With Franciscan Eyes

in Advent

God is Our Hope

As we enter the blessed season of Advent, this quote seems appropriate. I always think of Advent as a quiet season. It is a time of reflection and stillness. In a season that can be crazy, we need to go to our inner sanctuary and be still. Of course, we can go there anytime or any season. What do we do during our stillness? We listen to our loving God to hear His voice. The first week of Advent focuses on the virtue of HOPE. One of the things everyone hopes for is peace throughout the world and here in our own country. It is heartbreaking to see all the mass shootings, the impoverished people, especially the homeless suffering from cold and hunger, as well as those who are disabled, sick, lonely, or elderly with unmet needs. These are just some issues in our own country as well as in the world. Sometimes life may seem hopeless, but it is not. God is our hope.

God sent His Son to be with us no matter how rough life may be. He is our light when all seems dark. This is when we need to go to our sanctuary to converse with God. We need to let go of things that interfere with our stillness. If it is not good for your soul, then let it go! God sent Jesus to be our light and we are to spread this light to others. When you see the Christmas lights, reflect on the strands of light. If one of them burns out, the whole strand is affected. If they are all lit, they shine and light everything around them. Think about how you are a light to whomever needs it in their life. Remember to spend time in stillness and your sanctuary so your light shines even more brightly. Let us light up the world and send HOPE to others so that our strands do not burn out!

A Favorite Pastime Becomes a Way to Serve

main image

Years ago, at a Blue Stem Festival at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois, I was intrigued by the Water With Blessings program. The people, the service they provided, the low cost, the spirituality aspect and the person-to-person touch. That’s where I met Mary Meyers, who lived nearby. There was no way I could consider helping then, so I wished them well.

Early in 2022, our Sr. Christina Fuller e-mailed me asking if I crocheted. She sent a video from Water With Blessings showing how to make filter covers. “Could you crochet these?” Sr. Christina wrote. I watched the video, learned a new stitch and knew I could. Her final comment was, “You could start a group of crocheters.” This was just what I wanted to do!

On May 3, 2022, after advertising in various places and online, our first meeting took place. There were six of us. We have almost met most every month since. The largest number we have had was seven, but the average is four. People can come and go as they please. People of all faiths are welcome. We crochet or knit, help each other with the pattern, pray and enjoy each other’s company. Now our “Stitches & Blessings” group meets the first Wednesday of each month. During the rest of the month we continue to crochet and bring the finished ones to collect for mailing. During one meeting Mary Meyers came to tell us more about Water With Blessings and demonstrate the filter. Her facts and stories were amazing, and that water was the best I had ever tasted!

Many people have donated yarn for us, which we share among the group. Our members take turns mailing the covers to Kentucky. (Sometimes Mary Meyers takes them when she is going there.) I love to spread the word about this fantastic program. When people see me crocheting they ask what I am making. If someone asks, “What’s new?” I tell them about my project and the Water By Women program. These ripples in the water go out and hopefully a lot of good comes from my tossed stone!

The Veil is Thin

main image

For me, Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve has always been magical -- and mystical. While Wikipedia is intent on explaining the difference between these two terms, I will explain how they are intertwined. I vividly remember my childhood Halloweens: the decorations, the costumes, going out after dark, and of course, the CANDY. So much candy! For me, there was magic in the air. Jack O’ Lanterns glowed on porches, children were transformed into costumed creatures, and did I mention candy? Full disclosure: I trick-or-treated until I was 28 because I loved it so much, and I didn’t want to let it go. All of this is the magical part. Even now as fall begins to encroach on summer, I sense Halloween in the air, dark clouds passing over the moon. The wind whispers “All Hallows’ Eve is coming.” Combine this with the colorful falling leaves, cooler air. and pumpkin spice lattes (!?), and I can feel the harvest season ending as the barren winter approaches.

Halloween bears the message that All Saints Day is imminent. As children, my brothers and I had to wait to trick or treat at our parish rectory until our pastor returned home from the Vigil Mass. So from an early age, the two days were connected for me. All Saints’ Day unites us to our spiritual ancestors—all the saints on the Church calendar and all the saints who are not, but who are no less important. This link to eternity and our complete union with the God who made us and loves us beyond all measure is the mystical part. I have no issue with going directly from the “secular” world of ghosts, pumpkins, and black cats to the sacredness of the saints. The whole ancient idea was on All Hallows’ Eve that the veil that separated the physical realm from the spiritual one was the thinnest. The two could intermingle. Magical meets mystical. This connection is why I carve Jesus pumpkins. It is my way of reminding people that Halloween is not merely a “secular” holiday. In Franciscanism, all of nature comes from God, so there is no secular. All created things are sacred. God’s fingerprint is on every living thing—when we choose to see it.