Tag Archives: Franciscan

The ‘Wild Goose’ is on the loose: Encountering the Holy Spirit

February 26, 2016

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Photo/Hickory Hardscrabble Licensed Under Creative Commons

Photo/Hickory Hardscrabble Licensed Under Creative Commons

“Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit?”

Not wanting to appear clueless (although I was!), I responded with a strong, “Yes.”

Not wanting to lie to a priest, I quickly changed my response to, “Um, I think so. . . Well, I’m not sure.”

That was nearly 20 years ago.

It was the fall of 1996 and I was a college freshman at Franciscan University sitting in a parlor in the friary meeting with Franciscan Father Dave Pivonka for the very first time. It seemed like such a personal question to be asking on our first encounter, but once you get to know Father Dave, you quickly learn he isn’t shy when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Upon further discussion (and the admission that I had no idea what he was talking about), I realized I certainly had intimate encounters with the Holy Spirit prior to that moment, but I had never heard the term “baptism in the Holy Spirit” before. Thus began my journey of a deeper, more intentional relationship with the Holy Spirit in my life.

Father Dave first taught me it is only by the Holy Spirit that we are able to pray (see Romans 8:26) which completely changed the way I enter into prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit” is how I start all my prayer times now and are the first words off my lips before reading Scripture.

Pivonka-Photo

Father Dave Pivonka, TOR

When I think of Father Dave I can’t help but think of the Holy Spirit because he’s so full of it.” Full of the Holy Spirit, I mean. So when I found out he was developing a series on the Holy Spirit, I was filled with great joy and excitement. Father Dave is one of the most sought after preachers and is an excellent teacher. I have been waiting with eager anticipation for the release of this series since he first made mention of it. The best part is that the series is totally free and easily accessible online.

Leave it to Father Dave to learn that the Celts called the Holy Spirit “The Wild Goose” and come up with a clever, catchy name to grab people’s attention. The title alone made me want to learn more. When I asked him why he decided to do the series, Father Dave said, “The idea was pretty basic, more people need to know about the Holy Spirit. I wanted to do something that would be engaging, beautiful and welcoming. I think that’s what the videos are. The response has been overwhelming.”

Over the course years, Father Dave has taught me about the power and gentleness of the Holy Spirit, but I’m a slow learner. I mean a really slow learner. It’s almost 20 years later and I’m just starting to “get it.” However, I am now convinced of the necessity of a relationship with the Holy Spirit in order to fully live out my faith.

This series in particular has reminded me that the Holy Spirit meets us right where we are at. Gentle or booming; whatever we need. A soft breeze or blazing tongues of fire or somewhere in between. It has also made me a better a hospice nurse. It reminded me that the Holy Spirit will give me the words to speak (see Luke 12:12) during difficult discussions with patients and their loved ones; often I will silently pray, “Come Holy Spirit” during these difficult moments and the words just come. That’s not me. That’s the Holy Spirit.

In recent weeks, I found myself in situations at work where I may have otherwise become frazzled, but was able to surrender those moments to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and ask for wisdom and peace. It has revolutionized the way I interact with my patients and their loved ones because I am reminded that I am not the one in control, the Holy Spirit is alive and active; present with me and my patients, always leading the way. For those who are open to it, the Holy Spirit has also given me the courage to pray with my dying patients and their loved ones as they prepare to leave this world and enter into the next.

If you want to live in greater freedom through the power of the Holy Spirit, check out this series. It does not disappoint!

The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

Who: The series is great for newbies or those who already have an established relationship with the Holy Spirit. It is appropriate for teens or adults.

What: A free online series on the Holy Spirit written by Father Dave Pivonka, TOR and produced by 4PM Media

When: Anytime! It’s available online 24/7.

Where: Wherever you have access to the Internet.

Why: To grow in your faith!

How: Each segment includes a video along with reflections, study guide questions and prayers.

Or you can do it the way I do: via Skype. I have a dear friend in Australia. We watch the videos independently and then discuss via Skype. We begin and end with a prayer to the Holy Spirit and in between discuss the study guide questions provided. The videos have rekindled my desire for a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit and have helped me be more mindful of the Holy Spirit in my daily life.

The Challenge: Simply watch the first video called “God’s Love Poured Out.” I’m convinced you’ll be hooked!

Come, Holy Spirit! Enkindle in us the fire of your love!

Gina Barthel is a registered nurse who currently serves in hospice care and is the proud, self-proclaimed “favorite aunt” to 25 nieces and nephews. She is a parishioner of St. Michael Catholic Church in St. Michael, MN.

 

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Connecting St. Francis with Pope Francis

September 25, 2014

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When Saint Francis saved the ChurchTake a refresher course in what it means to be Catholic.

Read John M. Sweeney’s new book, “When Saint Francis Saved the Church.”

Sweeney packs reminders about what faith, saintliness and the life of a Christian are all about into just 156 pages of this small Ave Maria Press book (not counting acknowledgements and notes). There are highlighter-worthy phrases, sentences and paragraphs galore, great food for thought and a bounty for discussion.

Sweeney’s hook, of course, is the connection between St. Francis of Assisi and the newest Francis on the Catholic scene, Pope Francis.

Throughout he links the revolution that St. Francis started to the hope that many in the Church today, what — entertain? predict? — with the pope who chose to be the first to adapt Francis is his papal name.

Sweeney writes about Francis of Assisi, “His spiritual vision from eight centuries ago is already familiar to anyone paying attention to Pope Francis and the changing atmosphere in the Catholic Church today.” And he adds:

“Many of us are watching carefully, and participating willingly, as that edifice softens into something less predictable, more godly. If something monumental happened 800 years ago to revive the Church, then it can happen again today; and the spirit that animated the earlier conversion may be quite similar to the spirit at work in the Church today. Much depends on what we ourselves will do.”

In sharing the historical background and development of Franciscan spirituality, the book points out dozens of interesting details of Francis’ thinking, including:

  • Faith is not something done only inside the walls of the church. Instead, “Faith today is readily seen as concerned with many things other than what you believe — it includes hope, passion, family, love, story, virtue, commitment, and identity, all of which may seem more important than matters of creed.”
  • St. Francis was relatively uninterested in theological debates and creedal statements. “When he states his beliefs in his writings it is most often regarding how one is supposed to behave toward others and the created world, not a matter of pure doctrine.”
  • The Gospel is not something to believe as much as it is a vocation to a changed life.
  • For Francis  there were no “others.” He responded to each person he met as if he were already a friend, developing a simple kindness, openness, neighborliness and looking out for their needs, an approach that is part and parcel of gospel living.
  • Francis befriended without judging, noticed and responded to people’s needs and expressed love for them simply because that person had been created by a God who says that every created thing is good.
  • Contrary to the prevailing thought of his time, he didn’t see the world as evil but instead embraced it.

Not a dissenter, a nonconformist

Sweeney writes that Francis of Assisi “rebranded” the idea of sanctity. He was never a disobedient son of the Church, although he was as nonconformist who had his own priorities.

He advocated for humble dress, fasting as part of one’s regular diet, grace before meals, nonviolence, hospitality and prayer. Sweeney notes:

“He placed such a priority on personal prayer, contemplation, charity and loving-kindness because the habits of the heart are important to God, as well as to the faithful who want to know God better.”

And all these things we not just for the friars of his community but for ordinary believers. That was revolutionary during Francis’ era, when the Church felt threatened by individual expressions of faith and priests were taught that they were the primary mediators between God and their parishioners. Along with forming the Order of Friars Minor that we know as Franciscans, Francis wrote a Rule for laity — Third Order Franciscans — that included many of the principles of his Rule for the friars, plus gathering together as community, aiding the sick and caring for those who die. These practices all became to be known as spiritual acts.

Francis lived during the height of the Gothic era, when it was believed that religious people should turn away from the coarseness of the world and lift eyes and minds upward, toward the rising height of steeples and images of angels and saints, the world to come. Francis found beauty in the ordinary things of the world.

Sweeney connects St. Francis with Pope Francis in the way that both seems to be advocates of a Church that is at times unpredictable, threatening to some, a Church listening to the Spirit. Francis the pope “meets people face-to-face as equals. He touches people who might seem untouchable. He loves to laugh. He is not afraid of change.” Pope Francis, Sweeney posits, “has begun to return the Church to a Franciscan understanding of friendship, relating to the other, poverty, spirituality, care and death,” and is “leading the Church toward greater humility; revaluing poverty, especial by his own example; and preaching as a last resort to explain the values that he wants to uphold as most important for Catholics and for all people.”

Pope Francis, in Sweeney’s mind, “is calling us to recreate God’s Church to better foster the art of true gospel living.” And he writes:

“Who knows what the next few years will bring. As a Catholic who is interested in the positive role the Catholic Church can play in sanctifying the world, I’m anxious to be part of the vision that Francis realized long ago and conscious that we live in a world ready for our making today.”

 

 

 

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St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Priest and Martyr

August 12, 2011

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St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe at Holy Family in Silver Lake.

A Conventual Franciscan Priest

St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) was born on January 7, 1894, in Poland.  His baptismal name was Raymond.  As a youngster he was drawn to the priesthood, entered religious life with the Conventual Franciscans friars in 1910, and was given the religious name Maximilian.  He made solemn vows in 1918, and because of his devotion to the Blessed Mother, added Mary to his religious name.   He was sent to Rome where he studied philosophy and theology and was ordained to the priesthood in 1918.  He contracted tuberculosis, and because of his illness, returned to Poland.

Marian Devotion

Father Kolbe became a lecturer in church history in Krakow, Poland, but he is most remembered for his zeal for Mary.  Before he was ordained, he established a society to foster devotion to Mary known as the Militia of Mary, an organization of priests, religious, and laity dedicated to promote her as the queen and mother of society and a special aid in the road to conversion to God and holiness.  After ordination he also founded The Knights of the Immaculata, a monthly magazine which he edited.

A Traveling Priest

Father Kolbe traveled extensively over the next few years.  He was transferred to Grodno, near Warsaw, where he founded a Franciscan community and continued his writings.  After another bout with tuberculosis, he moved to Niepokalanow, also in Poland, which means “town of the Immaculata.”  In 1930 he made a missionary journey to Nagasaki, Japan, where he founded a second “town of the Immaculata.”  He returned to Poland in 1935 due to illness, and upon recovery, he made a second missionary expedition, this time briefly to India, then back to Nagasaki, only to be recalled to Poland to be the superior of 760 Franciscan friars.

The New Information Age

Wherever he was, at home or abroad, Father Kolbe used multimedia – newspapers, magazines, and radio broadcasts – to continue his special ministry to spread devotion to Mary, and his writings reached millions of people around the world.

World War II

The Germans invaded Poland in 1939, and Father Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo, detained for ten weeks, and released.  He continued his writings, some which promoted Polish patriotism and criticized the Nazis.  He was arrested again, this time on February 17, 1941, and imprisoned in Warsaw where he was tortured, and then, on May 28, he was transferred to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

A Martyr’s Death

At Auschwitz Father Kolbe encouraged terrified fellow prisoners, secretly offered Mass with bread and wine that had been smuggled inside, and heard the confessions of captives who were facing near-certain execution.  In July there was an escape attempt on his unit, and in punishment, the Nazis randomly selected ten prisoners to die by starvation.  Francis Galjowniczek, one of the ten, cried out, “What will happen to my family?”  Father Kolbe stepped forward and said, “I am a Catholic priest from Poland.  I would like to take his place because he has a wife and children.”  Unexpectedly, the commanding officer accepted Father Kolbe’s offer.  Galjowniczek was allowed to step aside, while Father Kolbe and the other nine were led off to the starvation chamber.  Two weeks later only four were still alive, and Father Kolbe was the only one still conscious, and the Nazis executed him on August 14, 1941, by lethal injection.

Recognition and Patronage

Pope John Paul II, a fellow countryman, canonized Father Kolbe as a martyr and saint on November 9, 1982.  Francis Galjowniczek survived, was present for the ceremony, and lived to the age of 93.  St. Maximilian is the patron saint of drug addicts and their families, as well as journalists and political prisoners.

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