Finding God in a Storefront at the Mall

In the New York Times:

Several days into the Christmas shopping season at the Northgate Mall here, the Rev. Dan Anderson stood improbably in a storefront between Sci-Fi City and the Loveable You Portrait Studio. An older couple, strolling past, slowed down to regard him.

Father Anderson, 66, wore the brown habit of the Franciscan friar, its plain humility broken only by a name tag affably identifying him as Dan. The former shoe store that he occupied contained holiday decorations, a brimming coffeepot and a life-size statue of the order’s founder, St. Francis of Assisi. On one table rested a glass fishbowl for prayer requests.

The couple asked Father Anderson if they could confess, and he guided them to a quiet corner. They spoke, he listened, and as the minutes passed, 15 or more, they gathered the courage to ask their question of both the friar and the universe: A relative of theirs had committed suicide. Was he in heaven?

As startling as the encounter may have been, it was also the precise reason Father Anderson and about 25 other friars based nearby in Cincinnati had set up temporary shop at the Northgate Mall. They opened their doors on Black Friday, which they promptly renamed Brown Friday in wry reference to their clothing, and they will remain until the afternoon of Christmas Eve.

“It’s from the basis of Franciscan theology,” Father Anderson said. Referring to St. Francis, he continued, “For him, the ultimate wonder is that God loved us enough to be one of us. And he was one of us in the simplicity and vulnerability of a child.”

The Rev. Jeffrey J. Scheeler, 61, the provincial minister for the Franciscans in a large portion of the Midwest, took his scriptural inspiration from John 1:14. While a central phrase in the verse is commonly translated along the lines of, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” Father Scheeler said he preferred an alternative rendering: “He pitched his tent among us.”

How a tent in ancient Judea became a storefront in a Cincinnati suburb is a particularly Franciscan story…

Read on here.


The Franciscan Connection to the Ordinariate

As Minister of the Fraternity of St. Angela Merici, here in Oshawa, I may be the only Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use Secular Franciscan in our region. My fraternity has been most supportive of the endeavours of the Oshawa Sodality for the past three years. Mr. James Tilley, former ACCC priest and, hopefully, a candidate for ordination in the Catholic Church, has also maintained an association with us over the past few years. This has included attending and taking part in our yearly Transitus Service and attending our Days of Reflection, on occasion.

It is my hope to bring the Franciscan Secular experience into the Ordinariate and, perhaps, work toward the development of a distinctive Anglican Use Fraternity or, perhaps, something modelled on the Anglican Third Order Society of St. Francis. My Regional Minister has also been most supportive of this concept.This could be a considerable way down the road in that our primary focus must now be on the Sodality entering the Ordinariate and, hopefully, the ordination of our former clergymen.

In any case, the Sodality of the Good Shepherd can be assured of the continuing prayerful support of the Fraternity of St. Angela Merici in the coming days.

I have provided the following link to our blog, should anyone wish to learn more about us.

Pax et bonum

Paul Nicholls ofs




Border Nuns

Franciscans risk stoning to provide aid to poor along border fence.


The compact car lifted a trail of dust as it traveled slowly along the 18-foot-tall chain-link fence, attracting the attention of the U.S. Border Patrol agent sitting in his green and white SUV.

When the vehicle stopped and two women got out, he was concerned contraband might be tossed over the fence into the United States to the waiting vehicle. Instead, the women began throwing items into Mexico.

The two women were Franciscan Missionaries of Mary who come to the fence periodically and toss whatever they can get to give the needy families of Puerta de Anapra, one of the poorest and most violent suburbs of Ciudad Juarez.

“The agent said it was OK for us to be here, but only for a short time,” said the older nun, who identified herself as Sister Marie. Her companion on the goodwill venture into this remote area of the fence — where Texas, New Mexico and Mexico converge — was Sister Karen. Both sisters requested their last names not be disclosed.

“It’s sad, they are so poor,” said Sister Marie. “It breaks my heart see them have to live like this and how they live in such fear.”

The presence of the sisters attracted nearly 20 people, who rushed down dirty, garbage-strewn alleys to make it to the fence to receive their gifts.

As the children pressed their faces against the tight fence, Sister Karen pushed the licorice through the narrow spaces to the tiny fingers of the children. The small spaces make it much more difficult for migrants to get a good footing to cross into the United States.

“Hey, how many do you have there, make sure you share,” Sister Marie said to a boy about 12, as she kept a close watch to ensure everyone who showed up to the fence got something,

The boy looked at Sister Marie and knew the fence allowed him to ignore her request, but he looked at the crowd for another child that did not have a piece of the candy and relinquished his extra.

Sister Marie began these periodic jaunts to the border fence five years ago, after attending the annual Border Mass held in early November and celebrated with congregants facing each other while divided by the fence.

“The people would come to the fence and tell us they desperately needed things,” Sister Marie said.

The “things” were not specified but the abject poverty the Anapra residents live in is evident. Sister Marie, and whoever would help her, would pile pre-worn clothes, shoes, toys and blankets into her car and drive to the fence.

“When we got there people would just show up, and we would throw the items over the fence,” Sister Marie said. “It’s so sad, these people live in shacks, they have nothing.”

According to the Border Patrol agents who kept a close watch on the group, what the sisters do is very dangerous. One agent who declined to give his name — very few people agree to provide their full name at the border — said this area has seen an increase in violence not only against the people in Mexico but against Border Patrol agents. He pointed to his patrol vehicle, which had grates and fencing on all of the windows.

“They throw rocks at us all the time and just recently began throwing cats and dogs over the fence at our vehicles,” said the agent.

One woman who brought her children to meet the sisters was Brenda Alicia, 31. She pointed to her home next to the border fence, adjacent to a wall with gang graffiti on it. Brenda Alicia said she has three children, 13 and 12 years old and 3 months. The two older children were at her side, chewing on newly acquired red licorice.

“I like when the sisters come, we need so much here, especially now that it’s getting cold,” Brenda Alicia said.

The poverty the people in Puerta de Anapra suffer is only a short drive from a large casino, horse race track and amusement park in Sunland Park, N.M. — amenities Brenda Alicia and her children are oblivious to, given their circumstances.

“It’s getting worse here, there are more killings,” Brenda Alicia said.

She said she is fearful that her older son may be enticed to get involved with the gangs because of the easy money.

Sisters Marie and Karen know the danger they face when they come to this remote area of the border.

“I come here fearless,” Sister Marie said.

Their missions are conducted under the watchful eye of Border Patrol agents, who give the nuns their tacit but reluctant approval.

With the trunk of her car now empty, Sister Marie, with the aid of Sister Karen, began handing out pastel-colored rosaries, accepted as eagerly as the licorice. As that supply dwindled, a burly Border Patrol agent approached the sisters.

“Sister we have some bandit activity on their side further up the fence, and we don’t want them to come and take the things away from the people,” said the agent.

Often, youth gangs beat the group and take the items the sisters had just given them.

“OK, thank you,” Sister Marie said.

The Border Patrol agent walked off, allowing the sisters to say their goodbyes to the group, but returned within a minute with greater urgency after receiving another radio call.

“Sisters you need to leave now because they are throwing rocks at our agents and we don’t want you getting struck.”

“We’d better go now, thank you and God bless you,” Sister Marie said to the agent, giving him a hearty handshake.

Well, God bless these nuns and their excellent work.



Saint Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis’s Feast Day is today:

Saint Francis of Assisi (born Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone; 1181/1182 – October 3, 1226) was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher. He founded the men’s Franciscan Order, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the lay Third Order of Saint Francis. St. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.

Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, and he lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man, even fighting as a soldier for Assisi. While going off to war in 1204, Francis had a vision that directed him back to Assisi, where he lost his taste for his worldly life. On a pilgrimage to Rome, Francis begged with the beggars at St. Peter’s. The experience moved him to live in poverty. Francis returned home, began preaching on the streets, and soon amassed a following. His order was endorsed by Pope Innocent III in 1210. He then founded the Order of Poor Clares, which was an enclosed order for women, as well as the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance. In 1219, he went to Egypt where crusaders were besieging Damietta, hoping to find martyrdom at the hands of the Muslims. By this point, the Franciscan Order had grown to such an extent that its primitive organizational structure was no longer sufficient. He returned to Italy to organize the order. Once his organization was endorsed by the Pope, he withdrew increasingly from external affairs. In 1223, Francis arranged for the first Christmas manger scene. In 1224, he received the stigmata, making him the first person to bear the wounds of Christ’s Passion. He died in 1226 while singing Psalm 141.

On July 16, 1228, he was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX. He is known as the patron saint of animals, the environment and one of the two patrons of Italy (with Catherine of Siena), and it is customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of 4 October.

To the above, Wikipedia has more here.

For some additional reads, you may like:

  • The Challenge of the San Damiano Cross, here.
  • Finding Faith in God’s Creatures, here.
  • Why We Bless Animals, here.

We adore you and we bless you, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the churches which are in the whole world, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

– St Francis

Bible Archaeology

Franciscan Guardians of Holy Land Sites Launch New Website

Well if the website is as neat and well looked after as the sites they look after (guarded) in the Holy Land are, then it should be fantastic:

The Franciscans in the Holy Land, who’ve been charged by the Vatican with preserving Catholic sanctuaries in the area throughout the last 800 years, have launched a new website offering more information about the sacred sites as well as pilgrimages to the region.

“It is the love and care for the places of the incarnation of Jesus that create the desire for all Christians to feel closer to the Holy Land,” Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, major superior of the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, said in a March 21 announcement.

“The renewed internet site meets this desire,” he said, explaining that it will continue to inform the faithful around the globe who are interested in “the life of the Holy Land and its community.”

The new website, available in six languages, details the historical significance of the Franciscan’s work to preserve the places where the Christian faith originated in the Middle East. The site also explains the importance of each sanctuary and provides information on pilgrimages to the area.

Since the 13th century, the friars have been tasked by the Vatican with having “custody” over the holy sites within areas of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Cyprus and Rhodes. The job involves coordinating and directing the reception of faithful who make pilgrimages to the Holy Land to pray at the shrines.

“The present site will be a ‘work in progress,’ growing gradually in time,” Fr. Pizzaballa said. “In addition to the life of the Custody of the Holy Land, the Places of Salvation that the Franciscans have looked after with passion for 800 years will be presented with more detailed information.”

The website is English here.

It is well worth a visit!