With Franciscan Eyes

The Veil is Thin

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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.

It's Now or Never

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“It’s now or never” goes a song popular many years ago. Just those few words seem like an interesting mantra as we swing into 2024. A common practice is to look back on the old year and recall all that happened over the past 365 days—the good, the challenging, and the not-so-good.  And, of course, looking ahead, there are those New Year’s resolutions that seem to collapse on themselves in no time.

So, this year, what if we took a different view and focused on the NOW. Josh Baran in his book entitled, The Tao of Now: Daily Wisdom from Mystics, Sages, Poets, and Saints, offers some insightful word-bites that can shake us into a clearer understanding of why living in the now makes perfect sense:

  • Wherever you are is the sacred place.
  • Were you planning to wait for tomorrow to be alive?
  • People often say, “Life is passing me by.  How is this possible with life always unfolding in this precise instant?
  • You are always Here. Where else could you be? What a relief.
  • Finally, it has penetrated my thick skull. This life—this moment—is no dress rehearsal.  This is it.
  • Listen to your life. All moments are key moments.
  • What are you waiting for?
  • Fill in the blank: “I will be happy when ______.” Really?

Even Albert Einstein weighs in on the value of now: “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Pearl Bailey is attributed with saying, “People see God every day; they just don’t recognize him.” And of course, in the Book of Exodus we’re to simply look down: “Take off your shoes. The ground where you stand is holy ground.”

Famous Brother Lawrence of the 17th century offers us a prayerful approach to being in the now through the practice of the Presence of God. He writes: “Make a sacred and intentional decision now, never to leave God willingly, and to live the rest of your life in this holy presence…. Start where you are. Do your best.” I was especially consoled by his words to those of us in our “mature” years: “Practice the presence diligently in your last days. Better late than never.”

So, as we step into this new year, perhaps we can be aware of what is happening right NOW and keep it simple. God is here. It’s a miracle. This is it! Happy New Year!

Whose Birthday Is It?

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I have to remind myself that Christmas is not my birthday. "Jesus Is the Reason for the Season." Jesus is loving, true, genuine, real, gentle, almighty, infinite, deep, holy, selfless … God. What does He want? You. Your love. Your belief in Him. Spend time with Him. Listen to Him. He will speak. Repent. Weep. Be patient. Be joyful. Ask and believe and you will receive. Decorate with a Christmas tree and a Christmas crib. Dwell on surprises, inspirations from out of the blue.

Gifts for Jesus

  1. Give the gift of your thoughts by writing about a recent happening in your life that strengthened, enlivened or brightened your life and share it.
  2. Thank the recipients of your Christmas cards for the joy they bring you.
  3. Cook/bake/make something as gifts.
  4. Have a tree planted in a national park in their name.
  5. Donate to a charity that means something in their lives.
  6. Give to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc. in their name.   
  7. Join a grass roots movement to help save our planet.

Remember that it is Jesus’ birthday. The happiness of Christmas is giving!