The week before last, I was in Florida for a gathering of friars from the six U.S. provinces of Franciscans who will be merging into a single U.S. province within the next few years. The gathering was a retreat of sorts, led by the noted Franciscan writer and speaker, Richard Rohr, who some years ago founded the Center for Action and Contemplation based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Richard has written several books and has a new book due out in March called The Universal Christ. There were about 40 of us on the retreat and we each got a copy of one of his recent books, called Just This, which, on the dust jacket, is described as a book which “invites us to cultivate the gift of waking up to the beauty of reality in all its glorious ordinariness.” Also on the retreat was Murray Bodo, a friar based out of Cincinnati, who has written several books about St. Francis, including one which has been in print for 40 years called The Journey and the Dream which tells the story of St. Francis. It was a good few days in Florida, amid the “Danger! Alligators and Snakes in the Area, Stay Away from the Water” signs (we saw none), and good to meet friars from other parts of the country, as we look forward to a merger of provinces within the next few years.
Last weekend our parish was the cosponsor of a public screening of the film The Sultan and the Saint which tells the story of the encounter between St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan in the midst of the Crusades in the 13th century. The film was shown on the campus of North Carolina State University and the screening drew several hundred people, a mix of people from our own parish along with members of the local Muslim community. After the film a local Imam described St. Francis and the sultan as being voices that rose above the other voices of their time to speak of the possibility of peace in a fractured and divided world. Eight hundred years later, those voices continue to speak to us.
On Saturday, March 2, our parish is organizing a field trip to the International Civil Rights Center in Greensboro. The Center is housed in the former Woolworth’s building which was the place where four black college students asked to be served, were denied because of their color, and decided to stay at the counter and so begin the sit-in movement in the South for civil rights. The Center offers a powerful insight into the history of segregation right here in our own backyard.
This holiday weekend, I am away at Siena College for a regional gathering of friars, as we begin to plan for our own provincial chapter in June of 2020.
Blessings on your week!