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As the month of February went so comes the madness of March. For the first time in at least 4 months our FrancisCorps community spent more time outside than inside enjoying a nice spring like day here in Syracuse. It really lifted our spirits to enjoy such a great day outside and the promise of more days like it come as the weather slowly warms–not that all of the snow or cold filled days are done. Still the sense of spring and promise of better weather has begun to left our spirits. 

Things are going well at my job sites. One very cool thing the staff and volunteers will be doing this month is having a float in the St. Patrick’s day parade. It promises to be a good event and I will firmly being in a parade. Our float will feature lots of Franciscan and St. Patrick related themes and characters. Somehow I was drafted to be portray the man St. Patrick himself on our float. I will have costume and all the trimmings. Not sure how it will turn out but expect pictures. It promises to be a real fun event! 

On a different note, it being the start of the second week of Lent, I just happened to listen to today’s Gospel reading on the “Transfiguration.” Pondering through its meaning I started to note the number of times I had been transfigured or had been a witness to another transfiguration. Then I realized this whole blog has been a witness to a continuous path of self-transfiguration for myself the last few months. However, today’s Gospel added another element to the story, resurrection. 

The experiences and insights I have made here (and they are many) have set me up to become a new and more developed person. As I consider what paths I want to pursue in the immediate aftermath and more long-term after FrancisCorps, the old me is starting to give way to newer me. Like Christ and St. Francis I have had my own self-transfiguration year with FrancisCorps. 

Every year of Lent we are asked to be active witnesses to the transfiguration of Christ in our own lives. However, transfiguration is only half of the way. We have to go through the steps and motions to meet Him at the Resurrection. Lent is only in its second week and life’s path of transfiguration is not always like Christ’s. And I still have much more of my journey to go in FrancisCorps;yet, I recognize the wonder path of self-transfiguration I have been on these past few months.

I pray my Lenten experience and the rest of the remaining time at FrancisCorps will lead me to closer to the resurrection of Christ this Easter and to many resurrections in life. Likewise let everyone have the same promise and path this season of Lent! 

An Affirmative Lent


All too often leading up to Lent we found ourselves feeling grim and honestly dreading the next 40 days. And to be fair for most of living memory Lent always occupied a spot in the calendar as that time of sullen disposition. Not too say that Lent should not be a fasting and abstaining, but with every area we fast in, there can be a feast in another area. Lent should not just be another re-reminder of our New Years diet resolution plans (not that there anything wrong with having those) but it include a positive and not just a self inflicted fasting. 

Lenten journeys should never be alone; we are community of faith together all walking with different imperfections or struggles, but still we travel down the same path. Let last Sunday’s Gospel about the four who led the paralytic man be our guide for going down this journey together as one people united Christ’s Mystical Body! To quote the song, “we take care our own.”

Personally during Lent I hope to find more time for God in my daily life in the formal and informal ways. I have always been a fan of saying the rosary and I will resolve to say one decade each day during Lent. I will of course abstain from meat on Fridays and be watchful to balance/moderate other things. Lent for me is a time to fast and abstain, but I always firmly believe we can find so much more in God, others, and ourselves if we try for something more challenging that rocks the boat. Lent should and can be both a time to fasting and feasting! 

Lent is the beginning of the church’s holy spring with the blooming coming after 40 days. Until then lets make this Lenten journey together enjoy what it may bring our way!!

 

 


One of the many lessons we learn in life is how to deal with things and accept them once they have passed. Often times we ask ourselves, “why” or “how” this or that happened? And all to often we get the cliche response/assurance, “everything happens for a reason.” This same response has been offered to me on more than one occasion. Going through my year at FrancisCorps has offered me several experiences where I have been left with feeling lost and questioning only to begrudgingly conclude the “everything happens for a reason” conclusion. 

Interestingly a friend shared with me a passage on this very topic and I think it is worth sharing in this blog post: 

Sometimes people come into your life and you know right away that they were meant to serve some sort of purpose, teach you a lesson, or help figure out who you are or who you want to become. You never know who these people may be but when you lock eyes with them you know that very moment that they will effect your life in some profound way.

And sometimes things happen to you at the time that may seem horrible, painful, and unfair, but in reflection you realize that with overcoming those obstacles you would never realize your potential, strength, will power, or heart.

Everything happens for a reason. Nothing happens by chance or by means of luck. Illness, love, lost moments of true greatness and sheer stupidity all occur to test the limits of your soul.

Without these small tests, life would be like a smoothly paved, straight, flat road to nowhere safe and comfortable, but dull and utterly pointless.

The people you meet affect your life. The successes and downfall that you experience can create whom you are and the bad experiences can be learned from, in fact they are probably the most poignant and important ones. If someone hurts you, betrays you, or breaks your heart, forgive them because they have helped you learn about trust and the importance of being cautious to whom you open your heart.

If someone loves you, love them back unconditionally, not only because they have loved you but also because they are teaching you to love and open your heart and eyes to little things. Make very day count. Appreciate everything that you possibly can for you may never experience it again.

Talk to people whom you have never talked to before and actually listen. Let yourself fall in love, break free, and set your sights high. Hold your head up because you have every right to.

Tell yourself you are a great individual and believe in yourself, for if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will believe in you. Create your own life and then go out and live it.

“If you take your eyes off your goals, all you see is obstacles.”

 

We may never know everything but it is important to remember how everything from the greatest to the lowest, the most small to the grandest events of our lives happen for a reason. Accepting this with faith is the central nature of believing in God and making the most out of our lives. My FrancisCorps experience has help to keep on teaching me this valuable lesson. I whomever reads this post will take to the heart the passage and the hope it gives! 


A couple of weeks ago, my favorite artist Bruce Springsteen, aka “The Boss,” released a song that previews his new album coming out in March. The title of the new song is “We Take Care of Our Own.” In the song Springsteen asks:

” Where the eyes, the eyes with the will to see
Where the hearts, that run over with mercy
Where’s the love that has not forsaken me
Where’s the work that set my hands, my soul free
Where’s the spirit that’ll reign, reign over me
Where’s the promise, from sea to shining sea
Where’s the promise, from sea to shining sea”

Listening to these lyrics in the song made me think about my ministry with the poor and the questions that those whom I serve might be asking on a regular basis. Personally, I never had to ask those questions growing up because I lived in a comfortable household with everything I needed. And lots of Americans in the past never encountered such issues and hopefully they never do in their lives. Expect now, as the economic crisis has shown that poverty is becoming more than norm and the promise of the American Dream is dying.

For those who do not know, January is Poverty Awareness month and the March for Life occurred this week.  Normally such  things would not have mattered  as much to me, but this January I paused to really think about poverty. Earlier this past week I watched with my community a documentary titled, “The Human Experience.” In this documentary young 20 somethings from New York traveled all over the world to see the most impoverished and outcasts. Ranging from the homeless in NYC to the lepers of Africa this movie showed me how much of the majority of the world lives in poverty versus the minority who live in prosperity.

Thirdly this weekend I had the opportunity to help one of my community members, whose job is working with refugees, move and take much needed furniture to their apartments. These refugees were from Nepal. Working with them that day I witnessed first hand how much we shared in common as fellow people. They were trying to establish themselves in  like immigrants have always done in America. Striking to me was their admiration for Gandhi who as they said, lived simply but acted high.” How similar to was this message to that of St. Francis of Assisi?!

So therefore I leave this blog with the call for people to be watchful for the poor and to always remember them in our daily lives.Its amazing how much your mind opens and you see what is really important as I have noticed over the past few months. Many times it can be very painful and you want to ignore it. Yet there remains plenty of hope, joy, and love in the midst of pain. You never can joy and pain unless you see them together embodied in the poor. Even as Bruce Springsteen laments in his song he still has hope and rightful proclaims: “We take care of our own wherever this flag is flown.” I will continue to do the same in my ministry for the remainder of my time in FrancisCorps and hopefully all of my life! Will you?


Our FrancisCorps Christmas Card!

Only one week left till Christmas and four days until I return home for about ten days. I am really looking forward to going home for Christmas and seeing everyone and more after having far less time at Thanksgiving. The fun continues here in Syracuse; we had a great trip in NYC last weekend seeing the sights and taking in all of the stops in FrancisCorps style! This past weekend here at the house we had our Christmas party and exchanged our secret Santa gifts. Christmas is coming and I can just feel the season starting to really swing into full gear. Even in the midst of all of the these wonderful tidings and joy I the season has called for me something a little deeper.

For the past few weeks I have blogged about “letting our guard down” and “stepping back.” Why might I be reintroducing these topics? Well as Advent comes to an end and as Christmas dawns next week, its fair to say, that my Advent journey this year has been very fruitful. As a season Advent invites us to prepare the way for the coming of Christ into the world and is supposed to be a joyful time of anticipation. My experience this Advent season when I let my guard down and stepped back I found Christ in me and through me all the entire time. Continuously I came to observe just how close he was during this Advent season and how His desire rather than my self-desire won out in the end.

Often times in today’s culture its often about what me and what I want. Self-desire is not bad and needs to fulfilled. However, I found during this season Advent that what I wanted is not always correct and the need to yield to God’s desire even when I do not understand. FrancisCorps has been all about yielding to God and putting aside my own needs.  In today’s Gospel we witness Mary’s remarkable acceptance of God’s will upon her to be the Mother of God. Mary’s ‘yes’ to God offers us a great opportunity and challenge. The opportunity being we are all called by God to do something great; yet, the challenge is having the courage like Mary to accept or recognize the call. Personally for me, my coming to FrancisCorps is very similar to Mary’s place in the Gospel. God was calling me to do a year of service, but I was fearful of what my happen to me leaving my native Kentucky. In the end, however, I choose to accept God’s will without question and the results have been amazing. Therefore by saying to God, “May it be done to me according to your word,” we can unlock our truest potential as followers of Christ the remainder of this Advent season and beyond.

With that I want to thank everyone who has read my blog posts up to this point. I will not blogging for the rest of this year but I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy holidays! Look forward to more blog posts in 2012!


In my last blog post I wrote about trying to find God this Advent season and let Him enter into my life in new ways. Well I got what I asked for. Last week at the food pantry we had to do some routine floor maintenance that shock up the layout which forced us to get creative with how to do our ministry. Normally I distribute/handout food through a window that acts a buffer from the clients. Due to the floor maintenance I had to set up my station right out in front. You might not think this would change much but I was struck by the difference. Removing the artificial buffer I saw more visibly for the first time the faces and personalities of the clients. They were more real and I saw their hunger, anger, and longing to get out of the cold. Yet I was also struck at how engaging to me they were in those moments when they talked and thanked me for the food. A few hours later as these insights were becoming clearer to me I asked myself if I had removed my artificial barriers from God? Without knowing it I had the evening I stepped out from the window into the open to serve the clients I had removed a barrier.

Then I asked myself what if I did that more this Advent season to remove the barriers, let my guard down, face the unknown, and throughout it all draw from God’s guiding presence. All too often modern society I think makes us want to wish away or imagine away the not so good things of life rather than facing them. The great thing about Advent is that it invites us to persevere with courage in the dark days of winter and beyond to find the light of Christ. We learn to say ‘yes’ and accept the hardships and when through them be all the more stronger. Like Christ’s mother Mary we embrace the unknown with faith and hope… although I doubt most of us will have to bear the task Mary was entrusted with in our lives.   Its all part of the divine paradox. (Check out this link) Maybe before the end of Advent I will hopefully do a better job of letting my guard down to Christ.

This weekend we get to go to New York City as a FrancisCorps group and see all of the sights in the Big Apple. Pray for us that we have safe travels and a great time together.

PS: Please check out this video clip on the “Advent Conspiracy.” I am not one to embrace conspiracy theories but I think this one hits the nail on the head and gives us some food for thought as we are in the middle of the holiday-Christmas-Advent season.


At anytime its important to step back and take stock of life. So I did that when I went home for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was great to go home after three months. Everyone from my family, friends, and others were so welcoming to host me and hear about my adventures. While home I rediscovered many things and got some new direction. Putting it into words is hard but I feel like some things make more sense than before. Yet the message is still unfolding and each time a portion of it is revealed or I have an insight. I suppose part of the magic of my FrancisCorps experience is having the environment and support to find those answers. Its odd though many times when we are looking for insights they appear when we are not thinking or looking for them. And I think that is happening with me here. The answers come when we don’t always look, the trick is having the awareness to look when we don’t look. If that makes sense.

On another note but similar note today marks the beginning of the season of Advent. The season of Advent in the Catholic Christian tradition invites us to await and look for the coming of Christ in our lives. Advent is the time before Christmas where like in ages past we await the second coming of Christ. Yet in the present we are asked to seek Christ in the daily actions of our lives. I suppose for me Advent is a perfect time to continue some of what I started when I was home for Thanksgiving.

Even as I write this blog I am watching the movie “Field of Dreams.” For those familiar with the movie, at times we get the  messages to “go the distance” or “if you build it he will come.” Likewise Advent can present us with similar messages we hear and feel the urge to follow. Even if we follow them we don’t always know where they will lead. That is we discover the answer was in front us all along; it just took everything previous to see it. Funny how things come together (including this blog post). So this Advent season I think I’ll try best to find Christ and heed the message but not too hard otherwise I might just miss it.

By the way if there is anything whomever reads my blog might ever want me to write about or have any ideas about blog topics never hesitate to let me know. I am always open to ideas or commentary.