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Archive for October, 2011


Time is flying by so fast here in Syracuse. It is already halfway through October and fall is in full swing. Today I just booked my tickets to return back to Kentucky for the Thanksgiving holidays. So much has happened that blogging would do little justice to describe because I could never recall everything to blog about. When I step back and think about each day though, things start to look different. Time dramatically slows down and I begin to appreciate each moment and see just how blessed God has made everything; even in the most difficult of times. Which trust me there have been those moments. These service year experiences are great and powerful, but life’s not so fun moments still happen. The more I get deeper in this experience, the more I grow to realize to make the most of each day and not get too focused on the end. Lastly, I am discovering that not everything about this experience is going to be profound and sweep me off my feet. However, even the least profound is still in many ways profound. Some might wonder what I mean, needless to say I am still putting all of this into an understandable narrative for my own understanding. One day at a time…

We got to explore the Adirondacks last weekend and see the community of Old Forge. This area reminded me of Kentucky in many ways because of the mountains and nature which I love. This area is one of the most beautiful natural spots in the entire country. Hopefully we have more than one chance to visit the Adirondacks in the coming months. Another event we visited was an apple festival outside of the city. I ate and drank apples there let me tell you: apple cider, apple pie, and apple dumplings to the max!

At the food pantry this week we got a sudden unexpected donation from Frito Lay and I had never seen so many Frito Lay chip products in my life. Talk about a random event. Still I took it as one of those seemingly unprofound profound experiences I mentioned learning to appreciate at the start of the blog. Coming up next weekend we have our FrancisCorps fall retreat. It should be a great chance to step back and thus far reflect upon what has happened and to gather for a weekend away from everything else that distracts from God.

Perhaps the first great insight from FrancisCorps thus far is understanding just how fast time flies and if you are always forging ahead nonstop you miss the moment. Therefore I resolve to let the days and months ahead come when they do but to live in the present at 5:57 PM on October 15, 2011. All will come when it does. The next great insight I have discovered is surrendering and possessing the wisdom to know what I can or cannot control. I can control very little and knowing this gives more control if you will then unsuccessfully trying to control things which are uncontrollable.  Most of life’s central struggles revolve around these two issues and never will I or any human for that matter fully conquer them in this lifetime.

Yet my struggles bring me closer to God and the ideals of St. Francis and Clare. Above all that is the most valuable of this experience! One which I will never trade.

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Feeling inspired I thought I would do a blog post today on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi since I owe this entire year of service to his life and the teachings. Many might know who St. Francis was but few I think understand the impact he continues to have on the world today. Not just among Catholics or Christians rather on all peoples. When we think of Ghanaian and MLK Jr we don’t realize that Francis was their model.  The teachings of St. Francis are radical even unto this day and still pose a challenge for everyone. Living and working in the shadow his teachings has opened my eyes to many insights I would never think to discover.

Last night my housemates and I celebrated the Transitus of St. Francis with the friars and the religious sisters who dedicate their lives to serving in the name of St. Francis. The Transitus is not a mass or “going to church” rather it is a memorial service celebrating the life and death of Francis. I have never been to a Transitus service and found it appealing and something I would want to experience again in the future. Today is his feast day so I have the day off and can enjoy that. However, St. Francis is more than just a day off for me.

To sum up St. Francis in this blog post would not do him justice. It would take a lifetime to do that; so I just focus on the important stuff. The three main things that come to my mind on Francis are peace, nature, and poverty. First, Francis is known for his radical teachings on peace and non violence. In today’s world with terrorism, fundamentalism, and hate the teachings of Francis are useful. Second, we hear all the time about climate change and destruction of the natural world. Francis embraced loving nature and for humanity to be responsible stewards of the world; yet, modern industry often shrugs off any concern for such things. The planet is slowly dying at our expense and Francis would be appalled at the pollution of the natural world.

Lastly and most apparent to daily life to people is poverty. In our materialistic obsessed culture we think more about we want rather than need.  Our priorities are to get rich and get richer often at the expense of others. Francis invites us to think otherwise and recenter our needs versus our wants. I want many things, but do not need them. Someone else less fortunate needs what I take for granted. The teachings of Francis on poverty and focus on helping those less fortunate are really needed in today’s world.

Like I said this only a summary of the important stuff of St. Francis I think everyone can appreciate. By no means do I feel that I am any better than the next person at living his example. However, it is important in my view I at least share these insights. I feel very close to Francis and want to adopt his teachings into my life not just this year with FrancisCorps but for a lifetime. If Gandhi, MLK Jr. and so many others have done great things in the name of St. Francis then I have doubt I can too in my life. Perhaps you can too regardless of your background or life path? As Francis said, “I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone. “

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I have not yet taken the time in my blog to talk about the new community I am forming while in Syracuse. Without the strong community I am forming up here, life in Syracuse would be rather dull. Community is one of the pillars of FrancisCorps and serves as the foundation for everything else. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts I live with five other roommates who like me work at different ministry sites in Syracuse.

Their sites deal with the organizations Catholic Charities and L’arche. I am the only guy among my roommates who are all women. From my viewpoint it has been quiet the time to live with five other women. As former FrancisCorps director Jim Moore told me at the start of FrancisCorps, “you are going to be blessed among women.” As a community we cook, shop, clean, and do many things that roommates. We have our own house and minivan we maintain. In many ways we do what many normal average families do everyday. However, I am not sure how many people are used to seeing 5 young women and one young men jamming out in a minivan? Glad we can broaden their minds.

Outside of my house community I have met dozens, dozens, and dozens of new people. The food pantry and Northside ministries are all staffed by volunteers who come in one or several times per week. Working and meeting all these new people has been very interesting. Most remind me of my parents or grandparents. Most are women but there are lots of men who form the ranks of the volunteers. I really admire these men and women who give their time each week to volunteer and live out their faith in helping the poor. Talking with many of them has opened my eyes to many new things about life.

The last layer of my forming community here are the religious men and women who actually run and operate the ministries, church, and FrancisCorps. These men and women are all united by the Franciscan charism to live out the Holy Gospel as both St. Francis and St. Clare once did eight centuries ago. Most of my life I have not interacted closely on a daily basis with religious men or women until coming to FrancisCorps. They do great work and in many ways their lifestyle of community mirrors what I am doing with my roommates. I hope to learn more from their example this upcoming year and further develop my Catholic faith/spirituality.

On another note, after working at my ministries over a month I am amazed at how many faces of the poor I have witnessed. And these are not just homeless people; it has been people from all over. Some used to have middle class lifestyles, others are young adults like me looking to find opportunities, while others are elderly trying to live out the last portion of their lives on little income. In a word, the face of the poverty extends to nearly people these days it seems.  I fear these economic times are only going to make life worse for these people. Unless our elected leaders get heads out the sand and take the time to see what is wrong the US will only see  poverty increase in the coming years.

Religious, civil, and service leaders have tried to lead the charge in giving a voice to the people who are impoverished, unemployed, or underemployed. However, unless something changes in the political theatrics the poor and much of the shrinking middle class will bear the brunt of these harsh economic times. Young adults like myself are eager to work and start our lives to make these country prosperous and great like it was for our parents and grandparents. That dream slowly continues to slip away each day.

I have often said that I hope my time here at FrancisCorps can be spent making a difference and living out the Gospel in the Franciscan way. As Matthew 20:16 proclaims, “So the last will be first and the first will be last.” And as FDR said,  “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” These quotes echo for me the importance in trying to make a difference especially in these uncertain times.

This upcoming week we celebrate the feast of St. Francis on October 4. It promises to be a day of fun and spirituality. So until next week, God bless!

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