Jun 202019

The Messiah is among you!

Messiah is among you

There is a great story that a dear brother shared with me called The Rabbi’s Gift. In this story, an order of monks is distraught because their order is dying. The Rabbi come for a visit and leaves them with one word of advice, “The only thing I can tell you,” said the Rabbi, “is that the Messiah is among you.” As these monks reflect on the story and start to wonder about who is the Messiah, they start to treat each other as if that one is the Messiah.

Soon the whole community around the monastery notices a change. The monks are nicer, have a bit more internal peace and they seem to be enjoying their vocation. Little by little the order starts to thrive and grow again.

Today, my dear friend reminded me of this story. It came as I prepared to head to the school that has caused me so much difficulty lately. To my surprise, as I focused on treating each one of these people who have worked so hard to end what I am working to build as though they were Christ, I saw a change. They seemed less sinister, less mean, less angry. And I felt less threatened, less angry, less depressed.

Seeing the Christ in each other is a huge part of what it means to be Christian. However, we are called not just to see the Christ in our friends and fellow Christians, but even in our enemies and those who want to do us harm. We are called to love them just as we would love Christ! That is what makes us different from the rest of the world. And that is what makes our form of Catholicism different.

We should love all human beings. It is our mission in life to bring the love of God to the world. And that means even to those we consider different than ourselves. The reality is that none of us are different. We are all Children of God. And once we begin to realize that, once we start looking for the Christ in each other, we begin to see that nothing else matters. Race, creed, sexual orientation/identity, gender identity/expression, social class, or any other classification should no longer separate us if we truly look for the Christ in everyone.

And that is what we strive to practice at Saint Francis. We are standing in Augusta, Georgia with our arms wide open ready to welcome everyone. Because we strive to see Christ in each and every person who we come in contact with. And not just on Sunday afternoon either, but every day of the week.

Won’t you join us this Sunday and experience a different way to be Catholic?

Jun 132019

Happy Father’s Day to ALL our fathers

fathers day

Today I was gifted with the opportunity to visit our dear friends at the Convent of Saint Helena and visit with the sisters. The new convent (almost 3 years old!) is a beautiful and prayerful place. Tonight, they will host an art gallery with the community coming to view art and see the convent. The sisters invited my daughter and I to participate in noon prayer followed by a wonderful lunch. They said it was not much, just soup, salad and sandwiches. However, to us, it was a gourmet meal! Why? Because it was offered in love. And this got me thinking about family and fathers again.

You see, despite being from slightly different walks of life, them Episcopalians and us Old Catholics; members of the Order of Saint Helena and me a Franciscan, we sat, ate and talked like family. And we are family. Just different branches on the same tree.

This weekend we celebrate family once again as we honor our earthly fathers and our spiritual fathers. For me, my father was often gone and very distant. In fact, he did not say that he loved me until I was almost 21 years old. To this day, he has never said he was proud of me. And I doubt he ever will because he was not raised to show emotion or affection to his children.

Yet, I have had many spiritual fathers in my life that have taught me so very much. Some came into my life to teach me how not to act and behave. Others came to show me a better path of love, acceptance and mercy. I want to take a brief moment to thank a few of them.

Father David Jennings has been a father figure to me for many years. I do not think he fully understand just how much he means to me. And maybe now he will. (LOL) Even though I was the one who ordained him, he has taught me so much about love, patience, and forgiveness. Even when I was so mired in my own self-loathing and anger, he gently guided me back toward the love and grace of God. When I tried to cut myself off from him and pushed him away, he showed the love and forgiveness of God to me in his actions. As he lay on death’s doorstep a decade ago, I prayed so hard that God not let him die. I knew I still had so much more to learn from him. I love Father David so very much and I am very thankful for his guidance and care for me.

Bishop James St. George has been a constant source of love and guidance to me over these many years now. He has built me up when I was ready to give up. He has reminded me of the great need to look at the good in life, to stop and smell the roses. And when things looked the darkest in my life, he was always there with a heart emoji or a telephone call at the right moment. It is my honor to call him a friend and a part of my family. I hope he also knows just how much I love him and the love of his life Kate as well. He is a great Father and will be a great Father to his own children someday as well.

And finally, Father Kenneth Nelan who has never walked away. He has taught me more than a simple blog post can express. His zeal for life and willingness to challenge me to be a better version of myself is invaluable. He has always been there in my darkest moments and has taught me that I am worthy of love. And that I can love myself too! He continues to teach me about how to better love others and accept them no matter what. And he reminds me to take time to recharge and care for myself. And that is worth its weight in gold! I love you, Father Kenn!

These three holy men of God continue to inspire me every day. They all inspire me to be a better version of myself. And with their help, I hope that I have been a better Father to my daughter.

Join us this weekend as we honor our fathers, regardless of who they are. And in the process, experience a different way to be Catholic!

Jun 062019

Family isn’t just biological

family biological

God continues to bring the idea of family back to my mind this week. My daughter is preparing to graduate tomorrow from High School and we were hoping that some of our biological family might come in for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Sadly, none of them are coming for her graduation.

My daughter spent long nights studying, lots of tears were shed, and even had to complete one year in home-bound in order to get to where she is today. To say that her mom and I are proud of her is an understatement of the century! And we are proud of her for standing up for herself and others who do not conform to societal norms as well. She is a remarkable young lady!

Equally as sad is that none of our biological family will ever fully understand or appreciate just how great a young lady she is. They choose not to get to know her. They never attended any of her milestone events. That is their loss.

However, she has found that she has a huge family that does love and support her. Her church family! It has been a lesson on the fact that family is more than biology. We can choose our family, contrary to popular belief. And our family has chosen to spend time with, devote energy to, and love those who are really our family.

Family are those people who are there when the going gets tough. They are the ones who are there when we cry and when we laugh. Our family is made up of people who support us when others wouldn’t and love us when we can’t find the strength to love ourselves. They help us pick up the pieces when life falls apart and celebrates us when things are looking up.

And yes, you can choose your family. Here at Saint Francis, we strive to be a loving and accepting community of people who want to be family for those whose biological families have rejected them. We are here for those who have everything going for them and those who have lost everything. It is our goal to be inclusive and accepting of all people.

All are welcome and none are excluded at Saint Francis!

May 302019

Walk the walk

walk the walk

Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension. In the readings at Mass we will reflect on the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the power to proclaim the Good News to the whole world. We will also be challenged to walk the walk when it comes to our faith.

In the second reading at Mass we find the following:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since through the blood of Jesus
we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary
by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil,
that is, his flesh,
and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
and our bodies washed in pure water.
Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope,
for he who made the promise is trustworthy.

Hebrews 10:19-23

In this passage, it says that we should approach God with “absolute trust” and that we can “hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope,
for he who made the promise is trustworthy.” That is huge! This statement should empower and embolden us to preach the Gospel to all we meet.

Yet, we tend to find ourselves timid when it comes to sharing our faith. Understand, I am not saying that we should go to the extreme some of our protestant family does. We should never force our beliefs on others, nor should we beat them to death with scripture. But sharing our faith with others can be done in a respectful and loving way. And one of the most respectful and subtle ways to share our faith is by actually living it.

You see Saint Francis, our patron saint, once said, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” The greatest witness of our faith is our actions. Our words mean very little if not coupled with action. In fact, if we are not walking the walk, I dare say, our faith is without works and is therefore dead!

I spoke with a gentleman this week who told me right off the bat that he lived by a simple code: Treat others as I want to be treated. As we spoke, the issue of immigration came up and he, also an immigrant, began to attack and belittle those coming to our country. He spouted the hateful statements made by our national leaders that all people coming across the southern border were criminals and all people from Mexico, Central and South America were as well.

I stopped this person and said, “Didn’t you just tell me you live by a simple code of treating other like you would want to be treated?” He replied, “Yes. Why?” I said, “Then I guess you would not mind me expressing that everyone who came to the US from Germany were criminals and smelled bad.” He said, “Why would you say such a hurtful thing?” I replied, “Because that is what you have been saying for the past few minutes about my brothers and sisters in Latin America and Mexico.”

The conversation ended at that point as he found himself angry because I had pointed out his error. He was preaching a good message at first, only to show that he lived by a vastly different code.

Part of being a person of faith is understanding that we all still need work. We must remember that we are not perfect, but striving to be better. As such, we must be willing to accept correction when we stumble and accept the help of a loving family. It is all about iron sharpening iron!

Even I fall. I am human too. But I thankful to those who gently correct me and then help pick me up. I am thankful to be able to continue toward my goal of fully walking the walk.

You can have that too by joining us at Saint Francis!

May 232019

God Loves Everyone!

God Loves Everyone

Saint Francis Old Catholic Church has one major focus as a parish. That focus is to bring the message that God loves everyone to as many people as possible. Part of getting that message out requires us to be radically inclusive. We welcome everyone to participate fully in the life of the church.

Here in the deep South it seems that our message is unwelcome. I remember our first Pride event. We set up a booth as a parish to bring that message to everyone who had been hurt, abused, and dismissed from mainline churches. One of our posters said that our church offered All of the Sacraments; None of the Guilt. It was our motto for a long while. One gentleman stopped to read our sign and then looked me in the eyes and said, “No, thank you! I will keep my guilt!”

For some people letting go of guilt and pain is nearly impossible. For others it is impossible to believe that God loves them or even worse, that they are worthy of love. The reality is that everyone is worthy of love. Everyone deserves to live their lives without guilt and pain. Forgiveness is not a weapon. It is a free gift that is available to everyone!

That is why we offer the sacraments freely to everyone at Saint Francis. We don’t require that you be a member of our parish to participate fully in the life of the parish. You can be as active or inactive as you wish to be. We hope you will come and experience a faith and spirituality that is not wrapped up in guilt, pain, and exclusion.

Come experience a completely different way to be Catholic!

May 172019

All are welcome

All are welcome

While speaking with the pastor of a church in another denomination today, the discussion took a rather dark and disturbing turn. We started discussing ministry and the role of women in the church. This also lead to a discussion of LGBT+ individuals and their role in the church. This disturbed me because we believe that All are Welcome means ALL are Welcome!

This pastor pulled out the tired old statements that women were to remain silent in the church and that they should not lead a parish. He said that we should not approve of people choosing to live in sin by living as LGBT+ individuals. Once I recovered from my initial shock, I began to challenge his statements. By the end of the discussion, he had begun to reevaluate those statements in the light of his previous statements that God loves everyone and we are not to judge people.

This is a unique situation that does not happen often. More often than not, when I encounter these types of people, they become angry and hostile. They dig in and refuse to discuss their beliefs in any critical way. This individual was willing to discuss and consider his beliefs in a new way because I did something different.

I refused to condemn him.

I refused to denigrate his beliefs. Rather, I spoke to him calmly and professionally. I continued to bring him back to his earlier statements about God loving everyone and not judging people. We discussed the various scriptures he claimed as is basis for his believes and the historical setting for those scriptures.

In other words, we had church. And by the end of the conversation, he and I both walked away changed. He walked away with a better understanding of why equality is so very important. I walked away with a better understanding of how to articulate my beliefs in a way that brings about change. And we both walked away thankful to God for the chance to find a path of love forward.

Our work as followers of the Christ does not stop at the church door or at a certain time on Sunday. It is a walk that we should be walking each and everyday. When we walk the walk 24/7 we will suddenly find ourselves and the world around us is different. We will be making small changes that impact everyone!

Saint Francis goal is to be that beacon of light, hope, and love to the world around us each and every day. Our mission does not stop on Sunday afternoon. It does not stop at the door of the church either. We are called to go into the community and live that mission.

We need your help to spread the mission and the message that ALL are welcome to the greater community. Come join us and start living the message of love everyday!

May 092019

Dealing with anger

Anger - Jesus driving merchants from temple

Yesterday I attended a meeting for an organization that is a bright spot in an otherwise dark world. We gather once a month and discuss progressive ideas and work to effect positive change in the world around us. The meeting yesterday was painful and left me rather hurt.

You see, someone I respect deeply and consider one of the wisest people I know was hurt and angry. My friend gave me an extra helping of that anger. My friend’s pain was so deep that I could feel it. Don’t get me wrong, I cannot begin to imagine what my friend was feeling. I cannot relate to the lifetime of experiences my friend as had. But I do empathize with that pain and anger.

I still have my moments of “righteous anger“. I still lash out myself at those around me when I am not feeling my best or things appear to be falling apart. Correcting that a very high priority for me. But in the meantime, I try to take time to evaluate why I am angry.

Most of the time when I am angry, it is not with the people around me, but rather with myself. It is because I feel like I have failed or I am not good enough. Rarely it is because others have made me feel useless or unwanted. And even more rare, those times when I feel undervalued.

It is not a sin or a bad thing to get angry. Anger is a natural emotion. And we are human after all. Even Jesus got angry. He turned over tables and yelled at people. It is how we direct that anger that becomes the issue. If we are directing it toward the people around us who care about us, then we are making a mistake. If we take time to analyze that anger to determine its cause and then work to resolve those issues, then we have handled it correctly.

We will make mistakes sometimes and that is ok too. The key is to apologize as soon as we can and resolve to do better.

I am praying for my friend and I will be there should he want to talk about everything that happened. And I am thankful for all the people who have been there to help me pick up the pieces when I fell apart. When it is obvious that a person is working to overcome some issues that caused the angry outburst or situation, then we should stand by them and be there for them.

After all, there will come a day when you may need someone there to help you pick up your pieces too.

May 022019

What is a parish family?

parish family

Today I want to look at what it means to be a part of a Parish Family. It requires work and dedication to be a part of any family and our parish family is no exception.

Let me start by saying that every family has its moments. There may be disagreements, people who you don’t really want to be around much, and/or those times when it feels like a chore to go to some get-together. What makes us a family is that at the end of the day we still love each other and still work together toward a common goal.

Here are a few things you can do to be more fully involved in the life of our parish family:

  1. Participation. Being part of a parish family requires that you actively participate in the spiritual life of the parish. This means that you come to Mass and you participate fully in the celebration of the Eucharist. It also means that you participate in the other sacraments of the church as well.
  2. Tithe. Keeping the doors open and the parish family growing cost money. Most of the expenses for the parish apart from rent (office supplies, hosts, wine, booklets, pew cards, music, computers, SD cards, thumb-drives, brochures, business cards, promotional materials, etc.) are paid for out of mine and Fr. Matt’s pockets. We do have generous donations that cover our rent at the moment, but the goal is to have a self-sustaining parish at some point. Your financial support of the parish makes this possible.
  3. Volunteer. Regardless of whether you can tithe financially or not, you can tithe with your time. You can lector at Mass, serve as an acolyte, Eucharistic Minister, Greeter, or help with music. At certain times, we may also need help to do some office work. You can make a big difference in the parish by volunteering your time.
  4. Spread the word. You can help our little parish to grow by inviting family and friends to worship with us. Later in the month, we will also have flyers, brochures, and postcards (God willing!) that you can use to spread the word about Saint Francis to those around you. You can put up a flyer at community bulletin boards in establishments you frequent regularly. Share our Facebook posts on your own timeline. Word of mouth works best, but any help in getting the word out about our parish is a great help.

These are just four simple ways you can be more fully part of the parish family here at Saint Francis. You help to make our family bigger and better! If you have visited in the past, maybe it is time to give us another try. If you have not been in a while, maybe it is time for some fellowship with like minded people.

Regardless, we hope you will come experience a different way to be a Catholic Parish Family!

Apr 252019

Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy

Christ is risen! And that is not the end of the story. We are called to carry Christ into the world around us each and every day. We have 50 more days of celebration! Our Easter celebration is not over until Pentecost. And this Sunday we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday.

I have a great love for Saint Faustina. Our first parish in Kentucky was named in her honor. The great message that Jesus pours out mercy upon the whole world is not a new one. However, it is one that is needed now more than ever. The image of the Divine Mercy shows two streams coming forth from the heart of Jesus. These streams are red for the blood of Jesus (which is the Life of Souls), and pale for the water (which justify souls). This image is supposed to remind us that God is full of charity, forgiveness and love for ALL people.

We live in a time when hope is hard to hold on to. But the reminder this Sunday gives us about the never-ending love of God is so very vital. In this message, we find hope even when things seem so very dark.

Part of the message is also that in these dark times, we must continue to gather to share the hope and love of God. I know how very difficult this can be. I struggle with depression and PTSD. This makes it hard sometimes to gather with others. However, I make myself be present to those around me. This is as much for them as it is for me! And more times than not, I walk away feeling happy, blessed and loved!

Join us this Divine Mercy Sunday to celebrate the love, hope, forgiveness, and compassion of our Heavenly Father!

Apr 162019

We are family!

family

We are family! It is a refrain you will hear from me over and over again. It is not just a song by Sister Sledge, it is our way of life at Saint Francis.

Church is more than just a bunch of people gathering once a week for Mass. It is about building a relationship with the Divine and a relationship with each other. Saint Paul felt so strongly about this that he included an admonishment to the churches under his direction:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25. ESV.

Saint Paul admonishes us to encourage one another and to stir up one another to love and good work. In other words, we are called to help each other become better versions of ourselves. It is very hard to do that if we never meet together for fellowship!

It is also why we have the Saint Francis Covenant. While it is not require to be members of our parish, we encourage everyone to sign a copy. It is the agreement that bonds us together as family. The Covenant sets forth what is expected of you as a member of this family and what we as a parish family pledge to you.

As we continue to work to grow a truly loving, inclusive and welcoming parish family here in the CSRA, it is important that we work to treruly grow the family part. That is not to say that we must agree with everyone all the time. Family do have growing pains and issues from time to time. What it does mean is that we will strive to find ways to peacefully and faithfully resolve those issues. We will love each other through the hard times and come out stronger on the other side.

And that is how we begin living a different way to be Catholic!

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