The BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE
FROM THE WRITINGS ON ST. FRANCIS:
St. Francis developed the habit of begging door to door for food. Not right away though because before his conversion he always said that he would not touch anything he did not like. Here is how he changed his life according to the Legend of Three Companions (1246).
St. Francis Penitent
Rome, Pinacoteca Capitolina
He had been receiving special food from a priest while he was rebuilding the church of San Damiano. “One day, however, when he noticed the priest was providing him with special food, he reflected: “Wherever you may happen to go, do you suppose that you will find another such priest who will treat you so kindly? This is not the life of the poor such as you wished to choose: rather you should go, bowl in hand, from door to door, and driven by hunger, collect the various morsels that may be given. It is only thus that you can live voluntarily for love of Him who was born poor, lived poor in this world, and remained naked and poor on the cross.”
So, one day, with great fervor he took a bowl and went through the streets of the city begging for alms from door to door just as he had described the begging of the poor. People dropped a variety of scraps in the bowl; and knowing what his former life had been, many were exceedingly astonished at such self-degradation and at seeing him so completely changed.
When it came to eating the contents of the bowl, Francis’ stomach turned, for he had never seen such a mess, let alone tried to eat it. At last, making a great effort, he started to gulp it down, and it seemed to him the most delicious food in the world. His heart leaped with joy and he thanked God, for he realized that, though weak and afflicted in body, he was able to endure anything, however hard, for the love of the Lord. He praised and thanked God who had changed what was bitter into sweetness and had comforted him in so many ways. He also asked the priest, from then onwards, not to procure or prepare any more food for him.
Conversion begins within. The first urgings we feel we don’t often care to respond to. It takes heroic courage to overcome our fallen nature, and it is in the grace of Jesus Christ only that we will ever find the strength to approach things differently. Life is filled with shocks. We all have things we look at that turn our stomach that could be great blessings in disguise. Gifts in humble wrappings.
The disciplines of the Rule are like the food in the bowl for St. Francis. It is not easy to alter one’s lifestyle for the sake of the invisible God just because the words of the gospel say ‘deny yourself’. It is always a matter of our will. What do we want to bring to God? How do we want our epitaph to read? Those first steps into self discipline break our nature. They are rarely pleasant. The surprise comes like it did for St. Francis. When we do it, THEN the knowledge of the good is given, and often not before. THEN we are given to realize the good in what we have done. In this way, God moves us and touches us.
Blessed be the Lord!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
St. Francis said “I shall summarize my will for my brothers (and sisters) in memory of my blessing and my testament, let them love one another and respect each other; let them love and always respect my Lady Holy Poverty; let them always be faithful and submissive to prelates and to all clerics of our holy Mother the Church.” I think there is much we should all consider in this writing on St. Francis from the Legend of Perugia, written in 1246.
To begin with, it is a summary of his will. It was appropriate that he make such a statement for us to consider. We are part of those to whom he wrote it if we follow his Rules of life. Whether we are friar, sister, or layperson in the world. We all have a need to develop in ourselves a focus in life. Having just lost my mother, I can see that what we leave behind is a meditation on the driving impetus behind our own lives. How often we all commented on my mother’s holiness. Her support and love of others. Her focus on God. The many good deeds she did for others. Afghans, RCIA, gardens she put it, ministry in her parish where she was the oldest Eucharistic minister, all speak so well of her as wife, mother, and a committed member of this Association, in which she was received by Father Valerius in 1997. Her life, like the words of St. Francis, point out clearly that it is impossible to know who we each are without considering our ‘will’, that is our purpose, mission and accomplishments in life. From our works people will see who we are.
How does that relate to us in the BSP? We are building a community in the Church with its blessing. We are like the first followers of St. Francis reborn in a new age. We have an obligation to love and respect others wherever we are. We are starting a mosaic. We each are a piece of it wherever we live. We need to do the works that God has given us to do, and find more ways to serve Him and the people of God. One of the things we can do now, as members of this Association, is to evangelize our brothers and sisters in the Church, our families and communities. We can invite them to live lives of prayer and penance. We can speak of it in a favorable way, for we know the secret. “Eye has not seen. Ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man what God has prepared for those who love Him, except for the spiritually mature.” (1 Cor.2:9) Who are the spiritually mature? Those who live and move in the Spirit of God, as we do when we serve Him.
To St. Francis these were the ones who would ‘love and respect one another’, love poverty meaning they would not love the world or possessions they owned, and would be faithful and submissive to holy Mother the Church, who brings us the gospel message and the most holy Body and Blood of our Savior on the altar. And that message calls us to follow the Lord perfectly, so all these points sum up to loving Jesus and obeying Him in our lives and works, that is, our “will” as demonstrated by who we are.
We, in the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, are not those who ignore ecclesial authority. We cannot claim authority greater than our priests. The Rule of 1221, for instance, explicitly provides no authority to the leaders of the Association to overturn or remove the Visitor for instance. If questions ever arise on a priest, these questions should always be referred to a bishop. The Church governs the Church. There is no way in the Rule to ignore the Church. No way to disobey the humblest of priests, except if they counsel us to sin. We are to be a holy people. It is to be ‘our will’ to follow perfectly the Church and what it teaches. To do other than this is not God’s will, neither is it the will of any Saint. It is anathema.
There is much more that could be said about what ‘our will’ looks like. I think it is good we all examine it. What do we want to bring to God? How can living a holy life, and the Rule of the BSP, help us. Who do we want to be?
In all things, may God bless and guide us ever closer to His Will.
Bruce Fahey BSP
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The purpose of the Association is to renew the lifestyle given to the world by St. Francis in the Rule of 1221, in our own lives and our modern world for the Love of God and as a Gospel witness to the world. The vision of the Association is that we are a family of Catholic lay brothers and sisters who are seeking Union with God after the manner and according to the example given to the world by St. Francis of Assisi. Our work, and the direction we are moving the documents and website of the Association, are dedicated to this Rule and at fulfilling our purpose and vision.
Unfortunately, due to the press of getting necessary paperwork done on the transition of the BSP out of Rhode Island and into Minnesota, and full time jobs that both of us have, we are finding that this is taking longer than we thought. Fear not, there is much more coming than is on the website already. Our objective is to have everything operational by the end of the year, although this is a work that will never end.
That said, a number of other questions have come up recently from members that might clarify other points of information that you have. They follow:
QUESTION: Are we still the BSP?
ANSWER: Yes, we are still the BSP. The BSP is alive and well. Several leaders, on August 22, 2003, decided to form their own group, and they resigned from the BSP taking with them many of the approaches and documents we created by and for the BSP, causing great confusion among the BSP membership.
QUESTION: Why has the name of the Association changed?
ANSWER: Technically, it has not been changed, it has been enhanced to include the founder of the Rule.
We changed the name by merely adding the words “of St. Francis” to our name. So, the official name of the Association for government and Church records is now ‘The Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis’, while our functional name remains in all regards the Brothers and Sisters of Penance and our signatory letters are still “BSP”, not “BSPSF”.
QUESTION: When will the website be done?
ANSWER: The website will never be done. We plan it as our primary way to reach out to the world in the name of St. Francis and we expect it to be an ongoing act of beauty and love for all seeking a holy way of life.
QUESTION: Do you plan to change the statutes and formation plans?
ANSWER: We plan on enhancing the statutes and formation plans with additions on Franciscan spirituality and history.
QUESTION: Is the BSP open to the SFO?
ANSWER: Very much so, and we have a very favorable position with the SFO in our State. More work will be done to enhance our position there in the future. Question on this should be directed to the Communication Center.
If you have questions you would like answered in this newsletter please send them to the BSP Communication Center at one of the addresses in this newsletter.
Sincerely yours in Jesus Christ,
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
LETTERS FROM MEMBERS: Winnie Spencer-dealy
The BSP, Still and Again
I have been friend of the BSP for over 4 years now. The spirit of St. Francis, his simplicity and humility, continue to call me to the BSP. The call to live a life of penance in a world filled with materialism and lust challenges me, bids me to take up arms and continue the fight. The holy example set by our good Father Francis is a beacon of light on a sea of darkness, the beautiful sound of the fog horn to a wearied sailor. His life of poverty and love inspire me to serve Jesus all the more, longing ever to give up more for love of Christ.
I am especially buoyed these days at the loving service of Bruce and Shelley, who in this time of trial and challenge, have not stopped working to better serve those of us who chose to stay with the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, now of St. Francis. I pray to God our loving Father to continue to guide Bruce and Shelley, and to stay ever near to the BSP. His Hand of blessing has been upon us, both in the past and until now. May His abundance continue to overflow upon us, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Mother. Surely with her and under her protection, we cannot but succeed!
We shall continue to strive in our Office of Prayer, keeping in mind that prayer is the very foundation of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis. Prayer shall be our fortress and our stronghold. Our Lord has given us grace in prayer, and we are to be reminded that we have only to ask and it shall be given, to seek and we shall find, to knock and the door shall be opened. Jesus asks us what good father would hand his son a stone when bread had been asked for? Certainly we shall persevere in prayer, and He shall answer us, each by name. We shall praise the name of our Lord, we shall worship Christ in the Eucharist. We shall be attentive in our hearts, united with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. With this knowledge and grace, and with Mother Mary and all the Saints on our side, uniting their prayers with ours, we are strengthened indeed.
I take great comfort that the spirit of the Rule of 1221 has not changed, for a life of holiness may be achieved through it, as St. Francis knew so well. His approval of the Rule written so long ago for just our sort of people is key to my resolution to stick with the BSP. I believe the Holy Spirit is working through the Brothers and Sisters of Penance; I believed that 4+ years ago when I first learned of the BSP, and I believe it now, despite the feelings of confusion, loss, and upheaval that I believe some may still experience, myself included. This of course, because I also experience feelings of deep loyalty to the spirit of the Rule of 1221, and love that the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis are committed to living that spirit. The BSP has given me renewed faith in the Church as established by Jesus over two thousand years ago. I submit happily to Her authority, for the Holy Spirit is with the Church. The beautiful and earthy spirit of the good Friar St. Francis permeates the BSP, and the spirit of the Rule of 1221 is still alive.
Praise be to God,
His Angels and His Saints!
His Love is established in us!
THE FAST OF ST. MARTIN
November 12 begins the Fast of St. Martin. Our Rule calls for fasting daily, "except on account of infirmity or any other need, throughout the fast of St. Martin from after said day until Christmas." (Article 9) We do this to prepare for Christmas with an Advent fast.
This would apply to those who have completed the Novice 2 year of formation, or those who wish to do so. You can fast other than from food if it suits you and you are not bound by the Rule. For example, fast from TV, or other entertainment you enjoy, or treats, etc. This can be a positive fast, such as fasting from having the last word or fasting from having your own way. Your spiritual director will be able to provide additional suggestions to assist you in observing the penitential nature of this special season.
May the fasting we do during this holy Fast of St. Martin, bring us into more perfect conformity to Christ and assist us in our total surrender to God. May it help prepare us for Christmas Day!
Praise and honor to Jesus forever!
FROM THE WEB: The Pelianito Journals: http://www3.telus.net/pelianito/
"Child be not afraid to make requests of your loving Father, no matter how big or small. It pleases me to be able to answer each one in the way that will lead to your greatest good. Trust that I hear and answer your prayers my child. Then live in joy and eternal gratitude for whatever form the answer might take."
Enter into the Word: Colossians 4:2
“Persevere in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving; at the same time, pray for us, too, that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak of the mystery of Christ... "
Little one pray always. Do not give up, but pray with thanksgiving, trying not to complain if things do not happen to suit your timing or your wishes. But trust in me. I am with you. I am in you . I hear every small cry of your heart and I am looking after you my beloved. Be not afraid, but pray, asking also for the opportunity to speak my words to others for their benefit and salvation."
Lord make it so. Make it possible for me to speak your words and give me the courage and determination I need to accomplish your will in the world. Lord I await your coming with joyful hope and I ask for the opportunity to work for your kingdom.
"Little child trust in me."
(Feel free to access the website to subscribe to the Pelianito journal. If you have questions about it, Pelianito can answer them on the site—these are beautiful, touching messages for those interested.)
“So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (JMS 2:17)
Feel free to access the Prayer List Forum on our Web site, at
and post your prayer requests.
They will be online on the following day.
ABOUT THE NEWSLETTER…
All members are welcome to submit articles for consideration for inclusion in the newsletter if they are directed towards the formation of members or are the outgrowth of the lifestyle.
Just send them to: Bruce and Shelley Fahey at email:
or mail to BSP at
20939 Quadrant Ave. N., Scandia MN 55073.
Feel free to share this newsletter with your friends or neighbors. It is intended to be the primary monthly communication in the Association.
If you have any questions on any of this, or would like to offer your talents, feel free to give a call at (651)433-2753, or send a letter at one of the e-mail addresses above.
Thank you, and May God bless us all.
Minister and Messenger of the BSP of St. Francis
In the world, but not of it, for Christ!