, Thomas a former school teacher, who was living in San Francisco.  At first James cleaned his home, cooked for him, and ran errands, but what Tom really desired was to talk.  They would talk for hours about philosophy, spirituality and God.  It would be in these conversations that James was first asked about becoming a religious brother or priest.  Through his airline benefits he accompanied several AIDs patients to Lourdes where they found peace and healing in the final days of their live.

Hospital Ministry
Later in the 90's James started attending St. Dominic Parish, a culturally diverse Dominican parish.  He served in the parish's sick and homebound ministry at the local hospital.  It would be his gentle care and presence at the hospital that got him noticed by the patients and the nursing staff.  He was often mistaken for the full-time chaplain.  He soon realized this could become a future career after his retirement.  He attended SFU and earned a degree in Philosophy and Religion to pursue his goal of becoming a hospital chaplain.
Due to an office closure at United Airlines James was transferred to Hawaii.  It would be here he would encounter his first Franciscan, Sr. Candida.  She recruited him to serve as a volunteer chaplain in the spiritual service department at their sponsored hospital.  He fell in love with Franciscan spirituality and its approach towards life.  When United Airlines offered him early retirement he took it, knowing it would free him up to attend graduate school, to pursue his retirement career as a hospital chaplain.  Sr. Candida told James, if he choose to return to Hawaii, she would have a chaplain job waiting for him.
Discovering a Franciscan Call

James returned to San Francisco and began looking at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.  He was especially looking at the Franciscan School of Theology.  However, he was also interested in the Franciscan Covenant Program run by the Province of Saint Barbara.  James became familiar with the program after meeting its directors at the LA Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California.   He was attracted to the idea of living with the friars and experiencing their prayer and fraternal life.
James asked God for guidance while walking the streets of San Francisco.  His answer came in the form of a parked car's license plate.  It read "FRE 2 SRV" (Free to Serve).  He applied for the Covenant program and was assigned to Old Mission San Luis Rey.  He became their volunteer coordinator and museum manager.  
On James first day he hosted a group of military chaplains.  After spending the day with them they asked if he planned on becoming a Franciscan.  This was not an option; he was already over the age for applying.  He simply laughed it off.  Yet, he was confronted with this question not only from visitors, but from the staff, volunteers and parishioners at San Luis Rey.  His answer was always the same," I'm passed the age limit."
The Franciscan friars at Mission San Luis Rey began discussing amongst themselves too if James had a calling to religious life.  They couldn't help but experience his joy filled spirit he had towards life and the gentle presence he had towards others.  The friars decided to approach James with an invitation to consider discerning a vocation to religious life as a Franciscan friar.  The age limit was waived for him by the friars.
Answering the Call

After careful discernment James entered the friars' Postulancy program in the Fall of 2012 and made his first vows in the Summer of 2014.  Br. James now resides at St. Elizabeth Friary in Oakland, California.  He works as a chaplain with the homeless for "The Gubbio Project" and is researching graduate programs to pursue hospital chaplaincy.
When you meet Br. James you can't help but experience his exuberant joy and his love for the goodness of life; a seed first planted on the day Sr. Michelle broke the rules for him and his classmates, and took them to see "Up with People".  Little did he know forty years later the rules again would be broken for him, this time to allow him to become a real troubadour, a troubadour for Christ, a Franciscan friar of the Province of Saint Barbara. 
Br. James Seiffert, OFM with his novice classmates.
Contact Information:
Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email: 
vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/OFMvocation
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org


Monday, November 3, 2014

Promoting Justice

One summer in the village, the people gathered for a picnic. As they shared food and conversation, someone noticed a baby in the river, struggling and crying. The baby was going to drown!  Someone rushed to save the baby. Then, they noticed another screaming baby in the river, and they pulled that baby out. Soon, more babies were seen drowning in the river, and the townspeople were pulling them out as fast as they could. It took great effort, and they began to organize their activities in order to save the babies as they came down the river. As everyone else was busy in the rescue efforts to save the babies, two of the townspeople started to run away along the shore of the river. “Where are you going?” shouted one of the rescuers. “We need you here to help us save these babies!” “We are going upstream to stop whoever is throwing them in!”

This is a parable you might be familiar with, but illustrates parts of the mission of the Province of Saint Barbara.  As Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara we are dedicated to serving the poor by providing food, clothing, housing, and social services.  These activities are traditionally called the corporal works of mercy by the Church. It is our way to share the mercy and love of God and for us to experience the mercy and love of God through the poor and marginalized.  The peace prayer ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi beautifully illustrates this; it is in giving that we receive.   

This week we reflected on the second part of this parable, the two men running upstream to stop whoever is throwing the babies in the river.  As Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara we are dedicated to promoting justice.  What is justice? 

Justice is a central theme that is pervasive throughout the Bible.  Justice calls for the fair and equitable distribution of life's necessities.  The scriptural idea of justice is based in the truth that all human beings have dignity, worth and are children of God.  Therefore, God created human beings to live in a society of justice, in which everyone would receive everything necessary for life (Gen 1:29). 

The Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara work to address the structural causes in our society that prevent others from receiving what is necessary for life.  The prophets also declared that God defended the poor, the oppressed and those who had experienced injustice (Am 5:11-12).  This is our call as Franciscans too, to be defenders of the poor and marginalized.  However, we don't simply stop there, Jesus also proclaimed that the wealthy were obligated to see the poor and take care of them (Lk 16:19-31).  Franciscans work among the wealthy too; we help them see the marginalized and provide opportunities for them to share their time, talent and treasures in benefit of the poor.

We are all called to promote justice, but as Franciscan it is a central part of our life.  If you are interested in our way of life you'll need to test your abilities and clarify your desires to serve the poor and marginalized by promoting justice.  Start by searching out opportunities to promote justice.

As you volunteer or work in this field you'll again need to become aware of the movements of consolation and desolation before, during, and after engaging in each political action, march, rally, organizing event, etc...  As you reflect on your experience you'll ask:  Did I experience desolation?  Did I feel weary, dry and dissatisfied?  Did I feel consolation?  Did I feel cheerful and satisfied?  Was I able to engage in these activities with a joyful and generous heart?  These two movements well help reveal the movement of the Holy Spirit in your discernment process.  Read the blog post "Consolation and Desolation" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, take your experiences and engage in theological reflection.  Theological reflection is an essential ingredient in the process of spiritual discernment.  It holds the possibility of discerning God's presence and/or direction.  It's the process of standing before your experience 'open' to what may or may not be revealed through the lens of faith.  Read the blog post "Theological Reflection" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, share you experiences with your spiritual director and/or vocation director.  This person will listen to your story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine.  They will also help you discern between your voice, the world (family, culture, and society) and God's voice within your experiences and theological reflection.  Read the blog post "Spiritual Direction" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Lastly, remember to be nourished by the Word and the Eucharist at Mass in order to be sent forth in mission to love and serve the Lord.  Read the blog post "Freely You Have Received, Freely Give" for more information on why Mass is important for discernment.

At this stage in the journey you are trying to put on the "habit" of serving the poor and marginalized by promoting justice.  You're trying to see if you have the abilities and the desire to work towards justice as a possible religious brother or priest.  Through this process you will ultimately ask, "Am I called to love and be loved as a religious brother or priest through caring for the poor and marginalized by promoting justice?"

This work is not easy, but it's the love of God that sustains and nourishes us in this work.

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM


Catholic disciples on mission are called to put Two Feet of Love in Action! This foundational tool describes two distinct, but complementary, ways we can put the Gospel in action in response to God's love: social justice (addressing systemic, root causes of problems that affect many people) and charitable works (short-term, emergency assistance for individuals).  Download the Program.

Personal Reflection:

To begin the discernment process you'll need to reflect upon your abilities, talents, and experiences.  Then you'll ask, "Can these gifts be used in the mission of the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara to promote justice for the poor and marginalized?"  How have you or will you promote justice in your community?

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email: 
vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/OFMvocation
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Consider Your Gifts

If every vocation is a call to service, we should consider our gifts and experiences and try to judge how they best match up with the needs of the world and how they align with our desires.  In doing this it quickly becomes clear that many options may match our desires, but not our gifts.  For example, I might have a desire to be a professional basketball player and therefore come to the conclusion God is calling me, but if I lack the talent and skills even though I have the desire it become clear I'm not called to this profession.  The opposite can happen too.  I might have the skills and talent to be a great chef, but if I lack the desire, it becomes clear that I am not called to this profession.  The same holds true for religious life.  You need both desire and the ability to minister and live as a Franciscan friar of the Province of Saint Barbara.

To begin the discernment process you'll need to reflect upon your abilities, talents, and experiences.  Then you'll ask, "Can these gifts be used in the mission of the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara?"  Compare your gifts to our Mission Statement:
The Franciscan Friars of the Province of Saint Barbara are members of a Roman Catholic religious order, from a diversity of backgrounds and cultures, dedicated to serving the poor and promoting justice, peace, care of creation, and reconciliation in the joyful and prophetic spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.
The next step is to test the use of your gifts against our mission of serving the poor, promoting justice & peace, caring for creation, and bringing about reconciliation.  I recommend starting with direct service to the poor or marginalized.  As you volunteer or work among the marginalized become aware of the movements of consolation and desolation before, during and after engaging in each experience.  As you reflect on your experience ask:  Did I experience desolation?  Did I feel weary, dry and dissatisfied?  Did I feel consolation?  Did I feel cheerful and satisfied?  Was I able to engage in these activities with a joyful and generous heart? 

These two movements well help reveal the movement of the Holy Spirit in your discernment process.  Read the blog post "Consolation and Desolation" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, take your experience and engage in theological reflection.  Theological reflection is an essential ingredient in the process of spiritual discernment.  It holds the possibility of discerning God's presence and/or direction.  It's the process of standing before your experience 'open' to what may or may not be revealed through the lens of faith.  Read the blog post "Theological Reflection" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, share you experience with your spiritual director and/or vocation director.  This person will listen to your story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine.  They will also help you discern between your voice, the world (family, culture, and society) and God's voice within your experience and theological reflection.  Read the blog post "Spiritual Direction" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Lastly, remember to be nourished by the Word and the Eucharist at Mass in order to be sent forth in mission to serve the poor and marginalized.  Read the blog post "Freely You Have Received, Freely Give" for more information on why Mass is important for discernment.

Finally, at this stage in the journey you are trying to put on the "habit" of serving the poor and marginalized.  You're trying to see if you have the abilities and the desire to work with the poor and marginalized as a possible religious brother or priest.  Through this process you ultimately ask, "Am I called to love and be loved by the poor and marginalized as a religious brother or priest?" and "Am I called to love and be loved by God as a religious brother or priest?"  Your experiences and relationships with the poor and marginalized will help reveal your calling on how to love God and neighbor.

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

The Gubbio Project was founded by Louis Vitale, OFM a Franciscan friar
of the Province of Saint Barbara.  This ministry is one example of our outreach
to the poor.  How can you be present to the poor and marginalized in your area?

Personal Reflection:

To begin the discernment process you'll need to reflect upon your abilities, talents, and experiences.  Then you'll ask, "Can these gifts be used in the mission of the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara?"  What gifts, talents, skills and experiences would you bring to religious life?

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email: 
vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Call to Action

My hand were folded in prayer, resting on the back of the pew.  My knees began to ache from kneeling.  This was my daily ritual after noon Mass.  I was praying for God's will to discover my vocation.  One day I felt an interior voice begin to rise within me a voice that boomed, "Scott, stop praying and start doing!"   The words reverberated throughout my body and especially within my thoughts.  In that moment my prayer quickly changed to, "Lord, give me the strength to do, instead of just to pray."

One can not simply discover their vocation by praying; one must do.  We are called to try.  That is ultimately what God ask of us.  It's in the trying we discover our personal vocation.  And through our experience of loving we can then ask:  Am I called to love and be loved as a religious brother or priest?  Am I called to love and be loved as a diocesan priest or deacon?  Am I called to love and be loved as a father with children? or Am I called to love and be loved as a single man?  One does not know the will of God unless one tries on their options. 

We cannot discern whether we should do something, but only whether we should try to do it.  For instance, you cannot discern to marry Susan unless you begin to date her.  You can't begin to discern religious life unless you experience the Order's prayer, fraternal and ministerial life.  These observations also make it clear that some vocational paths require the consent of more than one person.  Therefore, we have to be prepared to receive the answer no.  In the other's no we come to know God's will in that particular circumstance.  This is not a sign of failure, but a sign of successful discernment! 

The surest path to happiness is to discover what God is inviting you to do and to accept that invitation.  By living out your personal vocation, you will do the most good, and in so doing will find fulfillment both here and hereafter.  God also does not want us to simply settle for the easiest path, but challenges us to choose the greatest good for our lives. 

We are reminded of this in the story of the rich young man who approached Jesus and asked what he should do to gain everlasting life.  He was not choosing between good or evil.  We were told that he kept all the commandments.  Jesus told him what to do if he wished to be perfect and to live the greater good.  The scripture (Mt 19:16-22) makes clear what reason itself tell us:  we are not called simply to avoid evil and do good, but to do the greatest good.  What is your greatest good? 

Our vocation director and friars are here to help you discover your greatest good.  We can arrange opportunities to experience a "Come and See" retreat, join a monthly discernment group, or immerse yourself in one of our outreach ministries to the poor and homeless.  In other words, we invite you to try on the life, test the stirring of your heart, respond to the movements of the Holy Spirit to follow Christ in a more radical and greater way. 

May God bless you and keep you on this journey of faith called life!

Peace and all Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

One way to try on the Franciscan way of life is to volunteer at one of our sponsored ministry like the St. Anthony Foundation in San Francisco, CA.  What ministries to the poor are in your area?  Consider volunteering with them.

Personal Reflection:

How have you tried on religious life?  What are some concrete ways you've tried to experience the friar's prayer, fraternal and ministerial life?

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email: 
vocations@sbfranciscan.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org

Monday, October 6, 2014

Companions on the Journey

A bright light illuminated the sky.  It could be seen for miles around.  Was the forest on fire?  The townspeople began to run towards the woods of Santa Maria degli Angeli with buckets of water to put out the flames.  When they arrived, they saw Francis and Clare, with their two companions, deep in prayer, covered by a brilliant aura, for they were filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Clare and Francis of Assisi were spiritual friends, companions on the sacred journey.  They were present to each other seeing and honoring the sacred mystery of the others soul.  They witness this mystery and reflected it back in word, prayer, and thought.  They helped one another respond to the Holy Spirit hidden in the depths of each others soul.

Francis, like us, needed the assistance of others to discern the direction of God's calling in his life. During one such instance Francis experienced a tension within himself about the direction of God's calling, a creative tension between his desire for a life of contemplation and a life of preaching.  Francis asked Brother Sylvester and Lady Clare to pray that he might know which way to choose: the "contemplative" or the "active" life.  The answer from both was the more difficult challenge: to continue in active ministry, even with his strong inner desire to live a more contemplative form of life.

Discernment is not meant to be taken alone, as shown through the example of Francis.  We are called to journey with others.  It is in relation to others that we discover how best to live out our common vocation:  To Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).  It is in relating to others that we discover our unique way of giving and receiving love.  Am I called to love and be loved as religious brother of priest? Am I called to love and be loved as a diocesan priest or deacon?  Am I called to love and be loved as a married man with children?  Or am I being called to love and be loved as a single man?

Entering into a time of discernment is about reflecting on our experiences of loving and being loved.  A task we are all called to; not just those discerning a vocation to religious life.  It is for this reason men in discernment are encouraged to find a spiritual director, friend or companion; a person who understands the art of listening carried out in the context of a trusting relationship.  This person will listen to your life story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine, utilizing the two movements of consolation and desolation (Read Consolation and Desolation).  Lastly, a spiritual director will help you discern between your own voice, the world (family, culture and society) and God's voice.

To find a spiritual director in your area contact our Vocation Director or visit the Spiritual Directors International website for more information on spiritual direction and assistance in locating a spiritual director.

May God bless you with a holy friendship as he blessed Francis with Clare.

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

How to seek and find a Spiritual Director with Spiritual Directors International

Personal Reflection:

Consider purchasing the book "Ten Evenings with God."  This book is written by the Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio, OSF.  She is a professor and chair of Spirituality Studies at the Washington Theological Union and has written a simple book that takes the frustration and panic out of life's decision and shows us to seek God's will means to know God.  This would be a great resource to use with your spiritual director.

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email: 
vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org