One sure sign of growing into maturity is the willingness and ability to “take responsibility for our choices in life.” Obviously, all of us are influenced by many circumstances, some of which are beyond our control. But as a young person grows year by year, there is an expectation that quick and easy excuses (“oh, I just forgot, etc.”) are no longer acceptable in a family. This maturity can differ from case to case but there comes a time and an age where the parent, and even society, say frankly, “No more excuses.”
There is no question that in the eyes of a young person, still under the guidance of parents at home, older children seem to have a lot more privileges. That’s true … but it is equally true that with privilege also comes the obligation to be accountable for our choices and their consequences.
That’s why for most young people a driver’s license is seen as the ultimate gift of freedom. I remember when I turned 13, my dad used to allow me to “start the car.” Wow, what power!!! But eventually when I got my driver’s license at 16, I had arrived!! But, of course, that was just the start to growing up.
Depending on circumstances, many would say that the transition was fairly smooth as we became aware that life is not always simple. Most teenagers try to find some kind of employment during the summers in high school. And as we grew older, we were in situations where we had to make more serious and responsible decisions in our lives. And in a sense once we faced those necessary decisions we knew there was a price to pay if they were bad choices.
The word “decision” itself is an interesting one since the word comes from the Latin “Decidere.” It means “to cut or to separate.” And the implication, of course, is that once you make a cut, a decision, you can’t “uncut” or “undecide.” It’s done. That is why, when people must make serious decisions with serious consequences, they often seek advice or counsel. Talking an issue over with another trusted person can help clarify one’s thinking when an important factor involved was not noticed until someone else caught it.
Now, considering the gospels and Jesus’ public life and ministry , we come to the realization that Jesus experienced, time and time again, a need to make decisions in his life, e.g. his choice of apostles, or when to go up for the feast knowing he was facing a ton of criticism and personal attacks. The most significant choice he made was to follow his Father’s plan that resulted in his passion and death. Luke tells us that in the garden, Jesus’ sweat became drops of blood. Talk about pressure and tension and struggle!! But we know Jesus experienced his life in his human nature and not by just “floating through” his passion and death.
No one makes a perfect decision every time. We are prone to mistakes but can take some solace in the fact that even Jesus’ hand-picked apostles were not mistake-proof or clear-headed in their decision-making. But that fact does put us in pretty good company when faced with our own decisions.
Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM, has been a Franciscan friar for 64 years and a priest for 56 years. His background is in spirituality and psychology and counseling. He has published articles in St. Anthony Messenger, the Bible Today, and The Priest Magazine. Currently, he is assistant pastor at St. Clement Church in Cincinnati. On top of all that, he is just a really great guy!
If you would like to take advantage of Fr. Jim’s expertise or just need to ask him a question, email email@example.com All counseling will be confidential and done through email.
Will You Remember Our Retired Friars?
Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me –Psalms 71:9
As friars we dedicate our lives to proclaiming the Gospel in the Franciscan spirit, living with and for the poor, promoting justice, peace, and the care of creation. We spend our lives of poverty in service and in prayer. Even after a lifetime of active service to God and others, we don’t retire to a life of leisure—we work in whatever capacity we are able to for as long as our minds and bodies allow. Of the 99 friars who are over the age of retirement, more than half are still ministering in various capacities. Many are well into their eighties, yet they still celebrate daily Mass (some with the help of a walker!), as well as volunteer at local soup kitchens, serve as hospital chaplains, and hold administrative roles like I do as the Co-Director here at Friar Works!
Province Nurse Michelle Viacava manages the healthcare for all of the 133 friars of St. John the Baptist Province, but she works mostly with retirement-age friars, since healthcare needs and health issues naturally increase with age. In doing so, she’s gotten to know many of our elderly friars on a more personal level.
“The older friars are very appreciative of all I do for them,” she says. “Unlike most of society, they don’t have spouses or children to help them to remember appointments or to accompany them to surgeries, so that’s one area where I am able to step in.”
Michelle is happy to fulfill these roles and more, often lunching with them between taking vitals and bloodwork, and chatting with them whenever she gets the chance. She loves to hear about all of the people they’ve helped in various capacities throughout the years.
“They are all just wonderful,” she says. “They are very respectful and so full of wisdom. I might be helping them with their healthcare needs, but they have helped me along my faith journey.”
Michelle is one of the people making sure our aging friars get the emotional and physical support they require, but financial assistance is, of course, needed as well to continue caring for them. In addition to Michelle, Br. Jerry Beetz works to assist the needs of the friars already in nursing facilities.
Would you consider remembering our senior friars in your financial giving? Your charitable contribution comes at a time when our elderly friars need it most, after many years of faithful service. It says “thank you” to them for all they’ve done and continue to do. The quality care your gift provides helps bring comfort and peace to them in their old age.
Your gift also goes twice as far with gift matching from the Jasper Foundation! For nearly a decade, the Jasper Foundation has graciously offered us a $10,000 challenge grant for donations offered through this appeal! This means that your $50 gift becomes $100, and your $100 gift becomes $200, and so on. If you are considering giving, this is truly an excellent time to do so. Due to your generosity, we’ve met and exceeded this challenge every year since 2009, and we’d love to keep with this tradition!
We are so grateful for any tax-deductible contribution you can make, and it is our privilege to remember you in our prayers. May God bless you for your generosity. Thank you for supporting our Franciscan mission.
Peace and all things good,
Fr. John Bok, O.F.M., Co-Director
Please give to our senior friars on our Donation Page.
In 1987, Fr. Joe Rayes, OFM wrote a book called Living Religious Vows, but what impressed people the most was that he lived what he preached. Fr. Joe was a passionate man proud of his Lebanese heritage. He gladly proclaimed the mercy of God to all. He was a friar for 56 years and died at the age of 76 in 2007.
Recently Dan Nolan, a former friar began working at the front desk here at the friary. He is a joyful and fun loving person willing to help with absolutely everything and anything. One morning Dan started telling me a story about when he lived with Fr. Joe in Houma, Louisiana. Dan tells me that he would jokingly say that he loved to preach the Gospel, but really had only three themes in his homilies: 1. God loves us beyond all understanding, 2. God loves us beyond all understanding, and 3. God loves us beyond all understanding. The Gospel or “good news” for Fr. Joe was all about God’s love.
Not more than a few minutes later, I received a gift on line from a man named Rudy that wrote in memory of Fr. Joe Rayes in the comments section. I sent an email to thank him and mentioned that coincidently we had just been having a conversation about Fr. Joe.
He sent an email back to me. It was so touching that I asked him if I could share this with all of you. His second note said simply “Anything to honor Fr. Joe”. His email is below:
I learned much about God from Fr. Joe during the time he was my spiritual director in the late 1980’s while serving as Director of the Lumen Christi Retreat Center in Houma, LA. The wisdom of Joe Rayes taught me that:
· God is a God of surprises.
· God is slow, but he is always on time.
· God draws straight with crooked lines.
· We must waste time with God and those we love.
· Each of us is a mixture of mud and gold.
· We each have weeds growing amongst the wheat of our interior lives.
· The road of life is hard for everyone; but have faith because . . .
· We are all on a pilgrimage to God.
· The kingdom of God is in the here and now.
· All are called.
· Live in the present moment.
· Discernment is essential to decision making.
· Prayer is the way to God.
· Have faith: to desire is to obtain; to aspire is to achieve.
· With God all things are possible.
Joe Rayes had a profound impact on my life.
Thank you Rudy for allowing us to honor Fr. Joe with your beautiful tribute!
I am told that if Fr. Joe were here to read the above passage, he’d likely be a little embarrassed. He signed the letters OFM behind his name; Order of Friars Minor. To be “Minor,” to be lesser, to be a servant, and to be humble. Fr. Joe lived his life with Franciscan joy and humility.
The iconic images of St. Francis made by artist Sr. Kay Berger, OSF, were modeled after Fr. Joe including this drawing of St. Francis praying.
“Let all creation bend the knee, to the Lord”
The beautiful hymn, Jesus the Lord, by Roc O’Connor, SJ, has been sung by many choirs and soloists but this rendition by bassist Br. Gabriel Balassone, OFM, is truly a stand-out.
Recorded in 2014 at the St. Anthony Shrine when Br. Gabriel was a mere 81 years old, his deep voice expresses the song’s prayerful message of the Paschal Mystery.
Susan Quirk, the pianist for the St. Anthony Shrine, a long-time friend and collaborator with Br. Gabriel accompanies him.
Other stories and videos about Br. Gabriel:
Jesus the Lord, (c) 1981, Robert F. O’Connor, S.J. And OCP, 5536 NE Hassalo, Portland, OR 97213. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
It is amazing how the revelation given us by God in the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, says so much in so few words. In fact, though Genesis is 50 chapters long, it is really the first three chapters that are the most important.
In Chapter One, the revealed word of God tells of God as creator first of the entire universe. Science has been exploring the universe and will continue to do so until the end of time. It’s no wonder that scripture says, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God.” (Ps. 19:1) We are so fortunate to live at a time when, with space exploration and unbelievably powerful telescopes floating in space, we can view God’s creation. And we are learning more and more each day.
But much more important than material creation, God is described as the giver of life. It begins with the lowest forms and continues to the very highest … the first human beings. And it is here in the most simple yet astounding imagery that we read this significant statement: “Then God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.” (Gen 2:7) Eve, taken from the rib of Adam, comes to life. And both are made in God’s image and likeness. And as with the whole account of creation described in Genesis, we know it is the underlying truths rather than a literal understanding of the details of creation as recorded in Genesis that are important. That is especially true of the image of God breathing life into the nostrils of Adam. It is so powerful and direct that it leaves no doubt God is the origin of all life.
But what is most striking is what happens at the beginning of a human being’s life at the moment of birth. An infant leaves the protective womb of its mother and takes (inhales) its first breath which it must do in order let out a “cry of new life.” That little phrase, “takes a new breath” is significant because it seems a perfect image of God’s own first breath in the account of Adam’s creation. Some might say “big deal” and brush that first moment of life aside. But as it breathes in, the newborn is in a way “taking in the breath of God” described in Genesis as God breathed life into Adam.
You might be curious as to how many breaths a human being takes in and breathes out in one’s lifetime? On average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. This means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year. The person who lives to 80 will take about 672,768,000 breaths in a lifetime. Who could count? The body/person will be alive as long as he or she can continue breathing.
But then at the end of life there is a last breath that is exhaled and the person completes his life on earth. In other words, that last breath is the last time a person will say through his breath, “Yahweh”, i.e. God.
Even with all the physiology we can study about the process of breathing on the part of every human, it is astounding to think that each breath in (“Yah”) and each breath out (“weh”) proclaims our heavenly Father’s name.
+You 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.
Mission Fundraiser at Urban Artifact
On February 28, 2017, Mardi Gras, the St. Anthony Quad Beer was released to the public with a party to celebrate “Fat Tuesday” and support the Franciscan Missions.
Fr. Carl Langenderfer, Guardian of the St. Anthony Shrine kicked off the evening with a blessing over the bottles of St. Anthony Quad. The Selfie Station complete with Mardi Gras inspired hats and garb was a very popular spot for photos with family, friends, and the friars.
A portion of the beer sales went to the Franciscan Missions. The friars serve the poor in Jamaica, Detroit, New Orleans, and Cincinnati. Cajun style food and New Orleans jazz added to the festive evening.
Urban Artifact Brewery crafts unique beers from local wild yeast. Owner Brett Kollmann Baker approached the Franciscan friars at the St. Anthony Shrine with the desire to help their ministries through a collaboration.
Read The Catholic Telegraph’s article here.
See more photos on our Flickr page.
Learn more about the collaboration here.
Visit Urban Artifact Brewery’s website.
Party with the Friars from 4 PM till Midnight on Mardi Gras!
Join the friars on Fat Tuesday (February 28) at Urban Artifact to celebrate the release of the St. Anthony Quad beer.
Wild yeast collected from the grounds of the National Shrine of St. Anthony located in Mt. Airy in July, 2015 formed the basis for this one-of-a-kind Belgian style quadruple ale. The wild yeast, versus more commercial fast-acting yeast, takes months to ferment. St. Anthony’s Quad was aged for 10 months in first use oak red wine barrels by Urban Artifact.
Doors open at 4:00pm. Fr. Carl Langenderfer will start things off with a quick prayer at 5:00pm. Renegade Street Eats food service will be there by 5:00. Jazz Renaissance (New Orleans style jazz) will start at 8:00. Come join the friars and some of the wonderful people who support them. A portion of the St Anthony beer sales will help to support the Franciscan mission work.
RSVP on the Facebook Event page.
Directions to Urban Artifact our on their website: http://www.artifactbeer.com/
Read more about the collaboration and process in this article from August 2016.
Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM, helps us understand what heaven is like.
At the outset, I have to say that that I have not been to heaven and returned to describe it to you. But the good Lord through Jesus’ own words has given enough hints to help us come to a rather clear “human understanding” of what heaven will be like. Of course, heaven will be infinitely better than anything that can be described in such limited human language.
The key element, as we would guess, is that LOVE is the central concept that best describes our relationship with God and our relationship with each other. We know that we can’t fully comprehend even human love, though there are those moments when everyone has experienced love that goes beyond what human words can describe.
So, first we know that heaven is not a place or location. It is in essence union with God. This union perfects us as humans in mind and spirit and heart and body. All defects, accidents, difficulties are healed … we will be, in fact, humanly perfect in every way. There remain no imperfections nor anything that could in any way detract from that perfect union of love with God. Further, if we are all in perfect union with God, then we are all in perfect union with each other as God’s children. Now, as I said, we cannot comprehend this in terms of experience because in our wounded condition, we are all imperfect. Heaven is perfection in every way, no matter in what way we look at it.
Now this is where our faith takes us Catholics to a unique understanding of heaven. I’ve talked with more than a few Christian fundamentalists whose concept of heaven could best be described as “union with God only and with no one else.” It’s a kind of “God and me” eternity. Their rationale is that once we have completed our earthly journey, we don’t need anyone else to make us happy other than God and furthermore they believe firmly that God needs and wants all our attention. After all, He is God and deserves it, they say. Other humans would just “get in the way” and detract from our giving glory to God. Whenever I hear that explanation, I wonder how they could create such an insecure God that he wants all the attention for all eternity. It is such a shrunken image of the magnificence of heaven that God has prepared.
God’s own word has told us plainly that heaven is not simply about “me and God.” John, the apostle, spoke God’s word in a perfect statement that really answers the whole question. John wrote in his first letter, (I Jn.7:7ff), “Beloved, love one another because love is of God.” God revealed his love to us and sent his son into the world that we might have life through him. And this is love: not that we have loved God but that He has loved us!” And now comes the most startling statement of all. “Beloved, if God so loved the world (that his son died for all humanity), we must also love one another.” Amazing, isn’t it. God is telling us in effect, “Look, the best response you can give to ME is to love ONE ANOTHER.” Wouldn’t we automatically think, “Well, if God has done all that for me, my most important love HAS to be directed to Him?” But no! He says our love must be directed to one another!
If you think about it, what mother or father would not be ecstatic to see and hear how much their sons and daughters loved each other? What could make them happier? Would a loving Mom or Dad say, “Hey wait a minute … we gave you life … you must concentrate on us not one another.” Would they not, even in their human state, rather say, “Oh, children when you love another, we could not be happier. Loving each other is the greatest gift you could give us. We’re just fine watching you.”
And so, it would appear that heaven will be union with God and with each other in a love that is perfect. It means that eternity will not only be the revelation of all God’s love and goodness to us, but also of all that we, his dear children, have meant to each other. Some might say, “Well, that’s too human and seems to take away from our love for God.” Well, God himself has said very clearly, “You cannot please me more than when you love one another.”
Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM
You 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.
Artists nourish our souls and help us to see the world in a different way.
Five artists will share their work at the Franciscan Artists & Friends Exhibit on December 9 & 10 & 11 as part of the ‘A Franciscan Christmas’ at the Christian Moerlein Event Center, 1621 Moore Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.
Click here for directions.
Br. Martin Humphreys, OFM, has a thing or two in common with daVinci, believing that all art is spiritual and that abstract art is most suitable in expressing the great mystery, God himself. A native of Mandeville, La., this nonagenarian has punctuated his life of ministry, whether in fraternal service or work with the poor in Cincinnati or at Duns Scotus College, Southfield, Mich., or in pastoral ministry in New Orleans and then back in Cincinnati, with daily efforts to reveal some small part of the mystery of God through his art. His work has hung in the Hall Barnett Gallery in the French Quarter in New Orleans and has won prizes in a variety of Art Association shows. Now retired, his art is his ministry and, he hopes, it gives people a greater understanding of God’s presence in all things.
Fr. John Quigley, OFM, was always drawing. As a child in London, Ontario, through formation as a Franciscan, John has always found expression through art. John says the creative energy that flows through us has to find an outlet, sometimes, through pastoral work, sometimes in international advocacy work, now in preaching, but always, for him, in painting. Now, through the Friars Studio in Over-the-Rhine, John shares his painting which he describes as “a very spiritual exercise, a discipline in contemplation, allowing God to work with you, through you.” A golden Jubilarian as a Franciscan friar in 2015, John continues to preach and to paint, searching for meaning and understanding of the spirit world.
“Preaching and fine art are two horses yoked together that pull me into meaning and personal challenges. Preaching helps me articulate and understand my beliefs and painting helps me search the spirit world – especially in times of loss and grief.”
Fr. John’s website: fatherjohnquigley.com
Cedric Michael Cox is best known for his paintings and drawings, which fall between surrealism and representational abstraction. His work expresses themes ranging from mythical literature to the relationships between the physical body, musical allegories, and natural and man-made landscapes.
Cedric has had solo exhibits at the Contemporary Arts Center, the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center, PAC Gallery, and Weston Gallery in the Aronoff Center for the Arts. In support of his efforts in the visual arts and art education communities, the City of Cincinnati awarded Cox the Individual Artist Grant in 2009. He received a Congressional Award in 2010. Cedric teaches art at the St. Francis Seraph School.
“My art conveys overlapping aesthetic concerns, evoking ideas ranging from early modernism to contemporary postmodernism. My paintings and drawings are intended to build bridges between the past, present and future, both amongst individuals and all groups of people, through stylistic ideas and expressions. Using positivism as my basic humanistic approach to art and life, and the interstices in between, I communicate through my artwork, as Rauschenberg proposed with his primary aesthetic/cultural challenges.”
Cedric’s website: cedricmichaelcox.com
Joe Pearce is a traditional modern artist. He was born in Indianapolis, IN and currently lives and works in Cincinnati, OH. His art studio is at the Pendleton Art Center in Cincinnati. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Indiana University and has studied at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and with individual respected artists. His work had been shown in several galleries and venues in Cincinnati and at Times Square and The Armory Gallery in New York City. He has been nominated three years in a row as “Best Local Artist” in the City Beat publication.
“Twenty five years of drawing and painting experience focusing on Expressionism, Symbolism, and Outsider Art. Using my spiritual and emotional instincts, I paint what I feel more than what I see. My paintings are intuitive, speaking about what might be rather than what is. I do realize, however, that people relate to physical images that they know. Therefore, fairly representational images appear in my paintings on a regular basis. My mission is to share beauty, depth, meaning, and happiness with those who get to know my pieces of art.”
Joe’s website: joepearceart.com
Mary Barr Rhodes has won numerous awards and is represented in private and corporate collection in North America, Europe and South America. She was voted Abstract Artist of the Year 2014 in the Art Comes Alive Juried Exhibition sponsored by Art Design Consultants. Rhodes works and resides in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Mary’s website: marybarrrhodes.com
“May this season of anticipation and hope
prepare your heart to welcome the Lord with joy!”
–SJB Provincial Minister Fr. Jeff Scheeler.
Join the Franciscans in your journey through Advent to the birth of our Savior.
The first day of Advent is Sunday November 27. The editors of St. Anthony Messenger magazine have created an Advent booklet to fit in your pocket. ‘Advent with St. Teresa of Calcutta, Daily Prayers for Each Day of Advent’ is free.
Just send your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll mail you your copy today.
Offer valid in the US only. If you live outside of the US, contact us for the electronic version.
“Lessons & Carols”
We need a Savior to be born into our world and into our hearts.
Join Shrine Guardian Fr. Carl Langenderfer, OFM, and the Franciscans at the National Shrine of St. Anthony for:
“Lessons & Carols”
Sunday, December 11
It is a program of six scripture readings and Advent carols sung by the choir and the congregation that are meant to help us prepare for Christmas.
A Franciscan Christmas
Nativities from around the world, a Dickens Christmas village, a running model train and much more await you at “A Franciscan Christmas” at the Christian Moerlein Event Center.
Special events include Saengerfest Choirs, Franciscan Art Exhibit, and a visit from Santa Claus.
November 25 – January 1, 2017
Stop by St. Francis Seraph Church and say hello to the sheep, goats, and donkeys who greet you as you enter the courtyard. Relax by the fountain and meditate on the Holy Family at this outdoor nativity display.
December 4 – January 6, 2017