February 2017 - Minister’s Message
Who is My Neighbor?
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
By Emma Lazarus
This morning I read a reflection on the issue of immigration written by Rev. Malachi Van Tassell, TOR, Ph.D., president of Saint Francis University. His message inspired me to put down my own thoughts on this issue and to share them with you. The issue has lately been a topic of discussion, dissention, demonstration, and nonstop news coverage, coming to the forefront just a little over a week after the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, due to his executive order that temporarily bans entrance to the United States for residents and non-residents from seven countries and suspends the current Syrian refugee program. Amid the turmoil surrounding this issue, what should be our response?
All of us living in the United States today, with the exception of Native Americans, are descendants of immigrants. Our ancestors left their homes and familiar lives behind and endured many hardships for opportunities to pursue their dreams and the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as our Founding Fathers stated in the Declaration of Independence. Although ensuring the safety of its citizens and control of its borders are top priorities of any governmental administration, is the action of denying these opportunities to newcomers, even though temporary, compatible with our values as a nation? Is this action compatible with our Catholic and Franciscan values? What should be our response? Whether you support President Trump’s policies generally or oppose them, our Catholic and Franciscan response must be to stand in solidarity with those who are seek a better life and hope to find it in our great nation – and to assist them in doing so.
In his reflection, Father Malachi made these points:
Catholic social teaching on immigration is rooted in the experience of the Israelite community of the Old Testament. After being oppressed in ancient Egypt, and after being led into the Promised Land by Moses, the Lord repeatedly reminded the Israelites, “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9) … In the New Testament Jesus says, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) ...
The Catholic Church, in its stand on immigration, points first and foremost to the dignity of the individual person. (The U.S. Bishops frequently call to mind the Catholic Church’s roots in this country as an immigrant Church.) The Catholic Church puts into action Matthew 25, rendering aid to all people without regard to documented or undocumented status. If a so-called “illegal alien” is hungry, the Catholic Church feeds the person.
Similarly, the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order gives ample guidance in this matter:
Article 12. Witnessing to the good yet to come and obliged to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.
Article 13. As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ. A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.
Article 15. Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.
Father Dan Horan, OFM, in his three presentations on “Mercy and Minority in the Franciscan Tradition” at the “Q” in St. Louis this past summer, offered a challenge to live our faith and our Rule more fully in regard to “Creation & Poverty,” “Violence & Peacemaking,” and “Racism & Xenophobia.” His last presentation on “Racism & Xenophobia” was especially challenging, thought-provoking, and particularly apropos to this current issue. If you missed the “Q” you can order the video from the NAFRA website.
Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34-35) and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). These words are challenging – yet, this is what Jesus asks of us. We are not unlike the young man whose response was, “Who is my neighbor?” These days, answering this question can move us out of our comfort zones. If so, educating ourselves about the issues that make us uncomfortable is an appropriate Franciscan response.
To learn more about this particular issue, I invite you to participate in the Summer Seminar for OFS at Saint Francis University this summer, July 6-9. The seminar topic is: Multiculturalism and Diversity: Who is my Neighbor? Within the next month or so, additional information about the seminar and the speakers will be made available.
In closing, I urge you to reflect and pray about these troubling issues and how you will confront them in your life. Serendipitously, Kathleen White’s TAU-DAILY this morning offered the following:
Prayer to St. Francis for Fidelity to the Rule
from the Secular Franciscan Companion
Holy father, loving and most beloved St. Francis,
I beseech you by the holy wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ,
which were imprinted on your body,
assist me to govern the five senses of my body according to the will and pleasure of almighty God.
Intercede for me, so that I may be most faithful in the observance of your Rule of Penance.
Obtain for me contrition and devotion, faith, hope, and charity, patience, and purity of body and soul, together with the grace of persevering in the service of our Lord; so that after this life I may merit to come to you, and with you to enjoy eternal happiness, which I hope through your intercession to obtain from Christ our Lord. Amen
Peace and all good!
Pat Serotkin, OFS
January 31, 2017