THE WAY OF PENANCE IN OUR TIMES:
A meditation - By Anna Ferroni BSP - Italy
Reading an article on an Italian magazine, I learned that a Catholic Church in Baghdad is dedicated to "Our Mother of Sadness". I thought, it is not so common that name for a church, but how appropriate for a church in Baghdad. How sad must be Mary's maternal heart for the war.
We live in an age full of conflicts, outrageous crimes, scandals and perversions. The way to rid the world of all of these is the Gospel of Penance: the proclamation of the necessity and importance of the way of mortification and self-sacrifice. Mary said in many apparitions she was sad and worried for the destiny of mankind, unless people convert to a life of penance. Her call in 1917 at Fatima was centered on conversion, reparation, penance and prayer.
The life of Penance is the beginning of the life of authentic love of Christ Jesus. We see this in the lives of several Saints. Just think of St. Francis. The beginning of his conversion was a life of hard labour to rebuild St. Damiano's church; a life of charity for lepers, despite their wounds and smell which so revolted him; a life of fasting and prayer. Such was St. Francis's love of Christ.
If we love Christ, we will want to walk with Him. And to walk with Him is to be His disciple. But, as He teaches, we cannot be His disciple, unless we take up our cross and only then follow Him. There is no greater work more needful, more important than a personal commitment to a life of penance. And no time has the Church had more need of this among its members than the present time. Each moment of our lives is an opportunity to contribute to the struggle between Our Lady and her adversary, the evil one. What is our response to God's call, which He gives to us through Mary?
Mary and Contemplative Prayer:
By Winnie Spencer-dealy BSP
The Blessed Virgin Mary is our best and greatest model for Prayer. Our Rule is founded on prayer, and the Catholic Faith is rich in the tradition of prayer. We have many holy examples and models for the sacred communication we call prayer. As a 1 Novice in the BSP, I am learning to increase my vocal prayer, and more richly, add meditative and contemplative prayer to my days. The Church makes it easy for us to increase our vocal prayer, as we have the Liturgy of the Hours to rely on, uniting our prayers with that of the whole people of God. But there is a rich source of teaching on meditative and contemplative prayer.
From writings on such classic teachers as John of the Cross, Teresa de Avila, Frances de Sales, and also more contemporary writers as M. Basil Pennington, and Anthony de Mello, we learn about both contemplative prayer and meditative prayer. We have much to meditate on: the Birth, Passion, and Death of Jesus, His Resurrection and Ascension, the holy examples of the Saints. But where do we look when we pray in a contemplative way?
Mary pondered on the life of her Son, "keeping all these things in her heart." Contemplative prayer is prayer of the heart, not of the mind. We are to rest our minds. To do this, we call upon the patronage of our Mother Mary. We ask that she aid our protection, and bid her to pray with us. We join our prayers with hers, and we still the mind. We concentrate on a fixed point, regulating our breathing, soothing the restless mind, and keeping it still. Then we rest in that stillness, gathering Energy and Light. Mary is with us, praying with us, her mantle around us, and we commune with God. This is the beautiful practice of contemplative prayer.
Because she is our Mother, we follow her ways, and love her. We serve her interests, for they are united with our Lord's. Mary watched as Jesus went alone to pray. We are sure that He communed with God, and that the Creator loved Jesus in full. Mary observed this, and sought to contemplate these things, seeking God in prayer. She now takes us as her children and teaches us how to pray, and we may learn from her. What a blessed opportunity!. So do not seek to hesitate when she bids you to come to her and learn from her. She will guide us in our practice. Dedicate your contemplative prayer time to Jesus and Mary, and then rest in God.
We shall not forget our earthly mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and sisters this Mother's Day. We will honor them for the spirit of the feminine, that beautiful Lady-likeness and Motherly quality that we see in the Blessed Virgin. May God bless them all, and may our prayers be blessed. Happy Mother's Day to all this season, and always.
THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS:
IV. No one should claim the office of superior as his own
“I did not come to be served but to serve” (Mt. 20:28), our Lord tells us. Those who are put in charge of others should be no prouder of their office than if they had been appointed to wash the feet of their comrades. They should be no more upset at the loss of their authority than they would be if they were deprived of the task of washing feet. The more they are upset, the greater risk they incur to their souls.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD[*]:
OUR RULE AND STATUTES
CHAPTER I: DAILY LIFE
And both the brothers and the sisters shall have their fur garments of lamb's wool only. They are permitted to have leather purses and belts sewed in simple fashion without silken thread, and no other kind. Also other vain adornments they shall lay aside at the bidding of the Visitor.
For the Love of God - Fur and lamb's wool are pretty much out of fashion. In fact, often hard to find. This article appears again as a call to simplicity. We can choose to respond in different ways. Perhaps we can choose to wear an older coat, or just keep one coat. The same could be applied to belts and purses also.
Regarding laying aside vain adornments without being told, we can minimize our personal jewelry. The "Visitor" in these articles was normally a priest. So, if we have questions on this, or other things, we can go to our spiritual directors, or a priest or religious friend, and ask what we should do. St. Francis always valued obedience to others as spiritually sound. It is a form of fasting or self denial. If one is married they can ask their spouse, and then obey them, for the Love of God.
For the Love of God - In one particular story about St. Francis it is recounted how the father of St. Francis "...arranged to have Francis brought before the bishop of the diocese, where he should renounce all his claims and return everything he had (from his father). In his genuine love for poverty, Francis was more than ready to comply and he willingly appeared before the bishop. There he made no delay - without hesitation, without hearing or saying a word - he immediately took off his clothes and gave them back to his father. Then it was discovered that he wore a hair-shirt under his fine clothes next to his skin. He even took off his trousers in his fervor and enthusiasm and stood there naked before them all."
For the Love of God - As followers of St. Francis we should always remember and often reflect upon the Scripture wherein the Lord tells us to: "Stop worrying, over questions like, `What are we to eat, or what are we to drink, or what are we to wear?' The unbelievers are always running after these things. Your heavenly Father knows all that you need. Seek first his kingship over you, his way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides. Enough, then, of worrying about tomorrow. Let tomorrow take care of itself. Today has troubles enough of its own." (Matt. 6:31-34)
[*] This is a meditation on the Rule of 1221 written by Bruce and Shelley
Fahey prior to the creation of the BSP. Do not confuse this meditation with
the official Rule and Statutes of the BSP as posted on the web page at
www.bspenance.org which define how we live the Rule today. A copy of the
Rule and Statutes of the BSP may be obtained by writing the BSP
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY
“Because you have seen Me, Thomas, you believe. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (Jn. 20, 29) Some look down on Thomas because he had to see to believe. There were many others who saw Jesus and not only didn’t believe, but put Him to death. How many of us have asked for a sign? We can identify with Thomas.
We celebrate the Resurrection of the Christ, made special this year by “The Movie.” It’s difficult to leave “The Movie” behind and move on as though something very dramatic hasn’t happened. The Passion of the Christ has moved so many hearts, brought about so many conversions, and has everyone talking about Jesus in a positive way, that one would like to remain in this present moment. The images it calls to mind make prayer so easy: Mary coming to the aid of the child Jesus, and to her Son on the Way of the Cross saying, “I’m here.” The two Mary’s wiping the precious blood of Jesus from the pavement. Or Mary Magdalene on Calvary when the Cross was about to be turned over. She was prostrate on the ground, horrified with fear of what would happen to Jesus, covering her face yet wanting to see. Mary of Agreda says that angels held the Cross and prevented Jesus from being crushed under it. She also said the
executioners deliberately put the holes for the nails too far apart so that the arms of Jesus would be hyper-extended. We get little glimpses like this of the enormity of the suffering Jesus endured for love of us.
Will we ever know the whole story, perhaps a documentary in a theatre in the sky?
Like Thomas we are changed when at last we see, and have no more excuses. Now we know what it means to be scourged. No wonder the special friends of God visibly bled from the wounds of Jesus once they saw, becoming a perfect Image of their Master. They were in tune with what really mattered to Him, and dead to self. Anyone with a heart for loving, anyone with the gift of tears at seeing so great a love and wishing to make some semblance of a meager return has to cry out: “What can I do for you, Jesus?” The answer is: Plenty.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.” Those are the words we hope to hear from our Savior when we meet Him. The operative word is “faithful.” I don’t know if there is anything we can do that will be
more beautiful for God in this Age of Apostasy than to be faithful to Jesus and His Bride the Church. Many who try to follow Jesus have stumbled on His “Hard Sayings,” but instead of walking away from Him, today they remain to sow seeds of discord, confusion and division. Disciples follow their Master, not someone else, or a conscience not in conformity with the Truth.
“The Movie” has corrected a great imbalance since Vatican II. A friend of ours said that a progressive Sister once told her, in effect, to “stop praying and get to work!” We now realize the necessity of
prayer and personal devotion to the Master. Fidelity is the perfect antidote to the pathological self-absorption of the ‘60’s generation, where the emphasis shifted from the Sacred to the Secular, from Jesus to self, and from prayer to action, without contemplating whether that action sprung from God’s will or self will. Books were written on whether Jesus was accompanying us on our journey. Mel Gibson made sure the accent is on faithfully following Jesus, not the other way around.
After wandering in the desert of dissent for 40 years with the disobedient, it’s time for the faithful to exert their influence in the Church and in society. “Someone stop this!” cried the women when the
soldiers were mercilessly beating Jesus just before Simon of Cyrene came to His rescue. Who will stop the merciless scourging of the Mystical Body of Christ through the scandal of dissent? The faithful suffer greatly along with their Master at this present-day scourging. A true disciple accepts and believes in the teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals (Doctrine), and submits to the authority of the
Magisterium (Discipline). One reason I joined the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis is to make a continuing public statement that I will be faithful to Jesus in imitation of our holy father St. Francis, the model of humility and obedience. St. Francis would be outspoken in his denunciation of the dishonor shown Jesus through disobedience to His Church. What will our response be, especially now that we have actually seen with our eyes a Love beyond all comprehension. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of YOUR FAITHFUL, and enkindle in them THE FIRE OF YOUR LOVE!
Morning Star Chapter—BSP
By Donna Kay Rock, SFO, Warren, PA— Postulant in the BSP
Our Lord when He arose, was transfigured in His Glorified Body. We all are in the transition time now, after the Resurrection Of Our Lord.
St. Mary Magdalene wanted to hold on to Jesus, after she realized , He was not the Gardner; "Rabboni, Teacher!" I often wondered why St. Mary Magdalene couldn't embrace Jesus, but I realized it was because the purpose of His Resurrection was not accomplished. He had to go before the Father in our behalf, in His Glorified Body. He would also send us the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to be with us till He returns again. As the angel said to the Our Lady and the Disciples, when Our Lord ascended, "Why do you stand looking up to Heaven? This Jesus who has been taken up from you to Heaven, shall come in the same way as you have seen Him going up." What consolation indeed! We too will have glorified bodies after our own Resurrection, because of what Our Lord did for us. We now, have Our Lord in the tabernacles of our Holy Catholic Churches, till the end of time, He is in His Glorified Body there, and also he dwells within! us, if we let Him, and if we are in the State Of Grace.
Let us take this time between The Resurrection and the Ascension, to meditate deeply on the Gospels, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts. When we get caught up with the world and it's troubles, and our own, let us stop, close our eyes, and think of Our Lord in His Glorified Body.
May all of you, dear Brothers and Sisters, find a special peace and love of Our Lord in your hearts during this time in the Church's Calendar. Let us pray together, "Marantha, Lord Jesus, Come!
FRANCISCAN SAINTS: Blessed Ramon Lull
Mystic, Missionary and Martyr, the "Enlightened Doctor"
Ramon (Raymond) Lull was born of a distinguished family at Palma in the island of Majorca of the Balearic group in 1235. Of his infancy and early youth nothing is known for certain. He was accustomed to medieval luxury from his birth, as his parents had a large estate and his father was distinguished for military services. He received the education of a knight, frequented the court of Spain, and became an accomplished poet, philosopher, theologian, and alchemist.
In 1257 Lull married and soon became father of two children.
His luxurious and hedonistic living continued until he was thirty years old. Then he was permanently changed by an amazing fact. One evening he was busy composing a love-song to a married lady. Suddenly there appeared before him a vision of the Crucified Christ. The next evening, no sooner had he sat down to complete the song than the vision appeared again. For four nights in a row the vision repeated itself. Finally, Lull understood: this was a special message for himself to convert and to devote himself entirely to Christ's service.
Ramon has a vision of Christ Crucified
Lull surrendered to Christ calling him. Whilst the vicissitudes of his life were yet to begin, the struggle in his soul was over. He felt engraved on his heart the great spectacle of divine Self-sacrifice. Henceforth he had only one passion, to love and serve Christ.
On the fourth of October, Lull went to the Franciscan church at Palma and heard a sermon on Saint Francis. The preacher said that Francis, son of Pietro Bernadone, was a rather wealthy young man on the road toward economic success, but the Crucifix spoke to him. Francis then exchanged his clothes for the garb of the mendicant, and renounced all the wordly goods to follow the gospel, visiting the sick, tending the leprous, and preaching the Gospel; and in 1219 Saint Francis crossed over to the infidels and witnessed for Christ before the Sultan, declaring, "I am not sent of man, but of God, to show thee the way of salvation."
Lull was truly impressed by the sermon as he saw analogies between Saint Francis' call to conversion and his own. He felt called to follow and imitate Saint Francis. So, Lull sold all his property, which was considerable, set aside enough to support his wife and children, gave the rest to the poor, and became a tertiary of the Order of St. Francis professing the Rule of 1221.
One day, he was praying in a little cave near the summit of Mount Randa, when he received an enlightenment. He descended from the mount and wrote a formidable book, "The Art of Finding Truth". Later he wrote "The Book of the Lover and the Beloved" and "The Art of Contemplation", both of which stand on their own as spiritual treatises. Of his works there exists no complete catalog. 282 titles are given in the first published edition of his books (1721). He also invented a mechanical machine, in which the subjects and predicates of theological propositions were arranged in circles, squares, triangles, and other geometrical figures, so that by moving a lever or causing a wheel to revolve, the propositions would arrange themselves in the affirmative or negative and thus prove themselves to be true. This device he called the Ars Generalis Ultima or the Ars Magna.
Muslims constituted a majority of the population in Majorca. Raymond thought to devote his energies to proclaiming the Message of the Cross to the Saracens. In 1285 Lull went to Rome, and persuaded the Pope Honorious IV to establish schools in Arabic and related languages in Paris and Rome.
From Rome, Lull proceeded to Genoa and found a boat sailing for Tunis. Though admittedly afraid, he decided to imitate Saint Francis and embarked on a mission to the infidel; in Tunis he debated with learned Muslims. Back to Europe, he pleaded for a crusade that would not conquer and claim but would occupy and convert, for if the three monotheistic faiths could be drawn together under the banner of Universal Religion, they would be invincible in brotherhood. But the Pope, the king of France and the Holy Roman emperor were involved in their own politics, and Lull did not find audience.
About 1291 he went to Tunis again, preached to the Saracens, and disputed with them in philosophy. After undergoing many hardships and privations he returned to Europe, then back to Africa, and around Europe several times. In 1311 he went to Vienna, for the purpose of laying before the Council of Vienna his plans for the conversion of the Muslims. He did not succeed.
Raymond longed for the martyr's crown in his heart. He burned with love for the Crucified Christ and wished to give his life for Him. Again in 1315 he set out for Tunis, knowing he was going to death. In Tunis he was stoned to death by the Saracens. To be stoned to death while preaching the love of Christ to Muslims, that was the fitting end for such a life.
Ramon, imprisoned, discusses theology with Muslims
His body was brought back to Palma of Majorca, and was laid to rest in St. Francis' church, where it is.
The followers of Raymond, known as Lullists, degenerated into heretics. This is why, in spite of his holy life and his crown of martyrdom, Raymond has not been canonized.
" Lull," says a modern writer, "was the greatest of medieval missionaries, perhaps the grandest of all missionaries from Saint Paul to Carey and Livingstone. His career suggests those of Jonah the prophet, Paul the missionary, and Stephen the martyr."
In 1915, on the six hundredth anniversary of his death, a new epitaph was set up on Lull's tomb in the church of San Francis in Palma, taken from his own words in the Tree of Love:
"Here lies a Lover,
who has died for his Beloved,
and for love,
who has loved his Beloved
with a love that is good, great and enduring,
who has battled bravely for love's sake,
who has striven
against false love and false lovers,
a Lover ever humble, patient, loyal, ardent,
liberal, prudent, holy and full of good things,
inspiring many lovers
to honour and serve his Beloved."
Submitted by Anna Ferroni—Turin, Italy
His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you." (Jn. 2:5)
Madonna and Child, 1520-30, by Defendente Ferrari, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE OF ST. FRANCIS
is a non-profit Private Association of the Faithful, which is dedicated to renewing the ancient way of penance as contained in the First Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis of 1221 for lay people in our modern world. We have the approval of the Catholic Church to do this through several of its bishops. If you are bound by another Rule of life in another profession of the way of St. Francis that does not permit you to enter other religious families you are nonetheless invited to become an Honorary member of our Association and add the elements of this beautiful way of life that Saint Francis of Assisi gave us to the lifestyle of your profession.
All members, and Franciscans, are welcome to submit articles for consideration for inclusion in this newsletter if they are directed towards the spiritual formation of members or are the outgrowth of the lifestyle of the Association or a committed Franciscan life. Just send them to the BSP of St. Francis at the address on this newsletter. Feel free to share this newsletter with your friends or neighbors. It is intended to be the primary monthly communication of the Association. And if you can find it in your heart and in your budget remember that donations to the BSP are used strictly to promote the lifestyle and are tax deductible. We remain, always, sincerely yours in the love of Jesus Christ!
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
Visit our Web site at: www.bspenance.org
COME HOLY SPIRIT, FILL US WITH YOUR LIGHT AND PEACE!