'FOLLOW ME!'
Luke 9:23

Published for the Lay Association of

The BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE

Butterfly Symbol of the BSP of Saint Francis

of
          St. Francis

February 2005

St. Francis

FROM THE WRITINGS ON ST. FRANCIS:

HOW SAINT FRANCIS MADE A LENT ON AN ISLAND
submitted by Mindy Scheer BSP

     The true servant of Christ, Saint Francis, was in certain things like another Christ given to the world for the people's salvation. So God the Father willed to make him in many of his actions conformed and similar to His Son, Jesus Christ. This is shown to us in the venerable company of the twelve companions and in the wondrous mystery of the sacred Stigmata and in the unbroken fast of the holy Lent which he made in the following way.

     Once Saint Francis was alongside the Lake of Perugia on the day of Carnival, at the house of a man devoted to him, where he was lodged for the night. He was inspired by God to go make that Lent on an island in the lake. So Saint Francis asked this devout man that, for love of Christ, he carry him with his little boat to an island of the lake where no one lived, and that he do this on the night of the Day of the Ashes, so that no one would notice. And this man, out of love - from the great devotion he had for Saint Francis - promptly fulfilled his request and carried him to that island. And Saint Francis took nothing with him except two small loaves of bread. Arriving at the island, as his friend was departing to return home, Saint Francis asked him kindly not to reveal to anyone that he was there, and that he should not come for him until Holy Thursday. And so that man departed, and Saint Francis remained alone.

     
Island on lake Trasimeno where St. Francis spent the Lent in 1211
This is a picture of the island of Perugia, where St Francis stayed in a hut from February 16, 1211, Ash Wednesday, to March 30, Holy Thursday
Since there was no dwelling in which he could take shelter, he went into some very thick brush that was formed like a den or a little hut by many bushes and saplings. And in this place he put himself in prayer and contemplation of heavenly things. And there he stayed the whole of Lent without eating or drinking, except for half of those little loaves, as his devoted friend found on Holy Thursday when he returned for him; for the two loaves he found one whole one and a half; the other half it is supposed, Saint Francis ate, out of reverence for the fast of the blessed Christ, who fasted for forty days and forty nights without taking any material food. And thus, with that half of a loaf he drove away from himself vainglory, and after the example of Christ he fasted forty days and forty nights.

     Later in that place where Saint Francis had done such marvelous abstinence, God did many miracles through his merits. For this reason the people began to build houses and live there, and in a short time a good, large village was built there, and there was a place of the brothers there, called the Place of the Island, and the men and women of that village still have great reverence and devotion for that place where Saint Francis made that Lent.

To the praise of Jesus Christ and the little poor man Francis. Amen

COMMENTARY: : by Bruce Fahey BSP

     On occasion I have had my spiritual director tell me to make a 'good Lent'. He never defined it for me. He never told me exactly what to do. I still think that in the special seasons of Lent and Advent the Rule calls us to do something extra. I think that is what he meant when he said "good". The implication of their being a 'good' Lent is that there is a 'bad' Lent. I guess that must be where we do nothing.

     Clearly St. Francis, who fasted most of the year, did something extra during Lent on the Island in Perugia. Yet even in doing that he showed us the importance of humility. He also did not proudly pronounce that he had fasted all during Lent and ate only half a loaf of bread. He kept it secret. History has revealed it. He did not.

     May the Lord guide us to know what we are to do in this most special season of mortification in preparation for the Lord's celebration of the Lord's passion and death. We should feel called to use this season to strengthen ourselves for he work we must do in the world. If we do nothing else we should try to live our Rule more perfectly. Let's all have a good Lent!

Bruce Fahey and Shelley, his wife, BSP Administrators
ADMINISTRATORS MESSAGE:
LENT 2005
by Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP

"Every moment is crammed with infinite riches which are given us according to the extent of our faith and love." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

When Jean-Pierre, author of Abandonment to Divine Providence, said that he was referring to our need to realize that every moment of our lives is God's will for us, and in that moment we should seek God in our faith and love. This is true so long as we are seeking God and fulfilling his commandments. We can lose sight of God. He never loses sight of us. So, it is important that we seek Him to remain always in Him, at least in this life, moment by moment. That won't be a problem in heaven.

      Lent is a time to examine within ourselves the need to be less. To be diminished before the Lord so he can be increased in us. To open our minds and hearts to God by creating within ourselves a 'holy void'. Moment by moment we can work to empty ourselves of attachments, so we can attach ourselves more fervently to the will of God in our lives. If ever there are moments crammed with riches it is in this season of the Church. A season celebrated in the Rule of 1221 with the words: "great fast" Article 14. We can strive to learn to fast from everything. It is good practice. We must be like St. John the Baptist, who said of the Lord, "He must increase; I must decrease."(Jn. 3:30) In all things.

      So, how we fast doesn't really matter and can be worked out with our spiritual directors or spouses, who should always be involved in our journeys. In the story of His dreams by St. John Bosco, whose feast was January 31, a couple of angelic maidens in one of his dreams outlined some elements of mortification necessary as a means of preserving our innocence before God. It might be well to review this list as we prepare for Lent and broaden our concept of mortification.

      To begin, they said "Without penance innocence cannot be preserved."

  • Mortify yourselves by overcoming weariness in prayer. Pray more.

  • Mortify the intellect by humbling yourselves, for instance obeying your superiors or others. "He that humbles himself shall be exalted and he that exalts himself shall be humbled." St. Francis would rather obey a least brother than do his own will. Practice obeying others.

  • Mortify yourself by revealing your defects and faults to others, especially your spiritual director. In fact, try asking them to tell you what faults they see in you.

  • Mortify your heart by checking its thoughtless and useless movements. Love all for the sake of God's love. Tear yourself away from anyone or anything that does not deepen your faith or spirituality.

  • Mortify your eyes, in looks, in reading, and shunning bad or unsuitable literature.

  • Mortify your hearing by not listening to bad, imprudent, or impious conversations.

  • Mortify your speech by not allowing yourself to be overcome by curiosity or saying unkind or unnecessary things about anyone.

  • Mortify yourself in eating and drinking in the traditional ways approved by the Church.

  • Make a good confession and receive Holy Communion fervently.
     In all of this we prepare for the Lord's sacrifice. Our Lord certainly prepared for His own passion and death. We die to ourselves during Lent, moment by moment, day by day, by doing things to mortify ourselves before the Lord. By being one with Him in thus dying to ourselves we are allowed to become one with Him in His rising on Easter. It is a time crammed with opportunity as Jeanne-Pierre would say.

      Have a holy and happy Lent!

Bruce and Shelley

Anna Ferroni
Give "The Prayer of Jesus" a chance!
Part II by Anna Ferroni BSP - Italy
"LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF THE LIVING GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME A SINNER."

     Last month we reflected on the Prayer of Jesus, its meaning and significance. The Prayer of Jesus is an ancient Christian tradition with something to offer everyone. If you missed the article, you find it in last month's Newsletter at this address. We touched lightly on the fact that the name of Jesus become an important element in the belief and life of Christians since the very beginning, and eventually occupied a central place in their life of prayer. We spoke about the development of the Jesus Prayer and finally said it became dominant in Russia with the Orthodox Saint Teophane the Recluse. Now we add details to the story of what happened in Russia.

      In 1782 St Macarius of Corinth and Nicodemus of Naxos, two monks living on Mount Athos, compiled a complete anthology of writing on the Jesus Prayer, entitled 'The Philokalia', or 'Love of Beauty'. It was translated into Russian as the "Dobrotolubyie", and profoundly shaped Russian spirituality spreading the practice of the Prayer of Jesus. St Seraphim of Sarov spent ten years in a forest, alone, praying the Jesus Prayer.

      In 1870 in Kazan was published the book "The way of a Russian Pilgrim". The book could be a copy of a manuscript of Mount Athos, nobody knows, and tells about a pilgrim who heard the reading of the Holy Scripture "Pray incessantly". Then he started a pilgrimage looking for a man who could teach him how to pray incessantly. He met a spiritual father, who gave him the book "Philokalia" and taught him the Prayer of Jesus:

"Sit down alone and in silence. Lower your head, and shut your eyes, breathe out gently and imagine yourself looking into your own heart. Let your thoughts move from your head into your heart. As you breathe out say 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner'. Say it moving your lips gently or simply say it in your mind. Try to put all your thoughts aside. Be calm, be patient, and repeat the process very frequently."
The spiritual father died shortly after saying that. The pilgrim's heart was touched and the Jesus prayer gave him a new start, bringing him to what is called "metanoia", or personal conversion.

The book ends with the touching words of the Russian Pilgrim:
"The Name of Jesus is more precious and sweet than anything in the world. At times I do as much as 43 or 44 miles a day, and do not feel that I am walking at all. I am aware only of the fact that I am saying my Prayer. When the bitter cold pierces me, I begin to say my Prayer more earnestly, and I quickly become warm all over. When hunger begins to overcome me, I call more often on the Name of Jesus, and I forget my wish for food. I thank God that I now understand the meaning of those words I heard in the Epistle: Pray without ceasing."
      "The Way of a Russian Pilgrim" attained an extraordinary popularity not exclusively in the Eastern World. It is currently one of the greatest treasures of the Orthodox Church, but is an excellent book for everyone.

      The Prayer of Jesus is indeed a worthy and valid form of prayer profoundly rooted in the spirit of the Gospel, and can be used in its fullest sense by every Christian. At the heart of it we find the name of Jesus; it is the name before whom every knee shall bow, and when we pronounce it we affirm that the Son of God became man, and that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him. It is a Christ-centered prayer, a prayer addressed to the Lord Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God. It is a powerful prayer based on faith.

     The Prayer of Jesus is also a prayer of the heart. It brings about a transformation of the heart by developing a taste for holy things. The mind sees the whole spiritual world in a different light and the will begins to be changed under the effect of a spiritual delight of the heart. The soul is freed from the spirit of the world and freely breathes, being penetrated by God's love.

      Several writers have mentioned the physical aspects of the prayer, the breathing exercises, the attention which is to be paid to the beating of the heart and a number of other features. There is no need to follow these. The core is to keep focus on God in a humble attitude. The Jesus Prayer is a prayer for everyone, even in our modern times. It is a prayer for beginners, but leads to the deepest levels of the contemplative life. It can be used by anyone, at any time, in any place: not only in a church or in a prayer closet, but also standing in queues, walking, travelling on buses or trains, driving; watching TV; when unable to sleep at night In time, the Jesus' Prayer "enters into the heart". Give the Jesus Prayer a chance!

Paul Beery
NO GREATER LOVE:
by PAUL BEERY BSP

"You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: no servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of My Name, for they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin."John. 15.

        It would be nice to have some continuity from month to month whenever possible. After humility comes repentance. With Lent coming up, reflection on the affinity between humility and repentance is in order. Our society has made repentance nearly impossible, since it promotes perhaps the greatest evil: the denial of sin. It didn't just happen; there's been a long period of incubation for this evil to grow. As a starting point I'd like to share a recent letter to Our Sunday Visitor. That's a hobby of mine, writing letters to the editor that usually don't get published, which makes one question what's the best use of one's time. The following was published at Christmas, but edited, obscuring the main point. The original.

        I love to read post-election analysis, and the moral values issue. Apparently most Catholics found that the president's moral values were more "Catholic" than the Catholic candidate. A major reason is that during the debates, John Kerry publicly stated that he "disagreed" with Church teaching on abortion, a non-negotiable life issue. It's been said that if a person from the political left comes in conflict with God, or the laws of God as taught by the Church, he concludes that he is right and God is wrong; whereas a person on the right concludes he is wrong and God is right. Which is the more Catholic view?

       Suppose the last question was: "If a person believes that he is right and God is wrong, what prospect is there for his repentance?" If a Catholic deliberately disobeys the teaching of the Church, Jesus tells us he is disobeying Him. We've been given not only the clear teaching of Jesus and His Church, but something far deeper. If we accept what St. Paul writes in the first chapter of Romans, every person born into the world knows the Creator in the depths of his or her heart. "What can be known about God is PLAIN to (even wicked men), because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely His eternal power and deity, have been clearly perceived in the things that have been made, so that men are without excuse."

        Let's cut to the chase, then, and conclude that the disobedient Catholic/Christian is really challenging God's authority and dominion over him. Who was the first to do that? Of all the "isms" of the last two centuries, liberalism is perhaps the most enduring, and also the most detrimental to salvation. Its motto is: "Question Authority." Arthur Hippler, director of the Social Justice office for the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, wrote a very telling article titled: "Lucifer, the first Liberal." He quotes the encyclical "The Nature of True Liberty," (Libertas Praestantissimum) by Leo XIII, who makes the remarkable claim that liberalism is diabolic in origin. Not so remarkable when the fruits of this disorder are understood.

       "Many there are who follow in the footsteps of Lucifer, and adopt as their own his rebellious cry, I WILL NOT SERVE. They consequently substitute for true liberty what is sheer and most foolish license. Such are the men belonging to that widely spread and powerful organization, who, usurping the name of liberty, style themselves liberals. The followers of liberalism deny the existence of any divine authority to which obedience is due, and proclaim that every man is the law to himself; from which arises that ethical system which they style 'independent morality.'"

       Liberalism rejects both natural and divine law, for its "independent morality" comes neither from God nor human nature. St. Thomas Aquinas explains: "The end of the devil is the aversion of the rational creature from God; hence from the beginning he has endeavored to lead man from obeying the divine precept. But aversion from God has the nature of an end, inasmuch as it is sought for under the appearance of liberty (Jer. 2,20). The first man sinned chiefly by coveting God's likeness as regards knowledge of good and evil, according to the serpent's instigation, namely that by his own natural power he might decide what was good and what was evil for him to do."

       For a Catholic/Christian, disobedience to the clear teachings of the Church is equivalent to telling our Creator He is wrong and the creature is right. The atonement of Jesus on the cross was not really necessary. The arrogance of that position is unbelievable. How can one who is never wrong, who is without sin, be repentant? "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." The sinless are now among us (no wonder the lines at the confessional are so short), thanks to the cancer of liberalism. And they love to cast stones. Those who tell us to be tolerant are themselves the most intolerant. Those who tell us not to be judgmental are the epitome of judgmentalism, because those who possess greater knowledge than God are very anxious to impose it in a very condescending manner onto the ignorant and bigoted masses. These elitists still cannot believe the American people were so stupid they went for a Texas cowboy over one of their own.

       The question of good and evil is very much at the forefront of the great divide in the Church and the world. Those who try to conserve the good and holy, and who understand the nature of liberalism, cannot understand how foolish liberals can be misled so easily. Liberals, on the other hand, consider us evil. Grounds for persecution. Evil? Not the evil of sin, the evil of standing in the way of the establishment of Utopia, their perfect world, a world without God or Christianity to stand as a constant rebuke to their folly, and a reminder of one of the most powerful of human emotions: guilt. The conscience will fester, unless like the innocent in the womb, it is killed. It's our job to keep the conscience alive. And the reputations of good and evil need to be rescued from this gross distortion.

        For example, there was utter consternation among numerous readers of our local Catholic paper, The Catholic Spirit, after the appearance of an article: "Minnesota should follow example of 11 states and reject gay marriage." The author, Michael Gallagher, quoted talk-show host Michael Savage as saying: "Liberalism is a mental disorder." I don't know about that, but I do know that while we should expect liberalism to be greatly favored by the worldly, how on earth can Christians be so deceived? Catholics wrote in and defended homosexuality, saying the opposition to gay marriage was based on fear, not love! Have they read Sacred Scripture, for heaven's sake? Many of the Jews that heard the message directly from the Master, did not believe in Jesus. There is no excuse for Christians today who still have the same message proclaimed. Just who are we listening to? The conclusion of the above-mentioned article.

       Pro-Life forces are really under assault both from within and outside the Church. Great! Didn't our Lord promise persecution for His faithful followers? That's one way to tell if we are on the right side. The article: "Church's right to voice in public square challenged," in your Nov. 14 edition was full of good news and bad news. The good news: Pro-Abort groups are angry at "a handful" of Pro-Life bishops and seek to silence them. The bad news: many liberal Catholics agree with them! And the reason is clearly stated by Francis Maier: "There's just a deep lack of faith. We have this wonderful exoskeleton of the Church, but there's NO INTERIOR LIFE, or much diminished interior life" on the part of the would-be faithful." How sad. Such Catholics and other Pro-Abort Christians are getting their marching orders from the worldly who promote the Culture of Death, instead of their Savior, who came to seek a love relationship that would oblige them to respond in faithfulness and love.

       We need humility to accept God's dominion over us. God is God, and we are not. Fear of the Lord is fundamental to our growth in holiness. It's called the beginning of (divine) wisdom. The end is complete submission to the will of God, through the love of God. Instead of "I will not serve," the disposition of the humble is of one that accepts and understands the Lord's admonition: the servant is not greater than his Master. When we've done our work as servants, we've only done what we're supposed to do. Pride is homeless with humble hearts, because the humble see it as the greatest obstacle to union with God and the fulfillment of His will, which it truly is. Just ask Satan.

"Holy father Francis, perfect image of Jesus our Savior in His humility and obedience, please intercede to instill these virtues in all who seek to follow your example, through Christ our Lord."

Paul

FRANCISCAN SAINTS: Venerable Matt Talbot (1856-1925)

Venerable Matt Talbot
Matt was born in 1856 in Dublin, Ireland. After only one year in school he left it to begin working with wine merchants to supplement the family income.

One day Matt sampled a bottle at work and tasted the wine. It was a new taste and was good. He was twelve years.

Soon he began to open more and more bottles. He even started his day with beer. The first thing he thought of when he woke up every day was alcohol. His mother knew he had taken to the drink and prayed a great deal for him. He always made sure to come home sober because he did not want to cause pain to his mother. But one evening he came home drunk. His father changed his employment hoping it would help, getting him a job where he worked in the Port and Docks Board. But Matt took to whiskey and not to cause his father grief at work he got a job as a bricklayer. The only disadvantage was that now he had to buy the alcohol. It was 1 AM or 2 AM every morning when he came home from drinking. Deep inside he wanted to cry and shout and beg for help, but he was not ready just yet. He could not part with his addiction.

      His conversion began like this. It was early 1884 and Matt was 28 years old and had been drinking for sixteen years. One Saturday morning he was not able to get up for work. But that evening he went to a location near the tavern where he and his mates drank. But his drinking buddies ignored him when they passed him by from work, even those for whom he had bought drinks in the past. He went home. "You're home very soon", his mother said. He said to her, "I'm going to stop drinking for good." She said to him, "Don't take the pledge if you don't intend to keep it." He knew it would take faith, more faith than he had but he knew his mother's faith would help him to ask the Lord for courage. He walked to the seminary of Dublin archdiocese to find a priest so he could make the pledge. He felt like turning around and going back home. It had been three years since his last Confession and he had been drunk every day except that day. A kind priest helped him and he took the pledge to renounce alcohol for three months. He thought three months would be an eternity and he knew the first three months were going to be a terrible struggle. He did not believe he could make it.

      But he knew where he would get his strength. He would go to Mass the next morning. In fact he went to Mass every morning after that for the rest of his life. Because work began at 6 AM he went to 5 AM Mass. He decided he would fight his struggle in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He decided to stay away from the pub and his drinking friends. That meant taking a different route home from work every evening. Since he had stayed awake so long every night drinking, he now decided he would still only give himself the same four hours sleep every night, except that now he spent his nights reading spiritual books and praying. He especially loved reading the lives of the saints. Having remained sober for three months he took the pledge for another three months. His thumping headaches and emotional turmoil began to subside and he felt new hope rise within. His sister Mary was convinced of his conversion because since the day he stopped drinking he also stopped cursing.

      At the end of the second three months he took the pledge for a year and at the end of the year he took the pledge for life. He wanted to do penance to make up for his sixteen years of drinking, so he joined the Secular Franciscan Order and began a life of strict penance according to the 1221 Rule; he abstained from meat nine months a year.

     Matt spent hours every night reading the Gospel and the lives of the saints. He prayed the rosary. He slept on boards with a block of wood for his pillow . He fasted a lot and ate only enough food to stay alive. He also gave a lot of his weekly wages to charities. He used to have a quick temper especially after drinking but now he was mellowing. Although now he was a very spiritual person he did not want to be known as such but people could see the profound change that had occurred in him. For example, what most upset him was using the name of Jesus as a curse. Whenever that happened he lifted his cap as a sign of reverence to the name of Jesus and he would take a crucifix out of his pocket and say, "Look at the One you are insulting."

      He joined the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association when it was founded in 1898. As well as giving up drink he also gave up smoking, but the full extent of his penance was only discovered after his death. On Trinity Sunday 1925 Matt Talbot suffered a stroke and died. He was on his way to Mass. Matt's death would have gone without notice if it was not for a tightly bound chain being discovered around his waist. Matt used it to discipline his body, as a means of penance. The chain opened the door for others to make inquiries into Matt's life. Without this find, Matt Talbot might have died in obscurity.

      Matt's story is a beautiful story of conversion and shows us that a very ordinary person can totally transform. He was declared Venerable in 1973, which is a step on the way to canonization. Hopefully some day he will be the patron saint of addicts.

      Men are not born saints with special gifts and privileges. They fight against the world, the flesh and the devil and as they conquer, the Spirit of Jesus begins to shine through with more clarity. We cannot hide under the cozy excuse of not being chosen, or not possessing special qualities. If we are Christians we have been chosen. If we have been chosen, then those qualities peculiar to the degree of the holiness God calls us to will blossom out as we grow. Holiness is a "growth experience" and growth consists in advancing in knowledge, love, self-control and all those other imitable virtues of Jesus. We must not lose sight of holiness as we grow, for holiness only means that Jesus is more to us than anyone or anything else in the world. But this desire to belong entirely to God goes together with being loving to our neighbor, compassionate, caring, patient and kind. Our desire to belong to God enhances all these virtues in our souls, increases our love for our neighbor and makes us more unselfish.

      God's purpose for us is Holiness! Be Holy, wherever you are!

Submitted by Anna Ferroni—Turin, Italy

The Year of the Eucharist—A special Indulgence:

Pope John Paul has designated 2005 as the Year of the Eucharist!

The Sacred Host and Calix
Many indulgences are given this year. One may obtain a plenary indulgence by participating in a sacred function or devotional exercise undertaken in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, solemnly exposed or conserved in the tabernacle. That is, you need only spend some time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament to gain the indulgence! You may receive a plenary indulgence by reciting Vespers and Night Prayer before the Lord present in the tabernacle.

One must meet the three usual conditions:

1. Sacramental Confession 8 days before or after the day of the indulgence.
2. Reception of the Holy Eucharist.
3. Prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father. (An Our Father and Hail Mary are recommended.)

Indulgences can be obtained for oneself or for the souls in Purgatory. Indulgences cannot be obtained for other living persons.

RETREAT 2005

It is not too early to plan to come to our retreat this year. It will be held on the last weekend in July at the same place as last year: Franciscan Retreats in Prior Lake, Minnesota.
The estimated cost of the retreat will be $135 dollars complete, and will include dinner on Friday evening when we gather.
We are pleased to report that Archbishop Flynn will again celebrate Mass for us on Saturday, and that Fr. Robert Altier has agreed to be our retreat master again this year. Last year he discussed penance; this year his subject will be Prayer. He is a Carmelite and this is a special area of interest to Father so we expect his talks to be *fabulous* as they were last year.
More information will be published as we get closer to the retreat date. Registration for the retreat will begin in the second quarter of the year.

Winnie Ferguson
The Greatest Gift
by Winnie Ferguson BSP

One morning as I knelt in prayer, I asked Jesus, please share with me your love. Jesus shared his passion.

As I knelt below his cross, the odor of hot sticky blood arose, and I felt it drip on my hands. It was on the floor too, and it smeared as I knelt to wipe it away. Jesus said, "Winnie don't wipe it away. I want to cleanse you in my love."

The pounding of spikes splintering wood pounded in my head and ears, and went right to my heart. I heard multitudes of angry screams from the crowd of people. I felt the agony of Jesus' rejected love penetrate my soul. I cried as Jesus bent his head in sorrow, seeing blood dripping from his sweet crowned head.

I tried to flee from the sight, but, I heard Jesus say, "Wait Winnie, I did this because I love you". Jesus' blood has stained my hands and has washed away my sins.

Jesus closed his eyes and said it is finished. Jesus took a deep breath and expired. There arose Thunder, Lighting and rain! As I stayed on I stood and watched them lower Jesus' body from the cross, and place him in the arms of his weeping Mother. I felt over whelmed with grief as they laid Jesus in the tomb.

But wait, it isn't over. He rose on the third day. Jesus rose from death and rolled away the stone that blocks our hearts so we might learn to give his love with gentle kindness.

(Permission to share the story as a Lenten meditation granted by Winnie Ferguson BSP – pledged member of the BSP with her bishop’s and spiritual director’s approval.)

IT'S LENT AGAIN! - by Francis Carmelle Duero BSP — Philippians

     On February 9, Ash Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent, the season of Penance. Ash Wednesday always opens the season of Lent. The watchword of this universal day of fasting and abstinence is "PENANCE." This word reminds us to be sorry for sin in humble preparation for the celebration of Christ's Paschal Mystery.

     From very early times the commemoration of the approach of Christ's Passion & death was observed by a period of SELF-DENIAL. We, as members of the BSP, are called to practice self-denial. We are to deny our very selves in order to acquire Christ, the greatest treasure we posses. Jesus is our greatest model in practicing self-denial. Jesus denied Himself in order for us to have eternal life. He Jesus suffered for our sake and this is the compelling fact of the Lenten season, not merely Christ's death, but the purpose of His death, that is, that the human race might have eternal life. "Thanks be to Christ the Lord, who brought us life by his death on the Cross" (Liturgy of the Hours).

     Let us thank the Father who "gave us Christ as the shepherd of souls," the Shepherd who gave Himself on the Cross to save the flock He loves. During this season of Lent let us practice the self-denial. Let us pray to God and thank Him for giving us His Only Begotten Son.

     Let us pray: "Lord, during this Lenten season nourish us with your word of life and make us one in love and prayer. Amen." (Liturgy of the Hours, MP, Wednesday of the 3rd week of Lent)

Janet Klasson
Rend your heart… by Janet Klasson BSP

     "Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God." (Joel 2:13)

     This passage is taken from the First Reading for Ash Wednesday. The image is rich with meaning and as penitents, it is well worth pondering.

     It speaks of a depth of sorrow for sin that goes far beyond the superficial. In Biblical times rending the garments was an outward sign of deep mourning or contrition. Unfortunately in the time of Joel, it was often just an outward sign and did not reflect the heart of the person displaying it.

     The call to rend one's heart implied a complete change of heart, the deepest contrition. That is what all God's children are called to, most especially in the season of Lent. Rending the heart involves a deliberate, intricate inspection of the heart that leads to a scouring out of even the least impurity. It leaves no stone unturned, no corner unexplored. It is a wrestling match with the angel of truth. Rending one's heart is no mere symbol, but an action that shows we hold nothing dearer than a right relationship with God, not even life itself.

     St. John Chrysostum compares the rending of our hearts to the plowing of a field to get rid of any "evil plant, any treacherous thought (that may) be present in us."

     "For if we do not now break up the fallow ground; if we do not now sow; if we do not now water it with tears, whilst it is a time of tribulation and fasting, when shall we ever be brought to compunction? Will it be when we are at ease, and in luxury? But this is impossible. For ease and luxury generally lead to indolence, just as tribulation leads back again to diligence; and restores to itself the mind that had wandered abroad, and been dreaming after a multitude of objects." (Homily IV)

     What a perfect image for we penitents to reflect on during Lent! What a wonderful image for us to use as we continue to seek after the holiness of a life of penance. Lent is a time for us penitents to reflect on what our minds and hearts have been dreaming after, and turn our minds and hearts back to God, who must be the object of our every thought, word, deed and desire.

     The book of Joel is not the only place in scripture that mentions the rending of a heart but not a garment. Let us remember that the soldiers did not rend the garments of Christ at his crucifixion. Yet they rent his heart. This too is worth pondering. The heart of Christ was rent for our sin, not His, for he was sinless. What better reason is there for us to rend our own hearts in gratitude and contrition? Then on the last day, Christ will clothe us with the seamless garment of His perfection and purity, perfect attire for the wedding feast of the Lamb. Thanks be to God!

Janet

THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS:
XI. No one should be scandalized at another's fall

Nothing should upset a religious except sin. And even then, no matter what kind of sin has been committed, if he is upset or angry for any other reason except charity, he is only drawing blame upon himself. A religious lives a good life and avoids sin when he is never angry or disturbed at anything. Blessed the man who keeps nothing for himself, but renders "to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mt. 22: 21.

STELLA MATUTINA BLOG

     On Ash Wednesday a BLOG that is being created by Bruce and Shelley Fahey to better document the beginnings of the BSP will be opened by a link on our Web site. It will be named Stella Matutina, Morning Star, in honor of Mary as was their first efforts to promote the Rule of 1221 in the SFO on and before 1994. The initial presentations on the BLOG will be linked to the book, Reflections in a Morning Star, which Bruce and Shelley published in 1994 and is part of the roots of the BSP. In time the blog hopefully will be expanded to include the writings of other BSP authors. This is being done on the recommendation of Anna Ferroni, our Web-master, who feels it is time for the BSP to have a blog of its own. She created the blog page for us. So, don't forget to visit our website at www.bspenance.org and go visit the blog!


The Tree of Life
The Tree of Life
painted around 1355 by Taddeo Gaddi, Italian painter
Dining Room of the Franciscan Convent of Santa Croce,
Florence, Italy


The
BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE OF ST. FRANCIS

a.k.a. the BSP, 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 blessing 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. Just send them to the BSP at minncc@aol.com. 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



Welcome to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance!

Website: www.bspenance.org

"He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry."
(Matt. 4:2)

In the world, but not of it, for Christ!


Communication Center:

20939 Quadrant Avenue N - SCANDIA MN USA 55073
Phone: 651-433-2753   

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