How to Read Someone Like a Book

A neighbor of mine recently told me that the people living in the canyon below my home are all mentally ill, carry guns, and want to be homeless. When I asked her how many homeless people she knows, she admitted that she doesn’t know any. I do, and her description doesn’t accurately describe a single one.

I don’t judge my neighbor harshly because I know that I too have all kinds of assumptions and stereotypes about people I don’t know. Franciscans focus on the uniqueness of each individual and avoid lumping people into groups based on a single characteristic. But how do we get to know individuals who are very different than us?

In Copenhagen in 2000, Ronni Abergel and his brother Dani tackled this problem by creating the first Human Library where people who have experienced prejudice volunteer to be open books. Books are available for half an hour. The ‘book’ and reader sit face to face and the reader is encouraged to ask questions, including awkward ones.

The books change based on which volunteers are available, but some common titles are:

  • Wheelchair user
  • Gave my child up for adoption
  • Transgender
  • Immigrant
  • Police person
  • Muslim
  • Polyamorous
  • Sober alcoholic
  • Schizophrenic
  • Former Gang member

There are currently Human Libraries in 80 countries including the US. Many take place in regular libraries, public gardens, and at conferences but the funding comes largely from corporations who are focused on diversity and host events where their employees can have the experience of meeting people they wouldn’t normally encounter or who they are uncomfortable with.

I am inspired by this way of getting to know people and can image that if St Francis had been born in the 2000’s he might very well be found in a human library taking to a book titled, Leper.

If you are interested in finding out more, here is a link to the organization

Introducing St. Francis Retreat Center, San Juan Bautista, California

St. Francis Retreat is a full-scale retreat and conference center, offering varied conference spaces, highly rated food service and dining room, overnight guest accommodations and various outdoor amenities. We welcome all faiths and religions, non-profits and individuals to this “Franciscan” setting to reflect, refresh and grow.

Back in 1947, our founders realized that people and groups want (and need) the time and space to push pause on their daily routine. That is why St. Francis Retreat Center was created, so our community of participants can self-reflect and reconnect with themselves in a beautiful and serene atmosphere.

To learn more, click here to visit their website.

The Best of 2021 Franciscan-style

Inspiring. Challenging. Funny. Here are the books, TV shows, movies,
and podcasts that some of our friars, ministry leaders and friends
enjoyed most this year.

Introducing Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, California

Mission San Luis Rey is a national historic landmark preserving educational and cultural sites including a museum, historic church, burial grounds, with soldier barracks and Lavanderia archeological sites. Alive as ever, Mission San Luis Rey is also home to an active community of Franciscan friars, Historic Church, a gift shop, along with an operating cemetery and retreat center open to all people of good will for spiritual renewal.


Introducing St. Francis Center, Los Angeles, California

St. Francis Center’s mission is to feed, serve, and walk with the poor as a community of hope in the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Since 1972, St. Francis Center has provided relief and support to homeless and extremely low-income individuals and families in Los Angeles. Much more than a soup kitchen or a food pantry, we offer a unique range of services to sustain and empower those in need and engaging volunteer opportunities in Los Angeles. Welcoming all with joy, dignity, and compassion, we dedicate ourselves every day to Serving Hope in our community.

To learn more, watch St. Francis Center’s Impact Video 2020:

Introducing Old Mission Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California

Old Mission Santa Barbara is a community of many parts, but one spirit. The Mission has served as a gathering place and spiritual home for many since its establishment in 1786. Today the Mission operations include a museum, gift shop, cemetery and mausoleum, and several historic gardens, as well as being the home to a community of Franciscan Friars on about 15 acres. The Mission is also home base for Saint Barbara Parish, which operates under the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Santa Bárbara Mission Archive-Library, a separate Franciscan-sponsored non-profit, and a Novitiate which provides the first year of educations for Friars in training from across the United States.

Old Mission Santa Barbara bears witness to the Franciscan missionary spirit through service to God and God’s people; as stewards of the Franciscan heritage in the West, we welcome all and strive to build a future based on reconciliation and justice which honors all creation and all people.

The Art of Photography


For the final edition of our “Sharing Our Artistic Gift” series, this month features the photography of Giovanni Dominguez, staff member at Mission San Luis Rey and Parish in Oceanside, California. For Giovanni, photography is a way to relax, slow down a bit, and appreciate the scenery around him. See below for a few examples of Giovanni’s night photography.




Where do you find inspiration?
Life is inspiring. Taking photos is a way of capturing moments of life to savor them and to share with others. I do natural landscapes, portraits, and event photography and they’re all about catching a moment…no two photos are the same.


Why is photography meaningful to you?
It is a way of relaxing, especially when I photograph landscapes and can spend time outside in nature. It’s also about community, not competition or being the most popular.


What is your hope for someone who sees your photographs?
I hope they get inspired to go outside and appreciate nature too. Anyone can enjoy taking photos. Photography is for everyone!


Thank you to all those who shared their artistic gifts with our Province-wide family. We hope this series has encouraged everyone in their own creative hobbies and perhaps inspired a few new ones as well.

Introducing Serra Retreat, Malibu, California

This is a Catholic retreat and conference center which provides the space, in a beautiful setting, for peace, serenity and reflection. Located between the mountains and the ocean in Malibu, California, the Franciscan Friars continue the ecumenical tradition begun in 1943 for welcoming group and private retreats, as well as workshops. Serra Retreat provides a superb opportunity for church groups, schools, non-profit and profit organizations, to reflect, plan and set new goals. The Friars and staff invite you to “come apart and rest a while” (Mk 6:13) mindful of the saying: If you are too busy to make a retreat; you are too busy.


The Art of Sewing


This month features the sewing of Maria Cabrera, a volunteer at Old Mission Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, California. For Maria, sewing is a way to be active within the community and serve others.



How did you start sewing?
I’m originally from Colombia and my mother owned her own sewing school near Bogotá. By age 9, I would sew things to donate. As a teenager in California, I made my own clothes and sewed in the evenings so my parents could attend night school and learn English.

Where do you find inspiration for projects?
Ideas for new projects come from seeing a need and realizing I can help. I find joy in sewing when I see the person wearing what I’ve made because it’s what they need and I can be part of it.

What is your hope for someone who sees what you’ve created?
I hope others will be inspired to sew and encouraged that they can do it too!


Francisco (my husband, not a friar) and I at the Mission’s tailor shop. He is wearing the grey habit (a costume) I created for the 2013 Old Spanish Days, Fiesta parade float.





After researching historical and cultural sources, I created this feather cape for the Mission’s museum in honor of a possible garment made and worn by The Lone Woman, from the book, “Island of the Blue Dolphins.”





As a volunteer assistant in the tailor shop, I sew real full-size habits for friars as well as souvenir bottle covers for the gift shop.



Do you have a creative hobby? Are you a musician, artist, poet, photographer, sculptor, knitter, mural painter, or writer? We want to feature the talents of our Province-wide family. Please reach out to Kathleen Flanagan, Executive Director, Office of Mission Integration and Ministry Support, at to share your art.

Introducing The Franciscan School of Theology, San Diego, California

The Franciscan School of Theology (FST) is committed to embodying Franciscan theology in a religiously and culturally diverse world. FST offers an intercultural Christian community in which to prepare men and women for professional ministry, for careers in theological education, and for living a life dedicated to solidarity with those on the margins of society and the Church in the knowledge of Christian faith.

FST offers Master of Theological Studies, Master of Divinity, and Master of Arts degree programs, along with continuing education and personal enrichment via lectures online and in-person. At its current location at the University of San Diego campus, FST continues to bring the questions of contemporary culture, society, and Church into dialog with the ever-ancient and ever-new Word of the Gospel.