One of the values that we hold as Franciscans is the idea of mission, the root meaning of which is “to be sent” (the same root from which we get the word for “mass” – to be sent out into the world as modern-day disciples of Jesus Christ). Francis of Assisi himself left behind the security of the walls of his hometown of Assisi and went out into the world where he encountered and embraced lepers and eventually worked and ministered among them. He traveled to Egypt during the Crusades to encounter Muslims and to speak of peace. And so there is something about going out into other cultures, other countries, other places, and being open to receive what those places might have to offer. “Going out” was part of the experience for us friars during our years of formation – to South America, to Japan, to Mexico – and as anyone who has ever traveled in this world, you know that traveling opens us up to new things.
This summer is a summer of mission here at St. Francis. A group from here recently traveled to El Salvador as part of a Habitat for Humanity build project. A group of high school students traveled this past week to St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia to live and work among the poor in the inner city there. Later this summer a group from here is traveling to Guatemala to visit our sister parish there. And this Sunday a group is leaving for a ten-day trip to Morocco, and I will be traveling with that group. We will be meeting Franciscans who work among those who seek to migrate from Africa to Europe. We hope to meet a Trappist monk who worked among Muslims in Algeria for many years. The common element to all of these trips is “encounter,” a word that Pope Francis has used a lot, and the word implies moving past any real or imaginary boundaries that might come between peoples and cultures. That remains a central value for us as Franciscans.
Migration has been in the news a lot lately and it is always important for us as Franciscans, as Catholics, as citizens, to look to our own faith tradition for guidance in current policies. The following is a quote from Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaking on the policy of separating children from parents at the U.S./Mexico border: “Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma. Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”
Looking ahead to this summer: we will be offering a 3-part series in July on the recent apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis called “On the Call to holiness in Today’s World.” See elsewhere in this bulletin for more information. We also have one of our friars in formation named Casey Cole who will be here in early August speaking about his new booked “Called.” And in late September we are planning a Franciscan convocation with guest presenters on Franciscan themes – Saturday, September 29, so save the day!