Thursday, June 15, 2017

Reflection on the Feast of St. Anthony and Peacemaking

June is a time of both sadness and joy many people. In a scene all too familiar, June seems to bring the specter of death upon the world. On June 12, 2016, 49 people lost their lives at a shooting in Orlando. It was the deadliest shooting incident of violence against LGBTQ people in the United States. Two years ago on June 17, 2015, nine people in Charleston South Carolina died in a mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. On June 14, 2017, there was another mass shooting in Washington, D.C., although there were no fatalities, many are wounded. However, for Franciscans, June can also be a time of joy. On June 13 of every year the Franciscan family around the world celebrates the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua. How are these two events connected?

Among these disparate events, the connection is one that is  both simple and one consistent throughout the Gospel: love, love of one’s neighbor or friend. St Anthony in a sermon on the love of God and neighbor stated that “on the fourth day God said: 'Let there be two great lights in the firmament.' " For St. Anthony, these two lights were the love of God and the love of one's neighbor. The love of God represents itself by the sun, while the moon which reflects the dark radiance of this divine love, is the love of the neighbor.

This love is made manifest in all the horrific shootings and acts of violence throughout the world. As many of the survivors of these shootings have told their stories, time and again, the message was clear, how these brave people time and again gave up their safety and security to protect their friends, families, lovers, and colleagues. This is the definition of the love that St. Anthony was talking about and one that God has placed within all humans. As Franciscans, both professed religious and lay Franciscans and any people of good will who follow the Franciscan teachings of peace have a responsibility to keep this value alive by spreading the love of God and the love of peace in their daily lives.

Br. Jeff Durham is a Franciscan friar in formation with St. Barbara Province. He holds a dual masters degree in theology and ministry from the Franciscan School of Theology.
Jeff currently resides at Mission Santa Barbara, California, and working at the Mission Archive Library. His research interests include the history of the Franciscan intellectual tradition and the intersection between theology and technology.

The Provincials of the seven OFM Franciscan provinces in the U.S. released a statement after the Pulse Nightclub shooting last year. You can find the statement here.

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