Thursday night I gathered with two friars, three secular franciscans and two St. Bonaventure University students to present and evening that was entitled, “Prayer, fasting and almsgiving in a Modern World.” The group of us are part of an outreach to local parishes from the Mount Irenaeus Franciscan Retreat. The total group including us was about twenty-five or maybe thirty folks. Each of us on the outreach teamm played a part in presenting or facilitating the evening. These evenings have become very popular because they are informal yet very healing and restorative for all who.

The church and in its traditional liturgy can seem a little distant at times. During these programs we begin by inviting everyone there to introduce themselves and tell where they are from. One of our group invites us into a ten minute period of centering prayer and silent reflection. After the prayer there are several readings, a short homily, and an invitation to sharing by all present. At first people are reluctant. An invitation to share can be frightening to someone who’s never had that experience before. Some of our group shared about their recent mission trip to the gulf coast of the United States. They shared how living in unfamiliar circumstances and sleeping in tents can be an act of fasting and almsgiving. Their willingness to share was an invitation to others who began to share how the Holy Spirit is working in and through their lives. As usual the evening proved to be very rich for everyone involved. As our evening drew to a close we had a period prayer and petition followed by the Lord’s Prayer. We ended our evening by leaving all with a sign of Christ’s peace. In our ministry we do that by embracing each other and those who had come. There is a great leap between a handshake and an embrace and it’s very Franciscan. Peace and all good.

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