Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dolores Hart

From Tom S.F.O.

Catholic Exchange has an interesting article/interview on/with Dolores Hart. It starts:

Once an in-demand Hollywood actress, Dolores Hart shocked the entertainment industry when she gave up everything to become a cloistered Benedictine Roman Catholic nun. She left her career, broke off her engagement to Los Angeles businessman Don Robinson, and pursued her vocation as a nun.

Find the rest here.

A Franciscan connection is that she played Clare in the 1961 movie Francis of Assisi.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Confession is like going to the Dentist

Standing on My Head by Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a good short article on Confession. It starts:

When people come to confession they often have something on their conscience which makes them feel guilty, ashamed or scared.

Most often this is something where they've lost control. Maybe it is a sin that is 'below the belt', something to do with food, drink or drugs, losing one's temper, being violent etc. This sin of passion makes them feel guilty or ashamed or scared, but despite their strong feelings it may not be the most serious sin, or the thing which is keeping them from God.

Read the rest here.

Compline - Liturgy of the Hours

I'm a fan of the Anchoress. She has recorded Compline - Night Prayer, for every day of the week. Her recordings are beautiful and meaningful. She has a great voice. You can find her Podcasts here.

Compline is prayed/recited just prior to bed. Don't forget to do a short examination of conscience before hand.

40 Days for Life

This is the time to stand up and join this effort.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

S.F.O. Life and Apostolic Activity

Browsing the Internet I ran across this article and thought I would share it in its entirely.

Emerenziana Rossato SFO
Franciscanism qualifies as a way of life,that is as an evangelic and fraternal experience.Starting from the SFO rule and the Constitutions we shall examine two highly existential moments:life and apostolate.

The second chapter of the new Constitutions deals with the "-Form of life and apostolic activity-". Both the Rule and the Constitutions underline the value and importance of the form of life associated with the apostolate for the Secular Franciscan. This is so because at the moment a secular franciscan takes the Rule seriously enough to conform her or his life to it, apostolic activity will become an important and logical consequence.

To give the Rule this power is linked to the certainty that at the bottom of it all there is a vocation, which is the key to everything. We have entered the SFO because of a vocation which is fundamental because it is a part of God's salvific plan for us, for whose fulfillment we should be ready to give our lives.

The initiative was His, not ours. It is God who calls and continues to call and at each call chooses, destines, places and guides a person. God calls for a certain purpose and furnishes the means to reach it. He calls for the benefit of the person but also for the benefit of the community. And it is the answer of the person that fulfills or not fulfills the will of Him who calls. So each fulfillment of a vocation will never be a small matter, but a fullness of grace.

Each vocation echoes and vibrates in the person concerned with particular accents of gifts, illuminations, talents, and sensibilities, different internal and external situations. We are called to deepen the components, the characteristics and the dimensions of our vocation in order to answer it well and not to eliminate it.

We gave our first affirmative reply with our Profession, the public ecclesiastical act that brought us into the Fraternity. We professed in the Church, creating a new bond. We professed the Rule, that is a way of life, and entered the Franciscan family. This personal reply asks for continual fidelity if we want to realize our vocation. We should often remember our given word, our solemn pledge and try to keep our promises.

Living our Profession is part of a personal dedication that precedes that of the community, just as the apostolic action of the Fraternity presupposes that of the single person linked to the conversion of our heart. Because it is not the SFO, but the single member which can be transformed. It is not the SFO as such that makes us what we are, but our own personal virtues. This is so even if it goes without saying that the strength of the Fraternity can stimulate new desires, renew our lives and give us franciscan happiness. It is the personal virtues of each one put together with those of the brothers and sisters that gives light, splendour and life to the Fraternity.

Living our vocation and our Profession presupposes the Rule, a great gift that tells us who we are, how we should live and what we must do.

The first Chapter describes our nature and our identity; the second, the form of life to acquire; the third, life in Fraternity. All three Chapters are essential. By realizing the third chapter, we can more easily live the second and reach the goals described in the first.

God's design for us is fulfilled through the Rule that shows the direction and the form our vocation should take to qualify as secular Franciscans. The Rule gives us a "-Form of Life-" in relationship to God, to human beings and to the whole creation.

It is good to note that the new Constitutions have no other purpose than to help us to understand the Rule, explaining its parts and indicating concrete solutions.

From the Rule's 26 Articles, sixteen regard the "-Form of Life-". It is this form of life we should realize, observing the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the example of St. Francis of Assisi.

Therefore, passing from the Gospel to life and from life to the Gospel; looking for Christ in our brothers and sisters; being witnesses and instruments of the mission of the Church among people; conforming our way of thinking and acting to that of Christ; making prayer and contemplation the soul of our being and working; proclaiming love for the Virgin Mary and following her example; faithfully fulfilling our obligations in our state of life.

Therefore, the right use of possessions; purity of heart; fidelity to our vocation; the acceptance of our brothers; competently carrying out our responsibilities; initiatives in favour of justice; the spirit of peace; respect towards all creatures; faith in the presence of the divine seed in people and the transformative power of love and pardon; serenity in awaiting the final encounter with the Father.

The Constitutions reinforce and explain the Rule. They speak of the "-Form of Life-" in the first part of the Second Chapter, composed of 9 Articles: from 8 to 16.

The Constitutions stress the commitment made by our profession to live the Gospel according to Franciscan spirituality in our secular condition, according to the Rule of the SFO in a journey of conversion; open to the opportunities that come from society and from the Church; in the personal and communal dimensions of this journey (Const. 8).

Franciscan spirituality is called a plan of life centered on the person and on the following of Christ, rather than a detailed program to put into practice. It asks for study and love of the Gospel, to know and understand it as it is proclaimed by the Church (Const.9).

Christ, "-poor and crucified-", the greatest manifestation of the love of God for humanity, is for Secular Franciscans the book wherein we learn the way of living, loving and suffering; in which one discovers the value of contradictions, the meaning of the difficulties and the crosses, the Franciscan spirit of peace (Const. 10).

Mindful that the Holy Spirit is the source of their vocation, Secular Franciscans should desire above all things "-the Spirit of God at work within them-" (Const.11).

We are called by the Constitutions to live with faith the great gift Christ has given the revelation of the Father and to bear witness of it before all: in family life; in work; in joys and sufferings; in associating with all, brothers and sisters of the same Father; in our presence and participation in the life of society; in fraternal relationships with all creatures (Const. 12).
We need a spirit of continual conversion, both individually and in Fraternity that brings with it love for the renewal of the Church; love for the works of charity in the interactions with the brothers and sisters; love for penitential practices (Const. 13).

We are called to a faith-inspired reflection on the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation; on its mission in today's world; on the role of the Franciscan laity within the Church to foster its growth and the spreading of the Kingdom.

We are called to make the Eucharist the center of our lives and of the Fraternity; to give priority to the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours; to find times of silence and recollection dedicated exclusively to prayer (Const. 14).

The constitutions urge us to live the spirit of the Beatitudes and, in a special way, the spirit of poverty that demonstrates confidence in the Father, reduces personal needs in favour of those most in need, effects interior freedom and promotes a more just distribution of wealth, attentive to the instructions of the Church and the demands of society (Const. 15).

We are urged to look at Mary as a model of listening to the Word and of faithfulness to one's vocation: we, like Francis, see all the gospel virtues realized in her. To Her then our intense love, imitation, prayer and filial abandonment (Const. 16).

Mary has given the Word flesh and bones, and went to Elizabeth. And as everyone in life has an "-Isaac-" to immolate, a "-leper-" to kiss, a "-wolf-" to tame, everyone has an "-Elizabeth-" to visit. "-Pray to Mary and run-", goes a Spanish saying. A good listener...

Franciscan Charism

Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap. has a good article on SFO Franciscan Charism. It can be found here.

It starts:

When I speak of charism in this paper, I intend to signify a gift of the Holy
Spirit that promotes a response to the Gospel that involves a specific Gospel
insight which is put into practice in a specific environment. We may refer to a
person's response to the Divine as their spirituality. Within this general area,
people are gifted with particular insights, particular vocations, to live within
specific circumstances as they respond to God's presence in their lives.
Although he admired saintly monks, St Francis was not a monk. Although he
supported, challenged and encouraged lay people, he was not a Secular
Franciscan. There is something very specific in every call from God to holiness,
and it is that specific quality we seek to explore as it is described in the
Pauline Rule of the SFO.
When promulgating the SFO Constitutions, Emanuela
De Nunzio mentioned three specific characteristics of the SFO: secularity, unity
and autonomy. These qualities are all set out in the first two paragraphs of the
Pauline Rule. The SFO is secular in so far as its members "strive for perfect
charity in their own secular state" (Rule 2). The Secular Franciscan Order is
one is so far as "it is an organic union of all Catholic fraternities scattered
throughout the world" (Rule 2). It is autonomous in so far as it carries out its
vocation within the Franciscan family, under the common fatherhood of St.
Francis, "in various ways and forms but in life-giving union" with the other
branches of that family (Rule 1).

A highlighted extract follows:

Because Seculars live in the context of "the world", they are in a privileged
position to demonstrate that there is no disjunction between life in the world
and living the Gospel. The Gospel is not an artificial adjunct to human life,
and one does not have to withdraw from human life to live the Gospel.
Rule exhorts them "to go forth as witnesses and instruments of her (the
Church's; italics mine) mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their
life and words" (Rule 6). The Rule suggests that union with Jesus for the
Secular Franciscans consists in their "faithfully fulfilling the duties proper
to their various circumstances of life" (Rule 10).They must necessarily come
into contact with the goods of the world, but they are exhorted in the Rule to
simplify their material needs and to remember that they use material goods as
stewards (Rule 11). In the spirit of the beatitudes, as pilgrims and strangers
on their way home to the Father, they should mortify and tendency to possessions
or power (Rule 11). In their families they are urged to promote peace, fidelity
and respect for life and as husbands and wives they should bear witness to the
world of the love of Christ for his Church (Rule 17).

I would urge a reading of this entire paper.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Truths We Hold...

Richard Neuhaus has an interesting article in First Things. It begins:

"At least since Ronald Reagan vs. Jimmy Carter in 1980, the question of religion in public life and, more specifically, the meaning of “the separation of church and state,” has surfaced in presidential elections. Sen. Obama has been working hard to overcome the perception that his party is not only secular but anti-religious. At the same time, Sen. Obama’s supporters have been raising alarms[sic] about the unabashed religious commitment of Gov. Palin."

Find the rest here.

Response to Charles Gibson's Holy War Question

The Anchoress has a great video in response to Charles Gibson's question to Sarah Palin "Are we fighting a holy war?" Find it here.

The SFO Rule No. 17

"In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ. By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for His Church. They should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being attentive to the vocation of each child."

Though the name of this blog is Tom S.F.O. I note that most of my posts are not of a Secular Franciscan nature. I hope to correct this in the future.
I have read the Rule many times over the years. I did so again today. Perhaps Number 17 of the Rule, quoted above, never hit me before. As a bachelor perhaps I glossed over it with its mention of family and marriage. But what struck me today was the words "respect for life". Perhaps in previous readings I understood this to reference all of nature, all life. But today I hear it telling me respect for the unborn human life.
From a sampling of my previous posts my prolife conviction is readily known. But for this to jump out to me today is interesting. That respect for life is in my Rule. It is like it has not dawned on me before.
As Franciscans we are called to follow the Pope and the Magisterium of the Church. When it comes to respect for life I don't need the Pope or the Church to tell me that the killing of the unborn is wrong and a grave sin. It is within us. In our very nature. It is unfathomable to me to think that for some this is not so.
We all know of the cafeteria Catholics who pick and choose what they will. When it comes to abortion I am unable to understand that this is O.K. I am so happy that many Bishops have spoken out and corrected those pro-abortion "Catholics" who receive the Eucharist.
What has troubled me in the recent past was that there was a Secular Franciscan in my Secular Franciscan Region who ran for congress who was very vocally pro-abortion, running against a pro-life incumbant. She lost. But what grieves me is that no one from her Fraternity, not the Region, nor National made any attempt to correct her. Without contrition and a change of heart she should have been booted from the order.
Though we are not to judge, there are times we are called to correct our brother or sister who is in error with love and compassion. But to completely ignore the issue is wrong in my judgement. As a parent corrects a child who is in error out of love. So must we as Catholics correct each other, especially in a matter so grave.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Acedia has appeared in the blogosphere of late, Deacon Greg for one, generated by Kathleen Norris' book "Acedia & Me". Not familiar with the term? Neither was I, but we are familiar with acedia, if not by name.

The American Heritage Dictionary defined acedia as: "Spiritual torpor and apathy; ennui." Not much help? Torpor: A state of mental or physical inactivity or insensibility. Ennui: "Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom".

I have not read Kathleen's book (yet). But here is my take. Mostly, we live in our own world. Morning routine, travel, work, travel, dinner, television, sleep. On the weekends it is housecleaning, shopping, errands, yard work, perhaps eating out, some entertainment, hopefully church. We all have our own routine. Other then watching the news (usually biased - let them think for us) we know little (or care) what is happening around us. It usually takes something to jog us from our torpor.

There are so many things out there that needs our attention. We can't do everything, but we can do something. My blog quote is from Edmund Burke "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

My answer to acedia is to pray and act. Find some form of prayer a few minutes a day, for me it is the Liturgy of the Hours. Find something that touches your heart, something that needs you. You know your talents. There are so many ways to contribute. And you will find it most rewarding.

Like I said it usually takes something that jogs us. In 1991 when my mother died the Church extended itself toward me. I decided to repay the kindness by becoming an active member of my parish, I was no longer satisfied with being a Sunday morning Catholic. I soon became a Lay Minister and it was also at this time I found my calling to be a Secular Franciscan.

But what touched my heart was abortion. I wrote about it when I started this blog. You can find it here. But I didn't know much about it. I didn't have the facts. So I began to read about it. The more I did, the more my conviction grew. I soon started a Respect Life Committee in my parish.

Here is where acedia hit me. When I started the committee, put information about an inaugural meeting and information night, only a few showed up. This was in a parish that had over 3,000 families registered. Where was everyone? Didn't they care? Acedia.

But you know - I didn't realize it then - these few people were all we needed. We were a thriving group and did many things, held baby showers, raised funds by selling roses on Mother's Day, conducted pro-life prayer services, letter campaigns, etc.

So don't let acedia take hold. Pray. Find something, alone or start a group. Write your legislators. Vote.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dear Mr. Obama

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Our Moral Responsibility as Catholic Citizens

From the Catholic Key Blog

Thursday, September 11, 2008

KC Bishops on Moral Responsibility, Voting

"Could a Catholic in good conscience vote for a candidate who supports legalized abortion when there is a choice of another candidate who does not support abortion or any other intrinsically evil policy?"

Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn address that question and more in their Joint Pastoral dedicated on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and released today:

Our Moral Responsibility as Catholic Citizens
Joint Pastoral Letter – September 8, 2008
Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Dear Friends in Christ,

With the approaching general election this November, we believe this to be an important moment for us to address together the responsibility of Catholics to be well informed and well formed voters.

Except for the election of our next President, the people of Northwestern Missouri and Northeastern Kansas will be choosing different candidates for different offices in our two dioceses. Yet the fundamental moral principles that should guide our choices as Catholic voters are the same.

For generations it has been the determination of Catholic Bishops not to endorse political candidates or parties. This approach was initiated by Archbishop John Carroll – the very first Catholic Bishop serving in the United States. It was long before there was an Internal Revenue Service Code, and had nothing to do with a desire to preserve tax-exempt status. Rather the Church in the United States realized early on that it must not tether the credibility of the Church to the uncertain future actions or statements of a particular politician or party. This understanding of the Church’s proper role in society was affirmed in the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern Word: “The Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified with any political community nor bound by its ties to any political system. It is at once the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person.”(Gaudium et Spes n.76)

A Right to Speak Out on Issues

At the same time, it is important to note that the Catholic Church in the United States has always cherished its right to speak to the moral issues confronting our nation. The Church has understood its responsibility in a democratic society to do its best to form properly the consciences of her members. In continuity with the long history of the efforts of American Bishops to assist Catholics with the proper formation of their consciences, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) this past November issued a statement: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. In that document our brother bishops took care to note: “This statement is intended to reflect and complement, not substitute for, the ongoing teachings of bishops in our own dioceses and states.”

It is in this context that we offer the following reflections to assist the Catholic people of Northwestern Missouri and Northeastern Kansas in forming their consciences in preparation for casting their votes this November.

Many Issues: Prudential Judgments

Every Catholic should be concerned about a wide range of issues. We believe in a consistent ethic that evaluates every issue through the prism of its impact on the life and dignity of the human person. Catholics should care about public policies that:
a) promote a just and lasting peace in the world,
b) protect our nation from terrorism and other security threats,
c) welcome and uphold the rights of immigrants,
d) enable health care to be accessible and affordable,
e) manifest a special concern for the poor by attending to their immediate needs and assisting them to gain economic independence,
f) protect the rights of parents to be the primary educators of their children,
g) create business and employment opportunities making it possible for individuals to be able to provide for their own material needs and the needs of their families,
h) reform the criminal justice system by providing better for the needs of the victims of crimes, protecting the innocent, administering justice fairly, striving to rehabilitate inmates, and eliminating the death penalty,
i) foster a proper stewardship of the earth that God has entrusted to our care.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

While the above issues, as well as many others, have important moral dimensions, Catholics may and do disagree about the most effective public policies for responding to them. How these issues are best addressed and what particular candidates are best equipped to address them requires prudential judgments – defined as circumstances in which people can ethically reach different conclusions. Catholics have an obligation to study, reflect and pray over the relative merits of the different policy approaches proposed by candidates. Catholics have a special responsibility to be well informed regarding the guidance given by the Church pertaining to the moral dimensions of these matters. In the end, Catholics in good conscience can disagree in their judgments about many aspects of the best policies and the most effective candidates.

The Priority of Rejecting Intrinsic Evil

There are, however, some issues that always involve doing evil, such as legalized abortion, the promotion of same-sex unions and ‘marriages,’ repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research. A properly formed conscience must give such issues priority even over other matters with important moral dimensions. To vote for a candidate who supports these intrinsic evils because he or she supports these evils is to participate in a grave moral evil. It can never be justified.

Even if we understand the moral dimensions of the full array of social issues and have correctly prioritized those involving intrinsic evils, we still must make prudential judgments in the selection of candidates. In an ideal situation, we may have a choice between two candidates who both oppose public policies that involve intrinsic evils. In such a case, we need to study their approach on all the other issues that involve the promotion of the dignity of the human person and prayerfully choose the best individual.

Limiting Grave Evil

In another circumstance, we may be confronted with a voting choice between two candidates who support abortion, though one may favor some limitations on it, or he or she may oppose public funding for abortion. In such cases, the appropriate judgment would be to select the candidate whose policies regarding this grave evil will do less harm. We have a responsibility to limit evil if it is not possible at the moment to eradicate it completely.

The same principle would be compelling to a conscientious voter who was confronted with two candidates who both supported same-sex unions, but one opposed abortion and destructive embryonic research while the other was permissive in these regards. The voter, who himself or herself opposed these policies, would have insufficient moral justification voting for the more permissive candidate. However, he or she might justify resorting to a write-in vote or abstaining from voting at all in this case, because of a conscientious objection.

In 2004 a group of United States Bishops, acting on behalf of the USCCB and requesting counsel about the responsibilities of Catholic politicians and voters, received a memo from the office of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, which stated: “A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”

Could a Catholic in good conscience vote for a candidate who supports legalized abortion when there is a choice of another candidate who does not support abortion or any other intrinsically evil policy? Could a voter’s preference for the candidate’s positions on the pursuit of peace, economic policies benefiting the poor, support for universal health care, a more just immigration policy, etc. overcome a candidate’s support for legalized abortion? In such a case, the Catholic voter must ask and answer the question: What could possibly be a proportionate reason for the more than 45 million children killed by abortion in the past 35 years? Personally, we cannot conceive of such a proportionate reason.

Time for Catholics to Exercise Moral Leadership

The number of Catholics and the percentage of Catholics in the United States have never been greater. There has never been a moment in our nation’s history when more Catholics served in elective office, presided in our courts or held other positions of power and authority. It would be wrong for us to use our numbers and influence to try to compel others to accept our religious and theological beliefs. However, it would be equally wrong for us to fail to be engaged in the greatest human rights struggle of our time, namely the need to protect the right to life of the weakest and most vulnerable.

We need committed Catholics in both major political parties to insist upon respect for the values they share with so many other people of faith and good will regarding the protection of the sanctity of human life, the upholding of the institution of marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation of family life, as well as the protection of religious liberty and conscience rights. It is particularly disturbing to witness the spectacle of Catholics in public life vocally upset with the Church for teaching what it has always taught on these moral issues for 2,000 years, but silent in objecting to the embrace, by either political party, of the cultural trends of the past few decades that are totally inconsistent with our nation’s history of defending the weakest and most vulnerable.

Thank you for taking time to consider these reflections on applying the moral principles that must guide our choices as voters. We are called to be faithful Catholics and loyal Americans. In fact, we can only be good citizens if we allow ourselves to be informed by the unchanging moral principles of our Catholic faith.


A great video.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Abortion and War

Fr. Dwight Longenecker at Standing on my Head has an interesting article on Abortion and War. It starts:

There's some fuzzy thinking among Catholics on the issue of abortion and war. The argument goes like this: "Vote Democrat and innocent babies get killed through abortion. Vote Republican and innocent people get killed in an unjust war. Since you're going to end up with killing either way, let's ignore those issues and focus on the economy." The subtext is, "I'm going to vote Democrat even if their candidate does support partial birth abortion."

You can find the full post here.

Gov. Sarah Palin Biography Video

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bishop Thomas Wenski: Prayer -- GOP Convention

H/T The Deacon's Bench

Bible In a Minute

Cardinal George's Statement on Abortion and Politics

Please see his statement here.