Monday, March 24, 2014

The Word of God

I sat there in the tiny chapel, about two miles from the city.  It was February 24, a cold, damp day.  As the priest began to read the Gospel, I heard it in a way never before experienced.  The words went directly to my heart.  They rang out clearly and distinctly in the quiet solitude of that little church.  The passage was from Matthew:
"As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.  You received without payment; give without payment.  Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.  Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.  As you enter the house, greet it.  If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town."  (Matthew 10:7-14)
"This is what I want," I said, "this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart."

Reflection:

This is not my story, but the story of St. Francis of Assisi.  It was through the Word of God, that Francis found his vocation. It is helpful to remember that St. Francis had already experienced the message from the San Damiano crucifix.  He had already encountered the leper and kissed him.  He had already stripped himself before the bishop and his father.  Yet, the direction for his life's journey was still unclear.  It was the Word, that brought his experiences together, made sense of them, and showed him his vocation.  And so it will be with us, too.

Scripture is a living book, is Christ himself.  St. John calls him the Word Made Flesh (John 1:14).  Francis understood "God" is Trinity, a communion of persons in love.  Therefore, reading Scripture is entering into the Tent of God's very own intimacy.  Within this tent, we discover that we are created out of love, we exist in love, and we are destined for eternal love.  And if all of creation flows out of love, and unto love, then the only reason for our existence is to love.
Discernment is a time to experience how we accept and express love.  Are we called to receive and express love through religious life as a sister, brother, or priest?  Are we called to receive and express love as a diocesan priest or deacon?  Or are we called to receive and express love through married or single life?
Lectio Divina:
Scripture is the key to discovering our vocation to love God and one another.  By reading and praying with Scripture we come to know and experience God's love for us and how God is calling us to love one another.  One ancient method for reading and praying with Scripture is called, "Lectio Divina."

Lectio divina (divine reading) is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to early monastic communities.  It was a method practiced by monks in their daily encounter with Scripture, both as they prepared for the Eucharist and as they prayed the Liturgy of the Hours.  While they read and prayed with the Scriptures they invited the Word of God to become a transforming lens that brought the events of daily living into focus, so they could live more deeply and find the presence of God more readily.

The method of lectio divina, as described by Pope Benedict XVI, follows five steps: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), oratio (prayer), contemplatio (contemplation), and actio (action).  Download the worksheet, Lectio Divina:  Meditating with the Word of God for an explanation of the process.  I encourage you to start with the Scripture readings for Sunday's Mass.  Choose either the new testament or Gospel reading.  Visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website to view the readings for the upcoming Sundays.

Final Reflection:

The Gospel, the Word of God, became the core of existence for Francis.  The Gospel directed his form of life, animated his relationships.  The Gospel energized and gave form to his activity and ministry.  The Gospel constituted the very marrow of the life of the brothers.  When Francis' first companion, Bernard, asked to join him, he consulted the Gospel three times to find out what their way of life ought to be.  When they number eleven, Francis prepared a Rule of Life based on Scripture.  When Francis' final hour came, he asked his brothers to read the scripture to him, one last time.  Like a wife who whispers into her dying husband's ear, "I love you."

We the followers of St. Francis of Assisi, the Franciscan Friars of the Province of Saint Barbara, have pledge our life to the Gospel.  We are not the first or the last.  Franciscan Friars, for the past 800 years, have placed their hands in their Provincial Ministers and vowed, "The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this, namely, to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by living in obedience, without anything of one's own, and in chastity."

The Gospel is our way of life. 
Are you being called to the follow the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ?


Peace and All Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM
 

 

The postulants spend a part of each day reading, studying, and listening to
presentation to help them grow in their Human, Christian and Franciscan identity. 
 
Personal Reflection:
 
According to the National Religious Vocation Conference new members to religious life are most likely to say they were attracted to religious life by a desire for prayer and spiritual growth.  Do you read and pray with Scripture?  If yes, how has it brought you closer to Christ?  If no, why not?  Feel free to share you answers in the comment section below.

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
 
 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Camp Emmaus

The fragrance of voices, like incense, were raised in gratitude. Amen, was our song. In the breaking of the bread, my eyes were opened. 
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.. (Luke 24: 30-31).
The awareness of God's presence began first as a small ember and then grew to a flame. A flame that engulfed my senses, my intellect, my emotions. I had been in the presence of God all week. This knowledge overwhelmed me.
They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along? (Luke 24: 13-17)  
We had journeyed together for a week. I was their camp counselor. They were my campers. We shared, we talked, we prayed. But I had failed to recognize Jesus in our midst. In the breaking of the bread, tears began to form, as I choked backed my emotions.
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”  (Luke 24:32)
The Scripture and Eucharist was my holy ground, upon which my eyes were opened. I discovered His presence within the Body of Christ - my campers. Tears began to fall as I wept in gratitude for what God had revealed - Jesus' presence found in the community gathered.
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.  (Luke 24: 33-35)
Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus; I felt called to share my story. I "echoed" my experience to all who would listen. Allowing it to "re-sound" in the lives of others, so that in the breaking of the bread, they may come to know the God of Love.

Br. Phillip Polk, OFM facilitates a small group for a Confirmation Retreat.
 Reflection:

The story of Emmaus, became my doorway, my entry into the field of catechesis. A journey I've been on for over 20 years. This story is the guiding image for all catechists in the ministry of catechesis. An image that emphasizes the relationship between the disciple and Jesus, a relationship characterized by presence, listening, faith sharing, celebration and sending forth to proclaim and build up the Kingdom of God. 

The fundamental task of catechesis is to form disciples of Jesus Christ, who will understand and live His teachings, and carry on His mission of proclaiming and building up the Kingdom of God. In addition, catechesis helps us to understand our experiences and make decisions in light of the Gospel. It helps us to understand how God is present, working and praying within us and the community of believers.

It would be through the ministry of catechesis, that I would break open and deepen my experience of Camp Emmaus. I uncovered the Church's teaching on the presence of Jesus during mass: Jesus' real presence is found in the community gathered, in the Word of God, in the priest or bishop who is presiding, and In the Eucharistic species. This teaching named and confirmed my experience and in the process deepened my experience of Jesus. I am now more attuned to readily see and experience Jesus during mass. 


While discerning a vocation to religious life, I encourage you to reflect on your level of formation within the ordinary Christian life. According to the "Directives on Formation in Religious Institutes" by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, candidates to religious life must have a sufficient degree of human and Christian maturity before undertaking religious formation. Now would be a good time to ask: How will have I been formed as a disciple of Jesus Christ? How will do I understand and live out His teachings? How will do I proclaim and build up the Kingdom of God? We need to master the basics, before we move onto religious life.

A good resource to form your Catholic faith and assess your current knowledge is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop's (USCCB) United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. Each chapter in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults includes stories, doctrine, reflections, quotations, discussion question and prayers to lead the reader to a deepening faith. It has been an excellent resource for those preparing catechumens in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and for the ongoing catechesis of adults.

Unlike the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which contains the summary of the Catholic faith, the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults presents that summary through a catechetical model. It is not designed as a resource document, like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but an educational tool to deepen ones faith and inspire you with the lives of Catholics who lived their faith throughout the country's history.

Ongoing catechesis of adults is important, especially for those discerning a call to religious life. Through our baptism we all share a 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). But, if we don't know who God is, how are we to love him? Catechesis helps answers these basic questions.

Catechesis also addresses how we are to love our neighbor.  The word Christ is a title the early Christians gave to Jesus.  The word Christ means "anointed one."  Jesus' followers came to realize that Jesus was not an ordinary religious leader.  They came to see he was the chosen one of God, or the "anointed one."  Through the sacrament of Baptism and Confirmation we are anointed with Sacred Charism and become "Christians" (The word Christian comes from the Greek word Christos, which means "Anointed One.")  We become another Christ.   As you can see, catechesis can deepen are understanding of how we are called to love.  We are called to love our neighbor, as another Christ.

Again, the fundamental task of catechesis is to form disciples of Jesus Christ, who will understand and live His teachings, and carry on His mission of proclaiming and building up the Kingdom of God.  Discernment is a time to grow in Christian maturity.  A time to strengthen living out our common vocation to love God and one another.  Something we are all called to, not just those discerning a call to religious life.

Peace and all Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishop's (USCCB)
United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is a great resource to
deepen and grow in ones knowledge of faith.

P.S.  Visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop's website to purchase the book United States Catholic Catechism for Adults and the Reader's Journal for the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.

Personal Reflection:

According to the "Directives on Formation in Religious Institutes" by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, candidates to religious life must have a sufficient degree of human and Christian maturity before undertaking religious formation.  How will have you been formed as a disciple of Jesus Christ?  How will do you understand and live out His teachings?  How will do you proclaim and build up the Kingdom of God?  Feel free to share your answers in the comment section below.

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

Monday, March 3, 2014

You are Good Enough

Bro. Rami Fodda, OFM, a
Nurse Practitioner, provided medical care for
an infant during a recent medical mission to Mexico.
"You are good enough," said my novice master.  It was a recurring theme throughout my novitiate year. At the beginning of the year we were instructed to write down our biggest fear.  We were then told to place our fears on our prayer alters in our rooms.  Mine read:  If you knew me, you wouldn't love me.  I feared it was just a matter of time before the friars discovered I was flawed and therefore not worthy to be a religious.  I soon discovered:  I was good enough. 

I learned my brokenness could become my gift; if I was willing to bring it into the light.  In the light, I discovered a God of who loved me in spite of my brokenness, in spite of my sinful ways, and in spite of my poor choices.  He saw my goodness and reminded me I was a child of God; created in his image and likeness and I was good. 

This is the Good News of Jesus Christ.  A message that began on Christmas day.  The message of God's incarnation can be shocking.  The Creator of the world came to us, not as a man, but as an infant child, who was not able to 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 one who created the countless galaxies, with billions of stars, who created the countless creatures of our world, became completely dependent on us for his care and well-being.
A testament to who we are; that our goodness far out weights our brokenness.  That we are much more than our sinful ways.  So much so, that God placed his trust and faith completely in us.  Not as a man, but as an infant child.  Given our track record of violence, he probably should have feared us. 

When we begin to consider the possibility of religious life; we may experience some unpleasant feelings.  We may fear we might not measure up.  We may fear our past mistakes or sins prevent us from pursuing religious life.  We may feel our familial and personal backgrounds come with too much baggage.  We may then place the possibility of and desire for religious life in the back of our minds.  Where it remains a dream, but not a possibility. 
 
Pope Francis, addressed this fear.  In his remarks to religious men in the article "Wake Up the World" he stated:
"You should be real witnesses of a way of doing and acting differently.  But in life it is difficult for everything to be clear, precise, outlined neatly. Life is complicated; it consists of grace and sin.  He who does not sin is not human.  We all make mistakes and we need to recognize our weakness.  A religious who recognizes himself as weak and a sinner does not negate the witness that he is called to give, rather he reinforces it, and this is good for everyone..."
Fear of not "measuring up" should not prevent us from discerning a call to religious life.  As Pope Francis pointed out, we need men who recognizes their weakness and mistakes.  Men who have experienced the love and compassion of God.  Men who understand as scripture points out, "we must have the same love for one another" (1 Jn 4:11).

I encourage you to "Come and See" the life, prayer, and ministry of the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara.  Discover a group of men filled with brokenness and a profound since of joy.  Men who are willing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.  Men who have discovered:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).
You are good enough; come and see. 
May God bless you and keep you on this journey of faith called life.

Peace and all Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

 
The postulants of the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara spend the evening at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows reflecting on the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  They enjoyed the lights, petting zoo, concerts, and actors who recreated the telling of the birth of Jesus.

P.S.  Contact our vocation director to attend a come and see retreat or a discernment group to discover what stereotypes you might be harboring about religious life and how they can play into your fears of not measuring up.

Personal Reflection:

According to the National Religious Vocation Conference's study of new members to religious life; new members often found websites helpful in addressing their fears and stereotypes of religious life.  What are some stereotypes you might have of religious life?  What are some of your fears?  Do they get in the way of discerning a vocation to religious life?  If yes, why?  Feel free to share your answer in the comment section below.

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