In his youth Francis like many young men of his age longed to be a to a great knight. But not until later did he come understand who his true King and Queen were and who the enemy was. Once he discovered his vocation to rebuild the church through the call of Jesus from the cross of San Damiano, he and a small group of followers began to rebuild the churches of Assisi. Later he came understand that the church to be rebuilt was made up of living stones forming Mystical Body of Christ and all its many members built on Jesus the cornerstone rejected by the builders.
Over the course of his relatively brief life, the simple but joyful gospel living St. Francis desired attracted many followers. People who were willing to give up all their worldly possessions to gain the pearl of great price, a life of union with the the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Francis discovered early in his conversion process that the most Holy Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus was to be his primary intercessor to enable him to achieve this intimate union which finally resulted in Francis receiving the wounds of Jesus after a 10 day fast on Mt. Laverna. Francis died not long after his piercing and was soon canonized by the church.
I did not begin to understand my Franciscan vocation until decades after the initial call. My spiritual formation began as a young boy at St. Gabriel Catholic School in Glendale Ohio just north of Cincinnati where I attended grades one through four. At St. Gabriel school we were able to pray the holy sacrifice of the mass before school each day. Our humble pastor, Father Montanus was the only priest at the parish and when not when offering mass he was usually dressed in a very worn cassock. I can remember seeing him cutting the grass in front of his house. The nuns who taught at St. Gabriel also lived in a house adjacent the school. I received the sacraments of Confession, Holy Communion and Confirmation at St. Gabriel School. As a young boy I felt the close presence of Holy Trinity and our Blessed Mother Mary at St. Gabriel school.
I loved St. Gabriel school and really hated to leave there when my family move out of the valley and up the hill to Kenwood where I attended All Saints School grades five through eight. I was in sixth or seventh grade when my uncle Eugene Scharnhorst lent me a book about St. Padre Pio. At the time I did not know Padre Pio was a Franciscan Capuchin Friar. I could see from the pictures that he was suffering greatly with what appeared to be the wounds of the crucified Christ. He seemed to me to be very a humble suffering servant of Christ. We formed a kind of a spiritual friendship Padre Pio and I.
Although I fell away from the practice of my faith during my high school years and early college years, I always had a strong devotion to Holy Mary and Padre Pio and would pray hail Mary’s during times of trial. During a time of trial at the age of 39, I had the great blessing seeing an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper about a local woman who reported receiving apparitions and messages of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In the article it said that a miracle would performed at St. Joseph’s Catholic church in Cold Springs Kentucky on on August 31 of 2002. Mostly out of curiosity, somehow I found myself at St. Joseph’s church that night and with many hundreds of others prayed the rosary in the church that night. Upon leaving the church and heading back towards the park, I saw what appeared to me to be people taking pictures with many camera flashes. As I tried to understand what they were taking pictures of, I noticed that what I thought were camera flashes was actually small flashes of of moving light, almost like fireflies. I could see these small flashes of light moving through the trees under which I was standing next church but these were not fireflies and there were no cameras flashing. I recognized I woman I had met while praying the rosary after mass met at Immaculate Conception Church and asked where these miracle was an she told me that small flashes of light was the miracle. The was the beginning of a very powerful conversion experience.
In the months that followed the visionary reporting that Mary would appear and give a message on the 13th of each month. I attended these each month and witnessed several additional miracles including the appearance of an image of Holy Mary in a Polaroid picture taken at the farm in Falmouth Kentucky the small flashes of light at a night time apparition at a Seminary in Norwood, Ohio. It was during these apparitions that I met Sandy the visionary. At one of the apparitions also met a woman who recommended I read the “Mystical City of God” by great Franciscan mystic Sister Maria of Agreda. This period of my wife was part of a very deep conversion experience and I began to by but many spiritual books. I bought book about Padre Pio and discovered he was a Franciscan. From that point on I thought I had a Franciscan vocation but did not know how to fulfill it.
My initial attempt to join the Secular Franciscan Order was in 1997 but the Fraternity meetings were on Saturday’s which was our primary family day to work around the house so this was not a good fit. It wasn’t until 2005 that I met Lori Seelhoff during practice for the St. Margaret Mary contemporary choir. She was wearing her Tau cross and I asked hew what it was. She me that it was the Tau cross and that she was a member of Secular Franciscan Order and that they met at the San Pedro Center. I asked her of the the true spirit of St. Francis was present there. She said it was and so I attended my initial meeting in the fall of 2004.
I began my formation inquiry into the Secular Franciscan Order in the winter of 2005 and completed my permanent profession in the the fall of 2008. During this I had the great blessing of the assistance of Faith Libbe and John Deaton during formation process where many tears of joy were shed in the embrace of the Holy Spirit.
After having to leave the city of Orlando for job in 2008, During the time I was able to complete an initial draft of the screen play for the “The Mystical City of God” and formed Mystical City Media for this purpose. I was able to return to Orlando in 2010 I was elected as Vice Minister of Lady Poverty Fraternity later that year. Since my return I have had the great privilege to assist two formation sessions of new inquirers and to host several presentations on my quest to make a documentary on the life of the most Blessed Virgin Mary based on the visions of great Franciscan mystic Sister Maria Of Jesus (of Agreda) as written in her great work “The Mystical City of God”.
I continue in my Franciscan spiritual formation until this very day and look forward to assisting many new Franciscans in discovering their vocations. To God be the glory.