War and Acts of Compassion

As is true for so many of us, the coronavirus crisis has had huge effects on how I live my life day-to-day.

Yes, I’ve got a day job and — like so many others — I’ve been furloughed by my employer for the time being.

And so I’ve been spending even more time than usual looking through my reading collection and all over the net for good things to read.

This piece I found today is about a German WW II veteran’s experience when an American medic risked his life — going behind German lines — to treat their wounded.

Reading stories like this one often touch me deeply and remind me that — although people often do terrible things to each other — we are also capable of acts of great love and compassion.

I’ll go so far as to say that St Francis would have loved reading this surprising story. It’s well-worth the next few minutes of your day.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Heroes in the Medical Profession

There’s no doubt that the healthcare catastrophe the world is facing now generates almost unlimited bad news.

Like so many of us, when I read or hear good news, it’s a real ray of sunshine piercing through what seems like an impenetrably dark cloud.

I read a story yesterday that provided one of those occasional bright moments and I’m passing the story along today. I’m hopeful that it might provide a bit of relief to you while we’re dealing with this dark, unfolding tragedy.

As you most likely know, New York has been hard hit by the coronavirus. New York governor Andrew Cuomo is holding daily press briefings while his state and her medical professionals are straining to deal with the crisis.

He’s repeatedly appealed for more Doctors, Nurses and other professionals in the healthcare field to come to the aid of his beleaguered state.

A band of dedicated, compassionate professionals from Georgia heard those appeals and boarded a Southwest Airlines flight bound for New York yesterday.

I have no doubt that what these dedicated and selfless folks did yesterday made a lot of their hard-pressed colleagues smile.

If only for a few precious moments.

And it most definitely inspired me and brightened my day. At a time when I truly needed it.

I hope there are some moments of budding happiness for you and your loved ones today.

As I read and hear more about the crisis we’re facing, I look for those rays of sunshine.

I’m grateful that I’ve found a few.

And very grateful that we have people of compassion — like the ones who boarded that flight yesterday — while we endure this dreadful scourge together.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines

On the Feast Day of St Francis

On the Feast Day of St Francis, I will be giving some thought to the subject of this devout man and the life he lived.

I’ll be thinking a lot about why we venerate him so. Why we still hold him up as a great example these 700 years after his passing.

I’ll be thinking about his great love for all of God’s creation. The natural world and all her inhabitants.

Good things to think about at any time.

And especially today.

Blessings to all of you today, on the Feast Day of St Francis.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis

The Prayer of St Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

Oh, Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.  

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The Legacy of St Francis

Note: Because tomorrow is the Feast Day of St Francis, this is a very fitting time to feature this post again. It originally appeared on March 20th.

Yes, it is St Francis of Assisi who was chosen to be front-and-center for this new ministry.

Yes, that St Francis.

There are two great urgencies that are at the heart of what the FSF is about.

The first is to make compassion the foundation for all that we do, for all our interactions with our fellows.

And the second is use to treat the Earth, our common home, with wisdom and that same compassion. And to extend this compassion to all of Earth’s inhabitants, not just to the Human species.

With these two urgent priorities in mind, Saint Francis was a most suitable choice as the icon and a wise, compassionate patron for the Fellowship.

Francis was an unfailingly wise, loving and compassionate figure in his time. His love for animals and for the Earth were noted by his contemporaries and by the leadership of the Church in the 13th Century and are the reasons that he is considered to be a special patron for animals and for the environment.

So it is very fitting to have this well-loved and venerated figure to lead the way, so to speak, for our fledgling Fellowship.

 

Brother Ben

The Fellowship of St Francis is a new and completely independent ministry and is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The Feast of St Lawrence

If you’ve taken more than a cursory look at our site, you’ve no doubt noticed that we claim St Francis as an icon and a patron for our nascent spiritual movement.

The Saint I venerate most after St Francis is St Lawrence. And today, August 10th, is the day we commemorate St Lawrence each year.

As is so often the case, there is not too much we know about his life that is backed up with solid evidence. Nevertheless, the pious legend that surrounds Lawrence is quite remarkable.

I claim him as a patron and guide and see his life–and, of course, his death–as a reminder to keep the emphasis on people and not on material things.

I also desire to emulate his fearlessness in the face of hatred and opposition to spiritual values. In his day, the struggle was against a completely corrupt and wealth-worshiping culture personified by the Roman Emperor Valerian.

It’s certainly true that both St Francis and St Lawrence are exemplary role models for people of Faith and all people of good will who desire to live life in a compassionate way and to reject the contemporary trend of throwing away our time-honored values to chase wealth, power and fame instead.

St Lawrence, whom we remember today, is a fine and suitable icon for those who will not bow down to the Idols of Wealth and Power.

His life and his unwavering commitment to put people above things–the least of these among us, especially–is a reminder to those who desire to live lives of compassion and engage in the work of ministry to keep the emphasis where it belongs.

On serving God’s people and embracing all of God’s creation in a compassionate, heart-felt and sacrificial way.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Faith in Action

If you’re reading this, the chances are very good that at sometime in your life, you’ve heard a sermon or read an article on this well-known passage from the Epistle of James:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:14-17

I’m thinking you’ve probably heard quite a few sermons or homilies from this passage.

And that’s as it should be.

I recently came across an article by Avery Phillips at ProgressiveChristianity.org that does such an excellent job of fleshing out this subject that I’m going to insert the link to the article here and recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone following my blog. His treatment of how the Church as a whole bears this responsibility is the heart of the article and it’s well worth the next few minutes of your day.

It’s always a good thing to give thought to how good and compassionate thoughts or sentiments help to lead us to good and compassionate actions. That’s just how it works.

May we examine our lives and priorities as we turn our thoughts in this direction. As we think about the relationship between our thoughts, sentiments and beliefs and the right, compassionate actions which follow.

These actions validate our faith as authentic, and can show us that we’re on the right path.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Can you eat compassionately?

Yes, you most certainly can! The food choices we make are very important, and in ways you may not have thought about.

The ways we choose to eat have big effects on our economy, the environment, our healthcare system and certainly on animals.

The effects that I’ve focused on the most lately are how my eating choices affect my own health.

I’ve told many friends over the years about how I went vegetarian for three years in the early ’90s. About how the health effects were startling. About how I lost 90 lbs. About how it made me more serene, more at peace.

Well, back in ’95, I went back to eating meat, junk food and lots and lots of pasta. Plenty of sugar, as well.

And, as you might imagine, the results were not good.

So the direct effects to our health and well-being are a big deal. I don’t want to make this post all about me but let me just say that the issue of our food choices is a big deal for me again now because back on Earth Day, I eliminated meat and sugar from my diet.

The results–just as back in 1992–have been startlingly good. For me, the strategy is just to go back to what worked. It worked very well for me a quarter-century ago, and it’s working again.

How our food choices effect all those other things I mentioned earlier in this post are extremely important, of course.

Here is a link to a brief and excellent article that covers ten of the most important reasons why eliminating meat from your diet is a good way to go.

Because acting compassionately is at the very heart of our mission here at the FSF, the ways in which our food choices affect animals is a very big deal. Here’s an article that focuses mostly on that aspect of this issue.

Yes, we most certainly can eat compassionately!

And for many of us, choosing to love and protect animals rather than eating them could be a very good place to start.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Compassion is what they do

For most people who have a career or a job, there are always opportunities to care about the people you interact with each day.

Almost everybody has opportunities to act compassionately, to be the hand or the voice of compassion.

In some professions, acting compassionately is just what they do.

I’m not sure we can ever show appropriate gratitude to those in the nursing profession. But today is “their” day and I think that’s a wonderful thing.

If you know a nurse or come in contact with one today–or any day, for that matter–tell them you appreciate their compassionate care.

They do so much for so many; the patients committed to their care know very well how much people in the medical profession channel that spirit of compassion and love as they do what they do each day. Nurses, especially.

I went through repeated hospitalizations and a serious surgery back in 2014 and I was–and still am–in awe of the care nurses provide. It was almost overwhelming at the time and the memories of my time in their care are still fresh in my mind.

Show some gratitude to someone today. Especially if you “catch them” in an act of blatant compassion!

If it is someone in that esteemed profession, all the better!

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Drink the Wine of Violence

There have been times in the last two years when it seemed as though people who make policy or enforce the laws in our country have inverted our cherished and long-held values and ideals.

At times it almost seems as though they value heartlessness, advocate for cruel policies and practices and encourage or condone violent acts.

Because most of us have not seen such a sad spectacle in our lifetimes, it’s hard to imagine that problems like these are–for lack of a better word–normal.

Not normal in the sense that we should accept these terrible things. But in the sense that cruel, heartless people do take hold of the reigns of power from time to time and that when they do, cruelty and heartlessness begin to manifest and metastasize.

Things were no different when the writer of Proverbs recorded this text:

14 Do not enter the path of the wicked,
   and do not walk in the way of evildoers. 
16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
   they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble. 
17 For they eat the bread of wickedness
   and drink the wine of violence. 

from Proverbs, Chapter 4

These are dark days in our shared history. Dark, baleful days for people of faith. Especially those who will not bend the knee to Mammon nor worship a god of cruelty, rage and revenge!

But in spite of all the dark and tragic things going on around us right now, I can tell you this: countering anger and hate with more anger and hate will do nothing to change any of it!

Rather we must recommit ourselves to the values we have learned from our loving parents, our teachers, our Rabbis, Priests, Pastors and Imams.

The values of love, of community and of compassion.

Our hope is to be found in holding fast to these values.

Channeling the rage and hate we see all around us today will only further sicken our country and our kin.

We must choose love. We must choose compassion.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Compassion in Action

Sometimes the language we use when speaking or writing about things is pretty abstract. It’s always good to give more life, more substance, to your story by citing examples or giving more detail.

I talk about compassion a lot here on the site, talk about how urgent it is and so on.

Because you’re reading this, no doubt you’re on-board with that idea that compassion and acting compassionately are very important.

It wouldn’t be a bad thing to come up with a really good, a really clear example of someone acting compassionately.

Here we go: last Saturday night, Hanna Pignato, a waitress at the Joe’s Crab Shack on the Daytona Beach Pier noticed that a young swimmer in the ocean beneath her restaurant was struggling in a rip current.

Most folks would have hollered for a life guard or dialed 9-1-1.

Not Hanna. She gave her apron and wallet to a colleague and jumped into the sea.

Unfortunately for this hero, she hit a sandbar and broke her foot and fractured three vertebrae.

The swimmer was pulled to safety by someone else and Hanna was barely able to swim back to shore safely.

But the overarching fact here is that she put it all on the line. She acted compassionately, to say the least, when the limit of most folks’ compassion would have been to feel intensely sad if the boy had not ultimately been saved from the rip current.

Hanna is a hero. Her ennobling act of compassion stuns and inspires me.

Needless to say, her medical expenses are considerable. And her apartment is on the third floor so this is a big deal.

If you’re able to help Hanna, I hope you will. Click on this if you’d like to know how you can help.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.