Begin at the Top

No person, family, organization or Nation can thrive while discarding our long-held practices and values. While acting out our darkest, worst behavior and insisting on always getting our own way.

That doesn’t mean that people or businesses or whatever don’t behave badly and carry on their business in wanton disregard of the rights or the welfare of others. We all know that that sort of thing happens all the time.

But the behavior of some of our leaders, elected officials and their appointees these days is really over the top.

Decisions are being made and strings are being pulled to suit the whims of one man whether or not those goings-on are in anyone else’s interest, the interest of our Nation as a whole or are even legal.

This is not merely a matter of simple selfishness, of someone putting themselves first. It is to our Nation’s detriment and is most definitely affecting the way things are done. The way they are done by individuals, in the business sphere and by those whose job it is to run our corporate affairs.

The petty, self-serving behavior in Washington–combined with gross and obvious incompetence–is wreaking havoc among us.

And it won’t stop until we find our way back to sound corporate values, until we begin once more to treat others with respect and reign in those selfish and meddlesome impulses that can harm others and sully our corporate life.

And that must begin at the top.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

God and David’s Distress

It’s recorded in the 25th Psalm, that King David sent heavenward this heart-felt entreaty:

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
    and free me from my anguish.

Psalm 25: 16-17

We often see the things we read in the Bible through the lens of the times in which they were written.

We might think, for example, that David had troubles of the heart served up with a side dish of anguish, and–if we take the time to carry the scenario out to its end–chalk it all up to some passing problem he was facing at the time.

And we may not think to take a closer look and put his prayer into a contemporary context, including what we know today about Mental Health issues.

If we put this Psalm into that context, I think we’d draw the conclusion that David suffered from depression. And–no doubt–anxiety as well.

Reading further through the Psalms reinforces that conclusion.

I think one of the reasons many Psalms resonate with me is that I have long traversed a lot of the same territory.

I think we’d all agree that keeping one’s emotional equilibrium, staying calm and serene through life’s inevitable ups-and-downs, is a very big deal.

Going through that kind of thing is quite common. You might say that King David has plenty of company among us modern folk.

And among all people of all times, all of us who’ve ever walked around in human skin.

No doubt David and people living at that time could have benefited from the insights and practices of modern medicine.

And having at their disposal modern meds that can help us keep our emotional balance and cope successfully with our “troubles of the heart” and “anguish”.

They didn’t have those helpful tools in their time, of course.

It’s such a good thing that we do.

Prayers like David’s in this passage may help when those dark clouds begin to gather around us.

Compassionate and effective care from professionals in the Mental Health field can certainly help too.

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.

Kindness is All

It’s a simple idea. It’s one you see on tee shirts and Church road signs and things of that sort.

“Kindness is All”

It’s easy to dismiss such notions once the truths they contain have morphed into buzz-phrases.

And yet, we can’t jettison such an idea entirely; it still bears an unmistakable ring of truth.

Kindness matters.

It truly does.

We are living at a time when so many have discarded our shared, time-honored values of kindness and compassion and learn instead to act with indifference and selfishness. 

Don’t succumb.

Even the broader culture in which we are living–where kindness seems to be in short supply, indeed–is sending an invitation to celebrate and practice kindness today.

I’ll chime in, too.

Be kind.

Be kind when it’s easy.

Be kind when the voices urging selfishness, indifference and cruelty roar their loudest.

Kindness is All.

 

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Hear me, Oh Lord

This passage from Psalm 69, though written about 2,000 years ago, can nevertheless be instructive for us today:

16 Hear me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good;
Turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.

17 And do not hide Your face from Your servant,
For I am in trouble; Hear me speedily.

18 Draw near to my soul, and redeem it;
Deliver me because of my enemies.

I’m certain that this passage strikes a cord with just about everyone. Psalm 69 is a well-known and beloved one.

I certainly can relate.

Having said that, I hasten to add that as we read this passage with our thoroughly-modern eyes, many of us would have some thoughts about how we often set ourselves up for misery and troubles.

We may meditate on the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships and keeping out of situations where our actions have created chaos and difficulties where Divine intervention seems our only way out.

And it’s also true that when we’re in tight spot and our problems seem beyond our abilities to deal with them, we’ll appeal to God to intervene and set our feet back on solid ground, so to speak.

And we’ll do that whether our troubles truly come from circumstances beyond our control or–as is often the case–our own decisions and actions have led to our predicament.

Plead for Divine help when you’re in a tight spot.

And be sure to also examine your choices and your deeds and take life’s inevitable troubles as opportunities to become better at keeping yourself out of misery, despondence and despair.

 

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Yes, Friends, Love is Kind!

Today is National Love Is Kind Day. It’s a good day to think again about how important, how vital love truly is.

Love is what makes life worthwhile.

When love becomes the very foundation of our lives, we put ourselves on a path where the Divine One can bring others into our lives we can love. Friends whose love we can feel, lay ahold of and share.

Yes, love is kind. And it’s vital for our well-being. And for our very survival.

Here’s what St Paul said about Love in his Epistle to the Church at Corinth:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I Cor 13:4-8, 13

Keep moving in Love’s direction. Look for Love, seek her out.

Let Love be the motive for all you do.

And share the Love today.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Even Better Than You Thought!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

There’s no doubt that Philippians 4:13 is one of the most familiar, most loved and most quoted verses from the New Testament.

And I’ve got to put this out there: I’m just as certain that it’s one of the most misunderstood.

We often take St Paul’s meaning to be something along this line: “I can accomplish great exploits through Christ who gives me strength!”

And yet, when we take a step back and read the verse in context, it seems very, very different:

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:10-13 NIV

If you begin at verse 10 and then read at least to verse 14, the true meaning of Paul’s words becomes clear. He is saying that he’s seen plenty of life’s ups and downs–and has, in fact, known what it’s like to not even have enough to eat–and that he knows he can do all this or endure all this through Christ who gives him strength.

Yes, reading it in context certainly does shed a whole new light on the subject.

Sometimes we might see our faith as a tool to do great things, to help us in our rise to the top or to slay all of our temporal and spiritual enemies.

But that’s not what Paul was saying.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that the real message is much better than the one we may have thought we were reading.

And it’s much better suited to real life. To the life most of us live day after day.

Are you–like St Paul before you–struggling from time to time with all kinds of troubles and hardships?

Such things are simply a part of our everyday lives. Whether we like to acknowledge it or not.

We are no better, no different from St Paul. Or from the Master.

And we most certainly do need spiritual strength to endure all of the things that come our way.

The good stuff. The bad stuff. The highs and the lows.

Believing that Christ gives strength to those who need it–especially to those who need it most–is a good thing indeed.

If you’re up against long odds and it’s time to step up and accomplish some great feat of faith, Paul’s letter may well strengthen you to pull off some great exploit!

And if you’re like most of us–most of us who know and experience troubles, sorrows and plenty of fits and starts–this passage is for you, too.

Especially for you.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis

Great is Your Love

Much has been written about the unchanging love that God has for his creation.

When we think about this, it’s natural to feel gratitude. The Divine One, the Universe, is imbued with a love ethic, with a bias, if you will, for compassion and ever-steadfast love.

When we feel this in our souls and are thankful for God’s love and favor, we keep faith with a community of women and men through the ages who’ve meditated on this and felt that spontaneous burst of thankfulness, a blossoming in the hearts of those who feel that love and benevolence and respond to it.

The Psalmist captures well that sentiment here in verses 9 and 10 of the 57th Psalm:

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

from Psalm 57

Do you feel the love today?

God loves each one of us. Unconditionally.

It’s natural to feel gratitude as we reflect on this.

And to recommit ourselves to spreading the love as we go about our lives each day.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Gratitude and St Francis

On the last two Tuesdays, I published posts on the dual themes of God’s Faithfulness and our response of gratitude which naturally arises from it.

In today’s third and final meditation on those subjects, I want to focus on the gratitude of St Francis, whom we here in the FSF look to as an icon and a guide on our spiritual path.

When Francis returned from a war–fought between his city of Assisi and the competing city of Perugia–he was a changed man.

He was captured in the aftermath of that war and held for ransom by Perugian partisans. It was during this time in captivity–which lasted a full year–that young Francis received his visions and embraced a life of poverty and simplicity and–most of all–a life of service to God and to all humanity.

One of the results of Francis embarking on this path of love and service to all was that he became very grateful to God for his life, his calling and his new way of living–that is, to serve others and, in fact, all creation.

Fr Fausto Gomez, in an essay entitled The gratitude of St. Francis, speaks of this beloved friar’s great gratitude that colored his every thought and action:

“In the life of St. Francis, who is the most popular saint ever, there is a virtue that describes well his whole life: gratitude: The humble saint of Assisi was a grateful son of God, a brother to all neighbors, and a creature of the universe.”

from “The Gratitude of St. Francis”, by Fausto Gomez

If you’re reading this, I doubt very seriously whether you need to read an exhortation or reminder to be grateful.

My object here is merely to point out that St Francis is, indeed, a good and appropriate model for our Fellowship and an excellent example of how gratitude and service to others can inform and give meaning to our lives today.

I’m grateful for the love of God. And for the life of St Francis and so many other holy women and men who point us toward the Divine One and her great love for humanity.

And I’m grateful for the opportunity and the privilege to answer that call. God’s call to love and to serve humanity and all of God’s Creation each day.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc., is a new and independent ministry and is not associated in any way with the Roman Catholic Church or any other body.

The Divine One is Faithful

Test me, Lord, and try me,
    examine my heart and my mind;
for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love
    and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.

This passage from Psalm 26 is a favorite of mine. And it reminds us that keeping in mind God’s unfailing love and faithfulness is an outlook on life that will serve anyone well.

No one expects life to be that proverbial bowl of cherries. All of us have known moments of pain and great despair. Sadly, some of us have seen more of that side of life than most will ever know.

Nevertheless, cultivating that attitude of gratitude–as the Psalmist does in this passage–reminds us that the Divine One loves humanity. And that each of us was fashioned in the Divine Image.

Looking for and honoring that reflection of God, that Divine Spark, in the people we meet each day will point us in the direction of gratitude. Gratitude and awe.

The unfailing goodness and love of God is all around you and in everyone you meet!

Embrace it. Embrace it and be grateful!

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis