Saturday, June 28, 2014

Freely you have received, freely give.

I stood over the bed of my grandmother.  It was my turn to say good-bye.  Tears began to form as I held her hands; words were so hard to form.  I became overwhelmed as I told her one last time that I loved her.  A week later, I stood amidst my family, her friends and friars who had gathered for her wake.  I wept with them, not out of grief, but out of overwhelming gratitude. 

I experienced a love lavishly poured out upon me through my grandmother.   A love that was freely given and undeserved, a love I could never repay.  It was in that moment I understood how much God loved me.  I stood there in the abundance of thankfulness, giving thanks for God's love expressed through my grandmother. 
The heart of our faith is Eukaristos a Greek word translated into English as Eucharist, which means to be grateful and is now usually translated as "thanksgiving."  To give thanks is at the heart of our Catholic faith.  We gather around the Lord's Table to celebrate the Eucharistic, to give thanks for the gift of His sacrifice:  There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:13).

We experience the greatest love in the sacrifice of the Mass.  Therefore, Mass is essential for men and women in discernment for religious life.  Mass is where we encounter Jesus' real presence.  The Church teaches that Jesus' presence is found in the community gathered (Read: Camp Emmaus), in the Word of God (Read: The Word of God), in the priest or bishop who is presiding (Read: I Confess to Almighty God), and in the Eucharistic species (Read: Theological Reflection).  To know God's will is to know God.  God is Love (1 Jn 4:8). Therefore, there can be no greater place to encounter God's love than the Sacrifice of the Mass.
The only way to really know God is through the experience of love.  We will never be able to choose the way of God if we are not in some way familiar with God's presence, God's voice, and God's touch.  Discernment is experiencing how God is calling us to love and be loved.  Am I being called to love and be loved as a religious brother or priest?  Am I being called to love and be loved as a diocesan priest or deacon?  Am I being called to love and be loved by a spouse and children?  Or am I being called to love and be loved as a single man?  Love is the key to discernment because God is love (1 Jn 4:8). 

I know I am blessed.  I was afforded a love that some haven't because of life circumstances.  I rejoices at the love of my grandmother; a love like Jesus that was freely given and underserved.  It would be at my grandmother's funeral that I would come to understand that I was called to share this love with others.   Freely you have received, freely give (Mathew 10:8).
Jesus isn't simply talking about giving of our time, talent, or treasure to help others, but to share the essence of His love.  Freely we have been forgiven of our sin, and freely we should forgive others.  Freely we have been shown mercy, and freely we should show mercy.  Freely we have received redemption through Christ's sacrifice on the cross, and freely we are called to live and say, "I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep" (John 10:11).  Lastly, I can say and do because my grandmother shared God's love.  I can honestly say, "I am a Franciscan friar because I was loved into this life. "

Christ knows it is not always easy to be like our Heavenly Father.  He offers us His Son, so when we eat and drink of the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass, we are nourished to go forth and continue the work of Christ.  The word Mass comes from the Latin meaning "dismissal" or "sending forth."  We are reminded of this at the end of Mass when the priest or deacon dismisses us with these or similar words:  Go forth to love and to serve the Lord.   That is our mission as Catholic Christians.  

Freely you have received, freely give (Mathew 10:8).
Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM


St. Francis of Assisi, had a deep devotion to the Eucharist and Saint Bonaventure commented that Francis would be swept up in ecstasy after receiving Communion.  For Francis the adoration of the Eucharist amounted to "seeing Christ".  St. Francis is credited with starting Eucharistic Adoration in Italy, which soon spread to other parts of the world.
 
Personal Reflection:
To announce and realize the good news of the kingdom of God is the vocation of the Friars Minor, it is our mission.  The Order of Friars Minor exists for its mission (Constitution of the Order of Friars Minor). 
 
Being Friars Minor does not consist in living for ourselves, but for others.  The Fraternities of the Order of Friars Minor are outward looking Fraternities, not groups closed in on self.  Our cloister is the world and our mission is to make the Kingdom of God known (Constitution of the Order of Friars Minor).
Do you feel called to our mission?

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, June 23, 2014

I Confess to Almighty God

I bowed my head as I recalled the times I failed to love.  Together we raised our voices:

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,


Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.


Today, I will begin new.  Today, I will love neighbor and God.  Sin:  A Hebrew word translated into English as sin literally means "missing the mark."  Sin is falling short of God's will for human life.  In the Bible, as strange as it sounds to modern ears, the word sin actually implied hope.  If an action were condemned as sinful then the person could repent, change the situation, and be made new.   In a world that believed in the powers of fate controlled by gods and the powers of earth, sin was a word that inferred the possibility of healing, repentance, and change.  Our God offered us free will, in contrast to the gods of fate. 

To clearly discern our calling to religious life we must strive to be free from sin.  When we fail, miss the mark, break our commitment to love, ignore justice, and fall into sin, it fractures our relationship with God and other people.  We are then not able to clearly discern because to know God's will is to know God. 

God is love (1 Jn 4:8).  The true nature of discernment is experiencing how God is calling us to love and be loved.  Am I being called to love and be loved as a religious brother or priest?  Am I being called to love and be loved as a diocesan priest or deacon?  Am I being called to love and be loved by a spouse and children?  Or am I being called to love and be loved as a single man?  Love is the key to discernment and sin is the lock that prevents it.

The path to healing begins with repentance-the intention to change and be made new.  Repentance is a commitment to sin no more, to change our lives, and to offer restitution (Deut 5:32-33). To be repentant is to accept God's invitation to start over, to change our mind and heart, to be reconciled with God.  Therefore, the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is essential for all men and women in discernment. 

Jesus, through the action of the priest, invites us to release the past, be forgiven, and reject sin (Jn 8:11).  Jesus bestowed on the Apostles and the Church the power to forgive and to liberate souls from the burden of sin through the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Jn 20:23). This is God's gift to us, an invitation to be free and to ask to be liberated from guilt and broken relationships our sin caused.   Then we are more clearly able to love God and neighbor and in the process experience how we are being called to love and be loved.

The sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is essential
for all men and women in discernment. 

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM


Personal Reflection:
Use the Peace Pray of Saint Francis to examine your conscious.  Simply ask, "When there has been hatred, have I contributed to it or brought peace?" and continue on in this manner throughout the prayer.  Feel free to share your experience of this examination in the comment spaces 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