St. Philip the Apostle Relic

The May 3, 2019 news item on our Province Website, “The Journey of a Relic of St. Philip the Apostle” is a reference point for a new post about the history of St. Philip the Apostle Roman Catholic Community, on their parish website. Both of these posts refer to the July 2, 2018 presentation of The Relic of St. Philip to the pastor by our own Friar Alex Cymerman, OFM Conv. (at left), with the aid of our Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv.
Friar Alex’ brother, Richard is a very active member of Cheektowaga, NY parish and the reliquary housing the relic was a gift to the parish, by the Cymerman family.

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Reflection on LIFE ~ Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.

Lost Innocence and Courage in a World Changed
1 Cor 1:3-9
…grace of God enriched you with all discourse and knowledge.
Christ will keep you firm to the end ….;
Lk 1: 39-56
“the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”

God’s outcomes are God’s. Courage admits lost innocence that we have different thoughts, that thinking itself has changed and what is called thinking has changed. Courage stands for the sanctity of life and to call out those who have vacuumed out the recognition that everyone knows. Religiously speaking, it is still possible to see that Christ has done something for us by becoming Incarnate and dying on the Cross and His Resurrection out of love not because of sin. Courage reclaims Christ as Savior and Redeemer. John Locke reduces Him to being an example.
Truth wins because it is truth. “We have rights because we have duties.”[1] St. John Henry Newman could not be clearer. Look deeper. On the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of the Unborn, all who believe in the rights of the unborn, without exception, remember forward with calm, courage, hope and joyously, the sanctity of life. The remnant remembers the need in modernity for a “thick form” of reason, science and morality to rebuild what Christianity can be. Christianity’s innocence is gone. To many, Christianity has been neutralized, left to a remnant, too often with artifacts that satisfy aesthetic appeal. To be Christian is reduced to decoration.
The deeply charged issue of life was opened up long before the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1973. It rests upon us, clearly a remnant of Christianity, to carry forward the argument for the sanctity of life to be articulated with ever greater clarity because the “gift” of modernity enables us to understand life in the womb like never before. Cheerers at the gift of greater scientific recognition are met with weepers who refuse to accept what everyone knows about life and is verified by scientific truth. Opposition to belief and to reason persists. The failure is to admit what everyone knows, the unborn have a right to life. Fortunately, not only Christians believe that God is the giver of life.
The initial attractiveness of systems of thought in the formerly Christian and now secularized western world are rooted in the desire for self-affirmation. “My conscience is absolutely supreme as the norm of truth in practice.” Such a mindset tolerates God to the degree that God is like me, shares my experience, especially of suffering and passion, rejection and abandonment. Once my experience is identical with this, I too am holy, I am God, because there is no radical difference between being finite and infinite. My conscience is auto-justified. The exact opposite is the intellectual and affective humility of the contemplation of Mary, of her pondering all in her heart, her willingness to stand at the foot of the Cross. Every person in and out of the womb is incommunicable existence.
On 22 January, let’s turn to Judge Ken Starr, Religious Liberty in Crisis: Exercising Your Faith in an Age of Uncertainty.[2] His readable account of what the U. S. Constitution says about religion and religious liberty and how the U. S. Supreme Court interpreted it, what they got right and where the justices erred is a must for all who believe in life. I join Judge Starr in his courageous critique of President Biden:[3]

a stalwart defender of religious liberty for virtually his entire career,
dramatically changed his tune during the course of the 2020 campaign. …
Even though he is a practicing Catholic,
Biden vigorously attacked the Little Sisters of the Poor
for their conscience-based objection to providing
the venerable order’s employees with contraception services.

Judge Starr concludes that President Biden has reinvented himself and now looms as a potentially dangerous enemy of religious liberty.[4] However, not all is bleak to Judge Starr.

Notwithstanding the ever-growing menace of hostile secularism,
seemingly embraced in his latter years by the nation’s new 46th president,
with Justice Amy Coney Barret’s ascension to the High Court bench,
the future of religious liberty in America
—protected in our constitutional republic by the Supreme Court of the United States—
now seems ever more secure.

Thoughts? Trust your own thinking! I recognize, as never before in my life, that our innocence is gone. Courage is needed in the face of hostile secularism. Judge Starr analyzes the judicial effect of secularism from his own personal involvement. Without saying it, Judge Starr’s Religious Liberty in Crisis recognizes the modern condition and the need for the Christian tradition in the United States to remember prior responses. History includes the sacredness of life. History attests to carrying prior responses forward as part of protecting those rights and innate appeal to take a more active role in advancing the cause of liberty. His approach is compelling in recognition that we seem cast into a stormy sea. “Stay sober and alert” (I Pet 5:8). Judge Starr’s constitutional analysis aligns with Newman’s historical-theological analysis. Both Judge Starr and St. John Henry Newman exemplify “do well what God calls you to do in the time God gives and to leave the rest to God.” Lament lost innocence but act with courage. That is cause for jubilation!
On this Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of the Unborn, 22 January 2022, I inaugurate brief reflections historical and theological, “remembering forward.” Memory[5] recalls what needs to be recalled and puts aside for another day what is not of use. However the Christian past may have been valorized, is not the lived historical response to a God of the future as well as the past. God who we trust and count on in all of our individual and communal trials is God who surprises us. Tradition, tradio, as “handing on” fortifies, recharges, and charges us to deal with what is to come with courage and hope. It surmounts the forgetting that seems the adopted code of modernity with a forgetting sanctioned by the Holy Spirit and what I have happily discovered, “remembering forward” licensed by the Holy Spirit.

Veni Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium,
et tui amoris in eis ignem accende:
qui per diversitatem linguarum cunctarum,
gentes in unitate fidei congregasti

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of Your love.
You, even in the diversity of languages,
have gathered them in the unity of the faith.

Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conv. Univ. of Notre Dame, Remembering Forward.


[1] J. H. Newman, “Letter to Norfolk” (1874-1875). E. Ondrako, Freedom Within the Church: Newman and Gladstone (Syracuse University: Diss. 1994.
[2] Ken Starr, Religious Liberty in Crisis (New York: Encounter Books, 2021).
[3] Starr, 177.
[4] Starr, 177-178.
[5] C. O’Regan, “Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Beauty of Forgetting” in Church Life Journal, McGrath Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame (24 August 2020).

Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conventual
Research Fellow Pontifical Faculty of St. Bonaventure, Rome
Visiting Scholar, McGrath Institute for Church Life
University of Notre Dame
January 22, 2022

Province Postulant Visit

“Postulancy” is the first year of initial formation in the Order of Friars Minor – Franciscan Friars Conventual. It is a year of introduction to and immersion in the Franciscan lifestyle. For the four provinces of North America, there is one Postulancy (Chicago, IL) so that all those in this stage of formation can live in community together, for the year. There are currently eight Postulants, of which two are of our Province.

Over the Christmas Break, our Postulants – Marvin Paul Fernandez and Connor J. Ouly – took the opportunity to stop and pray in the Portiuncula Friary Chapel, at our Provincial House, while on a visiting tour of several province ministries in MD, DC, NJ, NY and PA. The grandeur of the Christmas decorations had recently been put away. Bathed in the afternoon sun, this peace filled chapel is an example of one of the simplicity of Ordinary Time‘s extraordinary moments in the life of the Church and in our “living” Franciscan Charism.

For more information on Discernment,
and the stages of Formation for Franciscan Friars Conventual,
visit Vocations – Franciscan Voice or contact our
Province Vocation Director, Br. Nick Romeo, OFM Conv.

Continue to keep Marvin Paul Fernandez (Canadian Delegation or our Province), Connor J. Ouly (our Province),  Colden Fell (Our Lady of Consolation Province), Israel Garcia Alderete (Our Lady of Consolation Province), Andre Miller (Our Lady of Consolation Province), Paul Utterback (St. Bonaventure Province), Eric Rewa (St. Bonaventure Province), and Jessy Cuevas (St. Joseph of Cupertino Province), in your prayers, as well as all of the student friars in formation. Please also pray for an increase in vocations, especially for our Province and our Order around the world.

A Friar’s Vocation Prayer
May my life of prayer and service, O Lord,
show those I serve the reality of Your Love.
Make me poor, chaste and holy
that I may be an example to all who cross my path.
May everything I do tell others I am happy serving them;
may my life be a sign to Your people,
especially to those who so carefully observe me,
of the joy that should be mine in my vocation.
Use me and my work, O Lord,
that I may be the means of bringing
dedicated vocations to my Franciscan family.

St. Julia: A Collaboration of Blessings

St. Julia’s parish family is blessed to have about seven young adults who have participated in the lay evangelization program of the Missionary Servants of the Word.  These young adults, who are wonderfully formed and educated in holy scripture and evangelization, are truly a treasure in our community,

About three months ago, I gathered them together and advised them to support one another in their common formation and experience.  I also invited them to share the fruits of their missionary evangelization formation and experience with the parish.  These trained missionaries have responded generously and have taken up the challenge to reach out and reignite their commitment to an evangelizing ministry.

Before I knew it, I was being contacted by the director of the seminary where the religious members of the congregation study philosophy in Michuacan, Mexico.  In dialogue with our lay missionaries, I accepted the congregation’s willingness to send two seminarians to minister at St. Julia for 15 days.  Apparently this is a vital element of their formation program that keeps alive the initial call and strengthens the charism of their congregation.  The generosity of our people made it all happen.

Luis and Jonathan, both second year philosophy students, arrived on Dec. 18th.  With both being bilingual, the entire parish community was able to enjoy the gifts of their congregation’s spirituality and mission that they shared with us.  They both had participated in the congregation’s lay missionary program, like our own young parishoners had, that led to their discernment of a priesthood vocation.  In the short time they were with us, they visited many families, looked in on the sick and home-bound, brought comfort to many through the sharing of the Word, preached at Mass (or should I say: “shared a reflection”), conducted workshops for married couples, and conducted discussion and prayer sessions with our teenagers and young adults.  We are now reaping the fruits of their ministry among us.

These young men were sent to us totally dependent on Divine Providence.  They go to their missions with this spirit of total trust in God as demonstrated through the generosity of the people of God.  At St. Julia, one family welcomed them into their home where they lived during those 15 days.  Another family lent them a car for their use.  Family after family invited them to their homes for breakfast, lunch and supper.  Families also pitched in to supply them with the funds to pay for gas for the car and whatever needs they had.  The parish also rented them a phone and gave them a financial gift at that was well deserved.

I was highly impressed by Luis and Jonathan’s maturity and genuine commitment to their vocation and ministry.  Their humility and dedication were living sermons.  Their work ethics is strong and exemplary and they were untiring in their ministry.  The sense of peace and joy with which they went about everything was contagious.

Will I miss them?  I already do.  Their presence was the spark that our own missionaries needed to reignite their vocation and ministry.  Now, it’s our turn to get going on this ever-ancient-ever-new thing!

Peace, Friar Julio

Reflection by Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.

The “Fullness of Grace” in Christ and the “Fullness of Grace” in Mary

Num 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21.

Hail Mary “full of grace” the Lord is with Thee, blessed art Thou among Women and blessed is the Fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now ….

Does Mary’s fullness of grace co-exist alongside that of Christ’s fullness of grace? Bl. John Duns Scotus answers: equal “fullness of grace” alongside of Christ is impossible. God has absolute power and can grant as much grace as was granted to Christ to any nature, to Mary. God cannot do this by his ordinary power[1] because there cannot be more than one Head in the Church, from whom every grace would flow into her members.[2] The Head of the Church is Christ and we are His Body.

Christ and Mary have the “fullness of grace” on different levels. Christ’s fullness is absolute. Mary’s fullness is relative. His is natural. Hers is participated. The origin of the fullness of grace in Christ is immediately from God. The fullness of grace in Mary is immediately from Christ. To Duns Scotus, Christ presents himself to us as the absolute, natural Mediator; Mary is a relative, moral Mediatrix. We can never say enough about Mary, nor, even minimally, compromise Christ’s natural fullness of grace. By exalting the dignity of the Mother of God, all the more we exalt the dignity of the Son.

Duns Scotus overcomes difficulties in answering the total transmission of Christ’s grace into Mary.[3]  God’s absolute power and ordinary power is a tool in our tool box. Advent and Christmas bathe us in Art, Icons, Sacred Music, Literature AND Religion which provide lift for understanding the mystery of God’s counsels and lift to our hearts. An unending narrative of love and devotion to the Incarnation and to the Virgin Mary imbues the Eastern and Western Churches.

Listen to a revered Russian Orthodox theologian, Sergei Bulgakov (d. 1944): “It goes without saying, that even if we (the Russian Orthodox Church) do not accept the Catholic dogma of the “immaculate” conception, we must confess that the Mother of God is entirely full of grace.”[4] Faithful Catholics seek spiritual union with the Virgin Mary, a loving relationship with her who is “full of grace.”

Little known is that Maximilian Kolbe was excavating theological insight from the Russian Orthodox. Kolbe learned from Russian usage of “transubstantiation” as the union or communion of created persons with Mary Immaculate and through her with the Holy Spirit. No other theologian in the West has done this. In the West, “transubstantiation” touches on the Eucharist and Real Presence, to define how the essence of bread and wine is changed entirely into the Body and Blood of Christ.

In Eastern Rite theology, mainly in Russian theology, “transubstantiation” refers to the relations of persons to each other and to the Holy Spirit. Timing is right as the secular invasion is mounting. The novelist Dostoyevsky (d.1881) creates figures who mirror the deformation of modernity which he thought was caused by reason, the pathology or sin. Dostoyevsky became a counter to the Revolution of 1917 prior to the fact. Dostoyevsky (d.1881) stunned the literary world with portraits of radical alienation and deep questioning of Russia. Where is it? Where is it going? Is Christianity the solution or the problem?

Dostoyevsky’s questions apply equally to the Catholic world. His novels deal with massive human failure, massive human sin. If one considers Augustine on sin “very dark,” consider Dostoyevsky doubles how dark because of becoming demonic. Dostoyevsky draws out the contrast of light or becoming saintly.

During WW I, Kolbe was a student in Rome, a reader of Russian thinkers, co-founder of the Militia of Mary Immaculate. As a priest he innovated use of the media, taught the theology of the Franciscan School, corrected his confreres if they bore even a hint of anti-Judaism, and became “martyr of charity” in Auschwitz. Kolbe founded a City of the Immaculate in Poland, then in Japan. Who knew the hope he would be graced to bring to prisoners in man-made death camps? After 1941, his Marian metaphysics would be left for others to explain and to develop[5] as Peter D. Fehlner.

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, Russian Orthodox theology was engaging the cultural changes and flowering. What could be heard after the Revolution of 1917, in Chesterton’s phrase, was an audible hiss of Satan. In 1923, Bulgakov fled Russia by the skin of his teeth and established a theology center in Paris where he died in 1944. Catholic theology, effectively put on hold by external and internal historical reasons after Vatican I, burst forth as the event of events under the leadership of Pope John XXIII and Paul VI at Vatican II to reform and renew the whole Church. Kolbe was beatified in 1971 and canonized in 1982. The cause of the Immaculate remains at the heart of the Franciscan counterthrust to the secular invasion.

The Solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of God draws us to reflect on complex doctrines that have developed about Mary’s spiritual Maternity and divine Maternity. Centuries of practices and devotion to the Mother of God included the love, devotion, and hymns from my Slovak ancestors (parish, school, neighborhood). At 14, with no little trepidation, I began to walk in the footsteps of Christ as a Franciscan. Little did I know Mary’s spiritual Maternity and divine Maternity as experienced by Francis of Assisi and how this became a bulwark reaching the secular invasion today. I realized more what Fr. Fehlner would say: Our Lady chose the Franciscan Order to unravel the theological development that led to the solemn definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854.

As Dostoyevsky did with novels, Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., did with poetry. He discovered the thought of Bl. John Duns Scotus, theology that expresses what God can do (potuit), what is fitting (decuit), and what God does (fecit). The literature of Dostoyevsky and Hopkins connect with a nostalgia for the loss of Christianity, its mourning, even as they do not substitute their work for religion.[6] Hopkins offers a “hurrah moment” with Scotistic inflections in his poetry: “She mothers each new grace that does now reach our race—Mary Immaculate, merely a woman, yet whose presence, power is great as no goddess’s ….”[7]

Remember this New Year: Christianity is a mix of treasure and human frailty, saints and sinners. Let us dare to hope! With Duns Scotus let us “attribute to Mary what seems most excellent, provided that it does not oppose the authority of the Church, nor that of Scripture.” This principle is favorable to resolution of any questions about her as the “fullness of grace” from the East and the West.

[1 Jan Mother of God, Golden Jubilee / Priesthood Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, O.F.M.Conv.]


[1] See E. Ondrako, Rebuild My Church (Hobe Sound, FL: Lectio Publishing LLC, 2021), 33.
[2] Duns Scotus, Ordinatio, III, d. 13, q. 4, n.8 (Vivès 14, 461b).
[3] R. Rosini, Mariology of Bl. John Duns Scotus, trans. P.D. Fehlner (New Bedford, MA: 2008), 61-62.
[4] S. Bulgakov, The Bride of the Lamb, trans. B Jakim (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co, 2002), 411, n. 23.
[5] P. D. Fehlner, O.F.M.Conv. critically evaluates the theology of Kolbe. His definitive study is Theologian of Auschwitz (Hobe Sound, FL: Lectio Publishing, LLC, 2020). Studies of Kolbe’s thought continue to grow, especially from Conventual Franciscan Friars. A caveat: not all who claim a Kolbean adherence are as learned as Kolbe.
[6] C. O’Regan’s triple diagnostic of religion and literature is: retrievalist – loss and longing; antithetical – constructing religion as “once upon a time” ~ finding a substitution; parasitic – critical of Christianity but not totally dismissive.
[7] Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe.”

Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conventual
Research Fellow Pontifical Faculty of St. Bonaventure, Rome
Visiting Scholar, McGrath Institute for Church Life
University of Notre Dame
December 26, 2021

Reflection by Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.

“Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” Lk 2: 48b

Sir 3: 2-6, 12-14; Col 3:12-21; Lk 2: 41-52.

Today’s Gospel unfolds many truths. What does Mary’s parental anxiety mean? Your father and I have been looking for you. What does Jesus’ reply mean? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?  Mary and Joseph did not understand Jesus. He went down with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them. The event is pulled together with: “Mary treasured all these things in her heart.” What does it mean for Mary to treasure all? What does Mary teach by treasuring? What is in her heart?

Think of the event. “Your father and I have been looking for you.” Think of Joseph and this marriage? Is it a marriage? Were Mary and Joseph married before the message of the Angel? Scripture says: the Angel Gabriel was sent to a virgin Mary engaged to Joseph. “Hail full of grace… the Lord is with you.” Much perplexed, she pondered the greeting. “Do not be afraid Mary… you will conceive in your womb, bear a Son and name him Jesus… The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you… The child to be born will be called Son of God” (Lk 1: 26-35).

Ponder the Apostles Creed: Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. Ponder the Nicene Creed: “…For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.” Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est. The Gospel and Creeds[1] invite us to “ponder” with Mary.[2] To ponder is to receive with Mary, to dwell upon the message of the Angel Gabriel, the account of the Shepherds at Bethlehem, the question: “Why? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” To ponder with Mary is to assent, to develop, to reason upon, then to believe from love and reverence. St. John Henry Newman states: reasoning first, and after, believing.[3] To ponder with Mary after the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem tugs at our hearts: “Your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” “Why? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Imagine Mary’s thoughts.

To ponder in her heart raises more questions. What is Joseph’s position in this marriage? Sirach sets the stage: “The Lord honors a father above his children, and he confirms a mother’s right over her children. Those who honor their father atone for sins, and those who respect their mother are like those who lay up treasure.” Sirach does not answer the question of Joseph’s position in this marriage.

Mary made a vow of virginity. Was Mary able to contract matrimony without compromising her vow of virginity? Did Mary and Joseph contract matrimony before the message of the Angel Gabriel? Bl. John Duns Scotus answers. The absolute vow of virginity of Mary precedes the Annunciation and the Annunciation precedes matrimony with Joseph. Mary was enlightened by God regarding the entire mystery of the Incarnation! The special command from God was to contract marriage with Joseph to safeguard the dignity of the mother and Child. Mary was able to consent to marriage without including, even implicitly, the intention to consummate it. As guardian and witness to Mary’s Virginity by the Holy Spirit, Joseph is bound also with the same vow.[4] The vow of virginity does not take away from the marriage of Mary and Joseph as a true marriage. Their sanctity sanctifies the bond.

By calling Joseph, “your father,” Mary indicates that Joseph is far more than a custodian. Joseph is co-proprietor with Mary of the “Fruit” which matured in her womb. Mary shows that both are co-responsible for Jesus. Joseph acquired full dominion over the body of his Spouse and she over his body. He too gave his perfect consent to the procreation of children and to assume the responsibilities of marriage. Joseph has rights over Jesus and duties towards him from the matrimony itself. The final end of marriage is reserved to God insofar as the conception goes. The proprietary, responsibility, custody, etc., belongs to Joseph. Joseph’s marriage to Mary compared with other marriages is part of the plan of God. Duns Scotus helps us to understand that in this marriage it is certain that the use of marriage according to the marriage contract will not be asked for.[5] Mary did not retain in her power even the use because it is certain that use is reserved to the Holy Spirit.[6]

Ponder the “Fruit” of her womb. Joseph has a proprietary dominion over Mary, and to Another, is given the use of marriage. The Holy Spirit is the Other—who has been given the use by the will of God. The fruit of Joseph’s proprietary dominion is also the Holy Spirit’s “Fruit.” [The fruit of any possession reverts to the owner.] Joseph is the proprietor of the “Treasure.” Joseph became the proprietor of the “Field” where the Treasure was hidden. This proprietorship holds even if the treasure was hidden in that “Field” by Another, i.e., the Holy Spirit.[7] As such, Joseph is co-proprietor of this “Fruit” of her womb.

To Duns Scotus,[8] the marriage of Joseph and Mary is a true marriage with a distinction between the dominion and use of matrimony. Those who receive the sacrament of matrimony know that by natural law, marriage includes the finality of marriage, i.e., the procreation and education of children, the goal and means, consummation of the marriage. Marriage indissolubility is created by the contract.  The mutual consent of two wills, the reciprocal gift of their bodies, creates a matrimonial bond which is indissoluble. Sadly, if conditions are placed on the vow as only temporary, or physical union according to my pleasure alone, or impeding procreation, the marriage is null and void.

How well are matrimony and the family understood? The Church knows post-Christian culture and offers compassion with hope by an annulment. May the Feast of the Holy Family reveal its “secret:” Christian families long to be a holy family! The truth is: the parents need to be united indissolubly, or children cannot be educated, protected and nourished properly. As the anxiety of Mary and Joseph over the boy Jesus was lifted, may the anxieties in our lives find a lift. May we “treasure all in our hearts!”

In Celebration of My Golden Jubilee Year of Priesthood, Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, O.F.M.Conv.


[1] John Duns Scotus’ critique about the Franciscan tradition in theology and Catholic theology, in general, is that both give a large place in theory and practice to the mystery of the Church as body of Christ and participation in fellowship with divine Persons. Duns Scotus recognizes this as containing truth, but imprecise, misleading, and dangerously attractive. See Duns Scotus, Prologue to the Ordinatio, III, qq. 1-3, n. 174), ”…the adequate object (integral subject or ‘center’) of theology is not Christ, but something common (univocal) to the Word, about whom articles (of the Creed) primarily pertain, and to the Father and Holy Spirit, with whom the remaining theological truths deal.” P.D. Fehlner, “Neo-Patripassionism from a Scotistic Viewpoint” (2006), 38-39.
[2] Duns Scotus, the subtle or Marian doctor who ponders deeply with Mary, revises a less than precise formulation of a metaphorical description of theology as a whole with a center, a mathematical metaphor, that is employed to illustrate metaphysical truths. This has everything to do with the Catholic definition of matrimony.
[3] J. H. Newman, “The Theory of the Development of Doctrine,” Sermon 15, February 2, 1843, University Sermons.
[4] Duns Scotus, Ordinatio, IV, d. 30, q. 2, n. 5 (Vivès 19, 279a). This reassurance is before Mary promised to Joseph.
[5] Duns Scotus replies to the Fathers who celebrate marriage according to the common law, when there is no certainty that the use of the marriage act will follow on the contract (Ordinatio, IV, d. 30, q. 2, n. 7 (Vivès 19, 279a).
[6] Ordinatio, IV, d. 28, q. un., n. 8 (Vivès 24, 378b).
[7] R. Rosini, Mariology of John Duns Scotus, tr. P.D.Fehlner (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Imm., 2008), 111-3.
[8] Duns Scotus is distinguishing metaphysics from our natural experience that requires metaphysical guidance.  Our metaphysics studies the light that is trans-experiential and perfected as it merges with charity.

Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conventual
Research Fellow Pontifical Faculty of St. Bonaventure, Rome
Visiting Scholar, McGrath Institute for Church Life
University of Notre Dame
December 26, 2021

Reflection by Fr. Ed Ondrako, OFM Conv.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us

And we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and of truth (Jn. 1:14). Joy at the birth of the Infant who developed in the womb of Mary, born as us but without pain surrounds every birth. Luke 1 narrates the mystery of the conception and birth of Jesus, the union of the Holy Spirit with Mary’s free will. “How can this be since I am a virgin? The angel replies: the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born shall be …called the Son of God.” “May it be done to me according to your word.” “The shepherds found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in the manger at Bethlehem … and made known what had been told them about the child.” “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”

Truth invites contemplation. Memory is a gift. As children, Christmas warmed our hearts. In innocence, we grew with Scripture, imagination, and belief. With elders, we reflect on Joseph’s reservation to take Mary as his wife and the message of the angel to him in a dream: “All this took place what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel, …God is with us” (Mt 1). As young adults we join believers that our basis for knowing the same God of our childhood has a fuller foundation for professing to know God as radically different from ourselves, who are made in God’s image and likeness. A long life of study, prayer and preaching amplified the Christmas mystery. Think in virtue of the analogy of being, of perfect Love.

Dare to think philosophically with Bl. Duns Scotus about experiences of Christmas as real but not reality itself. Midnight Mass, our parish choirs, Slovak Christmas carols, festive dinners, parents and grandparents, gifts under the tree, the family together were real activity but not Activity itself. Love for family was intense but not the pure perfection of love. To align Christmas with 76 years of finite existence is not being itself.  Study aligns with sacrifice; suffering with the light intensifying. Human dimensions join us to humanity and unfold long-lasting insights. They are not pure perfections as Duns Scotus calls knowledge and love. Suffering often reveals love, and gives glimpses of divine love but it is not the Love which is God, which is being (what is and not what is coming to be). All beings, both divine and created, share being and essence, unity, truth, and goodness. Remembering what the 15-year-old John Henry Newman said, I thought of two and two only self-evident beings, myself and my Creator, and mercy with it (Apoc 1) The reality and difference between my Creator and me, infinite and finite, gives “one” opportunity to make something of the gifts given. Through God’s mercy this assent for John Henry Newman was never effaced.

I discovered assent to CHRISTIAN TRUTH is with the thematic lift of sound philosophy. Being itself is changeless. Philosophy refers to human suffering, an integral part of living, change or coming to be, or becoming. Suffering is an acute example of changes in our lives. Suffering has duration, short or long. But suffering ends, for it does not last for eternity. Our personal experiences and the character of our personality, or the cards we have been dealt, have their place in our life as finite creatures. Finite experiences are strictly subordinate to the prior metaphysical reality of person (incommunicable existence of a rational nature) and being, what is, not what is coming to be or becoming.

The metaphysics of Bl. John Duns Scotus, his univocal concept of being, assists us to fully clarify the mystery and supreme grace of the Incarnation. To his analogy of being with which we began this reflection he adds the univocity of being. Univocal being is a concept in us, a concept that permits the formation of other concepts and categories, comparable to it, yet is in no way measurable by them or comparable to them. Univocal being is not a category. It does not exclude analogy or comparison and contrast of diverse beings such as infinite and finite. Univocal being is not an immediate vision of the divine essence or infinite being. It is in conceptual form something trans-conceptual. It is the radiation of the divine being or light which enlightens us in such wise that we can know the objects of our experience and eventually recognize how the source of light is not only different from them and essentially prior to them. The firstness or primacy of divine being or light is not accidental.

Duns Scotus and the Franciscan masters join those who teach that metaphysics is prior to experience. The Franciscan tradition is cautious not to deny that our metaphysics, like our souls, are found in experience and the incomparable importance of our experiences. Firstness or essential primacy is not a mathematical center. The concept of being as univocal in Duns Scotus is not a category, but incomparable with every other concept, even if every other human notion is that to the extent that it is illuminated by that univocal concept of being. All other concepts reflect this first concept, but univocity itself does not reflect them. Its form is logical, but its content transcends the logical. Said another way, univocity provides the point of unity for all other concepts, but it does this is such a way that analogy cannot explain the differences of beings. Think of the hypostatic union without confusion of the divine and human natures in the unity of one pre-existing divine Person, the Word who became flesh. Love was willing to suffer, to endure the experience of suffering, and, therefore freely chose to become incarnate.

The relation of divine and human is non-mutual to Duns Scotus, i.e., the union between divine and human in the one Person of the Word Incarnate is asymmetrical. Disjunction differs from continuity between first and second in an ordered series or succession. In his humanity, the Infant Jesus is subject to change, including suffering. This relation is most unique in the sacred humanity of Jesus. The relation in one form or another is the basis of personal experience in us. The non-mutual relation between Creator and creature is a real in-built dependence of the creature on the Creator. No modification, possible or actual, in the Creator corresponds to this in-built dependence we have on our Creator.

This puts to rest the claim that we cannot know God as he is in himself (agnosticism), or that there is no essential difference between God and creatures, only a psycho-ethical one, i.e., no radical difference between being finite and infinite (Hegel). God’s gifts and mercy includes learning to think, to avoid fixed ideas or ready-made answers to incomparable suffering.[1] Christian metaphysics and Duns Scotus’s use of the disjunctive transcendentals of being is the answer. A disjunctive transcendental is a characteristic of being. Finite and infinite are disjunctive transcendentals. Finite fits all creatures, infinite fits only the Creator. Think of eternal and temporal, rational and irrational, cause and uncaused.

Metaphysics confirms irrevocably why deep thinking can never be subordinated to experience, or be substituted by ethics, politics or literature.[2] Since the Enlightenment (c. 1650) the tendency is to substitute ethics for metaphysics, e.g., the categorical imperative of Kant, a cold duty ethic, not tender, infinite Love of the Incarnation. At Christmas, love of neighbor and God is a memory of how capable love is and of gratitude for the possibility of being elevated to the order of grace. Deep joy accompanies freely cooperating with grace. We may find ourselves elevated to be quasi-infinite or divine-like, not in our essence but in our mode of knowing and loving, as Francis of Assisi at Greccio in 1223.

Franciscans preach the union of divine and human in Jesus, born, like us in all things but sin, who suffered in his humanity, not in his divinity. The Father sent the Son. God cannot sin, suffer, or act in any way involving succession or “becoming,” for it would contradict God’s infinity by limiting God. The Incarnation is effected by the heavenly Father and Virgin Mother who as Immaculate is the Woman, all grace and no sin, who declares it erroneous to say that the Trinity suffers. The Virgin Mother is the supreme sign of the absolute goodness of the divine being and of perfect love for that being!

[Christmas 2021 Golden Jubilee of Priesthood Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, O.F.M.Conv.]


[1] The searing suffering of innocence is in Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov: “Rebellion and Grand Inquisitor.”
[2] Romantics as P.B. Shelley, Coleridge substitute poetry for Christianity i.e. religiousness as experience.

Fr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conventual
Research Fellow Pontifical Faculty of St. Bonaventure, Rome
Visiting Scholar, McGrath Institute for Church Life
University of Notre Dame
December 25, 2021

Friar Brad Explains Greccio

In 1223, St. Francis decided to re-enact Christ’s birth in the town of Greccio, Italy. Our Lady of the Angels Province friar and Pastor/Rector of our Chicopee, MA pastoral ministry – the Basilica of St. Stanislaus, Bishop & Martyr, Fr. Brad Milunski, OFM Conv. tells the story of this event and how it led to the nativity scenes we love today. This year’s December 19th Greccio celebration at the parish was Livestreamed on their Facebook page, and also featured in the December 22, 2021 online article: “Tradition of ‘Greccio’ living Nativity returns to St. Stanislaus Basilica”

Here is another video reflection on St. Francis at Greccio
created by Our Lady of the Angels Province friar
Fr. Martin Breski, OFM Conv.

The “Sense of the Faith” in History: Its Sources, Reception, and Theology

To be published on January 3, 2022, and available now for pre-order, The “Sense of the Faith” in History: Its Sources, Reception, and Theology, is an attempt by Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Fr. John J. Burkhard, OFM Conv. “to better understand the “sense of the faith” in the light of other fundamental teachings of the council and challenges the hierarchical church to invite all the faithful to rightfully participate in the prophetic ministry of the whole church, closely allied with Pope Francis’s call for a more synodal church.”
Read the reviews of The “Sense of the Faith” in History: Its Sources, Reception, and Theology!

In his January 2020 “Spiritual Testimony” on this site, Friar John’s last paragraph reads as follows: “I have no particular spiritual wisdom to impart to our friars in formation or to prospective applicants to the Order except for the admonition to identify and accept your talents, thank God daily for them, develop them humanly with the help of the Order, and generously put them at the service of the Church’s universal mission. If you do this, your dreams and your life will be richly rewarded. I know mine have been!