Sweet & Spicy

Sweet & Spicy

JPIC in Indonesia and the Philippines

“The Lord gave me, Brother Francis, thus to begin doing penance in this way: for when I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body.”

These words from St. Francis’ Testament came alive for me during my visit to Indonesia and the Philippines this past January 8-28, 2024.

During my last week in Southeast Asia, I was able to offer a spiritual retreat to the friars of the Custody of the Philippines. Early on in our conversations, we considered the ever old, yet ever new, Franciscan Question of: “Who is my (our) leper today?” Each day, I listened to the stories of the friars and how, in their ministries, they regularly encounter the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalized.

Moving from the profound to the mundane, one of the constant concerns of the friars was whether or not I liked the food―all of which I found to be consistently sweet.

By the end of the week, I had formed my own insights as to how the sweetness of the Filipino cuisine can serve as a profound metaphor for the life and ministry of the friars. Again and again, I witnessed how the sweet and gentle kindness of the friars profoundly touches the people whom they serve. With their devotion to Santo Niño, [the Infant Jesus] whose statue I danced down the aisle with after the Sunday liturgy, I witnessed firsthand how, through song, dance, and food, the Filipinos have a gift of turning the bitterness in people’s lives into the sweetness of a life lived in Christ Jesus.

While in the Philippines, I was also able to visit all the postulants, novices, and friars in formation in order to offer conferences, and preach during Mass about the way we Franciscans live Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in our world today. The week before that, I visited our friaries in the Sumatra region of Indonesia, where I offered the same JPIC conferences to young men at all stages of formation.

In Indonesia, I was blessed to have met so many of the friars and the people in the friars’ parishes. It seems to me that the friars of Indonesia live a variation of St. Francis conversion experience with the leper. They showed me how they turn that which is bitter in life into a spiciness that is also reflected in their cuisine. Time and again, their energetic singing and creativeness in ministry showed me how these various spice notes enrich the lives of many different demographics of people.

I was very impressed by an organic store that the friars created to repurpose the gifts of food that they receive during the offertory at Mass. The quality of the work the friars do, and the reasonable prices they offer, help the poor and disadvantaged savor the tastes of goodness that God wishes to offer to us all. The friars also founded a coffee shop called “Café Pastoral Frankoni.” It is located at the Santo Josef Parish Church, in Delitua, Indonesia, and is part of the friars’ ministry to youth and young adults.

The friars of Southeast Asia are living our Franciscan life in a way that puts the thinking of St. Bonaventure into practice. St. Bonaventure often encouraged the friars to use all their senses when experiencing God and sharing God with others. Sweet or spicy, the friars are transforming that which was bitter into the goodness of living JPIC today.

-Friar Michael Lasky OFM Conv.
General Delegate for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC)

(To see many more photos, please visit our Order website: ofmconv.net)