Forgiveness and Mercy: A Holy Union

Image: Israel Tourism.

Each year I’m privileged to visit the Holy Land to promote the nearly 800-year-old mission of the Franciscans there. With each visit, I discover something new. God is always at work, opening up new insights for any pilgrim who visits this ancient land. This spring I spent nearly a week with the friars who live at and minister in the great Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. During my stay I explored this modern church—consecrated in 1969—each day with my camera, photographing the contemporary artwork and striking architecture which helps the visitor come closer to the mystery of the Incarnation.

God Is Not Fair (in the Best Possible Way)

Image: Joshua Stannard.

I’m always struck by the zealous insistence of fairness as a rule that first appears in childhood when parents pronounce a decision that some child renders unjust: “That’s not fair!” Growing up with three younger brothers, this experience was all too common throughout my early life. Sometimes it was an older brother like me who was given extra leeway, which upset the younger siblings who wanted the same freedom. Other times it was the younger brothers who were permitted to do something or stay up later than the older siblings were at that age, which seemed unfair in retrospect. In both cases, the feeling was one of personal slight.

Pope Francis: ‘Build Mercy in the Home’


Pope Francis cares deeply about the health and happiness of today’s families. Just seven months into his papacy, he announced that he would host an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to discuss the pastoral challenges facing modern families. Only twice before in the fifty years since Pope Paul VI established the Synod of Bishops has a pope called an “extraordinary” synod, which signals the urgency and importance of the chosen theme. The discussions on the family began in October 2013 in Rome, and they have since sparked conversations in millions of homes and parishes around the world.

The Search for Real J.O.Y.



Our pope has a huge amount of Twitter followers. We’ve seen him pose for plenty of selfies with Catholics of all ages during his papal audiences and during his travels. Taking selfies can be a good and a wholesome thing and can even promote the joy of the Lord. It’s all in the intent and the approach. Looking at selfies through the lenses of faith and the eyes of Christ will keep us grounded morally, spiritually, and legally as well.

Mother Teresa: 'My God Is Called Love'

One day, Mother Teresa took in a woman off the streets of Calcutta. Her body was a mess of open sores infested with bugs. Mother Teresa patiently bathed her, cleaning and dressing her wounds. The woman never stopped shrieking insults and threats at her. Mother Teresa only smiled.

Saint Francis and the Word of God

Image: Han Cheng Yeh, flickr.

God our Father we ask you to send your Holy Spirit into our midst and into our hearts, that this Spirit may enable us to be in union with you and with your Son.

We also ask that Mary and all the angels and saints, especially Saint Francis, will pray for us that you, Father, may enable us to realize more fully your desire that we simply be like your Son as we live our human lives, and that we might do that better if we appreciate the Word that you have given us—the Word that we read in holy Scripture. 

Be with us then, Father, through your Spirit and hear our prayer, which we make through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saint Francis' Canticle: All Creatures are One Family

Image: electricksheep.

As a Franciscan friar for over 50 years, I am very familiar with the stories of Saint Francis of Assisi and animals. Many of you no doubt are familiar with the story of this brown-robed friar preaching to the birds. Or maybe that of his releasing Brother Rabbit from a trap, or letting Sister Raven serve as his “alarm clock” to awaken him for early morning prayers. Historians have credited Francis with composing the first great poem in Italian—a poem or hymn that bears the title The Canticle of Brother Sun (also known as The Canticle of the Creatures). In this hymn, Saint Francis invites all his brother and sister creatures—whether minerals, plants or animals—to praise their Creator. These creatures include “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon,” “Brother Fire” and “Sister Water,” as well as “Sister Earth our Mother,” with all her various fruits and colored flowers.

Where Saint Francis Walked

Chiesa Nuova, Assisi | Riccardo Cuppini
Image: Chiesa Nuova, Assisi | Riccardo Cuppini.

Francis’ Birthplace

This small church in the form of a Greek cross (nave and transept are of equal length) was completed in 1619, financed by King Philip III of Spain. Standing very close to the Piazza Comune, the center of the medieval city, is the church where Pietro Bernardone’s cloth shop once stood. The family lived on the upper floors. 

Finding Saint Francis and Saint Clare

Finding AssisiImage: Mirco.

The Swiss Air flight from Zurich to Rome is the last stretch on a journey that’s proven one thing: I am simply not built for long flights. I’m taller than average: long on legs, short on tolerance for tight spaces. Sleep is impossible and sitting still for hours is a chore.

It’s my mind, though, that is my true adversary: Every time I’m in the air, Don McLean’s “American Pie” plays in my head like a cerebral iPod with a grudge. But all fears and discomfort vanish as our airplane descends over a spectacular Italian wheat field ablaze with a gold I have never seen. I know I’m not in Cincinnati anymore.

Saint Francis and Pope Francis

 Pope Francis in Assisi at an interfaith meeting
Image: Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople watch as children wave a copy of a peace document during an interfaith peace gathering outside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Sept. 20. The event marked the 30th anniversary of the first peace encounter.(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In 2013, when Pope Francis came to Assisi for the feast of Saint Francis, I happened to be there as a guide with a group of pilgrims making the Assisi Pilgrimage Program, which coincided with Saint Francis’ feast day.

It was a cold, wet October 4, but no one seemed to mind, knowing that Pope Francis would be there the whole day, which began just outside the city walls at the Serafico Institute, a religious charitable institution that treats seriously disabled children. He spent a good 40 minutes there greeting each one of the over 100 children and, in his brief remarks, reminding the staff of their wonderful responsibility in tending to the wounds of Christ and telling the children how special they were
to Jesus.