Dear brothers and sisters,
Itís been a busy month! I spent a week in Nashville for the annual National Fraternity (NAFRA) meeting (the national version of the regional Chapter of Ministers), came home for a day, then flew to Seattle for a 10-day business trip. Not much time to do anything but the laundry in between! What Iíd like to share with you this month is a few reflections based on my experiences at the NAFRA meeting. You should have already seen Stephanie Sormaneís reflections in the SFO News - if not, please make sure you read them.
- Bless others - and not only by asking God to bless them. Based on a story Fr. Lester Bach shared, originally from Henri Nouwen, we can bless others by affirming them, their gifts, their contributions, why they matter. This was significant to me in this week particularly, because several people blessed me in that way in the course of the meeting. Besides making me feel really, really good, it gives me strength to persevere in the work I do for the SFO at the national level, even when at times we donít make a lot of progress due to the rest of our life commitments.
- Your life situation can change in an instant. One attendee tripped and fell the first morning we were there, and wound up with a serious fracture requiring surgery. At least we were only a couple of blocks from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, so she was in a good position to be cared for - but the fact of the matter was, her week - and weeks to come - were changed completely. You canít count on tomorrow - or even five minutes from now; all you can count on is NOW.
- Never forget that something that is easy for you may not be easy for others. Recognize that you may be called to give what is easy for you, not something thatís a challenge for you, because thatís your gift. The challenge may be in continuing to give your gift to others when you might choose to be doing something else (an aspect of our call to obedience). Another challenge is recognizing that the gift you have IS a gift and remembering to be grateful for it.
In a sense, during these meetings (and during the Quinquennials), we are living in community, with Eucharist, morning and evening prayer, meals, work, and recreation together. Itís no wonder we "bond" in these meetings. Every year, I get to be with "extended family" from around the country! As a member of a small family by birth, this is a special treat. Participating in the long days of the NAFRA meeting leaves me refreshed in my vocation (yes, tired too, but thatís OK). It reminds me how life-giving our relationships can be. I am also often reminded of how human we are, with all our faults and foibles, but that goes with the territory. We arenít perfect - but we are beloved by God, and we have a unique opportunity to grow in love as Secular Franciscans. What a blessing!