Greetings of peace, dear Franciscan Family!

I pray this finds you well and filled with the peace of our loving Lord.

I wish you all a Happy New Year as we celebrate this World Day of Peace; through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God. I take this occasion to highlight a few things from Pope Francis in his World Day of Peace message entitled, “Good politics is at the service of peace.”

Our Holy Father begins by stating that “Bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples. That peace is offered to all those men and women who long for peace amid the tragedies and violence that mark human history.”

I needn’t remind you that we do live in violent times and our very lives and vocations call us to be bearers of peace in this world. “Pope Benedict XVI noted that ‘every Christian is called to practice charity in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis… When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have… Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family’”

It is our Christian responsibility to practice charity at all times; and it is our Franciscan call that reminds us that all are brothers and sisters in Christ – especially those we find difficult to be charitable towards. These are the times we must not only soften our hearts but also our words. It is very easy to get caught up in the “mob mentality” in the polis. Yet, our vocation and profession calls us to a higher standard. We must place Christ at the heart and center of all that is; then we focus all our attention on Jesus, who is represented in the faces of all those we dislike or disagree with.

It is no accident that the message for this new year speaks to the political arena. There are those of the mind that Franciscans have no place in politics. Both Jesus and Francis ministered in the heart of the political sphere because this is where the “least of these” resided and were ignored. It is in this political arena where we must pray, learn and act for justice, to right the wrongs done to our brothers and sisters who have no recourse and are left to fend for themselves.

This month marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that women have the right to choose abortions. We as Franciscans strongly advocate for the right to the life of the unborn – a political action. Every January, there is a March for Life in Washington, D..C. Many of us attend and give heart and voice for the voiceless, the unborn. This is political action at its best. And I personally thank you for it!

But let us not stop there. There is so much to be done in the name of our Lord. This month is also Poverty Awareness Month, Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month as well as when we pray for Christian unity. Yes, my family, there is much to be done in the public arena. The God of Peace has called us to this amazing and difficult work, and I am not willing to disappoint Him. In this new year there is so much to be thankful for as our Lord continues to bless us in our comings and goings. Should we not bless others as we have been blessed?

Thank you for your hearts, your minds and your hands that work for peace and justice. I pray that this year bear much fruit and produce great works in the public arena. It is also my prayer that we continue the good work that God began in us with compassion and civility. Imagine every conversation as a sacred moment with our Lord, who always listens with the ears of faith, hope and love. My heart is full because the greatest of these is love.

Attached please find some goodies to help you pray, learn and study the plight of those living in poverty (Daily Ways to Learn about Poverty in America – January 2019: Calendar, Full Text).

I wish you love, joy, peace, and a very blessed New Year!

Carolyn D. Townes, OFS
National Animator,
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation
U.S. Secular Franciscan Order

See Christ, Be Christ.
Share the Vision!
(OFS-USA 2019 Theme)