Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Safe Streets = Safe Kids

I stood outside the parked car's window. My eyes connecting with the driver. He looked down at the sign I was holding. "Safe Streets = Safe Kids," he read. He looked down at his crack pipe and turned to his passenger to confirm what he was seeing. However, his passenger's attention was focused on the friar standing outside his own window. The friar held a similar sign, "Peace on our Streets". I could tell in that moment he was wondering if he was experiencing a bad drug trip, or were there actually friars standing outside his car, on the inner-city street's of Oakland, while he sold drugs. The answer was, YES.

We were invited by our local city-councilman to walk with him for peace. We accepted his invitation. We walked to support our local businesses, and to stand in solidarity with our neighbors who experienced the consequences of violence in their Fruitvale neighborhood. This became our Friday's Lenten devotion.

We were nervous and timid on our first Friday night. Our chanting for peace was meek, and our signs lay motionless in the dark. Then I heard an inner voice, "Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow me." My poster transformed from a child's hand-made sign into a street sign twirler hired for Domino's Pizza. Soon the other friars joined my lead. The cars filled with gang members, protecting their turf, began to hear our shouts for peace, and the passing cars began to honk their horns in support. The night was filled with horns crying out for justice and peace.

Our group began to grow. We were stopping, along the way, to pray with other Churches for peace. Soon they began to walk with us. The former Mayor of Oakland joined us. Business owner were staying open later on Fridays. And men, women and children we encountered soon became our co-workers for peace. This group of walkers, along with the Franciscan friars, became a visible sign of God's faithful love for the neighborhood of Fruitvale. And our Friday's Lenten devotion unpacked for the friars what it meant to be a Fraternity-in-Mission.

Reflections on Religious Life:

By its very nature, our religious life foretells the glory of Heaven. Our fraternity-in-mission is a witness to this future glory. In the Bible Jesus offers the image of a wedding feast as a metaphor for understanding Heaven. In Heaven, two different houses will come together and become one in God and celebrate together with Christ. Our fraternity-in-mission models and celebrates this reality on earth. And through our care and love for one another, we remind humanity of what one day we hope to all experience in Heaven.

This is the value of our fraternity-in-mission. It prompts and embraces all people to be open to the possibility of relationship where there has been no relationship before. It inspires us to nurture peace in places of distrust and violence, where fear of "the other" too often dominates. It is an affirmation of the value of cultural diversity, shared leadership, and the creative expression of the love of Jesus Christ.

If you are discerning our way of life we invite you to come and experience our fraternal life.  Discover if this is how God is calling you to mission.

Peace and All Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM














Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave.
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email:  
vocations@sbofm.org

Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/OFMvocation
Podcast:  www.discernthecall.podomatic.com
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Pantry Full of Food and Gratitude

Brothers Sam and Scott collect frozen turkeys for Thanksgiving
with volunteer firefighters at the St. Anthony Foundation.
September is Hunger Action Month™, when Feeding America and member food banks ask everyone in America to take action to fight hunger in their community, all month long. The Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara's sponsored ministries are proud to take part in this national outreach.  Everyday we are reaching out to those who are struggling with the basics of life.  Read about Br. Scott's work with our sponsored ministry the St. Anthony Foundation...
She was holding her stomach as she approached. I could tell she was a few months pregnant. “I’m really hungry; I’m pregnant, and I’ve run out of food,” she shared with a hint of desperation in her voice. In San Francisco, one in five adults lacks the resources to provide food for themselves or their families. In the Tenderloin that number is as high as one in two.
I continued to listen to her struggles to find adequate and nutritional food. I made sure she was connecting with other resources, CalFresh (food stamps) and Women with Infants and Children (WIC). She was, but like other recipients of these benefits she needed to supplement them with other food program to meet her nutritional needs.
After paying rent she was forced to choose between food and health care. This is a situation that gets played out every day in the Tenderloin. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve heard this story. I’m stationed on Fridays at St. Anthony’s Social Work Center, where I help our guest access our emergency and supplemental food pantry for individuals requiring special nutritional support, seniors, and families.
Her sense of desperation began to fade as I told her she qualified for our supplemental food pantry. Within 20 minutes she was enrolled in our program and walking out the door with two full bags of groceries, and a heart full of gratitude for St. Anthony’s social workers, benefactors and volunteers. As I said good-bye to her my next appointment was coming in. He had a different story, but shared the same need for nutritional food to support his battle with cancer.
 As Catholic Christians we are called to engage in the Corporal Works of Mercy.  Can you name all seven of them?  Trying naming them and then check your answers using the list below.  (The answers are spelled backwards)
  • yrgnuh eht deef oT
  • ytsriht eht ot knird evig oT
  • dekan eht ehtolc oT
  • sselemoH eht retlehS oT
  • kcis eht tisiv oT
  • denosirpmi eht tisiv oT
  • daed eht yrub oT
How many did you get right?  How many of them do you practice?  I am going to challenge you this month to choose one Corporal Work of Mercy and practice it.  It is through "action" that we manifest the Good News for others.  St. Francis of Assisi understood this as he told his brothers, "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.

If you are discerning a vocation to religious life its also imperative that you begin to practice the Corporal Works of Mercy.  Your vocation will be worked out among the poor and marginalized, as it was for St. Francis of Assisi.  It was his starting point:
The Lord granted me, Brother Francis, to begin to do penance in this way: While I was in sin, it seemed very bitter to me to see lepers.  And the Lord Himself led me among them and I had mercy upon them.  And when I left them that which seemed bitter to me was  changed into sweetness of soul and body; and afterward I lingered a little and left the world.
Lastly, reread our vocation blog post called, "Consider your Gifts" for more information on how to discern religious life while working with the poor and marginalized.   

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

 
Practicing the Corporal Works of Mercy
 St. Anthony Foundation - San Francisco, CA
 
Personal Reflection:

What Corporal Works of Mercy do you find easy to do?  What Corporal Works of Mercy do you find difficult to do?  Feel free to share you answers in the comment section.


Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave.
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email:  
vocations@sbofm.org

Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/OFMvocation
Podcast:  www.discernthecall.podomatic.com
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Lord Gave Me Brothers...



St. Francis of Assisi understood that God is Trinity, a communion of persons in love.   When the friars are in communion with each other, their relationships image the Triune God, and become their primary form of evangelization.  Therefore, Franciscans cannot consider themselves authentic Friars Minor without there being a relationship of real communion with the other friars.  This isn't always easy.

As friars of many cultures, elder and younger, both lay and ordained, we work to respect and value our diversity and individual differences.  


By its very nature, our religious life foretells the glory of Heaven.  Our fraternity-in-mission is a witness to this future glory.  In the Bible Jesus offers the image of a wedding feast as a metaphor for understanding the Kingdom of Heaven.  In Heaven, two different houses will come together and become one in God.  Our fraternity-in-mission models and celebrates this reality on earth.  We come from a diversity of backgrounds, cultures, and generations, and through our care and love for one another we remind humanity of what one day we hope to all experience in Heaven.


This is the value of our fraternity-in-mission.   It prompts and embraces all people to be open to the possibility of relationship where there has been no relationship before.   It inspires us to nurture peace in places of distrust and violence, where fear of "the other" too often dominates.  It is an affirmation of the value of cultural diversity, shared leadership, and the creative expression of the love of Jesus Christ.  If you are interested in this way of life you'll need to test your abilities and clarify your desires to live within this type fraternity.

In discernment you'll need to arrange opportunities to spend time with us.  Join us for evening prayer or our community Mass.  Eat and laugh with us at dinner.  Spend a weekend with us.  Visit our ministry sites with other friars.  Spend time recreating with us.  We like to have fun.  It will be in the context of sharing your life with the friars that you'll be able to discern your desire to live in fraternity.

As you experience fraternal life you'll again need to become aware of the movements of consolation and desolation before, during, and after engaging in our fraternal life. 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 fraternal living with a diverse group of men.  You're trying to see if you have the abilities and the desire to live and share your life with us a religious brother or priest.  Fraternal life isn't always easy, but it's the joy of being brothers to one another that sustains and nourishes us.  It's a great life.

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

Personal Reflection:


What are you looking for in fraternal life?  What is important in your vocation search?  Please share your answer in the comment section below.

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave.
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email:  
vocations@sbofm.org

Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/OFMvocation
Podcast:  www.discernthecall.podomatic.com
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org

Monday, May 18, 2015

New Podcast Channel, Part II

Have you listened to our new podcast channel called, Discern the Call?  The podcast was created to supplement our blog by the same name, Discern the Call.  Each podcast is only few minutes long, but packed with insights into the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara.  Discover the beauty of each friar and listen to part II of our conversation.

This week blog and podcast focuses on the question, "What was important in your vocation search or story?"  These podcast are our attempt to introduce you to our members with the hope you will visit us in the near future.









The last podcast focuses on the question, "Why is formation important?" presented by Br. Jeff who spent six (6) years as our former postulant director and four (4) years as our Director of Temporary Professed. To learn more about our first stage of formation called "postulancy" visit our blog post called, "To Know God's Will, Is to Know God."



Peace and All Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM


Personal Reflection:

What are you looking for in a Religious Order or Institute?  What is important in your vocation search?  Please share your answer in the comment section below.

Contact Information:

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New Podcast Channel

Have you listened to our new podcast channel called, Discern the Call?  The podcast was created to supplement our blog by the same name, Discern the Call.  Each podcast is only few minutes long, but packed with insights into the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara.  Discover the beauty of each friar and listen today.

This week blog and podcast focuses on the question, "What attracted you to life as a Franciscan friar?"  The answer are all different, but the same.  Can you guess the answer?  More than anything else, men are attracted to their particular religious institute by the example of its members, and especially by their sense of joy, their down to earth nature, and their commitment and zeal according to the National Religious Vocation Conference.  These podcast are our attempt to introduce you to our members with the hope you will visit us in the near future.
 








The last podcast focuses on the question, "Why is formation important?" presented by Br. Robert who spent nine (9) years as our former postulant director. To learn more about our first stage of formation called "postulancy" visit our blog post called, "To Know God's Will, Is to Know God."



Peace and All Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM


Personal Reflection:

What are you looking for in a Religious Order or Institute?  What draws you to look at a particular community?  Please share your answer in the comment section below.

Contact Information:

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

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

The Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara wish you and your family a blessed Easter!  Let us rejoice in song with the words of St. Francis of Assisi.  Alleluia!



Peace and All Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave.
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

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Good News of Sin

We were created to live in perfect relationship with God and to care for others in perfect love (Mk 12:28-34). This relationship is often referred to as harmony or peace.  When we fail, miss the mark, break our commitment to love, ignore justice, and fall into sin, it fractures our relationship with God and our brothers and sisters.  God longs to heal those relationships.

The message of reconciliation preached by the Franciscans is one of "Good News".  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 powers of earth, sin was a word that inferred the possibility of healing, repentance, and change.  This was a radical message of the time; God created humanity and offered free will!  This is the message of the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara.

Pain, despair, and sinful situations are not the will of God.  The New Testament presented the life, teaching, death, Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as his gift of the Church, as the means of grace to reconcile ourselves with God and with others.  The Franciscan friars assist in maintaining and sharing this gift with the world, especially those on the margins.

In a special way, Jesus, through the action of our Franciscan priest, invites people 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; 2 Cor 14-6:2).  Our priest are known world-wide as graced-filled confessors. 

While discerning our way of life you'll need to test your desire and abilities to promote reconciliation in the joyful and prophetic spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. Your trying to discover if you have the ability to become a bridge-builder and reconciler.  Look for local opportunities to get involved in your community around issues of strained or broken relationships (minority groups vs. law enforcement; or homeless vs. downtown business owners, etc...).

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 becoming a reconciler .  You're trying to see if you have the abilities and the desire to become a bridge-builder as a 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

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave.
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

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is a day to remember that through 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)  We are called to love!  The questions we ask during discernment is how best to love God and neighbor?  Are we called to receive and express love as a religious brother or priest?  Are we called to receive and express love as a diocesan priest or deacon?  Are we called to receive and express love through marriage or single life?  How are we being called to love God and neighbor?  We find the greatest love in the vocation God has called us too.  Therefore, religious life is not a life without love, but a life of abundant love.  

Peace and All Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM


Contac 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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Friar Profile of Fr. Christian Mondor, OFM

In today's friar profile we reflect on Fr. Christian Mondor, OFM who recently celebrated 70 years as a Franciscan friar of the Province of Saint Barbara.  He's known as the surfing priest and for the blessing of the waves, but that only hints at the depth of his Franciscan life.  Fr. Joseph Chinnici, OFM was asked to reflect on his life and ministry during a celebration of his life in August.

We have all gathered this morning to celebrate Christian's 70th anniversary as a Friar Minor.  I have been asked as a former provincial, an historian, and fellow educator to summarize in twelve minutes some of the significance of Chris' life as a Franciscan, a priest, a friend.  Good luck on the summary; the twelve minutes I can do.

Each friar of our province has in the provincial office an eight by twelve inch card summarizing the important dates and assignments of his life.  Having seen almost all of these, I can tell you quite clearly that Chris's is uniquely covered on both sides with minute scribbles detailing an astounding peripatetic journey, perhaps to be expected from the son of a salesman.  Here is a man who has been stationed in every region of our province: the southwest (2 years), the northwest (21 years); northern California (5 years); southern California (26 years).  He has lived in eleven different locations, spent four years in Montreal, one year in England, and engaged in every ministry except the Native American missions:  20 years in education, 24 years in parish work, 10 years in formation, 9 years in retreat work.

If you can imagine it, his business acumen has purchased land for one parish and overseen the building of another; he has worked as a Newman chaplain and served three years as President of a college.  Did you know that for one brief period he was "Dean of Discipline" in a high school:  We would all love to have been students at that time!

For most of the seventy years, having forgotten his suitcase and anything else that might prove useful, he has been travelling around in an old car, driving hundreds of miles on an open road, asking various hitch hikers to travel with him in some species of automobile he has attempted to reconstruct from purloined parts in a city dump.  You get the idea.  A future provincial reading this card, would probably come to the reasonable conclusion:  Why so many assignments; why so many friaries?  why so much movement?  This man must have been either a wanderer or a trouble maker.  While perhaps a reasonable conclusion from the bare facts, another story tells the truth.

In the Midst of Social Change

Richard Mondor, born in Los Angeles and growing up in Westwood, received the "habit of probation" and a new name, "Christian" upon entrance into his novitiate year on July 9, 1944, just over one month to the day after D Day, and one year and one month before the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Too young to be a member of the "greatest generation", he was old enough to experience first-hand the momentous changes which marked the passage from the Great Depression to the post-war boom.  In addition, his entrance into the Order is sandwiched in between the two major initiatives of Pius XII that would lead to the Second Vatican Council and make such a great impression on Chris' life:  the renewal of the Church around the Word of God (Divino Afflante Spiritu, 1943 and liturgical reform (Mediator Dei, 1947).  The habit of the friar which he received would be knit from these two threads of great social change and Church renewal.

The social change touched Chris's life most directly as he engaged the three great challenges of the 1960s:  poverty, war, and race.  In the middle of it all, as President of a noble but failed experiment, and teacher to high schoolers, collegiates, and ten young friars, he struggled to renew the Gospel life and fulfill his vocation around the three natural virtues which came with his disposition:  simplicity, peace, and openness to people.  A wanderer, yes, but one with an internal compass of committed perseverance.  Students from those days still testify to his impact on them. 

These social changes accompanied the tremendous post-war growth of Franciscan ministries into Arizona and Oregon.  Chris wandered because the Province asked him.  In the 1950s, he experienced the cutting edge of the developments:  a participant in a new generation in Arizona bent on loosening up and old German system; a builder of new chapels in the northwest; a pioneer in a high school in Salem, and a teacher at the new high school seminary in Troutdale.  Everything spoke of efforts to make the Gospel come alive in the contemporary world.  The same pattern continued as he moved to California for new experiments in the formation of younger friars and the great venture of ecumenical education at the Franciscan School of Theology, Berkeley.  I remember his excitement upon coming to Berkeley and having an opportunity to learn by teaching liberation theology and engaging in ecumenical dialogue.

Called and Sent...

Growing up in a Province in movement, the missionary goals of the friars themselves led Chris into places wherever something new was occurring, wherever a challenge of evangelization was developing, wherever some boundary between people needed to be crossed.  What was desired was someone who was adaptable, open minder, person-centered, intellectually studious, and willing to serve.  Such qualities were accompanied, I might add, by an innocence of life that could be easily used by others and then suffered with some degree of courage by our wanderer.  The anchor of Chris's life became, over time and surrounded by these challenges, the twin sources of Scripture and liturgy.  He entered deeply into a faith filled meditation on the missionary journeys of Paul, the life of the pilgrim Jesus in the Scriptures, and the presence of the people of God in the celebration of the Eucharist.  A fine athlete from the beginning, he gradually grew into the habit he so enthusiastically received seventy years ago.

Such is the more truthful underlying story summarized on our personnel cards.  I mentioned at the very beginning the name our honoree receive when he first entered the Order:  "Christian".  After seventy years, we look back on it and know how appropriate it was.  Francis of Assisi always referred to each leper who revealed the sweetness of God's own Son to him as "Brother or Sister Christian"; he nicknamed his most significant follower, Clare of Assisi, "Christian."  For Francis it was a name most dear to his heart and summarized for him the central Gospel message of his calling.

Our own Christian is pretty close to the mark.  Have you ever had a cup of coffee with our Christian:  Isn't the conversation marked by his "gentle attentiveness", something the Lord himself brought to his work?  And, isn't it remarkable that after all this wandering and in the midst of all this change, our Christian has in abundance that quintessential characteristic of Franciscan life, what St. Bonaventure calls "admiration": Wonder: Wonder at creation as a man rides the waves of God's own ocean; Wonder at the marvelous work of God in contemporary doctors who can rebuild an injured chest; Wonder at the journey of a life itself that has experienced through brothers and sisters the providence of God's own faithfulness; Wonder at the marvelous five-stringed banjo, given by God to a genuine wayfarer, to lift his spirit along the way and invite others into the joy of community; Wonder, finally, at the people of God in Huntington Beach, Catholic and Protestant, Jew and Muslim, believer and unbeliever, who reveal to a wandering Christian the face of a God Who is Love Admultos annos, Christian!


Peace and All Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

Personal Reflection:

If you ever have the chance to meet Fr. Christian Mondor, OFM you can't help but experience a deep sense of joy that radiates from him.  Franciscan friars are called to walk in the joyful and prophetic spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.  When you are engaged in serving the poor, promoting justice, peace, care of creation do you radiate joy?

Contac Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave
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

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Relationships and Technology

This reflection by Br. Keith Warner, OFM was published in The Way of St. Francis, a magazine of the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara in June of 2012.  He reflects on his relationship as a Franciscan to technology.

I am a recent convert.  Thanks to the generosity and insistence of my dad (a retired engineer), I have fled from the PC world (as much as one can) and become a "Macfanatic."

By disposition I am skeptical of technology, but the cluster of Apple's innovative products that easily synch with each other have won me over.  I am an itinerant Franciscan and thus don't like to be tethered to a cubicle, so the mobility they offer is a big plus.  No more begging and pleading with PC units to talk to each other!

About the same time as my conversion, I began listening to Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs.  Apparently Jobs had an ego the size of Silicon Valley, and was in some ways disturbed.  Whether you are drawn to him or repelled, his ability to imagine how personal technology might contribute to human wellbeing inspires me.  While listening to the Jobs biography on my iPhone, I began to reflect on some similarities between Apple and the Franciscan tradition.

As the patron saint of ecological consciousness, St. Francis lived in a relation universe.  For him, everything was related.  Brother Fire, Sister Water, Brother Air, Sister Mother Earth.  He understood God as Father and Jesus as his brother.  All reality is created by God, and inescapably interdependent.

I don't wish to sound like a commercial, but Apple's products also work together.  Jobs conceived of personal computing as providing an end-to-end wrap around experience -- holistic and relational, if you will -- for the user.  The devices work seamlessly together to support each other.  After years of frustration trying to bend PCs to my will, Apple products seem designed to help me serve others.

Questions for Today's Users of Technology

If we accept that computers are part of our lives now, it makes sense that they would work with us rather than against us.  Jobs conceived of human beings having an intimate relationship with their computers.  The challenge I propose to young adults today is this:  Can we conceive of God's love for us being more personal and more intimate than our personal technology devices?

Most older Franciscans would be horrified at this question.  However, in my twelve years of working in universities, I have observed that young adults today have a very personal relationship with their technology, and they generally experience much more intimacy with these devices than with God.  To my eye, the problem is not the sense of personal, nor the technology, but with the choices we make about entering into relationship with others.  God must be first, and we must express that in our love for each other and for the Earth.  Technology can help us, even help us be better Franciscans, but only if we keep the right priorities in our relationships. 

St. Francis as Social Innovator

In some ways, Steve Jobs was like St. Francis.  Both had enormously powerful imaginations and charisma.  Both were able to recognize potential where others could not.  Both infused innovation into organizations that they did not really set our to create.  Both experienced bitter personal tragedy at the hands of the organizations they began (the "near-death experience" of entrepreneurs), and yet came out the other side transformed.

Jobs and Steve Wozniak conceived of the new category of personal computer and invented it with Apple, yet shortly afterward, Wozniak left and Jobs was fired by the company he established.  Toward the end of his life, Francis was marginalized by the rapidly growing order he founded.  He despaired of its direction, yet it would become arguably the most influential religious order for the next several centuries.  The Order of Friars Minor pioneered new forms of evangelization and missionary work, formulated new philosophies to guide economic development and contributed substantially to the art, literature and science of the late Middle Ages.  So influential was the order that most of its contributions have been adopted by the broader Catholic Church.  Distinctly Franciscan contributions are scarcely apparent to most Catholics, just as few people who use a computer today are aware of the unique contribution of Jobs and Wozniak in a world still dominated by PCs.

Steve Jobs liked to quote the statement:  "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."  Think different was the Apple slogan.  Francis was neither an engineer nor entrepreneur, yet he was a visionary, and we might call him a social innovator.  He and his companion St. Clare were very clear on their experience of God and what that called them to be.   Church leaders tried to persuade them to operate with existing religious categories, but the vision of Francis and Clare included following the poor Christ in ways not done before.  Francis' contemporaries described him as showing them a new way to be a Christian.

The future of Franciscan life depends upon this same kind of innovation.  Of course, we Franciscans are deeply traditional in many ways, yet social innovation is a vital part of that tradition.  To live the Gospel today, we must find ways of helping young adults learn who they are -- or could be -- in Christ, speaking their language, but also helping them realize that their dreams for a more just, sustainable and fraternal world are possible.  Francis showed us a new way of being Christian, and it is up to us to show this technology-infused world a fresh way of living the Gospel today.


Brother Keith Douglass Warner, OFM teaches science, technology and social justice at Santa Clara University.  His research investigates how science and technology can foster sustainability and social justice.  He is co-author of Care for Creation: A Franciscan Spirituality of the Earth. 

Peace and All Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

Personal Reflection:

Can we conceive of God's love for us being more personal and more intimate than our personal technology devices?  Feel free to share your answer in the comment section below.

Contac Information:

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