Continuing our series Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples, Franciscan Mission Service Communications Associate Michael Carlson interviews Jason Miller, Franciscan Action Network (FAN) Director of Campaigns and Development, on his recent act of civil disobedience in opposition to the southern leg of the Keystone Pipeline.

Read his reflection on the event at Acting Franciscan: A Blog of the Franciscan Action Network:

Risking Arrest on Martin Luther King’s Birthday

1. Anointing of the Sick is a call to heal. How can someone fulfill that calling through civil disobedience?

When we think of Anointing of the Sick, we often think of gaining spiritual strength from the Sacrament after suffering from a physical sickness or injury. However, I found my act of civil disobedience to be healing for me in a mental and spiritual sense, similar to the Sacrament, even though I had suffered no injury or illness.

I knew that the act of risking arrest would allow my mind to be at ease no matter what happened with the Keystone decision. The act left me spiritually renewed to continue to fight for social justice.

2. How is Franciscan spirituality a call to heal creation just like the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick?

A major part of Franciscan spirituality is caring for creation, as we’ve been entrusted with tending to the earth. It’s clear through global warming and other threats that we’ve lost sight of this mandate, and need to focus our energies in making sure that the earth is around for future generations.

Much like Anointing of the Sick is a call for spiritual strength during a period of physical healing, as one human family we need to refocus our priorities in a spiritual sense to ensure that the earth is whole physically—and that includes reducing carbon emissions. We have a duty to act justly for our Earth.

3. Anointing of the Sick also imitates the journey of Christ’s Passion. What are the costs of discipleship when we live Franciscan spirituality?

To be a disciple of Christ and to fully live out Franciscan spirituality asks a lot of a person. I received Anointing of the Sick myself before having surgery in the 7th grade. Much like Christ during the Passion, it was a trying time, taking months to recover from the surgery, including weeks on crutches.

But even at a young age, I knew that even though it was a difficult situation, I was given the grace and spiritual strength needed to recover. While I didn’t have a full understanding of Franciscan spirituality at that age, I did choose Francis as a Confirmation name the following year. Not an easy journey, but certainly a rewarding one in the end.

The Trial of Fire of St. Francis before the Sultan by Fra Angelico

4. What do you think St. Francis would say to U.S. Catholics praying for racial harmony and justice during Black History Month?

St. Francis reached out to the Sultan of Egypt at a time when it was politically and socially unacceptable, similar to how Muslims are viewed in this country today. We also have a difficult history with African Americans in the United States.

I believe that because of St. Francis’ outreach to the “other,” he would celebrate Black History Month, and view it as another tool that unites, rather than divides. He too would pray for a more inclusive and tolerant United States for all people, religious and racial minorities included.