New Year’s Wishes for all

December 31, 2020

I think there is nearly universal agreement, here in the US and everywhere, that 2020 was — on the whole — a very challenging year.

As we sit perched on the threshold of a new year, I am hopeful that 2021 will be better. Much better. It could scarcely be worse.

Exactly how things go from here… well, we just can’t say. If I may be allowed to prognosticate just a bit, I’m thinking that the first half of this nascent year will be rough. Very rough, in all likelihood. And then, it will get better.

How’s that for a prophetic look into our shared future?

Well, Nostradamus I am not. But I am a hopeful human, a hopeful citizen and I stand ready to do what I can to pull in the same direction as my fellows who want to help. To help to get us pointed in a positive direction and to begin to make some progress.

I am hopeful — cautiously hopeful — that we’ll be in a better place 12 months from now as we compose our thoughts about what kind of year 2021 will have been.

And I’m content with being able to say that tonight.

Ben Basile

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

A Christmas Morning Wish for Everyone

 I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas. This piece of mine was originally posted on Christmas Day, 2007 on another site. 

This has been a challenging year for me in a lot of ways, yet I find myself feeling even more than the usual holiday spirit right now as I sit at the keyboard, waiting for Santa to come down my chimney. Wait! I don’t have a chimney! Oh well, I still believe! Well, the part about Santa, who can say? The rest of it, I’m still pretty big on all the good stuff that we think about when the holidays roll around each year. No doubt a lot of you feel the same.

The Christmas story does hold a lot of meaning for me. I’m not quite sure if I still believe all of it, all the nuances and consequences and so on; not quite like one “believes it” when the assembled faithful say the Apostles Creed together at Midnight Mass. Some will be doing exactly that in just a few hours, perhaps some of you.

Yet it doesn’t seem at all “funny” to me that God comes to us whenever it suits his/her purpose. Not entirely sure if “he” did in that particular, historical way. Being raised in a Christian family and having gone part-way through seminary a few years ago, I do lean in that direction. But I’ve come to see some things in a different light now that I’ve spent a little better than a half-century on this planet. This planet where almost a billion people believe that God became incarnate, was born of a young woman who had never “known” her betrothed. And that his coming among us in that way was the beginning of a Divine plan to make it possible for all of his creatures to enjoy unending fellowship with him and with one another! In this life and in the next! Now that’s a story! One we humans have been telling one another for a very long time, and I’m quite sure we’ll be telling it for a long time to come.

I’ve been struggling for so many years now about exactly how much of the story still “works” for me and all of that. But what I’ve never doubted is that God, or the Divine, does come to us and among us all the time. And I’m finally in that phase of life where I’ve learned to look for it, to expect it and to embrace it. And I know that the other really big thing about Christmastime is to get a bit closer to my brothers and sisters who also bear the image of the Divine One in their souls and on their beaming faces. Some of them were raised on the same stories I was; this one about God being born of a virgin, and many others.

Some, of course, have heard and embraced and celebrated different stories. I’m not very inclined to quibble about the particulars at this point in my life. I’m quite sure that God would love to see us move a little closer together at this time of year, and to go on telling those stories; especially that one about God robed in human flesh, living and dying as one of us. And I’m quite sure that the heart of the Divine is pleased when we carry forward “his” mission to strip away that illusion that our sins, imperfections, and much less, our differences, should separate us from one another or from his Divine Heart.

Well, Christmas Eve has progressed, as it will, into Christmas morning as I’m wrapping up this little holiday message. And I’m sitting here, luminous and expectant, like a six year old waiting for Santa to appear. Like Simeon in the temple, waiting to bless the infant Jesus, knowing then that he has seen and embraced, quite literally, the Divine plan to end our sinful and deadly illusions of separateness. I’m expectant, waiting in earnest to see and to embrace the next manifestation of the Divine. In you, in her, in us. Perhaps–and wouldn’t this be a great story–perhaps in and across many countries and cultures, in four billion human hearts at once!

A wish, a dream, a fervent hope… Perhaps that’s all it is. But a hope to hold close to one’s heart on Christmas morning. God bless each of you today and throughout the year to come. May you be blessed to see the image of the Divine, of the Christ-child in yourself–and in one another.

Ben Lawrence Basile
Christmas morning, 2020

© 2007 Benjamin Lawrence Basile

On National Clergy Appreciation Day

Today is National Clergy Appreciation Day and I’d bet a Prince’s Ransom that only a very few people of faith are aware of that.

I’ll hasten to add that there may be more preachers, pastors and priests enjoying Sunday dinner as a guest of their congregants as I write this; that’s a good thing.

If you didn’t know that today is that day, it’s not a bad thing if you make note of it. After all, we’re only 354 days away from Clergy Appreciation Day, 2021!

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

National Arbor Day 2020

Yes, it’s National Arbor Day today. But with most of America — and the world, for that matter — staying close to home, celebrating this auspicious day is just a bit different this time.

My celebration of the day this year includes two things. Small things, but things which nevertheless help the cause.

I just made a donation to the National Arbor Day Foundation. This is something I look forward to doing each year.

If you would like to do that today, follow this link.

I’m also going to use today’s hashtag on my twitter account. And that is: #ArborDayAtHome. When you use that tag, the Foundation will plant a tree for your gesture of support and good will. Up to 50,000 trees.

That’s a wonderful thing.

One more thought: if you’d like to take a look at the blog for the National A.D. Foundation, go right here.

Yours in the spirit of Arbor Day, I am,

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

Our Blessed Hope

I most certainly do want to wish all of you a most happy and blessed Easter today.

I don’t have to tell you that our joyous celebration is taking place this year in a most unusual set of circumstances.

Most of us could not gather with fellow Christians in the usual way to celebrate.

The spectre of a deadly and virulent virus stalking our world and our communities has cast a pall over what is typically the most joy-filled time of the entire Church year.

But even in these troubling times, this we know: the hope and transcendent glory of Christ’s resurrection was a stunning, singular event on that first Easter morning and we can feel and appropriate that glory, that blessed hope today just as surely as Jesus’s followers and grief-wracked mother did nearly two millennia ago.

May that blessed hope be yours today.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Some Love on World Health Day

The 7th of April is World Health Day each year. It’s always a good time to show appreciation to our health care professionals, of course. But that seems all the more appropriate now that COVID-19 is ravaging our world.

Nurses have been there for me in a big way the four times I’ve been hospitalized. One of those involved major surgery and — although that was a very big deal — the care I received from nurses, doctors and techs made a tough situation bearable.

I’m thinking that most of the folks who may read this could say something similar.

I know that many of us have been watching more news than usual while we’re in the middle of this crisis. I certainly have.

It’s striking to me that many in the field — nurses especially — are literally laying their lives on the line to care for their patients.

If you know a nurse — or anyone in the health care field — now would be a good time to show your appreciation for all they do.

A good time to tell them of your appreciation.

A good time to possibly bring over a meal, to watch some children while Mom or Dad is putting in insane hours to care for us.

Especially if they’re living apart from family members now in order to lower the risk of inadvertently endangering their loved ones’ health.

There are so many in that work dealing with a lot of really, really big challenges right now.

I’m so grateful today for our health care professionals. And I’m most certainly going to make it a point to speak those words of appreciation whenever I can.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

A Week of Destiny

Today is Palm Sunday and Churches in every corner of the globe will be full of worshipers thinking about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of that colt and being heralded and praised by a multitude of followers.

Churches here in the Eastern Time Zone are starting to fill with folks of all ages, with families dressed in their “Sunday best”, ready to commemorate and relive that ride and that day.

When this celebration comes each year, we see ourselves as a follower of the Master, as one who may have been there for the actual event.

This is as it should be.

But what was it like for Jesus?

What thoughts were going through his mind as that day unfolded?

None of us knows the particulars, of course, but there’s little doubt in my mind that destiny — or his thoughts around it — cast a long shadow over the events of that day, over what has been known for centuries as the Triumphal Entry.

As we go through all the events of Holy Week, it’s a good thing to keep in mind that the thanks and accolades that others may bestow on us from time to time can be wonderful.

But for most of us — as was true for Jesus — those accolades don’t always last and our lives will most likely not be a joyous and unending festival of gratitude and praise.

For some, a darker destiny may await.

Jesus said that no servant is greater than his master and when one makes a conscious choice to follow in Jesus’s footsteps — to live a life of service for others — there will most certainly be a cross to bear.

It’s certainly true that most people go through life acting mostly on instinct. Mostly doing what furthers their own interests and — at the end of the day — maximizes the chance that they’ll live, thrive and survive, as that saying goes.

Jesus, of course, is our ultimate example of a person who saw himself in a very different way. And he knew that his destiny was a life lived for others.

May we follow his example. May we always remember that, first and foremost, we choose a life lived — not for selfish reasons alone — but for others.

And may that be our focus throughout the events of Holy Week. And always.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

This homily was originally published on April 14, 2019

Remember, O Man

Remember, O Man thou art dust and
unto dust thou shalt return

from the Liturgy for Ash Wednesday

Thinking about our mortality, of how fleeting our lives truly are is not something most of us prefer to dwell on.

This tendency we have to avoid thinking about the inevitability of our own death does not serve us well.

On Ash Wednesday, we are invited to take a look at this truth, to wrap our minds around it, as the saying goes.

Our lives have little meaning if we try to make sense of them outside their proper, natural context. That is, while pretending that our deaths are not the consummation of our lives; the final chapter in our lives’ stories.

You don’t need to know exactly how that last chapter of your story will read.

Just know that the story’s entire meaning, its true significance is blunted, perhaps even unknowable if we drift through the autumns of our lives clinging to the fantasy that God’s hand will not soon take up that pen and begin to write.

.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

What Kind of a Year?

So it’s the last day of December and we stand together on the threshold of a new year.

And my wish for you is that 2020 will be a splendid year, indeed.

I have to say that 2019 was an awful year in many ways.

I have been–and continue to be–greatly alarmed to see our National nightmare unfolding.

And, yes, I most certainly hope to see a lot of our turmoil and tragedy be resolved in this year which is just around the corner as I write.

For me personally, 2019 was a mixed blessing, you might say.

The first half had some challenges and plenty of ups-and-downs.

It was in first three months of the year that we launched the Fellowship of St Francis. On the 20th of March, to be precise.

For me as an individual, the second half of 2019 went extraordinarily well in almost all ways.

And I’m grateful for that.

I’m thinking that for many of you, 2019 may not have been too different.

After all, life’s experiences are often a strange mixture of good things and things you fervently hope you’ll never have to go through again.

So my wish for our country and for you tonight is a 2020 with more–way more–of those good things.

May it be so!

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis Inc.

God is Among Us

This year I’ve been awash in that kind of wonderful glow that we all associate with Christmas.

The last four or five Christmases haven’t been all that joyful for me, truth be told.

This year has been very good for me and I’m very grateful to be able to say that.

It’s so true that Christmas is like any other celebration, commemoration or event. It’s different for everyone who takes part in it. And it’s different for us each time we celebrate it.

It’s a good thing and a great comfort to know that the joy and promise of Christmas is right “there” for me–for all of us–whether we’re exultant as we contemplate the joy of our existence or going through terrible trials.

The promise that God is among us, indwells and empowers us is a reality we can always count on. One that can, indeed, be an enormous comfort to us when we find ourselves sailing through stormy seas.

May the joy of Christmastime be yours today.

And every day of your life.

Brother Ben

© The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.