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

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