"Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

I have tried to let these two sentences guide my life ever since I first heard them as a teenager at Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries.  On some level I suppose I've always known that it's important for us to live in right relationship with others, and ever since my involvement at CYFM have held my Franciscan roots close to my heart. But I stayed relatively quiet about my faith in many ways for a long time, partially because I didn't see my religious institution being relevant to the world and the justice issues of today, and wanted more than anything to see this manifest.  
If we seek something earnestly enough and keep God at the center, God will provide (though usually it's not how we may have expected or wanted).
This Great Spirit has provided me with a reason to "use words" as I came across the Franciscan Action Network at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days food justice conference earlier this year. (Yes, people of faith leading the way in seeking food justice for humankind!) 

This Friday I turn 27.  This past year has been a turning point for me in so many ways. Getting involved with the Franciscan Action Network has been such a blessing and is challenging me in more ways than I would have ever imagined. There's not really an adequate way to describe such spiritual awakening but I will just say I'm grateful that I can see the wondrous ways that God works in the world. I have begun to learn about the depths of Franciscan spirituality firsthand through the relationships I've built and strengthened, and through seeing God's plan for my life unfold one day at a time. 

Mother Theresa once said, "I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much."  And as the people said to Aida in the musical: "All we ask of you / is a lifetime of service, wisdom, courage / To ask more would be selfish, but nothing less will do."  Carrying the cross Christ has asked us to bear is never easy. Life is messy and our world is in need of so much repair and healing it can be daunting at times. But we can find solace in identifying with the joys and sorrows of the Saints who came before us. May we look to the example set by St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, who saw everything and everyone as their brothers and sisters and sought to restore and repair God's "kindom" here on earth. 

I have so much more to learn in this world but have discovered a richness that we can live out fully through finding ways our spirituality is relevant to our world today. I can find no better way to do this than by working through the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) and the Franciscan Earth Corps. If you do nothing else this weekend, please check out the work of FAN and the Franciscan Earth Corps (a good start would be this week's FAN newsletter).

I have a number of goals for my 28th year; please bear in mind that one of them definitely includes deepening relationships with all of you. I would love to know how you are interested in working to strengthen spirituality, enhance community and bring (ecological) justice to the world. 


You've probably heard most of these nuggets time and time again but they bear worth repeating.

1. Never assume things about people or situations. Ask questions.
2. Don't be satisfied with easy answers. Go deeper.
3. Love unconditionally.
4. Challenge yourself - don't be afraid of uncomfortable situations.
5. Get to know someone who has a different background than you.
6. Don't be afraid to be who you are. You'll not only hurt yourself, but may actually be stunting God's ability to use you for the purposes you were created for.
7. Seek to understand, rather than to be understood.
8. Make time for prayerful contemplation everyday. Richard Rohr's Daily Meditations are a good place to start.
9.  Be honest with yourself.
10. Grow some food and have fun!

As we are in the season of Thanksgiving, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to a few groups of people - my parents, who have taught me to love and sacrifice through the example they have and continue to set; all of my social justice activist friends who keep me motivated and inspired every day; and my fellow Franciscan sojourners - eternally grateful for the opportunities to grow in faith that I've shared with many this year especially Rhett Engelking, Jeanelle Román, and Denise Ogden. You have shown me the depths of resiliency of the human spirit in ways I can only hope to bear witness to in my own life.  I look forward to so much more richness in the relationships we can all build with each other. 

God's peace to you this holiday season. Let us not forget those who go without food, who are disconnected from their families and suffer from unjust policies, victims of war and climate disruption, as well as those persecuted for their faith, dehumanized, and blinded by worldly material desires. And may we pray for each other, for all the times we fail to help bring right relationship to the world.
If we put God's love first, everything else will follow. 

^My favorite t-shirt bears this image!  Life is good®