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Doubting your faith

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Fr. Jim, Can you help me deal with doubts that sometimes pop into my mind about our Catholic faith? I always feel uneasy.  Louise
~
Fr. Jim Van Vurst

Fr. Jim Van Vurst

Dear Louise,

I’m more than happy to help you because you are surely not the only one who, from time to time, struggles, “With doubts that sometimes pop into my mind.” Let me reassure you that it is important to understand that these “popup doubts” in no way are true doubts about your faith. In fact they are normal and indeed tell me that you are actually an intelligent person of faith.  Our faith is filled with mystery. But we have to remember the best definition of what a mystery is: “It is not that about which we know nothing. Rather it is just that about which we don’t know EVERYTHING.”

And it is the nature of our mind to be constantly busy, thinking, figuring out, weighing alternatives, questioning and yes, even doubting. That’s what the mind does … that’s how God made our minds and intellects. We simply want to know more and more as we go through life and with knowing comes questioning and wonderment.

Now, I’m assuming from your question, you are fearful of having doubts about your faith. And let’s face it, our faith covers a lot of territory.  And much of what our faith is concerned with is embracing in trust the very mysteries of God, of Jesus, of creation, of life and of judgment. And we may think that if we are true believers, we would never have any questions or doubts. Not true! In fact asking questions or talking about a doubt is just a sign that we are, in fact, thinking and acting as mature adults.

Doubts such as: “Is that host really Jesus?” or “Can I be sure my past sins are forgiven?” are not uncommon doubts at all. When such thoughts come, try to understand what is going on inside you. It is just normal questioning and wonderment. But it is also an opportunity to say to the Lord, “Yes, I believe and I trust. You are mine and I am yours and that is all that matters.”

Understanding the loving and good God who made us and Jesus who died for us can really give a tremendous sense of confidence and reassurance. God never wants us to fear him because there is nothing to fear. Doubts, fearful thoughts are just a reminder of our wounded humanity and that God is always loving us.

May God bless you,
Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM

St AnthonyYou can share your prayers with us and our online community at our Prayer Page.
Pray for others who have also posted their needs and concerns at View Prayer Concerns.
St. Anthony was devoted to prayer to the Lord, read his words at St. Anthony Prayers.

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Br. Michael Charron, OFM, starts law school

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Br. Michael Charron, OFM

Br. Michael Charron, OFM

Br. Michael Charron has been attending the Appalachian School of Law (ASL) for about a month now.  ASL’s mission is to produce lawyers with a sense of professional responsibility who will become leaders in their communities beyond just talking about the law to actually experiencing it through an emphasis on practical skills and an externship program.

Br. Michael spent the last seven months in Mexico learning Spanish.  He is grateful now that he does not have to work so hard at understanding or being understood but it is coming in handy in his new surroundings.  He’s already used it to order dinner at a Mexican restaurant but he knows there will plenty more opportunities to hone his Spanish speaking skills.

He is excited about spending the next three years in Grundy, Virginia. The classes are small (about 40 students) and the school requires community service.  “I’m most interested in the CASA program which would allow me to be an advocate in court for an abandoned, abused, or neglected child.  I am hoping to do my required externship this summer with a local legal aid group,” says Brother Michael.

The only thing that is a little different right now is not living in fraternity.  “It’s just weird.  That is the only way I can describe it.  I miss praying and eating with the friars.  Simply being together for better or worse has been the norm and it is strange not having it.  I miss simply being with other friars,” says Michael.  He plans to stay in regular contact with many of his brothers that are only a couple of hours away and is determined to stay as connected fraternally as possible.

Br. Michael Charron enjoys a good laugh with fellow friars Br. Colin King and Fr. Roger Lopez

Br. Michael Charron enjoys a good laugh with fellow friars Br. Colin King and Fr. Roger Lopez

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Br. Mark Gehret, OFM, moves to Mississippi

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Br. Mark Gehret, OFM, receives a blessing from the New Orleans Poor Clares

Br. Mark Gehret, OFM, receives a send-off blessing from the New Orleans Poor Clares

“I thanked the Lord for bringing me to this rural place.”
~

Br. Mark Gehret, OFM, left New Orleans, Louisiana bound for Greenwood, Mississippi on August 3.  As you might expect after a total of 12 years in New Orleans, he was filled with mixed emotions.  There had been so many good relationships in New Orleans over the years and a very connected friar community. On the other hand, he was looking forward to his new adventure.

Br. Mark Gehret

Br. Mark Gehret

After getting settled in, Fr. Mark began working with a fine young maintenance man taking care of the friary, church, school, and convent.  Fr. Mark loves being in a rural area again having grown up on a farm.  He spent Labor Day working as a volunteer at a property on the other end of town where they are erecting a shrine to Our Lady of the Delta. He was able to use his electrician skills to help wire up the fountain where the statue of Mary is in place.

“Just tonight during my prayer time, I thanked the Lord for bringing me to this rural place and with the friendly people who live here, and for being able to use my trade skills. Growing up on a farm is paying off, says Br. Mark.

There has also been great sadness in the community during Mark’s short time in Mississippi.  The community was dealing with the murder of two sisters who spent decades helping the needy.

Br. Mark never met Sr. Paula Merrill or Sr. Margaret Held.  But a few weeks ago, he came to know them through the grief and pain that has united the community they served.  As nurse-practitioners, the two Sisters were the sole health care providers for 25% of the people of Holmes County, Mississippi. They were found stabbed to death in their home in Durant. A suspect was arrested but the motive for the murders is unclear.

Mark was among the mourners at the wake and memorial Mass. “The mood was mostly shock,” he said. “Why would somebody do this to two such good people who helped so many?” And their patients are wondering, “Where are we going to get health care now?”

“Why this horrific crime happened is anyone’s guess,” said Father Gregory Plata, OFM, at the nuns’ funeral service. “However, I truly believe with all my heart that Sister Margaret and Sister Paula would tell us that we still need to keep on loving.”

Fr. Greg Plata, OFM, at the Memorial Mass for the slain Srs. Paula Merrill and Margaret Held

Fr. Greg Plata, OFM, at the Memorial Mass for the slain Srs. Paula Merrill and Margaret Held

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St. Anthony shines a light

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I was shocked!
~

St. AnthonyI always hung my gold chain with the Blessed Mother medal on the little lamp on the table.  One morning it was not there.  My husband, son and I looked for three days and it was nowhere. 

This sounds silly but I finally in desperation asked St. Anthony, “Why won’t you bring it back to me as you loved the Blessed Mother so much.”

The next day I looked and saw a glint of gold on the lamp.  There it was.  I was in shock as I had dusted the lamp and it was not hanging there.  Only three of us in the house and none of us had found it. 

St AnthonyI have Protestant friends who call me and ask that I say my prayer when they can’t find something.  He does not always answer.  Sometimes it takes a year or so.  But this is God’s will. 

I have a special devotion to St. Anthony as my birthday is his feast day.

–M in PA

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More notes of gratitude and prayers requests to St. Anthony
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I love St. Anthony. He helps always.

–Melva

I have loved St. Anthony since I was in college back in the dark ages, while doing research for a paper, I found a section on him and when I saw “Special Saint of the Scatterbrained,” he was my special friend since!

–Mary

When we moved to a new house I misplaced my St. Jude statue. I prayed to St. Anthony for two years to no avail. I decided there must be some Saint rivalry but, at last, I took a box out of the bottom of a closet and, you guessed it, my St. Jude statue was there. Thank you St. Anthony, you have never let me down.

–Wanda

Please accept my enclosed check in gratitude to St. Anthony.  I left my purse in a drug store.  It was found (thanks to an honest person) with everything intact.

–Therese

St. AnthonyWe’d love to hear your St. Anthony story too.  Use our Contact Page or Email: shrine@franciscan.org or Call Colleen Cushard at: 513-721-4700.  Share your prayers with us and our online community at our Prayer Page.  You can donate to St. Anthony Bread or any of our ministries at our Donation Page.

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Getting Kids to School in Jamaica

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Students and parents stand in front of Josey the school van with Fr. Jim Bok, OFM, outside St. Anthony's Kitchen

Students and parents stand in front of Josey the school van with Fr. Jim Bok, OFM, outside St. Anthony’s Kitchen

Facing our future with hope
~

Because of the generosity of our donors, kids that would not have been able to attend school are gearing up for another year.

September 6th was the first day of the new school year in Negril. As usual, St. Anthony’s Kitchen was the gathering place to collect their lunch money, taxi fare, eat breakfast, get school supplies, and of course, get words of encouragement from Fr. Jim Bok, OFM.  Prior to this, Get Kids to School assisted (working with parents) in outfitting and supplying 250 children with the necessities for the start of school (uniforms, shoes, school supplies, fees, etc.).

During the 2015–2016 school year, Get Kids to School financially assisted 200 children and served breakfast to 70 kids each morning.  In addition, 50 students were transported to school via the bus, Josey.  This year Josey (a too small 15 passenger van) is making three trips to and from school to accommodate the children needing transportation.

“As a kid I remember a TV commercial reminding me that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  I’ve never forgotten it.  Thank you United Negro College Fund.  I have seen far too many wasted minds—and lives—for lack of education—often because a mom doesn’t’ have $1 or $2 a day.  We do what we can do with the help of benefactors.  “Facing Our Future with Hope” is the title of my Franciscan province’s vision statement.  It is a living vision which I totally embrace and which I want for our children—A Future with Hope” says Fr. Jim.

Fr. Jim Bok~
You can donate to the missions in Jamaica or any of our ministries at our Donation Page.
Keep up with the students on the St. Anthony’s Kitchen Facebook page.
Fr. Jim Bok, OFM, is the pastor of Mary, Gate of Heaven in Negril, Jamaica

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Mother Teresa and the Franciscans

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Mother Teresa in Cincinnati
~

“I can’t believe I actually shook hands with a saint,” recalls benefactor and friend, Marian Souders, reflecting on Mother Teresa’s visit to the Franciscan Seminary in 1981.

Br. Scott with Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa and Br. Scott

At that time, Franciscans around the world were celebrating the 800th birthday of St. Francis of Assisi.  Upon learning that Mother Teresa of Calcutta had a huge devotion to St. Francis, Br. Scott Obrecht, OFM, thought, “Why don’t we call her and invite her to come to Cincinnati to celebrate with us?”

Not really believing he’d get to talk to her, Br. Scott made the call and on June 7, 1981 he met Mother Teresa at the Greater Cincinnati airport.  Watch the video above for the full story.

In honor of the canonization of Mother Teresa, Franciscan Media has created a website devoted to her life and ministry.  Learn about the people she helped and the people she inspired.  Watch an artist paint her portrait and download the image for freeSt. Anthony Messenger magazine’s September issue has a special section about her.  An edifying collection of books and audiobooks are available through the Franciscan Media online store.

advent-mother-teresaIf you are on our mail list (postal), the 2016 Advent with St Teresa of Calcutta pocket booklet will be included in your October mailing.  It includes daily prayers for each day of Advent. We hope you find it helpful as you prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas.

If you would like a copy but are not on our list, or you would like an extra booklet for a friend or family member, please contact friarworks@franciscan.org or call us at 513 721-4700 x 3219.  Be sure to give us your name and full address.

Offer valid in the US only.  If you live outside of the US, contact us for the electronic version.

Mother Teresa

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Fr. Roger Lopez returns to Roger Bacon H.S.

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Fr. Roger Lopez, OFM, in the classroom at Roger Bacon, H. S.

Fr. Roger Lopez, OFM, in the classroom at Roger Bacon, H. S.

Fr. Roger Lopez, OFM, returns to Roger Bacon H.S. as a newly ordained priest
~

“It is amazing that four years have passed so quickly since I was teaching at Roger Bacon (as a Simply Professed friar).  Like life, many things have changed around campus.  But even though buildings are refurnished and people come and go, there remains an element ever constant – the charism.

It is the Spirit of Saint Francis that is steadfast within the hallowed walls of our school.  It is the welcome that is felt upon all who enter those brass doors, the pride rooted in our humble traditions, the kind generosity of our members, the many generations who have sent their children to receive a Catholic education by the Franciscan Friars.

We have a proud history and prosperous future.  Even though structures and people shift, it is the unwavering charism that welcomes me home.”

Read about Fr. Roger’s Ordination.

excerpt from Roger Bacon’s alumni magazine Traditions

Newly Ordained Fr. Cliff Hennings (left) and Fr. Roger Lopez with Bishop Joe Binzer and Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler

Newly Ordained Fr. Cliff Hennings (left) and Fr. Roger Lopez with Bishop Joe Binzer and Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler

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