My status as an Honorary Member of the BSP
by Winnie Spencer-Dealy
This past February I made a big decision. I decided to stop formal formation with the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis. Was it something that the BSP did? No, of course not. In fact, Bruce and Shelley have given me their complete support in stopping formation. So what has happened?
In December I was accepted as an Aspirant to the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, or OCDS. Carmel had been on my mind and in my heart for years, and finally I was ready to make the commitment to go through formation and discern a vocation to Carmel. I knew a life of prayer as is Carmelís charism in the Teresian Tradition to be compatible with the life I had chosen as a member in formation with the BSP. When I emailed Bruce and Shelley with the news, they were overjoyed for me, and encouraged me to continue on as is Godís will. They explained to me that it was our duty to do all we can for the Kingdom, and that we should always explore a vocation to a Third Order. Bruce assured me that I would be able to participate in the life of the BSP as usual, and Shelley informed me that my status would be that of an Honorary Member. This news brightened my spirits and made my day. I wouldnít lose the BSP to CarmelĖthe BSP would remain a part of my life! My life of prayer and penance was safe in Carmel, and with the BSP. I am so grateful to still remain within the BSP. Thank you to Bruce and Shelley for their loving understanding of my situation, and knowing where my heart liesĖstill in a life of prayer and penance.
I have decided to live the Rule of 1221 and itís modern day Statutes privately, on my own. I will be dedicating my time to study within Carmel, to discern my vocation. Perhaps after the long period of formation is over, I will then continue formation with the BSP. I am sure to submit willingly to the loving will of God for my life, whatever that entails. I will continue to write for the newsletter articles on spirituality, and of course wonít give up the Yahoo group. All Brothers and Sisters of Penance will remain in my prayers as usual. Please pray for me as I journey on.
Your sister in Christ,
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP
"It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Lk. 5, 31.
Isnít it good to seek righteousness?
The word righteous is defined as: "meeting the standards of what is right and just; morally right. Arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality." That sounds like something we should all wish to be. I seek to be righteous with all my heart. Whatís wrong with that? Jesus came to call sinners. He didnít come to call me, then, if I was indeed righteous. A few thoughts.
In this season of Lent, of repentance, Iíd like to tell a personal story which will shed some light on this whole issue. First a digression. I must confess that Iím entering another world with you, dear brothers and sisters of penance, when discussing such matters of the heart. You have given me permission, as it were, to share the most precious gift in the world, the gift of faith. With the exception of my wonderful and devoted wife, Donna, and a handful of friends, I have no credibility in the place where Iíve come from. Most of my family and friends regard me with an attitude of benign indifference, and if necessary, patient toleration. If I knew what they know, Iíd feel the same way. So thatís why Iím having great difficulty accepting the fact Ė because Iíve been told - that some of you actually derive some benefit from what I write. This is something new for me. Groucho Marx has said, "I wouldnít join any club that would have me as a member." I wouldnít impugn your integrity, but it does make me wonder. Perhaps familiarity will one day breed contempt. More likely, this could be a club composed exclusively of sinners, who recognize one of their own; sinners who seek righteousness through repentance.
Itís very difficult to write of such matters, for itís been said that the wise man is known by the fewness of his words. Ouch, failed on that score. Some things are better left unsaid. Our Father wants us to pray to Him in secret, and we all have secrets known to God alone. But Iíve been given the desire to share the faith in this way. Writing is of great benefit to me, for I try to live up to my own expectations. The only credibility I have as a Christian is to be an image of God. Having made the De Montfort consecration many years ago, Iíve prayed for divine wisdom as a faithful child of Mary. That has given me great confidence and assurance. Every person has an opinion. Some say one personís opinion is as good as anotherís. Donít tell that to Paul the Apostle.
The spiritual man can see as God sees, adopting Godís standards, not manís. "This is My Beloved Son, listen to Him." If we donít reflect the Word and wisdom of God, our opinion is worthless in promoting the Kingdom of God.
"Since he clings to Me in love, I will free him; protect him for he KNOWS MY NAME. When he calls I shall answer: ĎI am with you.í I will save him in distress and give him glory. With length of life I will content him; I shall let him see MY SAVING POWER."
In seeking repentance, letís take another look at the concept of the sinless being. That term was not meant to be the exclusive privilege of those who have produced an independent morality by which they have succeeded in banishing sin from their own lives while bestowing it upon others. Iíd like to share a personal story, with the aid of Psalms 30 and 91, about how one who would like to consider himself a faithful follower of Jesus can also slip into the trap. It may be instructive, for we all share the same human nature. We struggle with the concept of having arrived, when in reality, we are nowhere near our destination.
Itís called First Fervor. Having gone through a spiritual conversion by the grace of God at the tender age of twenty-one, I was transformed from a "fear" Catholic into a "love" Catholic. I entered onto the glorious path of First Fervor with reckless abandon. Never had I experienced such self-mastery by which the flesh became completely subject to the spirit. I could do anything I thought God wanted of me. Bring on the penance. It was easy, and penance was sought wherever it could be found. It was the happiest time of my life. "I said to myself in my good fortune: ĎNothing will ever disturb me.í Your favor had set me on a mountain fastnessÖ" It was wonderful. It was marvelous. It was awesome. It was short-lived.
"Then You hid your face, and I was put to confusion."
The fall inevitably came, and what a fall it was. It can only be compared to the story of Jesus in the Gospel expelling demons. After one is cast out, seven more take its place, and the last state of that man is worse than the first. I thank God for that time on the mountain. It gave a picture of how life could be lived in the Spirit, saying Yes to Jesus every time He called. "Here I am, Lord; what can I do for You? The harder the better." Now I canít do the simplest thing. I wonder about what happened, and why. It seems like a lifetime ago. One thing is obvious: Iíll never experience that fervor again. Thereís no such thing as a second First Fervor. Perhaps thatís not so bad.
Before the vessel can be filled, it must first be emptied, and cleansed. Or better; new wine, new wineskins. Itís hard enough cleaning the outside. Imagine the inside, the deep recesses of the heart, from which can come the greatest love, or the greatest evil. On the mountain, I thought I was pretty hot stuff. Wasnít love grand? It became difficult going to confession. What could I say? Bless me, father, Iíve never felt so good. What should we talk about?
I would have had great difficulty passing the final test, courtesy of Fr. Benedict Groeschel. He said that on the last day when we stand before the pearly gates with St. Peter, weíll have to choose which of two doors to enter. One will be marked "Saints," and the other "Sinners." Only one of the doors leads to eternal life. The humble heart is not fooled by this last and greatest illusion. I had to learn humility the hard way. Even on the mountain weíre still sinners. Weíre just grateful to God that He has granted us a temporary reprieve to experience His love in all its beauty, so we can endure the time of wandering in the valley of darkness and the shadow of death.
"To You, Lord, I cried, to my God I made appeal: ĎWhat profit would my death be, my going to the grave? Can dust give your praise, or proclaim your truth?í" From the perfect, I have re-joined the ranks of the permanently imperfect. Imperfect is too good a word. More like Ė a state of permanent brokenness. The grand performance is no more. The alacrity is lacking; the fervor is gone. Thereís nothing to take pride in anymore. At this point, only tears are left. But the tears are genuine. The repentance is genuine. "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."
"But the Lord listened and had pity. The Lord came to my help." A lesson was learned the hard way. Now I know beyond any doubt the meaning of the words: "Without Me, you can do nothing." Any day I would rather be in the dark valley of repentance than on the mountain of perfection. God is closer here. I need Him. He is teaching about love, about how He wishes to be loved, not how I wish it. Having been brought to my knees, I donít ever want to stand on my own again. The result is complete dependence on a God called Love. Such dependence and submission will
drive a stake through the heart of Luciferís pride.
In this context, righteousness is a result of allowing the vulnerability of our sinful condition to bring us to a right relationship with Love. Itís easy to be enthusiastic when doing our own thing. I think holiness is near if one is equally enthusiastic when following directions that cut to the core of our being, cleansing the self so the Other can enter. "My happiness lies in You Alone. For You have changed my mourning into dancing, You removed my sackcloth and girded me with joy. So my soul sings psalms to You unceasingly. O Lord my God, I will thank You forever."
From an EWTN homily: "Only the humble are grateful. Only the grateful are happy. Therefore only the humble are truly happy." Our holy father Francis lived what he wrote: "Most High, All Powerful, Good God; praise, glory and honor and all blessing are Yours. Praise and bless my Lord, and give Him thanks, and serve Him with great humility."
FRANCISCAN SAINTS: Blessed Anna Schaffer (1882-1925)
Anna Schaffer was born on February 18, 1882 in Mindelstetten, Germany. Her family lived simply, but they were good Christian. Anna developed herself to a healthy, strong girl. In the school she was one of the best.
Anna was modest and devote. As she could go to the first Communion in 1894, she offered herself to the Savior as a victim soul.
Wishing to enter an order of missionary sisters, after finishing school she tried to earn the necessary dowry working in various places as a servant. But God had other plans.
In June 1898, Anna heard Jesus' voice telling her things which would be decisive for the rest of her life: she would endure long and painful suffering. Anna was alarmed, but willingly prepared herself to suffer. On 4 February 1901, at the forester's lodge in Stammham, her time of suffering began. That day, the stovepipe over the laundry boiler had become detached from the wall, but in trying to fix it, Anna unfortunately slipped into a vat of boiling lye, scalding both legs to above the knees.
Despite intensive treatment in the hospital, the doctors were unable to heal her injuries. After she was released from hospital as an invalid in May 1902, she went back to her mother's home, but her condition continued to worsen, confining her completely to bed. To her painful infirmity was added extreme poverty.
After futile attempts at rebellion, Anna learned to recognize God's will in this harsh school of suffering and to accept it with ever greater joy. In weakness and poverty she heard the loving call of the Crucified One to become like him. This was her mission in life and its fulfilment. She generously decided to offer her life and sufferings to God. Every day she received Holy Communion from her wise spiritual director and parish priest, Fr Karl Rieger.
In the autumn of 1910 some extraordinary things happened. In a vision Anna, who was a Franciscan Tertiary, saw Saint Francis announcing her a visit of the Lord. On October 4, Saint Francis feast day, during the Morning Prayers of the Breviary, she saw the Redeemer who said He was ready to accept her sacrifice of reparation. When the priest came bringing the Communion, she saw five flames from the Host, that pierced her hands, feet and chest. From that time, and few people knew it, she bore the wounds of Christ, the stigmata. Later, in order to suffer in secret and to avoid any sensationalism, she asked the Lord to remove the visible stigmata.
On 25 April 1923, Anna had another special day: she lived the events of Good Friday in her body and soul. Thereafter, her condition considerably worsened. Her legs became completely paralyzed; this was followed by painful cramps due to a stiffening of the spinal cord and, finally, by cancer of the rectum. But she was able to combine an active apostolate with one of prayer, sacrifice and suffering. She wrote countless letters to the needy and to those who sought her advice in Austria, Germany, Swiss and America; she gladly did embroidery for churches and chapels. In a letter of 29 January 1925 she wrote: "The most important thing for me is to pray and suffer for the holy Church and her Pastors. Whenever I receive Holy Communion, I fervently pray to our beloved Redeemer to continue protecting his holy Church and her Pastors, to grant me the most agonizing martyrdom and to accept me as a little victim of reparation."
Her daily prayer was: "Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, grant me to save many souls, especially those that for desperation hardly could help themselves; those that are near the abyss and mostly need Your mercy. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, multiply my suffering and accept them for the sake of the souls, that I could save for you! Sorrowful Mother, lend always me a burning thirst, to work at the salvation of the immortal souls, to pray for them and to suffer!"
After accidently falling out of bed five weeks before her death, Anna suffered a brain injury, causing her to lose her voice and sight; thus she became even more a "silent victim". No one could believe she could endure so hard pains.
In the morning of October 5 1925 she received for the last time the Communion, the source of power of her 25 years long suffering time. As she was making the Sign of the Cross and saying "Jesus, I live in you", she died.
In her last letter she had written: "My biggest strength is the Sacred Communion. The sun of my life is Jesus in the most sacred Sacrament."
Since her death, Anna's grave was visited by many person, praying for their necessities. In 1972 Anna's body was moved from the graveyard to the parish-church of Mindelstetten and the beatification process started. At March 7, 1999 Pope Johannes Paul II added Anna Schaffer to the list of the Blessed of the Catholic Church.
Blessed Anna's life teaches us to take our cross and follow Christ unto crucifixion. How do we die to self and let Christ be all and all in us? How long it takes to accept our daily trials as a gift direct from the hands of our Lord? The word crucifixion, as it applies to us in the Christian sense, may be defined as any pain or suffering which joins us to Christ. There may be many kinds of sorrow and suffering which do not serve the purpose of true crucifixion. In order that suffering may be a thorough mortification to us, it must be put in the will of God. When we yield ourselves absolutely up to God, and trust Him to take charge of our being and life and circumstances, it is then that His omnipotence takes possession of all our trials and sufferings, and makes them work a true crucifixion in us. It does not matter what the occasion of the suffering may be. It may come from poverty, or ill-health, or loss of friends, or separations, or temptations, or the hatred of others, or great disappointment; it may come from many of these sources; but let it come from any cause in the universe, if we give it over entirely into the hands of God, and sink ourselves into His will, with a perfect desire for Him to work His best will in us, He will make every pain, every groan, every tear, every suffering, work in us a death to self, and to all things on earth, which will be for our highest perfection and His glory.
Submitted by Anna FerronióTurin, Italy
Faith and Miracles by Anna Ferroni BSP - Italy
I remember last year when my husband was in the hospital. I often went to the hospital by bus. The travel was an hour long and I used to pray during the travel. I admit, I prayed and cried a lot to the Lord when my husband was in danger. I was in anguish. But I have learned a lesson that I am glad to share with you now. Jesus didn't come to heal our illnesses or patch up our worldly problems. He came to inspire the courage in us to live as He did, to love God and neighbor. Such a way of life is a very radical choice, because it is opposite to human selfishness. We must give our lives as Jesus did. So did many of his apostles and disciples through the centuries.
We may pray for miracles, and miracles do happen sometimes. But they are not the point of faith. They are just demonstrations of the Power and Glory of God. Miracle stories serve to remind us that if God wanted our problems to be miraculously solved, they would be. So if the doctor says, "Sorry, sir, we need to cut your legs" or Pontius Pilate says "Crucify Him," then we know that God had the power to change the events, but didn't. So we can walk calmly even through the valley of the shadow of death, knowing "Thou art with me." No doubts. Jesus can heal my husband's legs, just as He had the power to spare Himself from death.
Yet when Jesus suffered agony and death upon the cross, He gave value to our sufferings. We can endure illnesses and pains; we can face mourning and grief and even death, because Jesus faced all those things; we know that Jesusí suffering was His way to glory, and his Crucifixion was the door to His Resurrection.
When Jesus left His disciples and said, "Take courage and be of good cheer, for I am with you always," He was speaking to a group of men who would be imprisoned, condemned, executed. Jesus knew that, yet said, "Be of good cheer, I won the world."
PS. By the way, my husband's legs weren't cut...
From the Second Reading of Passion Sunday
by Janet Klasson BSP
"And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
The theme of obedience has been coming to me again and again over the past few years. It is a lesson that I have been slow to learn. But God is patient.
At first glance, the word "obedience" implies restriction, lack of freedom, removal of choice. It brings back memories of childhood, of being prevented from doing those things we wanted to do, or being made to do things we didnít want to do. "Donít throw that ball around in the house." "Pick up your toys." "Give Aunt Emma a kiss."
As children and especially as teenagers we often complained, or outright rebelled. Our freedom was being trampled on, our choices taken away. No fair! No fun.
It was only as we grew to adulthood that we could see more clearly the reasons behind our parentsí words and actions. We could see how our obedience, however unwillingly it was bestowed, was what brought us safely through childhood. We could see the places we went wrong by being disobedient. We could even see in hindsight how happy our childhood really was because we had parents who cared enough to set limits.
Obedience takes on a new importance as we journey towards holiness. The lessons we learn in childhood sometimes have to be painfully relearned if we are to make any progress.
A couple of years ago I was undergoing a lengthy and difficult ordeal. It lasted for years. I prayed daily, constantly, to be delivered from it. I agonized over the past and worried about the future. Then, one day, as I prayed I felt led to Psalm 31. That day, Verse 9 leaped out at me: "You will not abandon me into enemy hands, but will set my feet in a free and open space."
From then on, the verse burned in my heart. It became my new daily prayer. By leading me to this Psalm I thought surely God intended to "set my feet in a free and open space", a space free from this oppressive burden. I prayed this prayer for many months. But nothing changed. Or did it?
After many months of praying this prayer, while continuing to carry my burden, I began to recognize my mistake. Instead of living in the daily grace God had given me, I had been attempting to shoulder this burden, past, present and future. I was rebelling against the presence of God in the present by clinging to the problems of the past and borrowing problems from the future. Once I recognized this and began to dwell in the present moment in the grace of Godís presence, I noticed a new feeling of freedom. The burden no longer felt oppressive, because I realized that all I was being asked to do was bear this burden for this day only out of love and trust, in obedience to the will of God. I realized that obedience to the will of God is the only "free and open space" there is, and that it may only be found in the present moment.
I wish I could say that I did not rebel against the weight of the burden anymore, but after that, I could at least name the rebellion for what it was. Then I could consciously step back into the "free and open space" of obedience to Godís will.
So, my prayer was answered, but as usual, not in the way I expected. I had to humble myself in imitation of Christ, crucify my desires, and fall into step with the will of God. Only then could He "set my feet in a free and open space."
Thanks be to God! He is a Father who loves us enough to set limits, and in those limits
he sets us free.
MEDICAL PROBLEMS AND FASTING:
AS APPROVED BY OUR VISITOR
Dear Sister in the BSP,
About your question.
Fasting according to the Rule is not obligatory due to a medical condition such as diabetes.
You see, God has put His own Rule into the diabetics life through this condition. That is the Rule that is our Rule when it comes to fast and abstinence. It is not something that we choose to do, rather something given to us by God to do. We both know that we don't get to eat what we want but must eat to keep our blood sugar balanced. This is a difficult thing to do on a constant basis.
Not eating (or fasting) can cause problems for Diabetics. I am just coming back from a couple of weeks of being ill. Before this, I was so happy because I was keeping my blood sugar in a good range but while I was ill it took off to numbers I haven't seen for a long time. Always over 200 and sometimes over 300 regardless of whether I ate, did not eat, insulin or no insulin. It's a real penance to keep under control. So, the question is not whether we fast and abstain according to the Rule of 1221 but as Fr. Altier said so clearly...the penance comes when we must do what we must rather than what we desire.
By not adhering to the diabetic demands we would be putting a much bigger penance on those whom we love by doing what we want rather than what we must. So, as you enter into this part of the Rule, you must do what you must rather than what the Rule prescribes. Either way, we both know that is not according to our own will.
I hope this puts your heart at rest as to what is expected of you according to the Rule of 1221. It is a medical condition that prescribes how you are to live this part of the Rule and we must do it for the love of God because it is He who allowed this condition to be part of our life. Of course there are non dietary things that we can offer up as a special offering to the Lord at any time. So fear not, You WILL be fasting and abstaining for the Lord under His own prescriptions. :)
Have a great day and if you have any other questions, feel free to ask. No question is trivial.
In Christ's love,
FROM A BSP NOVICE...A MEDITATION FOR US ALL:
Name three of the many ways God speaks to us.
Three of the ways that God speaks to us: I donít have to read the Catechism to answer this one.
Sometimes He comes to me in Interior visionsÖI have even heard Him speak to me. (Always in personal issues, never doctrinal ones).
- God speaks to me in the beauty of the quiet morning where the air is filled with birdsong,
- He speaks to me in song from the Christian radio station that plays in my car,
- and He speaks to me softly in the still quiet moment when I am thinking. He speaks to me when I read the Scriptures, When I walk and ponder things in my heart, and when I sit quietly in the silence of the Sanctuary.
He also speaks to me in the fearsome moment whether it is a physical storm with severe weather or the interior storm that seems to swirl within us sometimes. And believe it or not, He sometimes speaks to me from the mouth of one of my friends, or even unbelievers!
As it says in the Psalms 139:7-12a:
"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there Your hand shall lead me,
and Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, ĎSurely the darkness shall fall on me,í
even the night shall be light about me;
indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
but the night shines as the day;
the darkness and the light are both alike to you."
THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS:
How to know the spirit of God
We can be sure that a man is a true religious and has the spirit of God if his lower nature does not give way to pride when God accomplishes some good through him, and if he seems all the more worthless and inferior to others in his own eyes. Our lower nature is opposed to every good.
RETREAT 2005: The Subject is Prayer
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.
Saint Joseph and Infant Jesus Christ by Bartolomaeus Esteban Murillo, Spanish painter. Painted in 1665.
Now in Sevilla, Spain, Museum of fine arts.
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
firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!
Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.