Once upon a time one day, the president of the Women’s Guild visits the ailing pastor. “Father,” she says, “I have good news and I have bad news.” “Give me the good news first, please,” the pastor responds. “The good news is that the Women’s Guild voted to send you a get-well card.” “Well,” he says, “What’s the bad news?” She blurts out, “The vote passed by 31-30.”

Lent, my brothers and sisters, is a time of mercy…God’s mercy. God gives us light and life everyday. According to the Jesuit Father, John Keenan, mercy is the “willingness to enter into the chaos of another.” The key word here is “willingness.” Are we willing to enter into mercy with others or do we send them screaming into the darkness?

A long time ago, the Israelites forget that they belong to God. They convince themselves that everything is all right because they can walk out of their homes and see the temple. Seven times a day in the courtyards of the temple prayer is chanted, whispered, shouted, mumbled and spoken. But also they think that since God resides with them, they can do anything they want. Sooner or later the temple is destroyed and the people go screaming into the darkness. That is, until the Persians conquer the land. That is when King Cyrus is merciful. He chooses to enter into their pain and restore the temple.

Lent, brothers and sisters, is a time of God’s mercy. AND, who-among-us-is-not-in-need-of-mercy, God’s mercy? Here is a simple example of how two people enter into each other’s chaos. It is a Sunday in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Business is slow for Claire Hudson who is a waitress in a burger joint working double shift. A couple comes into the restaurant, orders their meals. They eat and leave. What happens when Claire cleans up the table astounds her. Even though the bill is about $30.00, the couple leaves Claire a $36.00 tip with a note on the back of the receipt: “Today is my brother’s b-day. He would have been 36 today. Every year I go eat his favorite meal (hot dogs) and tip the waitress his age. Happy B-day Wes.”[1]

For God so loves the world that God desires to enter into my chaos. Everyday grace is available and I continue to run away into the darkness. Would it help to know that God does not condemn me? Would I be better knowing that God loves me and waits patiently for me as I stand in the corner licking my wounds? God is mercy. I do not need a get-well card or a welcome committee. I just need holy desire. In the words of my grandmother, “There for the grace of God, go I.”

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

Laetare Sunday







Love: Don’t Waste Your Time

These ideas today come Bishop Robert Barron.

“…the love of God and neighbor are inextricably bound to one another.”   If we do not know the English language, the word, “inextricably,” means, “intimately.”

“If we love God, but hate our neighbors, we’re wasting our time.”

Mother Teresa

St. Teresa of Calcutta

copyright, St. Procopius Abbey

Photo by the late Fr. Robert Buday, O.S.B.

Reversing the Pain (A word about forgiveness)

Forgiveness is a hallmark of Christianity.

But who does not have a problem with that word?  Since forgiveness or the lack of it is something we all have in common, we might want to read the small paperback, Forgive and Forget, by Lewis Smedes.

Smedes says that sometimes it is best to talk about what forgiveness is NOT:

  1. Forgiving is not forgetting.
  2. Excusing is not forgiving.
  3. Forgiving is not the same as smothering conflict.
  4. Accepting people is not forgiving them.
  5. Forgiving is not tolerance.

Maybe it will help to know that St. Peter struggles with forgiveness just like we struggle with it.  He is the one who asks the Lord about the exact number of times we need to forgive.  Whether we struggle to forgive people visible or invisible, or, people who do not care, or, monsters, or, yes, even God, know that we only torture ourselves as we hang onto the pain.

The prophet Daniel tells us that prayer helps.  God can work wonders, but so does reversing the flow of pain.  According to Lewis Smedes, the definition of forgiveness is reversing the pain.  In the ebb and flow we can allow God’s grace to fill the box of darkness.


The jail cell of St. Thomas More, the Tower of London

copyright, Fr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B., 2009


Spring Cleaning- ‘Ay- There’s the Rub!’

Once upon a time, Mr. Smith makes an appointment to speak with his boss. “Boss,” he says,” my wife and I are planning some heavy spring-cleaning for tomorrow. My wife needs me to help clean the attic and the garage, moving and hauling out some heavy old furniture.” “Well, Tom,” remarks the boos, “We’re short handed this week. I can’t give you the day off.” “Thanks, boss,” Tom says gleefully, “I knew I could count on you.”

We can read the cleansing of the temple in all four Gospels. St. John places this powerful account at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. Jesus intends to “clean house.” And all of us are in need of a little spring-cleaning.

We begin with the Ten Commandments. Without looking, can we name them? There are the first three: One God, love God’s name, worship God on the special day. Then there are the last seven: honor your parents, and, do not…kill, adultery, steal, or bear false witness, and, keep your hands off of private property. Now, we are probably pretty good at keeping the commandments. We pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves on a job well done. But, “Ay, there’s the rub!”

Notice at the end of John’s story of the cleansing of the temple, the Gospel reads that Jesus does not need anyone to tell him about human nature…”he himself understood it well?” If we take inventory of our actions, something always rears its ugly head. We think that we are good at keeping the Ten Commandments but remember a few years ago when a Congressional Representative was challenged to name them he “hemmed and hawed.”

A theologian by the name of Dan Clendenin says that he reads the cleansing of the temple as “a warning against false security.” What don’t we name some of them?

  1. Religious presumption: “God loves me! God does not love you.”
  2. Pathetic excuses: “But, God…”
  3. Smug self-satisfaction: “Wow, God, I got it made.”
  4. Spiritual complacency: “God, how about tomorrow?”
  5. Nationalistic zeal: “God, apple pie, white America, and guns.”
  6. Political idolatry and economic greed: “God gave 17% of the world’s people the right to consume 80% of the world’s resources.  These are some of the tables Jesus overturns every-time he gets a chance.

In the words of St. Paul, human nature likes to look for signs and wisdom. But there is no sign or wisdom apart from Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ is liberating but we only arrive at freedom by spring- cleaning. As we come forward for Holy Communion, our Boss will give us the day off to clean house. May we use this time wisely!

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

The 3rd Sunday of Lent Cycle B

Magenta Purple Vestment




You Shall Find Blessing

Once upon a time, a clergy family decides to let their three-year-old son record the message for their home answering machine. The rehearsals go smoothly: “Mommy and Daddy can’t come to the phone right now. If you’ll leave your name, phone number, and a brief message, they’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”  Then comes the test. The father presses the record button and their son says sweetly, “Mommy and Daddy can’t come to the phone right now. If you’ll leave your name, phone number, and a brief message, they’ll get back to you as soon as Jesus appears.”

Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain. As they do so, Jesus is transfigured. St. Mark uses the word, “metamorphosis” (μεταμορφοσις). Biologically, it is a growth process, an immature form becoming an adult form. Theologically, Jesus becomes a resplendent form with a divine brightness. So, what does this mean for us today?

We begin with Abraham and Sarah. Growing up in a pagan culture, they begin to uncover another faith. The gods of nature and fire do not exist. There is only one God. This God loves them, cares for them, directs them and protects them. This God leads them to another land far from their home but they trust God. Their faith also brings them God’s promise: a son to carry on Abraham’s name. Yet, somehow they cannot shake the belief that God wants their supreme sacred gift: the sacrifice of Isaac. It does not happen because the faith of Abraham and Sarah reaches an adult stage, a complete form- God does not desire Isaac’s death. Their faith undergoes a metamorphosis and in the words of the angel: “[You] shall find blessing.”

St. Paul undergoes a metamorphosis too. This persecuting Pharisee undergoes a transfiguration. His immature faith comes to terms with Jesus as Lord and Savior. He becomes a resplendent form with a divine brightness- literally falling to the ground as he speaks to the Risen Christ. His transformation is the foundation of his belief that if Christ acquits us who can condemn us?

Who among us today does not look for a metamorphosis- a change from the immature to the adult? In the middle of the Transfiguration, the Holy Spirit overshadows everyone. The divine voice speaks and tells Peter, James and John to listen to Jesus with the ears of their hearts. What do our hearts say to us today? I act out too much. I swear too much. I drink too much. I hate too much. I isolate too much. I fear too much. I run away too much. I do not know what to do too much.

As we continue our Lenten journey, remember the psalm response for today. “I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.” It is as if the Lord holds us up by our arms helping us to walk. When we decide to walk to the left, God directs us to the right. When our legs weaken, God holds us up and urges us to continue. But remember this- half the work is our task. Like Abraham and Sarah, cooperating with the Spirit helps us to hear God say, “You shall find blessing.”


The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

2nd Sunday of Lent

Cycle B




America: Lost in the Desert

Of course we remember this song~

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
there’s a land that I have heard of once in a lullaby
somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
and wake up where the clouds are far behind me
where troubles melt like lemon drops
way above the chimney tops that’s where you’ll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
birds fly over the rainbow why then oh why can’t I?

I think that one of the most important lines from that song today is…there’s a land that I have heard of once in a lullaby…It is the land of the rainbow. It is that promise that God makes to Noah. Never ever again will God wipe out the entire earth with a flood! Though God can wipe out all of us, God does not have to do that dastardly deed. We humans are doing a great job of destroying ourselves.

Like Jesus, America is in a desert. The lesson is the same. But how Jesus got there and how we got there differ greatly.

St. Mark tells us that the Spirit pushes Jesus out into the desert. There in the desert are the wild beasts, the heat, the hunger, the loneliness and the voices. In the words of the scriptural theologian, Walter Brueggemann, there are two voices. There is the “assuring voice of God.” This is the voice that propels Jesus into that out-of-the-way place. It is the voice of protection and deliverance. But it is always countered by a second voice. It is the voice of the “Adversary,” Satan. It is the voice “that mocks and seduces men and women of faith, making easy promises, issuing facile invitations, urging acts that are against our faith and our identity.” One is the voice of promise supported by the ministry, the diaconal service of angels. The other one is the voice of seduction whispered by the wild beasts of society.  I wonder if it is these whispers of the wild beasts that have led us Americans into the desert.

On Ash Wednesday of all days, a young man with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle assassinates seventeen people. He wounds fourteen others.  Many of our elected officials offer “thoughts and prayers,” and they lecture us about the “mentally disturbed.” These are the words of the wild beasts. Jesus goes into the desert and pours out his divinity. We go into the desert and we choose to become a “god.” And, we think, gods have rights…to the dollars of the lobbyists…to freedom…with guns especially assault rifles. Our song is no longer “somewhere over the rainbow.” Our tune is now “somewhere in the desert among the wild beasts.”

The day after the school shooting newspapers publish a photo taken by an AP photographer. It is a parent, a woman, embracing another parent, a woman. Both are crying. They are the modern “Madonnas,” the “Rachels,” grieving for their children. What is so profound is the black cross of ashes etched on the forehead of one these women. In the words of St. Peter, the redemption of Christ leads us to God. But we are struggling to get to God as a country. We are rudderless people searching for the ark that was once our protection. In the words of the Jesuit Father, James Martin: “I am tired God. I’m tired of the unwillingness to see this as an important issue. I’m tired of those in power to prevent any real change. I’m tired of those say that gun violence can’t be reduced.”

As we approach Holy Communion, recall the words that the Church spoke to us on Ash Wednesday, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Every sin is in need of redemption; the teenagers of our country are now calling us to that change. In the words of St. Benedict in chapter three of his Rule, “…the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.” Maybe through them they will help us to rediscover that land we once heard in a lullaby.

The Rev. Fr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

The First Sunday of Lent

Cycle B


Parkland school shooting

Parents wait for news after reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)



Ash Wednesday: Change the Routine

When I was a young innocent monk, I read a book entitled, The Life of Little Placid. Basically, this short fiction describes Benedictine Spirituality.  One such page is titled, “How, through imprudence, Little Placid committed murder.”  Then below the title is a drawing of a monk dead on the floor and two other monks trying to revive him.  Below the picture is this caption:  All Little Placid said was:  “‘The vows & the Rule are made to be observed & the Office to be lived.” ‘Hearing this, Father Routine suffered a heart attack & died on the spot.’

It is Lent.  Time to change the routine.

When the sisters and I trace the Sign of the Cross on your forehead, you will hear the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”  If we look for repentance, then change the routine.

Repent comes from the word, metanoia (metanoia).  There are three stages to it:

  1. Transform the mind.
  2. Stop and turn around.
  3. Walk in the opposite direction.

Now, we Catholics are great at giving things up for Lent, e.g., smoking, alcohol, candy, biting the nails, swearing, etc….  But after Lent am I a changed person?  Will I go back to those things?  St. Benedict suggests in chapter forty-nine of his Rule, that we do extra things.  Since, we are to change the routine and believe in the Gospel, what if we take seriously the words of Jesus today.  Change the routine…Pray more.  Change the routine- Give more.  Change the routine?  Abstain more.  In the words of St. Paul, change the routine and believe in the Gospel makes us ambassadors for Christ.

Happy Lent!

Fr. Becket, O.S.B.

New Cross (2)




Who Lives Outside the Camp?

What is it like to live outside the camp?

We have no concept of what it was like to be declared a leper in ancient days. If the priests declared me unclean, they thrust me from my home. I lived in poverty, begging for bread and shelter. I lived outside the camp, outside the city. I wore torn clothes with my head barren but my face covered. If I even got close to people they required me to carry a stick with bells for they required me to warn people that I was unclean. Society did not care if I developed a blister or a rash or even if I had leprosy. When the priests declared me unclean I remained unclean.

This is the background Jesus walks into when he encounters a leper. It is forbidden for the leper to approach Jesus. But it is forbidden for Jesus to speak with him, let alone touch him. Guess what? Neither of them cares about the law. The leper kneels down and bows to the ground. Jesus speaks to him and touches him. Both of them break the law and they do not care. Why? First, the leper loses nothing. He gains everything if he receives the healing. And Jesus? Mark tells us that Jesus is moved with pity for the leper. Marks means to tell us that deep within his bowels Jesus feels something for this outcast. Is it compassion? Is it mercy? Remember the definition of mercy according to Fr. James Keenan, SJ: It is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another. Jesus says to the leper outside the camp: “I do will to enter into your chaos. Be cleansed.” Now this is a scriptural story that describes the compassion of God. How does it concern us?

We can begin by asking, who lives outside the camp in our country and in our church?

If you are a teenager at a new high school, maybe you live outside the camp. At a Boca Raton High School, Denis Estimon arrives in the United States from Haiti at the age of six. Loneliness and rejection remind him of his life outside the camp. So, in high school he decides never to allow his classmates to live outside the circle. He forms a club and names it “We Dine Together.” Their mission is to go out into the school and make sure that no one starves for company, especially at the lunch table. One young man gives up football and a possible college scholarship to do what he wants to do- save fellow students. But you know something? This is a safe story. Inside we feel good about Denis Estimon forming a club to include other students.

But what about the Mexican man who cuts our grass or the Polish woman who cleans our house? Ever ask them about the expense of a green card to work here legally? Ever wonder about how long it takes to apply for citizenship? What about the gay person who marries and works for the church? Ever wonder about their fears and trepidations?

In the words of St. Paul, avoid giving offense and seek the benefit of the many so that God may save them. May Holy Communion never be used as a moralizing weapon to exclude people from the mercy of God! Here in this holy place, we imitate Christ who reaches into our chaos and says, “I do will it. Be cleansed.”

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

6th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle B

new-peaceable-kingdom (2)




The Good Will of a Soul Half Full

Once upon a time, someone in the house leaves a glass with water on the counter. The optimist walks into the room and says, “The glass is half-full.” The pessimist walks into the room and says, “The glass if half-empty.” Mom walks into the room and says, “Who left this glass here?”

“Life is difficult,”[1] says M. Scott Peck. I don’t need to tell you that idea. You already know that life can be very difficult. What matters is how you and I find redemption. We find redemption based on how we see the glass: is it half-full, or, is it half-empty?

Job sees the glass half-empty. Life becomes drudgery. He is miserable, restless and sad. Job’s life is comparable to a hired hand, paid to clean up someone else’s garbage; destined day after day to wait in long lines for his day’s wages despairing the light of day because the morning always brings despair. In the midst of his pain, he directs a powerful question at God: WHY? Instead of seeking redemption, Job seeks answers.

On the other hand we know Jesus who sees the glass half-full. After preaching at the synagogue in Capernaum, Peter and Andrew invite Jesus to their home. When they walk in and Peter finds his mother-in-law in bed with a fever. Now, keep in mind some important things here. It is the Sabbath day. Any type of work is forbidden: cooking, cleaning, walking great distances and yes, even healing. They are forbidden for on the seventh day, God rests. And, for a man to come close to an unclean person, let alone a woman, was even worse. But Jesus sees the glass half-full. Life is preaching the Gospel and much of the Gospel is healing. So they inform Jesus about Peter’s mother-in-law. He grasps her hand. She arises and Jesus heals her.

According to the great philosopher, St. Albert the Great, trials (such as physical hardships, temptations and hypocrisies) are but distractions from our relationship with God. They are like flies that buzz about our heads and in front of our faces. They try our patience. They lead us into anger and despair. If we see the glass half-empty then we are in need of good will. St. Albert says that we can offer God nothing more valuable than a good will in the soul. Doing the good is the mother of all virtues. A friend of mine if don of saying, “All we need to do is the next right thing.”

My brothers and sisters, besides Jesus, the one true disciple is Peter’s mother-in-law. Notice what she does when Jesus grasps her hand and she arises. She does not wallow in self-pity. She does not bemoan her condition as someone without rights in society. After the fever leaves Peter’s mother-in-law…she waits on them. The word means, “to serve,” and, “to minister.” It is related to our word, “diaconate.” Peter’s mother-in-law does not just wait on tables or on her family’s needs. She serves them in holiness. Her ministry is a holy deed and an extension of the ministry of Christ. This nameless woman sees the glass half-full.  Ironically enough, Peter and the others spend their morning looking for Jesus. Not because of wanting the good, but wanting another healing, or, another miracle.

Good will is not easy. And we may leave the glass in the room. But that is ok because when Jesus sees the glass there he will want to know to whom does it belong. He wants to top it off with grace.

~ Fr. Becket Franks, O.S.B.

[1] The Road Less Traveled

Mother Teresa

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

copyright, St. Procopius Abbey

Picture by Robert Buday, O.S.B.


Looking for Trouble

Once upon a time, there are three guys named Shut Up, Mind Your Own Business and Trouble. Now, these three like to ride around in the car lot when they get bored.  One day, Trouble hangs out the window and falls out. But the other two keep going. They drive a long time, when suddenly, a cop pulls them over. The cop asks, “Please state your names.” “Shut Up and Mind Your Own Business,” one of them responds.  So, the cop asks again, “One more time, what are your names?” “Shut Up and Mind Your Own Business.” Finally, the cop ends with this question: Are you looking for trouble?”  Just then, both of the guys in the car say, “Yea we lost him five miles back!”

A prophet always looks for trouble.  A prophet always speaks in the name of God.  Some work themselves into frenzy behavior.  Others speak clearly and distinctly.  Others prophesy through symbol and metaphor.  But the divine mission is clear:  a prophet speaks in the name of God and the people better listen.  If they do not, then it is the task of the prophet to muzzle the people so that they can pay attention to the divine message.

But there are also false prophets- people who speak not in the name of God but in their own name.  These people falsely proclaim words that seem popular.  False prophets pronounce a message that seems like the Word of God but in the end, it is nothing more than a message that furthered the prophet’s own selfish good.  False prophets tickle peoples’ ears.  False prophets speak soothing words that please people, especially the ruler.  According to the greatest prophet, Moses, this type of people is evil.

Then there are the crazies in religion, who think that if they jump up and down screaming and shouting they too preach God’s Word.  They think that they own Jesus if they keep yelling out his name.  They think that they own religion, or the church.  They use the name of God to condemn others.  They use the bible for their own myopic ends.  The unclean spirit yells out the name of Jesus, it screams out the catechism and church tradition, and even falls on the authority of the church magisterium to police others’ theology.  Recall Jesus’ reaction to the man with the unclean spirit:  BE MUZZLED AND LEAVE HIM!

Notice that the person with the impure and unatoned spirit inhabits the synagogue.  Many times, in the Gospels, this type of spirit does not live in dark damp caves.  We find it in the church.  And it needs to be exorcised.  To illustrate, recall the annual “March for Life” in Washington, D.C., on January 19.  Hundreds of thousands of people march to protest Roe vs. Wade and to announce their support for life issues.  But this year something takes place during the event that needs addressing.  They invite the president to speak.  Now, there are Catholics who utterly delight in the fact that finally we have a president who is not only pro-life but speaks at a rally that is predominately Christian and Roman Catholic.  But I agree with the critics and it must be stated here on a Sunday in church.  To Quote Haley Stewart, an unapologetic pro-life supporter:

It is not that Mr. Trump has character flaws and should therefore be excluded from supporting a good cause. Regardless of his alleged extramarital relationships with porn stars, his mocking of people with disabilities, his historically pro-choice stance, his defense of Planned Parenthood during the presidential debates (surely, I do not need to go on), as Catholics we believe no one is undeserving of redemption. We can and should laud good legislation that protects the vulnerable without having to give a stamp of approval to the character of the politicians supporting it. And if we required perfection from everyone who marched today, we would have an empty event.

The primary problem is not with [His] past sins, it is that the policies he currently supports are inconsistent with his claim in his address today that “every life is sacred.” And where do we begin? His inhumane deportation policies? His seeming belief that the value of lives from prosperous countries are worth more than those from poor—or as he allegedly put it, “shithole”—countries? His threats to end thousands of lives with nuclear war? Legislation that benefits the wealthy while treating the poor with disdain? I’ll let you choose; the list is a mile long. By making Donald Trump a figurehead for this movement, organizers of the March for Life offer not a consistent and beautiful ethic of life, but a farce, a brazen hypocrisy.[i]

In the words of Saint Paul, we need to be free of worry and anxiety.  As Christians our first task every day is to muzzle those inner voices that scream hate, vengeance, and malicious talk.  As we come forward for Holy Communion, recall that these sins do not belong in our church.  Jesus muzzled and exorcised them in the synagogue.  It is time that we shut them up in our church.

The Rev. Fr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

4th Sunday

Ordinary Time