Introducing St. Anthony Foundation

Introducing St. Anthony Foundation

Catholic Social Teachings remind us that, “The person is not only sacred but also social,” and that we have “a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.”

As a community, all the ministries of the Province of St. Barbara share a mission and a desire for the common good. Yet, many of us aren’t familiar with our sister ministries. So, each month we will highlight one ministry in an effort to increase awareness, appreciation and collaboration.

For as in one body we have many members,
and the members do not all have the same function,
so we, though many, are one body in Christ,
and individually members one of another.

Romans 12:4-5

Introducing St. Anthony Foundation (SAF)

Seven decades ago, Franciscan Friar Fr. Alfred Boeddeker had a vision of uniting vulnerable populations in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. His vision became a reality on October 4, 1950 as he opened the doors of St. Anthony’s Dining Room. The first day our Dining Room opened, Fr. Alfred expected to serve 150 meals to low-income and homeless Guests. He ended up serving 400. Today, in that same Franciscan spirit, SAF serves over 3000 hot, nutritious meal every day, provides healthcare to more than 4600 patients, provides digital justice through a computer lab, free clothing program and supports many through its addiction recovery program. SAF relies heavily on volunteers This touching video allows you to see SAF from their perspectives.

Black History Month

Black History Month provides another opportunity for us to understand the history, experiences, thoughts and feelings of our African American sisters and brothers. It encourages us to reflect on the past, but as importantly, on how we will participate in the creation of a more relationship-oriented and just future.

Sister Irma Dillard, RSCJ is a social activist dedicated to educating and empowering the voiceless to find their voices and take direct action for justice. She is a Change Management Consultant working with not-for-profits, unions, and parishes. She is a friend of the friars, a fan of the Franciscan movement, and has graciously agreed to share her reflection on Black History Month 2021.


Sister Irma’s Reflection on Black History Month 2021

1969 was a good year to be young, gifted and black!

Black History Month was first proposed by black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University, Ohio in February 1969: a celebration of achievements by Black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S history.

The 60’s were a very tumultuous time! The Black Power Movement (1966) was gaining momentum.

I chose not to attend another Catholic school. I attended a predominately black high school here in Northern California. It was there I was able to righteously be fully black— no need to assimilate.

In 1968, we walked out of classes and took over the administration building. Our demands: more Black teachers, Black administrators, Black Studies, and a library including books by Black and other authors of color. With pride, energy and determination we fought for legitimacy, authenticity, equality, freedom, justice and the right to an equal education. We spent 2 nights & 3 ½ days occupying that space during negotiations.

1969 was a good year. We read what was happening at Kent State. 90% of our demands were met. I knew it was time that we black folks be recognized for the achievements and contributions since our forced arrival in America— in mathematics, the sciences, literature, music, technology, etc. Our ancestors were more than just slaves! We were more than musicians and athletes! It was past time for us to be proud black people—unashamed and unapologetic!

To Be Young Gifted and Black” hit the airways on KSOL and everyone began singing this powerful song. We sang it every single day. My high school WAS black history—the past brought to life and the continued making of history. Posters and quotes of black achievement decorated the halls and classrooms. We finally had a more accurate curriculum and because of Kent State we also celebrated Black History Month for the first time!

The sacred words of Nina Simone were alive:

To be young, gifted and black
Oh, what a lovely precious dream
To be young, gifted and black
Open your heart to what I mean
In the whole world you know
There are a million boys and girls
Who are young, gifted and black
And that’s a fact!

Black History Month! Black History is American History! It is World History!
Black History has to be incorporated fully into the American story!


Sister Irma Dillard, RSCJ is a social activist dedicated to educating and empowering the voiceless to find their voices and take direct action for justice. She is a Change Management Consultant working with not-for-profits, unions, and parishes. With degrees in psychology and counseling, religious studies, and communications, Sister Irma has spent 40 years working with youth and their families, including juvenile offender programs, single mothers’ support groups, and serving three San Francisco parishes doing staff development, diversity training, and facilitating staff and parish retreats. Sister Irma has been and continues to be with the people in the streets, participating in Black Lives Matter, DC Women’s March, Fight for $15, Poor People’s Campaign, Rise for Climate, People’s Townhall SF, DACA/Dreamers and No Ban, No Wall. She is a leader in her religious congregation’s reparations to the descendants of the estimated 150 persons enslaved by her religious order in Louisiana.


To Be Young Gifted and Black” sung by Nina Simone and released in 1969. The song was also featured on her 1970 album Black Gold and was considered an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. The title and opening line of the song come from Lorraine Hansberry’s autobiographical play, To Be Young, Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words, 1957. It is a play about the life of American writer Lorraine Hansberry, adapted from her own writings. Lorraine died in 1965 at the age of 34.

Nina then wrote the “To Be Young Gifted and Black” for children in memory of her late friend Lorraine Hansberry.

1976 Ford decreed Black History Month a national observance.

The Art of Knitting

Carol Sanger
Knitter and Secretary of the Board,
Franciscan Renewal Center

Some 60 years ago, my mother taught me to knit. I think she’d hoped it would occupy my hands which were running faster than my mouth back then. By college, I had enough basic technique to make a sweater. After dozens of sweaters, and afghans, dolls and baby clothes, knitting had become my door to humility, patience and the importance of practice. My hands learned to knit without thought commands. I learned there are no mistakes, only lapses in attention, and that there is always more to learn.

When I knit a garment – for you, as an example – I think only of you. I consider how the color will look next to your skin, the shape that will flatter your figure, the ease of care. And I allow myself to be carried back to other garments I have made like that – for the boyfriend who didn’t last, my father who died, my granddaughter who will drag it around during her toddler years before giving it away.

Typically, I make my own patterns, choose my own colors and then improvise as I go along. This baby blanket for my granddaughter is an example, but I think her mother has put it away for safekeeping. I’d rather see it out, being used, with a few stains, maybe a little grape juice.

Last winter, I signed on to knit 50 8” x 8” squares as part of the Violet Protest, a collaborative knitting project of Phoenix artist Ann Morton. Fiber artists from all over the country are contributing their handmade squares using red and blue (symbols of differing ideologies) which from a distance pixilate to violet. Each square bears the name of the artist and a heartfelt intention focused on our core values as a nation: respect for the other, citizenship, compromise, compassion, creativity, candor, courage, compromise among among others. The Phoenix Art Museum will display them this Spring before going to Washington DC where 50 squares will be hand delivered to each member of the House and Senate. Do the math – yup, 26,750 squares!

This is one of the ways knitting connects me to knitters and crocheters around the world. (Knitters use 2 needles, crocheters use 1 hook.) We are one body not bound by culture or politics, but by this other thing we do. I want my life to be useful. I want my love for this world to have physical form. Looping stitches through stitches to become fabric to hold my love for its intended – family, friend or stranger – until the day comes when the sweater or afghan cradles the old bones of an old dog and all that love spills freely out into the world.

You can see how this works, can’t you?

Click on the image below to view the knitting video.

Let Your Light Shine – Share Your Gifts

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Mathew 5: 14-16

Gifts, gifts, gifts – we are surrounded by them! I am not talking about the ones with bows. I’m talking about the ones we were born with – the ones given to us by God. The one’s we are implored to “let shine.”

Artistic gifts shine particularly bright during Advent. We are surrounded by the beauty of trees decorated with exquisitely crafted ornaments, whole neighborhoods skillfully decorated with lights, beautiful songs like O’ Emmanuel and Holy Night written to help us prepare for, and rejoice in, the birth of Jesus. Homemade Christmas cards and beautifully carved nativities made in imitation of the first nativity created by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223.

Do you have an artistic gift? Are you a musician, artist, poet, photographer, sculptor, knitter, mural painter, or writer? Many of our community
members are, and we want to encourage them to let their light shine by sharing their work.


The first artist to share his work is George Dooley, the Province’s CFO. Not all math whizzes possess artistic gifts, but George is as talented with music as he is with numbers. His songwriting group recently gave a homework assignment to write a holiday song. George is sharing his “homework” in this holiday song entitled “A Prayer for Peace”. He agreed to develop the attached video to share the message during this blessed season. We hope you enjoy it.

Meet George Dooley!

George is the Chief Financial Officer for the Province of Saint Barbara. He has been in that role for about three years and is also serving on the Board of Directors for the CASA and the St Francis Center. He previously served on the Board of the St Anthony Foundation.

George’s roots as a musician/singer/songwriter go back to his college days where he was the lead guitarist and singer for the folk mass group at his college known as “the God Squad”. Thankfully, they have since changed their name to the Trinity Singers! The weekly mass at the college became so popular that the local Bishop attended to hear what all the fuss was about, and then asked the group to tour other parishes in the state to spread the joy. An avid Miami Dolphin fan, during that time, he also (reluctantly) played guitar and sang at a mass for the rival New England Patriots before all their home games (only because they gave him free press pass tickets!). He has continued to follow his musical passions while raising identical twin daughters and recently celebrating his 35th wedding anniversary with his lovely wife Dawn.


This is the first of our new segment to showcase the artistic talents of our Province-wide family. We encourage you to share your art, sculpture, writing, photography, painting, knitting, music or other artistic talents. Please reach out to Kathleen Flanagan, Executive Director, Office of Mission Integration and Ministry Support at to share your art.

Express Yourself: Leisure, Art, Justice and a Challenge

If you are connected to social media, you are probably already aware of the “Recreate Art Challenge”. Museums everywhere are encouraging people to pick a piece of art and then recreate it using items, and with people, in their household. For example:

This series caught my eye because it is done by the same woman, and for many people, it captures their progressive experience of Covid. At first, she is full of energy, in time, she is seated and looking a little tired, and eventually she is just exhausted by the whole thing! Yet, many people taking up this challenge have commented on how life affirming it is and how it has injected fun and energy at a time when theirs had been waning.

What has art got to do with our Catholic, Franciscan Identity? A lot! The Catholic Church has always valued artistic expression. St. Francis loved and wrote poetry. He played instruments and sang. The Churches appreciation for art and other cultural endeavors even extends to Catholic Social Teachings regarding Work and Just Wages. (What! You didn’t know we had social teachings. Well, you are in for a big surprise.)

A Just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. ‘Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural, and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.’ Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.”
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2434

Work relates to the inherent dignity of each and every individual. We believe that a dignified life includes work, but also leisure time to engage in social, cultural and spiritual practices (like recreating the last supper by Leonardo Da Vinci in your dining room).

Pope Frances, in his recent encyclical, Fratelli tutti, put it this way:
In a genuinely developed society, work is an essential dimension of social life, for it is not only a means of earning one’s daily bread, but also of personal growth, the building of healthy relationships, self- expression and the exchange of gifts. Work gives us a sense of shared responsibility for the development of the world, and ultimately, for our life as a people.

Our Franciscan worldview is that we are co-creators with God in the development of the world. In the spirit of being co-creators, I put out this challenge in hope that it will reduce the Covid fatigue we may feel and that it may enliven our creative side.

The Challenge:  Choose a piece of art and recreate it by yourself, with your family or with you coworkers (in masks, of course). Send it in to and I will post them on the mission integration website for all to see!

If you need inspiration, consider the art below. May your creative juices flow!

St. Francis Caring for Lepers


NOTE: My apologies for not providing credits for most of the artwork and recreations of artwork displayed in this document. Artists deserve to be recognized. In this case, these were copied from the internet and didn’t have any attributions, or did, but they didn’t actually copy over when I pasted them to my photos.

What’s Running Got To Do With It?

Every morning Mark Benson gets out of bed, brushes his teeth, puts on his running shoes and heads out the door for a 3-mile run. He’s done this for years, in Chicago, New York, California. It is often the best part of his day. “I like being alone, seeing what is going on in my neighborhood, hearing the birds.”

Shola Richards doesn’t run in the mornings, he doesn’t even walk alone in his neighborhood. Here’s why. “Twice a day, I walk my dog Ace around my neighborhood with one, or both, of my girls. I would be scared to death to take these walks without my girls and my dog. In fact, in the four years living in my house, I have never taken a walk around my neighborhood alone (and probably never will).

When I’m walking down the street holding my young daughter’s hand and walking my sweet fluffy dog, I’m just a loving dad and pet owner taking a break from the joylessness of crisis homeschooling. But without them by my side, almost instantly, I morph into a threat in the eyes of some white folks. Instead of being a loving dad to two little girls, unfortunately, all that some people can see is a 6’2” athletically-built black man in a cloth mask who is walking around in a place where he doesn’t belong (even though, I’m still the same guy who just wants to take a walk through his neighborhood). It’s equal parts exhausting and depressing to feel like I can’t walk around outside alone, for fear of being targeted.”

Shola’s experience is a revelation to many white people. It elicits strong emotions of compassion, guilt, and anger, but the biggest revelation for many is how few black and brown people they actually know. So, how do we respond? There is a moment in St. Francis life that illuminates one path forward.

In the 5th century Muslims controlled Jerusalem. The Catholic Church responded by going to war to overtake them and bring Jerusalem back into their control. St. Francis went in a different direction – he encouraged others not to fight in the Crusade, and when they ignored his advice, he decided to go to the Sultan’s camp to meet him himself. It was a dangerous choice. Christians knew very little about the Muslim faith or customs, but the popular narrative characterized them as a violent enemy. Francis was walking into a war zone. What gave him the desire and confidence to meet Sultan Mal-al-Kamil? Perhaps it was his belief that we are all brothers and sisters to one another, each created by the same God. Perhaps, this was one way he lived out that belief.

Francis’ approach to Sultan Malek-al-Kamil, was as a brother. Upon entering Muslim territory, Francis was captured, beaten and brought to the Sultan. Francis remained in the Sultan’s quarters for weeks. What they talked about is unknown, but records exist describing their time together as respectful, brotherly and peaceful. They displayed curiosity and openness toward one another.

Francis returned home a changed man. The encounter, including being present and respectful with those he did not know and did not understand, interacting with the Sultan, observing the Muslim habit of stopping to pray five times a day, and sharing meals all influenced Francis. He amended the rule he wrote for his brothers, so that any brother that felt called to go be with Muslims should be allowed to do so. Later, he wrote a prayer called The Praises of God that is very similar to the Islam prayer, The 99 Beautiful Names of God.

Francis’ visit to Sultan Mal-al-Kamil didn’t put an end to the Crusades, it may not have changed others, but it changed Francis. It also broadened and enlightened the Franciscan perspective that social justice begins (but does not end) with individuals entering into respectful, peaceful encounters with one another – so that they, like Francis, may be changed.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do I know individuals of color within my community? What have I learned from those relationships?
  2. What leadership positions do people of color hold in your ministry and on your board?
  3. How does your ministry encourage and facilitate person-to-person interactions with people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds?
  4. In what ways does your ministry support or advocate for racial justice?
  5. How has your ministry responded to racial injustice?
Holy Newness

Give me someone with Parkinson’s disease, cancer, or a stroke, I told my hospice supervisor, I just can’t handle another person with dementia. This conversation took place in my third year as a hospice volunteer and after the third time I visited Alice. She lived in a small home with six other residents. Alice liked to watch TV. When I showed up, she eyed me in a way that made me feel dismissed and immediately turned back to her TV show. I tried not to be offended. I suggested we turn off the TV and listen to music, which I was told she enjoyed. She said no. I decided to sit quietly and watch tv with her. After a while, another resident nodded her head toward me and asked Alice, “Who is that.” “I don’t know,” she replied with utter disinterest. I was trained to work with people with dementia; I tried all my tricks; I summoned up all my patience; but ultimately, I had to admit that I couldn’t overcome my need to be recognized. I needed a smile, a word, if not recognition of my talents, at least recognition of my presence.

I didn’t dwell on my failure, but I did start to listen more closely when people spoke about their family members with dementia. I noticed a common theme; it was that the person with dementia was in some way disappearing. Unrecognizable as the person they once were, unintelligible in their communications, they were believed to be no longer there, not even to themselves. “He is no longer himself,” they’d say. “There is nothing left of him.” “My mother is gone; she doesn’t even recognize me.”

It is quite a blow when your own mother doesn’t know who you are, and it is quite a sorrow to not recognize your mother when she is sitting right in front of you. It makes me think of the account in the bible of Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb looking for Jesus in John 20:11-16.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”  Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

In this gospel passage recognition goes both ways. Though Jesus is right in front of Mary, she doesn’t recognize him until he calls her by name. It is only when he recognizes her, that she recognizes him.

Sr. Janet Marie, a Franciscan nun and nurse working with people with dementia suggests that perhaps the person we knew is still there, and with effort, can be recognized, even in their dementia. She writes,

“There is a reason for every behavior, even if your loved one isn’t conscious of it himself. These behaviors have to do with the past and are linked to a desire for something positive, familiar and comforting. For instance, “Jim” would go around the house turning on every faucet and leaving them running. It perplexed his wife until she realized it was related to his experience as a plumber.”

Another example is “Linda” who would insist that she had to leave the nursing home. She would wait by the door, agitating the nurses. Finally, someone asked what she was going to do after she left. Linda replied that she had to feed her children who were waiting for her at home. She was acting out a maternal instinct which was a major part of her adult life.”

Maybe dementia patients aren’t disappearing, maybe seeing them just require paying closer attention, the way Sr. Janet Marie does. I wonder if those with dementia long to be recognized. If rather than focus on my need for recognition, I had focused on recognizing Alice, would things have been different?

When St. Francis was ill and close to dying, he thought back on the young man he once was, a man full of vigor and ready to conquer the world. He longed for that old self as he acknowledged his new limitations. His body was failing him, but what was deep in his heart, his desire to serve God, remained constant. The way he put it to his brothers was, “Let us begin brothers, to serve the Lord God…” Each day was a new day, a new beginning and an opportunity to begin again to pursue what Thomas of Celano describes in The Life of St. Francis as “holy newness.”

Perhaps, disease does not diminish us so much as forces us to discover ourselves in new ways. Perhaps, seeking holy newness in others as they grow old and sick, we will discover that they have not vanished but are still themselves, and also new and holy and transforming.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you ever felt unseen or unrecognized? What was the situation? How did it make you feel?
  2. Have you ever encountered someone who seemed “to not be there?” How did you respond?
  3. What does your ministry do to help recognize people others may overlook?
  4. When and how has your ministry “begun again”? What are some examples of your ministry’s holy newness?
The Generosity of Golfers and Monks

Brandon Mathews is a 25-year-old professional golfer. He was in a tie for the championship of the Argentine Open when during his final putt someone in the crowd yelped. Distracted by the sound, Mathews flinched, missed the putt and lost.

Back in the clubhouse he was angry until he was told that it was a man with Downs Syndrome who made the sound, unintentionally, out of excitement not malice. Familiar with the struggles those with Downs Syndrome face, Mathews immediately went to meet the man.

Mathews described their encounter this way, “I gave him a hug and I asked him, “Hey, are you doing OK? Are you having fun?” I just wanted to make sure he was enjoying himself, that he had no hard feelings, that he didn’t feel bad about what happened. I didn’t want anyone to be mad at him. I didn’t want him to be mad at himself. I wanted to make sure he knew that I wasn’t mad. That’s all I wanted to do.”

This kind of attentiveness and responsiveness to the needs and feelings of others is a cornerstone of Franciscan living. Brother Bill Short, a worldwide Franciscan scholar, and professor at our Franciscan School of Theology, tells another story that demonstrates this kind of attentiveness. It takes place within a monastery where monks eat their meals in silence. Brother Bill relates that since no one can say, “pass the potatoes”, or “I’d like some more water,” they live by a rule that requires them to be attentive to the monk on their right and the monk on their left. It is up to them to notice if they need potatoes or salt or more water.

Another example of this level of attentiveness and ability to sense and respond to the needs and feelings of others comes from one of our own ministries, the San Damiano Retreat Center. Wildfires in the area destroyed hundreds of acres and left dozens of people living in temporary shelters during the holidays. The staff recognized that being away from home on Christmas was difficult and might lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. In response, they agreed to work during the holidays, to provide meals, community and a sacred space for the victims of the fire.

These are examples of what we call “poverty.” As St. Francis reflected on Jesus in the gospels, he saw that He was always attentive and responsive to the needs of others. He didn’t cling to his gifts or possessions, rather, when faced with someone in need, he freely and generously gave away whatever he had. This poverty wasn’t imposed on him, Jesus chose it. It was the kind of poverty he recommended to the young man in the gospel of Mark 10:17-27.

Following in Jesus’ footprints, St. Francis also chose to live a life of poverty and he encouraged his followers to do the same. That is, to live without possessing, to be attentive to those around them and to freely and generously share, or give away, the material, spiritual, and emotional resources they had to meet the needs of others. But also, to recognize their own needs and ask others to help them, thereby, participating in a rhythm of giving and receiving that includes everyone.

Brother Bill Short points out that our institutional poverty as a ministry means that we give freely and generously to others, both of our possessions and our time, while recognizing that we are also in need and depend on the generosity of others.

Reflection Questions


  1. How attentive are you to the needs of others? Can you think of an example of when your attentiveness led you to generously give of yourself for the benefit of another? What was the gift you shared? How did you feel about it?


  1. What is your reaction to the idea that institutional poverty means that we notice the needs of others and give freely and generously to them, but also, that we too are in need and constantly depend on the generosity of others?
  2. Can you think of a story where your ministry practiced the radical generosity we think of as poverty? Are the stories well known throughout your ministry? If not, how can they be shared?
Utterly and Particularly Unique

When I was in my twenties, I met and became friends with a woman named Kate. She was fun and funny. She was a big reader and always had something new and interesting to talk about. Sometimes, when she’d been drinking, she’d talk too much and too loudly, and get into some trouble, but I liked her and accepted that just as she accepted me and my quirks.

One day she told me that she had decided to stop drinking. “If I keep drinking, I’m never going to be the person I think I’m meant to be, she said, I’ll never really be myself.” I didn’t ask her to explain. I knew what she meant. Don’t we all have an inner inkling of our true self? Maybe it is something we can’t quite articulate, or even totally understand, but something we have a sense of, and know, when we are straying from it?

Duns Scotus, a philosopher inspired by St. Francis, called that ineffable, unique thing about us, our “thisness.” It is what makes each individual utterly and particularly different from every other individual. It is a gift from God, but not a gift for us alone. Our thisness is like an irreplaceable puzzle piece. Without it, the world, like the puzzle, would be incomplete.

Mary Beth Ingham CSJ, a professor at FST, our theology school, and expert on Scotus puts it this way.

“I’m just me and all I can do is be me. That’s the only thing I can do, and I can do it better than anybody else. If I don’t do it, nobody will do it. So often we spend our lives trying to be other people. Yet God says, ‘I made you, and I like the you I’ve made, so just do your best and be yourself, and I’ll be there to help you.’ It’s not something we have to do alone, but something we grow into.”

I think this is what Kate was talking about. She was ready to grow into her “thisness.”

Reflection Questions:

  1. What are the implications for how we treat people, or develop programs, when we consider people by their shared characteristics (homeless, democrats, high earners, catholic, fearful) versus considering them as individuals with a particular and unique “thisness.”
  2. What concrete actions do we take in our ministry to encourage and celebrate our staff’s unique and particular gifts?
How To Sell A Car, Franciscan-style

Did you know that it was during St Francis’ life, spurred by the growth of the merchant class, that money first became widely used in Italy? In the midst of this growth of commerce, the friars developed a deep understanding of how economics affects people and communities. Coupling their observations and theology, the Franciscan developed an economic vision that prioritized relationships. They believe that buying and selling shouldn’t be about self-interest or maximizing profits, but about maximizing relationships, strengthening community ties, building mutual trust, expressing generosity, creating reasonable profits and focusing on the common good.

Sounds nice – but how would it play out in real life?

Well, one example might be the way writer Firoozeh Dumas’ dad sold his car. She writes that he, an Iranian immigrant, loved all things American, especially big cars. When it came time to sell his cherished Chrysler Lebaron, he asked her, his 13-year-old daughter and advisor on all things American, to write the ad. Here is how she tells the story.

“When it came time to decide on a price, my father wanted $1,000. I suggested that if he wanted $1,000, he should ask for $1,200. My father, with his tendency to agree with all my ideas, good or bad, consented. A parade of potential buyers started coming to our condo. I made sure to always be there, standing next to my father. My perfect Valley Girl English put people at ease, mitigating my father’s thick Persian accent.
One evening, a man showed up with his two daughters, who were around 8 years old. After looking under the hood, he decided to buy the car and told us that he would return the next day. We waited with great anticipation. As promised, he showed up the following evening, again with his daughters. After exchanging pleasantries, he removed a wad of cash from his pockets and counted twelve $100 bills.

My father took the bills, thanked the man but didn’t put the money in his pocket. He kept staring at the wad of cash. After a moment, he peeled off two of the bills and gave them back. “This is for your beautiful daughters. Please take them to Disneyland and buy them whatever they want.”
The man looked confused, almost annoyed, like he was being pranked. “Please,” my father repeated, pushing the money into the man’s palm. “You must take your daughters to Disneyland.” The girls started to squeal. The man paused for a moment, then hugged my father vigorously. As he drove away in his new used LeBaron, the sisters waved furiously at us.

That evening, my father could not have been happier.”

This is not a perfect example of Franciscan commerce, but it is a pretty good one. The dad wants a fair price, nothing more. He is not clinging to “the money” as a possession he deserves. He sees it as a gift that he can share to increase the joy of others. His act of generosity fostered trust and moved all the individuals involved into a deeper sense of connectedness, relationship and gratitude.

Reflection Questions

  1. Can you recall a similar story in your life, or ministry?
  2. Are you attracted to the Franciscan view of economics? If yes, why? If no, why? (To find out more, read A Free and Fraternal Economy by Fr. Martin Carbajo, one of our Franciscan Theology School professors.)
  3. If your ministry adopted the Franciscan view that our financial exchanges should be driven by generosity and a desire to build relationships, community and trust, (in addition to reasonable profits), how might your approach to vendor negotiations, investments, severance, pricing, and consuming goods, change?